Monday, December 12, 2005

Public Service Broadcasting

JS Bach
The BBC is a public service broadcaster. What this means is that as well as broadcasting shows that the majority of the public want hear, such as Jonathan Woss on Wadio Two, or whatever awful chatshow the Corporation have signed Davinia McCall to present on TV, the BBC also broadcasts shows that most people do not want to hear, that are of interest only to a minority. The reason for this is because worth and value are not democratic notions, because there are some things that should be broadcast and disseminated because they are valuable in and of themselves.

The Bach season on BBC Radio 3 is the latest example of this. In what is a magnificent, epic gesture towards one of the towering giants of Western music, of Western intellectual and artistic achievement, BBC Radio 3 is going to spend ten days continuously broadcasting the complete surviving works of JS Bach. Nobody is going to listen to ten days' of Bach, but that's not the point. The BBC is making a statement of values, that the BBC considers Bach valuable and worth cherishing and celebrating. And we should all rise in a shouted hurrah! at the very notion of it.

While the BBC is the best and most famous public service broadcaster in the world, that does not mean that other public service broadcasters should not try to emulate the BBC standard, even though they cannot match the BBC for resources. Consider YLE Radio, the State Broadcaster in Finland. YLE cannot even attempt to match the BBC in terms of reach, resources or history, but that doesn't mean it doesn't try. In a marvellous statement of who they are and what they believe in, YLE broadcasts a weekly bulletin of world news in Classical Latin. There are very, very few people that listen to this broadcast, but that's not the point. The point is that Latin runs through the weave and woof of our Western Civilisation, and YLE is reminding people, as part of YLE's public service remit, that this is important in reminding us of who we are and where we come from.

RTÉ is a public service broadcaster, supported by a tv license of €155 per set per annum. RTÉ's idea of public service broadcasting for Christmas appears to be a repeat of Showbands, starring Kerry "Chipshop" Katona, the pride of Warrington. "Why do we bother, Fawlty? I didn't know we did, Major," indeed.