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You can see the same process in documentaries. The BBC produces many fine works by presenters who love their subject and want to share their love with the viewers — Howard Goodall on the history of music, Andrew Graham-Dixon on Dutch art, are recent examples. But then the old mentality takes over, and the BBC offers us Richard E. Grant on the art of the Riviera, a series that featured lots of beaches and lots of Richard E. Grant but little art. The producers were frightened their subject was too highbrow, and did not ask themselves, "If we're frightened of art, why make a programme about it?"

I have written before about how Scandinavian and American dramas have surged ahead of their British competitors. Their success is in part the result of a change in technology that British broadcasters have yet to understand. If the arrival of many channels in the 1980s necessitated dumbing down, the internet necessitates a move upmarket. Viewers will not go on to Netflix or iTunes and pay for the bog-standard BBC detective dramas any more than they will pay to read the redtops online. They want quality.

Media managers like to present themselves as modern people. Tony Hall's success will depend on him realising that he and many of his contemporaries are yesterday's men and women.

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May 16th, 2013
12:05 PM
You know there's something changing in the world when the editor of the Jewish Chronicle is advising us to switch from BBC News to Al Jazeera. (

May 1st, 2013
11:05 AM
Was Jimmy Savile's pederasty common knowledge in media circles? Why did that story take so long to come out?

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