Christa Ackroyd: "The BBC can be its own worst enemy - but Strictly Come Dancing and local radio remind us of the joy it can bring"

Winter is upon us ... what are we to do? Yes, I know we have already had more than a shovel full of snow. In fact a week or so ago we were snowed in, living as we do down the hill where the gritters don’t venture. But one thing, and one thing alone, brings me to the conclusion that dark days are upon us, Winter is here and it will seem a long time until spring.

Strictly is over, or it will be tonight. And as usual I am feeling bereft before it’s even finished. I know it’s only a TV programme but it’s also like a good book that you dread coming to an end because it has made you cry, or made you happy, has transported you to other places and made you fall in love, or not, as the case may be, with it’s key players. That’s Strictly for me. Every year as Autumn turns to winter I avoid invitations to go out on a Saturday night. And woe betide anyone who tells me who went before I see it for myself.

Every week when it is on our televisions my pal and I critique each offering in real time via text as though we are some latter day Ginger Rogers. We love the music, we love the dances, we love the sparkle and the colour even though neither of us are sparkly people. Because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. We love Hallowe’en and Musicals Week the best, although Blackpool takes some beating. Well actually we love each and every week. We start by not knowing who half the contestants are and end up cheering them on like friends. We don’t have to engage our brains. We just have to watch with our eyes. And what a feast it is, so much so that with the best dances I can watch them over and over again. And no it is not a sign of growing old. It is a sign that simple pleasures, feel good telly can do just that.. make you feel good.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Strictly Come Dancing, to give it its full title, is the best reality show in town. Throughout the year I care not which celebrities or wannabes are stuck on an island, have married at first sight or are chewing or drinking unimaginable morsels or fighting with the elements down under. Strictly is my winter sunshine. And tonight it will be over.

BBC handout photo of Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell (left) with Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe (right) during the results show of BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing.BBC handout photo of Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell (left) with Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe (right) during the results show of BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing.
BBC handout photo of Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell (left) with Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe (right) during the results show of BBC1's Strictly Come Dancing.

Who do you want to win? Difficult isn’t it? Ellie (Leach) has been a revaluation, Layton (Williams) is incredible and for those who still say two men shouldn’t dance together, well you didn’t say that about Gene Kelley, Fred Astaire or Donald O’Conner did you ? But almost from week one Bobby (Brazier) has been my favourite. That sweet boy who lost his mum, Jade Goody, when he was four years old, a woman whose passing changed the way we view cervical cancer and died in her 20s, has made me smile every time he set foot on the dance floor. Boy would he have made his mummy proud. As for Annabelle (Croft), dancing with Johannes in the very same year she lost her husband suddenly and almost without warning, the gift of finding a way to live again has been life affirming.

Of course you may not have watched one single episode of Strictly so you have no idea what I am talking about. It may not be your bag. Each to their own. But, and here’s the rub, Strictly Come Dancing alone makes the BBC licence fee worth every penny for me. And there is so much more besides. Yes, I know the BBC can sometimes be their own worse enemy. They tie themselves up in knots trying to protect themselves and the licence fee when they have absolutely no need to. if they make a mistake, and yes they make mistakes, they all too often take too long to unravel and admit the truth. Take the unseemly events of the past week when a judge has demanded they release the emails regarding the investigation into Martin Bashir’s ill gotten Panorama Princess Diana interview leaving the man who exposed the methods Bashir used to persuade the Princess to talk to refer to this latest debacle as a ‘cover up of the cover up’. In turn this led to a judge describing the BBC as ‘inconsistent, erroneous and unreliable’ in the way they had responded to the Freedom of Information Act requests to release material detailing how they handled the scandal. And I totally agree with Diana’s brother Earl Spencer when he says using expensive lawyers to try to prevent the release of such material at a time when the BBC, ‘this great national and international institution, is making cuts is … obscene.’ And yet like Earl Spencer I too, despite having had my own well publicised run in with them that took a decade to resolve, remain a great supporter of the BBC and its public service broadcasting remit.

The BBC licence fee is going up. And it is entirely the BBC’s own fault if some people think it should be scrapped altogether. Pound for pound, penny for penny it is incredible value for money. Providing they learn by their mistakes and admit that yes sometimes they make them instead of forever resorting to secretive internal navel gazing. That’s all they need to do. And put things right where they can It will be going up to £169.50 a year, that’s less than 50 pence a day. And considering what we are asked to spend on the alternatives that’s a bargain. If I am honest I spend more than two thirds of that each month on my other various TV subscriptions. I know that’s my choice, but I also say that even given the choice I would still support the BBC. So BBC instead of spending your time and energy sweating about whether the licence fee is going to end or isn’t enough, concentrate on promoting what we get for our money. And that’s not just Strictly. We get radio which I listen to every day whether it is live broadcasting from major events to music or sport. (They have made a huge mistake slashing local services which in the scheme of things cost little but add much. In the end I predict they will reverse their decision) We get dramas like Happy Valley. We get reports from the dangerous hotspots the world over where it is not safe to be but where reporters and crew risk life and limb to tell us what is happening, a world away from the state funded television of some countries which act as a mouthpiece for political gain. We get impressive coverage of major events such as this year’s Coronation beautifully researched and immaculately presented. The world would be a poorer place without the BBC. As for Strictly, tonight I am lucky enough to be able to settle down in front of a warm fire, switch off from the outside world and enjoy a programme that must have cost millions to produce and has cost me less than the price of a bag of popcorn. If I, as someone who has had run ins with the BBC like Earl Spencer, believe in the BBC please BBC believe in yourselves. Like the shampoo you really are worth it. Stop playing the crisis management or public relations game or acting like headless chickens when things go wrong and simply get back to showing us just what we would miss if you were gone. Your future lies in your hands. Only you can ruin it.