Listening to the BBC

Baroness Deech

There are those who say that the BBC is not sufficiently “accountable”.  Well, the new chairman of the trustees, Lord (Chris) Patten has had a busy week explaining how it works, first to the Lords Select Committee on Communications, and then to the AllParty BBC Group.  The usual issues were raised: how can the trustees govern the BBC as well as regulate it; how can young people connect with news when they no longer watch and listen in the conventional way, but pick and choose what they want to see on their computers; why should everyone have to pay the licence fee; what economies can the BBC make while still preserving the World Service; should the National Audit Office be permitted to decide for itself which areas of the BBC to investigate; why is “talent” paid so much? 

Lord Patten affirmed his agreement with Lord Reith – the BBC is there to inform, entertain and educate.  There are two broad answers to the issues raised.  One is that the precise differences between regulation and governance matter less than having the right people in place determined to preserve the independence of the BBC and its mission. Second, that everyone benefits from the BBC regardless of how much they view or listen, because of its contribution to training for the media, education, music, and drama, and its influence overseas.  I am particularly concerned about applying value for money tests to the World Service.  The World Service is sometimes the only source of accurate news for people abroad.  It enables Britain to punch above its weight.  The World Service may be expensive to provide, but it is priceless to receive.

6 comments for “Listening to the BBC

  1. Bedd Gelert
    13/05/2011 at 9:56 pm

    As someone who is not your biggest fan, I do feel it is important to redress the balance and give credit when it is due. You did stick up for Greg Dyke against the reprehensible ‘stitch-up’ when he was the sacrificial lamb over the Hutton report, at a time when other people were happy to stab him in the back.
    [mentioning no names]

    Events this week have shown that the ‘dodgy dossier’ and the climate at that time were possibly not exactly as Alistair Campbell might like us to believe.

    So I can forgive you a lot for your bravery , good judgement and wisdom in this regard, and hope that you continue to show this in sticking up for the BBC which, rather like the NHS, wouldn’t really be fully appreciated until it was gone.

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      14/05/2011 at 7:55 am

      Thanks. Indeed time to revisit the Hutton episode.

  2. Gareth Howell
    14/05/2011 at 7:44 am

    Very interesting post.

    thank goodness the young are not indoctrinated in the way they were 30 years ago, and can make their own judgements.

    If you do not watch TV live you do not have to pay the licence fee.

    The world service is the one department which may be worth keeping.

    Yes why were f***wits (the asterisks read lip) like Kilroy, or Parkinson paid far too much?

  3. MilesJSD
    14/05/2011 at 8:19 am

    I strongly doubt Britain should be “punching” its way around the Whole World that it now should be constructively-supporting through the world-wide English language and its inescapably-entangled traditions, philosophies, ways-of-life, and super-injunctional future expectations, too many very bad as well as too few universally-good.

    weight or no weight.
    And I deplore the BBC not launching a “Learn the Stages of Democratisation” UK and international channel in its own 24/7/52/10 right,

    quite separately from its Parliamentary, GCSE and suchlike channels, programmes, curriculums, syllabuses, subjects, and philosophies;

    and because increasingly many British people are beginning to realise that
    “opting out”
    “leaving it to the Parliaments
    (and/or to the Bankers, the Bosses, the Experts, the Neighbours”)
    “justified abrogation”
    “non-compulsory voting”
    “the Social Contract will keep all our Needs balanced”

    have never been, and never can be, enough to enable, empower, and improve us;

    that is, to be proactively-participatory-democratic-people and, sooner rather than later, to start becoming multi-way-communicable Sustainworthy Earth Citizens.
    Incidentally, if I can be all-alone “going public” through the Lords of the Blog, the local community Blog-site, and two or more voluntary non-profit solo-citizens multi-way particatory ‘interactive’ world-wide-websites

    purely out of my pocket-money saved from my state-pension-allowances of £250 per week (and no own-home, nor assets, nor savings)

    (rather than spending it on running a private-car, smoking, alcoholic-drinking, long outings, luxurious holidays and so on, as many pensioners feel they now have a right to do and are in fact also expected to do by the highly-affluent Individual Capitalistic Global Economy)

    then surely truly unselfish, non-greedy, and honest-to-God public-BBC broadcasters, be they staff or freelance, can provide the necessary programmes for the Sustainworthy World Future we all, and All Life On Earth, and on a future ‘Earth II’, inescapably need ?

    and need not just “for our children” but for All Life here-and-now, on an equivalently cost-effective (and sustain-worthy) Budget ?
    Trying to hide obscenely excessive and life-destructive “earnings”, “bonuses”, “one-offs”, “retainers” and other fat-pay-packets behind malfeasantly and immorally-constituted Laws of Privacy, is not going to save either Earth I, Earth II, the Global-Economy, the EU, Britain, the BBC nor the BBC World Service.

