Tuesday 19 May 2015

Cos you're worth it?

I haven’t listened to “You and Yours” radio 4 for a long time, but today I happened to hear the phone-in about the licence fee. Does the BBC licence fee represent good value for money?

Apart from the obvious irony of the BBC controlling a phone-in that was supposed explore its own value for money, and notwithstanding Winifred Robinson’s tendency to cut short anyone who said nay and lingering indulgently over those who said yea, several unaddressed issues were left hanging heavily in the air.

Some callers said the BBC ‘wasn’t for them’ because few of the programmes interested them. After the first one, these callers probably should have been filtered out of the discussion. Who cares that they only like one programme, the title of which they couldn’t even get right. (Montalbano) 

Most of the negativity was about profligacy, particularly salaries; one caller mentioned the exorbitant number of BBC reporters that covered the mining disaster in Chile. No-one mentioned Gaza. 

The BBC employs an enormous number of reporters. Someone quoted a figure, which I’ve  forgotten, but it’s certainly a sufficient quota to expect rigorous verification and scrupulous checking when reporting, quoting or disseminating sensitive news. I.e., not regurgitating, copy-and-pasting from Reuters or AP, or ‘editing‘ facts to suit an agenda.

The way the BBC reported the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ was a disgrace; the BBC subsequently admitted they got it wrong. The reporting of matters concerning Israel and Gaza, riddled with pro-Hamas bias, histrionic emoting, the entire situation distorted and disfigured by gross omission. The consistent repetition of Hamas/UN-sourced civilian casualties, unverified by the BBC yet clearly having been manipulated to suit Palestinian propaganda. The absence of reports of any of the extreme incitement or antisemitic rhetoric that is rife in the Arab world, from the religious leaders to the education system. It’s not hard to find, so why has the BBC ignored it?         

The bulk of the callers who were more than enthusiastic about the BBC’s value for money cited the breadth of the BBC’s coverage, its trustworthiness and its world-wide influence, which they evidently believed was all to the good. For the betterment of mankind, as the saying goes.

I don’t think the word ‘impartial’ cropped up, but the general assumption was that the BBC was Gold Standard in terms of reliable balanced newsgathering. 
No-one mentioned political bias or any other kind of bias, but since the matter of world-wide influence came up, I think it’s reasonable to have expected someone to have raised this topic.

I would like to know how people who praise the BBC for its reliability evaluate ‘truth’ ‘impartiality’ and ‘balance’. For example, they will usually say “Look at Fox” or “RT” or Al Jazeera”. They will bring up Rupert Murdoch or “The right-wing Tory press” and say we evaluate the BBC against organs of propaganda like these. 

There is some truth in that argument, but also a flaw.

If Fox, Russia, Qatar, the Daily Mail or whatever you like are biased and propagandistic - and they surely are -  they still cater for a widespread audience. They wouldn’t be viable otherwise, would they?  Can they all be simply ‘wrong?’
How, then, is it so inconceivable that the BBC might just be pandering to and catering for an equally partial type of viewer? And, if the BBC provides a counter-view to the ‘right wing’, then isn’t that tantamount to admitting that the BBC is left-wing?

What is wrong with that? The trouble is that the left-wing has somehow adopted an all-enveloping, self regarding cloak of righteousness under which it has blindly swept some undesirable causes into its folds.

Critics of the Biased-BBC blog often argued “You don’t want an unbiased BBC, you just want the BBC to share your own bias”. That also contains an element of truth, and 
that is why we at “Is the BBC Biased?” try to give credit where it’s due.

There is a lot to admire about the BBC, BBC Four for one thing, but if the corporation continues to view everything through the vacuously P.C. prism highlighted (perhaps unintentionally) in its own parody-that-isn’t-much-of-an-exaggeration “W1A” it’s of no value at all.

It seems to be dominated by  superficial, ageist, history-hating, Glastonbury-going, trash-loving, unimaginative, incurious, error-prone, derivative, keffiyeh-wearing, left-leaning, incontinent Twitter users who reveal their true feelings in copious ‘views my own‘ Tweets.  



  1. "the BBC controlling a phone-in that was supposed explore its own value for money"

    A bit like BBC Complaints>ECU>The Trust controlling any input regarding the BBC's broadcast performance with zero higher authority.

    Or BBC DPA Dept. controlling BBC FOI requests. Actually that should be fine, except for the unique that is the BBC, answering Freedom of Information tends to mean more refusing on various criteria that the BBC has made up, or has had made up for it.

    All in all, it adds up to near total lack of accountability.

    "sufficient quota to expect rigorous verification and scrupulous checking when reporting, quoting or disseminating sensitive news"

    Well, yes. Like having one in Italy who either can't speak Italian or is happy enough to 'report' what others who can't speak it it have trotted out, rather crucially wrong (The Pope doing his Robbie Wiiliams impression), and thus far leaving the incorrect original versions up as somewhere else they have mentioned what actually was said.

