BBC under threat
“Destroy everything of public value” – the Right-wing obsession.
Since the UK Conservative government was first elected in 2010, there has been remorseless pressure on the public sector, led by the campaign of “austerity”; which was based on the deeply flawed contention that it was government spending, not the wild excesses of the banking and finance sectors that brought the world economy to its knees.
One sector that was mainly spared was the National Health Service, an asset of incomparable value, which ensures free health provision to the entire UK population. This has been systematically underfunded, but not yet destroyed. The “NHS” and the “BBC” are the sole national assets left that distinguish Britain in the wider world
The Conservative government intends to act to privatise the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), by first reducing its funding and then its public support through the licence fee. The BBC can be contrasted with other broadcasting media the UK, which are mainly paid for by advertising, resulting in a torrent of consumerism, promoting everything from fashion to gambling.
In this way, TV and social media have been the underpinnings of a “consumer society”.
How this has come about is brilliantly explored in a film series “The Century of the Self”, created by Adam Curtis.
The Century of the Self is a 2002 British television documentary series by filmmaker Adam Curtis. It focuses on the work of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud, and PR consultant Edward Bernays. In episode one, Curtis says,
"This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy."
The documentary explores the various ways that governments and corporations have used Freud's theories. Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in public relations, are discussed in part one.
To many in politics and business, the triumph of the self is the ultimate expression of democracy, where power has finally moved to the people. Certainly, the people may feel they are in charge, but are they really? The Century of the Self tells the untold and sometimes controversial story of the growth of the mass-consumer society. How was the all-consuming Self, created, by whom, and in whose interests?
Along these lines, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of consumerism and commodification and their implications. It also questions the modern way people see themselves, the attitudes to fashion, and superficiality.
The business and political worlds use psychological techniques to read, create and fulfil the desires of the public, and to make their products and speeches as pleasing as possible to consumers and voters. Curtis questions the intentions and origins of this relatively new approach to engaging the public.
Where once the political process was about engaging people's rational, conscious minds, as well as facilitating their needs as a group, Stuart Ewen, a historian of public relations, argues that politicians now appeal to primitive impulses that have little bearing on issues outside the narrow self-interests of a consumer society.
The words of Paul Mazur, a leading Wall Street banker working for Lehman Brothers in 1927, are cited: "We must shift America from a needs- to a desires-culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed”.
Consumerism and the health of the planet.
Behind the pressures for Consumerism and commodification lie even more sinister forces. A main cause of global warming and environmental destruction are the relentless pressures; especially in the rich countries, to overconsume, and live life-styles exemplified by fashion, personal assets and competitive consumption, which are putting relentless pressure on the ability of the planet to sustain human life. Even deeper still, is the obsession with economic growth, resulting in ever-increasing environmental destruction.
What has this to do with the BBC??
- The BBC is publicly funded, it does not depend on advertising to survive
- Mass advertising is behind the private TV broadcasting sector
- Advertising smothers audiences with a never-ending flood of exhortations to consume
Privatising the BBC would impale an asset of world class importance – and also add to the flood of climate destroying consumption