The BBC Today programme knows the price of nothing and the value of very little

Yesterday saw the end of the disastrous season of Guest editors. Let me contrast the two crucial interviews on Saturday’s programme.

The first was with the Chief Executive of the Environment Agency. The second was with the CEO of BP.  Both were worthy guests. Many listeners would have crucial questions they wish to put to them both. Both of them required discussion of money as an important part of the debate.

A professional interviewer took on the Environment Agency. As you might expect he gave a much more professional interview, with more bite and more discussion of the contentious issues. Lord Browne, a clever and successful businessman turned politician interviewed a successor to his job as CEO of BP. It was a pathetic performance.

The first requirement of a good interview is to ask about the contentious matters that worry the audience. John Humphreys lighted on three of the most important things that annoy people about the current Environment Agency. He raised their misleading statement about the absence of their Chairman at the  height of the flood crisis. He probed on how little dredging the  EA does, leaving rivers blocked or with restricted flow. He put the point that the EA seems to regard habitats and “natural state” as more important than protecting riverside residents from flood.

Lord Browne did not ask about anything that a worried listener wanted to know. BP is one of the most widely held shares in the UK. Many listeners have pension funds, insurance investments or small private holdings in BP. The low oil price and the decline in profitability leads directly to fears for the sustainability of the dividend which is crucial to the share price. There was no question on the dividend. BP was an important pioneer of the N0rth Sea oilfield. Some think that at current oil prices we face accelerated closure of the remaining N0rth Sea fields, leading to further damage to our oil output and associated industrial and engineering activity. There was no question on the future of the UK’s oil province. Many employees of BP are worried about their jobs against the present background of much reduced cashflows from oil. There was no question about how much cost cutting BP should do to respond to the collapse in price of its main asset and product. The CEO of BP has traditionally been paid huge sums of money to reflect the scale of BP’s cashflow and profits. Will the CEO this year take a lead by cutting his pay substantially to reflect the much worse financial prospects? His pay was not mentioned.

 

The second requirement  of a good interview is to be well  briefed on the detail, to be able to respond to any dodgy defences put up  by interviewees. John Humphreys was reasonably briefed on the aims and requirements laid on the EA, but clearly had no brief on the finances. He was told by the EA that it had spent £20 m on dredging, but that probably was over a two year period. He did not immediately point out that was a tiny sum, under 1% of EA spending over a two year period, and tiny in relation to the number of rivers that need attention. He did not even ask how many miles or river you can dredge for just £20 m, and how many miles or river the Agency is responsible for. He forgot that much of the dredging was the result of Ministerial intervention demanding dredging of the Somerset rivers after the disastrous inundation of the Somerset levels under EA policy.  Nor did he get the apology the EA should make over the misinformation about the Chairman, though he did press the issue.

 

Lord Browne got through the whole interview with BP without mentioning or questioning a single figure. He praised the CEO’s attempt to answer the question of what will happen to the oil price, as he got through his own stint as BP’s CEO   refusing to answer the most basic question affecting the business! The CEO of BP of course need a strong and clear view of the oil price, as all else the business does and plans depends on that single variable. If oil is going back up to $100 a barrel soon then they need a  big exploration and development programme. If it is staying around $30=40 most of the options are uneconomic for new development. BP’s decisions on how much investment to commit to new activity will be important to jobs and activity in the UK. He asked questions as if he did not know the company, or wished to conceal anything too difficult. There was an exchange of management jargon about reorganisation without Browne asking why there was need of reorganisation and what the reorganisation was likely to achieve.

 

When interviewing about money matters can we have some basic questions asked well. How much does it cost? What do you get for the money? How much money have you got? How could you spend it better? Instead we had a lame question to the EA about how much more they might need, and no questions to BP about how they will get by with reduced oil income.

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72 Comments

  1. Margaret
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    The excess of oil and low prices per barrel surely will not go on indefinitely, but back to the today programme which I usually get bored with and put the box on for the SKY or BBC or Al Jazeera news for an update.
    John Humphries is a professional and is good at his job , however more recently he is known for his Mastermind programme. The today programme does not feature high as an influence in current political thinking. It is too woolly and changes subject just as it is becoming interesting , then extraneous noises, that must be left over from the goon show come into hearing or perhaps that is just the microphone picking crowds out in the wrong context .We have moved on . I stopped taking an interest with the radio when thought for the day lost Lionel Blue.
    TV does it all now. It is educational ,interesting, democratic as there are many different stations which can be flicked over for different views without having to concentrate on what people are saying too intensely as text is shown at the bottom of the screen. Perhaps it is past it’s sell by date.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      John Humphries is indeed a professional and is good at his job in some ways. But he is BBC think to his very the core. His question, as nearly all those on Newsnight and the BBC in general, all come form the same “BBC think” direction. More tax, more EU, more green lunacy, more regulation more non-selective immigration, more payments to augment the feckless – and stop them ever leaning how to work coupled with magic money tree economics, rehabilitation rather than deterrents …… He also lacks the ability to change his line of questioning sufficiently given the answers given to his first few questions. He is not so good at thinking in real time and adapting his line.

