Monday, November 24, 2008

It's Your BBC

Is it just me, or do you think the tabloid press is acting more like a rabid dog running out of control wildly intent on causing destruction whatever the cost, then normal?

I only say this because we've had a spate of mad media events in the last few weeks staring with the Ross/Brand affair and culminating last week with the John Sergeant debacle. (I have blogged ad nauseam about that at the other place, so won't witter on about it anymore). In the middle of which we had the seriously tragic story of Baby P, which has had the tabloids howling for blood. Unable to actually say the people who did this are the ones we should blame ,the tabloids have been wildly lashing out at any one who had anything to do with the case. Sack 'em all I say. And then there'll be no one to look after the next Baby P that comes along.

Baby P probably deserves another post entirely of his own, but the Ross/Brand and Strictly stuff has really made me stop and think about whether there is a really malevolent campaign underway to destroy the Beeb (mind you Auntie's ridiculous responses to these situations don't really help her). As each of these (tabloid manufactured and totally over the top) "scandals" have broken there is an inevitable howling about what we pay our license fee for.

We can all complain about the relevance of the license fee in this day and age of free downloads and iplayer watching (now you can watch TV on your computer how the hell are they going to enforce it?) and TV as we know it is clearly changing frantically fast, so the license fee may well be an outmoded way of funding the Beeb.

However. We don't subscribe to Sky because we quite frankly find it hard enough to keep up with what we do want to watch on the terrestrial channels, but if we did, I wouldn't have a problem paying for it. And equally I don't have a problem paying for the BBC.

As it happens I think I get my moneysworth.

As a regular listener to Radio 2 (and Five Live when I'm on the school run - Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo are worth the license fee alone, I reckon) - I get a huge amount of pleasure from my radio. Given that I spend most of the day on my own while the sprogs are at school, I find the radio a great source of stimulus and comfort on lonely grey days like today when otherwise I might be contemplating slitting my wrists.

So the radio makes it worth it for me, but I'd say the TV does too. Since the launch of BBC3/4 there've been a whole host of interesting programming because suddenly the commissioning editors have slots to fill, which means they've had to come up with something other then reality tv and cooking programmes.

In the last year on BBC3 we've enjoyed Pulling and Gavin and Stacey , as well as the one offs like Being Human (yay! they're making a series) and the fabulous Mrs Inbetweeny (which deserves a series) and are currently watching Spooks a week ahead because I go out swimming when the BBC1 episode is aired. On BBC4 we also loved Stephen Fry's programme about the Guttenberg press and the rest of the mediaeval season (including a rare rerun of The Hour of the Pig which we've only seen once) and I am sure I will enjoy Edington and Einstein when I get round to watching it.

On Saturday night I was torn between videoing Edington and Outnumbered (maybe the latter is only of interest if you have more then two children but I think it is the best funniest depiction of modern parenting I've ever seen) as I am sadly obsessed with I'm A Celebrity at the minute. Outnumbered is repeated on Wednesday (damn, just realised I'm going to be out) so I videoed Edington. We had earlier watched Strictly (despite being very cross about John Sergeant - I have to say I am on the verge of quitting on the Strictly front, well done BBC), and Merlin, which is great family viewing. I wasn't sure about Merlin to begin with, but it's really grown on me and this week's episode was cracking. And later on we saw Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Given that we don't often get out on Saturday nights these days,that made for an entertaining evening in - I can remember a veritable famine of good evening entertainment a few years ago when the sprogs were all small. Now I'm more likely to feel I'd rather stay in.

Last night there was an equal feast of riches. We watched the Strictly results show while videoing Top Gear and then watched the first episode of Survivors, which though a tad uneven in places was sufficiently gripping for me to want to return to it next week. Nos 1, 2 and I have also been glued to Little Dorrit,which is helpfully repeated on Sunday in case (as we keep doing)we've missed it.

So I'd say that the Beeb actually offers rather good value for money. And however we have to pay for it in the future, I don't begrudge them the money if they keep providing such topclass entertainment as this (even the dross on the Beeb is better then dross elsewhere).

I have a feeling if the screaming tabloid hacks who are currently baying for the Beeb's blood did get their way and we didn't pay for it anymore, we'd really live to rue the day.

