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Monday
Dec162013

I'm an idiot, I still love the BBC

I have an abiding memory of my early work on Red Dwarf.

Back in 1989 we used to rehearse at the BBC’s rehearsal rooms at West Acton in London, we’d then all pile on a bus and trudge up to Manchester to record the shows at the BBC’s Oxford Road studios.

When we were there members of the Manchester crew told us that BBC management had just spent over £1 million refurbishing the offices on the top floor.

The budget for Red Dwarf (in terms of viewing figures the most successful show ever produced for BBC 2) was nowhere near that.

I had a quick look around the offices with Danny John Jules one night, we didn’t break in, we were escorted by BBC staff so it was all above board.

Having refitted a couple of buildings myself I knew an expensive plug socket when I saw one.

The hundreds of plug sockets in the BBC Manchester offices where flush, brushed steel wall sockets, the most expensive on the market. Those offices were very high end, very swish.

This is nothing surprising, why should BBC employees have to work in damp wooden sheds with antiquated wiring. Of course they shouldn’t.

But a little reminder, we paid for them.

However Manchester residents will be well aware of the fact that these offices are no more. They’ve been demolished because the BBC have moved to even more plush, even more expensive new development at Salford Quays.

So, okay, the BBC spent a million quid on posh offices in 1989 and then threw it all away.

Recently there’s been a deluge of stories of BBC executives getting staggering pay offs after a few weeks having lunch and ‘making management decisions’ like ‘where to have lunch.’

George Entwistle (who’s he?) worked at the BBC as director general for 54 days and got a £470,000 hand out when he left.

Ker-ching!

Now, classify me as a low end, embittered ex BBC employee if you want to. I should point out that Red Dwarf was an independent production made for the BBC so although I’ve done a few kosher BBC gigs (Bottom) I’ve never been a BBC employee.


I bloody wish I had, give me a pay-off, half of George Entwistle’s, I’ll be well chuffed.

The danger with this easy target BBC bashing is of course that it plays into the hands of the ultra right wing British press, the Daily Fails, the Torygraphs, the vicious boot grinding into the face of the British working class otherwise known as the Sun.

Behind them, News International and the Murdoch empire and just in case you are wondering, they hate the BBC more than anyone. Why would that be? Beats me.

They all hate the BBC and contrary to the tone of this blog, I do not.

I think it’s a vitally important part of British life and needs defending.

The people who actually make programs at the BBC are in a totally different category, they make programs which is, after all, what the BBC is about.

But it can often appear that this activity is crushed down by this vast, amorphous, self serving management structure that absorbs billions of pounds a year doing what?

As an outsider, even someone ostensibly in the industry like me, it is utterly baffling.

What do these bloody boring people do all day?

I’ve never met any of them, they make ‘management decisions’ I assume.

They guide the BBC, they oversee the organisation, they make editorial decisions, I don’t know, I’m making it up as I go along.

Why do they need to be paid so much?

The answer is always ‘We need to attract top talent.’

Piss off!

Everyone who’s held a key job at the BBC goes on to insanely overpaid jobs in large media companies all over the world. It’s a brilliant calling card, ‘I used to run the BBC.'

So I am suggestion they should be paid half what the people who actually produce television and radio shows make, they should work in a damp shed in an unfashionable part of Doncaster, they should all cycle to work and have meetings in tents.

Then I’d respect them.

It does feel like a particularly ugly part of a much wider malaise in the ‘developed world.’

A very few people pay themselves a truly sickening amount of money because they have wheedled their slimy way into a position where they decide how much to pay themselves.

We as license payers fork out to support the BBC and they are literally laughing in our faces for being such dumb suckers.

This government hate the BBC, the previous government hated the BBC, any powerful people who want to exert their will over the rest of us hate the BBC and these few twats at the top are making sure the BBC’s life expectancy is seriously curtailed.

This government obviously want to flog the BBC to News International, just like they’re flogging the hospitals we paid for to their dodgy mates in private medicine. 

We should be angry and shouty about it, we should make it clear to BBC executives that they need to show us in very clear terms exactly what it is they do for these ridiculous sums. 

For more details on the truly appalling levels of fat bastard paydeals, have a look at this

 

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Reader Comments (7)

Bbc ob's was sold off a few years ago to a company called SIS and they took on all the bbc staff but gave them new contracts. What they have actually done is run the company down and come march next year all the people will be gone with just basic money for redundancy and only a few years service most of the people have been working with what should of stayed as the bbc ob's for 30 years and now they get left with stupid pay off of approx £10k instead of £60k. The bbc just wanted to get rid of that section of the bbc and never awarded what basically was their ob division any of the work tenders it went out to other firms.

December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I have and always hope to treasure the BBC- despite that fact I'm 39 and happy to watch transatlantic imports shown on other channels, I feel the BBC makes programs that are relevant to me as a Brit in exchange for the license fee. I'd agree it sounds like misappropriated funds that go into (clearly wasted) refurbishment and top-brass salaries, but this to me seems to be the case for much public sector funding. I don't pay for Murdoch's channels and it amazes me of the amount of the UK population that are willing to pay for pretty much recycled content, and then still endure five minutes of adverts every 15 minutes when of course the BBC is ad free. I'll flip to a BBC channel just to avoid watching them! Then on top of that we have all the radio stations, plus online web sites and of course iPlayer streaming. We could have a lot more of all of this if the money was properly spent, but it would be a sad day for me to loose the Beeb. It's always been about the content and relevant British programming (and that even includes Bottom and Bob's character's falsie), and I for one would defend it in any way I could!!

December 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterR.J.

