Showing posts with label BBC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BBC. Show all posts

Friday, January 31, 2014

Islamist censorship is appeased in Britain

So in the past week or so in the UK:

- The Liberal Democrats are debating whether to suspend a Muslim Parliamentary candidate who tweeted a Jesus and Mo cartoon image saying he was not offended by it (and, according to his opponents, using "colourful" language to describe his Islamists opponents).

- Channel 4 and the BBC, both state-owned broadcasters, have refused to broadcast images of the said cartoon, in reporting the story (specifically showing the image with the depiction of Jesus, but concealing the depiction of Mohammed).  The reason given by the BBC was that it would be "gratuitously offensive" to some viewers, yet it was central to understanding what the fuss was about.

This is it...

Meanwhile, George Galloway, fresh from spreading pro-north Korean propaganda on Russian propaganda channel, RT, is campaigning vehemently against the Liberal Democrat candidate.   There aren't words to describe the creature.

Even a few on the "liberal" left, which has shamefully appeased Islamist views for so long, is finally starting to wake up.

Free speech is under attack, and it is in the heart of the left liberal establishment that the challenge is happening, and they are shaking, shivering and fearful.

For there is no right to be protected from offence in a free society, and the fundamental problem is that the "liberal" left have pushed for laws to essentially do this.  To prohibit views that are offensive to many (and indeed to many libertarians and conservatives too), to seek to socially-engineer views, rather than confront them with debate, boycotts and voluntary action, but to use the state to shut them down.

The problem for them is that in creating this artificial construct, they have deemed it impossible for people of protected "oppressed" groups to be capable of committing the offences they created.  It is why it is politically impossible for many on the left to accept that people of non-European extraction can be racist, or that women can be sexist, or that the religious bigotry of non-Christians (or non-Jews) is a concern.  This doctrine is fed "protected oppressed group" identity students relentlessly, and is seen most recently in the "white privilege", "male privilege" slapdown, designed to shut down debate with a pejorative that implies you are not entitled to participate, because of your background.

Quite simply, until those of the "liberal" left eject this post-modernist collectivist identity politics fantasy, they cannot credibly take Islamists on.

So if those who proclaim opposition to racism, sexism, oppression of homosexuals and promotion of secularism cannot take on an ideology that is racist, sexist, oppresses homosexuality, oppresses any deviation from its religion, then their philosophical foundations are found wanting.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reform of the BBC must involve abolition of the licence fee

The capabilities and impartiality of the BBC have come under serious scrutiny in the past few days.  So the question has been asked as to whether the current model of the BBC, within a coherent broadcasting policy, is valid for today.

I say no, and the fundamental reason why is that the TV licence fee is morally indefensible.

For any appliance or electrical good one buys for use at home, it isn't the state's business once you get it home.  You've coughed up a 20% surcharge in VAT and that's it.  Except for televisions.

Ownership of a TV means you are coerced to pay £145.50 for the BBC.  Want to just watch DVDs, play console games or watch channels other than the BBC provided by Sky or commercial free to air networks?  Tough. You must pay for the BBC.

It's no idle threat.  Every year over 140,000 people get criminal convictions for not paying.  If you failed to pay your Sky bill, you wouldn't face that.  The difference between the Rupert Murdoch "evil empire" so many leftwing detractors claim is BSkyB, and the BBC is palpable.  Never have Mr. Murdoch's businesses demanded you pay them for their products unsolicited, with the threat of criminal prosecution if you fail to do so.  

So the starting point has to be abolition of the TV licence fee.  Besides the lack of equity in that those who listen to BBC radio but do not own a TV don't pay for it (a tax avoidance supporters of the licence fee don't raise), it is simply unjust today to prosecute people for not paying for a public broadcaster when there is technology to allow people to opt out of paying and be denied the content supplied.

Allister Heath has suggested the licence fee become voluntary, and he is right.  It would not be technically complex to offer a subscription service, using PCM or other technology built into Freeview TVs and set top boxes to authorise access to BBC channels (except perhaps BBC Parliament) if people choose to pay.

