Andrew Tettenborn: Big Sister Sharon’s Ofcom takes control of our thought

What is the point of television in the UK?

To give you, the viewer, the best possible independent choice of programmes, mainstream, quirky, or whatever inspires you? Or to act as a distributor of nice jobs on strictly approved criteria, broadcasting material carefully vetted by a quango of the great and the good for representativeness and judged on its acceptability to particular interest groups?

This week David Keighley told how the BBC, as a result of both its internal mindset and external bullying by Ofcom, had wholeheartedly gone for the second option. But, as he hinted, this isn’t the whole story. There are plans to take the process further and apply it by gentle compulsion to all TV broadcasters, courtesy of Ofcom’s CEO Sharon White (about whom see here). By way of background, Ofcom has produced, at the expense of the broadcasters who have to pay it large sums to boss them around, a glossy 33-page report on not only the BBC, but four other large private broadcasters – ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Viacom (ie MTV). It makes depressing reading.

On the face of it, the report is concerned entirely with so-called diversity in employment. Ofcom peremptorily demanded employee details from the five broadcasters, broken down by gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion and age, plus details of any diversity initiatives they practised. It then drew conclusions from the answers it got.

Its reaction was one of PC mandarin’s horror. There weren’t nearly enough diversity initiatives. The BBC, instead of leading the way in diversity, was well behind the pack in the number of quota-friendly diversity boxes it had managed to tick. Worse, some broadcasters had completely failed to provide the data demanded on their workers’ disability, sexual orientation, religion and age (information on which Ofcom, it should be added, had no legal right to insist). On this basis, Ofcom’s recommendations were predictable. First, the government must give it further legal powers to extract from all broadcasters ever more intrusive information about the characteristics of their employees (and their freelancers too). Second, more diversity measures had to be introduced, everywhere, and quickly. Specific diversity targets must be made mandatory; so too a highly-paid senior ‘diversity champion’ in every broadcaster. Third, all recruiting staff should be forced to undertake diversity and ‘unconscious bias’ training. Fourth, special attention had to be paid to employing disabled staff. And if not? Ofcom, revealing an iron fist in a velvet glove, would fine broadcasters large sums or even take steps to revoke their licence.

In other words, Ofcom is demanding not only that the BBC change from benevolent Auntie to starchy Nanny, closely supervised while she gives us what is good for us, but in addition is insisting that private broadcasters engage in employment super-diversity well beyond what general discrimination law demands in order to keep their privileges. This exercise by an agent of the state in micromanaging employment across an entire sector of the arts ought to give us pause. And especially so when we see why it is being undertaken.

To find out, take a look at the Executive Foreword to the report, written by Ms White herself. It starts with a modish mantra: because television can shape and represent our identities and values (no, me neither), it follows that broadcasters must reflect their society. It then adds that audiences demand programmes that authentically portray modern life across the UK, its nations and regions, and that when minority groups fail to get into television this creates a ‘cultural disconnect’. Put bluntly, this exercise isn’t simply about fair employment. It’s aimed at indirectly controlling content, to make it fit into a multicultural metropolitan ideal.

Furthermore, every one of the statements referred to above is, to say the least, tendentious. Broadcasters arguably don’t exist, any more than authors, to reflect society (how boring that would be). They are there to inspire, inform and entertain it; and there is no reason to think their ability to do so depends on anything other than talent and co-operation. Representativeness doesn’t come into it: the broadcasters of the 1960s, snobbish, elitist and unrepresentative, made a pretty good job of entertaining us. And do audiences really expect portrayal of authentic modern life in the UK? Most of it (unlike perhaps that of Ofcom executives) is utterly dreary; that, one suspects, is why Downton Abbey gets bigger audience figures than gritty kitchen-sink dramas, however accurate, about life in Doncaster. And are minority groups really incapable of any ‘cultural connect’ with programmes that aren’t about them, as Ms White rather patronisingly implies? Most TCW readers, I suspect, will have a less uncomplimentary view.

