2000 word short story submission for BBC competition
Interview with an Enemy of Society
He left his room in a dirty shared London house, walked down the stairs that had people’s clothes drying on the banister, and made it out the door into the fresh air. He was wearing his grey second hand office suit. It was definitely a little greasy around the collar and had a worn out air to it, regardless of all the cleaning and attention he had given to it. He wore clean, polished, unstylish shoes, his wide feet and limited budget meant that he was rarely a man with attractive footwear. In fact his look was always coarse. He was in many ways a coarse man, with awkward gait and manners, a man without grace. But he had more hidden finer qualities too: like honesty, like intelligence, like perceptiveness.
As he made his way to the tube station to get to this BBC interview, the sky felt particularly dark and heavy; he knew his qualities didn’t fit a BBC built on the nepotism of the well off, especially in an era with the country gripped by a greedy elite. Who in this society, in the BBC, wanted honesty? That was the last thing they wanted as they looted the public purse. A good example was Pudsey. He’d taken one in the eye from Jimmy and not one of the many managers or co-presenters knew anything.
Thirty years in the biggest journalistic organisation in the world, which brags relentlessly about “world class journalism” as they pay each other ever bigger salaries, and Jimi died of old age in peace. There was your honesty. In fact it reflected the true face of the British Ruling Class, hypocrites and spivs to a man. “They like to pick a pocket or two”
As he squeezed onto the morning tube, he relaxed and looked around. He never heard laughter in carriages in the morning. It was an instinctive rule of thumb of his that when he entered places with people, that this absence of laughter, of humour, was a sign that things were wrong. You could pick from the range of the po-faced, the convincers, the schemers, the scared, the depressed – something was wrong. The humans packed together this morning had no friendliness. What could bind them together? Too many different backgrounds, in a state which promoted selfishness and greed – it was almost a deliberate formulation to break any society into individuals. What lunatic would want that? No society? Sociopaths? He mind turned to the rulers of the country.
At Oxford Circus he exited, delaying at the ticket machine a while as he clumsily searched for his tube ticket, annoying some commuters stuck behind him
“Sorry”. ”Excuse me”.
The grey sky had started to rain and that cheered him up. A rainy world would be his dream planet, clean and fresh, and all the loudmouths shut up indoors. Rain was for sensitive souls and fertile lands. He made his way towards the BBC building but sidestepped into a nearby café to have a coffee and prepare himself. He always hoped the young women serving in these coffee shops would show signs of finding him attractive, but in truth it hadn’t happened in a decade. Just one of those hard facts of life, what we like to call “reality”. He gave the lady a yellow toothed smile and awaited his coffee.
He had entered, almost as a protest, the competition to win a place on the BBC Trust, the body that ran the organisation. It was their superficially populist scheme for “broadening” participation in the Corporation. Now this would be one position within a group of twelve. Further you were only guaranteed an interview, not a place, and in all likelihood their idea of broadening would be hiring yet another pushy middle-class woman, then patting themselves on the back over diversity. They wouldn’t want to open the door to a working-class person. That was the elephant in the room – that the real discrimination. Those people were no longer allowed in, but they had to pay those who were.
He had made notes on the basic part of the role, how he envisioned BBC strategy. The Trustees set that, and the management were meant to implement it. If chosen he’d probably be the only person who wasn’t from Oxbridge. When you think of all the thick kids who were sent to expensive private schools, and top Universities, compared to the majority of the population who went to poor state schools, who never get a look in, but where the majority of the country’s talent was, you could understand why the UK was so backwards. He remembered reading how in the French Revolution, against the odds, the Republican French Army fought off the Royal invaders because their army promoted talent, rather than on whom you knew. Over two hundred years since the French Revolution, despite all the talk, the UK and the BBC was run by an untalented minority, boasting about how they compete against the best in the world – they didn’t even compete in their own land. It related to the word invented in Britain “breath-taking”, to describe the hypocrisy of the UK elite. The breed? The medicore breed morelike – passable but uninspiring.
The coffee shop was pretty crumby, crumbs everywhere. There was also a certain soullessness to it: the disinterested foreign staff, on bad wages and uncertain hours; people like himself all caught up in their heads before meetings, and just random blow-ins with no affinity to the area at all. It was a nothing place. Coffee culture? The music wafted in the background along with the smell of burnt coffee beans.
