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How to weaponise the BBC Britain needs to harness its soft power

'I would go even further: we need Warhammer Britain' (Henry Cavill in Warhammer 2)

'I would go even further: we need Warhammer Britain' (Henry Cavill in Warhammer 2)


April 2, 2024   9 mins

If the BBC is the cultural expression of the British state, then the omens are surely unfavourable. Its funding contested and overstretched, bogged down in interminable culture war disputes, the BBC does not know what it is for. Every few years it pivots to some bold new global vision that invariably fizzles out: in the meantime, it has found itself outpaced by technological change, struggling to assert its relevance abroad while winning dwindling approval at home. If the BBC’s role is to reflect modern Britain, it amply succeeds.

The BBC’s malaise as compared with the big streaming platforms, addressed in the Director General Tim Davie’s speech last week, is a cultural expression of other national failings — primarily the inability to capitalise on success that has bedevilled British industry for generations. Just as the birthplace of the jet engine, of the worldwide web and of television itself finds its innovations adopted and then outpaced by other nations, so Britain serially underperforms in its cultural exports. As Davie observed, “On global streamers, a minority of the offer is UK content,” with the result that “global economic models drive you to a different place, editorially, from a UK player”.

They certainly do. There are few more revealing exercises than burrowing deep within the algorithmic suggestions of the big streaming platforms to see the cultural production subsidised by Britain’s state rivals. For some years now, the Russian state has overseen the production of big-budget war dramas, with a theme of painful sacrifice in the service of the Motherland: it does not take a conspiratorial mind to see this output as a foreshadowing of current events. China, similarly, has produced countless lavish historical epics on the past glory of the Middle Kingdom, a flexing of civilisational confidence that reflects the priorities of the rising superpower. India’s increasingly nationalistic output, equally, should be recommended viewing for British policymakers keen to win New Delhi’s favour: Britain most frequently appears in current Indian cinema as the source of cartoon villains, brutal sneering foils to the patriotic heroism of the leading actor. It is not an exaggeration to say that, buried within the bowels of Netflix and Amazon, we gain a clearer sense of the worldview of the rising powers of the coming decades than in all the sensible think-tank pieces driving British foreign policy.

What, then, does Britain’s outward-facing cultural production say about us? Frankly, nothing good. There are few more heart-sinking phrases in the English language than “Home-grown British Drama”, given the British film industry’s strange fascination with preachy kitchen sink parables, and unwatched gentle boomer comedies set in neglected regions. If a nation is defined by its culture, then ours is Jim Broadbent going on a bittersweet late-life journey of self-discovery across the Durham coalfields, forever. There are two opposing strands to the British imagination, the astonishing, visionary creativity that, we too easily forget, still characterises Britain to the wider world, and the suffocating tweeness around which our state-funded cultural exports revolve. The wrong strand still dominates.

And if our external efforts are drab and lifeless, British television’s domestic output, like our high streets, increasingly appears a blasted wasteland. The bulk of the BBC’s programming can be characterised as Blue Peter for adults, whose presenters address the audience with the cheerily patronising, dead-eyed bonhomie of staff in a nursing home. If ITV expresses the inner world of the British working class, then it is alone a rebuke to any post-liberal project: surely no hope lies in the proles. And Channel 4, whose executives to this day see themselves as edgily groundbreaking innovators, produces by some margin the most formulaic programming on British television, endless “blue-light” observational formats set in maternity hospitals and animal shelters that blur interchangeably into each other. From its daytime roster of programmes warning pensioners about telephone scams and featuring aspiring slum landlords buying up rundown terraces at property auctions, to its evening output following the artificially constructed sexual quandaries of dazzling-toothed Deanos, British television presents an almost surrealist vision of modern Britain in all its claustrophobic grimness.

In these circumstances, it seems delusional to lament the audience’s drift towards American streaming services: it is the rational choice for any discerning consumer. It is perhaps too late for the BBC to catch up with Netflix, given its inattention to technological investment: until recently, it was impossible to even favourite a programme for later watching on iPlayer, one of the most basic functionalities of any streaming service. Yet as with everything else in modern Britain, the malaise is easily fixable with a clear reformist vision and a ruthless wielding of the scalpel. If British cultural production is an industry in decline, then it requires an industrial strategy to address. And as with heavy industry, that overperforming fellow middle power, South Korea, perhaps provides the clearest model to follow.

As a concerted effort of state policy, the South Korean government has championed film and television in service of the country’s soft power, with remarkable success. Launched by the Korean government nearly two decades ago, as “a distinct cultural policy based on state-developmentalism, public diplomacy, and nation branding” with the explicit aim of using culture “as both a domestic and foreign policy tool to strengthen its economic diversification, export profile, and cultural and public diplomacy outcomes”, the Korean Wave or Hallyu has been a remarkable global success. As one academic study observes, through the Hallyu policy Korea’s “export of cultural goods and services has grown exponentially; between 1998 and 2019, it chalked up a forty-time increase from $188.9 million to $12.3 billion in 2019”, with a ripple effect on other industries, so that between 2011 and 2016, every $100 of exported Hallyu content “generated an attendant export of USD248 worth of consumer goods from South Korea”.

Seeded by government grants and a concerted, joined-up state effort to enhance Korea’s global standing, the Hallyu policy has matured over time to depend on private finance. While the government bore the initial risks, as the Korean Wave has blossomed, a corporate ecosystem has evolved, generating both revenue and cultural and diplomatic capital in the service of the state. South Korea’s cultural diplomacy does not strive, like the BBC does, to compete with American platforms: instead it employs the Netflix and YouTube infrastructure in clear-eyed pursuit of its own goals. Working with laser-guided efficiency towards global success, South Korea’s cultural output nevertheless remains firmly Korean. Perhaps it is this unapologetic Korean-ness, that unabashed cultural self-confidence that makes it so appealing to a global audience. It does not fawningly attempt, as we do in every sphere, to seek American approval, but wins international esteem for being so resolutely of itself.

Yet international success does not mean playing to the gallery: from Old Boy to Squid Game, Last Train to Busan and Parasite, South Korea’s international film and television hits have been marked by formal experimentation, dark and disturbing themes and a relentless quest to construct new visual worlds. It is the precise opposite approach to Britain’s cultural strategy in recent decades, a strategy which has not only failed but goes against what is most striking about the British character: its seam of visionary, innovative imagination, too often crushed by uninspired management, a timid desire to play it safe, and the relentless national trait of letting others exploit and benefit from its own low-hanging fruit.

Tim Davie’s assertion that the BBC’s “most successful approach is to focus on our point of difference: authentic British stories produced beautifully, not worrying too much about an abstract notion of global appeal” makes the right noises, yet his focus on “a shared British culture and our democratic, tolerant society” and gobbledegook pursuit of “unique algorithms to serve our values, for good
 that bring us closer, not drive us apart” naturally makes eyes glaze over. There is surely no more interest globally than there is domestically in a televisual cross between Very British Problems and a period of detention in a Michaela school, or in being lectured on our Brilliant British Values by Marianna Spring. All of this is an expression not of cultural self-confidence but of its absence, the state broadcaster uneasily papering over cracks that threaten to bring down the roof. Like the country itself, British programming is hidebound by timidity and self-doubt.