Of course the BBC could also offer an opportunity for people and companies to donate towards the BBC running costs, like PBS stations in the US, but it could also offer packages of stations for people willing to pay for part of it.   Radio remains an issue, as this is more complex, but in the interim it could be taxpayer funded.  Bear in mind the BBC has a turnover of over £1 billion in its commercial activities, which generates a profit of nearly £150 million.  If required to, it might actually be even more clever in exploiting this.

Those who do not want the BBC could still watch all of the other Freeview channels for nothing.   However, the BBC would then need to offer a unique proposition to subscribers.  

One thing that also should be done is that its dominance, particularly in radio, should be culled.  It should not be the dominant local radio broadcaster, and so all of its local stations should be sold, even if they retain access to the BBC News resources on a commercial basis, the BBC should not be so pervasive.  Furthermore, there needs to be a review of the scale of its national radio operations.  Why maintain an urban hip-hop station, a talkback network, a mixed format adult contemporary station or a south Asian station, all of which have commercial competitors?  

The question should be asked - what role should the state have in providing content to the public in an age when digital technology no longer means broadcasting is limited by scarcity of radio spectrum?

Regardless of the answer, the BBC should be regulated by OfCom not a Trust that has proven wholly inadequate in representing the interests of viewers.

From that should be a question about Channel 4.  It is fully state owned and itself owns and operates a suite of TV channels, albeit fully commercially funded.  Should that remain state owned or be privatised?

Beyond that, questions should finally be asked about why the state regulates commercial TV at all?  Channel 5 and ITV1 both retain significant regulation by OfCom which seems increasingly anachronistic when there are dozens of Freeview commercial channels without such regulation.  

So here is my manifesto for reforming broadcasting in the UK, it is rather moderate in my view:

- Announce end of the TV licence, offer temporary taxpayer funding to the BBC equal to the licence fee minus administrative costs and an austerity factor of 10% until 2016;
- Wipe all convictions for non-payment of the licence fee from people's criminal records;
- Declare the BBC will be fully funded from a subscription service topped up by BBC Worldwide revenue and donations from 2016;
- Abolish the BBC Trust, putting OfCom in charge of regulating the BBC;
- Institute an independent review of the role of public broadcasting in the UK to report by 2015 on its continued scope and scale including options for the BBC and Channel 4;
- As of 2016, remove Channel 5 and ITV1 from all channel specific content regulation, treating them as if all other free to air commercial broadcasters.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

BBC has failed to meet the moral standards it demands from others

It's gone like this...

Late TV star Jimmy Savile was a recidivist sex offender.  This was broken by ITV, following a report that the BBC chose not to broadcast a report about the very topic late last year, preferring instead to broadcast a tribute to the man.

The BBC denied it suppressed the report for any specific reasons associated with the content of the report.  The BBC also denied it had received complaints about Savile and that it had nothing on file.

Subsequently tens, then hundreds of people came forward with their stories of Savile.  One woman, who was molested on air under her dress by Savile, said she complained and was told "that's just how he is".  It is now clear that during the 1970s and 1980s, the BBC essentially had a culture of suppressing complaints of sexual abuse against high profile stars.

There are now at least two investigations into behaviour of BBC staff over this affair.  Of course, the question has been raised as to how the BBC can investigate itself.  After all, a core principle of the Leveson Inquiry is whether newspapers (which, it is important to emphasise, are not state owned, not state funded and not creatures of statute) can hold themselves accountable.   The BBC apparently can, so it thinks.

All of this did blow open the obvious questions.  Why didn't the press take on Savile when he was alive?  Why didn't the BBC?  What are the implications of the Leveson Inquiry, which may propose regulating the press in order to avoid overly aggressive behaviour in pursuing people for stories, on journalism in the UK?

Since then, the scandal widened. Labour MP Tom Watson, the MP who has been the key protagonist in taking on NewsCorp in the Leveson Inquiry and who firmly believes in regulating the press, has been alleging that there is a pedophile conspiracy involving senior Conservative politicians and officials from the Thatcher era.

The BBC didn't dare question Watson as to his motivations.

However, it did listen to one man, who told the BBC that a senior Conservative politician had sexually abused him.  The BBC reported this, without saying who it was, but the description and the internet saw Lord McAlpine identified within 48 hours of the broadcast.  The man who made the claim then withdrew it late last week because once he saw a photo of Lord McAlpine he confirmed that he had not been the abuser.  Apparently the BBC had not inquired of Lord McAlpine before issuing its report, and had not probed the man who made the claim, even though it has subsequently been revealed that the same man had made a false accusation against a policeman some years ago and has a history that should have given cause for the BBC to not proceed.

