Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

A host of reasons why the BBC gets it so wrong ...

Anti-Auntie: Brian Sewell
Anti-Auntie: Brian Sewell

Just because it's Brian Sewell ...

The waspish critic was on fine form this week berating the BBC for dumbing down its factual programmes.

(Of course, if this piece was a BBC programme I would now put on a silly hat – a deerstalker say – and jump into a cute 1950s Morris Minor while saying, 'Is the BBC dumbing down? I set off down the country's byways to find out'.)

How often do purportedly serious intellectual programmes turn into either a literal or metaphorical journey with the programme more often about the presenter than the subject.

As Sewell points out, much of the BBC's serious output all looks a bit samey.

Most seem to be based on the Michael Palin travelogue template. Add in all the old popularist clichés – walking down busy streets, faked 'candid' shots with the presenter awestruck at some piece of art, waving arms and painful reconstructions involving sparkly-toothed Equity members pretending to be medieval villagers awaiting the Black Death – and what you have is distraction, not engagement.

Edutainment has its place but something's been lost. AJP Taylor didn't need anything but a spotlight to make history enormously popular. Patrick Moore didn't need to go on a 'personal journey' in The Sky at Night and Brian Magee did nothing more than talk to fellow philosophers about philosophy.

When it comes to serious television, the song has it all wrong: it is what you say, not the way that you say it ...

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