Posts Tagged ‘Sky Television’

Belfield Bashes BBC Diversity in Name of White Working Class

October 13, 2020

A days or so ago, internet radio host and Youtuber Alex Belfield posted yet another video tearing into the Beeb. He’s a man of the right, who regularly attacks immigration, Black Lives Matter, forced diversity and ‘wokeness’ – what used to be called ‘political correctness’ not so long ago. He’s posted videos supporting actor Laurence Fox and his ‘Reclaim’ party, though now Fox is being sued by people he’s called ‘paedophiles’ on Twitter, and a small charity which works with disadvantaged working class young people in Manchester over the name. They’re also called ‘Reclaim’, and obviously really don’t want to have it, or their charity, associated with Fox’s outfit.

Belfield himself is also a bitter critic of the BBC and very definitely wants it defunded, if not actually wiped out altogether. He’s got some kind of personal feud with the Corporation. He was one of their presenters, but seems to have been in some kind of trouble for which m’learned friends are now involved. This seems also to have involved Jeremy Vine, as he’s posted a series of videos attacking him.

Class Attitudes at the Beeb and the Favouring of Ethnic Minorities

Belfield believes that he was looked down upon at the Beeb because of his class origins. He was a working class lad from a pit village, and this did not sit easily with the other members of the corporation, whom he lambasts as rich ex-public schoolboys, who all read the Guardian, wear chinos, sip lattes and hold lefty views and sneer at ordinary people like him. He’s also criticised June Sarpong, the head of diverse creativity at the Beeb, for demanding that there should be more Black and Asian figures in front of the camera. His view is that, according to official stats, BAME performers and presenters are already slightly overrepresent at the Beeb. The proportion of BAME actors, presenters and broadcasters at the Corporation is 15 per cent. But Blacks, Asians and other ethnic minorities only constitute 13 per cent of the British population. The real problem, according to him, is that Blacks and other ethnic minorities aren’t properly represented in the Beeb hierarchy and management.

At the same time, he rails against the Beeb lefties because White working class boys are the least privileged group in society. They underperform other demographic groups in school and jobs. At the same time, automatic ‘positive discrimination’ is not appropriate for all ethnic minorities. Indians and Chinese outperform Whites, have better jobs and higher salaries. They do not need extra help from the state, which should be target at those groups that really need it.

I think he has a point, but as with everything the right says, it’s not the whole point and more often than not its articulated with the ulterior motive of depriving everyone of state aid even when they genuinely need it. I believe he’s correct when he states that at present Britain’s minority ethnic population is 13 per cent of the total. I can also remember Private Eye attacking an anti-racist organisation for the same thing June Sarpong’s done: demanding even more representation of BAME people in excess of their real numbers as a percentage of the population.

Possible Reasons for Sarpong’s Call for More Diversity in Excess of True BAME Population Numbers

In Sarpong’s case, I think there are a number of reasons for it. The first is that she is herself Black, and seems to have automatically assumed that in this issue Blacks and Asians are suffering racial discrimination. Everyone wants the best for people like them, and so she wants more to be done for Blacks and ethnic minorities. I also think self-interest may also be involved. She’s head of Diverse Creativity, but if she admits that Blacks and Asians are already well-represented on our TV screens, then she’s contradicted some of the need for her post. And I also believe that much of it is due to the metropolitan media bubble. London, as the capital, has a very large Black, Asian and ethnic minority population. It’s well over a third, and I think it may be just under half. Black activists like Sarpong and White liberals see the high BAME population of London and automatically assume that the rest of the country must be the same. Some Black performers have described their shock on visiting parts of the country where there are very few peoples of ethnic minority background. Nearly a decade ago, the late actor and comedian Felix Dexter was a guest on an edition of the News Quiz from Scotland. Dexter, who was Black, expressed his surprise at going through some areas of Scotland where there was hardly another Black face to be seen. Which reminded me at the time of the stereotypical comments of White British explorers that they were going through regions of Africa or wherever which no White man had seen before. I doubt very much that this observation would go down at all well with racially sensitive Black activists and militantly anti-racist Whites, but it is there. I think Sarpong, and those like her, have assumed that everywhere else in Britain must be like London, and so demand the same proportion of Black stars.

