You currently have a chance to give your views on the future of the BBC. I hope you will take the opportunity to say that it is one of this country’s best assets and, free from those endless advertising breaks, offers great value for money compared to the expensive Sky and BT packages which line the pockets of Premier League footballers.

I am not a naïve fan of the BBC. I worked for them for thirteen years under managers of varying quality. It was over managed and paid its top staff too much. Most of the pooh-bahs have gone now, apart from Creative Director Alan Yentob. He should be on his way soon after his handling of the Kid’s Company affair. In 2010 the BBC were wrong to fight plans for Ofcom or a new OfBBC to replace the discredited governors system. The BBC Trust that was set up has failed to provide an independent overview of the executive.

So the Corporation isn’t without its faults but in the run up to Charter renewal in 2017, it has been subjected to continuous vilification in many newspapers. More worryingly the government have trampled all over the proper procedures regarding its future funding for the second time, the new Culture Secretary has hinted the BBC should compete less in popular programming and Tory backbenchers have maintained their tired campaign against the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation.

The press attacks on the BBC are motivated by falling newspaper sales, a loss of advertising revenue to the internet and a jealousy about the Corporation’s excellent news coverage. They should get their house in order. Shrinking the BBC is not the answer. We know what that leads too. Some years ago local papers managed to get BBC plans to improve their regional web pages scrapped claiming unfair competition. It did nothing to halt circulation slides and impoverished a part of the BBC’s service to the public.

Some parts of the Tory Party have always had a problem with the BBC, thinking it is biased against it.

In my thirteen years as a BBC journalist nobody remotely indicated I should favour the left. No such editorial policy has ever existed and it is essential that the publicly funded BBC should remain free of government pressure. That independence has been sorely tested with the recent overnight imposition on the BBC of funding free TV licences for the elderly.


Finally we come to the £145.50 compulsory licence fee. In an age when there are so many ways to access BBC services, why does the BBC have to be funded by TV licences? My answer is that at 40p a day it is very good value compared to Sky packages which are often £70 a month. People kid themselves if they say they never use BBC services as an article in next week’s Radio Times shows. Finally what is the alternative? Please not advertising which is making commercial channels unwatchable. The BBC should make much more of this. Would people really want subscription with the BBC begging on air for money to fund its programmes as happens with public broadcasting in America? A state levy like they have in Germany seems the only possible alternative.


After a summer where the government and BBC got in their trenches, a more conciliatory mood broke out at this week’s TV festival in Edinburgh. Perhaps the Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, has already picked up the public’s bewilderment that with all the problems we’ve got, that time should be wasted fixing a problem that does not exist.





The surprise victory of the Conservatives in May and the Labour implosion since has led to an arrogant style of government this summer.

Election promises have been abandoned and proper procedures bypassed by Ministers who see their time in government stretching into the mid 2020s. It is essential that judges, the media and voters keep this government under scrutiny in the absence of effective political opposition.

The list of examples of arrogance in power is quite long considering this government has only been in power for three months.

Take the crash of Kids Company. Only last week Ministers overruled civil service advice to give the organisation three million quid. Civil servants insisted on the rare procedure of a direct written order to do it. We need more of that from the Sir Humphreys.

Take the National Living Wage announced in the Summer Budget. The Low Pay Commission which gives independent advice to the government in this area, appears to have been by passed. At the very least its policy of making recommendations that keep job losses to a minimum has been seriously compromised according to many business organisations now deeply worried by the implications for their wage bills of paying £9 an hour by 2020.

Another example is the funding of the BBC. This is meant to be decided after a lengthy period of public consultation. In 2010 this requirement was ignored as the BBC was forced overnight to accept a TV licence freeze, funding the World Service and paying towards broadband roll out. The excuse then was the financial crisis prevailing at the time. What’s the excuse now? The decision to make the BBC pay for free TV for over 75s is an important one with many implications. However the BBC has once again been forced to accept the deal in return for getting the licence fee tied to inflation increases with no reference to us.

Government promises have been torn up left right and centre. More is yet to come out about when Ministers knew they were going to “pause” the electrification of the Manchester-Leeds rail line. And remember that promise to the elderly that there would be a £72,000 cap on their contribution to their care. That’s now been put back to 2020.

Then there is the political trickery that all politicians get up to but it leads to cynicism amongst the public. The demand by Tory backbenchers that we spend 2% of gross domestic product on defence has been met. Hurrah! But wait a minute, that’s only because intelligence spending has now been included. Then there are the British pilots flying bombing missions in Syria without parliament’s permission.

The one thing these arrogant Tories haven’t done is announce forty new Conservative peers. That sort of move is usually announced on a quiet Friday afternoon in early August. But Lord Sewell’s political discussions with ladies of the night focussed attention on the failed structure of the House of Lords and the preferment of a load of time servers and party donors is being delayed.



