Monday 19 August 2013

The bedroom tax, multicultural Manchester, and the BBC

My local BBC news programme North West Tonight was in full-blown campaigning mode this evening, leading on the issue of the bedroom tax. 

The programme's introduction used the phrase 'bedroom tax' without qualification or implied inverted commas [saying, "A housing association promises that no one will be made homeless by the bedroom tax", accompanied by images of placards reading 'Axe the tax'], even though the government is adamant that it's not a tax and has complained about the BBC using its opponents' terminology without qualification. [So that showed 'em then!]

Ah, but the programme did later qualify it, saying "Critics call it the 'bedroom tax' and the fear is that it will push people into arrears, into court and onto the streets." [So that's all right then.]

Those fears dominated the following report though. 

We heard the views of campaigners and a housing association; we heard what protesters want; we heard about a woman who's facing eviction as a result of the 'bedroom tax'; and we heard from a disabled man who's in arrears and finding it hard to make ends meet because of the 'bedroom tax', and has "sentimental reasons" for keeping his spare room (members of his close family died in that room.)

Reporter Jayne McCubbin then asked someone a question: "People aren't going to be happy with this."

Who did she put this too? Well, the caption read "Cllr Nick Peel, Bolton Council". 

Googling him revealed him to be a Labour Party councillor, so it was hardly surprising to find him replying, "Well, the only real solution to the bedroom tax is the repeal of the bedroom tax."

Then it was back to the protests, before Jayne finally give the opposing (government's) side - that it's unfair for those in private accommodation to be disadvantaged as opposed to those in public sector housing. She gave the government's side for all of twelve seconds. [That's BBC balance for you! - and who could find anything wrong with that?]

Then it was back to the protests and Chris Hobson of National Housing Federation talking of the "human cost" of the 'bedroom tax', homelessness and people struggling - things his organisation had warned the government about before. 

And with Chris's concerns ringing in our ears and being re-packaged for us by Jayne (presumably lest we'd sneezed a few seconds earlier when he was making them first time round), the report ended - the government and its bedroom tax well and truly pwned.

Still to cheer its viewers up after that tale of government-inspired woe, North West Tonight later gave us a good news 'And finally...'-style story to warm the cockles of our heart - a story which had the presenters almost purring with contentment. 

So what was this feel-good story? 

It was the multi-cultural good news about "Manchester's melting pot - the city in which it's claimed 200 languages are now being spoken".

Yep, researchers have found that over 200 foreign languages are now spoken in Manchester. 

The smiling presenters informed us that those researchers believe that fact makes the city "increasingly attractive to international business."

Reporter Stuart Flinders kept the good multicultural news coming:
"More than 200 languages are spoken, some known mostly in no more than a handful of villages on the other side of the world. This is proof if ever it were needed that Manchester now really is truly an international city."
"In some shops it's handy to have a range of languages available".
"Big business is interested in multi-lingual Manchester too."
An academic from Manchester University - one of the researchers behind the study - expressed his approval too, and Stuart told us that no other large UK city can "boast so many languages". There followed lots of happy, joking 'vox pops' celebrating their various languages.

As the report ended, the North West Tonight presenters turned to each other with wide-eyed amazement:
"Never would have imagined there were so many languages spoken!"
"No, no, it does show what an international city this has become!"
It's all right, everything is all right, the struggle is finished. I love smiling faces. I love multiculturalism. I've won the victory over myself. I love the BBC.

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