Category Archives: Politics

Why the World Owes You A Living!

I really don’t like the BBC sometimes. I find myself thinking that on occasion and then hating myself for it because it has, in the past, been an employer, educator and bastion of all I hold dear about our society. It is such an important institution to us that we have a special tax that the people who use it pay… are meant to pay in order to use the service. I am also not naive enough to think that the entire BBC is there for my benefit. I understand the need to have Casualty and Eastenders as long as they keep bringing me programs like Doctor Who and The Fades. On occasion, however, I find myself appalled at some of the journalism. I think this mostly stems from the 24 hour news culture that aunty now has to adhere to. I found this with the recent coverage of the public-sector workers strike this week. Days before the strike actually happened we had reports from airports and train stations about possible disruptions in transport. I do feel that certain correspondents have taken it upon themselves to form an opinion on a subject before it has happened just so they can do a piece to camera and take up a few minutes air time. My problem with this is that I don’t believe that opinion and speculation are news and, until the event has actually occurred or is in fact occurring, we won’t see any actual, proper news at all. After all, news is meant to be the reporting of facts isn’t it? It’s not fair to just blame the BBC for this because every news institution around the world seems to do the same thing to some extent. Worse seem to be the 24 hour stations because they have a lot of air time to fill with not much content.  I will leave that thought there since this is not what I really wanted to talk about today but really what I wanted to lead in to the article with.

One of the things that has cropped up a lot in the strike coverage is a phrase that I have never been to comfortable with. It’s appears to be a thought that is bandied around by one of two groups of people

  1. Racists and the dispossessed. Generally, people who have heard the phrase before and are aggrieved that they are not getting something they perceive others are getting.
  2. Politicians and heads of large businesses who have reached the top of their game but have most likely got there because of connections with the right people.

The phrase is a simple one and, on the surface of it, perfectly acceptable.

“The world doesn’t owe you a living!”

This is a phrase that worries me greatly. I think it was meant to portray and mind-set that’s saying:

“We’ve got what we have because we have worked for it and you should too.”

It appears, to my mind at least, a platitude to explain why we’re cutting things. I’ve seen it used in the context of ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ banners. Most recently, I saw it on Question Time (back to the BBC but no sniping because I really do love the institution). The problem is, the world does owe you a living, more importantly, the world owes you the living that you have worked for.

The point of it’s most recent use on QT was in context with the strikes and saying that yes, there would be cuts but your not owed the money we are now not going to pay you. The problem is,in this case they are. It’s not the people high up in the public sector that will suffer over this range of cuts, it is those who are much lower down the food chain. Like dinner ladies (did you see what I did there?). What we need to be doing as a country is cutting the gap in spending power between the rich and the poor. I know re-distribution of wealth seems like a very communist (or perhaps socialist) attitude to take but it really is the best way to turn our economy around. I can do nothing but blame the politicians for the recent money troubles of the country. It’s all very well saying that there is a global crisis in banking at the moment, and we aren’t an isolated case by any stretch of the imagination, but we were in a similar financial state to France and Germany and we should have expected to be on equil footings with them in this recent ‘crisis’. Once again though, it appears that the politicians are not paying attention to basic economics. If you have people in your country who are earning a decent wage, the amount of money they can spend increases and the amount of tax that the government is given increases as well. Instead of trying to do this, looking after the little people, we have forced money towards the banking sector because there still seems to be some belief that they know how to solve the problem. But the banks are greedy. How much money did we need to throw at them until they started giving small businesses loans again? And it’s the small businesses that really are the backbone of the economy (and will do more to pull us out of recession in the long run). If we had put more money in to small business growth there is every possibility that we wouldn’t need the banking sector and could ignore their threats about them leaving for pastures new every time some sort of reform is mentioned.

So, the world does owe YOU a living because doing so it will benefit our government as well. You’ll have to pay tax after all and you’ll probably spend the money you get from that living, which is also taxed through VAT. The one proviso to all of this is that once you have that living, you’ll have to work hard at whatever it is you’re doing to get it. That’s not a bad trade off really. We all do the same thing.

I really do think that if we went in to these sort of debates with the attitude of “you are owed a living” we could very possibly come out of them with some very interesting insights. Instead of debating whether one group is getting paid more than another we could debate whether each group’s pay is suitable for the type of work they do. I wonder why we don’t hear as more about that? I suppose that it might be because we would suddenly start to hold a mirror up to the other side and ask if what they are getting paid is suitable. Lets face it, the last thing a politician would want is someone to hold a mirror up to them… or a news of the world.

Doctor Who New Series Review: A Review

We are constantly lied to by journalists.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s their fault that this happens. They have to sum up very difficult stories in a few hundred words, many times only including the salient points. It’s probably become much more complex since the internet and it’s an often demanding job which society is now slightly more weary of since the Murdock scandal.

