Tag Archives: Proud of the BBC


The BBC’s habit of using a certain form to describe a country or the people thereof is annoying at best. What is wrong with using French/Chinese/Polish rather than France/China/Poland?

Then again, if you’re going to be annoying, at least be consistent about it.


Here we have a fragile-sounding “China woman…” compared to a “Polish village…”. If I was editor-in-chief, it would be a Chinese woman, but going by house style the latter ought to be a Poland village.

There are proper words to describe the things I am writing about, but my brain is being recalcitrant and not letting me find them. I apologise for my poor language. I don’t think it’s contagious.

EDIT: Someone has been subediting and corrected things since I posted—and corrected them against style to boot! Perhaps I have readers who work at the Beeb. 

BBC Archive

Take a trip through our collective past with the BBC archives and discover themed collections of radio and TV programmes, documents and photographs from as far back as the 1930s.

You can explore who we are, see how attitudes and broadcasting have changed and go behind the scenes to find out how the BBC archives are maintained.

I may have linked to this before, but as part of their public service broadcasting remit the BBC have been trying to get a lot of archived material online. It’s a great way to waste some time, if nothing else. For me, it is proving to be a hefty dose of nostalgia.

Race to the Bottom?


Once again it is that time of year. I don’t mean the changing of the seasons, the nights getting longer, the onrush of winter and that Christmas thing. No, I mean it’s X Factor/Strictly Come Dancing time again. Which one will you be watching?

Oh, please. This morning’s BBC Breakfast was full of it. Endless froth about X Factor (ITV, blue corner) and Strictly Come Dancing (BBC, red corner), with added excitement in the form of whether Spooks (BBC) and Downton Abbey (ITV) will also pull in the punters.

My jaw almost hit the floor, which would have been inconvenient since I was eating toast and supping tea at the time. 

Why, I wondered, does the BBC, a publicly-funded broadcaster through the television licence, feel the need to fight for ratings with an advertising-funded network? I fail to see the point in these ratings “wars”. Who wins in the end? 

My contention is no-one wins in the end. Everyone’s a loser.

Let’s leave aside the Spooks vs Downton Abbey thing, because as far as I can tell (I don’t watch either show, I freely admit) they are both well-written, well-made examples of their breed. Pitting them against each other in the same time slot seems pointless, since anyone who cares enough will simply record one of them to watch later, or catch up online—this in itself negates the whole “X million people watched it last night, so our show is bigger than your show, yah boo sucks” shenanigans, but there you go.

No-one wins in the end when two celebrity-obsessed “reality” shows are pitched at each other. Everyone is a net loser, even those of us who don’t watch them. Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor: celebrities making fools of themselves versus members of the public making fools of themselves. The latter I find particularly irksome as it feeds on sad peoples’ need to “be famous”, without needing to do any of the hard work to earn the fame. The goggle-eyed sofa-bound point and laugh. It’s gladiatorial combat, only lacking the blood and gore. In fact, I’m sure there’ll be blood and gore in a future series of X Factor. They need to keep the ratings, after all.

No-one wins because both are really just for those who enjoy air-head television. It’s style over substance. Both shows encourage viewers to phone in and “vote” for a winner, at vast expense mind you. Both are fixed, there is no real competition at all. Why viewers aren’t intelligent enough to see through this manufactured charade is beyond me, but perhaps it’s the chance of seeing a famous person making a fool of themselves, or a fool making themselves momentarily famous. I don’t really know.

All of which still fails to answer my question: why does a publicly-funded broadcaster feel the need to follow another channel down the plughole? 

ITV needs people to watch the shows so they can be advertised at. It’s a commercial broadcaster. X Factor is funded by sponsorship and advertising, aimed at the goggle-eyed and sofa-bound. The entertainment is to keep you watching so you can be advertised at. That’s all it is. You are the product, not the end user.

The BBC, however, doesn’t need to appease advertisers. Who are they trying to fool? Ratings mean nothing to the BBC. They don’t need to compete, so why do they bother? I have no idea.

