Magazine article The Spectator

Enormous Gaffe

Magazine article The Spectator

Enormous Gaffe

Article excerpt

Like much of the state education system, the BBC no longer knows what it's there for. It's no coincidence that both are controlled by the left-of-centre. The Left has an agenda but it's muddled, regardless of whether or not it's New or Old Labour. It has always been the case and always will be. The latest manifestation of this could be seen in the speech that Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the BBC board of governors, gave last week which created such a stir that he was forced to apologise.

Davies said accusations that the BBC was 'dumbing down' came mainly from 'southern, white, middle-class, middle-aged and well-educated people' who already consumed a disproportionate amount of BBC services and were trying to 'hijack' more. A wide range of public figures across the political spectrum criticised him. Diane Abbott, the Labour MP, thought it was dangerous to assume that because people weren't white and middle class they didn't listen to Radio Four. Sir John Mortimer described his comments as 'illiterate' and asked if this meant white middle-class people didn't count any more.

It was by any standards an enormous gaffe which no amount of backtracking can alter but it told us a lot about Davies, the present BBC mind-set and New Labour. The Cambridge-educated economist is not only close to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown but he is fabulously rich from his years at Goldman Sachs; estimates of his worth vary between pound50 million to pound150 million, and if anything is disproportionate it's that for what he actually did in the City but that's the City for you.

On a personal level his remarks indicate that he merely feels guilty about his money, a familiar enough phenomenon among rich socialists. It also indicates the Left's hatred of the middle-class as a general grouping-- they loathe the lower middle-class, the Pooters, even more - for standing in the way of revolution in this country. Davies is no revolutionary, of course, but I daresay these visceral instincts are still in his sub-conscious, however successful he's been in life.

After John Birt arrived at the BBC it became clear that hardly anyone running the organisation understood the point of it any more. Greg Dyke, the `hideously white' Labour-supporting director general, does not. Davies pays lip-service to it but he really can't get it. It was, as we know, created by Lord Reith to `inform, educate and entertain'. In return for a compulsory tax listeners and, later, viewers were to be provided with high-quality programmes, both popular and highbrow, that gave them the incentive to fulfil Reith's remit. …

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