Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Men in suits clawing for youthful edginess

Libby Purves in the Times on the report into BBC bias:

You get a sense of men in suits desperately clawing for youthful edginess, for membership of any hip minority rather than horrid old “Middle England”. During that week of Live 8 craziness, another huge BBC presence was down at Glastonbury straining to be cool. Meanwhile, there was the Trafalgar Fleet Review – tall ships and fireworks, a unique assembly of international vessels, a powerful message about the continuing importance of the maritime sector to everything we do. It was spectacular: it drew 750,000 people to the banks of the Solent (six times as many as Glastonbury, three times as many as Live 8). Yet the BBC would not carry it on terrestrial television, even though cameras were there for News 24. People without satellite or Freeview (who are legion, and often fond of ships) were dismayed, betrayed at a national hour by the national broadcaster.

The snub was plainly a matter of policy, not resources: it would have been possible to simulcast News 24 on BBC1 for the crucial hour, replacing (for God’s sake!) an Antiques Roadshow and a tennis recording. But no: the message was: “Ugh, ships, so retro! And ugh, imperialistic! Who cares? Everyone, like, prefers Madonna and Geldof and Primal Scream.” The evidence that plenty of people think otherwise was ignored. That, to me, showed a more potent and dangerous BBC bias problem than any self-serving grumble by a politician. That is the cultural blindness that after the Tait report must be tackled.

And it won’t be easy. The BBC hasn’t yet said sorry for 2005, or admitted it screwed up. Which is why, loyal as I am to the essential and eternal concept of the BBC, I keep on mentioning it . . .

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