Monday, August 15, 2011

Dan Hind on the BBC & on the riots

Dan Hind, author of The Return of the Public, last month wrote this insightful critique of the BBC. Quotes:

"I would argue that it is a problem that derives from the structure of the institution, rather than from the shortcomings of individuals."
"The BBC is a political actor of considerable importance. It is in some ways central to the operations of the British state and as such it has a stake in the existing constitutional settlement. Its reliance on revenue from the license fee means it is vulnerable to pressure from the political class and from the privately owned media. It has interests about which it cannot be entirely candid. When its interests overlap with those of other powerful actors the social silence is likely to be deafening. For these reasons it is also unrealistic to think that the BBC can be left with so much discretion in decisions about whether and how debates in civil society are covered."

(We can apply a similar analysis to Canada's CBC.)

More recently, he wrote this post (which I also recommend) about the UK riots -- Nothing 'mindless' about rioters:

"...there is no single meaning in what is happening in London and elsewhere. But there are connections that we can make, and that we should make. We have a major problem with youth unemployment. There have already been cuts in services for young people. State education in poor areas is sometimes shockingly bad. Young people cannot afford adequate private housing and there is a shortage of council-built stock. Economic inequality has reached quite startling levels. All this is the consequence of decisions made by governments and there is little hope of rapid improvement. The same politicians now denouncing the mindless violence of the mob all supported a system of political economy that was as unstable as it was pernicious. They should have known that their policies would lead to disaster. They didn't know. Who then is more mindless?

The global economic crisis is at least as political as the riots we've seen in the last few days. It has lasted far longer and done far more damage. We need not draw a straight line from the decision to bail out the banks to what's going on now in London. But we must not lose sight of what both events tell us about our current condition. Those who want to see law and order restored must turn their attention to a menace that no amount of riot police will disperse; a social and political order that rewards vandalism and the looting of public property, so long as the perpetrators are sufficiently rich and powerful."