In the wake of the BBC’s sodden Jubilee coverage, a torrent of indignation fell from the media heavens all over Auntie’s nice shoes. The problem was that from the Clegg-like punchability of Matt Bakers face, to the runny nosed alacrity of Fearne Cotton, the output was less than top draw.
The beeb opted for a magazine style format that was less magazine, and more like one of those free newspapers you get that just have adverts for life insurance and laxative.
The content and commentary was self-consciously frothy and completely incongruous for the occasion. Instead of the considered, informed and interesting commentary patented, quite happily, for the last half century, by the Dimbleby family, we were subjected to the CBBC version.
But the worst thing about it was not dumbness but dullness. If it really had been as far down the brow scale as some made out then it certainly would have been a lot more entertaining. Just imagine Johnny Rotten co-presenting with James Hewitt. The coup de grace could have been a coronation chicken eat-off between Eamon Holmes and Prince Andrew. No sorry, that’s silly. Holmes would have walked it.
The question is, where has this fear and obdurate shade of grey come from? Somewhere between Sachsgate and licence fee wrangling the BBC lost some of that bravura confidence that made it into the foremost broadcaster on the planet. Now we are all paying the price for the play-it-safe pin-striped bureaucracy that is crippling creativity and originality.
The managers at the top have become afraid of their own self-important shadow and we are now left with panicky mealy-mouthed decisions, like ‘the One Show’ jubilee.
There has to be some logic to fitting the right format and presenter to the right occasion. You wouldn’t want Strictly Come Dancing to be presented by Melvyn Bragg. Who wants to see Bruno Tonioli ruminating on the significance of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus? What you want is a jack-in-the-box Tonioli emitting delighted squeals of nonsensical camposity to a bewildered octogenarian. You just wouldn’t want it any other way.
What we need is a BBC that is prepared to both plunge the depths and ascend the heights. You can be sure that constant professorial proselytising would be just as bad as a continual loop of Richard Hammond documentaries; actually, maybe not. But if we strive for those catalysts of creativity, freedom and confidence, then we will have a national broadcaster that can entertain our silliest tastes and fire our loftiest ponderings.