Why I Should Be The Next Director General Of The BBC

Frank throws his hat into the ring…

Having let the Archbishopric of Canterbury slip through my fingers, I am not going to make the same mistake with the other big job now unexpectedly on offer. George Entwistle’s resignation after just fifty-four days at the helm means the post of BBC Director General is vacant. As Leonard Cohen put it, “I’m your man”.

The present BBC is a huge and bloated organisation, preposterously so when we consider what it does. The clue is in the name: British Broadcasting Corporation. It broadcasts programmes on the telly and the radio. That’s all. So let us gain some perspective. It is not governing a country or fighting a war or sending a mission to Mars. (Someone on the Today programme the other day did refer to the imminent “Star Trek world of the 2020s”, but that is a topic for another time.)

I have no idea what all those hopeless hapless BBC-lifer nonentities in the seemingly numberless tiers of management actually do, and nor, I suspect, in their heart of hearts, do they. I would immediately dispense with the lot of them. Do you know how ResonanceFM is run? There is a benevolent dictator, assisted by one person who knows how all the technical gubbins works and one person who makes sure they have enough programmes to fill the schedule. And that’s it. The BBC could easily be run on the same lines, perhaps doubling up on the numbers of assistants to reflect that there is a TV arm as well as a radio one.

Now let us look in more detail at each of those.

Television. I don’t know if you have read a tabloid newspaper recently. I have, and I can tell you that a terrifying percentage of the content is related directly to television. If you removed the TV-related stuff from the average tabloid you would be left with a few flimsy pages. I think what this shows is that television has had a lethal and degrading effect on the culture of the masses. Truly we live in an age of pap. So my first instinct would be to shut down the television service entirely. That, however, is probably an impossible dream, even for as dictatorial a Director General as I intend to be. What would be feasible, however, is to scrap all the current programming and show only Key-approved content. Call it elitism, if you will, but I know I know best, and I am sure after a short while everyone else will agree.

Thus, for example, if you had a choice between hour upon hour of Celebrity Antique Cookery Car Jungle Challenge or a season of classic Googie Withers films, which would you prefer? Not that you will be given the choice under my dominion. It will be Googie all the way, every day! And when we have exhausted the Googie canon we will show all of Jacques Rivette’s films, and then Guy Maddin’s, on rotation. There are of course other approved film persons other than Googie and Jacques and Guy, and they will get their slots.

But oi!, I hear you cry, that is cinema, not television. Television is a separate and distinct medium in its own right. To which I reply, maybe so, but there needs to be a moratorium while we bash some sense back into the heads of the masses. After, say, ten years of my limited schedule, it might be possible to reintroduce certain made-for-television programmes, chiefly Scandinavian police dramas and a show dedicated entirely to Dr Alan Statham from Green Wing.

Radio. I mentioned ResonanceFM above, and it seems to me the best thing to do is simply to adjust the current BBC wavelengths so they broadcast Resonance instead. This would do wonders for the nation’s morale. As I would be in charge, there would of course be a channel devoted wholly to Hooting Yard On The Air. There are already hundreds of hours’ worth of me babbling into a microphone available as podcasts, so these could be put on an ever-repeating loop.

I would, however, retain two programmes from the current BBC schedules, the shipping forecast and Farming Today. For the latter, the existing roster of presenters would be ditched (ha ha!) and replaced by some proper peasants.

Other Activities. BBC persons witter on at length about a multi-platform approach. Basically, all this means is making the TV and radio programmes available on computers and laptops and iFaffs and other digital devices. All you need is a computer-literate teenperson to sort that out.

My finest achievement, however, would be to resurrect The Listener. Younger readers may be unaware that, from 1929 to 1991 the BBC published the best weekly periodical I have ever read. It was an intelligent general interest magazine of the kind now absent from our newsagents’ shelves. (Both The Spectator and The New Statesman have a political axe to grind; The Listener didn’t.) As a teenperson, I used to read it every week from cover to cover, and learned more from it than from any other single source. I knew the rot had set in when it was closed down two decades ago, a decision I can still not forgive.

