This weekend just gone saw the broadcast of the BBC’s Sport Relief programmes, where various activities are done by celebrities (usually with a sporty theme) in order to raise money for charity. It got me thinking a little bit, and this blog post is the product of that thinking. I’m not sure you’ll agree with me and if so, let me know why not. On the surface, what I have to say may sound quite nasty, so let yourself be warned here before reading on.
Why do people have to put themselves through personal torment, physical extremes or do something in someway spectacular in order for someone else to donate to charity? The BBC now broadcast 3 major evenings per year (yes, that’s less than 1% of all programming time) to these kinds of shows: Comic Relief, Sport Relief and Children In Need.
At the time of writing (started Saturday afternoon, finished Monday evening) I just watched most of “John Bishop’s week of hell” and really couldn’t fathom why it was that he felt he had to do that challenge. What was the motivation behind people donating? I don’t know the answer to that.
If it had something to with the very vague notion of “doing it for a good cause” then how closely are these good causes investigated before donation? A few weeks ago, the world of social media erupted with the story of Joseph Kony (who I had not heard before I saw it at the top of the most popular topics on Twitter) only for there then to be backlash against the charity that promoted the expose video as they were not considered to be the most financially transparent charity around. Yet in the backlash, the anger that was stirred up against Kony was dissipated and redirected.
I’m not suggesting that there is anything untoward in the accounting for Comic Relief, Sport Relief or Children in Need. I simply wonder how many people who donate to them investigate where the donations go to. Of course, there are these very powerful and emotionally charged mini-documentaries that dot the programme.
I think there is a strong thought process that goes something like this: “Let’s provide people with an evening of entertainment. Interspersed with this, we’ll show these videos to guilt-trip them into giving. We won’t publish a strict schedule so that people can only tune in for the parts they want. We’ll issue constant reminders of what is “coming up” to keep them enticed, instead.”
As cynical as that sounds, it seems likely to me that there is at least an element of truth in that. But why can’t these mini-documentaries stand on their own feet? If someone passionately believes that that a cause is worth giving to, then I would rather they try and persuade me with me evidence and reasoned argument than with an evening of light entertainment with lots of famous faces.
What would it say about me if I don’t donate to Comic Relief on the basis of the needs of others presented to me, but instead because the BBC newsreaders did a silly dance?
I’m not condemning these programmes or calling for them to be stopped. I’m questioning the mindset of the British public and whether our priorities are in the right place.
With that said, and at the risk of undoing my whole argument, 2 of my friends are doing a sponsored event soon. Most important is the reason why they are doing it, which you can read about here. You can also find out what it is they’re doing, but it would seem odd in the light of what I’ve written to draw attention to it. Their donation page (which isn’t as straightforward to find as it might be) can be found here.