Monday, July 03, 2006

Gales View - The BBC's Charter

If we did not have a public service broadcaster we would have to invent one.  That, broadly, has been the experience of every country that has, unlike the UK, started with commercial radio and television and then found it necessary to try to satisfy a public demand.

That is why the BBC has generally been regarded as a benchmark for standards of communication and why we have, for so long and in the teeth of multi-channel broadcasting and diversity, put up with the license fee as the "least worst" way of paying for the service.

With the BBC Charter and the license fee now under scrutiny it is just possible that the foul mouth of Mr. Jonathan Ross may have done us all a favour in concentrating minds upon what it is that we are paying for and whether or not we should, any longer, be paying for it by a state-imposed "viewing tax".

I am not remotely concerned that in some way Mr. Ross may have abused Mr. David Cameron on his programme. (The latter, whose credentials lie in broadcasting, ought to be able to look after himself).  Neither I am concerned that in some way his remarks may have slighted Margaret Thatcher: her legacy, for good or ill, is likely to last rather longer than that of even the best of broadcasters and that is a category into which Mr. Ross has no danger of falling.

No, the question is rather whether we should be required to pay a tax to not watch this oaf use bad language at any hour of the day or night, on radio or television.

The BBC`s apologists claim, justly, that if we don't like it we can turn it off.  Would they be so swift to rush to that conclusion if we were able, legally, to not pay their license fees as well?

It is also said, and it is a view that I share, that one of the duties of  public service broadcasters (and independent television has a public service remit also)  is to innovate. That is why The Goon Show, That Was The Week That Was, Monty Python, Spitting Image and the like have pushed at the limits of what was, in their day, considered acceptable.. Each of them has been tried and tested in the court of  creativity and not found wanting. Mr. Ross, and those of his ilk, do not, in my view, scratch at the door of that kind of real talent.

As a television producer and director I have myself tested the boundaries of taste on occasions.  I do not believe, though, that foul language, obscenity or gratuitous nudity can or should be afforded, in the name of "innovation" or entertainment, a place at the TV Taxpayer's expense.  If people want the obscene, the violent or the pornographic they can buy it on DVD or video, through subscription satellite channels or even on occasions  find it through free-to-air commercial television programmes.

We complain bitterly of the breakdown in law and order. We rail against government's inability to control anti-social behaviour.  We show the red card to sportsmen and women who show a bad example on field or pitch.  Why should the BBC be allowed to get away the broadcasting material that is designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator of yobbish behaviour and that in many other walks of life would result in a fine or even arrest?

It is, perhaps, time that we showed the red card to the British Broadcasting Corporation.  A reduction, rather than an increase, in the license fee might concentrate a few minds upon priorities.

And talking of law and order, Mr. Blair complains that much of the fault in today's society lies in the failure of the legal system and legislation.  I wonder which of his Lords Chancellor and which of the fifty-four separate changes to the criminal justice system that he has instigated during his nine years in office he had in mind when he said that?!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear, Mr. Gale!
Would you have us censor our TV in the same way as the American's do? We would end-up with bland and boring content that would definitely NOT justify a license charge. I commend the BBC for allowing broadcasters freedom of expression, even if their idea of taste does not concur with mine (I did not find the questions to Cameron particularly amusing, although I do think Ross is one of BBC's brightest talents). To make an association between this broadcast and anti-social behaviour is pure nonsense. You do much good work and have, I think, better things to do so please don't become the next Mary Whitehouse!

shernus said...

given a choice i simply can live without the bbc, and begrudge paying the liscence fee for the inflated wages of the cast of eastenders and the many uninspired cop shows.
It is not a trail blazer or innovator buying most of its ideas and entertainers from channel 4 after they have proven there worth jonathan ross being 1 of them.
In a recent AOL survey last year 10 and a half million brits viewed internet pornography 9 million men 1 and a half women,i would say that makes it very popular form of entertainment.
As for the breakdown in law and order try tackling the problem head on breaking the cycles of abuse, and blame the family values of these indaviduals,and stop blaming tv,music,video games,which has been proven to have no direct link.

