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Posts tagged with: BBC

Comment is Free post on True Finns and populist parties

After appearing on BBC World Service World Have Your Say to discuss the True Finns, I’ve now written a piece for Comment is Free about the same issue – you can read it here. The comments thread is full of bile, although there is one issue I would like to draw attention to – the alleged connection I make between UKIP and the BNP.

Note I am not saying that UKIP and BNP are the same thing, or that they are connected. I am saying that they both have some points in common with populist movements in other European countries. In UKIP’s case this is their effort to tap into anti-politics sentiment and discontent with the political mainstream. The case of BNP is different – their anti-immigration sentiment is what they share with populist parties elsewhere.

I’ve also written an additional post here about True Finns and coalition building.

Portugal’s emergency loan – why ‘bailout’ is the wrong word

I was on the BBC World Service programme “World Have Your Say” (programme site, blog) earlier to talk about the implications of the election success of Timo Soini’s True Finns party in yesterday’s parliamentary election. The discussion briefly examined the reasons for the support for this populist party, but the main focus was what the consequences will be for Portugal’s ‘bailout’ from the EU, as all 17 Eurozone members have to agree to assistance for Portugal. The BBC has a Q&A about it here, Gavin Hewitt is talking about political earthquakes here, and YLA has a summary of the main parties’ positions here.

But what is this ‘bailout’ actually?

What – importantly – does the image of ‘bailout’ conjure up in your mind? It’s the picture of water being thrown overboard from a leaking ship and – once the water is out – it’s subsumed into the rest of the ocean, lost.

Hence – in political terms – the very image of ‘bailout’ is wrong. It implies that the money (from the Finns in the case of Soini’s argument) will never be returned. But that is not so, as eloquently argued in this blog post by Henning Meyer at Social Europe Journal. Money is being lent, not given, and is being lent at rates at which lending countries will make a profit.

So this is not a bailout for Portugal. It is an emergency loan. That’s an important difference.

Photo: Amir Jina “Bailing
December 22, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

Time for grown up football relations between England and Germany – let’s have Klinsmann in the BBC studio on Sunday

This weekend the World Cup starts to get exciting with the knock out round, and England are drawn against their old foes Germany at 1500 BST / 1600 CET on Sunday. When these countries have faced each other before the coverage in the UK press has been far from favourable, and often racist.

The BBC has a brilliant opportunity to do something about this. BBC1 will screen the match live on Sunday.

German football legend Jürgen Klinsmann is a member of the BBC’s team in South Africa, and is one of the experts that can be on the studio sofa with Gary Lineker.

It would be a very positive signal in German – English relations for Klinsmann to be present in the studio – in the spirit of reconciliation and fair sporting competition.

So how do we make it happen? You can join the Facebook Group, and you can tweet using the hash tag #klinsibbc. Let’s get the message out! A few thousand people supporting this might make a difference!

(Note: I am British, and also speak German. Klinsmann pic CC / Flickr license.)

Framing the debate: Future of the BBC

BBC - CC / Flickr

BBC - CC / Flickr

There’s something deeply wrong with the ‘debate’ currently going on about the future of the BBC, and I think it boils down to the essential question: what is the value of public service broadcasting?

Two themes dominate the debate at the moment. The first is a kind of cost-benefit analysis, do license fee payers get value for money from the BBC, and should the license fee even be cut? The second is a kind of backward looking analysis, getting the BBC back to some halcyon days that probably never actually existed, all evoked by the oft-cited phrase “Putting quality first” (implying that at the moment this has not been done).

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BBC for Brits abroad

BBCI vividly remember car journeys through France with my family in the 1990s. As we headed north from Languedoc, travelling home at the end of a holiday, the only solace for my mother was the return of BBC Radio 4, available in long wave anywhere northwards of Bourges or Orléans. You can’t stop radio waves at the frontier, and refraction of the earth and the low frequency of LW signals (as opposed to FM) means half of France gets Radio 4.

So what about the internet? The BBC has been at the forefront of online broadcasting with many of its radio channels available online all the time, and TV programmes available on iPlayer. Yet this has also meant a blanket ban on some broadcasts and services outside the UK. Any football commentary on Radio 5 is UK only and on Saturday Live on Radio 4 this morning they had the temerity to read out a reader’s letter complaining that Saturday Live podcasts were not available to users outside the UK. Well, the presenter said with a chuckle, that’s because you don’t pay the license fee!

Hold on a minute. People outside the UK do not pay the fee, but we also do not have the opportunity to do so. There is a crude distinction: if you’re in the UK you get all BBC programmes because you pay the license fee. If you’re outside the UK you must be someone the BBC can patronise with lousy rubbish, leftovers, like BBC World News or remnants of the empire like BBC World Service. I live in Belgium most of the time, 1 hour 51 minutes from London by train – so closer to BBC television centre than half of the UK. I want all the BBC services a British resident should be able to get, and if there were a way to pay for that then I would be willing to do so – I’m one of the people that like the BBC. But there is no way.

There are ways around some of the restrictions – using Foxyproxy to make iPlayer think you live in the UK (video of how to do it here), and having a UK iTunes account so as to access podcasts that way. But this is breaking the rules to get what you want because the BBC seems to treat everyone beyond the British Isles differently. It’s frustrating.

Universal service + local decisions + no accountability = postcode lottery

hospitalI’ve just found myself shouting at the television as I happened to have the misfortune to see part of a programme on BBC1 called Dom’s on the Case that looks at healthcare provision in the UK. There were 2 main parts to the programme that I found particularly twisted.

First of all there’s a village in Cheshire – Audlem – that has voted to become part of Wales, not because they want a decent rugby team or anything like that, but because – get ready for it – drug prescriptions are free in Wales, and prescriptions are £7.10 in England. The programme did not of course mention the flip side of this, that waiting lists have decreased more slowly in Wales than they have in England (as far as I can tell).

Secondly there was a man very seriously ill with kidney cancer living in Oxfordshire where the local health authority had refused to pay for his drugs, while if he lived down the road in Buckinghamshire the drugs would have been paid for. Cue plenty of film of his family stating how he should have received the drugs as he had paid taxes all his life, etc., etc.

So what’s up here? Essentially there cannot be a universal standard of healthcare provision across the whole of the UK while decisions on drugs (and indeed other things) are taken locally. Either the government has to set the standard for the whole of the UK in one go, and pay for this accordingly, or, alternatively, differences between different regions should be allowed – but financial and political responsibility should be connected. So if Oxfordshire wants to have a low tax, few drugs on prescription system, and Buckinghamshire wants to tax its citizens more so all the drugs can be provided then that’s OK.

The problem we have at the moment is that the system is neither one nor the other: decisions are not national, they are partially local, but these decisions are not accountable either. Hence the term postcode lottery so loved by British journalists. Why, oh why, rather than whingeing does no-one ever point out that this is a systemic problem? When politicians say they want local control of the NHS that means there will be differences between regions – are we OK with that or not?