The BBC has had a real battering over recent months – much of it deserved. Like many people I have been furious (and have tweeted my fury) at the behaviour of some senior executives (many of them now ex-executives) at the corporation who thought giving huge severance payments (and sometimes payments above contractual obligations) to colleagues was a good use of licence-payers money to slim-down senior management. The BBC Trust, which, as a colleague wrote yesterday “takes over from military intelligence as best contradiction in terms,” has been woeful in keeping a check on what was going on. In short: it’s been a disgrace and a fiasco and, on top of its failure over Jimmy Savile (and the Newsnight investigation into him), it hasn’t been a good couple of years for what had previously been a highly trusted organisation.
But there’s another story. The corridors at the BBC aren’t paved with gold. Most people who work there don’t earn huge six figure salaries (nor do they get massive pay-offs). Yes, there has been – and still is – waste, but in my experience most people who work there – at all levels – do so with great creativity and pride in what they are doing. The BBC can be annoyingly ‘right on’ and there are plenty of things that annoy me about it (for example: excessive payments to ‘talent’, selling off Television Centre, dumbing down of (some) news, an obsession with youth and excess, like expense payments connected to its new base in Manchester) but it is still a great institution.
Its journalism (particularly foreign coverage) is still excellent, many of its documentaries still challenge and educate and I’d pay my licence-fee for Radio Four alone if I had to. The BBC been let down by some poor decision-making, corporate largesse and, as Michael Grade said the other day, it “doesn’t understand the value for money.’ Let’s hope it can be fixed.
But I still love the BBC and this video, perhaps more than any words, sums up my feelings about it: