On the latest edition of BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz the resident comedians were in vociferous form, homing in on David Cameron’s failure to join Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg in sporting a T-shirt bearing the legend: “This is what a feminist looks like”. The idea of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom appearing in such a garment was ludicrous, but these un-comical comics pilloried Dave for not dressing like a cretin.
The laugh, eventually, was on them when it emerged the T-shirts had been made in a Third World sweatshop by women paid 62p an hour and sleeping 16 in a room. Red Ed and Harriet Harridan now fear they will be confronted with photographs of themselves in the offending garments when next they make a speech in favour of raising the minimum wage to £240 an hour plus holiday overtime pay.
Comedy on the BBC these days is fractionally less funny than root canal treatment without benefit of anaesthetic. The BBC has redefined comedy. The tired old notion that its purpose was to amuse people has been rejected; the Corporation has recognised the objective of comedy must be to educate listeners and viewers in Political Correctness and if that means it is no longer in the least funny, that is the price of progress.
The BBC is well past its sell-by date. This discredited institution is long overdue for abolition. Like the House of Commons, its sense of entitlement renders it impervious to criticism. It has no shame, no awareness of its irretrievable alienation from the nation to which it broadcasts. Its complacency is monumental.
In 2008 Mark Thompson, then BBC director general, in a lecture to the Theos think tank, bemoaned the evils of contemporary society, including “materialism, celebrity culture, hedonism, the celebration of greed or cruelty, the use of foul or abusive language, an absence of clear moral benchmarks”. Sir John Reith could not have put it more trenchantly. Just 48 hours later, this Reithian sermon was followed by the jape played by BBC celebrities Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand on Andrew Sachs.
The Corporation’s contribution to the discouragement of celebrity culture was to give Jonathan Ross a contract worth £18m. In the world of BBC remuneration, however, that payment may not have looked exorbitant. Thompson himself was paid £834,000 a year, with 13 of his lieutenants earning more than £250,000, another 92 executives taking home over £160,000 and 500 poor souls having to rub along on a pathetic £100,000 or more. Today, after supposedly massive retrenchment, press reports claim more than 80 BBC staff are earning over £150,000.
The cash comes from Danegeld in the form of the licence fee, the monopolist privilege that allows the BBC to act as gatekeeper to more than 200 other television channels. In 2012 the BBC was responsible for almost one in eight prosecutions in magistrates’ courts in England and Wales, as it pursued licence fee defaulters. There were more than 180,000 prosecutions in that one year, with 155,000 convictions. The cost to the taxpayers in legal expenses is incalculable. But Auntie needs the cash: between 2005 and 2012 it required 412,000 licence fees to award £60m in payoffs to BBC executives.
So at least the money was for a good cause. The Corporation supports other good causes as well. Without the firm guidance of Auntie, the British public might indulge in all kinds of irresponsible activities – opposing immigration, supporting departure from the EU, voting – oh, horrors! – for UKIP. In contrast to that nightmare scenario, the BBC template is the kind of model citizens who compose the audiences on Question Time and Any Questions?
Political bias? The BBC has already investigated that unlikely claim, at a special seminar back in 2006, when Andrew Marr disarmingly observed that the Corporation “is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias, not so much a party political bias.” So, when James Naughtie famously asked on the Today programme “If we [sic] win the election, does Gordon Brown remain chancellor?” no party political bias was implied.
The Corporation’s internal ethos and discipline has always been irreproachable, as evidenced by its stern reaction to allegations about Jimmy Savile’s conduct. “What’s all this, these rumours we hear about you, Jimmy?” demanded Derek Chinnery, controller of BBC Radio 1. “That’s all nonsense,” was Savile’s response, ending this gruelling, forensic interrogation.
The BBC has contributed enormously to the degeneration of Britain. It is time to consign it to the dustbin of history. The first step must be to abolish the licence fee, as a public priority. Ultimately it needs to be broken up and sold off. The notion that this decayed, self-regarding, socially subversive institution is susceptible of reform is a delusion. State broadcasting is a totalitarian concept. Auntie has become a raddled old crone; this nation wants no more of her.