Wednesday 22 May 2013

@BBCNorfolk: encouraging hate for the sake of ratings

Transport taxes are not hypothecated. The main tax that is hypothecated is "the television tax"; the money everyone with a TV pays irrespective of whether or not they watch BBC TV. Or listen to BBC Norfolk. Something this article will return to at is end.

On Tuesday, BBC Norfolk dedicated their three hour talk show to, nominally, "should cyclists pay road tax".

Why? Over the weekend a cyclist got hit by a driver coming round the corner too fast -and ending up on the wrong side of the road. The driver didn't stop; she drove off and was only identified because she boasted about it on Twitter, saying they don't pay road tax.

That could have been an opportunity for a news channel to get the region to look at itself, to consider that driving off after injuring another person is no longer unusual. To consider how "road rage" has gone from being something that happened in the US, to something that happens every day somewhere in the county. To consider that the driving test may not be preparing the next generation of drivers to drive safely in the current generation of cars. To ask why the punishments for any act of dangerous driving is usually a gentle slap on the wrist.

That didn't happen. Instead, the way they treated the incident of a hit an run assault on a cyclist by having a three hour phone in on whether cyclists should be on the road at all.

They may gloss that over, to say they were "encouraging the debate" -but if you listened to any of that show, it was primarily an opportunity for cyclist-haters to come out of their caves, to phone in complaining about cyclists not using the paths to the side -and so endangering the drivers. To phone in complaining about a cyclist wobbling all over the road "whey they tapped their horn behind them". The radio show accepted these calls without ridiculing the caller "how many drivers were killed by cyclists last year". Without ridiculing the "all over the road" hater with "why did you sound your horn just because you were behind someone with the right to be there?". No. The station -our tax funded station- delegated all defence of the situation to the few people dialling in to make that defence.

Carlton Reid got to make a response, which he did, politely, on the topic of road tax. Yet even he didn't raise the fundamental issue with the program: why was the BBC reacting to a hit and run, not by looking at the issue of dangerous drivers, but instead effectively asking: should the cyclist have been there?

That is what they were asking, and they let the locals dial in to make the case that no, they shouldn't.

Imagine an immigrant had been victim in the hit and run. Would the channel have a broadcast "should immigrants be allowed on the road?". No, because they'd recognise that even though immigration is a core UKIP theme, to devolve it to a "should they be on the road" topic would be morally wrong.

Imagine a child had been the victim in the hit and run. Would the channel have had a three hour talk show "is it the children's own fault for being out there?". No. Because the victim blaming would have been blatantly obvious.

Yet here we have a channel where they were looking round for a local theme to keep the phone lines busy, and came up with "lets start a discussion about whether cyclists should be on the road".

Did anyone put their hand up in the planning for this and say "to do this two days after someone justified running over one as 'they shouldn't be there' is morally wrong". Did someone say "we are stirring up hate?". Well, they may have -but it didn't stop the show going ahead.

And now whoever measures the ratings will be feeling smug, "this was popular", and planning a rerun later this year.

If the radio station had chosen to make the theme anything stirring up hate against immigrants, the disabled, travellers, or similar, they'd be rightfully part of a national scandal, how a local channel was encouraging on-air abuse of a minority group. Not so for anything picking on cyclists. It is considered socially acceptable.

If the taxpayer-funded BBC radio and TV channels can do this, what hope do we have for the rest of the country. The BBC is legitimising the actions of those people who do "punishment passes" at "arrogant cyclists" who have the arrogance to hold up drivers who "have paid road tax". They are defending those people who lean out the window of their cars and should at the cyclists "you don't pay road tax" whenever their driving is criticised.

Why does the BBC consider doing this to be acceptable?

To close then, here is a suggestion for BBC Norfolk to cover one morning:
TV License fees: are they worth the money?


  1. Couldn`t agree more. I live in Brazil, where things can get even scarier, but without countries like the UK taking the lead, things will always be a lot worse around here. Countries like the UK & USA set the standard of behavior for the rest of the world. Cycling here is often the only option for poor people to get around.

  2. Or "If people do not listen to BBC programmes, how much should their licence fee be discountex by?