Suddenly I have an opinion on the BBC

Thursday, July 19, 2007 by

So I was called up at work by a pleasant-sounding chap from the Evening Standard, who I have to commend for making the effort to track me down. And why? Really because he wanted an opinion for “Readers’ Views” in the paper. A 200-word opinion on the BBC phone-in scandal, and a 200-word opinion by 6pm – for no money.

I like being asked for my opinion, even though I didn’t know I had one about this story. But, it turns out I do, so this is what I’ve submitted.

There’s flapping and furore a-plenty about yesterday’s announcement from BBC Director-General Mark Thompson, and his promise of the Birtian-sounding training scheme “Safeguarding Trust”. And that’s probably as it should be. We don’t like to think that the Corporation – our BBC – is playing fast and loose with the truth. It deserves a hammering for that. 

But I think the real reason so many people are making a noise is the plain fact we just don’t like the idea of phone-in competitions on the Beeb. They’ve never been a good fit with the public service broadcaster, and feel like an additional tax-by-stealth on the viewer. This – perhaps – is our time to see them off forever. Or at least, restricted to commercial television – and its notable ITV, C4 and Five’s transgressions haven’t angered correspondents nearly so much.

Let this be a watershed. Mark Thompson’s decision to make a clean breast of things is right and courageous (although you could argue he’s weeding ‘em out before anyone else does). Programme makers have to know when they’re faced with a potential blank screen, or the option of jerry-rigging a last-minute bogus patch-up, the blank screen is what to go for. We’d forgive them that – maybe even respect them a bit more.

I’ve asked to be billed/credited/whatever-you-call-it-in-this-circumstance as “Graham Kibble-White, TV journalist”. There is some truth in that.


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