100 years on from November 1922
The following is unashamedly partisan.
There is a well-known TV current affairs talk show in the US called “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Just before Christmas my esteemed publisher and fellow-author CS (Caz) Woolley drew my attention to a Youtube excerpt from it, in which Mr Colbert points out that it is now twenty years since the first of the “Lord of the Rings” films came out.
He’s evidently a fan of these films, putting it mildly. “Where are the celebrations? Why are we not marking this as a people?” he demands… and then performs an actual rap in praise of the LOTR film trilogy. If you like the films, and you don’t mind a bit of bad language, you really should watch this… and spot the cast cameos… it’s wonderful and it’s here (try to skip the ads):
But this is not a post about LOTR.
2021 may have been the 20th anniversary of an extremely good film, but 2022 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of something rather more significant, an institution that is one of the UK’s greatest gifts to the world.
Yes, I know, I mentioned this about a year ago here: https://www.penelopewallace.com/to-inform-educate-and-entertain-celebratethebbc/
So you may want to yawn and stop reading now.
But, as Stephen Colbert said: “Where are the celebrations? Why are we not marking this as a people?”
Is there not more fuss being made about the Queen’s 70 years on the throne https://platinumjubilee.gov.uk/ than about the BBC’s centenary?
Yes, I know, we are finally seeing some information about what the BBC itself is putting together, https://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/2021/bbc-100-year-of-programming/ but it shouldn’t be left to the BBC.
It is the world’s oldest national broadcaster. It set the standards, and to some extent still sets them, for impartial and comprehensive coverage. Without the BBC and Lord Reith, would we actually have had CNN, ITN, Channel Four News, the whole concept (not always adhered to) of fearless independent coverage? I’m not sure we would: look at the state of print journalism and the net.
In this age, where opinion replaces fact everywhere, and where so many governments still oppress those who challenge them, we need the BBC more than ever.
And in this age, probably not coincidentally, the BBC is under more attack than ever, partly because it’s made some huge mistakes, but mainly because the Tory party/government in its current disgusting state doesn’t like challenge.
This attack is serious and alarming.
Now is the time to #CelebrateTheBBC, and I’m fairly annoyed that I had to invent this hashtag in 2020 because nobody else had.
Now is the time to #DefendTheBBC – did you know that there’s also a much more prominent hashtag cheekily called #DefundTheBBC, set up in May 2020 and supported by the usual suspects in the press?
For the BBC’s centenary I’d like to see street parties. I’d like to see all the other broadcast channels in the UK fall silent and dark for one day (or one hour?) in honour of the First and Best. I’d like to see T shirts with supportive slogans and a Royal visit to Broadcasting House. I’d like congratulatory telegrams from all over the world.
How much of this can I arrange before November?
Love from the PPI (“Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant”, remember) Blogger
Matthew Perry7th January 2022 at 4:56 pm
Good post Penny, why do not you start a petition on the government website? Or maybe Change.org?
Stephen Sheridan8th January 2022 at 12:48 am
I grew up on a diet of Radio 4 and I still like some of its output and I adored Doctor Who until an appalling writer destroyed its entire history recently (nothing to do with the female Doctor – just the male writer’s malicious destruction of the whole meaning of the show by making the Doctor no longer a Timelord but some one with unlimited regenerations and he openly did this for ideological reasons).
Your plea Penelope come from a good place, but I beg to differ. The BBC has always been a national state-funded (via taxation) broadcaster with the World Service funded by the Foreign Office. So its long history has never been one of impartiality or comprehensive coverage. Perhaps from the very limited viewpoint of these islands it might appear that way, but you have only to read George Orwell’s accounts of his struggles to write the truth when he worked there, to see that it has always been an arm of the state.
It has always given the English establishment bourgeois view of the world. When that was right wing so was it. Now the establishment is left wing and woke, so it is too. All it does now is act as the propaganda arm of government when it wants to do interventionist things, but it simply urges harder and faster, just like the Labour Party. So we have no real opposition or unpartisan analysis at all.
Its foreign coverage is laughably insular too, with very little understanding of the cultures it comments on, but that is only to be expected given the state of our education system – the Foreign Office is very similar. Being half Polish I sense this whenever there is an interview of an Eastern European with a BBC news presenter. I am no fan of the current Polish or Hungarian governments, but the woke colonialist and culturally ignorant attacks that these BBC presenters launch make them look like malevolent imbeciles to anyone who knows the histories of these countries. The constant obsession with Russia being at the root of all evil and denying that Russia has legitimate security concerns just reinforces this slavophobic bias.
