In these times when so many items of news stretch credibility to breaking-point, it is quite difficult to believe that the Prime Minister is considering Charles Moore for the chairmanship of the BBC, and Paul Dacre as the new chairman of Offcom.
Putting the fox in charge of the hen-coop just doesn’t seem a strong enough metaphor to describe this astonishing turn of events.
Dacre is the man who put the ‘hate’ into the Daily ‘Hate’ Mail, feeding his readers with anti-EU, anti-immigrant, and anti-BBC stories day after day. Offcom deals with complaints against the BBC among other things. One can imagine the sort of team he would assemble for such a purpose.
Moore has also been drip-feeding xenophobic, anti-European, and anti-BBC propaganda into the readership of the Daily Telegraph. Anyone who doubts that, only has to read the letters’ page. I’ll not criticise him for his biography of Thatcher; by all accounts he did a good job. But not that long ago on Any Questions, he told us that the NHS was the worst health service in the world … I question his political—even mental—balance.
It is clear to many people that the BBC needs a shake-up. They have built up a huge bureaucracy, and their wage structure is an embarrassing disaster. The recent decision to reverse licence-exemption for the over 75s was an own-goal of Biblical proportions, albeit it was essentially forced upon them by Cameron’s government.
The BBC can’t win, of course. Currently, they’re being accused of left-wing bias; I suspect that what they are guilty of, if indeed that is the word to use, is anti-establishment bias. People have such short memories. It wasn’t Thatcher who attacked the BBC and forced the resignation of the chairman and director-general for attacking the government. It was Blair, a Labour prime minister, assisted by his attack-dog Alistair Campbell. That was over BBC reporting on the ‘Dodgy dossier’ on the Iraq 'weapons of mass destruction'. I still recall Campbell ram-raiding Channel 4 news, demanding to ‘set the record straight’ on an alternative national broadcast channel.
The licence fee is the issue. Certainly, defaulting on a licence should be de-criminalised. Critics say the BBC should go for subscription; use the Netflix model. This ignores the fate of many BBC national and local radio channels, which are paid for by the licence fee, but for which a licence is not needed to access. How are these to be funded in future?
Then there is the broader question of culture. Much of the BBC output is current affairs, news, entertainment and sport, as well as general culture. The latter includes drama, music, art, literature etc. Much of this would be lost, as a subscription service would inevitably result in an substantial drop in revenue. Sport in particular, would just go to the highest bidder.
‘Culture’, is a broad church. It includes education and research. Following the subscription model to its logical conclusion, Britain’s contribution to CERN in Geneva, or to space missions, or large telescopes, or the British Antarctic Survey could be made subject to subscription. How many people, in a cash-strapped society, would be willing to contribute to those projects if they had the choice to withdraw?
Thatcher detested the BBC, but had the good sense and judgement to leave it alone, recognising the dangers of meddling. Even Churchill during WWII, did not get his way when Reith, the original director-general, refused to broadcast propaganda he deemed ‘unbalanced’.
I suspect that our main public-service broadcaster needs to be funded from general taxation. Of course, it will then be a hostage to the current government, but then it is already.
What the BBC needs is a tough leader with a clear vision for the future; someone who recognises that younger people are turning away from the licence fee, but understands the dangers of dumping the model. What it does not need is a narrow-minded right-wing zealot, whom, I suspect, seeks to wreak revenge on the organization for speaking uncomfortable truths—of which he heartily disapproves—to power.
Note added 4 October; Excellent news that the appalling Charles Moore has declined the chairmanship of the BBC. Surprising that a person so critical of the Beeb should turn down the opportunity to put his bigoted opinions into practice.
Yes folks, it’s official! The Spitting Image trailer depicts our prime minister, naked, being spanked on the knob by Putin’s knob, the latter gentleman sporting a longer, significantly more impressive love-truncheon than our Boris. The Donald is in there too, and his meat-puppet is nothing to write home about either …
The whole thing is outrageous of course, and I wouldn’t dream of putting a link to it on this post ...
Martin Luther wrote: ‘The best way to drive out the devil … is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bare scorn.’ I’m not suggesting that either Boris or Donald are the Devil—they are far too lightweight for that—but I’m guessing that neither of them likes to be mocked.
Watching this is a real tonic for our times; how can we take these people seriously? And yet there is a deadly serious side to this. Putin appears to regard assassination as legitimate politics; Trump seemed to cast doubt this week on his commitment to an orderly transfer of power, should he lose the election. And as for Boris …
Well, it was the best laugh I have had for a very long time. Well done Britbox!
Note added 25 September: I should have mentioned that the quotation from Luther was lifted from the front of C S Lewis's book The Screwtape Letters, in case anyone should think that Martin Luther's works form part of my regular bedtime reading.
Can it really be true? Has the government of the UK decided not to honour an international treaty that it itself signed not many months ago? We are told that the key aim of the new bill, published yesterday, is to ‘ensure peace in Northern Ireland’. But what has changed since the government signed the withdrawal treaty? If it prejudices safety now, why did it not then?
Is the UK now destined to become a pariah state? How on earth is any other country going to commit itself to a trade deal—or any other agreement—with us, when our government, at will, chooses to disregard its international obligations? And what sort of response might we expect when we start lecturing Russia, or China, or Iran, or North Korea on their disregard for international law?
I had thought that Johnson’s government had sunk low—count the ‘U’ turns this year—but this takes us into the gutter.
Note added 12 September. Even the Daily Telegraph sounds a real note of caution in its editorial today. If Johnson has succeeded in upsetting that newspaper, things really must be serious.
I may finally have found a genuinely readable—and digestible—introduction to philosophy: The History of Philosophy by A C Grayling. It takes me a bit further than the Monty Python Philosopher’s Song, which enables me to memorise some of the more obscure names. The book presents the subject in nice bite-size chunks, and does have some surprises. For example …
Generally, book-burning is the province of those characterised by extreme intolerance; one or two examples from recent history readily come to mind. But David Hume, an Edinburgh man generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of the eighteenth century, advocated burning books:
‘If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.’
Clearly, a polemic against theology and some of the more rarefied theories of philosophy. Hume’s view encapsulates the ideas of Logical Positivism, a system of ideas advocated by the ‘Vienna School’ in the 1920s and 1930s. Regrettably, that group of scholars were dispersed to the four corners of the earth by the regime that took over in Germany and Austria, and guess what one of their favourite activities was?
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs