Culture secretary

BBC: UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ attack on public service broadcasting shows she is unfit for such a high office – Christine Grahame MSP

Christine Grahame

However, it still does a good job providing decent radio, including World Service. Telly brings us The Green Planet and, for me, BBC 4’s Montalbano, a great detective series set in Sicily. Pay attention, that is, if you can handle the subtitles.

Anyway, the decision of Nadine Dorries, the British Culture Secretary, to freeze licensing fees for two years, which represents a sharp reduction in her budget, is bad news. Do you remember her? I went to the jungle in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here while taking his MP salary? Just the kind of person to oversee cultivation.

It’s the same UK government that scrapped the free TV license for over 75s (unless you get a pension credit). Anyway, my affection dates back to the days of steam radio, otherwise known as cordless.

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We would sit as a family, crowned next to the only heat source in the house, try tartan legs, and tune into Educating Archie, a radio show featuring a ventriloquist and his dummy (I’m not kidding), Life with the Lyons, the Goon Show, Dan Dare and, on Sundays, Two Way Family Favorites.

This included requests from wives to husbands who, if I remember correctly, were serving in places like Malta and Cyprus in the armed forces. It went well with Sunday roast, tatties and Yorkshire puddings.

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Later, we were the first on our street to have a TV. It featured a small screen enclosed in a huge wooden frame. It was the days of black and white with only a few hours of broadcast, the potter’s wheel when there was a hole in the transmission, received English and never a regional accent to be heard, oh and the news was delivered in something approaching evening dress. Last thing in the evening, God Save the Queen for closing.

UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’ decision to freeze licensing fees for two years is actually a big cut to the BBC’s budget (Picture: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

It was my friend’s time, as someone once sang. I always love the radio, especially when I’m driving around the riding. Just a Minute, The Last Word, Desert Island Discs and (pause for effect) even The Archers.

But back to TV. Over the years, there have been memorable moments that have changed society.

I remember a dramatic documentary called Cathy Come Home that brought the pathos and despair of homelessness into our homes. I can still see Cathy pushing an old fashioned pram with her children as she fought off social workers trying to take them away from her. The film, from the now famous Ken Loach, was released the same year that Shelter was created.

David Attenborough, over the years, has charmed and educated us with the help of extraordinary cameramen and experts, about every nook and cranny of our fragile world.

Michael Buerk’s reporting on the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s (now there is famine) shocked us all and gave birth to Feed the World. Today, as the BBC reports on world events, we cannot escape global warming, threats of war, small and large scale disasters. A little boy trapped underground, and here we are.

We need public service broadcasting and maybe not Nadine Dorries.

Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale

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