Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Who dunnit, and why bother?

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1985-03-02 Guardian.jpg


You begin to feel a little sorry for Auntie. The BBC wants a £65 licence fee : in support of which cause it has rational arguments and independent accountants' reports aplenty. But somehow the message doesn't seem to be playing very well elsewhere in the media. " Who but the barmpots of the BBC would treat the public with such contempt ? " asked the Daily Star yesterday, lathering words like "arrogant" and "cynical" across its leader column. Meanwhile, The Sun, not for the first time, was belabouring the "Oliver Twists" of Broadcasting House and (like the Star) launching "a desperate space rescue mission to save telly Timelord Doctor Who." As the boot goes in, the Daily Express polishes its metal tow-caps ; whilst The Times barely seems to let a day pass without some interminable editorial attack upon the Corporation with, until very recently, no signs of rebuttal from its letter-writing readers.

The BBC, in sum, has never had it so rough. What on earth can be going wrong ? Quite a lot, actually : though it pays to separate the strands. On the one hand, £65 is a pretty steep rise after three years, against a background of comparatively lack lustre programming. So the case was always going to be a hard one to battle through. But the other hand is a good deal murkier. Mrs Thatcher — according to her lobby luds — is fed up with the BBC and wants it to take advertising. That set the hounds going. And some of those hounds (it may neutrally be observed) have quite a lot to gain from the dismemberment or crippling of the BBC. (Fleet, publishers of the Star and Express, have a fat shareholding in TV-AM ; Mr Rupert Murdoch's broadcasting interests are global and legion). But beyond even that chilly climate, the Corporation is having great problems in getting its act together. Does one (as in times past) argue quietly with Ministers? Or does one opt for Peter Hall street theatre ? The answer — disastrously at the moment — seems to be a bit of both. The cancelling and resuscitation of Dallas was a pointless furore, stirring the pot. And now there is (or isn't) Doctor Who. You can make a perfectly sensible case for resting the show. It is not a national monument. It has been going for 22 years. It is no ratings giant, with the same predictable plots endlessly, comfortably re-cycled across the decades. And if nothing old on the schedules ever gets cancelled, then nothing new will ever be shown. But presenting the decision as a cost-driven one, turning Doctor Who into the Cottesloe Theatre of this £65 drama, is a foolish mis-match. The BBC needs sympathy, support and a fair hearing. The last thing it needs, amongst the wacky histrionics of its critics. is wacky histrionics of its own.

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  • APA 6th ed.: (1985-03-02). Who dunnit, and why bother?. The Guardian p. 14.
  • MLA 7th ed.: "Who dunnit, and why bother?." The Guardian [add city] 1985-03-02, 14. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: "Who dunnit, and why bother?." The Guardian, edition, sec., 1985-03-02
  • Turabian: "Who dunnit, and why bother?." The Guardian, 1985-03-02, section, 14 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Who dunnit, and why bother? | url=,_and_why_bother%3F | work=The Guardian | pages=14 | date=1985-03-02 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Who dunnit, and why bother? | url=,_and_why_bother%3F | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=18 April 2024}}</ref>