Letters: Highs and lows of work at BBC

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 11 September, 2013

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One MP suggested to former director general of the BBC Mark Thompson that the higher you rose in the hierarchy, the more quirkily generous would be your pension package.

When I resigned from my lowly position in the BBC Film Unit in 1975, I had paid 7.5 per cent of my salary into the BBC’s compulsory pension fund, contributions that were matched by the BBC, for 16 years. 

In line with the rules, as I had resigned, rather  than being sacked or made  redundant, the BBC held on to its half of my pension pot and calculated my share as attracting 2.5 per cent interest over this period, even though the bank rate in 1975 was at 17.5 per cent.

As I needed the money, I took my pension as a lump sum, amounting to just over £600 after tax.

Thompson’s defence of his generosity to a friend and deputy, Mark Byford, was illuminating of a practice that is repeated in boardrooms throughout the country without number.

Eddie Dougall, Walsham-le-Willows,  Suffolk


Perhaps, in view of the vast sums paid to current and former senior staff at the BBC, Mary Dejevsky (“Licence-payers deserve more than these shambling amateurs”, 10 September) should have used a different word to “amateur” to describe these people. I can think of a few, but none fit for printing.

Stephen Wright, Pinner


Some members of the Public Accounts Committee appeared to take the view that the BBC’s present governance structure is not fit for purpose, but I did not hear one of them admit that the present structure, which came into operation on 1 January 2007, was introduced by the previous government.

It is arguable that the current problems with the BBC’s governance structure are another consequence of the Iraq war.

I value the BBC greatly as a public service broadcaster and have a high regard for the overall quality of its journalism – and I do not want politicians playing games with the way it is run.

If further changes do need to be made to the way the BBC is governed, I want a short, genuinely independent review of possible governance models to be carried out in the run-up to the next review of the BBC Charter – not a score-settling exercise by politicians.

Rita Hale, London N1


Your “Ten Best Toasters” (10 September) failed to include one of the most effective: the chair of the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons, Margaret Hodge.

Dr Alex May, Manchester


Our A&Es do provide excellent care

I wonder if Steve Horsfield (letter, 9 September) has personal experience of an A&E department in the UK.

I visited one on the recent bank holiday, after a wasp and I decided to sip from a Pimms at the same moment at our local carnival.

A rapidly swelling tongue is very alarming, so a call to 111 brought an ambulance within 10 minutes. I was given the necessary injections by the paramedics and then driven to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough under constant monitoring

The A&E department was busy but I was seen almost immediately and at regular intervals until the swelling went down.

The ambulance staff and the duty staff at the hospital couldn’t have been kinder or more reassuring.

I do feel that we hear of the problems that occur – they make good headlines – but rarely of the routinely excellent treatment  that is given day in and day out by calm and capable staff.

There is no need to go to India to experience this.

Sarah Grierson, Great Broughton, North Yorkshire


Wrong-headed, wrong-footed

Historians generally fall into two schools: the conspiracy theorists who believe there is an underlying plot behind everything, and the cock-up theorists who think historical events are merely the result of accident and happenchance.

 Over the past fortnight, the chaotic machinations of the world’s powers over Syria demonstrate that both schools of thought are valid.

From David Cameron’s bungled recall of Parliament, which forced Obama’s hand in Congress, to John Kerry’s slip  of the tongue which was seized on by Sergei Lavrov, our  wrong-headed leaders have  been wrong-footing each other in their efforts to shape the future of Syria, the region and the world.

Stefan Simanowitz, London NW3


Russia has proposed that Syria hands over its stocks of chemical weapons and made it clear that it disapproves of any use of such weapons. This will be a far more effective measure than any military intervention.

Had Ed Miliband allowed David Cameron to railroad support for an attack, then missiles would have started flying about a week ago.

So Miliband has effectively prevented the UK, America and others intervening in a messy civil war – something that could have had a lot of unforeseen consequences: from rapidly escalating the war to neighbouring countries to the justification of terrorist attacks on the UK.

Well done, Miliband. Not bad going for the opposition leader of a very small island.

Paul Mason, Teddington


I suggest that we nominate President Vladimir Putin of Russia for a Peace Prize. Avoiding wars and bloodshed is a hallmark of leaders who are willing to give peace a chance. Wars to control resources or territories are barbaric in this day and age.

Anwer Kirmani, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire


Van Gogh photo a masterpiece

Congratulations to the AP staff photographer for their impressive photo of Van Gogh Museum director Axel Ruger and the recently discovered Van Gogh (“‘Sensational’ Van Gogh work discovered 20 years after experts rejected it as a fake”, 10 September).

The whole photo looks like a painting by a late-19th/early-20th-century artist – in particular, the detail in the director’s bony hands and his head, and the dramatic falling away of the veil caught in the light. And as a bonus, we have the opportunity to view the Van Gogh.

David Rutzler, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex


Don’t blame Israel for anti-Semitism

The views of Ted Clement-Evans (letter, 10 September) seemed to echo the vitriol of those who argue that if people are anti-Semitic, then the Jews are to blame for this by their own actions.

That Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is anti-Semitic is simply nothing to do with modern Israel, and Israel’s actions should never be used as an excuse for anti-Semitism.

Perhaps Mr Clement-Evans should re-focus on the inhumanities being carried out within Syria, Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq and many other countries in the region, sadly Muslim against Muslim, instead of the usual obsessing about the wrongs of Israel.

The issues arising within Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are complex as well as tragic, and there have been many wrongs committed by both sides.

Ben Kushner, Nailsea, North Somerset


I don’t care if Howard Jacobson  has won some award or other for his writing, you do not rewrite  William Shakespeare! It is  intellectual vandalism and arrogance at the level of wanting to wallpaper the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Paul Harper, London E15


Resignation not always best policy

The logical outcome of Dominic Shelmerdine’s letter (9 September) is that all MPs who do not support their party’s official policy should resign. If Winston Churchill had followed this precept, he would not have been available to become Prime Minister in 1940 – with consequences that do not bear thinking about.

John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire


A great politician in the making

Councillor David Walsh (letter, 9 September) should put himself forward immediately as a  prospective parliamentary candidate. He is apparently quite at  ease accepting payment to be an  elected representative while  working for someone else. However, he might have to curb his enthusiasm in admitting to it so quickly.

Dinah Ellis, Weymouth, Dorset


I can only admire the confidence of a councillor who can, in a single sentence, tell the world not only that he takes no interest in the views of other councillors, but also that, in time paid for by one employer, he works assiduously for the benefit of another.

Let us hope that the voters of Redcar and Cleveland will show similar admiration at the next election.

John Morris, Clapham, West Sussex


It all started with Neighbours?

You report (10 September) that a study from the University of Leicester finds that Glaswegians are adopting cockney slang because of EastEnders and that  this is the first evidence that active and engaged television viewing helps to accelerate language change.

Surely the widespread and comparatively recent habit of young women in the UK of raising their voice at the end of a sentence, turning it into a question, originated with the popularity of the Australian soap Neighbours in the 1990s?

Nigel Scott, London N22


Watching strictly for the dancing

I suppose it’s because I didn’t do English at Oxford that I’ve missed all the subtext detailed by Terence Blacker as to why we watch Strictly Come Dancing (“Strictly pitiless viewing”, 10 September). In my ignorance, I thought I was enjoying the dancing, the music and the razzmatazz.

I shudder to think what my motives are for watching The Great British Bake Off.

Colin Dryden, Formby, Merseyside

Wilde idea

Following the planned closure of Reading prison, who will write The Ballad of Wrexham Gaol?

Michael Wadsworth, Chislehurst