And now, the social conscience of us all, Vanessa Redgrave

Stephen Pollard reports hearing Sir David Frost on ‘Breakfast With Frost’ introduce Vanessa Redgrave with:

And now, the social conscience of us all, Vanessa Redgrave.

Pollard has his own preferred introduction.

This seems to me to be another case where you suspect the BBC presenter must have their tongue in their cheek at first, but it appears not.

Will you need to pay the government to use a computer?

Is the government going to be driving around with “Computer detector vans” soon? Will you need to pay the government to use a computer?

The BBC faces losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in licence fees because of a legal loophole that allows viewers to watch television on the internet for free.

Soaring take-up of broadband and technological developments are making internet-streamed television a reality.

Last summer, for the first time, the BBC broadcast coverage of the Olympic Games live on the internet for people to watch on their computers. It has promised to put further broadcasts on the internet as part of a corporate social responsibility drive aimed at boosting broadband take-up and preventing users “falling on the wrong side of the digital divide”.

However, although the licensing authorities maintain that anyone watching television on their computer would need a television licence, Ofcom, the communications regulator, and the Department for Culture, question that claim.

Ofcom says that there is a grey area as to whether a licence is required for watching television on the internet.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture said initially that a licence would not be needed and that it was “monitoring the situation”.

However, it later said that it would be “inappropriate for the Government to comment on licensing requirements . . . for specific types of equipment”.

Jana Bennett

is the director of television at the BBC, and she explains her philosophy thus:

“People who express highly controversial views are welcome on the BBC but they cannot be presenters of a news or current affairs programme”.

So what’s Paxman doing working there, then?

“Television must be allowed to engage with the real world, to challenge and inform audiences”.

So that’s why we pay our licence fee. To be patronised, uncontroversially. Can’t be easy.

Musings From A Gondola, or I Still Can’t Quite Believe They Pay Me For This.

Several people pointed out this piece by Justin Webb about deducing the innermost soul of America from half a dozen guys you met in a ski-lift gondola*, too. It seems the same piece was spotted (in its first incarnation as a Radio Four broadcast) by Myrna Blyth of NRO. (Hat tip: Hazel Stein.)

Actually, I’ve got a soft spot for Justin Webb. No one who can write

Faced with another round of exquisite jellied meat products I heard a secret service agent expressing in pithy terms a desire for hamburgers. Very old white house.

can be all bad, although the subeditor who left out the initial capitals on “White House” deserves to be ejected into space or Manchester.

During the three days of his Tour Diary, Webb also praises President Bush’s jokes and carries a torch for Condi. Against that, I have to say that the line where he worries that the entire Muslim world can see cheerleaders on TV is tediously over-earnest in a very British way. What say you, comrades? Shall we spare him, come the glorious day?

*Talking of extrapolating the American psyche, I read the wonderful Lileks Olive Garden screed when it first came out. But all you get is this 404 page. New link, anyone?

The failure of hotel journalism.

Several people have pointed out this Normblog post linking to, and quoting from, an article by Bartle Bull in Prospect Magazine.

Iraq is not about America any more. This has been increasingly true every day since last June, and the failure – or refusal – to recognise this has underpinned much of the misleading coverage of Iraq. In the evenings leading up to the election, I sat on carpets on the floors of a variety of shabby houses in the Baghdad slums. But the daily BBC message I watched with my various Iraqi hosts never budged. The refrain was Iraq’s “atmosphere of intimidation and violence,” and the message was that the elections could never work. What about the “atmosphere of resolve and anticipation” that I felt around me? Or the “atmosphere of patience and restraint” among those whom the terrorists were trying to provoke?

Interestingly, Mr Bull reports for the New York Times, a paper that is often seen as having a similar line to the BBC.

“America’s far right didn’t just put George Bush back in the White House, they’ve also…”

is how the BBC’s Nisha Pillai introduced a report by Brian Barron about the growth of Christian music, radio and publishing in the US on BBC News 24’s Reporters programme this week. Did you notice a far right putsch in the US last November? Me neither, though I do recall a democratic election – one in which the winner took office in accordance with the law. Either the BBC’s definition of ‘America’s far right’ is very broad, covering 50% plus of American voters or they’re spinning us their interpretation of reality again.

Notice also the conflation in Pillai’s introduction of ‘far right’ with ‘evangelical Christians’ – a faulty presumption, slipped in as if fact. Whilst there may be some individuals who fall into both groups, I am sure there are many in each group who would be aghast at being tarred with the brush of the other.

This conflation isn’t an isolated occurence – Joan Bakewell, reviewing the Sunday papers on the BBC’s Frost on Sunday this morning referred, with considerable angst, to “far right Christians” protesting about the forthcoming national tour of Jerry Springer, The Opera, tarring the right with the brush of apparent religious intolerance, quite at odds with the typical British right-of-centre view on matters like this, namely to let them all get on with it – let the theatre producers put on their play, let the protestors have their protest, so long as whatever is done is peaceful and within the law – although recent events in Birmingham, where Sikh protestors disrupted and forced the cancellation of a theatre play they didn’t like, may make these particular Christians feel that intimidation
works in Blair’s Britain, since the police declined to enforce the law to the extent necessary to protect free speech in the Birmingham case. Not that Bakewell mentioned any of this while slandering the right.

