By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.
THE FIRST NEW factoid I have learnt this year is that the little snippets of film between BBC programmes are called idents. The second thing I have learnt is that the BBC have decided to get with our “fast-changing world” and hire the famous photographer, Martin Parr, to come up with a new set to replace the ones we’ve been used to over the last decade.
So out go the famous (and bizarre) swimming hippos, the Stepford-like wives mowing lawns and the jolly coloured cyclists wheeling into a roundabout, and in come sea swimmers from Somerset, Zumba dancers from Bristol and wheelchair rugby players from Wales, among others.
Unlike the idents they are replacing, however, they will not be going round in circles. My extensive research has revealed that although the circle motif dates back to 2006, it is of ancient origin, harking back to the globe the BBC used as a symbol of its universal outreach in the days when everything was in black and white.
The new idents break this tradition of circularity (they never had one of dogs chasing their tails, though, which would have been a winner) in order “to reflect the diversity of modern Britain”. That’s a “rich diversity”, by the way, not just any old diversity.
It’s all to do with “oneness”, which appears on the screen just to make sure you get the message. We’re all one, you see, even if we’re actually diverse, and we’re especially at one when we watch the BBC because when we’re doing that we’re all doing the same thing and therefore united. That kind of thing.
I DON’T THINK I’m being paranoid but I do detect a whiff of propagandising here. The Great Event of June made it clear that at least 52% of the nation are not totally signed up to the doctrine of universal oneness-in-diversity as espoused by the Great, the Good and the Right-Thinking. As Head Monitor of the country’s political hygiene the BBC has to play its part in re-educating that recalcitrant retro rabble into the ways of the modern world, even if just by inserting snippets of wholesome correctness between programmes. If you’re one of the 48% on the other hand you can bathe in the tepid waters of your own righteousness.
It seems to be accepted as an unquestionable fact by the BBC and others that Britain is heaving with racists, xenophobes, misogynists and haters of the differently-abled. Hence the need for constant tut-tutting and lessons in correctness. It’s a pretty condescending attitude, but those of us in the 52% are used to it. Given how long this process has been going on you’d think the powers that be would give it up as a waste of time.
It’s going to take more than a series of images from Martin Parr, brilliant though he is, to shift us any further. We’re still be a bunch of stinkers whatever they try. This idents move may be a small thing but it makes it clearer than ever that the BBC believe they’re in the business of more than just reflecting society but actively trying to engineer it.
They like to think they’ve got their finger on the pulse of modern Britain and are up to speed with the fast-changing world but they’re not as hip as they think – as the political upheavals of the last couple of years proves. Maybe they’ll eventually realise they’re the ones who are out of touch. No, forget that. It’s ridiculous. Hippos swimming in circles is more symbolic of their own condition than ours. As for the idea of the dogs chasing their own tails, they can have that one for free should they ever need it.
Currente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.