Of course some have implied that the BBC chose to jump at the chance to take the story away from its own inadequacies and cover ups, to blaming a senior Conservative ex.politician, especially after a Labour MP had talked about it.

The allegations against Lord McAlpine mean he is likely to sue for defamation, it has shown the BBC as not meeting the standards it thinks it embodies, by reporting the most damaging allegations that can be made against any man today (be clear, to be labelled a child rapist is worse than murder today) based  on the testimony of one man, without giving the accused the right of reply or even, off camera, talking to him.

Yet this is the BBC that claimed it did not broadcast a programme recorded about such allegations against a dead former BBC celebrity, because the evidence wasn't good enough.  

BBC Director General - George Entwistle - who only took on the job in September - has resigned over it all, not least because his performance when interviewed by BBC Radio 4 presenter - John Humphrys - was farcical.

Of course it isn't just the BBC that stuffs up.  On ITV, Philip Schofield handed David Cameron a list of  alleged pedophiles live on TV.  However, he's been excoriated and ITV now subject to an OfCom investigation.

Yet the BBC is not subject to scrutiny by OfCom - the regulator of the broadcasting industry.  It is subject to regulation by the BBC Trust - a body which is mean to provide oversight, but has no real sanctions against the BBC when it misbehaves.   It is hard to see how the BBC Trust can possibly address the fundamental failings of the BBC to confront Jimmy Savile, let alone be honest about what happened.

What is needed is an independent inquiry.

However, what it raises is more fundamental than the poor judgment of BBC management, which is getting to be rather too frequent.

It is the basis for the BBC's special status, as the only broadcaster completely protected from the recession, the only broadcaster legally entitled to force the public to pay for it, whether or not they consume its services.

The BBC is quite possibly the most powerful institution in the UK.  It is difficult to overestimate the pervasiveness of the BBC in British life, its profound influence on politics and culture, and its status within broadcasting and media more generally.

It holds this position because of legislation and its primarily funded through compulsion.  Indeed 140,000 people each year get criminal prosecutions for not paying the TV licence, an archaic, arbitrary poll tax for owning a TV.  A system that in itself particularly penalises the poor, those home during working hours and those who do not live behind gated homes or tower blocks.

It broadcasts 9 TV channels in the UK and 10 national radio stations with 40 local ones.  It is the dominant broadcaster and asserts impartiality and balance as central to its ethos.  It also claims scrupulous political impartiality and separation from politics.  Yet it is a creation of politics.

Those of us on the liberal right (and those on the conservative right) regularly claim this impartiality does not stand up to close scrutiny.  There are some on the left who claim the same.

The honest truth is that it is contradictory to the core for a state owned broadcaster, funded through a specific tax on TV owners to not have an institutional bias that at its core is about defending itself, and the philosophy that justifies the maintenance and growth of that broadcaster.  When did the BBC last have a programme where it invited BBC critics to put forward the view that it should be reformed, broken up or disbanded?

So how credible is the BBC in policing itself?

There needs to be a fundamental look at what the BBC exists for.  At one time it was the sole broadcaster, in part because of the scarcity of radio spectrum, but also because the state wanted to control what people heard, and later, saw.  

None of these arguments make sense today.  The classic argument for public broadcasting by supporters of it is that it can produce programming that would not be broadcast by TV and radio stations beholden to commercial imperatives.   Yet the BBC does much much more.  It produces a vast range of mass market programming that would be seen on any commercial network.  From EastEnders to Strictly Come  Dancing to live sports coverage, to Radio 1, the BBC broadcasts programming aimed for everyone.

Its competitors have to win either advertisers (audiences it can sell) or subscribers.  It need not.  It faces no financial sanction for failing to deliver what people want, indeed it would argue that unpopular programmes are proper public service broadcasting, and popular ones prove the BBC is delivering for everyone.