Indeed, what is seriously depressing is that ‘diversity’ in employment on strict quota lines probably leads, if anything, to less diversity in programming: to each channel tamely producing its allotted quantity of material for each selected interest group, being more concerned to tick the right boxes than to generate properly innovative programming. No wonder YouTube and Netflix, driven by raw market forces and unaffected – yet – by the well-meaning nonsense of Ofcom, are doing as well as they are.

Andrew Tettenborn

  • timbazo

    ” … broadcasters must reflect their society …” That is what OFCOM might say. However, I doubt that our elites actually want the reality. It’s more like the facade that they want shown on our screens. Think of Eastenders and the gap between the programme and the reality of the modern East End of London.

    • Nockian

      It’s definitely reflecting society – that is to have the state take people’s money and then to sit around deciding the most moral way to split up the loot. This is an exercise in who deserves what, having totally ignored the initial crime of theft through malice.

    • Paul Robson

      Perhaps broadcasters should reflect society. According to the 2011 census for example it is 87% white. I’m pretty sure BBC presenters aren’t 87% white. The population as about 50% conservative (if you add up the Tories, UKIP and DUP) not 0.3% as the BBC seem to think. It’s also over half pro-Brexit (not 0% as the BBC think)

      I actually think they should get the position on merit, but this isn’t the case.

      • The Sage

        Yes, no mention by OFCOM in regard to diversity of opinion.
        It’s a shame because I thought Sharon rather scrummy. But I think she is married to that funny looking bloke at the Office for Budget Responsibility.

        • Bugle

          “Married”? Goodness me, that’s not very diverse, is it?

          • DearyMe

            Hahaha x1000 upticks!

      • asunP.C.asIwanttobe

        Thank you for the figures, which I knew of, but sometimes feel as if I am the only one who does, or possibly that I have imagined them, so skewed against them is much of what is broadcast. It’s renewed my vigour.

  • Colonel Mustard

    I wonder if any of these left-leaning Quango Queens who seem to proliferate in nannyism “initiatives” stop to think that the administration of the society they are busy trying to engineer is starting to resemble East Germany in the 1960s. Even the constabulary are becoming an increasingly intrusive political body. Maybe that’s the idea. . . It seems to be a common purpose of the unelected apparatchiks within the government and civil service.

  • Craig Martin

    Just as a note YouTube are going down the PC path too, and is managing to upset a good deal of it’s content creators.

    • Nockian

      We aren’t forced to pay for YouTube though, although I suspect their owners-Google-is a crony business to the extent it’s hard to seperate state from business and we are likely paying through the back door for it.

      • Colonel Mustard

        What is thoroughly sinister is the way that government and corporates are increasingly in cahoots over “enforcement” without the need for debate, law or accountability and without reference to the consumers. Both seem to have set themselves up as “decision makers” over freedom of expression on the wooliest of criteria.

        A trivial example is auto-modding where the right to express can be undermined because a single word, regardless of its context or use, is forbidden.

        • Nockian

          It was ever such. If you look back in history to the beginnings of the industrial revolution it can be seen that powerful land owning gentleman farmers began to get subsidies from the government in order to offset the loss of labour they experienced as people left to work in the new factories for more money. At the same time, writers as the early public lobbyists were busy producing novels that persuaded the population of the evil of those ‘dark satanic mills’ -Charles Dickens being a very notable example which has remained in our consciousnesses today as a philosophic certainty about the evils of money and capitalists.

          In America the major industrialists lobbied the state to protect them from competition in the mid 19 the century. They cited that excess competition hurt, rather than helped wealth production and of course money flowed to campaign coffers, employment moved into states who’s politicians supported them and we get the beginnings of the revolving door of board and Government.

          The EU itself is an attempt to create the same kind of fascistic economic model. It’s power is the connection between the bureacracy and big business. It is big business that sets out the political direction for the bureacrats to implement. The EU is a succesful attempt to stop infighting and competition amongst the major companies and their investors, in order to bring a harmonious fascistic economy into being.

          If you look at Amazon and Facebook as examples, we can see that their market cap and PL are misaligned. No company can exist in a state of constant loss unless it has some form of state protection to incubate it. Both of these companies are information collectors and Amazon is the beginning of the harmonisation amongst retail to end price competition – same with Kindle as a platform to control what the nation reads, just as YouTube/ Netflix etc monitors the nations viewing habits and restricts certain kinds of content.

