Issue 221
May/June 2022

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Jul 3, 2022

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Editorial Comment

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Broadcasters face being Foxed

SERIOUS BROADCASTING is under serious threat in Britain from a dogma driven ‘Culture’ Secretary who seems mainly determined to settle old scores with anybody that tried to tell it straight about the madcap plan to leave the EU during the Leave campaign.

Ms Nadine Dorries, one of the Prime Minister’s blindest, most loyal followers, has been making threatening noises towards the BBC for some time.

Now she has come up with a plan to ‘privatise’ Channel 4, the channel that probably more than any other represented a modest threat to the disinformation operation that marked the Leave campaign.

The justitification for this move is that it would “free” the channel to compete with streaming giants such as Netflix.

It is an argument that has been roundly condemned by virtually anyone with an informed knowledge of the business.

Channel 4 has grown to occupy a very special position in broadcasting in Britain. Destroying it without any coherent plans to maintain its independence is little short of vandalism.

The oft-repeated threat to the BBC of abandoning the licence fee is more serious still. No one can deny that the funding model that has sustained a world leading organisation over many years now faces a serious challenge.

Glib arguments about replacing the fee with something similar to the monthly charge made by the streaming services do not stand scrutiny.

To retain any sort of viability, the corporation would need to make enormous, swingeing cuts to many of the more ancillary cultural services it sustains.

Maintaining an orchestra is a massively costly operation. The BBC keeps both regional and national ones and, of course, funds the universally praised Promenade Concerts, not to mention the brilliant Radio 3.

Though they were quick to retreat from the suggestion, the corporation’s most miserable snipers tried to denigrate the brave coverage of the Ukraine war by so many of its fearless correspondents – putting their lives on the line in the pursuit of the truth – before these critics were found out.

Setting up new tv channels is not as easy as some recent entrants may have imagined. Though it has secured Murdoch backing, Piers Morgan’s TalkTV channel could struggle to make a serious impact, while GBNews, the channel Andrew Neil had a very brief association with, is little more than a nightly joke.

Is trying to imitate Fox News really a worthwhile ambition?

Driverless – and mindless too

THERE ARE mad ideas and ones that are todally crazy. We have touched before on the plan for a Boris Bridge, not across the Thames but across the Irish Sea.

Now a feasibility study – conducted at a cost of a mere £900,000 (yes, that's right!) – having concluded that the cost of such a venture would be the modest sum of £335 billion, thoughts have turned to the even madder idea of buiding a tunnel.

Yes, gentle reader, this issue is not a belated April first edition, these guys are serious.

People who know about tunnelling are, to say the least, sceptical, pointing out that it would be amongst the longest, if not the longest bit of burrowing ever attempted and could involve the construction of service areas and even – yes – a roundabout so there could be a branch to the Isle of Man!

Hold on though, the Scottish Secretary, one Alister Jack by name, has come up with a cracking solution: make it for driverless cars only.

This gets better and better.

In the real world it could make more sense first of all to improve access roads to the ferry terminal at Cairn Ryan. The present road link is proving to be a serious disincentive to carriers using the Scottish ferry link.

After that, serious thought should be given to restoring the rail link through Galloway to Stranraer. If ever a tunnel was to be built rail traffic would be a deal more realistic than pie-in-the-sky driverless cars.

All aboard the Victorian express

SINCE the beginning of April the Scotrail operation has come under the control of the Scottish government. While this arrangement might prove temporary until a suitable franchisee/operating partner can be found, there are plenty of initiatives that could be seized that, for modest cost, could greatly improve the service.

The Victorian rail pioneers saw the great value to the tourist trade of the spectacular lines that had been built in the Highlands.

They remain an incredible asset waiting to be exploited, as Harry Potter and the Jacobite steam train have so ably demonstrated. Think creative!


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