Every vessel had a story...not that you'd know it from the BBC
Our state broadcaster used to cover large national events in a world-leading way and whilst we acknowledge that times have changed since the deferential tones of Richard Dimbleby in the fifties and sixties (he spent six months researching for his commentary for the Coronation) their performance in covering the Jubilee river pageant was just appalling.
Using a very lightweight team of presenters they constantly cut away from the event to nonsensical pieces involving minor celebrities. It was easy to see the difference yesterday when both BBC and ITV (our principal commercial station) were both covering the Diamond Jubilee service. Normally, you would automatically favour BBC over ITV in coverage of an event like this but yesterday the commercial station beat them hands down and we wish that they had covered the river pageant too.
Now we understand that, occasionally, during such a long event, given the current lack of attention span that most people now seem to have, it is helpful to break for a vox pop with some of the spectators. Indeed, ITV, did this yesterday during the various perambulations around the service. However, crucially, their interviews were with those ordinary people watching the events. The BBC's on Sunday were mainly interviews with other celebrities who were all, presumably, being paid for out of licence payers money. Did we really want to see four, smug, well-paid "comedians" talking to each other in a desperate attempt to be funny inside one of the boats in the pageant or did we actually want to know something about the boats in the pageant: what they were, why they were there, what their history was?
Lead presenter Matt Baker (who in the right environment is an engaging enough presenter) didn't even know how to refer to the Queen. She is not "Her Royal Highness" you semi-educated idiot she is "Her Majesty"; as in HM armed forces, HM Treasury, HM Ambassador etc. Baker also didn't know what semaphore was!
Yesterday, ITV employed historian David Starkey who gave an entertaining and erudite (yes the two aren't mutually exclusive) commentary on the goings on in Westminster and elsewhere. "The only qualification you need to be Lord Chamberlain is to be able to walk backwards gracefully" he opined. Whilst indicating the difference between the United Kingdom and France as regards heads of state and the superiority of a constitutional monarch over a president he called outgoing French President Sarkozy "a nasty, jumped up little spiv" and new president Hollande a "second-rate provincial schoolmaster". It was something that perfectly brought home the contrast in gravitas between them and a woman who has devoted herself to politically neutral public service for six decades.
Starkey, of course, is unpopular at the BBC, which is relentlessly left wing in a rather old-fashioned, pre-Blair way. A recent appearance by him on the BBC's Question Time TV show (where an audience ask four public figures current affairs questions) which has a canted studio audience of rent-a-lefties, left them all looking rather stupid and has resulted, so it is said, in a temporary ban from the BBC.
And how much did these two cost the licence payer for a few minutes drivel?
Meanwhile the BBC employed another dreadful pop presenter, Fearne Cotton, to interview a minor pop singer, Paloma Faith (who was just there to plug her new single -what happened to the BBC's avoidance of commercials?) about royal merchandise in a discussion that centred on jubilee sick bags. Crass doesn't even approach it.
The ultimate difference between the ITV coverage and the BBC's was that we actually learned things from ITV whilst we learned nothing from the BBC. When Triple P was small he wasn't allowed to watch ITV by his parents because it was "commercial" and "wasn't educational". How things have changed!
When is the BBC going to remember that its remit is to provide quality broadcasting not compete for ratings with commercial stations by dumbing down everything it does? Particularly, given that everyone who has a TV in Britain (and there are nearly as many licence payers as income tax payers ) funds them through their licence fee, they should not be spending unnecessary money in chasing ratings. Grrr!