Edinburgh

Radio 4 Programme on Welsh 20th Century Decline

This might be of interest to Welsh readers of this blog, particularly as Mike’s a long-time resident of mid-Wales. Next Monday, 16th March 2020, Radio 4 are also broadcasting a programme on how Wales declined during the last century. The programme, Wales: A 20th-Century Tragedy?, is described thus in the blurb on page 131 of the Radio Times:

Simon Jenkins looks at the fortunes of Wales over the past century, asking how it might be possible to restore some glory to its valleys and mountains.

Rather more information is given in the short piece about the programme on the opposite page, 130, by Chris Gardner. This says

Simon Jenkins is passionate about Wales, the land of his father. His 2008 book Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles showcased the beauty and majesty of Welsh architecture, but the author and journalist is now worried for the nation’s future, citing among other factors the rise in the poverty index, while counties just over the border, such as Cheshire, have become richer. Examining Wale’s illustrious cultural, political, industrial and intellectual heritage over the last century, Jenkins uncovers historical reasons for this comparatively recent decline.

I think the major reason for this decline has been decline of the major Welsh industries during the last century – coal mining and iron working. There have been various history programmes on the Beeb that have shown that Swansea and Cardiff were major centres of the copper and iron industries from the 19th century onwards. I think Swansea was the world centre of copper production at one point, so that it was nicknamed ‘Copperopolis’. But this all gradually vanished due to competition from cheaper, foreign products. And this has continued into this century under the Tories, as we saw a few years ago with the proposed closure of one of the last surviving steelworks in the principality.

The country also hasn’t been helped by the fact that we haven’t had a Welsh prime minister, or one whose constituency was in Wales, for a long time. I seem to recall that Cardiff became the great city it is, housing Wales’ national museum, partly because Lloyd George wanted to turn it into a great national centre for Wales, like England and Scotland had London and Edinburgh respectively. The Labour PM, Jim Callaghan, attempted to do something for Wales, from what I recall, by diverting money that was earmarked to go to Bristol’s Portbury Docks to Cardiff. But his tenure of 10 Downing Street ended with Thatcher’s victory in 1979. And the Tories made it very plain that they weren’t going to help ailing industries, so that coal pits, and iron and steelworks up and down Britain were closed. This was partly because she wanted to destroy the coal industry so that a Tory government could no longer be overthrown by the miners, as Ted Heath’s had in the early ’70s.

I don’t know why Cheshire should have become more prosperous, unless it’s connected to the success of Liverpool FC. A friend of mine from that way told me that there’s a district in the county, which has become the country home of rich Liverpudlians, including footballers. Perhaps that’s part of the explanation.

If you want to listen to it, the programme’s on at 8.00 pm in the evening.

 

A Conservative Accusation of Liberal Bias at the Beeb

Robin Aitken, Can We Trust the BBC (London: Continuum 2007).

Robin Aitken is a former BBC journalist, and this book published 13 years ago argues that the BBC, rather than being unbiased, is really stuffed full of lefties and the broadcaster and its news and politics programmes have a very strong left-wing, anti-Conservative bias. Under Lord Reith, the BBC upheld certain core British values. Its news was genuinely unbiased, giving equal time to the government and opposition. It also stood for essential institutions and such as the monarchy, the constitution, the British Empire and Christianity at home, and peace through the League of Nations abroad.

This changed radically between 1960 and 1980 as the BBC joined those wishing to attack and demolish the old class-bound institutions. Now the BBC stands for passionate anti-racism, ‘human rights’, internationalism and is suspicious of traditional British national identity and strongly pro-EU. It is also feminist, secular and ‘allergic to established authority whether in the form of the Crown, the courts, the police or the churches.’ This has jeopardised the ideal at the heart of the Corporation, that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan.

Aitken does marshal an array of evidence to support his contention. This includes his own experience working for BBC Scotland, which he claims was very left-wing with a staff and management that bitterly hated Margaret Thatcher and made sure that the dismantlement of the old, nationalised industries like shipbuilding was properly lamented, but did not promote it as ‘creative destruction’ as it should, nor the emergence of the wonderful new information industry north of the border. A later chapter, ‘Testimonies’, consists of quotations from other, anonymous rightists, describing how the Beeb is biased and bewailing their isolated position as the few Conservative voices in the Corporation. He is particularly critical of the former director-general, John Birt. Birt was recruited in the 1990s from ITV. He was a member of the Labour Party, who brought with him many of his colleagues from the commercial channel, who also shared his politics and hatred of the Tories. He goes on to list the leading figures from the Left, who he claims are responsible for this bias. These include Andrew Marr, the former editor of the Independent, and the left-wing, atheist journo and activist, Polly Toynbee.

