The blessings and burdens of the BBC

Baroness Deech

On Thursday afternoon, 3rd December, there was a debate on the future of the BBC, led by Lord Fowler, chairman of the Lords’ Communication Committee.  The House is often quite critical of the BBC in debate, especially around the time of Charter renewal which, in the past, has taken place every ten years.  On this occasion however, many speakers praised the BBC for its creativity, its representation of Britain abroad (the World Service came in for special mention) and its support for the arts.  I declare an interest, as a former governor (one of the very last) of the BBC.  I believe that the licence fee represents good value for money, bearing in mind that it also supports radio, the website, orchestras and choirs, the Reith lectures and training of journalists in many employments.  It amounts to no more than a few football tickets in price. 

If the BBC has to save money, then I think we could revisit BBC3, which is targeted at a younger audience, but does not seem to me have been a great success in this.  I also believe that the BBC should have an external Ombudsman (but not OFCOM) to make the final decision on complaints, because internal Trust determination may be perceived not to be independent and impartial. 

I also commented that I thought the BBC should show more older women with grey hair reading the news, conducting interviews and generally in positions of  authority on the TV screen.  There are plenty of older women who look good, are articulate and have authority.  Just look around this Chamber, I said! There are, incidentally,  many women in top executive positions at the BBC, which is very good news.

15 comments for “The blessings and burdens of the BBC

  1. nickleaton
    07/12/2009 at 12:25 am

    The real problem is bias. The BBC is acting as a proporganist for the government. There is very little difference between its output and that of Pravda in the Soviet era.

    If we take climate change they are acting completely against the editorial guidelines where impartiality in controversial areas is explicit.

    Their excuse is that they have consulted with a group of scientists who tell them its ok to be biased.

    1. They have abdicated responsibility to a third party

    2. Nothing in the guidelines says anything about third parties being able to change the editorial guidelines.

    3. The names of the scientists are secret. We aren’t allowed to know who, how many, or even what they said.

    It’s Pravda in all but name

    • Gareth Howell
      07/12/2009 at 2:23 pm

      I am just about to cancel my TV licence subscription, since I no longer watch live TV, and the fee is not payable for recordings.

      Considering that many Brits who watch BBC TV live in Spain, and pay nothing for it either, there must be a vast uncollected fee.

      On the subject of personalities and age, my pet hate is the number of small people employed by the BBC as presenters. One of the
      problems of the Small screen is fitting the
      tall man or woman in to the small screen.

      Other than that, ageing presenters gives me no difficulty except that they are keeping the jobs from young people trying to earn a living for a family.

      Isn’t David Jacobs still churning out the soft music on a Sunday night?

  2. Croft
    07/12/2009 at 12:09 pm

    The problem, Lady Deech, with that argument is that I don’t like football; I don’t watch football and consequently don’t buy, or wish to buy, a ticket. I make that choice and save the money. Not a position any of us are in with the BBC. As it happens notwithstanding the above I do think the BBC is necessary and valuable but I don’t think it can continue to be so complacent about its right to a licence fee and insulation from the economy as a whole. The charter process takes little real regard for what the public wants to or indeed in harder economic time can afford to pay.

    I totally agree on external Ombudsman the present situation has no credibility. I don’t find the bbc 3 argument very conveincing though. As I’m sure you know it’s budget is tiny in bbc terms and tiny cuts in another channel would realise greater savings.

    nickleaton: I have many problems with bbc coverage but you create an impossible hurdle. There are plainly many areas of debate where there is no ‘truth’ as such. However, giving an equal amount of time in bbc programmes, in search of some perfect impartiality to those who deny the holocaust or believe the earth is flat would be absurd. If anything I tend to get exasperated by the general news coverage when they faithfully report political spin even when they know, and are are willing to say, on more political bbc programmes or blogs that something is true/false.

  3. Carl Holbrough
    07/12/2009 at 12:20 pm

    I object to being taxed and it is a tax, not avoidable even if you only watch ITV, for things like the World service for which all the listeners pay not a bean.

    The BBC tends to broadcast more programmes that are liked by the people in power, costume drama, last night at the proms and things that appeal to the so called “educated classes”. The licence fee however comes mostly from the people that want to watch football which we frequently find the BBC refuses to pay the price for. Do they show all the England games ? No. Funny though how the cricket and tennis are shown even to the extent of over running and putting other programmes out.

    It`s representation of “Britain abroad” is now tainted. Having taken part in many “Have your say” debates on the BBC online we see frequently that the World thinks the BBC biased. The Americans specifically seem anti Auntie Beeb.

    As far as teenagers go most things they want to watch are on Channel 4 who seem to be more in touch with our youth. None listen to Radio 1 as we did in our youth and Wogan has gone from 2 so that`s me out too.

