About time too

David Cameron writes about the Beeb in the Sun today. In it he supports the license fee, but begins thus: I am a slightly rare creature — a lifelong Conservative who is a fan of the BBC. I think that tells you something. And although much of the piece is about the need to cut salaries and the size of the BBC – all good stuff – and the need for a properly independent regulator instead of the Trust (welcome, too), the key passage for readers here is this:

But, I can hear the cry, what about the left-wing bias?

My answer is: yes, the BBC does have what even Andrew Marr called an “innate liberal bias”, principally because it does not have to behave like a commercial organisation and make its money from scratch every year.

That tends to make the BBC instinctively pro-Big State, distinctly iffy about the free market and sometimes dismissive of a conservative viewpoint.

Dave doesn’t really say what he’d do about that, but this does seem to suggest that the issue is now on the table. If I worked at the Beeb, I’d be a bit worried.

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98 Responses to About time too

  1. Amazing says:

    I had posted this on the general comments area, however, I feel that is valid to repost here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commen…sh-legacy- dubya

    The outrageous article by the BBC’s very own left-wing historian really highlights the bias that the BBC is currently wallowing in, how on earth did the BBC think he was the right man to present a series on Americas future?.

    The article is so obviously anti-republican that OFCOM should be investigating why this man was allowed to present a series on America just before the US elections.
    Amazing | 03.11.08 – 12:45 pm | #

    Schema is a typical product of the BBC, and yet we are all supposed to take his views as ‘gospel’.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Amazing | 03.11.08 – 12:59 pm

    the problem is Schama is NOT ‘a product of the BBC’ but professor of history at a leading US university (Columbia).

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  3. Amazing says:

    You forgot to mention that Columbia is the most PC university in the US, also most of Schama’s reputation and money has come since he started working for………oh yes, the BBC.

    I note that you also miss my main points, not that I am surprised from a BBC troll.

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  4. Lee Moore says:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7706115.stm

    The BBC’s story on Cameron’s remarks doesn’t mention his comments on bias. Who’da thunk it ?

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  5. Amazings twin brother says:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/nov/05/usa.uselections2004

    And still Mr Anonymous thinks the man is impartial.

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  6. disillusioned_german says:

    So you’re impartial because you’re a lecturer / professor at a left wing US university? Interesting. And people like Ward Churchill (remember him) are fair and balanced?

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  7. ipreferred says:

    Schama earned his history degree at one of the most conservative colleges in Cambridge however, so I doubt he’s merely a product of where he’s been taught.

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  8. Pete says:

    Cameron knows that a lot of Conservative voters want nothing more or less from the BBC than most people – a lot of undemanding/trash entertainement. Unfortunately the BBC provided lots of this for quite a cheap price. The dodgy news service piggybacks on this rubbish. Maybe the Tories could suggest a substantial cut in the licence fee and the abolition of BBC news. I think that could be acceptable the majority of the BBC fans and would hasten the end of the BBC.

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  9. Andy says:

    “I am a slightly rare creature — a lifelong Conservative who is a fan of the BBC.”

    I cannot work this guy out. I could understand him being a fan of the Beeb in it’s heyday, when it was non-partisan and churned out some great programmes.

    Why would anyone be a fan of an organisation that relectlessly undermines the very values you claim to represent: low taxes, small government, pro-life, law and order … Unless Cameron stands for none of these?

    “And ironically that leads me to another reason not to lay into the BBC. I need it and our democracy needs it”

    Nobody really really needs it, especially in the internet age. The BBC is anti-democracy. Witness the over-zealous “moderating” of Justin Webb blogs / HYS posts that have the audacity to disagree with what they say.

    However his other intimations seem promising: the days of overpaid fat-cats may be numbered, that it not crush the competition using state funding, reduction of costs etc.

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  10. ipreferred the old impartial B says:

    Stalin studied to be a priest, yet he turned out to be the biggest murderer the world has ever known, does his going to a seminary excuse his evil acts?.

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  11. Heron says:

    I think Cameron has been quite smart here. His piece clearly sends the message to the BBC – you are biased, you’re unaccountable, your stars and directors are not value for money; but I support you for now, even though most of my party don’t. In other words, get your act together and I’ll support you, but keep up this left-wing nonsense and I might just change my mind.

    Not a bad way to secure yourself an easier ride in the run-up to the next election, and to get the BBC nervously looking over their shoulder.

    What Cameron really proposes to do is anyone’s guess, but this was a political statement. Cameron’s stance towards the BBC is eminently sensible, it is his tendency to tell everyone what to do that worries me: the last thing we need is another big stater with little regard for individual liberty as Prime Minister.

