IT is August, of course, and allowances must be made. But are the BBC's opponents so short of substantive criticisms of its programmes, its ageism, its expenses and its political biases that they have to resort to the cost of the water its staff drink in the course of a year? For those interested in such matters the sum is apparently GBP 406'000 annually on the large bottles used for its water coolers. This vital statistic was obtained by use of the Freedom of Information Act, which must lead one to wonder whether the Act was not intended for access to more important matters. In defending this expenditure the BBC has pointed out it has a legal duty to provide staff with drinking water. In a letter to the Editor of The Times Jeremy Clarke, the Director of the Natural Hydration Council, said that since the BBC employs about 23'000 people the cost of water for each of them amounts to 17.69 pounds per person per year, or less than 5p a day. Mr Clarke thinks that is good value to provide so many people with “the only drink that has zero sugar, zero calories and zero additives.” No organisation the size of the BBC is free of faults but “candle-ends” criticism of this kind is irrelevant and distracting from bigger issues.


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