Thursday, 9 July 2009

Yentob and the BBC's future

So, Alan Yentob, BBC arts panjandrum and a man whose biggest contribution to the world is a David Bowie documentary in 1975 and the Arena series, is in possession of the second-largest pension pot in the entire public sector, a figure of 6.3million pounds paying him a yearly divvy of 216,000 for the rest of his life. Paid for by we, the licence-paying serfs; people whose values, tastes and attitudes Yentob and his ideological colleagues despise and have been making war on one way and another for 30 years.
Even the Blairite middle-classes are choking on this one, if the comments on the Times website are representative.
I strongly suspect the young Guardian-scanners (I don’t call them Guardian *readers* anymore for obvious reasons) who form the backbone of BBC staff will be annoyed about this because it is becoming obvious that this baroque epoch at the BBC has now become a political eyesore and something will have to be done, or at least talked about being done, in due course; and that may mean the gravy train stops for them as well.
The current big idea, that the license be scrapped and the bill worked into people’s council tax, should be resisted violently. It is a typically crafty bit of political class thinking: appear to solve the problem in the eyes of the public while actually collecting even more money than the license fee brought in, therefore strengthening the BBC into the bargain. Once that television tax is made invisible, we will all be paying more to keep people like Yentob in luxury as they sedulously continue to promote the creed of the media baby boomer: Cultural Marxism in all its forms.
Until that happens I think it is quite likely the BBC’s solution to its profligacy will be to ask staff to take pay freezes/cuts in order to fund the vast pensions of its ageing senior management.
The orthodox left are never impressed when confronted with analogies drawn from Soviet Russia or the old Warsaw Pact countries. They weren’t in the 40s when Orwell used them and they aren’t now, when the socially liberal middle classes’ ability to gain power and privilege at the expense of the working and lower middle class (who they nominally support) is very strong indeed. But the analogy of the Nomenklatura is valid, and every day brings new evidence of it. Once again, one can only conclude that the ideas and belief systems of the liberal elite, cultivated in the Labour Party, liberal newspapers and think tanks during the long hiatus of socialism, 1979-97, have turned out to be far more disastrous than the hated Conservative rule, bad as that was. Private sector fat cats are hard to take but they have been a fact of life from, I would imagine, the first stone age man hoarded more coloured pebbles than any of his neighbours. However, I find public sector greed, cant, hypocrisy and self-serving behaviour just as objectionable, perhaps more, for obvious reasons.

As my comrade-in-arms (drinking crony) Mark Brentano pointed out as we lounged on Brighton beach a couple of weeks ago, the BBC must have been extremely pleased that Michael Jackson died when he died. Its senior management’s expenses indulgence had been partially exposed and its Director General was all over the papers and television hastily explaining why the largesse would have been larger had the claims occurred in the private sector. That was nonsense and even the political class’s (the BBC is the largest media arm of the political class) usual defenders in the Press were generally unconvinced by Mark Thompson’s explanations.
The expenses didn’t surprise or bother me much; the salaries, however, did. I won’t bother to repeat them here, suffice to say that, like most BBC employees, the senior management is massively overpaid. The top brass are paid more than any cabinet minister. This overpayment culture goes all the way down the ranks. I know people working there who are on absurd salaries for their level of expertise and knowledge. A News 24 presenter can be paid nearly a hundred thousand. Television presenters are paid enormous sums of money for doing jobs that require little more than the ability to appear agreeable and make banal small talk. The obscene salary of Jonathan Ross is the prime evidence of the modern, profligate and degenerate BBC.
I hesitated over the keys before typing the adjective degenerate. It smacks of Mary Whitehouse and the language of suburban repudiation that is seized on by lib-lefties as evidence of ‘fascist’ and ‘right wing’ arguments. And we all know what happens when you give a lib-lefty cause to damn your argument thus: the dialectic stops, because they have found a convenient way to stop thinking and discussing, something they generally don’t like doing anyway. Oh well. The BBC *is* degenerate in the sense of definition number one of the word in the Ox. Con. Dic. ‘Having lost the physical and moral qualities considered normal and desirable; showing evidence of decline.’
There isn’t space here to detail the BBC’s long drift to its current mix of overwhelmingly leftist bias and its lazy and intellectually corrupt content. It was always full of lefties, but the lefties of yesterday, George Orwell among them, were a different breed. Generally speaking they still believed in the value of high culture and that for all its faults western civilisation had something to be said for it. That’s my kind of lefty.
What to do about the BBC? I favour abolition, because the corporation abandoned its remit long ago, or rather artfully began a comprehensive propaganda policy that could, if necessary, vaguely resemble its remit. Come their seemingly inevitable election win, if the Tories don’t take several huge axe-swipes at the BBC then they will miss a golden opportunity. One of the odd things about the Thatcher governments – and a sure sign of left-wing exaggeration about its vileness – is that they though they complained about the BBC they never properly attacked it by turning the money tap off, which is the simple way to silence the trendy left, because they never do anything with their own resources – it always has to be your cash they spend on the revolution.
However, I enjoy Radio 3 and other areas of high culture. I think a solution to the BBC could a massive downscaling, so the corporation has just two channels, one showing decent middlebrow family viewing and the other showing culturally elitist content with a total lack of populism: art, lit, philosophy, religion, ballet, history, science etc. Plus about half the radio output they have now. If this was done with sufficient rigour it would be very cheap and a beacon of civilisation in a country now showing the fruition of the forty year liberal education project: mass-ignorance, tastelessness and cultural relativism. It would also get rid of people such as Jonathan Ross, Graham Norton and the Yentobs of the next generation, of which there are many.

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