Play to your strengths, don’t compete to entertain
by Susie Orbach
Every week I buy books. They can be on any topic that catches my attention. Novels, science, criticism, nature, politics, economics, comedy. They are piled up in my bedroom and my living room. I look at them longingly. I taste this one and then that one but as more and more accumulate the pile grows.
Radio 4, and indeed BBC4, are like my books but they come right into me because every time I turn them on there is some new delight. The programmes are like live books that dance and sing. They introduce me to things I’ve never even thought about.
Oh, how they enliven me. They nourish the soul. They engage my mind. Just the idea of losing such a breadth of imaginative broadcasting is catastrophic.
The BBC I love is at odds with the programming on much of TV in which everything is a competition. A lazy format which doesn’t play to the contestants’ strengths. Tension is created on the cheap, not by the wit. Scoring is fine but do adults always a have to play ring-a-ring-a-rosie? Surely not.
Why not get the talented producers to think of ways to entertain and yes – dare one even say educate – without this kind of insult. We are capable of pleasure and involvement without the tired formula of winners and losers. Our emotions and intellects can be pleasured by things other than competition.
We need robust defences of a country talking to and with itself, not the mimicking of rubbish formats that are created only for profit. Here’s the rub: the BBC is told it can only survive if it generates a significant income through globally prestigious exports. Energy therefore needs to be put into the longings, interests and aspirations of stories that touch us in their uniqueness. We know that books and movies – and the best of TV series – work precisely because the particular, the idiosyncratic, the authentic cultural tropes are not watered down but are intrinsic instead to the pieces. So BBC, play to your strengths, not your weakness. Keep showing us ourselves artistically so you can excite your local and international audiences.
Susie Orbach (@psychoanalysis) is a psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, social critic and author of Fat is a Feminist Issue
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