'It wasn't me, guv': shifty BBC crew give the looter's excuse
Time to end the licence fee while BBC still has a brand to sell and before a possible public boycott takes hold
"A SHOWER. What an absolute shower." Sadly, Terry Thomas is no longer around to do justice to the panel of evasive, shifty and generally useless BBC executives and Trust members up in front of the Public Accounts Committee on Monday afternoon to explain the extraordinary redundancy payments to BBC executives that have so annoyed the public.
The sums involved are astonishing. Mark Byford, for instance, the former deputy director general, received £1,022,000 when it became clear that he performed no useful purpose - in addition, of course, to a pension of £215,000 a year for life, index-linked.
If you are someone on the average annual salary of £25,000 per year which you make, say, from managing a moderately successful whelk stall, it would take you 40 years of hard work to accumulate a similar sum.
Margaret Hodge, the committee chair, was on magnificent form, dripping outrage, incredulity and sarcasm throughout. Her reference to the "assumed integrity" of those giving evidence was particularly wounding.
As La Hodge and various lesser MPs asked repeatedly why the pay-offs had been so big and how come nobody’s story appeared to tally, the BBC mob gave their defences one by one. Pretty much the same line whether it was Lord Patten, Mark Thompson or the ferret-like bloke with a five o’clock shadow whose role on the BBC Trust wasn’t entirely clear, even to himself.
In every case it amounted to a contorted and wordy "It wasn't me, guv" – the standard looter's excuse. Some of them may just have been telling the truth but none of them looked as if the concept of truth played a great part in their lives.
In a tough field it was Mark Thompson, the former director general, who took the Marie Antoinette Prize for boneheaded arrogance. The million quid they bunged Byford was, in his words, "value for money".
There is much talk of re-organising the "governance" of the BBC. But it seems broken beyond repair. The unnecessarily generous pay-offs are simply the latest episode in a series of scandals.
The most damaging of all, the Jimmy Savile affair and its satellites, still rumble on. Turning an institutionalised blind eye to sexual abuse (looks like it to me although again it depends on who said what to whom and when) was bad enough but to try to deflect attention away by then falsely accusing a senior Tory of the same thing showed a deeply damaged DNA.
In essence, it is an organisation that has become corrupted by easy money, funded by a 'poll tax' of £145.50 per year that everyone who owns a television is obliged to pay. This underlies both its financial irresponsibility and its contempt for ordinary decent public opinion.
The BBC does not hesitate to use the criminal law to fund its extravagances. In the last year, more than 180,000 people have appeared before magistrates, accused of watching television without a valid licence. They make up around 12 per cent of the cases appearing in such courts.
The poor who can least afford a TV licence come off worst, with nearly 40 per cent of prosecutions hitting those in the lowest socio-economic classes. Women, particularly single mothers are also disproportionately represented. This is neither fair nor sustainable and our courts have better things to do with their time.
It’s time to end the licence fee while the BBC still has a brand to sell and before a possible public boycott takes hold. It should become, like other broadcasters, a subscription channel. This is extraordinarily easy in the digital age.
If you want to watch its world-class news coverage and second-to-none entertainment programmes - you pay up and a gizmo unscrambles the BBC's coded signals. If you think that most BBC news and drama is tiresome diversity-obsessed propaganda - you don't pay and you’re free to spend the £145.50 on something else. Simples. ·