        • Little Black Censored

          And it is done so unintelligently. One of my perfectly reasonable and interesting comments was recently deleted, and I could not think why. I suddenly realized that it was probably because I used the phrase “ecce h0m0”.

  • Nockian

    The only way to stop this rot is to stop paying the license fee. We are now paying for and hence supporting racism, sexism and hetrophobia, we should recognise that this is what it is and act as moral brave hearts.

  • Dr Evil

    I’m beginning to think I should do away with my TV.

    • Owen_Morgan

      Well, there’ll be even less worth watching, if this Sharon White gets her way.

    • Enoch Powell

      Got rid of mine years ago. Everything I could want is on the internet. Not missed it for a second.

      • Fred Uttlescay

        Well what you don’t have you don’t miss, but there are some good series on at the moment.

        • a misplaced modifier

          The only decent programme I have seen recently was the Horizon about Cassini. If more television was this good we wouldn’t be having these arguments.

          Sadly, one hour of good programming in a week of multi-channel dross is just not enough.

        • Enoch Powell

          There are.

          And that’s why there are lots of websites that allow you to watch those series while undercutting the monopoly that is the BBC.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      bbctvlicencing.com for how to avoid, not evade, paying the TV tax.
      Pass it on as often as you can.
      Spread the baccilus of revolt.

    • Partridge

      Many of us already have.

  • Ordovici

    I’ll let you into a little secret about so-called “diversity champions”.

    In most organisations it gets landed on someone who is not very good in their previous role but reasonably well-liked. Usually the key skill they bring to the role is mindless enthusiasm.

    The rest of the organisation sees them as weird and will move heaven and earth not to go anywhere near “diversity” events unless senior management makes it mandatory. Any courses that have to be attended are done so with a mixture of boredom and resentment.

    I have worked with people (and hired for that matter) of many different nationalities and backgrounds. One subject never mentioned in the office is diversity. The only time race comes up as an issue is when a minority person is useless at their job and tries to use it to avoid disciplinary action or even dismissal.

    • Reborn

      The small educational charity for which my wife works had to employ a diversity officer.
      It’s a cliche, but cliches are usually true.
      A black lesbian was employed.

      • Little Black Censored

        How many arms and legs did she have?

      • Ordovici

        If you have to hire someone from outside then organisations go for someone who ticks a few of the diversity boxes.

    • Damaris Tighe

      Re your last paragraph – that’s why they’ve created the concept of ‘unconscious bias’. If there’s no perceivable problem create a hidden one which can’t be proved, only assumed. Another word for ‘hidden’ is ‘occult’. ‘Unconscious bias’ is thus an occult art.

    • paul parmenter

      I suspect that these broadcasting entities will find someone with a great deal more energy, egotism and malice to fulfil this role, than you may have experienced elsewhere.

      • Partridge

        Perhaps from North Korea.

    • 3aple

      Have you noticed that this vibrant diversity that’s incessantly rammed down our throats is never allowed onto the senior management or the board of the Guardian, Channel 4 or the BBC?

      .

  • MikePage

    As if Netflix, Youtube et al weren’t big enough threats to old-fashioned TV.

  • Tricia

    The BBC make no watchable programmes as far as I am concerned except for countryside or homes (hunting selling etc). Their utter garbage of entertainment is unwatchable as far as my household is concerned. We now have a game in our household of spot the male presenter (these are becoming a rare breed). It is also entertaining to note the diversity stats in the new black or Asian presenter and disabled presenter. It is laughable, since when did any fat ugly people get to be presenters – should there not be a quota for them. In our area we now have a one armed weather presenter – I am sure she is a lovely girl and if I got to know her personally I would get used to the stump, but I don’t know her and I get fixed on the stump and not the weather.

  • chrisjones2

    I posted the following here via DIsqus

    “To use a popular euphemism it appears wee Sharon has her head up her a*se, probably as a result of years of teasing over her name”

    but it was censored. I assume because ‘a*se’ is now deemed politically incorrect

    • Reborn

      No, It was the word “wee”

      • Fred Uttlescay

        They have some peculiar censored words, I think they should provide us with a list and the reason for excluding them.

