I also would add that I don't think Ross is worth going to jail for [laughter] and I shall make sure that Charles doesn't go to jail because he won't like it at all and the jail won't like him either. I shall pay the licence fee on his behalf, and I don't think he can stop me!
DJ: But there clearly is a loss of public confidence in the BBC, isn't there? There was a recent poll in the Guardian which showed that 77 per cent think it is an institution that people should be proud of, but that 57 per cent think it has gone downmarket. And there is widespread unease about figures like Ross, not just because they're so grotesquely overpaid but simply because they have this institutional arrogance. Doesn't the rot start right at the top?
CB: Plainly it is the top that was responsible for that decision and it is wrong. But does it mean that it is systemic, that it's institutionalised? That's a far bigger step than I would care to take. By and large, the 77 per cent were right — the BBC is something we should be proud of, are proud of most of the time. Charles, you're Catholic, aren't you?
CB: Well, it's a bit like the ur-Catholic Church, the ideal, just as there's the ur-BBC, and then there's the reality: the two aren't the same. The closer that the reality approximates to the ideal the happier we all shall be, and the BBC falls short of that from time to time. But the idea that serious errors are systemic and happen all the time is wrong.
CM: Can I just suggest a different interpretation of the failure of people to complain? There could be two possible ones. One is that there's absolutely no point in complaining to the BBC — you just get enmeshed in boring bureaucracy and patronising letters which tell you that you don't have a sense of humour. And the other could be — and it rather makes my point, that public taste has been corrupted — that there is quite a large audience for certain programmes which likes watching detestable scenes of people being insulted. I'm not saying that should be against the law, but I am saying I shouldn't be made to pay for it.
I think the BBC is a bit like the Church of England in the 19th century before the commutation of the tithes. You had to pay the tithes to the Church regardless of your faith because it was the state religion. As a result, the CofE became to some extent corrupt, very rich and, as it were, indulged its stars. This was gradually recognised to be indefensible in a plural liberal society. Why should a Jew, or a Catholic, or a non-believer be maintaining the CofE in a comfortable manner? So as part of the widening of British society, tithes were abolished. The Church is still the established Church, but it's not paid for by the taxpayer — rightly so.
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