All Broadcasters Dominated by Middle Class Public School Boys and Girls, Not Just Beeb

At the same time, White working class are the most underprivileged part of the population. This has been reported not just in the parts of the press you’d expect it, like the Heil, but also allegedly liberal papers like the I. The Heil has also published official statistics showing that Indians and Chinese also outperform everyone else in education and work.

I’ve also little doubt he’s correct about the lack of working class people in the Beeb, and that it’s dominated by public school boys and girls, who look down upon on peeps from more modest backgrounds. But I think that’s common throughout broadcasting. Terry Christian, whose Manc tones graced the ’90s Channel 4 yoof programme, The Word, apparently describes how he was driven mad by much the same attitude there. He was the only working class lad amongst a group of people, who all went to Winchester public school. Which no doubt explains why he wanted public schoolboys put in Room 101 when he appeared on it all those years ago.

And here’s where we get to what is not being said: how many of the staff and the performers on the other, private networks come from working or lower middle class backgrounds. How many of the faces you see on Sky and who work behind the scenes are lads and lasses who went to state comprehensives, and whose parents worked as factory workers, bus drivers, cleaners, dustmen and so on. Very few, I expect. But Belfield deliberately avoids mentioning it. Because as a right-winger he hates the BBC for its ostensible ethic of impartiality and wants it to be replaced by private networks that can feed the British public the equivalent of Fox News. Like the Times would like to do with its new channel, Times News or whatever it is, which will present news with what they claim will be an objective slant against the ‘woke’, ‘wet’ BBC. Well, the Times ain’t be a source of objective news since the departure of the late Harold Evans as editor at the end of the ’70s, so this is especially risible.

White Working Class Despised Not By Labour or Democrat Left, But Blairite and Clintonite Neocons

As for the concern for White, working class boys, I think he’s right that a certain section of the left does look down on the working class. But this isn’t the Labour left. It’s the neoliberal, corporatist right of the Democrats in America and the Labour party. There’s a very interesting book, Confronting the New Conservatism, which attacks the Neo-Conservatives and particularly their warmongering and the illegal war in Iraq. It’s mostly written from a left-wing perspective, but some of those interviewed are traditional Conservatives. One of these is a female American colonel, who bitterly attacks Bush’s grotty administration as a bunch of chickenhawks who never served in the armed forces and hated and forced out experienced senior military staff, who knew far more about the Middle East and told them directly that they were wrong. The book argues that both American parties, Republicans and Democrats, have been infected with the Neocon virus. Part of this is the bilateral support by the White middle class for affirmative action policies, provided they don’t affect their children.

Right-wing Pseudo-Feminist Attacks on Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn Shows Contempt for Working Class

You can see that in the sociological origins of the Blairites. They’re very middle class, very public school. They support affirmative action policies for women and ethnic minorities, but really don’t have any time for the working class as a whole. And especially not working class men. One of the claims that was used to attack Jeremy Corbyn over here and the awesome Bernie Sanders in America was that, somehow, they were misogynist anti-feminists. Remember all the furore about ‘Bernie Bros’ and their attacks on Hillary Clinton? This was despite Sanders’ strong support for feminist groups and his appearance as an ‘honorary woman’ at feminist rallies. Because of his support for an expanded welfare system and Medicare for All, Sanders supports policies that would benefit blue collar and lower middle class workers far more than Clinton. She was a member of the corporate elite. She has done things that have benefited women and children, but in general she supports the grotty neoliberal, corporatism that are impoverishing working folks for the benefit of the very rich.

The I and the Groaniad launched the self-same attack on Corbyn. He was a male chauvinist, who would drag the party back to the days of old Labour when it was under the patriarchal control of the trade unions. I don’t believe for a single minute that Corbyn could ever be remotely properly described as any kind of misogynist. As a member of the Labour left, which was attacked in the ’80s for its support for Black, gay, and women’s rights, I think he’s the complete opposite. As for the trade unions, I don’t doubt that they were male dominated. The strongest unions were those in mining and heavy industry, which are traditionally male jobs. Women tend to work in the service industries, which are often poorly unionised. This is because employees in those sectors are in a weaker position regarding employers. But this isn’t an argument for weakening the unions. Rather it’s an argument for strengthening them so that they can enrol and protect women workers. My mother was a teacher, and I remember that during the teachers’ strike of the 1980s banners appeared with the slogan ‘A Woman’s Place Is In Her Union’. Too right. Feminism isn’t just for middle class Thatcherite girls.

