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Failure Must Always Be an Option

Autonomous Mind lays into George Entwhistle’s £450,000 payoff and his £877,000 pension. Not bad for 54 days’ work. And being so crap at it that he had to resign. I could do that. Two months as DG and I promise I’d leave and never work again. Wouldn’t have to.

Defenders of the BBC (and other state organizations that behave similarly) would say that the same thing happens in the “private” sector. Well, yes, it does… except that the people who own a “private” (ie, public) company can act to prevent it; in extremis they can dispose of their holdings, potentially starving it of investment; and its customers can refuse to buy its product without affecting other purchasing decisions. None of these is true of the BBC.

Of course, the example these people would no doubt give is the big banks, for which these methods have largely failed: bankers still recieve generous pensions, bonuses, and payoffs despite “shareholder revolts”, and as far as market choice is concerned, well, they’re all the same. But the banks aren’t like other “private” companies: just like the BBC, they’re protected from failure by the state.

That, for me, is the most depressing and frustrating part of watching these scandals unfold. Unlike the News Corp. difficulties of last year, there is absolutely no sense that, should the problem be severe enough, the Corporation’s very existence is under threat. A few heads roll, some internal investigations take place, its employees interview its managers on its own programmes (would the BBC have praised an hour-long special on Sky News about the “hacking” scandal as “News Corp. at its best”, and decided that it was sufficient?), and life goes on, just as it did ten years ago after Greg Dyke left the job. It has no share price to collapse. It has no customers to lose. If an organization knows that its existence is assured, it will do what it likes, regardless of “regulation”.

9 Comments

  1. john b says:

    Well, yes, it does… except that the people who own a “private” (ie, public) company can act to prevent it; in extremis they can dispose of their holdings, potentially starving it of investment; and its customers can refuse to buy its product without affecting other purchasing decisions.

    Now consider this with reference to News Corp/BSkyB and James Murdoch. The people who own BSkyB chose to do bugger all about Murdoch’s failings (which are of the same nature as Entwhistle’s but far more serious); and its customers can’t refuse to buy its product if they want to keep watching the footy.

    Unlike the News Corp. difficulties of last year, there is absolutely no sense that, should the problem be severe enough, the Corporation’s very existence is under threat. A few heads roll, some internal investigations take place, its employees interview its managers on its own programmes (would the BBC have praised an hour-long special on Sky News about the “hacking” scandal as “News Corp. at its best

    100% the wrong way round. There was never any sense, outside of people who were absolutely mad, that News Corp was under threat. News International (UK papers) might have been closed down, which would be equivalent to the BBC deciding to axe Newsnight in terms of the business’s importance for the overall company. On the other hand, people who oppose the BBC’s funding model are absolutely latching onto this as a way of trying to bring down the organisation.

    And you’re right that the BBC wouldn’t have praised a Sky doco that ripped into News Corp’s behaviour… because News Corp, unlike the BBC, would never have attacked itself in such a way.

  2. Paul Marks says:

    Actually John – the whole target of the American and British left during the “hacking scandal” was Rupert Murdoch (not James – who is a waste of space, and collapsed almost at once).

    Or rather Rupert Murdoch’s protection of Roger A. (the head of Fox News). Because Murdoch is not actually much of a conservative – but he protects R.A. (who is). Get rid of Rupert and Roger falls. If Roger falls then Fox News falls – and if Fox News falls then the left have a MONOPOLY on television news and current affairs.

    The fact that Rupert M. (let alone Roger A. – who had never been involved in British business in his life) had nothing to do with “hacking” was beside the point.

    The castration of Fox News, Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal (the biggest selling newspaper in the United States) was always the aim – the British stuff was just the means.

    It almost worked – and it still might.

    But the BBC does not appear to be in any danger at all.

    I do not know how to destroy the BBC – but destroying this evil organization is vital to the continued existence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

    If the BBC propaganda continues (for example the lies about the “cut” in government spending) this country has no future.

    By the way your statements are false.

    James Murdoch can be removed by shareholders – not that this person was the real target anyway.

    And Sky customers do have a choice about whether or not to buy Sky products.

    By the way – bugger “footy” I could not care less about Association Football.

    What I do not like is that Sky Television will not let me get Fox Business.

  3. Sam Duncan says:

    “and its customers can’t refuse to buy its product if they want to keep watching the footy.”

    Um. Yes. The footy is one of its products. Sky, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, etc. are not BBC products.

    “There was never any sense, outside of people who were absolutely mad, that News Corp was under threat.”

    Perhaps not, but News International undoubtedly was, had – as I said – the problem become severe enough.

