Curious outfit, the BBC. I suppose my rants about it are largely predicated by the fact that the licence fee is compulsory....and I really don`t do compulsion. On the one hand, the BBC does produce some wonderful stuff. BBC 4 is an enlightened, engaging and quirky TV channel that produces documentaries and other programmes that appeal to my admittedly quirky tastes - for example, A303 Highway to the Sun is currently being repeated (yes, I know) but I watched it again in preparation for my journey down its 92-mile length on Saturday. I`m equally convinced that BBC Radio 4 is out of the same mould as its TV equivalent and those two probably represent value for money for this licence payer themselves.
On the other hand, the BBC does produce some awful dross and in trying to be all things to all men all the time, it simply tries too hard to do too much - all the regional stuff, chasing the ratings, dumbing down - all of which conspire to produce an organisation that has become out of touch with its captive licence-paying audience; it has become arrogant, aloof in its own bubble and wasteful of other people`s money (another favourite theme of mine.)
And two reports today seem to sum up the BBC`s current attitude towards its stewardship of the licence fee. First, in the last eight years alone it has spent no less than £28million securing the silence of 539 staff who signed confidentiality clauses when they left for whatever reason. The BBC`s reaction to this freedom of information revelation? "Such compromise deals were standard practice," according to a BBC spokesman. So that`s alright then.
Next, the expenses bill for its `top executives` has shot up by almost 50% in just three months. The expenses paid out just to this level of employees for the last three months of 2012 (the last quarter for which figures are available) topped £200,000. £40,000 went on rail fares between London and the new Salford base but the BBC also blamed the increase on moving its payroll operation to India and the number of international conferences were blamed for the increase in air fares. The BBC`s reaction to these revelations? "Most of the expenses were unavoidable routine costs," a spokesman chirped. Nothing to see here - move along please.
Seems to me that until a few years ago the BBC wasn`t broken, so why fix it by upping sticks to Salford, moving basic operations to India and travelling the globe just to keep up with commercial competitors? Trouble is, next year (unless the Government change their minds) I will reach 75 and not have to pay the licence fee any more anyway. I suppose I will then have no reason to grumble about the BBC, but the game of two halves they are playing might still continue to provide as much spectator sport as anything that appears on the screen.