The Beeb’s governing body – the BBC Trust – has criticised the main TV channels for producing too many unambitious and formulaic shows

This is clearly something of a challenge to the Beeb’s creative types – and also their money men. Bargain Hunt may not merely be the show’s title but also the driving principle behind its production.

One can only imagine the crisis meetings at Television Centre as execs plan a fresh approach.

“I know,” says one, “how about a brand new programme looking at the crisis of creativity in the BBC.”

Banx

“That’s brilliant,” comes the reply, “everyone loves hearing about us; a fly-on-the-wall number?”

“Well actually,” says the first, “I had a rather more outre and daring suggestion. I was thinking Gordon Ramsay meets creative programming …Auntie’s TV Nightmares.”

“So the idea is we get a really great TV exec to come in and film him offensively ripping apart execs as they come up with the same lame, derivative schedules.”

“Or maybe,” chips in another, “what about putting BBC execs in a house, making them create new programmes each week and firing the one who comes up with the worst idea?” Nervous laughter engulfs the room. “Steady on,” says the chairman.

Suddenly the idea’s originator assumes an emollient air. “Of course we wouldn’t fire them in real life; just on the show. In real life we’d probably promote them. In fact, that could be the catchphrase. ‘I’m sorry Joe, but, with regret – I’m making you head of light entertainment.”

“We’d need our own Sir Alan.”

“Yentob?”

“Oh wait,” comes an excited voice, “I’ve got one. We invite teams of viewers to root around in our archive for lost gems we can repeat. Call it Auntie’s Bargain Hunt.”

“Brilliant. Or how about Strictly Come Scheduling. We get a BBC exec and a minor celebrity – both dressed in glamorous outfits – to, er, maybe not.”

“Or even better. We get five rich people sitting next to wads of their own cash and programme-makers go before them to pitch their ideas and win their backing.”

“Where will we get people with that kind of cash?” asks one.

There is silence; and then a lightbulb moment. “Well, what about some of our stars. They’re rolling in it. We could call it Divas’ Den.

“Except that instead of getting their cash, the successful pitchers get to give the stars even more.”

“Well look,” says the convenor, drawing things to a close. “This has been really useful; loads of ideas. Derivative; unimaginative – I think the trust is eating its words today.”

Terror in the racks

While on the subject of the media, it has been reported that al-Qaeda is planning an English-language magazine that may include such delightful features as bomb-making in mum’s kitchen. The report is unverified and may even be a hoax but, if the mag is for real, it will need some regular features.
1) A Cave of My Own: AQ
leaders tell us how they have decorated their living quarters. (Kilims and anti-satellite devices are in this year.)
2) Travel features. This month: Yemen. Next month: Yemen.
3) Glamour shots. Obviously a tricky area. But given the target audience it would be foolish to ignore the appeal of lad’s mags such as Nuts. An appropriate twist might be to feature the ubiquitous naked models, modestly attired. Many people – jihadis and otherwise – would pay good money for photo spreads of Jordan, fully clothed.

A mind imprisoned

Kenneth Clarke’s plan to send fewer people to jail because we can’t afford to build more prisons may have economic logic but it shows a miserable lack of imagination. There are, after all, many tried and tested alternatives to prison.

Transportation: Now safer and more efficient. Australia may be out now that it is considered a desirable location but there are many unpleasant countries that are not yet able to beat us at soccer or cricket.

The stocks: Low cost; high impact. Ideal for minor offences.

Mutilation: May cause human rights backlash but, if the penal code is now being driven by economic considerations, could prove very cost- effective. However, Treasury would need to evaluate hidden costs such as rise in disability payments. Hanging may offer better value.

robert.shrimsley@ft.com

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