      Almost never do they BBC make the point any government “investment” is funded by taxing people who made the money and would have invested far more efficiently themselves.

  2. JJE
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    The US shale industry has become the swing producer. They are profitable at around $50 per barrel so that puts a ceiling on the price in my view.
    There are large reserves of shale in China just beginning to be developed which will change the dynamic again.

    These are huge changes to the market compared with the Peak Oil scare of just a few years ago so it is understandable that there is time needed to adjust. It may be that BP senior management understands the impact but Shell appears in denial with the current economics of the BG takeover. Their dividend cover has also deteriorated badly.
    It was easy as an investor in 2015 to outperform the FTSE index by avoiding all resources stocks. That theme continues for me.
    Even if renewable energy takes an ever growing market share we still need oil for the petrochemicals on which we depend so equally the B of E talk of stranded assets is premature.

    All very relevant issues in Wokingham given the local employers like BG, Foster AMEC, and Jacobs Engineering.

    • A different Simon
      Posted January 4, 2016 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

      I have previously been invested in U.S. light tight oil .

      There is some production and reserves in the three main liquids plays which is profitable at $50/bbl but most of what is currently being produced breaks even higher up the cost curve .

      They will run out of sweet spots to drill and use up geological contingencies by infill drilling .

      The true cost information and reserves at current prices are publicly available in the companies 10-Q submissions to the SEC .

      The rate at which the U.S. is consuming it suggests that domestic tight rock liquids production will plateau and go into decline sometime before 2025 for geological reasons .

      At the moment drillers are producing because they have to in order to hold on to mineral rights of “held by production (HBP)” mineral leases and to use front loaded production to provide cash flow to service debt .

      Chinese coal bed methane was a disappointment , Chinese shale gas could be too .

      Saudi Arabia is aiming to export more finished products rather than raw materials and I think that in response to demands from the populace America and Australia (currently scaling up LNG exports) will be forced to follow .

      I’d like to see Africa follow this example too .

      I reckon the current goldilocks price is about $80 ; not high enough to stimulate over-investment in the shale patch or oil sands or justify substitution of alternatives to oil .

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    All good points and the normal presenters all bad enough anyway with their usual BBC think, lefty, greencrap and ever more tax borrow and waste biases. I think the reason for the dreadfully right on guest editors was to show that some people are even more PC, lefties and poor at the job than the current presenters.

    I also caught Inside Science on radio 4, answering listeners’ questions. The first one asked if extracting power from tides would have an effect, however tiny, on the level of the tides, the orbit of the moon and a slowing of the roration of the earth. The answer is surely yes, yes and yes unless the laws of physics have been changed, albeit only very small effect. They just gave the wrong answers of no, no and no why? Is this a PC answer or did they just not know? Where do these presenter think the energy comes from, other than the earths rotation. Why mislead all the listeners in this way?

    • Martyn G
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      LL – if you want a hint as to why so many people are science ignoramuses these days, search for the English Primary School science curriculum. It is all about flowers, animals and people and so far as I can see not much to do with science as we oldies were taught.

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    I have recently finished reading the excellent book, The Evolution of Everything by Matt Ridley.
    It agrees fully with my general view of how the World works. But what is interesting, as James Delingpole points out in The Spectator this week, is how many lefties seem to hate the book, why? They simply cannot accept that a top down, government knows best, command economy is not the way go it seems.

    • Dame Rita Webb
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      Its a pity he could not put his scientific approach to running a bank properly.

      • libertarian
        Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        Rita

        He wasn’t “running a bank” he was non exec chairman. The Officers run a bank. He has admitted that he failed at his oversight role by relying on the “expertise” of those who’s job it was to run the bank. Blaming him is like blaming your Doctor husband for the failings of the NHS.

        However your normal chippy approach to things is as always misguided. I didn’t realise you couldn’t do one thing badly whilst doing something else well. You seem to have an aversion to people with skills in particular fields

        • Dame Rita Webb
          Posted January 4, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

          So a non exec director does not have to take an interest in the bank’s products? Let alone advise that they may be injurious to its reputation or shareholders? Virtually anybody could have walked in off the street and into the Rock’s boardroom and tell them that its not a good idea to buy a house with a 100% mortgage and a 25% personal loan.

        • Dame Rita Webb
          Posted January 4, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

          With regard to “chippiness” I seem to remember that your comments to quite a few people here could not be considered to be polite. At least are comments are factually correct.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 4, 2016 at 3:48 am | Permalink

        Well he was only a director for the last three years and largely caught up in the worldwide collapse of bank lending markets and bank liquidity. The loan book of Northern Rock has turned out to be rather sound in fact.

