Controversy surrounding the BBC: Why we should care…

Controversy surrounding the BBC: Why we should care…

Articles

Controversy surrounding the BBC: Why we should care…

Summary

• The license fee makes the BBC a Public Responsibility
• Political Bias – where do we draw the line of impartiality?
• Gender Inequality in 2017?
• Significant pay gaps in many areas
• Lack of Diversity in its ranks

Since its creation in 1927, the British Broadcasting Corporation has played a pivotal role in shaping British culture, and by doing so, has been the focal attraction of a significant amount of harsh criticism. The well-established global network has provided multiple generations of the British public and foreign audiences with decades of entertainment and news coverage, yet has become the subject of equally infamous accusations. These accusations range from holding political bias to an unfair portrayal of certain groups within our society. However, recently the topic of discussion has been around gender pay gap, after the BBC released official documents in July 2017 displaying its TV stars who earn above £150,000 (which is more than the Prime Minister earns in a year). The public’s attention has been sharply directed to not only the large amount of earnings of these individuals, but more importantly who was earning these high six-digit figure salaries. It was revealed that of the 96 on-air male and female ‘talent’ paid £150,000 or over, only 34 were women compared to the 64 male stars. In addition, the total cost of the 96 personalities was £28.7 million. It may be confusing to the youth as to why controversy surrounds this issue as it stems further than just the issue of gender inequality. Anger has been directed towards the BBC for many years, but has been gaining a sheer amount of momentum very recently. Despite there being individuals such as myself who see the BBC as a powerful tool in conveying news and entertainment to millions of citizens effectively, many hope that this latest evidence of a gulf between the salaries of its stars is the final blow to end the public service corporation.

The main concern of many is that the BBC receives funding from the license fee (which is currently £147), and hence, is funded by public money. The license fee is needed if individuals seek to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, and the BBC claims it ‘allows the BBC’s UK services to remain free of advertisements and independent of shareholder and political interest’. However, the latter is the issue with many. In light of recent political events such as the EU referendum, the presidential election of Donald Trump and the General Elections of 2015 and 2017, some say that the BBC has held a somewhat more favourable stance towards specific political agendas, such as the Remain campaign during the referendum. Thus, this anger, in addition to recent reports of £28.7 million of the public’s money being spent on 96 stars alone, is infuriating for sceptics across the country. Is this the final blow they were waiting for? Maybe not, as the argument to be had is whether these stars are worth the money, and ultimately that becomes a matter of opinion and is much less objective.

Chris Evans came out top, earning between £2.2 and £2.5 million per annum, this salary could be considered just, considering he anchors the most popular radio show on the most popular radio station in the country. However, the salary paid to Gary Lineker which is £1,750,000 – £1,799,999 per annum, despite only appearing to present Match of the Day once a week, is much harder to justify. In regards to the use of public money to fund the BBC, the main question to be asked concerns its worth, is it a powerful tool or a waste of money which could be redirected to better causes?

The issue of the pay gap between the genders is a much more evident one, and one which is a concern to all, but the interesting thing now will be to analyse how the BBC will manage the situation. Lord Hall, the Director-General of the BBC has pledged to close the gender pay gap by 2020, but how will this be done? Does he wish to give female stars a pay rise and use more public money, or alternatively ask male ‘talent’ to take significant pay cuts? Neither situation is ideal, but Lord Hall raises a fair point when he states: “On gender and diversity, the BBC is more diverse than the broadcasting industry and the civil service.” Within the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that on average the pay for full-time female employees was 9.4% lower than for full-time male employees. Thus, the issue of inequality of pay between the genders is certainly not specific to the BBC, if anything, it betters other industries and it has only made headline news because it is such a pivotal part of our lives and British culture.

But the revealing of these figures didn’t just expose a worrying pay gap between the genders, but also a terrifying lack of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity) individuals who earn above £150,000. ‘Equity’, a trade union stated: “The apparent pay gaps in gender and for those from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background are troubling.” And they’re certainly right, just 10 people on the list were from a minority ethnic background, and they tended to fall into the lower end of the earnings scale. But is this a different issue, one which is perhaps more of a concern? The fact that nearly a tenth of the highest earners were from a BAME background may highlight a lack of diversity and representation, and may be an important eye-opener for casting directors. All we know for certain, is that this is an additional issue for Lord Hall, who will be brainstorming his options on how to tackle the evident inequality within his corporation.

The importance of disclosure of salaries for a public corporation such as the BBC should never be understated, as it is vital that we understand where the public’s money is being directed to. But the main argument regarding this issue, which many activists exercise in their attempts to promote further disclosure amongst other large corporations, is that it generates a large extent of trust and security amongst employees. But has this possibly had the opposite effect to what it could have achieved, and more importantly, to what extent is this damaging for the BBC?

From a personal point of view, I would love to see a strong, impartial BBC continue, one which presents the facts and continues to entertain and engage the British public, provided the issues regarding pay inequality are resolved. But why should we care at all? Well, whether you like it or not, chances are you have immersed yourself into the content which the BBC provides, and very soon we’ll be paying the license fees. In its current form, in light of the recent controversy, would you support the public funding of such an organisation?

By Dan Lawes
Editor, YouthPolitics UK

Let us know what you think by contacting us via the contact page. Should public money fund the BBC? Is the anger held against the BBC justified? How could the issues regarding unequal pay be resolved?

