Friday, 26 July 2013

The BBC Tax

Surely there is no-one who still doubts that the BBC is simply the public relations department of the British State.

In Scotland, we are subjected nightly to BBC news and current affairs programmes that extol the supposed virtues of the artificial-construct British State, with anti-independence stories given top billing, even when they are demonstrably untrue. Positive independence stories, if they are mentioned at all, usually feature well down bulletin running-orders and are frequently reported with a sneering delivery that tells viewers not to give any credence to this independence thing.

Last week there were two further examples of the BBC’s role in attempting to keep Scotland tied within the British Union. Firstly, one of the publicly-funded royal family had a wean. Of course, in reality, his wife did all of the work, which was probably right, given that she is a commoner (well, as common as the daughter of upper-middle-class millionaires can be). Certainly not in the same ‘wealth league’ as the royal family, but at least the Middletons worked for their money. I know, that last comment is stretching the point a bit: the Middleton family business is planning parties for the rich and selling trinkets to the peasants (including royal family-related tat).

The BBC was far from being alone in its over-the-top, blanket coverage of the so-called ‘royal’ birth, but it is the only broadcaster funded by a tax on viewers, even those who don’t actually watch the BBC.

Public anger against the late unlamented Poll Tax was so strong partly because it was a regressive taxation system. In other words, it was completely unfair because it was not based on a person’s ability to pay. Everyone had to pay the same amount, which, in a classic example from the time, meant that a Lord in his country estate paid the same level of Poll Tax as individual members of his staff, despite the massive disparity in incomes.

Why, then, is there no such public outrage at the BBC Tax (the broadcaster and the UK Government call it the Licence Fee)?

The BBC Tax works on the same unfair principle as the Poll Tax, everyone who has the means of receiving live television-transmissions must pay the tax, irrespective of their income, with the exception of those aged over 75. If you are blind, you get a 50% discount on the tax, which is very decent of the tax collectors, given the charge is for a visual broadcast medium. You don’t even need to have a television: if you own a laptop, tablet or mobile phone capable of receiving live television, then you are liable to pay the BBC Tax.

BBC news went into overdrive last week, telling us the whole world was celebrating the birth of a son for Prince William and his wife (apparently she is now the Duchess of Cambridge – and of Strathearn when she visits Scotland). This was nothing more than British State propaganda, the aim of which was to instill in us lesser mortals the belief that the Royal Family is a wonderful institution, sitting atop the ‘natural’ British order where wealth and privilege is to be revered and even respected. Broadcasts showed happy ‘ordinary people’ waving Union Jacks and gushing their pro-monarchy, pro-Britain soundbites. Whether or not you support the extremely biased perspective advocated by the BBC and the British establishment, if you pay the BBC Tax, you are funding such propaganda.

Before we move on to the second example of the BBC’s role in attempting to keep Scotland tied within the British Union, it is worth recording a couple of facts about the pinnacle of unearned wealth and privilege that is the British royal family. The actual annual cost to taxpayers of keeping this family in luxury and palaces is in the region of £205m, not the £38m claimed by the Royal Household and the BBC. The ‘official’ figure excludes a number of costs, including round-the-clock security, royal visits and revenue lost because the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall don’t like paying tax. The cost to the British public of maintaining the royal family is around 100-times as much as the people of Ireland pay for their presidential office. Because of the secretive nature of the royal household – don’t even think about a Freedom of Information request, they would only laugh at you – it is difficult to know exactly how much extra the Queen pocketed when she declined to pay inheritance tax on the estate of her mother, but one estimate puts it in the region of £20m. Bear in mind that is just the extra amount, not the full inheritance, and is money lost to the public purse.

Now, the second example of the BBC’s role in attempting to keep Scotland tied within the British Union saw an announcement last week that a Scottish reporter is being shipped-up from London to spearhead the broadcaster’s coverage of the Independence Referendum.

As if the British Unionist bias of BBC Scotland was not already stark enough (particularly a British Unionist Labour Party bias), the man returning to Scotland from a berth on Radio 4’s Today programme is James Naughtie. Mr Naughtie is possibly best known now for introducing former Tory Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, live on air, by dropping the ‘H’ in his surname and replacing it with a ‘C’. However, prior to that, the BBC’s new man in Scotland will be remembered for an interview ahead of the 2005 UK General Election, during which he began a question to Labour MP Ed Balls by asking, “If we win the election.....”

In addition, after axing many experienced journalists, the BBC also announced it intends to recruit 15 trainee reporters, on one-year contracts, to “learn on the job” as they cover the Independence Referendum. How many of those trainee reporters on one-year contracts will stand-up to editors who unswervingly adopt the BBC’s pro-British Union stance? How many of the young men and women hoping for a break in broadcast journalism will question decisions taken by John Boothman, BBC Scotland’s Head of News and Current Affairs? That’s the same John Boothman who for many years was a card-carrying activist in the Labour Party and is married to Susan Deacon, a former Labour MSP?

To put it bluntly, those of us who support an independent Scotland must be mad to pay the BBC Tax, through which the British state broadcaster funds its support for the British Union and the British establishment, and uses our money to pay for its ongoing and growing attempts to undermine the independence movement.

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