Archive for ‘Good Morning Scotland’

January 28, 2017

BBC and the word of God: the rise of the think tank

The Thatcher years saw an increase in the number of privately financed think tanks/pressure groups with mission statements liberally infused with terms such as: liberal, freedom and liberty. Picky people might interpret the dogmas dished up by the majority of them, rightwing neoliberal and neocon, more accurately as illiberal, authoritarian and repressive.

Their objective is to propagate their particular ideologies; to influence government thinking and the direction of policies on areas such as the economy, health, education, transport, welfare, benefits and pensions. They hire researches to comb through statistics and compile strategies covering every aspect of British life and present themselves,  as fed to us daily by the BBC, as ‘experts’. And, importantly, they all claim to be ‘independent’ except the question is never posed on the BBC who funds them. Now I’m being picky.

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It must be so reassuring to the busy programme presenter, editor or reporter in a hurry to press fast dial for one of their contacts with whichever think tank is seen as most appropriate to the item being covered – a reliable friend to sort out confusing facts and figures for them and, perhaps, provide an articulate spokesperson for interview who can dazzle with facts that trip off the tongue. And in the unlikely event of a challenge will run rings around any reporter lacking their expertise. 

A cursory glance at the personnel involved with some of these think tanks suggests a familiarity about them. It is as if person A completes his/her degree, preferably at Oxbridge (in Scotland it may be Glasgow), goes to work with a think tank for a while, nips off to the BBC or a newspaper for a bit, then perhaps into parliament or, if unelectable, turns up in the House of Lords. Same faces reinforcing a similar message.

 

They – peers, top journalists, senior civil servants, senior BBC staff are among an interdependent British elite who mould our thinking and values. They inhabit their own ecosystem – feeding off each other, mutually dependent and interbred to a degree that is incestuous – and results in the neoliberal or neocon.

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The growth of the neoliberal or neocon since the 1980s has been impressive. Frequently smart and well educated at private school followed by Oxbridge – or Glasgow but mainly Oxbridge – if not recruited by the intelligence services they might amble into journalism, perhaps be found a ‘position’ at the BBC, especially if a member of their family ‘puts in a word on their behalf’ (in other places this might be called nepotism but at the BBC it is coincidence) or they might go into parliament but the important thing is that they find ways to ensure the survival of their species and they are surrounded by others of their species who are there to help.

One such ‘independent’ voice given liberal access to the BBC is The Institute of Economic Affairs (set up by Antony Fisher, a habitual funder of think tanks aka pressure groups including the Fraser Institute and Adam Smith Institute as well as others in America and Canada – and the first to set up a battery chicken ‘farm’ in England but that’s by the way – his granddaughter is married to Conservative former strategist, Steve Hilton.)

This London-based rightwing lobby group has links to other similar organisations such as Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the International Policy Network. It sees itself as active in expanding the network of conservative think tanks worldwide – all of them ‘independent’.

Another, the Centre for Policy Studies  was set up by Thatcherite minister Keith Joseph with Thatcher its Deputy Chairman. It’s current director is Tim Knox and its president is Lord Saatchi (Conservative). CPS was ranked as one of the four least transparent think tanks in the UK in relation to funding by Transparify. Former PM David Cameron credited the vital role played by CPS in the Conservative election victory of 1979.

In 2013 the CPS complained of the BBC’s ‘left of centre bias’ and suggestion that leftwing think tanks were ‘independent’ while flagging up the likes of theirs as rightwing. It complained in particular about the Social Market Foundation, Demos the New Economics Foundation and Institute for Public Policy Research. It will come as something of a shock to many that the Social Market Foundation is regarded by anyone as leftwing or, indeed, that the BBC could ever be accused of omitting the word, ‘leftwing’ in any of its political or economic coverage. Rightwing, now, I’ve never heard that spoken by them.

In case you are not familiar with the Social Market Foundation its purpose is to ‘”advance the education of the public in the economic, social and political sciences” and to “champion ideas that marry a pro-market orientation with concern for social justice”‘ – according to Wikipedia. Its director is Emran Mian (Cambridge), former civil servant and policy adviser in Whitehall. It was set up in 1989 by ‘Tory minded elements’ in the SDP – forerunners of Liberal Democrats. Oh, and it is ‘independent’ but you knew that. And it is based at Westminster and said to have been former Conservative PM, John Major’s ‘favourite think tank’ and associates itself with New Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.  

A former director of the SMF, Rick Nye, was also a director of the Conservative Research Department and Director of Populus (a research consultancy for corporate research and analysis) as well as a journalist. Another was Daniel Finkelstein, (LSE) a Conservative peer.

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Better known to you, possibly, is Evan Davis (Oxford and Harvard) a former BBC economic editor and currently a presenter of several BBC programmes who when at the Social Market Foundation was among authors of its publication Osborne’s Choice: Combining fiscal credibility and growth. He was once seconded to the Thatcher government to work on the poll tax and previously with The Institute for Fiscal Studies. Mills spends time on examining the role of economic journo and monetarist, Peter Jay, (private school/Oxford) born into illustrious Labour family, one-time son-in-law of Labour PM James Callaghan and Jay’s influence on the rise of Evan Davis.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies  was founded by Will Hopper, (Glasgow),  banker and later Conservative MEP, investment trust manager, Bob Buist (Dundee); Nils Taube, stockbroker; John Chown (Cambridge), monetary economist,  a tax consultant and ex-chairman of Cambridge University Conservative Association. The Institute’s director is Paul Johnson (Oxford) formerly employed in the Cabinet Office, Dept for Education and Employment, HM Treasury who is aided and abetted by some 60 researchers. According to an article in The Guardian the IFS wields huge influence over economic policy in the UK – its authority has become, ‘the word of God’ according to former economics editor at the BBC, Robert Peston. Pronouncements from the IFS frequently become the main story at the BBC and other news outlets and the base line from which others should argue. 

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/mar/15/british-umpire-how-institute-fiscal-studies-became-most-influential-voice-in-uk-economic-debate

Director Johnson’s tutorial partner at university was Ed Balls (Oxford), former Labour Chancellor →IFS →Treasury→IFS and ex-journalist Financial Times. Ex-director of IFS Robert Chote, (Cambridge) was chair of the university’s Liberal and Social Democrats, a journalist at The Independent, Independent on Sunday, Financial Times, ex-director IFS, ex-Office for National Statistics; Office for Budget Responsibility. Chote’s wife is Sharon White, (Cambridge) civil servant – sometimes of the Treasury, 10 Downing Street policy unit under Blair; chief executive of Ofcom  which regulates broadcasting, postal services and other communications and oversees licensing, complaints, competition etc. Ofcom’s current chair is Dame Patricia Hodgson (Cambridge) ex-BBC producer, ex- BBC Trust and a host of other posts.

“The IFS today occupies a quasi-constitutional role in British life, but without the scrutiny on management and funding that applies to formal government bodies. Its separation from government may be one of the best explanations for its success.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/mar/15/british-umpire-how-institute-fiscal-studies-became-most-influential-voice-in-uk-economic-debate

Innumerate journalists have come to rely on the IFS to do the sums for them when it comes to explaining numbers – and the IFS is more than happy to oblige. It is all very incestuous and the more innumerate the journalist the more heavily is reliance on the IFS’s figures and interpretation of figures being accurate or even acceptable.

The Adam Smith Institute -“a formidable advocate of economic and personal freedom, achieving real and lasting changes in public policy” Andrey Neil (Glasgow) member of Glasgow University Conservative Club, ex-research assistant with Conservative Party, journalist and BBC broadcaster.

