Gale`s View – Wednesday 8th September.
I have received, during the recess, about half a dozen copies of a circular letter sent in support of a Don`t Cut the BBC” campaign. The thrust of these letters has been that The BBC is an important British Institution and has brought quality programming and pleasure to a lot of people”. There are, also, concerns to ensure the maintenance of fair and balanced news and current affairs coverage and, although we may question the extent of fairness and balance” on occasions that latter concern is one that I share. It would be highly undesirable if, notwithstanding the excellence of Sky News, reporting were to be concentrated too heavily in the hands of any one organisation.
However, having worked for the BBC in the past over a number of years as a radio reporter, producer, editor and television director I am more than a little aware of the unacceptable level of waste and extravagance and inflated executive salaries that are prevalent within an organisation that has grown like Topsy, invested huge amounts wholly unnecessarily in buildings and that, while still capable of making excellent programmes, also generates a very considerable amount of material that is at best banal and at worst downright offensive.
I have a considerable residual affection for what is probably still the least worst broadcasting organisation in the world” and I am pleased that the Director General will be taking a 20% cut in salary to only” about a three quarters of a million pounds a year, but as the current license fee deal means that the annual cost for each household will rise from the present £145.50 to £151.50 I do believe that the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, is right to question the sustainability of the current level of spending on a multitude of channels that have little to do with Public Service Broadcasting.
Let me offer just one personal and immediate experience of the manner in which Auntie” apparently sees fit to squander your money.
A fortnight ago and while away on annual leave, I received a phone call from a BBC programme fixer inviting me to participate in a new Sunday BBC1 programme called Sunday Morning Live”. I explained that the nearest BBC studio was in Tunbridge Wells, about a three-hour round-trip away, and that I was not able to take that chunk of time out of a working day to participate.
It transpires that this programme, which I subsequently watched and which has nothing whatsoever to do with Northern Ireland, is made, in line with the BBC`s ludicrous policy of excessive regionalisation”, in Belfast. I was being asked to fly, at your license fee`s expense, to Northern Ireland, on Saturday evening, stay overnight in an hotel, take part in a fifteen-minute panel discussion about the rights and wrongs of dumping a cat in a wheelie bin and then fly back home. I do not know the precise costs of taxis to and from Heathrow and Thanet, the airfare, hotel and subsistence costs but I simply cannot believe that this kind of expenditure is warranted. And yet with a new BBC HQ in Salford and the transfer of Children`s, Breakfast and other television and radio programmes from White City and Broadcasting House to the North West it is clear that this sort of expense is going to be incurred on a regular basis as sofa guests” are wooed from London to the provinces.
I am sorry. I admire much that the BBC has stood for and I do not want to see the baby thrown out with the bathwater but is it not high time that those who have presided over this wasteful nonsense moved on and allowed others to get a grip and to create a lean and keen machine that reflects properly the times and economic circumstances