Friday, 2 December 2011

BBC Trolls

I'm sure the first anguished prediction of the BBC's impending demise and/or the collapse of its unique stature and quality was issued within 15 minutes of its first radio broadcast, most probably from a disaffected insider.  I do not claim to be either original or necessarily right in issuing my own wail of sorrow now.

Full disclosure: I used to work for the Corporation, I have not for a while and the following comments are my own and do not represent the views of my current employer.

I no longer have to deal with the dismal staff morale, the daily mortifying round of patronising bilge from overpaid bosses, the slow erosion of standards and ambition. Still, every time I talk to former colleagues or switch the TV on (and increasingly the radio too) it breaks my heart what's happening to it.

I fell in love with the Beeb like an early 20th century immigrant might have fallen in love with the statute of Liberty - at first sight and with a devotion that spoke more eloquently of the horrors of home than of what the American dream really could deliver.

At home I had left RAI - imagine pre-regime change Libyan  state TV but with a lot more naked women than  camels.  The promised land turned out to be nearly a decade of freelance half-life followed by a few short years of a proper job before they started getting rid of everyone again. But the insecurity, the fairly low pay for at least a decade of that, the overwork and antisocial hours, the constant stress of having to prove yourself as there were always others, (younger, cheaper, less mouthy), queuing behind to take your place - none of it mattered: at least they weren't shooting on you and there was plenty to eat (yes, yes  we are back to the metaphor here, do keep up!).

But it was more than that - there was the pride of working for a global cultural and journalistic brand, and a force for good: a beacon of erudition, freedom and common sense for many, the world over. It was our job to be creative, tolerant, un-bigoted, intellectually curious - it was out job to question, to challenge, to experiment and to dream, yes, it was our job to dream of a life, a society, a culture which was more than just the dismal sum of its lowest impulses,  prejudices and needs.

Heather Peace describes eloquently here what has happened with the cultural side of things. I can only report on the journalism side of things but wherever you look it's the same depressing trend.

The whole place is run by Trolls, overstuffed with then, and I don't mean this kindly , as in slightly deranged juvenile weirdos leaving aggressive anonymous messages on online forums. I mean the dangerous types: 40 something middle management maggots who all want their once great programmes- be them about gardening or foreign affairs -to be "more like Top Gear", eager to appease the upper echelons, viciously indifferent to the quality of what the are in charge of, or what it's for, as long as their careers progress apace.

The troops below meanwhile, tenderised by years of reforms (dumbing down) and quality reviews (cuts), and terrorised by the spectrum of job losses (which would not have to happen at all if those paid millions to do one thing only, negotiate the licence fee settlement, hadn't done such a hash of the job this last time) soldier on, a plastic badge detailing the 'core BBC values' dangling forlornly from her necks. They are some of the most amazing, committed, qualified people this country produces and they are being treated like shit by an institution paid for with your money.

Clarkson's contemptuous comments on the public sector strikers this week (but also remember Jonathan Ross' insistence he was worth 6000 journalists?), Paxo joining in with the bullying of an EU officials (Mr Idiot from Brussels) - these aren't blips on the chart - this is the BBC giving its viewers what it has decided they want.

Lucky for the Trolls, offensive comedy panel shows, indiscriminate euro-bashing and laughing at the proles, (which is what all reality television amounts to, structured or otherwise), do not cost very much. Nowhere near as much as ground breaking or even just informed journalism, nurturing new talents and taking cultural risks.

They can do this with less money while charging you exactly the same for the Licence Fee. And they can still afford Mr Clarkson - which is what really matters.


  1. couldn't have said it better my self!! well done bean. xx

  2. Less for more! Geniuses they are. Italy was as usual way ahead of schedule. The next step is now for BBC to hire only sons and friends of important people, possibly politicians, and pay them loads of money for not giving the news. Come on, that's the easy part...