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  12. JohnA says:

    Cameron was interviewed on Radio 4 World at 1, he was accused of simply “piling on” – after a single BBC aberration.

    He hit quite hard at the fat-cat BBC salaries, especially when the interviewer quoted other salaries that are actually won in competitive industries.

    Nil mention of his remarks on bias.

    All very tepid so far from DC – but he will be testing the water, no doubt. At least the Tory leadership is finally having a closer look at the BBC, but it really needs to be much more severe about the anachronistic licence fee. Cameron sounded rally floppy when he said that UK broadcasting has a good mix – the licence fee for the BBC, advertising revs for ITV and Channel 4, and subscription for Sky.

    But the technologies of subscription and encryption make the licence fee redundant – the whole principle should be challenged, and at the very least the BBC’s revenues should be halved, with unnecessary channels sold off or closed.

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  13. George R says:

    Yes, the BBC, as a publicly-financed broadcaster, should be on the Manifesto agenda of the Conservative Party (and all the other political parties) for the next General Election.

    These aspects of the BBC’s activities should be monitored by the parties, and acted on:

    1.) politically left bias, not simply the pro-Labour, pro-EU, pro-Democrat Party bias, but the pro-Islamic bias, and, above all, the ‘multiculturalist’ bias ;

    2.) lack of independence of BBC Trust, and a general lack of public accountability;

    3.) extravagant pay scales of key administrative staff and of some performers.

    4.)the ratings ethos; the BBC’s commercial interests;

    5.) the licence-fee: the case for ending it.

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  14. Sam Duncan says:

    “I cannot work this guy out. I could understand him being a fan of the Beeb in it’s heyday, when it was non-partisan and churned out some great programmes.”

    My father was active in his University Conservative Association in the 1950s. They were complaining about BBC bias back then. The programmes might have been better, but it wasn’t non-partisan.

    I completely agree with the rest of your comment though, Andy. The BBC simply has to go. We can’t have an open debate about anything in this country when there’s a market-immune 800-pound gorilla cheerleading one side on everything.

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  15. whitewineliberal says:

    Andrew Roberts, a Bush adviser, is doing a series on Radio 4 shortly. Should this not be allowed because of his partisan views? Of course not.

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  16. Martin says:

    But this is the chalenge to the BBC If they reay think they are good vaue for mney why is it they fear going to a subscription based service?

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  17. TPO says:

    Amazing | 03.11.08 – 12:59 pm |

    I saw Schama on TV for the first time a couple of days ago when BBC World repeated the US Question Time.
    Without even listening to what he was saying he appeared to be an over animated marionette suffering from St. Vitus Dance. For me he came across as a pompous, condescending individual with a highly developed sense of his own self-importance.
    I doubt if he’d be out of place in the BBC’s felching department either.
    Britain’s gain is America’s loss.
    Did I get the wrong impression, or was Dimblebore a little more restrained?

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  18. Arthur Dent says:

    whitewineliberal What would your opinion be if, for example, a strongly right wing US historian were to write and broadcast a series about the recent history of the UK in the three weeks prior to the next election?

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  19. RR says:

    ipreferred:
    You get your degree from the University, not from a college.

    Schama was the protege at Christ’s College of one JH Plumb who at the time was a very liberal historian, expecting great things for himself from the Wilson government. Didn’t happen, so he turned right and started buying lunch for Princess Margaret. Either way he was one of the most unpleasant people one could ever meet.

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  20. Hugh Oxford says:

    Slightly tangentially, it’s bad news for The Guardian, which relies on BBC/Government Job ads for its existence.

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  21. Kill the Beeb says:

    All Cameron is doing is proving that just like Labour – the Tories plan to do nothing about the BBC. Just like the left, I no doubt there are plenty of Cameron’s friends employed in high places in the BBC. Wouldn’t want to risk them would he?

    Cameron and the conservatives are just a pack of limp wristed twats who will be as poor in office as labour have been.

    They have absolutely nothing to offer in way of repairing this sad nation’s ills.

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  22. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Cameron’s comments do NOT inspire me. He may call himself a conservative but sorry, to my unreconstructed Thatcherite eye’s he’s just a more hip version of Bliar. Better than Nu Liars but not flamin’ much!
    We need root and branch reform whereas he’s more ‘Dances with Focus Groups’.

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  23. Frankos says:

    Trouble is if you openly criticize the BBC they will make sure you get terrible publicity by leaving out bits of your speeches or doing their “Brown is superman” etc editorial. The Tories will have to box clever against such an entrenched group of idealists- even when in power they will have to defuse the BBC slowly and with public support –eg having subscription BBC –paying for the bits you want.

