Putting the book in

<p>Being a publicist today is one of the toughest and least appreciated positions in publishing. I salute you, publicists&mdash;unsung heroes all.</p>
<p>However, it was not always thus. &quot;This is the easiest job in the world!&quot; trilled my publicist when my first book was published, back in 1986. &quot;I just send out the press releases, then they interview you,&quot; she bubbled.</p>
<p>And she was right. In that era, the media had a thirst for knowledge and controversy that only books could quench. An unknown author such as me could, if the book were big and noisy enough, grab the limelight, storm onto &quot;Wogan&quot; and his 10 million viewers, and thence to the top of the paperback charts. That, dear reader, is how I entered this business.<br />
How things have changed. Today&rsquo;s author is lucky to grab 1,000 viewers on some obscure satellite channel at 3 o&rsquo;clock in the morning. The BBC&rsquo;s commissioning editor for arts, Mark Bell, recently proclaimed in these pages that the BBC &quot;is alive with books and new literature&quot;. Mr Bell no doubt leads a life of guileless aestheticism, and I have no desire whatsoever to trample on another man&rsquo;s fond dreams, but dare I whisper ever so sweetly that now would be a good time to arise from his Ephesian slumber?</p>
<p>Few would seriously dispute that the BBC has been systematically dumbed down in recent years. Critics include the former controller of BBC2 Sir David Attenborough; John Tusa, one-time m.d. of the BBC World Service; award-winning &quot;Panorama&quot; journalist John Ware . . . the list is depressingly long and luminous. These people presumably know what they are talking about.</p>
<p>As the BBC has steadily atrophied into a thought-free zone, books&mdash;the messengers of ideas, controversy, passion and insight&mdash;are simply no longer relevant to its increasingly anodyne agenda. Books are dirty, subversive, infectious things: weapons of mass awakening. They are about as welcome in the BBC&rsquo;s sterile ecosystem as MRSA is in a geriatric ward.</p>
<p>The BBC is run by highly intelligent people who produce deeply stupid programmes for &quot;the rest of us&quot;. Their cynically patronising attitude towards the audience is only exceeded by their craven attitude towards authority. I could cite Hutton; I could mention Mark Thompson&rsquo;s self-flagellatory admission of a &quot;massive bias to the left&quot; . Thompson, of course, confuses bias with the courage to ask hard questions: boat-rocking questions that powerful people often find inconvenient.</p>
<p>And that&rsquo;s the problem. Books rock boats&mdash;and indeed, lives. The BBC no longer does.</p>