The ASI was founded in 1977 by three British men then living and working in the USA. One was its president, Dr Masden Pirie, (Edinburgh, St. Andrews, Cambridge) to promote free market policies including privatisation of public services. Sam Bowman:

“Our policy agenda hasn’t changed. We want low, simple, flat taxes to promote investment and growth. We want patients and parents to have choice and control over healthcare and education, through voucher systems and competition between private firms. We want to liberalise the planning system so that the private sector can build more homes, and create a free market welfare system that guarantees that work always pays. And we want free trade with the world and a liberal immigration system that people trust.”http://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2016/10/sam-bowman-why-we-at-the-adam-smith-institute-are-best-described-as-neoliberals-not-libertarians.html

It was from the ASI the poll tax originated and as we’ve seen above reconfiguring taxation is one of its principle preoccupations.

Of Masden Pirie the journalist and panellist on the  BBC’s the Moral Maze and twice failed to land a seat for the Labour Party in the House of Commons, Edward Pearce wrote:

“He is a Scot of sorts, but despite education at Edinburgh and St Andrew’s Universities, he is quite unscarred in either accent or hang-ups by Scottishness.”

 The Guardian, 19 April 1993. 

Think we’ve got your number there, Ed. Just in case you haven’t had enough of Mr Pearce’s velvety prose try this:

“For the second time in half a decade a large body of Liverpool supporters has killed people …the shrine in the Anfield goalmouth, the cursing of the police, all the theatricals, come sweetly to a city which is already the world capital of self-pity. There are soapy politicians to make a pet of Liverpool, and Liverpool itself is always standing by to make a pet of itself. ‘Why us? Why are we treated like animals?’ To which the plain answer is that a good and sufficient minority of you behave like animals.”[8]

the Sunday Times  23 April 1989

In Scotland as well as all of the above the BBC here often turns to the neo-liberal Fraser of Allander Institute, attached to the University of Strathclyde, for its opinions on a whole range of topics. In an article in the BBC’s website it charted the expansion of FAI in favourable terms and quoted a spokesperson:

“…the expanded institute would be able to provide decision-makers, the media and the public “with even greater leading-edge independent economic analysis than before”.

Presumably on its call to privatise Scotland’s water and such like.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-36747530

Who are they? Financial sponsorship for the FoAI has come from the Hugh Fraser Foundation, BP, Shell, Scotsman Publications, Mobil North Sea Ltd, Shell UK, the Industry Department for Scotland. Fraser of Allander Institute’s director is Dr Graeme Roy (Edinburgh/Glasgow) who replaced Brian Ashcroft, husband of Wendy Alexander former leader of the Labour Party in Scotland and a former Labour MSP.

Mills in his book The BBC: Myth of a Public Service criticises the BBC for its narrow range of sources – chiefly political party press statements augmented by think tanks that form the incestuous media/government network that runs through Westminster and Whitehall in England and I will add, encircles the Clyde in Scotland. He writes of the revolving door through which the select are admitted and the links they form that bolsters their influence and allows their voices to be heard.

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A mere snapshot of those who have taken a spin around that revolving door – Ben Bradshaw, (Sussex) BBC reporter, Labour MP and minister; James Purnell, (Oxford) ex-BBC Director of Radio, BBC Director of Strategy and Digital, Labour MP and minister;  Don Brind, ex-BBC political correspondent, Labour press officer; Bill Bush, ex-BBC analysis and research, ex chief of staff to Labour’s Ken Livingstone, head of political research for Blair; Lorraine Davidson, ex-BBC political correspondent, Labour Party, journalist – wrote biography of ex-leader of Labour of Scotland, Jack McConnell, former partner of Labour MSP Tom McCabe, wife of Labour MEP David Martin; Michael Gove, (Oxford) Conservative MP and minister, ex-journalist, ex- BBC reporter; Patricia Hodgson BBC, Ofcom, a Thatcherite, Ruth Davidson, (Edinburgh/Glasgow) ex-BBC presenter, leader Conservative Party in Scotland; Thea Rogers, ex-BBC political producer to BBC political editor Nick Robinson, ex-adviser to Conservative Chancellor George Osborne; Nick Robinson, (Oxford), Oxford University Conservative Association, BBC presenter and journalist, who has a catalogue of controversial incidents relating to his reporting recorded for posterity. At the 2015 General Election:

“I am not, though, required to be impartial between democracy and the alternatives”

which comes down to an individual’s definition of ‘democracy”.

bbc-values

We can gauge a great deal about an organisation by those who run it and dominate it. To discover who sets the tone of the BBC and how reflective it is of UK society you just have to run your eyes down a list of who gets to be top dog there. 

The BBC is governed by a group of appointees. Currently they include:

Rona Fairhead – (Cambridge/Harvard), former CE of Financial Times Group, non-exec director HSBC
Sir Roger Carr – Chair of BAE Systems (UK biggest arms producer)
Richard Ayre – former Deputy CE of BBC News
Mark Damazer – (Oxford/Harvard), former controller of BBC Radio 4 and Radio 7
Mark Florman, (private school, LSE), CEO of merchant banking group
Aideen McGinley former NI civil servant; Nicholas Prettejohn – senior City executive.

Former governers:

Lord Gainford (Joseph Pease), (Cambridge), Liberal politician, Deputy Chairman of the Durham Coal Owners Association, director of Pease and Partners Ltd and other colliery companies, Chair of Durham Coke Owners – in post at the BBC during the General strike that included miners, President of the Federation of British Industry.
George Villiers, Earl of Clarendon, Conservative, Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms;
John Whitley, Liberal MP,
Viscount Bridgeman, (Eton and Cambridge), Conservative MP,
Ronald Norman, (Cambridge), banker, his brother was governor of the Bank of England, 
 Sir Allan Powell, Lawyer.
Lord Inman, Labour MP,
Baron Simon Wythenshawe, (Cambridge), Labour Party then Liberal, Industrialist.
Sir Alexander Cadogan, (Eton and Oxford), Conservative MP, Director of the Suez canal company and friend of PM Anthony Eden – handy during the Suez crisis for the bias promoted by the BBC – which he defended, naturally.
Sir Arthur fforde – no mistake spelled with two lowercase fs, (Oxford), Civil Servant;
Lord Normanbrook, (Oxford), Senior Civil Servant.
Lord Hill, (Cambridge) Consrvative MP and a Liberal.
Si Michael Swann, (Cambridge and Edinburgh), appointed by Conservative PM Ted Heath following his handling of student protests at Edinburgh.
George Howard, (Eton and Oxford), owned Castle Howard in North Yorkshire where Brideshead Revisited was filmed), chair of the County Landowners Association.
Stuart Young, appointed by Thatcher to be a conservative influence – his brother of Conservative Cabinet Minister Baron Young of Graffham in Thatcher government.
Marmaduke Hussey, (Rugby and Oxford) Conservative, husband of Lady Susan Hussey, woman of the Bedchamber to Elizabeth II (sic), put into BBC to bring it ‘into line’ with her government’s policy – he was also involved in print union disputes.
Sir Christopher Bland, (Oxford), Army, Business, Conservative.
Gavyn Davies, (Cambridge), adviser to Labour Party, former Goldman Sachs partner, married to Susan Nye -former Director of Government Relations and diary secretary to Gordon Brown.
Lord Ryder of Wensum, (Cambridge), Conservative peer,
Sir Anthony Salz,  Executive Vice Chairman at Rothschild
Lord Grade, Controller BBC 1, Conservative peer,
Sir Michael Lyons, Labour Party
Lord Patten, (Oxford), Conservative peer,
Sir Hugh Greene (Oxford)
Greg Dyke, (York), former Labour Party donor.

 

You don’t have to have attended Oxbridge or Glasgow universities to get on at  the BBC but if you have it won’t be held against you. In fact, you may even have formed friendships there which could hold you in good stead to secure a position because in life it isn’t what you know so much as who you know – or who kent your father. 

There are believed to be genetic risks with incest in that the genetic pool is depleted with the result that diversity is limited. But the advance of neoliberal and neocon ideologies through our newspapers and on television and radio has so far proved a boon for those species in achieving their goal of becoming the accepted authority on all things but their very success is damaging to society for it restricts and perverts the discourse on alternatives to their rightwing doctrines. 