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  24. Paul McLaughlan says:

    Amazing – That link you gave us didn’t work. Can you try again?

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  25. Peregrine says:

    For the Conservatives the issues around BBC liberal bias are not easily addressed. Conservatives, as a rule, are loath to destroy establishments that have become seen to be at the heart of Britain. The BBC is one of those establishments and is thought of with great fondness by large numbers of the older non-metropolitan populace. The fact that they have noticed that the BBC has drifted from producing programmes within their comfort zone might worry some but others enjoy it as it makes them feel they are in touch with what is “happening”.

    Of course, these people also remember things with rose-tinted glasses, just as I remember my childhood as idyllic • it wasn’t though. The same applies to the TV produced at the time, much of it is pretty unwatchable now. Can any of us watch Butterflies or To the Manor Born without cringing?

    The liberal bias in drama will continue, although something may be done about the infotainment bias endemic in children’s programming (but this will be a wider policy area dealing also with some of the rubbish taught in primary schools).

    As for dealing with the left-wing news and politics bias, the Conservatives have left the ball in the BBC’s court and probably only left the BBC one way to return the shot. Either the BBC can desperately try to be impartial; this would be quite fun to watch as it would go against the instincts of so many presenters and may have the effect of creating a bias against the Government as the BBC over-compensates; or the BBC can switch to full attack. Of course this last strategy is a risk all one, as a Conservative victory in the next election would doom the BBC. The BBC as a risk averse organisation can only really choose the first strategy.

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  26. d says:

    I don’t think the conservaties are sufficiently moticated ore clever enough to do what is required.

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  27. Rob says:

    “What would your opinion be if, for example, a strongly right wing US historian were to write and broadcast a series about the recent history of the UK in the three weeks prior to the next election?”

    What are the odds?

    “Can any of us watch Butterflies or To the Manor Born without cringing?”

    I must say I thought they were crap at the time. “Butterflies” has to be the least funny “sitcom” ever broadcast, but then Carla Lane’s a left wing vegan, so who cares if she’s funny?

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  28. Frankos says:

    what about that laugh a minute “Boys from the blackstuff” about a family of scrounging Liverpudlians running away from any chance of a job. I seem to remember it made looking for a job seem a bit pointless when these people were role models

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  29. Anonymous says:

    Amazing | 03.11.08 – 1:20 pm

    most of Schama’s reputation and money has come since he started working for………oh yes, the BBC.

    Wrong. He became a fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford in 1976 and got a professorial chair at Harvard in 1980. He’s written at least half a dozen major books, some of which won prizes etc.

    He didn’t start broadcasting with the BBC until 2000 • i.e. 20 years after becoming a Harvard prof

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  30. Martin says:

    I actually think the Tories should force the hand of the BBC. Cameron should propose two things.

    1. A basic tax on the same of new TV’s that would create a pot of money (topped up with some tax money) for ANY broadcaster to use to produce programmes of public interest.

    2. The BBC to switch to a subscription based service once digital is online.

    Basically if you have Sky or Virgin you will have to opt IN to get the BBC channels. If you have a freeview box or freesat your signal will be scrambles unless you buy the BBC’s service.

    That way high quality public service programming is protected by a fund of money, but the chav crap pumped out by the leftist BBC would be funded by the subscription service.

    Any programme made using public money would have to be unencrypted.

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  31. sawtooth says:

    Schama was at Cambridge in the late 1960’s, and his attitudes and opinions belonged to that era.

    It was likely that he would pass on to some “liberal” (i.e. leftist) American East Coast universities, and that his current viewpoint should endorse their prejudices, and those of the BBC.

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  32. George R says:

    ‘Evening Standard’ Londoner’s Diary:

    1.)”Will Wossy’s producer get heave-ho too?”
    {Extract]:

    “FOLLOWING the suspension of Jonathan Ross’s Radio 2 programme, there is much conjecture about the role of his chum Andy Davies, who ” produces” it. Presumably at Wossy’s bidding, Davies selects the records, books and guests. More to the point, Davies acts as Ross’s verbal foil over the other side of the microphone during the show. And what a sycophant he is, laughing at all Ross’s jokes and often egging him on, rather like Ed McMahon used to do for Johnny Carson on American TV.

