Letters: The new BBC – just as irrelevant as it was before


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The Independent Online

You would think, given the BBC is a publicly funded institution, that the corporation might be a bit embarrassed at appointing new Director-General Tony Hall, apparently without advertising and without interviewing other candidates. It hardly plays to an equal-opportunity agenda. It means that working-class or black-minority Britons have been denied a chance of applying.

No wonder the appointment was greeted with such approval by David Dimbleby who, along with his brother Jonathan, has followed their father, Richard, into the corporation. All Hall needs now is the similar public support of Dan and Peter Snow.

Part of the reason that the BBC has received so little support from the general public and the progressive left during its recent scandals is that it is still, after all these years, a bastion of privilege.

On top of this, its senior figures are disproportionately part of the Cambridge mafia. It doesn't have a culture of being democratically answerable to public complaints, merely of passing on feedback to its elite broadcasters.

And its elitism has a direct impact on its news coverage. Staff all too often interview each other without even having genuine news sources to cite. It's just all too cosy and sadly irrelevant.

Dr Gavin Lewis


As we head deeper into the 21st century, the reasoning behind the idea of a "TV licence" becomes ever more mendacious. This fee is a tax on the poor, who risk being criminalised by non-payment. Millions of voters would look favourably on whichever political party abolished this anachronistic tax.

Numerous other channels of information and entertainment are accessible in Britain, the vast majority completely free. Yet, if people wish to subscribe, for example, to Sky, they choose to pay a fee; if not, they don't. Why should the BBC, uniquely, be supported by a levy on the British public?

During the phone-hacking inquiry the Murdoch empire was lambasted for allegedly illegal and immoral acts carried out via its premises. Yet could they be considered more heinous than current scandals at the BBC?

If subscribers to Murdoch's empire didn't approve, they could cease payment. Let the licence be replaced by an invitation to subscribe. And let's not allow defenders to hide behind the myth that the BBC is a non-commercial enterprise. Most programmes promote a product or service – or, indeed, the presenters themselves.

IM Kelly

Watford, Hertfordshire

Given the recent revelation that our licence-fee payments go to fund the private healthcare of senior BBC managers, I think Tony Hall could do a lot to restore the BBC's credibility if he took a modest pay cut when he arrives as Director-General. And if he encouraged senior staff to do so too.

Any who are not willing to earn a bit less can always resign. But I don't imagine the marketplace has many openings for former BBC managers at the moment.

The worrying impression exists at the moment that BBC senior staff cream off a lot of the licence fee to award themselves huge salaries, private healthcare and absurdly generous severance packages.

More of that licence fee should go on programmes.

Adrian Mourby


Don't let bees go the same way as ash trees

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson should suspend the sale of neonicotinoid pesticides pending conclusive scientific evidence of their safety ("Future ban on bee-killing pesticides investigated", 23 November).

The Government admits that it does not know enough about the effect of these chemicals on wild bee populations, so it simply doesn't know whether or not they are safe. And with mounting scientific studies linking these pesticides to bee decline, a ban would be the sensible course of action.

Bees are an important indicator of a healthy environment and play a vital role in pollinating our crops. UK ash trees are paying a heavy price for Government dithering – we mustn't make the same mistake with our bees.

Paul de Zylva

Nature Campaigner,

Friends of the Earth,

London N1

Week after week, we are pounded with emotive articles castigating "nerve agent" pesticides for the decline in our honey bees and other pollinators and citing 30-odd scientific papers as proof. One reason the Government may be slow to act is that the basic premise is incorrect.

Numbers of honey bees are not falling and may well be rising. It is normal to lose some colonies during the winter months, but these are made up again during the summer. Three years ago, winter losses nationally were in the region of 30 per cent (ie, above average) but for the past two winters have been approximately 15 per cent, which I suggest is about normal.

Honey bees are not without their problems. Last year we imported in excess of 10,000 queens of non-native sub-species into the UK. For the past 20 years bees have had to cope with the parasitic mite Varroa and associated viruses. The past five summers in many parts of Britain have been exceptionally wet, depressing honey yields, but not threatening the existence of the honey bee, which has survived here since the last Ice Age.