The Brexit Negotiation’s impact on the Youth #1

The Brexit Negotiation’s impact on the Youth #1

Articles

Editor’s note – As an organisation we’re determined to highlight the impacts of any current affairs on the Youth of this country, ensuring that we are aware of the decisions being made which could impact us now, and in the future. Here James provides us with an analysis of how this week’s Brexit negotiations have a direct influence on our generation…

The Brexit Negotiations and its Impact on the Youth #1

Summary

• Admission of impact on economy after Brexit
• EU cross-border projects in NI threatened
• Is the negotiating team out of touch?
• Worry of impact on School and University staff over lack of agreement on citizens’ rights
• Concern over risk of austerity by the ‘Brexit Bill’

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a recent statement to the BBC Liam Fox and other leading Brexiteers spoke of a transitional period as they admitted leaving the EU straight away might lead to problems with the economy. This uncertainty could be a setback for youth employment prospects which had been seen to be improving- youth unemployment fell by 55,000 over the last year. 10 Downing Street categorically denied this as a possibility showing the lack of clarity with the government and its position. However, the projected job problems in certain areas may be balanced out by the fact the construction sector has grown and other primary and secondary sector jobs likewise.

The cross-border cooperation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (NI) is threatened due to the EU funding that many of the local projects rely on. For example, in NI the European Social Fund which helps support around 5000 18-24 year olds is under threat. These projects have helped provide education, training and improved these young people’s job prospects. Also, there is worry over the NHS and any shared services across the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border potentially affecting children’s cardiac services and medicinal requirements.
The gender imbalance on the negotiating team has created concern that women’s issues may be neglected and indeed that it may be more generally out of touch and issues important to young people will not be investigated enough.

Major questions remain regarding the status of citizens from another EU member state in the UK and UK citizens currently living elsewhere in the EU. Many young people will be worried about their own position and their own rights to remain in the UK and those of their families post Brexit.

The lack of agreement over the ECJ has also created uncertainty with Schools and Universities as some staff working here originally from another EU member state may return to their original country. This could lead to staff shortages in specialised areas and might mean that there are fewer specialist university courses for students to study on in the future.

Recently the Government pledged $60 million for youth projects but with the so-called Brexit Bill they could be cut if austerity returns. This Bill has been rumoured to reach $60 billion euros creating a worry among some young people that they will be the generation that have to pick up the pieces. The 6 years of cuts under David Cameron look as if they may have to be extended and there are worries that with even more cuts some services may grind to a halt.

By James Sullivan-McHale
Deputy Editor, YouthPolitics UK

Brexit Negotiations Update #1

Brexit Negotiations Update #1

Articles

Editor’s note – This Article by our Deputy Editor James Sullivan-McHale summarises this week’s Brexit negotiations as we begin the first stage of the fierce negotiations, the final product of which will heavily influence the lives of millions. As he begins the weekly saga of updates, we anticipate a plethora of previously unpredicted developments.

Brexit Negotiations Updates #1 Summary

• A ‘pragmatic’ transitional period after official Brexit rumoured.
• Old Northern Irish Divisions re-opening over Irish border.
• UK widely criticised for gender imbalance on negotiating team
• Big disagreement over ECJ and its jurisdiction
• Confusion over the scale of so-called ‘Brexit Bill’

According to Liam Fox and many other key Brexiteers there may be a transitional period after leaving the EU in 2019. This would allow a compromise period to allow British business access to the single market while slowly closing free movement to prevent a hit on the economy. This has been rejected by some Conservatives including Peter Bone MP who believe that free movement should cease in 2019. However, despite initial murmurings 10 Dowing Street has publicly stated that this transitional period is simply a rumour and unfounded in fact.

The sheer scale faced by the negotiators over the Ireland question was revealed this week. Not just is there a problem over what kind of border there will be between Northern Ireland and Ireland but the political uncertainty in Stormont has meant no deal will be forthcoming from there. With Sinn Fein arguing that Northern Ireland should remain in the EU on a special status pass and their ideological foes the Unionists arguing that NI should leave the EU and remain with the UK there is a risk of fracture of Northern Ireland stability.

The UK’s negotiating team came under fire this week due to the gender imbalance in its ranks. The UK’s main negotiating team only has 1 woman out of its 9 members however, in the EU team nearly half of the team are women. Therefore, this is causing some consternation about whether women’s rights will be sufficiently investigated due to this imbalance.

However, the main disagreement this week came over the European Court of Justice(ECJ) and how much control it should retain. This directly impacts its citizens rights therefore the EU was keen it should retain a measure of control. However, Theresa May (Prime Minister of the UK) was very clear in her view that the UK will be leaving the ECJ meaning that any EU citizen who wants to live her will be put under a criminal record check before arriving. The EU team are refusing to come to an agreement over citizens’ rights until the ECJ problem has been sorted. One of the UK’s resolutions was rejected out of hand and the EU look to be playing hardball over it.

The bill UK will have to pay when leaving the EU has become one of the focal points. This sum will be to compensate the EU for its current investments and any possible outstanding costs the UK will owe. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, in response to being told the bill could reach 50 billion euros told Barnier and his EU team to ‘go whistle.’ There have still been no serious discussions over the bill and no actual figures have been mentioned.

By James Sullivan McHale
Deputy Editor, YouthPolitics UK

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