In his 2021 essay “After Brexit, We Need an Iron Maiden Britain”, the writer Jeremy Driver posits the unfashionable, but undeniably successful, rock band as a model for a reformed British state: bombastically self-confident, freed from the tiresome restraints of good taste and unashamedly hungry for global success. In pursuit of soft power and prosperity, I would go even further: we need Warhammer Britain. The unfashionable, but wildly popular hobby is an underexploited national champion which a country like South Korea would long ago have swung behind in pursuit of soft power. More profitable than Google, worth more than Marks & Spencer, the Games Workshop company behind it has turned the Warhammer 40k intellectual property into a global phenomenon. It is remarkable, for example, that both sides in the Ukraine war have displayed a tendency to allude to Warhammer’s fictional universe, with Ukraine even fielding two units named after its fantasy factions: that is what soft power means. Warhammer’s lucrative gaming figurines are all made in Britain, with the company about to open its fourth factory, bucking national economic trends. During lockdown, the company didn’t claim any government subsidies despite shuttering its more than 500 shops: it’s so profitable it didn’t need to. Its characters are “ridiculous, over-the-top pastiches, created by people who were bored and angry” in a world where “hope has been extinguished for millennia” — and what could be more British than that?

With its global fanbase, its relentlessly successful pursuit of market dominance and ever-expanding profit, its rooting in British culture and commitment to local industry, the Warhammer intellectual property has the potential to be a British Disney or Marvel, an endlessly productive cash cow that simultaneously advances the nation’s soft power, not least within state adversaries such as Russia and China. As Games Workshop recently declared, “we own what we believe is some of the best under exploited intellectual property (‘IP’) globally”, a statement of self-belief that is surely correct. Yet — as so often — Britain lets America reap the full benefits, with Amazon set to exploit its popularity in a lavishly-funded series of TV shows and films produced by the British actor Henry Cavill. There is no reason why the BBC, with government backing, could not have picked this luscious low-hanging fruit as a national champion: all the elements for success present themselves with glaring obviousness.

“The Warhammer intellectual property has the potential to be a British Disney or Marvel”

But the same could be said for other under-exploited British intellectual property: given the relentlessness with which discourse in recent years has revolved around issues of empire, colonialism and race, the Flashman series of novels, which presents Britain’s imperial history with a far more sceptical and ambivalent eye, rooted in scholarly accuracy, than many perhaps realise, could have been a global success, deftly asserting Britain’s ownership of its own history. Why was the success of Peter Weir’s Master and Commander not capitalised on with a reboot of the Hornblower series? Given the success of BBC’s The Last Kingdom, an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon series of novels — promptly sold to Netflix, with the quality declining even as the budget was boosted — could we not use the vast armies conjurable with CGI to reboot Cornwell’s Sharpe series for a new audience, or even better, adapt his Arthurian series on the forging of the British nation in a way that speaks, as the source material does, to Britain’s current, fissiparous challenges? From HBO’s Rome to Disney’s Shogun, the appeal of immersive historical worlds is enduring — and our national inclination to recreate them is surely the basis of our global brand.

The answer is that none of this is appealing to our cultural tastemakers, even if it would be wildly popular both at home and abroad. But, then, the British culture industry has been captured by people who are worse than political enemies: they are simply boring. It possesses neither the confidence to strive for high culture, nor the commercial instincts to exploit what is organically popular, leaving us stranded with a middlebrow output that, by trying to appeal to everyone, pleases no one. Who does not, when they hear a “topical” Radio 4 afternoon play, or listen to Mark Steel perform his notionally comedic circuit of provincial towns, reach for their proverbial revolver? It is like being trapped in a dictatorship whose cultural showpiece was the 2012 Olympic Ceremony. But the BBC’s rivals are no better: Channel 4 shows more of a commitment to showing quality European drama than making it, a reflection of our sad cultural cringe and lack of self-belief, while it would be an act of national self-harm to inflict ITV’s programming on the wider world. Like everything in Britain, in the interests of national survival, our cultural output requires total reform.

So where do we start? Conflicted though our tastemakers may feel about it, Britain’s Early Modern history is the basis of our global brand: it is the reason why the English language, the English men’s suit, and the game of football have become so widely adopted, globally, that it is hard to remember they are expressions of our national culture, surely the most widely adopted ethnic culture in world history. This is a vast seam of cultural capital, ready and waiting to be mined, which a South Korea could only dream of. But instead we let the wider world write our national story, turning Britain, as in Bridgerton, into a theme park for other cultures’ fantasies, a provincial museum whose captions are written by other people — and rarely to our best interests.

There is a vast market for a Britishness beyond our oscillation between tweeness and miserabilism, for a confidence that can be feigned even if it is hard to feel, and where even working out our doubts and insecurities in art — with a clear-sighted honesty absent in Britain’s current cultural output — would be productive. If we accept the argument, made in defence of the licence fee, that the BBC is a tool of British soft power, then in an era of global confrontation and self-assertion by rising powers, drawing on their history for worldly success, it must begin to act like it. For our age of moping twee to end, Britain’s new cultural imperium must begin.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Leigh A
Leigh A
3 months ago

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war!

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago
Reply to  Leigh A

Indeed. And the Inquisition have expunged my post

Darwin K Godwin
Darwin K Godwin
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

“My patience is limited, unlike my authority”

– Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago

I’m sure Aris was making a serious point somewhere in here, but the idea of the BBC adapting Warhammer is probably the most absurd notion I’ve seen written.
The good guys in 40K, the humans, The Imperium of Man (that would have to change straight away), is a fascistic empire inculcating it’s trillion strong populace into a totalitarian, religious state worshipping the God Emperor [of man]. Pretty much everything else is worse.
Although the setting’s absurdity plays out like Starship Troopers, it’s not quite a satire. The BBC would therefore be forced to make changes – e.g. the male only space marines would be diversified. Much nerd rage would be triggered.
Slighly more seriously, I understand Aris’ point. However, I think the period of adaptations and franchised entertainment is coming to an end (at last!). Disney are somehow failing with Star Wars and haven’t managed a successful Marvel movie since before Covid. I also think this era of geekdom dominated tv and movies is ending. The future winners will be those who find some innovation and do something new.
Amazon even managed to screw up Tolkein and the latest rumours from the Rings of Power is that they’re cutting the budget for that for the next season (apparently, they’re contracted for five seasons).
Dune, although successful (and surprisingly good) could be the last of the big tent pole adaptations but I don’t think it has the broad pull to achieve the franchise status. And IMO, the BBC can’t do (at least in the past 20 years) serious hard sci-fi like Dune, and I don’t think could be capable of pulling off a more Star Wars like production that Warhammer would require. Tolkien would have been a more appropriate BBC adaptation, although even there I imagine they’d still be queesy about it.
Even though football is mentioned, I think Aris is ignoring the nations largest cultural export, which is the English Premier League. There’s also J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, which is of course the most successful book series this century (take a look at the number of British authors in the top ten all time sellers list). That would also be incendiary for the BBC.
Oddly enough, the only good thing that came out of Covid for me was that I wound the clock back 25 years and started painting miniatures again. However, plastic/resin crack is more expensive than a pint, so I didn’t save any money but it did feel good to exercise some creativity and craft again. Please don’t let the BBC ruin that as well!

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
3 months ago

How come no mention of Doc Martin? I’d say it has the best characterization of the Barnacles and the Stiltstockings from the Circumlocution Office since Dickens himself.

Elizabeth Bowen
Elizabeth Bowen
3 months ago

I agree generally, but there is interest. That’s why Living, Banshees, Saltburn, Pigeon Tunnel, Zone of Interest, etc. were made. Read ‘Film England: Culturally English Filmmaking Since the 1990s’ by Andrew Higson.
The types of films are clearly defined and articulated in terms of national identity and Britishness. Really enjoyed the book; producers may find confidence as there are only hundreds and hundreds of successful examples to follow. Huw Jones also writes extensively on this.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
3 months ago

Saltburn owes its success to two scenes which, even in our depraved times, manage to plumb new depths. Without those nobody would ever have heard of it.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Ah, we want “success”, but only success on our terms! I don’t actually know which scenes you mean, nothing that hasn’t been seen many times before.