Yes they get it wrong a lot. Yes, there is too much inhouse backslapping camaraderie about the place (I like Jonathan Ross, but sometimes it seems he's just interviewing his mates), but on balance I like what Auntie has to offer.

So I'm going to keep watching (though maybe not Strictly Come Dancing anymore...)


Anonymous said...

"It's your BBC"

No it's the liberal/lefts BBC & the public are just forced to subsidise what you happen to enjoy. I thankfully haven't paid them in 19yrs and would rather go to prison than pay for a selfish and arrogant bunch like that!

MediumRob said...

It's worth pointing out that the second episode of Survivors is on tonight, not next week, so you'll miss it if you hold off until then!

As for BBC bias, it depends which department. The drama department has a more liberal/left-of-centre bias, whereas the news department tries its best to be neutral but ends up more as right-wing protectors of the status quo.

Jane Henry said...

I had spotted Survivors was on, thanks Rob. So Eddington will have to wait (again).

It always amuses me how often people on both sides of the political spectrum claim bias for the BBC, which I think shows they must be doing something right. I also think we'll miss it when its gone....

MediumRob said...

Are you amused by the number of people or the idea that it's biased? Certainly it's Iraq War reporting was the most pro-war of the main broadcasters:

Jane Henry said...

I'm amused by the idea that people I have known on all sides of the political divide look at things from their perspective and thinks the Beeb is biased. That makes me think it is probably more neutral (if any organisation can ever be truly neutral) then its detractors claim. I am sure you are right about the Iraq reporting but I have heard both left wingers berating the Beeb for being too right wing and right wingers for being too pink and liberal. That's what I find amusing.

MediumRob said...

Surely the obvious (?) conclusion when a large number of people from both sides of the spectrum accuse a media organisation of being biased isn't that it's not biased, it's that it doesn't reflect a broad range of opinions.

So left wingers can rightfully point out that you never see a trade unionist, socialist, communist or even Green Party representative interviewed on a BBC news or business programme. And right-wingers can point out that pro death-penalty, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-single mother/pro-nuclear family, pro-Christian programming, in particular dramas, are utterly absent from the BBC's scheduling.

The point being that the BBC does operate a 'consensus' world view that stops people outside of this consensus being heard, even if within the boundaries of that consensus it stays neutral.

Jane Henry said...

Yes that's probably a very good point Rob. I hadn't actually thought of it that way. I don't actually think anyone can ever achieve neutrality and have no bias towards anything, but aiming for it has to be good. And taking with a pinch of salt what is presented before us is also essential. Irrespective of bias, one of the most annoying things about watching the BBC News is how little factual evidence is given to support any given story. I apppreciate that a paper has more time to give us facts but sometimes the Ten O Clock news is shocking in its paucity of facts.

Thanks for that link btw - didn't know that about Paxo and co not being allowed to go to anti war demos. Any suggestion they wanted to? OTOH - you could also argue that by not going they maintained their neutrality whatever their private feelings on the matter. After all we surely want our newscasters to tell us the news, not what they think about it. (Oh ok, maybe not...!)

Jane Henry said...

PS I can forgive the BBC all manner of bias and stupidity (I do think they make things worse for themselves sometimes) for reviving Dr Who, although I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forgive them for Robin Hood...

MediumRob said...

Ah, you missed out on the great "march or not" fun in the NUJ back in 03.

It is impossible to escape bias. You just can't. Even the consensus view is biased depending on which country you're in - take a look at ABC, CBS and NBC news (and their affiliates) in the US: they all represent a centrist consensus, but it's a US consensus which is more centre-right than our slightly left of centre consensus. Aiming towards being 'unbiased' is merely about reflecting that consensus.

The debate about what makes good news journalism is tricky one. Should it merely report facts (or 'facts') or should it try to report the reasons for those facts (aka 'the truth')? And the answer to that question is as much dictated by the consensus in your country of residence as anything else.

Jane Henry said...

I'm one of those moderate people wot do nowt that your friend was talking about. I was also in the middle of some serious personal stuff at the time, so marching or not wasn't very high on my agenda at the time...

On the what makes good news issue. a fact is only a fact because someone has chosen to record it as such and therefore all facts are biased too (as my history teacher was fond of telling me). I think news should do a bit of both if it can - give us enough facts to illuminate the story - just giving us reasons doesnt' always explain it.

Must go and deal with real life, but thanks for a fascinating discussion!