‘Tory, Tory, Tory…’ (5)

https://us.123rf.com/450wm/fberti/fberti1106/fberti110600062/9856855-money-tree-pound-notes-like-fruits.jpg?ver=6Regular readers will not be at all surprised to hear that I was laughing like fun back on 19 July — and for quite a few days afterwards! — following the BBC’s release of highly embarrassing figures revealing the obscene amounts of money that some — and only some! — of its biggest ‘stars’ are paid.

Needless to say, the most important ‘take’ on these scandalous revelations (you can get the entire document here) is one that no-one else has seen fit to present; so, yet again, it falls to me to do some journalist-impersonator’s job for them. (Don’t worry; it’s no more than I expect. Noblesse oblige, and all that.)

https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/cpsprodpb/128E/production/_97005740_bbc_annual_report_top_earn_xxl_gra624.pngFor it so happens that the most significant aspect to these figures — all of which the BBC has been compelled to produce as part of its new Charter agreement: there’s nothing ‘voluntary’ about them! — is one that completely scotches the ridiculous complaints that are shrieked by readers of billionaire-owned newspapers; by cold-smoked Ukippers; and by all those other senile inhabitants of right-whinge fantasy-land — to wit, that the BBC is ultra-liberal, über-trendy, obsessed with ‘political correctness’, secretly contemptuous of ordinary people and their values, and determined to force a ‘radical left-wing agenda’ upon its own staff and the nation as a whole. (And so on, and so froth.)

What those revelations have actually told us — in total contradiction of a million Blimp-ish idiocies (I once saw a ‘Comment’ on the Daily Telegraph website that called the BBC ‘a Gramscian insurgency project‘) — is that the Corporation at its remunerative heart is sexist; is racist; is happy to discriminate in favour of the privately educated male of middle age and above; sees no problem at all with ‘insiders’ being rewarded for failure; is consumed with a deep concern for the lowest denominator taste and those who pander to it; and is obsessed with self-serving fantasies about ‘free markets’ and how they can be used to justify freewheeling greed.

Not only does such behaviour run completely counter to everything we are told the BBC is up to in the service of that ‘radical left-wing agenda’, but — remarkably! — it even shows us that, when it comes to the question of which snouts should go into the biggest troughs, the BBC thinks exactly like every reader of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ thinks.

And if you are surprised by this, you shouldn’t be: it’s entirely in tune with everything I have spent years trying to tell people — you included! — about the real nature and orientation of the BBC.

Now, even were I not expecting the BBC’s reputation to be seriously damaged by these disclosures, I would still be hugely in favour of the data being released: I am a great fan of transparency — quite especially in connection with what happens to revenue that is extracted from even the poorest households in the country under threat of prosecution and possible imprisonment. (In 2012/13, no fewer than 200,000 people were prosecuted for failing to buy a TV licence — with more than 50 sent to prison. Yes: actual prison.)

What is more, my insistence that the public should be told where its money is going becomes even more urgent when those to whom the cash is disbursed include broadcasters in ‘news and current affairs’. For these, after all, are the people who will repeat with a totally straight face every neoliberal’s favourite lie about the non-existence of a ‘magic money tree’ (in reality, ‘magic money’ is available everywhere … for those in the elite club) — while at the same time they make sure that even the mildest social-democratic manifesto is met with an incredulous expression and the breathless question: ‘But how will you possibly pay for all this?!?

Desmond John Humphrys (b. 1943)

Take the disgusting John Humphrys, for example. As any listener will know who pays sufficiently careful attention to his regular appearances as an ‘anchor’ on Radio 4’s Tory Toady Today programme, the shamelessly naked bias of this arrogant, reactionary ignoramus undoubtedly qualifies him for some kind of anti-journalism award. When required to allude to what you and I know to be the Tory government’s engineered wrecking of the NHS by means of funding cuts and privatisations, he speaks of the spiralling problems as being due to — get this! — ‘increased demand‘. (See? Not the Tories at all. There are just too many of you, and you’re all expecting too much. Oh, and immigrants.) Likewise, when he cannot avoid referring to the ongoing destruction of not-for-profit, state-provided public education by way of selective budgetary starvation, what he will do is blame — are you ready? — ‘ever-increasing costs‘. (See? Not the Tories at all. Everything is just getting dearer. Especially staff. And whose fault is that, eh?)

And, no, I’m not making up a single word: when I hear Humphrys say this crap, I write it down. In fact, I even used to email him about the reality-defying garbage he came out with; but after I confronted him, a few years back, over a couple of outright, state-serving fabrications — one of them about the UK generously having invaded Afghanistan ‘in order to bring democracy to the country’ (that was never the reason given, and could not have been made to seem even remotely legal) — he stopped replying to me.

(Click on the graphic for a larger image)

Nowadays, I sometimes go so far as to record his breakfast-time performances — the better to examine the larger pieces of anti-journalism that he tosses to the listening millions. A few days ago, for example, he was speaking to someone from the ‘Institute of Fiscal Studies’ about the Tory government’s raising of the age at which women qualify for the state pension. The first thing to say about this little item is that — as always on the BBC’s news programmes! — the precise nature of the IFS was left completely undiscussed: we were once again allowed to assume that the interviewee represented some neutral, academic and objective research organisation — rather than an unaccountable, banker-affiliated  economics ‘think-tank’ with an elite-serving, neoliberal, pro-market and pro-capital orientation, and which draws huge amounts of funding from the UK government itself (not only directly, from numerous Whitehall departments, but also — less transparently — via the government-funded ‘Economic and Social Research Council’). [For a slightly out-of-date listing of IFS funders — including the BBC — see this Parliamentary Early Day Motion from 2010.] But let’s leave this alone for now.

For here — transcribed as precisely as possible (yes, he really does talk like this) — is one of the chunks Humphrys coughed up in that morning’s ‘women’s state pension’ segment:

Was there any way of avoiding this? I mean, given that the… there is no option, presumably you’d accept this, anyway, the government has no option, given that we’re living so much longer, and healthier, erm, to putting up the… increasing the, er, state pension age…?

See what I mean by ‘anti-journalism’…? Faced with a situation in which the IFS interviewee had not provided any statement adequately stressing the objective and compelling necessity of this latest bit of governmental poor-bashing (if you’re wealthy, the ‘state pension’ is peanuts to you), Humphrys himself happily and voluntarily provided it — in the form of two bundles of Every Tory’s Favourite Mantra (“There Is No Alternative”) and a big lump of Things Is Only This Bad ‘Cos They’s So Good (“Yay! Longer and healthier lives!”). This kind of stuff, I need hardly remind you, is not journalism: it is pro-government wicket-keeping.

Yup! That’s Radio 4’s ‘flagship news and current affairs programme’ holding power to account — John Humphrys-style!

You want more? No problem: I have more. Even from the very same week — and even from a TV programme that, on the face of it, has no necessary connection with news and current affairs: the quiz show Mastermind.

Yes, really. In that week’s ‘general knowledge’ round, Humphrys — who has presented the programme since 2003 — was required to ask the contestant to name

the former Labour MP who left Parliament to take up the post of Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum…

Having delivered this question, he could simply have paused and waited to see if the contestant was able to correctly name the odious Blairite millionaire Tristram Hunt. But no: Humphrys had to go further … with a little extra something that wasn’t any kind of meaningful clue — but had to look like one:

He was a critic of Jeremy Corbyn

See how it works? No opportunity for a quick knifing is ever overlooked. You name it; some efficiently toxifying insertion — signalling ‘Corbyn’s unacceptability’, ‘Labour’s disunity’, ‘the lack of any credible political alternative to neoliberalism’ — will be carefully shaped to fit into it…

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“So, Philip Hammond, let me sit here in respectful silence while you walk us once again through your perfectly reasonable lies about why nurses, teachers and firefighters all need to take a real-terms pay cut. I mean, there’s no money left, is there? Isn’t that how it is…?”

It is, in fact, quite remarkable to observe the extent to which Humphrys — in spite of his sometimes obtrusive BBC packaging as ‘poor, working-class Welsh lad made good’ — behaves in precisely the same way as all his silver-spooned colleagues when it comes to the contrast between his treatment of those on the established political and economic ‘right’ and his behaviour towards those who are a little further to the ‘left’. (Remember that real left-wing politics is not allowed any kind of un-stigmatised platform within the BBC’s ‘newsy’ output: the permitted spectrum extends from UKIP to Corbyn; i.e. from the lunar right to the mildly social-democratic centre-left; and the latter — manipulatively mischaracterised as ‘far left’ [Oooh! Doesn’t that sound scary?] — is only admitted with great reluctance and an enormous amount of hostile misrepresentation.)

