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Nostalgia is a dangerous thing

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing

A poster reminding BBC staff about the closure of BBC Television CentreAnyone who loves Britain’s televisual heritage will not have let the closure of BBC Television Centre go by without at least one sad thought of glorious days gone by, lamenting how the creative engine that kept the BBC going will now surely be lost, and how they will no longer find a home or see their friends and colleagues at the bar.

Forgive me for interrupting the nostalgia fest – and none of this is meant to dismiss the great work that went on there – but the two BBC chat’n’compilation programmes that look back at the great days of Television Centre have reminded me of one thing:

As a current BBC employee, there is no way I – or many people I know – would have even had a chance of a job there back in the 1970s. That’s not down to my skills or experience, but simply because my face would not have fit. The two programmes that looked back at Television Centre didn’t feature any non-white people on its various panels, and hardly any women compared to today’s television schedules. What, no room for Floella Benjamin or Lenny Henry on the comfy sofa?

To be fair, this in itself was symptomatic of 1960s/70s Britain, an era where any thought of diversity (by today’s definition) was a sci-fi dream as alien as anything from Doctor Who, but in the mass rose-tinted view of a simpler life where everyone was friends with everyone else, this seems to have been forgotten.

A similar delusion seems to have befallen some people as they realise our television heroes back then were as flawed as their British society counterparts. It’s apparently a shocking revelation in a new Doctor Who behind-the-scenes expose book (ironically written by the man who directed/produced one of the Television Centre tribute shows) that William Hartnell was racist, and senior members of the production team would sometimes use their oblique power of promise to extract sexual favours from fans.

Forgive me if I’m not shocked at the thought that a white British man in his 60s in the 1960s would not have been entirely comfortable with people from other races. Or that the casting couch phenomenon was alive and well in 1980s/90s Britain. As the Seventh Doctor once said in one of the spin-off novels: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

None of this is written to denigrate the creative genius that created moments of joy and laughter for millions of people (or indeed the distress of those on the wrong end of the power equation), but let’s not pretend it didn’t happen. And isn’t happening now.

Middle class is magical, so sings the BBC…

Middle class is magical, so sings the BBC…

BBC Proms: Comedy Prom – Mongrels – YouTube.

BBC: One step forward, one step back…

BBC: One step forward, one step back…

Someone at the BBC had the genius idea to broadcast, after the Royal Wedding, a trailer for that other British institution that’s stood the test of time… the BBC. And it’s a fab trailer that brought a whisper of a tear to my eye.

 

Unfortunately, the BBC wasn’t forward-thinking enough (at the time of writing) to actually put it on its own website or YouTube channel. And it comes to something when even the Royal Family are YouTubing, Flickring and Tweeting their way through it all. Fortunately, someone else has uploaded it:

As a TV nerd, I was flicking through all the other channels all morning, comparing the wedding coverage. Amazingly, CNN basically had a series of trump card captions comparing Kate to Diana, eg: “Diana didn’t go to college and was a nursery school teacher. Kate went to the University of St. Andrews and graduated in Art History”. That poor woman is going to suffer with mother-in-law issues for eternity.

Amusingly, Fox News also had full live coverage of the Royal Wedding. You’d have thought that Republicans/Tea Partiers would be against using tax payers’ money for a ceremony of pomp and circumstance…

Now we know who The Stig is. *yawn*

Now we know who The Stig is. *yawn*

The Stig looking serious

Ob. disclaimer – these views are mine alone, and nobody else’s

I happened to be in a doctors’ waiting room when Sky News excitedly flashed that they had footage of the Real Stig. People actually looked up to see some handsome chap walk away from the High Court. Then they said “Ben who?”, and went back to their business.

Obviously, I’m not Ben Collins – or Stig 3.0 for that matter – but I’m perplexed as to how many people would want to buy The Stig’s Autobiography, now we know it’s a racing driver who nobody’s really heard of. I can understand he wants to make some money out of being “The Stig” – but surely the money’s in staying gainfully employed by the BBC and BBC Worldwide to walk around in a racing helmet, as opposed to 10 seconds of brief public exposure before he realises that nobody really cares who The Stig is. The fun is in the facade.

Working for the BBC….