      • Richard1
        Posted January 4, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        Matt Ridley’s expertise is science commentary and related topics, which he does excellently. He was not qualified to be a director of a bank, which he shouldn’t have been offered and shouldn’t have accepted (as I am sure he would now accept). The fact that he was not an adequate bank chairman does not mean his views on those things he does know about and has researched are not worth hearing. As also pointed out here, a non-exec chairman cannot be held primarily responsible for failings of management.

        • Dame Rita Webb
          Posted January 4, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          The problem for Mr Ridley is that his ancestors had often sat on the Rock’s board too, since it had been a building society, to give it the prestige of having the local aristo on board. He should have realised before going into business there is no such thing as a free lunch.

  5. Iain gill
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    I find all today programme interviews substandard. They jokingly dismiss O level science viewpoints as too hard yet are dismissive of anyone without their advanced knowledge of the arts. They talk down to working class and regional accents. Their knowledge on most subjects I know a fair bit about is poor giving me no faith in their knowledge of other stuff. Far too lefty chattering classes know best.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Some truth in that. The main problem I have. other that the usual BBC agenda is that they seem to assume the audience is about the level of dim 9 year old’s. This when many know far more than the presenters or the politicians.

      Mind you if you ever see the Lords or the Commons debate anything that you know something about then it is a rather pathetic and depressing vision too.

  6. agricola
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I think the only answer is for the BBC to invite people like yourself, Danniel Hannan, Nigel Farage, or even the Beast of Bulsover to act as interviewers with well matched interviewees. If you had a selection of three interviewees that any one of you would like to interrogate it could be the genesis of a watchable programme.

    Don’t anticipate having to make an income entry in MPs interests because I cannot imagine the BBC having the courage or the inclination. They prefer mushroom cultivation. I mourn the passing of Sir Robin Day.

    Reply. I would not want a fee for doing it and did not claim a fee for the currency union programme I made recently

    • agricola
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      It was a joke , don’t get so stuffy.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      Nigel Farage has invited Corbyn to have a head to head on the television with him but so far he has heard….nothing, zilch, nada!!!!! What did we expect. Farage knows too much of the workings of the EU and would win hands down.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      Please keep up the good work JR, paid or unpaid. It seems all will now be decided in 2016 they dare not let it go on. There are some very powerful (and well funded with others taxes) opponents to the real interests of UK subjects.

  7. The PrangWizard
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    And these people are leaders or opinion formers who have power and influence in the UK, typical of thousands who rule our lives. The smug, arrogant and oily, and the politically correct everywhere; figures who have mismanaged our country for decades and introduced and promoted subversive ideas, who have mixed socially, and scratched each others backs. They have been the cause of problems we face. They live in a private world.

    How do we get rid of them, short of violence? But I remember the ‘poll tax’ riots. They brought about change.

  8. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Flooding.
    I live below sea level in the Fens.
    Last year the locals turned out to watch the river angrily surging beneath the Town Bridge. That cost a lot in repairs. We had flooding in March and Whittlesea which has not happened before. Yes, there has been some haphazard dredging now along the A47. But there is a new bureaucracy set up to bring swimming, ecology, green issues and boating to the River Nen(e). I looked at the offered pay as it was being set up.
    I know you do not get on with Dr North, but his blog today unravels the bureaucratic nightmare surrounding dredging starting with an EU Directive which has been greedily transformed into a massive and ineffective bureaucracy.
    Keeping rivers flowing is boring. It is messy. It needs doing all the time. Swimming, boating and ecology look much better and you can do it in front of a computer in a nice warm room…

    • Martyn G
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      Mike, I wrote here the other day about the upper River Thames not having been dredged and badly silting up. I mentioned my local lock as having 5 green and 2 red buoys that were put in in 2015 to mark the expanding silt level and position and the narrowed and shallowed navigation channel. Just got back from a walk and although still not much rain around here, red boards out telling of increasing stream, raised river levels, weirs running pretty much all open and 4 green and 1 red buoys have been swept away. And this before we get any serious rain!
      I predict that if nothing is done the large commercial passenger vessels are going to find their movements rather limited come the 2016 boating season.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Well, this is the problem, which recurs again and again in one way or another: it is all so complicated, and those who are in positions of authority usually prefer not to tell the general public that some of the complications have emanated from the EU, and the mass media are usually prepared to collaborate in keeping a lot of it quiet, not so much secret as just not widely publicised, and consequently most of the electorate have little or no idea of how far the influence of the EU has penetrated almost every aspect of their everyday lives, not just through an intricate web of laws but also through extensive policies, and unless they begin to see that in the coming months then we will probably lose the referendum.

      So, in this instance, as far as the glossy leaflet produced by the Environment Agency is concerned they don’t reckon much to dredging as a means to prevent flooding, but that is nothing whatsoever to do with the EU:

      http://www.ourcityourriver.co.uk/downloads/Dredging%20Leaflet.pdf

      “Dredging and flood risk”

      “Your guide to our views on dredging”

      Nothing about the EU anywhere in that leaflet.

