When people under the thumb of oppressive, totalitarian regimes want to know what is actually happening in their own countries, they often turn to the BBC as a trusted source of news. The fact it comes from Britain makes us look good, earning this country a reputation as a place of truth, freedom and democracy.
Closer to home, the corporation produces public service broadcasting, such as educational programmes for children, that profit-driven private firms would not, without state funding of some kind.
However, in an age of multiple TV channels, streaming services like Netflix, and other attractions like YouTube and Tik Tok, it probably is time for a serious and sensible discussion about the BBC's scope, and how it is funded.
The problem with Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ announcements on Twitter and elsewhere about freezing and later scrapping the licence fee is that, as virtually everyone has been pointing out, it appears to be nothing of the sort. In truth, it is a rushed announcement designed to distract from the lockdown-breaking antics of Boris Johnson and his staff.
Discussions within government, the BBC and beyond have actually been going on for some time. But given the dangers of tampering with what is, on the whole, a national success story, there should be a Royal Commission into its funding and a considerable public debate on what the BBC is for, and how we pay for it, before major changes are made. The alternative is to risk blithely throwing away something that means a great deal to a great many people.