The moral economy of the Great British Bake Off
Notwithstanding that cake baking is an important feature of the Archers (Guardian Editorial 13.9) I’m not a huge fan of cake. I’m a subscriber to the whole bakery rather than a few crumbs principle of course but not really of cake eating.
That doesn’t mean to say I’m unaware of the Great British Bake Off. Who could have avoided the magnificent beard of Ian Watters-unfairly purged after his Baked Alaska was interfered with- or Nadiya Hussein- someone who underlined that cake baking is something done by all kinds of people in Britain not just the Mary Berrys and Paul Hollywoods.
Now it seems Bake Off is off from the BBC to Channel 4. It could be worse after all Channel 4 as Equity reminded us at the TUC in Brighton today is still a publicly owned channel. However one suspects a slippery that will see it end up on Sky somewhere as more money is offered. TV coverage of cricket is an instructive example.
The point of being on a channel like BBC1 even in the age of the interwebs is the high national visibility it still gives. The competition, particularly the Murdochs of this world and their Tory friends know it, which is why they knock the BBC and, when in Government, cut its funds.
The Tory mantra is that is fine for the BBC to put in all the effort of launching programmes like GBBO. But when they become popular they must be sold off so that someone can make a *profit* out of them.
I’d suggest that there is a moral economy of a programme like GBBO which is as much of an institution in its way as the Archers.
The moral economy, a theory developed by the late historian EP Thompson, referred to traditional ideas and rights on how society should be structured. That is to say that people’s needs rather than profit should be a significant matter.
Thompson wrote primarily about the eighteenth century but the point that a market economy is not or should not be the same as a market society is important.
A programme like GBBO is public service broadcasting at its best. It may work well enough on a commercial channel but how long before sponsorship appears and the competition to make the best cake takes on a rather different perspective?
According to reports several Bake Off stars are already off. They don’t want to have their cake and eat it