National Trust’s Big Brother Embarrassment

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Without doubt it has changed the landscape of television culture and has circled many conversations, but is Big Brother, more specifically ‘The Big Brother House’ worthy of National Trust status? The charity acquired the property on the Elstree Studio complex last weekend for two days, allowing members of the public to step in the footsteps of many Z-list celebrities who have appeared on the programme since its launch in 2000.

Bosses at The National Trust stated that the house is “special” whilst adding that the programme has become a part of culture in the UK. The press release for the announcement actually stated that by opening the house it could pave the way for a “wittier” future for The National Trust. Hardly to be welcomed by many of its long-standing members, stereotypically an older, more intelligent individual.

There is no concern that Big Brother’s infamous house is a part of a celebrity and TV culture in the UK. Big Brother undoubtedly began over a decade of reality television; the same television flair we are accustomed to today. The television certainly has its followers with million tuning in every week for their programmes; having visited television studios, there is some kind of excitement and suspense when standing on a set of a programme you have seen broadcast to many millions of viewers. The National Trust certainly seems to be moving with modern times, encouraging more and specifically younger people to join the charity. But the house seen by so many millions seems out of place alongside properties of real history and heritage.

Whilst many enjoy the reality brainwasher, the show is not unfamiliar with controversy. Scenes that saw MP George Galloway parade the house in a red leotard are certainly an embarrassment and cowering, whilst more seriously the programme has been associated with racism following allegations of bullying involving the late Jade Goody and Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. It does, therefore, gallivant the mind as to why people would want to walk in the footsteps of such controversy. The trust certainly seem to have lost their edge and perhaps credibility from allowing members to visit history rather than a modern TV programme. But if this is the road that the UK’s National Trust wants to head down, why start with Big Brother?

The recent closure of the BBC’s Television Centre in West London is of real heritage. Creating some of the UK’s best known programmes including The Two Ronnies, Blue Peter and Parkinson, the centre has welcomed political leaders, world-famous stars and even transformed, on numerous occasion, into an event host itself. Iconic is the only real word to describe TVC. Built and in operation for over 50 years, there has been a vast amount of history and heritage created in that very building.

Today, production of the next generation of iconic television programmes has moved away from the studios that have brought BBC News to TV screens across the world to new homes including Media City UK and New Broadcasting House in Central London. TV Centre has been sold on and the end of an era has arrived upon us. The National Trust could have taken a giant leap in its appeal to a new market by acquiring the iconic BBC headquarters rather than a flimsy reality TV show.

Saying that, the 500 tickets that went on sale were snapped up by members of the trust within an hour, according to The National Trust. Karl Smith, executive producer of the show, said it was a great idea to link up the show and charity, however, former MP and culture figure Ann Widdecombe said the idea was “ridiculous”.

There is no doubt that the TV and celebrity culture is becoming the norm within UK society and many charities, such as The National Trust have to adapt to welcome those with new and evolving interests. Perhaps the trust could have avoided embarrassment and controversy by choosing a setting slightly less divisive as their marker for the way forward.

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PROFILE: Sir Trevor McDonald

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He is quite possibly the most recognisable face in British television news. The word ‘retirement’ is not one to be used when it comes to Sir Trevor McDonald. There are many people who inspire me when it comes to journalism and a career in the media. Sir Trevor is at the top of that list.

McDonald made history by becoming the first black newsreader in the UK, presenting with Independent Television News –ITN. His career, though, began in Trinidad during the 1960’s before producing programmes for BBC Radio. It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that Trevor became a general news reporter for ITN, later becoming a sports correspondent and further developing as an expert in international politics.

When it came to presenting news programmes, Sir Trevor worked for a short time with Channel 4 News, before working on the Early Evening News and ultimately presenting the flagship News at Ten and weekday late news between the late 1980’s and 2005. Ask anybody about their first thoughts when they think of News at Ten and Sir Trevor McDonald will be a part of that.
In 2005, Sir Trevor retired for the first time, however continued to host Tonight with Trevor McDonald, a weekly documentary series investigating an individual news and current affairs topic every week. However, in 2008, the return of the News to ten o’clock also saw the then 68 year old return to prime time news, before his second retirement within the year.

Following his retirement from news altogether, Sir Trevor ventured into documentary making with productions including The Secret Caribbean and The Mighty Mississippi. His courteous attitude and genuine passion for other people’s cultures and views provided a real insight into parts of the world through different eyes. The most recent project Trevor has worked on was a ratings success for ITV.

Inside Death Row was broadcast in January 2013 and followed Sir Trevor McDonald investigating the so called “death row” in the United States – a high detention security prison with the most violent inmates on the waiting list for the death penalty. In interviews beforehand, McDonald, now 73, stated how he disagreed with the death penalty, yet the documentary was an eye opening and insightful look at a system unfamiliar in Britain. The way in which McDonald conducted himself in his interviews with prison inmates and staff did, to some extent, show how he felt toward the system, however the genuine interest and passion for investigative journalism also counter balanced with allowing the inmates and staff to have their say. It was the genuine character of Sir Trevor McDonald which provided the success for ITV, a reliable and enthusiastic journalist, providing an unbiased and open minded approach to other world systems.

As a professional and as a man, Sir Trevor McDonald, was and still remains a heartbeat of British news. His famous tone of voice, powerful and instantly recognisable, has sometimes been the butt of jokes. He has interviewed figures including heads of states, including presidents, prime ministers and ordinary people at the centre of extraordinary news. His passionate, caring and professional approach comes across in a way that shows Sir Trevor to be worthy of his knighthood for services to broadcasting. A genuine thirst for news and journalism is what Sir Trevor stands for and his career and character is one to aspire to.