Posts Tagged ‘Dawn French’

The Privatisation of Channel 4 Is Another Assault on Journalistic Independence

April 5, 2022

I gather from today’s headlines that the Tories are going ahead with their wretched plan to privatise Channel 4. Well, they’ve wanted to do it for a long time, ever since Maggie Thatcher set it up in the 1980s. It was meant to be an alternative to BBC 2, and so was naturally going to have low ratings. But it also had some excellent programming and did much to offer the British public genuine alternatives to the mainstream medial

It’s director-general in that decade, Jeremy Isaacs, believed that people had latent tastes they didn’t know they had, and it was the channel’s task to offer material that they otherwise wouldn’t know they liked. He talked in his autobiography about giving the public a range of minority interests like miners’ oral history. Reviewing it, Private Eye got very huffy, accusing Isaacs of thinking that he knew better than the rest of us. But Isaacs was quite right. For example, Quentin Letts, former Daily Mail and now Times parliamentary sketch writer, who is very definitely a man of the right, praised Isaacs’ Channel 4 in one of his books because it opened up opera to a mass audience. Absolutely correct – my family’s working class, but Dad used to put Channel 4’s opera on occasionally. I remember coming back from seeing the western Silverado at the flicks to find Dad had on the box a big opera event being broadcast across Europe. And there were obviously a sizable number of ordinary, working people like Dad across the country, years before Pavarotti caused a storm at the World Cup.

But the channel also offered a range of other content, often of a multicultural flavour. There was an adaptation of the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, a season of films by the great Indian director, Satyajit Ray, as well as more popular Indian cinema with ‘All India Goldies’. It also gave a platform to the new, emerging alternative comedy scene with The Comic Strip, starring Rik Mayall, French and Saunders, Alexei Sayle and so on, and the group of Black comics, the Family. They had a series set in a Black barbershop. I only saw bits and pieces of it, but it was genuinely funny. In one episode, one of the characters finds out that he is the governor of a Caribbean island nation right at the same time they’re having revolution. He phones up his government on the island just in time to hear gunfire and one them report that ‘Such-and-such island has fallen’. Wearing his ceremonial uniform, the man then stands in a wastepaper bin and tears off his epaulettes. More seriously, the channel also presented a history of the world intended to challenge the Eurocentric bias of traditional history programmes. There was also news and documentary series about Africa, with Black presenters and a history of the continent presented by the White afrocentrist, Basil Davidson. I’ve been criticised here for describing Davidson as an afrocentrist in a previous post. But that is how Davidson, a respected historian, described himself in one of his books. Davidson is an afrocentrist in the sense that he believes that ancient Egypt is the ultimate source of western science and culture. He states that he has this view, because it’s what the ancient Romans and Greeks believed. While this is a very controversial view, he’s very far from the bizarre fantasies and pseudo-history of many on the Afrocentric fringe, like the notion that the ancient Egyptians somehow had quantum mechanics and advanced physics long before the 20th century.

To balance this, the channel also had more popular entertainment like Tell the Truth, a panel show that was ‘Would I Lie to You’ in all but name, the pop music programme, The Tube and the computer generated vid-jockey Max Headroom as well as the soap, Brookside. It also upset right-wing sentiments with sexually explicit movies and programmes, to the point where the Heil branded Michael Grade, the channel’s next director-general, ‘Britain’s pornographer in chief’. This was just when the channel had announced it was launching a season of gay and lesbian programmes and films. The best response to this came from the Archdeacon of York. The Mail’s journos had been contacting various people to ask what they thought about this latest assault on traditional British morality. The good clergyman replied, ‘Do you think anybody’s going to watch it if there’s Clint Eastwood on the other’. A common sense reaction against the Mail’s hysterical fearmongering.

The Tories seem to have hated all of this at the time, even if its programming was applauded by the critics. As I remember, they were particularly impressed by the Mahabharata, the Tube and the Family. Channel 4 was also set up to specialise in high quality news coverage. And it’s this which I think really annoyed the Tories. Channel 4 News had a reputation for being particularly good, and the channel also broadcast the current affairs documentary series Dispatches and The Bandung Files. The last I believe uncovered some of the dirty dealing by western politicos and multinationals in the Developing World. The channel became much more mainstream in the 90s under Bazalguette, who got rid of much of the alternative material. It still managed to annoy the Tories though with ‘yoof’ shows like The Word and The Girlie Show, both of which had reputation for being spectacularly bad in terms of content and taste.

