We will pay the same licence fee – £145.50 a year – until 2016, but what can we expect in return? The BBC has been holding a series of open meetings for staff to thrash out the options, and some radical ideas, such as turning BBC2 into a repeat channel and shutting down programming nightly at 10.35pm, have been discussed. The corporation has to make a 20 per cent cut in operating costs to save £1.3bn over the next four years. Forget over-rewarded top brass; sacking a few executives is a drop in the ocean. To make matters worse, they've got to fund a £900m shortfall in the existing pension arrangements, which works out at roughly £36 for every household in the UK.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Jeremy Hunt, implied he was helping out consumers and competitors by freezing the licence fee, but you could argue we're being asked to pay the same for less if the BBC radically cuts what's on offer. Value for money? The BBC is always banging on about how little per viewer our favourite programmes cost – but will it be able to argue this in the future?
Look at the licence fee in the context of high unemployment and public sector redundancies. Living standards are predicted to fall for the next two years, and there are already signs that people have reallocated their priorities. There's a huge rise in 10-day holiday bookings for the summer instead of the normal two weeks, mini-breaks instead of a full week off. Supermarkets report less spending on food, and high-street retailers moan we're not splashing out on white goods, clothes and furniture. In other words, a lot of us have stopped being the consumers our economy needs if it is to be revitalised.
When people go out less, they watch more telly, and buy more home entertainment. So the BBC should be capitalising on our new poverty. Instead, it is producing scaremongering headlines that imply everything from our favourite Wimbledon coverage to Graham Norton is facing the chop. From local radio to snooker, Formula One to daytime property shows, we're told nothing is exempt, except (no surprise) Alan Yentob's arts series Imagine, Newsnight and Question Time. Why should Antiques Roadshow be more vulnerable than Paxo? Beats me.
The problem with running the BBC is that everyone thinks they could do your job. We all watch telly and listen to the radio so, in our minds, that makes us experts. What quite a few of us could probably do a lot better than the current BBC top brass is run a big organisation. We'd have less poncey titles, fewer courses teaching staff how to catch a bus when they get relocated to Salford, and a lot less expensive team-building days. What hardly any of us can do is make popular drama, long-running radio shows, and factual programming that informs and entertains. The most highly prized person in any production is the one who dreams up the format and makes it work week in and week out. Successful programmes are not team efforts dreamt up by committee or a public vote.
So the first thing the BBC's director-general Mark Thompson should do is take off his Mr Democracy in Action overcoat and put on his nasty jackboots. He's not running a collective, like Time Out in its early days, but the most sophisticated and successful broadcasting network in the world. Thompson needs to take some unpopular decisions, and make cuts based on his own gut feeling, his years of experience as a talented programme-maker. Sod letting the public have its say. Last year, 6 Music and the Asian Network faced the axe. After pleading and petitions they've been saved. By offering a cut and then rescinding it, Thompson set an unfortunate precedent. Now he has to present his proposals to the Board of Trustees in July, and who knows what will happen? Will the new chairman, Chris Patten, impose his own version? He's already said he doesn't want a chauffeur (ferrying about the outgoing chairman cost us £100,000 over four years) but will be using his Freedom Pass and public transport, something Mr Thompson and his fellow execs might like to note.
We don't expect mini referendums on the running of the NHS, the Treasury or the Foreign Office. Why is the BBC any different? It's run by an expert – he should rise to the occasion.
Lawrence's women: irritating and implausible
Cringe-making in the extreme, 20 minutes of BBC4's new two-part drama Women in Love brought back floods of memories reminding me why I find D H Lawrence such a pretentious bore.
Back in 1960, I avidly read the press coverage of the obscenity court case over Lady Chatterley's Lover. A year after Penguin Books won the right to publish the novel, it had sold over two million copies – more than the Bible. It marked a turning point for freedom of expression, and yet as a sexually curious teenager, I found the book a complete let-down. I just couldn't see what the fuss had been about.
This adaptation of two other D H Lawrence novels, The Rainbow and Women in Love, is a grim watch. The dialogue seems stilted and risible. The women are so annoying you want to slap them. Even the nudity is weirdly unattractive.
After South Riding and Downton Abbey, it's hard to watch period drama where the characters speak in such an unnatural way. Rachael Stirling as Ursula and Rosamund Pike as Gudrun do their best, but this revival is an unerotic affair.
They dug up a fortune, and fell out
In 2009, two men dug up the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever and made headlines around the world. Now, they're not on speaking terms.
In spite of sharing the £3.28m reward, Terry Herbert and Fred Johnson have fallen out spectacularly and are reduced to trashing each other to the press. Using an old metal detector that cost £3 in a car boot sale, Terry found 1,500 gold and silver objects, among them this gold helmet cheek-piece, on farmland owned by Fred, his best friend.
Terry's moved into a luxury bungalow, and Fred is building a new place – but they won't be inviting each other to any housewarmings. The treasures attracted big crowds when they went on public display. It's a shame that two men who made made history can't celebrate together.
An unmusical marriage
By any standards, Master of the Queen's Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, is a distinguished composer with a worldwide reputation. Yes, he's a bit eccentric and not everything he writes is bland enough to appeal to conservative members of our Royal Family. But this avant-garde genius deserves better treatment. Put simply, he's been given the brush-off by William and Kate.
The couple have signed a deal with Decca to release the soundtrack of their wedding, but it will not be featuring anything by Maxwell Davies, as he's not been commissioned to write anything for the big day.
Judging by the couple's taste in nightclubs, don't expect anything groundbreaking. Will we get the theme from Titanic or The Bodyguard instead of a contemporary classic?Reuse content