I might agree about the artistic merit of “Saltburn”. It started out as a fantastic, if exaggerated, examination of very British issues of class snobbery, false friendship, the interaction of old fashioned snobbish with modern woke values, institutional group think, inverted snobbery (acting poor). But it was ruined spoiled by becoming a lazy serial killer schlock denouement.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I think we agree it was just a poor film. I thought even the examination of class snobbery was ‘exaggerated’ to the point of parody.

If you’ve seen somebody attempt to drink semen from used bath water many times before we must have very different viewing habits.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I’ve got it on my rental list . . but maybe I’d better watch it a good two hours after my tea.

J Dunne
J Dunne
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Care to name even one of these many despictions of a man licking menstrual blood and then feeding it to the lady from whom he has just procured it?

And I mean on television, not graphic porn sites.

John Murray
John Murray
3 months ago

Nah. I’d far rather they abolish the BBC license fee than some BBC version of WH40K.
Frankly, Amazon money + Henry Cavill = WAAAGH!!!!!

J Bryant
J Bryant
3 months ago

This is a fantastic essay, imo. I’m American but I have access to many foreign movies and TV series through the public library system. I certainly agree that the South Koreans have done a fantastic job with their movie industry. As recently as fifteen years ago their movies had a distinctly retro 70s feel to them, but now they’re world class (in addition to those mentioned by the author, if you enjoy horror I’d warmly recommend “The Wailing”).
The Brits excel at historical fiction, and I would argue it’s not all twee or laden with clichĂ©s. Back in the day, for example, Merchant/Ivory produced some great movies. But UK, and US, TV and movies have become infected with progressivism in recent years, where the show is viewed as little more than a vehicle to deliver a progressive political lecture. I’ve pretty much stopped watching American/Brit shows made after 2020. The British establishment and leaders of the arts, like their US counterparts, now seem to hate their own culture so much they likely can’t conceive of celebrating it (or intelligently and entertainingly revisiting it) in movies or TV.
Is it still possible for British writers/producers to create edgy, insightful shows in modern, progressive Britain?

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
3 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Not while the television industry in Britain is run (like everything else that’s failing here) by a tiny coterie of bubble-dwelling Oxford graduates who despise everything about the country that showers them with wealth and privilege.

The BBC should either be abolished or reformed to be run by a board of governors elected by licence fee payers on a regional basis.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Presumably you went to Cambridge?

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
3 months ago

Maybe Oxford’s traitors gravitate to the broadcasting service, whereas Cambridge’s prefer the secret service?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago

Yes a good point.
Oxford hasn’t been the same since Lane Fox retired.

Rob N
Rob N
3 months ago

Oxford is a dump. Thank God, Hull still has its reputation!

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
3 months ago

On a purely aesthetic level, after walking around their respective town centres, everyone would *want* to go to Cambridge rather than Oxford.

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
3 months ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I agree Hugh, but I’d go back a lot further than 2020 to avoid being preached to by the BBC.

R Wright
R Wright
3 months ago

The Emperor Protects.

ALLEN MORRIS-YATES
ALLEN MORRIS-YATES
3 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Well yes, but in this world we must get by with Gaunt’s armour of contempt.I doubt I will live to see an Eisenhorn coming to our rescue.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
3 months ago

“unique algorithms to serve our values”. That explains the BBC drama formula: white straight male = psychopath or coward; white female = victim; white gay or black male = pillar of the community; black female = saviour heroine.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 months ago

It’s all so wearyingly predictable. Colour-blind casting seems almost as if its only there to be a direct challenge to the audience. If you notice a black actor in a traditionally white role – say Hamlet – then you’re a bigot. Yet, as with all multicultural edicts, it is something of a one-way street. We’re supposed not to notice, yet cast Damian Lewis as Nelson Mandela and they’d notice soon enough.
If a white actor is cast in a role traditionally associated with a person of colour then it is cultural appropriation. Maureen Lipman criticised the casting of Helen Mirren to play Golda Meir with accusations of ‘Jewface’. But if anyone criticised a jewish actress for playing a gentile then they’d immediately be cancelled for anti-semitism. Eddie Redmayne playing a trans character was supposedly “Regressive, Reductive and Harmful”, a criticism he felt compelled to agree with, lest it damage his career. Gay roles played by straight actors receive similar opprobrium. The end goal, presumably, is that actors can only play characters that match their own identity-groupings … or some such twaddle.
I await the news that Sir Anthony Hopkins, following a twitter storm accusing him of anthropophagiophobia, is returning his Oscar and going on a media apology tour, for having cruelly stolen a part that should have gone to a genuine cannibal mass murderer.

Stuart Maister
Stuart Maister
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

This is exactly the issue which has sucked energy and creativity from so much British output and made it difficult to watch. The South Koreans aren’t featuring a number of token people of any ethnicity – but they’re not expected to.
And then when the ads come on…that’s another reason to watch Netflix!

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Was Maureen Lipman doing Goyface when playing Joyce Grenfell ?

Rob N
Rob N
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

While I generally agree I do feel that comparing colour blind casting to Mandela and Hamlet is not the same. Mandela was a real black man while Hamlet (though undoubtedly white in the eyes of his creator) an his story are supposed to reflect part of the universal human condition.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 months ago
Reply to  Rob N

Were there many Princes of Denmark in the late mediaeval period that were men of colour?
Anne Boleyn was a real white woman, yet channel 5 saw fit to cast a black actress in the role.No matter how good she may have been in the role, the issue remains as I described it – it is a one-way street.
When selecting actors for such roles, rather than colour-blind, I would suggest that such casting is deliberately colour-conscious, as a challenge to the audience.

Arthur King
Arthur King
3 months ago

The white villain also often has blue eyes.

Edward McPhee
Edward McPhee
3 months ago

Well said Peter, I couldn’t agree more.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
3 months ago

British and American dramas have become woke morality plays with actors being reduced to lazy representations of postmodern heroes and villains.
I’m concerned that Amazon is the company producing Warhammer. Judging by its previous colossal failures (Wheel of Time and Rings of Power), Amazon, like Disney, is in the business of transforming fantastic IPs into gormless pseudo-moralistic drivel hell-bent on messaging rather than entertainment.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

I agree. I notice my (longer than I remember due to posting when I should have been getting sleep) post is back where I mentioned such things. The one thing about Prime is that it outsources its materials to different production companies, which is why some of their content isn’t so bad while others fail completely.
Cavil as a producer gives some hope, as he walked out on The Witcher because the writing team were busy updating it for the mythical creature that is the “modern audience”

Mike SampleName
Mike SampleName
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Cavill as producer. And I understand GW are retaining creative control. As many problems as I have with them as a business, they are notoriously protective of their IP. I can’t see them allowing a Witcher/AtLA/ROP-style adaptation that damages the brand.

cj bevan
cj bevan
3 months ago

one can fervently hope!

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
3 months ago

It’s not as if we don’t know how to make good content. Shows like Doctor Who under Tennant (first time around), Peep Show, QI, Downton Abbey and Top Gear for example were all produced in living memory and had (and still do have) global reach. Tastes and what audiences actually want hasn’t changed that much, yet we feel so far away from that.

I honestly hate this pandering to America, especially as 80% of shows and films to come out of there in recent years have been largely terrible.l and harmful to our societies.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
3 months ago

Could you imagine the BBC attempting shows like Sharpe with its DEI goggles on?!

