26
Dec
15

The BBC Deserves to Survive Despite its Manifest Flaws

Public Service Broadcasting is Worth Defending

David Attenborough recently expressed his fears for the future survival of the BBC.
An important national institution, the BBC’s model of public service broadcasting funded by the license fee gives it a notional independence from the state and allows it to operate at arm’s length from government.
While this editorial independence might not stand up to detailed scrutiny as in many essential matters it adopts a perspective that’s oriented towards supporting free market liberalism and Cold War foreign policy (there is clear continuity, for example, in its fierce anti-Soviet and anti-Russian posturing), the existence of the BBC is still worth defending.
The concept of a broadcasting system not totally dominated by market forces is valuable in that it gives programme makers the freedom to experiment and take risks that is simply not available to the ratings-driven commercial sector.
The presence of the BBC, it can be argued, acts as a benchmark and standard for the entire broadcasting industry forcing the commercial channels to emulate the quality and diversity of the schedules and programmes that are made.
While the left rightly deplores the pronounced political bias of flagship news programmes such as Newsnight and Today, which became all too blatant in the negative reporting of the new Labour leadership of Corbyn and McDonnell, we should not forget the progressive and innovative role played by the BBC in many areas. The major contribution of the BBC to culture over the post-war period has been particularly impressive.
It is well worth reminding ourselves of the nature and range of some of the best BBC’s innovative programmes in the fields of drama, music and documentary.
Take contemporary drama produced in the ’60s and ’70s when a platform was given equally to new writers and original writing from more established writers in The Wednesday Play and Play for Today series.
These series gave opportunities to a seemingly endless list of top writers such as David Mercer, Dennis Potter, Harold Pinter, David Hare, Howard Brenton, Mike Leigh, David Rudkin and Alan Bennett. The themes that were covered in their plays were often provocative, contemporary and rarely less than highly political.
Some of the authors who began their careers in television are still active today but more often found writing for the stage and screen, while others have been largely forgotten. Most of David Mercer’s original scripts, for example, were performed on television and as such have not been revived or staged in the theatre, but his body of work was outstanding covering changing social morality and historical themes of the 20th century.
Leading directors such as Alan Bridges, Ken Loach, Stephen Frears and Alan Clark, were also given the resources to develop their personal styles by working on these BBC drama productions.
Many of their gritty realistic dramas while now over 30 or 40 years old still retain their freshness and make much modern television appear very tame and formulaic by comparison. Fortunately many of these plays can be found on YouTube or have been released on dvd, so are available to the wider public if they want to find them.
The impact of the BBC is shaping musical tastes and opening up broadcasting to new music should not be underestimated. In the area of popular music such as rock and alternative, the late John Peel show, which aired in Radio One for about 30 years, was immensely influential in assisting the careers of many British musicians and allowing them to break through.
The role of Radio Three is broadcasting often quite obscure classical music and giving airtime to “new music” should also be recognised.
With regards to documentaries, the BBC has been an important innovator, with programmes on the natural world and science fronted by presenters like Attenborough, John Berger, Jonathan Miller, the late James Burke and many others. Historical documentaries from classics such as Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man to more recent series with Michael Wood, Terry Jones and Jonathan Meades have performed a vital educational role for a mass audience. The common feature of all the examples of the programmes cited here is that they have never sought to patronise the viewer but succeeded in putting across complex ideas in a highly popular and compelling format. The reason that these broadcasters have been able to innovate and succeed in producing such important high quality programmes is a direct consequence of the existence of public service broadcasting. The Tories, who disapprove of the masses having free access to knowledge at all, must not be allowed to destroy the BBC. For all its flaws, it is worth preserving.
DM

Advertisements

0 Responses to “The BBC Deserves to Survive Despite its Manifest Flaws”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


December 2015
M T W T F S S
« Oct   Feb »
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

%d bloggers like this: