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Friday 25 October 2019

Question Time Lobbyist Disclosure Fail

The BBC had decided that it would no longer promote pundits from opaquely-funded and invariably right-wing lobby groups as if they were mere disinterested observers; they would henceforth be identified as the partisan operators that anyone who knows their modus operandi knows them to be. So the alphabet soup of TPA, CPS, IEA, ASI, PX and the rest would be flagged up to viewers. Except someone didn’t get the message.
To no surprise at all, the programme not getting the message is the still supposedly flagship debate show Question Time, which last night offered its audience, and anyone looking in at home, the dubious benefit of seeing Kate Andrews of the IEA, an Astroturf Lobby Group whose disclosed donors include the tobacco industry, the oil industry, a group called the “American friends of the IEA”, and the Templeton Foundation.
The IEA was well and truly busted in a Greenpeace sting last year, with Director Mark Littlewood claiming grandly to be in “the Brexit influencing game” and effectively offering wealthy potential donors the opportunity to “shape policy”. Cui Bono, and all that. Later last year, the Charity Commission ordered the IEA to take down a pro-Brexit report from its website, although the organisation retains its charitable status. Just about.
Among the more creative - some might say screamingly batshit - IEA ideas has been the claim that paving over railways and making coach-only roads out of them would increase their passenger carrying capacity. This, and other drivel, has come courtesy of the group employing the services of Richard Wellings, a known rail-hater, as its “transport expert”.
So the BBC knew who they were inviting on, and should have told their audience accordingly. They did not. Hence Ben Goldacre (the Bad Science man) asking “Just turned on [QT]. I love the IEA (libertarians are more fun at parties) but what are they doing on this show? I thought the BBC had a new rule requiring thinktanks to declare their income from British American Tobacco? Did I misread? Is there a delayed implementation?
Christopher Snowdon of the IEA sniffed “Yes, you misread”. Peter Jukes of Byline Media wanted to know more. “Oh, so opaquely funded think tanks (taking money from Oil industry, Tobacco, Koch Bros and random Russian oligarchs) should be allowed on all BBC TV programmes without declaring their (albeit opaque) financial interests? Have you an interest in this too?” I suspect Jukes knew the answer to this one.
Snowdon, who claims he is “not an unreasonable man”, which is an interesting way of saying “breathtakingly arrogant”, sniffed a little more. “Er, yeah. Read my profile”. And who pays for him to sniffily dismiss such questions? “Donor privacy, m8”. The arrogant man never learns. And Snowdon has clearly decided learning is not for him.
Thus the assurance that the money is going to keep coming in, and the influence will continue to be enjoyed, despite the claims of Lord Hall-Hall and his minions that groups like the IEA would appear alongside an appropriate health warning.

Donor privacy” is not an adequate excuse. Viewers should be informed whose influence is being bought via organisations to which broadcasters give a platform. That is all.
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Anonymous said...

No surprise there, then.

That programme is a worthless pile of right wing weighted drivel.

I stopped watching it for good when it made the "moderator" a grotesque tory woman with one eyebrow and the look and sound of someone who just sat on a sticky toffee pudding.

Not worth a carrot.

Ted Bangor said...

How, in the entire world of fucks, are these groups classed as a "Charity"?

Mark said...

As the BBC told me in their reply to my complaint re Laura Kuenssberg that their political journalists have a duty to notify audiences of the background of whoever they report on or feature, then I look forward to a similar 'turns out...' tweet that surfaced the minute an anxious father rounded on a PR hungry Boris Johnson...but I shan't hold my breath.

James said...

Further proof that our country desperately needs change.

Pendragon said...

There is a series of TV documentaries recently shown on the Yesterday channel called War Factories. They are about the way factories in the USA, UK, Germany and the USSR met the demand for ships, tanks, aircraft etc in World War 2. One of the “talking heads” frequently used in the series is Dr Stephen Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs. It set me wondering if the IEA had any hand in the funding and content of the episodes.

The message of the series seems to be that the deregulated profit-seeking economies of the Allies out-produced those of Germany, although none of the programmes mentions the vast profits made by the US and UK companies which were making war materials.

Here’s an example, from the end of the programme on German war production, of the message:

VIDEO: We see a speeded-up colour film of night-time in the brightly-lit centre of a German city—of the present, not of wartime—with cars whizzing across a bridge over a river.

VOICE-OVER: After the war Ludwig Erhard takes charge of the West German economy. A sworn opponent of the Nazis and everything they stood for, he scraps government regulations, re-introduces competition and free markets—and slashes taxes. The period of astonishing growth that follows becomes known as the German economic miracle.

Anonymous said...

To Pendragon 08:46.

Oddly, the programme also never mentioned US funding of Nazi Germany via the Union Bank and other conduits, that US and European firms who aided the pre-war Nazi rearmament programme were actually compensated for war damage, and that Hitler awarded mad antisemitic Henry Ford Germany's highest civilian honour. It especially avoided the "free market" fascist Liberty League plot to overthrow FDR and install a US Nazi government - at least until the conspiracy was exposed by General Smedley Butler.

There was of course no "German economic miracle". Both Germany and Japan were funded as part of the crackpot Cold War instigated by the Truman administration. Both had been almost wiped out by bombing campaigns which even Robert McNamara admitted were the acts of war criminals. They would never have recovered otherwise. Erhard was in no position to dictate anything but minor reforms.

Those TV documentaries are pure far right bullshit propaganda, nothing more.

Pendragon said...

Pendragon to anonymous:

Here’s a transcript of the “message”, delivered by the sound-track in the last few minutes of the War Factories programme about the contribution of the Vickers aircraft company to the British war effort in WW2. The sound-track was accompanied by film clips from the 1970s of trade unionists marching with banners and having confrontations on picket-lines.

Voice-over commentator: However it’s Britain which learns the wrong lessons from the six years of conflict.

Talking head: Stephen Davies (IEA): They conclude from their experiences during the war that a controlled economy is more efficient and more effective than a more free-market one. And the result is that the dynamism that the British economy had shown during the 1930s is lost. It goes from being one of the the most innovative economies in the Western World with the most dynamic sectors in areas like consumer goods, car manufacture, light engineering to being in the 1970s the sick man of Europe.
Instead of sticking with the strategy they had been following in the inter-war period they go down the road of much greater state involvement and also trying to sustain a very large and very expensive welfare state which the British economy simply could not afford.

Voice-over commentator: Britain may have won the war but it lost the peace. A country which rose to every challenge during the Second World War now languished behind its old enemy, Germany, by falling to learn the lesson from its past.

Anonymous said...

To 11:48.

Yes. The Davies comment tells you all you need to know about his far right politics, especially the final sentence. So does images editing tell you everything about the intentions of the film makers.

The "observations" about 1930s Britain are so obviously bullshit they're laughable. But any working class citizen who lived through the misery and economic depression of the interwar years won't be laughing. Davies of course wants the country to return to those conditions.

Execrable propaganda films typical of their type.