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Friday, October 31, 2008


The Adam Smith Institute has an intelligent answer to what to do about the BBC:

Those that defend the BBC as an institution that does things others won’t or can’t are wrong. A visit to the website of the subscription run HBO will suffice to dispel this illusion. Such innovative programming could be possible in this country, if only the BBC and regulations were not holding back competition.

So how should we proceed? In fact the solution is very simple and it goes by the name BBC Worldwide. BBC Worldwide is a subsidiary of the BBC whose profits are delivered back to the BBC, supplementing the Corporation's licence fee funding. During 2007/08 BBC Worldwide achieved sales of £916 million.

The current licence fee of £139.50 needs to be phased out. BBC Worldwide should be given more control over the BBC’s assets, competing on equal terms with its competitors. Within ten years the licence fee should be scrapped completely, with BBC Worldwide managing all of the BBC’s interests and the public liberated from paying for the abuses of oddities such as Brand and Ross

I agree. The BBC is a stultifying self satisfied influence in Britain. It is essentially the civil service's media arm always putting the answer to all questions as being more government spending, regulation & of course, regulators.

On Wednesday The Scotsman held a discussion, down the road from me on "the media" & I went along.

Media in the spotlight: the good, the bad and the ugly

OK they didn't ask my question about how much a genuine traditional debate on global warming would cost & I didn't get to mention the censorship of our government's involvement in dissecting living human beings so I may be a bit biased but I was not impressed. On the panel Margo MacDonald was, though unwell was sharp, amusing & clearly understood what the public want. It was she who pointed out that, though we used to be dismissive of much American programming it is now extremely well written (ok we mainly see the good shows but we always did). Bobby Hain, head of STV was clearly trying his best to make bricks without straw, STV having been hollowed out to little more than a rebroadcaster of ITV central programmes. He clearly understood that success depends on having money & that depends on attracting an audience, which he gave praise to Taggert which apparently is available in 70 countries (roughly 69 more than Jonathan Ross). John Archer of Scottish Screen, which is a government funded cinema development agency, something without which Hollywood seems to have managed. Worthy stuff even if he thinks "Merlin" is wonderful.

Maggie Cunningham was introduced as 1/2 of the boss of BBC Scotland - she does it as a jobshare. Now jobsharing has its place but not in running a go ahead organisation where decisive & quick decisionmaking is done - which is why she runs BBC Scotland. Nothing of particular interest but it was clear she did not have to worry about money or therefore of much in the way of an attempt to be popular.

On the Ross thing much of the anger is because there clear doubt that Ross or Brand are indeed the popular & "edgy" entertainers we are entitled to expect for our money or merely a couple of wankers whose faces fit. Personally I consider Jeremy Clarkson infinitely more entertaining & genuinely edgy in a way which obviously unsettles the BBC with their commitment to catastrophic warming - which is why it is so far back on the BBC website. More important than my opinion is that Clarkson not only has massive audiences even though he is on BBC 2 (there was great embarrassment when his programme got more viewers than the BBC's showpiece about warming on BBC 1 at the same time) but that he is syndicated worldwide & Ross isn't. It is also a matter of record that for years the BBC refused to produce Dr Who (or sell their rights in it) on the grounds that it was expensive to produce, despite the fact that it made a Major profit in syndication & publishing - but that was a different department.

This is why putting the BBC under the only department which exists to compete in the real world is the right thing to do.

Agreed, but for two points, 'Merlin' is great and I've never heard of 'Sr Who', or is that the Spanish version?

Word verification: fibeflog, which is only one 'e' away from being 'fib flog' ... so near but so far.
Merlin is another of these shows where, despite the fancy dress, all the characters 21st C people - the women are liberated & Arthur is a democrat.

At least Robin Hood made it clear by having everyboy wearing spandex.
So much whining nonsense in such short compass. One brief point only is necessary in rebuttal.

For a record of truely innovative programming look for the initials 'BBC' against the titles in the BFI's list of 100 Greatest British Television Programmes here:
Fair point. That listing & it is after all a list by the great & good, was in 2000. Also I would question the integrity of a listing that put the BBC's Death of Yugoslavia, openly racist & fascist propaganda, 11 places above Spitting Image.
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