He was long an authoritative voice on the BBC, a respected journalist responsible for imparting momentous news to the nation. But now Michael Buerk has turned on the Corporation that employed him for more than four decades, blasting its Diamond Jubilee coverage as ‘cringingly inept’.
And he reserves his strongest criticism for the presenters on the day – who included Strictly Come Dancing co-host Tess Daly – decrying them as ‘airheads’ who failed to convey the majesty of the occasion.
Tess Daly with that other bird brain
In his article Buerk argues that the spectacle and significance of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, which should have been an event to unite the nation in pride, was ‘betrayed’ by the vacuous BBC coverage. “The one enduring British institution [the Monarchy] was mocked by another that had shamefully lost its way. On the screen, a succession of Daytime airheads preened themselves, or gossiped with even more vacuous D-list “celebrities”. With barely an exception, they were cringingly inept.”
“Nobody knew anything, nobody cared. The main presenter couldn’t even work out what to call the Queen. The Dunkirk Little Ships, the most evocative reminders of this country’s bravest hour, were ignored so that a pneumatic bird-brain from Strictly Come Dancing could talk to transvestites in Battersea Park.
“I was so ashamed of the BBC I would have wept if I hadn’t been so angry. The worst thing was that it was deliberate – planned that way to be “light” and “inclusive”.”
Buerk reserves particular spite for George Entwistle, the BBC executive responsible for the Jubilee coverage who was subsequently promoted to director-general. But he was forced to resign after just 54 days in the job following the Jimmy Savile and Lord McAlpine Newsnight fiascos, pocketing an estimated £400,000 pay-off. Buerk says: “The BBC actually congratulated itself, and the executive ultimately responsible was promptly promoted to become the most disastrous director-general in the Corporation’s history.”
The BBC attracted 2,425 complaints over its coverage of the Thames flotilla in June, with viewers complaining of the trivial nature of the broadcast and elementary mistakes such as referring to the Queen as ‘HRH’ instead of ‘Her Majesty’.
This is not the first time Mr Buerk has turned his fire on the BBC and its employees. He once said of his fellow newsreaders “You get a great deal of money, you have very little work to do and you don’t need a brain. There are some real lame-brains doing it. It is the only job that actually requires no talent at all. If you can read out loud, you can do it.”
His opinion of the BBC is famously low. He says “The BBC is a private school old boys’ and girls’ association ... now, while most of us are being squeezed, senior executive pay soars and, even at the top of public service organisations like the BBC, fortunes are flung at failures.”
He accuses BBC staff of making the Guardian newspaper their “bible” and political correctness "their creed”. Writing in the political magazine Standpoint, he said “What the BBC regards as normal and abnormal, what is moderate or extreme, where the centre of gravity of an issue lies, are conditioned by the common set of assumptions held by the people who work for it. It’s all very well-meaning, and painstakingly even-handed, but often notably adrift of the overriding national sentiment.”
Accustomed to speaking his mind, Buerk once annoyed the Welsh (always a satisfying thing to do, The GOS finds) by writing “Wales is not another country; it’s England with an accent and a good singing voice. But it is being pulled along by Scotland in devolution’s slipstream, whether it likes it or – more probably – not”.
He also caused controversy in 2005 when he claimed life was now lived “according to women’s rules” and men were reduced to little more than “sperm donors”.
The GOS says: Well, good. It needs saying.
Not that Buerk himself is completely immune from the malaise that affects the BBC and most other media at the moment. Their problem – and ours, therefore – is that no matter what events unfold in the world, the media always think it's about them. That we might be interested in the subject matter and not in their own tawdry little lives and opinions just never enters their heads.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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