While persistently insisting it deserves to be funded by a compulsory tax because it serves the whole nation, Britain’s state broadcaster, the BBC, seems to have disastrously misread the public mood when it announced changes to the Last Night of the Proms concert, with only a small minority backing them.
An increasingly political to-and-fro that has lasted all week started on Sunday when reports emerged that the BBC was planning to drop Rule, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory from the Last Night of the Proms, a live annual broadcast of patriotic music that over the past half-century has become a firm part of the British summer season calendar.
Condemnation was swift, and the BBC eventually announced the music would, in fact, be performed — but without the lyrics, broadcasting the singalong pieces as instrumentals only.
Yet what was reported as the original plan and then the publicly announced compromise position both appear to be well wide of the mark for the public broadcaster, which purports to serve the nation as a unifying force, as a new YouGov poll for British broadsheet The Times reports that support for changing the event in any way is the position of a small minority.
The newspaper reported Friday that while a strong majority of 55 per cent think the event should go ahead this year as it has every year for decades before, just 16 per cent think compromising by performing the music but not the lyrics is a good idea.
Even less popular are proposals that patriotic songs shouldn’t be performed at all, up just five per cent.
BBC Vows to Make Diversity ‘Absolute Priority’ — Else Television Industry Faces Collapse https://t.co/QHPtTCOtCM
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 26, 2020
The small-scale culture wars battle over the music has elicited impassioned responses from both sides of the political divide. Brexit leader Nigel Farage has expressed his disgust at the milquetoast approach of the BBC, and encouraged Britons to sing the songs anyway.
The Conservative Party prime minister Boris Johnson also issued a now-rare comment on matters cultural, saying of the move by the broadcaster: “I think it’s time we stopped our cringing embarrassment about our history, about our traditions, and about our culture, and we stopped this general bought of self-recrimination and wetness”.
From the left, criticism has been sharper-tongued. Labour MP Neil Coyle waded into the debate with a series of late-night — and subsequently deleted — tweets on the matter, where he made absolutely clear what he felt about people supporting patriotic songs in the face of political correctness.
Coyle was accused of “drunk tweeting” after telling the world he thought Brexiteer patriots were “absolute sh*tbag racist w*nkers”.
BBC television’s Songs of Praise — a weekly broadcast of Christian worship music — executive producer Cat Lewis may have been gunning to be even more offensive in her views on the matter, comparing the events described in the lyrics of Rule, Britannia! to Nazis singing about gas chambers.
Rule, Britannia! BBC Boss Compares Britons' Patriotism to Nazi Gas Chambers https://t.co/ndeG7yig7q
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 27, 2020