Lucy Vickery

Spectator competition: defend the unexpected (plus: your tepid opinions about the BBC)

The latest challenge, to supply a poem in praise or dispraise of the BBC, fell on somewhat stony ground. The entry felt a bit flat and you seemed to be lacking any real conviction either way. Roger Theobald’s opening lines pretty much reflected the general mood: ‘To praise or dispraise: well, if that’s the question,/ The record is too mixed to be quite sure…’ An honourable mention goes to Jerome Betts for his pithy four-liner — ‘Beeb, overstaffed and overspent,/ At which the licence-payers cavil,/ How sad to witness your descent/ From Reithian heights to Jimmy Savile.’ — and to Frank McDonald and Ray Kelley. Basil Ransome-Davies romps home with the extra fiver and the rest pocket £30 each.

Basil Ransome-Davies I always treasured Auntie. She was such         a damn good sport. Thanks to BBC steam wireless I was         entertained and taught. She had lofty Reithian standards and she         never sold them short, But Auntie isn’t quite herself these days.

We had ITMA kicking Hitler with a touch of the         absurd; We had talks and foreign music on the high-         falutin’ Third; The Home Service kept us civil. Public service         was the word. Don’t Aunties love to cling to settled ways?

Then the market, brute and powerful, came         along with shark-sharp teeth. It was build the corporate profile now, forget         the dreams of Reith. You want to mourn the Beeb that was? Just         leave a funeral wreath (Forgetting Jimmy Savile, if you please).

What’s left after the scandals, the largesse, the         Birtist blight? A micro-managed omnishambles, scorned by         left and right, Whose populist agenda — keep it simple, safe         and light — Is eating umpteen million licence fees.


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