Saturday, July 17, 2010

Manufacturing austerity

There's nothing like an economic crisis to provide excuses for your ideological commitments. The government's announcement that the BBC license fee may be cut is a case in point.

The Tories have long held a grudge against the BBC, because it isn't directly owned by one of their pals (which is why they've scrapped rules saying that newspaper owners can't own TV stations). It's also increasingly clear that whilst many cost cutting measures are taking place under the heading 'tackling the deficit' this really isn't the whole story.

After all why cut corporation tax if your worried about the gap between income and expenditure? Why say you're going to ensure council taxes do not rise unless you want to ensure that councils do not act to create jobs while the national government is slaughtering them?

Jeremy Hunt, the Minister for Culture, simultaneously attacked the BBC's independence and revenue when he said that "There are huge numbers of things that need to be changed at the BBC. They need to demonstrate the very constrained financial situation we are now in."

Surely though Hunt is talking about artificially creating a "constrained financial situation" by cutting their funds? Certainly Hunt is suggesting maximising it. It looks to me like the government is ideologically committed to laying people off.

That's not to say that there is nothing to criticise in the license fee, which is the kind of flat tax that Tories used to like, when it might be fairer to include the BBC's funding in income tax - although there is something to be said for a hypothocated tax if it allows for more political independence.

It's also true that the BBC could spend it's money more wisely. The mega-fees paid to competent entertainers like Graham Norton or Jonathon Ross seems disproportionate when compared to the salaries of other staff members. However, I suspect Hunt is not looking for anything except scaling down of the size of the state broadcaster.

Soon the number of people able to pay tax at all is going to be severely reduced - and where will the deficit be then, hmmm?

No comments: