Today, if you are a TV License Fee payer, you should be feeling extremely pissed off. What did you get for your OBLIGATORY license fee today? The license fee that you pay under threat of jail for doing nothing other than watching television? The BBC: funded at gunpoint? (I love writing tabloid sometimes – it gets the point across.)

For the precedent to this, see my archived articles of March 2004 and April 2005 regarding the BBC Charter Review and then its Green Paper. The strike action threatened several weeks ago by BBC unions finally came to fruition today as over half the workforce just didn’t show up for work, some attending picket lines and generally begging to be fired, if you ask me. I really am flabbergasted by the blatant arrogance of this action today. I was going to try and be nice about it. But if you hate being stolen from, if you detest people who infringe on your freedom and then have the audacity, the gall, the impertinence, the insolence, the defiant temerity, to hold for RANSOM the money that was expropriated from your wallet without your volition to pay their blasted salaries – you should be incredibly upset about this strike action today.

Even the liberal press know this is bogus and wrong. Even that lap-dog of everything liberal The Guardian today carried a leader saying: “This is, when all is said and done, not just a public broadcasting corporation but a week-in, week-out consumer of compulsory taxation from every household in the land. Most people who pay for the BBC earn a lot less than the people who are paid by it – and many of them have a lot less fun too. No amount of righteousness on the picket-line should distract from the truth that the BBC has a duty to trim the fat.” Incredible! The Guardian is saying this! Its too good to stop quoting now! They go on to say: “…there is very little doubt that the BBC can afford to cut some of its wage costs. In its successive incarnations, the corporation has repeatedly shown a disturbing propensity to generate layers of middle management spread – whether they were the progress chasers and form-fillers of the Birt era or the often supernumerary editors and senior producers of the Dyke years. Greg Dyke was certainly liked by the staff, as his departure showed, but this was partly because the former director general indulged the staff and was a bad planner.” Indeed – indulged the staff with license fee-payers’ money! When The Guardian can come down on the side supporting job cuts of a public service, its got to be bad. And its worth noting that this “disturbing propensity” to accumulate workers doing useless jobs is the NORM for public services (a contrast to private corporations who have a hell of an incentive to avoid that at all costs).

The only presenter to show up for BBC1’s breakfast show this morning, business presenter Declan Curry, said: “I don’t support the strike at all. The management have made a very strong case in my view as to why these cuts are necessary. It’s other people’s money that we are spending and we have to use it as wisely as we can.” And that is exactly the problem with trade unions; they have no interests in how well a company (even a company paid for at gunpoint) spends its money – their interests are in keeping people in jobs, those jobs as ends in themselves. Only those OUTSIDE the ranks of BBC trade unions and the BBC itself are able to see the true picture here. Even Times Online was asking in its web poll: “Are you missing any of the BBC’s coverage or has it made a pleasant change?”

The government, right now, should be asking itself: ‘Any chance of reworking that Green Paper?’

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ADDITION BY JOHN WRIGHT, May 26th, 2005

I was beginning to despair at the complete lack of concern over the above when I noticed today’s Telegraph article by Boris Johnson MP in which he makes some excellent criticisms of the BBC. Among other things, he asks: “Is this Britain, my friends, or is this some Central American dictatorship, circa 1970? I can think of only one reason for having a television in Oxfordshire, and that is so that I can refuse to pay Goodbody [local Licensing Authority regional manager] his confounded £126, and thereby show the BBC what I think of the licence fee. We imagine we are living in an advanced free market economy. Yet here is Goodbody, an emanation of the state, threatening me with surveillance and fines, so that I can continue to fund 10,000 state-sector journalists; an idea that seems increasingly peculiar and anomalous in 2005, but which is made more offensive to me by the BBC’s continuing habit of ever so subtly sneering at my party (the Conservatives) and anyone who votes for it.”

Johnson is right, of course, and his latter point is succinct when he points out that “…the mental default position of the BBC journalists is essentially Left of centre.” Hardly a model “public service” by any stretch. For the whole article, see today’s Daily Telegraph.

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John Wright

johnwright@softhome.net