Terrestrial TV viewers with a love of US high quality drama like Mad Men are in a quandary. Do we miss out on our favourite TV? Do we naughtily look for ways to pirate? Do we find the extra cash in hard pressed times for a subscription to Sky?
But another question we ask ourselves is, even if we can find the cash, will our sacred principles allow us to subscribe to a service owned (at least in part) by the Murdoch empire? For those of us not hitherto greatly interested in the rest of the Sky output, this is a new dilemma, but one which is more significant than first appears. A single paragraph in today’s Observer explains why.
“But BSkyB argues that high ratings are not its aim. Like Sky Arts, Sky Atlantic is designed to change the image of Sky, to attract new subscribers and to undermine the BBC’s claim to be the only purveyor of quality television.”
With the increasing privatisation and commercialisation of so much in Britain, inluding our healthcare, it is clear this government would like to see the same changeover in broadcasting. Coalition pruning of the BBC, Hunt’s attitude to the BSkyB takeover and Cameron’s dinners with the Rebekah Brooks crowd are just part of the evidence for the direction they wish to take. In this context, the arrival of Sky Atlantic, must be seen as a particularly deadly assault on public service broadcasting.
What then, short of replacing the government, is to be done, to protect the BBC? As we have said before in this blog, we are not specifically calling for a Murdoch boycott campaign, much as we would like to see one. For existing subscribers, it would be a step too far because Sky provides an array of entertainment, sport and other services that they would understandably find too difficult to dispense with. Additionally, for a boycott to be effective, it needs to be very well planned and co-ordinated, ideally internationally. We believe that, thanks to the internet, the day is getting closer for such a movement to get off the ground, but we are not there yet. Scratching the surface with a token boycott (probably by those of us who do anyway) will not make that much difference.
But what we do say is, if you are not an existing subscriber to Sky, please do not be enticed by the advent of Atlantic. It is an attack on the BBC which, for the past four seasons, broadcast Mad Men. And then it was outbid by Sky.
Whether Murdoch or anyone else owns 39%, 100% or 0% of BSkyB, the principle remains the same. Public service broadcasting must be protected. It is a cornerstone of our democracy.
PS We are not of course advocating piracy, stream blockbustering, bootlegging or other illicit ways of watching excellent American TV drama shows that you might not otherwise be able to see. No siree!