What I don’t like. What, frankly, really annoys me is when journalism foists a viewpoint on people. The most avid exponents of this are the Daily Mail where not a day goes by without them apparently forcing their agenda on their unsuspecting readership. Local papers are really bad for this. My parents are convinced that if you go out in Gloucester at night, you’ll get stabbed. That’s what the papers are always saying tough,

“Youth Stabbed in Gloucester Center.”

Is the center of Gloucester actually different from any other city? No, but it’s all the paper has room to report. You don’t get articles telling you that 2 gangs of youths met up in the city, decided to watch a film, had a really good time and got home by midnight.

It’s the same with daytime television. Debate shows that have too little time to discuss a subject properly just set up two opposing viewpoints and let callers battle it out. The host must take an opposing position occasionally but they can have their own opinions as well. The problem is that these shows are often the decision makers of a nation, as are the tabloids that preceded them, and a new level of authority is given to them that they probably don’t deserve. Lets not forget that the journalists on our televisions are the same journalists who were writing the tabloids before their TV break.

The poster boy of tabloid television has to be The Wright Stuff. Debate every morning in the studio and on the telephones. I’ve seen how the show affects people. I’ve had conversations with people whose entire viewpoint has stemmed from their patronage of that particular show and, largely, they don’t understand the wider implications of the decisions they have come to. Can we ever understand all of the implications… that’s probably a discussion for a different time but we can all grasp a greater range of concepts than are allowed to come out in these television debates.

All of which brings me to the point of this post, the way The Wright Stuff treated Doctor Who this morning. Yes, all of this pseudo-intellectual build-up was really just an excuse for me to rant about the way they treated a show that I am very fond of. Apart form calling it Doctor Snooze throughout the programme (that is just personal opinion, not bad journalism) the thing that actually annoyed me was the review that it was given by the shows TV critic.

Firstly, he said that he was not a fan of science fiction. That’s fine, each to his own, but to then to say that he couldn’t follow the story and so, therefore, it was a bad programme really smacks of a false syllogism to me. Matthew Wright’s opinions of the show (which we already know he doesn’t like) seemed to be more of an attack on the BBC than a considered opinion on the matter. And that’s the problem in my mind. The critic (whose name I can’t remember) said he thought the show was funny. OK, he couldn’t follow the plot but he also conceded that there were a lot of people out there who would be able to and are already fans of the show. I wonder if he is aware of the overarching story that we have seen in the previous series. I wonder if he has considered that this first episode may very well be the first in a group of episodes and that not all elements of the plot needed to be explained?

Personally, I find it very refreshing that we actually have some intelligent sci-fi stories in Doctor Who and we’re not just dealing with the ‘monster of the week’ each time. I also wonder how much the employment of channel 5 has influenced what was said on the show. Would he have said the same things if he was working for the BBC? Finally, I still think that there’s a little bit of snobery when it comes to Doctor Who. The series has changed from the Rustle T Davies days and many would say that it has changed for the better. But, the move away from the mainstream back to it’s sci-fi roots seems to have polarised opinions somewhat. Some of the sillyness of the show has gone and been replaced by some really well thought out, funny, intelligent lines which really speak to the audience.

Finally, the comment that annoyed me more than anything else…

“It’s not high drama”

I may be paraphrasing here, but that was the jist (and said in the same piece that mentioned how good the latest series of Big Brother is). Doctor Who was never meant to be high drama. Is that really a fair criticism of a show that probably brings more money in to the corporation than any of it’s other drama exports? Certainly, there is no drama on any other channel which would compete with it. Midsummer Murders, for example. How ridiculous a programme is that?

The fact of the matter is that if you want good science fiction in this country there are only two programms that you can watch. Doctor Who is not only one of them, it is the flagship that Torchwood sits under as well. Yes, the audiences are different and that has allowed Torchwood to delve deeper in to plot and exposition. But that’s fine because as shows they both have there place in the audiences affections. If you want high drama, the BBC has that as well. Critically acclaimed dramas are on there each year. If you think Doctor Who is bad drama just because it’s sci-fi then look around at some of the stuff Channel 5 puts on. I’d take Doctor Who over Neighbours any day. If you think Doctor Who is just bad Sci-fi, don’t keep putting the boot in, go out there and make something better. You’re in television after all, lets see you get more viewers.

Now, I feel I am allowed to say this because I am a blogger. I don’t hold my writing up as master journalism at all and I don’t pretend it is anything other than what it is, my opinion. On a show that informs people’s opinions, however, why are we being treated to nothing but personal opinions and not a more balanced view of the subject matter. After all, these same tabloid television journalists would be the first ones to bemoan their own shows coming under attack from a BBC seemingly awash with bias. Why do they not hold there own journalistic integrity up to those same strict guidelines?

