Thursday 22 September 2016

Make the BBC great again

Forgive me for thinking the latest Bake-off resignation and non-resignation were predictable. I could have told you that Paul Hollywood would follow the dough to Channel Four. Why wouldn’t he?

The other three have careers in their own right. Mary Berry has been a cookery writer for years, albeit reinvented, or as she likes to call it ‘nurtured’, by the BBC, and Mel and Sue are on TV on a panel show near you at any time of the day or night.  (So is Nadiya Hussain)

They must all have been aware that Bake-off was stale, and it was a good time to jump ship. Paul Hollywood might have become a household name through bake-off, but he’s famous for being a baker and having blue eyes at the same time.  (Has he been on strictly yet?) 

Mary is ‘staying with the BBC?' What as, I wonder. Presenting Top Gear? Mary and Matt would be a good combo. Brm brrmm.

The main reason I’m mentioning this is the loyalty thing Mary keeps mentioning. Loyalty to the BBC. 

I don’t know if it’s something to do with her generation, and I imagine she’s not short of a bob or two, but Mary’s loyalty to the BBC made me think of the recent hullaballoo about salaries, and the argument that if the BBC was forced to publish the names of talent earning ‘more than the Prime Minister’, they’d all be poached by commercial channels. Mary demonstrates that this ain't necessarily so.

There used to be a kind of kudos attached to the BBC and those associated with it. Working there gave one status. The BBC had a reputation for accuracy, honesty  and impartiality in the olden days. (I’m not sure that this vision was entirely accurate, honest or impartial, but let’s make allowances)  Get that back, (or achieve it for the first time) and give the staff a sense of pride at being part of it, and bugger the salaries. 

He’s the recipe: Send them all back to school to study history and English; get them used to thinking independently, make them show genuine curiosity and let them use their initiative. Ditch the groupthink. Stop chasing ratings.

Make the BBC great again!  


  1. I sometimes wonder if part of the anger about those enormous BBC salaries isn't in fact more important to the rank-and-file Beeboids than it is to the general public, maybe even more than critics of the BBC. The same rift as with support for Corbyn, I should imagine.

    Back when that first noise about enormous salaries happened, I saw at least as much anger on Digital Spy and that forum for ex-Beeboids as I did at places like B-BBC and the Spectator.

  2. PS: It's just occurred to me that at least losing the banking show takes away something that appeals to ordinary people, the masses. Didn't we often hear that people who opposed the license fee or wanted the BBC to be drastically reduced just wanted to get rid of shows like this in favor the high-brow cultural stuff that appealed only to the few?

    The license fee hasn't been cut. Expenses have increased much more than the inflation rate, can't blame nasty Tory cuts for this. It's the BBC's own doing.

    1. I believe that the Beeb agenda must be to 'lose' shows such as the Bake-Off - shows (and sporting events) which appeal to the 'masses', or more specifically, to the silent majority: those representing a large percentage of the population of the UK in this case. The BBC's concept of inclusivity has little to do with population numbers, or degrees of satisfaction with programme content. All links to English tradition, that might be construed as not being fully inclusive, are lined up for scrutiny in the BBC corporate mind. I noticed that the BBC has now adopted the CE and BCE historical year-dating style in place of the traditional AD and BC.

    2. But why would they deliberately lose the very shows that make up a good portion of their defense of the license fee? Whenever someone complains about these shows being a waste of the license fee and not public service broadcasting when any commercial channel could produce them, a defender of the indefensible will chime in, saying, "You just want the BBC to produce what you like, and damn what the public enjoys". Ratings is proof of good public service broadcasting, because the BBC is supposed to appeal to everyone, not just the elite and elderly who only want classical music and all that non-inclusive stuff.

      I'm more inclined to view the BBC losing these shows as akin to Labour councils deliberately cutting funding to libraries and youth centers, but then hiring more social media mavens, paper pushers, and consultants, all the while screaming that nasty Tory cuts had forced them to make cruel sacrifices at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable. "You bitch about high salaries? Here's what you get when we follow your wishes." The BBC can't win no matter what it does, the defenders of the indefensible will say.

      Losing a show like this also damages the BBC's ability to push the multiculti-diversity agenda. After all, you can only squeeze so many Afro-Caribbean people into the background shots of Tudor Farm in the attempt to prove that Britain has always been welcoming and multicultural. There was that one trumpet herald in Queen Elizabeth I's court, you see....

      I think the issue of high salaries is a canard. Except for Jonathan Ross and Russel Brand, I'd say that the majority of the real anger (both from the public and rank-and-file Beeboids) was about so many high salaries for so many useless middle management positions and feckless upper management. Are that many people really outraged at what Mel and Sue are paid?

    3. The BBC will have made a judgment about the future of Bake-Off. Mary Berry herself symbolises (in the BBC's eyes) a lack of inclusivity - as do Paul, Mel and Sue, though to a lesser extent. The programme makers can shore up the inclusivity element to a certain extent by ensuring a wide mix of backgrounds for the contestants, but the judges and presenters are all white English Middle-Class - only Paul has an 'up north' UK regional identity. The outcome, whereby Mel, Sue and Mary are 'staying with the BBC', and only Paul has agreed to move to Channel 4, will be seen by the BBC as a move which has backfired. They have successfully 'lost' the tainted Bake-Off show (so far as yard-sticks for inclusivity is concerned), with its excellent ratings, but they are left with the rump of non-inclusive presenters, especially Mary still on their hands. Let's all look forward to plenty more new panel shows, quizzes and the like with these presenters earning their retention fees on the BBC. How about "Kitchen Antiques - What was this item used for? - Call my Bluff"?

