The legal approach

Charles Moore writes about his decision not to pay the licence fee. He’s taken every precaution- a donation to charity of the sum in question; an equivalent sum set aside in case the BBC accept his case that they are in breach of their Charter, and amend accordingly.

Of course I think he’s right that the BBC are in breach, but more precisely I think the concept of a Charter such as the BBC have (and updated just a couple of years ago) an absurdity, a political charade, a conceit played upon the conscience of the public. Moore grounds his case on the failure to remove Jonathan Ross from his post following RossyBrandSachsgate. Fair enough, I would say, yet as Moore also points out, there are many reasons to wish not to pay the BBC for the use of your television. John Kelly for example has been summoned to court to answer for his non-payment, and grounds his case on the BBC’s lack of balance in coverage of the EU.

Obviously we should watch both cases carefully. I note that the BBC renewed their charter a couple of years ago. In the new Charter I believe there is no reference to impartiality, which was one of the Labour Government’s friendly touches for the BBC; removing the impartiality clause really left sites like this one in a changed situation. Therefore John Kelly may have a problem since the BBC’s partiality is central to his complaint. Instead, the Charter talks of the BBC’s “public purposes”, which are,

(a)sustaining citizenship and civil society;(b)promoting education and learning;(c)stimulating creativity and cultural excellence;(d)representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities; (e)bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK; (plus the promotion of digital telly)

Charles Moore is evidently basing his prospective case on the failure in “sustaining citizenship and civil society” exampled by the Ross-Brand-Sachs scandal. I think it’s a good idea to keep this little bunch of purposes in mind in all our considerations of the BBC. I have to say the new Charter was a rotten document from the beginning. The bit I quote is the most substantive part of it concerning the BBC’s responsibilities, yet where does “news” fit in to the above list? Is is “education”? Or “citizenship”? It’s hard to see where to fit the BBC’s coverage of “Global Warming” into this. Bringing the world to the UK and the UK to the world is a nice soundbyte, but how does it differentiate between a tourist slot for Brazil and a report on Israel?

If I was arguing the case for either Mr Kelly or Mr Moore I would want to point out that the current Charter is utterly inadequate as a moral foundation for a compulsory tax on British-based TV owners. Then I would argue that its education is false, its citizenship flawed, its culture impoverished and its mission in the world ill-conceived and superfluous. After ten minutes of that, I would apologise for going on (as I am now, in fact), and say that the amount of rational criticism that one can make of the foundation of the BBC is evidence of the injustice by which it is sustained. The BBC’s ring-fenced status outside the democratic ebb and flow is entirely unjustified. The only comfort from the terrible inadequacy of the BBC’s charter is that it arose from the friendship between the BBC and an overwhelming Labour majority in Parliament. Therefore logically if the majority is overturned, so can be the BBC Charter, and the institution itself.

Brandt’s Willy

The continuity announcer introduced Any Questions by describing Vince Cable as ‘The Sage of the Liberal Democrats’.
Q. How would B-BBC commenters describe other MPs?
No I’d better not ask that before the watershed. A.Q. was a bit more lively than usual. Speakers on Any Answers “reflecting the sentiments of the majority of callers” were angry about the police’s ‘unprovoked aggression’, (where have I heard that phrase before) and ‘kettling.’
Hazel Blears thinks the BBC – Our BBC – shouldn’t have to pay ofcom’s £120,000 fine – Wossy and Brand should cough up.
Jonathan Dimblbore kept calling Brand ‘Brandt.’ Must have been confused by all that chatter about Willies.

Russell Brand Writes For The Guardian

Russell Brand writes for the Guardian

No surprise there, of course. They’ve had some oddball columnists in their time, Myra Hindley, Osama Bin Laden, David Cameron, and they still employ George Moonbat. But the last time one of their sports columnists got in trouble for over the top plain-speaking was Big Ron Atkinson, and he got the red card from both ITV and the Guardian.

Will the same happen to Our Russell?

Joining The Dots

Joining the dots

Following Brand’s resignation, a couple of the papers are now tentatively drawing the connection between this affair and the wider problem of the Beeb’s bias. Trevor Kavanagh in the Sun hits out again this morning:

BBC chiefs still don’t get it, do they? While Director-General Mark Thompson was reluctantly grovelling last night, senior Beeb executives were still trying to blame everyone else but themselves, he begins, and goes onto discuss the corporation’s arrogance and its “lofty contempt” for its viewers.

Instead of reflecting their opinions it exudes a smug corporate view on the major issues affecting Britain.

The Telegraph also sees a connection: The depressing aspect of this grubby affair is that it is all of a piece with its arrogant belief that it cannot possibly be wrong on anything. Accountable to no one, and with a guaranteed income of £3.2?billion a year, its own Andrew Marr has described its mindset thus: “The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias.” In short, it has become dangerously divorced from the majority of people in this country.

UPDATE: Incidentally, the Beeb story almost manages a clean sweep of the front pages today.

Ross And Brand To Be Investigated

Ross and Brand to be investigated by Ofcom

Sky has the full story. The BBC also has it, but again in its coverage of this forgets to mention that it received over 1,500 complaints – interesting context, I thought.

UPDATE: Definitely not a good day for the Beeb, with both Melanie Phillips and the Guardian’s John Harris having a go at it.