It’s breaking today that amongst the top-brass of the BBC facing the Axe in the ‘radical’ shake up of management is the BBC’s Creative Director Alan Yentob.
I can’t honestly say I’m upset to hear Alan Yentob will be leaving his lucrative management position: with a professional career based almost entirely at the BBC at taxpayers expense, the ‘creative director’ position always sounded like another job for the boys. Right from the first announcement I’ve always been unable to square where he has added value to the output of the BBC, and why the BBC needed a creative director in the first place when the purpose of the role was duplicated at so many points closer to each individual broadcast outlet.
If the role was supposed to cement the position of creative arts (from programme production to commentary) then he’s failed miserably as arts in general at the BBC, and more specifically commentary of arts, is a shambolic mess. Yentob has failed miserably to deliver authoritative arts commentary across all of the BBC, with the likes of BBC4 being almost entirely ignored. That’s without discussing the recent appointment of the insufferable Will Gompertz who’s mere appearance on the television is enough to send me running shrieking from the room, a topic I’m no doubt going to revisit at some point in the not too distant future. It would appear that there’s going to be a substantial payout to cushion the blow, not to mention a pension pot of over £1m, further aggravating the impression that Yentob is a man paid well beyond the range of his talent.
Even more upsetting than that however is the news that his arts program imagine is likely to stay. This is upsetting for many reasons, not least because it has always been a poor shadow of The South Bank Show, but because it was given a prime BBC 1 slot, which week after week missed it’s core audience by both over-indulging (a turnoff for the casual viewer), under-informing (a turnoff for those really interested in the field) and self-aggrandising (which frankly irritates everyone).
Of course it would be unfair to neglect to say that there have been truly superb individual episodes: his portraits of Gilbert & George and Richard Rogers were particular highlights, but so often imagine fails to deliver, rambling aimlessly through a topic before ultimately disappearing up it’s own arse. Of particular irksomeness are the overly long-shots of Yentob himself rather than the subject of the film, or the apparent chumminess of Yentob with many of the subjects; rather than being a passive channel through which the narrative can be delivered he’s all too often in the middle of the action; which at times leads to an uncomfortable feeling that you’re eavesdropping on a private conversation rather than being invited in to listen and learn. Alan Yentob for me a figurehead of all that’s wrong with the BBC: which when it’s good, is truly world-class, (and let’s be frank it bloody should be for what we pay for it), but when it all-too-frequently gets it wrong it’s awful, biased, insufferable, self-indulgent, self-serving, self-congratulatory claptrap.