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I have long noticed that certain aspects of the BBC's notoriously monolithic and change-resistant mind are not, as is universally assumed, "progressive" left, but profoundly and even viciously reactionary. One that has stuck in my craw for a long time is their reporting of union matters and strikes. Anyone who is suprised at the BBC's constantly negative and deliberately obtuse treatment of, say, Israel, either has not studied the way the BBC reports strikes at home, or is himself so savagely against the very principle of unionization and workers' solidarity as to believe that there is no device too vile to beat the unions with. Their approach to Israel and to British trades unions is one and the same, practically brand-marked. Whenever there is a strike, the BBC spends the least possible time, if it does at all, explaining the cause and setting out the union's reasons; most of its reports are always - this is something you can test, if you pay attention - taken up with bits of heavily edited street interviews with supposed members of the public who are supposed to have been incommodated by the strike. These are usually three - three members of the public, after all, make a proper sample for hundreds of thousands or tens of millions of people, just as thirty seconds are a sufficient time to express the whole range of their views. Very often the sample of three ends with someone who expresses the vilest and shabbiest of views, which can be summed up as: "Well, I have been screwed by my boss, so how dare they try not to be screwed by theirs?" If things go bad for Mr.Smith, it is an outrage that Mr.Jones should dare to fight to make them better for himself - and perhaps, in the long run, for Mr.Smith too. As I said, this is often the concluding volley in this profound televisual dive into the depths of the national spirit; and as such it has a concluding, even summing-up value. Since we all have it tough, it is wrong for unionized labour to try and improve matters for any reason.

The BBC treatment of a recent strike in the London Underground is a classic of its kind. A couple of union activists were sacked under various pretexts, and the unions called a strike. As a matter of fact, the strike was only a threat, and when it eventually took place, it was on the last legally possible day, and lasted, IIRC, from ten in the evening of one day till six in the morning of the next. Some terrible, damaging strike this was. Nonetheless, the BBC did not even try to be fair between the contending parties. That the men had been sacked, whatever the excuse, for being union activists, was fairly evident and was confirmed by the fact that the labour disputes court found for them; and everyone knows - or ought to know - that the sacking of union activists for being union activists is and has always been ground for striking the world over. Anyone who made the imaginative effort to try and understand the reasons of the union ought to have understood that; but the BBC would not, and would not allow its public to make the effort either. From the beginning to the end, the London public was spoon-fed anti-union propaganda, including the calls from some more than usually vile Tory backbencher for anti-union legislation even more severe than Margaret Thatcher already managed.

The unions at the BBC itself have been pretty well emasculated, and it might be said that the company has a good (or quite amazingly bad) internal reason to take this oppressive attitude. A couple of years ago it emerged that the BBC had not paid its share of workers' pension contributions for thirteen solid years, and that the kitty, as a direct result, was empty. The immense power of this corrupt corporation can be measured by the fact that not a single manager was so much as investigated by police or revenue investigators, and that every single one of those who had connived at this atrocious crime kept their own gilded and chromed pension arrangements. The employees? They struck, failed to make an impression, and had to swallow redundancies and massively worsened terms and conditions. One thing that must considered in this context is that, unlike normal corporations, the BBC knows exactly, at the beginning of each year, how much money it is going to "earn" - or rather squeeze from the public - through the so-called canon; and therefore there is no excuse for planning and accounting errors big enough to justify the continuous "contributions holiday" (yes, that is what it's called) that lasted thirteen years.

This, of course, gives the BBC a very good corporate reason to be anti-union in general; but I don't think it begins there. I think that the hate and contempt for the unions was there first, and that the resolution to swindle their own employees was a by-product. I think the BBC simply dislikes the idea of uppity proles. Not, of course, that it is against all unions and all union activity. There is a kind of union activity for which the BBC can never find enough time to report or enough positive overtones and that is what may be loosely defined as the area of political correctness. Every time a union takes any action that can be constructed as feminist, pro-abortion, pro-gays, pro-immigrant or secularist, however small and insignificant, the BBC reports with high approval. One of its favourite unions is the National Union of Teachers, which I refused to join when I was briefly a trainee because I could see from all its materials and rhetoric that it cared nothing for teachers' working conditions and plenty for PC in all its forms. Let us notice, then, that two important conclusions arise: being PC and "progressive" does not imply any sympathy for one's own domestic working classes and their representatives; and that the way to please the BBC (and its shadows in all the mass media) is to bash the one and glorify the other.

This article has been caused by a truly shocking instance, no earlier than this morning. The BBC led - led, mind you! - with a news item about "the culture of compensation" overrunning prisons. Its reporters sounded all shocked and disgusted that, in one year, the UK Prison Service had paid one and a half million pounds in compensations to prisoners who felt they had claims for accidents or mistreatment.

Now I don't expect BBC journalists to be able to count, but I do expect them to have access to a calculator. Mine says that one and a half million pounds, spread over eighty thousand prisoners in Britain's jails, means an average of eighteen pounds seventy-five pence per convict. This means that if one convict out of ten had reason to complain in the last year - hardly an excessive guess in a notoriously overcrowded and naturally brutal environment, and one where, at the same time, the inmates have regular access to lawyers - he might have scored the fantastic, life-changing lottery win sum of one hundred and eighty seven pounds fifty pence sterling. Truly the compensation culture run amock.

Let us try and suppose that, once a man is jailed, his health and welfare actually become the responsibility of those who are holding him. Let us try to imagine that these men - I mean the jailers - might represent the community; and that the community might even have some notion that the jail service, as a public service, in some way represents them, and that its standards reflect on them. What does this mean - that the BBC finds a yearly compensation budget of one and a half million pounds (less than a couple of its criminal but unjailed top managers cost the canon-payer!) a shocking thought? What does it mean, except than to propose that people once convicted - for whatever reason - should not be recognized any rights, and that if anything bad happens to them in jail, compensation ought to be denied? What does this mean except to declare that convicts cease to be members of the human race? And does this come well from a company whose top brass ought by rights to have been jailed for financial crimes years ago?


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