BBC CHARTER REVIEW – PUBLIC OR SELF SERVICE ?

” To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticise” Voltaire

” In a liberal society, the government should provide only “public goods” that the market cannot or will not provide if left to its own devices … Arguments for public broadcasting now rest on emotion or self-interest ” Adam Creighton writing in The Australian about the Australian Broadcasting Corporation

The BBC’s charter review is under way but why should we have a public broadcaster in the 21st century? What is its purpose? And if the decision is to keep the BBC, what form should it take going forward and how can it be effectively controlled and regulated?

These are the current six purposes of the BBC in its Royal Charter: 1. Sustaining Citizenship 2.Promoting Education 3.Stimulating Creativity 4. Representing the UK 5.Bringing the UK to the world and vice versa 6. Delivering to the public the benefit of emerging communications.

This is an extremely comprehensive remit for an organisation with no accountability to the electorate and with no control over its political bias.

” The BBC is a publicly-funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnic minorities and almost certainly of gay people, compared with the population at large ” All this he said “creates an innate liberal bias inside the BBC” Attributed to Andrew Marr in the Biased BBC website

There appears to be no prospect of returning to the fair minded and non-partisan ideals upon which the corporation was founded as is there no sign that it wishes to empathise with the UK’s silent majority’s views, loyalties or concerns. There’s talk of developing more personal, audience focused content in its programmes but when on air, current affairs viewers and listeners are “educated and informed” as per the ruling BBC ethos, e.g.  global warming is not up for debate, Israel is always a villain, remaining in the EU is essential (as was joining the Euro), public spending cuts mean austerity, political parties other than Labour and the Lib Dems are the enemy, etc., etc. The in-house attitudinal problem also includes a history of arrogance coupled with a total disregard for loyalty to the UK. For example, it was recently revealed that during The Falklands campaign, guidelines issued to BBC staff by management required that reports were to remain neutral because “We are not Britain. We are the BBC”

” They were sometimes reporting as if they were neutral between Britain and Argentina. At other times we felt strongly that they were assisting the enemy by open discussions with experts on the next likely steps in the campaign. My concern was always the safety of our forces. Theirs was news” Margaret Thatcher

There’s also the unhealthy relationship with The Guardian, a loss-making left-wing newspaper with a rapidly diminishing circulation. The paper is used as a reference point for news stories; its journalists regularly appear on BBC programmes and it’s the publication of choice for advertising BBC job vacancies.

“In the later stages of my career [at the BBC], I lost count of the number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a copy of The Guardian and told “it’s all in there”.” Peter Sissons, BBC News anchor for 20 years.

Then there’s the lack of commercial efficiency or competence. There was the Digital Media Initiative shambles which wasted over £100 million before it was scrapped (the executive responsible for it was paid £290,000 a year plus bonus). And what about the Top Gear fiasco? Worldwide revenue from this programme was reported at in excess of £150 million a year but management felt compelled to fire the Top Gear’s mainstay after an altercation, despite his global popularity. And of course there’s been the widely reported massive and unnecessary termination payments to managers caught up in the cross fire of BBC scandals. The list goes on. At the back of this is licence fee (television tax) income of over three billion pounds and there’s even a move to make it payable by people who don’t have TVs but who may watch BBC material on computers, iPads, etc. The fact that it’s mandatory and guaranteed makes it easy to understand why there’s no urgency within the corporation to (a) make sure that the majority of its subscribers are satisfied with the service and (b) increase efficiency and cut costs.

” …they [the BBC] are heavily overstaffed, there are too many jobsworths and the organisation is not run in a manner that a commercial organisation would be…” Lord Sugar addressing the House of Lords

Nobody denies that the BBC is a world class broadcaster and is exceptionally good at a broad range of programmes, especially in the natural history, drama and light entertainment categories. It just needs to re-set its priorities to avoid needless criticism.

The BBC’s mission statement is “to inform, educate and entertain”. In its adopted number one public purpose, Sustaining Citizenship, it intends to focus on “providing an in-depth explanation of the most significant issues facing the UK and the world (such as the Middle East, global terrorism, climate change, public service reform, crime and immigration). Rather than pursuing some kind of quest to disseminate its own agenda, the BBC needs to focus on its strengths and weaknesses. It needs completely restructuring. As Alan Sugar stated “There is a need for a more commercial approach with an experienced board of directors…” The first step should be to draw up a three year plan financed with the current level of licence fee followed by detailed progress monitoring and reporting. If the plan targets are not met then the BBC should be scaled back to a core entertainment and news service with a reduced licence fee and independent external supervision. In the 21st century, the future of terrestrial TV is under serious threat from entertainment services provided via the internet and the BBC must radically adapt if it is to be a key player in this new challenging marketplace.

