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.
The first cut is the deepest, or at least that’s how the song goes – clearly the coalition haven’t listened to much Rod Stewart (or if we’re being picky Cat Stevens), because the first cuts made to public spending have been a little shallower than we might have expected. It’s great news of course that schemes to create jobs have been cut (as the reality of those schemes is many of the jobs ended up being public sector), it’s superb, and humanising, news that the Ministerial car pool is being shelved, and even better news that the frankly ludicrous child trust fund has been axed.
But amongst the many cuts announced this week you couldn’t help but feel that this was simply a prelude: the ’emergency’ (in all senses of the word) budget being where the sharpness of the axe really will be felt. I applaud the immediate cuts, but I’m mindful that in many cases these were the easy ones – the government has a really messy job ahead of it, because it isn’t just going to be expected to make cuts: it’s going to be expected to change whole sections of society’s outlook away from it being the Government’s core job to provide employment.
You see, the problem with all Labour governments is that they have all historically mixed up private and public sector, it doesn’t matter which one you’re in, so long as you’re working – except that’s economic nonsense: public sector jobs don’t generate wealth or tax revenue. While this is perfectly acceptable for core essential services (security, defence, health and teaching) it’s totally ludicrous anywhere else. Under New Labour the public sector exploded; whole towns and cities where unemployment was traditionally an issue suddenly found themselves awash with work opportunities – all paid for by the tax payer, and all – ultimately – doomed to be unaffordable.
This is the attitude we’re going to have to change, the coalition is going to have to make people understand that jobs created by government don’t raise tax revenue – they’re subsidised jobs paid for by an ever shrinking group of entrepreneurs and business owners and the people who work for them, the people by and large who have smaller pensions, work longer hours, have less holiday and less job security. There is something horrifically unfair about this – Labour perpetuated that it was all for the ‘fairer’ society – but it failed to do this miserably by creating a society where a huge proportion of the jobs were paid for by mugging Peter to pay Paul.
You can browse the Grauniad or any number of local authority websites to find the dredges of this era of profligacy at the private sector’s expense: Community street football advisors, Gypsy & Traveller Liaison Officer, Biodiversity awareness officers, vast numbers of ‘communications’ and ‘pr’ advisors – the list is as bizarre as it is endless; these non-jobs (as highlighted by the TPA) are a fallacy, and it’s going to take a long time to convince people that this society can do without endless state-sponsored jobs, and even longer to convince people that they can (in many cases) create their own wealth, start their own businesses, and most importantly that you can thrive in the private sector if you’re willing to throw away the unaffordable perks of being paid by the public purse.