The BBC’s U-turn to continue with the BBC Singers is a welcome sign of listening. We all listen in some way to the BBC but does the BBC listen to us? Well, hopefully, it does. Strangely the ‘listening’ has come at a time when the Chairman of the Beeb has been under some pressure since the Boris Johnson affair (the loan arrangement for the then PM) not to mention Gary Lineker.
Balancing classical and contemporary music through the system is a major responsibility of the national broadcaster. In some ways the BBC has been the guardian of the national music archive. The balance between elitism and populism has almost been impossible during a continuing move away from the nanny state and the nationally licenced public broadcaster. Independant broadcasting with all the attendant advertising and popular appeal is deemed necessary, and creates a context that is hostile to the BBC’s survival.
The recent hullaballoo about the BBC singers, has brought many back to the appreciation of a national licensed broadcaster. There is a constant argument about the non competitive nature of the BBC and its apparent code of neutrality. This is in the true sense of the word ; an institution of national worth. What’s it worth and how do we protect it?
The British nation have two sacred cows that are universally worshipped; the NHS and the BBC. They are both under immense pressure. The BBC, from two sides, the lobby to discontinue the license and survive on purely commercial (advertising) terms, and the other its political neutrality. There are signs that the BBC is listening. Is this so because it belongs to its constituents through the license fee? Yes it cares about its clients.
The good news is that the BBC is alive and listening. Yes, we agree that the license fee is expensive, especially for those who have little income. Perhaps there should be a mandatory sliding scale? The point must be to keep the institution out of commercial hands and at the same time demand its excellence. This idea of public ownership at arms length is difficult for the Tory party to respect. It is to be hoped that they will learn from the evolving scenario and keep the BBC in public hands.
Public opinion has supported the BBC Singers, an elitist cadre, no doubt, but as legitimate as any. The validity of this successful campaign is so important even if it does represent a minority. The BBC if it listens, will continue to reflect national taste without prejudice as long as it lives off a national income. It needs nurturing as times and culture changes, but as one of our most cherished sacred cows it remains at the core of our national culture. Long may it survive in this imperfect form.