But I think it’s the persistent, in depth coverage and incisive questioning of government policies by the news programmes that has particularly brought down Tory spite. Channel 4 News has done too good a job of holding the government to account. When anchorman John Snow announced he was retiring a few months ago, the Lotus Eaters put up a video celebrating it and calling him a ‘snowflake’. Hardly. Snow was just determined not to take BS from officialdom. During the bombardment of Gaza he called Israeli ambassador Mark Regev a liar to his face when Regev tried telling the British people that if they sent their aid packages to Israel, the Israelis would pass it on to Gaza’s besieged people. It was a complete lie, and Snow did his job as a decent journalist and didn’t put up with it.

The Tories loathe anyone questioning them. They hated Paxo on Newsnight when he regularly tore Tory politicos like Michaels Heseltine and Howard into raw, bloody chunks. Hence all the rubbish about the Beeb’s left-wing bias and the campaign to end the license fee. And they clearly also hate Channel 4 with a passion for the same reason. And so they’re determined to privatise it.

The hope is clearly that without state support, both the Beeb and Channel 4 will dwindle into insignificance. Genuine public service broadcasting, with the duty to be impartial, will die out to be replaced by a Murdoch-owned right-wing propaganda outlet, like Fox or GB News.

I’ve no doubt that this is all being presented as saving the taxpayer money for broadcasting material nobody watches – which was one of the arguments the Tories made against the channel back in the 80s when they part privatised it the first time. There’s almost certainly going to be talk about how it’s ‘woke’ bias is unrepresentative of British views, just like they ranted about it being ‘pc’ in 80s and 90s. But the real reason is that they despise its journalistic independence.

The privatisation of Channel 4 is yet another despicable assault on genuine, quality journalism in favour of right-wing propaganda pumped out by Murdoch. They want to destroy any journalistic independence so that right across the news media, only the right will be heard.

Keir Starmer’s 10 Pledges for the Labour Party

February 22, 2020

I’ve just received a pamphlet from Keir Starmer’s campaign team, promoting him as the future of leader of the Labour Party. It begins with this quote

“I’ve spent my life fighting injustice. I’m standing to be leader of our Labour Party because I’m determined to unite our movement, take on the Tories and build a better future. If all parts of our movement come together, we can achieve anything.”

There’s a brief biography that runs

A Life Devoted to Fighting Injustice

Keir is the son of an NHS nurse and a toolmaker. As a former human rights lawyer, Keir is dedicated to Labour’s core principles of fairness and justice.

He has devoted his whole life to fighting injustice and defending the powerless against the powerful, as his ten-year unpaid battle over the McLibel case goes to show. he has fought against the death penalty abroad, defended mining communities against pit closures, and taken up hundreds of employment rights and trade union cases. After being the Director of Public Prosecutions, he was elected MP for Holborn & St Pancras in 2015, later becoming Shadow Brexit Secretary. Defeating Boris Johnson is a huge task but Keir knows that if we bring our movement together and stay true to our values, we can win, and change Britain for the better.

As leader of the Labour Party, Keir will contine to fight for justice in all its forms: social justice, climate justice, economic justice.

There’s then three columns of endorsement from people such as Dawn French, Rokhsana Fiaz, the elected mayor of Lewisham, Laura Parker, the former National Coordinator of Momentum, Emma Hardy, the MP for Hull West and Hessle, Aneira Thomas, the first baby born on the NHS, Sarah Sackman, a public and environmental lawyer, Alf Dubs, the refugee campaigner, Paul Sweeney, the former MP for Glasgow North East, Ricky Tomlinson, David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, Doreen Lawrence, Konnie Huq, the TV presenter and writer, Mick Antoniw, the member of the Welsh Assembly for Pontypridd, Ross Millard of the Sunderland band, the Futureheads, Lucio Buffone, a member of ASLEF and LGBT+ Labour national committee member, and the Unison General Secretary, Dave Prentis.