      But strangely enough if you look at this:

      http://evidence.environment-agency.gov.uk/FCERM/en/SC060065/MeasuresList/M1/M1T1.aspx

      “Good practice management of in-channel sediments”

      which although publicly available is not intended for the general public, then it is a somewhat different story.

      Then that webpage is marked as “Page 1 Description, Application & Benefits for WFD”, and half of the page is actually about:

      “Benefits for Water Framework Directive”

      “Good practice management of in-channel sediments can help deliver objectives of the Water Framework Directive by … ”

      And that is only the start of the web of EU policies and laws which have shaped and even now continue to shape the policies of the Environment Agency, under which restoring and maintaining the ecological health of the river and protecting natural habitats and correctly disposing of dredgings or silt has been and still is given higher priority than keeping the river out of people’s homes.

      Of course all public officials are under a legal obligation to respect EU laws, our politicians made sure of that; and the consequences of simply ignoring them are unpredictable, insofar as ultimately their interpretation will be decided by the lawyers on the EU’s Court of Justice in Luxembourg if somebody takes a case there, and that court will decide whether there have been infractions and if so who should be punished and in what way; and that in itself is a good reason for officials and others to err on the side of caution about the legal aspects rather than risk the potential consequences of accidentally or incidentally infringing EU law.

    • Iain Moore
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

      And isn’t it wonderful that we pay to the EU on a daily basis £35million, which is not much short of the money Cameron has just boasted he is going to give to flooded victims, some $40 million.

  9. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Largely the only good thing BBC TV demonstrate is in the use of HD cameras which are either Sony or Panasonic. Everything else is tainted by their channel producer/commanders personal ideology and most of that is weak, negative and often naive. I suspect the cameras are part of a sub contract as is their various poor productions. Not much to do really…nice work if you can get it.

    I won’t mention the dreadful quality of the BBC World Service or is it the BBC Womens Service? Males need to get bothered I think.

    They use digital techniques to the full and that’s for repeats along with their sales to other channels to er…further multi repeat. Nothing clever in that at all.

    Saw Mr Hall mention licence renewal intervals to be moved away from election times. Each time I switch my TV on, up comes the caption Smart TV. I always wonder if thats a question?

    Children to learn the times tables…I missed something here? Will it be upto 20 as (was?) some of Europe (before EU).

    • A different Simon
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      I wonder how many of their teachers can do their times tables ?

  10. matthu
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Petrol service stations are already obliged to advertise their prices at the forecourt – but why not extend this requirement to advertising prices on the Internet? Then Apps would spring up allowing motorists to scan for prices within a particular radius of their location and competition would increase markedly.

    (At the moment their is a free App – WhatGas Petrol prices – that allows UK motorists to compare prices, but prices need to be voluntarily updated by users of the App, so while it is partially effective it is reliant on a good user base providing the updates.)

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Why does every hour seem to be Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 ?

  11. Richard1
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    It is a general rule that public sector bodies when being questioned on the BBC are invited to say how much more money they ‘need’ or to protest about ‘cuts’. Very rarely are they subject to any fundamental challenge. When the journalist Quentin Letts questioned – in a very mild way – why the Met Office needs c £200m pa and what we get for that, the programme was subject to orchestrated panning from environmental activists, including the BBC’s own supposedly independent environment correspondent, was critIcised and apologised for by the BBC, and in an absurd act of political censorship, has been removed from the BBC iplayer.

    I would like the BBC to refocus on asking public sector bodies and ministers why we spend so much on their various activities and what we get for the money.

  12. Antisthenes
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The west maybe racing ahead technologically but socially it is not keeping pace. In fact it could be said that we are regressing as standards are slipping and mediocrity is replacing excellence. We do not seem capable any more of acting competently, imaginatively and knowledgeably. This is most observable in politics, the public sector, the media and arts, science(scientists are more interest in research grants than in the actual research and will come up with any results that pays them the most) and by the fact that so many individuals now have low moral values and have little respect for the rights of others.

    The blame for this cannot be put on one thing but many things. Responsibility lies with our becoming decadent (prosperity has it’s disadvantages as well as advantages), technology allowing us to become more lazy and our changing culture as personal responsibility and self reliance is being abandoned in favour of the state performing those functions. We can say that technology as much as it is a blessing can also be a curse if we do not use it wisely and that social democracy should not be used in the manner we do and that is so excessively.

    It is therefore no wonder that quality of the media like so much else is so poor and they churn out such sensationalist factually incorrect garbage. As for the BBC it is a double problem because it is not only part of the media it is a public sector institution as well.

  13. Iain Moore
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Lord Browne was on the Today program because he is Gay, to complete their full house of politically correct causes from their guest editors, covering women’s issues, Aid, Black issues, disability, and Lord Browne covering Gay issues. Rather than having guest editors cover a topic ignored by them , the BBC used the guest editors to retreat into its everyday comfort zone.

    • ian wragg
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      That’s exactly what I thought. Nothing to do with BP, just a high profile gay.
      I must be getting cynical.

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        Don’t know about you but I have had it up to my neck watching gay men kissing on screen. Talk about overdoing it all!

      • stred
        Posted January 4, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        It was surprising they did not have a transgender guest editor, as this seems to be all the rage with media folk. There was a play on before Christmas about some male to female hero and then, when we went to see James Bond, we were treated to a trailer with the young actor who played Stephen Hawking. This time he was dressed as a Danish bloke who had changed into a woman and was apparently struggling to exchange dental implants with another young man, who hadn’t. Next day I turned on the Victoria BBC news show and she had a rather sweet and gentle young lady on who had been a soldier, found it didn’t suit him and that he didn’t want to be a bloke any more. I couldn’t understand why he joined an organisation which trains people how to spray bullets around in the first place. He said the army had been very understanding. The film about the Danish trannie is doing well in Brighton, where the previous Green council had transgender studies on the school curriculum.

  14. bigneil
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    If any of our unelected EU dictators found their own properties under threat of flooding due to a river not being dredged, the river would either be dredged, ignoring their own made-up rules – -or the cost of the damage would immediately be claimed for from EU funds – -for the rest of us to pay in demands – the sort Cameron doesn’t pay, will not pay, won’t pay. Well, not for a couple of days.

  15. alan jutson
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Perhaps the best solution would be to put yourself forward as a volunteer to be a guest interviewer, with a guest of your choice John.

    If you were given the opportunity, you could show them how it should be done.

    In the meantime, the BBC will continue to further its own agenda with many soft interviews on the subjects of their choice, and the topics they wish to promote.

  16. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I think maybe you’re asking for a bit too much from single, relatively short, interviews on the radio. I don’t listen to the radio so I don’t know how long they were, but I suspect nowhere near long enough to go into the level of detail that would be required.

    On the Environment Agency I would not have bothered with the Chairman being away with his family in Barbados over Christmas. That is the sort of thing that journalists may think is an exciting scoop with which to fill column inches or airwaves, and it may serve as a useful distraction, but it is actually of little importance.

    This is far more important:

    “He was told by the EA that it had spent £20 m on dredging, but that probably was over a two year period. He did not immediately point out that was a tiny sum, under 1% of EA spending over a two year period, and tiny in relation to the number of rivers that need attention. He did not even ask how many miles or river you can dredge for just £20 m, and how many miles or river the Agency is responsible for.”

    A lot of listeners could be a bit vague about numbers, especially for sums of money – how many millions there are in a billion or a trillion and so forth – and may think that £20 m is a lot of money, which it is by their personal standards, when as you say it is a tiny fraction of the money that the taxpayer has provided to the Agency.

    There is a letter in the Sunday Telegraph today from Lord De Ramsey, the first Chairman of the Agency, in which he says:

    “The Treasury’s view has always been that an effective warning system should be enough. In 2000 the situation was made even worse by the EA chief executive Barbara Young’s instruction to put environmental concerns before timely maintenance.”

    What he doesn’t say is that her instruction would have coincided with the EU Water Framework Directive, and it is left to another correspondent to claim that:

    ” … under the European Water Framework Directive 2000, watercourses are to be kept in their natural state, a policy that has brought about the almost complete cessation of dredging.”

    and suggest that the Dutch are ignoring that Directive.

    So there we have it. A tight-fisted Treasury has always thought that it was good enough if people had ample warning that their homes were about to be filled with water, and filthy water at that, and if true that was a policy decision which was purely domestic. On the other hand we have the Chief Executive of the agency charged with preventing that from happening giving an instruction that protection of the environment was more important than the protection of homes from flooding, and doing that under the influence of an EU policy some of which was encapsulated in a legally binding EU Directive, which may have been passed by majority voting over the opposition of our government, thanks to treaties approved by our Parliament over the years, and which was transposed into our domestic law by a lengthy and complicated Statutory Instrument which hardly any of our MPs even glanced at let alone studied in detail:

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2003/3242/pdfs/uksi_20033242_en.pdf

    This new system of government is a rotten system of government, even worse than our own national system before we got entangled with the European federal project, and the sooner we get ourselves out of it the better.

  17. Lifelogic
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Good to see Prince Charles championing engineering.

    Rather a shame that governments do so much to misdirect so many of engineers activities and skills. So often they are misdirected in to potty (with the current state of the art anyway) things like PV roofs in cloudy England, millennium domes, littering the countryside with pointless wind farms, manned or womaned space travel, Swansea “Lagoons”, very expensive gimmicks like Concord, counter productive wars, ill conceived defence procurement (ships, planes, IT systems and weapons), over the top health and safety nonsense, hugely over priced and poorly specified state sector buildings, poorly conceived and specified IT projects, HS2, poo fuels buses, bio fuels and much other complete nonsense.