    “Davies used to perform a similar function on Ross’s TV show until he was dropped. He is a friend of Wossy, so it’s hard to imagine him being able to restrain Ross if push came to shove.”
    http://londonersdiary.standard.co.uk/2008/11/will-wossys-pro.html

    2.) “Thompson still has questions to answer on Ross”

    “WHY is Mark Thompson, the BBC Director-General, still refusing to say who was in charge at the Beeb when he was on holiday in Sicily? Thompson balked at the question when it was put to him on Radio 4’s Feedback yesterday. Many at the BBC thought it odd that Mark Byford (salary £459,000 per annum) did not take charge when the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand crisis broke. Instead it was left to Caroline Thomson (salary £440,000 ). “This is not an irregular occcurence,” the BBC told me last week.

    “Meanwhile, it emerges the compliance rules, which govern the transmission of programmes, were tightened up in April as part of the BBC’s Safeguarding Trust initiative which makes you wonder how the Brand-Ross broadcast ever reached the airwaves. The Television Compliance Form now includes six new questions concerning audience interactivity, all of which must be completed before the form can be submitted. All forms must now be counter-signed by the relevant BBC executive producer before the programme’s first transmission. Questions on the Compliance Form reflect key aspects of the BBC Editorial Guidelines.

    “The list of categories is extensive and relates to offensive language, sex, sexual-innuendo, imitative behaviour, portrayal, disturbing content, accuracy, fairness, crime and antisocial behaviour…

    “* DOES Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of the BBC Trust, protest too much? ‘Although closely engaged with the unfolding story,’ he writes in today’s Times, ‘the Trust resisted the temptation to make a substantive statement before having the facts and concentrated instead on ensuring that those paid to manage the BBC were properly held to account’.”

    Thompson still has questions to answer on Ross
    WHY is Mark Thompson, the BBC Director-General, still refusing to say who was in charge at the Beeb when he was on holiday in Sicily? Thompson balked at the question when it was put to him on Radio 4’s Feedback yesterday. Many at the BBC thought it odd that Mark Byford (salary £459,000 per annum) did not take charge when the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand crisis broke. Instead it was left to Caroline Thomson (salary £440,000 ). “This is not an irregular occcurence,” the BBC told me last week.

    Meanwhile, it emerges the compliance rules, which govern the transmission of programmes, were tightened up in April as part of the BBC’s Safeguarding Trust initiative which makes you wonder how the Brand-Ross broadcast ever reached the airwaves. The Television Compliance Form now includes six new questions concerning audience interactivity, all of which must be completed before the form can be submitted. All forms must now be counter-signed by the relevant BBC executive producer before the programme’s first transmission. Questions on the Compliance Form reflect key aspects of the BBC Editorial Guidelines.

    The list of categories is extensive and relates to offensive language, sex, sexual-innuendo, imitative behaviour, portrayal, disturbing content, accuracy, fairness, crime and antisocial behaviour…

    * DOES Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of the BBC Trust, protest too much? “Although closely engaged with the unfolding story,” he writes in today’s Times, “the Trust resisted the temptation to make a substantive statement before having the facts and concentrated instead on ensuring that those paid to manage the BBC were properly held to account”.

    http://londonersdiary.standard.co.uk/2008/11/thompson-still.html

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  33. D Burbage says:

    HughOxford – I thought it was Autotrader?

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  34. George R says:

    Apologies: part-repeat of ‘Londoner’s Diary’ above.

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  35. Atlas shrugged says:

    David Vance

    If I worked at the BBC I would be worried also, but not because of ANYTHING David Cameron is at all likely to do.

    My concern might be the public anger and resentment that will inevitably come my way when the shit really hits the economic fan.

    As for any change in the MSM by the privatization of The BBC, I would not hold your breath if you expect any real departure towards honesty or a conservative viewpoint.

    I sometimes have the misfortune to tune into SKY news. Although Sky is better then the BBC in terms of being, less patronizing, racist, obviously establishment agenda driven, essentially Marxist/fascist in character and Common Purpose, then the BBC. Sky is basically the BBC in privately laundered drag.

    We do not need another corporate giant running and controlling the BBC. Better to simply CLOSE IT DOWN ASAP.

    What we need is COMPLETE and IMMEDIATE deregulation of all broadcast media. Which is why there is not a chance in a trillion we will get anything of the kind. Not even if you voted for myself. I have 5 children and would prefer to see them grow up.

    Cameron may be allowed to change some of the financing conditions and other controls over the BBC. But he will NEVER be allowed to totally deregulate or sell off even a small part of anything in the broadcast media, to a small truly free market investor.

    Otherwise, Cameron would find himself doing a JFK type exploding head impersonation before the ink was dry on the White Paper.

