I pay for a lot of stuff I don’t use. My monthly Sky subscription covers about a hundred gazillion films and football matches that I never watch. There are bits of The Guardian that I chuck away without reading (yes flamboyant, self-regarding media section I am looking at you!). Sometimes I don’t get to the end of a loaf of bread before the unappetising blue fur establishes a bridgehead. I paid money for a Natasha Bedingfield CD I never ever listen to.
Some of this is a result of my own laziness or inability to plan, some is just bad buying decisions. Fair play though. It’s all a choice.
Then there’s stuff that I pay for that I don’t use, but I have no choice in the matter. By law I have to fork over a bundle of cash to fund schools, streetlights and wars that I have no interest in partaking of. That, I figure, is the price of living in a civilised country with a developed idea of what it means to be a person in and of a community.
Also it means that when I have need of a hospital, road or locally placed streetlight, then I can reasonably assume it’ll be there. We all put in, we all take out. It’s taxation and we’ve got representation.
God, this socialism is insidious, eh?
Anyway, of all the money I hand over in one form of tax or another I have always felt that the twelve quid or so per month that funds the BBC is particularly good value for money.
(Parenthetically, I know that by the letter of the law the licence fee is just applicable to television viewers but the revenue it creates funds the radio network and website too. If you listen to the radio, use iPlayer or any of the other BBC content platforms but don’t pay for a licence who do you think picks up your bill?)
There are, in my eyes, slightly too many programmes based around the bewildered, morbidly obese and barely continent section of the population honking out show tunes on ice for the unhealthily curious. But there are also magnificent wildlife documentaries, political debates, sci-fi shows, classical music concerts and jazz request programmes.
There is additionally, but not for much longer, one station that plays new and classic adult-orientated music of the type I like to listen to: BBC 6 Music. It is being closed down it has been announced today, and I’m still not quite sure what the rationale is.
Small audience figures? Maybe. But it is a station that’s only available on the DAB digital platform so it doesn’t get listened to in cars or by plumbers, milkmen or driving instructors on the job. Anyway audience figures in isolation shouldn’t be a consideration in an organization like the Beeb with its mission to educate and inform. Surely its responsibility is exactly to provide the things like this that aren’t available on commercial platforms. And the stuff 6 Music plays doesn’t get airtime on any network I’ve ever heard. I have found tons of new stuff courtesy of its DJs (many of whom are howling imbeciles, but who know their music).
Leave ITV, Sky and the independent radio channels who rely on advertising revenue to cater to the lowest common denominator. If the Beeb does it too then all we have is the cultural equivalent of mob rule.
I don’t think letting the masses have the final decision on anything is a good idea. The masses are idiots. Really, who would you rather was in charge: a million maniacs or one person who knows what they’re talking about? I’d rather matters were in the hands of a few people with knowledge, wisdom and humour, who have an element of public accountability in their jobs.
Which is precisely what we had in the BBC until the tabloids started being able to bully producers into removing presenters they (the tabloids) affected to find offensive, and politicians caved in and started to look on the BBC as a competitor in the market place rather than a large lump of cultural heritage.
This is a fault of capitalism. When times were good and the money was sloshing around nobody worried that the Beeb with its capped income was at a disadvantage and could no longer afford things like football, cricket, expensive movie premieres and so forth. Now that money is tight the people who profited the most in boom times suddenly want the rules changed. As with banks, so with broadcast media apparently.
Pay your tiny bit of money. Enjoy the vast amount of art, sport, culture, music, drama and EXPERIMENTATION that it buys you. You know you aren’t going to be happy when every programme is reality flatus or dramas about troubled alcoholic cops and put-upon forensic examiners or CSI bloody Pittenweem.
I will miss 6 Music when it goes.