It's always fun to be lectured on the future of journalism by someone from the BBC.
Assumptions hang in the air like the dusty shades of a Britain long departed. "Print is dead," a sage man in a big suit will tell you. "That'll be £145.50, please."
Whether public service broadcasting will be alive to attend the funeral is a question not often addressed. Quite what "the biggest journalistic organisation in the world" will do for stories if the papers aren't around is an issue overlooked.
What will the BBC's finest have left to lift? The thoughts of some choleric type on Points of View? Hot news from a vox pop in Arbroath? Take away those who still put ink on dead trees and all that remains is TV's singular contribution to journalism. That would be the riveting sight of hacks interviewing hacks.
The BBC is holier, though, than thou and thee. Its ineffable probity is forever the ace lodged somewhere in a hole. The corporation is trusted. What we know about extraordinary failures at Newsnight in the Savile affair need not detain bystanders. After all, the BBC then spent £6 million from your £145.50 to prove that it is good at finding out why it does badly.
On Thursday night, dutifully, I watched Newsnight Scotland. Broadly, that's part of my job. They had an interview with Labour's Scottish parliamentary leader, Johann Lamont. I was fascinated to hear what she had been up to lately. I still don't know, of course, but never mind. A discussion followed.
Simon Pia is a lovely bloke with an impeccable taste in football clubs. Simon is also no-one's fool. But, as a former "media adviser" to a former Scottish Labour leader, he is probably not first up, in most minds, as the sole contributor to a chat about the performance of a Scottish Labour leader. That's what we got, however.
Were they serious? Is this what follows if there is no-one with a dead tree handy to use the word "what the" with some expletives attached? Tabloids get kicked from pillar to post for less. But up there, above the moral horizon, on that high ground of which you've heard tell, sits the BBC, governed only by the windy rhetoric of its charter, umpteen bureaucrats, and an infinity of self-regard.
I can live with that. I once interviewed Michael Grade when he was running Channel 4. Amid the waggle of the big cigar - not that I was offered one - came the test-firing of an early sound-bite. The precious value of the BBC, said Grade, blowing smoke, is that "it keeps the rest of us honest".
I believed it then and I believe it, just about, now. Grade never did explain why civilisation would collapse without the corporation, however, and nor did he explain what he meant by "honest".
As to who kept the BBC in that state of grace, and how the trick was managed, the future D-G didn't say. Such things were supposed to be understood.
I support the corporation because I am fairly clear about the likely alternatives. The box in the corner has shown me the Sky future; it sucks.
Of the hundreds of channels within that contraption there's a bit of football, the odd movie, some exquisite things from HBO and, time and again, BBC productions, repeated and repeated.
No-one will replace the corporation because no-one can. The licence fee allows a miracle.
But it also seems to allow what could best be described as institutionalised elitism, earned or not, and the abuse of position that comes when your wage is paid from a poll tax.
So the BBC has been given a dressing down by the National Audit Office for paying £25m in severance payments to 150 managers. So we discover that £2.9m went "beyond contractual entitlement" to a group of individuals. So grandees are at the throats of grandees.
Who knew? Who sanctioned these sums? Who has told the truth about the when and how, and who is lying? Big questions. A bigger question might be, who cares?
Whether Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust, was "fully briefed" by Mark Thompson, the director-general who left before the Savile uproar for the New York Times, is neither here nor there.
Executives granted eye-watering sums to other executives at a time when ordinary BBC staff were being handed their cards.
The lawyers will work out who was and was not "entitled". If past form is any guide, the taxpayer will pick up the bill for the legal work. Men and women who drift around public institutions until the peerage turns up will no doubt fight hard for their reputations. What the affair tells us will remain. The BBC's right to a claim on the public's trust is no longer a God-given fact of British life.
The journalism is nothing special; some of the programmes would shame Channel 5. If the mission ever was to "educate, inform and entertain", most of us would these days be pushed to pick a category. The habit of patronising viewers and listeners is ingrained.
The sense of a self-rewarding institution is established. In what mythical journalistic market would Jeremy Paxman ever find another six or seven-figure salary?
Were all of this happening within a proud, combative and idealistic organisation, much could be forgiven. But we all know the truth. Our state broadcaster no longer says boo to government.
The BBC was spayed during the Iraq dodgy dossier row and these days lives from one round of licence fee blackmail to the next. It also lives by the remarkable superstition that it will never lose public trust and political support.
In reality, most the trust has gone. In Scotland, indeed, the BBC has a serious problem, one that will not disappear just because the fact is not reported on the BBC. A large proportion of an electorate inclined to vote against the British state and its institutions no longer has faith in vaunted ideas of impartiality. They see and hear state broadcasting.
No other kind is on offer, of course. An independent Scotland could never give you the BBC, EastEnders and all. What would you then lose? A London corporation run by people squabbling over who handed out the million-pound pensions? A token 20 minutes for Simon to pass judgment on Johann? Another news bulletin in which someone remembers to add "in England and Wales" with a weary sigh?
There was an idea, once upon a time, that nation would "speak unto nation". It crossed no-one's mind at the BBC to ask the identify of the nations in question. But those old broadcasters at least had a clear sense of a notional British nation to whom they could speak, lecture and pontificate. Their heirs behave like people fighting for a place in the multimillion-pound lifeboat.
Print is liable to outlive public service broadcasting for a simple reason. Those of us who still gum things to a dead tree gloop do not take the world, or our wages, for granted. We are not entitled. It's a thought to remember. My BBC chums can lift that, too, if they like.
We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis. If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules, which are available here.
Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.