        • Yeah, and I think its a Discus cause it seems to happen on all sites that use it It’s one of the reasons I dislike Discus.

  • brownowl

    Two words: Common Purpose.

    Luckily we have the Internet, and all it will take is for a TV “station” (or stations) based entirely online and in another country to spring up and Ofcom can disappear up its own fundament.

    • The Banana

      It’s called YouTube.

      • brownowl

        YouTube isn’t quite what I had in mind. It can’t really be called a TV station. It’s more of a repository of video with a relatively rudimentary search facility attached.

      • Little Black Censored

        I am afraid that there are signs that YouTube may be going to fall into line with such as Auntie.

        • It will, necessarily since it is owned by Google, and they are getting a lot of flack in Europe. But there will be a replacement, and Banana’s point is valid.

        • Stuart Fairney

          minds,com is a free speech video sharing platform

    • I.T.technologyis over-rated

      Great, but not so great for those of us rural dwellers who, in my case, get 0.78mbps broadband and fibre broadband nowhere to be found.

  • JohnInCambridge

    Advertisements on television have ever more non-white actors in… seemingly approaching half, now. All race and gender nonsense in the UK is driven by London which is not part of Britain any more and so we in the provinces really feel thoroughly alienated by it all. That ‘national’ broadcasters are being compelled to go further along this road is just more of the same metropolitan lunacy. I watch ‘Don’t Pay or We’ll Take it Away’ on Channel 5 which is about the work of High Court Bailiffs. Presumably reflecting reality, there is a relatively small proportion of white debtors on this program and they seem to come almost exclusively from outside London and other big cities. How long before the diversity police demand that the program concentrates on white debtors only by way of ‘positive discrimination’ and ‘affirmative action’. It was wicked to allow our big cities to be taken over by people who have nothing in common with the indigenous population and who have no intention of adapting to British standards. As usual politicians are requiring native Brits to do all the ‘complying’ with all other cultures deemed equal or superior to our own, not to mention what the European Union is up to. Evil and ignorant the lot of them.

    • Damaris Tighe

      For the first time last night I saw a black couple (with no other actors) used to advertise a product. Now, if it’s true as Ofcom are saying that ethnic minorities need to see themselves in programming, then it follows that an advertisement featuring black people only cannot – must not – be used when marketing to the white majority.

      • asunP.C.asIwanttobe

        It’s been going longer than that. I began noticing it a few years ago when a all-black family were shown at a mealtime advertising a food product. I wondered then what was going through the advertiser’s mind: is this aimed solely at black people? What use is that for sales? If aimed at all of us, what relevance does it have for white people? And so on.

        Little escapes my attention on TV, I have watched, though not silently, as they have began to sneak in all sorts of ‘diversity’ via the back door; has no-one else noticed the O2 free insurance plan for their customers that features two men kissing passionately as one drops his phone? No? Blink and you’ll miss it, but, almost sublimally it is there. Similarly, two recent so-called comedy shows, ‘Quacks’ and ‘Upstart Crow’ have inserted black people into the unlikeliest roles – ‘Upstart Crow’ has a female black in full Elizabethan fig as pub landlady – if it is meant to be some form of ‘knowing’ humour, it is lost on me, however, it is only beaten by a Channel Four effort, featuring three people who live life as it was in different centuries, they deemed it appropriate and necessary to insert a black female in rustic country maid outfit dancing at a rural fair – set in a 15th century village in England. The trick was, the camera never settled on her for more than a split second, but it swept by her often enough to make her appearance, again, almost subliminal, yet noticeable.

        I’m annoyed and fed-up with it all, not least because I am now reduced to watching only four channels, havings detuned the rest of the rubbish in protest.

      • derekandclive

        If you really want to see this in action look out for the new arthritis ‘charity’ advert doing the rounds – it seems to have very little to do with arthritis and everything to do with subliminally pushing the PC message

    • Coastliner

      I watched some of this week’s “Can’t Pay We’ll Take It Away” – first two cases showed mohammedan aggression in all it’s nasty glory. Life as a minority for the country’s grandchildren is going to be very very ugly indeed.

  • Ravenscar

    “Ofcom has wide-ranging powers across the television, radio,
    telecoms and postal sectors. It has a statutory duty to represent the
    interests of citizens and consumers by promoting competition and
    protecting the public from harmful or offensive material.” wiki

    Mr and Mrs Englanders, want to entertained, probably love ‘Strictly’ even might tune in to Simon Cowell, used to watch ‘enders’ but now don’t bother, and certainly given up watching the noos.
    Because, they’ve had a bellyacheful of diversity shoved down their throats and any drama you care to mention,even those purportedly depicting historical events seem to have their fair share of diversity in ’em, cop shows with female police officers in the Fifties! Like, the Ninth legion marching through an ancient Brit town and seeing arab dress and black faces among the Trinovanti, whatevah.

    Now call me old fashioned but ofcom was supposed to represent us lot, ie ‘the people’ to monitor al beeb for programming obscenity, gratuitous violence and nauseous propagandizing………………..Au contraire! not to act as chief apologist and advertizer, be a champion for the priestesses of wimin4wimin and maybe diversity too, sometimes.

    I honestly, naively thought that, after the referendum some of the PC madness would actually be reined in, what a fool I was.
    Not a bit of it, in fact the cultural Marxists have deemed it that theresa may would be installed as PM and everybody knows it now, that, ‘mrs maybe Brexit will not be Brexit’ is more Harriet Harperson than was Harriet Harperson. UK gone PC loonytunes, indeed the whole of the western world is going fekkin mad, off to hell in a handcart and people like quango queen Sharon White are the capos doing the whipping and organizing the forced marches for the ‘peasants’ [taxpayers who pay their wages] across the Styx.

    Why do we put up with this?

    • Just wait until our new and improved black Alexander Hamilton gets there.

      • Ravenscar

        “Do come with us, its going to be a wonderful journey.”

        Sir, we are the trail blazers and also the Skirmishers.

  • Dougie

    Obviously, the great British public wants TV programmes that portray authentically modern life, which is why Victoria and Game of Thrones are so popular.

  • guestwho2

    Submit false answers and dare them to prove the employee isn’t black, gay, Muslim, etc. Quangocrats sitting at their desks would be helpless to proceed further.

    Putting one’s own head in the noose is a mistake.

  • Freda Bothwell

    I am fed up with ‘diversity’ being rammed down our throats in every way. Every advert etc may reflect the changed demographic make up of London, sometimes blacks being the only ones represented, and apparently tries to convince us in the rest of the country that UK is thrilled and should be grateful to hand Britain over to other races and cultures who had no part in developing the nation and defending it over the many centuries. We don’t. We do not wish to be dumbed down. We do not regard the other cultures as superior and resent being manipulated. It will back fire as it stokes up racism and not so subtle bullying does not promote willing acceptance, but greater division and less respect.

    • Bugle

      If adverts are to be believed, almost all men in the UK are low-testosterone chinless wonders.

      • 3aple

        And if they’re husbands, they’re portrayed as too thick to use a plunger, whilst wifey is bright, intelligent, smart and ‘savvy’ (how I detest that word), as is their daughter.

        How fortunate that they can both live a full, happy and smugly superior ife, because despite hubby being a thick dork, he somehow manages to bring in enough money for the family to have a house with a bedrooms bigger than most appartments and a kitchen bigger than most aircraft hangars.

        .

        • Coastliner

          Are any white husbands shown any more? They are certainly disappearing fast – more and more black husbands with white wives appearing with the obligatory two or three kids running round with hair that looks like a burst mattress. Pure unadulterated globalist & leftist propaganda.

      • Coastliner

        You are very behind the times – that is sooo yesterday! Today’s adverts are populated by black men with beautiful blond wives. They have spectacular kitchens / homes & the men smile & show what loving husbands and fathers they are. It is, of course, a total and utter load of cultural marxist b# llocks.

    • asunP.C.asIwanttobe

      Indeed. I can only speak for myself, but such manipulation and social engineering induces less tolerance in me, not more. I genuinely feel under siege from it all.

    • Coastliner

      It is certainly backfiring in this household – never take any notice of the product because too busy counting the ‘ethnics’ in them.

      • Freda Bothwell

        Exactly.

