Dyke's BBC has rarely been so powerful, but friend and foe alike say it has lost its public service purpose. The governors must actby David Lipsey / December 20, 2002 / Leave a comment
Published in December 2002 issue of Prospect Magazine
Panorama,” says Richard Lindley in his history of the programme, “must do more than kick the door down or collar a villain. It has to explain not just what’s going on but why; and then look at what to do about it.” I wonder what Lindley would have made of its recent programme on corruption in horseracing.
This was so gripping that it was easy to overlook the fact that the allegations it paraded were stale and largely supported by the testimony of the shady and disaffected. Indeed, had it not been for a tape of the head of Jockey Club security holding forth over a liquid lunch with his predecessor, Panorama would not have had a film. And would the old Panorama not have had qualms about secretly filming a man who was accused of nothing worse than being a bit of a twit?
There was no explanation or remedy. Apart from making a few million people think twice before they next backed a nag, the programme was a Chinese meal, tasty but hardly satisfying. Since that does not distinguish it from much of what is found on television, it may not be a bar to winning a clutch of prizes. It may not even put off the audience. But has it performed a public service? Or, at least, has it performed the sort of public service that should be the raison d’etre of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme?
This is not another lament for the golden age of the BBC. Watching old programmes you can see that today’s filming, transformed by new technology and the taming of the broadcasting unions, is slicker and more engaging. The pace is faster. The stars are starrier. In some fields, sport conspicuously, the new broadcasting leaves the old broadcasting standing.