It was, by any standards, an extraordinary piece of broadcasting, even in these turbulent times for the BBC.

There he was, John Humphrys, the undisputed king of Radio 4's Today programme, down in Digbeth assessing the state of the nation in a pre-election breakfast special for his millions of devoted listeners.

The BBC chose local engineer Michael Salter as chief barometer of taste for the man on the Digbeth omnibus.

Mr Salter duly told Today's favourite son: "There was a time in the 1960s when Birmingham was rebuilt and it was fantastic... you go to other cities and you see the heritage of the buildings and everything. They've left next to nothing here."

Mr Salter seems to have an odd view of the world, apparently bemoaning a lack of heritage sites in Digbeth when he could have mentioned the splendid Birmingham Coach Station as evidence of regeneration and inner-city rejuvenation.

He could also have pointed out that a few hundred yards up the road, there's Selfridges, or the redeveloped New Street Station, or the Bullring, or much else to admire further afield in Birmingham city centre.

But Mr Salter's preoccupation with a lack of heritage in the area gave Humphrys cue to wade in further on the state of the West Midlands as viewed through the somewhat narrow prism of downtown Digbeth.

The Welshman told listeners, apparently with a straight face: "It was manufacturing that made this city great and, if a place like Digbeth cannot reinvent itself like the city centre, then it couldn't half do with a bit of that. The problem is manufacturing in Britain is moving in the wrong direction."

So there you have it. The man who presents Mastermind when he's not terrorising politicians and bureaucrats on Today says Digbeth's problems are caused by a slump in UK manufacturing, apparently based on one man's dewy-eyed lament for heritage sites.

Had Humphrys bothered to widen his spheres of reference, he would have found numerous manufacturing firms dotted around the backstreets of Digbeth quietly getting on with the job of creating wealth.

And had he bothered to check out the current state of the West Midlands' biggest manufacturer, then he surely would not have made the outlandish claim that the sector is "moving in the wrong direction".

Since 2008, Jaguar Land Rover has more than doubled its workforce to 34,000, creating 18,000 new jobs, the majority in the West Midlands at Solihull, Castle Bromwich and elsewhere.

It has also doubled its production volumes to 425,000, helping contribute to a better life for an estimated 200,000 families, again with the vast majority here in the West Midlands.

If that is "moving in the wrong direction", then they clearly have an odd sense of direction in the Welsh valleys.

There are many other enduring West Midland manufacturing success stories, from Sertec to Guhring and BMW to Braundauer.

It would be grossly unfair to castigate Humphrys for one distorted, ill-informed broadcast.

He is, after all, a superb broadcaster, a true master of the airwaves who deserves, at the age of 71, all the praise in the world for dragging himself out of bed in the middle of the night year after year to take up the cudgels on behalf of Middle England to tackle the self-serving political classes and an often disingenuous establishment.

But the trouble is, if you can't trust the judgment of quite probably the best current affairs man they've got on a subject as vital to the nation as wealth creation, then who can you trust? Robbie Savage perhaps?

Like all of us, Humphrys is only human and one almighty howler can be reasonably forgiven in a career full of distinction and achievement.

But the Digbeth gaffe seems to me to be symptomatic of an organisation which is in danger of growing increasingly out of touch with an increasingly sophisticated audience, Jimmy Savile, the damages settlement to the late Lord McAlpine, staff bullying allegations et al notwithstanding.

In a world where, quite rightly, everybody is expected to pay for themselves – the bloated state-supported nationalised industries of the 60s and 70s, from British Leyland to utility companies, were dealt mortal blows by Thatcherism – the BBC and its licence fee is something of an anachronism, a subsidised Big Beast which is struggling to justify its territorial claims on a shifting cultural and technological landscape.

This newspaper is currently campaigning for a fairer slice of the cake for the Midlands from the Beeb. It is hard to argue against demands that at least 50 per cent of the licence fee raised in the Midlands should be spent here.

In total, £942.2 million was spent on licence fees last year in the BBC's own Midlands region (which incorporates the East Midlands and Eastern districts), around double that spent in London.

Long-time BBC critics, from Rupert Murdoch to the Daily Mail, have their own commercial reasons for knocking Auntie, but the spending figures speak for themselves.

Currently, £80 million, or a pitiful two per cent of the BBC's £3.9 billion income, is spent in the Midlands. That's less than the broadcaster spends in London in 12 days.

To put it another way, just £12.40 of the £145.50 licence fee found its way back to the Midlands, compared to £122.24 in Humphrys' Wales.

Statistics do not provide the entire picture - the BBC has many talented broadcasters on this patch, from Radio WM's Adrian Goldberg to the evergreen Nick Owen (corny jokes aside) - but they do suggest a bloated London-centric body in danger of losing touch with the Reithian values which once made it a byword for public service excellence.