T his is certainly not a kind of post I would usually share with technolicio.us readers and my YouTube following but the events of the week certainly made me want to write and do something about it with the great PR machine that is the Internet.
It is mainly talking about the BBC, the British Broadcasting Corporation, which is one of my greatest loves. For those of you who aren’t old enough or British enough I’ll preface this with a little warning that you may not totally understand why I have invested my time in this, and why you would want to invest your time in it. The BBC is responsible for its TV channels BBC 1, 2, 3 and 4 as well as BBC Parliament, cBeeBies and CBBC. The last two are both children’s channels. It is also behind BBC Radio 1,2,3 and 4 as well as Radio 5live and Radio 6. Not to mention the enormous amount of local radio stations across the country. There is also the truly wonderful BBC website which has news updated every minute, resources, weather and the wonderful iPlayer; the BBC’s online catch-up service. Now you have a vague idea of what kind of beast the beeb is, I shall begin.
On Thursday the 7th of January, 2010, Jonathan Ross, or @wossy, announced that he would not be renewing his contract with the BBC when it terminates in June of this year. Sad news? For me, yes. I love Friday Night with Jonathan Ross as it captures all the greatness of a “Late Night with…” that you get so many of in the US. I think it started about 13 years ago and ever since I started watching it I have loved it since. There is comedy, in-depth questions, live music and some more comedy. Some people don’t like the show because Ross made the show more about himself than a Michael Parkinson would. (Parkinson, by the way, is a legendary chat show host that I absolutely adore.) This was the absolute norm for a Jay Leno or David Letterman but more obscure for the UK as it was deemed that the interview should be about the subject, not the interviewer. Sadly, Parkinson’s show ended a few years ago when he retired. I believed that this could, and probably would be, the end of the chat show as we know it. This only really left Jonathan’s programme as a show devoted to interviews. Yes, you could argue that breakfast shows do celebrity interviews, but none as well as Parkinson or Ross.
Then, in 2008, Ross and his Saturday morning radio show guest, Russell Brand, recorded a prank phone call to actor Andrew Sachs that, at the time, did not cause a fuss. A little controversial for the comparatively conservative BBC on a whole, but very much something Ross would do. It was only 2 weeks later when the press picked up on this and decided that it was out of order and the BBC should not have let this broadcast. This then ended up in Ross being suspended from the BBC. A few weeks later the papers released a list of the salaries that the beeb hands out every year. A fuss ensued. It revealed that talent such as Ross and others like Jeremy Clarkson, Bruce Forsyth and Graham Norton were being paid salaries in excess of £200,000. A large amount, yes. But this is show business! This wouldn’t matter if it were a normal company but the beeb is funded exclusively by the TV licence; a tax of sorts which you are required to pay if you own a TV. For a colour licence it is currently £142.50 per year and £48.00 per year for a black and white licence. All of this goes to the BBC and they use it to make top-quality programming with no adverts. I personally think that this is a pittance for what you get and compared to a service such as Sky, which provides predominantly second-rate content with commercial breaks for a monthly fee upwards of £15.
And here is the nature of my complaint. People have been happily paying their licence fee for decades and, in turn, have received great content. Now all of a sudden, since we know how much of that goes towards the presenters, it has turned into bad value for money. How? The programmes have only got better but for the same fee. And in regards to the Ross, Brand and Sachs incident, is was insensitive but it only really caused insult to Mr Sachs, so how come it received hundreds of complaints? And how come most of those complaints came after it had been plastered all over the papers? Because more fuss was caused by the press than anyone else! Are you suggesting that we shouldn’t broadcast programs like this? Are you saying that they should stick to a good costume drama on a Thursday evening? I certainly don’t think so! This is, after all broadcasting. Not narrowcasting. There should be a large selection of top quality choice like there always has been. Perhaps now more than ever with the BBC iPlayer. With alternatives such as Sky and Virgin Media (though I do stress you still have to pay your TV licence as you still receive all the BBC goodness) where you have even more choice, it’s all terribly low budget. I exaggerate only slightly when programs such as “the boy whose buttocks played the harp with Danny Dyer” and “the hippo whose nipples spoke Norwegian with Jamie Theakston” come to mind.
And this is what I want to prevent. I have a feeling that unless we can really show how much we love the BBC, other great talent may feel obliged to leave, just like Jonathan, because of their pay. Yes, it is government funded but in my mind it is by far the best state service. As a way of showing this, I’ve created a twibbon called I love the BBC and I’d really appreciate it if you joined. But most of all enjoy all the great content that the BBC produces! And if you don’t live in the UK… ha ha!