Driving back from the airport last night we caught the second half of BBC R4's Any Questions? On the panel were Lords Tebbit and Winston, Amanda Platell, and one John Harris. So fair enough - two lefties and two righties, with exactly the answers you might expect.
But what got our attention as we sat in our rainswept 8.30pm traffic jam on the M25, was the audience. In both their questions and their responses to panel answers, they seemed uniformly, ludicrously, socialist.
For example, poor old Norm got virtually no applause the whole evening (except when he referred to his wife crippled by the IRA). In contrast, Guardian journo Harris could do no wrong: when he told us knife crime was basically down to Thatcher's invention of greed, he was applauded to the rafters*.
Now, we thought, we know this is the BBC, but where's the Major? He's usually somewhere in the audience of Any Questions to redress the balance. Where's the chair of the Neighbourhood Watch? Where's the Village Postmaster? It almost sounded like this audience had been packed.
Our suspicions were further aroused when we realised that most of the questioners seemed to be highly articulate teenagers from "North London comprehensives". They not only asked the questions, but were then given extensive airtime to voice their own opinions on everything from what an evil right-winger David Davis is, to how state schools could be improved if all middle class parents were forced to send their children to North London comprehensives, just like their own dear public spirited parents had done.
Why, you'd almost think these scarily bumptious right-on teens were the children of BBC employees. Surely, that couldn't have happened, could it?
On return, we did some checking. Yup. Sure enough. This turned out to be a rather unusual Any Questions, being broadcast not from a church hall in Dewsbury, but from the BBC Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House. And its audience comprised "people who have applied for tickets direct to the BBC itself". Now, I wonder why they felt it necessary to tell us that?
Naturally, Dimbleby gave no commentary on the composition of the audience, even though he presumably realised. But this sure ain't what the Tylers wish to pay taxes for.
And on that subject, while we were away, the CPS published a pamphlet by Sir Anthony Yes Minister Jay, calling for the tax-funded BBC to be radically downsized to one TV and one radio channel. They would cost less than half of current BBC costs, and would focus on "quality" - all lowest common multiple telly would be left to the commercial market.
Actually, we'd prefer total privatisation, but we think Jay is at least pointing in the right general direction. And we vastly prefer Jay's plan to BBC Director General Mark Thompson's response published this morning. It is the BBC's own view.
So, according to the BBC, if we privatised it - saving ourselves £4bn pa - the following dire consequences would ensue (try not to dribble as your jaw drops more and more open) :
- The Proms would end
- Young Musician of the Year would end
- The Radio 1 Big Weekend and Jools Holland would be no more
- "Musicians in the BBC orchestras could be busking on the street"
- James Corden, Steve Coogan, and Ricky Gervais would be nobodies (er... who's James Corden?)
- Sky would have a monoploy of broadcast news
- Parliament would not be televised (OMG!)
- Agghh... enough special pleading already
Does he believe this stuff? If so, may I respectfully point out
- most of the marvellous items he lists I don't personally want at any price
- the things I do want - like a high quality news channel - I'd rather subscribe to directly
- I don't care if BBC employees have to go busking
Meanwhile, the BBC has spent another £2,788 of our money on a lavish dinner at the Ivy restaurant in the West End, "entertaining its “talent”... just days after its governing body ruled that its top-earning presenters were worth every penny of licence fee payers’ money".
The "talent"? £536 grand pa Jana Bennett - reponsible for stitching up the Queen in the notorious photoshoot edit - Angus Deayton - fired for snorting coke and prostitutes - and "comedian" Jimmy Carr who apparently specialises in unfunny jokes about smelly gypsy women (no, really).
And that's public service broadcasting.
*Footnote: we don't blog about you know what any more, but just to debunk the zero evidence bilge spouted by Harris last night, the following familiar chart shows how the upsurge in violent crime - as exemplified by Homicide - started way before Thatcher: