On the Subject of the BBC

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I live in Britain – London, specifically. And, I should point out, I am not a particularly patriotic person. My political views are left-leaning, but largely lack definition. I say this as preamble and context leading to the main statement of this piece, which you’ve probably guessed already:

The BBC is one of the most important institutions in the UK, alongside the NHS, and the licence fee should not be cut.

At the minute, the license fee for a colour television is £145.50 per year. That’s about £12.13 per month, and works out at just under forty pence per day. (You can see a full breakdown of the costs here.)

The question is, what do you get for forty pence a day?

Well, for a start, there’s TV.  Over 30 different drama programmes – Jonathan Creek, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, Orphan Black, Sherlock, Last Tango in Halifax, and so on and so forth. You’ve got all sorts of soaps, like Holby City, Casualty, and of course Eastenders. There’s sitcoms like Citizen Khan, Not Going Out, and Mrs Brown’s Boys. As well as that, there’s also children’s programming. Things like TeletubbiesTracy Beaker, Blue Peter, Deadly 60, In the Night Garden, Newsround. On top of that, you have documentaries – there’s nature documentaries, some of which are with David Attenborough. All sorts of historical documentaries, with special ones produced to commemorate different anniversaries. As well as that, you’ve got all sorts of sports programmes, like Match of the Day, and talent programmes, like The Voice or Strictly Come Dancing, and talk shows, like The Graham Norton Show.

Then, after that, you’ve got radio programmes. There’s 59 different BBC radio stations. These radio stations are not just limited to news, or music – you get comedy, drama, panel games, sketch shows, documentaries, plays. Look, here is a list of the output from just one of the 59 BBC radio stations.

But that’s not all!

Because, you see, the BBC licence fee also pays for online content. Now, the obvious ones that you’d think of are the BBC News website, or maybe the BBC Sport website. There’s also BBC Weather, and BBC iPlayer – where you can see, yet again, the sheer variety and range and breadth of content being produced by the BBC.

Those are the obvious ones, mind you. But it barely scratches the surface.

You’ve got the BBC Bitesize website, a resource for students from Key Stage 1 (5 – 8 years old) all the way up to A-Levels. I guarantee that every single student in the UK, and a huge percentage of teachers, have used and benefitted from that website.

There’s a food website. A travel website. An arts website. An earth website. A history website. An ethics website. A website full of advice for teensAnd there is still more on top of that!

The BBC offers 24 hours news coverage on a variety of far reaching topics, on several different platforms – TV, Radio, online, apps, etc etc etc. It is, more or less, the most impartial and most reputable news service in the country.

That is what you get for 40p a day. Forty pence a day for all of that.

Obviously – and I do want to stress this – the BBC is not perfect. It does need to be criticised, and it does need to be carefully and objectively considered, rather than viewed with rose tinted glasses.

Thing is, though? The best argument for the license fee is the amount of content we get from it.

The license fee is a bargain, not a burden.

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The Flash: Why I love Harrison Wells

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So, over the past year, one of my favourite TV shows has been The Flash. It was a genuinely fun and compelling show, with an amazing cast and quality writing, which was always really exciting to watch. Cannot wait for next series, I’m really looking forward to it.

One of the key things I liked so much about The Flash was the character of Harrison Wells, played brilliantly by Tom Cavanagh. (Spoilers from here on out, by the way.)

Wells is Barry’s mentor. He helps him to save others, supports him in his endeavours, and teaches him things about his own abilities. But the fact is, he has a secret agenda – he’s actually the man who killed Barry’s mother, Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash. He travelled from the future to kill Barry in the past because he hates him that much.

“I come here to destroy you, but then to get home, I have to be the one who creates you”

There’s a really interesting irony at the heart of this, which is summed up by that line – Wells has to be the one to create his worst enemy. Every interaction they have, even though Barry doesn’t know it, carries with it a history – and a future – of so much conflict and hatred for one another.

But, brilliantly, it’s not that simple. Because Wells does begin to care about Barry.

I know that rage. I used to feel that rage every time I looked upon you. And now, somehow, I know what Joe, and Henry, feel when they look upon you with pride, and with love.”

I suppose it could be argued with relative ease that Wells is simply lying here, with the hope of manipulating Barry, but I like to believe it’s a bit more complicated than that – the fact that his hatred for the Barry he knew, and his love for the Barry he has come to know, can and do coexist is one of the more compelling aspects of the narrative, to my mind.

It’s an interesting new take on the idea of the hero’s mentor being the hero’s enemy, and one which also presents some compelling possibilities for future stories: Barry will, eventually, have a “first” meeting with Thawne at a point before he’s Harrison Wells (presumably played by Matt Lescher in this instance). There’d be a lot of parallels between these interactions, and the ones we’ve already seen on the show so far – the positions would be reversed, with Barry knowing and hating Thawne based on past interactions that are all still ahead of Thawne.

How would Barry deal with him? Is he able to do anything to stop him, knowing that he has to keep the past – and future – intact? (Actually, given the weird timey wimey nature of The Flash at the minute, how much of this is still predetermined?)

Or, in a moment of maximum dramatic irony… Will Barry’s hatred of Thawne lead to Thawne’s hatred of Barry? Will Barry create the Reverse Flash, in much the same way that Wells created the Flash?

Honestly, I think it’s likely. And I am really looking forward to it.

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