(Bernie : cha-ching!)
“I do not share the popular outrage at the mere fact that Jonathan Ross earns £6m a year from broadcasting: if there is a big market for his particular brand of harmless vulgarity then he is welcome to reap the financial benefits,” conceeds the Independent’s Dominic Lawson. “What I can’t divine is what public interest is served by having his endless double entendres broadcast on the BBC rather than on any other networks. Why is it appropriate that his £18m three year contract is funded by us rather than by advertisers?” Lawson is similarly outraged over the UK license payers footing the bill for another glittering BBC acquisition.
“I’m absolutely flabbergasted “ I was lying in bed listening to the news this morning and I almost fell out of bed when I heard it.” That was Murray Walker, the motormouth ex-Formula One commentator, talking to the BBC about the moment yesterday morning when the Corporation triumphantly announced that it had won back from ITV the broadcasting rights to one of the world’s most boring sports.
I “almost fell out of bed” too when I heard the news “ but only because I couldn’t quite believe that the BBC would include such a naked piece of self-promotion as a leading item within the main national news bulletin.
Possibly some people at Broadcasting House thought that listeners would be thrilled to start the day in the knowledge that a portion of their licence fee would now be heading for Mr Bernie Ecclestone’s already prodigiously endowed bank account “ in return for interminable broadcast hours of indistinguishable cars driving round and round in circles. They must also think that we especially like the infernal din this makes, because a BBC spokesman specifically included radio as one of the “media platforms” through which “fans will be able to enjoy uninterrupted, state-of-the-art and innovative coverage from BBC Sport”.
Perhaps it might have occurred to someone at the over-excited BBC that many more listeners do not really care which particular terrestrial channel has the rights to broadcast the vroom vrooms “ and that some of us, indeed, might actively resent the idea that we will now be paying for it out of our licence fee. Since the moral justification for this peculiar and archaic form of poll-tax is expressed purely in terms of the public interest, we might reasonably ask how the public interest is served by the BBC outbidding another domestic broadcaster to show something which is already available to every television owner in the country.