January 25, 2017

BBC: Myth or Magic part 2 – In Wonderland they Lie

Second part of a sideways glance at the BBC prompted by Tom Mills’ book The BBC: Myth of a Public Service.

In a Wonderland they lie

In part one I mentioned how proactive the BBC was in attacking striking workers during the 1926 General Strike so it is not surprising it provided the government with a vehicle for propaganda during the Second World War. Now there is nothing unexpected about that for no country would allow any publicly financed medium become something of a fifth column – issuing news and briefings critical of the constitutional authority. Mind you before that war the BBC could be found in the camp of appeasers along with major British newspapers such as the Daily Mail, Sunday Dispatch and London Evening News owned by Lord Rothermere and The Times and The Observer owned by Lord Astor all of which were relaxed over developments in Germany during the 1930s when many from Britain’s upper middle class and aristocracy were sympathetic to Hitler’s Nazis – the very classes at the helm at the BBC. According to Mills, ‘speakers hostile to fascism were barred from broadcasting’ on the BBC which drew a rebuke from Churchill that he,  an anti-appeaser, was one.  

Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing

 The BBC’s own interpretation of its conduct in the war on its website is a polished piece of guarded-speak which emphasises the integrity of BBC management and reaffirms the BBC as ‘a trusted news source’ and how the BBC resisted becoming simply a tool of government. It would, it insisted at the time, broadcast ‘the truth’ but omit anything that might ‘endanger the civilian population or jeopardise operations.’ To this end it admits heavily censoring news to omit mentions of high casualties among the Allies. There was not a single reference in the BBC website I consulted to its propaganda operations later made famous by George Orwell.

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BBC chooses whose opinions may be heard in 1933

Orwell was one of many recruited by the government to work within its vast Ministry of Information, as Talks Producer at the BBC. You can see how smudged that line is between both institutions. For the Ministry of Information you could read Ministry of Misinformation. Other famous writers similarly employed included J. B Priestly and Graham Greene (whose brother Hugh Greene worked for the BBC’s German service and later he became Director General of the BBC)

The brilliant cartoonist David Low refused to be used as a propagandist for the government/BBC and the writer C. S. Lewis also refused to participate in disseminating lies.

Even the once enthusiastic Orwell later changed his mind on the integrity of outright propaganda, ‘all propaganda is lies, even when one is telling the truth.’ His prescient novel, 1984, was written while his experience of working for the government/BBC was fresh in his mind and the novel’s Ministry of Information became the terrifying Ministry of Truth.

 The acknowledged importance of the BBC’s output during WW2 both for home and overseas audiences demonstrates the potency of its influence over the public’s perceptions of truth.

The Party’s go-to tactic for maintaining power is to shift blame to a designated scapegoat, toward which all of its constituents’ hatred and violence may be directed

Broadcasters enjoy a privileged role in life able to construct narratives in tune with their own opinions aimed at persuading their audience of the legitimacy of their interpretation of events. The BBC is not a place to hear radically divergent views instead it promotes that small c conservatism that is in tune with all of the major institutions in the UK. Like some well-oiled machine of state government, the City of London, the courts, military, royalty and the BBC reinforce one another and operate to maintain the status quo where the top brass in all of these institutions remain in charge.

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The power of the BBC to censor its airwaves

We have seen how the BBC sought to sway opinion against workers during the General Strike how it was in tune with the reactionary press during the 1930s in relation to Germany and its willingness to broadcast a catalogue of myths and lies during the war and that aspect of its character was no less slanted post-war.

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. “Who controls the past,” ran the Party slogan, “controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”

During the Suez crisis of 1956 Britain found itself divided between those who defended the Empire and Britain’s military presence at the Suez canal and its control over this vital trade route and supporters of Egypt, a nation desperate to shake off its shackles as a colony and assert its independence. Britain’s rightwing were seething with racist venom against uppity and ungrateful Egyptians their xenophobia evident in many references to ‘our boys’ versus ‘wogs’ and ‘gyppos’ .

suez-wogs

The Director General of the BBC dined at Number 10 Downing Street with the Prime Minister on the evening of 26 July 1956 when news broke of Egypt’s nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company.  As Tony Shaw in his book, Eden, Suez and the Mass Media: Propaganda and Persuasion during the Suez Crisis, explains the chairman of the BBC’s Board of Governors, and a former under-security at the Foreign Office (and share holder in the Suez Canal Company) nipped down to Downing street to discuss how the BBC should handle the crisis. A nervous government was said to have threatened to take over the BBC entirely but that appears was an exaggerated claim however it was made clear to the broadcaster that its handling of Suez should be on a war footing with all that involved including censorship. And, as Shaw points out, the DG of the BBC and his chief assistant were trusted with highly secret information in the run-up to military action.

The chairman of the Independent Television Authority, Sir Kenneth Clark, was also approached and asked to ‘slant the news about Suez’ but he refused to co-operate with the government on grounds of the need to retain impartiality.

WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Despite much hand wringing at the BBC the corporation complied with the government and broadcast carefully constructed reports and interviews or simply relayed official statements. It repulsed any attempt for outright government control over its output but did undertake close liaison with the Ministry of Defence and departments of the military.

Meanwhile in Cyprus an ostensibly independent radio station known as Sharqal-Adna but run by British Intelligence and ‘known’ to BBC management transmitted pro-British propaganda as did the BBC’s Arabic Service. Reminiscent of the Iraq wars enemy casualties were not counted or reported realistically and there were no first hand reports of bombings or the impact of British actions on civilians. Shaw noted  that BBC

‘bulletins on the whole bore such a close resemblance to so much of the officially released information on the invasion [it] suggests that the government’s machinery of liaison paid dividends.’

The next moment a hideous, grinding speech, as of some monstrous machine running without oil, burst from the big telescreen at the end of the room. It was a noise that set one’s teeth on edge and bristled the hair at the back of one’s neck. The Hate had started…

Big events such as the General Strike, WW2 and Suez highlight the hugely influential function of the BBC. One that is more memorable for readers will be Hillsborough. It wasn’t only The Sun that chose to become a mouthpiece for the official police version of events.  

hillsborough-1

BBC Radio 2 reported: “Unconfirmed reports that a door was broken down at the end that was holding Liverpool supporters.”

Mills tells us that Graham Kelly, Chief Executive of the English Football Association, who was interviewed on Radio 2 implied that the police had not ordered the gates to be opened. This was as was later became apparent not true but repeated by another reporter

“…at ten to three there was a surge of fans at the Leppings lane end of the ground… the surge composed of about 500 Liverpool fans and the police say that a gate was forced and that led to a crush in the terracing area – well under capacity I’m told, there was still plenty of room inside that area…”

Such shameful distortions of the truth continued to be broadcast on the BBC – Radio 4 news at 6pm still insisted that fans without tickets pushed their way into the football ground causing the disaster –

“It’s clear that many hundreds of Liverpool fans travelled to Hillsborough even though they didn’t have tickets for the game. Shortly before the match started it appears that these fans were able to get into the ground through a gate at the Leppings Lane end.”

Winston kept his back turned to the telescreen. It was safer, though, as he well knew, even a back can be revealing

The BBC went further in its reporting of the so-called Battle of Orgreave in June 1984 when striking miners were battered by police. The corporation went out of its way to edit film in such a way it altered the sequence of events and broadcast film that was deliberately constructed to lie to viewers in something straight out of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.  

orgreave-1

Mills: the BBC was ‘blatantly biased in their output to the extent it ‘chopped up and re-sequenced’ film of the picket attack to ‘make it appear miners provoked the police.’

With no hint of impartiality BBC reporters referred to miners as ‘law-breakers’. When confronted by their biased reporting the BBC immediately issued denials – as it invariably does when caught out.

