Socialist Worker

Radio: It’s not perfect, but we have to fight for a decent BBC

Issue No. 2196

‘On the radio’ with Mike Gonzalez

The BBC has given a public platform to fascists. Its present director-general, Mark Thompson, is a vastly overpaid government mouthpiece whose job is to make hundreds of people redundant while expressing his regret.

How can you defend a system that pays Jonathan Ross millions to pretend to interview five-minute wonders while really interviewing himself?

And BBC television spends most of its time playing catch-up with the worst reality television—resurrecting Bruce Forsyth at regular intervals.

But there’s another side to this sometimes fusty, always irritating public broadcaster. And the best of the BBC, its reason to exist perhaps, is on the radio.

Last week Melvyn Braggs’ wonderfully quirky Radio 4 programme, In Our Time, discussed the growth of cities. A few weeks ago it looked at the history of mathematics.

The recent death of the undervalued playwright Dave Sheasby reminded me of how extraordinary radio drama can be.

The modest and insightful explorations of ordinary lives are what Sheasby did so brilliantly.

It was almost worth the licence fee just to listen to Spoonface Steinberg—Lee Hall’s monologue of a child watching its parents break up.

The BBC still has a public duty to explore issues without fear of commercial loss or political favour.

It constantly fails to do either—but at least the day to day pressures that ordinary people face are occasionally sympathetically acknowledged.

It’s true the coverage of the anti-fascist demonstration in Bolton was shameful. Its reporting of the Iraq war was almost always a replay of the official line.

None of this is an argument against a public broadcaster, only a reason to fight for it to build on what it does best.

The alternative is Universal Murdoch, without even the small cracks in the wall that the BBC occasionally opens.


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Tue 6 Apr 2010, 18:32 BST
Issue No. 2196
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