I work at a low level for one of the big banks and can assure you it's exactly the same... a lot of bigwigs who sit in boardrooms making "decisions" on 7-figure salaries while the workers get paid relative peanuts.The same excuses about executive pay to "attract top talent". We "the people" had a chance to take the banks to task when they failed but we allowed the cycle to continue...

December 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I can sympathise.

"It does feel like a particularly ugly part of a much wider malaise in the ‘developed world.’

A very few people pay themselves a truly sickening amount of money because they have wheedled their slimy way into a position where they decide how much to pay themselves. "

But. The current outrage about uneven salary practices, and in the greater picture the balance between have nots, and have absolutely everything with a cherry on top, is kind of a modern aberration.

There have always been Kings and peasants. Masters and slaves. Feudal lords and serfs. Warlords and the suffering.

Apparently, historically, it's a pretty common human organisational paradigm - it repeats itself in all sorts of guises over a very long period of time.

These days there is a veneer of civility to such structures. And an illusion of free will. But after some random - out of character and crazy - libertarian moves in the last century or so, we are returning to the more familiar and natural, overlords and underpeasants structure.

Fear not. All is returning to - the horrible for the many, fabulous for the few - normality. Your belated dreams of equality and fairness have been popped. Given, ooh, lets say, 2000 years of behaviour. If a certain pattern of life exists for maybe, 1800 of those 2000. Which is 'normal'. The 1800 ( lords and peasants, 'natural' order ) . Or the 200 ( idea of equality ).

And you thought we were all enlightened and improved upon compared to the overwhelming bulk of unfair history ? Ha ! And if you don't like it now, just wait until a few years in the future, when everything you do is watched, tracked, logged and recorded, ready for instant playback at the push of a button. Control. Bloody annoying freedom and its difficult to keep in check masses.

December 26, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJB

I want to love the BBC, truly I do. I loved it so much up until a few years ago, but their complete and total failure to cover the privatisation of the NHS in any meaningful way; their news departments unquestioning repeating of the government's line on 'austerity'; their decisions regarding the snowdon leak; the entertainment and news divison's recurrent derision of EVs for no obvious reason... Their journalism has been shamefully poor recently and has left me feeling that I don't really see the point of the BBC anymore.

And I hate that.

I love the concept of having an independent, non-commercial broadcaster, but it has to be something worthy of the name. At the moment the BBC is massively failing the British public because it isn't fulfilling its role. Whether it's management moving to support the tories, or fear of loss of the licence fee, or for some other more subtle reason, I no longer watch the BBC news with any expectation of impartiality or accuracy from their reporting. Frankly, I barely watch BBC news at all, because usually it annoys the hell out of me as they skim over things to parrot whatever piece of PR fluff has come from 'whoever' wanting 'whatever' reported.

January 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate

£124/house, 15M houses. £1,860M/yr is crazy money.

The full red Dwarf cast would do a far better job for less. Want news? It's the same media fed propaganda whatever channel. The BBC should be about informing and educating us with no position on the matter. Instead they are bigots who think we are all mushrooms.

When it comes to "public money". It's really obtained by legal force and theft. The parasites turn up and squander it. The top ones even set how much they want, even if they are idiots.
I was Labour, once. Now I hate all of them with an unremitting, undying passion. They hate us at least as much.

The Gov't have no concept of taxing for public investment only. My heart sinks each time the Gov't comes out with a fresh "bill".. Yes, we pay all the bills............

February 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndyj

Love the BBC? No, actually not - I don't love big corporations no matter what they are despite having worked for a few over the years. Or maybe it's because I've worked some big corporations...

But I love what the BBC produces. Sitting over here in the US, if someone says "watch this show" and you ask "why, is it any good?" saying "it's from the BBC" is always a point in the show's favor. The British do excellent TV in any genre you care to name. Of course, some shows are better than others, and likely only the better ones make it across the Atlantic, but I've been watching BBC productions for nearly half a century now with an equal mix of enjoyment and frustration. Enjoyment because of the excellent drama, comedy, mystery, and so forth... and frustration because the people running the BBC are so often complete frickin' morons!

Take both BBC SciFi and comedy - for years people over here bootlegged copies of British shows because you could NOT legally get them. It's not that there was no market for the legitimate copies - legal BBC products are consistently higher priced than US productions yet there is no problem selling them. They just didn't get that there was a market outside the UK for what they made, a market salivating to GIVE THEM MONEY for their stuff. It always comes back to corporate idiots who assign no value to what the company actually produces, which is why the video for so many early shows was wiped, why you could not find a legal copy of a lot shows for decades to save your life, and why for years the BBC had the distinction of owning some of the world's most pirated TV shows.

(I could say something here about how I have at times waited decades to get a copy of a show, the record being 30+ years, but who wants to hear about my problems? Also, irrelevant now - I can now pre-order copies of the shows I want.)

For years the oversea fans had been shouting WE WILL GIVE YOU MONEY FOR YOUR SHOWS! and yet the corporate offices didn't want the money. Funny, though - once legal copies became available suddenly the pirating went down. I don't know when it changed, exactly, all I know is that at some point the BBC got it - they have an overseas market, too. A big one. They're making an effort to make their product available on high quality, legal DVD's in a reasonable time frame (sometimes even simultaneously) to the avid fans outside the UK.

Yes, I know - the BBC is a big corporation with all the baggage that implies, including luxury plug sockets and overpaid executives - but bravo to the artists in the UK for producing work that is sought out all over the entire planet, that people expend enormous time and effort to recover from history's dustbin by finding copies of lost episodes from the past, and bravo to the citizens of the UK who have paid for that work. Thank you for the dramas that have moved me deeply, the mystery genre that has captivated me, and the comedy that has not only made me laugh but has helped me through some dark times in my life. Your efforts are definitely appreciated. Thank you.

May 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

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