Monday, March 23, 2009

The children's programme for the over-50s

ARE YOU sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

From 1950 until 1982, generations of children gathered around the wireless at quarter to two waiting for a programme called Listen With Mother, first on the Light Programme, then on the Home Service, and then on BBC Radio 4. At its peak, over a million youngsters were listening. Then came that flashy television thing, its hi-tech stampede led by Muffin the Mule, and life changed forever.

But not at the BBC. Still, somewhere in those dusty corridors, the Children’s Unit lived on. I like to think of it as a kindly spinster in a moth-eaten cardigan smelling of 4711 cologne and cats. But the lure of computer games and the 42-inch plasma was irresistible. By 2001, Radio 4 was down to one just children’s programme, a strange concoction called – in the irritating, illiterate modern parlance - Go4it. For some reason it went out at 7.15pm on a Sunday, just after The Archers, when there was presumably a high residual audience of receptive five-year-olds … not.

Now I don’t know how much radio programmes cost to make – let’s guess at £10,000 a go. What I do know is that every Sunday night for eight years, the Beeb has happily broadcast Go4it to an audience of … nobody. That’s over 400 episodes, all gratefully received by … nobody.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer has admitted that Go4it sometimes attracted zero listeners from its target four-14 age range, but did manage to catch the attention of up to 450,000 listeners aged between 52 and 55. When he says “catch the attention”, I suspect he means “people who had fallen asleep during The Archers and left the radio on”, but there we go.

Now my beef is this: for eight years, the BBC has spent a small fortune – perhaps £4million - on a programme that has singularly failed to get anywhere near its target market and therefore completely failed to fulfil its public broadcasting remit – and yet nobody seems to have noticed or even cared. Don’t they check these things? Do they just go on pumping out irrelevant crap regardless, without anyone giving a toss whether or not the money it’s costing is being well spent? Can you imagine that kind of arrogant waste being tolerated in any kind of commercial business? I don’t think so – there you have to graft for your money, rather than it being handed to you on a plate.

THAT FAT lass who turned up for her X Factor audition looking like a cross between Miss Haversham and a Lidl trifle has been bleating in the papers, along with her equally obese family, about the difficulties of getting by on a mere £22,000 a year in benefits. Apparently 19-year-old Emma Chawner (5ft 3in, 17st), sister Sam (21, 5ft 9in, 18st) and parents Phillip (53) and Audrey (57), both 24st, are all “too fat to work” because of a claimed hereditary problem. Utter laziness, I’d call it.

Asked why they didn’t simply go on a diet, Mr Chawner said, “We don’t have the time,” adding: “We love TV. It’s on from the moment we get up. Often I’m so tired from watching TV, I have to take a nap.” Yes, pal. I bet you do.

Emma says: “I’m a student and don’t have time to exercise. We all want to lose weight to stop the abuse we get in the street, but we don’t know how.”

Let me give you a clue, love. Eat less, do more. It’s not exactly rocket science, is it? And give the microwave pies a miss, even if you did once buy some pears “but they tasted funny”. Sheesh.

AS THE jobless total tops two million for the first time since Phillip Chawner last did a day’s work (that’s 1997 to you and me), it’s nice to see that the government is sharing our pain and cutting back on frivolous spending. That’s presumably why they spent £780,000 on flowers in the past four years. Yes, £780,000.

Unsurprisingly, Baron Mandelson of Hartlepool is first in the queue at the florists, spending £500 a week on flowers for his office since returning, unelected, to the Cabinet five months ago. Meanwhile the education department under Ed Balls has spent a mere £174,000 dressing up its Whitehall offices like a pop star’s wedding.

Why? No-one is suggesting that the people who run the country should hold meetings huddled in the gutter under a tarpaulin while fending off assaults from obese chavs intent on stealing their Rich Tea biscuits, but is such blatant largesse really necessary? Will fewer 15-year-olds pass their exams if Interflora stops paying daily visits to the oak-panelled offices of ministers? I don’t think so.

WHILE WE’RE at it, a quick look at one of the few job vacancies available to the nation’s unemployed reveals that Gordon Brown is advertising for a ‘Director, Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit’ at a cool £100,000 a year.

Should Phillip Chawner be reading this and fancy a punt, the job apparently entails: “Providing leadership in the delivery of the key responsibilities of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, including unlocking delivery obstacles, performance management, performance policy and capacity building and cross government learning on delivery”.

Now I’m sorry, but I haven’t got the faintest idea what any of that means. It’s a coded language; strings of gibberish that only those already inside the public sector can understand. So that conveniently counts out the likes of you, me and Phillip ‘Fatso’ Chawner.

LORD AHMED, who was jailed for 12 weeks for sending text messages shortly before he killed a man in a fatal car crash, has been released after just 16 days inside. Why am I not surprised?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Add organ music DJd by Nigel Ogden on Radio Two, pointless.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Lady Mandy Monkeyhanger of Artleypool said...

"..a programme that has singularly failed to get anywhere near its target market and therefore completely failed to fulfil its public broadcasting remit."

Unfortunately the alternative of fulfilling the remit is the likes Jonathon Ross.

11:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan:

Depression is when you are out of work.

Recession is when your neighbour is out of work.

Recovery is when Wee Gordy Brune is out of work.

1:13 AM  
Anonymous Snotgobbler said...

The BBC has a proud tradition of broadcasting to the 'Silent Minority'. Take away the drugged zombies in Britain's retirement homes and BBC News 24's audience would be numbered in the tens.
Does anyone listen to or watch the obscure, elitist and condescending pap that often surfaces on BBC4, Radio 3 and the World Service?
BBC3 is such an embarrassingly awful attempt to pander to 'yoof' culture - even that beardy twit Branson would be ashamed to sink so low. Cut out all the superfluous crap and the licence fee could be halved.

4:04 PM  
Anonymous Gottsnobbler said...

And another thing:-

If you've every wondered who is watching 40-year-old episodes of 'On The Buses' on ITV2/3/4 at 6 o' clock in the morning..... then so have I.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous assegai mike said...

I have no opinion on "Lord" Ahmed as a person, but I presume he's just another NuLabour troughing parasite. However, any fair-minded person who actually bothered to read about his case, would conclude that he was comprehensively stitched up. (his texting was wholly unrelated to the accident; the victim was messing around the the fast lane of the motorway, pissed) Even the judge said as much... before stitching him up.

1:55 AM  
Blogger Thud said...

I am not fair minded...locking the twat up for being a twat would have done for me.

7:37 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Unfortunately for the BBC, the RAJAR listener figures can't take under 18s into account because they can't be surveyed! So the ratings for Go4It's target market will always be near non-existent because they just cann't be surveyed.

The industry's only ratings are from RAJAR, so there's bugger all they can do about this. To be honest, I think Go4It was a great programme (I'm 23) and although I didn't listen religiously, it was a great bit of programming for the yoof. Sad to see it go.

3:29 AM  

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