Editor-At-Large: A slimmer Auntie would be even more attractive

Share
Related Topics

The BBC, once the nation's favourite broadcaster, is now the bloated institution every politician wants to castrate. Brucie's back (notwithstanding a pay cut) on Strictly, which means blissful autumn nights in front of the box for millions, but his paymasters are coming under increasingly heavy bombardment.

The battle started in Edinburgh a few weeks ago, with a highly critical speech from James Murdoch. No surprises there – the Murdoch empire has always wanted the BBC dismantled. This week, the Government joined the attack: the Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw told a media conference he thought that there might be a case for a smaller licence fee, and expressed concern that the BBC had reached "the limits of reasonable expansion". Bradshaw also put the boot into the BBC Trust, complaining that it wasn't up to the job of policing the corporation impartially, hinting at a rethink in the near future. The BBC's director-general Mark Thompson was swift to mount a defence – well, he has to – although he did concede that the BBC website could possibly be trimmed back.

Does it matter what Mr Bradshaw thinks? He's a pleasant enough fellow, but too fluffy to be taken seriously. The fact that he once worked for the BBC (and his partner is a BBC producer) doesn't add much gravitas to his arguments. He was pretty ineffectual at the Department of Health, and not that impressive when we shared a platform on Question Time. Anyway, if the polls are to be believed, he won't be around long enough to have any impact on the BBC's future. BBC bigwigs should be more concerned about what the Tories think – their culture spokesman Jeremy Hunt said last week he would scrap the BBC Trust, cap the salaries of top executives at £200,000, freeze the licence fee, and close down minority channels such as BBC3 and BBC4. Mr Hunt also wants the BBC to rein in their commercial activities, and would restrict BBC Worldwide to simply selling and promoting BBC programmes. He hinted that some BBC assets could be sold off to balance the books. The Tories are worried about the degree to which the BBC seeks to monopolise the marketplace, which would help Mr Murdoch (and other proprietors) prop up their ailing newspaper businesses. Such a move would also win the Tories some powerful friends in the press around election time.

Mr Hunt also expressed astonishment about what the BBC calls its "core" business – citing its purchase of the Lonely Planet travel guides. I couldn't agree more – I devised the successful Rough Guide travel series for the BBC, and although we paid a fee to use the name, there was no move to try and buy the Rough Guides publishing company. I have a bit of inside knowledge – my ex-husband owns Time Out and has spent years building up a list of well-regarded travel guides. Then the BBC came along and purchased Lonely Planet – talk about trying to stifle competition! The sale should never have been allowed. The corporation seems to have forgotten what the letters BBC stand for: British Broadcasting Corporation, not a print publisher. It regularly uses its own channels to promote itself and its website has expanded way beyond a service offering programme replays, news and relevant information and is padded out with blogs and competitions.

It's obvious that top salary levels at the BBC are completely unsustainable. It has made such a big song and dance about cutting the pay packets of talent, announcing the setting up of viewer panels to allow the public to comment on what stars should earn, but it still hasn't tackled the scandal of its own executives' pay. Forty-seven people earn more than the Prime Minister, which is ridiculous – after all, the corporation runs news and entertainment, not a cardiac arrest unit. It manages chat shows, quizzes and The Antiques Roadshow, not the armed services, the National Health Service or our welfare system. It isn't fighting on the front line, just battling for viewers.

Greg Dyke, DG before Mark Thompson, and Will Wyatt, deputy DG under John Birt, have both said that the salaries paid to top BBC execs are far too high. The BBC is a brilliant broadcaster, which enriches my life. But I can't understand its bunker mentality. It has to perform some radical surgery on itself before it finds it's been made to undergo amputation.

London Fashion Week: Let us eat cake and avoid the catwalk

It's not just the models who are underweight – London Fashion Week (based at Somerset House in the Strand) is a pretty slim affair – only in the topsy-turvy world of fashion would an event that starts on a Friday and ends on a Wednesday qualify as a "week". Even more baffling was the fact that the invites initially sent out for the reception hosted by Sarah Brown in Downing Street to celebrate 25 years of emerging talent (you'd think we'd have progressed beyond "emerging" to "established" by now) didn't actually mention the date on which it was being held: Friday 18 September. The Royal College of Psychiatrists isn't a fan either, claiming that events such as this act as a showcase for underweight women, and can promote eating disorders. Britain produces excellent designers, but it's also true that the vast majority of British fashion is made outside the UK, in the Third World, and claiming that it's an important part of our domestic economy is taking a highly selective view. Don't fret if you can't get a ticket to any of the catwalk events – there will be a lot more fun at the pop-up restaurant nearby, set up by the people behind Bistrotheque, one of my top hangouts in the East End. It's offering Victoria sponge cake and tacos, so not a lot of dieting will be going on there, thank goodness.

Product placement makes you fat

In the US, health experts are pressing for a tax on fizzy drinks and sweetened fruit juices. If adopted, it could mean the price of a can of cola would rise by 20 per cent, which could cut consumption and fund the increased medical costs of dealing with an overweight population. The idea is being talked about here, but maybe Ben Bradshaw should ponder a bit, before going any further with plans to sanction product placement on TV, widely expected to happen in the new year. He should look at the US, where large red containers of Coca-Cola feature prominently on American Idol – that's the same fizzy, sugary stuff the doctors want to slap a tax on. The main financing of product placement will be done by fizzy drink manufacturers and junk food chains – hardly in line with the official line on healthy eating.

Your own personal Starbucks

There's been much criticism about the way our high streets have lost their individuality, swamped by chain stores that look the same everywhere. Starbucks has now announced it's rethinking its branding to make it less corporate. The plan is to customise the shops – including such things as noticeboards for customers – with individual colour schemes. Out will go the usual chairs and tables to be replaced by mismatched secondhand furniture. Like McDonald's, Starbucks has been attacked for selling fattening cakes and paninis – so now it plans to try out healthier options like carrot sticks and porridge. But don't think these changes are because of anything other than profit – in a recession, coffee is an expensive luxury, and Starbucks faces a lot of competition. Personally, I try not to patronise chains like this as I'd rather give my money to local small businesses.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Automation Tester – Permanent – West Sussex – Circa £40k

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

KS2 Teacher Plymouth

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

KS1 and KS2 Primary NQT Job in Lancaster Area

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently...

KS1 Teacher Cornwall

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Apple CEO Timothy Cook  

Tim Cook coming out as gay publicly for the first time matters to young men like me

Leigh Dowd
 

Daily catch-up: war on drugs, shocking polls and Balls family news

John Rentoul
The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes