Posts Tagged ‘Channel 5’

Tony Benn’s Suggestions for Media Reform

February 10, 2020

One of the other books I picked up going through the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham last Friday was Tony Benn: Arguments for Democracy, edited by Chris Mullins and published in 1981. Based on Benn’s speeches, articles and lectures over the previous two years, the book was Benn’s observation on the profoundly undemocratic nature of British society, and his suggestions for reform. He wanted to create a more democratic society that would empower ordinary people and move towards the establishment of socialism.

Although it was written forty years ago, the book and its arguments are still tremendously relevant. One of the chapters is on media bias against the working class and the Labour party. As we’ve seen over the past five years and particularly during the last election in December, this is very much a live issue because of the unrelenting hostility by nearly all of the media, including and especially the Beeb, against Jeremy Corbyn, his supporters and the Labour party as a whole. Benn discusses right-wing media bias in the chapter, ‘The Case for a Free Press’, and on pages 118 to 120 he makes his suggestions for its reform.  Benn wrote

‘Some Proposals for Reform

Reform of the media has only recently come to be taken seriously. The Glasgow University Media Group, the Campaign for Press Freedom, the Minority Press Group and academics such as James Curran at the Polytechnic of Central London have produced a wealth of carefully researched analysis and proposals for reform which would reward seriously study. At the time of writing the Labour Party National Executive Committee has a working party considering what must be done to obtain a media responsive to the needs of a twentieth-century democracy rather than an arm of the British establishment. I do not wish to anticipate the proposals of the working party, but in the interests of stimulating debate on this important subject I set out below some of the possibilities for reform which are now being discussed in the Labour Party and elsewhere.

  1. An Open Press Authority

This has been suggested by James Curran and Jean Seaton in their book Power Without Responsibility. This would be a public agency accountable to Parliament and it would aim to extend the freedom to publish. The OPA objectives would include the following:

i Provision off a launch fund, raised partly from a tax on media advertising expenditure, to assist new publications.

ii Grants to assist publications that have failed to attract significant advertising.

iii A National Print Corporation to extend modern printing facilities to a wide range of publications.

iv A guarantee of distribution for minority publications through a new wholesale organisation.

2. Anti-Monopoly Legislation

Considerations will have to be given to legislation to break up the huge newspaper monopolies; existing monopoly legislation has proved wholly ineffective for this purpose. Such legislation should also prohibit or severely limit investment by newspaper chains in television and commercial radio.

3. Reform of the Wholesale Trade

Wholesale and retail distribution of British newspapers and magazines in dominated by just three companies: W.H. Smith, John Menzies and Surridge Dawson. In many areas one or other of these companies has a complete monopoly. The result is that non-consensus publications have great difficulty in reaching the news stands. The French have solved this problem by imposing a legal obligation on wholesalers and retailers to carry, on request, all lawful publications excluding pornography. Publishers have to pay a handling charge on all returns. As a result the French public have access to a far more diverse range of political views than we do in Britain. The French example should be studied.

4 The Right of Reply

Where a newspaper or magazine has published a report about an individual or group which seriously distorts the truth, the person or organisation offended should have the right to set the record straight in the columns of that newspaper. The reply should be allotted adequate space and prominence and it should appear as soon as possible after the original story. It should be made legally enforceable. The Campaign for Press Freedom has set out the case for a right of reply in an excellent pamphlet.

5 Broadcasting

i Instead of being composed of the ‘great and the good’, worthy citizens chosen for their alleged impartiality, the boards of the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority should contain representatives of a wide spectrum of opinion and interest groups.

ii The proceedings of the two boards of governors and all internal directives on policy should be publicly available.

iii The IBA should be given a legal obligation when awarding franchises, to give preference to non-profit-making applications such as cooperatives; at present most franchises got to companies more concerned with profits than quality.

iv The BBC is too big. It should be broken up into separate independent units for television, radio and the overseas service.

v The BBC licence fee, which places the Corporation at the mercy of the government, should be abolished and replaced by a grant awarded by Parliament five years in advance.

vi The Fourth Channel, as presently constituted, is controlled by the IBA and will buy in programmes from commercial companies. It should be reconstituted as a separate, publicly financed cooperative which would act as a ‘publisher’ of programmes made by freelance and independent production groups.

6 Satellite Broadcasting

By the mid-1980s satellite communication systems will make it feasible for American or European commercial television to be relayed into Britain. The result could be a diversion of advertising revenue away from existing publicly regulated services and an end of any chance of creating and maintaining public service broadcasting. As a matter of urgency Britain must contact other European governments with a view to placing under international control all companies using satellites for this purpose.’

He concludes the chapter with this:

These are some of the ways in which the British media could be developed to serve democracy rather than a consensus which has long been overtaken by events. I list these suggestions simply as a basis for consideration in an area where, until recently, there has been very little positive discussion. The free flow of information is the life blood of democracy and the present ownership structure and organisation of our media is incompatible with democracy. At a time of crisis, such as we now face, itis important that people should be able to choose freely between the various alternatives that political parties are seeking to put before them. To do that they need to be properly informed. That should be the role of the media in a democracy.

I’m not sure how many of these suggestions are relevant today, given the expansion of satellite and cable broadcasting,  the establishment of Channel 5 and the rise of the Net. My guess is that much of it is still acutely relevant, and the situation regarding the press monopolies has got worse since Benn wrote this. Murdoch now has an even firmer grip on the press and his own satellite channel, Sky, which he’d like to replace the Beeb. The Beeb has shown itself craven and massively biased towards the Tories, but they’re going to break it up and sell it off if they can in order to please Murdoch and the other commercial broadcasters. I think most of these reforms are still very much needed, but can’t see them ever being put in place given the massive opposition they provoke among the press and media barons, who control public opinion.

Corbyn’s supporters found a way round that with the internet, and Richard Burgon at the recent Labour deputy leadership hustings in Bristol suggested that Labour supporters should look to this and other alternative media rather than the old media. There are problems with this too, as the right have also latched on to the power of the Net. But it might just be the best, or only, way to move forward.

 

Miriam Margolyes Defends Labour and Jeremy Corbyn against Anti-Semitism Smears in Radio Times

April 16, 2019

Next week’s Radio Times for 20th-26th April 2019 has a long interview with veteran thesp Miriam Margolyes.  It’s partly publicity for her forthcoming documentary, Miriam’s Dead Good Adventure, in which she explores death and how people cope with it. This includes venturing into the kind of territory Louis Theroux explored in his Weird Weekends all those years ago, when he explored the weirder margins of American society. In her case, Margolyes meets a group, who believe they can use orgasmic energy to stave off death forever, making them immortal. Needless to say, she doesn’t believe a word of it.

Most interestingly, Margolyes discusses the anti-Semitism allegations against the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn, making it very clear that she doesn’t believe in them either. She condemns the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and describes how her view have led to her being vilified by pro-Israel groups and individuals, like Maureen Lipman. And like Jackie Walker, another Jewish anti-Zionist lady of mature years, she was radicalised through her opposition to apartheid in South Africa. This section of the interview runs

A Labour Party member, she has firm opinions about anti-Semitism accusations directed at the party. “Jeremy Corbyn, who is an excellent constituency representative, a serious person, is not an anti-Semite. I don’t think there is the extent of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party that people seem to imply,” she says. “I think it’s to do with trying to stop Corbyn from being prime minister”. She is also critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. “It’s just a fact that the Israelis have behaved appallingly, they continue to do so, and people are dying. I am ashamed, as a Jew, of what’s been done in my my name. I can’t bear it. And for that I’m vilified and people won’t come to see the plays I’m in. I’ve become, as it were a kind of minuscule Vanessa Redgrave when she was vilified for her political position. But I am right. I have no doubt about that whatever”.

I wonder how it feels to be separated from your own community. “It hurts me,” she says. “I’m so Jewish, and so happy to be Jewish. And the schism between me and Maureen Lipman, which is the manifestation of this chasm, causes me pain.”

Lipman is a very public supporter of Israel. IN 2015 she demonstrated with pro-Israeli groups outside a production of a pro-Palestinian play in London. “She feels that I am a wicked traitor to my people,” says Margolyes. “And I feel that she’s a fool.” The two appeared together in a 1989 British Telecom commercial spoofing Jewish domestic life, now Margolyes admits it would be difficult if they met in the street. “I hope I would be civil. I’m sad because I admire Maureen, and I have known her for a long time. She’s been a friend, and now it’s not possible any more. I expect she might be said, too. But she said don’t communicate with me again and I haven’t.”

She says she feels compelled to stand against injustice in the world. “For me, it’s the same sort of cause as apartheid. I was marching on South Africa House when I was young and, unfortunately, it’s now my own people I’ve got to march against. That’s painful, but I won’t pretend. If you can’t tell the truth when you’re 77, when are you going to tell it?”

Jewish Opposition to Zionism as Anti-Semitism

Over a decade ago she was one of a number of public figures, who condemned the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, and she made her Jewishness very plain then too. She stated that she was a ‘proud Jew, and an ashamed Jew’. She says in the interview that she doesn’t believe in God, but she loves Jewish life, the cooking, culture and community. She shares her happiness with her Jewish identity with many of the other Jewish critics of Israel, both Torah-observant and secular/ atheist, who have also been vilified for their stance against the Israeli oppression and ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arabs. People like Jackie Walker, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni and many others. And many Jewish critics of Israel find it utterly ridiculous, even anti-Semitic, that they should be considered traitors by their community, because they’d don’t support a foreign country that they weren’t born in. Greenstein, David Rosenberg, and the Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, have made the point that until recently the majority of the Jewish people rejected Zionism, partly because they were afraid that it would lead to accusations that Jews’ loyalties were divided between their homeland and that of the Jewish state. Indeed, at the beginning of the Zionist project, Zionism was strongly associated with anti-Semitism because of the number of real Jew-haters, who wanted to expel their Jewish populations to some other country, and the establishment of a Jewish state would be perfect for this purpose. The majority of Jews wished to stay in their native homelands and be accepted as equal citizens with their gentile fellow countrymen and women. The establishment of the state of Israel has indeed led to diaspora Jews being accused of being more loyal to Israel than their home countries, not least because Benjamin Netanyahu actually declared that the Jewish people and Israel are synonymous and identical. All Jews, everywhere, are citizens of Israel. The Palestinians, however, are not. Which is why activists like Tony Greenstein make it very clear that Israel isn’t a democracy, as it is not a state of its citizens but of a single, privileged ethnic group.

Maureen Lipman’s Attack on Ed Miliband

As for Maureen Lipman, she’s a great actor, but she has boiled her brain on this issue. She’s claimed to have left the Labour party because of Corbyn. She didn’t. She left it a few years ago when Ed Miliband, who’s Jewish, became leader. Miliband made some mild policy departures from a rigidly pro-Israel line, so Lipman threw a strop and left, ranting about how the party was now anti-Semitic. She wasn’t the only one. As Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have pointed out, the anti-Semitism smears date from this time, long before Corbyn became leader. Which makes utter nonsense of the claim that Corbyn, one of the most anti-racist and determined opponents of anti-Semitism, is a Jew-hater.

Other Victims of Witchhunt Silenced by Media

It’s refreshing that the Radio Times should give space to Margolyes’ views, and I’m sorry that she, too, is suffering vilification and smears for her opposition to Israel that other critics and activists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are also receiving. But unfortunately the media, including the Beeb, is still determined to repeat these smears and libels. Those abused, like Mike, may be able to correct these attacks through IPSO, but it’s very difficult for the victims to take their attackers to court for libel. This is largely because of the huge costs involved, but also because there are time limits on libel actions and the newspapers do everything they can to stall and stonewall them until they run out of time. And I have yet to see any part of the lamestream media invite those, who have been smeared as anti-Semites, onto their programmes to defend themselves. The noble exception to this have been the new, alternative broadcasters like RT and Novara Media. George Galloway has had Jackie Walker and Tony Greenstein on his show, Sputnik, on RT to make their case and describe their experience of victimisation in the anti-Semitic witchhunt. But the Beeb, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and others have yet to do so. Meanwhile Laura Kuenssberg and the other liars of the BBBC newsroom have been free to continue their promotion of the lies and smears against Corbyn and his supporters without any criticism or dissent whatsoever, urged on by the rest of the mendacious right-wing media and Jewish establishment.

I’m pleased Margolyes has been able to present the other side of the argument in the RT, and would like other anti-Israel activists also to have the opportunity to explain their position and rebut the anti-Semitism smears. But the majority are ordinary people, like Mike, Greenstein, Walker, Odoni, Wadsworth and Chilson, who aren’t already media figures and so are denied a proper, sympathetic platform. And so the lies and smears continue.

Woohoo! Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams Is Coming Back!

February 24, 2018

More good news for fans of mature SF. The bad news is that the new set of programmes, which continue from last year, is on Channel 4 at 10 O’clock in the evening, bang opposite the X-Files, which is on channel at the same time. Grrr! Better set your videos, peeps.

The new set of programmes begins with ‘The Father Thing’. The blurb for this on page 67 of the Radio Times runs

The sci-fi anthology series inspired by Philip K. Dick’s short stories returns. In this episode, the world is under attack as aliens quietly invade people’s homes young hero Charlie must make difficult decisions to protect his mother on the human race.

Another small article about it on page 65 states

The sci-fi anthology returns with a version of Philip K. Dick’s The Father Thing. That was published in 1954, the same year as the serialisation of the novel that inspired the movie version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers-and it you’ve seen that, or just know the premise of it, you can skip this.

Jack Gore and Greg Kinnear are both excellent as ayoung boy and his dad, shadowed by the threat of marital strife until the kid starts to have more serious concerns.

A possible theme about children fearing the loss of a divorcing parent never coalesces. Instead, as the boy’s mates get involved, we veer into a half-cocked Stranger Things homage. A well-performed, nicle shot dud.

I’ve noticed that one of the perennial themes in Dick’s work is that the hero is always in a rocky marriage, and the wife, or one of the female characters, is always bitch queen from hell, to use the words of Arnie Rimmer. Dick’s was married several times, but he comes across as something of a misgynist.

Despite the Radio Time’s critic’s sniffs, The Father Thing is one of the pieces that’s been republished recently, and I look forward to seeing it. But we’ll decide whether it’s a dud or not, thank you.

Woohoo! X-Files Coming Back on Monday on Channel 5

February 3, 2018

After a hiatus of about a year, the new X-Files series on Channel 5, Monday, 4th February 2018, at 9.00 in the evening. This has the remaining regulars of the old series in it – Duchovny and Anderson, Mitch Pileggi and the Cigarette Smoking Man, as well as Annabeth Gish, playing Agent Monica Reyes, who appeared in the very last series of the old X-Files. The listing for it in the Radio Times runs

The drama returns as an unconscious Scully is rushed to hospital, where a neurosurgeon discovers she is suffering from a frenzy of neural activity. (p. 74).

And the blurb for it a few pages earlier on page 71 also runs

When we were last in the company of Mulder and Scully, he was succumbing to a virus that was stripping his immune system, awhile she was staring wide-eyed at a UFO descending from the heavens. It was a whopper of a cliffhanger, and one that, unfortunately, gets resolved using storytelling techniques frowned upon by primary-school teachers.

But that is the perennial problem when The X-Files does these government-conspiracy ‘mythology arc’ episodes: they initially seem tricksy and knotty, but tend to fall apart at the slightest unpicking. Thankfully, we have a standalone case to look forward to next week, so not all hope was lost.

And here’s the trailer for it I found on YouTube. Amongst the delights promised is a meeting between Mulder and Scully and the man, who set up the X-Files, Skinner doing dodgy things for the Cigarette Smoking Man, and a carnivorous monster created through the merging of human and alien DNA.

Yay! Paranoia, the paranormal, UFOs, urban legends, weird science and general high-strangeness is back!

Rupert Murdoch and the Privatisation of the BBC

June 9, 2016

One of the major forces behind the Tory’s demands for the privatisation of the BBC is Rupert Murdoch. It is well-known that Murdoch owns the Sky satellite TV network, and so bitterly resents the state broadcaster as an obstacle preventing his own continuing expansion into broadcasting. Murdoch isn’t the only media mogul to demand the break-up of the Beeb in favour of their own interests as private broadcasters. Until recent, Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond, the proprietor of Express newspapers and various grubby mags found on the top shelves on newsagents also owned Channel 5, along with his Fantasy X porn channel. The situation was much the same in the 1980s, when one of the other newspaper magnates, the late, unlamented Robert Maxwell, owned Rediffusion, which was also looking to expand, and so attacked the Beeb. But because of his domination of the market, Murdoch is perhaps the leading voice demanding the Beeb’s privatisation.

Mark Hollingworth discusses Murdoch’s self-interested attacks on the BBC in his book, The Press and Political Dissent: A Question of Censorship. While this section isn’t particularly surprising in itself, as the Dirty Digger has been doing it for decades, what is shocking is how viciously and single-mindedly the old brute prosecuted his attacks on the Beeb in the 1980s. He writes:

The attacks on the BBC began in January 1985, during the corporation’s negotiations for an increased licence fee, and were sustained through the year. On 14 January 1985, the Times published the first of three successive leading articles extolling the virtues of advertising the need for deregulation of the BBC: ‘The BBC is today accused of inefficiency, unaccountability, self-aggrandisement and feather-bedding its employees…Are the critics justified? In their main principles, yes.’ The next day Labour MP Joe Ashton launched his private member’s bill calling for advertising on the BBC. That morning the Times’ editorial was headlined-‘Wither the BBC’- and called for the break-up of the corporation: ‘Advertisers can clearly pay some part in generating the revenue to pay for many programmes…We need a more open, less monolithic system of broadcasting in which customers can choose what qualities they want from their TV screens.’ The next day the Times thundered again at its 1,300,000 readers: ‘Lord Annan’s Committee recommended a break-up of the BBC into its radio, TV and local radio components. The government should now prepare to go further than this. It should consider quickly the establishment of a new broadcasting commission to auction franchises that are currently operated by the BBC.

Now, what the Times fails to tell its readers is who will directly benefit if these franchises are auctioned. At the front of the queue will be a certain R. Murdoch, proprietor of the Times, who will benefit commercially if the BBC is broken up. Murdoch’s company, News International, owns Sky Channel-a cable and satellite operation which transmits 73 hours a week of alternative television and has three million subscribers in 11 countries. In 1983 Murdoch also took control of Satellite TV, Sky’s parent company, at a cost of £5 million and has a 75.5 per cent shareholding. Satellite began transmitting in 1982, beaming English language programmes to Norway and Finland for two hours a night. In 1985 the Times’ owner acquired the biggest stake in 20th Century Fox to provide films for his satellite Sky Channel to beam across Europe. Clearly, if even parts of the BBC are privatised, these Murdoch-owned companies will make a lot of money.

Murdoch’s views on the BBC are quite clear. ‘I would like to see it privatized,’ he said in November 1985. But this was not just his private opinion. According to the Mirror’s Paul Foot, Murdoch ‘has personally ordered a sustained attack on the BBC and all its people.’ Alastair Hetherington, former editor of the Guardian, added weight to this assertion when he accused the Times of conducting ‘a vendetta against the BBC in its leaders, news stories and features’. This is certainly borne out by the evidence. The Times published at least eight anti-BBC editorials throughout 1985. The paper also published a series of news reports, often based on the thinnest material, which suggested extravagance and incompetence among BBC management. ‘BBC Condemned As Licence Fee Monster’ was the headline for one story which was merely a report of an article by an obscure ex-BBC employee in a trade journal.

Moreover, when angry readers have written to complain about the coverage or offer and alternative point of view, the Times has refused to publish their letters. this was revealed by Paul Fox, Managing Director of Yorkshire Television. On 2 November 1985, the Times published another leader attacking the BBC, the IBA and ITV companies and misquoted comments that Fox had made about public service broadcasting. Fox wrote to the paper to set the record straight about his misrepresented remarks, but his letter was not published. Three days later, on 5 November 1985, David Plowright, the Managing Director of Granada TV and Chairman of the ITV Companies Association, also wrote to the Times to complain about front-page news report of a MORI opinion poll on advertising on the BBC. In his letter, Plowright pointed out that the Times opinion poll showed that more people were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with the quality of TV in Britain than those who took the opposite view. How curious, wrote Plowright, that the paper’s news story had failed to include these facts. The letter was not published and the issue was not corrected.

The Times was not the only Murdoch paper to attack the BBC. His tabloids have joined in the fun. Here’s the Sun on 23 January 1985: ‘Oh, what superior people they are at the BBC. Here is the Director-General, Alastair Milne, raising his hands in horror at the idea of accepting adverts…Just where is the BBC superior to the commercial channels… There is only one area where the Beeb shines. No-one could possibly match its overbearing, totally unjustified smugness. And again on 2 September 1985: ‘The BBC should compete in the market so it ceases to be such a burden on the public.’ The Sun’s sister paper, the News of the World, began its campaign a trifle later than most but soon made up for lost ground. Every week throughout April 1985 there was a news story about the expenses of BBC staff which were reaching ‘scandal’ proportions. The next month News of the World journalists were instructed to file detailed reports of the eating and drinking habits of fellow reporters on the BBC during a royal tour. One brave woman journalist refused, because she said this was not her job. A News of the World executive then telephoned from London to accuse her of being disloyal. However, halfway through his lecture, the editorial executive was much dismayed to find that he had been put through by mistake to Kate Adey-a BBC television news reporter. (pp.12-14).

The News of the World executive probably left the phone with his ears ringing. ‘Kats Adie’ is the formidable woman, who was thrown out of Libya after she put the fear of the Almighty into Colonel Gaddafy. She is most certainly not afraid to ask awkward questions of the powerful.

The Beeb does have its faults. Its biased news coverage enrages me, and has been criticised many times for its bias against Labour and to the Conservatives. On the other hand, at its best it does provide good, solid public service broadcasting that few of its commercial rivals are able or even willing to provide. And advertising increasingly cannot provide the needed funding for some TV programmes today. A few years ago there were plans to bring back Spitting Image, the much-loved satirical puppet show screened on Channel 4 on Sunday evenings. This was eventually dropped because it was simply too expensive.

And no matter how biased the Beeb is, Murdoch’s worse. The more he goes on, the more he resembles the Bond villain, a media-mogul, who planned to start a war between America and China simply for its news value. That particular piece of Bondage ended with Commander Bond and his mates killing the villain, who was then reported as sinking in the South China Sea along with his stealth yacht. An end very similar to the drowning of Robert Maxwell. After something like five decades of lowering media standards across the globe, you feel it’s about time someone from the world’s covert intelligence agencies made him put a sock in it.

In the meantime, here’s Spitting Image on the Dirty Digger and his nearly subterranean journalistic standards.

Vox Political on the Part-Privatisation of Channel 4

May 10, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also put up a piece today about the government’s proposed partial privatisation of Channel 4 under John Whittingdale. The Torygraph has reported that the government has climbed down from privatising it fully, and instead are just looking for a ‘strategic partner’, like BT. They would also like the network to sell its offices in Westminster and move to somewhere like Birmingham. Its account should also be checked by the NAO, responsible for examining government expenditure, and they would like to change its non-profit status and see it pay a dividend to the Treasury. Mike points out that the network chiefs have taken this as stepping stone towards Channel 4’s full privatisation, and are deciding to reject it. Meanwhile, the Tories don’t want to privatise it fully, because they’ll get the same backlash from their proposals to sell off the Beeb. See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/10/only-part-privatisation-for-channel-4-as-tories-fear-another-bbc-style-backlash/

This is another barbarous government attack on public broadcasting in the UK. Channel 4 was set up in the 1980s to be a kind of alternative to the alternative BBC 2, and to cater for tastes and audiences that weren’t being met by the established channels. According to Quentin Letts in one of his books, Denis Thatcher thought this mean putting yachting on the sports’ coverage instead of footie, which shows the limited idea of ‘alternative’ held by Thatcher and her consort. Jeremy Isaacs, its controller, was proud of his outsider status as a Jew in the network, a status he shared with Melvin Bragg, a Northerner. He said that he wanted to put on the new, fledgling channel programmes on miner’s oral history, and performances of the great classics of Britain’s minority cultures, like the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. He also believed that people had ‘latent needs’ – there were things they wanted to see, which they didn’t yet know they did. He was widely ridiculed for his views. Private Eye gave a sneering review of the book, in which he laid out his plans and opinions, stating that all this guff about people’s ‘latent needs’ showed that he thought he knew more than they did about what people actually wanted. As for being an outsider, the Eye observed rather tartly that they were all outsiders like that now in broadcasting, swimming around endlessly repeating the same views to each other.

In fact, Isaacs was largely right. Quite often people discover that they actually enjoy different subjects and pursuits that they’re not used to, simply because they’ve never encountered them. The Daily Heil columnist, Quentin Letts, comments about the way the network has been dumbed down in one of his books, pointing out how good the networks cultural broadcasting was when it was first set up. The network was particularly good at covering the opera. I can remember they broadcast one such classical music event, which was broadcast throughout Europe, rather like the Eurovision song contest but with dinner suits, ball gowns, lutes and violins rather than pop spangle, Gothic chic, drums and electric guitars. The audiences for its opera broadcasts were below a million, but actually very good, and compared well with the other broadcasters.

As for its programmes aimed at the different ethnic minorities, I knew White lads, who used to watch the films on ‘All-India Goldies’ and the above TV adaptation of the Mahabharata. This last was also given approval by Clive James, one of the great TV critics. James noted it was slow-moving, but still considered it quality television.

The network has, like much of the rest of British broadcasting, been dumbed-down considerably since then. American imports have increased, and much of the content now looks very similar to what’s on the other terrestrial channels. The networks’ ratings have risen, but at the expense of its distinctive character and the obligation to broadcast material of cultural value, which may not be popular. Like opera, foreign language films and epics, art cinema and theatre.

Even with these changes, there’s still very much good television being produced by the network. From the beginning, Channel 4 aimed to have very good news coverage, and this has largely been fulfilled. There have been a number of times when I’ve felt that it’s actually been better than the Beeb’s. In the 1990s the Channel was the first, I believe, to screen a gay soap, Queer as Folk, created by Russell T. Davis, who went on to revive Dr Who. This has carried on with the series Banana, Cucumber, and Tofu. It also helped to bring archaeology to something like a mass audience with Time Team, now defunct. And if you look at what remains of the British film industry, you’ll find that quite often what little of it there is, is the product of either the Beeb or Channel 4 films.

And from the beginning the Right hated it with a passion. Well, it was bound to, if Denis Thatcher’s idea of alternative TV was golf and yachting, and Thatcher really wouldn’t have wanted to watch anything that validated the miners. And it was notorious for putting on explicitly sexual material late at night, as well as shows for sexual minorities, such as discussing lesbianism, when these weren’t anywhere near as acceptable as they are today. As a result, the Heil regularly used to fulminate against all this filth, and branded its controller, Michael Grade, Britain’s ‘pornographer in chief’.

And over the years, the various governments have been trying to privatise it. I think Maggie first tried it sometime in the 1980s. Then they did it again, a few years later, possibly under John Major. This surprised me, as after they privatised it the first time, I thought that was the end of it. Channel 4 had been sold off completely. It seems I was wrong. It seems these were just part privatisations. Now they want to do it again.

It struck me with the second privatisation of Channel 4 that this was an election tactic by the Tory party. Maggie had tried to create a popular, share-owning, capitalist democracy through encouraging the working class to buy shares in the privatised utilities. And for all her faults and the immense hatred she rightly engendered, Maggie was popular with certain sections of the working class. By the time the Tories wanted to privatise the Channel the second time, it struck me that they were floundering around, trying to find a popular policy. The magic had worn of the Thatcherite Revolution, Major was in trouble, and so they were trying to bring back some of the old triumphs of Thatcher’s reign, as they saw it. They needed something big and glamorous they could sell back to the voters. And so they decided to privatise Channel 4. Again.

They want to do the same now. But the fact that they’re looking for ‘a strategic partner’ tells you a lot about how things have changed in the intervening years. This is most definitely not about popular capitalism. Most of the shares held by working people were bought up long ago by the fat cats. In this area, the Thatcherite Revolution has failed, utterly, just as it has in so many others. This is all about selling more of Britain’s broadcasting industry to the Tory’s corporate backers. Much of ITV is owned by the Americans, if not all of it, and Channel 5 certainly is. What’s the odds that Channel 4 will stay British, if it too is privatised?

And so we can look forward to a further decline in public broadcasting in this country, as it more of it is bought by private, and probably foreign, media giants. Quality broadcasting, and the duty of public broadcasters to try and expand their audiences’ horizons by producing the new, the ground-breaking, alternative and unpopular, will suffer. All for the profit of the Tory party and their big business paymasters.

Jeremy Hunt’s Smirk, the Junior Doctors’ Strike and the Privatisation of the NHS

April 28, 2016

A few days ago Mike over at Vox Political put up a piece about how the veteran Labour MP, Dennis Skinner, had told Jeremy Hunt to take the smirk off his face in parliament. I am not surprised Hunt is smirking, as I think he and his masters – David Cameron and George Osborne, really want the junior doctors to go on strike, no matter what they say to the contrary. And it’s disgusting that they should.

It’s all about appearing strong and combative, you see. Maggie gained much of her support by being combative and showing she was ruthlessly ready to crush all opposition. During one industrial dispute – I think it may well have been with the teachers – she privately remarked that there was some leeway to reach an agreement with the teachers. But she didn’t want to take that route, because it would make her look weak and conciliatory. And so she went about, as Roy Hattersley so memorably remarked, ‘like a bargain-basement Boadicea’. It was important for her image, and those of her followers like Norman Tebbitt, to be seen as towering political colossi standing up to the bloated power of the union bully-boys. That’s how they presented themselves during the Winter of Discontent, the Miners’ Strike, and all the other trade disputes, regardless of whether they were right or wrong.

And my guess is that’s what Hunt, Cameron and Osbo hope they can do now. Provoke an industrial dispute, and then pretend that they’re protecting the ordinary, suffering people of Britain from stroppy, overpaid and lazy workers. That’s they way they’ll present it. You only have to look at every report of every strike in the pages of the Scum, the Express, the Torygraph, and the Heil.

And you can see how the Tories hope to sell their privatisation of the NHS. They’ll start with articles in the Scum and the other parts of the Tory press, telling everyone that they’re bring the discipline of private investment, and its greater resources, to the ‘strike-hit’, financially struggling Health Service. Private investment, they will tell us, will mean greater investment and help ease the tax-burden on poor, hard-working people. Which as we’ve seen, really means all the rich multi-millionaire fat cats bankrolling the Tory party, who are currently soiling themselves at the prospect of getting their mitts round the NHS.

And they there’ll be all the advertising by the NHS’ new, private masters. They’ll put adverts on ITV, Channel 4, 5 and the satellite and cable channels, telling everyone how they’ve been providing healthcare for ‘x’ number of years, their hospitals are really wonderful, how you can be seen on the same day. They’ll also, no doubt, start selling discount deals for those ready to pay that little bit more on their private health insurance policy. They might even try to go the populist route by trying to tell the public that they can now have their own little piece of this British institution, if they get their shares in now. Though as they’re doing it by the back door, because of how unpopular it’s going to be, I actually doubt they’ll pursue this approach.

This is how they want to do it, and it’s sickening.

As we’ve seen from all the other privatisations, the results are going to be worse service, longer waiting times, closures, plus a massive increase in disparity in health across the UK. It’s already the case that you can live years longer if you’re a middle class person living in a middle class area. Well, if you’re poor after the privatisation of the health service, and live in a poor area, your healthcare will be correspondingly poor.

Just like it was before the foundation of the NHS.

But Jeremy Hunt can smirk. He and many of the other Tories have investments and connections in private healthcare companies. He’ll make a tidy pack out of the fees they’ll charge for our healthcare.

Boot out Hunt, Cameron and Osborne, and support the junior doctors. Before Hunt kills us. He’s doing his best to make us all heartily sick already.

Secular Talk: Fox News Attacks Minimum Wage Worker, Who Couldn’t Afford Food

February 28, 2016

This shows just how low and bitterly anti-poor Fox News is. In this piece from Secular Talk, Kyle Kulinski discusses a segment from Fox News in which the host, Sandra Smith, invited on to talk cosily with Stefanie Williams, the author of an internet piece attacking Talia Jane. Jane was a worker on the minimum wage, who had written a piece on Yelp stating that despite working full time for her employer, she still could not afford to buy food, as 80 per cent of her income was spent on rent. She stated that she was tired of working for an employer that did not watch her back, and included her paypal address and an appeal for people to help her pay her rent. This piece got her the sack from the company’s CEO.

Smith congratulates Williams for writing her piece attacking Jane, stating that millennials have an undeserved sense of entitlement. Williams preens herself on receiving so many letter from other people, who believe she has spoken up for them, and stating that they have had trouble making ends meet, but have buckled down and worked harder. She also criticises Jane for having a paypal account and wanting people to help her pay her bills.

Kulinski rightly describes this as ‘a new low’. He observes that Williams and others like her are all ‘useful idiots’ for the millionaires and billionaires, who have rigged the economy in their favour. For example, the richest people in America are the Walton family, a group of about six people. They have more wealth than the bottom 50 per cent of Americans. And this money is largely inherited. Globally, the richest 62 people on the planet have more money than the bottom 3.7 billion. Williams and the others have internalised the idea that America is a meritocracy, and all you need to do is work harder to succeed. Talia Jane’s case shows that this isn’t true, as the woman was already working a full time job.

As for the millennials’ sense of entitlement, the anger stems from the fact that the previous generation has wrecked the economy. They produced the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the recession, and created the conditions where few can now afford mortgages and the only jobs are in the low paid sectors. And now they’re blaming the younger people for complaining about the recession and poor economic prospects they’ve created. This is, as Kulinski says, ‘victim blaming 101’. The whole argument is based on the idea that if you don’t succeed in meritocratic America, then it’s because there’s something wrong with you morally.

Now this is another piece that’s clearly American, but it has implications for us over here in Britain as well. Channel 5 is already doing this kind of criticism of the poor with its ‘poverty porn’ shows, like Benefits Street. Murdoch, who owns Fox with a Saudi billionaire, wants to have the Beeb privatised, so he can move into the vacuum created by the demise of the public service broadcast. The Beeb isn’t perfect, and it’s right-wing bias infuriates me as well, but it is not as right-wing as Fox. And if Murdoch got his way, that’s all you’d get for your daily news. More right-wing, Conservative, hate and bile at the poor.

A few days ago Mike at Vox Political posted up a video made by a young woman in the Guardian, about what life is really like for the poor. She’s right to do so, and I’ll get round to reblogging that soon. But Fox is the people, who want to shout these voices down.

The Young Turks on the Dwindling Audience for Cable News

February 14, 2016

This is a very interesting piece pointing to the future of the news media from The Young Turks’ anchor, John Iadarola. Iadarola states that the Turks are always warning their audience to be wary of cable news because of its bias: its support for whoever happens to be in power at the time, its defence of powerful corporate interests and the establishment. But it seems that there may not be anything to worry about for much longer, according to figures about where the different generations in American society get their news.

In a poll inquiring where Americans were getting the news of the present presidential election campaign, amongst 18 to 29 year olds, 35% said they got their news from social media. 18% said they got it from news websites and apps, 12% from cable news, 11% from radio and 10% from local TV.

Adults over 30 primarily relied on cable news, and for adults 50 and older, the proportion getting their news from cable was 43%; network nightly news 17% and local TV 10%. Collectively, cable TV has 24% of the total audience across the generations for news.

To Iadarola, however, the message behind these figures is very clear. While cable TV is the news source of choice for more mature viewers, its influence with the young is waning. These are the people, who are still forming their political opinions, and they are going to vote in more elections than the over 65s. The future’s with the internet, in other words, not cable, despite cables massive budgets, traditional dominance of the media, and ability to get the presidential candidates on air.

While this clearly is about Americans’ viewing habits, it has profound implications for British television and news media as well. More and more people on this side of the Atlantic are turning to the Net for their news, with the result that newspapers have massively declining readerships. On Friday the Independent announced that it would cease printing, and its sister publication, the I, was to be sold off. The Guardian is similarly losing about £45 million every year, and the Torygraph is also in trouble. In its case, this has much to do with its ‘doddery’ chief executive, Murdoch McLellan, not understanding the way the internet works, and appointing advisors who know even less, as well as its craven grovelling towards its advertisers, as commanded by the weirdo Barclay Twins. It also shot itself in the foot by ordering its readers to go out and join the Labour party to get Corbyn elected for the benefit of the Tories.

Not even the Times is immune. The paper’s also losing money hand over fist, and it’s been said that the time is long gone when it would have been axed in the normal course of events. It hasn’t, because it is supposed to be the paper of record, and its ownership gives Rupert Murdoch a place at the political table with the premier and other leading politicians.

Television is also feeling the bite from the Internet, with the Beeb also looking worried about competition from cyberspace. So much so that one article in the Radio Times mooted abandoning the policy of impartiality to produce biased news like Fox, which at least has an audience. This piece shows that Fox does indeed have an audience, but possibly not for much longer. Somebody did a poll of the average age of Fox viewers. Their average ago is 69. Somebody jocularly called them an on-line retirement community.

Satellite and cable TV in Britain now has a much larger audience than it did previously, and people are turning to the internet to watch blockbusting series like House of Cards or Game of Thrones. But my guess is that in Britain, at least, the main TV channels are just about managing to hold their own. Just about.

This means that I suspect that there will be increased interest by American broadcasters to buy into British TV. Channel 5 has been bought up by the Americans, and Rupert Murdoch would desperately, desperately like the Beeb privatised so his empire of filth can move in. (I say that, but actually I like the X Files, so I’ll make an exception for Mulder and Scully). Expert even more demands from the Murdoch press for the Beeb to be sold off in the coming months and years. Murdoch and the other cable barons have got their backs to the wall, and the internet is coming up to bite them.

Vox Political: Another Attack on Free Speech as Tories Ban Government-Funded Charities from Lobbying for More Cash

February 7, 2016

Another of Mike’s articles that’s very well worth reading is this piece, in which he reports that the government is passing legislation to prevent charities and other organisations that receive government funding from campaigning to change the law or receive more cash: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/02/06/charities-banned-from-using-government-grants-to-lobby-ministers/

At first, it looks like a piece of democratic legislation. The government is making sure that organisations, that have been co-opted into government, cannot campaign for more funding from the government. But this is deceptive. Mike makes the point that such sock-puppets should have been weeded out from the very start. He makes the point instead that it looks like the government is trying to shut down any form of protest or criticism.

Indeed they are. Look at the way Cameron’s government is trying to water down the Freedom of Information Act, and the excuses they make for not releasing information to campaigners. The tactics of stonewalling, prevarication and then finally launching appeals against court judgement ordering them to release the information at the very last minute. The frank admission to anti-workfare campaigners that they don’t want to publish lists of firms participating in the wretched scheme, in case they get criticised and pull out. The moaning that information released under the Freedom of Information Act should be used just to understand how official decisions are made, not to criticise them.

The message this gives charities and other non-governmental organisations, that receive state funding is that government financial aid is a poisoned chalice. You’ll get the money, but it’s at the price of keeping silent and toeing the party line. And, of course, you’ll take the blame is anything goes wrong and the results the government will confidently tell everyone will come from giving you such monies don’t actually materialise.

One of the complaints from charities and other organisations campaigning on particular issues is that the government funds devoting to solving them are never, or rarely sufficient, and government action is on an issue may well be minimal. Quite often, they look like token gestures, designed to satisfy voters in a crisis that the government is taking an issue seriously, before the government then moves on to do what it really wants – cut taxes and make the poor even more desperate. If you want an example from outside the charity/social policy sector, the immediate case is the floods. The last time they happened, Cameron shot around telling the victims and the British public that money would be no object, along with lots of photo opportunities of him and various Tory MPs looking across waterlogged fields in their green wellies. And now that it’s happened again, it appears that proper funding was not allocated. And indeed, an opportunity for getting money from the EC was missed, because the Conservatives hadn’t bother to get the application off in time.

This is the type of excuse you hear from members of the public explaining why they hadn’t sent in their tax details, or car insurance and road tax. At least one guilty driver used to make that excuse every week on a Channel 4 or 5 show devoted to the highway patrol. Each week one suspicious driver would be flagged down and caught driving a car without tax or insurance, and sometimes without a licence. And in many cases, the excuse was the same: they’d just bought the vehicle, but hadn’t got round to getting the tax and insurance sorted out. Or they were in the post to the DVLA. It’s the kind of excuse you expect to hear from some of the less competent or organised members of the public, or simply idle petty crims. You don’t expect it from central government, especially when it’s loudly trumpeting about how it’s more efficient in every way than the last administration. A colossal bungle like that shows they aren’t. If it is indeed a bungle, and not simply a way of cutting more expenditure to needy areas by any way possible.

This is a government that hates democracy and open government with a passion. Its message has always been brutally simple: We are your superiors. Shut up and do what you’re told, all the while claiming to do the opposite. This is yet another example of the authoritarianism underneath all the rhetoric of combatting corruption.