Obama, health, bankruptcy and the BBC

I hear from my American contacts that the opposition to the Obama health plans is deep, spontaneous and strong. Many Americans think the state scheme will combine the usual characteristics of nationalised service – they think the cost will be too high for taxpayers, whilst the quality and volume of care delivered will be disappointing. Many Americans are already paying large sums for good health care. They don’t want to have to pay twice. Businesses are worried that they will end up with bigger tax bills, making them even less competitive against India and China. The US public accounts are already in almost as big a mess as the Uk ones, so why on earth some Americans ask would you choose now to make such a huge increase in public spending which you cannot afford?

Meanwhile here the BBC uses the Obama experience to demonstrate its bias. The story apparently to them is the “orchestration” of the opposition by right wing Republicans, and the false claims they think the opposition is making. They want to deny the strong sentiments amongst many American middle of the road voters against this proposal from the President. This is a bit rich from an organisation whose news values seem to think that Labour’s false claims, systematic lies about Labour’s opponents and a one sided presentation of the public spending argument is what constitute journalism here in the UK. Labour has spent years fibbing about Conservative plans and past practise with health and education. The BBC faithfully trots out the lies and soundbites – they always report that Conservatives will have to cut services, and suggest this means sacking teachers and nurses and all the rest. Why isn’t the story ever the techniques of Labour opposition to the possible next government? Why don’t they do a series of enquiries as I have been doing into the bureaucracy and waste that is now so manifest, and opppresses most normal people? Why can’ they grasp that Conservatives do not intend to sack nurses and doctors?

The more I listen to them, the more old fashioned, out of touch and low grade it all seems. I don’t think many people believe Labour’s spin and their reports based on it any more, as they are are so biased and far fetched. The world is changing. More and more people I meet think and talk in a conservative way, recognising there has to be big change in the UK public sector, and knowing we cannot carry on wasting money on the current scale. The BBC will have a rude awakening if they don’t get it soon, and the Conservaitves do win the election.

Meanwhile, wouldn’t it be refreshing if they tried to do a piece on why so many Americans dislike the President’s proposals? Where is the criticism of the Obama scheme? Where is the balanced treatment of the pros and cons of the plan and the proposals to modify or improve it? And when will they treat the over borrowing scandal on both sides of the Atlantic seriously?


  1. Dontmindme
    August 12, 2009

    The BBC might have a rude awakening, but not the one you hope for alas.

    I think the liberaty of the BBC probably believe that in Cameron they have a Tory that will not do damage to an essentially liberal world view. If there must be a Tory PM, Cameron will do, as he will not tear up the liberal welfare state.

    However I can imagine a sort of 81 budget scenario when the BBC suddenly finds out that the Tories have been elected, and not a Blair with a bluer hue. Then there will be much wailing and gnashing of latte’s. Deep and serious cuts in spending affecting amongst others the arts, a BBC licence fee settlement that means real terms cuts etc. Suddenly the BBC will turn from acquiessence in the enevitable, to active opposition that was so characteristic of the Thatcher – BBC relationship.

    The BBC is very much set in its ways, I do not believe that an appeal to logic, argument, reason or indeed electoral success will change that.

    It is the fee that insulates the BBC from having to address the alternative arguments seriously. Of course the liberal left view is right; look at us, a tax funded monoplolistic paternalistic promoter of the views we deem to be good (because we are the good after all), and we are so wonderful aren’t we?

    The only thing that will radically alter the BBC world view is the abolition of, or at least substantial reduction of the size and scope of the licence fee. Now that would set the cat amongst the latte’s.

  2. Johnny Norfolk
    August 12, 2009

    The BBC IS the problem, They will never report anytiing without taking a left wing stance. It is now just so blatent in all their output. They now also have a complicet board of governers to make it even worse. I just hope Cameron is strong enougth to take it on but I fear he is another Heath.