  • Bugle

    Another unaccountable, unelected bureaucrat telling us what to think.

  • Androsupial

    Documentaries and news should reflect reality. Everything else is fantasy, with whatever casting the production/direction teams desire. More monitoring and quotas = more criminalising people who get it wrong. If it’s the party that wants to reduce the role of the state, why is the Conservative Party taking us down the Stasi route?

  • Snoffle Gronch

    As a foreigner Miss White is not a fit person to be in charge of British television.

  • Phil R

    A friend of mine working at a medium sized state secondary school stated that they all got rather fed up with intrusive forms and self identified as black, transgender and disabled, with a mother tongue ticked on a random selection not English.

    So somewhere there is a secondary school where at least 50%of the teachers are black trans etc.

    Good to know that one workplace at least is leading the way into PC heaven.

  • In fact, she has a point, the televising of what I shall call for convenience, Old Britain, that Britain that we all, all over the world, grew to love in the 40s and on the old upper class BBC, would be a major help in helping immigrants to assimilate. And that, perhaps, is one of the ulterior motives here, although its more likely that Ofcomm is just another power hungry bureaucracy trying to aggrandize its so-called mandate.

  • David Norman

    As usual with the diversity racists, she only cares what people look like. What the BBC needs is much more diversity in opinion. Get rid of the PC-obsessed lefties and employ some sensible people instead.

  • feetupatlast

    “…Third, all recruiting staff should be forced to undertake diversity and ‘unconscious bias’ training”. I am so glad I took early retirement from this madness. That above requirement would have me strangling my boss; I hate this stuff with a vengeance.

  • John P Hughes

    In one of his lightweight political gossip books, the late Simon Hoggart recounted how Sir Keith Joseph said to another contributor after an appearance on BBC TV ‘Do you think television is here to stay?’ This was in the 1970s, when TV had only been going as a mass media for some 25 years, had only 3 channels and was influential. At the time it was quoted as an example of the lofty thinker Sir Keith’s other-worldliness. But he was in fact right – today TV is on the way out. It is definitely in decline.
    Others have written in recent years, referring to TV’s 60s and 70s heyday compared to its quality today, that ‘Television is an industry whose best years are behind it’.
    The late Kingsley Amis’s quote, made about higher education’s expansion, certainly applies to British television in 2017 with its multiple channels: ‘More means worse’.
    Perhaps we should just laugh at the bungling OFCOM and the increasingly decayed state of the BBC. Technological advance, pushed by commercial imperatives, has given us so many other forms of media and access to so much information that TV has lost its status and matters little to increasing numbers of people.

  • Stuart Fairney

    Does anyone watch television any more? I genuinely can’t remember when I last turned one on. TV news was farcical. The coverage of both Trump and Brexit completely abandoned any idea of balance and the overt placement of advertisements for ‘approved’ books or films was seemed designed to patronize. TV drama tends to be preachy nonsense (the global warming alarmism being the worst) or overtly sexist garbage. Not all of us men are lazy, stupid, drunken, violent adulterers with a penchant for drugs and alcohol.

    The television is going the way of the landline telephone into dust gathering irrelevance. Good riddance.

    • Only Me

      I agree completely, I watched the news for the first time in months the other day. So far away from reality I wondered how the producers actually get away with it. It was pure gossip without any hint on impartiality.

    • Dominic Stockford

      News, not if I can help it, sport, yes. At least I can see the sport happening and ignore the inane comments by the ignorant presenters. Oh yes, and re-runs of Sharpe.

  • Only Me

    I am still waiting for Eastenders to actually have a show that shows the rest of the UK was it is really like nowadays.
    Then everyone else will finally see the elephant in the room.

    • Dominic Stockford

      Ah, but that would be racist, probably.

  • Demon Teddy Bear

    Would I be correct in supposing that this series of demands does not include political diversity? That no reporting was done or expected into the proportion of conservatives in broadcasting?
    If not, we should see this for what it is; a demand that all broadcasting should be under the control of the left and its puppet groups.

  • Stinky Britches

    Meh! I don’t pay the TV poll tax and I haven’t had a telly for years. Life is so much sweeter without the bitter poison of the bbc.