The back page contains his ‘My Pledges To You’. He says

My  promise is that I will maintain our radical values and work tirelessly to get Labour in to power – so that we can advance the interests of the people our party was created to serve. Based on the moral case for socialism, here is where I stand.

His pledges are as follows

  1. Economic Justice.

Increase income tax for the top 5% of earners, reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations. No stepping back from our core principles.

2. Social Justice.

Abolish Universal Credit and end the Tories’ cruel sanctions regime. Set a national goal for wellbeing to make health as important as GDP; invest in services that help shift to a preventive approach. Stand up for universal services and defend our NHS. Support the abolition of tuition fees and invest in lifelong learning.

3. Climate Justice

Put the Green New Deal at the heart of everything we do. There is no issue more important to our future than the climate emergency. A Clean Air Act to tackle pollution locally. Demand international action on climate rights.

4. Promote Peace and Human Rights.

No more illegal wars. Introduce a Prevention of Military Intervention Act and put human rights at the heart of foreign policy. Review all UK arms sales and make us a force for international  peace and justice.

5. Common Ownership.

Public services should be in public hands, not making profits for shareholders. Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water; end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.

6. Defend Migrant’s Rights.

Full voting rights for EU nationals. Defend free movement as we leave the EU. An immigration system based on compassion and dignity. End indefinite detention and call for the closure of centres such as Yarl’s Wood.

7. Strengthen Workers’ Rights and Trade Unions.

Work shoulder to should with trade unions to stand up for working people, tackle insecure work and low pay. Repeal the Trade Union Act. Oppose Tory attacks on the right to take industrial action and the weakening of workplace rights.

8. Radical Devolution of Power, Wealth and Opportunity.

Push power, wealth and opportunity away from Whitehall. A federal system to devolve powers – including through regional investment banks and control over regional industrial strategy. Abolish the House of Lords – replace it with an elected chamber of regions and nations.

9. Equality.

Pull down obstacles that limit opportunities and talent. we are the party of the Equal Pay Act, Sure Start, BAME representation and the abolition of Section 28 – we must build on that for a new decade.

10. Effective Opposition to the Tories.

Forensic, effective opposition to the Tories in Parliament – linked up to our mass membership and a professional election operation. Never lose sight of the votes ‘leant’ to the Tories in 2019. Unite our party, promote pluralism and improve our culture. Robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism. Maintain our collective link with the unions.

This is all good, radical stuff, but there are problems. Firstly, his commitment to taking ‘robust action to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism’ and his decision, along with the rest of the Labour leadership contenders, to sign the Board of Deputies’ highly manipulative pledges, means that more people are going to be thrown out of the party without any opportunity to defend themselves, based only the allegations of anonymous accusers. We’ve seen innocents like Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone, Marc Wadsworth, Mike Sivier, Tony Greenstein, Martin Odoni and so many others suspended and thrown out through the party’s kangaroo courts. One poor lady has died through the shock of being so expelled, even though she was a passionate anti-racist. This isn’t justice, it’s a pledge to renew the witch hunt.

As for promoting peace and human rights – how long will that last with the Board of Deputies demanding to supervise everything relating to Jews? Israel is a gross violator of human rights, but the Board has consistently defended it and its deplorable actions. Their demands that Labour adopt the IHRC definition of anti-Semitism was to stifle criticism of Israel by declaring them ‘anti-Semitic’. This pledge might be genuine, but the momentum anyone applies it to Israel the BoD will start howling ‘anti-Semitism!’ again and decent people will start getting expelled. Especially if they’re Jewish.

And his plan for giving Britain a federal constitution doesn’t seem to be a good one. From what I’ve read, it has been discussed before, and while it may solve some problems it creates others. It’s supposed to be no better than the current arrangement, which is why it hasn’t been implemented.

I also don’t back him on Europe. Oh, I’m a remainer at heart, but I think a large part of  the reason we lost the election was because, instead of accepting the results of referendum, Labour pledged itself to return to the EU. This was partly on Starmer’s insistence. He is right, however, that EU nationals in the UK should have voting rights.

