The multimillionaire health club owner Duncan Bannatyne has published an editorial in 'The Observer' indicating that he'll 'only be happy when smoking's banned'.
The absolute nature of such sentiments could make one wonder whether Mr. Bannatyne, a former ice-cream salesman from Clydebank, has a bad dose of rich man's fascism. Non-UK readers might not be aware that in recent years he has achieved a measure of fame as a result of his recurring participation in, ahem, a gameshow.
'Dragons' Den' is easily one of the ugliest and most odious programmes that the BBC has ever broadcast. The format of the show is that Mr. Bannatyne and three other rich people offer to give their own money to aspiring entrepreneurs in return for a stake in their businesses. Those desperate to enter the entrepreneurial priesthood have to give their spiels while the judges appear to insult their business plans, and sometimes them personally, before denying them investment. It is not surprising that the format originally hails from Japan, the land that gave the world the classic humiliation gameshow; 'Endurance'.
The moral quandaries that the 'Dragons' Den' format raises are legion. It appears to reinforce the septic idea that the only form of achievement worth striving for is material success. The manner in which some Dragons berate contestants is a form of ritualised, almost operatic humiliation that robs those on the receiving end of their dignity, and thus of their humanity. No doubt those involved in the show would say that it's not just business but showbusiness, and that the humiliation is the showbusiness, and they might even be telling the truth - but it's a desperately unattractive kind of showbusiness, one for people who think that only money talks.
From time to time, you see broadcasts showing how those businesses in which the 'Dragons' have invested are doing. Mr. Bannatyne's backed a few - and this raises another, quite interesting question.
'Dragons' Den' is broadcast on the BBC. You, me, Uncle Tom Cobley and all fund the BBC through the licence fee. One would hope that the BBC is in partnership with the Dragons in the businesses they fund, and getting a share of the profits; because if it's not, then the licence fee could be said to be being used to provide four very wealthy people with introductions to new business opportunities, pretty much on their own terms - and that's not really in the spirit of public service broadcasting.