Focused on its strengths and appealing to the majority of the population, an entertainment driven, non-biased, commercially disciplined BBC would definitely be a vote winner with UK audiences.

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LABOUR/SNP WIN – THE WHOLE OF THE UK LOSES

“If you put a Labour/SNP government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand”   UK version of Milton Friedman’s famous observation.

“History reminds us over and over again, there is no new way to go broke. It is always too much debt. My conclusion is we are either slow learners or have long term memory issues”   Vern Gowdie

There is no doubt that Ed Miliband will team up with Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in order to regain control of the UK and complete the disastrous job he started with Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. A quick comparison of Labour and SNP policies clearly shows how a SNP dominated labour government would work.

ECONOMIC POLICY

Labour – no additional borrowing or new spending.  SNP – increase spending.  Lab/SNP Government – increased spending, increased borrowing, inevitable financial crisis.

IMMIGRATION

Labour – more border control staff.  SNP – support immigration that benefits Scotland.   Lab/SNP Government – increased immigration and increased social and infrastructure problems.

TAXATION

Labour – increase income tax and tax on high value properties plus encourage financially independent foreign nationals to leave the UK with increased “non-dom” taxation.   SNP – ditto. Lab/SNP Government – higher taxation, increased unemployment, exodus of high value contributors to the nation’s finances.

DEFENCE

Labour – a “minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent”.  SNP – oppose a renewal of the nuclear deterrent and require a larger proportion of defence procurement to be spent in Scotland. Lab/SNP Government – zero action on upgrading or maintaining the UK’s defences in an increasingly hostile world.

THE CONSTITUTION

Labour – a “Home Rule Bill for Scotland”.  SNP – Independence for Scotland.  Lab/SNP Government – break up of the UK.

Greece like Britain is a beautiful country. However, pursuing policies akin to those advocated by Labour/SNP has left Greece in ruins. A Labour/SNP government will bring  financial ruin to this country and will be a vote winner for the end of the United Kingdom.

LABOUR’S ONE NATION – IT’S HOLLANDE’S FRANCE

“Every election is a sort of advance sale of stolen goods” H.L.Mencken

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results” Winston Churchill

Labour’s key economic thinking, as advocated by Messrs. Miliband and Balls bears a striking resemblance to the policies of France’s socialist president, Francois Hollande. The president came to power in 2012 with a programme for more regulation, increased public spending, punitive taxation and a worrying disregard of the growing budget deficit.

These policies are now widely blamed for France’s woeful growth performance, the rapid worsening of public finances, unemployment rising above 10 per cent and a serious increase in social and racial tension. “This president’s policies have been terrible for French growth” (Robin Riverton, adviser to Aeroports de Paris) and Hollande’s approval rating has sunk to 13 per cent, the lowest for any president in more than five decades.

Labour’s high public spending, high borrowing and high taxation plans coupled with the unquestioning adoption of increased regulation (from Brussels and Westminster) are virtually identical to President Hollande’s. And the consequences will be the same. The successful recovery of the UK economy will stop in its tracks, unemployment will grow rapidly, public finances will deteriorate, foreign investment will halt, talented entrepreneurs will emigrate (as happened in France) and no doubt the future economic and social agenda of the UK will then be determined by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

Adopting the catastrophic policies inflicted on France by President Hollande and now advocated by Ed Miliband is definitely not a vote winner for common sense.

LABOUR AND THE ECONOMY – IT’S A WORRY

“We used to think you could spend your way out of recession and increase employment by boosting government spending. I can tell you that option no longer exists. And so far as it ever did exist, it only worked on each occasion by injecting a bigger dose of inflation into the economy, followed by a higher level of unemployment as the next step.”  Jim Callaghan – Labour Prime Minister 1976-1979

Yes, these are the words of a Labour Prime Minister but the party and a large section of the media don’t seem to rate Jim Callaghan’s words of wisdom. In fact if the recent track record of the Labour Party is taken as a benchmark, it doesn’t bode well for a future Miliband/Balls government’s impact on the British economy, living standards and mandatory austerity.

1964-1970 Harold Wilson’s Labour government – Sterling collapses, International Monetary Fund called in – pre-election promises jettisoned and emergency austerity measures inflicted on the electorate.

1974-1979 Wilson then Jim Callaghan’s Labour government – Treasury predicts black hole in public finances, International Monetary Fund called in – pre-election promises jettisoned and emergency austerity measures inflicted on the electorate.

