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Sunday, 21 May 2006
Enlightened vision

How many incompetents does it take to change a BBC light bulb? The Telegraph throws some light on this burning question:

The sorry saga of a broken light has illuminated the scale of "bureaucratic waste" at the BBC and cost licence fee payers thousands of pounds.

For more than a month the iconic sign at BBC Television Centre on Wood Lane, west London, has been out of action.

But what should have been a simple job, to repair a light illuminating the second "i", has descended into farce.

For where once it would have been a job for a couple of in-house technicians with a few hours to spare, the project has sunk into confusion involving outside contractors and spiralling costs.

So far two outside companies have been hired to fix the problem. One has been tasked with erecting a series of hydraulic platforms to reach the sign, 50 feet up in the air. The other is evaluating the damage.

It is estimated that it costs the corporation £1,100 each time this procedure is carried out. Only once a full assessment is made will the BBC's own staff decide what course of action to take before handing the repair work to one of the "outsourcing" contractors.

The expense has infuriated staff, who in last week's issue of the in-house magazine Ariel complained that in the past the problem would have been solved by a couple of workmen in a cradle.

Last year it emerged that the BBC had been charged £57 to change a light bulb by a property management company. The BBC said the charge had been an error and had been corrected.

A spokesman defended the repair work on the sign which, he said, was not just about replacing light bulbs. He said the BBC was now thinking of rewiring the sign or replacing it altogether.

This is a job for the Department of Light Bulb Changers. Or perhaps we need to set up an ad hoc quango to deal with the problem.

It could be worse, though. "Televis-on" is a perfectly good word. In fact, it could be the name of a new product. Only 10% of the word is missing, of course. The shorter the word, the greater the scope for ambiguity. Here is Diana Dors again, on the reason for changing her name:

"They asked me to change my name. I suppose they were afraid that if my real name, Diana Fluck, was in lights, and one of the lights blew..."

Rotten "luck," as they say.

Update: the BBC are running out of money and have had to go down-market for their lighting needs. Down Shepherd's Bush Market, to be exact, to a tacky electrical stall with an illuminated sign: "Lighting Counts". Now if one of their lights blew, it would be oh so embarrassing.

Posted on 05/21/2006 4:21 AM by Mary Jackson
21 May 2006
Send an emailEsmerelda Weatherwax
I could write a book about this sort of caper.
And one day I just might. But it would have to be a comic, because if you didn't laugh, you would cry.