BBC: UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries' attack on public service broadcasting shows she's not fit for such high office – Christine Grahame MSP

You know, I still hold an affection for the BBC despite it being top heavy with competitions, game shows and the Great British This and That.

By Christine Grahame
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 4:45 pm
Christine Grahame
Christine Grahame

However, it still does a good job delivering decent radio, including the World Service. Telly brings us The Green Planet and, for me, BBC 4’s Montalbano, a grand police series set in Sicily. Look out for it, that is if you can cope with subtitles.

Anyway, the decision by Nadine Dorries, the UK Culture Secretary, to freeze the licence fee for two years, effectively a big cut to its budget, is bad news. Remember her? Went into the jungle in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here while taking her pay as an MP? Just the sort of person to oversee culture.

This is the same UK government that whipped away the free TV licence for the over-75s (unless you are on Pension Credit). Anyway, my affection goes as far back as the days of steam radio, otherwise known as the wireless.

We would sit as a family, couried next to the one source of heat in the house, tempting tartan legs, and tune into Educating Archie, a radio programme featuring a ventriloquist and his dummy (I kid you not), Life with the Lyons, the Goon Show, Dan Dare and, on Sunday, Two Way Family Favourites.

That featured requests from wives to husbands who if I recall were posted in places like Malta and Cyprus in the armed services. It went well with Sunday roast, tatties and Yorkshire puddings.

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Later we were the first in our street to have a telly. It featured a tiny screen encased in a huge wooden surround. Those were the days of black and white with just a few hours of broadcasting, the Potter’s Wheel when there was a gap in transmission, received English and ne’er a regional accent to be heard, oh and the news delivered in something approaching evening dress. Last thing at night, God Save the Queen for closedown.

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries' decision to freeze the licence fee for two years is effectively a big cut to the BBC's budget (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Those were the days my friend, as someone once sang. I still like radio, especially when driving around the constituency. Just a Minute, The Last Word, Desert Island Discs and (pause for effect) even The Archers.

But back to telly. Over the years, there have been memorable moments which changed society.

I recall a drama documentary called Cathy Come Home which brought the pathos and desperation of homelessness into our homes. I still see Cathy pushing an old-fashioned pram with her children as she fought off social workers trying to take them from her. The film, by the now-renowned Ken Loach, came out in the same year that Shelter was set up.

David Attenborough, over the years, has charmed and educated us with the help of extraordinary camera folk and experts, on every nook and cranny of our fragile world.

Michael Buerk’s reporting of the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s (it has famine now) shocked us all and gave rise to Feed the World. Today, as the BBC reports on world events, we cannot escape global warming, threats of war, disasters on small and large scales. A small boy trapped underground, and we are there.

We need public service broadcasting and possibly not Nadine Dorries.

Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale

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