    Engineer and scientists should get things to work with R&D before they are rolled out with halfwitted government subsidies. Get some decent engineers and scientists to actually help decide on the best engineering that is needed and will produce the best return on investment.

    Not some buffoons in government or the civil service with PPE, Classics, Greats or Law degrees.

    Why not get rid of the fees at universities for real science, engineering, medicine, maths architecture, and similar subjects and double them for subjects like, PPE, Divinity, English, Classics, Modern Languages, Women’s studies and the likes. Let people fund their own hobbies and interests, or just do them in their spare time.

  18. JoeSoap
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Haha! It’s not their money so it doesn’t matter!
    Whilst Browne was originally a scientist, he’s learned that you don’t get to the top of a large UK company without presenting the emotional side of things over and above the quantitative side. For Humphreys this is grist to the mill. The same for Cameron and Osborne- worry about the sound-bites, not the figures. The BBC has our money by default, so it’s not an issue.
    The only people concerned with figures are those of us out here in the engine room, struggling with invest-divest decisions, whether to hire or fire.

  19. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Somewhat off-topic, JR, yesterday somebody had a letter in the Telegraph in which he said that if bureaucrats insisted that the EU Parliament must continue with the stupid wasteful shuttling between Brussels and Strasbourg then he would vote to leave the EU.

    Of course I would prefer it if somebody voted to leave the EU on a misunderstanding rather than voted to stay in the EU on another misunderstanding, but as we know this is not a matter for bureaucrats to decide as it is embedded in the EU treaties, to be specific in the Protocol (No 6) “on the location of the seats of the institutions and of certain bodies, offices, agencies and departments of the European Union”:

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12012M/TXT

    “(a) The European Parliament shall have its seat in Strasbourg where the 12 periods of monthly plenary sessions, including the budget session, shall be held. The periods of additional plenary sessions shall be held in Brussels. The committees of the European Parliament shall meet in Brussels. The General Secretariat of the European Parliament and its departments shall remain in Luxembourg.”

    Now I know that Cameron is opposed to this constant shuttling back and forth, because at the Tory party conference in October 2006 he publicly signed a petition calling for one seat, at the instigation of the then leader of the Tory MEPs Timothy Kirkhope:

    http://conservative-speeches.sayit.mysociety.org/speech/599977

    So have you heard anything about Cameron demanding that this ridiculous provision in the treaties must be changed, as part of his fight for a “reformed EU” which he and his colleagues could recommend to us as worthy of our support in the referendum?

    Amusingly, the petition that Cameron signed back then had actually been started by a Swedish MEP, on the basis of an article in the rejected EU Constitution which Kirkhope had condemned earlier in his speech.

  20. Anonymous
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    The Mail on Sunday puts it brilliantly today with regard to an inaccurately dramatised BBC TV show about the Royals. It says it wouldn’t matter if a low grade American TV channel had produced it but when the BBC does so (using top actors) the public take it as a true and historic version of events and thereafter opinions on historic moments are formed en masse.

    This is political manipulation, pure and simple.

    The MoS concludes brilliantly “The BBC must decide whether it wants to take the subsidised high road or the commercialised low road. It can’t take both.”

    Incidentally the BBC will have the biggest say on the EU referendum which is why we’ll be staying in, I’m afraid to say. This organisation should have been tackled long ago.

    • turbo terrier
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

      Anonymous

      “This organisation should have been tackled long ago”

      Surely you mean totally disbanded? It is the tail wagging the dog.

  21. Bert Young
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    No interviewer should ever participate in any form of a discussion without being on top of the subject or being , in any way , intimidated by the occasion . I did not witness the interviews mentioned therefore can not add my judgement ; the criticisms raised by Dr.JR are not surprising ; they indicate a lack of preparation and unprofessionalism .

    The quality of all forms of broadcasting by the BBC has been falling behind for many years ; this points to lack of guidance as well as supervision . If a drastic overhaul does not occur in the BBC from the top down , it is better to shut it down completely .

    • turbo terrier
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      Bert Young.

      Hear hear

  22. majorfrustration
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    No doubt the BBC thought the programmes outstanding.

  23. formula57
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Let us hope your friend Mr. Whittingdale gets to ask the BBC appropriate questions about its performance and goes on to rid us non-users who nonetheless wish to use its competitors of the obligation to fund it.

    In fairness to Lord Browne, he perhaps thought that asking about the oil price might upset the SNP and that, as we know from Lord Hague, should be avoided.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      And we all know it doesn’t take much to upset them!

  24. Tad Davison
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    If you think the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme is bad, you should see yesterdays ‘Dateline London’ and the paper reviewers on the BBC News Channel this morning! Biased and ill-informed isn’t the word, but again, no-one to put forward the counter narrative and give balance!

