Here is the news from the Kremlin

Share
Related Topics
I USED to think the BBC was a sort of parallel universe, outwardly like ours, but inhabited by humanoids called 'BBC people', who followed their own rules and spoke their own language. And it worked well enough to explain most things.

But it doesn't work any more. It doesn't explain why there are people at the top such as Duke Hussey, who is, if anything, an alien; nor does it explain why so many BBC people I meet these days are filled with fear and loathing for what is happening to their world.

So I have a new theory. I now think the BBC today is uncannily like the Soviet Union just before President Brezhnev died. For a start, the Soviet Union had its Presidium, that shuffling but powerful collection of ghostly no-hopers and interfering has-beens; and the BBC has its Board of Governors. The BBC has its tough man in charge and its tough man next in line of succession, and so did the Soviet Union. The Soviet leaders ruled by fear, and so does the BBC.

Not at gun-point, of course. Fear works in other ways. I met a man last year who was executive producer of an important new series on BBC-TV. All the programmes had been made, and it remained only to decide in which order they should go out. To open the series he had chosen a programme that everyone, including him, thought was the worst of the lot.

'Why that one first?' I asked.

'Because I hope it's the one that will most appeal to Alan Yentob,' he said. 'And he's the man I have to impress.'

'What about appealing to the viewers?' I asked.

'Wouldn't that be great?' he replied.

Yes, the more I think about it, the more the BBC does resemble the old Soviet Union. The way nice young people go into the system and turn grey-eyed. The way hatchet men are appointed above the heads of programme makers and creative people. The way promotions are engineered for political ends . . .

I knew another man who was asked why he hadn't gone in for a certain post at the far end of the country. He didn't want to move to the far end of the country, he said, and neither did his family. The BBC put his name in for the post, saying he would regret it if he didn't, and he got the post and he is now at the far end of the country.

It's like moving a Russian officer if he becomes too popular with the men. But recently the BBC has begun moving whole regiments around in the old Soviet manner. A particularly brutal example is the announcement that Christchurch studio in Bristol, home of an outstanding drama unit, is to be closed down and the staff scattered.

This studio has had about pounds 1m spent on it recently. It's a wonderful place. The people who work there are a good team. So the Kremlin is closing it down and moving the team to Birmingham. In Birmingham there is an excellent features group that is being split up and similarly scattered (some of it to Bristol]). Is the BBC frightened of its own good people, as the Soviet leaders used to be?

The other day I got a round robin letter from South-West Jazz, an admirable organisation, bemoaning the tragic effect that the decision to close Christchurch will also have on the growth of local music. A lot of the best local jazz (and other specialist music) on the radio has been recorded in Bristol, by a team of amazingly good technicians. No longer, it seems.

The Soviet Union had its annual show in Red Square to show the Russians the guns on which their money had gone. The BBC has an annual programme in which Mr Hussey and the Director-General tell us we are getting value for money.

The Soviet Union, like most desperate regimes, had foreign adventures to impress the people. The BBC pours its money down Eldorado and sends Michael Palin to both Poles. The Soviet Union pretended to listen to its citizens. The BBC has Feedback on Radio 4 . . .

What can one do? What did one do in the Soviet Union to protest? Wrote samizdat, among other things. And it does occur to me that the letter I got from South-West Jazz was not just a letter, but samizdat: a hand-copied letter circulated to the people who feel that the BBC is in the hands of a Politburo that does not respond to the real world, and which gets programmes made the way Birtian dialectics dictate.

Don't get me wrong. Russia is a great place. It just fell into the wrong hands. The BBC is a great place, too . . .

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Neo-Nazis march in London  

I'm taking my Jewish kids to a vile neo-Nazi rally in London this weekend because I want them to learn about free speech

Richard Ferrer
A police officer carries a casualty to safety  

Tunisia attack proves that we cannot stop terrorists carrying out operations against Britons in Muslim countries

Robert Verkaik
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map