    The BBC is the establishments favorite BABY. Cameron is only so much as a great grandson twice removed.

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  36. simon says:

    One way to reduce BBC expenditure would be to reduce the number of their staff swanning off to the USA for a holiday during the election. I say “holiday” but that is unfair because they do have an occasional report to transmit. On TV lunchtime news we had a report from Culpepper from John Circle (spelling?). On Radio 5 Drive we’ve just had Peter Allen reporting from, er, Culpepper. Each new report seems to come from a different face. There must be hundreds over there.

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  37. Gordon BrownStuff says:

    Cameron’s half-hearted comments on the BBC merely continue a limp two months for the “opposition” – and I use that term loosely for self-evident reasons.

    There really is no political hope for this country when the only idea is “more of the same” but with a Dick Emeryesque hand-slap for the oh so naughty, but I like yer, BBC.

    Just as there is no fundamental difference between McCain & Obama, the state of UK politics is similarly afflicted with an an absence of ideas, merely opponents offering varying degrees of statism.

    GBS

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  38. Anonymous says:

    @ anonymous | 03.11.08 – 4:48 pm | #

    i think the point is that the beeb operates in such a group think mentality that schama is just a shoe in for this series.

    another ex pat historian who would have actually challenged the consensus would have been niall ferguson.

    however it is channel 4 who have chosen to commission ferguson’s tv work. no doubt he is on some beeb blacklist for failing to tow the line on iraq etc.

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  39. John Bosworth says:

    Atlas Shrugged/David Vance

    Atlas writes: “My concern might be the public anger and resentment that will inevitably come my way when the shit really hits the economic fan.”

    According to my sources the rank and file truly are concerned. They are beginning to sense they may not be on the winning side.

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  40. Ross says:

    If DC was to suggest ending the BBC, as you all know, he’d NEVER get elected!

    DC may well be a bit flabby, a bit limp-writed in terms of Toryism but at least he’s part of a Party called the Conservatives and he’s making some of the right noises.

    It’s almost expected that we tear into DC because he’s not vociferous enough. But fair play to him say I. He’s leading the polls and looking like a reasonable alternative.

    I strongly suspect that, once in office, we’ll see more the Tory and less the people-pleaser.

    By belittling any effort he makes, we’re just egging on the BBC.

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  41. Adam says:

    Think its a brave thing to do. Talking about its bias and hinting at reform.

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  42. Martin says:

    Atlas shrugged: Regarding Sky News.

    1. You’re not forced to pay for Sky News.

    2. Sky News employs a lot of ex beeboids. Just listen to Anna Botting defend Labour and Gordon Brown when anyone says anything against them.

    The idea that Sky is a right wing news outlet is a joke. It’s not as left as the BBC, but it still employs liberals at its heart.

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  43. Pete says:

    How about keeping the compulsory licence fee but abolishing the detector vans and the famous sinister database and making all the snooping staff redundant? This would neatly sidestep the issue of abolishing the BBC and enable all its fans to finance it as they do now.

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  44. Tim Almond says:

    Of course he isn’t going to do anything. Cameron is Mr Fence Sitter. He’ll do little to roll back the state.

    The BBC should be the Conservatives #1 target, even more so than many other awful parts of the state, because it is also the propaganda arm of many other parts of the state. It is the BBC that spreads propaganda about the goodness of the NHS, forces the market to defend itself (rather than attackers of the market) and gives all sorts of lefty whacko groups a much louder voice than they get elsewhere.

    If the BBC want to operate the same debates as the Guardian, they can do so, but not with my money. You only have to look at how many writers in the Guardian also present for the BBC, despite the Guardian having less than 1/7th of the total readership of quality papers.

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  45. Anonymous says:

    d..’I don’t think the conservaties are sufficiently moticated ore clever enough to do what is required’

    At least they can spell ‘motivated’ and ‘or’!

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  46. jeffd says:

    d……’I don’t think the conservaties are sufficiently moticated ore clever enough to do what is required.’

    At least they can spell ‘motivated’ and ‘or’!

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  47. jeffd says:

    Apologies for double post above.I forgot to put my name to initial one.

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  48. Rob says:

    “what about that laugh a minute “Boys from the blackstuff” about a family of scrounging Liverpudlians running away from any chance of a job. I seem to remember it made looking for a job seem a bit pointless when these people were role models”

    I think you are getting mixed up. You must be thinking of “Bread”, another unfunny sitcom Carla wrote in the 80s about a family of Scouse dole scroungers. It was pretty awful, but, I have to be fair, “Butterflies” was worse.

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