The Battle for the BBC: the celebrity form letter and other Greek gifts
Media loves little more than talking about media. No surprise, then, that a letter in praise of the BBC signed by such entertainment bigwigs as JK Rowling and Chris Evans should ride high on the news cycle. But what did the Press make of it?
JK Rowling and Chris Evans have joined a host of A-list names to have signed an open letter to the prime minister calling on him to protect the BBC from cuts to its service
If your names on the list, you’re in. Imagine the upset as celebs not on the BBC register realise they rank below Adil Ray, Mark Rylance and Reggie Yates.
The full text of the letter:
The battle for the BBC
Dear prime minister,
We have seen that the government has pledged to modernise the licence fee, return funding that had been diverted to pay for broadband roll-out, and increase the licence fee in line with inflation in return for the BBC taking on the costs of licence fees for the over-75s.
The government and the BBC are now entering the charter review. We are writing to place on record at the very start of the process our concern that nothing should be done to diminish the BBC or turn it into a narrowly focused market-failure broadcaster.
In our view, a diminished BBC would simply mean a diminished Britain.
The BBC is a very precious institution. Like all organisations, it has its faults but it is overwhelmingly a creative force for good.
Britain’s creative economy is growing and enjoying unprecedented success. The BBC is at the heart of this as the global showcase for our creative industries. The BBC is trusted and loved at home by British audiences and is the envy of the world abroad.
During the course of the charter, we will continue to make the case for a strong BBC at the centre of British life and will be vocal in making the case for the BBC as it approaches its centenary.
Over in the Times, the story is how so many names got together to write a letter:
BBC organised celebrities’ protest letter
Well, of course someone must have. Sat in the BBC canteen, one of them must have kickstarted the project and drafted the thing. Given the lack of wow!, fist bumps and seagull droppings we’d says the root was either Schama or Adil Ray*, the latter chiefly because we don’t know who they are and they could only benefit from the exposure.
The Times says that’s wrong.
The letter was presented as an independent protest against plans to reform the BBC, but The Times can reveal that executives at the highest level helped to co-ordinate it while the corporation officially denied all knowledge.
Annie Nightingale, BBC Radio 1’s longest-serving presenter and one of the letter’s 29 signatories, said she had been invited to be a signatory by Ben Cooper, the controller of Radio 1. She had not seen the text of the letter before its publication.
And then this:
Mr Cohen is friends with two Hollywood stars who signed the letter, Daniel Craig and his wife, the actress Rachel Weisz. They attended his 2012 wedding, where Weisz was a bridesmaid. Neither the actors nor the BBC would comment on whether Mr Cohen had helped to persuade the couple to sign.
Is that a big deal? And, in any case, when Hollywood stars tell the unwashed how great the BBC is, does anyone listen? Yeah, weak politicians do, the ones who view the arts as mirrors to their own sensitive souls, shiny things to pick up and drop when an easy photo opportunity is needed.
But better than reading the grandstanding talent and listening for the politicos reactions are the readers comments papers chose to feature. The Guardian, which is pretty much the BBC’s in-house news sheet, heads its readers’ letters page:
Friends of the BBC will oppose the government’s vicious attacks
Tories, and their friends among the circling vultures of the commercial sector, assume that in doing popular programmes the BBC has been muscling in on natural commercial territory. But they are getting their history back-to-front. The BBC got there first – by several decades. It would be more accurate to say that commercial broadcasters have been muscling in on the BBC’s natural territory. Perhaps the government needs an expert panel to investigate whether they should be scaled back?
Professor David Hendy
University of Sussex
Compare and contrast that to the top reader comment in the Times, the paper owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Sky TV:
What a sad reflection on the Beeb! They try to play dirty by organising their grubby little letter, then lack the testicular fortitude to admit their involvement.
The FOI request will get nowhere – emails inexplicably deleted, so sorry.
All the luvvie rats trying to save the ship how quaint, a few will go to the bottom. I must admit though the list of people who signed are actually talented there are some exceptions but not many..
I have a sickening feeling that the BBC problem will turn into another Greece. We all know it is wrong, however it will drag it on and on until the public get taken again.
* Ray created Citizen Khan, the dire – and I mean turd-stinking bad – BBC sitcom.