“no evidence of any deliberate attempt to mislead viewers”

“marginal imbalance”

not “wholly impartial”

What did happen at Orgreave, and unreported on the BBC, was that the police launched an unprovoked attack on striking men who retaliated with missiles.

orgreave-2

It took the BBC 7 years to own up to this deliberate manipulation of events

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/22/orgreave-truth-police-miners-strike

The BBC is almost unique in this country in its ability to mould public opinion. We found out in part 1 that the ‘impartial’ BBC is not keen on CND and peace campaigners in general but allows itself to be used as a bugle boy for British military campaigns. At the time of the Iraq war it was so openly jingoistic it allocated only 2% output to the views of people opposed to this war.  

http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2009/08/mehdi-hasan-bbc-wing-bias-corporation

The BBC is very good at lots of things including marginalising groups it disapproves of such as the peace movement. At the same time it is supremely capable of enhancing organisations and views that fit in with the ethos of the men and women who wield influence at the BBC.

Banking and big business command great respect within the organisation, including the rural business of farming. We know this because the BBC has rather a lot of business slots as stand-alone programmes –

BBC In Business; Business Daily, The Bottom Line, Global Business, The World of Business, World Business Report, Talking Business, BBC Business Live, Business Matters, Dragon’s Den, Wake Up to Money, Inside Business with more of a similar hue dished up in Scotland, hourly on the lamentable Good Morning Scotland

– and teams of employees who feed economic and business data into news and current affairs programmes. By contrast it has no designated slots to reflect on green issues, or anti-business views or workers’ issues that might be at the heart of trades unions or indeed peace campaigning. The only perspective that interests the BBC are those of employers and a peek at the make-up of who’s who in the BBC which will be covered in a separate blog shows this is only to be expected. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours is surely carved over the front door at the BBC. This preoccupation the BBC has for finance and business is explored by Mills.

Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely

The Business and  Economics Unit at the BBC was set up in 1989 and I checked the BBC Website to see what this unit had to say for itself. The underlining emphasis is mine.

The Business and Economics Unit is at the heart of BBC News. We produce output for all BBC platforms and offer editorial guidance to the full range of BBC programmes. We have a truly global presence including teams based in Singapore, New York, Johannesburg and Mumbai.

The Economics Editor holds one of the most senior roles in BBC News, leading the BBC’s coverage across all platforms, domestic and international…Reporting to the Editor, Business and Economics Unit, the Economics Editor will be a regular contributor to the main TV and radio news bulletins and programmes, as well as to BBC News Online. Much of the role will focus on providing material for the Six and Ten O’clock News, the 1800 Radio 4 news bulletin and the Today Programme…  a primary contact for senior figures in Government and the Business/Economics community.”

We can take from this that the BBC regards the promotion of trade and commerce as one of its prime functions.

The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering – a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons

According to Mills the BBC fell for the charms of the economic and business sectors with the flourishing of New Labour that neo-liberal progeny of Thatcherism. As a consequence obscene amounts of money were spent on creating a more pro-business BBC but in the end much of what is reported is little more than recitation of press statements issued by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Bank of England, City analysts, CBI, Office of Economic Development, IMF and their ilk who are also given air time to express their ‘expert’ opinions live.

Just who are the Institute for Fiscal Studies and why does the BBC assign them so much air time? I’ll look at think-tanks and pressure groups and the people who influence our opinions in the next part.

Quotes from:

Tom Mills: The BBC: Myth of a Public Service

Lewis Carroll; Alice in Wonderland

George Orwell; 1984

Tony Shaw; Eden, Suez and the Mass Media: Propaganda and Persuasion during the Suez Crisis

 

January 23, 2017

BBC Myth of Magic? Part 1

swallow-me

The Rabbit took a watch out of its waistcoat pocket and saw it was 1922.

Broadcasting, “is ultimately a persuasive art” said Hilda Matheson, former MI5 officer and the BBC’s first Head of Talks. Her remark made in the wake of the creation of the BBC in the early 1920s is interesting on two grounds – that broadcasting’s role is to influence and it was the voice of British Intelligence that was invited to set the tone of the BBC.  

Tom Mills in his book, The BBC : Myth of a Public Service, dismantles the claim repeated ad nauseam by the British Broadcasting Corporation that it is an honest and impartial national broadcaster. Presumably their claim is repeated so often because it is challenged so often, with very good reason.

The BBC likes to present itself a bit like the NHS, as a British institution held in high regard by the public. Arguably that was true once upon a time but today it is a spurious assertion.

Broadcasting emerged as an alternative source of news and entertainment to that dished up by newspapers which were all biased in one direction or another and reflected the cultural and political views of their owners; wealthy individuals and corporations. The BBC would be different – as a public service it would report news in an impartial manner. That’s a bit like an historian claiming to be objective in recording events – it never happens. The storyteller’s role is a powerful one where what is not said distorts the message as much as what is selected for inclusion.

In 1926 the new BBC was regarded by the UK government as an ideal medium to inform Britain’s “politically uneducated electorate” an observation I suspect was as untrue then as it is now. Back in the 1920s in the wake of the Great War the majority of Britons would have been pretty clued up on politics – and active – women were still battling to get equal voting rights with men and both sexes had spent the 19th century fighting for employment and political rights a struggle that continued throughout the 20th century.

Of course it wasn’t a politically committed left-leaning electorate the BBC was looking to bring on-board (unless to re-educate) but to counter leftist views and disseminate information provided to the BBC by the government and its associated arms – intelligence, police, military, royalty with the expectation the public would swallow it hook, line and sinker. The BBC became an adjunct of the British state reinforcing its small c (sometimes big C) conservative message – a function is has proved to be well able to fulfil.

The question is,‘ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words means so many different things.’

1926 year of the General Strike with the horror of fighting for King and country in the Great War still fresh in memories and the echo of shelling and promise that returning soldiers would find  a land fit for heroes ringing in their ears Britain’s workers instead found they were being screwed into the ground for a second time in a decade and expected to accept pay cuts to their rock bottom wages and having to work longer hours for less pay. When they resisted the King and government did not come rushing to their defence as workers had for them in 1914 and 1915 – they were no longer heroes but demonised by the press, including the BBC .

bbc-1926

Then conservative prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, said:

“The general strike is a challenge to the parliament and is the road to anarchy.”

His chancellor, Winston Churchill, said:

“I do not agree that the TUC have as much right as the Government to publish their side of the case and to exhort their followers to continue action. It is a very much more difficult task to feed the nation than it is to wreck it.”

And BBC management agreed. If it was not exactly happy to oblige, oblige it did and allowed its airwaves to be used to undermine workers and defeat their strike. Far from being impartial the BBC only aired anti-strike opinions and propaganda, co-operating with government to read out its press statements in news bulletins verbatim while deliberately omitting pro-worker views.

Stonehaven man, John Reith, who helped establish the BBC was by 1927 its first Director General . The story goes that Reith made sure all voices involved in the General Strike were heard on the BBC but that wasn’t true. It’s a claim that is still made today. Reith asked the government to decide whether he should allow the Archbishop of Canterbury to go on the air to ask for a compromise between the unions and the government. The government  said no and that was that.  Does that make the BBC a government mouthpiece?  Surely there is no more appropriate term for it.

It was almost as if the British Establishment had discovered a great wheeze whereby it set up its own propaganda machine that could reach out to all four countries in the UK – and soon abroad – get the public to pay for it and claim it represented them.

And so impoverished workers and their families struggling to prevent being pushed into greater poverty were forced to abandon their protest. Many lost their jobs altogether and in the Depression of the thirties, the hungry thirties, these same people had to endure unbelievable squalor and anguish.  

Meanwhile Reith and his BBC colleagues were chummily office-sharing with government personnel in the Admiralty (UK government building) where news bulletins were jointly drafted by the BBC and the government’s press officer. That’s how impartial the BBC was. BBC/Westminster government/military/secret services = one body with tentacles.

