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BBC: Bloated Broadcasting Corporation

By Angela Harbutt
October 7th, 2011 at 12:01 am | 5 Comments | Posted in BBC

With much wailing and gnashing of teeth the BBC announced today exactly how it intends to find the £670million a year savings by 2016/17. Everywhere it turns out. The earlier insistence from BBC  Trust to BBC management that salami slicing would not be in the interests of licence fee payers has, well, been ignored frankly. Faced with disgruntled viewers losing their favourite shows/sports/channels or disgruntled unions losing their members, Auntie has chosen to take on the unions.

The morning news rang with warnings that the nation was waiting to hear which of their favourite programmes would be cut. I was actually stuck in a  traffic jam wondering why the traffic bulletin was late – but I am sure there were millions, thousands, hundreds, several people who were waiting to see which programmes were for the chop.  Would the most popular drama (Downtown Abbey), or the most watched LE show (X Factor) or the BAFTA winning news programme (News At Ten) all disappear from our screens?… Oh no sorry they are all ITV programmes. Well we were certainly assured that some people were waiting to see if their favourite BBC shows were to escape the axe anyway.

I was amused to note that much of the analysis, on Radio Five at least, seemed to be on the cuts to the news budgets. Dire warnings (almost  exclusively from senior ex-staffers) that the BBC’s reputation as the best news broadcaster in the world may be in jeopardy – that quality would fall –  that journalism itself would suffer because of the cuts – came thick and fast.

Really? Did I not mention that it was the ITV’s News (on a shoe-string) At Ten that won this year’s Bafta for Best News Programme of the Year? OK I am being unfair – at the considerably more serious RTS Journalism Awards earlier in the year the Best News Programme award went to ..oh that went to ITV News At Ten too. Damn.. sorry – never mind…. I am certain that BBC won RTS Best News Channel of the Year… oh bugger Sky News won that (again – what is that 8 out of 10 times Sky has won it now?). Hmmm your were saying something about BBC news journalism?

OK OK I suppose we can forgive the BBC for somewhat overstating its own brilliance at news. And whilst we have established that it isn’t actually the best news provider – it is surely the most balanced. Hmmm… Not today it would seem. In the six hours of news I listened to Radio Five Live (and it did cover the BBC cuts quite a lot)  I didn’t actually hear one interviewee agree with any of the proposed cuts or suggest that the cuts to news could be accommodated without loss of quality if only they would get off their lazy backsides. Maybe I just missed them – and I am reliably informed that at least by the time we got to 2230 or so, at least some dissenting voices were allowed onto the airwaves.

(And I haven’t heard a word anywhere on how much of a dent it has made into the £65m it paid out last year to just 274 members of its ‘talent’).

Next up is the fun of the  “public consultation“. Now that is what I call entertainment –  With some 800 news jobs being axed (about 15% of its eye-watering 5000 total), General secretary of the NUJ Michelle Stanistreet has already said that

“.. If the BBC presses ahead with these changes, strike action across the corporation seems inevitable”.

Some good news for Rupert Murdoch at last!

PS: The BBC’s Director-General Mark Thompson will be a guest, taking calls about the cuts, on Victoria Derbyshire’s programme on Friday 7 October from 10am.

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Can a Whig give the coalition some soul?

By Angela Harbutt
September 7th, 2010 at 1:03 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in coalition, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats

Its been  a bit of a depressing summer for many..all that talk of cuts, hacking and slashing – we might be forgiven for thinking that Freddy Krueger has hit town. But the really depressing thing for me has been lack of a philosophy behind the slicing and dicing. Yes I know our coalition partners will point us to  “The Big Society”. But, to be honest, I still don’t understand it….the journalists and political commentators don’t understand it… hell I don’t think even David Cameron understands it. So it was a real  hallelujah moment when I was handed a copy of the Sunday Times to read. For there in black and white was the answer of course…in the slightly retro-looking form of  Friedrich Hayek.

