In Competition No. 2849 you were invited to submit a poem in praise or dispraise of the BBC. The entry felt a bit flat this week and you seemed to be lacking in any real conviction either way. Roger Theobald’s opening lines pretty much reflected the general mood: ‘To praise or dispraise: well, if that’s the question,/ The record is too mixed to be quite sure.’ An honourable mention goes to Jerome Betts for his pithy four-liner. Basil Ransome-Davies romps home with the extra fiver and the rest pocket £30 each.
I always treasured Auntie. She was such
a damn good sport.
Thanks to BBC steam wireless I was
entertained and taught.
She had lofty Reithian standards and she
never sold them short,
But Auntie isn’t quite herself these days.
We had ITMA kicking Hitler with a touch of the
We had talks and foreign music on the high-
The Home Service kept us civil. Public service
was the word.
Don’t Aunties love to cling to settled ways?
Then the market, brute and powerful, came
along with shark-sharp teeth.
It was build the corporate profile now, forget
the dreams of Reith.
You want to mourn the Beeb that was? Just
leave a funeral wreath
(Forgetting Jimmy Savile, if you please).
What’s left after the scandals, the largesse, the
A micro-managed omnishambles, scorned by
left and right,
Whose populist agenda — keep it simple, safe
and light —
Is eating umpteen million licence fees.
When I have fears that it might cease to be,
Culled by some spineless vengeful government
Whose plot to sabotage the licence fee
Turns on the argument of how it’s spent;
When I fear ‘public service’ thrown away,
Sold to the dodgiest bidder with a taste
For game shows, adverts, chatter, everyday
Endless banality, good gone to waste;
That’s when I cling to Rev and Radio 3,
Today, the shipping forecast, In Our Time,
Programmes in depth on art and history,
Even the drenching gloom of Scandi-crime,
And trust for all its faults the BBC
Can hang on and see out the century.
These tribute lines are hard to write. The reason
— simply this:
That while my thoughts are thus engaged I’m
rueing all I’ll miss,
There’s Radio 4 and Woman’s Hour, the Play this
And, even worse, tonight’s TV, unless I finish soon.
I’m keen to laud the BBC and render praise in
But not to forfeit listening hours or precious
I need to follow Eggheads, watch whatever
Then catch up on EastEnders (not the same
with Lucy gone).
Of global fame and world renown, the matchless
Has, from the days of Mrs Dale, meant all the
world to me,
The shipping forecast bids me sleep and wakes
me with a smile
And all that’s broadcast in between makes living
What other service meets the mark with
To entertain, inform, delight and answer every
There’s more to praise but, having toiled beyond
It’s almost time for Newsnight now. Take further
praise as read!
Paedophile scandals execs try to shake off,
Vacuous programmes like Strictly and Bake-Off,
Wittering airheads on Radio Three —
I say let’s close down the whole BBC.
Cokeheads from Hoxton, their salaries hefty,
Greenlighting comics as long as they’re Lefty.
Chaps in Compliance reacting with glee —
I say we wind up the damned BBC.
Camp antique dealers and chefs sporting dickies,
Stripped across daytime to occupy thickies.
In primetime, car chases from CCTV —
I say let’s put down the poor BBC.
News that’s now ninety per cent speculation,
Severance schemes that are pure peculation,
Digital channels no one wants to see —
Stop it all, gentlemen; make me DG.
Poor Auntie’s reputation
Is trampled in the dirt,
With media accusations
Of hiding shame and hurt
And paying tons of money
To those who did the least,
In fact she looks as tawdry
As a pier-end show artiste.
But still she educates us
In science and the arts,
With drama and true stories
She’ll move our minds and hearts,
So no matter what has happened
Within the BBC
Of all the world’s broadcasters
She’s still the one for me.
No. 2852: unlikely champion
You are invited to step into the shoes of a well-known writer of your choice, living or dead, and submit a poem or piece of prose in praise or defence of something you would not expect them to champion. Please email entries (wherever possible) of up to 150 words or 16 lines to firstname.lastname@example.org by midday on 11 June.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free