I almost choked on my Aquafresh this morning. “And now we go live to the scene of Jamie Bulger’s kidnapping all those years ago…”
Would you believe it, there it was, a BBC commentator, at 6 in the morning, live outside the Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, looking for all the world as a scene from The Day Today. “If you want to send in your memories of the gruesome kidnap and murder, we’ll love to here from you,” said the bloke with the bad hair and ill-fitting suit. “Viewers who press the red button can access detailed CGI reconstructions from that tragic day, Freeview viewers are advised to go on-line where there is the added extra of a moderated chat-room.”
You see, the BBC is pretty darn faultless, in my mind. There are certain elements that are clearly in need of surgery, if not complete amputation, and some time ago I made the case for scrapping BBC Three as a sure fire way to make more friends than enemies under the current circumstances.
The “strategic review” is something of a dog’s dinner. Rushed into hacking off their own limbs before the oncoming Murdoch/Cameron tag-team do it for them, the BBC has come up with a document full of glaring contradictions and half-baked ideas. Why capitulate so easily? They fell apart more rapidly than a Frenchman on hearing the passing footsteps of a German with a heavy chestcold.
Scrapping 6Music and Asian Network has no logic or business case at all; indeed hearing BBC executives back-pedal yesterday suggests a full plug-pull on these networks is not going to occur. Put simply, the Corporation cannot stay to its remit for public service broadcasting while removing the stations which would make Lord Reith proud. Where exactly would Asian Network’s programming fit upon its disconnection? Edith Bowman may not agree to 30 minutes of Devotional Prayer being tagged on to the end of her chart rundown.
I agree with some elements of the “strategic review”. BBC News must be improved. It has fallen into the same repetitious, ticker-tape sensationalism it was supposed to avoid. I welcome plans to reduce the amount of money invested in imported shows, more so if it means BBC Four being turned into – or turned BACK into – the BBC Knowledge channel from which it regenerated.
It is easy to join the Daily Mail/Murdoch/”biased BBC” brigades in cheering every time the network tries to improve itself. The problem, of course, is that the anti-Beeb consensus act like the Knight from Holy Grail, dismissing the network’s cuts as nothing more than flesh wounds. That 6Music is “listened to only by a low number” cannot be synchronised with the argument – from the same people – that 6Music “is a threat to commercial stations”. Threat to whom? XFM? Have you tried listening to XFM? It’s like being trapped in The Tash in Blackpool. FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. ON REPEAT.
So, BBC, these planned cuts – “strategic review” indeed – do not add up to a compelling case to begin hacking the corporation to shreds in the Kill Bill model. Reduce the pay of the biggest starts, invest in comedy that makes us laugh, ensure QI reaches the end of the alphabet, sell Andy Parsons to the highest bidder, stop the NEWS department becoming indistinguishable from Live From Studio Five, and please remember that “public service broadcasting” means more Adam & Joe with less “Snog, Marry, Avoid”.
Murdoch and Cameron know the licence fee discussions will start under their watch. I’d prefer it if the BBC didn’t make it easier for their enemies to tear them apart.