Heart of The Matter

The BBC presents  a fairly unsophisticated picture of this country’s economic state and the debate surrounding it.  It allows them of course to control the debate and what is said more easily….at a basic level it can invite on speakers who it knows may not be very good at getting their views across (probably a Tory)…or someone who is rather good at ‘soundbite’ debating (usually a Labour person).

AA Gill in The Sunday Times a few weeks back said this about the BBC’s TV approach to debate (and I think it is a fair comment on the Today programme):

‘[This raises] a bigger question about how we treat politics and current affairs on television. It is almost always confrontational and rabidly partisan, a four-minute, invigilated slanging match that is  intellectually bankrupt and obtuse. Television’s way of exploring issues is always more about the desire for lively television than illuminating arguments. The cast list of pugilists, hack and thwarted politicians who will turn up at any studio, anywhere, in the early evening has become the constitutional version of Mexican wrestling: shouty and phoney. Question Time, in particular, needs to be seriously reimagined. None of this is about involving the viewers in political debate or thought. It’s thuggish and dispiriting and adds to the general disgust with the whole political caste.’


Even the grand Paxman himself agrees the BBC has dumbed down:

We all remember Paxman telling us all about it in 2007:

“In this press of events there often isn’t time to get out and find things out: you rely upon second-hand information-quotes from powerful vested interests, assessments from organisations which do the work we don’t have time for, even, god help us, press releases from public relations agencies. The consequence is that what follows isn’t analysis. It’s simply comment, because analysis takes time, and comment is free.”

The biggest and most important debate right now is whether the Coalition is making ‘savage’ cuts that are bringing the economy to a grinding halt and whether Labour’s plan to spend more are the only way forward….in other words does ‘Austerity’ work….This suggests it does…but you won’t hear it on the BBC.

Which is why the most important questions are just how much is the Coalition cutting and how much are they borrowing? This is the heart of the matter…the crucial difference between Balls and Osborne, but….

…they are two questions that the BBC singularly fails to ask never mind answer.  To do so would cut the rug from under Balls completely when the Public realise debt is rising now even with ‘cuts’…so imagine how much bigger the debts burden would be under Labour’s profligate ways. 

John Redwood, Tory MP, has been consistently trying to get his point across that there are no real cuts in government overall spending at the moment….the NHS for example is having more money spent on it…but that money is being reallocated within the NHS…so some sectors are losing money others are gaining..but overall the NHS spend is going up.

The fact is debt is going up, just at a slower rate. 

Look at this from the Spectator’s Fraser Nelson who talks about how the truth is being hidden (and Osborne gets some of the blame himself to be fair)

 ‘Like Brown, Osborne’s reaction to economic trouble is to borrow more. He may well be right to do so, but he ought to be honest about it. This matters, because it’s not his money. Every penny of money his government borrows has to be repaid by ordinary people.’

He goes on to suggest we are being badly served by the BBC who fail to make the debate  understandable and wide ranging enough:

 ‘Osborne ought to be shocked at the opinion polls showing that only about a tenth of the public understand that he’s massively increasing the debt, and that most people think he’s reducing it.’

‘The BBC ought to be the custodians of this, with its role as a public service broadcaster. But the BBC has adopted a Balls-lite narrative of harsh, radical cuts – and won’t back down from it.’

In the comments #88′  links us to this which reveals the effect on manufacturing  employment that Labour’s massive Public Sector ‘national service’ scheme had: 

‘The Keynes vs Hayek debate is at its sharpest on the issue of employment. Can government create jobs (as Balls says)? Or does large public sector employment simply displace economic activity that would happen elsewhere (as Osborne says)? A fascinating study has been released today by the Spatial Economics Research Centre at the LSE showing the damage done by public sector employment to the real economy. Drawing on a huge amount of local-level data over an eight-year period, it’s a serious piece of research that is worth looking into and deserves to impact our economic debate.

1. First, what is seen. In the short term, hiring someone to work for the government means another worker, who in turn spends. As the report puts it, ‘additional jobs may be generated as a result of increased demand for locally produced goods and services’. That is what is seen. In the short term — 2003-07 is the time period looked at — the study finds that for every 100 extra public sector jobs you get 50 additional jobs in the service and construction industries.

2. Next, what is unseen. Namely, the effect on other industries. For every 100 extra public sector jobs, the study finds 40 fewer jobs in manufacturing, because local businesses find it harder to hire people. This essentially cancels out the benefit in the service industry. As the study says, ‘Public sector employment has little effect on total private sector employment in the short run’. Over that four year period, expanding the public sector didn’t crowd out the private sector, but it didn’t help it grow either.

