Thursday, 9 February 2017

"Expertise, without the elitism"

Writing on the BBC blog, James Purnell, the BBC's Director of Radio & Education, says there's no need to be "despondent" about fake news. 

Today's media is "the greatest educational resource the world has ever seen" and he wants the BBC to become a "trusted guide" through this abundance of "information and misinformation". 

He doesn't, however, want it to be top-down or elitist. 

So there will be no canon of great works, no single-author celebrations of Western civilisation (indeed the very idea of 'civilisation' will be questioned).

Instead, there'll be "empathy" and "expertise" and an ongoing conversation with an involved audience. 

It won’t be the Auntie that dispensed culture from on high. It will be much more of a thoughtful friend. Prodding us to keep our resolutions, helping us ask and find answers.

Sadly for me, I've always rather liked the idea of a canon of great works and would love to watch a modern celebration of Western civilisation, but it seems I'm out of touch with the prevailing spirit at the BBC. 

The language of the piece as a whole strikes me as being quite redolent of the Blair era.

Still, at least there's going to be a lot of science on the BBC over the summer and a Neil McGregor series on 'faith and society' in the autumn. 


  1. In other words: More moral relativism, more denigrating Western civilisation and the BBC taking it upon themselves to “guide" us through the events of the day. The Auntie that dispensed culture from on high at least had high expectations of its audience. The BBC of today clearly despises whole sections of British society.

  2. If you want a laugh...

  3. James Purnell is on the case!
    But he could do with a little humility. He says ‘viewers and listeners’ [..] “don’t know what they don’t know”, but does James Purnell really know what he doesn’t know?
    He also believes that viewers and listeners are worried that they’re not getting enough information that “disagrees with their (existing) viewpoint” …..which is understandable. So what’s the BBC going to do about that? Give it to them?

    Then he says: “They want to know what it all adds up to” […] “they want someone to point them towards the big questions and the new answers.” and seems to think the BBC should be that someone; then:

    “When there is so much information and misinformation, the BBC can be a trusted guide through that abundance.”

    1. Getting in Donald Rumsfeld as Editorial Guideline Ed was quite the coup, mind

    2. Comments could be going better too, frankly.

  4. "He doesn't, however, want it to be top-down or elitist." But it is and reminds me of the silly slogan from a few years ago, "It's YOUR BBC" as in "It's YOUR BBC, little people. You can play too." The very fact that he says "top down and elitist" means it is. Would you say, "I don't want pop music to be elitist"? It patently isn't. Mr Purnell, Royal Grammar School Guildford and Balliol College, probably wants the sort of organisation even his butler can watch and listen to.

  5. The other day listening to Radio 4 News I felt like I had gone down the rabbit hole, through the wardbrobe and into some surreal alternative universe where minor incidents in northern towns get near top billing on the national news, other major incidents in northern towns are completely ignored, obscure stuff about Trump gets the full brass band backing and some rickety anti-Brexit story is bigged up with absolutely no justification.

    I wouldn't trust the BBC to lead me to the local supermarket, let alone through the world of information.

  6. What a farce. "You can trust us, don't listen to anyone else." Then the "It's your BBC" crap, marketing psychology manipulation 101. Listen to your betters, don't trust the other, but we're not elitist or anything.

    What a carefully crafted phony bit of theater. Purnell's title should be 'Director of Radio & Indoctrination'.

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  8. I can’t decide whether the BBC’s now daily references to other people’s fake news is a deflection or that they are genuinely so self-regarding to believe themselves to be above such grubbiness. I suspect it might, in a rather conflicted way, be both of those things at the same time.