What's Ben doing on the box?

What's Ben doing on the box?


norman lebrecht

June 18, 2010

Ever since Labour lost the election and started collecting the dole, its former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has hardly been off the BBC, day or night. Switch on PM, and there he is. Slump in the sofa at Question Time, and Ben’s back. What’s going on?

Bradshaw, an ex-BBC news reporter of no visible merit, was the most anti-BBC of the last five DCMS Secretaries, attacking the institution in venomous language, both verbal and bodily. Unpopular when he drew a BBC wage, he was roundly loathed when he wielded power.

Yet no sooner is he out of a job than the BBC are plugging his down time with chat stints. It may be that he’s the only ex-Cabinet minister not to have cancelled his pager, or that he is a little more fluent than the rest of the defeated rabble. But what is the BBC doing giving him air time? Bradshaw was a bad minister with a sack of predictable whinges about broadcasting. His party has been turfed out of office. We should hear no more of him for the next few years.

Especially now that one his pet projects, the £166 million BFI Film Centre has just been scrapped by the new Government. Spend £166 million of public money on a glorified cinema? You see what I mean by a bad minister…


  • You can spread whatever shallow scorn you like about politicians, but do please be a little more wary of an ugly and ill-informed schadenfreude when commenting on the sad demise of major cultural projects for art-forms outside your area of expertise. For the benefit of your readers, I should clarify that the government had in fact pledged only £45m of public spending for a national centre for film, with a further £5m pledged by the GLA/LDA, with many millions more to be raised through hard graft and private sector sponsorship – peanuts next to the hundreds of millions continually lavished on metropolitan opera for, let’s face it, a very small number of mostly wealthy individuals. I very much hope, for the sake of classical music, that our great orchestras, concert halls and music education projects are not dealt a similar death-blow in the budget tomorrow, or later in the CSR. You should be ashamed.
    NL replies: I don’t usually publish rude, misguided and self-serving responses, but this is close to a classic. Rhidian Davis, the writer, is an official of the British Film Institute. His title is Education Programmer: Public Programmes and he is one of eleven people employed in the education department of an overblown institution whose task is to glorify the successfully self-glorifying art of film.
    Whether this body requires large amounts of public subsidy, whether it should have been funded to build a cinema for £166 million, is a matter of legitimate public concern. Labour, the last government, cuddled up to the film industry in the hope that some of its glamour would rub off. The new coalition is less bothered. It has abolished the unneeded cinema. I applaud its decision.

  • Rhidian Davis says:

    I find it astonishing that you can both attend and applaud our public events, such as the South Bank Show tribute with Melvyn Bragg in person last month – part of our ongoing campaign (75 years and still running) to champion quality and integrity in screen arts – and casually rubbish our case for public support. Who do you think puts on events like this for the benefit of people like you except people like me? Just extraordinary.
    NL replies: That’s too silly to warrant much rebuttal. The South Bank Show ran for almost 40 years. The bloated BFI did no more than provide a venue for its wake. Had it not done so, there were other institutions which would – without public funding – have given Melvyn a decent send-off.

  • Rhidian Davis says:

    This was not a one-off event, but part of a programme of many hundreds of events and screenings every year for a public just as passionate as you about culture. Their art-form is film, not music. They make distinctions that you don’t seem to grasp between different qualities of film experience, and understand that all of these things could not simply be re-relocated to other venues. While your derogatory labeling of me as ‘an official’ and apparent salivation over impending cuts that may put many valued colleagues at risk of redundancy are offensive, your public labeling of the BFI as ‘bloated’ – an organisation that has endured over six years of standstill in its grant-in-aid alongside sharply rising costs – is very concerning. Can I suggest you speak to someone you respect who has more interest in and understanding of film culture, such as David Thompson, before continuing to propagate these kinds of remarks?
    NL replies: Oh, for heaven’s sake….