3. In the long-term, the public sector crowds out the private sector. Crucially, over a longer period (1999-2007) the study finds that enlarging the public sector causes even greater pain to manufacturing with no gain in the services industry. In fact, adding 100 extra public sector jobs leads to 100 fewer private sector ones, and leaves the overall employment level unchanged.

What the study does not say, but is blindingly obvious, is that manufacturing jobs are a whole lot more beneficial to the economy than public sector pen-pushers. So the net effect of all this is to make government bigger, but everyone poorer.’


If the BBC are not discussing this study that Nelson has summed up for you above then you have to seriously question the BBC’s professionalism and impartiality and its ability to inform and educate the public about the  most serious and important issues in the public domain.

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5 Responses to Heart of The Matter

  1. Span Ows says:

    Good post and very good from Fraser. At least – and at last – it appears that the state of the BBC is becoming more patent to more of the public.


  2. Guest Who says:

    ‘Television’s way of exploring issues is always more about the desire for lively television than illuminating arguments.’
    That is a given.
    Heat over light means ratings. Ratings mean market rates.
    Hence all in the media are over their heads in ordure in this regard.
    Where the BBC digs deeper is adding ideology to the mix, especially via the pre-pro and edit suite and…‘It allows them of course to control the debate and what is said more easily’.
    Now one can with some justification feel the Conservatives only have themselves to blame for endorsing a rigged sport held always in an away stadium with bent rules and hostile ref, but the BBC’s ability to set-up via what it selects in, or out, is as powerful and it is pervasive and damaging impartiality in this regard.


  3. Stamford Raffles says:

    If you compare the BBC’s business coverage with American channels, well, the U.S. channels leave the BBC standing in the dust. The BBC isn’t really a business cahnnel, which is what you’d expect from a soft left broadcaster.


  4. As the media wing of the Labour Party the BBC output was always going to go down this line, but in part the Tories have done this to themselves.

    Before the election when their polling went up and down depending on their policy announcements, they found they had hit a very rich vein when they latched onto the need to cut back the defict and debt and decided it was central to their policy.

    There were other rich veins that saw their popularity surge and these were other things around getting the nation back on track, but fast forward to the election and it became clear that mots of them had been abandoned.

    Once in power the only thing they really had left was the deficit. Even though they were spending more they kept repeating the mantra of tough decisions to keep up the illusion that they were taking action when the reality was they were running a similar policy to Labour along with dropping all the other “conservative” policies they had touted.

    Labour by this point had been taken over by those for whom the war is everything, in which we return to Pol Pot’s Year Zero version of their time in govt and they will offer any argument that suits when it comes to beating up the govt. With Balls at the helm of that he will say anything he needs to say, safe in the knowledge that nobody will really test him on this and no one has the guts to ask him on air “Is it any wonder that turn outs are so low when charlatans like you offer nothing but propoganda and refuse to honestly answer a single question that is put to you”

    The tories had to know this would be the default position and so not to be ready to tackle it shows just how weak and ineffectual they are.


    • The point I forgot to add was that Labour also know they have the tories in a bind over this so get to keep hitting them with the cuts mantra relatively safe in the knowledge that Osborne to and the others aren’t going to be able to offer a counter, effectively having them peddle a lie.

      Strangely enough though it is an open goal for a third party (no not the Lib Dumbs) to show Labour for the opportunists they are. Labour know the cuts aren’t true and in fact what is happening has the hallmarks of what they in all likelihood will do. So to make out that it is happening simply underscores the fact that Labour is putting opportunity over everything else with the full support of the BBC.

      Go back to that report from Nelson and it has this lovely little exchange:

      ‘Hang on, minister, when you say the deficit has been reduced by a quarter – that’s true in a technical sense, it’s also exactly what Alistair Darling proposed to do so let’s not pretend this is some great change by the bold Tories. But it is also true that you have increased the national debt by a quarter. In just two years! Don’t quibble, Chancellor, I have the figures in front of me, they’re released every month. When you came into power, in June 2010, net debt stood at £804 billion. As of April, it was £1 trillion. And under your plans, it will soar £1.4 trillion by the next election. Why, Chancellor, do you never ever mention this? Because it’s not your money, is it. You’re spending other people’s money, and saddling other people with debt. Doesn’t it behoove you to speak in the clearest possible terms about the debt you are leaving us all with?’

      Strange that no one at the BBC simply adapts that question to ask Balls what on earth he’s going on about when he talks about cuts.