Hooray! It’s almost time for the annual Children In Need appeal. It’s where people to silly things to raise money and the cast of Casualty and/or Eastenders perform a sing and dance act on telly. All well and good. And Rod Stewart will perform his new single. Hmm. Maybe forget the last bit. But there is one section of the Children In Need process that I cannot stand: the Chris Evans auctions.
I look at Children In Need as a time of year in which ordinary people dig deep to support a good cause. Millions are raised every year, some children’s lives are improved. Schoolchildren hand over their pocket money, perhaps a few quid, but collectively they make a difference. I love that. And I like it when people do daft things, like sitting in a bath of baked beans (yes, I know it’s food waste), for no other reason than they want to help people. So do the people who enter Chris Evan’s auctions, but then they can afford to.
We might as well call the auctions closed auctions, for that’s what they are. Have a look at the Monaco Grand Prix package for this year. The winners paid over £100,000 each for the privilege, raising between them over £1 million. How many people can afford to enter that competition, then? Seriously rich people, that’s who, to whom £100,000 is mere pocket money. The person on minimum wage, donating a fiver, gets nothing other than, hopefully, a warm glow for doing something good. They want nothing in return. Who’s being more generous? And who’s money is more valuable?
Evans raises millions thanks to auctions in which only the rich can participate. Golf days, luxurious meals – they are hugely successful, but they are behind the wildest dreams of all bar the richest people in society.
Yes, I am uncomfortable when I hear Evans, who I admire enormously as the most talented broadcaster of his generation, gushing at the generosity of the better off, getting them in the studio, talking to them as if they are super special, better than the rest of us. “Thank you SO much,” he will say. For what, exactly? For buying a prize only money can get? Is that really what Children In Need is all about?
Maybe that’s the way we are going? In a few years, when the NHS has been privatised, we can tune into Sky One’s Children In Need show (the BBC will be long gone, too) and the rich can bid for life saving operations, donated by private health companies while the rest of us can curl up in a corner and hope for the best? We can become like America, where the lower orders rely on charity from the better off. From what I see in my life, that’s happening already.
I’d much rather there were raffles rather than auctions, but if the BBC wants to make as much money as possible from Children In Need, they will take it from whichever source they can. I’m afraid the annual grovelling to rich people to spend small amounts of their wealth on things the rest of us can only dream about will carry on, but honestly, it makes my stomach churn.