Last week I was on holiday with my family on the Algarve. The good news was that, thanks to the BBC’s widespread availability in Portugal, we didn’t miss out on Murray at Wimbledon. The bad news was that, for the same reason, we couldn’t escape The Apprentice.
But this isn’t an anti-Apprentice column. It’s an anti-BBC column prompted in part by something annoying somebody said to me on Twitter the other day. I’d written, not for the first time, that I considered the BBC ‘a total waste of money’. And the tweeter replied primly, ‘The BBC is a total waste of money or actually you quite like Today, Proms, Glasto, wildlife docs. Can’t have it both ways.’
No, actually, you can. For example, if I were to bake you the most fantastically delicious passion cake you’d ever had with the scrummiest, most unctuous, orgasmic cream-cheese topping and lots of crunchy chunks made from the best organic Californian walnuts but I were to charge you £145.50 for it that would still, for all the cake’s intrinsic merits, qualify as a total waste of money.
And that cake would be even more of a total waste of money if it were soaked in purest essence of Moronica Communitarii, a powerful chemical that warps the brain so that your default response to any issue is ‘Why isn’t the government doing more?’, and which distorts your vision so that when you look at, say, the NHS all you can see is something that looks like ‘the envy of the world’ and which makes you vote for people like David Cameron and think he’s not doing badly all things considered. Especially if, adding insult to injury, consumption of that cake was near-compulsory on pain of imprisonment or a hefty fine.
Which, the sharper among you may have twigged, is where we are now with the BBC. The BBC is good in parts but outrageously expensive and ideologically toxic yet it goes on getting away with murder because so many useful idiots, like my tweeting friend above, have been culturally conditioned into assuming that without it the sky would fall in and the bodies would lie unburied by the streets and never again would we witness programming of the epic magnificence of Question Time, Teletubbies, or EcofascistWatch with Chris Packham.
Another of those useful idiots is a man named Stuart Prebble — a former ITV executive, apparently — who was paid by the BBC to look into the issue of BBC bias and has just produced a report entitled ‘Well done the BBC! You’re marvellous and you mustn’t change a thing!’ Or perhaps that wasn’t the title, but it was the general gist, so I expect that the BBC very much feels it got its money’s worth with the £175,000 of our licence fee it paid for the report.
Prebble noted that the BBC’s position on immigration and the European Union was somewhat at odds with that of the audience it supposedly represents as the Voice of the Nation. But apart from jovially suggesting that the Guardian-recruited BBC apparatchiks who treat their customers with such contempt ought to ‘get out more’, Prebble appeared sublimely untroubled by what this said about our quasi-monopolistic state broadcast media.
My advice in turn to Prebble would be ‘watch TV more’. Then he’d see that BBC bias isn’t just confined to immigration and the EU. Everything from its position on Israel to its stance on the badger cull parrots so shamelessly the bleeding-heart prejudices of the metropolitan bien-pensant minority that really, if the BBC took its charter obligations seriously, it ought to commission a report into it. Oh wait…
But we know all this. What seems more pertinent to ask is why, despite all the evidence of institutional Toynbeeism, nothing ever changes. Really, it’s a question no one born British can easily answer. The subliminal brainwashing starts even before we’ve achieved consciousness. Among my earliest memories are of my father, religiously tuning the car radio every hour on the hour to catch up with the latest Radio 4 news bulletin. Then comes Blue Peter. Then the Radio 1 roadshow. Then, eventually, The Archers or Radio 3. It’s as much part of the British life furniture as cream teas or bank holiday tailbacks or chicken tikka masala. How could you possibly conceive of a world without such things.
So it’s perfectly understandable that my Twitter friend and Stuart Prebble think the way they do. They’re just wrong. Earlier we mentioned wildlife programmes and, yes, it’s true the BBC Bristol unit comes up with some corkers. Problem is, they’re quite incapable even of filming bloody animals without inserting the usual blatant propaganda. On a David Attenborough documentary the other day, they managed to slip in an utterly mendacious factoid about temperatures in Africa having risen by 3.5 degrees in two decades. Can you imagine such an ‘error’ being made in the opposite direction. No, you can’t. That’s the problem.
Maybe they should stick to tennis and Glasto. They still do those quite well.