Saturday, 5 May 2012

Trust me - I'm familiar

As I see it, one of the problems with familiarity is not that it breeds contempt, but that it breeds trust. Trust and familiarity are closely related. We know what to expect of familiar people, groups and situations, we trust the future to take its pattern from the past. 

Even unpredictability can become familiar. If we become familiar with a soccer team’s endlessly erratic performances, then we are not surprised by bad results or good ones. It’s part of the pattern – it’s familiar.

But a problem arises when we trust familiar institutions.

For example, when we become familiar with institutions such as the BBC and that familiarity morphs into trust. The dear old Beeb has been around so long that we tend not to see it as essentially indifferent and even malign. We tend to trust it far more than we should and some people even seem to see it as a kind of friend, as an upholder of certain values, a reassuring guest in the corner of the room.

Yet the BBC is the state broadcaster and certainly not your friend. It isn’t the dear old Beeb at all. It is a state-sponsored supporter of the establishment with its hands in the pocket of any UK citizen who wishes to own and use a TV set. Even if you never watch the BBC, you have to pay up because it is illegal to take its thieving hand out of your pocket.

The BBC has no interest in you and is less concerned about your views and opinions than a major supermarket. If you complain the BBC it will also take less notice of your complaint than a supermarket probably would. The BBC is no more your friend than Tesco and is certainly less interested in you as a consumer.

Like most publicly funded institutions, the BBC does not deserve your trust and has no use for it. It is not interested if you object to its lies about climate change, not interested if you think it should have a wider political remit, not interested if you think it should be more intellectually challenging.

But the BBC is familiar, knows it, trades on it – and that’s a problem.


Sam Vega said...

I don't pay the licence fee as I got rid of the TV years ago, although I suppose I still support the institution indirectly. Looking at the occasional programme on I-player is a glimpse into a demented middle-class world which reminds me not to get another TV.

Radio is a bit better.

Your analysis of what they think about us is correct. I think they play at caring. There seems to be some kind of cosy club in which subscribers express British ironic faux outrage at minor changes (the Today Programme and The Archers on Radio 4 are supposed to be sacrosanct, for example) and the BBC pretends it cares.

I guess beneath all this are the rampant egos of careerists who gain kudos if they get increased ratings, etc., so they do at least keep an eye on the viewing/listening figures.

Demetrius said...

I recall from the early 1960's that when the BBC TV ratings were hitting new lows at a level that put the license fee in question they suddenly lurched into "pop" music. They picked out certain groups and performers to promote. One was The Beatles. Had the BBC picked out other groups to promote they might have been just another group who came and went.

Anonymous said...

Most media are staffed by an elite who after a while begin to look down on their customers. In the commercial world they go out of business or get a new boss to kick arses and the cycle repeats. The BBC does try to keep standards up - but current TV media is a race to the bottom - literally. I suppose we could stiffen the tone a bit - a few suggested program titles:-

'Mr J Kyle becomes a Magistrate'
'The Trains run on time'
'Working for Freedom'
'Motherhood and the Nation'
'The Schleswig Holstein Question uncut'
'National Anthem and closedown 10:45pm - all stand'

Perhaps Francis Maude for DG?

Anonymous said...

Oops - programme titles. Freudian slip?

A K Haart said...

Sam - I feel a little guilty that we haven't ditched the TV as you have and we are still paying the licence fee.

Demetrius - I remember it and their choice must surely have made a difference.

Roger - and the BBC doesn't really have regenerative cycles.

By the way - I've ordered a copy of John Read's "Alchemist in Life Literature and Art"

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, could be right. Hope you enjoy the Alchemist and his arcane 'knowledge'.

James Higham said...

Even if you never watch the BBC, you have to pay up because it is illegal to take its thieving hand out of your pocket.

Unless of course you don't have a TV and even then licensing harasses you.

A K Haart said...

James - we ought to give up the TV really.