"The BBC: Offering a Layer of Cream on Trifles Since 12th October 2006". Oh, and Nuclear War.

  • 1/07/2008 05:55:00 pm
  • By Mark Gibbings-Jones

Thanks to the spiffing Eyedropper, we've just discovered about the BBC's Freedom Of Information Act site. Got a question about the BBC? You could ask Points Of View or the Radio Times and hope they select your letter. Or, you could fire off a missive to Room 2252 and, providing your question meets the criteria - we're guessing questions along the lines of "Can Sophie Raworth come to our house for tea on Thursday?" will be ignored - you can receive a fully comprehensive reply.


Here are a few sample facts.

There are currently 2787 broadcast copies of post-2002 programmes missing from the BBC archive (from a total of around 200,000), but no master material.

In the twelve months to October 2007, the BBC spent a total of £12,762,858 on taxis. We surprised that hasn't made the front page of the Daily Dacre. There's even a breakdown of how much each member of the executive board spent on taxis. Marks Thompson and Byford spent the least, £865.76 and £677.17 respectively. We like to think that's because they share a tandem.

If you have to wait nineteen minutes for a jacket potato that turns out to be cold in the BBC Canteen, it's worth complaining. You're likely to receive an apology, along with a £10 voucher. Result. However, if your jacket potato is burnt, you may well be the recipient of a dirty look from a waitress. Rather splendidly, here's a full list of complaints received for the year to April 2007 by the BBC Canteen.

Most interesting of all (yes, even more than complaints about being giant fishcakes not being 'giant' enough) is this thing here. From 1984, a script of what was to be read out on air in the event of a nuclear war. These Wartime Broadcasting Instruction Announcements began with the words:
"Here is an important announcement about the broadcasts you will be able to hear after [date]. At [date] all normal Radio and Television services of the BBC and IBA will cease. The will be replaced by a new single Radio service known as the Wartime Broadcasting Service."
From 1988, this is changed to an almost chummy
"You may be wondering, as many people are, what will happen if the current crisis develops into conflict and wondering how you will find out what is happening. Well, the BBC will do everything possible to maintain its broadcasts but it will probably mean that we cannot maintain our full normal service."
We'd like to think this would have been delivered to the nation by Chris Serle. Luckily, details of our impending annihilation would also be listed on Ceefax.

There was also a prepared statement for the re-opening of television ("...from now on we will bring you programmes of information and entertainment that we hope will help us all to resume a normal way of life. Good bye for now"), but if Threads has taught us anything, it's that we'll be lucky to get a really unsettling monochrome video recording of Words And Pictures.

If you want to trawl the list of responses yourself, they're all catalogued here. Channel Four has a similar policy, but it's much less detailed. A disappointing lack of people asking about Krishnan Guru-Murthy's annual tie allowance here.

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