Aitken also tackles individual topics and cases of biased reporting. This includes how the BBC promoted the Labour Party and the EU before Labour’s landslide victory in the 1997 general election. The Conservatives were presented as deeply split on the issue and largely hostile to EU membership. The EU itself was presented positively, and the Labour Party as being united in favour of membership, even though it was as split as the Tories on the issue. Another chapter argues that the Beeb was wrong in challenging the government’s case for the Iraq Invasion. He claims that in a poll the overwhelming majority of Iraqis supported the invasion. The government did not ‘sex up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ in order to present a false case for war, and it was wrong for the Beeb to claim that Blair’s government had.

The chapter ‘The Despised Tribes’ argues that there are certain ethnic or religious groups, who were outside the range of sympathy extended to other, more favoured groups. These include White South Africans, the Israeli Likud Party, Serb Nationalists under Milosevic, the Italian Northern League, Le Pen and the Front National in France, the Vlaams Blok in Belgium, American ‘Christian Fundamentalists’, conservative Roman Catholics, UKIP ‘and other groups who have failed to enlist the sympathies of media progressives’. These include the Orange Order and Ulster Protestants. He then claims that the Beeb is biased towards Irish Republicans, who have successfully exploited left-wing British guilt over historic wrongs against the Roman Catholic population. He then goes on to claim that Pat Finucane, a lawyer killed in the Troubles, was no mere ‘human rights’ lawyer but a senior figure in the IRA.

The chapter, ‘The Moral Maze’ is an extensive critique of a Panorama documentary claiming that the Roman Catholic condemnation of premarital sex and contraception was causing needless suffering in the Developing World through the procreation of unwanted children and the spread of AIDs by unprotected sex. This is contradicted by UN evidence, which shows that the African countries with the lowest incidence of AIDS are those with the highest Catholic populations. The Catholic doctrine of abstinence, he argues, works because reliance on condoms gives the mistaken impression that they offer total protection against disease and pregnancy, and only encourages sexual activity. Condoms cannot offer complete protection, and are only effective in preventing 85 per cent of pregnancies. The programme was deliberately biased against the Roman Catholic church and the papacy because it was made from the viewpoint of various groups with an explicit bias against the Church and its teaching on sexuality.

Aitken’s evidence is impressive, and I do accept part of his argument. I believe that the Beeb is indeed in favour of feminism, multiculturalism and human rights. I also believe that, the few remaining examples of the Beeb’s religious programming notwithstanding, the Corporation is largely hostile to Christianity in ways that would be unthinkable if applied to other religions, such as Islam. However, I don’t believe that the promotion of anti-racism and anti-sexism is wrong. And groups like the Northern League, Front National and other extreme right-wing political and religious groups, including UKIP, really are unacceptable because of their racism and should not be given a sympathetic platform. Their exclusion from the range of acceptable political and religious views is no bad thing.

But the book also ignores the copious documentation from the various media study units at Cardiff, Glasgow and Edinburgh universities of massive BBC Conservative bias. Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis have a chapter in their book on the gradual, slo-mo privatisation of the NHS, NHS – SOS, on the way the media has promoted the Tories’ and New Labour’s project of selling off the health service. And this includes the Beeb.  The Corporation was hostile to Labour after Thatcher’s victory, promoting the SDP splinter group against the parent party in the 1983 election, as well as the Tories. This pro-Tory bias returned with a vengeance after the 2010 Tory victory and the establishment of austerity. Barry and Savile Kushner show in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, how the Beeb excludes or shouts down anyone who dares to question the need for cuts to welfare spending. Tories, economists and financiers are also favoured as guests on news shows. They are twice as likely to appear to comment on the news as Labour politicians and trade unionists.

