I’m really getting fed up with BBC bosses hiding behind Licence Fee payers when it suits them and ignoring them when it doesn’t.
Today, in response to a speech last month by James Murdoch, BBC bosses have seized on a Guardian/ICM poll showing four out of five people saying “the UK should be proud of the BBC”.
Lyons speaks of a BBC which “delivers public value in the way you want” and manages to make no mention of use of the Licence Fee to make millionaires out of lightweight presenters thanks to long term contracts entered into by well-paid executives who feel fine about claiming expenses to go alongside salaries 4-6 times what the Prime Minister makes in a year.
Sadly ICM didn’t ask me what I felt about the BBC, had they done so my responses might have upset the mutual backslapping.
While some BBC executives think the Licence Fee payer can’t cope with the complexities of pay to talent, I’m pretty sure no-one battling on a real wage would have signed multi-year contracts to hand out millions of pounds to a few ‘stars’ only to see their biggest commercial competitor slashing away at costs just to survive a year or so later.
It now seems Lyons and Thompson think the BBC might have to look at reducing the fee if it ever finds itself with money it “did not need”. Well I’m sorry but any public body able to pay a manager £800k or a ‘star’ £6m a year already has too much cash. Or at least isn’t spending it on the right things.
Thompson says: “the fact that the public support our stand on top-slicing and reject many of the most extreme attacks on us does not mean that we should shut our ears to criticism”.
A BBC which listened to criticism really would be a sight to behold.
Let’s put it to the test and see whether the violence of EastEnders been toned down in light of past complaints and OFCOM rulings. In fact you only have to look at a response dated this week to see yet another dismissal of such concerns.
It’s clear many families tuning in during the early evening (or Sunday lunchtime in the case of the omnibus) don’t want constant scenes of murder and intimidation but the show carries on regardless.
Of course those viewers could watch something else but it’s fair to ask how the BBC arrived at a mindset where constant waves of murder, cuckoldry, intimidation, bullying and the odd burying people alive are acceptable things to show when they know families are watching.
I’m actually a big fan of the idea of a BBC.
I can see a point of a BBC which was a powerhouse of British creativity which invested every penny in high quality output which would be ‘must have’ purchases for foreign broadcasters, where well researched, fact-based news was presented by knowledgeable journalists rather than £100k a year autocuties, ideally in hour long chunks so people had no excuse not to know what was happening in the world.
A BBC which allowed space to question and debate the received wisdom on issues of great public concern, such as climate change, rather act a champion for trendy causes and stifling dissent, would truly be worth of the label ‘public service broadcaster’.
And how about a public service broadcaster which used extra capacity to run a dedicated simul-cast hybrid of BBC One and Two with signing so those with hearing impairments could enjoy big ticket programmes at the same time as everyone else rather than having to read subtitles or wait for the sign zone.
But nice as an idea of a BBC is, what we have is a broadcaster which eats into E4’s potential audience by competing via BBC Three, where news is highly opinionated, where the majority view is presented as unassailable fact, where adverts for West End shows are concealed as talent shows and where executives cushioned by an enforced subscription cite market forces and rates as excuses for excess.
The BBC has to change, but before it does we need to be able to have a sensible debate about what the public want from it. The first step towards that debate should be elections for the BBC Trust by the people who own the BBC.
Only then can BBC bosses honestly claim to represent the Licence Fee payers.