Special report Regardless of your opinion of the BBC today, the loss of an independent Beeb would be a loss to British public life.
It's the BBC's independence that makes it unique - not, as it likes to insist, its funding from TV licence fees. Many countries have public-funded broadcasters that are bankrolled through a compulsory tax or levy, and they are given a long list of worthy duties to perform. But many of these outlets are simply government information bureaux beholden to politicians of the day - or they're shackled and starved of funds, producing dull but high-minded material nobody watches. They're peripheral to normal life and, unlike the BBC, unable to act as a powerful counterweight to institutions, politicians, corporations and lobby groups.
In reality, the BBC's independence has only been meaningful since the 1960s when brilliant new TV companies, such as Granada, forced the BBC to compete for talent and show some real courage and imagination.
As this clip (above) from a short film by Adam Curtis shows, for decades prior to that the Beeb treated the politician with forelock-tugging deference:
Critics of the BBC are this week are calling for an end to the separation between the broadcaster and the state. A Financial Times columnist called for communications watchdog Ofcom to take over the running of the BBC, arguing that the corporation is unable to manage itself. This would be ironic: Ofcom boss Ed Richards was shortlisted for the post of BBC director general but lost out to George Entwistle, who suddenly quit at the weekend after presiding over a string of Newsnight blunders. At Ofcom Richards could run the BBC without leaving his chair.