1997-2010 Blair and Brown Labour government – after announcing “no more boom and bust”, the government went on to cripple the country’s finances and to create a record breaking budget deficit (comment from the departing Treasury Secretary after Labour lost the election – “I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left”), followed by, you guessed it, more austerity measures.

On recent form, it looks like a general election win by labour would be a vote winner for austerity.

FOREIGN AID – GIVE NOW…PAY LATER

“There’s still a long way to go. We’re borrowing £100 billion a year – and paying half that money a year in interest just to service our debts. We’ve got to make more cuts” George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The government is adamant that its intention to continue spending around £12 billion a year on foreign aid is justified. David Cameron says “to those who are sceptical, I would say it is not only a moral obligation that the better-off countries have to tackle poverty in our world … but it’s also in our interests that we build a more prosperous world”. John Howell, Tory MP for Henley reckons in a newsletter, “international development is in our national interest and is both the right thing and the smart thing to do … by investing in jobs, opportunities and peace we have moved one step closer to ending aid dependency and creating the world we strive for”.

All highly laudable but hard to reconcile with the experience to-date. Over the last fifty years, the west has “invested” well over a thousand billion dollars in Africa for example, but from various accounts the bulk of its nations are now in a worse financial state (measured in terms of GDP per capita). In fact the counter view is that far from fulfilling its objectives, “aid is more likely to subvert good government, enrich corrupt tyrants and subsidise warlords” (Civitas reporting on Jonathan Foreman’s book: Aiding and Abetting).

However, the real issue is: should the UK be borrowing £12 billion plus a year for such largesse when the country’s structural deficit is so high? Does an ever mounting national debt make us “better-off” ? As recently announced by George Osborne, further public savings in the order of £25 billion need to be achieved by 2017/2018 with the bulk of this coming from further cuts to government departments and welfare. Well here is a good starting point for making those savings. And at a time of increasing geopolitical tension with the consequent serious threat to British security, some of this money would be much better employed in bolstering the armed forces and  security services.

“Those who support the increase of taxpayer-supported UK aid need to ask themselves how much of the well-being of the weakest and the most vulnerable people in the UK they are willing to sacrifice for that end.” Jonathan Foreman

The British people are amongst the most generous voluntary donors to charity in the world. Making compulsory donations from borrowed money to finance overseas projects of uncertain benefit to either the intended beneficiaries or UK interests is definitely not a vote winner.

DANIEL HANNAN – The Voice of Common Sense

“The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself…”  H.L.Mencken

Through all the fog of mainstream media bias and anti free choice/low tax propaganda, there is an outstanding beacon for common sense. It’s Daniel Hannan MEP. When commenting via blogs, public appearances, journalism and in his role as a Member of the European Parliament, he consistently articulates the views of the UK’s silent majority.

Recent postings, articles and speeches have covered a diverse range of live topics including the adverse impact of higher taxation on the cost of living, the demise of the Lib Dems, devolution and inevitably, a brilliant focus on European Union issues. His completely logical shopping list for David Cameron’s renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with the EU is compulsive reading for anyone wanting a better future for this country.

For open-minded people seeking a common sense uplift during these days of depressing opinion polls indicating that Miliband’s wrecking crew are soon to regain power, go to        Daniel Hannan – the voice of a vote winner.

SCOTLAND – BE INDEPENDENT IN THE UK

“It’s easy to be fooled when you want to believe” – Ferdinand Mount

In the run up to the Scottish independence referendum there’s been a lot of talk about voters being driven by sentiment – and why not? The vast majority of people in the UK want Scotland to remain in the Union. Perhaps not enough of the general public (i.e. non-politicians) have spoken out to express their genuine belief that Scotland is a vital part of our great nation and we want it to remain as such.

The practical issues associated with separation have been well publicised although no-one seems to have focused on the timetable of specific action following a “Yes” vote. The list of matters to be addressed is massive and will directly impact us all. Just consider passports, border control, defence, public sector employment, pensions, currency, the relocation of HBoS and Royal Bank of Scotland, public debt, the BBC and a legion of other consequences arising from Scotland severing links with the rest of the UK.

The perplexing thing is that those seeking for it to leave the UK hope that Scotland can become a member of the European Union. In other words the plan is to replace Westminster (where Scotland is represented) with Brussels (where Scotland or indeed anyone else is not democratically represented).

Far better to remain part of the UK “family” and press for continuing autonomy from within – definitely a nationwide vote winner.