Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, said in 2007: “The only economic justification for the BBC – indeed for any public intervention in broadcasting – is market failure”. Many of the benefits he itemised in that speech are things that reasonable people should want to be widely accessible.
But the trouble with the argument is that it makes an assumption of market failure and does not give the concept – potentially a useful one – a chance to do its job. It does not acknowledge that state intervention when it is not justified has a negative impact. It inhibits competition, and reduces the incentive for private players to take risks.