In his article, Liberal Vision’s old friend and founder Mark Littlewood, now of  The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), serves up a convincing argument as to why Mr Hayek and his “Constitution of Liberty” has all the answers …(well most of the answers anyway).

In his article (which you can read in full on the IEA website) he says…

 “Although one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century, Hayek has never been a household name. Remarkably, for a man who was born at the tail end of the 19th century, won the Nobel prize for economics in 1974 and died nearly 20 years ago, that may be about to change. Thanks to an extensive feature on the wildly popular Glenn Beck television programme in America, Hayek’s masterpiece The Road to Serfdom zoomed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller charts in June.

This is unusual enough for a philosophical tract, but is astonishing for a book originally published in 1944…… downloaded from our website tens of thousands of times over the summer.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of another great Hayek text, The Constitution of Liberty. Anyone searching for an intellectual basis for a genuinely Liberal-Conservative approach to government should read it.

Hayek argues for strict limits on state activity and intervention. But he offers a very different take on the nature of the individual from that often – if wrongly – associated with free-market capitalism. Hayek sees individuals as intrinsically social beings. His vision of a free society is not one where men and women are trampling over one another in pursuit of narrow, venal self-interest, each using their own freedom of action to exploit others. Hayek believed each individual would benefit as much from the exercise of others’ freedom as their own.

This optimistic view of human nature should be what guides the British government as it grapples with the shocking state of the nation’s public finances and attempts to provide some coherence to its big society agenda.

Interestingly, and importantly for the coalition, although beloved of Margaret Thatcher, Hayek was not a Tory. He described himself as a Whig. And Mark Littlewood may well have had another annoying moment of foresight when he argues later in his article that the coalition should seek to rediscover the best elements of this Whig tradition.

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+++ Vince Cable proposes cuts worth £14 Billion +++

By Sara Scarlett
September 15th, 2009 at 12:06 pm | 6 Comments | Posted in Economics

The Guardian has the story.

And unlike the Tories or Labour he’s saying exactly where it’s going to come from.

Nine specific areas of potential savings are identified as a start to a radical programme of reform. The main proposals are:

> Zero growth overall for public sector pay (saving £2.4 billion a year), a 25 per cent reduction in the total pay bill of staff earning over £100,000 and a salary freeze and end of bonuses for the civil service (saving £200 million a year).

> Tapering the family element of the tax credit – saving £1.35 billion.

> A radical review of public sector pensions with the view to moving to higher employee contributions and later retirement ages. There is currently a £28 billion subsidy to unfunded schemes.

> Scrapping several major IT systems including the ID card scheme (£5 billion over 10 years), Contactpoint (£200 million over 5 years), the NHS IT scheme (£250 million over the next 5 years) and the proposed “super database” (£6 billion).

> Curbing “industrial policy”, including scrapping Regional Development Agencies (£2.3 billion annually) and EGCD subsidies (£100 million annually) and reducing (by at least half) the Train to Gain and Skills Councils budgets (£990 million together a year).

> Reforming the National Health Service, by reducing the centralisation and over-administration – starting by scrapping Strategic Health Authorities (£200 million a year) – by strengthening commissioning and with “supply side reform” – in particular tariff reform could save around £2 billion a year.

> Curbing the centralisation in education, by cutting national strategies and scrapping quangos – saving around £600 million a year.

> Reducing the amount of waste in the defence procurement process, including scrapping the Eurofighter and Tranche 3 (£5 billion over 6 years), the A400M (total cost £22 billion), Nimrod MRA4, the Defence Training Review contract (£13 billion over 25 years) and the Trident submarine successor (£70 billion over 25 years).

> Examining possible future public sector asset sales, including some aspects of the Highways Agency (land value of £80 billion) and intangibles such as spectrum, landing rights and emissions trading.

This is an excellent move by Cable. This document proves that he is the only individual to be trusted with the economy. Darling and Osbourne are simply not in the same league. His plans are detailed and the onus is now on the Tories and Labour to be specific and honest about their plans right before Conference season.

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