Mills teases out an entrenched system of collusion between the BBC and successive governments since its inception in the twenties. Management of the BBC and its overseeing body, the Board of Governors, were and still are government appointees who inhabit the same social circles, attend the same schools, often private, and universities – mainly Oxbridge and, unsurprisingly, they share similar cultural and political outlooks. Basically, they are all the same chaps and gels.

bbc-state

Mills tells us that in 2014 26% of BBC executives attended private schools compared with 7% in the UK as a whole. 33% were Oxbridge educated compared with 0.8% of the population. 62% attended Russell group universities (Wiki – 24 self-selected research universities in the UK. Set up 1994 to represent members’ interests, principally to government and parliament. And receive two-thirds of all university research grants and contract income.) It is their job to represent the British public.

There is no need for any audacious conspiracy to try to link the BBC with the British establishment’s view of the world for their top personnel come from the establishment pool of contacts, friends and families recruited for their dependable attitudes or ability to adopt them to ‘get on’ within the organisation. Just in case any reprobate tried to squeeze in appointments to the BBC used to be vetted by MI5. Not now, of course. No, of course not. Mills tells us this vetting process was known as ‘formalities’ and the BBC pet name for MI5 was ‘The College’, in the spirit of George Smiley.

Why such tight vetting? What were they on the lookout for down at the BBC? Commies or lefties are the easy answers. To give them credit, extreme right-wingers were mostly excluded, too. In the parlance of the BBC those with ‘political reliability’ were the sort of chaps they were happy to recruit. It is just a pity the BBC’s intense vetting failed to uncover an inordinate number of sex fiends and paedophiles employed by the Corporation – all presumably of the ‘right sort.’

In the Alice in Wonderland world of the BBC, Lord Green – if they weren’t Lords when they got the job as Director General then most became one after – Lord Green was keen on upping MI5’s vetting of recruits to prevent the BBC’s reputation for impartiality from being compromised. And that, folks, is a line that Lewis Carroll should have written for the Mad Hatter.  

One of the shadowy figures who features in Mill’s exposure of the BBC was the Corporation’s special little helper Ronnie Stonham also known as Bongo. Stonham was a handy sort of chap with a background in post office communications, the military and the secret services that found him operating in all sorts of shadowy theatres of conflict: Cyprus, Malaya, Vietnam, Northern Ireland. He worked out of Room 105 at the BBC where careers were enhanced or broken and he had the power to prevent programmes being transmitted according to how embarrassing they might become to the government. 

It is said any staffers not quite BBC/establishment enough had their files marked with a triangular green tag or Christmas tree to show they weren’t trustworthy sorts.

Typical of the BBC first it denied any such vetting took place then it reluctantly admitted it. Some things never change. Even when the truth was dragged kicking and screaming out of it  BBC management prevaricated and hid as much as it revealed. – claiming that only around 8 people had been positively vetted when in fact the number was close – well not that close – over 6000.  

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/military-obituaries/army-obituaries/11038585/Brigadier-Ronnie-Stonham-obituary.html

Back in 1969 a young film maker asked to make a film for the BBC about a sit-in at Hornsey Art College in London realised he was being watched by the police and soon his film was cancelled. Fast forward two years and he was again taken on to make a different film for the BBC and provided with a room to work from until thrown out by a member of BBC management. His crime? Travelling to Czechoslovakia as a student. He was far from alone. Read more examples about BBC housekeeping here:

http://www.cambridgeclarion.org/press_cuttings/mi5.bbc.page9_obs_18aug1985.html

Leftwing and communist were indivisible categories of the unclean to BBC management and not the sort encouraged to share their opinions with the public which gives the lie to BBC’s assertion of impartiality and fair representation of all opinions. Never has been and never will be. That is just not its function in the UK – it works for the British state to preserve it as it is, elitist and conservative; the BBC and the British state work hand-in-glove in pursuit of the ‘national interest’ which, of course, they define.

While a function of the BBC was to reinforce status quo in Britain its much vaunted World Service was established to influence political opinion abroad and disseminate British culture and ‘standards’ to a wider audience. This service nearly doubled post 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, according to Mills, who highlighted input from the BBC’s security correspondent, former army captain in the Royal Green Jackets, Frank Gardner, who, according to Mills, admits close contact with MI5 and MI6. Mills described the BBC World Service as ‘an instrument of “soft power”‘ and it is difficult to disagree when in 2015 the Conservative government announced in its National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review of all places investment of £85 million annually in the World Service in order to, in the words of the World Service –

“further enhance our position as the world’s leading soft power promoting our values and interests globally'”

No iffs, no doubts, BBC working for the British state. And, of course, the DG of the BBC, Tony Hall was grateful, acknowledging the World Service as,

“one of our best sources of global influence”

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out

… to be continued

The BBC: Myth of a Public Service
By Tom Mills
Verso, 272pp, £16.99 and £14.99
ISBN 9781784784829 and 4850 (e-book)

December 23, 2016

Watch “LONDON CALLING: BBC bias during the 2014 Scottish independence referendum” on YouTube

 

 

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/oh-what-a-tangled-web-we-weave-when-first-we-practice-to-deceive-bbc-scotland-and-the-labour-party

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/the-bbc-and-the-2015-general-election-its-at-it-again

https://lenathehyena.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/good-morning-scotland-sic-bbc-scotland-sic-a-station-like-no-other

 

January 10, 2015

Good Morning Scotland (sic) BBC Scotland (sic) a station like no other

 

bbc

Good    Morning    Scotland (sic)

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

Good mor …uhm…eh…so…

So…eh …uhm…eh…eh…eh…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

News headlines … uhm…

Travel … M8…trains to Glasgow…Glas…Queen Str…

Weather …looking out the window…G…ow…

Sport…Celtic…Rangers…eh…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

So…er…er…er…uhm…Afghanistan…spokesman in Afghani community in Glasg…eh…eh…

So…eee…uhm…festival in Glas…eee…eh…uhm…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

Sport …Rangers…Celtic…eh…eh…

Travel…usual suspects…trains to Glasgow…Glasgow…

Business…uh…uh…uh…Gla…startups…eh…eh…eh…

Er…er…Syria …er…eh…eh…symposium in Glasgow…eh…

Uhm…ee…eee…Moon landings…Univers…f…Glasg…uh…so…

Thought for the da…a…a…a…y inthestudiofromaroundthecorner…uh…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

Travel …usual suspects…trains to Gla…traffic lights in Glas…

Sport…Celtic…Rangers…eh…eee…Gla…Warriors…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

Uhm…professor fro…Glasgow University …so…eh…eh…

Uhm…

Travel….slow…Glasgow…Edinbur…sorr…Glasg…eh…usual delays…120 mile detour…

Sport…Celgers…uhm…Glasgow Rocks…eh…

Your national broadcaster

And now…University of Glasgo…and Strathclyde…uhm…eee…so…

Arts correspondent…Glasgow…Glas…Edinbur…Edinburgh…burgh…Gl…ow…Glasg

Raucous computer-generated muzak

A station like no other

Eee…uh…uh…expert…University of Glas…

Ah…eh…ah…ee…asked these Glaswegians…uh…em…

Travel…set of traffic lights out in Glasgo…Gla…Gl…trains… 120 mile diversion…in…

Weather…looking out the window…rain…Glasg…eh…

Sport…Glasgow Warriors…Rangtic…unpronounceable tennis player name…uhm…

Raucous computer-generated muzak

Eh…conference on how Glasgow influenced M…M…M…Mozart…eh…uh…em…ah…

I…i…i…i…so…i…i…eh…Glas universi…eh…eh…Strathcly…eh…

Archaeological remains in Shetland…uh…uh…we asked experts from Strathcly…and…Glasg…uni…

Travel…delays…usual susp…train…Gla…t…E…burgh…set…traf…ights…in…Glasgow…

BBC    SCOTLAND    SERVING    THE    NATION

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive 

 

November 16, 2014

The BBC and the 2015 General Election – it’s ‘at it’ again.

The UK’s publicly funded broadcaster, the BBC, was under fire for its distortion of news and blatant promotion of views in favour of preserving the union during the Scottish independent campaign. It issued the usual denials it was ‘at it’ but then it would say that wouldn’t it. The referendum controversy was happening at the same time the BBC found its reputation taking a hammering over revelations of mismanagement and its institutional cover-up of serious sex crimes involving its personnel.