    Mind you, the BBC did just carry an interesting story showing how our education system has failed over the past thirty years with for the first time, kids’ literacy and numeracy skills lagging behind their grandparents – something many of us have been complaining about for decades. An admission if you will, that trendy leftie education theories don’t deliver in practise. Nothing new there then!

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      You only have to listen to the younger celebrities on BBC Mastermind to see they don’t know the answers to many easy general knowledge questions. Makes me wonder just what they are learning at school today. Mind you, with the dire state of ‘science’ in schools I’m surprised they learn anything useful. Most of it is indoctrination and not science at all particularly when it comes to the new ‘religion’ of the subject of the environment.

  25. Vanessa
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    None of the people at the top of big organisations is fit for purpose now. Look at the NHS and the managers of Trusts awarding themselves HUGE salary increases despite the NHS being in crisis. It is so easy to spend other people’s money. We taxpayers should demand change and sack these greedy people.

  26. oldtimer
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I admire your fortitude and devotion to duty in listening to these programmes and providing a commentary on them! I do not listen to the Today programme so I appreciate your commentary.

    I suspect that the inexperienced interviewers can do little more than follow leads provided by the researchers made available to them. These are unlikely to be penetrating questions; still less are they likely to be well equipped to ask probing follow up questions. Lord Browne is different. No doubt he had answers to the obvious questions from a pre-discussion with the current CEO; he will ceretainly had his own opinion. Either he did not think it necessary to enlighten his audience and/or, probably, he did not want to embarrass the CEO either. The outlook for BP and other energy companies is dire at present and seems unlikely to improve any time soon.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      Indeed Lord Brown is rather different to the others as he has a decent grasp of logic, science, engineering, economics and how the world goes round.

      I rather enjoyed his book – Seven Elements that Have Changed the World.

  27. fedupsoutherner
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Good post today John. This is the problem with much of the media, not just the BBC. There is no real investigative journalism today. People are being interviewed without any pressure being put upon them to justify what they are saying and they always seem to be allowed to have the last word. I can’t tell you the number of times this happens in the main Scottish newspapers. The SNP and the loony greens always have the last utterance which is usually utter tosh.

    On the other hand, I have just listened to Nigel Farage answering questions on LBC radio. He was given a 2 hours slot and was able to make his case in a calm and informative manner. All sides of the argument were covered and this type of programme should be aired more frequently and on the main channels. There were many points he made about the EU which the general public are unaware of and there is the problem. The public aren’t being educated because the right questions are not being asked.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Indeed the right questions from the BBC are never asked. If you are for higher taxes, more green crap, more “equality”, more redistribution, more EU and more government and more Human Right you will be asked nothing challenging at all.

      If not they will probably just imply you are a selfish, climate change denier or just a dreadful racist.

  28. Bob
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    It’s not for no reason that it’s referred to as the Toady program.

    The Royal Charter requires the BBC to inform, educate and entertain, and it fails on all three of these duties.

    The TV Licence system has passed it’s “use by” date and should be scrapped, thereby forcing the BBC to earn it’s income on a subscription basis, instead of expecting TV viewers and the EU to fund them as a matter of entitlement.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Indeed paper you have to buy are rather less biased than the “free” BBC propaganda.

    • turbo terrier
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

      Vanessa

      The perception would seem to be that they are not responsible or worst still accountable. The tax payers can demand changes but it is the politicians that can bring that about.

      Sadly the only chance the tax payer has to force change is through the ballet box every five years.

      Either that or man the barricades!!!

    • turbo terrier
      Posted January 3, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      Bob

      Very well said.

  29. ian
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    What would you do with 30 billion in oil subsidizes, cut the 20% tax rate to 10% with no increase at the pump price.

  30. ian
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Cut VAT to 15%

  31. ian
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Or take 30 billion off the debt

  32. ian
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    What would you do with 31 billion in pension tax relief that wet&mad is looking at.

  33. ian
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    On top of overseas aid 14 billion soon and EU 12 billion and will go up more after the vote and whole lot of other savings.
    Don’t worry wet&mad will piss it all away with his mates.

  34. ian
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Women pensions maybe challenge in court because of only giving them less than 4 years notice that they will lose getting on for 40.000 pounds and for changing the date.
    I hope they do go to court and win because it means more money going where it should go and not being spent on rubbish.

  35. Stephen Berry
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    “The CEO of BP of course needs a strong and clear view of the oil price, as all else the business does and plans depends on that single variable.”

    How wise Lord Browne was not to forecast the future price of oil. Who would now forecast the tangled politics of many of the OPEC members? What is the verdict on the immediate prospects for Chinese growth? There is much about the future that we don’t know. One of the main virtues of the market economy is its ability to respond rapidly to completely new and unforeseen circumstances.