Let’s be honest. DEI is a creative straight jacket. Once applied any historical accuracy and believability goes out the window. Thus destroying the very reason for doing the damn show in the first place.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
3 months ago

Precisely!! Aris lands so many telling arguments. But talk of Flashman and Sharpe suggests he does not grasp the demonic hold of DEI anti-think groupthink in the New Order BBC. Our imperial past to them is the root of evil and the structural racism of today – thst History is now cancelled. Look at the likes of Victoria and Abdul to see the depth of the derangement. It is this vast ideological blackhole that has speedily determined the BBC’s creative death.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Of course he gets that! Aren’t you paying attention?!

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
3 months ago

I had long hoped for a Flashman series, but even if Idris Elba was cast as old Flashy, the rest of it would just be too “problematic”.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago

Didn’t Malcolm McDowell feature as ‘Flashman’ some years ago now?

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 months ago

“Some years ago” is right – it was in the mid 70s. At least a decade before most of our current media cultural gatekeepers were born.
Whilst many of them might emulate Flashman’s moral courage, painfully few match his wit and style.

AC Harper
AC Harper
3 months ago

The DEI straight jacket imposes a ‘wonderful’ conformity (sarcasm). But like the Emperors New Clothes the straight jacket has no foundation in reality, although the DEI tailors make a good living producing it.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
3 months ago

Perhaps we should replace DEI with DIE?

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
3 months ago

Very good. But the conclusion confuses. There are two existential crises for the BBC, one to do with its outmoded funding model, and the second its new credos and ‘mission’. What is this talk of a revived soft power push when its 1920s ‘Wireless Or Jail’ model makes it a Woolworths, a total pipsqueak, now wholly overshadowed and outgunned creatively in global content. More terminal is its ideological hijacking by the Progressive Extremists since 2010. The BBC is a propagandist Evangelical defenfer of the New Order, daily spewing way more toxins into the rivers of public culture and debate than Thames Water. It is actually a social danger now, a Soviet like propagandist, with Red Guards fiercely committed to the progressive Trinity of Climate Catastrophism (proud to terrify our youth with visions of Hellfire before they reach 40); the twisted Equality and race credo which has seen them laud BLM and Hamas mobs, incite hatred toward our history and inculcate 24/7 the sickly grievance victimhood and entitlement credo and the elevated and privileged status of the Nine. It expresses its unthinking leftist reflexes in all politics – leading the Partygate farce (PM attends a leaving do, young civil servants drink and disco,) catastrophizing the entire Brexit debate, driving gleefully the lockdown hysteria with lies and exaggerations over 2 years (for SHAME) and lauding a broken socialist relic of the NHS. Like the striking doctors, this new BBC has broken its oath to us and does harm. It is committed to progressive state ideologies, not the objective truth and our protection. What mission do you propose this dangerous hulk ship can set out on in the future?? It is over.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
3 months ago

“Working with laser-guided efficiency towards global success, South Korea’s cultural output nevertheless remains firmly Korean.”
I did do a little thought experiment with this sentence by substituting “South Korea” and “Korean” with “Great Britain” and “British”…but was overwhelmed by the impossibility of associating the phrase “laser-guided efficiency” with Britain.
Instead, I was forced to ponder when it was that I lost faith in Brand Britain and the creativity and innovation and confidence that used to spring from it. It was when they took Kiwi shoe polish off the shelves of British supermarkets. That people are no longer interested in polishing their shoes properly but use quicker solutions or just wear trainers…that was a signal that the Britain of James Bond had turned into the Britain of Vicky Pollard.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Tbf I don’t think Britain and efficiency of any sort have belonged in the same sentence since the 19th century.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Well “efficiency” doesn’t comprise of essentially subsidising products because they are made in Britain. This was the whole issue in the 1970s

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I’m not sure Kiwi shoe polish is exactly a good exemplar of British creativity! I wonder whether it was even the British product by the end? But actually your comment is quite revealing because it shows that many of the critics of modern Britain are essentially backward looking.

I wear leather shoes most the time because they are in many ways more practical, easy to clean and maintain, and of course they do look smart. On the other hand, people used to spend waste vast amounts their time polishing their front door steps – that seems to be an example of an activity that we could on the whole do without or do with much less of!

David Morley
David Morley
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

I think Katherine’s point is about self respect, perhaps even dignity. Shoe Polish aside, most brits don’t look like they have much of either. Or taste, for that matter.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

“people used to spend waste vast amounts their time polishing their front door steps” – That was their choice. I recall my mother doing it. Just because you would not want to do it is no reason to suggest it was a waste of time.

Graham Strugnell
Graham Strugnell
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

If we bring back The Black and White Minstrel Show the shoe polish will return.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
3 months ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Very good Katherine :)!

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
3 months ago

It’s the same with music, which was a huge cultural export in the 60s and again in the 80s. Even in the 70s we exported heavy metal and to a lesser extent punk. Faded away in the 90s (Britpop didn’t export that well) and was killed off entirely by the Simon Cowellisation of manufactured pop.

But it’s impossible to continually punch above your weight – other places see what you do and copy it whilst putting their own twist on it. Which is, after all, a large chunk of what the British did in the examples above, taking influences from the US.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
3 months ago

“Britain most frequently appears in current Indian cinema as the source of cartoon villains, brutal sneering foils to the patriotic heroism of the leading actor.”
Don’t we typically play ‘baddies’ everywhere? We’re a familiar ‘other’. Wrt the US it’s supposed to be because we speak English and produce good actors. I wonder how much effect continually being seen as the bad guys has on the perception of the country in real life.

Tony Price
Tony Price
3 months ago
Reply to  Dennis Roberts

Yet one of the world’s great movie franchises has a Brit as the ‘good guy’ – 007.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Except that by the progressive Left’s lights Bond is anything but a “good guy”.
Every aspect of his character is “deeply problematic”, and therefore they’d want him played by anyone other than a white middle class cis-gendered straight man.
The Bond franchise, across the several Daniel Craig / Sam Mendes outings, and in the wake of #MeToo, became increasingly in thrall to the mores of contemporary culture warriors. Bond cut back drastically on the womanising, his drinking is depicted as knowingly “problematic” and the nationality of the villains is chosen so as not to offend target audiences – however, one aspect appears to be somewhat overlooked ….. regardless of how increasingly woke they make the world’s most famous super-spy, he is still, fundamentally, A PAID ASSASSIN!!
These nods to woke-dom might assuage the guilt of film-industry luvvies, but they do little to tempt audiences into the theatre to watch what has always been an over-the-top uber-male fantasy franchise. Cosmetic tweaks to the character of Bond don’t really make up for the fact that he has always been a heartless, professional killer.
Maybe, just to test the waters, they should make two Bond films simultaneously and try them out on audiences. One could be the familiar, unreconstructed Bond, as imagined by Ian Fleming, all guns, girls and gadgets – the other can be a consciously woke, Idris Elba as a non-binary Jane Bond in a re-make of “On His Majesty’s Secret Cervix”, who kneels to BLM, orders Soy Chai Lattes rather than Martinis, and fights against the Patriarchy and the Gender pay gap on behalf of poor downtrodden Miss Moneypenny.
Let’s see which one garners the greater box office receipts.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

This is because the woke crowd are yet to understand that a depiction is not an endorsement. Or that finding something entertaining is not tantamount to wanting to be that thing.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Absolutely.

