It would be a shame if the BBC didn’t exist. These are not my words - they are the words of James May, once of the Corporation’s exceptionally successful Top Gear motoring show, and now of Amazon Prime’s The Grand Tour.  However, I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment.

I’m a big fan of the BBC’s output, and I consume it every day. I listen to parts of BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme. I watch BBC2’s Politics Live and Newsnight. Don’t worry, it’s not all dull; I religiously watch Match of the Day, too, I’m waiting with excited anticipation for the new series of Shetland to start next week, and family life would not be quite the same if we were not all sitting on a Saturday evening watching Strictly.

I like the BBC so much that I would pay for it, just like I pay for Sky and Netflix and Amazon Prime and Disney+. In fact, I do pay for it, don’t I? The only difference is I don’t get the choice. I have to pay for it in order to be permitted to own a television.

There are enough problems in this country that we should consider the reform of the BBC to be a lower priority. This is not the hill upon which we should choose to die. Nonetheless, it is an important discussion to have, because the BBC is an influential and impactful organisation. What the BBC says matters. The BBC influences minds; it changes minds.

Never has this been clearer, or more controversial, than it has been since the eruption of this latest war in Israel and Palestine; the most serious and important event in that troubled part of the world since the Yom Kippur War exactly 50 years ago.

Read more by Andy Maciver: The green tail may no longer wag the yellow dog 

In the three weeks since the Hamas attack on October 7, the BBC has managed to embroil itself in two major controversies. The first was its refusal to call Hamas terrorists. The layman might be forgiven for thinking it strange. We understand, in this country, what terrorism is. Anyone over the age of around 40 has experienced terrorism in the form of the IRA. Anyone over the age of around 20 has experienced al Qaeda and the 7/7 attacks. Almost all adults will forever remember the Manchester Arena bomb, and have no trouble labelling it a terrorist attack.

Indeed, the BBC has appeared to have little trouble labelling many of these events over many decades as terrorism; it did not take long for investigative journalists to conjure a range of historic BBC content which labelled a range of previous attacks and perpetrators as terror. But not Hamas.  This decision is not the fault of BBC producers or presenters; I know and work with many of them, and they are good people doing a good job. On the contrary this is a cultural problem. The BBC has an apparently limitless supply of moral superiority. This was cemented by its decision to roll out its World Affairs Editor, John Simpson, to educate us on why the BBC is just a little bit better, just a little bit cleverer, just a little bit purer than all other news organisations.  We’ll let the amateurs and shock jocks get on with calling Hamas terrorists while we do the real journalism and call them gunmen instead, because we don’t want to pick a side between the world’s most heinous terrorist organisation and a free democracy.

Quite how the BBC’s superior moral code equates to the headline it splashed all over its network on the evening of October 17, when it reported that the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City had been levelled by an Israeli missile, remains unknown. This headline was retweeted by high-ranking politicians, and was followed the next day by significant protests throughout the UK and beyond, amid reports of increased anti-Semitism.

The trouble, of course, is that the headline’s source was Hamas. It did not take long for the claim to be questioned and, now, the evidence points towards the dreadful atrocity, which killed anywhere between 200 and 500 innocent people, having been caused by a malfunctioned Islamic Jihad missile which was on its way into Israel. Without a hint of irony, the BBC informed us that its own Verify unit had reached this conclusion. But the damage was done.

My discomfort with the BBC is, by no means, all related to its coverage of Israel and Palestine. In fact, my primary concern is the impact the BBC has on the rest of the media industry. It is, in effect, the primary beneficiary of an unfair and uncompetitive environment. However, it is increasingly clear that although the days of the BBC being wanted is likely to go on long into the future, the days of the BBC being needed are well behind them.

Read more by Andy Maciver: Scotland has failed this week’s big test on Israel

The most uncensored, yet clear and balanced debate on Israel and Palestine is not to be found on The Today Programme or Newsnight, but on Times Radio’s breakfast show and Piers Morgan Uncensored. The best explainers on the history and context of the Middle East are not to be found on BBC podcasts or on, but on The Rest is Politics and The Economist.  We no longer need the BBC to help us understand the world, and indeed we can increasingly inhale a more rounded, more balanced overview from elsewhere.

And we should no longer want the BBC in its current form, because it provides a huge barrier to a plural news market, and particularly to the digitisation of the printed press. Data shows that only around one-quarter of people source their news from newspapers or newspaper websites, with well over half taking it from television news or its associated websites.

And why not? It is far too easy for the average person to take his or her news from, even down to their own town or city, rather than doing what you, reader, are doing right now, by paying the independent press instead.

That is unhealthy, and October 2023 encapsulates precisely why. We are now serving the BBC by compulsion. In future, the BBC must serve us by choice.