Oh, for shame. I have come up with a wild conspiracy theory of my very own. I cannot wait to see an hour long documentary on Sky presented by Danny Wallace that debunks it thoroughly. It is Britain Day, or so I’m told, so this post is topical.
In the listings for this week’s TV, two programmes caught my eye: David Dimbleby’s How We Built Britain and Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain. What’s the connection? No, it’s not that both Dimbleby and Marr present current affairs programmes on BBC 1. The connection is the word Britain, the idea of the British nation. I must confess, I have not seen either programme, but my grouse is not with content or style.
There is a nationalist-led coalition in power in Scotland, Sinn Fein are sharing power in Northern Ireland, and Wales may soon have a nationalist-led administration – yet the BBC still talks of Britain. Granted, both titles imply history rather than current events and yes, the BBC’s full name is the British Broadcasting Corporation, but the B-word is cropping up a lot lately.
I wouldn’t read to much into repeats of Little Britain, the hit BBC comedy show, nor the title of ITV’s new Saturday night entertainment programme, a version of America’s Got Talent called, unsurprisingly, Britain’s Got Talent.
A colour revolution
I recall that around the time New Labour came to power the BBC’s news programmes switched from a regal blue colour scheme to a modern red. The set design changed from what you would expect to see at a Tory party conference to what you would expect to see at a Labour party conference. This may have been mere coincidence, and perhaps my memory fails me – but the Beeb is state television.
Not that I object to the BBC being publicly funded – though I do find the licence fee disagreeable because it is a regressive tax. BBC programming is superior to its commercial rivals, but that doesn’t make it exempt from political interference. Given its current structure, the broadcaster cannot be truly independent of government influence. You may recall the infamous Andrew Gilligan report on the Today programme that set in motion a sequence of events that led to the death of Dr David Kelly, the sacking of the BBC’s Director-General Greg Dyke, and the Butler Inquiry.
Auntie is an Ideological State Apparatus. Oh, yes. It does not surprise me that there is such a narrow range of (political) opinion expressed on the BBC – the diversity one sometimes finds in the corporate media is curious. (Channel 4, which receives public funding but is dependent upon advertising revenue, can be more dissident and anti-establishment – but that’s all part of its character, I suppose.)
No doubt the professional journalists of the BBC believe that they are floating above real world influences and can present a balanced picture of events to the public. This doesn’t stack up, though: one can give both sides whilst placing an accent above one.
A modest proposal
I’m putting this out as an idea, a question – I don’t necessarily believe it to be true. There is no hard evidence, just my suspicions. Here goes:
Could it be that the BBC is preparing for a political change in the coming years and is modifying its programming to suit the need for British nationalism? Whether there is a New Labour government of Gordon Brown or a New Tory government of David Cameron, the need to hold the Union together remains. And BBC employees would suffer if the station lost the license fee. So perhaps the broadcaster has not reflected the changing national identity in England, Scotland, and Wales, because of its institutional need to serve the government?
Answers on a postcard, please.