Sunday, 7 November 2010

I'm proud of the BBC

"It's not just lousy weather that holds us together..."

This video is for the Brits, mostly, I'm afraid. Singer-songwriter Mitch Benn is asking people to show support for the much-criticised BBC.

Which is, if you're unfamiliar with this country, an unashamedly socialist institution - well, in that everyone who owns a TV has to pay an annual licence fee which goes to finance public broadcasting. The BBC makes, with our money, a whole slew of programmes. Some of them are populist (and then people complain that "They could just as easily be made by a commercial station - why is my money paying for it?"). Some of them are for minority audiences or are fairly highbrow (and then people complain that "I don't want to watch this - why is my money paying for it?"). Those in government are convinced that the BBC board of governors has an agenda to undermine their authority and bring the administration down. People outside government (including some of their own journalists) are convinced that the BBC board are a bunch of arse-licking toadies who do just what the government tell them to. Lefties are convinced it's hopelessly pro-establishment. Right-wingers are convinced it's a nest of Marxists.

In the middle of all this complaining* it goes on providing "comfort and inspiration for the nation," as Mitch Benn says. I'm glad that so many of the programmes that shaped my childhood and my imaginative life got a mention in this wonderful song!

What's this strange feeling stirring in me as I listen? Is it? ... could it be? ... pride in my country?
(Don't worry, it'll be gone again soon enough.)

*We're British: complaining is our national pastime. I can't spend an hour with my father-in-law without hearing a "I don't want to complain, but..." speech.
And see? I'm complaining that we complain all the time!


Craig Sorensen said...

For what it's worth, I have long admired the programs that the BBC provides, starting with Monty Python when I was a kid in the seventies.

I have enjoyed BBC shows over the years, too many to name, now on BBC America and our public television, which does pledge drives annually for support.

Many would say that other than public television and premium cable channels like HBO, which we pay a fee for, our system provides for free programming, but the truth is, it is paid for by the sponsors.

Bad ratings means less people see commercials which means no show, and so it is rare that our networks produce really quality programs. Our "free" programs have to play to mass appeal, and in my case, mass appeal isn't my thing, so I think you have a good thing in the BBC.

Justine Elyot said...

I could do a version of my life story using only BBC programmes I have watched and been obsessed with, from childhood onwards. It is part of the fabric of our British souls, I think. I am deeply suspicious of anyone who thinks it needs tinkering with.

Justine Elyot said...

And I will only believe the world has really ended if the Today Programme isn't on ;).

Justine Elyot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeremy Edwards said...

Count me as another Yank whose life has been significantly enriched by BBC programming!

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with some friends over at the Beeb.

Janine Ashbless said...

Glad to hear some Yank support, Craig and Jeremy! And yes, I echo
every word you said, Justine.

We've had some truly great programmes over from the US side of the pond in the last decade, but I think that what makes the BBC (and British TV) different to yours is its capacity for social cohesion. Everyone with a TV (which is nearly everyone - I have one friend who's never owned a TV) gets the same programmes, at the same time. We don't have hundreds of cable channels (or didn't until very recently), we aren't divided by different languages or different time-zones, and until the advent of Sky pretty much everyone saw or was at least aware of the same programmes. My TV memories will shared by almost everyone my age. At work people can discuss the same soap operas, the same football matches, the same big-event coverage. Children in particular have a shared TV culture because there isn't a huge choice of kids' stations and the BBC invests a lot into good quality, popular, children's TV.

I wonder how much this will change now that we have digital & satellite...

Danielle said...

i used to watch bbc too..BUT...i know it makes me look totally nuts and insane..but i gave up watching tv a few years no tv anymore..also no bbc..and even arte anymore..sigh*

Fulani said...

Janine, I agree with you. The BBC is one of the few institutions in Britain I think we can genuinely take pride in because it is committed to an inclusive idea of 'public service' and good journalistic values.

The fact that it's not a commercial organisation also also means it can afford to experiment and innovate in ways that are difficult for commercially-driven media - Craig mentioned Monty Python as a shining example, but a lot of the arts programming in particular is innovative as well. And in radio you can find historical examples such as the Goons and in contemporary radio, the support for Radio 6 and (certainly in my local area) for a lot of the Asian programming.

I would also mention that I'm slightly biased because one of my friends owes his freedom and possibly his life to BBC World Service reporting, which I see as a particularly valuable part of the BBC - although we in the UK don't listen to it much it's a trusted institution worldwide and one that is really worthy of our support.

My 2p worth anyway.

Janine Ashbless said...

That's pretty heartwarming, Fulani - I'm delighted for your friend's escape. Yes, the World Service is such an important institution.

I haven't listened to Radio 6 but I love BBC4!

Beth said...

I can't believe they mentioned Blakes 7!!

Janine Ashbless said...