Idle Ramblings

A letter to my bank.

Letter you may want to send to your bank to clarify potential situation

Dear Sirs,
In view of current developments in the banking market, if one of my cheques is returned marked ‘insufficient funds’, does that refer to me or to you?
Yours Faithfully.

The BBC

What’s it for?

Would someone tell me what the BBC is for please? If it was almost any other product or service I would not be so troubled, I would just boycott it. But I can’t can I? Even if I avoid consuming any BBC products I still have to pay the tax.

So, put my mind at rest. Convince me that the current situation is reasonable.

What is the BBC for? Why does it get to be paid from a tax directly levied on almost every household? What does it do that is so special?

I don’t mean the smashing period dramas or the superb documentaries. Who makes them anyway? Is it a BBC team of BBC employees or does the BBC just sign the cheque? That was not rhetoric. I don’t know, someone tell me, does the BBC actually make these types of program? Even if it does make them, what is so special about this programming that, given a level playing field, a commercial company could not make them?

The news and current affairs content perhaps? News!? John Sergeant has quit something called ‘Strictly’. More on that soon I can assure you. I agree, some of the current affairs programs are great. Unfortunately, there are not many. Again, who makes these programmes? Why can’t commercial companies make them?

Ah, I know – no adverts! Oh, but wait a moment, that’s not true is it? Firstly, there seems to be just as many minutes per hour not taken up by actual programs on the BBC as on the ITV channels. At least you get a variety of products advertised by ITV, on the BBC they just advertise, well, the BBC! Trailers, I can understand, they are useful but why keep advertising the BBC in general all the time … it is boring and it is deceitful to claim that it is not advertising! Secondly, the constant … no, wait, this deserves its own paragraph…

Secondly, the constant ‘cross pollination’ between BBC programs is so tedious. I like news. I have no interest in a program that makes a nice bonus by getting people to phone in and vote on hapless celebrities and wannabes getting out of their comfort zones. And then, such programs start to actually take them selves seriously. Anyway, I want to watch news but I can’t watch news without being bombarded by the latest pr/advertising campaign for some BBC production masquerading as a news article! John Sergeant was somehow compromising the credibility of an amateur dancing competition by being crap and loveable? After days of this we get article after article about the man quitting. And he was a proper journalist.
Imagine how the commercial companies must view this. What would they pay for that kind of publicity? How does Kevin Spacey feel down at the Old Vic when he has the BBC backed Joseph and his colourful coat or whatever it’s called just down the street playing to packed houses every night? Check this http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7318812.stm to find out.

Ah … the web site. At last. It’s brilliant. One of the best. I think that context is important here – I choose from well organised content and then I read it … somehow, reading it is more neutral.

So, that’s good.

What about the harmful consequences of having a tax funded corporation, able to generate additional income in many ways, with no democratic accountability (we pay but we don’t get to vote – I’ve heard that before somewhere), pumping hours and hours of programming into our homes? The culture is celebrity, the measure of success the ratings and this corporation significantly shapes the culture of our nation. Their journalists, even the good ones, have forgotten what being a journalist means. They are more concerned with form than content and function. A decent interview can so easily be derailed by some pompous celeb journo trying to score points.

I could, and probably shall, at some point, go on and on … for now, some constructive thoughts…

I believe that there should be some state funding for something that we might as well call the BBC. It should come from the state budget, collected through normal taxation. Everyone pays just like we pay for hospitals, schools, the army and many other things. Any additional income generated by the BBC should be deducted from the funding that it receives. That keeps everything clean and clear. No commercial interest.

The BBC should have real resources of its own, its own program makers and associated trades and professions. It should make the good stuff*. It should not make news and current affairs programs unless a way can be found to re-create the ethos of people like Brian Redhead (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Redhead). How can that be done? We live in world where one can no longer trust individual principles to transcend the power of the organisation unless that organisation has a powerful and enforceable constitution. I am open to suggestions as to how a state funded news organisation could be constituted in order to protect it from itself and I’d love to hear what it is (*the good stuff) that only the BBC can do.

So, help me out … tell me what you think.