I’m sick of paying for a ‘woken up’ BBC, writes former broadcaster JAN LEEMING


When I presented the news on BBC1 in the 1980s, I firmly believed that Beeb was the world’s best broadcast media and the channel of choice for quality.

It had a force deep in its entire range of content – from my own bailiwick of news and current affairs to theater, comedy, entertainment and sport.

It was (almost) a pleasure to pay the annual fee back then. Today, however, paying these fees annoys me as soon as possible.

Jan Leeming pictured presenting BBC news in the 1980s

Why should I be perplexed, given society’s never-ending diet of rehearsals, soaps, cooking programs, and cheap “documentaries” to make and steal off the wall? (And before anyone jumps on it, yes, I did ITV’s ‘I’m A Celebrity .. Get Me Out Of Here!’ Openly admitting that I did it for the fees in order to increase my pathetic pension .)

On top of that, there’s the disastrous decision to dispense with Rule’s lyrics, Britannia! and Land of Hope and Glory on the last night of the balls this year. Why is the BBC so enslaved to the awakened minority while ignoring the wishes of so many of its regulars like me? Have we suddenly become snowflakes?

The short answer is no, of course. We’re not all offended at the first mention of Patriotism or Empire, which the corporation implies with its changes to the Proms. As Andrew Neil tweeted: “If Britannia hadn’t ruled the waves, there never would have been a Royal Navy strong enough to abolish the slave trade.

And if the BBC is so determined to cut down and recycle its production in an odds race, why can’t it at least repeat its best shows?

I could watch David Attenborough Forever, for example. As well as so many classic comedy series from yesteryear.

But many of them are now seen as politically incorrect.

Take It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. My father loved it even though my family is Anglo-Indian not very far from our ancestry. My great-great-grandparents were mixed race from Madras, but that didn’t stop me laughing like a drain from episode after episode. Likewise, many Germans apparently liked “Allo” Allo!

What concerns me is how we’re all infantilized, treated like we can’t deal with anything someone might find offensive.

On top of that, there's the disastrous decision to dispense with Rule's lyrics, Britannia!  and Land of hope and glory on the last night of the balls this year

On top of that, there’s the disastrous decision to dispense with Rule’s lyrics, Britannia! and Land of hope and glory on the last night of the balls this year

Does the viewer surely feel that a program is going too far by indulging in stereotypes or condescending minorities? Treating people like children by disinfecting everything, suppressing debate and “without a platform” is extremely damaging.

But I also despair of other problems.

Given my background in current affairs, I am often asked my opinion on BBC Television news programs. Frankly, I prefer to hear from Classic FM these days.

On the radio, at least, you get the bald facts without endless expert opinions. Do those experts who so confidently predict future events really have a crystal ball?

Meanwhile, the settings in which BBC TV presenters and their guests enjoy their interactions are starting to resemble the cockpit of the Starship Enterprise. Is the news best delivered from an extremely expensive package?

And there are so many! In the age of continuous 24-hour coverage of the day’s events, I find the constant repetition of, largely bad, news very depressing.

It’s for all the reasons I’ve outlined – and I haven’t even taken on the challenge faced by behemoths like Netflix and Amazon – that I think the BBC is at its lowest memory level of. man.

This is why he could not have chosen a worse time to end the policy of free TV licenses for 3.7million over 75s and to spend £ 100million in an extremely aggressive campaign to force these retirees, many of whom are poor and some with television as their only business, to pay. Last year a private contractor called Capita received £ 59.9million from TV Licensing to collect the fees and it wasn’t until the other day that it emerged that he was now being paid £ 38million. extra pounds, allowing it to hire 800 new employees to send letters to retirees. and hunt down those who do not pay.

Capita was widely criticized in 2017 for using aggressive door-to-door tactics. Naming what is effectively a debt collection agency to bully retirees at such a high cost is a massive BBC misstep and one which I fear will only further alienate its audience.

Wouldn’t it be a compromise to use that money to offer half-price licenses to over 75s or to provide free licenses to over 80s? The £ 100million contract with the BBC would pay for 635,000 licenses for the elderly.

Last week I let my outrage take over by taking to Twitter to post the following: ‘Ouch – just shelled out £ 157.50 for a TV license while watching very little terrestrial TV – will not bother next year ”.

At the time, I didn’t realize it was a tax on TV in general, not just the BBC, which seems a little unfair to say the least. So – infuriatingly – I’ll be forced to pay the license fee next year because I really don’t want to be taken to jail.

I was encouraged, however, to see the courage shown by some of the indignant alumni struck by the BBC’s withdrawal from free licenses.

The Silver Voices lobby group is campaigning against the movement. He says he is not advocating non-payment of over 75s, but urges all over 60s to ‘erase’ and disrupt the BBC’s payment system, canceling direct debits and paying monthly by check or money order instead.

He even mischievously suggested writing checks in Cornish or Gaelic, “forgetting” to date or sign the checks and write checks for amounts slightly greater or less than the correct amount. This is not a bad idea – I might think about it myself in the future!

Oddly enough, I paid my last license fees by check, not as a gesture of revolt but because I don’t want to give out details that can be hijacked by scammers. I have already had to change my two cards several times this year after being alerted to suspicious activity by my admirably scrupulous credit and debit card issuers.

I have also lost count of the number of threatening emails I have received asking me to pay for my license. I grouped them together knowing I was up to date with payments, but there are probably a large number of frightened seniors who have been frightened by such threats.

Many, however, are made of more severe things. I was impressed by reading a battalion of formidable female refuseniks in the Mail earlier this month.

Grandmother Ivy Siegfried, 82, of Greenock, said: “The BBC targets older people because they know they will be afraid.

It was (almost) a pleasure to pay the annual fee back then.  Today, however, paying these fees annoys me as soon as possible

It was (almost) a pleasure to pay the annual fee back then. Today, however, paying these fees annoys me as soon as possible

“Many retirees will feel threatened by the prospect of someone coming to their door for money and the BBC knows they will pay.

“Well, I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid to go to court or jail if I have to and I have quite a few friends who feel the same way, they are with me on this.

“If I go to jail, I’ll have three meals a day and free television anyway!” The BBC should stop paying the big salaries of Gary Lineker and his football buddies, instead of going for us.

“They have to start listening. If we all take a stand, there’s no way they can sue everyone, they can’t take us all.

Ivy Siegfried and all of the other valiant warriors who take a stand on behalf of aging viewers deserve our admiration.

As for the BBC, if someone like me – who only has their best interests at heart – feels so disenchanted with their production and behavior, they should be very worried. Because imagine what must feel millions of other viewers, much less sympathetic towards the company.


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