I have more than 70 colonies, many of which have collected nectar from crops of oilseed rape. They all appear to be alive and well and show no signs of heavy losses.

Many of us have noticed a big decline in insect numbers over the past 30 to 40 years. This decline seemed to set in during the 1980s and may be linked to changes in farming techniques (more silage-making and less haymaking, perhaps). Can the decline in insect numbers be correlated with the rise in the use of neonicotinoids? It seems to me it began long before the use of these new pesticides. They may have an effect, but I have not noticed problems from this source in my bees.

Jo Widdicombe

Chairman, Bee Improvement Programme for Cornwall,

Torpoint, Cornwall

Why would prisoners vote?

Why the fuss over allowing prisoners the right to vote? With 50 per cent of the country not bothering to vote for this two-party charade, I am sure that any prisoner has by now caught on that we are about as democratic as any of the G8 nations. We aren't and never were a democracy. Money calls the tune.

The reason Westminster refuses to allow the PR voting system it foists on the rest of the UK is to prevent the two-party system's demise, and the loss of power and money to the few.

P Cresswell

Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

MPs and lords should allow prisoners the right to vote – especially as a certain number of their ilk end up behind bars.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London W8

If prisoners are enfranchised under European law, presumably in England and Wales they will be able to vote for police commissioners. If so, with turnouts as low as 15 per cent, they could put up their own candidates with some prospect of success.

Brian Lincoln


The floods can be prevented

It's no surprise that parts of Britain were being devastated by floods again this week. We're still no closer to a comprehensive water management approach in the UK as the Government continues to drag its feet on fully implementing the Flood and Water Management Act.

Implementing sustainable urban drainage systems (Suds) is a simple and relatively inexpensive way to protect ourselves from flooding. Suds mimic nature by absorbing water into vegetated surfaces. They slow down water and prevent flooding, as well as supporting greater biodiversity. They could prevent the surges of water through villages and towns we've seen in the past few days.

We need to start using Suds on all new developments and embark on a programme of retro-fitting Suds in existing towns and cities.

Until the Government takes it seriously and commits some money to addressing the problem, the floods will continue, and our homes, businesses and transport systems continue to be severely disrupted.

Sue Illman

President, Landscape Institute,

London WC1

Let's declare war on tax havens

Tax havens deny all nations their full tax revenues. They are also a living insult to the billions who do the world's real daily work. Tinkering with "the rules" will achieve damn all. So what price a moral crusade, led by Britain, to make toleration and use of tax havens as shameful as the toleration and use of slave markets? All who oppose it would be self-proclaimed defenders of greed and corruption. And God knows we need the money, don't we, Mr Osborne?

Richard Humble


Too late, Macca

So Paul McCartney (23 November) thought there was something suspicious about Jimmy Savile? Such a shame, then, that from his position of huge power as one of the Beatles, he didn't speak out 20 or 30 years ago when it could have made a difference. He should be ashamed, not crowing about it.

Paul Harper

London E15

Bills for failure

We're all going to get bigger energy bills to pay for new power stations. Where else in the private sector do companies give their customers huge price rises because the company and its shareholders have failed to use huge profits to invest in the future?

Shaun Wade

Basildon, Essex

Breaking story

I have always thought politicians should beware when talking about society and the family since every individual's experience of these concepts is different. However, after watching the Blenheim Palace episode of The Aristocrats I do wonder which particular family he had in mind when the local MP, Mr David Cameron, talked of Britain's "broken society".

Robert Senecal

London WC1

Been and gone

Julien Evans (Letters, 22 November) writes that it might be a good idea if Jesus "or another of God's representatives" visited to "give us guidance on sorting out the world's religious conflicts". Call me crazy, but didn't that already happen?

Michael Liddy

London SW20

Divine judgment

Why is God now calling so many fewer men into the ministry of the Anglican Church?

CA Bentley

Brentwood, Essex