What I’d like to see is the BBC realising it really doesn’t have to chase ratings. I’d like to see Auntie concentrating on making the best programmes it can, without continually dumbing down to appease the stupid. There are plenty of smart people out there who enjoy a challenge in their entertainment. Stupid people have ITV, Five or anything from Sky to watch if they feel challenged by anything made for intelligent people. Make excellent programmes and smart people will watch them, I can guarantee it. Earn the television licence instead of continually underestimating the intelligence of your viewers. We’re not stupid, so please don’t assume we are.

Oh, and while we’re at it, don’t scrap BBC Four. It’s one of the few places where we smart people can still watch intelligent programming.


Save BBC Four!

They’re at it again. By “they” I mean the bean counters at the BBC.

Told that the Corporation must save money in these times of austerity, they’ve cast their beady eyes in the direction of the free-to-air digital channels, and BBC Four in particular.

You may well be thinking “so what?”.

Well, a quick glance at the schedules of the other BBC television channels will reveal in the main a wasteland of commercialised populist tat. BBC Four, alone, seems to be a haven for intellectual broadcasting, where you can find documentaries and strands that cover the arts, culture, foreign films, the sciences and humanities. In recent years, BBC Four has also been home to quality US imports, before the avaricial commercial channels topped the bids for new seasons.

In short, BBC Four is what BBC Two once was. It is almost a last bastion of free-to-air quality television broadcasting, and as such must be saved from closure that seems to be based on spite or to salve the consciences of BBC executives. The BBC is more important and better than merely ratings figures, and it’s time the BBC management realised this. The Corporation doesn’t have to compete with the commercial sector. It should concentrate on producing quality programming, on not dumbing everything down to appease the stupid and indolent.

A couple of years ago, the BBC also mooted the idea of closing the digital-only radio stations BBC 6 Music and BBC Asian Network. A spirited defence of both channels, which resulted in increased audience figures, saved both channels because the voice of the listener was heard. A petition has been set up for BBC Four. I encourage you to voice your opinion, and add your name to save the channel so we viewers who still care can still find programmes that educate and entertain, instead of just anæsthetising our brains.



BBC remasters Civilisation for HD | Media | guardian.co.uk

It was a landmark documentary series that is still discussed in hushed tones today. Now Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, the acclaimed BBC2 series from 1969 that traced the history of western art and philosophy, is to be remastered in high definition for a new generation of television viewers.

The 13-part series will be repeated in full from next month on the BBC‘s high definition channel, part of what the corporation called its “wider commitment to the arts through showcasing the jewels of its arts archive”.

I am very much looking forward to 9 February.

Shipping forecast: The poetry of North Utsire | Elisabeth Mahoney | Comment is free | The Guardian

Sandwiched between Sailing By and the national anthem as the station closes down each night – as well as in three other slots across FM and LW – the forecasts are one of the network’s self-defining gems, and one of its best-loved slots for urban listeners like me, who’ve only ever been to sea on a holiday pedalo. Especially at night, these forecasts, with their place names, terms (veering, backing) and weatherly detail you never hear in the rest of life, and their hypnotically formulaic progression (area, wind direction, strength, precipitation, sea conditions, visibility), have a talismanic, haunting power.

This is especially the case if you’re listening on land, warm and safe, with a hot-water bottle tucked under your feet. From here, the segments of each forecast are like haiku poems: intense, compressed, full of something living and changing, but so still in their composure: “Viking, North Utsire, westerly, backing southerly, or south-westerly five to seven, perhaps gale 8 later, wintry showers, good occasionally poor.”

Once upon a time I used to listen to Radio 4 from the moment I awoke to the moment I fell asleep. I remember drifting away to the late night shipping forecast. In fact, I am getting a little nostalgic for it. I may have to stay up late and tune in tonight.

BBC News – Licence fee freeze and higher costs for BBC in future

The BBC licence fee is to be held at its current level for six years as the corporation agrees to fund the World Service, the Welsh language channel, S4C, and the roll-out of broadband to rural areas.

These are highly significant changes for the BBC, finalised in a hectic few hours before publication of the government’s Spending Review. They will be formally announced on Wednesday.

I’m not sure what to think about this. It all seems to have happened a bit quickly for my liking.