Saturday 1 March 2014


The BBC, as a public service broadcaster, is understandably keen to be seen to listen to license-fee-payers' concerns about its output...until serious challenges to its claims to impartiality come along - when it rolls up, hedge-hog-like, into a very prickly ball (as I know all too well).

Still, starting with BBC One's Points of View (begun as long ago as 1961), the corporation has provided various (usually short) programmes that give voice to viewers' and listeners' opinions of the BBC. 

Some of us call them 'fig leafs'.

Points of View has been a much-loved 50+-year running joke, even at the BBC (if Monty Python and Not the Nine O'Clock News's spoofs are anything to go by), in the way it promoted praise for 'Aunty' at the expense of criticism...

...and the Radio Times letters page was just as bad for that (when it was owned by the BBC).

I remember watching Points of View in the days of clubbable Barry Took. 'When I'm 64' by The Beatles was its theme tune back then. I recall wallowing in its warmth.

Radio 4 then got into the act with Feedback in 1979. 

I first started listening to that in the days of "Chris Dunkley of the Financial Times" (as they would invariably introduce him), and it could (I remember) be quite critical. 

Nowadays, as presented by Roger Bolton, it can still give voice to criticism and can still challenge BBC editors, but it usually seems like a paper tiger to me and (in my view) still pushes favourable feedback at the expense of unfavourable feedback. 

As evidence to back up that claim (and claims should always be backed up), just take the last two editions of Feedback, which spent most of their time voicing enthusiasm for sections of the BBC's output.

The one on 21 February featured an enthusiastic fan of Radio 2's folk music coverage, getting it on (though probably not in the T. Rex sense) with the BBC's Mark Radcliffe, and the one on 28 February heard Feedback taking a young Radio 1Xtra fan to rejoice in the channel's 'Access All Areas' "audience takeover". 

If Feedback is the 'good cop' then the BBC News Channel/BBC One's Newswatch must be considered the 'bad cop'. 

This was started in 2004 (after the Hutton Inquiry) as an attempt to appear more accessible.

Ray Snoddy was its first presenter, and his Hard Talk on Channel 4, a decade or two earlier, was (I remember, as I watched it keenly!) genuinely sharp. 

Ray Snoddy's Newswatch wasn't quite so sharp unfortunately but, still, it was - and remains under the estimable Samira Ahmed - better than anything else the BBC has provided as a forum for viewers' dissatisfaction. 

It still seems like a paper tiger to me, but a paper tiger that can (from time to time) give BBC editors a paper cut - and paper cuts can be pretty painful!

It lasts a mere ten minutes and appears at 8.45 on a Friday evening (party time!) on the BBC News Channel and at 7.50 on a Saturday morning (bed/hangover time!) on BBC One. 

Very few people will see it.

Hmm, why doesn't the BBC broadcast it in the old Points of View spot, at 8.45 on Friday night on BBC One? That would demonstrate a commitment to accessibility.

I  think the obvious answer to that is: Never going to happen!

1 comment:

  1. I am getting more and more sure that most of the letters/phone calls etc to Feedback are probably inspired by the programme makers themselves. The occasional complaint put to a producer usual results in a response similar to a written complaint to the BBC ie we take note of your complaint and will carry on doing exactly what we want.


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