    But I don’t need to be as wise as Lord Browne as I am not a CEO of a major company. The oil price is going to stay low because it has stayed low for six months now and the longer it stays low the longer it will stay low. Stupid? Lots of people think that events will be of short duration and are often surprised. In August 1914 many people thought the war would be over quickly. By Spring of 1915 they were not so sure. I bet that Syrians who first fled the civil war thought they would be back before too long. Now, they might be taking a longer view. And I lost count of the number of people in 2010 who told me that the coalition government would only last six months or so…

  36. ian
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    There is no shortage of money, its how the establishment treasury and council treasury choses to spend it.

  37. lojolondon
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    John, the Biased BBC is a corrupt, self-serving propaganda machine. If the BBC was at all interested in creating informative, interesting output, they would invite people from all walks of life, a bus driver, a fisherman, a farmer, a policeman, a nurse, a barrista or someone else who could give a different point of view on the world. Especially, why not invite a guest editor who opposes their popular points of view – on anything – the environment, the Middle East, American politics, ‘global warming’, the EU, British politics, global finance and growth prospects – any thing different and interesting. But, no, there is a BBC ‘message’ and people who support that message, whether they are MP’s from the left-wing who are out of jail on early release, or terrorists and terrorist sympathisers will be invited to speak their minds and share their views. People who do not follow the BBC Message, whether they be MP’s Church Wardens, scientists, soldiers, policemen or almost any blue-collar working people – will never be invited, and their views will never be heard. There can be no waiting – the BBC needs to be shut down asap, for the waste of £6 Billion every year, but, more importantly, for abusing our trust and the terms of their royal licence as a national broadcaster to deliver a socialist, anarchist, environmentalist propaganda.

  38. ian
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Labour leader says, labour is a broad church not a religious cult, what dose he mean john.
    Is he saying that the con party is a religious cult but only a third of his party is, do you think these things should be made public, that is that your party is a zionism party and so was labour tony and Gordon party.

  39. Richard1
    Posted January 3, 2016 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    I watched the much hyped Sherlock the other day. Despite Benedict Cumberbatch’s excellent acting it was dreary beyond belief, I kept hoping it would end – but on and on it went. Sherlock Holmes – and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle I assume – have been revealed unexpectedly by the BBC to be militant feminists.

    Separately I note Lord Fellowes, creator of one of the UKs most successful recent exports, Downton Abbey, has noted that the series would have been impossible on the BBC. Presumably this is because not all the posh people were baddies and there wasn’t enough tear-jerking victimhood below stairs.

    The cure for all this is market forces. The BBC should acquire the dignity which comes from serving customers in competition – by replacing the license fee with a subscription model.

  40. Cov
    Posted January 4, 2016 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    The Islamic State released a video today showing the execution of British spies, they claim, The man from Islamic State says that we need to think about the fact our children will be living under Shariah law in the UK. I think this is now inevitable and if we are not going to fight back with our Christianity we should then be thinking of ways to make friends with the Islamic State (for the sake of our grandchildren).

    You cannot kill an idea with bombs and in the end we surrender to everyone.

  41. Nick
    Posted January 4, 2016 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    When interviewing about money matters can we have some basic questions asked well. How much does it cost? What do you get for the money? How much money have you got? How could you spend it better?

    ===========

    See that’s an interesting comment. I agree with it.

    However when I push you on the state’s pensions, asking the same question, you get pissed off. Partly because you made it an election pledge, and then reneged on it.

    So lets start.

    For Mr Median, he pays £5,008 a year in NI. 97% of that goes on paying the state’s pension debts. See the NI accounts.

    That’s the cost question answered. Quite simple, http://www.listentotaxman.com/ is an accurate tax calculator.

    What do you get for the money?

    Ah, that’s a bit more complex. There are two parts, one of which you don’t want to answer. There’s the state pension, but that’s a moving target. You keep cutting it. 20% in cuts so far, more to come [RPI to CPI is 15%, raising the retirement age 5%, and that ignores the extra year paying in]. 18 year retirement at 6K is 108K of value.

    But that misses the other bit, the bit you can’t say. How much debt does the state have for pensions? Payments come to 160 bn a year, but that’s easy payments now, big payments later. So why can’t you say?

    Here’s my take. Which ever party admits to finding 9,200 bn of debt stuffed down the back of the sofa is toast. 400K of debt per tax payer in total.

    So you’re not practicing what you preach.

    How could you spend it better? Wrong question. It’s not about spending when it comes to pensions, its about investing.

    Turns out that if Mr Median had put his money in the FTSE all share, free of taxes with low charges, £840,000

    So he’s down well over a million quid. Because the state took the money and spent it. That’s evil. Another reason why you don’t want to be in power when the mess is revealed.

    On the BBC. Axe the tax. Make it subscription

    Reply I have always stated that the State retirement pension is unfunded and have reproduced government estimates of aggregate future liability. Why pretend otherwise?
    No government has wanted to switch to a funded scheme, as that would mean one or more generations paid twice!

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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