Tories Claiming To Support White Working Class In Order to Exploit Them and Destroy Welfare State Even Further

The Tories have always attack the Labour party on behalf of disadvantaged Whites. The Daily Heil ran stories from the 1980s onwards, for example, denouncing various Labour councils for giving priority for council housing to non-White immigrants. But this conveniently omits the facts that the reason there was a shortage of council housing was because of the Tories: Thatcher had sold it off, and passed legislation forbidding councils from building any more. The Tories make a great show of standing up for the White working class because of their patriotism and traditional values. By which they mean the type of working class Conservatives on whom Johnny Speight based the monstrous Alf Garnet in Til Death Us Do Part. These were people, who lived in dingy homes with cracked windows, for whom the Tories had done absolutely nothing but who somehow lionised them.

Only Labour Left Really Standing Up for Working Class Whites, as Concerned for All Working People

The people who are really standing up for the White working class are the Labour left, people like Richard Burgon and in Bristol, mayor Marvin Rees. They’re standing up for the White working class as part of their mission to defend all working Brits regardless of race and colour, Black, Asian, White or whatever. Marvin Rees is Black, but he’s Bristol through and through and has said that he intends to stand up for the White working class as well as underprivileged BAME peeps. He has said that he wants more Bristolians to know about the city’s past as a major centre of the slave trade, but he doesn’t want to demonise the White working class, because they didn’t profit from it. They also suffered, according to him. Clearly he supports Black pride, but he also genuinely support the White working class and is reaching out to them.

Blairites and Tories Exactly Same in Contempt for White Working Class

But you will not hear about these initiatives, especially from the Corbynite left, from the lamestream media or the Tories. Because it contradicts their narrative that the Labour party is racist towards White working class folks. And they have a point when it comes to the Blairites, who are geared towards picking up middle class, Tory swing voters and have ignored or scorned their working class base. Their view of what counts as correct left-wing activism is feminism and anti-racism. Both of which have their place, but they concentrate on them while going along with the Tory destruction of the economy and British industry in the name of market forces, the privatisation of the NHS, because private enterprise is always better, and the dismantlement of the welfare state and workers’ rights, because the poor, the starving, the disabled and the unemployed are scroungers who could get a proper job if only they were properly incentivised. It’s the same view of the working class the Tories hold, except that they cynically exploit the petty jealousies and vindictiveness of sections of the working class to hold them down, while all the while claiming that it’s Labour’s fault. They’re cynically exploiting White working class resentment in order to maintain the British class system and the power and authority of the traditional ruling elites. All the while risible declaring that they’re not elite at all. As Tweezer did so with her cabinet, who were almost public school educated millionaires to a man and woman.

Don’t believe right-wing shills like Alex Belfield. The Tories despise ordinary working people. The only people who are really serious about doing anything for working people – including White working people – are the true Labour centrists. People like Richard Corbyn, Dawn Butler, and the other Corbynites.

The Tories Are the Implacable Enemies of Free Speech

September 7, 2020

Since 75 members of Extinction Rebellion decided to do what so many people have wanted to and blockade Murdoch print works in England and Scotland, Boris Johnson and his rabble have been pontificating about democracy and the need to protect a free press. This is all crass, hypocritical rubbish, and the truth, as with so much of Tory policy, is the exact opposite. In all too many instances, the Tories are the inveterate enemies of free speech and press freedom.

Mike and Vox Political have both shown this in their articles reporting that the Council of Europe has issued a level 2 media alert warning about Johnson’s government. This was because MoD press officers refused to deal with Declassified UK, a website focusing on foreign and defence stories. This was because Declassified’s journos had been critical of the government’s use of our armed forces. The Council issued a statement that they did so because the act would have a chilling effect on media freedom, undermine press freedom and set a worrying precedent for other journalists reporting in the public interest on the British military. They said that tough journalism like Declassified’s, uncomfortable though it was for those in power, was crucial for a transparent and functioning democracy. This puts Boris Johnson’s government with Putin’s Russia and Turkey, who also have a complete disregard for journalistic freedom.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/09/06/heres-the-shocking-reason-your-tory-government-is-more-guilty-of-attacking-press-freedom-than-extinction-rebellion/

