The introduction of the National Lottery four years ago was bound
to make profound changes to Britain. But Parliament voted for it, and
backed a profit-making operator, instead of a not-for-profit
We may not like what we have ended up with, but it is the outcome of of
flawed democracy at work.
This is the background against which to judge the fierce debate about
the BBC’s new scratch card programme, the Big Ticket, starting on
Of course, it sits like an interloper within the public service
Only the ’fig leaf’ payment of an annual fee by the BBC to Camelot for
the rights to broadcast the Lottery saves it from being a sponsored
programme, breaching the BBC’s licence agreement.
The BBC’s most seasoned entertainment experts have concocted a glitzy
package of Gladiator-style games mixed with It’s A Knockout spectacle,
arguing the Big Ticket is a top class entertainment programme regardless
of the Lottery. You’d expect nothing less from professionals.
But the Big Ticket’s effect will be to drive up sales of the new TV
Dreams scratch cards, which also offer the chance to feature on TV. The
new programme is only happening now because Camelot ordered it up. The
show is needed because scratch cards suffer from a credibility gap -
only 0.1 per cent of big winners ever go public because Britons scratch
in private. The beauty of the show, which marks it apart from previous
ones, is that we actually see jackpot winners live, at the point of
That’s a long way from the simple televised draws favoured by some state
lotteries. But once the BBC went hell for leather and landed the
exclusive contract four years ago, salivating over the chance to
televise a huge national event and grab huge ratings from ITV, all of
this was predictable.
You can’t be lukewarm about a mass market, multi-billion pound
What is happening is that the BBC itself, like the rest of Britain, is
being changed - I’d say for the worse - by Lottery culture.
Studying the detailed letter sent by BBC chairman Sir Christopher Bland
to the media and culture secretary this week staking the BBC’s claim to
run the show, I was struck by the way the former Heritage Department
connived with the BBC in clearing its path. Essentially the BBC was
given the green light to create a special category of programmes for the
Lottery and, as its own judge and jury, has adjusted its own producer
guidelines to that end.
It’s no good for BBC executives to squirm now and say they did not
expect to be faced with mounting a scratch card show: it was a key to
The contract with Camelot comes to an end in November. The BBC won’t
walk away and at the very least it should attempt to negotiate a new
contract which gives it more control.