Britain's Deficient Democracy | The television licence
“Greatest Force for Cultural Good on the Face of the Earth"
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
British crime scene. Watching TV without permission
Is the British Broadcasting Corporation, sometimes affectionately called “the Beeb” by its admirers, “the greatest force for cultural good on the face of the earth” or a politically biased extortion racket?
The first claim was made by Mark Thompson. He was director-general of the state broadcaster. Now he is CEO of the New York Times. That newspaper stoutly upholds the 1st Amendment to the United States constitution that guarantees free speech. If it had force in Britain a licence to watch TV would be unthinkable.
The second opinion might be held by a republican aware of the corporation's long record of propping-up the feudal institution of monarchy, while prosecuting 180,000 citizens each year for the crime of not seeking its permission to watch TV, and harassing many more.
But both points of view draw attention to something else. That is that the BBC, despite its birth in the 20th century, fits well with Britain's feudal attitudes and institutions. (If you doubt this read the statement of the BBC Trust's former chairman later in the article). Like an arrogant Lord, it sees itself as a worthy dispenser of what it thinks is good for the masses. And it believes that this entitles it to have its hands in the pockets of the masses whether or not they want what it dispenses.
BBC Trust Chairman Michael Lyon warned “the government and opposition parties . . . that he and the other trustees were appointed by the Queen, through the Privy Council 'rather than just at the dictate of ministers'”, according to the Financial Tines. He was “sending a defiant message to politicians of all parties that his organisation will conduct an 'all-or-nothing' struggle to protect” the privileges of the corporation.
And by accepting that the BBC may ignore their civil rights merely to broadcast TV, the British have done something even worse. They have signalled that when more serious matters are at stake too, they will accept their subservience to the state.
In this report we look in detail at the place of the BBC in a nation in which the rights of the people take second place.