There is no TV station in the UK or the US which gives an unbiased view. All are campaigning mouthpieces, because that has been the change in the way western journalists are trained and because they come from a small recruitment pool, mainly with family connections. This is also why almost all British actors with successful careers come from wealthy middle class acting families. No longer do you find great actors from working class backgrounds as you did in the 50s and 60s. Broadcasting, acting and politics are becoming hereditary professions.
It doesn’t matter what we think though, because the licence fee will disappear as none of the young watch TV, they just stream and they are no much interested in BBC content.
If one wants real news, one has to hunt. I use Al Jazeera online for most world news, but exclude anything to do with the Middle East as they give the Qatari propaganda view. There are also some emerging Indian channels on Youtube which are interesting, but you have to exclude anything to do with China or Pakistan when they cover it. otherwise you have to watch the two opposing sides and make your own judgement – that doesn’t really work with the US though, because all the mainstream TV channels spend their time slagging off Fox News and vice versa. The live in a symbiotic bubble of hatred – in fact if wasn’t for Trump CNN would have gone under ages ago. If he disappears (please Lord!), then so will they.
The really interesting thing you find when you spread your news intake to English speaking foreign channels is how insular most Western media obsessions seem to be. India, Russia, Africa, Arabia and China are not talking about pronouns, safe spaces and little or nothing about climate change.
Still best ignore me – I am triple-vaxed and stuck in my Covid bed at the moment, still angry about my Afghan friend’s family abandoned to the Taliban.
Matthew Perry8th January 2022 at 6:33 pm
I would like to disagree with your comment “Now the establishment is left wing and woke, so it is too”. This is a fallacy, the British establishment is still right-wing – we have had a conservative government for the past 11 years, two of the last three prime ministers went to Eton and Oxford, the other only to Oxford, not that these guarantee right-wing views, but they are a sign that the establishment has not changed much. The printed press is dominated by wealthy white men (mostly tax exiles) who hold decidely right-wing views and see that their papers push those views.
I also disagree strongly with your views on Russia. Yes, they have legitimate security concerns, like any other country, but that does not excuse massing 150 000 troops on the border of a neighbouring country, annexing parts of neighbouring countries (Crimea), mounting proxy invasions (eastern Ukraine), dictating to other countries how they have their alliances (Sweden, Finland) etc. Some of these are not unique to Russia; western countries too support some pretty unsavoury regimes, though not in general quite so violently as is happening in Kazakstan.
Penelope Wallace9th January 2022 at 11:23 am
Interesting points being made, and I readily admit that I am actually fairly ignorant about current BBC scandals, and certainly about the insularity of world news.
1) even if you don’t like what the BBC is doing now, its centenary still should be a major event for this country (I think)
2) another friend thinks the BBC is now a government mouthpiece, far from being left wing and woke, so…
3) certainly there will always be an element of BBC news coverage, and all British news coverage, that is “British” and Western, and likely to be insular and ignorant. I can’t argue with someone who knows more, but for those who don’t have time to hunt for more and different perspectives, I am grateful for something.
4) While detesting the views and actions of Vladimir Putin, I have to think Russia’s annoyance at the idea of Ukraine joining NATO is understandable. What is NATO’s purpose other than to be anti-Russian?
5) Matthew Perry, I’m glad you agree not everyone who went to Oxford is right-wing!!
Stephen Hall11th January 2022 at 9:02 am
When I was more of a unionist than I am now, I would cite the BBC as a great example of shared British cultural identity that would be lost (to Scots) were Scotland to become independent. (The other big examples of the monarchy and the shared history of Empire are perhaps less useful ammunition in arguments with separatists!)
The BBC seems less good in many ways now than it did in the past, perhaps because peoples’ expectations of quality have increased faster than the BBC’s ability to fund modern production values. In drama, the rise of the American TV streaming giants has left may BBC shows looking a bit cheap and shoddy. All types of comedy are an exercise in treading on eggshells at the moment. Most news coverage is so caught up in the culture wars, it’s very difficult for them to report anything without someone getting upset. There’s a general sense of the BBC being a timid, inward-looking and fearful organisation. And so it’s the bland small scale comfort viewing that they still excel at, and which I mainly watch – Strictly, Masterchef, Gardeners World etc.
On the news desk’s attitude to Eastern Europe, Stephen’s points would seem to apply to all the major Western news sources. The BBC is no worse than any of our other news outlets, and probably better. I agree very much with what Penny says about the very existence of the BBC keeping the other broadcasters and newspapers honest. But there is an annoying tendency to conflate the condemning of unsavoury regimes with the legitimate interests of their countries. In general, if the legitimate interests are attended to timeously, then the unsavoury leaders are less likely to come to power in the first place.
Stephen Sheridan11th January 2022 at 1:41 pm
Very good points Namesake.