With the 2015 general election in the offing it is again doing what it does best declaring impartiality and fairness while in fact it is twisting and manipulating arguments in a way that undermine democracy. BBC management and government are inextricably linked so it can be blatant about taking certain actions such as its refusal to host the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Appeal when Israel was pulverising that strip of land and its people.

The BBC takes its role as the voice of the state seriously. The links between the BBC and government are strong and effective. When the criminal Andy Coulson was forced out of David Cameron’s office, BBC Global News controller Craig Oliver stepped right in. The Director General of the BBC Lord Hall insisted that when former cabinet minister James Purnell, who served in Gordon Brown’s government, took up his £300 000 job as Director of Strategy and Digital with the BBC he ‘hung his boots up at the door and left politics behind.’ And yes he is that same Purnell, yet another Labour MP up to his neck in scandal having screwed money out of the tax payer, claiming £100 a month for cleaning expenses and £586 for repair etc etc – not forgetting £247 for 3,000 fridge magnets. More damning in my eyes was he was the one who proposed charging interest on crisis loans taken out by people on very low incomes. However he impressed the BBC management and got a plum job.

There was Gordon Brown’s other little helper, Ed Richards, also an adviser to Blair on media, telecoms, internet and e-govt, who helped draft the Act setting up Ofcom. He found his niche at the BBC and as chief executive of Ofcom. Nice piece of symmetry there.

There was Bill Bush, Head of Political Research and Analysis at the BBC, who then worked for Blair and Tessa Jowell whose brief covered the BBC licence fee. His assistant at the BBC, Catherine Rimmer, went with him to Downing Street.

There are so many of them – former Director General John Birt had been member of Labour Party. Former DG Greg Dyke was a Labour donor and activist and once stood as a Labour candidate for the GLC. Oh, and Birt’s former diary secretary, Katie Kay, also worked for Blair.

There was Gavin Davies a former BBC Chairman and Labourite and financial backer, and adviser to two Labour governments, whose wife was Gordon Brown’s private secretary. There was Sir Michael Lyons , one-time Labour councillor, also a BBC Chairman who headed the BBC Trust, and appointed by the then Labour government. Ben Bradshaw BBC Labour – is that a Party? I’m beginning to wonder.

There was Chris Bryant BBC Head of European Affair /Labour MP for Rhondda. Celia Barlow, one-time Labour MP and PPS and BBC reporter and Home News Editor when she was also Secretary of Chelsea Constituency Labour Party. And not to be left out her husband Sam Jaffa and one-time BBC’s man in North America and a Labour wannabe politician coming 3rd in an election in 2001. Better than 4th.

Let’s draw a curtain over Celia’s involvement in the 2009 parliamentary expenses scandal. What’s that – she claimed over £28, 000 for her second home and then flipped it. I just hope it was worth it – and the whirlpool bath and the high lustre silver shower screen, nice. Phil Woolas Labour MP and Minister and BBC producer on Newsnight. Denis MacShane Labour MP and Minister and BBC reporter. Tom Kelly former BBC Head of News in Northern Ireland worked for Blair and became Director of Communications at the Northern Ireland Office. His role came under scrutiny in 1998 when ‘plans for an unprecedented PR offensive to secure a Yes vote in the referendum on the Good Friday agreement’ came to light. Denials were put out it was an attempt to manipulate public opinion but the Rev Ian Paisley said at the time it, ‘makes Machiavelli look like a rank amateur.’

Anyone remember Geoff Mulgan BBC reporter and adviser to Brown? No. Well what about Lance Price, BBC journalist who was Alistair Campbell’s assistant? You know Labour’s Director of Communications. Tim Luckhurst goes back a way, once PPO for Donald Dewar, Labour former First Minister of Scotland, and stood as a Labour candidate in the 1987 election. He went on to work on the BBC’s political and current affairs flagship programme Today. He was Editor of News Programmes at BBC Scotland (that fine democratic and professional body). Luckhurst wrote a critical piece for the New Statesman on Scottish devolution entitled, ‘Scotland returns to the Dark Ages.’ With Donald Dewar in mind there was Peter Hyman who worked as a researcher for Labour’s Scottish leader who was also a producer at the BBC.

Charlie Whelan once seldom out of the news was another Brown spinner and BBC presenter. Martin Sixsmith was a BBC foreign correspondent who switched to become Director of Communications with the Labour government. When I say switched it wasn’t much of a switch as most of you will agree. He was Labour’s Director of Communications and Press Secretary to Harriet Harman and Darling Darling. Where is he now? Still works with the BBC – had a 25-part radio series on this year, ‘In Search of Ourselves.’

Don’t have to search too far to discover the hand of a Labour apparatchik on the rudder of news and current affairs at the BBC. Where were we – ah, yes – someone called Joy Johnson worked as a Political Editor with the BBC – curious how these people are all interested in politics isn’t it, not many hanging up their proverbial boots at the proverbial door as far as I can make out. Joy was a Campaigns Director for Brown – Brown again – he’s a guy with lots of links or is that strings? Joy went on to work for Ken Livingstone – I believe he was in charge of some parochial wee town in the far south of the UK. And staying with Brown, did you know that at his wedding his bridesmaids were the offspring of Gavyn Davies the former BBC Chairman? No reason why you should – except there is every reason you should be aware that the UK political establishment is riddled with former BBC employees and visa versa. All of which is a long-winded way of saying when the BBC insists it is an honest broker in the world of British politics it is anything but. What is the point of a state-run broadcaster if the state cannot use it for its own ends?

In 1940 Sir John Reith, Mr BBC, was appointed Minister of Information with the Chamberlain government. During the 1950s the DG of the BBC, Sir Ian Jacob, was seconded to the Ministry of Defence where he was criticised by Churchill for failing to be his propaganda bitch. To his credit Jacob believed that the BBC should not be used in such a way by government. It is a pity his opinion has not been shared by all who take up influential posts within the BBC. Sir Hugh Greene was DG in the sixties. He had been involved with the Political Warfare Executive during WW2, a covert propaganda organisation that had been set up in 1921. This shadowy body included others from the BBC – Robert Bruce Lockhart, a later DG, Ivone Kirkpatrick, an adviser to the BBC. The information spinning machine run by this group was partly housed at BBC HQ. Many of you will recall the bizarre period when the government wanted to stifle the voice of the IRA and so we were subject to the likes of now Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, being voiced-over by actors although curiously the BBC did not subject the UDA to the silence treatment. Not that there was anything political in this decision.

All this is a long way of saying when the BBC maintains it is pursuing a ‘fair and realistic formula’ in its coverage of the 2015 general election we can take that with a pinch of salt. When it presents us with what it swears is an objective presentation of the current state of UK politics we can be sure it is anything but. When the BBC says it uses levels of past and current electoral support to determine how much it promotes political parties we can be sure it is ignoring that bloody great elephant in the room. When the BBC hold up its hands in horror at the suggestion that UKIP’s success is partly down to the amount of coverage this party gets on the BBC we know it is being deceitful. When the BBC attempts to justify its unjustifiable intention to include UKIP in the 2015 leader debates it is dissembling – BBC – ‘Although UKIP did not win a seat in the 2010 general election, they polled more than three times as many votes as the Green Party, which did win a seat. In the 2014 European elections, UKIP topped the poll, beating all the Westminster parties in terms of seats (24) and share of the vote (more than 27% – up more than 10% on 2009). The Greens won three seats in the European election, with just under 8% of the vote (a small drop since 2009).’ 

When the BBC attempts to justify the unjustifiable decision to exclude the SNP from these debates through a cobbled together argument that the SNP is not a UK-wide party we are witnessing direct political interference in democracy in the UK by the BBC. The last time the BBC were actively campaigning it was to keep Scotland in the UK so either Scotland is in it or it isn’t and as it clearly is still a member of the UK its interests should be aired during these debates, across the UK, not those confined to Scotland. If the BBC can argue a case for UKIP to appear on grounds that it, ‘…performed strongly in local government elections in England for the past two years’ then the strong performance of the SNP in Scotland should be also germane. If England is highlighted as relevant in a UK-wide context then so too should Scotland.