He picked up his latte, sat down and took out his notes to revise. First, cut the salaries of all the top people, no one should be over £100k a year. There was nothing being done that was worth that. Second, cut out unnecessary layers of management. Thirdly he’d want to make sure the truth came out over the big scandals, like the paedophiles they harboured, or their huge waste of money on digital services and the like. Literally who was responsible and hold them accountable. Like any powerful organisation, when things went wrong nobody senior knew anything. Yet when it came to asking for astronomical wages they spoke gravely of the number of people they had to manage, their great management skill and expertise, and how it would be impossible to get anyone with their (imaginary) skillset for under £150k a year.
Fourth, for all their talk of equal ops, the big elephant in BBC House was of course class. If you had the jobs ring-fenced in proportion to those who went to private school compared to state school, the BBC would be empty. He’d give even the most dim Oxbridge graduate something to stimulate their mind. Fifth, Education – why couldn’t they have full courses on learning English available for all the many foreigners who enter the U.K. Full series of top quality courses to educate people for free. That would be a real public good. It was as if they didn’t really want to educate people. Sixth, History – why did they never have history programmes that simply told the history of the area, whether Israel or Northern Ireland. The amount of programmes shown that took war as a starting point, then wrung its hands at the situation and blamed it on racism or religion. Why not retrace the historical steps that led to the wars and explain what caused it? It was like the BBC was deliberately not letting the truth out.
Seventh, Diversity of Programming – there was none, it was all the same, formulaic and unimaginative. How many more rich kids and connected presenters could they have – all of them the same style and same language, “excited”, “on a journey”, all whilst they filled their pockets. Big pay for rich kids, the ones who need it least. Where were examples of all the people he met in his daily life? Those types didn’t exist on the BBC. If you were an alien who watched the BBC, then came to Earth, you’d think you landed on the wrong planet.
Eighth, Entertainment? He didn’t know anyone who liked anything but one or two programmes at most, all complained BBC was rubbish. Why over Christmas did they have no good programmes on? Couldn’t they record some in advance? Ninth, where were the masculine programmes? He wasn’t interested in women’s soccer of women’s boxing, he wanted to watch those who were the best, and those are men. You have women’s programmes, why not men’s programmes? Tenth, the News – he’d make it independent, put it in their contact to seek and tell the truth, and whilstleblow on interference. He’d seen how the news stopped being impartial when big issues arose, such as Scotland voting on independence. The BBC just became a propaganda piece for the elite. You can see to this day how working for the BBC taught George Orwell Double-Speak.
He went to the toilet – he liked to use the disabled toilets as they tended to be cleaner and less cramped. Whether it was the smaller quantity of users, or the better quality of user, was something that only a research institute could uncover, but the results were tangible. He’d make sure the Beeb had bogs that’d you’d enjoy. That was true civilization.
He left the shop and walked into the Beeb. They gave him a thorough checking over in case he was a Muslim terrorist. His pale skin, shaven face and other physical clues did not distract the crack team from doing their necessary job. He was Irish – when the Irish were setting off bombs in London, what was the point of searching Muslim people? If Muslim people are setting off bombs in London, what is the point of searching the Irish? The sheer cost, in an organisation that talked of “value for money”. Their talk was all meaningless drivel
He entered the lift and looked at his visage in the mirror. It didn’t look good, but he was at a stage of life where that was permanent. He got a little grumpier at the thought. The number 4 appeared on the elevator, and a “bing” was heard. He walked out and as per the instructions they’d sent him, the Interview Room was signed ahead. He sat down and minded his business until he was called
He got up and made his way to the door. He thought “Just being honest makes you a protestor”. There were six people opposite him. All office bods and sneaks; instinctively they disliked each other. One stupid woman, the head of HR, said “You must be excited to be at this interview” to which he replied “No, I am a straight middle-aged man, and I learnt to control my emotions a long time ago when I matured into an adult”. He told them about the insensitivity of all the food programmes in rich people’s houses, while millions went to food banks in the middle of a housing crisis. He told them it was great if your wife was “being passionate”, but that didn’t mean she should run the BBC. He told them about the lack of protest over the Snowden spying case, the lack of support for Charlie Hebdo, weren’t they journalists? He wasn’t going to sugar coat it for them.
He waited a week for the outcome of the interviews, but heard nothing. He chased up the HR department, and eventually got through to someone who said he’d been unsuccessful. To annoy them he asked for feedback, which they promised to give, but didn’t. Meanwhile the MI5 person on the Board of Trustees passed Mr Lally’s details over to his colleagues to keep a check on, he was likely “an enemy of society”. No true opposition can be allowed in the UK or the system would collapse. ————————————————————————————————————————————–