Friday, April 30, 2010

The BBC: Just Another TV Channel After All

In light of the BBC court victory over the SNP, in which the BBC was allowed to weasel out of its charter obligations and only be held to the same low standards as commercial TV channels, perhaps it is time for a different tactic.

Let’s face it, the SNP’s court action was a good idea, poorly executed. They completely missed the opportunity to present the equivalent of a class action for all UK minority parties to be heard in these crucial debates.

Specifically, their petition was:

"For interdict ad interim against the respondents [i.e. the BBC] broadcasting in Scotland on or before 6 May 2010, by any means, a debate scheduled to be broadcast on 29 April 2010 between the leaders of The Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal democrats that does not feature on equal terms with the said persons a representative of the petitioners."

With only 7 seats in the UK Parliament, this should never have been just about the SNP. Instead, they should have petitioned:

"For interdict ad interim against the respondents broadcasting in the UK …that does not feature on equal terms the leaders of all UK political parties currently represented in the UK Parliament."

Considering the effect the first debate had on the election prospects of the LibDems, this would have been a fair and democratic demand: there can be absolutely no doubt that the decision to give the LibDems a podium place has utterly transformed the election prospects for Britain’s third party in the coming election.

It also gave the lie to the argument that the debate was only between those party leaders who could become PM. On the contrary, the BBC’s decision to include the LibDems was about maintaining the British political status quo. If you look at their policies, conceding the LibDems a share in government is in reality only a small concession by the British establishment at almost no cost. After the election, the new government will appear different but the new actors will still be reading from the same script.

Does anyone truly believe that, with the LibDems in a coalition government, Britain will emerge from this election with proportional representation, scrap Trident and reduce immigration to levels that can be absorbed?

Had the SNP petitioned for a fair hearing for minority parties – not just the LibDems and the SNP – then Plaid Cymru, Respect, the the Democratic Unionists would have backed them to the hilt, even contributed to their legal war chest. Granted, it would not have been perfect. It would have given more voice to the so-called regions, but it would also have excluded the Greens, the UKIP and the BNP. But the SNP would have been acting with democracy in mind, not merely with me-too petulance. The case would have been a cause célèbre on every media outlet.

A real missed opportunity.

But, as we all know, every cloud has a silver lining. One benefit of the court case is that it has made Scots sit up and take stock of how critical the BBC is to the maintenance of the British state. The BBC, in fact, is a perfect example of how the UK works in Scotland – we pay our taxes, but have little say about how they are spent or what we get in return. Or, as Sir Tom Farmer puts it, it is taxation without representation.

Perhaps then it is time we re-examined why Scots are forced to pay for the BBC, and its one-size-fits-all political programming. Hypothetically, what exactly would happen if, as a result of the savage economic cuts proposed for Scotland by the UK London parties pandering to their English electorates, some of us temporarily find it difficult to pay the TV licence fee, but choose to hold on to our TVs to maintain our vital connections with our local communities?

According to Wikipedia:
“TV Licensing enforces the BBC's statutory obligation to ensure that every address where a television licence is required is correctly licensed, but its agents have no special rights and, like any other member of the public, rely on an implied right of access to reach the front door.

The occupants of a visited property may deny an agent entry to the premises without cause and are under no obligation to answer any questions or enter into any conversation. If an agent has evidence that television is being watched or recorded illegally but is denied entry by the occupants so that (s)he cannot verify the suspicion without trespassing, then TV Licensing may apply to a magistrate for a search warrant, but the use of such warrants is rare.

The BBC states that a search warrant would never be applied for solely on the basis of non-cooperation with TV Licensing and that in the event of being denied access to unlicensed property will use detection equipment rather than a search warrant.

The law allows a fine of up to £1,000 be imposed on those successfully prosecuted. This figure is frequently publicised by TV Licensing to maximise deterrence. In reality, magistrates rarely impose the maximum fines allowed to them by law. During the year 2005-6, the average fine including costs was approximately £153 (slightly more than the cost of a licence)…

TV Licensing is managed as a sales operation and its officers are motivated by commission payments. In 2005, a TV Licensing officer was found guilty of false accounting and perverting the course of justice after he deliberately forged the confessions of four people to obtain commission payments.”

Perhaps the time has come for a general boycott of the BBC licence fee in Scotland. Should it happen, the BBC can of course fund itself in Scotland by advertising.

Just like every other TV channel.


Newsnet Scotland argues that the BBC is in fact the fifth political party in Scotland.


Donnie MacD said...

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OutLander said...

Cheers, Donnie.

Bilbao Baggins said...

Even if this worked, and the BBC raised not a penny from licence fee extortion in Scotland, it would not make a blind bit of difference to whether Scotland was any nearer independence.

By all means, arrange a boycott of the licence fee in Scotland, but the BBC would still exist and they would still be trotting out their UK Unionist, London-centric, anti-SNP, anti-Scottish propaganda. All that would change is that Scots would not be contributing to it.

The SNP tactic was correct. Its purpose was to expose the anti-SNP bias of the BBC. Job done.

The goal is to end BBC broadcasting of Unionist propaganda in Scotland. This can only be done by legal and political means. Hence the Scottish Govt's continuing examination into the BBC's operations in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

The BBC has always been a propaganda tool. Do NOT expect Scotland to get any better treatment.It worked for the British establishment in the 50's

In 1951 Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected prime minister. As prime minister, Mossadegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran’s oil reserves. In response, Britain embargoed Iranian oil and, amidst Cold War fears, invited the United States to join in a plot to depose Mossadegh, and in 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax.

The BBC spearheaded Britain’s propaganda campaign, broadcasting the go-code launching the coup d’état against Iran’s elected government.

It is still spewing pro-war ,anti-middle east , big corporation propaganda today.
WHY ? Because we live under a fascist political model and that is what the state propaganda service does. New Labour or Old Tory ,the 2 cheeks of the same arse, STATE CAPITALISM. One prefers Big Business the other Big government.Can YOU tell the difference between them? Can YOU tell the difference between thier backers?

State capitalism has various different meanings, but is usually described as a society wherein the productive forces are controlled and directed by the state in a capitalist manner, even if such a state calls itself socialist. Corporatized state agencies and states that own controlling shares of publicly-listed firms, and thus acting as a capitalist itself, are two examples of state capitalism


Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.
Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy (1922-1943)


OutLander said...

Greetings, BB,

Re a mass boycott changing nothing, I can see your point. It would be no more than a moral victory, although it would also expose the BBC in Scotland for the propaganda tool it is.

As if we didn't already know.

OutLander said...

Hi Cuthulan,

I can see your point, but I think there are some important differences between Italian fascism and what exists in Britain today, putting aside the superficial differences in image, leadership, etc.

Yes, the corporations are incredibly powerful in our society (Monbiot's Captive State), and as in Fascist Italy they are the principal tools of government policy.

But as I understand it, there was one significant difference: in Mussolini's Italy, the government was still in charge, corralling the corporations into useful groupings to do the state's bidding. In Fascist Italy, as admired by Churchill et al, they really did have strong government.

But in Britain today, the government does the corporations' bidding. The irony of the big parties boasting about the FPTP system giving strong govts is that British govts are now in fact at their weakest, enthralled as they are to corporate interests.

All the British system does is serve up the next group of corporate and city lapdogs every five years.

Anonymous said...

Hi Outlander
you could have a point but its still just a merger of state and corporate power, it is still just state capitalist fascism. Today in the UK I actually think its more of a revolving door between big business and big government.

OutLander said...

Hi Cuthulan,

"its still just a merger of state and corporate power"

You're right, but I think its more akin to a corporate takeover of the state. We know that corporations now control the main parties by donations - including the LibDems.

When the government changes, it's just a different set of vested interests taking the reins. The head of Eton was right today: it is no longer about class. It's now about corporate power groups battling it out, using political parties to run the country.

Anonymous said...

"When the government changes, it's just a different set of vested interests taking the reins. The head of Eton was right today: it is no longer about class. It's now about corporate power groups battling it out, using political parties to run the country."

and that is why we have to vote for the party of REAL CHANGE the SNP.
This will change the government and not just the ruling elite. We live under an elected dictatorship,we only get to vote on who is our dictator, and they both have the same backers,so its basically the same party. The badge of office should be a set of pom poms and a short pleated skirt, as we only get to vote for the cheerleader.
A BIG SNP vote ,giving the SNP a mandate to pull Scotland out of the UK will mean that the WHOLE UK will have to revaluate not just the political parties BUT the political system.BOTH Scotland and England will have an opportunity to install DIRECT (REAL) DEMOCRAY and end illegal wars , cencord paedophile rings and banker bailouts.
We would also have to re-apply to the EU as the UK will not exist anymore, we would also have to ratify the Lisban Treaty again....all very good things for ALL involved ,NOT just the Scots.