And we have seen how the Beeb has pushed the anti-Labour agenda particularly vigorously over the past five years, as it sought to smear Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party as institutionally anti-Semitic at every opportunity. Quite apart from less sensational sneering and bias. The guests on Question Time have, for example, been packed with Tories and Kippers, to whom presenter Fiona Bruce has shown particular favour. This has got worse under Johnson, with the Beeb now making it official policy not to have equal representation of the supporters of the various political parties in the programme’s audience. Instead, the majority of the audience will consist of supporters of the party that holds power in that country. Which means that in England they will be stuffed with Tories. Numerous members of the BBC news teams are or were members of the Tory party, like Nick Robinson, and a number have left to pursue careers at No 10 helping Cameron, Tweezer and Boris.

The evidence of contemporary bias in favour of the Tories today is massive and overwhelming.

With the exception of particular issues, such as multiculturalism, feminism, a critical and sometimes hostile attitude towards the monarchy, and atheism/ secularism, the BBC is, and always has been, strongly pro-Tory. The Birt era represents only a brief interval between these periods of Tory bias, and I believe it is questionable how left-wing Birt was. Aitken admits that while he certainly was no Tory, he was in favour of free market economics.

This book is therefore very dated, and overtaken by the Beeb’s massive return to the Right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comedy and Multiplatform

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/08/2012 - 10:48pm in

Tags 

Edinburgh


BBC College of Production records a podcast

 

Up in Edinburgh, the BBC's College of Production (COP) has been talking to comedians about online shennanigans. The COP's Catherine Scott writes...

Yesterday saw four of comedy's bright new stars share their thoughts on how to be 'funny and multiplatform', during BBC College of Production's live podcast from the BBC Edinburgh Festival base in Potterow. The panel consisted of Daniel Berg, the comedy writer and developer who specialises in viral video, Bec Hill, named one of the "Top 10 Funniest Comedians on Twitter", Arron Ferguson of alternative comedy duo Not The Adventures of Moleman and Iván González, one half of Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award 2011-winning duo Max and Ivan.

Prolific Tweeter Bec Hill told us how she started using online platforms simply to share her comedy sketches and cartoons with her friends, and was pleasantly surprised when it snowballed into a 3000+ Twitter following. Bec also noted that her online audience has grown much faster than her live audience – "I've reached 100,000 views on YouTube, I certainly haven’t got that in Edinburgh yet!".

Daniel Berg's passion for viral videos was evident when a strong gust of Scottish wind blasted through the pink tent and he remarked "Film that, that'll go viral!". Daniel spoke of how social media and online platforms give new acts the chance for exposure without the need to be commissioned. When wrangling with the shorter attention span of the internet audience, Daniel’s advice to comedians was "Keep your content topical, and keep it short."

Ivan Gonzalez sang the praises of online platforms such as YouTube for giving comedians creative control, and also gave a shout-out to BBC's iPlayer and Feed My Funny for allowing viewers to access comedy outside the restrictions of viewing schedules. Like Bec Hill, Ivan also enjoys the immediacy of 140 character jokes on Twitter – and if the #EdFest feed this week is anything to go by, so do a lot of us (“Just been to a lecture on how to build a ship. Riveting!")

Arron Ferguson's two-man sketch troupe Not The Adventures of Moleman actually began as a solely online act, only venturing out onto the live circuit once they had built a large online following. Noting that "some people think you need to be live to be comedians", Arron pointed out that a lot of NTAOM's sketches actually work better online, because film can provide subtle shots that might be missed in onstage comedy. Arron also gave us possibly the most useful piece of advice on treating online platforms with respect – "Don’t use Twitter to invite all your fans to KFC!"

Although the public passion for live comedy gigs remains strong, any new comedian entering the industry should remember that there is a plethora of other options available to them for making their name and getting their work out there. It might take a while to build up 100,000 hits on YouTube or 1000 followers on Twitter, but as our guests concluded “As long as you’re having fun, that's what matters."

Listen to the full podcast.

Follow College of Production @BBCCop

BBC Set For Festival Fringe at Edinburgh 2012

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/06/2012 - 1:55am in

The BBC Edinburgh site 2011.

We're going back to the Fringe!

This summer, we'll pick up from where we left off last year when all our Fringe action came together under one roof. Expect even more performances and shows from across our site on TV, on radio and online.

We're going extra mile at the Fringe this year, hosting an overnight Comedy Marathon. BBC Three will start an epic overnight journey with a specially billed, anarchic eight hour show which will go out live on the Red Button from 9pm till 5am and forms part of the London 2012 Festival.