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/09/free-speech-tories-speak-with-forked.html

We’ve been this way before, and it’s grim. Way back in the 1980s, Maggie Thatcher withdrew LWT’s broadcasting license over a similar piece of journalism that severely criticised the military. This was the documentary Death on the Rock, about the SAS’ shooting of a squad of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar. The documentary presented clear evidence that the squad had been under surveillance all their way down through Spain, and that the army could have arrested them at any point without bloodshed. This means that the SAS’s shooting of them was effectively an extra-judicial execution. They acted as a death squad.

This wouldn’t have been the first or only instance of such tactics by the British state in Northern Ireland. Lobster has published a number of articles arguing that special SAS units were active under cover in the province with the deliberate task of assassinating IRA terrorists, and that the security forces colluded secretly with Loyalist paramilitaries to do the same.

I heartily condemn terrorism and the murder of innocents regardless of who does it. But if ‘Death on the Rock’ was correct, then the British state acted illegally. The use of the armed forces as death squads clearly sets a dangerous precedent and is a violation of the rule of law. Most Brits probably agreed with Thatcher that the IRA terrorists got what was coming to them, and so would probably have objected to the documentary’s slant. But as the Tories over here and Republicans in the US have argued again and again about freedom of speech, it’s the freedom to offend that needs to be protected. Allowing only speech that is inoffensive or to which you agree is no freedom at all. Thatcher was furious, LWT lost their broadcasting license, which was given to a new broadcaster, Carlton. No doubt named after the notorious Tory club.

Then there was Thatcher’s interference in the transmission of another documentary, this time by the BBC. This was an edition of Panorama, ‘Thatcher’s Militant Tendency’. This argued that, just as Kinnock’s Labour party had been infiltrated by the hard left Militant Tendency, so Fascists from the National Front, BNP and others had burrowed into the Tories. In fact there’s always been concern about the overlap in membership between the Tories and the far right. In the 1970s there was so much concern that the Monday Club, formerly part of the Tory party until David Cameron severed links with it, opened its membership books to the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The Panorama programme was also too much for Thatcher, who had it spiked.

At the moment, the Tories are running a campaign to defund and privatise the Beeb under the specious claims that it’s biased against them. They were moaning about bias back in the ’90s under John Major and then Tony Blair, because Jeremy Paxman, among the Beeb’s other journos, insisted on asking tough questions. This resulted in Michael Heseltine walking off Newsnight, tossing his mane, as Ian Hislop described it on Have I Got News For You. Right-wing internet radio hack Alex Belfield has been ranting about how the BBC is full of Guardian-reading lefties in the same way Jeremy Clarkson used to about ‘yogurt-knitters’, who also read the same paper. Guido Fawke’s former teaboy, Darren Grimes, has also been leading a campaign to defund the Beeb. He should know about dictatorships and a free press. His former master, Paul Staines, was a member of the Freedom Association when that body supported the Fascist dictatorship in El Salvador. They invited to their annual dinner as guest of honour one year the leader of one of its death squads.

Belfield and the rest of the right-wing media have been loudly applauding the announcement that the new Director-General will cancel left-wing comedy programmes like Have I Got News For You and Mock The Week. Because they’re biased against the Tories. Er, no. Have I Got News For You was as enthusiastically anti-Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as the rest of the media establishment, to the point where I got heartily sick and tired of watching it. And I haven’t watched Mock the Week for years. I don’t even know if it’s still on. Both the programmes are satirical. They mock the government as well as the rest of the parties. And the dominant, governing party over the past few decades has been the Tories, with the exception of New Labour from 1997-2010 or so. Which means that when they’ve been attacking the Tories, it’s because the Tories have been in power. A friend of mine told me that Ian Hislop, one of the regular contests on HIGNFY and the editor of Private Eye, was once asked which party he was against. He replied ‘Whoever’s in power’. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was a Conservative, but that is, ostensibly, the stance of his magazine. The Tories have been expelling much hot air about how a free press holds governments to account. But in the case of the BBC, this is exactly why they despise it.

