Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Britain's Got Overpriced Talent

Nobody can have a problem with Wossy getting wedged six mill pa: the boy's got talent. The problem is WTF should taxpayers be forced to fund it?

Yesterday's whitewash report from the BBC Trust reckons the BBC is not paying through the nose for Ross, Norton, and Paxman. It reckons it's not distorting the so-called talent market with its huge tax funded cheque book, and it produces 150 pages of consultant report to prove it (cost to taxpayers £165 grand).

The report is far too tedious to read - especially since the interesting bits have been censored - but it's always worth riffling through the charts and tables. And here's the chart that sums up what all these talent bidding wars and all the hundreds of millions are actually about (the total bill for "talent" is put at £0.75 billion pa). Here is how the BBC sees the "key talent battles" of the last five years (click on chart to enlarge):

So... 2005... Norton moves to BBC... yes... yes... Parkinson goes to ITV... yes... hmmm... Trisha Goddard leaves ITV for C5... eh?... er... Daisy McAndrew leaves BBC for ITV?!... Natasha Kerplunski??? Fiona Bruce to front Antiques Roadshow??!? SFW? And who on earth is Ruth Watson? Why should anyone care that she's moved from C4 to C5?

WTFFFF is going on?

As everyone has been pointing out, what's entirely missing from this report is any analysis of why a so-called public service broadcaster should be engaged in these "celebrity" bidding wars in the first place. If people want to pay to watch these "stars", fine, let them pay. But why should the taxpayer pick up the bill?

Here's what the report says:

"Within a general remit to inform, educate and entertain, the BBC remit focuses on delivering public value through its core purposes (increasing understanding of the world around us, reflecting different cultures of the UK etc). Public value is itself a function of four factors – reach, quality/diversity, impact and value for money/cost (the RQIV framework). Impact is defined as both the provision of consumer value and citizen value, the latter being created by the core public service purposes."

Translation: we need to pull big audiences or people will ask why they're being forced to pay the telly tax? We need to outgun all those commercial channels in lowest common multiple telly or we're stuffed.

Here's another interesting chart from the report, showing the socio-economic audience profile for all the main TV channels (click on chart to enlarge):

So, the BBC can look down not just on ITV but also C4, because even BBC1 has a superior audience. It's not only bigger, but it has a higher proportion of ABC1s. Eyeballing the chart, we can see that the audience for both BBC1 and BBC2 includes about 45% ABC1s.

Pretty good, eh? If it attracts that many middle class viewers, it must in some sense be doing an upmarket public service Reithian type job.

Well, yes. Except for one small point not mentioned in the report - the proportion of ABC1s in the population as a whole is around 55%. In other words, the BBC's audience - just like the audience for telly generally - is now heavily concentrated among the... ugh... the Lower Orders. Dumbed down telly for a dumbed down audience.

It's all great news for Wossy and Norton, but no way is this an appropriate use of taxpayers' money.

As for Paxo, it's ludicrous for us to pay him a mill a year. ITV might conceivably pay up for El Tel Wogan, but nobody else would give Paxman a mill.

PS As mentioned, most of the really interesting bits in this report have been censored (or "redacted" as the BBC puts it). That is indefensible. This is our money they're splashing around, and when they're paying people millions, we have a right to know.

PPS The BBC Trust has also just reported on the BBC's internet service. It found that the service has cost far more than the maximum the BBC were permitted to spend on it (£110m vs a £81m limit). Worse, BBC management had no idea this was the case until the external report uncovered the truth. The Trustees say "this lack of financial accountability is not acceptable". We say OK, fire somebody. (HTP Liam H)

PPPS For reasons we needn't go into, over the weekend we actually watched the final of Britain's Got Talent, Piers Morgan, Ant and Dec, and all. I have to say it was strangely compulsive, although I was disappointed the judges didn't slag off the contestants as I'd been led to believe they would (Mrs T said they don't do the slagging in the final). There was a dog dancing act, a Sikh dancing act, and a wet T-shirt classy bird act (albeit without the wet T-shirts). It all put me in mind of a variety show I attended many years ago with Doc Crippen. That was headlined by the seat-wettingly hysterical Tommy Cooper, but it also included a stack of bizarre novelty acts, including a couple on roller skates, who span around at life-threatening speed while the girl attempted to play Sabre Dance on a xylophone mounted on the man's back. Now, that's what I call entertainment. Oh, and Britain's Got Talent is on ITV, so we could have watched absolutely free if it wasn't for the telly tax.

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