And, if you pay attention, what you’ll see is that Humphrys — for all that he apparently retains a reputation as a ‘tenacious and forthright interviewer’ (Wikipedia) — is someone who basically acts as a nodding dog when faced with a Tory or a Tory government position … and then transforms into an angry wasp when he has to deal with anyone or anything not totally dedicated to the service of concentrated private wealth.

Image result for gremlins

“So, John McDonnell, don’t your economic proposals spell disaster for the entire world? And hasn’t socialism killed tens of millions of people? Wasn’t Anna Soubry right to call you ‘a nasty piece of work’? And why do you love the IRA so much, eh…?”

And now — thanks to the information released the other week! — we see why. Ignore his biography, and forget your speculations about his personal ‘political allegiance’: the basic fact is that John Humphrys’s BBC salary of c. £625,000 p.a. (he’s somewhere within the band ‘£600,000 – £649,999’) — which is a sum significantly more than half a million pounds a year, and works out at around £12,000 per week, every week — means that he himself is concentrated private wealth.

Think about the reality of the spectacle that is therefore presented at any point when Humphrys is charged with the task of ‘interviewing’ a union leader or a left-of-far-right politician who wants, say, nurses to be paid enough that they don’t need to rely on food banks, or who opposes the 1% cap on their pay increases that, over seven years, has condemned them to a real-terms decrease in their wages. Currently, a fully qualified nurse’s starting pay is £22,128 p.a. — which means that the next time we hear Humphrys doing his ‘How can you possibly demand more?‘ and ‘Where would the money come from?‘ routine, we should remember that the questions issue from the mouth of a man whose BBC salary would actually pay the wages of 28 newly qualified nurses — every one of whom would need an entire year just to earn the sum that Britain’s state broadcaster hands to John Humphrys every 12.9 days.

Consider, too, the never-discussed reality of the situation that obtains whenever Humphrys turns to the carefully problematised topic of the ‘welfare state’ — the world of ‘benefits’, ‘safety nets’ and ‘claimants’. When he talks about Jobseeker’s Allowance, for example, he’s referring to a social security payment that currently provides an unemployed (and qualifying!) adult with a spectacular £10.34 per day to live on. Meanwhile, at his own pay rate of £2,404 per day across a five-day week, Humphrys himself will be receiving in the region of £343 per hour worked — meaning that he is ahead of our JSA ‘claimant’ after no more than 109 seconds at his desk. Or, to put it another way, a long-term jobless adult would be expected to live for an entire year on a sum of money — £3,765 — that Humphrys has ‘earned’ by the end of the lunchbreak on his second day at work. My point is not — or not simply — that Humphrys busily doing something isn’t worth this much more than someone else temporarily doing nothing: it is that a ‘current affairs broadcaster’ in his position can have literally no conception of the lived experience of someone in the kind of situation he regularly pontificates about.

Does this state of affairs have traceable, demonstrable consequences for Humphrys’s work as a BBC journalist-impersonator? Of course it does — and they can indeed be traced and demonstrated. Back in 2011, for example, Humphrys wrote and prominently fronted a BBC TV programme (The Future State of Welfare with John Humphrys) whose diagnosis and extended exploration of an alleged ‘benefits dependency culture‘ not only drew a formal complaint from the Child Poverty Action Group, but was then found by the BBC Trust to have breached the BBC’s guidelines on accuracy and impartiality:

(Click the panel to be taken to the BBC News website’s full item on the Trust’s decision — an embarrassment which, in keeping with their customary practice, they tried to conceal from general scrutiny by placing the write-up in the ‘Entertainment and Arts’ section…)


The billionaire-owned Daily Mail is known for its sober and responsible attitude to all matters relating to the UK’s so-called ‘welfare state’…

Before this nasty programme aired, Humphrys wrote an equally nasty opinion-piece for the Daily Mail. From one point of view, the most interesting thing about this long article — it’s more than 3,250 words — is that it should have been produced at all: how and why did it come about that a BBC employee was permitted to write a large-scale piece in support of his own forthcoming, inevitably inflammatory programme for publication in Britain’s leading hate comic? Humphrys — all of whose relevant travelling (including a trip to the US) and ‘research’ will, of course, have been done at the BBC’s expense and while receiving his BBC salary (translation: the licence-fee payer picked up the tab for everything) — will then have been paid a fee on top by the Daily Mail for the article they printed: according to a freelance contributor of my friendly acquaintance, that fee would have been “at least £750-£800 but probably considerably more.

https://i0.wp.com/i2.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article7492145.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/Stack-of-British-Banknotes.jpgAnd so the money-go-round revolves and revolves: you make your BBC programme and are very handsomely paid for your work; then you type up some of the notes you made at the licence-fee payer’s expense — and get a fat cheque from the Daily Mail as well. As my journalistic acquaintance then commented: “It’s not just the salaries, it’s all the add-ons.” One has to ask: why is this considered acceptable?

From another point of view, however, the most significant thing about Humphrys’s work on this topic — the TV programme as well as the Daily Mail piece — is its utter servility. Near the beginning of the article, we read of:

the predictable effect of a dependency culture. A sense of entitlement. A sense that the State owes us a living. A sense that not only is it possible to get something for nothing, but we have a right to do so.

And, according to the blurb on the programme’s (now-inactive) ‘BBC iPlayer’ page:

Humphrys concludes that the public don’t like what they see as a growing sense of entitlement among some groups claiming benefits, and politicians respond to the public mood.

These two tiny quotes alone could serve as a textbook demonstration of how our state-corporate media replaces journalism with its opposite: if you don’t see what I mean by that, or why I use the word ‘servile’, read on…

Look again at the first quote. If you go and read the article, you’ll see that the game Humphrys plays at that point is to push the stated diagnosis into the mouths of others (“this is the charge many people [sic] level against [the Beveridge-created ‘welfare state’]“). In other words, it’s a standard case of “Look, this isn’t ‘my view’: I’m just reporting — telling you what many people think!” And the second quote, too, is all about what ‘the public’ sees and doesn’t like.

But, like any bloviating egotist, Humphrys can’t keep himself out of the picture forever: by the end of the Mail article, the mask of supposed journalistic objectivity has been removed, and John Humphrys himself steps forward to deliver a resonant final paragraph in his own voice:

Beveridge tried to slay the fifth evil giant [i.e. ‘Idleness’] and, in the process, helped to create a different sort of monster [sic] in its place: the age of entitlement. The battle for his successors is to bring it to an end.

So what is missing from this picture? Well, I’d say four things, really — though three of them are interconnected.

Image result for missingFirst, note the absence of any acknowledgement that this vast, unhappy public that so dislikes what it sees actually does most of its ‘seeing’ through the distorting lens of an elite-serving media — and, funnily enough, always seems to end up doing precisely the sorts of ‘disliking’ that suit a state-corporate agenda. A journalist would consider it a basic professional duty to point this out — or, at the very least, to raise the issue as a question that needed to be asked. But, then, as I’ve said already, Humphrys is no journalist: he just impersonates one on the BBC.

Secondly, see that bit where he pretends that what’s happening is ‘politicians responding to the public mood’? Once again, something vitally important is not being acknowledged — in this case, the existence of that tired and trusted political tactic of creating and exploiting ‘moral panics’ around carefully defined and demonised societal out-groups. In the anglophone West, anyone who can remember the 1970s will recall Ronald Reagan’s vile obsession with so-called ‘welfare queens’; in the UK we have, since that time, seen our own state-corporate media amplify a succession of manipulative attacks on ‘single mothers’, ‘drug users’, ‘New Age travellers’, ‘rave culture’, ‘dangerous dogs’, ‘asylum seekers’, ‘economic migrants’ and more besides: after 40 years spreading this elite-serving muck, any septuagenarian media insider who describes the process as one in which — to use Humphrys’s own words! — the politicians are reflecting a changing public mood is someone who is either a liar or a moron.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DHHTMhIW0AAtYla.jpg:largeThirdly, nowhere in Humphrys’s formulations do we see any hint of awareness that focusing upon this particular ‘monster’ (his term, remember) has the interesting — and, for some, very convenient — effect of directing everyone’s gaze towards just one tiny part of the demographic and income spectrum. For the overwhelmingly simple fact is that, in reality, our entire society is a ‘something for nothing culture’ that on literally every socio-economic level positively reeks of a ‘sense of entitlement’. Only, the really big players in the game of ‘grab all you can’ are — of course! — the elite echelons of the wealthy, the super-wealthy and the ultra-wealthy, who feel totally and completely entitled to such immense privileges as inheritances that slip through the taxation net; sophisticated tax-avoidance and tax-evasion strategies (including easy and secret access to offshore tax havens); taxpayer-funded subsidies for even the most ostensibly ‘successful’ businesses and industries; ‘insider’ pay levels and bonus packages that bear no relation to business success or social value; loophole-exploiting schemes and cosily negotiated tax agreements that permit massive corporate non-payment; and pension pots bloated by the spoils of legalised larceny and state-enabled looting; all this together with enjoyment of the most amazing class-based, capital-protecting legal immunity: in case you’ve not been paying attention, the ‘justice system’ that recently jailed a man for dodging a £2.70 train fare has yet to imprison a single banker for creating the world-spanning Ponzi schemes that brought about the 2007-2008 financial crash. (Incidentally, those same toxic bundles of mixed debts are now being traded again: one more little reminder of the way that, while the poor ‘get taught a lesson’, the rich get another go…)

One wonders how many millions of people — readers as well as viewers — encountered the results of Humphrys’s bumbling, narcissistic foray into the world of ‘benefit claimants’ and came away thinking that the so-called ‘welfare state’ really was running out of control and needed to be reined in. If only they’d been made aware of the real welfare state — the one which protects, say, financial speculators from the impact of ‘market forces’ to the extent that — even in the US! — something like 62% of financial sector liabilities are subject to government protection. The real-world situation, you see, is the complete inverse of the media-created simulacrum we are all encouraged to tut resentfully about: the real ‘safety net’ — the real socialism, in fact! — is provided for the richest … while the poor are subject to the most savage ‘market discipline’ — albeit sometimes relieved by ‘entitlement’ to a miserable few pounds a day and a Housing Benefit payment that goes straight to a parasite landlord (who may not even be declaring the rental income). If people consider ‘the State owes us a living‘ to be such a reprehensible and dangerous attitude in the lowest-earning segments of society, how much worse would they consider ‘the State owes us outsourcing contracts, fat-cat salaries, spectacular tax-dodges, subsidies, and the ultimate guarantee of a bail-out‘ to be — if only that elite attitude was held up and denounced across the entire media with the same tireless, rabble-rousing zeal…?

“Pay no attention to those rich men behind the curtain! Pay no attention to those rich men behind the curtain…!”

In other words, what Humphrys is doing here — in print and on TV — is obediently pointing at some of the poorest people in the country, and shouting — to some of the other poorest people in the country — “Hey, look! No, not over here — over there! Look at them! Those people! They’re getting things that you’re not getting! Folks who won’t work and aren’t really sick are being given free money! Naturally, you’re angry about this, I can see that. And, clearly, it is time that this was brought to an end! This has been John Humphrys, keeping the heat off the rich by goading the poorest and least powerful to hate and mistrust each other. *Ker-ching-g-g-g*…!

[Insert: It’s worth mentioning at this point that what Humphrys does in his TV programme and article — even though he does find and acknowledge more than one straightforwardly deserving case “who makes you want to weep” — is very much what the modern media is all about. Protecting the elite minority by turning the poor against the poor — whether that’s turning the working poor against the non-working poor; the White Christian poor against the non-White, non-Christian poor; the British poor against the Continental poor; or whatever — is a game you can play all day long without anyone ever questioning your status as ‘a quality journalist’. Switch to defending the poor against the rich, however, and in no time at all you’ll be re-categorised as just ‘an activist’ — the kind of person that state-corporate media can make use of only occasionally, and then merely as a fig-leaf. (And, like every fig-leaf, you’re expected to stay where you’re put and not go causing trouble anywhere else. Isn’t that right, Monbiot…?)]

