A few days ago I was asked by a survey company to identify 6 brands that I considered myself to be faithful or loyal to. I thought hard about it but I couldn't do it, on account of I just don't "do" brands. You would be hard pushed to find anything I own, and I think anyone who knows me would back me up on this, that has been bought or is worn out of brand loyalty - apart from maybe Branston pickle and ASDA regular baked beans. But that I do on account of taste, not because of a perceived superiority to other brands, clannishness or cliqueyness or for the cachet. In fact, a brand flash is more than likely to turn me off buying something for precisely those reasons. I am not interested in clothing or footwear that ostentatiously displays a maker's name - why would I wish to be associated with something that in a very short space of time could mark me out as something I am not? 25 years ago a Burberry raincoat with its distinctive checked lining was something one saved up for and treasured as it was considered a finely crafted product that did its job suprememly well; nowadays that same pattern adorns the head and neck of every Staffie owning, concave chested, trackie bottoms tucked into socks gobbing yob at the jobcentre who wouldn't have a clue that it was actually a premier league product; you wouldn't get me wearing it if you gave it away.
Then I had a minor epiphany while listening to the news on the wireless yesterday morning. I suddenly realised that there is indeed one brand that I'm exceedingly loyal to and I which I do actually put on a pedestal way above all others: the BBC. I feel a bit rum in criticising the decisions it has been bullied into making as I don't actually finance it in any way; I don't own a television so haven't bought a licence for many years and I rarely buy any of their merchandise. I would if I had the money, some it's very good. But there isn't any viable independent competition out there at all, is there. Nothing out there can do anything the BBC does any better. Sure it's had some problems but most of those are more the product of professional jealousy, shit-stirring, rivalry or political expediency and exacerbated by the so-called democracy of the new media (I would prefer to call it bullying. I actually heard the "Manuelgate" thing live - how many of you sit and listen to Radio 2 on a Saturday evening? - but thought it was just a bit near the knuckle and didn't warrant the ordure/fan debacle that followed).
Commercial pressure is acid rain to broadcasting standards but the BBC is mercifully free from most of that. It doesn't actually need a bigger audience share and the willy-waving about viewing figures depresses me. Long gone are the days when more than half the country sat down to watch a single programme so what's the point in fighting over a dimishing slice of the pie? Have you ever listened to commercial radio? It's the broadcasting equivalent of an edge of town retail park, designer outlet or a Holiday Inn. Devoid of originality and flogging the same old mass produced sing-along pap because that's what draws the punters in and keeps them in their comfort zone for the advertisers (I hesitate to say chart - who was No 1 last week? No, me neither). It has to be populist out of necessity - you wouldn't get Mark Lamarr's "God's Jukebox" or Stuart Maconie's "Freak Zone" on Heart or Radio Cabbie FM. And commercial talk radio is just for gobshite Nigel Farage BNP lite clones so let's not go there because that's just plain scary.
As for Murdoch, I would happily bury him alive under Maggie's rotting corpse when the time comes and fill the hole in myself. Constantly bleating about the power the BBC has through its funding model seemingly without realising it's the unrealistic demands of the commercial pressures his company has created that's destroying the football league and with it, the positive influences that football clubs have had on their immediate communities. That's real, indiscriminate power, isn't it? It pains me that the tail wags the dog in such an outrageous fashion. It's heartening to see that nice Sig. Capello making such a commonsense observation
, although I doubt if Rupe's seething, he's still calling the shots. Seeing a 20' "Sky Sports shown here" banner outside a pub has probably kept more decent people out of them than the smoking ban. My Hampshire friend will undoubtedly mention that I missed the Little Master's 200 the other day and much of the one true game as it is played throughout the world but in reply - I've missed well over 99% of all cricket ever played, so I think I'll survive. I might go out for a walk instead. I'll survive with my principles intact, too. You won't find anything from News International in my house, the man's a complete shit (Murdoch, not Vicus) and he won't get my money if I can help it. And yes, I know it's usually on in my local but the sound is off as company policy. Very few people actually watch it.
Quite why the BBC is running scared and caving in is beyond me. It has the luxury of being able to appeal to niche markets without a commercial imperative, although the demographics for 6 Music and the Asian Network could hardly be called niche and in 6 Music they have a unique service, a non-commercial left-field/specialist music network presented invariably by high-profile performers in their own genres or respected broadcasters in their own rights. No other station does this, not even XFM. Undeniably, the network for "pop" has to change as yesterday's hippies gradually claim their bus-passes and Radio 2 has the mechanisms for this. To be honest, it's the station I listen to most, mainly because I am allergic to "earnestness" in most things but it tries to fulfill a broad brief and invariably does it very well. And David Quantick's "The Blagger's Guide..." is one of the funniest shows on the radio. As I age I find my musical taste encompasses almost everything (musical theatre? OK, I'll make an exception) and I'll listen to most things presented with enthusiasm, humour and good grace. 2 and 6 Music make unlikely bedfellows but it works.
And the website is peerless, too.
Don't mess with it just for the sake of it, some of us actually care.