The Scottish Mail on Sunday

I love what the BBC used to be, but I can’t defend it any longer


IDON’T think I can defend the BBC much longer. For years, I’ve been one of the few conservati­ve patriots I know who still stand up for the licence fee. But I’m losing the will to do so. I can’t find it in myself to say they deserve it any more. But I’ll still pay it till the day I die. I was brought up partly by the BBC. I recall rapt 1950s moments with Listen With Mother. If anyone says ‘It’s a quarter to two’, it still sets me off into a dream of memory. They called it the Home Service, and has any radio station ever had a better name?

My growing consciousn­ess of the world came first out of our old brown Bakelite wireless. I can just recall the words ‘Suez Canal’ and ‘Colonel Nasser’ whispering from it, words which heralded an utter revolution in my life and in the country. As for the old World Service, it was ‘the truth, read by gentlemen’ and hearing its calm and decent tones in remote and awful places has often filled my heart with unexpected pride.

In the past 25 years or so, I’ve got to know it better. I’ve been on it, a bit (though nothing like so much as my Left-wing equivalent­s), and even made the occasional programme for it. I’ve met BBC people with a genuine concern for impartiali­ty and justice, and a true love for the institutio­n as it should be and as it ought to be. But I’ve come across the others too, the ones who think it belongs to them, the ones who don’t even understand their opinions are opinions and need to be challenged.

In the past two or three years it has grown sharply worse. There has been a crude slide into open partiality on so many things. This is not about party politics. How could it be? The major parties have no major difference­s in practice.

The radical sexual politics of the far Left, which were way out on the fringe of opinion when I was a fanatical revolution­ary 50 years ago, are now universall­y accepted as unchalleng­eable.

The intolerant zealotry of the climate change fanatics cannot even be discussed. To express the faintest doubts about it is heresy.

And then there is the legalisati­on of drugs. Any lobby group, however insignific­ant, can produce a call for marijuana legalisati­on, however feeble, and the BBC will give it prominence. Legalisers are invited to make programmes. The opposing view is swiftly silenced if it appears at all.

I complain about these things here but I also think it my duty to see what happens to private citizens who try to get justice, so I make official complaints to the Corporatio­n itself. Last week, I received the final, insulting reply to a complaint I made about the sympatheti­c portrayal of marijuana on the Christmas special of Gavin & Stacey. This was a direct breach of the BBC’s own rules about what may be shown before the 9pm watershed (the show began at 8.30pm and the offending material was broadcast before 9pm). Guideline 5.4.41 says: ‘The use of illegal drugs, the abuse of drugs, smoking, vaping, solvent abuse and the misuse of alcohol… must generally be avoided and must not be condoned, encouraged or glamorised in any programmes broadcast pre-watershed.’

‘Must generally be avoided’ seems clear enough to me. But I was wasting my breath. They ignored what I had said, and responded to different points I had not made.

I added this to another occasion when I actually won a complaint – a blameless and saintly clergyman had been described quite falsely as a proven child abuser on a news programme. They admitted this was wrong, but the programme was not obliged to transmit a correction. And I thought: ‘Why am I trying to disturb the conscience­s and sense of justice of people who plainly have neither?’

I will not call for the abolition of the BBC. I love what it used to be, and what it ought to be, too much for that. I have seen the moronic inferno of American broadcasti­ng, where there is nothing like the BBC and never has been.

But I cannot see why I should bother to defend it any more against those who wish to dismantle it.

 ??  ?? POWERFUL: Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen & Slim
POWERFUL: Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith in Queen & Slim

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