    If as you say the BBC is so good it will be able to pay for itself by selling programmes, other Channels do. The BBC has an unfair advantage over every other business in the industry. It is no longer, how it was seen in the past, a part of Government mechanism but it is however biased.

    In competition law it would be made to be equal to others, why should it be the exception. Why should Government back it when it is frequently biased against them. Why has it the power to put people in prison when other companies rely on law that doesn`t involve this to get debt paid. It shows that the BBC and Government exist in the past, debtors prisons were outlawed long ago.

    £6 million a year to be able to phone someones Grandfather up shouting obscenities about having sex with his grand daughter and menstruation. Now that`s a prisonable offence surely ? I paid for that… oh joy !!!

  4. nickleaton
    07/12/2009 at 12:46 pm

    These are the guidelines.

    The BBC say that they won’t apply them in the case of climate change.

    The BBC also say that the reasons for this and their advisors are a secret. You aren’t allowed to know.

    Either its because they are making it up. It could be because the government has told them. It could be that the scientists are the same ones from Climategate. It could be for some other reason. However, you aren’t allowed to know.

    Why then should I be forced to pay for the properganda? Just like football for you

  5. nickleaton
    07/12/2009 at 3:33 pm

    Why should Government back it when it is frequently biased against them.


    Actually, it backs them because it pro government. It needs a Pravda outlet

  6. Chris K
    07/12/2009 at 4:34 pm

    Perhaps if the BBC provided an absolutely exceptional, flawless service I may be able to cast aside my misgivings on the outdated way it’s funded. But it doesn’t. It pays millions for smuggos like Ross to appear on our screens and abuse elderly people over the phone, all in the name of “entertainment”. Well, certainly his idea of entertainment is unique.

    It is a mouthpiece for the government on several issues. Its reports on science are overwhelmingly one-sided. It has inherant political bias, in which everyone who isn’t a rabid socialist is described as being “right-wing”. It is also extremely europhilic.

    They allow criticism of themselves – just watch a programme like Points of View or Newswatch – but they never ever seem to act on it. It’s a level of arrogance with a pretence of actually caring you could only get from a state-funded corporation.

    • nickleaton
      07/12/2009 at 6:12 pm

      Quite right Chris.

      50% of the electorate have come to the conclusion that AGW is wrong. And yet when you watch the BBC, you will be told that AGW is gospel true, particularly at the moment.

      It’s jetted off 25 journo’s to climate change in Copenhagen, at huge CO2 cost. Likewise with politicians.

      It’s the main problem with government and it applies directly to the Lords too.

      Its a case of do as you are told, not do as we do.

      • Chris K
        07/12/2009 at 8:21 pm

        Oh yes. Hypocrisy aside, politicians and others say that the science of anthropogenic climate change is absolutely totally sound, and that dissenting voices are “irresponsible”, in an attempt at closing down the debate. Well, hang on, 50% of the British electorate (and I suspect a large number of people in other countries too) aren’t convinced by ‘the science’. So surely it’s in all our interests for a proper debate so that the 50% of the population can be convinced and change their CO2-emitting ways?

        Still, calling half the population flat-earthist morons is certainly brave. In fact, it’s about the most spine any modern politician has shown. Credit where it’s due!

      • nickleaton
        08/12/2009 at 1:05 pm

        The Curse of Brown strikes.

        As soon as he supports it, it goes wrong.


  7. Gareth Howell
    08/12/2009 at 9:17 am

    “Why should Government back it when it is frequently biased against them.”

    It is probably the party in power they are against and not the government, which they have a responsibility to do.

    Nobody has mentioned propaganda, although the world service is surely a branch of the foreign office.

    I find much of the BBC News output is a successful attempt to keep people down, and in fear.

    One can spend years in Parliament and be oblivious to the spin of the news editors. It just seems irrelevant!

    I now ask myself, “What news do I want to keep abreast of?”

    ….and go find it, on video, on
    newspaper web page, and that may now include
    BBC web pages news, which are excellent value for money, that I hope to stop paying soon!

    If the Web page daily newspapers start to charge then BBC news web pages will be able to do so too, but I don’t think that will happen.

  8. Bedd Gelert
    08/12/2009 at 10:49 am

    “If the BBC has to save money, then I think we could revisit BBC3, which is targeted at a younger audience, but does not seem to me have been a great success in this. ”

    One could just as easily argue that BBC4, which is hardly watched by anyone, could be junked. But that would not sit easily with your own prejudices, now would it Baroness Deech ??

    I am fed up of people dressing up their own prejudices as a logical argument. If you don’t like BBC3, just come out and say so.