It is clear from the above that I am the best possible Director General the BBC could possibly have. I await “Lord” Patten’s call (assuming he is still in post at the BBC Trust when you read this. If not, I’ll take his job too, and I won’t need ennobling.)

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

6 thoughts on “Why I Should Be The Next Director General Of The BBC

  1. finalcurtain@gmail.com'
    November 16, 2012 at 09:15

    Well Frank, I’m with you on most of that. A life without Petroc Trelawny and Vanessa Feltz will be difficult for a while, but I will be able to ‘move on’ eventually. The main problem you will have when you take up your new post (do you have a suit, by the way?) will be getting your head around the technological overload we are all now living with. Fifty years ago, when The Listener was still flapping on the news-stands, Ben Britten wrote about the holy triangle of composer, performer and listener. And ‘listening’ was recognized as something to be understood and even practiced, in the same way as speech was and is (but for how much longer?). I’ve lost count of the number of couples I have seen over the last few years communicating (perhaps with each other?) at a restaurant table, using a smart-phone or (increasingly) a pad. Sitting down to a meal with another human being used to be an opportunity to eat, hopefully, good food, an enjoyable ambience, and a rewarding conversation on, perhaps, the future of the BBC. Today it seems more like a stopping-off point between one vital moment and another.
    If the listener doesn’t want to listen, and they just want to live on sound-bites and celebrity, where do you start?
    You can hear that the rot has set-in on R3 and increasingly R4 any day of the week. The fruitless battle for audience share that R3 has waged (and lost) by chasing Classic FM’s audience with ‘jocks’ and ‘charts’ has resulted in mass abandonment by an already small audience, who have voted with their feet, and now listen to mostly online US and Euro ‘serious’ programmes that meet their needs. It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that R3 will, quite soon, go the way of The Listener. I never thought I would say it, but today I would say ‘good riddance’.

  2. Gaw
    November 16, 2012 at 09:33

    I hope you’re planning to wear a tie.

  3. finalcurtain@gmail.com'
    November 16, 2012 at 11:26

    Agreed Gaw. The sight of Paxman sans tie recently is a sure sign that ties (or perhaps cravats, Nige?) are about to make a welcome return to public life. I think it is these small details that count, don’t you Frank?

  4. jgslang@gmail.com'
    November 16, 2012 at 12:14

    As a license payer – or so I was informed the other day when I received a threatening missive despite not in fact having permitted a set in my house since 2003 – I trust my voice will not go unheard. Where will you stand on the Interlude, that bedrock of the Corporation’s ‘golden years’ (the recent disturbing, indeed near-shattering allegations in re ‘Uncle Mac’ notwithstanding). Especially this:


    and this:


    Surely, with the newly trimmed down schedules, there should be plenty of opportunities for their triumphant return. A nation, dare I suggest, awaits.

  5. nigeandrew@gmail.com'
    November 16, 2012 at 18:22

    Oh gosh, those films took me back – and talk of the dear old Listener (which closed shortly after dispensing with my services – the Curse of Nige I’m afraid). There might be a small problem with reviving it, Frank, as nearly all its content was related to TV and radio programmes and there won’t really be any under yr eminently sounds plans for the BBC. Even the Googie Withers partwork would only last so long… And yes Mahlerman, you’re surely right about the neckwear revival – the sight of the new man ‘in charge’ arriving at work tieless, shirt barely tucked in, cardboard coffee in hand was another sure sign…

  6. hooting.yard@googlemail.com'
    November 16, 2012 at 18:39

    Mr Slang : I think I will be able to shoehorn the interludes into my revised schedule. Come to think of it, it may be rather a question of shoehorning my schedule into constant repeats of the interludes.

    Nige : The revived Listener will include content based on programmes. We just won’t broadcast (or indeed make) the programmes, forcing the licence payer to read the printed word instead.

    Rest assured I shall be properly attired.

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