The Tories hate the BBC because it’s the state broadcaster, and so is an obstacle to the expansion of Rupert Murdoch’s squalid empire of filth and lies. They’d like it defunded and privatised so that Murdoch, or someone like him, can move in. Not least because Murdoch has and is giving considerable support to the Tories. And in return, the Tories and then New Labour gave Murdoch what he wanted, and he was allowed to pursue his aim of owning a sizable chunk of the British press and independent broadcasting with Sky. This has alarmed those concerned about the threat posed by such media monopolies. It’s why Extinction Rebellion were right to blockade Murdoch’s papers, as both Mike and Zelo Street have pointed out. We don’t have a free press. We have a captive press controlled by a handful of powerful media magnates, who determine what gets reported. John Major in his last years in office realised the political threat Murdoch posed, but by this time it was too late. The Tories had allowed Murdoch to get his grubby mitts on as much of the British media as he could, and he had abandoned the Tories for Blair. Who was all too ready to do the same and accede to his demands in return for Murdoch’s media support. Just as Keir Starmer is desperate to do the same.

Murdoch’s acquisition of British papers, like the Times, should have been blocked by the Monopolies and Mergers’ Commission long ago. There were moves to, but Thatcher allowed Murdoch to go ahead. And Tony Benn was right: no-one should own more than one paper. If the Beeb is privatised, it will mean yet more of the British media is owned by one of press and broadcasting oligarchy. And that is a threat to democracy and press freedom.

The Tories are defending the freedom of the press and broadcasting. They’re attacking it.

Why Is Branson’s Healthcare Company Massively Profitable, But Pays No Corporation Tax

January 28, 2020

Mike yesterday put up a piece reporting that Virgin Healthcare has won £2 billion worth of NHS and local authority contracts, but hasn’t paid any corporation tax. The company has claimed that it has racked up losses since it was founded in 2010. Mike said that it didn’t make sense for him for a company to win such contracts with the promise that it would fulfill them in budget and making a tidy profit for itself. He thought someone was being shortchanged, and if he was in a hospital run by Branson’s wretched firm, he’d work out who they were shortchanging in a very short order.

See:  https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/01/27/virgin-healthcare-has-won-2-billion-in-nhs-contracts-and-paid-no-tax-why/

The snippet from the Mirror article Mike’s report refers to quotes health campaigner Dr. John Lister, who called the company ‘parasitic’ for this. And his right. Branson is a parasite, who’s had his scolex in the guts of the British state and NHS for a very long time. He was chums with John Major’s government, and when that fell switched sides to supporting Blair. Among other services, Virgin Healthcare runs some of the polyclinics or health centres Blair set up.

Mike wondered if Branson’s firm was able to dodge paying tax through creative accounting. And he’s right about this, as well. The Canary’s Emily Apple also wrote a piece about this story. She also quoted the Mirror’s article, which reported that Branson’s firm had a turnover of £248.8 million last year, making a cool profit of £503,000. But this was wiped out by losses elsewhere in the group, so that Beardie’s firm didn’t have to pay cough up £96,000 in corporation tax. Oh yes, and you won’t be surprised to learn that its registered in the Virgin Islands, where Branson has his home. A notorious tax haven.

Dr Lister (any relation to the man who discovered antiseptic?) called Virgin Healthcare parasitic because, fragmenting services and poaching NHS-trained staff and undermining nearby NHS trusts, and not paying corporation tax, it only took from the state and added nothing of value.

Branson’s firm was criticised by former leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, and Labour leadership candidate Keir Starmer. Prem Sikka tweeted that this wasn’t the only company Beardie owned that was trying to get more state money. So was the airline Flybe, which Beardie has a 30 per cent stake in. However, it can’t offer collateral as billionaire investors already hold charges over many of its assets. He summed this up as the wealthy elite continuing to pick everyone else’s pockets.

Devutopia also remarked that Branson’s firm wasn’t the only one profiting from the NHS. Linking to a story published last year by the Mirror, that noted 10 connections between them and the NHS, he stated that the Tories had also been using the health service as their cash cow. He wondered when the Beeb and Sky were going to notice this.

Apple concluded:

Between these deals and whatever deals Johnson ends up concocting with Donald Trump, our NHS needs us more than ever. It’s already being sold off piece by piece with parasites like Branson feeding on every bit he can get his sticky fingers into. We need to wake up. This is happening now. And if we don’t act now, it’ll be too late, and what’s left of our NHS will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

See: https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2020/01/27/richard-branson-didnt-need-a-trade-deal-to-royally-screw-over-the-nhs/

Absolutely. The NHS needs protecting from parasites like Branson and the Tories. We need to wake up, and take action – NOW!

Bernard Ingham, the Press Office under Thatcher and Mussolini and the Fascist Spin City

August 11, 2013

All regimes to a greater or lesser extent have attempted to manipulate public opinion to their own ends. A curiously modern example from the Middle Ages is the use of political ballads against Henry VI’s wife, by his opponent, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the father of the infamous Richard III. Richard had been England’s Lord Protector, governing the country. reacting to the king’s incompetence and weak-mindedness, Richard launched a political campaign against him. Political ballads attacked the queen as a ruthless, foreign princess, intent on conquering and oppressing her husband’s lands while misleading him as to her intentions. He and the king’s supporters also launched campaigns against each other in parliament, culminating in a general election, as well as fighting each other on the battlefield. Although a medieval conflict, the Wars of the Roses also appears strikingly modern, almost like the founding archetype of the coups that have been staged since. Richard III at one point even made speeches from the balcony, like great 20th century dictators like Mussolini.

Informal Influence over the Press in Democracies

During the 20th century much of the control of the press in the democracies was informal. Presidents and prime ministers arranged press conferences and dinners with sympathetic press barons. There were censorship rules, that could be invoked in times of national crisis, such as laws against the dissemination of enemy propaganda during First and Second World Wars. Some of the restrictions on what was printed in the press was simply through the personal relationship between the editor and the family of leading politicians. At the Cheltenham Festival of Literature one year, the British caricaturist Gerald Scarfe told the story of how one of his early cartoons was spiked by the editor of the Times. It was of Winston Churchill in his final period as an MP in parliament during his declining years when the powers that had inspired the country to keep on fighting during the War were fading. Scarfe said that at the time Churchill was senile, and the cartoon showed him at the end of the green benches, asleep and drooling. The Time’s editor rejected it on the grounds that it would upset the great man’s wife, Clemmie, when she opened it at breakfast in the morning.

Bernard Ingham and Thatcher’s Press Office

This relationship with the press changed slightly when Mrs. Thatcher established a press office under Bernard Ingham. Now Ingham strongly rejects the description of himself as a spin doctor. Nevertheless, as Maggie’s press officer he institutionalised the government’s manipulation of the news and public opinion in a way previous administrations had not. This in turn prepared the way for its expansion under Peter Mandelson during Blair’s government, and the consequent use of spin and propaganda by the governments following them.

Rigid Control of Press in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy

Totalitarian regimes are notorious for their absolute control of the press and media to garner mass support. In Hitler’s Germany, they were placed under the control of Josef Goebbels, the ‘Minister for Public Enlightenment’. This prompted the satirical joke, said with one eye looking over the shoulder for the Gestapo, that the Goeb was the minimum amount of power required to turn off 100,000 radio sets. Despite the Nazis’ claim that they were enthusiastically supported by the great German public, you can gather from this what that public really thought of their leaders’ rantings.

Control of the press in Mussolini’s Italy was similarly strict. Under a law of 1924, an area’s prefect could warn any editor who ‘damaged the credit of the nation at home or abroad’, ‘aroused unjustified alarm in the public’, and published ‘false or tendentious news’. Editors were also at risk if they published material inciting class hatred or urged disobedience to the law. An editor that was warned twice could be dismissed from his post by the prefect. Another decree gave the prefects the right to sequestrate the issue of a particular paper that had broken the above rules. Originally this legislation was used only against the Socialist and Communist press and papers that had very small circulations. In 1925 it was expanded against the last remaining liberal newspapers. Mussolini tried to encourage the newspapers to adopt a friendly attitude towards to his regime. When this failed, official censorship increased, while the newspapers’ proprietors were threatened with forcible closure and the destruction of their equipment. Under Alfredo Rocco, the former leader of the Nationalists and Mussolini’s Minister for Justice, a corporative Order of Journalists was set up. This was under the control of the Commissione Superiore alla Stampa, composed of other journalists, rather than magistrates. Despite Rocco’s claim that the Commissione ‘realizes both the autonomy of the class and its link with the State’, he himself appointed its members and the Order as a whole was an instrument for controlling the journalists. No journalist, who was not on its rolls was allowed to practise his profession. Stalin used a similar organisation to control writers in the Soviet Union. This was the Writers’ Union, which had actually been founded to protect literature and the press from control by the old tyrant. From 1927 to 1928 there was a sustained campaign in Italy to purge the press of non-Fascist journalists and editors. By the end of the 1920s two-thirds of the newspapers outside the major cities were owned by the Fascist Party. At the same time, the magazines and newspapers published by the individual local Fascist groups, the federations or the Fasci, were reduced by Mussolini’s brother, Arnaldo, for greater economy and to make their control by the central Fascist organisations easier.

