In the new Standpoint, Nick Cohen examines the new NCF report on the BBC, A Question of Attitude, by Dennis Sewell:
'Few can doubt that its writers must strike soft-leftish poses if they want to work. Ben Stephenson, the BBC's controller of drama commissioning, announced in 2009: "We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking." And foster them he has. Sewell notes that the enormous stable of BBC drama writers are seldom shy of hinting at, or even baldly stating, their affiliations in newspaper interviews. But: "I can recall not a single instance where one has identified him or herself as a political conservative."
From soap operas through crime dramas to single-episode plays, the BBC has a cast of baddies — its version of Richard Nixon's enemies' list: Lady Thatcher, conservatives, people worried about immigration or multiculturalism, businessmen, traditionalist schoolteachers, army officers, toffs, eurosceptics, evangelical Christians, Catholics and Zionists. I doubt Sewell will accept this from me, but the dramas that follow are not truly left-wing. They are rarely concerned with the redistribution of wealth and power. Rather, the BBC allows the liberal wing of the upper-middle class in the culture industries to indulge its hatred of the conservative wing of the upper-middle class in the City, government and armed forces.
The result is moralising, formulaic drama whose characters are as predictable as the heroes and villains of Victorian sentimental fiction or socialist realism. Plots run like trains down a track. The good are vindicated and the wicked exposed. As soon as you heard, for instance, that the BBC had commissioned Sir David Hare to write on the war on terror, you knew before it began that the Americans would be vicious, the British establishment would be their poodles, and Jews would be conspiring to murder the innocent. That is the way the political drama must be. The BBC would never have commissioned a British version of Homeland because its American writers acknowledged that radical Islam was a psychopathic force in the world that the US had to fight.
No drama executive has issued a directive banning similar storylines here because explicit prohibitions are not the British way. Everyone knows the rules of the game. If they needed them spelt out, they would not have been allowed to play in the first place. Someone once described the British establishment as a committee that never meets. The BBC is a censor who never speaks.'
Also in Standpoint, the NCF's Peter Whittle looks at the new movie Cosmopolis, and see's nothing very much:
An adaptation of American author Don DeLillo's unreadable short novel about a single day in the life of Eric Packer, a New York financial whizz kid, it is set mostly in the stretch limo which doubles up as his office, and which throughout the course of the film glides from one side of Manhattan to the other with the sole purpose of delivering him to the barber. Insulated from the slightest sound, accompanied by a security guard and the occasional acolyte or sex partner, Packer looks on passively as his progress is interrupted by, variously, an anti-capitalist demo, a presidential visit and the elaborate funeral of a rap star. Somebody, too, might be out to get him, but that doesn't seem to worry him much. He is like a stone-cold modern-day Jay Gatsby with a dash of American Psycho's Patrick Bateman: a human blank.
Directed by David Cronenberg, who is best known for his visceral, often surreally horrific imagery, Cosmopolis certainly looks full-blooded and vivid, which in an era that rather overdoes the bleached-out colours comes as a refreshing change. It's occasionally stylish in a white shirt, black suit and shades kind of way. But as Oscar Levant once said about Hollywood, strip away the tinsel and what's underneath? The real tinsel. In Cosmopolis, there really is no there there.
The film doesn't so much leave questions hanging in the air as whole conversations. All the characters speak in heavily stylised, opaque non-sequiturs, which means that nobody really makes much progress (God knows how they'd have got on if they'd decided to stop off for a group order of sandwiches). The script — and indeed the novel, which this adaptation cleaves closely to — is made up of streams and streams of verbal bunting, random and flapping around in the wind. This straining for gravitas gets very tedious after a while. But if your answer to the question, "What does it actually mean?" is, "Hey, what is meaning anyway?" then this is the film for you. It also means that you are, at most, probably in your first term at college and sitting cross-legged on the floor with a group of really, really interesting new friends.'