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Auntie’s still got it. And maybe she could do even more

Inform, educate, entertain. When the BBC's on top of its game, it's something to celebrate
Alvar Lidell in information mode to bring the nation its news. Photo: Hulton-Deutsch Collection/ Getty

It seems that my borrowing of the Welsh Well-being of Future Generations Act so as to pass a UK-wide version through Parliament is not the first time that Welsh things have moved eastward. Of course there are many other Welsh initiatives and physical products that have made the eastward journey, possibly the tariff on single-use plastic bags being one of the most spectacular.

But did you know, because I didn’t, that much of Stonehenge started off as a Welsh circle in the Preseli Hills, Pembrokeshire 5,000 years ago? I found out all about this last week when I watched a gripping documentary on BBC Two about the mammoth task of moving it eastward, and the background to the forensics of finding this out.

This is the kind of TV I like. The BBC did start in the 1920s as a way of improving our understanding, and 90 years later the broadcaster can say it can still deliver the goods. Although there does seem to be a desire, nay perhaps a need, to get as popular as possible, thus guaranteeing the public’s willingness to pay their licence fees.

If we lost the idea of public service broadcasting we might well regret the day we allowed it to wither on the vine

It’s a bit of a wobbly position to be in. Holding back the onslaught of Amazon and Netflix and other big players. We know that the BBC can provide brilliant TV, but alas it might be stymied by this cord it has around its throat attaching it to the consumer, in the form of the licence. All I know is that if we lost the idea of public service broadcasting we might well regret the day we allowed it to wither on the vine.

I wouldn’t know the answer. Other than doing what I would do, which may prove wrong. I would turn the BBC more towards educating our children and dousing them in quizzes and anything else that showed them how to think better. The Beeb should not be left to the mercy of the market place and the beck and call of consumerism.

Turn the BBC more towards making history programmes that go into the detail of what happened; certainly a good history of how we came to be where we are now in the world would be welcome. I would love to see programmes about how the welfare state has panned out over the years. Why our social security system seems riven with holes. All big stuff that grew out of the history of how we put the post-war world together.

Cripes, I’m sure it would bore the rear off of many people. But there must be bright people out there who know how to make history real and exciting. Or do we have to drench everything in monsters and wizards to get our young looking and learning?

I do like the idea of games that lead in the end to an increase in learning. Pack the punch that drives ignorance from the door. Make programmes that show how money works, capitalism works, the City of London and the finance industry work. And also how weather works. Making TV the smartest way to make up for all the harm that our children have had from the lockdowns and the pandemic.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to sketch out the causes of our current situation?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to sketch out the causes of our current situation? Make it exciting and truthful as to how China and Russia, now seen as reasons to be wary, have come into being. What has been the role of the Western countries, never slow on self-interest for their ruling classes, in creating the anxieties of the new world disorder?

Maybe we might even be able to have a TV programme that honestly highlights the causes for our exit from Europe and our entrance 47 years before?

By the by, isn’t it interesting that both Russia and China grew out of the biggest experiments in defeating poverty in the 20th century? Whether or not you agree with their outcome, does it not suggest that poverty is a big game-changer? I know that it seems to encircle us and influence us and make life revolving around a poverty sun seem an enormous driving force.

Perhaps we could even say that Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos and all the others who have more than they could spend in a thousand lifetimes are simply running on gut instinct. And that is to get as far away from poverty as possible.

Self-interest and a good hard look at that on BBC TV might be something that could be spread all over the world. Maybe a good honest broadcaster of the standard of an improved BBC could be selling the truth in a way that might not make it on to the commercial channels and platforms.

The Welsh-loaded Stonehenge programme was a visual delight and its use of graphics was dynamic. It certainly cut ice on the following day’s radio. It was good to see so much to celebrate that came from Auntie, as it used to be called.

I think we need more out of Auntie. Perhaps we also need to get that licence thing fixed – maybe a direct grant from the government would sort it.

Anyway, once again Wales: thank you for much of Stonehenge. And thanks for the forward thinking of your Well-being of Future Generations lead.

John Bird is the founder and editor in chief of The Big Issue.