Our tented festival village opens on Friday, 3rd August and doesn't come down until the early hours of Monday 27th August, with over a 100 shows under its belt.

David Hasselhoff and Scott Mills

Last year, our venue enjoyed hosting shows from across the BBC. Where else in Edinburgh could you have found Ricky Gervais, Mark Lawson, Sarah Millican and David Hasselhoff on the same stage? (OK, not necessarily at the same time) - in case this all passed you by, here's a video of last year's highlights:

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There is so much going on across the month, make sure you don't miss anything by following @BBCEdFest on twitter and via www.facebook.com/BBCEdFest

Free tickets for all of the on-site events, performances and Masterclasses are available from BBC Tickets from Thursday, May 31. Apply now to make sure you don't miss out!

What's On?

BBC Radio 1's Scott Mills and Nick Grimshaw will be returning to present their spectacular Fun and Filth Cabaret, also part of the London 2012 Festival. And BBC Comedy Presents is back, showcasing the best of the Fringe with nightly shows.

Festival-goers can come together and marvel at our new big screen which will be showing the best of the Olympics live.

David Mitchell

Radio 4 bring a host of listener favourites to the Fringe; David Mitchell will be dropping in to host The Unbelievable Truth, Nicholas Parsons and Paul Merton will rock up for Just a Minute, as will Clive Anderson for Loose Ends. Jim Naughtie is with us for a special Fringe edition of Today, and Rory Bremner's in town to host Tonight.

More Radio 4 recordings from the festival include Comic Fringes, with short stories created by popular comedians. Also, Front Row, The Horne Section, The Philosopher's Arms, Wondermentalist Cabaret, plus a new food panel show making its debut at the Fringe - The Kitchen Cabinet presented by Jay Rayner.

As well its regular stable of Edinburgh shows of MacAulay & Co and the Festival Café and in recent years Off the Ball - BBC Radio Scotland will be taking more stalwarts East including Vic Galloway and Jazz House, and as he did in 2011, to acclaim, Christopher Brookmyre will be combining comedy and books in a specially recorded series.

Radio 3 will broadcast In Tune live from Edinburgh with Sean Rafferty and Verity Sharp presenting two editions of Late Junction with live music and special features.

Radio 2's Steve Wright Show - with Patrick Kielty at the helm - will broadcast from the festival. Patrick's also hosting the Edinburgh heat of the Radio 2 New Comedy Award. And Penny Smith returns with The Radio 2 Arts Show.

There is also a chance for you to see Richard Bacon present his BBC 5live shows from the BBC venue at the Edinburgh Festival on August 22nd and 23rd with celebrity guests.

BBC coverage goes beyond the Fringe. The diversity of the Edinburgh festivals will be reflected across a range of output, including BBC Two's The Culture Show with Sue Perkins and The Review Show with Kirsty Wark. And as broadcast partner of the Edinburgh International Festival, Radio 3 will broadcast 18 live and pre-recorded concerts from the Festival.

There will be a host of other live music acts across the month, featuring special performances from world loop-station champion, Shlomo, as well as up-and-coming live music acts showcased by Vic Galloway and the BBC Introducing... team in Scotland. There will also be lots exciting things to do for families with young children.

Key events at the BBC@Potterrow are included in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe brochure, but further details of additional events including Masterclasses and Workshops will be announced in due course.

Comedy Talent Search - Laugh Track

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/02/2012 - 12:52am in

BBC Comedy Commissioning and BBC Writersroom have joined forces for a second nationwide talent search to find new comedy gold. If you have a big studio sitcom brewing in your mind and can tell original stories, invent characters and catchphrases that can make a live audience laugh, then send in your script.

This is an opportunity not to be missed - you may get the chance of your work performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and at our Sitcom Showcase at the Studio in MediaCity, Salford. You could also be in line for a comedy masterclass on how to write studio sitcoms, plus an intensive week away developing your idea hand-in-hand with BBC comedy producers and established comedy writing talent.

Dawn French

 

The amazing Dawn French will be on the panel of judges. Cheryl Taylor (Controller, Comedy Commissioning), who judged last year's BBC writersroom comedy talent search says: "I was thrilled last year by the number of very funny and original scripts that we were asked to judge. It was a pleasure to read all of the short listed projects as was having the opportunity to meet some of their very talented authors."

The deadling for entries is Wednesday, 21 March 2012. For information on how to enter, visit the Writersroom website.