Anonymous said...

given a choice i simply can live without the bbc, and begrudge paying the liscence fee for the inflated wages of the cast of eastenders and the many uninspired cop shows.
It is not a trail blazer or innovator buying most of its ideas and entertainers from channel 4 after they have proven there worth jonathan ross being 1 of them.
In a recent AOL survey last year 10 and a half million brits viewed internet pornography 9 million men 1 and a half women,i would say that makes it very popular form of entertainment.
As for the breakdown in law and order try tackling the problem head on breaking the cycles of abuse, and blame the family values of these indaviduals,and stop blaming tv,music,video games,which has been proven to have no direct link.

Cllr David Green said...

So is there more to the growling of the Cameron camp on the level of the BBC's funding than a concern over the possible skewing of creative capital in the UK market? Cameron, of course, is a former PR man for Carlton Television - which was not, if I remember rightly, enamoured of the public broadcaster even then.

The revelation that Rupert Murdoch would consider backing David Cameron, given a 12-to-18 month stand-off between him and Gordon Brown, ranks as pretty unsurprising. In Murdoch's shoes, who wouldn't do the exact same thing? But would you expect a principled opposition to react so slavishly?

Gale of course is doing nothing more than regurgitating this weeks “message” from Tory central office. Even though he loaths Cameron and everthing he stands for, he cannot forget his commecial radio background.

James Maskell said...

Oh dear. Dave, do you think the BBC provides value for money? Its a tax in all but name. People can switch off, but they still have to fork out for it. I dont watch much of the BBC, though I do enjoy Hustle when its on.

The problem I find is that the BBC being one of the "sacred cows" of Britain, the other being the NHS, is seen to be above reform, which then leads to it becoming inefficient. Its a state owned broadcaster and therefore has protection. The NHS has an element of it but certainly less as its a different service. Competition leads to improvement in quality. Its a fact of life. Its sad that Dave here doesnt quite appreciate the point. No state owned businesses should be above reform.

I dont agree with Cameron over rap music, but there definitely a point in making the BBC accountable for its products which we the taxpayer cough up so much money for. If theres a market for it, people will view it. The market is the true test of a product.

James Maskell said...

Oh dear. Dave, do you think the BBC provides value for money? Its a tax in all but name. People can switch off, but they still have to fork out for it. I dont watch much of the BBC, though I do enjoy Hustle when its on.

The problem I find is that the BBC being one of the "sacred cows" of Britain, the other being the NHS, is seen to be above reform, which then leads to it becoming inefficient. Its a state owned broadcaster and therefore has protection. The NHS has an element of it but certainly less as its a different service. Competition leads to improvement in quality. Its a fact of life. Its sad that Dave here doesnt quite appreciate the point. No state owned businesses should be above reform.

I dont agree with Cameron over rap music, but there definitely a point in making the BBC accountable for its products which we the taxpayer cough up so much money for. If theres a market for it, people will view it. The market is the true test of a product.

James Maskell said...

Oh dear. Dave, do you think the BBC provides value for money? Its a tax in all but name. People can switch off, but they still have to fork out for it. I dont watch much of the BBC, though I do enjoy Hustle when its on.

The problem I find is that the BBC being one of the "sacred cows" of Britain, the other being the NHS, is seen to be above reform, which then leads to it becoming inefficient. Its a state owned broadcaster and therefore has protection. The NHS has an element of it but certainly less as its a different service. Competition leads to improvement in quality. Its a fact of life. Its sad that Dave here doesnt quite appreciate the point. No state owned businesses should be above reform.

I dont agree with Cameron over rap music, but there definitely a point in making the BBC accountable for its products which we the taxpayer cough up so much money for. If theres a market for it, people will view it. The market is the true test of a product.

James Maskell said...

Hmmm...dodgy internet connection...

shernus said...

even the bbc doesn't have that many repeats Mr Maskell

ann onymous said...

Last week I paid £131.50 for my TV license and begrudged it. Being a pensioner it was more than one weeks pension to watch all the rotten programmes. I bought a digibox thinking it would be better, but found digi channels were repeats of the past rubbish I had tried to watch and given up.
I think I shall become a radio listener it must be better than TV
programmes.

Anonymous said...

My my old dad said, "If they had invented radio after TV, everyone would have said, "that's a bloody marvelous invention, you don't even need to look at it now".