Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2192

BBC cuts: a victory for the bland and boring

BBC director general Mark Thompson announced major cuts at the corporation this week. Rupert Murdoch and every other media mogul will be rejoicing.

The attacks amount to backdoor privatisation of public broadcasting, and a chance for private firms to profit.

Government regulation already obliges the BBC to hive off huge amounts of its programming – both TV and radio – to independent companies. Many of these have become major companies in their own right.

This plan to close radio stations and cut the corporation’s website by a quarter offers yet more lucrative opportunities to cash in.

And the biggest casualties have been workers’ jobs – both the number employed at the BBC, and their quality in terms of training and skills.

This privatisation is being carried out on the back of political attacks that have effectively muzzled reporters.

And this, in turn, has provided the space for right wingers to press for a complete break with the idea of public service broadcasting.

The need for a national fight back, involving not only the media unions but as much of the BBC’s huge audience as possible, could not be greater.

Alan Gibson , National Union of Journalists, London Magazine Branch (pc)

BBC bosses’ decision to axe the BBC 6 Music and the Asian Network radio stations is an outrage.

Radio 6 Music is a vital platform for new and non-mainstream artists. It is curated by DJs who are guided by passion, rather than playlists, and gives musicians exposure they would otherwise never have.

In this way, they continue the mission of the late John Peel – without him many bands would never have reached a mass audience.

The station is also diverse all day long, rather than narrow in the daytime.

The BBC claims that key DJs will continue on Radio 1 and Radio 2 with a wider audience. However, the usual outcome of such mergers is the minority becomes marginalised and has its scope to play new music narrowed to next to nothing.

The Asian Network stands to be replaced by the occasional token voice in mainstream radio.

This is a retreat from the kind of nationwide exposure that is so vital for a genuinely multicultural Britain.

The BBC needs to sound more like its diverse audience and less like just the white, middle class.

I urge readers to complain to the BBC and join the Facebook group, Save 6 Music and Asian Network petition.

Paul Murphy, East London

Tories aren't gay-friendly

The vote in the House of Lords to allow civil partnerships to take place in churches is to be welcomed. Last week’s vote was step forward in the fight for gay liberation.

It seems that politicians have read recent surveys that show a positive shift in attitudes to same-sex partnerships.

But knowing which way the wind is blowing is different from a commitment to ending prejudice.

Why did Labour allow its peers a “free vote”?

And, if Tory leader David Cameron wants to be seen as a fighter for equality, why were Conservative peers also allowed a free vote?

Tories like Norman Tebbit voted against the bill. What message is that supposed to send?

Cameron’s comments about challenging homophobic bullying in our schools are also sound fine. But can a leopard change its spots?

At a Tory conference fringe meeting in 2000, Cameron said he supported the repeal of anti-gay Section 28 laws. Two years later he voted for a motion to continue that bigoted piece of legislation.

There is a reason why students at the recent Right to Work protest at the Tories’ spring conference were chanting “Homophobes off our streets!”.

It’s because the Tory party, as well as being the bosses’ party, is still a comfortable home for the vicious bigots who brought in Section 28 when they were in government in the 1980s.

Alan Kenny, East London

Am I the only gay person who feels patronised and pressurised by the growing clamour for civil partnerships?

These “gay marriages” are an attempt to mimic “normal” family relationships.

They reinforce the idea that being a couple and staying together for the long term, come what may, is the only way to live your life.

Well, it’s not. Many of us broke with these notions when we came out. Why should we go back to them now?

Anna Crawford, Newcastle

Banning burqas is not about women’s rights

Surveys showing that a majority of Britons want to ban Muslim women from wearing the burqa got a predictable response in the tabloid press.

Women who cover themselves in this way have “rejected the British way of life”, and are an “Islamic enemy within,” they said.

Some in the media even attempted to couch their opposition to the burqa as a defence of women’s rights.

What utter hypocrisy.

These are the same papers that use images of semi-naked women to sell more copies. They also insist that if we are mothers, and we go out to work, we are damaging our children.

More disappointing has been the reaction from some who describe themselves as feminists, “on the left”.