TERRY JESSOP
TERRY JESSOP
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

“Idris Elba as a non-binary Jane Bond in a re-make of “On His Majesty’s Secret Cervix”, who kneels to BLM, orders Soy Chai Lattes rather than Martinis, and fights against the Patriarchy and the Gender pay gap on behalf of poor downtrodden Miss Moneypenny”: Top marks to Paddy Taylor for the funniest post on this topic.

Dennis Roberts
Dennis Roberts
3 months ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Yes, but that franchise started in the early 60s when Britain was having one of its cool periods. It currently survives and thrives because of its iconic status (as well as good writing, acting, sets, action etc) – it would not get off the ground now.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago

Seriously, Unherd, why has my post been removed again?
Okay, I was half asleep while writing it but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t exactly offensive – even in Scotland.
And although the world isn’t being deprived on some great insight into the meaning of life, if you’re going to remove it (and remove it I assume you have because it reappeared) you could at least give me the courtesy of explaining why.
Take my subscription fees if you want, but don’t waste my bloody time.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

I think you get put on a temporary ‘naughty step ‘ while it’s suitability is being checked. The same thing happens to mine (but not replies) so maybe we’ve achieved algorithmic notoriety in some way ?

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

I’ve seen posts go into moderation immediately (as this did) but most my stuff does go straight through. I suspect there are words that may trigger this based on some form of unsophisticated algorithm.
I’ve also seen plenty of posts disappear after significant downvoting, which I also suspect is automated. Although it’s not impossible they also get flagged.
What got me with this was it reappeared and then disappeared again.

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

It is appalling that on a subscription site there should be any censorship at all. Yes, let’s call a spade a spade, it is not “moderation” or similar weasel words. I am on a three month trial run and if I find I am censored then quite simply “I’m out”.

Ian_S
Ian_S
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

On another thread, I saw champagne socialist’s post taken down and reappear three times.

There may be a mix of problems. The immediacy of many takedowns means they’re using a moderation bot, and that’s perhaps just a list of triggerwords made by someone who is probably a conventional woke IT with predictably progressive biases. Then that some but not all comments eventually reappear after a day or two suggests they’ve got a subjective human moderator too, but working just part time. And then there’s the broken platform they’re buying from some developer — have you noticed, if you go to your account and look for your comments, the datestamp on them is always the same (currently set at 4 April, even though it’s not 4 April yet) no matter what day you wrote the comment. Must be pretty flaky code.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 months ago

“On global streamers, a minority of the offer is UK content,”.

Only a minority!! What a tragedy! This essay makes some good points but global dominance seems a ridiculously high bar to seek for a medium-sized country. I agree with many of the criticisms of the BBC and other terrestrial broadcasters but their prime function is to produce output for the British people on not for global audiences. Roussinos in part just seems to be exhibiting a snobbish disdain for popular entertainment.

Many of us would agree with Roussinos’ analysis of the travails of modern Britain. although I have to say I speak to many people who move here who still seem to think it’s great. But we do actually have to acknowledge that the decline of Britain from its former global dominance was absolutely inevitable, given the rise of both United States and then China and even India and other populous and dynamic Asian nations.

Certainly we should make most of the advantages we have which include the English language which I think will always be more popular worldwide than Mandarin, not least because of this suspicion of many of China’s neighbours of its dominance. I’m actually not so down on “diversity” as many of the Post liberal people on here but of course in itself it isn’t a value that we can solely depend on.

The argument is to what extent the state should actively intervene and seed enterprise is a key one – I don’t have a formula for this. The Conservatives are still dominated by neoliberal Thatcherite thinking.It has to be said that the history of government intervention in the UK is not particularly encouraging. We need a much better run state, not just one that decides even more areas to get involved in.

peter lucey
peter lucey
3 months ago

“If a nation is defined by its culture, then ours is Jim Broadbent going on a bittersweet late-life journey of self-discovery across the Durham coalfields”.

Thanks for this – it made my morning! I left our local film society as the above summarises 90% of the films shown…

Chipoko
Chipoko
3 months ago
Reply to  peter lucey

Hear! Hear!

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
3 months ago

This writing is so marvellouslly funny.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
3 months ago

Presumably the Ukraine and Russia exploit Games Workshop products as a recruiting tool for young soldiers drawn from the teenage pool? The same was true of the Call of Duty video games in the United State.
In contrast, in Britain the population is so disproportionately elderly that the BBC’s ‘public service’ is indeed to provide a conveyor belt of effete presenters publicising homegrown heritage product of the ‘Call the Midwife’ ilk.

David Morley
David Morley
3 months ago

Surely the key point is that there is a worldwide potential market of people who are bored with the kind of pap they are being served up, and hungry for something better. Something that is of good quality while not being so high brow as to be inaccessible to them, and which does not come across to younger audiences as old fashioned, or even patronising.

Now I realise that the establishment response to that will be – yes, that’s right, more feminism, more anti racism etc etc – but that’s absolutely not it. That stuff has been done to death for decades. It’s like a stuck record. Precisely what we need is stuff that is prepared to break establishment taboos. Dare I say it – content which has rediscovered an interest in truth over ideology.

Are we really up to that?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

No, we aren’t really up to that. We are going into the opposite direction.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
3 months ago

The answer is pretty simple – because the BBC is embarassed about anything that might be seen as identifiably “British” and would sooner lose its audience altogether than actually make and promote something that was proudly “English”.
The BBC top brass regularly commission internal reviews which invariably identify the problems incorrectly, reach the wrong conclusions, and then try and fix what isn’t broken whilst leaving the original problems untouched.
The reach and influence of the BBC World Service used to be undeniable – it generated goodwill and respect towards the UK – but is a pale imitation of its former self because the BBC has no goodwill towards the nation itself – and certainly no wish to promote Britain to the world. The BBC would sooner run down the nation and self-flagellate over the evils of colonialism.
In its domestic broadcasting agenda, the BBC looks at every problem with a view to gaining a younger, more diverse audience. Why? BBC programming in general has decided that older viewers should be ignored – all in a vain attempt to chase this younger audience, none of whom would ever think to spend an evening in watching 2 terrestrial channels. And so, whilst failing to attract younger viewers, they seem actively to discourage the older audience they already had. By sacking much-loved, long-established presenters with proven appeal, they actively alienated their audience, and gained nothing in the way of new viewers from it.
A Question of Sport regularly got 5 million viewers – they then axed Sue Barker and the regular team captains in an attempt to reach a more youthful audience, the result being that they now barely scrape 750 thousand viewers. Who was the idiot who thought that was a good idea?
They’ve taken long running and much loved series – Dr Who being a good example – and remade them as activist propaganda.
BBC Drama decided to rewrite the classics by inserting C21st liberal agenda issues into adaptations of 18th and 19th century literature.
Each one of those decisions has actively discouraged previously loyal viewers.
Issues that chime with BBC virtue projection, such as Climate, Austerity or more recently with Covid or BLM stories, are presented with no balance, no counter-narrative. Simple propaganda is enough.
BBC news and current affairs is nakedly hostile to the Govt that holds the purse strings. Any sense of impartiality has gone. They have been openly disdainful of the choices of over half the electorate – sneering at any who don’t fall in with the BBC approved view of the world. 
Why does the BBC keep such a proliferation of Radio channels that cater to a minute audience, and compete for that audience with commercial stations? Why cut the World Service when it has global reach and the ability to promote the most positive view of Britain to the rest of the world, at a time when the country really needs it?
There is no more intellectually bereft argument than “both sides think we’re biased which means we must be doing a good job”. But every time the BBC comes under fire for their bias, some unctuous BBC Corporate spokesperson is wheeled onto a show to “laugh off” such criticism by making precisely that case. 
I am a great supporter of “the idea” of the BBC. To have TV & Radio channels entirely free from advertiser or owner-led interference, supported by licence fee payers, that can produce quality programmes without having to pander to lowest common denominator tastes to chase viewing figures, was (and should still be) what made it one of the great British institutions.
However, if the BBC cannot see that it should be promoting Britain, not denigrating it – if it cannot understand that it should be treating its audience (and paymaster) with respect rather than contempt, – if it fails to meet its charter obligations towards impartiality then it gives up the right to its funding.
If they want to continue receiving state funding then the BBC needs to face up to this and be brave enough to change.
Auntie needs to grow some ba11s!

