To inform, educate and entertain

If you’ve read the comments to the What you talking ’bout Willis? thread below, you may have seen reference made to a wager between Oliver Kamm and Sonic of Hitchens Watch fame. On August 10th on August 10th, with reference to the alleged plot to blow up aeroplanes, Sonic asked “So who wants to take me up on a little bet that this story falls apart by next month at the latest?”. Now, more than a month later and with 8 men in custody on charges of conspiracy to murder, Sonic is confidently demanding payment. Good luck to him. You may also have noticed a further digression into the rights and wrongs of the BBC. “Why the hell”, demanded Morgoth, “should the rest of us who DON’T watch it be forced to pay the BBC Tax on threat of imprisonment?”

The reason I gave in response was that, like the NHS, “it’s good for you. There’s not a better way of spending £2 a week”. It turns out that the licence fee actually works out to £2.52 a week, or 36p a day, but even at these exhorbitant rates I still think there’s no better way of spending £2.52 a week. I listed programmes such as Morecambe & Wise, Attenborough, Match of the Day, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Question Time and Alan Partridge. To these I could add Radios 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, the World Service, and the BBC website – which, by the way, is my default website if I ever want to link to a report and run the least possible risk of it being (a) inaccurate or (b) unfair or biased. Somewhat pettily, I once bothered to email the BBC when a page on their website said that George Galloway was expelled from the Labour Party “because of his anti-war views”, as opposed to being found guilty of four counts of bringing the party into disrepute. Within a couple of ours I received a response apologising and linking to the (now corrected) story.

All of this costs less per week than a pint. Compare this with Sky TV, whose packages cost between £15 and £43.50 per month, and where you can watch pay per view wrestling for £14.95 a pop. “Aha”, you might respond. “The quality of programming might be vastly superior on the BBC; the news might be far more trustworthy and authoritative, and the range of services that much greater, but why should it be compulsory to pay for it? I’m talking about the principle of the thing”. Well I’m not. I’m not interested in the rights and wrongs of the licence fee, and have no ideological axe to grind about the principles on which the BBC is based and funded. I’m not trying to justify the principle of public service broadcasting or suggesting that every country would be better off with a similar institution based on the same principles. I just think that this particular publicly funded broadcaster happens to be the best in the world at producing radio and television programmes, so let’s keep it as it is, and consign the political squabbles to the 1980s.

I’d wrongly believed that it was Norman Tebbit who used to refer to the BBC as the “Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation”, but as this very informative article points out, it was former Conservative MP Peter Bruinvels, who also advocated a boycott of Eastenders because he believed that the actor Tom Watt was a “lefty”. (Bruinvels is also famous for volunteering, in the House of Commons, to act as public hangman should capital punishment be restored). Tebbit did however call the BBC “the Stateless Person’s Broadcasting Corporation” during the Falklands War, for referring to British and Argentininan forces as British and Argentinian forces, instead of “our” and “enemy” forces. But that was a generation of Conservatives that wasn’t particularly keen on conserving. Someone more to my tastes is Edmund Burke, with whose Reflections on the Revolution in France you are, I am sure, more than familiar. “The errors and defects of old establishments”, writes Burke-o, “are visible and palpable. It calls for little ability to point them out; and where absolute power is given, it requires but a word wholly to abolish the vice and the establishment together”. The BBC is an old establishment, with errors and defects – I’m thinking of Dick and Dom here, and the decision to hire Jim Davidson to present the Generation Game – but for £2.52 a week I can forgive that.