They argue that the burqa is imposed on Muslim women and is therefore a symbol of their oppression.

That is not the experience of the Muslim women that I know. Many of them decided to cover themselves as a reaction against sexism.

It can also be a defiant rejection of those who would impose their “secularism” on religious minorities.

“A woman’s right to choose” has long been the slogan of those who really stand for liberation.

Long may it remain so.

Claudine O’Reilly, Bracknell, Berkshire

Debt is just the excuse for bosses

Many of us campaigned for the debt of Sub-Saharan African countries to be cancelled.

These memories can lead us to assume that a high level of government debt is necessarily a bad thing.

However, there is another experience that we should remember.

The economic histories of the US and the Britain over the last 60 years demonstrate that high levels of debt are not necessarily a problem.

Both countries had government debts of over 100 percent of their GDP in the late 1940s, but this was followed by one of the most sustained economic booms either country has experienced before or since.

In recent years neoliberal economists have placed a high priority on maintaining low levels of government debt. This was accepted by Gordon Brown.

He pledged to maintain Britain’s debt at less than 40 percent to prove to the bankers in the City that he was being “prudent”.

The political leaders and other bosses are just using the level of government debt as another reason to attack the working class.

Andy Wynne, Leicester

Who supports the fascists?

I am confused as to why fascism is described as being on the right wing of the political landscape.

In Germany the Nazis were called the National Socialist Party. The British National Party’s supporters are usually from traditional left wing areas.

Regrettably, the fascists are often seen by traditional and disillusioned Labour voters as the way to go when they want to kick back at their party’s betrayals.

Malcolm Cowing, West Yorkshire

Bad science? Big pharma!

Socialist Worker was wrong to give Ben Goldacre such uncritical attention last week (»  Ben Goldacre on science and the media, 6 March).

Many of his views look fine, but his promotion of the “evidence based medicine” mantra is very deceptive. Evidence based medicine almost always means big pharmaceutical companies.

Who can afford the astronomical costs of controlled trials? Big pharma.

Who can afford the teams of researchers to “prove” that drugs coming out of patent and vitamins are no use? Big pharma.

Goldacre recognises we live in a class society, yet he whistles big pharma’s favourite tune.

Pablo Stern, Sheffield

Hypocrisy on Zuma’s wives

South African president Jacob Zuma has three wives, and the British press feign shock and horror.

They scream that polygamy is a backward tribal practice. How can it be practised by a modern head of state?

Hold on a minute. How many “modern” Europeans politicians, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, have had an affair while still married?

Presumably they are some sort of throwback to a less civilised age.

The attacks on Zuma remind me of the typical colonial mentality that was used to justify ideas of “Western superiority”.

Rohan Nakkady, Cape Town

Where is my union now?

Thanks for your report of the demonstration to defend the Whittington hospital (» 5,000 march to say ‘Save our hospital’, 6 March).

The size of the protest made it sound really inspiring.

Bosses at the hospital where I work are planning massive cuts too, but so far there has been little response from our union.

It seems that our national unions aren’t doing much either.

Perhaps community campaigns, led by patients are a better way to go?

Asif, by email

Banks getting a little extra

with help from the generous British public, the banks are over their crisis.

I’m not entirely surprised.

At the same time as offering savers virtually no interest whatsoever, bankers are charging massive interest rates for loans, credit cards and overdrafts.

No wonder the bonus money continues to flow like the champagne in a City wine bar.

Rachel Dees, West London

Never forget the miners

Reading your feature on the 25th anniversary of the Great Miners’ Strike brought back some painful memories » How the miners shook Thatcher.

None more so than the incredible hardship that striking miners’ families had to go through, and the incredible betrayal of the trade union and Labour Party leaderships.

I will never forgive them for forcing the miners to stand alone in the battle against Margaret Thatcher.

As your article points out, with our low wages and emasculated unions, we are still paying the price for our “leaders” mistakes.

Peter Doughty, Sheffield

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Article information

Tue 9 Mar 2010, 18:45 GMT
Issue No. 2192
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