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The BBC World Service has become the anti British Woke Service.

Caro
Caro
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

World Service is either political sabre rattling or des chats Ă©crasĂ©s. Even vocabulary, ‘weaponising’ everything. Â» American streaming services: it is the rational choice for any discerning consumer Â» Discerning? Really? Much to be learnt from foreign English services, they are more informative, less dumbing down. Seems surprising how people in UK kowtow to ‘privatisation’ as solution to all ills. Surely, it has proved the nadir of UK institutions for decades?

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
3 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

That’s exactly what I wanted to say.

Mike SampleName
Mike SampleName
3 months ago

Warhammer 40k nerd here (Biel-Tan Aeldari, since you asked, previously Cadians and Dark Angels, playing since 1st edition)
After what Amazon did with RoP, Amazon/Warhammer makes me nervous. I’m counting on Cavill and GW’s obsessive protectionism to prevent a Netflix Cowboy Bebop/Amazon RoP/Netflix Live-Action ATLA-style catastrophe.
The very idea of BBC Warhammer terrifies me. They would leech out every single element that makes the universe compelling.

The Warhammer IP is a behemoth globally, but the company (GW) is generally reviled amongst the fanbase. They mishandle everything they touch, and almost every product release is an avoidable screwup. There’s a _lot_ I could say about unremitting edition updates, poor logistics and stock, sales-driven updates, faction favouritism, scheduling issues and so on, but it would be a rant to an empty room, I feel

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago

Having been out of the hobby for about twenty five years, I was rather surprised to see they binned the entire fantasy line. That was more than a bit of a shock since that was where the entire franchise began.
It also says a lot, considering Amazon Prime’s adaptations you mention, that GW worry me far more.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
3 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

Warhammer Fantasy sales were in the toilet, new players weren’t coming in sufficient numbers. So they initiated The End Times and created Age of Sigmar from the ashes. Very successfully.
I haven’t followed the lore very well, so can’t comment on that, but the miniatures are superb.
A new edition comes out soon, Summer is presumed, meaning new starter boxes, if that’s your jam.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I kind of get that, it’s just a surprise when not paying attention for many years. I’m old enough to remember when fantasy and 40k were essentially the same broad universe and used to have rules in the same books.
I did notice that they’re sort of bringing fantasy back with Warhammer: The Old World. See how it goes I guess.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 months ago

I usually have a lot of time for Aris but either this diatribe was published a day late or he is under instructions from the editorial team / Unherd owner to up his contribution to the culture wars.. Does he even watch BBC?
Yes there are plenty of excellent TV shows on various streaming outlets but the sheer volume of output and the extremely high ratio of derivative dross to good original drama is thoroughly depressing. Whereas the BBC’s output of drama is consistently above par.
How about watching any of these from last year…
Rain Dogs, Boat Story, The Gold, The Gallows Pole, Boiling Point, Time, The Sixth Commandment, Blue Lights and Happy Valley.
2024 has already seen The Tourist, Kin and The Way and as for ITV how about trying After The Flood and The Dry.
Yeah what we really need is more Biggles, Hornblower and Sharpe. Seriously?

Primary Teacher
Primary Teacher
3 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

The problem is that a significant number of people, who ensure the BBC’s survival, have stopped watching. Why do they continue to pay their license fee? Most likely it is apathy and the vague hope that something entertaining and intelligent might appear on the schedule. When and why did this happen? I suspect during the lockdown when people had time to realise that the modern BBC output is neither entertaining nor intelligent. Anyway, I must go as my wife is off to watch a catch-up viewing of ‘The Apprentice’ with its embarrassingly predictable group of wannabe business ‘leaders’.

Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
3 months ago

I have absolutely no problem consistently finding entertaining and intelligent programmes on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and even Channel 5 (Coma) and have listed some of the best from last year and this year to date. I have to assume that yourself and the down voters have watched some if not all of those programmes and come to a radically different view on their merit than mine.
Fair enough I tend to have the same difference of opinion with BTL commenters when some tedious Unherd hack complains about the dearth of good novels in the last xx years, which usually gets blamed on the fictitious cancelling of literature coming from the pens of middle aged white blokes.

John Riordan
John Riordan
3 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

The point you’re missing is that irrespective of your personal opinions of UK domestic TV content, the UK viewing public is increasingly drawn to content made on American streaming platforms, and global audiences are decreasingly interested in British-made TV content. You might disagree with Aris’s diagnosis and suggested remedy, but you haven’t actually challenged the starting position he has taken here.

“Yeah what we really need is more Biggles, Hornblower and Sharpe. Seriously?”

Yes, seriously. That’s what global audiences will actually watch. Nobody outside Britain has any interest whatsoever in gritty dramas about British provincial life and they never will. That might be fine if all you care about is making TV for British viewers, but since Britain also possesses world-class film and TV production capacity and the rest of the world’s nations enthusiastically develop nationalised cultural narratives by the use of their own media if they possibly can, it is ludicrous not to use UK resources to produce world-class content for global audiences in this manner. Doubtless accusations of jingoism will fly at this point, but to hell with them.

David Morley
David Morley
3 months ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Nobody outside Britain has any interest whatsoever in gritty dramas about British provincial life and they never will.

And yet, oddly enough, I have watched films about Japanese domestic crises, Japanese up skirting and transvestism, Korean shoplifters, and abandoned Korean children. Great stuff. It’s the quality of the films which counts. Perhaps what matters is that in the home countries of these films there is an interested audience. That’s the springboard for international success. What is the average Brit interested in? Seriously? Strictly?

John Riordan
John Riordan
3 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Well no, as the article you’re arguing with itself says, those countries are producing globally-attractive programming output, and therefore have global viewers.

Josie Bowen
Josie Bowen
3 months ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

Happy Valley – one of the best series produced for TV in recent years.

Dominic English
Dominic English
3 months ago

Maybe the BBC wouldn’t get bogged down in so many ‘interminable culture war disputes’ if it spent a little less time lying to, and insulting the people who pay its anachronistic ‘licence fee’, and a little more time informing and entertaining them. The reporting of the Oct 7 terrorist attacks is a perfect example. https://open.substack.com/pub/lowstatus/p/watching-terrorvision?r=evzeq&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 months ago

I think the BBC has already been weaponised against us

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
3 months ago

You know how to hit a nail on the head

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago

The BBC soft power is not what it was.

They do however have the BBC World Service which should be called the Woke Service. The presenters don’t have British accents for the most part, they are obsessed with girls education, feminism, pushing gay rights on Africa and the usual Woke talking points. They are constantly referring to the evils of colonialism (with never anything good) and are very anti British wherever possible.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

They are constantly referring to the evils of colonialism…

This one gets me every time. If anything woke messaging is an extreme form of cultural propaganda wielded by wealthy countries to dictate policy to poorer ones, hence the World Bank refusing to give loans to Uganda because they are not LGBQT enough. This is why people are so anti LGBQT at the moment. It’s not so much the individuals, but the general nastiness and power grabs being done in its name. LGBQT is colonization of the most basest sort because it seeks to enslave others through their fetishes and vices.