Censored Subjects in Fascist Press

In September 1928 the regime issued new guidelines detailing what newspapers were and weren’t allowed to print. All news was intended to be optimistic and present the regime in a positive light. Newspapers were ordered to give minimal coverage to rail disasters, bank failures and air crashes. Journalists were to treat natural disasters ‘with great sobriety’. Mussolini himself decreed that the crime column should be ‘demobilized’, especially stories of suicides, tragedies of passion, violence and child molestation. Editors were also banned from publishing photographs of nude or scantily clad women. I wonder how the Right-wing tabloids like the Sun, Star, Daily Mail and so on would cope under a Fascist dictatorship, considering that much of their content consists of photographs of nude or scantily clad women, and in the Sun, a hysterical campaign against paedophiles in which innocents were targeted and persecuted.

Informal Control of Press by Mussolini; Purchase of Newspapers by Industrialists for Fascist Regime

In other ways, however, the Fascists’ control and manipulation of the press was much more subtle. From 1922 to 1924 this was done informally. Il Duce’s Press Officer, Cesare Rossi, arranged deals in which private financiers sympathetic to the regime bought up opposition newspapers. The radical Milan newspaper, Il Secolo, was purchased for the regime by a group of industrialists headed by Borletti and Cesare Goldmann. Another newspaper, the Corriere Italiano, founded by the regime, was financed by consortium consisting of Fiat, Ilva, Terni, and the shipping magnate, Odero. This approach was discredited in the crisis following the regime’s assassination of the dissident philosopher, Matteotti, in exile Marseille. This revealed the sordid intrigue surrounding the Corriere Italiano and its companion Fascist paper, Nuovo Paese. In the unrest that followed, the headquarters of opposition newspapers were occupied by Fascist squads, and were only allowed to resume publication after submitting to the orders of the local Fascist ras.

In fact simple economic reasons meant that the party and the government could not afford to own and control all the Italian newspapers and magazines. The most important Italian papers thus remained in the hands of the private owners and industrialists, who held them long before the Fascist seizure of power. These proprietors continued to use them to influence the government’s economic policy and secure favours from the regime.

Pre-Fascist Staff Retained under Fascism

There was also some continuity with the pre-Fascist press, in that the regime permitted newspapers and magazines to retain their previous, non-Fascist staff, provided they did not produce material criticising the regime or its policies. Indeed, Mussolini appears to have intended to present some degree of political pluralism. He allowed the trade union newspaper, Il Lavoro, to resume publication in Genoa after it had been closed down. Il Lavoro was the paper of a group of CGL leaders that had capitulated to the regime, and continued to employ a number of well-known opponents of the regime. Mussolini appears to have kept it going in order to appeal, unsuccessfully, to the working class.

Press Office as Institution Common to Thatcher’s Britain and Fascist Italy

While the control of the press by the Italian Fascists was extreme, there is some comparison to the situation in today’s early 21st century Britain. Following Mrs. Thatcher and Bernard Ingham, subsequent British administrations have employed a Press Office like Mussolini and Cesare Rossi. Favourable coverage by the press has been seen as vitally important. From Blair onwards, the government has been sensitive to projecting a positive image through press barons such as Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre of the Mail. These industrialists have similarly been active, like the right-wing press baron Alfred Hugenberg in Weimar Germany, to build up massive media empires presenting their view of current events with an eye to influencing government policy. One former member of Blair’s cabinet said that Murdoch was a quiet presence at all the premier’s cabinet meetings, meaning that Blair was constantly concerned what Murdoch’s reaction to his policies would be.

