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

Recruitment Genius: IT Gazetteer Consultant

£25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking to work for an ...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity is available to ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leading specialist i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A banner supporting the NO vote in the upcoming referendum hangs from the offices of the Greek Finance Ministry on Wednesday  

Greece crisis: The Troika’s inflexibility on austerity amounts to nothing short of an attempted coup

Caroline Lucas
Chancellor George Osborne will present his post-election budget on 8th July (Getty)  

Osborne’s Budget will touch on social reform – but he’s no Lloyd George

Donald Macintyre
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy