Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A British Fox?

Alex Deane has written on Conservative Home calling for a British equivalent to Fox News. The problem with this piece is that it seems to believe that the block to such a channel is a lack of willing investors.

I think key here is the regulatory agency. Fox News US, as it is shown in the UK via digital, was recently in trouble because someone, in a comment section, called the BBC anti-american. So long as we have a regulator which enforces the BBC as the standard for fair and unbiased deviations from that, left wing, code will be punished and impossible to maintain.

The only solution would seem to be to remove the rules governing impartiality and let right and left wing programmes duke it out as in the newspapers. Some kind of regulation is still needed for the state owned BBC (if abolition is not an option) but not for the competing private news stations. Were deregulation to happen the promise of an audience which would (as is the case in the newspapers) most likely be larger than that for left wing journalism would see right wing TV journalism proliferate.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Chirac's Nationalism

Chirac's storming out of a European Council of Ministers meeting in response to the horror of a Frenchman addressing the summit in English has to mark a new low for the defence of the French language. While the political reasons for Chirac to play the Franophone card while under siege at home are fairly clear one thing still shocks me.

How can Chirac do that with a straight face? As a well educated and intelligent man surely he can't really get angry enough to storm out of a meeting because the head of a multinational group uses a language he easily undestands and has interpreted?

Managing to pretend that he was serious in this stunt is surely an argument for broadening the Oscars. Best Head of State.

The Budget

I've been thinking of whether there's anything original to say about the Budget and have concluded that there is little new in it and, hence, little new to say.

Martin Wolf's commentary is, as ever, excellent.

The main thing that struck me about the speech is how strange it is to hear Brown boasting that he has spent vast amounts on X public service. Standard procedure in charity, business and the rest of life is to boast of doing something with little. Return on capital employed is the accountancy measure, charities compete to suggest that they are keeping costs down and improving the life of a fisherman so much for so little money by supplying him with nets. Gordon Brown doesn't talk about the value he is getting us for our money because the reality is that the value is very low. While measuring productivity in public services is difficult it is probably falling in the public sector (as Redwood mentioned in his generally good speech in the Budget debate) while rising at a decent rate in the private sector. Gordon Brown's boasting of huge amounts of "investment" is a boast of waste so long as he fails to take reform remotely seriously.

He has noticed that we face challenges, from India and China and other developing nations, but his response consisted of lots more funding for education (no mention of reform) and lots of window dressing. Does he really think that changes to the means of distributing academic grants (moving the decision from council to university) will make a serious difference to whether or not we take the opportunities of new markets?

Cameron's response was pure politics but I don't see that as a problem. The detail of the weaknesses in the chancellor's numbers was best left to the more technical MPs; Cameron should stay focussed on a message that can get through.