I hope Iain Murray feels better after the two rants we’ve witnessed in recent columns – two of the most ill-informed pieces I’ve read in a long time.
For the record, the £20m the BBC will be spending on promoting its services over the next year represents less than one per cent of the BBC’s total investment in programmes and services – a fraction, compared with other companies’ marketing spend. The money will be used to tell all of our audiences across the UK about all of our services – both the new digital channels and our existing programmes, channels and networks on TV, radio and new media.
Is Mr Murray suggesting that we invest the public’s money and then not tell them where it has been spent?
His first rant, two weeks ago (MW January 10) was a cheap jibe at BBC1’s encouraging end-of-year figures. He claims that the channel’s slight lead over ITV1 is due to “dumbing down” – one of the most over-used and least-quantified phrases in journalism.
He tries to prove his case by listing some of the channel’s popular drama and entertainment shows. It’s interesting that he deliberately avoids mentioning some of the channel’s most acclaimed – and most watched – programmes of 2001, which would have shown the shallowness of his argument. Walking with Beasts, and David Attenborough’s Blue Planet both took multimedia and interactive programming to new heights, and BBC1 produced outstanding news coverage and current affairs programmes such as John Simpson’s Panorama special on Afghanistan. Would a commercial channel have invested the time, resources and risk in to such programmes?
All these programmes, and many more, show that the BBC’s soul is alive and well. Lord Reith’s mission to inform, educate and entertain is as relevant today as ever. By ensuring that mission is imbued with an extra dimension – actually connecting with audiences, we can make it even more relevant in the 21st century.
The BBC’s public funding also means that everyone in the country has a stake in its success. The BBC is here for everyone and it is not obsessed with youth or moving downmarket. What does concern us is that the BBC is losing its relevance to younger audiences. If we are to genuinely ensure the BBC is for everyone, we have to address that issue – but not at the expense of any other part of the audience. Mr Murray’s patronising attitude to “youth” does underline how, thankfully, the BBC does understand them better than he does.
Back to money. We are investing not just in new services, but in all our existing services, driving creativity and innovation in radio, television and new media. Investment in original production, throughout the UK, benefits the entire industry. The BBC’s role as a leader of innovation, quality and diversity in broadcasting becomes even more pertinent at a time of cutbacks and risk-aversion in the commercial market. The audience is paying for all this through the licence fee, and as such has a right to know.
Making the good popular and the popular good is as important today as ever it was. There’s nothing “dumb” about making good, creative, popular programmes. That is what Lorraine, (and Mr Murray could at least have the courtesy to spell her surname correctly) with the benefit of significantly more programme investment, is striving for on BBC1, a channel in tune with the times and in touch with its viewers.
Oh, and the £19 light bulb story – a nice piece of tabloid hype, no more. Does Iain Murray ever check his facts or does he just recycle someone else’s?
Director of marketing and communications