Aw, you left out the good bit.

You’ve probably seen this article from the Times. As Neil Craig of A Place To Stand On says, it’s “generally going round the anti-green bits of the net”


WHEN 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail.

What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement.

“We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs,” one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”

Another said: “I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot.” Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: “Sod off, Swampy.”

Neil Craig writes:

“I only caught his side of the story today from the net & it is only published in this form by the Times & Washington Post. When I first heard it on the BBC (Radio Scotland but I assume elsewhere too) they reported a successful attempt by Greenpeace to occupy the Exchange. So the BBC were, at best, taking Greenpeace’s report verbatim & putting it out as news.

“Judging news either as something new & unexpected or simply as entertainment the fact that they got kicked out is much the better part of the story but most of our media either chose to print only Greenpeace’s PR without checking or checked & decided to suppress the real story.”

Hazel Stein


In browsing the BBC complaints website recently, there is a report on complaints over the last few months, preceded by a statement from Mark Thompson, the Director-General.

In that statement, I found a remarkable sentence. He states:

“Of course there will always be cases where people are dissatisfied with the BBC’s initial response, and the aim then is to give them the opportunity of independent investigation by the Editorial Complaints Unit – and it will be genuinely independent, because we have removed the requirement for the Unit to seek agreement from the management of the programme division before finalising a decision to uphold a complaint. Cases already in the system will be processed according to the old rules, but the Unit’s view on the cases which reach it after 1 February will be final, subject only to appeal to the Governors.”

(I have added italics and emphasis). Is it not incredible that under their pathetic complaints system, if I have understood this correctly, the BBC Complaints Unit had to get the programme division (this presumably means the actual makers of the programme would be consulted and would be dragging their feet all the way) to first agree to a complaint being upheld against them. How likely is that to happen? Turkeys voting for Christmas ?

The BBC’s World.

Ok, first off I’ll admit that I’m a luddite sceptic when it comes to the global environmental debate that seems to have been foisted on us for an indefinite period from around the mid-eighties. I’ve heard little except grave warnings, and deep grave warnings, throughout my life about what a mess we’ve made/are making of the world’s environment. My feeling about this statement has always been that it’s a shame to lose animals but people come first. To think I thought I had done my bit when I raised 30 quid for the WWF in ’89!

So, I’m posting because I have to, because other people have been telling me to get my finger out and say something about the BBC’s enviromania.

I’ll start with something I can be sure of: the BBC’s Evan Davies (often among the more balanced BBC types) made an exaggeration in an otherwise interesting article when he compared a peasant who was watching a road being built in economically upsurgent China to a Tiennamen Square protestor:

‘The scene was reminiscent of that famous image of the man in front of the tanks at Tiananmen Square. Here, there were no tanks, just earth-moving equipment.

The farmer was not exactly obstructing them, he was just gazing, but you could imagine him taking a forlorn stand against an anonymous power.’

To me this is demeaning to everyone involved in the analogy, and evidence not only of a complacent cultural ignorance, but the typical BBC dreamy mentality that what we see under capitalism is no better than what we saw under communism. Ok, China is a special case in a way, but needless to say, Davies finds that his assumption (his own word) about the peasant’s feelings about the road development was incorrect.

As for the BBC’s attitude to environmental warming issues, I suspect their prejudices are similarly entrenched. Wizbang has a couple of posts which help illustrate this. (thanks to reader Mike). Facile, trusting, picture-based journalism might summarise these instances nicely.

Unlike me and my support for the WWF, the BBC just can’t give up the causes they’ve espoused. I suspect the real reason for this is ignorance and fear of the unknown, which makes them more similar to me than they’d care to admit (hang on, aren’t you admitting that you and the BBC are similar?-ed Yes, I suppose so. Just that I know when to quit).

Ignorance and fear of the unknown aren’t enough, however, to explain the BBC’s many manias, the enviro one included. For that you need hubris and an inability to hear themselves. That’s why they should listen to people who dissent from their viewpoints, like Melanie Phillips (who no doubt has the effect on many Leftists of searing their eardrums tightly closed), who says

‘Some readers may have heard me on Wednesday night’s Moral Maze on BBC Radio Four on the subject of Kyoto (repeated on Saturday night at 2215). I was battling vainly against a green witness, my three fellow panellists and the chairman to get them to acknowledge not just that there was a division of scientific opinion about global warming but that, one by one, the key claims supporting the theory wwre being demolished.’

See, they can put her on a show but they can’t hear what she’s saying. The rest is must-read, btw.

There! I managed to post without mentioning any factual reasons at all why I disagree with both the BBC and their warming mantra. They have something to do with extensive vineyards in Roman England, skating on the Thames and a visit I made to the Orkney’s ancient settlement, Skara Brae. Ain’t Scotland ace? A good summary of this viewpoint here. For the BBC’s views on English vineyards, and some startling certainty about global warming, see here.