The BBC and Me and We…

Watching from afar as the recently minted 2015 Conservative Goverment (sans Lib-Dem safety valve) starts yet another ideological assault on a beloved institution, I find myself bewildered as to how they think they are ever going to receive popular support for their nefarious game, and yet it would appear they can spin it nonetheless.

Of course the BBC has her detractors, one could hardly claim the first “B” for British if there was not some portion of the population ready to whinge bitterly about the death spiral of moral, intellectual, artistic or political standards that are ruining Aunty. Let us not even dwell upon the thoughtless idiots who complain about the licence fee whilst failing to recognise that in return for less than fifty pence a day they are taking delivery of a unique public service broadcaster that is the envy of the World, when almost nothing else British, apart from luxury housing in London, is envied by anyone, anywhere. More than that, the elderly and the vulnerable in society are given a licence (currently) so that they may at least be informed, educated and entertained as the Tories slowly strangle the life out of them in every other way in the name of the neo-liberal conspiracy.

But hold on, didn’t “Our David” get in on the backs of the Radio Four audience, or at least the largest chunk of them? What’s that David, your base are devotees of the most diverse, innovative and familiar sound of Middle England? Hmmm, I do not entirely believe that they are going to be ok with you taking away Gardeners’ Question Time and Just a Minute. Perhaps the policy machine deep in the blackened heart of Conserative Party Central Office is hooked up to a Sky Dish and is mindlessly forwarding its real master’s agenda? Any comment Mr. Murdoch?

Now I know what you are thinking… You are smiling to yourself and thinking that your correspondent has form, not only as a dreadful Pinko Liberal, but also as a former employee of the BBC herself! Yes, I believe in the BBC and so much so that I worked for less than market rate in my field on three separate occasions to be a part of the organisation that has given us everything from Newsnight to Strictly, Last Night of the Proms to Eastenders and far more besides. In my last tour of duty I ran the engineering team that looked after the websites for The BBC World Service, a finer ambassador for the country of my birth would be hard to name if you ask me, but by working for World Service I got a flavour of the funding gap and it is not something that anyone ought to allow to grow at all, in any direction.

Consider, if you will, a possible future. Ten years from now the BBC is no longer funded by the Licence Fee or the UK Government in any capacity. There is a small income stream from fanatical supporters who buy a subscription to the organisation, a bit like the memberships offered by public sector, not-for-profit radio stations dotted around the USA. Aside from that, in true Tory style, the vast majority of the BBC’s radically reduced budget comes from corporate sponsorship; “The Archers, brought to you by Monsanto, shaping the World through innovation.” or “BBC News at Ten, brought to you by HSBC, The World’s Local Bank”, and while news programming is uninterrupted, entertainment shows are peppered with adverts every twelve to fifteen minutes. BBC Two is a distant memory, Radio Four barely has any original programming, but thank goodness for the Archive, and there are no black, disabled or gay people anywhere to be seen or even heard on the airwaves, lest the advertisers grow restless.

Sound like a legacy that you want to give our country, let alone the World? Do you want to explain to your children or nephews and nieces how there used to be unrivalled factual progammes about the fabric of the Universe on BBC Television, but now there are four different variants of Strictly Come Dancing crossed with The Voice and the worst excesses of Tabloid Television, because that is what Nestlé are hoping for when it comes to reaching the largest number of undiscerning purchasers for their new breakfast cereal, made from real African children.

There are those that say that the measure of a society can be made simply by examining the place that the Arts occupy in its culture and zeitgeist. What does it say about British Society that we are apparently okay with the Government of the day eyeing up the greatest and most respected guardian of the Arts anywhere in the World as a juicy privatisation plum, ripe for the plucking, perfect to sate their misguided, twisted appetite for austerity, as long as its the kind of austerity that hurts lefties and intellectuals and poor people and anyone who likes unbiased news coverage. There are no Tory Culture Vultures who are going to suffer if their party guts the BBC, they will gorge themselves on expensive tickets to the Opera at Covent Garden – now sponsored by Halliburton once the Arts Council has finally been given the old heave-ho with the follow through after punting the BBC into the tall grass – and congratulate themselves that they are supporting the cultural life of the country whilst consigning Radio Three and BBC Four to the fire.

What can we do? A Million marched against the Second Gulf War and not even a dent was made; we barely moved the needle. Please don’t think that there are a Million ready to march for Aunty Beeb, they are all so complacent; “The Beeb’s always been there and it always will be, it’s as British as afternoon tea, cricket and the Changing of the Guard. What are all these bloody adverts? I thought that Countryfile was on the Beeb!”.

We need to voice our displeasure, and keep on chanting over and over the refrain:

“Hands off our Beloved BBC!” (Feel free to add “You Tory Scum”, if you so choose; who am I to prescribe)

every time that the subject comes up. Write to your MP, write to your MP’s wife or husband, write to every party activist of every stripe you can get contact details for, and tell them that the very last British Institution, after the NHS, that should ever be mentioned in the same breath as the word privatisation is the BBC.

Not only that, write to the BBC Trust, the Director General, and anyone you can get contact details for at the BBC voicing your full-throated support for the BBC remaining publicly and adequately funded, impartial, non-commercial and OURS!

People often trot out the plattitude that politicians work for us, which of course they do, but for every whinging git that thinks The News Quiz is somehow evidence that the BBC is a nest of Communist vipers waiting to envenom society at a moment’s notice and that it should be burned to the ground for the common good, there are twenty, thirty, fifty, nay a hundred quiet, unheard voices that adore the BBC in their own personal, special and fabulous way. Whether it is The Goon Show or The Sky at Night, there is a good bet that there is something on the BBC that you love with all your heart that simply would not exist without the Charter, without the Licence Fee and without the Corporation’s unique raison d’être; to Inform, Educate and Entertain(*). Bear that in mind that it is not just something that you love, it is also yours, ours and utterly unique in the entire World.

Please, please, please do not let Cameron and his merry band of axe-men destroy something so utterly wonderful in all of its imperfect striving to be worthy of our love – you will so definitely miss her when she is gone.

What it feels like to be abroad on today of all days…

Well, at the moment I am not in the UK, and for the first time in my memory I am completely torn about the fact that I am not __in__ my country in the aftermath of this General Election; often in the past I would rather have been out of the country in these circumstances. In 1997 I was unhappy, in 2002 I was still unhappy and even in 2005 I was deeply unhappy; now I am completely depressed. Ever since I have paid attention to party politics in the UK I have believed staunchly in two things; that I am a Liberal and that the electoral system in the UK is simply unfair. As I write this my party of choice is currently confirmed to have received 22.9% of the popular vote which would equate to 148 seats rounded down in the current count of 650 seats in the Commons. How is that fair? Nearly one quarter of my fellow Britons agree with me, that the Liberal Democrats represent our feelings about economic, social, domestic and international policy and yet less that one tenth of the UK population will be represented by a Liberal politician.

This is not fair, and while I realise that I run the risk of sounding like a four year old who has been denied an ice cream, I nonetheless want to say that it is not willful or unreasonable to want my democracy to __actually__ represent me and my beliefs and politics.