Working for the BBC….

means a few surprises from time to time. Like telling people that it’s not a place where they shower you with money while you hang out backstage with Matt Smith or even Huw Edwards, for instance. Although there are a few fantastic non-financial bonuses, of course – like working on election night. Really must blog about that one day.

Anyway, it also makes for the occasional surprise in the rest of your life – like this ad I spotted on my Facebook page, basically begging for a job.

Suffice to say that most of the people that I know who are in a position to hire someone at the BBC don’t have Facebook accounts, as far as I know. Although I dare say the person who placed that advert would find such non-social-media people to be freaks of the highest order…

One rule for the BBC, another for commercial broadcasters?

One rule for the BBC, another for commercial broadcasters?

You’d have thought that linking from a website to another website would be a basic principle in building websites. Even the BBC seems to agree – its’ latest Strategy Review states that “BBC Online will be transformed into a window on the web with, by 2012, an external link on every page and at least double the current rate of ‘click-throughs’ to external sites.”

Except OFCOM, the commerical broadcast regulator, has reprimanded GMTV for essentially linking to another website from its’ main website.

During a broadcast, viewers were invited to apply for free gym passes via GMTV’s website. Once they got there, they were told to click through to moneysavingexpert.com to pick up the gym passes. Ofcom said this is effectively promoting Lewis’s business and breaches rule 10.3 of the broadcasting code which states products and services must not be promoted in programmes.

Hrm…

The Internet. It's full of chimpanzees.

The Internet. It's full of chimpanzees.

It’s amazing what you can cut together with rushes of interviews…

(The BBC documentary that was actually made partly from these rushes is The Virtual Revolution, presented by the divine Dr. Aleks Krotoski, Saturdays at 8.30pm on BBC Two)

Incidentally, it’s nice to know that I have finally achieved my ambition to have my name listed on a BBC network programme’s credits. Even if it’s only my netname, and it’s only listed on the website…

Suction man, suction man, does whatever a suction can…

Suction man, suction man, does whatever a suction can…

In a show that is in no way an attempt to recreate elements of Mythbusters, a presenter of the BBC’s Bang Goes The Theory climbed one of the BBC office buildings today using the power of nothing but suction:

Can you hear the people sing?

Can you hear the people sing?

As I speak, there is the glorious sound of a gospel choir working their way through a bunch of classic hymns and not-so-classic modern pop tunes.

This would be great, if it was not Friday at 4pm, they were on the ground floor of the building I work in and only the bottom two floors (those belonging to BBC Worldwide) are enjoying the party, complete with mince pies, wine, DJ and glitterball. In the meantime, the wage slaves up above have to – in theory – keep working.

It wouldn’t be so bad if I hadn’t arrived back at the BBC just when the Christmas party limit was slashed, so my “departmental” Christmas party last week was at a bar, and consisted of some free drink – and far too late – some very unChristmassy canapes. Although I’m lucky I got to go to one at all, I suppose…

Then again, my first BBC Worldwide Christmas party was quite an eye-opener. I’d only been working for a week, and got shepherded to the party at Heaven, which included girls dancing in cages, and ice sculptures where you could drink vodka from an ice woman’s breast. This was 1997, mind you…

BBC 'World' News…

BBC 'World' News…

After flicking through the various US TV channels, I was surprised to stumble across an edition of BBC World News on a free-to-air analogue terrestrial TV station. This would be the equivalent of being able to watch an American news programme on Channel Five, so I was somewhat amazed to find this. Then watched in horror as the rest of the programme unfurled.

In the UK, we’re told that BBC World News provides an unbiased global perspective of the news. But the main items on BBC World News last night were:

– UK stock market falling
– US presidential debate, with the ubiquitous Matt Frei
– a couple of small pieces about anti-government riots in Peru and Thailand
– The “And finally”… piece about a Chinese art exhibition in Chelsea

In other words, it was almost like watching a standard BBC News broadcast, with slightly less emphasis on UK events. I can’t help thinking that if you live in Cleveland, Calcutta or Canberra, these bits of news will be fantastically irrelevant. Especially learning about an art exhibition in Chelsea, for goodness’ sake. Even when being global, the BBC’s still very London-parochial.