Bye bye, Patten

Auntie Beeb is drinking in the Last Chance Saloon. But surely there's someone out there capable of bettering Patten, much as we all wish him a speedy recovery and good health

Chris Patten
Robin Mitchinson
On 10 May 2014 14:15

So farewell, Lord Fatpang. You will not be missed. Your (part) time at the Beeb was an unmitigated disaster that puts the very survival of Auntie in question. Never mind, you can console yourself with your numerous directorships and being lord of all you survey at Oxford University.

Sure, you were just out of the egg as a politician when Savile was up to his foul tricks, but you certainly knew all about it way before the mass media got hold of the story. ‘The Oldie’ published months before it broke, and your firm closed its eyes.

The BBC was a cesspit in the 60s and much later but we have heard nothing about action being taken against any BBC staff who were involved. Apart from poor old William De’ath who was under arrest for months before the Old Bill decided that there was ‘insufficient evidence’.

You completely failed to get a grip on the obscene pay-outs to dead-beats who were given an early bath because of incompetence or because of their mishandling of the various scandals plaguing the BBC.

True the BBC is – or should be – a national treasure. But what we, the licence payers, expect is competence, quality, and most of all impartiality and even-handedness, especially in its treatment of news and current affairs.

We are not getting it.

For years the BBC has been garnering a reputation for left-wing bias, pro-EU, pro-Palestine, anti-Israel, and other Guardianista causes. Small wonder that the BBC purchases far more copies of The Guardian than of any other newspaper.  

BBC TV News wastes money on rolling 24-hour coverage, as if driven to keep up with Ted Turner, and meanwhile haemorrhages viewers to Al Jazeera.

Quality seems driven by the lowest common denominator, that the BBC should chase ratings in competition with the commercial channels. For example, BBC 2 was originally set up to provide for quality programmes of perhaps minority interest. What is it showing right now? Wall-to-wall snooker! There are endless football and cooking programmes at peak hours.

BBC 3 is aimed at ‘yoof’ who don’t watch much telly these days. It secured a million viewers. At least it is for the chop.

BBC World was the best news and documentary TV service in the world. CNN International is excellent but lacks the gravitas and intellectual rigour that was once the BBC’s hallmark. (There is one other similarity. Like the BBC, its domestic service is abysmal).

Over the last couple of years it has gone down the tubes.

It has excellent programmes like Asian Business Report,  Middle East Report, the Doha Debate and many others. Some are still produced but transmitted at GMT. It consists of repeated news -16 times in half a day. The Doha Debate was trailed and then we discovered it was a radio broadcast! It still has some of the best presenters such as Zeinab Badawi and George Alagiah who unwittingly show up the poor quality of those on the home service.

Even the weather forecast is superior on competing channels. Take a peak the immaculately dressed and spoken forecasters on CNN International and AJ in comparison with the scruffy mumblers on BBC One and you will quickly catch my drift.

Now the very survival of the BBC in its present form is in question. It may be forced into becoming a subscription service with the licence fee totally abolished. Technological changes mean that TV will be transmitted in ways that we scarcely understand at this time. The BBC will have to adapt or die.

There is scant evidence of this happening at this time; all the energy will probably be concentrated on getting the Charter renewed.

The crucial decision is who will replace you, Lord Patten. The present line-up seems to consist of geriatrics or insiders. Let’s hope that a big-hitter can be found from outside the metropolitan establishment.

One thing is certain. Auntie Beeb is definitely drinking in the Last Chance Saloon.

Robin Mitchinson is a Contributing Editor to The Commentator. A former barrister, living in the Isle of Man, he is an international public management specialist with almost two decades of experience in institutional development, decentralisation and democratisation processes. He has advised governments and major international institutions across the world

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