Grant of Newspapers and Broadcasters by British Governments to their Supporters

Like Mussolini, Mrs Thatcher and subsequent prime ministers also have been active to ensure that particularly important newspapers were owned and acquired only by their supporters. Mrs. Thatcher made sure that the Times and other newspapers were bought by Rupert Murdoch, rather than the left-wing, and corrupt, Robert Maxwell. Blair and his cronies also waved through the acquisition and merger of various satellite firms by Murdoch despite concerns that this set up a dangerous monopoly, concerns that were also raised when Richard Desmond, the owner of the Express, purchased Channel 5. Mrs. Thatcher also acted to support the press barons in their destruction of the print unions, when the press finally moved out of Fleet Street after centuries of occupation.

‘Death on the Rock’ and Thatcher’s Closure of London Weekend Television

Equally significantly, Thatcher acted to close down a TV company that did not follow her line on the killing of a group of IRA terrorists in Gibraltar. According to Private Eye, the Prime Minister was angered by the World in Action documentary, Death on the Rock. The IRA squad in question had travelled to Gibraltar in preparation for an attack on the British army there. The documentary presented evidence that the security services had had the squad under surveillance the whole time they were preparing for their attack. It stated that there had been numerous occasions where the terrorists could have been stopped and arrested without, or with minimal bloodshed. This was not done, and the entire squad was shot dead in what appeared to be an extra-judicial killing. In short, rather than straightforwardly protecting the servicemen and women stationed on the Rock, the SAS had acted as a Death Squad. Lady Olga Maitland said as much a few years later in her biography of Thatcher, when she declared that the purpose of the exercise was to send a sharp message to the IRA.

This is a strong and highly contentious claim. Now the IRA and the other terrorist groups in Ulster were responsible for acts of horrific violence against innocent civilians and members of the security services that left hundreds killed or mutilated, and showed little remorse or compassion for their victims. Most Brits supported the armed services in their campaign against them. There is, however, a line in such military campaigns that cannot be crossed by a democratic regime governed by human rights. This is what prevents nations with a proud democratic tradition, like Britain, from descending into arbitrary government and gun law like the South American Right-wing dictatorships. World in Action argued that this line had been crossed. World in Action was produced by London Weekend Television, which as a result lost its broadcasting license. This was granted instead to their competitors, Carlton, whom Thatcher obviously felt could be relied on to produce more positive coverage.

Conclusion: Increased Government Control of Media and Decreasing Political and Social Freedom in Post-Thatcher Britain

The result is that the freedom of the press in contemporary Britain is far more fragile than it appears. Mussolini was unsuccessful in gaining absolute control of the press, but was also concerned to present the semblance of pluralism. Press diversity in contemporary Britain is also coming under increasing pressure. Newspapers and magazines are increasingly owned by a very few proprietors, who see to it that their monopolies are protected and expanded by the governments of the day. In return, they support a Right-wing agenda that demands further privatisation, the suppression of working class political organisations and the curtailment of welfare benefits and the eventual dismantlement of the welfare state. Finally, broadcasters that present evidence of flagrant government violations of human rights will be penalised and closed down. Perhaps the difference is that in Mussolini’s Italy, it was a case of private industrialists aiding an extreme Right-wing state. In post-Thatcher Britain, it’s an extreme Right-wing state aiding its industrialists. The gap between freedom and tyranny is increasingly a fine one.

Sources

‘Press’, in Philip V. Cannistraro, ed., Historical Dictionary of Fascist Italy (Westport Connecticut, Greenwood Press 1o9i82) 437-40.

Adrian Lyttelton, The Seizure of Power: Fascism in Italy 1919-1929, 2nd Edition (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1987) 394-400.

Colin Richmond, ‘Propaganda in the Wars of the Rose’, History Today, July 1992, 42:12-18.

‘Toadying the Line’, reviews of Margaret Thatcher: The First Ten Years, Lady Olga Maitland (Sidgwick & Jackson); Margaret Thatcher: The Woman Within, Andrew Thomson (W.H. Allen), in Francis Wheen, ed., Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion (London: Verso 1994) 224-5.