Letters: The BBC is no Augean stable



You are right to point out that the BBC is not a "modern-day Augean stable that needs cleaning out from top to toe" (Leading article, 12 November). It is clear from the past few weeks that there is a sharp distinction to be made between BBC radio and BBC television. BBC's radio services are organised in a way that ensures each channel has a clear identity and mission. So it is no surprise that Radio 4's Today programme has done what its listeners have come to expect and dealt in an articulate, enlightening and sure-footed way with the aftermath of the Savile and Newsnight scandals.

If the interests of licence fee payers are to be served by an overhaul of the BBC, it is therefore to be hoped that the focus is on tidying up the incoherent mess that BBC television has become. This half of the BBC can learn a lot from its radio other half.

Professor David Head

University of Lincoln

Dominic Lawson has an idea for the BBC: "Scrap all your lowbrow pandering." He makes clear his dislike for reality TV, for Top of the Pops and, while he is about it, the whole of Radio 1.

To be replaced, presumably, only by programmes that meet his own intellectual standards. To quote again from his article, "why should the public be forced by law to purchase it, via the licence fee?"

Gerald Sinstadt


From the BBC's own profile of Ceri Thomas, editor of the Today programme and newly appointed acting deputy director of news: "I never tell people senior to me in the chain what we are doing day-to-day. They'll hear it – like everybody else does – when they put the radio on."

Just what's needed then.

David Gibbs

London SW4

Cameron in a sulk over Abu Qatada

With regard to the Abu Qatada saga, surely David Cameron, who is our Prime Minister, should be calmly explaining to his concerned people the clear reasons for the ruling of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, instead of going into a frustrated sulk and insulting Mr Justice Mitting and human rights; unless, of course, he is in favour of procuring evidence by torture.

He should get on with trying to persuade Jordan to amend its criminal code, so altering its attitude to human rights. If he were to succeed in this, no doubt he would crow and claim credit, although it would be Mr Justice Mitting who would have achieved the goal of deportation by his adherence to the rule of law, and not Mr Cameron.

Mr Cameron seems to be imitating Mr Blair in what the editor of The Independent on 24 June 2006 rightly called "more short-term, knee-jerk responses to whichever brand of crime finds itself at any one moment demonised in the headlines of the popular press".

Robin Grey QC

London EC4

The public pursuit of Abu Qatada proves only that Britain has advanced little from the days of the old witch-hunts. A hate figure has been created for the public to focus its anger on. Most know little about the man and even less about what he is purported to have done. Note, the television reporter who recently proved the bias by referring to Abu Hamza in a report about Abu Qatada. Muslim clerics have become the hate figures of the 21st century.

In this febrile atmosphere, those who stand up for human rights such as Mr Qatada's solicitor Gareth Peirce, Liberty, Amnesty International and others deserve everyone's gratitude. The government and Labour opposition have behaved disgracefully on these cases. We elect these people to represent us, safeguard our liberties and govern, not act as conductors of the witch hunters' hate mob.

Paul Donovan

London E11

The fact that the jihadist cleric Abu Qatada is on the loose after a decade of proceedings reeks of EU interference, government incompetence and a perverse judiciary.

He is an alien who got in here on a forged passport and we are justified in deporting him because foreign jihadists who threaten us have absolutely no right to remain.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

Abu Qatada should be given an ultimatum: be deported back to Jordan, or do community service as Father Christmas.

Stan Labovitch


Miracle fuel – or a waste of energy?

We could make petrol from water and carbon dioxide captured from the air (letters, 22 October). But it will not help solve our energy problems – quite the reverse.

Reports suggesting that a British firm has invented a process for making petrol from air, which could solve the world's energy "crisis", sound too good to be true, and unfortunately they are.

When you burn a fuel like petrol, the exhaust gas contains carbon dioxide and water. These substances can be turned back into fuel using chemistry which is very well known, but to make it work you must put back the energy that you released in the combustion. In fact, because the combustion is not perfectly reversible, you will need to put in even more energy.