Sophy T
Sophy T
3 months ago

Yet international success does not mean playing to the gallery: from Old Boy to Squid GameLast Train to Busan and Parasite, South Korea’s international film and television hits have been marked by formal experimentation, dark and disturbing themes.

No! Those films and dramas mentioned certainly have dark and disturbing themes but there’s far more to K drama than those mentioned – the journalist hasn’t done his research properly.
There is a huge variety of different genres of K drama and a lot of genre mash-up and all of it superior in every way to Western drama.
Try Crash Landing on You, My Love from the Star, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Mr Queen, Secret Love Affair, What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim


. I could go on.
Brilliant acting, directing, writing, cinematography and they don’t judge the past by today’s standards.

Sophy T
Sophy T
3 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Also, it’s Train to Busan, not last Train to Busan. The sequel is called Peninsula.

David Morley
David Morley
3 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Hi Sophy – thank for the tips. Added to my list.

Mr Tyler
Mr Tyler
3 months ago

If the Tories had any wit they would promise at the election to to decriminalize the TV licence and privatize and float off the BBC with share options for licence holders. Worth a few much needed votes, I would think.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr Tyler

But nobody would believe them, and with good reason. Anyway, didn’t Boris promise that, which, because they’re Tories, was a lie.

Mr Tyler
Mr Tyler
3 months ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

The great mistake people make is that the Tories run the country.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
3 months ago

Wow! This essay was brilliantly written, sir. Thank you for it. Regarding Britain, indeed as you say, the time should come for boldness and bravery. The insipid nature of modern Britain is what lets others to take first place in so many areas.

Mike K
Mike K
3 months ago

Excellent. But this can only succeed if the BBC is defunded and its malignant influence erased from memory. A few public hangings would be fun but that is possibly going too far.

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
3 months ago

Well said

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
3 months ago

The BBC ( More akin to the ABC I.e Absurdistan Broadcasting Corporation)
Is metaphosing into what can only be described as The State Propaganda Station
For the vast majority of young Scott’s it is seen as a sick joke and 98 % of the 16 to 32 yr old in political and current affairs do not believe a single word of their utterings
I spend a lot of my time in Spain and my
TV box ( Half the monthly rental of UK providers ) has access to every major European TV channels most of which in
Drama and Film production and in all fields of such increasingly demonstrate
Just how Pathetic BBC output has become not inc. The BBC output of the
BBC Scotland in Spain as compared to
The rest of BBC output clearly demonstrates We Scot’s are indeed 2 Nd class customers by way of when you attempt to view a message appears
Saying due to contractual issues We are unable to show
Which I suppose means that BBC are not
Willing to pay the Fees to Internet providers to stream
This problem NEVER occurs with the other BBC channels inc.Radio
Example no problem listening to live stream of any Football match but I can assure you that this coming Sunday The
Most important match this SPFL season
Rangers v Celtic then pink pigs shall fly
BBC recently spent more than the annual
Licensing fee received from Scotland
On new EastEnders studios but can’t pay a minuscule fee to the steamers in Spain
For Scottish viewers to partake of what is most relevant to Scott’s
Do not me Start on their lack of news output as to how Not telling us what is going on with China and very much to the UK,s severe detriment
Recently Numerous EU leaders have made many trips to China sealing vital trade deals and cooperation in vital Technologies development
All while the BBC as no doubt guided by the Government who toe the US line of putting China down and the rest of UK MSM pick up the stick to bang the same propaganda drums
China is so far in front of vital new Technology that is vital in order for any
Leading Nation to be successful
Such as Avionics , Space , Green energy ,
EV battery and Automotive production
AI , Pharmaceutical, Advanced design and production along with HS rail in every area To Cooperate or otherwise Wither
Tiny little Belgium exports more than the UK to China and should you remove Scotch Whisky, Salmon and other Food and Drink exports
Then what remains of UK exports is Smaller than those of Iceland
Who appear not only to beat you at top level football but also economic performance regards China who now actually are The Worlds largest and Richest Nation if you use GDP / Head of population and factor in PPP to the equation
Complete and total shame upon you BBC
by way of how your foot is firmly upon the accelerator pedal pushing the UK into Terminal decline which speed has now reached Terminal Velocity
History shall prove that the ABC ( BBC )
Tis a Albatross round your necks
Carry the burden and keep watching
Wave your wee Union Jack and sing God save the King as you do so
Hip Hip Hooray

Sayantani G
Sayantani G
3 months ago

Late to this conversation but as regards the Beeb, I belong to an older generation in India reared on its programmes both on radio and television where it was known for its accuracy and overall factual correctness.
That was of course in pre- Woke times.
Today as the BBC is part of a shrill activist conversation to denigrate everything about a changing socio- cultural ethos in India and with the rise of a new non Anglophile generation which looks for inspiration to America, I am afraid there is simply no space for a British revival.
The novels of Rumer Godden could be good pieces to appeal to a new India as they were sensitive to very turbulent times. As I am sure the memories of many whose families lived and worked in the Raj or in EIC days could provide a new look too.
I find this erasure of British content whether from the Beeb or ITV very sad, as I often have to search on You Tube to see the BBC series especially historical and period pieces which one was familiar with.

R Wright
R Wright
3 months ago
Reply to  Sayantani G

At the risk of sounding obsequious, I always enjoy your comments from the subcontinent.

Sayantani G
Sayantani G
3 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Thanks!

Jos Haynes
Jos Haynes
3 months ago

We don’t need to weaponise the BBC, we need to turn our weapons on it and destroy it completely.

John Turnbull
John Turnbull
3 months ago

The problem begins when the population starts to believe that it is uniquely talented and inspired. In the case of the UK it is called exceptionalism. Jews are God’s chosen people. Catholicism is the one true faith. America is great. etc. etc. We all need a healthy dose of humility so that we then try to do better.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
3 months ago
Reply to  John Turnbull

Are you mad? We’ve had years, decades even, of insult, denigration, disparagement and demands for our self-abnegation from the so-called ‘cultural elites’.

David Morley
David Morley
3 months ago
Reply to  John Turnbull

Not sure hubris is our problem – unless it’s the moral hubris of the elites who clearly think they know more than god himself about right and wrong!

Peter B
Peter B
3 months ago

“so Britain serially underperforms in its cultural exports”.
Really so ?
The English langauge hasn’t exactly been a failure, has it ? That’s Britain’s “cultural imperium” for you right there.
Shakespeare, Dickens, J.K. Rowling, pop and rock music, …
“Like the country itself, British programming is hidebound by timidity and self-doubt.”
So that’ll be “Top Gear” then. One of our most successful worldwide exports of recent times.

David Morley
David Morley
3 months ago
Reply to  Peter B

From Shakespeare to Top Gear! There’s something to celebrate.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago

Great article, great discussion and, yes, I also think BBC has fallen victim to DEI. It would be risible if it wouldn’t be so sad. Interestingly, in totalitarian countries groupthink is imposed by the government but here it appears to be self-inflicted.

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
3 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Not wholly. The BBC’s diversity obsession accelerated away from the crude ‘Hideously White’/Out of Touch ministrations of Greg d**e into full blown progressive evangelicism after 2010 and the new State Equality Act. This saw the State pump out and enforce the twisted Victim/Oppressor ideology through the whole public sector. After a few years, this CRT like idea of orivileged superior non whites and biased innately racist whites had mutated into a full blown mania within the groupthunk BBC London Red Guard. DEI is now its sole guiding principle of an ideologically corrupted untrustworthy organisation operating daily in breach of its Charter.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
3 months ago

No no no! The BBC’s future is in another Jed Mercurio drama featuring a right-on diverse cast of minority actors valiantly exposing police corruption, Forces’ incompetence, a shady right wing conspiracy, and government cover-ups. Same as all the others. Oh, and Season 568 of Casualty, in which the skeleton of eternal favourite Charlie looks on benignly as a spaceship crashes into a community centre populated by starving immigrants, while 2 members of staff agonise endlessly over their personal problems, a cast of thousands in NHS outfits walks backwards and forwards in the background, and Charlie’s agent draws a half million a year to allow the skeleton to appear, cos that’s what the audience wants.

Johan Grönwall
Johan Grönwall
3 months ago

It is said that in a time of crisis King Arthur will wake from his sleep to defend Britain. Why not resurrect the countrys former glory with a 12 part lavish tv-drama? Throw in some hobbits and you’re ready to go.

A D Kent
A D Kent
3 months ago

The BBC has been ‘weaponised’ since it’s birth. See ‘the BBC: A Myth of a Public Service’ by Tom Mills for full details. Otherwise see every UK military ‘adventure’ and more recently the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum and the 2019 General Election. For a specific instance see Peter Hitchens’s work on the scandal at the OPCW – propaganda at it’s deviant best.

Arthur King
Arthur King
3 months ago

Canada’s CBC will be defended with the next government. Thank God!

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
3 months ago

Interesting that this article initially appeared with a different title and photo. What gives?

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
3 months ago

Qoute ‘ and the game of football so.widely adopted, globally ‘
And if placed in context of the previous reference of English Language and the English mens suits
One must presume intentional or subliminally that Football is English in origin
Just as ‘ Football comings Home ‘ is
Oh how historically wrong you are
England invited Scotland to a competitive match which was the 1st ever International game of Football
Scotland refused this invitation requesting that if the English rules of the game were dropped and that those rules as of Scotland adopted then Scotland would accept the Invite and Challenge
England accepted and thus begins the origins of Football globally
Ah I hear you ask What we’re the English rules of the game that were dropped and forever so
The main rules Scotland refused point blank to accept clearly stating that such rules were not conducive to What is now
Universally known as ‘ The Beautiful Game ‘
Rule 1. The players are allowed to pick up the ball then run with or throw to your own sides players
Rule 2 The players are allowed to barge into the opponents players in anyway

Now if Rules 1 And 2 were not Abandoned as Scotland demanded
Then ask all of yourselves do you seriously believe that
The Beautiful Game would have taken over the World
And how the hell can this Beautiful Game ever call Home Wembley

Victor James
Victor James
3 months ago

The problem isn’t the BBC. It’s the small minded, ideologically encased people who run it. Change the people, change the content.
Asking the BBC to be different is like asking the Communist party to be different.

John Riordan
John Riordan
3 months ago

The obvious place to start is to make a ten part TV series on the story of how the British Empire ended the global legal institution of slavery in the 19th century. Yes, it should certainly go back further and include the slave trade, but only in order to explain how the anti-slavery movement, originally sparked off by the American Quakers in the 17th century, reached London where it started to grow and became possibly the most significant grass-roots political campaign in history.

The contemporarily-popular narrative around slavery and Britain’s involvement with it is almost completely nonsense, and it is globally damaging to Britain’s place in the world that the truth is not defended. Not only is it crucial that the truth is both told and defended, it is also one of the best true stories that could ever be told. It’s perfect for modern, streaming platform-driven global TV networks, and we are fools not to take opportunity.

Chipoko
Chipoko
3 months ago

The BBC is bloated with easy tax revenues, contemptuous ordinary people (“the Little People” – David ‘Call-Me-Dave’ Cameron; “Basket of Deplorables” – Hillary Clinton) who fund their existence and arrogantly unaccountable to its audiences.
It should be defunded and placed on a subscription basis. I believe very little of what the BBC broadcasts, not least because it makes not attempt to camouflage its DEI agendas.

Mike MacCormack
Mike MacCormack
3 months ago

A few paragraphs into this I had to go back to make sure it wasn’t dated 1st April. His take on the BBC is spot on – call me biased but I spent my working life there, producing TV documentaries, and he’s right in that the BBC’s attempts to appease its critics rather than do what it thinks is good for the viewers have led it down an ever-descending path. The line about Blue Peter is spot on. He’s also correct about the BBC and the UK being identified as being representative of the same sort of ethos in the eyes of the world, as were the Beatles, or James Bond, or Churchill in the same period. But what he fails to spot is that the BBC was born only as the empire started its astonishingly rapid collapse, the BBC was broadcasting a very particular sense of British self worth in a period when that confidence was evaporating – not least because broadcasting from around the globe was competing ever more strongly – and to assert that doing better historical costume dramas will somehow restore our global pre-eminence is a bit weird. I think the BBC’s job now is to help us to become a contentedly happy bit-player on the world scene – but it looks like that’s not going to happen: tomorrow belongs to nostalgic, yet rudderless, populism.

Stephen Philip
Stephen Philip
3 months ago

We can’t follow the model of a country that is culturally homogeneous, such as South Korea, when the whole philosophy being driven by the likes of the BBC is about the wonders of cultural diversity.

George K
George K
3 months ago

Is Britain still there , does it still exist except in the imagination of the refugees who didn’t get the memo? The people are ,of course, still there but the “British” myth is gone completely,isn’t it? I grew up in Soviet Russia in the intelligentsia environment infused with the myth of one of the most powerful, progressive, clearheaded nations in the world. All this came through the innumerable translations ( original Russian production was heavily censored) which , as I realize now , had little to do with the actual English literature, but rather created a powerful mythology of a superior British culture. Rudyard Kipling for one was “translated” by the best Russian authors along with his presumed colonial wisdom, and it might be the translation was better than the original or at least had larger impact. It was superb and the British myth had at least something to do with reality but I’m afraid it’s all sadly gone.

Mike K
Mike K
3 months ago

Rubbish. Defund.

BILL FREEMAN
BILL FREEMAN
3 months ago

This is a great article. As a Yank here for 44 years, my sole frustration has been the British inability – or is it arrogance? – to seriously commercialise advantages staring it in the face. Over and over again I had ideas for strategic businesses based on real advantage already established, and always the rejection came from self-doubt, bashfulness, ignorance, or was it arrogance.
I point all 10 fingers at the CITY OF LONDON as being the main weakness amongst us. Compared to the venture capital community in California they are pygmies with no balls and always fail to show any confidence that Britain can ‘win through’. The latest example I am involved with is a 300M proposal to develop a major movie/TV studio in Marlow, leveraging the huge amount of talent in the SE of England for which there is huge demand. For 3 years it has been stuck in planning tossing with not an ounce of imaginative leadership shown by the local community – and its so-called leaders – on the vision which could be fulfilled by building a world class studio covering an old gravel pit of waste land next to lovely Marlow. The Nymbies are the problem, but not only for Marlow but for the entire country.
Britain, originally a nation of plundering pirates who built an ’empire’, have become a Mickey Mouse tribe of eccentrics and innovators, but never to be ever again a powerful force.
Perhaps the ’empire’ was a mirage, a mistake, a happenstance?

Andrew Armitage
Andrew Armitage
3 months ago

A lot to agree with here. UK drama is mostly stale, moping, relentlessly preaching, humourless – except at the most bland, inoffensive level – inward looking and predictable. It just doesn’t catch the imagination or interest. Nothing to think with, nothing to love or link with, the anaesthetic from which none come round. Dead from the neck up. It’s due to poor scripts. Nice lampshades and colour coordinated interiors just don’t cut it