Clean up TV?

Mixed news about TV. Do you support Joan Bakwell’s protest about the coarsening of TV and her call for less swearing? I do. It puts me right off those TV chefs who use it as a verbal garnish. It’s not exactly a new theme. Remember Michael Grade then head of Channel 4, dubbed “pornographer in chief” by the Daily Mail? One person’s pornography is another’s art or authentic voice. Joan is probably right. Swear for a purpose, not like the onset of Tourette’s. TV is still capable of ambition – high ratings were delivered yesterday for the first episode of the C4 drama series on the English civil war, or as I should call it, the war of the three kingdoms (though I could quibble about the rough-hewn but right Cromwell and Charles 1’s straggly beard.) I wasn’t going to return to John Sergeant but I’ve just spent a day at a conference on the constitution at which his was the name most mentioned, more than Obama– by among others the Lords Speaker and the Chair of the public administration select committee. Ah, if only we could get them to vote like that on serious things…. Amid an ocean of coverage at least 600 stories by Google’s count, for the deeply serious Martin Kettle, Sergie’s become a kind of latter day Spartacus of the Oldies, the symbol of a brief rebellion against ageism and a smaller rebellion by viewers. You might say all this “people’s” stuff is getting impressive, were it not for the fact that I know my media, who in good times and bad, know how to keep a good popular story running. But then, it is a good story and people are enjoying it, so maybe the Sergeant saga is a real phenomenon after all.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London