BBC Trust, Private Eye and Jazz Solos

May 5, 2011

So what do I really know about Diane Coyle, new vice-chair of the BBC Trust?

Not much. I’ve never met her.

I do however follow her on Twitter, and through that read posts from her blog. The impression I get is from those is that she seems a very intelligent and rather nice (and friendly) human being. Through following her I’ve been put in touch with some well expressed and original thoughts and ideas.

So I was disappointed to read the rather snarky piece in Private Eye about Diane Coyle’s and David Liddiment’s appearance in front of the Select Commitee as BBC Trustees. (Private Eye don’t put much of their content online as they want you to buy the magazine so here’s a rather blurred picture to prove I did).

The most revealing phrase in the piece is the description that Liddiment…

“listened to all this like a jazz musician who has just listened to a colleague give an obscure solo”.

It reveals a very particular attitude: suspicious of anything that might require some intellectual effort to appreciate.

Like a jazz solo.

Or running rather complex governance structures and processes as BBC Trustees have to do.

“Licence payers stuffed again”

…Gavel Basher ends with a rhetorical flourish.

How exactly have licence fee payers been “stuffed”? By BBC Trustees trying to do their job? How are they going to do that other than with processes and committees? Perhaps Gavel Basher would prefer them to do their jobs without any evidence as he seems to object to the phrase “evidence based research”?

Really it’s the language that Gavel Basher objects to. Our old friend “Birtspeak”.

“Birtspeak” … well I remain an unrepentant Birtist.

John Birt was in my opinion the greatest BBC Director General of the past forty years. (I suspect I’m in a minority here).

People who attack Birtspeak are like people who go to Paris for the weekend and then take umbrage at the fact that people there speak French.

So I’m more inclined to believe what I’ve read of Diane Coyle on Twitter than in Private Eye. Although, like Diane herself, I’m trying to keep an open mind…


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