Since May 2009 38 degrees has been using the web as an online campaigning tool to defend fairness, protect rights, promote peace, preserve the planet and deepen democracy. Issues that champion people power in our society. 38 degrees was formed by a “group of activists and funders concerned about the state of our democracy and determined to try something different.” One of their first, and successful, campaigns was the overturning of a proposed closure of BBC’s 6 music radio station.
One of their recent campaigns has been to lobby local MPs and raise concerns with the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that prevents cuts in the BBC licence fee.
A friend of mine sent a message to our MP, Mike Freer, on this subject. He received a standard reply.
The reply went like this:
Dear Mr Taylor
Thank you for your email regarding the BBC. The BBC does need to be more effective and efficient with its use of public money. There is no evidence that the drive for the BBC to be more careful with the significant amount of public money it receives is remotely related to other media operators.
sincerely, Mike Freer MP Conservative Member of Parliament for Finchley & Golders Green
Now, I’ve never written to my MP in my life but I was rather irritated by this crass and misinformed response to my friends request. It should be noted that Mr Freer was leader of Barnet Council when problems occurred over its investments in Icelandic banks after the bank’s collapse. With this in mind I thought I should take him to task and so I wrote him this response.
Dear Mr Freer,
Mr Taylor sent me your response to his email about cuts at the BBC (below) and I felt compelled to contact to you as your statement raises a number of issues.
Firstly, your reply lacks the inclusion of any facts to back up your statement and misunderstands the issue.
The original request from Mr Taylor was for you, as your constituent, to raise his concerns about cutting the BBC’s budget with Jeremy Hunt. It was not about whether the BBC is “careful with public money”. This is where you have significantly misunderstood the point regarding this issue. Being “careful with public money” is not the same as having budget cuts imposed.
Secondly, your first sentence contains a meaningless statement. What does “more effective and efficient with its use of public money” mean?
One could apply this to anything; Barnet Councilors’ pay rises, Barnet Council’s Icelandic banks investment, MPs expenses, Royalty, Banks (as we now part-own many of them). The list could go on and on.
The same applies to your second sentence:
“be more careful with the significant amount of public money”.
This again is a meaningless and rather offensive statement. Especially when set against the aforementioned issues of Barnet Council’s investment in Icelandic banks and MPs expenses. Both of these examples haven’t been “careful with the significant amount of public money” at all.
Thirdly, you say:
“There is no evidence that the drive for the BBC to be more careful with the significant amount of public money it receives is remotely related to other media operators”.
On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence to show that “be(ing) more careful”, or as the issue is actually about: cutting the BBC’s budget, would help other media operators. Cutting the BBC’s budget would limit the amount of services that it can provide and therefore enable media operations like BskyB and News International to charge for their equivalent, and in my view poorer, services. As James Murdoch’s Edinburgh Television Festival MacTaggart speech revealed, the Murdoch Empire dislikes the BBC because its services prevents them from making more profit and from their proprietor imposing even greater influence on the UK.
The BBC licence fee is extremely good value for the amount of services it provides; numerous radio stations, 9 TV channels, and cutting edge internet services. At £145.50 a year the licence fee works out at £2.79 a week or £12.12 a month, far less that than the £20++ plus per month that other media organizations charge, and offer a much lesser services for this price.
Sadly your reply implies that you have a poor understanding of media issues in this country and hope this can be rectified during the course of your tenure as an MP.
I too am a Finchley and Golders Green constituent and would like you to raise the points I have mention with the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
Yours faithfully, Tim Riley
I received a rather minimal and curt response.
I will raise your concerns at the earliest opportunity.