What winds me up about Melvyn Bragg’s appeal for Ofcom’s scope to be extended to include the BBC is not the sentiment itself, which is unexceptionable. It’s the fact that Bragg’s establishment status should buy him a double page spread in a national paper on a topic now so well-worn that most readers will have snoozed right through it while the genuinely pressing matter of the redefinition of ‘public service’ for the networked era doesn’t get any mainstream coverage at all.
Ofcom could valuably examine the online activities of the Beeb and the other important players and could do useful work helping to rethink the public service requirements of Big Media now that half the population is regularly online and TV viewing is in decline. Sadly, though, it can’t. The Communications Bill explicitly forbids Ofcom from examining the net. MPs could amend the bill to change Ofcom’s remit but, on the strength of yesterday’s second reading in the House of Commons, it doesn’t look likely.