Definitely Deficient

After the protests over the deficits, the government has said that it has no plans to alter it’s tactics and is planning more cuts. We all seem to decry this. I have done so myself. I do sometimes wonder, however, if they haven’t got the right idea.

The basics of the plan is simple. We have, for some time, been spending more money than the country earns. We have been doing this by borrowing money. We need to pay this money back and the only way to do that is to re-appropriate the money we already have. So, the government has been cutting the money it spends on things in order to re-pay some of the money we owe.

It should be pounted out that we are not paying back the whole deficite in one go, like a mastercard bill. Most countries have a manageable deficite so the chances are we will be keeping that expendature at some level. What we shall be doing is removing a good portion of the debt to reduce the interest we have to pay. In the lonug run, this is something thay will give the country more money to play with, without having to put up tax… or at least, not at the rate it would have had to increase otherwise. Ultimately, that is a good thing. It’s actually something that I had been worried about for some time under Labour so for me, this is a good change.

I completely understand why people are worried about cutting too much. It is a natural reaction to have when we start to see some of our services suffer. The thing is, I can’t see another way out of the debt that Labour left us in.

The one good thing that has come out of this is the proof that we are willing to take to the streets for something that we believe in, even if our reasons are less than altruistic. Let’s make no bones about it, people are only protesting because they think they are loosing something.

I’m not sure we will be loosing as much as is claimed. The government doesn’t seem to think we shall be loosing anything and the protesters do. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between those two viewpoints. Actually most people agree that the cuts are needed and the only difference is the gornment want to make the cuts quickly and the public want some of thtle burden of cuts to be spread accross seberal years. To me, it doesn’t marter how these cuts happen, they are likely to happen anyway.

Please don’t take this as a comment that I am for the government in this topic. I am meerly saying that the cuts do seem to be giving us a benefit at the moment, all be it one that we won’t see for some time. Yes, some people are loosing their jobs because of this and that is a tragic thing at a time of resession. At the same time, it is not the job of government to employ the populous. Of course they will employ some people but employment should be coming from the private sector. We can’t pay for things that we can’t afford, surely?

Ultimately, if the government won’t back down then we shall have to wait and see what their policies do to the country. I hope that, in the long run, we shall all be better of. I’m sure we shal, unless big business gets too much of their own way, but thay is a subject for a new post.

The State of British Film

I am currently sitting and watching Harry Brown. I am enjoying it and will probably keep enjoying it until it’s over. This is a British film, some of the money for it having come from the, now sadly defunct, British Film Council.

Wanting to get in to film myself, I have looked at the different options that are available for funding. There are some funds out there but the more promising ones are taken up with the larger budget films or for encouraging young film makers. Perhaps that is how it should be. It definately seemed to work in ‘Film Council Britain’. What I feel there should be more of is funds for first time direcors. Take it away from the young. Not that I think the young should not get the chance but let them compete for it on a level playing field with people of all ages. After all, we might find that the best time for starting out in film is in your 30s or 40s.

I am heartened by films like Harry Brown and The King’s Speach because it proves that Britain still has something to say to the world and thay the world still wants to listen. It may be sceptical but I do sometimes wonder if we are universally hated by our cousins overseas, despite the quality of the output. The only problem with British film at the moment seems to be content.

The British seem to be able to make one of three types of film. Gritty gangster type films, Costume dramas or romantic comedy. Can you think of a recent British film that doesn’t fall in to one of those categories? They are around but you have to search to find them.

I suppose the most popular of these is Dog Soldiers. We do Horror terribly well too but we see so little of it since Hammer closed it’s doors in the 1980s. It seems quite clear to me that the production standards are there in this country to compete with any Hollywood movie. The one thing they have over there is the ability to fund it.

This brings me back to the first point really. Funding for films can not just come from the money made on the releases. Richard Curtis’ Working Title Productions might push some money back in to film production but they had to get that money in the first place. This is often done through private funding from people who are inaccessable to the likes of me, a just-starting-out nobody with no track record. Because of this, Working Title won’t see all of the money they would have made on production, the investor has to be paid first. This severely limits the amount of money they can push in to new productions. It’s the same for any other production company and this is the main problem. Unless there is some source for funding, new films can’t be made.

This brings me on to the final point I want to make. If there is no political will to fund popular culture then the film industry suffers. The closire of the film council is bound to have an effect on the working of the British film industry but we don’t know what that effect will be until we see it in action. Cameron is desperately trying to save money at the moment and that makes it difficult for him to spend money on popular culture, even if he wanted to. Perhaps when we have recouped some of the money that Labour borrowed we shall be able to spend on films again. Until then people like me will have to find there budgets elsewhere.