Where a simple question can trip up the talented

by Ron Wain, Deep South Media

TV broadcaster Noel Edmonds, the British Broadcasting Corporation and your £145.50 TV licence fee illustrate a point of especial relevance to businesses in the public eye.

Mr Edmonds has made a thoroughly decent living over the past few decades as a charismatic TV presenter.

They include shows such as Top Gear, Multi-Coloured Swap Shop, Top of the Pops, The Late, Late Breakfast Show, Noel’s House Party – featuring that Mr Blobby – and Deal or No Deal.

Given this impressive curriculum vitae, mostly with the BBC, Noel is perhaps better positioned than most in the TV industry to give his opinion on how the public service could be cured.

He described the corporation as “a patient that is now terminally ill” and “not for purpose”.

A buy-out by a group of private investors would be the way forward, the cure, he indicated.

So far, so good – a chance to tell us what is wrong with the BBC, how these white knight rescuers would change things for the better and how you would go about price-tagging the vast organisation.

Then, with Noel’s appearance on BBC2’s Newsnight, things started to unravel.

Jeremy Paxman, the interrogator, wore a bemused expression; Mr Edmunds could only give the vaguest of details about the nature of the investors or their plans.

Then that moment when we collectively take in an audible gasp of breath – and we all knew in an instant that Mr Edmonds was on the back foot.

Delivering the coup de grâce, Paxman had asked if he is currently paying for the TV licence fee, to which the reply: “I don’t have a television licence, no. I don’t watch [TV] except on catch-up.”

At which point the interview closed.

There you have it. The public was just told by the telly personality – the one they had made famous by loyally tuning in to his programmes since the 1970s – that he did not feel it necessary to buy a licence like the rest of us. Or even a telly, which we watched him on.

Now, Noel does raise a serious issue regarding the thorny issue of catch-up – the Beeb is struggling to monetise the digital distribution of television content via the internet.

But any semblance of credibility had evaporated with the admission that the 39p-a-day cost of the TV licence was not for this wealthy star.

The moral of the story – get your prep done, and your ducks in a row, before facing the news cameras.

Had Noel been on our books, we’d have told him what Newsnight would probably have asked, and a few other questions beside, to avoid him falling into bear traps.

We would have also strongly advised he dipped into his pocket for that TV licence.

After all, it is often the simple things that trip up the talented.