MARTIN SMITH: BBC’s human touch is the envy of the world

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THE next time someone smugly starts slagging off the BBC just say two words to them: “Human Planet”.

There may be waste within the corporation and their power to use public money to beat their struggling and privately-owned news gathering competitors is an issue that needs to be addressed.

But for quality of progtramme-making the BBC has few equals.

TV Drama, sport, natural history, no-one comes close.

Radio sport, current affairs, drama and comedy their output is without equal.

While successive Governments have attacked its budgets, practices and direction the corporation continues to turn out programmes sought after all over the world.

Which other TV company could and would have made the stunningly brilliant Human Planet series?

Sometimes you just have to be glad that we have something brilliant rather than knock it.

Where else in the world would Radios Three, Seven and Six survive?

Where else on earth do listeners get the Archers, The Shuttleworths or Just A Minute?

Human Planet is a triumph, not just as entertainment but as a permanent archive of the way we live at our time in history.

Thursday’s life in the Arctic was breathtaking, funny, touching and compelling.

We had sharks being dragged through ice holes to feed the huskies, a shed on a sled as a father and son took their shelter hunting with them, polar bears in town looking for human treats on Halloween, songs to greet the first sunrise in 54 days and a 20-year-old female reindeer farmer who could restrain a fully grown deer as easily as if she was holding a sleepy puppy.

The most amazing scenes of all however were the mussel pickers who went UNDER the Arctic sea ice to gather shellfish when the tide was out and had to get out of there pretty smartly when it started to come back in.

Unbeatable.

The kind of stuff that makes it easier to pay your licence fee and proud to live in a country where broadcasting can be so brilliant.

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