BBC needs to show it cares

I'M a huge fan of the BBC. Always have been - and always will be. I believe in the licence fee - and actually reckon it's good value. Certainly compared with the hundreds of pounds people are prepared to pay to subscribe to Sky or Setanta every year it's a real bargain.

I'M a huge fan of the BBC. Always have been - and always will be.

I believe in the licence fee - and actually reckon it's good value. Certainly compared with the hundreds of pounds people are prepared to pay to subscribe to Sky or Setanta every year it's a real bargain.

With many different ways to pay, there really is no excuse for not paying - and I don't believe there is anyone out there who has a television or radio and never watches or listens to the Beeb.

However, the shine has been rubbed off the BBC over recent months - which is a great shame because its drama, comedy and entertainment offerings in general have been better than they have been for years.

But with the world teetering on the brink of recession, it's difficult to escape the feeling that the BBC is insulated from the harsh economic realities of life - and that some of its bosses and senior journalists seem to be enjoying the nation's agony in a rather “I'm all right, Jack!” fashion.

Economics editor Robert Peston has brought us some stunning exclusives over recent weeks - the biggest story being, of course, the proposed merger between Lloyds and HBOS.

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As a journalist I can understand his satisfaction in landing such a big story, but I have sometimes felt during his news reports that his satisfaction in getting the “great scoop” has overflowed into his delivery of a story that will have millions of people feeling anxious.

That makes it look as if he - and by extension the BBC as a whole - is enjoying the discomfort of their viewers and listeners while those telling the news are insulated from the hard facts of economic life.

The licence fee is the best - or more accurately the least-worst - method of funding the BBC, but by its nature the corporation does get a fixed income and is very well insulated from the economic chill that affects its competitors.

And those competitors do include newspapers like the Evening Star, so it would be disingenuous of me to claim I didn't have a personal interest in this as well.

But it is irritating to hear BBC voices talking down the economy while its bosses at the highest level have been trying to expand the empire.

As a newspaper journalist I was relieved that the BBC Trust turned down the management's attempt to set up “micro-websites” which would be in direct competition with those run by newspapers such as ourselves.

It was a decision which should be welcomed by everyone - if the BBC had succeeded in its ambition it would have put intolerable strain on media outlets across the country and could have left the state-owned body as the only source of news for communities . . . and that would have been a disaster for democracy.

On a more local level, I have noticed increasing needle between the BBC and other media.

I was tackled by one BBC Radio Suffolk presenter at a social event recently. “How can you wear that badge?” He said, pointing to the Somebody's Daughter logo on my lapel, “When your paper has small ads for personal services?”

This all arose from a speech from Harriet Harman to the WI which was leapt on by the Beeb, whose bosses apparently saw it as an opportunity to give rivals a bit of a kicking.

When I pointed out that police officers had recommended we carry the ads - under their watchful eye - rather than scrap them, I was told archly: “That's not what I've been told!”

Two columns of advertising a day isn't going to make or break us and if we were asked to drop them by the police then we would - but it's all very well for the BBC to be pious about advertising when it doesn't have to worry about where its money is coming from!

AUTHORITIES in Ipswich have been coming under fire because of all the traffic problems on the eastern approach to the town centre - in the Duke Street/Fore Street/Bishop's Hill area.

There is no doubt that it is difficult to see a solution to the chronic congestion that has built up - especially since a new crossing was put in at UCS earlier this year.

But my sympathy for their plight is very limited - frankly you don't have to be a traffic engineer with half the letters of the alphabet after your name to work out that things would get very difficult there.

The Duke Street junction has always been a bottleneck for the town, and by allowing the construction of the Fairview development, the Orwell Quay development nearer Cliff Quay, Neptune Marina, and UCS there was always going to be more traffic ending up at a pinch-point.

Why wasn't a full remodelling of the traffic system insisted upon when the development was allowed? Why weren't developers forced to make a contribution when times were good?

It's difficult to see how putting in another set of traffic lights at Duke Street could really ease the situation - in my view there isn't a traffic problem in existence that a new set of lights can't make much worse.

The only lights that really improved traffic were those introduced at the Norwich Road/Bramford Road junction about 20 years ago.

The Duke Street roundabout as it exists at the moment is dreadful - it is small, dangerous, and has a very bad camber - but will lights really improve traffic flow?

CONGRATULATIONS to the officials at Suffolk Coastal for realising that Caffè Nero would be an asset, not a liability, for Felixstowe town centre.

Hopefully the councillors will take their advice, add it to their own gut feeling that such a café would breathe life into the town and give the proposal their backing.

It's just a shame this realisation of the economic facts of life by council officers has come too late for Puccinos. But this was a new battle. Over to you, Doreen!