Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh, I am SO Fucking Surprised...

A BBC FoI Act info request response, earlier today

A few weeks ago, I asked Auntie this.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Please submit the accurate total cost figure incurred by the BBC in securing, broadcasting and staffing television coverage of the United States Democratic Electoral Primary Contest in 2008.

You may, if you wish, break down the figures into individual areas of disbursement if you desire, but this is at your own option.

Yours faithfully,

Mac the Knife

The reply popped up in my inbox today, and guess what?

The BBC will not be providing you with the information you requested as we believe it is not
covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“the Act”).

You don't say? Why not?

The BBC has chosen not to volunteer information relating to the costs of coverage of particular
news stories for several reasons, chief amongst them being the need to maintain our
independence and impartiality.

Sorry? Don't quite see how you got there...

I’m sure you will be disappointed that we are not releasing this information to you and even when
we explain that we believe the Act doesn’t apply people often say that they believe that we should
release it anyway. That as licence fee payers they feel they are entitled to it. I would like to explain
why we are not doing so.

Disappointed? Oh no. Not at all. I'm experiencing a completely different emotion. Can you guess what it is yet?

You may not be aware that one of the main policy drivers behind the limited application of the Act
to public service broadcasters was to protect freedom of expression and the rights of the media
under Article 10 European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). The BBC, as a media
organisation, is under a duty to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest and
the importance of this function has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights.
Maintaining our editorial independence is a crucial factor in enabling the media to fulfil this

The Information Commissioner’s Office has recognised the importance of Schedule 1 of the Act in
protecting the independence of the media, stating that:

“It is the Commissioner’s view that the ultimate purpose of the derogation (Schedule 1) is
to protect journalistic, artistic and literary integrity by carving out a creative and
journalistic space for programme makers to produce programmes free from the
interference and scrutiny of the public.”1

The BBC agrees with this interpretation and believes that we have a need to protect our
journalistic and editorial independence by maintaining just such a private space in which to
produce our content. .

The decision as to which reporters or correspondents, and indeed how many of such staff to send
on a particular story, is one of the most fundamental editorial decisions that Newsgathering
undertakes. Despite the BBC’s obligation to be independent and impartial, many bodies, groups
and individuals attempt to influence our output and programme makers across the BBC must be
able to resist pressure directed at the editorial decisions made on resource allocation.

So, you won't tell me how much you spunked burying the coverage of the Lisbon Treaty, in order to ensure that you remain 'independent and impartial' and ensure your 'journalistic, artistic and literary integrity'.

Sorry folks, the boat sailed on all that bollocks some time ago.

Call me a scabby old cynic, but I see this as a pathetically transparent attempt to hide a specious, politically motivated mega-junket behind some very badly withered fig leaves. Not fucking good enough.

Appeal Rights

If you are not satisfied with this response you have the right to appeal to the Information
Commissioner. The contact details are: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF, telephone 01625 545 700 or see

Yours sincerely

Stephanie Harris
Head of Accountability, BBC News

Way, way ahead of you Stephanie.

Watch this space.

Monday, May 25, 2009

As if I Needed any Proof...

Courtesy of the East African Feline Enumeration Unit:

Is your cat plotting to kill you?

Apologies for my continued absence, but owing to a frigging insect bite I have right arm the size of a Xmas ham, and am reduced to typing one handed. Arse.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The Clarity of an Honest Voice

A little clarity, earlier today

I have lifted this en bloc from the comments section of Professor Michael Siegel, possibly the only honest individual left in the tobacco control industry. He can be read here.

Higher taxes "may" have a disproportionate affect on the poor? Have all the abstractions of ideology and academic debate and policy completely isolated you from the reality of human experience?

You could sell cigarettes for $100 per pack, and a wealthy smoker would never even know that anything had changed. Yet raising the price even $1.00 a pack forces poor people to re-arrange their entire lives in response to other peoples' legal violence against them. Where is the autonomy in that? Where's the dignity in that? Where's the justice in that?

You can create abstract lists of benefits using pencil and paper all day long, but how are these forced income reductions benefiting the working poor, exactly? Especially when their effects are imperceptible to the rich?

Why is cancer regarded as such a horror because it "shortens" life, yet a life of poverty becomes more and more acceptable the deeper they are pushed into poverty, and the longer their poverty (life) is prolonged? There's nothing to debate here if you're concerned with real, living human beings at all, rather than "10.73%", "340 kids" and "400,000 dead", "an average reduction of 3 cigarettes per day" and other symbols and statistics written on pieces of paper. These are real human beings who are being devastated by these taxes.

These outrageous tax increases transform smoking into an exclusive privilege of the rich. Any poor smoker who attempts to simply do what they have always done, and nothing more (which is absolutely, positively as much their right as it is for the rich), is utterly devastated by these extortions. Is there any humanity at all in this tobacco debate? My God, I wish I did have cancer, just to escape so much inhumanity. I would bow before God in gratitude for taking me away from so much hate and human stupidity.

Anti-smokers make this world such a miserable place to live in. They portray the world, and life itself, as a dangerous and miserable place, yet they endlessly pursue a longer life. I have never witnessed a movement in my lifetime that is permeated with so much evil, stupidity, and sheer inhumanity, no matter how much rhetoric it spews about trying to prevent suffering.

Just open your door and look outside. Feel the sun on your face. Listen to the birds. Splash around in a stream or lake. We are privileged to live in a truly gorgeous world. And anti-smokers turn all of this beauty and joy into something more sickening than a black lung.

Anti-smokers CREATE misery, and suffering, and conflict, and guilt, and shame, and oppression, and stress, and segregation, and isolation, and so many other horrific things that did not exist before they began devoting their lives to worrying about what other people were doing with theirs. Meanwhile, cancer exists even without tobacco. Who is really creating a preventable problem here?

My God, a poor man works his ass off all day, and doesn't ask for anything more in return than the pleasure of a good smoke as his only "luxury" in a lifetime of hard work. Yet while he's at work, his income is reduced by arbitrary taxes that are sent directly to his persecutors. Meanwhile his children are at school being taught that their father, who loves them dearly, is "killing" them. You call that a movement that benefits society, in any way, shape or form? How can you find benevolence in this? This is human evil at its most obscene, and absurd. Again I ask, what is the matter with you people?

And I say this giving you, Dr. Siegel, full credit for being one of the good guys, as far as anyone who devotes their life to the concept of "control" can be regarded as a decent human being at all. For my part, I'd prefer a world where nobody was concerned with "control". Just live your life the best you can and be grateful for it every day, rather than wasting your life mourning the fact that it will one day end.

The lack of gratitude for life I witness among anti-smokers is just astounding. They always want more, more, more, and then still more. More control over other people. More laws. More regulations. More taxes. More studies. More grants. More publicity. More time on television. One more day added to their life. More money siphoned off of hard-working smokers. More, more, more. This is the most deranged group of people I have ever seen. Why isn't mental illness at the top of anyone's priority list, rather than tobacco control?

How dare you make a tame suggestion that these taxes "may have a disproportionate effect on the poor". These taxes are utterly devastating to poor people, and the sadistic anti-smokers who imposed those taxes are laughing at their victims' suffering, all the way to the bank. Stop writing academic arguments in your sleep, and wake up to the obvious reality of what the anti-smoking movement is really all about. These people are sociopaths.
Paul | 04.21.09 - 1:32 am | #

I have nothing to add, even if I enjoyed this level of eloquence, which I do not.