Don’t sack Rossy: “Scrap the BBC!”

Charles Moore is wise and clever. But he’s wrong to suggest there should be a licence fee strike until Jonathan Ross is fired. That’s no way to rid ourselves of smut and smugness on the rates.

The more young and old fogeys line up against Ross, the more his producers know that they have red meat to throw to those millions of licence fee payers who’d rather have foul-mouthed silliness than, oh I don’t know – what would Charles nominate as preferable? Clark, Schama, Bronowski? Whatever. (I have touched on this at the SAU.) 

But more than that, it is not wise to give hostages to the vulgar, anally retentive forces of what we might as well call the Daily Mail tendency. In a contest between the perma-adolescence of Ross and the grubby prissiness of the Mail, I know which I prefer.

The worst of it is that outrage about Ross won’t help us scrap the BBC.

For that job, we need John Humphrys. In every way, he serves the cause. The other night he complained on Mastermind that he had become trapped in South East England, far away from his beloved Wales. I wonder if he heard the welling chorus which went up from the nation’s rooftops. “Don’t worry, John”, we shouted, “We’ll show you the way to Paddington. We’ve paid you too much for too long. Don’t let us detain you.”

It is one of the merits of Harrumphrys that he brings a certain Daily Mail quality to the Today Show. Suddenly, the chippy terrier seems useful. He savaged an apparatchic from the BBC’s management team on some of the fronts we love. Overpaid bureaucracy and stars. An online presence which stifles media entrepreneurship. A fundamental absurdity in the funding arrangement. She fought back by mentioning his own pay packet and then agreed that joking aside, they’d better discuss policy.

Of course, it’s folly to suppose as many people do that there is no need to pay for the BBC when people can get what they want free online. Nothing is free, and it’s how we pay for media that matters.

We ought to get rid of the BBC’s licence fee because we should be ashamed to be paying for smut and smugness on the rates.

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Publication date

21 November 2008