Licence to do what you like

There’s a local BBC news programme where I am certain the reporters are bored. You know, and they know, about how news should answer the questions How, What, Where, When and Why. On this show, though, they play a game and nearly always leave one of those out.

They ruined the fun recently, mind, by ending a three-minute package with a request for viewers to email in if they knew who the story was about. They had two facts to fill three minutes and they didn’t know one of them, but they admitted it. Ruined the game.

Sometimes it’s a bit more serious. I remember emailing or tweeting or something, when a reporter on that same show did a piece and failed to ask the most completely essential and obvious question. It was a yes or no question and I was terribly interested because depending on the answer, this story was now either about fraud or negligence.

I never found out which because I got a deeply snotty reply telling me that people aren’t interested.

But then there is the bigger and less funny case of BBC Breakfast. After the Remain march in London where organisers say a million people turned up, the BBC’s national news show deliberately got it wrong. You can dispute that a million were there and actually, so you should. Question everything. But BBC Breakfast’s Louise Minchin chose to say that there were tens of thousands instead.

That’s a national BBC journalist choosing to make a factual error.

I’ve worked for BBC News and I’ve been on Breakfast yet the result is that when she or anyone else on that show tells me the time is ten past eight, I look at my watch to check.

The reason I bring this up with you today, though, is that there is an online campaign to protest against the BBC by not watching it on some certain day. And the protest has nothing to do with anything the BBC has done, it’s about the over-75s not getting a free TV licence – because of the government.

You know that if you get free medication for any reason, it’s not because your pharmacist is in a good mood. It’s because the cost is paid by government funds. That was the case with the licence fee. Successive governments wanted to give the elderly certain benefits, so they did. It’s hard to remember a time when any government did anything that benefitted anybody outside in the Cabinet, but apparently it happened.

I don’t remember governments making a fuss about this, about scoring votes by doing it, so perhaps it’s only fair that the current one isn’t mentioning that it’s stopped doing it.

Except it’s fantastic, dramatically. One group takes away money from an organisation and manages to get everyone protesting against the organisation.

I’ve been thinking that if this weren’t governments and corporations, if it were individual characters, that you could make it up, but you wouldn’t. I was thinking that it would be too unbelievable, that doing something to another person, getting that person blamed for it, and then later using all of this to do some more damage to this poor sod, would feel contrived.

But it’s schoolyard stuff, this is the bully whistling innocence while the timid victim is too afraid to tell anyone. Unfortunately, it’s also BBC News not reporting the story.