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BBC’s flip-flopping over ‘racist’ Proms anthems shows it to be completely spineless

Chris Sweeney
Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

Chris Sweeney is an author and columnist who has written for newspapers such as The Times, Daily Express, The Sun and Daily Record, along with several international-selling magazines. Follow him on Twitter @Writes_Sweeney

BBC’s flip-flopping over ‘racist’ Proms anthems shows it to be completely spineless
After much internal debate at the BBC, instrumental versions of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Rule, Britannia!’ will be played at the Last Night of the Proms. Rather than serve its audience, it’s bowed to woke opinion once again.

The BBC has made some blunders, but it’s managed to botch this year’s Last Night of the Proms in epic style. It’s been a masterclass in spineless virtue-signalling from clueless bureaucrats who live in an ivory tower removed from reality.

The whole debacle kicked off when the Sunday Times ran a story claiming the much-loved anthems ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ and ‘Rule, Britannia!’ were facing the chop from this year’s televised show, taking place on September 12. The reason? Some apparently felt their lyrics had racist connotations and were not appropriate post-Black Lives Matter.

Whether this was ever actually under consideration remains unclear. But some tweed-wearing executive certainly seems to have panicked for not already having flagged up this non-issue, and raced to their computer in a frenzy to do so.

Also on rt.com Shock & dismay in UK as BBC considers excluding patriotic hits from Proms ‘over BLM protests’

They clearly felt they had to acquiesce, so the spluttering response was that the songs would be removed. But that didn’t go down too well with the millions who adore the event. 

The rumour of their axing caused an army of people to express their pride in the traditional concert’s content, which is normally accompanied by 5,000 attendees gleefully waving Union flags.

So, the same worried executive – who probably drives an electric car for fear of being lambasted by Extinction Rebellion – assembled a group of their colleagues, and these nameless wonders formed a scrum to formulate their next move. 

Cut out the songs and they’d appear anti-British. Keep them and they’d come over as horrible racists.

In what surely must have looked like a scene from a hit mockumentary, some bright spark came up with an answer to the conundrum. Their solution? Play the song, but without the lyrics.

Of course, the next part of this high-wire balancing act was to explain this to the unintelligent public, who it seems the BBC believes can grasp only extremes and is incapable of acknowledging degrees of tolerance.

So, a cringeworthy statement was released that pointed out that the songs couldn’t be sung with gusto, because, due to Covid-19, there would be no audience or choir inside the Royal Albert Hall.

It contained the line, “The Proms will reinvent the Last Night in this extraordinary year so that it respects the traditions and spirit of the event whilst adapting to very different circumstances at this moment in time.

Some poor junior researcher was sent off on a wild goose chase to justify this. The fruits of their labour allowed the BBC to trot out the fact that orchestra-only was how the tunes were performed at the Proms back in 1905. And that matters. Why? Because a lot of things happened in 1905 that we don’t do now.

The other point that shows how downright dumb the BBC is being here is that all the other songs will be sung by the few singers on stage. It just so happens that only the two songs mentioned by a Sunday newspaper that caused a backlash about their lyrics are being performed instrumentally.

BBC Director-General Tony Hall added, “The point is they’ve come to the right conclusion, which is it’s very, very hard in an Albert Hall that takes over 5,000 people to have the atmosphere of the Last Night Of The Proms, where a whole audience normally sing along.”

It beggars belief that highly paid media professionals think the public can’t see this for what it is: a sham. Of course all the songs could be sung. It can actually be more powerful to have a rousing anthem belted out by a single stunning voice.

This whole pandemic excuse is a smokescreen. Boris Johnson has even chipped in with his two cents, as have other politicians and a raft of celebrities.

The BBC doesn’t have the guts or moral fibre to decide on a course of action and stick to it. All it has proven is that it is a puppet, preferring to focus on spurious window-dressing rather than acting meaningfully.

It should also remember it’s funded by the British taxpayer via the mandatory £157.50 annual licence fee.

A poll has shown that 58 percent of people want the songs performed normally. However, the same research revealed that 75 percent of the British public either know only some of the lyrics of ‘Rule, Britannia!’ or none at all. That proves the concert is about pomp and ceremony more than anything else. It’s an annual event that some people cherish and most want to remain the same.

If the BBC has a problem with that, then it should speak to the public that funds its projects and explain honestly what actions it decides on.

Instead, what it’s done is pass the buck and contribute nothing to the debate around historical racism or Britain’s dark empire days of slavery.

But don’t worry – the BBC has located its chutzpah for 2021. It’s going to return to singing both songs as normal. You couldn’t make it up.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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