To inform, educate and entertain – #CelebrateTheBBC
Next month a man named Richard Sharp (not the character written by Bernard Cornwell and played by Sean Bean) takes over as Chairman of the BBC’s Board of Governors.
Paragraph 20(2) of the Corporation’s Charter says:
In accordance with article 3 (independence of the BBC), each member of the Board must at all times uphold and protect the independence of the BBC, including by acting in the public interest, exercising independent judgement and neither seeking nor taking instructions from Government Ministers or any other person.
I therefore find it rather disturbing that, according to Wikipedia, Mr Sharp is a substantial donor to the Conservative Party and a former adviser to both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, and has been director of the Centre for Policy Studies, a body that has recommended abolition of the licence fee.
But let’s not be prejudiced.
I’m proposing to write to Mr Sharp saying something like this:
“Congratulations on your new role! I assume that, as its incoming Chair, you share my view that the BBC is one of the greatest institutions in the world, and a legitimate source of great pride for all UK citizens.
It is the world’s oldest public service broadcaster – all other would-be impartial news purveyors owe something to the BBC’s example.
Impartial and honest. In the past few weeks and years of fake news, and fake allegations of fake news, we’ve all seen how vital those characteristics are. How grateful we are for BBC News, not only on TV and radio (including the BBC World Service), but online.
Of course the BBC is more than news. You are a few years older than me, and so your favourite BBC memories will be slightly different to mine, but are any of these in your top five?
- Doctor Who (the theme tune! The Daleks! The Tardis!)
- The Andrew Davies/Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice (so many classic serials – so much great literature read as a result)
- The ending of Blackadder Goes Forth
- Wimbledon coverage – and the Olympics
- Terry Wogan on Radio 2… and commenting on Eurovision
- Listening eagerly for the Tuesday announcement on Radio 1 of the best-selling single (was it still Mull of Kintyre?)
- Just a Minute with Nicholas Parsons
- Lulu the elephant on Blue Peter (longest-running children’s TV show in the world)
- Alternative and groundbreaking comedy from Monty Python to Fleabag…
And of course nowadays one can celebrate the BBC’s superb internet coverage of almost everything under the sun, and beyond the sun, and its generous iplayer provision.
I don’t actually watch much TV at the moment, but every penny of the licence fee is worth it to be able to go onto BBC News online and be confident that “this is true, this is reliable, this is what Britain does well.”
As a would-be impartial news organisation, it is accused of bias by both sides. This is a badge of honour.
Of course, like all huge old organisations, it makes and has made mistakes, sometimes big ones. When these mistakes come out, they are usually the lead story on BBC News – another badge of honour.
It sometimes seems that the BBC is ceaselessly being attacked and undermined. Of course it is – it’s the best in the world, and so attracts jealously from rival broadcasters, often rather less trustworthy. Its finances are constantly threatened by the suggestions of abolition of the licence fee.
(You will know the arguments both ways much better than I, but is there a better way than the licence fee of providing what is essential for the BBC to do its job: funding that is substantial, sufficiently reliable to enable longterm planning, free of political interference, and which doesn’t force reliance on advertising?)
I wish you the best of fortune in your exciting new role, which presumably includes planning glorious (but not wasteful!) centenary celebrations in 2022.”
I’m not sure how Mr Sharp will/would respond to such a letter. But as you will have gathered from the above, I am a passionate supporter of the BBC, and intend to be a passionate defender as necessary.
In November I started my little campaign on Facebook, to #CelebrateTheBBC on the 22nd day of every month, up to and including the centenary year. Does anyone want to join me?
Love from the PPI Blogger