I'm reminded of this when I read of the BBC's latest adventure in downsizing.
THe BBC's lack of ambition is astounding. They have a monopoly position, are funded via a semi-compulsory license fee, have a track-record of producing some of the best TV and Radio of all time, and have one of the world's most-used websites.
Some of their greatest hits have come from small-scale work :-
* "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" was a BBC radio play
* Aardman Animations cut their teeth on creating a character called "Morph" for a children's TV programme
* "Whose Line is it Anyway?" was a BBC radio panel game
And if we just look at comedy - how about "The Mighty Boosh", "Dead Ringers", "The Goons", "Goodness Gracious Me", "Mitchell & Webb" and "The League of Gentlemen", who all started by making successes of radio shows before transferring to more glamorous media.
The plan of concentrating on "fewer, bigger, better" is madness. There is little creativity in big budget items. For every "Life on Mars" there are a hundred safe and boring Classic Costume Dramas. If the BBC raises the entry-level budget for programme-making they are going to become oh-so like ITV1, and that's not a good thing.
I'm all for "cutting fat", but Mark Thompson seems set on excising some of the muscle too.
And another thing : this idea of combining Radio and TV reporting is utter nonsense. Radio journalism is more than just TV journalism without the pictures, just as "Under Milk Wood" (another BBC success) was more than just a play in the dark. It was a "Play for Voices", which is an art-form in itself - just as valid as any other.
A radio journalist needs to paint a picture with words, and the picture is often deeper and clearer than the one that a TV camera would be allowed to capture. I'm not at all associated with the industry, and I can appreciate that. Why can't the Director General of the BBC ??
The management theorist Dale Dauten concisely summarises my message to Mark Thompson
Why are CEO's who slash jobs so proud of themselves? Instead of bragging about "cutting fat," they ought to be getting up before their employees and saying, "We did such a lousy job of planning and hiring that we have more people than work. And we are so broke and so dim-witted that we can't come up with any way to get more work. So our only solution is to send a lot of good people home. I am ashamed and I am sorry."