When the Conservatives won a majority at the general election it was clear the BBC was in for a tough time, with charter renewal on the horizon and Tory election favours to be repaid to media owners who stand to benefit from any cuts to the BBC.
BBC Director General Tony Hall addressed this point on Tuesday, when he said: "There is a view that prefers a much diminished BBC. It’s a view that is often put forward by people with their own narrow commercial interests."
Thursday saw culture secretary John Whittingdale announce how far reaching a review of the BBC may be.
The Conservatives of course have made no secret of being in favour of private enterprise and a smaller state. As such, it is only natural they would court mutual back-scratching from wealthy media owners and want to shrink the BBC. And in a country where the media is predominantly, openly right-leaning it is understandable the government finds the BBC's even-handedness inconvenient and outdated. The government's claims of bias are just one part of a PR offensive intended to justify cuts, but many of the arguments don't stand up.
The coverage of Margaret Thatcher's death in 2013 neatly summed up the issue of the BBC's supposed bias when as many people complained that it was too favourable to Thatcher as complained that it was too critical. Those on the right of British politics may well have been appalled to hear any criticism of Thatcher. And those on the left may have been appalled to hear anybody remember her fondly. But what both sides were really complaining about was balance, not bias.
Likewise the suggestion the BBC is bad for local media. Sadly, it seems a more pressing issue is that local media owners are bad for local media as highlighted by recent strike actions. Under-investment in both journalism and effective digital strategies, alongside poor commercial planning and management and the inability to keep pace with changing consumer behaviours affecting all media, are hurting local media far more than a competitor that has been around for decades. But if you were the boss of a local or regional media company who would you blame for the falling quality of your product? Certainly not yourself. Far easier to blame the BBC, especially when there are high-profile allies in media and government who will nod and agree and amplify your complaints.
The accusation that the BBC has gone "chasing ratings" clearly has a grounding in truth. After all, what broadcaster doesn't want to draw an audience and it is the BBC's job to bring people together in good times, bad times, fun times and important times. While programming such as The Voice (X Factor without the hit singles) or celebrity gymnastics show Tumble (Splash without the swimming pool) may expose the extent to which the BBC has made some bad bets in the name of popular entertainment, the obvious risk aversion and lack of imagination behind such decisions arguably makes a case for giving the BBC more room to breathe, not less. But much of this is subjective and the debate cannot become about individual shows or even channels and stations.
Objecting to the licence fee because you can name a handful of programmes, or even whole channels or stations you don't like makes about as much sense as walking out of a restaurant refusing to pay the bill after an excellent, fairly-priced meal because there were other things on the menu you wouldn't have liked if you had ordered them.
The BBC's greatest strength is the choice it offers across online, television and radio. But the choice needs to be rich and diverse and underpinned by an awareness that the value of all content cannot be judged one uniform way. Simply suggesting the BBC should do more of this, or less of that, ignores the subtle economics of content. Somebody who only watches niche documentaries on BBC4 may cry foul that their licence fee funds big budget prime time shows on BBC1 but 300,000 people watching a documentary on BBC4 are arguably getting far greater value for money than 10 million watching The Voice, because they are getting a scarce product for the same price as a more commoditised product.
People enjoying the BBC's factual and documentary output benefit from the licence fee in a way that simply couldn't be recreated under any other funding model. One television historian told me commercial broadcasters may still commission occasional historical documentaries "but only if they are about Nazis or the Titanic". He was joking. But only just.
Nothing characterises the BBC's dilemma more than sport. Damned if it shows too much, damned if it shows too little. Take the recent example of the BBC being sidelined in the world of Olympic coverage which resulted in angry criticisms of the Corporation. The BBC arguably taught the world how to broadcast sport but is now being pushed to the periphery because money talks and the BBC is having to keep its voice down.
Love it or hate it, the role of sport in creating those moments which unite us should not be underestimated, nor should the impact of the BBC losing rights, because without its involvement sport is reaching ever-smaller audiences - the current Ashes series being a prime example. Currently the rights owners, such as sports' governing bodies, don't seem to care but in time they surely will.
As I write this I am in California and last night met up with a British journalist based over here. He told me: "The longer I spend away from the UK, the more I realise how important the BBC is."
This current challenge to the BBC should encourage us all to review and fully appreciate what the BBC means to us.
Of course there are things we'd all change about the BBC if we could and we're all entitled to our moans - not least because - for now - we pay for it, not advertisers and not the government through a central budget. Keeping the licence fee separate from general taxation and annual government budget reviews gives us all a direct claim over the services we receive and research shows the majority of us still favour the licence fee as the preferred way of funding the BBC (ICM, 2014).
As Tony Hall pointed out: "The BBC does not belong to the government. The BBC belongs to the country. The public are our shareholders. So it is their voice that will matter most in this debate."
It certainly should not be left to a handful of rival media owners, the government and their hand-picked advisors - some with their own commercial interests - to decide what happens to the BBC.
For more on this subject, see:
The "mind-blowing excess" of BBC tea-drinkers
BBC critics ramp up their attacks
Bullish BBC boss comes out swinging
Telegraph bashes BBC for doing its research
BBC bashed for "lavish" lambing largesse