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Thursday, June 25, 2009 

Expenses which aren't a scandal.

As non-stories go, BBC executives claim hardly anything on expenses over five year period is a pretty high ranking one. Director-General claims for flight back to Britain to deal with manufactured newspaper scandal, as any other business would accept in an instant, creative director claims on insurance for stolen handbag, and a £100 bottle of champagne for someone regarded by many as a national treasure is about as weak as it gets. To give an idea of just how removed these are from the MPs expenses, Radio 1's controller Andy Parfitt claimed £340.43 on meals last year (PDF), the highest such claim. That's £60 less than most MPs were claiming in a single month on food. To be sure, these are high-earning individuals, spending our money when they should perhaps be forking out for it themselves. Yet these claims in any other business of a similar size would barely raise an eyebrow, as the more honest outside commentators are admitting. Prince Charles cost us £3 million last year; the BBC's executive expenses over 5 years were £363,963.83. I know in an instant which I'd plump for every time.

The BBC though is nothing if it is not self-flagellating. You can imagine the delight of the Daily Mail, responsible for the ridiculous storm over "Sachsgate" at the news that Mark Thompson claimed back on the cost of his flights to deal with the fallout from it. Hence the story has been towards the top of their news throughout the day, the top story on Newsnight, and you have Martin Bell, saint of all sleaze allegations, denouncing these more than reasonable costs as unacceptable. Perhaps the Guardian's comment sections are hardly representative, but to call the consensus being overwhelmingly towards these expenses being for the most part highly reasonable would be putting it too lightly, with Emily Bell taking rather heavy flak for her piece.

She does however have something of a point; there is a contradiction between whether the BBC is a public or private organisation. Not a single person in the country believes that Jonathan Ross is worth £6 million a year, and he would almost certainly not get a similar sum now from a truly commercial organisation, even if he would have done before. The fact remains though that for the most part the BBC does have to compete, even if ITV and CH4 claim to high heaven that they're now hardly treading water. We expect so much from the BBC, and when you have the outrages like Jonathan Ross's salary and some of the truly dreadful programmes which it occasionally produces, whether it be almost everything that BBC3 broadcasts or the likes of Hotel Babylon, it undermines the general good which the corporation radiates. It could be better: it could close down BBC3 entirely, and also perhaps do without Radio 1 which has deteriorated to such a stage that putting it down would be the kind thing to do, and reinvest the money elsewhere, but no one has yet had the temerity to suggest that the BBC should do more with less, except for those that have a very good commercial reason for saying so.

At the same time, the public themselves also don't seem to know what they want. The BBC's new guidelines, based on research conducted with a representative sample of 2,700 viewers and listeners say that the corporation should never "condone malicious intrusion, intimidation and humiliation." Presumably then that means that the Apprentice will not be returning to BBC1. While the BBC has for the most part eschewed the "talent" reality shows which ITV is now relying upon, with the exception of the late Fame Academy and the "celebrity" shows such as Strictly Come Dancing, they would also presumably now be barred by such rules. After all, what are the X Factor and Britain's Got Talent except celebrations of intimidation and humiliation of those that dare to imagine that they've got something special when they conspicuously haven't? These are the top rated shows of the last decade, and apparently the public dislike them even while lapping them up. It also simply doesn't seem to have occurred to some respondents that they can change the channel if there's swearing on one side, with the BBC now promising that strong language will only be heard in "exceptional circumstances" between 9pm and 10pm on BBC1. It wasn't that long ago when strong language didn't require any such warning before the programme began, especially later on at night, yet now there are warnings across the board, all while 46% say the standards have slipped in recent years.

Despite its strength, there is a timidity and an apologetic nature about the BBC at present, as if they seem to realise that it can't last much longer, and that it'll all be better when it is cut down to size, something which we will then bitterly regret for ever more. At a time when there is so much unaccountability, both in public and private life, the BBC is one of the more responsive and open organisations. The danger is that it'll brought down because of that rather than the opposite.

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Completely agree.

Well, almost completely:
"Radio 1 which has deteriorated to such a stage that putting it down would be the kind thing to do"

Radio 1 isn't getting worse, we're all getting older ;-)

Probably. I still miss Mark and Lard.

No. Radio 1 is awful. I haven't been able to bear a single solitary second since John Peel shuffled off. It's swung right back round to it's 80s incarnation, stuffed full of self-satisfied, sycophantic shit-brained dullards. Scott Mills is quite obviously Gary Davies poorly reinvented for the 21st century. Chris Moyles. The bastard mutant offspring of Steve Wright and James Whale, only worse. That such horror is allowed to exist is evidence of Broken Britain I can believe in.

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