Thursday, June 09, 2005

Just reel them in

Now that I have hooked 2 of the most revered and respected of the Queen's subjects with my closing remarks about the BBC, I simply have to reel them in and take them to the taxidermist and I'll have a trophy.

Did you notice it wasn't my remarks about British education, or the Biblical warrant for the death penalty, but criticism of the beloved BBC that brought their ire?...

I must apologize for the fact that much of my argument, convincing though it is, has been refined from years of debate in America over public funding for the 'arts', PBS and NPR (National Public Radio). In other words, you don't know what you are getting yourself into :-)

1. Quality of programming - I'd never argue that there aren't 'some' quality programs on the BBC. That is beside the point. The question is whether everyone who owns a TV should pay for government subsidized programming, regardless of its content (which I cover in #3). The license fee (tax) which partially pays the enormous cost to have the BBC gives it an unfair advantage over other programming. Which leads to...

2. Competition - The growing number of people with satellite dishes and cable in the UK is evidence that people want a greater variety in their programming. This is classic 'voting with your feet'. If you prefer a government run network where a few bureaucrats decide the the pgramming to that which is decided upon by the people of this great land, then the BBC is for you.

3. Content - Is there really that much on the BBC that warrants the billions of pounds required to keep it running? And is a tax needed to fund creativity and entertainment? I'd of supposed that a nation which produced the likes of Shakespeare and Dickens (without the help of the BBC) would have enough talent to make worthwhile programs. Or, to put it another way, is it inconceivable that the best stuff on the BBC could have been made without government funding?

And the amount of pornography that comes on the BBC over the aerial (antenna) is horrendous. This is what you're (we're) paying for with the involuntary tax. And I don't want to hear any nonsense about desecrating the Koran from a company that thinks that its broadcast of a play with 'Jesus in a Diaper' should be overlooked because it is valid artistic expression. You can't have it both ways.

4. Independence - Can an entity which depends largely on government funds be expected to report objectively? Let me put it another way... when government entities from other countries release news stories, are you the least bit skeptical?

My most recent example is a comparison of the the BBC's coverage of Blair's visit to Washington earlier this week and the UK's EU 'rebate'. The way the BBC, among other British news outlets reports it, Britain is the country that is really concerned about Africa... but George Bush is a tightwad and refuses to help the poor African people. Now, when I first came across these stories I was shocked because the US has long been an advocate of debt relief for African countries (while European nations have opposed it, I might add). But, in an attempt to make Blair look unsuccessful (not their golden boy, Gordon Brown), the BBC never mentions that the US advocates debt relief for more countries than the UK, or that the real difference is over how the money is given to Africa. I am not arguing that America or any other rich nation is doing enough for Africa, really. What I am arguing is that the BBC's rampant anti-Bush and now anti-Blair stance does is keep them from reporting all the facts.

Contrast that with the BBC's tacit acceptance of the government's argument that Britain should continue to receive a 3 billion pound per year rebate from the EU. Now, one might expect some suspicion over the government's supposedly benevolent attitudes to poor countries when it insists that it will demand to continue to receive the rebate PAID AT THE EXPENSE OF POOR COUNTRIES LIKE POLAND AND GREECE. The UK is the ONLY country arguing it should still receive the rebate. Why wouldn't the BBC question Gordon Brown's motives when he says that the rebate is "wholly justified"? Could it be that it has a vested interest in the UK receiving the rebate? Might not a truly benevolent government give this rebate to poorer countries... 3 billion pounds a year more to Africa... where it is really needed? FWIW, a paper outlining Poland's position for the UK to stop receiving the rebate is here.

My point is not to simply pick at the government... it acts in its own (or what it thinks is its own) interest the way America's does (whether I like it or not). But I suspect a little 'fox guarding the hen house' with the BBC and the Labour Party. They despise Blair now but want to be sure that Brown, and thus Labour, still retain power in 5 years. So Gordon Brown is the man who can do no wrong if you watch the BBC. I'm suspicious, okay?

I could cite further examples from the elections in May... if I need to.

Lest one think I don't like it over here (I am an anglophile after all), I'll include this tidbit I came across today in my 'light' (non-research related) reading. It's from Twain's Tom Sawyer Abroad. When Tom, Huck, and Jim are floating over the Sahara Desert in a hot air balloon, Tom explains to them to vastness of the desert... 600 miles wider than the entire US. This impresses Jim and Huck...

I (Huckleberry Finn) says:"Why, I've heard talk about this Desert plenty of times, but I never knowed before how important she was.
"Then Tom says:"Important! Sahara important! That's just the way with some people. If athing's big, it's important. That's all the sense they've got. All theycan see is SIZE. Why, look at England. It's the most important country inthe world; and yet you could put it in China's vest-pocket; and not onlythat, but you'd have the dickens's own time to find it again the nexttime you wanted it. And look at Russia. It spreads all around andeverywhere, and yet ain't no more important in this world than RhodeIsland is, and hasn't got half as much in it that's worth saving.

From Project Gutenberg online text.

Doesn't that make you feel all warm inside?


At 3:49 PM, Blogger Jon said...

You're just jealous.

You can sign the petition to scrap the license fee here.

You'll be the 273rd person I think.

Jon, not a fish

At 4:41 AM, Blogger Barclay said...

Not that it's any of my business (most of what I blog about isn't anyway) what happens on the other side of the pond, but I'm usually game for a good argument. So along with concurring that MS is jealous, I add the following:

1. NPR and PBS are good. Me like. I could be wrong here, but I think that MOST of NPR's funding comes from voluntary donations in the biannual fund raisers. And some of the greatest artists of all time have lived in abject poverty b/c no one could appreciate their work. Government support helps prevent such. It also enables a few fringe projects that I could live without, but I'm willing to tolerate that for the greater good. I don't care for church much either, but I still go. I also like the fact that PBS employs minorities for the news desk. Dan Rather...Peter Jennings...Tom Brokaw...Wolf'd think only white guys could do the news if we relied on the biggies. And my kid likes Sesame Street. And I do too.

2. We pay taxes in the US, too, but they are hidden in cable and satellite bills. But they aren't nearly as high. And they're not (notice the variety in my contractions) compulsory as the UK's seem to be.

3. Bureaucrats decide most all programming, whether they are in the entertainment or government industries. 'Desperate Housewives' does not personify 'red state' voting.

4. There is no independence in big media outlets anyway. The biggies over here give the powers-that-be free passes all of the time, and the two political parties have a death grip on anything remotely political that breathes. Remind me where those WMDs are.

Jim Lehrer

At 12:02 PM, Blogger whatusay said...

AM talk radio attracts more listener/viewers than the big three attract on the nightly news combined.

Starving artists make better art, so let them starve. Suffering is a good thing.

NPR could not survive without governmental funding, neither could PBS. I like them as well, but competition for funds makes things better.

The WMDs are with the 1000s of Iraqis executed by Saddam. Buried underneath the news desk of CBS, ABC, and NBC. CNN took a few as well.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Jon said...

You actually signed it!

Of course being from an ex-colony, your vote doesn't count :)

Jon, watching some amazing soul music on BBC4.


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