Competition

Lines on the Beeb

31 May 2014

9:00 AM

31 May 2014

9:00 AM

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
   absurd;
We had talks and foreign music on the high-
   falutin’ Third;
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
   Birtist blight?
A micro-managed omnishambles, scorned by
   left and right,
Whose populist agenda — keep it simple, safe
   and light —
Is eating umpteen million licence fees.
Basil Ransome-Davies
   
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.
D.A. Prince
   
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
   afternoon
And, even worse, tonight’s TV, unless I finish soon.
I’m keen to laud the BBC and render praise in
   rhyme
But not to forfeit listening hours or precious
   viewing time;
I need to follow Eggheads, watch whatever
   follows on,
Then catch up on EastEnders (not the same
   with Lucy gone).
Of global fame and world renown, the matchless
   BBC
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
   life worthwhile.
What other service meets the mark with
   programmes guaranteed
To entertain, inform, delight and answer every
   need?
There’s more to praise but, having toiled beyond
   the watershed,
It’s almost time for Newsnight now. Take further
   praise as read!
Alan Millard
   
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.
Adrian Fry
   
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.
Katie Mallett

 

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 lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 11 June.

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