Monday, September 15, 2003

Why The BBC Must Still Go .....

The Guardian on Charles Moore, Telegraph editor, and his Beebwatch campaign.

"Shall we guess that breakfast in the elegant home of these serious and discerning folk is partaken to the background of the Today programme rather than, say, Planet Rock or Talksport? Come tea time do the smaller Moores watch JackAss and Kerrang, or are they tactfully steered towards Newsround or the Simpsons? Is that a prom on Radio 3 we hear in the background over supper or is it Heart 106.2? And as bedtime nears do we find the grown-ups glued to the mediocre film on Sky One, or are they throwing cushions at Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight? "

But Natalie Solent only notes that "I may even find a little tear trickling down my cheek as I take my £116 to the bank."

Strangely for a Biased-BBC contributor, I find myself more in agreement with the Guardian. As a Radio Four listener since the age of nineteen I often wonder what I shall do when it's gone. I have a vivid memory of sitting in a San Francisco flat, flicking through the 200-plus channels available, coming to the awful realisation that there was nothing worth watching on any of them (we ended up watching old Doctor Who episodes on PBS). There's no doubt that the BBC even now, after 30 years of relentless dumbing down, is still producing some great stuff.

But for me the price is too great. Unlike many libertarian bloggers, I accept the idea of a state-funded broadcaster in principle. Were the BBC still Lord Reith's BBC, I would be fighting its corner. I'm happy with a paternalism - the idea that the BBC should reflect the best of British culture and reinforce values, often now derided as "middle class", which were once shared by all classes. I'm happy with a measure of elitism, happy with excellence, happy with the view that what people want isn't always what is good for them.

The problem is that the BBC is too successful in reflecting the views of an influential and articulate section of the educated English middle class. That is why it must die - because the views of this section are so pernicious.

(Those views are in essence still those of my campus some thirty years ago, when we considered that 'straight white society' was the enemy. On the flagship Today programme, a Patti Smith comeback album is now greeted as if Adam Smith had written a new economics text. Radio Four are broadcasting a programme about West Bromwich Albion's three black stars of the 1970s in which they apparently made an impact on society like MLK's march from Selma to Montgomery. As one who was there at the time, Baggies fans simply thought of them as good players who happened to be black. (Oh, my Regis and my Johnston long ago !) And how dare they ignore Remi Moses ?)

There can be no doubt that the loss of the BBC will be grievous. And the domination of Murdoch more so. But things must get worse before they get better.

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