The BBC “quietly bowed to pressure” last week, so The Daily Telegraph tells us, after an onslaught of complaints about its Wimbledon highlights show. This in itself is interesting. The BBC is not known for bowing to pressure, especially pressure from viewers. But since, on this occasion, I was one of the complainers, I’m glad it did.
One wonders which overpaid brainbox thought that only 20 minutes of an hour-long highlights programme should be devoted to actual tennis, with the rest given over to talking heads (the subject of most of the complaints)? Surely the whole point of a highlights programme is to show… highlights? And why was the stupidly named new programme, Wimbledon 2Day, originally filmed in an aircraft hangar-sized private hospitality club on the edge of Wimbledon, costing thousands of pounds to hire? (The BBC bowed to pressure on this too: by week two we were back in a studio.)
The truth is that the Wimbledon highlights were perfectly fine under the often underestimated (and now, to his own surprise, wildly popular) former host, John Inverdale. I suppose the BBC had had its knives out for Inverdale for some time, remembering his famous lapses, as when, in his dreamy way, he accidentally said “c**t-tinted glasses” instead of “rose-tinted glasses” in an interview with the jockey John Francome, or, in 2013, opined (quite truthfully) that Marion Bartoli was “never going to be a looker”? But the real reason for ditching him is probably a simpler one. Unlike the ubiquitous and annoying Clare Balding, John Inverdale is a man.
Try as one might, it’s hard to like the modern BBC, even harder to defend it. In the Daily Mail recently, Max Hastings wrote that Tony Hall, a brilliant success as boss of the Royal Opera House, has been worn down (if gossip is to be believed) by the struggle to impose some kind of order and sanity in the corporation.
During George Entwistle’s brief tenure, says Hastings, Jeremy Paxman wrote to ask him to arrange for staff to have coat hooks and wastepaper baskets in the “billion-pound modernist nightmare” that is New Broadcasting House. Entwistle wrote back and said he did not think he had the authority to get such a radical measure implemented. “This state of affairs – rule by management consultants, on whom the Corporation still spends £100,000 a week – is comic up to a point, but also disgraceful.”
But on and on rolls the gravy train. “All credit to the BBC for refusing to stint on its coverage of this year’s hugely exciting Liberal Democrat conference,” wrote Rod Liddle facetiously in The Sunday Times last weekend. Just because the corporation is “skint” doesn’t mean we should miss out on “this fabulous bonanza of the entirely irrelevant”. Liddle asks us to guess the ratio of BBC people to Lib Dem MPs. Ten to one? 15 to one? No. The answer is “25 BBC munchkins per MP”. The corporation has registered 200 journalists for the conference. “More producers and presenters than there are Lib Dem voters.”
Tabloid money: Super Mario on safari
• Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund has savaged what she calls ‘all these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax’,” says Tony Parsons in The Sun. “And what tax does Lagarde pay on her $467,940 annual salary? That would be – nothing. Not a single euro. As the IMF is an international organisation, Lagarde’s salary is tax-free. So she shouldn’t be too hard on all those tax-dodging moussaka-makers. They have so much in common.”
• “Here is top human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, having a rare day off between high-profile court cases,” says Jane Moore in The Sun. “Perhaps her next cause célèbre could be the daylight robbery committed when she shelled out £725 for an ill-fitting Sonia Rykiel jumpsuit that makes this undeniably gorgeous woman resemble Super Mario on safari.”
• “Much as Harriet Harman enjoys gloating that wealthy David Cameron ‘doesn’t need to budget’ like most families, the famously aristocratic, privately educated, acting Labour leader clearly does not enjoy questions about her own income,” says the Black Dog columnist in The Mail on Sunday.
“When Dog dared to ask if Harriet was pocketing the extra £5,000 a month of taxpayers’ cash that comes with being stand-in opposition leader, a spokesman ridiculously replied: ‘She does not want to confirm whether she is taking it’. Happily, the Cabinet Office is less reticent. And she is.”