NADINE DORRIES: If even my 89-year-old mum isn’t watching, the BBC is in real trouble
Has the BBC entered a death spiral? I ask because Auntie is clearly in a worrying state of decline.
New figures show that a record 2.84 million people are refusing to pay the £159 annual licence fee – up by 360,000 on the previous year: as if the population of Cardiff is declining to fork out.
Radio 2 lost a million listeners in the first quarter of this year – thanks, no doubt, in large part to the departure of the great Ken Bruce – while Radio 4 will not have a single listener left in less than a decade if audiences continue to desert it at the current rate. The Corporation’s flagship ‘spoken word’ station has gone from 10.2 million listeners to 8.9 million in a single year.
What is going on? Obviously, BBC TV has stiff competition from streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV – with a raft of free podcasts and commercial stations rivalling its radio output.
Only one in 20 people under the age of 30 watches BBC TV live – a demographic timebomb for the Corporation.
But it’s not just millennials and Gen Z who are abandoning Auntie in droves: my 89-year-old mother recently told me she couldn’t remember the last time she watched a BBC TV station or even ITV.
New figures show that a record 2.84 million people are refusing to pay the £159 annual licence fee — up by 360,000 on the previous year
Instead, she’s become a Netflix obsessive. Sweet Magnolias – a romantic drama set in South Carolina, currently enjoying its third season – is a big hit with at least one viewer in Lytham St Annes.
One problem repeatedly afflicts many large public organisations that receive gigantic, more or less guaranteed sums of money from the taxpayer. (And it is gigantic: some £5.3 billion poured into the BBC coffers from the licence fee alone in 2021-2022.)
They increasingly become run in the interests of their staff, not their customers.
Private businesses such as Netflix and Amazon have to cater to their audience’s demands. The BBC, paid for by an anachronistic poll tax enforced by the criminal justice system, is far more free to do what it likes.
That is why, instead of studying what audiences actually want, it increasingly acts like a guardian of public morality and a serial enforcer of what its metropolitan bosses consider to be ‘correct’ thinking.
Many classic radio and TV shows such as Dad’s Army and Steptoe And Son have been edited due to episodes being seen as politically incorrect, sexist or racially insensitive to modern tastes.
Over the past two years alone, the BBC has spent almost £130 million on ‘on-screen and on-air diversity and inclusion’. No doubt it’s a good thing to have diversity on the network – but lavishing huge sums on such woke exercises is a luxury the BBC can ill afford.
Nadine Dorries: When I was Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from 2021-22, as the minister ultimately responsible for the BBC I announced a two-year freeze of the licence fee
When I was Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport from 2021-22, as the minister ultimately responsible for the BBC I announced a two-year freeze of the licence fee.
I stressed that the manner in which the Corporation was funded would be subject to a review, and alternative and fairer funding options explored.
You can imagine the reaction. The squeals of anguish were deafening: the BBC immediately produced a self-promoting film, getting everyone from Stephen Fry to Gary Lineker to lecture audiences on how amazing the BBC was. Labour Party MPs fought viciously to protect their obliging mouthpiece, while Establishment pillar Lord (Chris) Patten described my comments as ‘unacceptable’.
But I stand by that decision. The licence fee is regressive and indefensible. Non-payment disproportionately affects the most vulnerable: some 1,700 people are convicted of non-payment every week, 70 per cent of whom are women.
In the end, the Treasury – then run by Rishi Sunak as Chancellor – informed me that a review of the BBC licence fee was tax policy, and therefore its domain rather than my department’s. Rishi Sunak halted the review last July – and this week, we saw the result.
Audience figures continuing to plummet; bosses remaining unaccountable; the content impeccably woke but not particularly entertaining – and one of the nation’s former cultural gems losing ever more of its shine.
Kate quits cigarettes, but I’m not sold on vaping
After 34 years of smoking, Kate Moss has finally dumped the fags, having been pictured clutching a ‘Bloody Mary’ e-cigarette, which comes in flavours such as cherry, peach and lemonade.
After 34 years of smoking, Kate Moss has finally dumped the fags
Having been a smoker myself – while training to be a nurse – I know how difficult quitting is. Yes, vaping is almost certainly safer, but I’m still far from convinced by the fruity flavours, which I fear are marketed at children.
Actress Amanda Abbington, of Sherlock and Mr Selfridge fame, is one of the latest contestants to be announced for this year’s Strictly line-up. Amanda has been facing a furious online backlash for a tweet she posted in March, calling a drag show aimed at children ‘abhorrent’.
She was absolutely right – and the overwhelming majority of Strictly viewers would agree with her. Amanda deleted her Twitter account, after a campaign to cancel her began in earnest. Don’t listen to the trolls, darling: you’ve got my vote.
The sunbed wars in Spain are becoming dangerous amid reports of a fight breaking out at a hotel pool in Benidorm. Call me a snob, but I am not going to queue for an hour every morning to bag a lounger.
Stock Image: The sunbed wars in Spain are becoming dangerous writes Nadine Dorries
Nor am I one of those people who slips food from the breakfast buffet into their beach bag to eat tepid and squashed later in the day. Relax, everyone: it’s supposed to be a holiday!
The day my gran’s ginger beer exploded!
As warm weather may finally be heading our way, I am reminded of my grandmother’s homemade ginger beer: no drink tasted quite like it on a hot summer Sunday.
It was icy cold, sweet as nectar and exquisitely refreshing. Just one thing has put me off ever making it: the ‘incident’, as it became known in our family. This was a massive, unexpected explosion that rocked our house in Breck Road, Liverpool.
We were all in the garden when the deafening sound of firecrackers began to fill the air.
Running into the house, we discovered that the scullery, where the fermenting bottles had been kept, was awash with ginger beer and shards of brown glass.
Every time I pick up some ginger in the supermarket, wanting to recreate that nostalgic taste, I remember the incident – and put it back down.
Am I a bad mother? I have three daughters, born in different seasons. When anyone asks me how old a particular daughter is, they sound surprised that I can never remember.
All I know is that they are somewhere between graduating and being first-time homeowners – and I’m afraid that, given my busy life, this will have to suffice.
Always a place for you here, Harry
I have no idea what the truth is about Harry and Meghan’s marriage: there are whispers in some quarters but the image the couple are projecting to the world is a happy one — even if their business efforts seem to be flailing.
If ever the worst should happen and a rain cloud gathers over Montecito, there should always be a way back to this country for this prodigal prince
I have no love for Meghan – not for one second do I believe that she was an injured party or a victim of ‘misogyny’ or ‘racism’.
However, I will always hold a place in my heart for Harry. How many men have been blindsided by beauty?
If ever the worst should happen and a rain cloud gathers over Montecito, there should always be a way back to this country for this prodigal prince.
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