The decision to close the Liverpool Post is the latest milestone on a road that could leave us with no printed newspapers at all.


In embarking on this subject I have to be careful not to wallow in too much nostalgia about nestling in the armchair with the rustle of the paper and ink on the fingers. I need to acknowledge that the casual swipe of the hand across tablet and smart phone is equally exciting for a new generation informing itself about current events.


For it is the largely free access to news at the press of a button that has done for the papers. People liked the instant access provided by the internet revolution and the advertisers have followed them. The huge loss of advertising revenue and the drying up of sales at the newsagent is seeing papers fighting a losing battle to continue in printed form.


Alan Rushbridger, the editor of the Guardian, has said that in fifty years people will be amazed to be told that once huge printers rolled off millions of papers at midnight that were them transported by lorry through the nights to thousands of shops. The economics stacked up in the era before 24 hour radio and TV news but not now.


I can easily see the total demise of printed newspapers although attempts are being made to keep them going by making them free.


So why am I sad to see the Liverpool Post go? Isn’t it just the latest development in communications which began with cave painting and Egyptian hieroglyphics? The monks changed all that with their portable illuminated manuscripts. Caxton disrupted the medieval world with the printing press and Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web which so many people rely on now to get their news.


I regret the ending of the Liverpool Post for a number of reasons. The parochial one is that the city has lost a publication that was full of great content from its business pages to its investigative journalism headed up by Marc Waddington. Some of this will continue to appear in the Liverpool Echo but that paper has sold its soul to a diet of crime and sensation which gives a very distorted image of Merseyside. That’s the price you pay when you engage in a futile chase for readers. “If it bleeds, it leads” is one of the most odious sayings I have had to live with in my journalistic career.


But on a wider front I wonder if there is a danger we are all going to become niche consumers of news. With the tablet and smart phone you inevitably concentrate on the particular story you are interested in. Your eyes don’t stray across the pages and notice something else you might be interested in. You don’t get the whole deal that a newspaper provides between its covers: the news, comment, features, pictures, the crossword and sport.


Let’s hope that, behind pay walls, some great journalism survives in the e-newspapers of the future. But they will be competing with the blogs and websites of citizen journalism. What is the truth will become a very pertinent question


The people are speaking and newspapers will die. There is no licence fee to protect a high quality paper from market forces. There is such a fee to protect the BBC although some papers, in their death throes, are trying to remove it.


A world without newspapers is going to be bad enough. Protect us from the BBC with a quarter of an hour per hour of advertising.


So now we know how those millionaires secured their tax break in the recent budget…. dining at Dave’s Dodgy Downing Street diner.

Mind you Labour is in no position to point fingers with the Unite union effectively choosing the next Labour leader and possible Prime Minister.

Nor are the Lib Dems in the clear on the issue of party funding, remember their association with donor Michael Brown who was convicted of fraud?

We’re told politicians hate these fund raising dinners when they have to sit for hours over the rubber chicken listening to some boring, but hopelessly wealthy donor, droning on about the 50p tax rate.

Well let’s put them out of their misery.

I’m a member of the Richard the Third Society. We campaign to correct the wholly distorted image of this fine king by that Tudor spin doctor Will Shakespeare. We can only spend the subscriptions we receive. It is the same for thousands of clubs and organisations all over the country.

So let the political parties survive on what they can get individual members to pay, with a ceiling of £5000.

I can hear the howls of anguish now. The democratic process will grind to a halt! The parties won’t be able to communicate with the voters!

What does this communication amount to? In the years between elections the parties tick over, selecting candidates, fighting local elections and spending modest amounts of money. When the General Election comes all reason is cast to the wind and millions are spent on posters, battle buses and political consultants. The mounting debts can be left for another day.

Most of what that money is spent on irritates the public profoundly. That’s why the concept of state aid (you and I paying for it in our taxes) is a non runner.

There is an argument that the political parties should be able to communicate with us directly on TV without the interference of journalists. So I propose that the BBC be charged with producing the party political broadcasts out of the licence fee money.

Not an appropriate use of the licence fee? Sorry that principle has been breeched already with BBC money being siphoned off to pay for digital switchover.

Most attention has focused on the Tories but Labour has become far too dependent on the unions. Union barons bankroll the party up to 90%. Ed Miliband denounces most strikes, so we can’t say this arrangement buys the barons much effect on policy. But the unions did bring their influence to bear in the leadership election. With rank and file members and MPs backing David Miliband, it was the union vote that secured Ed his victory. After the Bradford West debacle many in the party think the unions made a bad call.

Union members should have to positively opt in to having part of their sub paid to the Labour Party. I think most would and if not, that’s tough.

In any other walk of life if you want someone to give you money, you have to provide a product or service that they want. So it should be in politics. Then we stop this endless cycle of scandal as parties try to raise money either from dodgy characters or people expecting influence.