Where the BBC argues it takes ‘account of opinion polls, when there is a robust and consistent trend’ then it should open its eyes farther than the shires of England to the political hinterland of Scotland and see what the polls are saying here about the biggest party in this country (still part of the UK) and the third largest party in the UK.

When the BBC shrugs its collective shoulders and insists it is acceptable that the whole of the UK see political leaders arguing their case for issues which affect Scotland as part of the UK without the leader of the third biggest party in the UK it is returning to the days of gagging certain political voices and promoting others.

The BBC website carries a page called Manifesto watch: Where parties stand on key issues the pictures on this page are taken from it. Couching it as views from ‘The main UK-wide political parties’ is a ruse to prevent exploration of matters relevant to the whole populations of Scotland and Wales. And the BBC gets even this completely wrong because while it maintains it is presenting only UK-wide concerns it includes law and order, education, jobs, housing which are devolved issues to Scotland. So even under its own strangulated logic it fails to present its licence fee payers in Scotland (and Wales) with a breakdown of policies by party on these vital issues. One of the problems with the BBC it is up to its neck in politics and is furiously promoting a reactionary agenda that fails to reflect the changed political landscape here in Scotland (still part of the UK). The BBC is being dishonest . It should remove this page immediately and replace it with one which includes references to devolved matters in Scotland on which the UK citizens in Scotland will be voting in 2015.

It should immediately discard its plans to have any TV debates that include the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Labour and/or UKIP, (and the Greens) without representation of the SNP. Having secondary debates in Scotland allows multiple opportunities for the first four parties to present their opinions while wilfully restricting the voice of the SNP.

We do not expect the BBC to reform itself. It is clearly so mired in party politics it does not even recognise the absurdity and anti-democratic nature of its output. All we can do it expose the corruption of this nasty and deceitful organsiation.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29642613 Oh what a tangled web we weave…

November 11, 2012

And then there’s BBC Scotland Radio Gaga

There’s a reek of sulphur wafting around that holy institution the BBC at present. I suspect sightings of rats and sinking ships have been exaggerated but it does no harm that this institution’s pomposity is punctured from time to time. But just how many repair jobs can it take before a decision is taken that something more radical needs to be done?

I recognise the importance of the BBC over the decades from its beginnings in the 1920s but it was always pompous and it always saw itself as a pillar of the British Establishment.

The crisis which has brought the end of its shortest-lived Director General was one of the BBC’s own making. One of its problems is that until Entwistle fell on his sword none of the BBC’s bloated management structure took criticism seriously.

At grass-roots level complaints and criticisms over output highlighted in the BBC’s own Feedback programme are inevitably batted back by producers and managers. The bottom line with the BBC is that the BBC is always right. It is an arrogant view and more importantly it is frequently wrong.

The BBC operates under a charter which sets out its responsibilities as a national broadcaster. Actually it is the national broadcast outlet for all the nations which make up the UK and the complaint in Scotland has been that here is it hugely deficient in fulfilling this role. I don’t believe the BBC understands exactly what it should be doing in respect of reflecting the whole country or the impact on its owners, you and me, for its failure to provide this basic service.

Radio 4 purports to be a UK-wide station but is in reality almost wholly English in output, including its news coverage.

In Scotland we have BBC Radio Scotland which operates in a similar way to the various English local radio stations but how well does it do its job?

There was a time when BBC Radio Scotland news was quite an acceptable service. Not now. Now the old professionals who were steeped in journalism have been replaced by media graduates distinguished by their shallowness and lack of familiarity with political and world affairs going back beyond a decade. Current affairs discussions therefore lack perspective and ignorance prevails across the airwaves.

BBC Radio Scotland presents us with three main news outlets each week day: Good Morning Scotland, the John Beattie Programme at mid-day and Newsdrive.

For as long as I can remember these times always had news coverage of some sort. Can we call John Beattie’s programme news? It contains news but it often seems incidental because of all the silliness which accompanies it. John Beattie comes across as a decent guy but what does asking listeners their favourite sweetie or the last time they stuck their finger up their nose add anything of value to our lives?

It is banal and it is nonsense.

Newsdrive and Good Morning Scotland are similar in their news handling and formats.

One or two presenters are capable though none is a John Humphreys or Eddie Mair and the programmes don’t seem capable of attracting big guns in the same way that Radio 4 does. Issues covered are often depressingly prosaic and don’t push listeners in their choice of topics. In short their approach is dull and lacks intellectual rigour.

But really – how on earth have these programmes turned into the mess they are? What was the imperative to shred their news coverage into such tiny gobbets where all discussion must stop for the holy trinity of travel, sport and weather?

I cannot understand why BBC Radio Scotland is so obsessed by these three: travel, sport and weather. Is it because they are cheap? Because they help fill time which means fewer stories have to be covered? Surely it cannot be that they provide a service for listeners because whatever they give us is purely tokenistic. How does it help anyone to be told there are high wind warnings on the Skye bridge so take care? Why is it an imperative of the BBC to tell the whole of Scotland a set of traffic lights is out somewhere in Glasgow? None of this matters to most of us. People are not going to take more care crossing to Skye because someone on the BBC says it. It is nonsense.

Why do we have the holy trinity when the far superior Today programme survives without them?

Why is it acceptable to those running BBC Radio Scotland that academics, police spokesmen, business spokespeople, etc etc most frequently come from Glasgow? What does that say about the attitude of those responsible for this ‘national’ broadcaster to fulfil the national coverage as directed in its charter? GMS on Saturday 10th November was a Glasgow fest with the majority of its contributors coming from in and around Glasgow. This we don’t care attitude is unacceptable and lazy. If producers on these programmes have no interest in including all of the country, if they don’t understand or don’t care that this is what they ought to be doing, then they should be told what their job is or replaced.If programme presenters don’t care then they, too, should go and so should the senior managers at BBC Scotland who sit on their complacent backsides and think everything is hunky dory. It’s the old attitude again. We’re the professionals, we know what we’re doing, who are you to criticise the BBC?The lack of professionalism that we have in Scotland’s news and current affairs coverage is lamentable. It is a joke. BBC Radio Scotland news displays huge contempt for its listeners in its perpetual striving for trivia, celebrity and star struck by anything relating to the stars and stripes. An example of this was the day hurricane Sandy struck the US. While Radio Scotland managed to contain its fervour during the hurricane’s earlier devastation en route to the east coast of the States it went into overdrive the day it was due to strike New York. What is this? Can you imagine any NY radio station being remotely interested in a similar event in Scotland to the extent it rescheduled its news around it? Compare GMS’s coverage of events that day with its classier sister programme Today.

Today opened with news about the route of the hurricane and there were mentions between 6am and 7am. From 7am till its close and 9am there were 3 features devoted to Sandy and it covered 11 different stories that day.

Compare this with how GMS handled the same event.

6.00 News Headlines

Sport

6.06 Travel

Weather

6.09 Hurricane Sandy

Newspaper headlines

6.17 business news

6.21 Ukrainian parliamentary elections (4min)

6.25 Sport

Travel

Weather

6.32 News summary

6.35 Hurricane Sandy

UK nuclear strategy

Glasgow conference on renewables

6.45 Breast screening report

News Headlines

Travel

Business

Homecoming for battalion from Afghanistan

6.58 Travel

Weather

7.00 News

Sport

Travel

Weather

7.10 Hurricane Sandy report (4min)

7.14 Scotland action plan for human rights (4min)

7.18 Mexico’s missing people

Thought for the Day Catholic priest

Sport

Travel

Weather

7.30 News summary

7.34 USA election report (6min)

7.40 business news

Travel

4G mobile service

Trailer for BBC programme

Newspapers

Hurricane Sandy report

Travel

Weather

8.00 News

Sport

Travel

Weather

8.09 Hurricane Sandy (4min)

8.13 Breast cancer screening (5min)

8.18 Scottish National Trail (4min)

8.22 trail for BBC programme

Sport

Travel

Weather

8.30 News summary

Hurricane Sandy’s impact on travel from UK

8.35 Murrayfield stadium (5min)

8.40 Business

Horror films

Listeners’ text s

Travel

8.50 end of programme

GMS devoted twice as many slots to the hurricane in America plus a further feature on the US election. Every other item was slipped into the remaining time left by the holy trinity – 11 travel reports, 6 sport reports, 8 weather bulletins. Oddly the superior Today programme doesn’t have any travel bulletins, a little sport on the half hour and the odd reference to weather and it is all the better for it.