Yet, its role in being the leading provider of news and current affairs is never questioned.   Its regular leftwing bias in how it carries out that activity is palpable (I complained about one presenter who said stock traders don't produce anything, with a dismissive head shake, as if they didn't do anything value, and that complaint was dismissed.  I have yet to see the BBC say that about newsreaders), and is seen in how the Guardian now actively defends it.  The line it takes, and was taken on TV by Chris Patten today is that "Murdoch will cheer on the BBC being harmed", as if the News Corp empire is evil and the views expressed in the Times can be dismissed as malignant.   Yes, the impartial BBC thinks this.

A libertarian is always going to think that the idea the government should own a broadcaster and threaten criminal prosecution against any members of the public who refuse to pay for it, whether they watch it or not, is fundamentally wrong.

However, the UK hasn't even had the debate and discussion about the role of the BBC in media policy in recent years.  The Labour Party sees itself as guardian of the BBC as a national institution, not least because the existence of the BBC fits in with its philosophy that treats the state as being activist whenever politicians think it should be.  The Conservative Party has been too scared to take on the BBC, not least because it would mean the BBC had every chance to take on those wishing to reduce its role.

Those on the left who think newspaper proprietors can't police themselves should ask themselves how well the BBC can.  The difference is that people who can read are not forced to pay for newspapers, but people who own TVs are forced to pay for the BBC.

Former Labour man Dan Hodges thinks the problem is the BBC convinces itself it is the world's best, when it is not, and so surrounds itself with a culture of superiority and immunity from criticism.

What else could justify the latest report that the BBC - which has made a point of taking on celebrities and politicians who avoid tax - is now handing its outgoing Director General a golden handshake of £450,000 - more than the Prime Minister's salary - after only 45 days in the job.

Where is the moral authority in that?
Where is the moral authority in denying that it had had complaints about Jimmy Savile when he was alive?
Where is the moral authority for the BBC to ever claim it is above politics, when it is a creature of it?

In an age when more and more media is consumed online, and by mobile devices.  In an age when networks can carry over 1,000 parallel TV channels by cable and satellite, and anyone can set up Youtube channel, podcast and blog, what role can the BBC have?

Should it continue to be all pervasive, dominating local radio and competing like a commercial broadcaster but without the disciplines of one?  Should it just broadcast content that is not commercially viable?  Should it continue to be funded through a poll tax with criminal sanctions for non-payment, or should it tout for donations, should it be funded from general taxation, or should it be subscription funded (given all TV in the UK is now digital, making it feasible to do so)?

That is what should happen next. 

If not, it is time that people deliberately failed to pay the TV licence fee.

It is a complete travesty that every year hundreds of thousands of people get a criminal record because they wont pay for a TV broadcaster.

It is about time that that debate was had, on all media, and the BBC finally felt it had to carry the debate too.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Why isn't the BBC covering a story - about itself?

One of the major news stories on TV news on ITV, Channel 4 and Sky News, and the major national newspapers are the allegations that the late childrens' TV star - Sir Jimmy Saville - was a recividist abuser of young girls.   It comes as a documentary is to be broadcast in two days time on ITV when women who claim they were abused, and a few who worked with him, will be telling stories about what he did.

The allegations are from the 1970s, involve girls ranging in age from 10 to 16, and one alleges rape.   Of course Saville's family is appalled these allegations are coming out now, given he died last year, but it has caused one high profile TV star, now a campaigner for children who are abused, to offer some contrition that people knew of rumours, that people had stories of catching him with girls, and chose to turn a blind eye.

He is dead, he can't defend himself.  He had no wife or children of his own, but he was one of the most popular TV personalities of the age.   

Yet if what the women say is true, and apparently the individual cases, coming from women from multiple parts of the country, have many common features, then it is far from surprising that young girls, with vulnerable backgrounds hardly felt able to complain (who to?) about a popular, famous, wealthy and well loved celebrity?

The 1970s were a period when it was remarkably difficult for children to be believed over abuse, particularly from otherwise well trusted figures.

However, what this story highlights is whether the BBC colluded in that culture, consciously or otherwise.

The BBC has made one sole statement, which is to say that it has gone through its files and found no record of allegations made.  It has also been reported that BBC decided against broadcasting a story about the allegations last year, because it couldn't substantiate the claims made by the women - which would only be possible if someone else was watching, or someone who the girls told could remember it (or was asked).

