I love the BBC. It’s a vital institution: not just a beloved entertainer, but one of our stalwart defences against the hegemony of the media barons. Being publicly funded, it holds a unique moral high ground, from where it should be able to resist the corrupting influence of money and hold to account those who haven’t – such as the once august Telegraph, which is apparently rotten to the core. So it was heart-breaking to read Nick Cohen’s report on how the organisation has forced out the whistleblowers who broke the Jimmy Saville story, and promoted the managers who tried to cover it up.
The BBC’s enemies – that is, every private media company – will no doubt use this as ammunition in their ongoing campaign to destroy the world’s greatest public broadcaster. Yet the problem here is not one of public funding or structure, but of private sector ethos. The BBC has become infected with the same malaise as the rest of the economy: a parasitic class of executives with soaring, apparently uncapped remuneration, but no evidence of any real leadership worth paying for.
The BBC needs less private sector thinking, not more. The actions of its whitewashing managers give the lie to the idea that you have to pay the “market rate” of hundreds of thousands of pounds to get “great leadership”. All you get is a clique of overpaid climbers whose main effort is to protect their own positions and obscene salaries.
You could pull any random Army officers out of Staff College and put them in charge of the BBC – or the Telegraph, HSBC, or any other organisation – and you’d get better, more principled leadership than from any of these self-serving shits, for little more than £50,000 per annum.
At the time, I found the rants well-written, well-expressed, interesting and entertaining. I was glad that someone was making these arguments in mainstream media: there is such an ideological vacuum in current politics that having a genuinely passionate, radical speaker, in a primetime slot, was quite refreshing, even if it was Russell Brand.
It’s difficult to disagree with his criticism of the current, broken system, of the apathetic failure of politicians to make real changes, of their protection of corporate interests over the rights and welfare of most people. But I was more sceptical about his closing statements:
“There’s going to be a revolution. It’s totally going to happen. I ain’t got a flicker of doubt.”
According to reports, it looks like BBC Director General Tony Hall plans to axe BBC Three as a way of saving the bulk of his £100m budget deficit.
As with the proposed, then U-turned, plan to close BBC Radio 6 Music in 2010, there are strong arguments for retaining BBC Three. It’s the BBC’s only youth-oriented TV channel, with a target audience of 16-34 year olds. It’s been a testing ground for new ideas and programmes, many of which have gone on to great success. Whether the likes of Little Britain and Gavin & Stacey are to your personal taste or not, BBC Three undeniably provides innovative and unique programming, and caters to a niche which is otherwise ignored by commercial and other BBC channels, thus contributing to the BBC’s public service remit.
The Campaign for Real Education is a pressure group which aims to raise standards in state education in the UK. It is not politically affiliated, although its proposed changes to education policy – grammar schools, a return to a ‘traditional’ teaching philosophy and increased parental choice – are more typical of right wing or conservative agendas.
The chair of the CRE is Chris McGovern. The organisation’s bio notes list his experience as including 35 years as a state school history teacher, independent school headmaster and Ofsted inspector.
McGovern appeared on BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme this morning, to discuss an academic paper published in the Economic Journal. The study analysed primary school performance data to show that, contrary to what some might expect, having a high proportion of pupils from non-English-speaking backgrounds in a school class does not reduce its performance.
I’m not going to discuss the paper, nor the CRE’s policies. I would just like to quote some of McGovern’s responses to the paper, and leave open the question of his credibility as an educational advocate.
I don’t usually listen to BBC Radio 4‘s religious discussion programme, Beyond Belief, but I happened to be driving yesterday while it was on. The programme, broadcast on Monday 12th August 2013, and as of the time of writing, available on iPlayer, dealt with the ethics of organ donation.