    If you just use the ratings argument you will be hoist by your own petard as Murdoch buys into a privatised BBC so he can fill it with the X-Factor and Fox News.

    You may not like ‘Gavin and Stacey’ which was initially on BBC3, but without it where would younger people get anything to justify paying the licence fee ?

    Oddly enough I agree that there should be more grey haired women on the telly. Although people seem to ignore that Martha Kearney is still doing Newsnight Review [but she would kill me if I so much as suggested that she had grey hair…] and Joan Bakewell still crops up from time to time. Maybe if we got Semolina Scott and Anna Ford back the balance would improve.

    But for goodness sake you do sound like Biddy Baxter with a view of what we should be watching to ‘do us good’. I loved Blue Peter growing up, but people just don’t respond to that these days.

    Having said that, I can’t have it both ways by also complaining that Panorama and Horizon are not what they were.

    And it is disappointing that you are not also ‘banging the drum’ for the cause of changing the management from being, as Greg Dyke I believe described it, ‘hideously white’. I’m sorry, but it makes it sound a bit like special pleading.

    What really needs to change at the BBC is for there to be Tazers handed out to staff to deliver 50,000 volt electric shocks to any presenters who mention the words ‘middle’ and ‘class’ in the same sentence.

    I still haven’t gotten over the treatment of Greg Dyke at the hands of that hideously posh old bat Pauline Neville Jones. It’s about time the BBC stopped perpetuating this socially-stratified, un-diverse, divisive and stultifyingly dull stuff about class.

    I’m sorry to bang on – I do love the BBC and ‘Lords of the Blog’, and I would miss both if they were gone. But dearie me, we are in danger of allowing it to become the ‘Marks and Sparks’ of broadcasting – appealing only to old grandparents [or indeed a ghetto for ‘yoof’ programming] while over the horizon Phillip Green and Simon Cowell are shaping up for a takeover bid.

    p.s. Baroness Deech – please forgive me for being cheeky, but if you could bring back the delectable Arlene Phillips onto our screens I might, just might, be willing to eat my words with a jumbo portion of humble pie. I’m sure you still have some influence on those far shores…

    • Carl Holbrough
      10/12/2009 at 9:12 am

      “What really needs to change at the BBC is for there to be Tazers handed out to staff to deliver 50,000 volt electric shocks to any presenters who mention the words ‘middle’ and ‘class’ in the same sentence.”

      Could only come from someone who is “middle-class”. The Upper-class know what they are and are generally o.k. people, “lower” or “working-class” as we like to be known also know what we are but the “middle-class”…Oh dear, here comes a generalisation that doesn`t apply to all…They`re forever banging on that the class system doesn`t exist, well I`m sorry to say here at the bottom it does and I believe at the top too. ” My Dad was an ex-coal miner so I`m working class”…No your not even Arthur Skargill owns a mansion. You`re pretentious, arrogant, know alls. Mortgaged up to the hilt in your effort to keep up with the Jones`s. You`ll see them outside schools, in their 4×4`s, dressed in designer wear with full make up. Pushing their kids into show biz, or Oxford. Looking down on single parents whilst your husband keeps the massage parlours in business.

      I`m sorry, I`m ranting. The class system exists, I`m sorry for the “middle-class” who are actually in pergatory, neither here nor there but that`s what you are. If you`re not down the pub, chatting about Englands chances, eyeing up the birds then off for a curry or being dropped by the chauffeur at the latest club or dinner party in a £10k dress or suit….You`re middle class, get over it.

      The opinions stated here are my own and are a generalisation they cannot be applied to all. Sincere apologies for any offence.

      Oooh yeah and you watch, Horizon, Panorama, Question time and newsnight instead of falling asleep on the sofa shattered from your hard graft. It gives you something interesting to talk about in the office and makes you feel educated (fed a line by Auntie more like) rather than Englands chances,birds….;-)

  9. Gar Hywel
    09/12/2009 at 3:42 pm

    I know Bedd Gelert in his other incarnations but I can not quite work out which. I know one thing, as usual, he just made me laugh like a drain!


  10. Carl Holbrough
    03/01/2010 at 12:59 pm

    I note Ms. Harman has taken up the noble Lady`s cause.

    Government interference in life is becoming excessive and intolerable. What next ? Insisting the World Cup team include Bobby Charlton or that women must play in the teams ?

    What if we take it to the next level, no sexual seperation. Mixed events with only the best getting through…Oh dear that would mean no women at all in most cases.

    I can admit as I get older and indeed uglier that I am not as equal as I once was. Shall we ask for 18 year olds in the House of Lords ? That`s ageism isn`t it ?

    This equality nonsense is exasperating and against nature. You cannot force evolution.

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