If the energy that you put in is obtained by burning more fossil fuel, the result will be that you burn more fuel than you create. Instead of burning fuel though, you could run the process using renewable energy such as electricity from photovoltaic cells or wind farms. In this case the fuel that you make would effectively be a way of storing the renewable energy. But as the amount of renewable energy that you put into the process still has to be greater than the combustion energy of the fuel you make, other uses for the renewable energy will be preferred. For example it would be preferable to put the renewable energy directly into the electricity grid, so as to reduce the amount of fossil fuel we currently burn.

The market for fuel made from CO2 and water using renewable energy will be limited in the near future to situations where the buyer is prepared to pay a premium for such a product. This will divert renewable energy from applications which are more effective at reducing carbon emissions.

We should be focusing our efforts on improving our energy efficiency, and also reducing our consumption of fossil fuels. These are the really urgent priorities, which will genuinely improve our long-term energy security and meet the challenges of climate change.

Professor Richard Darton

Department of Engineering Science, Oxford University

I have just had my planning application for a micro wind turbine turned down for the second time. My windswept small farm is in the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This body is funded by Natural England and ultimately the taxpayer. Apparently the thought that if climate change continues unchecked and helped by carbon emissions there will soon be very little natural beauty left, has not occurred to those making the decision to reject my turbine.

Can someone please tell me how to make the gentlemen – and they are all men – in charge see just how myopic their attitude to "planning" really is. To my mind, in an ideal world every landowner with a suitable site would be encouraged to use all renewable sources of energy available; wind, sun, light and water.

Penelope Reid

Wantage, Oxfordshire

'Offshore' must be abolished

Global Financial Integrity estimates that 54 per cent of all global illicit financial flows are due to trade mispricing, ie corporate tax avoidance and the major vehicle by which this is facilitated is via offshore financial centres, or tax havens (Letters, 12 November).

Criminal networks use offshore to launder money via the international financial system, and governments turn a blind eye to all but the most blatant abuses. Offshore has been implicated in massive frauds, including those of Enron and WorldCom – and little is done about it. The Greek financial crisis has been exacerbated by offshore speculators.

It is clear that the ultimate solution to all these problems is the abolition of "offshore". Only then will governments be able to plan on a sound financial basis and tackle the criminality that is undermining society – drugs, human trafficking, illegal arms, smuggling, counterfeit goods, and corruption.

Anthony Davies

Burton on Trent, Staffordshire

Police-election turnout fears

Given the anticipated very low turnout for the vote on Police Commissioners, should a minimum percentage (maybe 20 per cent) be set, and if turnout falls below this, the result be declared null and void? (Report, 14 November.) After all, the current system generally seems to work well and, according to the Police Authorities website, does generally have nine elected local councillors.

Michael Guttken Tonbridge, Kent

Homo sapiens getting dumber

If humans really are becoming more stupid, are celebrity culture, reality TV, obsession with soap operas and young people's chronic addiction to texting on mobile phones, a cause or the consequence of dumbing down? ("The descent of man", 13 November.)

Pete Dorey


British wars, Scottish soldiers

Scotland since the Union has made a military contribution to Britain's wars greatly above her due share. This was envisaged in 1707 by the national opposition to the Union who warned, "The disposition of the bodies of Scotsmen, being at the power of another people and becoming slaves to their neighbours."

Donald J MacLeod Aberdeen

Top spy shock

The debate regarding David Petraeus's morals would seem redundant ("Shock and phwoar! US military rocked by spreading scandal", 14 November). Clearly the key issue is his competency – if he cannot keep his own infidelities secret, how can he be relied on to run a spy agency?

Ken Campbell Kettering

Read, don't weep

"Without big advances, celebrity books might never be written at all," the features editor of The Bookseller is quoted as saying (Trending, 13 November). Not a bad prospect, if it means more books from people who know how to write them.

Robert Allen


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