    The super-destruction of Life On Earth is no longer a plumply-private-right;

    and neither is an under-programmed but long already heavily and largely-wastefully over-budgeted BBC.


  4. maude elwes
    15/05/2011 at 9:57 am

    I do not watch television and therefore have not had a license for over two years now. And would never, under present circumstances, change that status. One of the reasons being, I forbid myself the peculiar privilege of paying an organization who employs, at exorbitant rates, those who are simply a sleaze ball form of entertainment. That is a crazy way to spend my money and I simply won’t do it.

    And, if those who make so much money for this idiocy feel they can earn the same, or more, elsewhere, then put them to the
    test and lets see them flourish. Why hold them back?

    However, more than that. The people at the top of that corporation are paid way over the odds for their offering. They have no idea where they are going or even what is the way to move forward. They are there simply because they are in the loop and are pals with whoever feels comfortable with them at the helm.

    If you move down the order and take a look at those who actually make and provide programmes you find you are in with the nursery crowd. Men and women, who wear baby gap and kicker shoes and are in their late fifties. The rest are ethnic of one sort or another for visual affect. They have to stick to the idea of PC don’t they. Regardless of what that may or may not do to output.

    As far as the World Service is concerned, you can’t spread the English language, if that is what the aim is, by having presenters you can barely interpret as speaking the chosen lingo. If you cannot understand what is being said, then the sentiment is lost. There are hundreds of people from all over the world who have good English as their second language. Far more than we have who can speak a second language at all. So it must be easy to fill those slots.

    This follows through with hardly any news or programming from Europe. All we get from there is shown in the middle of the night on TV. Our news covers so many small town events from the USA that it simply leaves no time for those who are 20 miles from our shores and with whom we are in bed politically to our benefit.

    If you take a count on Radio 4 for one week and add all the Americans, selling their wares to us, whilst faining expertise you would be astounded by the count. It is overwhelming. Do you believe the USA give the British as much air time? And they have more radio stations then we have hot dinners.

    How is it the BBC tell us they cannot afford to make TV as widely appealing as they did with Pride and Prejudice in 1995. You do not have to go as far back in choice of literature as Jane Austen to find tales equal to national acceptance. I agree that finding the actors with a demeanor and voice capability these days is a difficult task, but do they have to sound like half wits and nursery visitors, all the time, or the equivalent of the school play. I simply cannot listen to the twittery who read these dull and juvenile pieces they select now.

    It is apparent that either the people who select have no qualification for that position, as they have little or no education in the field. Otherwise it has to be, they detest the English heritage so much they will do anything rather than select from that cornucopia on the bookshelves. And if racy is what they want, there is plenty of it, without reaching for the unlistenable or unwatchable, which they do now.

    It hasn’t been since 1981 that the entire nation sat together to watch a television series that had the people breathless. Grenada produced Evelyn Waugh’s, Brideshead Revisited, with Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews, for ITV. And they pulled an audience over 11 weeks of around twenty million. Don’t say that is not possible these days, because, if ‘that wedding’ can pull the amount it did, then, this far outstrips the possibility of those bums on seats.

    What is the purpose of the BBC? Is to simply to copy the wallpaper on the rest of the viewing offered. The rubbish is amply provided for on the rest of the viewing outlets. Why is the news made into a game show format? Turning what is serious into a drama show, removing it from reality and the ultimate credibility it so desperately needs.

    The BBC is under performing and that is a tragedy. Now why is that? And is Lord Patten going to insist it changes that modus operandi? Or, is he going to sit there and let it continue as the bottom rate propaganda machine it is.

    • MilesJSD
      16/05/2011 at 3:50 pm

      Bravo, Maude.


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