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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Helping ourselves to the BBC

Between putting a few old adversaries back in their boxes and making it pretty clear he wasn't planning to move to Salford Quays, Jeremy Paxman made some good points in his lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.
The licence fee will not last forever. The BBC can't do everything. The more they do the less scrutiny the individual bits get. The marriage of convenience between the news organisations and the political parties has eroded our faith in the institutions of government. It's all about money.
His plea was for the BBC to work out its priorities and to put more emphasis on what is delivers rather than how it delivers it. Because Paxman is a big old fashioned TV anchor, buried at the heart of his argument was a tacit assumption that TV news is of massive importance to our national well being and that we are all thirsting for the next award-winning TV hit, the next "Life On Earth" or "Bleak House".
I don't know about this. Here's my BBC diet nowadays.
BBC-1: only for football
BBC-2: rarely
BBC-3: Never
BBC-4: Lots
BBC News 24: hardly ever
Radio One: Never
Radio Two: Never
Radio Three: Never
Radio Four: All the time
Five Live: All weekend
Digital music stations - never
Local radio - never - all the time
So if the BBC ever does have to cut back to the core how does it decide what constitutes that core? It's no use justifying my licence fee on the basis of how much EastEnders it buys, how much of Jonathan Ross's salary it pays or how good it makes Newsnight, because I never watch any of them. I watch TV for maybe an hour a day and only by accident do I ever end up watching any of those things that TV executives spend their time worrying about. I'm a fringe TV user. That's just the way things are.
Although I concur with Paxman's view that the Corporation is besotted with pointless interactivity and "tell us what you think by text", money spent on making the BBC's material more available to me at the time I want it is money well spent as far as I'm concerned. And the medium I shall be using to access most of that material is the web. Which, as far as I'm concerned, Jeremy, is more interesting, congenial and ultimately more important than TV.