19 November 2008

Joan Bakewell: Media and Morality

Just spun out of Dame Joan's key lecture on Media and Morality, which she subtitles the 'credibility crunch'. Pithy, Joan. Her grande-dame position in British broadcasting gives her a pretty viable platform, and her views were clear and succinct. In her day (although she graciously avoided a royal tone - just) she says there was a collective moral standpoint due to a committed and comprehensive team with no outsourcing; every day the whole gamut of producers, programme makers, make-up artists etc walked through the BBC gates, they had moral guideline, they had team spirit - thems were the glory days. This kept them under one moral umbrella that no longer exists under BBC's manic corporate pluralism.
More or less, she was actually saying in her day it was better (her position as a Harman-appointed tsarina for the over-50s reflects her new position as advocate of the old guard), but she has a point. There was a commitment to class and excellence that is now overshadowed by computing of viewing figures, audience grabbing and a much wider channel selection. A smart question about "dumbing-down" didn't bring much joy - she refused to be drawn into a debate over the term - her desire is not for increased censorship of supposed "stoopid" programming, but a call for JUDGEMENT.

That's fair - but we didn't delve into a darker side, which is that we the audience are calling for this programming, and the unwitting agreement the Dame makes about "dumbing-down" also indicates she must recognise a definite dumbing down of culture. She can't do anything about that, but she is being far too kind about programmes like Big Brother (citing its important social resonance amongst young people - WHAT?) and sits on the fence about actual positive action from an intelligent hardcore that currently doesn't exist.

Unsurprisingly the ubiquitous Brand and Ross were mentioned; she thinks Brand is great, vibrant, but thinks his producer (employed by Brand - hence the outsourcing problem and lack of moral 'umbrella') needed judgement. Can't we just state once and for all that Brand isn't really that good? He is a witty, psuedo-shocking monger but he isn't on Joan's level - why support him Dame?

About fatcats - well, the BBC, says the Dame, is now a corporate system (duh!), a far cry from the team jolly that was 60s BBC as seen by JB. Let's take a look at Rupert Murdoch - he has most governments in his pocket and we could safely say that the governments are also part of this corporate monster. There is no striving for excellence, Joan, not because of a slight down-turn in moral judgement, but because it's not about TV, it's about corporate control and money, another much more sinister Big Brother. Any exciting programmes that Joan may have made (I liked her example of the erect penis on BBC1 - and I can imagine her ogling it whilst giving good intellect) are a thing of the past. But not because we are in a shoddy moral morass, but because morals are, and have always been, non-existent in the current 'climate'. Also - Lady Dame - how much is Harriet Harman paying you for your tsarina-skills when you admit yourself you can only be a liaison "voice" of the over-50s and not a firebrand change-maker like you could be?

She is a great voice - she is also glam (excellent brocade coat, great hair, voice-purr) and an iconic figure in broadcasting - but what happened to Dame Joan Bakewell on the other end of an erect microphone? We need you Joan, not emailing Harriet Harman about that 40% of "oldies" as you so quaintly put it, but helping us, as a nation, blaze a trail. Please.


  1. "I liked her example of the erect penis on BBC1 - and I can imagine her ogling it whilst giving good intellect"

    Great...now I have to clean tea off my laptop screen because I just spewed it everywhere. (and, yes, choice of words was intentional.)

    ahem...you're a bad influence on me, my dearest. ;-)

  2. Test.

    Would you believe the word check is 'cheek' . . .