This evening BBC News Online’s news ticker flashed up: “Prisoner found hanged in his cell at a privately-run Warwickshire jail”, which linked to Prisoner found hanged in his cell, which reads:
A prisoner has been found hanged in his cell at a Warwickshire jail.
Michael Bailey, 23, was serving a four-year sentence at the privately-run HMP Rye Hill for supplying drugs.
He arrived at the prison in December after being convicted at Birmingham Crown Court.
There will be an investigation by the prison and probation service ombudsman Stephen Shaw, a Prison Service spokeswoman said.
She added: “Every death in custody is a tragedy and we offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Bailey.”
On the face of the evidence thus presented, the private ownership of the prison is irrelevant to the story. So why mention it? If the ownership of the prison is germane, then by all means explain why it matters, but until then it should be left out – unless of course the BBC intends to point out the ownership of every prison and other public service when reporting incidents within those services, complete with the implication that the incident is in some way related to the ownership of the service.
In a similar vein of public good, private bad, we’ve recently had a rash of right-on BBC hidden camera Inside Story exposés, including The Secret Policeman, the BNP, a privately run prison, privately run immigration detention centres and transport, privately run airport security, Yes Car Credit, etc. etc.
While almost all of these have been interesting and informative, they also tend to breathlessly emphasise the private ownership of privately run services, as if that is the sole or main cause of any lax management, inefficiency or abuse that is uncovered. Perish the thought that a publicly owned and run service could ever be lax, inefficient or abusive!
I look forward, in the interests of justice and fearless investigative journalism, to future exposés. Here are a few suggestions for the BBC to turn it’s fly-on-the-wall attention to:
- Local Government – an investigation into inefficiency, fraud, maladministration and corruption in local government – at least two full programmes worth here: 1) Housing benefit administration – how much fraud really goes on? 2) Planning officers and committees – how easy is it for corrupt officers and developers to subvert the planning process against the interests of local residents?
- The Police service and the Home Office – investigating the effect of government targets and bureaucracy in the fight against crime;
- The Immigration Service – how effective and efficient is the immigration service? Why does it take so long to process immigration cases? Are the rules always followed? How easily can the system be abused?
- The NHS and the Dept. of Health – investigating the effect of government targets and bureaucracy in the health service;
- The Far Left – an inside view of the kaleidoscopic splinter world of Britain’s far left activists, exposing, for example, the involvement of the SWP in the establishment and operation of the Stop the War Coalition. Does the hard left still plan and theorise about how best to foment revolution in the UK, do they engage in entryism and agitation, and so forth;
- The Fire Service – just what do firemen get up to when they’re on duty but not on call? How much moonlighting (second jobs) goes on, and how does it affect their ability to perform their public duties?
- HM Customs & Excise – an exposé of the zeal with which Customs & Excise meet their collection targets even where it involves bankrupting otherwise viable businesses (employers) with short-term cash-flow problems, at greater cost to the state than delaying or temporarily foregoing tax collection;
- Religious worship & teaching – what’s really being said in private in Britain’s churches, mosques, temples and synagogues? Do they all honestly promote community cohesion? Or are there instances of hate-speech and indoctrination?
- The Passport Office – how easy is it to get a British passport, even if you’re not entitled to one? How much does it cost? How scrupulous are background checks? Do they check the validity of counter-signatures properly? etc.
- Animal Rights terrorism – an inside view of the harassment and terrorism of legal businesses and their employees by animal rights extremists, and the loopy logic they use to justify their activities.
While we’re at it, we could also have a secret fly-on-the-wall film of the day-to-day goings on at BBC news – both in newsrooms and out and about, including: 1) the selection, prominence and fact checking of stories; and 2) the tricks that journalists and camera operators get up to present participants favourably or unfavourably.
I’m sure Biased BBC readers will be able to suggest many sensible additions to the list of public services and institutions that could do with the astringent glare of national exposure. Investigating public services is a public service in itself – unlike the private sector, where you can walk away and get a better deal elsewhere, most government services are a monopoly – you pay what you’re told to and you get what you’re given. It’s time for more Lights, Camera, Action!
* from Animal Farm, by George Orwell – a concise satire of the Soviet Revolution and Stalinism – very relevant to politics in general. Full text online in various places, including here at Project Gutenberg of Australia.