Christmas or poultry?

Over on Samizdata a discussion about turkeys failing comprehensively to vote for Christmas. The turkey here being the BBC, and Christmas meaning austerity with regards to welfare payments. Nothing new here, but I liked this comment by Pat:

why doesn’t the government propose that the license fee be diverted to benefits for the poor- the BBC response should be good for a laugh.

Actually that might be more than good for a laugh. That could actually reframe the debate.  More precisely, a policy proposal that forced people to consider a choice between something they want and something they always ask for might force the debate in the direction of “well who should really get to decide”, and the answer is of course, to each his own.

Now, this strategy would work better, I expect, if the proposal were not so obviously extreme and mean spiritied towards the nations most-watched broadcaster. Are there any other policy proposals that force this kind of choice to get debated?

Taking Hayek in vain

Well, my hopes weren’t high. I made it to the 16th minute of the BBC’s documentary on Friedrich Hayek, before having to switch it off. I challenge anyone to do better than that.

What we are dealing with is a documentary formula, into which Hayek’s life and work has been stuffed. The particular formula is the one they use for pioneering scientists who discover bacteria or something like that, and the need is to stress just how isolated and way-out the fellow was considered by everybody else. That might be fine for doing the mathematician who cracked Fermat’s Last Theorem, and may lend itself to atmospheric long-shots of the presenter walking through empty courtyards and down echoing corridors, but Friedrich Hayek was not a man working alone, and his ideas built on the ideas of other earlier and contemporary economists. I kept waiting for the name Ludwig von Mises to crop up, and it never did. It’s kind of hard to discuss Hayek’s early years in Vienna without once mentioning Mises. The final straw came when the presenter described his work at the Institute of Business Cycle Research which was founded with Mises at the Chamber of Commerce where Mises worked, and where he held his legendary seminars, which Hayek attended, and even then she could not bear to utter Mises’ name. The following is far from a perfect analogy, but it’s like watching a documentary about Mark Antony with no mention of Caesar.

The documentary is from a three-part series called ‘Masters of Money’. The other two parts feature Keynes and Marx. Somehow I figure the Beeb may be in far more familiar territory with these two, especially the last one, although how he can be considered as a master of money, is a mystery, unless it is referring to his incredible talent to leech off his friends, followers and family to fund his decadent, bourgeois life of leisure.

All I can say, is thank goodness we don’t have to rely on the BBC to (mis-) inform us anymore.

Leave the BBC to the left

Tom Waters over at Conservative Home has an interesting peice on the BBC, plugging the Freedom Association event tomorrow. It is nowhere near being properly abolitionist but is worth a quick read. This comment, from “Y Rhyfelwr Dewr”, is of greater interest strategically:

Personally, I’d say cut down the BBC hugely — probably down to Radio 3 and 4, and probably BBC 4. Stuff which is culturally and educationally desirable, but fundamentally non-commercial.

There is absolutely no need for BBC to be competing with commercial broadcasters that cannot hope to out-bid it. There is certainly no justification for tax money to pay for shows like “Heros” which ITV would have bent over backwards to broadcast.

The BBC would then be funded from the arts budget (which would be increased, but not by nearly the value of the licence fee). Every year, the BBC would need to justify the quality of its output, competing with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Welsh National Opera, the National Theatre, and a myriad of others demanding a share of the pot.

Then, remove all regulations governing bias. BBC  can be as biased as it likes, knowing that, if it is too relentlessly left-wing, inevitably, ITN or Sky News will deliberately adopt a strongly right-wing approach. Competition is wonderful!

I found this to be a useful reminder that competition works at every angle. A public sector adversary, competing with the BBC  for the same funding provides a new pressure on the BBC. Altrusitic sacrifice would compete with altrusitic sacrifice for the same limited pool of taxpayers blood.

Altruism’s passkey to wealth is need, and it’s obvious that every other artform would come along with it’s own pathetic list of artistic and therefore fiducary needs. As it dangles ovre the precipice of it’s own intellectual foundation, the feet of the BBC would snapped at from below by obscure dramatists from Aberdeen to Plymouth.

A remote and elitist quango would then proceed to decide what the BBC must do to justify it’s nightly feeding. The chances of this being anything like what the viewer wants are remote, and so it is a very good idea to get this remote elite involved, as soon as possible.

Bias then is likely to multiply massively, springing the second trap – pressure from ideologically sensible competitors. Finally TV would start to become balanced, the ravished carcass of the BBC would be flung into the pit of it’s ideological associates and the vibrant life-enhancing ideas of the  libertarian right can race Tories to the BBC’s former vantage point.