    “… which would be equivalent to the BBC deciding to axe Newsnight in terms of the business’s importance for the overall company.”

    No. News International accounts for the vast majority of News Corp’s UK operations. Had it closed, most of its staff would have been dismissed (a very, very small number might have found other positions overseas) and investors would have lost money. The BBC equivalent would be the closure of the entire news department, not the cancellation of one of its shows.

  4. john b says:

    Sky has a monopoly granted by law over showing the football; the BBC has a monopoly granted by law over the use of a TV set. The latter affects more people, but the principle is the same: the use of government force to prevent mutually agreed transactions unless you’re willing to pay a privately administered tax. Only willfully blind IP fetishists could fail to see the parallels.

    And no, News International accounts for a tiny proportion of News Corporation’s UK business. BSkyB has more than 10x the newspapers’ revenues, and is strongly profitable rather than marginally breakeven (at best).

  5. john b says:

    James Murdoch can be removed by shareholders – not that this person was the real target anyway.

    Not in a context where his dad, despite owning a tiny percentage of the economic interest of the company, exercises absolute control over it (due to a combination of dual-class share structures and weak institutional shareholders).

    News Corp is an excellent example of the management-as-agents-for-owners model breaking down completely. The Murdochs do not view themselves as agents for the owners, they view it as their bloody company and anyone who doesn’t like it can get stuffed.

  6. John Galt says:

    @John B:

    You’re forgetting the newts again…or are they giant lizards?

    Keep getting my Douglas Adams and David Icke mixed up. Damned Alzheimer’s!

  7. john b says:

    Nah, it’s turtles all the way down. Also, erm, what?

    The US corporate governance model has nothing in common with the textbook view of owners-and-agents, because shareholders have no way of holding boards accountable for their actions (the UK model, which also applies in Australia, gives shareholders far more power and requires boards that are far more independent; I think that many Commonwealth-based commentators make the mistake of assuming that US joint-stock companies work in the same way). This is why shareholder lawsuits, which are an insane idea if your conception of shareholders is as owners, are popular in the US.

    Not Icke theory, just a fact about corporate governance.

  8. NickM says:

    David Icke was a goal-keeper before becoming a sports presenter and then moving into a turquoise shell-suit and claiming to be a re-incarnation of The Buddha, Christ and Socrates much to Terry Wogan’s amusement and mine. He (Icke) not Wogan has a USP. Most conspiracy theorists believe in one to the exclusion of others*. The ickester believes in all of them – even the mutually exclusive.

    My fave line about our pyro-accelerant turquoise clad saviour is this. Some wag (back when a wag was amusing and not some slag who parted their legs for the semi-house trained Roonster to dock in exchange for a fortune) said…

    “He claims he’s here to save the World. Well he saved fuck all for Coventry City”.

    *Ever noticed how keen conspiratorial types are to ride their own hobby horse but damn the rest? Of course the WTC was brought down by cruise missiles with hologram disguises as Boeing airliners but the idea the Queen is a reptile is risible. The former is ace. In order for that to work the Black Helicopter Brigade had to hi-jack the planes, land ‘em somewhere remote, liquidate the crew and passengers and do some serious laser based CGI. Hell’s teeth it would have been easier to have just paid some pissed-off Muslims to do it. And no. That was paid for by the son of a Saudi billionaire. I can’t believe they gave that fucker decent funeral rights. Get the DNA to confirm and then chuck the cunt with as little ceremony as possible into the Indian Ocean from a Blackhawk.

  9. Paul Marks says:

    “Sky has a monopoly granted by law to broadcast football”.

    Pull the other one John – it has got bells on.

    Put on a football game and show it on any television station that will broadcast it. No law will stop you.

    What you mean is that various football teams sold the right to broadcast their matches to Sky – because it offered them the most money.

    Yet you do not say that – you say “monopoly granted by law”.

    I have had quite enough of “anti corporate” types and I am no mood for more of this bullshit.

    As for no way of holding directors to account……

    There are a lot of anti shareholder regulations in the United States – actually they were put in place by the left (warning about “coporate raiders” and the like), the very people who now complain about out of control corporate managers.

    However, if people own a majority of the votes (the shares) they can kick out directors – including the CEO.

    So this idea that Rupert Murdoch can not be kicked out by the shareholders is more bullshit.

    There was a vote – Murdoch won the vote, your side lost.

    Rupert Murdock had earned a lot of the money for the shareholders.

    You do bugger all for them John.

    What I care about is Fox News, Fox Business and the Wall Street Journal. And Harper Collins.

    Are you going to protect them from the left John?

    No I thought not.

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