Regardless of what you may think of the value for money the nation gets from John Birt and the rest of the BBC's executive committee (total cost, pounds 2,223,000 a year), there can be little argument that the BBC as a whole is a pretty cheap form of pay television. The annual report estimates that cost per hour of viewing the BBC's TV output is 5.1p. If you choose the Sky multichannel package it will cost you 18p per hour - three-and- a-half times as much. If you listen to radio as well, then the average cost of both watching and listening is brought down to just 4p per hour. This non-profit organisation is so efficient compared with the private sector that it makes you remember what a good idea socialism can be.
l NO TANGO AT THE TEA DANCE
Whether it is a tribute to the quality of British advertising or a measure of how commercialised we've all become, it is definitely a symbol of the times that the National Television Awards in October plan to carry, for the first time, a category of Most Popular TV Ad. A list of ads is to be printed in The Sun and the TV Times so the great British public can vote for their favourite ad. Included on the list is the winner of many industry awards, the Blackcurrant Tango ad set on the white cliffs of Dover. While Tango is the industry's idea of cutting edge, one suspects that another on the list, the PG Tips chimps - which is the oldest continuously used advertising image on British TV and therefore probably not cutting edge - will more than likely be the winner. That is because the only people with enough time on their hands to vote on things which appear in the TV Times are old ladies in Harrogate.
l AN EVERYDAY STORY OF MEDIA FOLK
More news and more Archers, dictates James Boyle, new controller of Radio 4. Here is a boss playing plainly and safely to his strengths, because they bring in the ratings. Anyone who listens to Radio 4 knows that these two programming genres already dominate the schedule. The BBC's annual report shows by how much: news accounts for 2,218 hours of a year's output, more than a third of the total 7,600 hours broadcast. Drama pumps out 1,087 hours a year, beaten into third place only by what Radio 4 calls its "knowledge building" programmesn