    It's the factual stuff that bugs me most. Yet the BBC seems able to wiggle out of most 'whoops' errors (Craig's recent a rare score) with a shrug. Get into interpretations and they are home free.

    I don't want a 'left' BBC to act as a defacto balance/opposition to a 'right' government and/or media, especially when the BBC feels the need to 'help' the 'left' when the BBC doesn't feel they are performing as well as they should.

    The BBC 'should' not be a corrective to anything. It is supposed to offer impartial news and entertainment free of agenda.

    It clearly is incapable of doing either. And that is a £4 billion per annum malign propaganda force that puts all others in the shade.

  2. Peter, totally agree with you and in addition, the bbc is a commercial enterprise; I'm sure I've read it rakes in a billion a year from worldwide sales - who authorised that? In addition it gets funding from the EU, and how can that be acceptable and again, who authorised it? The bbc appears to be accountable to no one in practise, least of all the people who are funding them. It's a rogue organisation that needs culling.

    1. I think the Worldwide profits are closer to 100 million, but your point is still valid. I have personal experience with their accounting from many years ago, and suspect the Byzantine way they shift money around between the two entities actually hides (intentionally or not, and it's all so ridiculous it might be unintentional) a lot more profit than is made official.

      With very rare exceptions, they are definitely not accountable to anyone except themselves

  3. Good point about the Chilean miners from that caller. Lots of people noticed at the time, especially in the last 48 hours when we knew the rescue was imminent. My main memory is of the excellent work Tim Willcox did (this was before I knew about his philandering and blind anti-Jewish sentiment, which still don't detract from that work), being fluent in Spanish and basically telling it straight (as well as apparently being something of a pin-up boy for the miners' wives). Then the day before the first miner was brought to the surface, none other than our old favorite Matt Frei flew in to steal the glory camera time. "This cauldron of hope...."

    He was higher profile than Willcox, and somehow the powers that be thought it was best that he come in and get all the best events and prime screen time, because, I assume, they love his awful purple prose and think that's somehow quality broadcasting.

    Like they do for the US elections, the BBC has a reporter and camera team with producer for every show, on every channel, all saying the same thing. Of course, the BBC excuse is that each programme requires the special nuance for that particular audience.

    I'm pretty sure I remember that reducing this kind of redundancy was one of the cost-cutting methods mentioned the last time the BBC did the public hand-wringing bit over budget cuts....er....freezes. Has it happened? Not that I've noticed.

    PS: W1A is lame. A couple funny bits, but it is so obviously something done for BBC insiders, sending up all the corporate and marketing and facilities nonsense they complain about in the letters page of Ariel. I stopped watching about half way through the second episode, so don't know if it's gotten even worse.

    1. I am sticking with W1A, though it is based on running jokes which seem to be stuck in one place and cycling like made without going anywhere (no Bromptons were harmed in the making of this sentence).

      Agree it is about and for insiders, which I guess I am, albeit on a remote basis. Certainly my wife and kids lasted about 5 minutes.

      I remain intrigued about what it is trying to do. The latest episode revolves around a bunch of several hundred thousand a year newly created directors of ill-defined function failing utterly to make anything 'better', whilst obsessing about diversity targets.

      They even had the 'sensible' one asking if they needed to fire a bunch of white men to get back to reflecting the country, only to be told no, as they were ahead of target in this.

      Quite how all this will play with John Whittingdale's or Ma Hodges' numbers crunchers or 4 million grumpy kippers, heaven knows.

    2. 'Mad' not 'made'.

      There is also the overall 'sack of rats' nature of, well, all of them.

      Interesting, given in the real world the BBC is pretty selective about this aspect of top tier travails.

      Again every UKIP ruction is blown up and gnawed upon, whilst those of the actual main opposition party politely ignored or explained away.

  4. There is an alternative to bureaucratic management of the licence fee.

    With modern technology every licence fee payer could be given a percentage of the licence fee to allocate to programmes they want to see made. With a pin number they could allocate funding to programme proposals that would appear on a dedicate website (people looking for funding for their programme ideas could set out their stalls, so to speak on an equal basis). The programme ideas could be organised under various headings: news and current affairs, comedy, sport, nature documentaries...

    It would be an organised form of crowd funding.

    Initially you could set aside 10% of the licence fee for this process and see how it goes.

  5. I spent three year's on a BBC Trust panel. You can imagine what I was thinking when I heard a fellow panel member, under the age of 30 and someone I guess had rarely travelled outside of her northern town, declare 'that the BBC produces the best drama in the world'. I was so tempted To ask what her experience was of say Argentinian TV drama or even North Korea. But she had well and truly taken the Beeb's subliminal messages. However I was trying to only state my case in the most appropriate opportunities and kept quiet.


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