The BBC must blame itself for rolling over for Camelot

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 organisation.

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

organisation.



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

Saturday.



Of course, it sits like an interloper within the public service

broadcaster.



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

victory.



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

enterprise.



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 deal.



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.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in