BBC Scotland news ought to decide what its purpose is. Is it to provide an excellent vehicle for news and current affairs discussion which is cognisant of the whole of Scotland, not just the environs of Glasgow, or is it narrowly relevant light entertainment?

On Friday 26th October, Today featured the proposition that theoretical physicists have a test to prove whether or not we are living in the real or a simulated world. It’s really not something anyone on GMS would be capable of handling. GMS is either grimly dull or exceptionally ridiculous.

Whoever is responsible for merging Newsweek Scotland into GMS should be shown the door. This person clearly is clueless about what works and doesn’t as current affairs and news coverage and discussion. The hour programme worked better than this hotchpotch over two hours with the inevitable sport and travel. The impression is that programme producers begin with the holy trinity and work out what else can be woven in to what remain of the time allotted.

GMS is too restricted in what it covers, too repetitive, has too little foreign input, is too centred in Glasgow and lacks big gun journalists to carry discussion and interviews. As I said earlier these figures used to be there but successive BBC Scotland managers have got rid of them in favour of the inferior species which inhabits the service now. Newsdrive is similarly afflicted and the mid-day show should be replaced by something akin to the old Lesley Riddoch programme fronted by a weighty intellectual with no travel, sport or weather to dumb it down.

BBC Scotland management is in denial there is anything wrong at their great ship on the Clyde. They are wrong. Unless they think mediocrity is good enough.

Arts coverage in Scotland

BBC Scotland’s G-spot

Reporting from George Square

BBC Trust  An Oxymoron

June 24, 2012

For all you who have crossed the Hyena – this is for YOU!

February 3, 2012

Looking into the Abyss – the BBC and Newsweek Scotland

Open letter to Head of News BBC

There has been considerable discontent over BBC Scotland’s decision to axe the popular weekly politics show, Newsweek Scotland and replace this Saturday morning programme with an additional edition of Good Morning Scotland.

The reasons given by the BBC are:

1. Radio Scotland is adopting a strategy focusing on speech programmes during the day and music late at night.
In itself this should have no negative impact on Newsweek as last time I listened it had 100% music free content.

2. It says it is focussing all its efforts in ‘the current climate’ to target its resources where our audiences are.
So what does this additional focus add up to? The reference to the current climate surely alludes to the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum. Precisely, so why take off Newsweek Scotland? This is an intelligent programme with a reputation for its nifty handling of Scottish issues. Is it perhaps too capable for some bureaucrats at the BBC? And what is meant by ‘where our audiences are’? Is it that Newsweek Scotland does not attract sufficient listeners? If so then the BBC should come out and say so. Then again the BBC is forever telling us the reasons behind so many programme changes are to attract new audiences so I’m not able to follow the logic here.

3. It proposes to strengthen news and current affairs output on Saturday mornings and is committed to strengthening the audience.
There we have it. Another hint that Newsweek Scotland doesn’t attract sufficient listeners. What is the relationship between quality and listener numbers? What value does the BBC place on quality any more? And what is this about strengthening news and current affairs output? What can it possibly be planning to supplant NS with? I’ll come back to that.

4. It intends substituting the one hour programme with one lasting two hours.
Great that should mean the serious student of politics in Scotland could find twice as much enlightenment from a double dose of NS than from its one hour weekly edition. But this is not what the bureaucrats are getting at.

5. The aim is to extend Good Morning Scotland to Saturday with all the best elements of the current Newsweek programme.
So there you have it. The BBC intends replacing this vital political programme with a magazine show. So much for taking the important business of Scotland’s future seriously. And the show will be called Good Morning Scotland Saturday. Is this worthy of a bureaucrat’s salary? And just what does it mean by saying that all the best elements of the current Newsweek programme will be included? Derek Bateman? Is he being recruited into GMS? He is the very capable and knowledgeable voice of NS and a welcome antidote to the often staggeringly inept and frequently embarrassing interviews on GMS with presenters evidently out of their depth and inadequately briefed. The two programmes are miles apart in terms of quality, interest, intellectual rigour and handling of varied and interesting subjects. One is headed by a proper journalist who knows his subject inside out while the other features presenters of varying ability but lacking gravitas in tackling important political interviews.

If the BBC is serious that it wants to strengthen its news and current affairs then it should put GMS out of its misery with its incoherent interviews by over-excited presenters and its constant joshing with colleagues and just how many repetitive travel and weather interruptions can a programme take before it becomes totally inane? I would suggest GMS has long hit that target.

I suspect there has been a few toes trodden on by Newsweek Scotland and this is the real reason for the prospective dumbing down by the BBC which is a shame because we are the people who pay these bureaucrats, sorry executives, their salaries and we are the ones they just couldn’t care less about. And when did you last hear a BBC executive apologise for any decision?

Scotland deserves better than a further edition of Good Morning Scotland which being at the weekend is bound to be even more trite than it already is. It needs Newsweek Scotland. 

Join the Facebook campaign to save this gem of a programme on Radio Scotland

http://www.facebook.com/savenewsweekscotland

December 28, 2011

Zimmer Man and the Transport Minister – It’s gotta be BBC GMS

I was lying in my bed. Well it was the holiday season. I should have known better than to turn on the radio. It was later than I thought. Some guy from Good Morning Scotland was doing the talking. He said it was windy. The guy wasn’t wrong. That’s kinda unusual on GMS.

 
I thought it might have been the weather forecast. It usually is the weather forecast – or the travel report.

‘And now it’s time for travel.’

Jeez it’s always time for travel on GMS. Travel is the tail which wags this dog BBC Scotland. If it’s not travel it’s weather. Events come no bigger than weather and travel. The world of BBC Scotland stops every 15 minutes for weather or travel or a combination thereof. They are bigger than anyone anywhere else might imagine.

But this was no ordinary day. This was a windy day.

Cloned presenter: ‘We have the Transport Minister with us.’

They have these presenters who are interchangeable. They probably come cheaper that way. They sound identical so that listeners don’t feel they’re being sold short when one of them is off being re-programmed.

Cloned presenter: ‘Transport Minister the weather is different from last year. Last year it was very snowy and this year it’s very windy.’

Awesome! In the future there will be whole conferences devoted to this in-depth reporting that defines BBC Scotland.

Cloned presenter: ‘Minister a listener on a zimmer frame has been in touch with us regarding his safety in these high winds. As Transport Minister what do you recommend this citizen does to ensure his safety? It is after all your responsibility that this man and all citizens on zimmer frames, skateboards, washboards, Shanks’ pony, Shetland pony, gravy trains get to their destinations without incident. What advice can you give our listener struggling with his zimmer frame against 90 mile an hour gusts of wind?’

Transport Minister: ‘ I urge this citizen to be very careful.’

Cloned presenter: ‘Thank you Transport Minister for this timely advice. And now we have the travel report or is it the weather? – and do we care as long as it fills a space and I get time for a quick fag.’

I froze. Not literally. What sort of world had I wakened up in? Last time I checked into life there had been all sorts of despicable happenings in the middle east that might have warranted actual news reporting. I guess they’d all been sorted overnight. It’s great to know there are still standards in this damned world and that BBC Scotland is setting them.

Just wait till I stoop down to that level. Ooh, not quite there – can’t quite make it…