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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.

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