I do sometimes think the British media would sink itself if left unchecked. Not that I’m sure who is actually doing the checking.
Vital, dynamic and creative this country’s press and broadcast media surely are. Even world-leading they tell me – and after all, who can argue with Harry Hill’s TV burp? But so many people manning its armada of little ships seem hell-bent on torpedoing the flagship – that big ol’ Thames barge, the BBC.
My phrasing there is something that those with Auntie in their periscope cross-hairs would leap on as illustrating the point – who says the Beeb is Great Britain’s broadcasting flagship?
They must resent the implication – and see it everywhere, probably.
“While we have to lash together ad revenue as creatively as possible to vigilantly tar the decks against sinking, the good ship HMS BBC simply pumps out her bilges with public finance. A huge, fat, free tax on the tuners-in. ..AND, while we’re at it, they can promote cross-platform like no-one else. Bastards. ..Load tubes One and Two.”
You can see their point, though they sound like they’ve been at sea rather too long. A bit like this metaphor.
Any brooding resentment of the corporation isn’t helped by the fact that the BBC does seem to have always reflected the British beaurocracy of its day, like a true institution – middle-heavy, inefficient, even miopically self-cultural. ..And quote me on that, as it sounds dead clever, like what a sniping left-wing critic might column. ..Or is it the right-wing critics who really have it in for the liberal toffs at Broadcasting House? I forget.
Anyway, the point bearing down on us very slowly like a lumbering container ship is that I think this is the wrong way to see the Beeb.
The ‘brandross beast’ – which, incidentally, sounds like a new Sherlock Holmes adventure – may have exposed Russel and Jonathan as pratt-liable twits sometimes, but back-of-the-classroom showing off by the two over-confident popular boys is really a matter for the detention hall. Not the Commons.
Make ’em run round the playing field in their pants once or twice, maybe. Make ’em look into the eyes of the sweet old man they’ve been rude to and see the two softies blub, sure. Warm their backsides. But fire them? Fire everybody?
One of the most risible aspects of one of these essentially pointless squalls on the waters of popular entertainment is, of course, the personalities who suddenly clamour for the mic. The Unfunny.
We’ve had a parade of distinctly humourless people passing comment on how to make jokes this week. “A-HA,” they light up indignantly, like Dr Alan Statham waving a triumphant finger at a resentfully witty medical student, “THIS is the problem with smirking and smiling and strutting about in funny wigs – it’s dangerous. It’s uncalled-for. It’s… it’s… funny. ..And this is where funny gets you. Hm? Who’s laughing now? Hm?”
I’ve long thought that comedy is like sex – as soon as you’re trying to describe it, you’re missing the point. And the word ‘responsible’ kills it dead.
I think the BBC is an institution, alright. A national one. With all its problems, it’s a bally British cultural cornerstone. Maybe filled with uptight, lefty nitwits who forget how lucky they are – though I doubt that’s more than half true – but a thing to cherrish.
We should hold those who helm the Beeb to high account. Tell them when they get the chance to work there: “This is the bloody BBC, mate. Don’t f**k it up.” It’s a woldwide brand like nothing else we own in the UK – like nothing else in the world, in fact. An idea of altruism. The ultimate service of communication. And it communicates an idea of Britain better than any tourist board campaign or political diplomatic push, by the way.
And radio without adverts? Sport and drama and movies and factual stuff without breaks? Full hours of content, not forty limping minutes? Surely brilliant that they found a way to do this. It matters to a nation’s intellectual well-being that it can access some information without being force-fed consumer society values and pressures.
Adverts help sharpen the creative cutting edge. They’re fun, put simply – and they help busineses sell things and build our once-comfy economy. Plus, ad breaks can be welcome relief, of course. But, chuff. Too much turns your brain to soup.
No, I think the good ship HMS BBC may need a sharp skipper inspecting her every winch and block, but she should sail on proudly. Let her navigate uniquely – she is a beacon of difference. If she should be challenged, let it not be by mean-minded pirates trying to break her up, but by the sheer creative excellence of her commercial counterparts, willing her to perform her best for the sake of the whole flotilla.
However romantic it may be, I just think there’s something about the BBC that somehow sodding matters.
Okay, I’ll come clean. The boat metaphor was inspired by an actual Thames barge – one I found myself sitting on, right in the heart of London last weekend.
Our essentially gorgeous former neighbour, Mary, introduced us to her very interesting new chap, Iolo, when we popped up for a night – and Iolo lives on an actual Thames barge. Big bloody thing. A snapshot of working waterways history from blunt bows to snub stern – and a fascinating new perspective on the capital. London does not look the same from the river.
Can’t tell you how nice it is to meet people who see things differently to you. We seemed to chat constantly for 24hours straight.
Originality keeps us all afloat.