  3. "in favor the high-brow cultural stuff that appealed only to the few?"

    Not sure that's the whole story. The argument as I see it is that there is no point in the BBC, essentially funded by a tax under threat of imprisonment, producing shows that the commercial sector can do perfectly well. Similarly, we don't need state enforced organisations to produce chocolate and ice cream - they are so popular that commercial interests can be relied upon to provide them. The BBC's obligation to "entertain" is, IMO, a relic from the days when the BBC had no competition.

    Getting back to the "culture" thing, I think it has more to do with ensuring that all minority interests are catered for, and that should include stamp collecting and extremely uncool music genres like folk, country etc.

    High-brow cultural stuff should be well covered, and that would please me no end, but only as part of the BBC's wider obligation to cater for interests that are not commercially viable.

    1. That's the rational, non-Left argument, I agree. But I was referring to what reflexive BBC supporters say. It was a consistent set of talking points from defenders of the indefensible at the Biased BBC blog.

  4. Agreed. Looking at today’s schedules, for example, it seems that BBC1 and 2 are currently pretty much interchangeable. They’re both full of quizzes, panel games and competitions involving celebrities, ‘comedians’ or members of the public. A ruthless cull is needed. Hard pruning.

    They’ve already got the automatic advantage of being ad-free, yet they inflict their own repetitive trailers upon us.

    Obviously all viewing is much better without ad breaks, especially those interminably long ones which leave little time for the actual programme and the first half of every ‘back after the break’ section is devoted to a laborious recap, with the same bits of film. For that reason alone there’s an argument for the BBC retaining some of the popular stuff.

    We do get some minority interest content on BBC Four, which, at the minute is probably the best channel. What about amalgamating BBC 4 and BBC 2, and then paring down the entire menu of the panel game / quiz type genre, the best of which which could be shared between 1 and 2. Some of these formats are so tired and stale it seems timid and counterproductive to flog them to death. (Flog them to Channel 4 if the advertisers still think there’s any life left in them.)

    With all the creative talent we hear so much about, why not bring in some well researched investigative programmes, like, say, Man Alive, Channel 4’s ‘Cutting Edge” or ‘pre-Jeremy Vine’ Panorama. Create fresh-looking drama like ‘This Life’, ‘Bodies’ and political satire like ‘The Thick of it’ and ‘ITV’s Spitting Image’. Or am I looking through rose-tinted specs?

    Make Albert Square fall down a giant sink hole, or better still, make an influx of Islamic terrorists come to the square who unintentionally blow themselves up in one of those ‘work accidents’, taking the Queen Vic and all who sail in her, with them. Allahu Akbar. End of.

    1. "Make Albert Square fall down a giant sink hole"

      Fine by me.

      Unfortunately, the BBC's concept of "inclusivity" means that it feels obliged to produce shows which appeal to large numbers of people simultaneously.

      IMO, inclusivity doesn't require this. Assuming that most people have at least one interest outside the mass market pap, they would be catered for by a much wider range of specialised programming instead. The main difference is that the individual programmes would not achieve the huge viewing figures of Albert Square, but I thought that was the main justification for the licence fee.

      The main flaw in this argument is that a larger number of minority programmes would prove more expensive. On the other hand, they would not necessarily need lavish production standards or expensive celebrity involvement.

      Obviously viewers with no interests whatsoever beyond Albert Square would lose out. Too bad. I'm meeting more and more people who say that they feel increasingly alienated by most of the BBC's output as things stand.

  5. Sue, I hope you haven't fallen for Hall's "argument that if the BBC was forced to publish the names of talent earning ‘more than the Prime Minister’, they’d all be poached by commercial channels" !!!

    That "argument" really made me laugh out loud. What world does Hall liev in, or does he think we are all fools? The commercial channels are free to "make an offer" at any time, a discussion, via agent, can take place at any time.

    1. “………and the argument that if the BBC was forced to publish the names of talent earning ‘more than the Prime Minister’, they’d all be poached by commercial channels. Mary demonstrates that this ain't necessarily so.”
      You read that, yet you still think I’ve ‘fallen’ for Hall’s argument?

    2. ok, Sue , your understatement threw me ... "ain't necessarily so ..." ... I'd have said "complete hogwash"!

  6. Mary's 'loyalty' is being plugged by her, and BBC Press, a lot.

    Be interesting how this may get tested, and play out, should youth and plumper skin and lips see her queen of the airwaves status be supplanted, as can happen if certain court cases are any guide.

  7. Suggestions for Channel 4, incl. bona fide diversity agenda.

    Replacement for Mary: Lorraine Pascale. I like her. (She bakes)

    Replacements for Sue and Mel: Well known celebrity wits Nadiya (Would I lie to you) Hussain and Hardeep “Ha! Deep Sink-hole”, whose novelty turbans could compete in their own right.


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