Somebody Doesn’t Like the BBC

Last month, B-BBC reader La Cumparista made the following comment on David Vance’s post about a BBC interview with a Man Booker Prize nominee:

I would really like Howard Jacobson to win the Man Booker prize this year. Has he had much publicity on the BBC?

Jacobson is listed with the others on BBC news briefs about the authors on the short list, but only Peter Carey got a special feature, presumably because he had won twice before. I don’t recall Jacobson getting the attention of the other authors by the BBC when they did their special report from the black-tie gala event of the announcement.

In any case, I now have a copy of Jacobson’s winning book, The Finkler Question, in my hand. The story opens up with a passage that is very relevant to this blog. The BBC studiously avoided mentioning this in either of their brief interviews of him as one of those on the short list.

The relevant passage begins on Page 6, when Treslove, the non-Jewish character (one of the trio of friends around whom the book is focused), is mugged while walking home one night. It describes the incident which launches the book’s journey to explore what it means to be Jewish in England today:

He passed the BBC, an institution for which he had once worked and cherished idealistic hopes but which he now hated to an irrational degree. Had it been rational he would have taken steps not to pass the building as often as he did. Under his breath he cursed it feebly – ‘Shitheap,’ he said.

A nursery malediction.

That was exactly what he hated about the BBC: it had infantilised him. ‘Auntie’, the nation called the Corporation, fondly. But aunties are equivocal figures of affection, wicked and unreliable, pretending to love only so long as they are short of love themselves, and then off. The BBC, Treslove believed, made addicts of those who listened to it, reducing them to a state of inane dependence. As it did those it employed. Only worse in the case of those employed – handcuffing them in promotions and conceit, disabling them from any other life. Treslove himself a case in point. Though not promoted, only disabled.


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9 Responses to Somebody Doesn’t Like the BBC

  1. NotaSheep says:

    Great spot, looks like I have some holiday reading…


  2. Natsman says:

    Shitheap, indeed.


  3. sue says:

    “Some newspapers have been wondering how a devout Catholic such as Mark Thompson could preside over the cesspit which is the BBC. Easily, is the answer, a) because the BBC is a pit of egalitarian trash, not filth, and b) because religion does not make a man cultured. Culture, culture is the problem, not morality.”
    Howard Jaobson. The Independent. 2008.


    • D B says:

      From the same article linked by Sue:

      Besides which, or as a concomitant of which, the institution is in thrall to comedians. Jokiness drowns the airwaves. On all channels cooks become comedians or comedians cooks, comedians comment on the news, comedians take you on journeys to places they know nothing about – the assumption being that we must at all times be entertained, that knowledge is the enemy of entertainment, and that we will therefore take pleasure only in the company of jokesters as ignorant as ourselves.

      Excellent. If John Simpson wants to avoid being waterboarded he should direct his ire at those people who, having expanded the BBC, filled the extra airtime with hour after hour of generic panel shows populated by a merry-go-round of left-wing comedians for whom the licence fee is an ever-present subsidy.


  4. D B says:

    Tuned in specially to hear Jacobson on Loose Ends the weekend after he won the Booker. The luvvies – normally full of forced laughter for fellow guests – gave him a quite an icy reception, I thought.


  5. Phillip Lawr says:

    Is it because I is Jewish?


    • David Preiser (USA) says:

      The character who hates the BBC isn’t Jewish, and the reasons he gives have nothing to do with anti-Semitism.


  6. John Anderson says:

    A central theme of Jacobson’s book pokes fun at all those Jerws who are ashamed of their Jewishness – and take it out on Israel.

    So of course the BBC does not favour the book.  It strikes directly at their editorial approach – whenever possible,  interview Jews who will attack Israel.

    Plus the book describes the increase in anti-Semitism in the world.  Something the BBC seeks to deny or minimise.


  7. Davieboy says:

    I’m halfway through “The Finkler Question” and it’s a fine read, esp. if you’re anti-Beeb & pro-Israel. Recommended.
    I was actually listening to it via my iPod yesterday morning as I walked past Howard Jacobson, who was sitting at a pavement cafe. After my double-take I could not resist saying hi – he seemed tickled that I was listening to his words, and said that from now on he would imagine that all those people he  saw with earbuds on were listening to his book! A top man…….