Friday, August 19, 2005

Gratuitous insults at the BBC

The BBC website has a page called From the editor’s desk, which is a weekly column written by Pete Clifton, the BBC’s news website editor. He usually addresses issues and controversies about the BBC, and publishes comments solicited from readers. Last week, the BBC’s failure to pay “citizen contributors” for amateur pictures of the 7/7 bombings used by the BBC continued to be an on-going theme. One reader, identified as Alan from New York, wrote in criticizing the BBC’s claim that it wasn’t commercially profiting from its use of the photos, saying:
You must think people stupid... you use the pictures to attract clicks, which increases advertising revenues... that statement is insulting the intelligence of your readers, who had been kind enough to submit them.
This, of course, was a rather ignorant thing to say, given that the BBC does not use advertising and does not get its revenues from advertising. It gets revenues instead through government coercion, ie a tax, euphemistically called a “licence fee”. The BBC’s Paul Brannan, who was filling in for the vacationing Clifton, noted the license fee and then retorted:
Given that he, like all non licence-fee payers outside the UK, gets the BBC news website for free - and without advertisements - perhaps we should be asking for a contribution from him?

Today Clifton returned, and couldn’t help but congratulate his deputy for this slap. To aid him in slamming poor Alan one more time, Clifton enlisted the help of a reader:
My deputy Paul Brannan took over the column last week as I took another much-needed rest, and there were plenty of people applauding his sharp put down of Alan from New York, who had suggested the BBC was preoccupied with advertising revenues.

Bryan from Florida, USA, observed: "As an American let me apologise for Alan from New York. He is obviously a Republican and assumes that money is the only motivation for anything. It has been a few decades since I paid the licence fee while at RAF Upper Heyford, but I don't remember commercials then, and there are certainly no advertisements on the site. Thank you for the news. It's hard to come by in the States.

Gee, I wonder how he managed to pick that one out of the “plenty” of comments he received?

Anyway, today I submitted the following to Mr. Clifton. Watch his column to see if it ever sees the light of day (outside of here, that is.)

Mr. Clifton

Given that there were "plenty of people" applauding your colleague's put down of Alan from New York, I think it is revealing that you chose to publish the one that itself managed to gratuitously put down both Republicans and American news providers. As ever, the political left (not to mention undeserved arrogance) is alive and well at the BBC.

BTW, I tend to have a more sympathetic view of Alan's ignorance regarding the BBC's financing mechanisms. I mean, unless one had direct knowledge of it, who in their right mind would ever consider that in an otherwise relatively free country like the UK, coercive measures would be implemented in order to operate a government-funded news service? In Zimbabwe, maybe, but the UK? I can imagine that for the average American it comes as rather a surprise that the vaunted BBC is so well appreciated in its own country that it has to, um, force people to pay for it.

Scott Callahan


Blogger Marc said...

Nice one Scott, but you're right, they'll never print it.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

There is another reason that we in the U.S. would not know that BBC in the U.K. doesn't have commercials - BBC America, carried by Rupert Murdoch's DirecTV, is loaded with them. Even the BBC news programs are - if my memeory serves me correctly because I haven't watched them since March 2003 - regularly interrupted by advertisements.
So it is a little ironic for Mssr. Brannan and Clifton to get all uppity about their supposed commercial purity when in fact this supposedly domestic news service takes advantage of its commercial opportunities when it crosses the Atlantic. It reminds me of Rupert.

3:15 PM  

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