But I have to say that I don’t trust Starmer. His campaign team were all supporters of Owen Smith, one of those who challenged Corbyn’s leadership. They include Luke Akehurst, one of the leading figures of the Israel lobby within the Labour Party. Tony Greenstein a few days ago put up a piece arguing that, whatever he claims to the contrary, as Director of Public Prosecutions he always sided with the authorities – the police, military and intelligence services – against everyone else.

My fear is that if he becomes leader of the Labour Party, he will quietly forget these pledges and continue the Blair project.

See: http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/02/keir-starmer-is-candidate-that-deep.html

http://azvsas.blogspot.com/2020/02/pauline-hammerton-expelled-for.html

Comedian Alexei Sayle on the Forces Ranged Against Jeremy Corbyn

March 3, 2019

This is another video from Labour Against the Witchhunt, the group formed to defend the victims of the mass smear campaign against supporters of Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour party. The video was posted on YouTube on 2nd June 2018, and as Sayle says that he is there to support Marc Wadworth, my guess is that it was recorded as part of the tour Marc Wadsworth did of various cities up and down the country exposing the injustice of his own smearing and expulsion from Labour. Ruth Smeeth accused him of anti-Semitism, because he embarrassed her passing information on to a Torygraph journalist at a press conference. As Wadworth is a veteran campaigner against racism and anti-Semitism, who got Stephen Lawrence’s parents to meet Nelson Mandela and worked with the Board of Deputies of British Jews in the ’90s when the BNP were beating up Jews once again in the east end of London, the charge is risible and obnoxious. But this didn’t stop the press, media and Blairites baying it at every opportunity.

Some of us of a certain vintage remember Sayle as the bald, sweary bloke, who was one of the leaders of Alternative Comedy that came out of the Comedy Store in the 1980s, along with Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, French and Saunders, and Ben Elton. They were an iconoclastic attack on the old style of comedy – anarchic and ‘politically correct’. They firmly rejected the racism and sexism that was part of the ’70s comedy scene. Sayle appeared in the groundbreaking sitcom, The Young Ones, as the heroes’ landlord, and later had his own show on BBC 2. He also did a car advert in which he sang ‘Ello, John, got a new motor?’ until you were heartily sick of it, but the less said about that the better.

He starts by talking about the forces ranged against Corbyn – Capita, neo-liberalism, and fanatical supporters of the state of Israel, for whom it is a fight to the death, and will do anything, to stop the prospect of someone, who prioritises the plight of the Palestinians, of the oppressed than the oppressor, leading a western nation. He says they will lie, cheat and do anything to stop that, and one of the people, who has been sacrificed, who he wanted to speak up for, was Marc Wadsworth.

He then says that perhaps the audience knows the Labour party better than he does, perhaps there’s a plan there. But if it was him, he’d just tell the Board of Deputies to f**k themselves. ‘Not a sophisticated response, but I dunno’. He speculates whether there is a plan to appease them, and wonders if it will work. He then talks about how he was busy with work a couple of weeks previously. It was the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. (Sayle’s parents where Jewish Romanian Communists, who settled in Liverpool, and much of Sayle’s comedy is about Marxism and the Russian Revolution. He once did a radio series about a football team, which was fable about the Lenin, Trotsky and the Bolshevik revolution). However, the previous October was the centenary of the Russian Revolution. He expected to be busy with work then, and told his agent to block out all of October. However, nothing happened. But he was able to get a gig speaking at the British Library. He goes on to explain that the history of the Soviet Union has a bit of a blemish when you’re talking about Marxism. Some people would disagree. His own mother would never admit there was anything wrong with the Soviet project. The most she would says was, Mistakes were made’. Or as she would say, ‘You can’t make an omelette without murdering 40 million people’.

He goes on to say that the spirit – the purity of spirit – of the Russian Revolution was crushed when the Kronstadt uprising was put down, the sailors, who were asking for a return to the basic principles of Bolshevism, of the Revolution. He goes on

‘It seems to me a tremendous danger that if you concede, if you start to mess with the basic principles of who you are, if you start to make concessions to people like Ruth Smeeth and Wes Streeting, and these people. And if you start to self-harm in the hope of future gain, you are fundamentally undermining what you are about.’

Wise words indeed, as we have seen this week when the party has decided to suspend Chris Williamson for daring to defend the smeared innocent against their accusers.