BBC Hoards Entire Staff In Dorms For British Open

The BBC has one of the sweetest gigs in broadcasting. The UK government decided to institute independent public broadcasting and fully funded the network with “television license fees” - nice word for taxes per TV, basically. In other words, since the government doesn’t directly give them any money there’s no incentive whatsoever to be a mouthpiece for Britain (or anybody else, since there’s no advertising). Pretty slick.

Turnberry Ailsa
(Why yes, it is beautiful. You’ll be staying far away from here.)

That doesn’t exempt the company from frugality, though, which is fair; nobody wants their government funding a bloated calf in the media. All that said, their coverage of this year’s British Open in Scotland is a head-scratcher: 420 traveling staff, zero hotel rooms rented. Huh?

[N]ot one member of staff, including the main presenter Gary Lineker and commentator Peter Allis, will be put up in hotels.

Instead, they are being herded into university halls and shared rented houses in a street in nearby Girvan.

Perhaps there’s some merit in cost-saving as the recession strikes the country; Britain is being hit as hard as the USA, and this is a publicly-funded corporation, after all. Nobody in dire financial straits wants to find out their scant money is paying for somebody else’s luxury.

But the problem is that no matter what they pay for, it probably is, in some way or another, doing exactly that. Do people think nobody in, say, the food distribution industry ever gets rich or goes on lavish retreats? You just don’t hear about that as much as senior executives at the Beeb - or execs from banks on our side of the pond.

The deal is this: if the money is “public,” then people, understandably, don’t want to see their money spent on things that don’t directly affect the service put in front of them. But eliminating even basic incentives, like, oh, I dunno, maybe hotel rooms when the company travels, is a pretty effective deterrent when it comes to attracting talent. Who would want to work for a company where the paychecks are effectively guaranteed, but small and come with a travel date in a shared house miles away?

And yes, here come the “ta-da that’s what we had in mind all along!” free-marketers, but the evidence pretty solidly supports the notion that there are certain services that would much more benefit a nation if shareholders or profits weren’t involved. Disaster relief, roads, police, health care (*ahem*), and yes, public broadcasting. Let them sleep in hotel rooms, for crying out loud.