The Independent, 24 March 2011

The thing is that whatever the BBC cuts to meet its budgetary constraints, it will be something someone loves. Much as the tabloids would have us believe that each open-plan office at the BBC contains one, carefully-chosen person systematically torching fivers with the most expensive matches money can buy, it isn’t true.

Making television is an expensive business, and that isn’t because of executive pay. You could fire the Director General tomorrow, and his annual salary would pay for precisely three episodes of Eastenders. And if that makes Eastenders sound a bit pricey, it works out at 3.5p per viewer, per episode. Which, for half an hour of pleasure (albeit pleasure derived from the misery of others), is market-stall cheap.

Cost-cutting proposals the BBC is considering are said to include axing the endless parade of property shows that fill its afternoon schedules. I find I could live without these quite easily – I pretty much never want to watch people whose teeth have chipped a little on their silver spoons whining about how the mansion they’re looking at is a bit near a road that poor people may once have walked down in their hunt for menial labour.

And while I’m at it, all those antiques programmes can go too. These are known in my house as ‘the tat carousel’, so convinced am I that they feature maybe thirty pieces of poisonously unattractive ceramic in total, migrating from one programme to another, being bought at a carboot sale and then sold at an auction before being dug out of someone’s attic and beginning the whole sorry journey again. If the BBC truly cared about us, they would scrap the lot and replace it with re-runs of Diagnosis Murder, Perry Mason and Columbo, like they used to before men with bouffant hair and ludicrous spectacles managed to convince some commissioner that an ornamental inkwell, grasped between the paws of a stuffed otter, made for good TV.

The BBC is also considering bringing an end to overnight programming. Which doesn’t sound too bad, until you realise they’re measuring overnight from 10.35pm, which may be late-night for an 8-year-old, but isn’t for most of us. Why not switch to repeats of the Learning Zone and Open University programmes (which ensure our insomniacs are global leaders in obscure knowledge) after midnight instead? That way we can keep Later with Jools Holland, The Graham Norton Show, and my beloved Review Show.