    1. the man from UNCLE
      August 13, 2009

      I agree, the BBC is hopelessly biased. Global warming is stated as fact, never a contrary scientific opinion aired. As to the EU, the ‘impartial’ BBC seldom airs views against the project.

      Sadly, I do not think Dave will challenge it.

  3. Mick Anderson
    August 12, 2009

    The BBC funding system is a complete anachronism and should be abolished.

    There are three obvious options – one is to make it an advertising funded broadcaster (such as ITV, Channel 4), the second is to make it subscription funded (Sky, Top Up TV, Setanta), or the third is to just pay for it out of general taxation.

    The first option is obvious. I can understand those who say that adverts on the BBC would change its character, but they already spend rather a lot of airtime advertising themselves. They also are very commercially aware with selling DVDs and other merchandise.

    Would the BBC survive as a subscription channel? Not in its current bloated form, but it’s possible that a smaller version might. They can still broadcast a few free access channels (as do Sky on Freeview) if they want to keep people aware of them.

    Finally, if the BBC is to be funded by a tax on virtually all of us (as now), why not cut out the inefficiencies of the Licence Fee and just have the Chancellor write them a cheque every quarter? There is a lot of waste in gathering a fee from virtually all of the households in the country in the current manner, along with all the detector vans and court cases for the relative few who refuse to pay. If the BBC is to be funded by tax, let’s at least be honest about it.

    The licence fee dates back to the days when not everybody used the service, and the only choice was the BBC or nothing. A licence was a reasonable option then, but this is the 21st century and we have a little thing called choice. It is absurd that one broadcaster should be guaranteed vast sums of money no matter what they do.

    I’m happy for the BBC to choose between advertising and subscription, and I would even go along with payment by taxation as long as there is a proper debate prior to implementation. However, if payment is by taxation, I would expect far closer scrutiny to enforce political impartiality.

    If there is a problem in the cost of maintaining the transmitter network perhaps that should be floated off as a separate service, like the railways. No; on reflection, perhaps not like the railways….

    There would be public outcry if everyone in the country was forced by law to buy the Guardian (or any other) newspaper every day. I choose not to buy a newspaper – why can’t I choose not to buy the BBC if I don’t want it?

  4. Mike Stallard
    August 12, 2009

    The BBC are getting really impossible at the moment because they sense an election coming up. They are wired to be Labour and they can see that the Conservatives are going to cut their huge and totally unjust income.
    One of the strengths of the US health system is that a large part of it is provided by charities. As a Catholic, I should love to go to a Catholic hospital. I am sure that Muslims, war wounded, Methodists, Socialists and local people would all like their hospitals too. You feel at home there which is very important when you are ill or dying.
    Just chucking everyone together, as the servicemen found, is not helpful if you are a patient feeling lousy.
    The State is not the best organisation to provide sensitive hospital care.

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    August 12, 2009

    Because the BBC is state funded its default position is always to support state funding, except when it comes to sharing it with its competitors. It believes that more funding is necessary for its own operations therefore it must be good for all other state funded activities. The BBC does not provide the objective presentation of news and current affairs that its position as public service broadcaster demands.

  6. R. Goodacre
    August 12, 2009

    Re the BBC. As a development consultant who spends lots of time overseas (currently India), I’m generally restricted in my choice of English language TV news to CNN and BBC world.

    There’s no competition: BBC World is so achingly dull and politically correct that it’s unwatchable for more than 10 minutes at a time. The presenters have all self-evidently been fed through some system that results in them all talking/emoting with the same ghastly earnestness and distinct lack of worldliness or real local understanding (by contrast, CNN has regionalised its content and presentation, and is much more friendly and relevant to a Britsih viewer: even their coverage of cricket and football, by a knowledgeable American sports presenter, is infinitely more detailed and interesting than the Beeb’s).

    Unlike the BBC World Service, which by and large remains faithful to the idea of broadcasting news impartially and separating news and comment, BBC World appears to have a mission to improve the world, according to all the PC tenets of our times.

    No wonder it struggles to attract any advertising.

    1. D McGregor
      August 13, 2009

      Totally agree with this , BBC World is the worst English language station ever. Unwatchable , repetitive pap produced by the Righteous.

  7. Simon D
    August 12, 2009

    I agree, but you will get nowhere with the BBC. It is institutionally biased because of the sort of people it employs. You would not even get a job interview if the word “Conservative” appeared on your CV. Last winter I met a young BBC producer. When he put his overcoat on it sported a “Support Obama” badge the size of a saucer. He had acquired it in the US whilst there “on business” in connection with the Presidential election. You can imagine that when he walked down the corridors of the BBC Television Centre this icon would send exactly the right message to those in a position to promote him or further his career. In the media you need to spin your career in order to get on. This includes demonstrating that you are the right stuff and will drink copious amounts of champagne at any BBC party celebrating a Labour election victory.

    I am also baffled as to why people who have been privately educated at school and then progressed to serious universities want to flaunt their “edgy” personalities by believing in palpable nonsense, for example that unlimited resources exist for public spending without the need for any kind of belt tightening or that the current level of Government borrowing is sustainable. We all know the BBC has unlimited resources from its poll tax on the public but what has happened to all that tax revenue from City profits and how much tax income will be lost because of the economic downturn? Surely such people can see this?

    My experience when I meet people I don’t know well is that they are often very circumspect. They first of all establish what neck of the woods you are from and, if they share your opinions, they open up. I agree that supporting current government spin is as old fashioned and uncool as regretting the demise of Stalin and am mystified by why intelligent and well-educated people do so.

    In future posts you might like to comment about so called “businessmen” who believe in similar myths about the economy.

  8. david
    August 12, 2009

    Hmmm does this all mean that the Tories will scrap the NHS?

    If so you’d better tell Cameron, he’d better stop calling it, ‘Our NHS’ for a start.

    1. (anon)
      August 12, 2009

      “Scrap the NHS” is a phrase calculated to alarm. If the NHS were to be replaced with an insurance-based scheme such as they have in France, would you call that “scrapping the NHS”?

  9. RobW
    August 12, 2009

    They also forget that the right in America is far more diverse than over here. And that a lot of the grass-roots opposition is coming from Libertarian movements rather than just Republicans.

    John I bet if the Tories promised to scrap the TV Tax and sell off the BBC they would face very little opposition. As a party you should seriously consider it.

  10. Man in the Street
    August 12, 2009

    “Where is the criticism of the Obama scheme?”

    From my experience of working with Americans over a number of years, they appear very distrustful of Government, be it at a Federal or State level. For Americans in employment, healthcare cover is generally part of the employment package or if they choose to ‘opt out’ of an employer’s cover a range of private sector options/providers exist to meet their needs and budget.

    I suspect that many Americans are only too aware of what healthcare costs and are therefore very reluctant to see the Administration take on these costs, to which of course a substantial bureaucratic overhead would be added. There is probably also great concern about the impact of Government interference in the provision of healthcare – they are no doubt aware of the problems in the state controlled model (i.e. the NHS) and the ‘state-insured’ model (like say the French Health Service). So whilst there may be failings in the way that healthcare operates in the US, most Americans would probably rather not give up the competion and quality of service they already receive for a statist solution.

    Of course from a BBC editorial perspective, the NHS model is excellent and provides patient choice and high quality cost effective service! So why would they want to produce a programme or provide informed debate about the US healthcare model.

  11. guy de Moubray
    August 12, 2009

    If only the top people in the BBC would take the time to watch Fox news. Yesterday they were showing a town meeting in Ohio in which the floor, many of them Democrats, were almost unanimously against Obama’s health reforms

  12. adam
    August 12, 2009


  13. Robert K, Oxford
    August 12, 2009

    The BBC is an illiberal anachronism: it should be broken up and sold to the highest bidder with the proceeds being distributed to directly to licence payers.

  14. […] Here is the original post: Obama, health, bankruptcy and the BBC | John Redwood MP […]

  15. Ladydi
    August 12, 2009

    Hello from across the pond. I am a member of the ‘mob’ talked about in our liberal press. We are not necessarily Republicans nor Democrats but what we are is fed up with the slide into socialism our government seems to be taking. I did enjoy your article and we do not all support President Obama and as of today, we are still free to voice it!

  16. Deborah
    August 12, 2009

    Having lived abroad in Europe and America, I have had many discussions about the pros and cons of the NHS system.
    The significant downsides that people outside the UK always raise is – “but I want to be able to choose my doctor” and “doesn’t that mean that I will be told what treatment I can have – what happens if I want a second opinion?”

    The trouble is, in England most people have forgotten that such things are possible

  17. Matthieu
    August 13, 2009

    Some of this stuff is gold guys. Honestly, write it down. You’re on to something.

  18. Steve
    August 13, 2009

    Do you recall what happened to the RUC when it ceased to serve its public objectively? As for the RUC, so for the BBC.

  19. Lola
    August 13, 2009

    The BBC do not do political or economic journalism. They do lefty propaganda.

  20. Adrian Windisch
    August 14, 2009

    By discussing the BBC your commentators are missing the real storey. The USA right is fighting Obamas health plans, and some Tories agree with them (Dan Hannan MEP).

    Sure there are problems with the NHS, it needs work. But going the the USA system where hospitals turn away people who dont have insurance is not the answer.

  21. Guy Bailey
    August 15, 2009

    “I hear from my American contacts that the opposition to the Obama health plans is deep, spontaneous and strong.”

    I assume your American contacts are Fox “news”?

    and as for attacking the NHS and the BBC, you are all as (wrong headed -ed) as Redwood.

    Reply: I do not attack the NHS. My American contacts are non political people who are strongly against these proposals, as many who attend the meetings including some Democrats seem to be.

  22. Bazman
    August 15, 2009

    Why don’t you all just watch Fox news? Have you any problems with their bias? I think not as it panders to right wing nonsense which is what most of you want. Not fair comment on often very complicated and interlinked issues where many people are told what they do not want to hear. The issue of drugs being a leading cause of world poverty as an example. As long as the programme pandered to your right wing puritan bias you would be happy.
    As I have said many times on this site. Would you all be happy to see the BBC turn into another version of SKY funded by advertising and expensive subscription to watch these advertisements? I do not hear many complaints about this subscription and its price. That will be because its ‘voluntary’. Yeah right! Lets get every bit of Sport on pay per view then as I’m not interested in sport using that logic.
    Great changes are afoot with the all media and as a teenage boy said, few of his age has any money for i Tunes most just download from the net. My money is that subscription of TV and newspapers is for the birds. The TV licence should be seen as a tax and if it is a little bit left wing and elite all the better. The peasants need educating. Murdoch thinks different. He would as he think there is no peasants in Britain as everyone of them has a sky dish. Can’t be said of the programming which is for peasants.

  23. James Sutherland
    August 18, 2009

    Bazman: It’s certainly less rigidly biased than the BBC, making more of an effort to give both sides – but more importantly, nobody is forced to fund it, unlike the BBC. I don’t give any money to Fox News – but I do fund the BBC’s “news” output, despite having no interest in it, because the alternative is prosecution.

    To answer your question, yes, I would be delighted to see the BBC rise to Sky’s level, providing far more channels for the same monthly subscription fee, rather than self-serving propoganda and a handful of channels, at least one of which achieved the dubious record of hitting zero viewers – yet, unlike any commercially-accountable channel, didn’t face any repercussions even for that extreme failure. I’d also be happy to see sports move to dedicated sports channels, funded by and accountable to their own audiences, leaving me free to subscribe to the other channels I actually want.

Comments are closed.