A RECENT Ofcom study found that a fifth of viewers find levels of violence, swearing and sex on television to be offensive.
The very next day after these findings were published in the press it was also reported that “the foul-mouthed pensioner (Nan)” character would be returning to BBC One’s Catherine Tate Show next year! It’s bad enough that the BBC is totally out of touch with the sensibilities of its viewers, but it is worse still that plans are in hand to deliberately offend them even further.
The ongoing attitude of the BBC, in the person of the director-general and the BBC Trust – and there’s a misnomer if ever there as one – is an absolute disgrace and all the more so given its position as a public broadcaster financed by the very people it deliberately and knowingly offends.
Quite clearly no one at the Corporation appears to care. There is an inbred assumption that it will always be there as a result of the compulsory largesse of licence-payers, and that therefore they can do whatever they like and broadcast whatever they like and it won’t make any difference.
The home-spun cosy image of “Auntie” has now become an overpowering edifice carved in granite as far as those powers-that-be at the Beeb are concerned. The arrogance that this breeds appears to know no bounds, and the excellent programming (especially on BBC4) that it can produce when it tries is no compensation.
As I was reflecting on all of this, I couldn’t help but draw a comparison with my own situation.
As a priest I am totally supported by the people of my parish – they pay my “salary” and they also pay the bills, the day-to-day costs of running the parish as well as the capital project and maintenance costs that come along from time to time.
However, whatever they choose to donate in the Sunday collection is not compulsory, as the TV licence fee is, and if they so choose they can withhold that support anytime they wish (unlike the licence fee).
In theory I am answerable only to my bishop (though ultimately to God, of course) but I do also work hand-in-hand with the advisory bodies of our Parish Council and of the parish Finance Committee.
If they are ever unhappy with what I am doing they are free to discuss that with me and if the situation continues regardless, they – or any member of the parish for that matter – can write directly to the Bishop.
If the BBC Trust ignores viewers’ complaints and if the director-general does also, there is nowhere else to go – Ofcom usually proves to be toothless and evasive in such matters.
And if I stood up on a Sunday and delivered a sermon peppered with offensive language and crude or sexual references, imagine the reaction of my parishioners. Imagine if I did that every week regardless of people’s reactions and objections.
And imagine also how long I would last in my post if the Bishop got to hear of it.
The BBC does this sort of thing all the time and nothing ever happens. Consequently it (and other broadcasters too) continues to approve programme content which – the survey shows – at least 20 per cent of viewers find offensive, and there is no accountability, no contrition, and never any change for the better.
My raison d’être as a priest, and the purpose of my being appointed to a parish, is to uphold and minister according to the sacramental practices of the Church and to preach and teach the word of God as revealed in scripture.
If I were to abandon any or all of that I would be guilty of heresy and might even find myself excommunicated having effectively removed myself from being ‘in communion’ with Rome anyway.
I’ve never actually checked to see if it’s still there, but writ large in the foyer of Broadcasting House when it opened in 1932 was the BBC’s founding principle, its raison d’être: This Temple of the Arts and Muses is dedicated to Almighty God.
It is (the governors’) prayer that good seed sown may bring forth a good harvest, (and) that all things hostile to peace or purity may be banished from this house…
Clearly those principles have long since been abandoned in favour of a vastly more liberal approach to so-called “entertainment” and, having escaped being burned at the stake, the heretics are now running the “temple”. (The noise you may hear in the background is the sound of Lord Reith turning in his grave.)
I hope they are enjoying the experience of riding roughshod over us licence payers because, if there is any justice in the world, the day of their comeuppance is surely fast approaching when the licence fee will stop and they will have to justify (and self-finance) their existence.
Neil McNicholas is a parish priest in Yarm.