However, is that really a surprise?  Shouldn't the UK's leading broadcaster, a broadcaster that claims its right to demand with threat of prosecution £145.50 from every household, to compulsorily fund its nine TV channels, nine national and umpteen local radio stations, undertake some more scrutiny of its behaviour?

Is it not conceivable that if any of the girls made an issue of it, it would be dismissed, that the BBC was utterly unreachable in this age, for anyone seeking to complain, that anyone talking like that about such a popular ubiquitous star would be dismissed?  

How has the BBC changed in its treatment of TV hosts who spend time with children?  

Most of all, why isn't the BBC covering this and questioning its own (largely now retired) management of the time?

Doesn't it demonstrate that a state owned "public" broadcaster is incapable of being objective over its own behaviour, that it cannot be truly accountable and that if it cannot scrutinise its own staff, over 30 years after the event, that it can't possibly pretend to be some bastion of morality in the media?

In which case, how dare the BBC and its sycophantic supporters claim it has the moral authority to keep forcing people to pay for it - when it has taken a commercial, private broadcaster, to raise the taboo of a famous late TV star who may well have been a child abuser.

Allegations over major years (Guardian)
Saville interviewed under caution of allegations regarding girls' home (Telegraph)
Saville "Gary Glitter did nothing wrong" (Telegraph)
BBC newsroom assistant witnessed Saville snogging a young girl  (Telegraph)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

BNP on Question Time?

Probably a mild win for the BNP - unprecedented platform for publicity. Nick Griffin came across as defensive, but relatively moderate, claimed he had transformed the BNP from being racist and fascist to being a party for indigenous British people to defend their rights.

He would have solidified his own supporters, except the profoundly racist who might think he's a sellout. However, who knows what other side the BNP shows in private.

For the rest of Britons? He probably gained support for his views on Islam and immigration generally, but every single non-white person who confronted him, he said he was happy letting them stay in Britain.

So in conclusion? Well done BBC - you probably gave the BNP more than it lost.

TV licence fee payers will be thrilled you gave them this oxygen of publicity, paid for by them.


There is so much hype and talk about the BNP Leader Nick Griffin being invited onto the BBC TV show Question Time tonight, you'd think it was a commercial channel.

Which does beg the question.

The BBC is state owned, compulsorily funded by those who own TV sets. It feels obliged to give "everyone a fair say" and since the BNP gained around 900,000 votes at the last MEP and local government elections, it is seen as a political party of sufficient standing to deserve a say.

Tonight's Question Time will have a record audience of course, but the BBC is commercial free, so wont financially benefit. Yet if there were commercials, would it risk it?

Would a privately owned commercial TV channel, dependent on advertisers, like ITV or Channel 5, risk putting Griffin on when advertisers may regard buying time during the programme as taking advantage of the BNP's presence?

I simply don't know. If I was buying TV advertising, I might think there could be a big audience, but buying advertising endorses the broadcasting of the programme, and some may say Griffin's presence. I may be risking a significant amount of criticism, and maybe even boycotts by people.

Gordon Brown claims it will expose the BNP for what it is. I'm not so sure. Nick Griffin is a vile little man, but he does know how to manipulate coverage. He will deny all that is thrown at him, will throw dirt at the main parties for their own feeding at the trough of taxpayers, he will point out the hypocrisy of banning Gert Wilders, but not Islamists promoting tyranny, and will be seen as mainstream - unless someone can land a serious punch his way.

James Dray at the Guardian suggests ways to break Griffin down.

The Guardian also notes a similar TV appearance made a big positive difference for Jean -Marie Le Pen of France's fascist Front National.

So is the BBC going to destroy Griffin, or give him the best free publicity he could dream of?

The middle ground is hard to imagine, for if he just appears as a politician - like everyone else - it will be a huge win for the BNP.

What's galling is TV licence fee payers are forced to pay for this gamble.

UPDATE: Violent trespassing protests have started at the BBC television centre against the BNP. What fools like this fail to realise is that being violent plays into the BNP's hands. Oh I don't see the same protestors confronting Islamists who say "death to freedom" or call for violence against non-Muslims. Again, playing into the BNP's hands.