River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Ron’s Rambles

August 2019

The BBC It has been clear for some years now that there is a campaign in the right-wing press to attack the BBC. A campaign that seems to have the support of a number of Conservative MPs. They oppose the very concept of a state funded national broadcaster. Media barons have been longing to see the demise of the BBC so that they could enlarge their empire and increase their power to influence opinion. The BBC has an international reputation, especially for news, during the second world war, the world relied on the BBC to give them the news. It is a national institution, a national treasure in the minds of many, and has resisted these pressures to date. The favourite line of attack has always been that it is funded by government money, provided by the tax-payers, and by a compulsory licence fee, when, if it were commercialised, it could be self-funding. Of course, those in favour don’t mention that with commercialisation the famous impartiality of the BBC would be lost. Nevertheless, the carpers have won some ground. The funding by the government of the free licence for pensioners has been stopped and the responsibility for funding has been placed with the BBC. The BBC chose not to fund free licences for pensioners, except where the pensioners income is such that they receive pensioner’s credit. The alternative would have been a reduction in the quality of programmes. Needless to say there has been an outcry by pensioners and by others giving their support. In my opinion £3.00/week is not a lot to pay for the service we get from the BBC. I accept that there may well be some pensioners not quite poor enough to receive the benefit but for whom £3.00/week is difficult. The sad truth is that there are many younger people in paid work for whom the same applies, so where does the BBC draw the line. It is quite inappropriate to attack the BBC, it was the government that chose to withdraw their support, on the grounds of saving the tax-payer’s money, they chose to cut the free TV licence saving £745m, whilst spending billions on the prestige project of HS2. The next line of attack was to attack the salaries of the top paid BBC staff, first by forcing them to disclose salaries above a certain level. The fact that they have not forced other publicly funded enterprises to do the same demonstrates that it was a particular assault on the BBC. The BBC claimed that it only paid market rates, and I believe them, I am sure that some of the BBC presenters, in particular those involved in following the Brexit saga, people such as Laura Kuensberg, Andrew Marr, Emily Maittis, John Piennar, John Humphrys and Andrew Neil, to name but a few, have demonstrated outstanding abilities. They usually display a greater intellect than the politicians they are interviewing. All are fairly highly paid but could almost certainly earn more in other organisations not forced to disclose salaries, but they choose to stay with the BBC. I would hesitate to comment on the relative worth of these presenters and those on the popular entertainment side such as Graham Norton, but the BBC has to watch viewing figures in competition with commercial TV. The Daily Mail tries to give the impression that the high salaries are being paid at the expense of the poor pensioners free TV, in truth the cost of the salaries of BBC presenters earning more than £150,000 is £21,8m which would not go very far towards funding the free TV licence at £745m

Democracy As a nation we tend to pride ourselves that we are a democracy and one of the oldest democracies. At least that is what we are told, constantly fed to us from childhood, but just how democratic is our parliamentary system? It is quite possible for a political Party to have 40 percent of the votes cast in a general election and never get one member of parliament, losing out in each constituency to one or other of the other Parties, so that those voters have no voice in parliament. Although this extreme may be unlikely it is very likely that a large minority Party could be seriously under-represented. How undemocratic is that? Another possibility is that one Party gets enough Members of Parliament to have a majority in the House so that they can form a government, even though they fell well short of a majority of votes by the electorate. How undemocratic is that? To make matters worse, once a Party gets to form a government the leader of that Party, chosen by the members of the Party only, becomes the Prime Minister without any guarantee he/she is a suitably capable person and without, in all probability, support from the majority of the population. How undemocratic is that? We learned recently that, once a bill has passed through Parliament, MPs can do nothing to change it unless there is an amendment. How undemocratic is that? Furthermore this one, questionably capable person appointed as PM has enormous power, they have control over the nuclear missiles in our submarines, they can take us into war, in fact, even more surprising to me, and I suspect to many others, the PM actually has the power to suspend Parliament, prorogation it is called, so that he/she can put through a piece of legislation completely unchallenged. How undemocratic is that? At the time of writing it appears that our next PM, this person with so much power and who will have enormous influence on the future of all of us, will be chosen by about 0.3% of the electorate. How undemocratic is that? In 2016 we had a democratic referendum to choose whether or not we should leave the European Union and, by a small majority, we voted to leave. There was no indication of how we should leave. That was three years ago, in that time we have all acquired a greater understanding of what it means to leave and how best to leave. Many people that voted will have died in those three years, many others will have reached voting age. It seems very clear to me that, when we finally know exactly how we intend to leave we should give the people the opportunity to vote on whether or not that is what they want now. What could be more democratic than that?

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