Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Don't blame Tess for Beeb's Jubilee mess

Sometimes a man can be very right and yet wrong at the same time. Step forward Michael Buerk. Few in television have his gravitas. His work in alerting the world to the famine in Ethiopia alone means that when he speaks we should listen.

But now the voice and face of the BBC has been lambasting the corporation and its performance in 2012.

He aimed particular fire at the BBC's disastrous coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee as "cringingly inept". Fair enough - many of us who viewed the coverage of the Queen's flotilla going down the River Thames were appalled by just how inane it was. The likes of Tess Daly interviewing transvestites and Fearne Cotton chin-wagging with Paloma Faith and other hanger-on celebs instead of focusing on HM's progress down the river wasn't appropriate. As Buerk says, the tone set by the BBC was almost mocking.

It was an occasion that called out for, with no irony intended, Michael Buerk. Or David Dimbleby. Or Huw Edwards. A big gun, in other words.

But Buerk shouldn't think himself as being above the common fray. Slinging nasty epithets around, he describes the presenters as "airheads" and reserves special scorn for Tess Daly - "a pneumatic bird-brain from Strictly Come Dancing". (Strange how Clare Balding, the nation's jolly hockey sticks sweetheart, escapes a tongue lashing. She was there too, you know ...)

Not spoken like a gentleman, Mr Buerk. Yes, the Beeb's tone was all wrong but - as he concedes in his tirade - the fault lies more squarely with higher-ups in the corporation. It was embarrassing, but so would be having, say, Buerk do the Radio 1 breakfast show.

Just because someone like Tess works in light entertainment it's a bit much to presume they haven't got much of the old grey matter. Or that it's somehow easy. They do what they do - and they get paid for it because (presumably) the public think they are (at the very least) OK at it. It's live TV, after all.

Sure, an abrasive word or two is guaranteed to generate headlines. But borderline abuse and easy condescension are not the mark of a great mind, more that of a right Buerk.

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