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Sir John Reith was the first Director General of the BBC, and he had particularly strong views on broadcasting as

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Sir John Reith was the first Director General of the BBC, and he had particularly strong views on broadcasting as having a cultural and moral responsibility as a means of educating and informing the masses. He once famously stated - 'It is occasionally indicated to us that we are apparently setting out to give the public what we think they need- and not what they want - but few know what they want and very few what they need. In any case it is better to overestimate the mentality of the public than to underestimate it. He who prides himself on giving what he thinks the public wants is often creating a fictitious demand for lower standards which he himself will then satisfy' (1924) This statement is one which has caused much controversy throughout the years that Reith headed the BBC, and this essay will attempt to discuss the BBC as an institution, the reasons that the BBC felt they had a cultural responsibility to society, the arguments in favour of the Reithian views and those in opposition, and the role in this of media policy. The BBC was formed in 1922 and was known then as the British Broadcasting Company. It began as a radio broadcaster with a commercial mission, and the manager at this time was John Reith, an engineer. ...read more.


is a well known one and many would argue that there is a place for public service broadcasting in this. Every consumer of the media has multiple identities - on national, regional, family, religious and personal levels. Public service broadcasting has a duty to appeal to consumers on more than one of these levels, in order that the needs of the license-paying consumer are being met. It is increasingly thought in today's world that the identities that young people form is influenced in varying degrees by the values and beliefs that they see being portrayed to them in the mass media. In order to grow up as good citizens, some would argue that they must be given all the information they need to make informed decisions in an unbiased and factual way, which is what the BBC claim to do. Another reason that this has been an important aim of the BBC is the fact that they believe society should have a public service broadcasting system they can trust. Phil Harding, Director of BBC World Services, delivered a speech to the European Parliament regarding the role that the BBC plays today, in which he made a pertinent point regarding this matter - 'Programmes that reinforce a particular point of view, that play to an audiences pre-existing beliefs and prejudices may win audiences - may please the advertisers and the shareholders - but they will not necessarily serve audiences well. ...read more.


They may be enjoyable; they may be quick and easy, but they do not challenge or stimulate the minds of the viewers and they do not provoke thought. In terms of the BBC, if a programme makes a valid statement then it has succeeded. The diversity of BBC attracts viewers, who can choose to dip in and dip out of the programmes, according to their tastes. The BBC can do this because they are a non-profit based institution, and the continuation of the license fee agreement with the government, means that they can continue to fulfil this aim. To conclude, it is clear to see why the BBC traditionally felt they had a cultural aim to educate society. Not everyone has access to education, and in this sense it is important that there are provisions for less privileged communities to gain information about things that are happening in the world. It is also important that there is a provider of unbiased information in the media, so that people can make informed decisions and become better citizens. Whilst there are some who disagree with what they believe to be an 'elitist' approach to programming taken by the BBC, the BBC does still try to provide for all tastes and minority groups, without the aim of making as much money as they can, and the fact that they are funded by the license fee helps to make this possible. 1 ...read more.

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