Tim Blair


New Criterion



Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Uncle dreads Christmas. Apart from the usual reasons, to do with having to be polite to relatives and waste money on the contents of New Year rubbish bins, there is the small matter of what it does to Auntie.

First, half the establishment of Auntie Inc seems to disappear for two months, leaving us with about $30 mill's worth of sport, recycled programming and the scrapings of BBC television.

Then, if the past several years are any guide, there is her whorish capitulation to New Age brain-mincers.

In the middle of each week day, an hour of our Radio National time, which must be worth about $20 000 average cost if you weight for time of day, will be given over to New Horizons. Our host, Mr Sunday Mufflethwuck, from memory, will welcome any witless apostle of any wanking creed for the credulous and invite him or her to disgrace the human condition in public.

Endless journeys of self-discovery that weren't worth attempting, maunderings on "spiritual" gratifications without moral challenge or beneficial outcomes, apart from more books on the already groaning "self-improvement" shelves of the worse bookshops, quackeries that have failed every test of efficacy to which they have ever been subjected (tried iridology for that cancer?), all held together with the glug of unquestioned infantile leftism, of which pacifism would be the most intelligent example.

The way my heart sinks when Auntie returns to the swamp of gullibility from which the more favoured parts of the human race have been struggling these last couple of thousand years makes my realise that I haven't extirpated completely the Whig in my own soul.

Here's an alternative. Pay the RN communards for the eight months of the year they work, as with US academics, and spend the enormous residue of Auntie's budget by competitive tender on quality programming in big enough lumps to justify serious investment of talent and money. The communards could compete for it, or stay on holiday. Publish the criteria for selection and make the process as transparent as may be, with a majority of outsiders on the selection panels. And do some real assessment of the quality and impact of the results. Now, that would be public service broadcasting.


Can you imagine Auntie giving a gig as Boyer Lecturer to someone like Onora O'Neill, the philosopher chosen to give this year's Reith Lectures for the BBC?

If you can, Uncle admires your optimism, you deluded fool.

Thanks to Auntie's standing order with the Beeb you can hear this sharp-witted, thoughtful, liberal conservative on Radio National as she discusses what builds trust in our social and political lives, what destroys it, and what we could do better.

Even the Q&A sessions after each talk are worth listening to.

Her discussion of the failings of rights talk in politics is spot on. Here's a real discovery Uncle will not forget:

Whenever we talk about adding a bill of rights to our constitution, make sure we also talk about a bill of duties. Otherwise handing out rights is just like handing out taxpayers' money; it's always someone else who's going to pay for it.

Still three more to go, Sundays 5.00pm AEDT, but you can read them all on the Beeb's Reith Lecture site.