Coffee House Culture House Daily

Spectator competition: defend the unexpected (plus: your tepid opinions about the BBC)

31 May 2014

9:30 AM

31 May 2014

9:30 AM

The latest challenge, to supply a poem in praise or dispraise of the BBC, fell on somewhat stony ground. The entry felt a bit flat and you seemed to be lacking any real conviction either way. Roger Theobald’s opening lines pretty much reflected the general mood: ‘To praise or dispraise: well, if that’s the question,/ The record is too mixed to be quite sure…’

An honourable mention goes to Jerome Betts for his pithy four-liner — ‘Beeb, overstaffed and overspent,/ At which the licence-payers cavil,/ How sad to witness your descent/ From Reithian heights to Jimmy Savile.’ — and to Frank McDonald and Ray Kelley.

Basil Ransome-Davies romps home with the extra fiver and the rest pocket £30 each.

Basil Ransome-Davies
I always treasured Auntie. She was such
        a damn good sport.
Thanks to BBC steam wireless I was
        entertained and taught.
She had lofty Reithian standards and she
        never sold them short,
But Auntie isn’t quite herself these days.

We had ITMA kicking Hitler with a touch of the
We had talks and foreign music on the high-
        falutin’ Third;
The Home Service kept us civil. Public service
        was the word.
Don’t Aunties love to cling to settled ways?

Then the market, brute and powerful, came
        along with shark-sharp teeth.
It was build the corporate profile now, forget
        the dreams of Reith.
You want to mourn the Beeb that was? Just
        leave a funeral wreath
(Forgetting Jimmy Savile, if you please).


What’s left after the scandals, the largesse, the
        Birtist blight?
A micro-managed omnishambles, scorned by
        left and right,
Whose populist agenda — keep it simple, safe
        and light —
Is eating umpteen million licence fees.

D.A. Prince
When I have fears that it might cease to be,
culled by some spineless vengeful government
whose plot to sabotage the licence fee
turns on the argument of how it’s spent;
when I fear ‘public service’ thrown away,
sold to the dodgiest bidder with a taste
for game shows, adverts, chatter, everyday
endless banality, good gone to waste;
that’s when I cling to Rev. and Radio 3,
Today, the shipping forecast, In our time,
programmes in depth on art and history,
even the drenching gloom of Scandi-crime,
and trust for all its faults the BBC
can hang on and see out the century.

Alan Millard
These tribute lines are hard to write. The reason
        — simply this:
That while my thoughts are thus engaged I’m
        rueing all I’ll miss,
There’s Radio 4 and Woman’s Hour, the Play
        this afternoon
And, even worse, tonight’s TV, unless I finish soon.
I’m keen to laud the BBC and render praise in
But not to forfeit listening hours or precious
        viewing time;
I need to follow Eggheads, watch whatever
        follows on,
Then catch up on EastEnders (not the same
        with Lucy gone).
Of global fame and world renown, the matchless
Has, from the days of Mrs Dale, meant all the
        world to me,
The shipping forecast bids me sleep and wakes
        me with a smile
And all that’s broadcast in between makes living
        life worthwhile.
What other service meets the mark with
        programmes guaranteed
To entertain, inform, delight and answer every
There’s more to praise but, having toiled beyond
        the watershed,
It’s almost time for Newsnight now. Take further
        praise as read!

Adrian Fry
Paedophile scandals execs try to shake off,
Vacuous programmes like Strictly and Bake-Off,
Wittering airheads on Radio Three —
I say let’s close down the whole BBC.

Cokeheads from Hoxton, their salaries hefty,
Greenlighting comics as long as they’re Lefty.
Chaps in Compliance reacting with glee —
I say we wind up the damned BBC.

Camp antique dealers and chefs sporting dickies,
Stripped across daytime to occupy thickies.
In primetime, car chases from CCTV —
I say let’s put down the poor BBC.

News that’s now ninety per cent speculation,
Severance schemes that are pure peculation,
Digital channels no one wants to see —
Stop it all, gentlemen; make me DG.

Katie Mallett
Poor Auntie’s reputation
Is trampled in the dirt,
With media accusations
Of hiding shame and hurt
And paying tons of money
To those who did the least,
In fact she looks as tawdry
As a pier-end show artiste.

But still she educates us
In science and the arts,
With drama and true stories
She’ll move our minds and hearts,
So no matter what has happened
Within the BBC
Of all the world’s broadcasters
She’s still the one for me.

Your next challenge is to step into the shoes of a well-known writer of your choice, living or dead, and submit a poem or piece of prose in praise or defence of something you would not expect them to champion. Please email entries of up to 150 words or 16 lines to by midday on 11 June.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Inverted Meniscus

    The end of the BBC’s time has come.
    This pointless mouthpiece for left wing scum.

  • Span Ows

    what was wrong? Spade?

  • Grey Wolf

    Give BBC 2 years to turn commercial. Then abolish TV licensing. And then corporatise and sell BBC shares to British people and let it run like a responsible, for-profit commercial enterprise.

    The current arrangement surrounding BBC is anachronistic and scandalous.

  • Kaine

    This is actually one of my favourite bits of the magazine.

    • Kitty MLB

      Its one of my favourites too.

  • Span Ows

    My auntie is very ill,
    she lies almost at will;
    hiding things every day
    hoping knowledge won’t get in the way.

    Once she had it made,
    called a spade a spade;
    no agenda to behold:
    only the facts were told

    Now she debates with herself,
    opinions made up in stealth,
    omissions and untruths abound,
    on BBC TV and Radio sound.

    She still makes us pay,
    which is sad in a way:
    because her bias is getting worse.
    We await the hearse.

  • UniteAgainstSocialism

    The BBC has lost all reason, its reporters should be tried for treason.

    • Grey Wolf

      An excellent idea!

  • TRAV1S

    If the State forced you to buy a newspaper, and if you did not buy that newspaper you were thrown into prison. Would you trust anything in that newspaper?

    This sums up the state of the BBC, their deconstructionist and Marxist ways makes me sick. The only way they can make money is through a mafia like protection racket on televisions.

  • McRobbie

    BBC you’re past it.

  • Kitty MLB

    Lucy, may I say again your poetry threads since
    Easter have been so refreshing.
    Nice to escape the miasmic , suffocating political gloom
    elsewhere here. To be able to open windows and let the
    sunshine in.

  • global city

    Oh, Beeb, you’re such a dweeb,

    you fell for all that ‘warming’.

    You forgot your charter, but the viewers are smarter,

    they can see left wing worming!

    Here’s two causes in one that the BBC have sold their souls to!