Kevan Jones said that civil servants’ bonuses were “a reward for failure and an insult to constituents who are on the breadline”

The real ‘welfare state’: “Yes, you screwed this up appallingly — but have another £20,000 anyway…”

Fourthly, doesn’t it make your gorge rise to see all this talk about a ‘dependency culture’ and a ‘sense of entitlement’ coming from an elite-serving pseudo-journalist who has lived off the licence-fee for fully half a century? Yes, Humphrys has been sucking at that BBC teat since, literally, a little after the Aberfan disaster of October 1966. In fact, with that current BBC salary of c. £625, 250 now revealed, some parts of his 2011 Daily Mail article become downright puke-making: a phrase like ‘we’re all feeling the pinch these days‘ (yes, he actually wrote that!), or an obediently misleading, multiply incorrect reference to what happens when ‘a relentlessly rising benefits bill collides with the national coffers running dry‘ are things that could only have been typed by a man not merely seraphically free from any taint of self-awareness, but also incapable of imagining that he might one day be ‘outed’ as someone located within the highest-paid micro-fraction of the UK’s working population. ‘I’ve never had to try living on the minimum wage, he wrote in that Mail piece. No, John, you haven’t, have you? And, at the moment, you are living on something like 45 times the £7.50 minimum wage. Nice work if you can get it, and drag it out into your mid-70s, eh…?


Ludlow, Shropshire. Population: c. 10,200. Motto: ‘Oi! It’s not our fault! He’s nothing to do with us!’

[W]hy should hard-working taxpayers … have to work even harder to keep others in their idleness … ?“, he asks. One might ask the equivalent question on behalf of all the TV licence-fee payers who have to fork out in order to keep Humphrys producing anti-journalism for a wage in the region of £5.70 for every minute of every working day. Let’s take a moment to remember that, following the price increase on 1 April, a TV licence now costs £147: if we ignore the £5 extra they charge you if you’re so poor that you need to pay quarterly, arithmetic says that 4,251 households have to pay that sum just so that a Humphrys salary of £625,000 p.a. would be covered. And since the average number of ‘people per household’ in the UK is currently 2.4 (ONS: 2015 Census), that number of households corresponds to the paid-up viewing and listening of some 10,200 people — equivalent to the population of the entire town of Ludlow, Shropshire. (Hello, Ludlow! Did you all hear John Humphrys — the ‘Rottweiler of Radio 4’ —  giving a nice little foot-rub, the other morning, to the BBC’s favourite comedy fascist, Jacob Rees-Mogg? I hope you did — because you paid for it!)


‘Comedy fascist’: an eccentric personality, quirky to the point of ridiculousness, whose role is to work with state-corporate media in normalising the vilest ideas. Given the right kind of media access, a comedy fascist can go a long way (see: Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson PC MP).

And when I described Humphrys as “someone located within the highest-paid micro-fraction of the UK’s working population”, I wasn’t kidding. You see, by no means the least shocking of this sorry saga’s various undiscussed aspects is its deep connection with the central moral and political issue of our time — that of spiralling and self-reinforcing inequality and its catastrophic impact on every level of every society.

In the UK’s ‘alternative media’, as well as in sundry protests and demonstrations (by the ‘Occupy’ movement, above all), we have quite often seen the essential, functional division within the real world — a move towards a new feudalism, in case you haven’t noticed — described in terms of a separation between ‘the 1%’ and ‘the 99%’. Naturally, that’s not an analysis you encounter very often in our state-corporate media (whose job — representing the 1%, as they do! — is to make such realities vanish from view); but given that a principal area of focus for our so-called news services is the realm in which decisions affecting the 99% are not only made by the 1%, but are increasingly seen to be taken in the interests of that same 1%, the question naturally arises as to whether John Humphrys — that ‘tenacious and forthright interviewer’, remember! — happens to be … a member of ‘the 1%’.

The real ‘welfare state’: “It overheats, and when you detect the overheating, you have to open the bomb bay doors to cool the missiles that are inside…” Total cost for 138 semi-functional F-35s: £150,000,000,000 and rising.

And the answer, I can reveal, is a case of ‘not only, but also’: located as he is within the ‘£600,000 – £649,999’ BBC pay band, Humphrys is not just a member of the UK’s highest-remunerated 1% — but is, in fact, a member of the UK’s highest-remunerated 0.1%. For, since only something like 50,000 income tax payers (that’s 0.1% of UK adults) currently receive more than £500,000 in annual pre-tax income (figures from 2014-2015), Humphrys’s BBC salary already places him well within that category — alongside (as you may have noticed) those indispensible broadcasting luminaries Steve Wright, Huw Edwards, Jeremy Vine, Graham Norton, Gary Lineker and Chris Evans. Yes, your cash-strapped BBC — constantly bleating about how it needs more of your money in order to do the things it needs to do — is in fact shovelling so much cash into the pockets of a weird rag-bag of favoured broadcasters that seven of them — including three of the Corporation’s sizeable array of journalistic chocolate teapots — are actually elevated to the ranks of the 0.1%!

Now, be honest: as of today, this story is a month old — yet, isn’t it true that, in all that time, you haven’t heard or seen a single report, by anyone, in any forum, that gives you an analysis of the kind that this blog posting has now given you…?


The real ‘welfare state’: ‘Virgin Care’ has been awarded over £1bn of NHS contracts — yet is “unlikely” to pay any UK tax “in the foreseeable future”…

Am I right? And: isn’t that wrong…? 

And let me now tell you about something else that never happened…

We’ve recently had a general election in the UK — in the run-up to which, the Labour Party campaigned on the basis of a manifesto whose plans for taxation were routinely discussed in sneery tones by a whole collection of high-profile BBC news staff. At one point, I even saw a BBC TV news presenter standing in front of a massive background graphic that actually misrepresented the party’s stated proposals (I leave you to guess in which direction the misrepresentation pointed. Or you can see it for yourself).

Throughout all this, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was at pains to stress that literally 95% of the country — i.e. anyone and everyone with an income up to and including £80,000 (that’s £44 per hour across a 35-hour week: are you getting that much, dear reader?) — would be protected from tax increases … and, on one occasion at least (19 May), found himself being called a ‘Marxist’ [SCARY WORD!] by John Humphrys during an interview on the Today programme. (That’s actually a basic BBC tactic, by the way: Dimbleby does it to him too. But don’t worry: we’ll be getting to Dimbleby very soon.)

And, at the time all this was happening, none of us knew that Humphrys himself was not simply being paid ‘more than’ that £80,000 per year, but was in fact being paid something between £520,000 and £569,999 ‘more than’ £80,000 per year..

In January 2016, the BBC Licence Fee was re-classified as a tax. Previously, it had been designated a ‘service charge’.

Do you see the issue? The problem? As not seldom when we discuss the modern BBC, we are talking ‘potential or actual conflict of interest’ — and the way it is glossed over without the slightest apparent difficulty. Here, we have an absolutely straightforward example of a major current affairs topic — i.e. Labour’s campaign to win power at a general election — being discussed on more than one occasion by a presenter who has to be considered an ‘interested party’ on one of the highest possible levels of interest. Yet at no point has it ever transpired that any current affairs interview of this kind was prefaced by a statement to the effect that “In the interests of ‘full disclosure’, the BBC wishes to announce that, in the following item, the interviewer is among the highest-earning 0.1% of the UK population on the strength of his BBC salary alone, and therefore stands to be materially affected by the taxation proposals of the politician being interviewed”.

Until such time as the BBC develops the faculties that are required to generate appropriate institutional awareness of such issues, I suggest that you all join me in refusing to pay for it

UPDATE: Since this posting was first uploaded, the BBC has announced a pay cut for John Humphrys along with several other prominent broadcasters. We gather that this reduction in his salary has taken him from the ‘£600,000 – £649,999’ pay band to a level somewhere below £300,000. Since only around 235,000 people in the UK are earning £200,000 and more, this pay cut means that Humphrys leaves the ranks of the highest-paid 0.1% but retains his place among the highest paid 0.36%. As a result of this reduction being applied mid-year, Humphrys’s BBC pay in the year April 2017 to March 2018 still lay within the band ‘£400,000 -£409,999’. For more information, see here


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17 thoughts on “‘Tory, Tory, Tory…’ (5)

  1. “Yup! That’s Radio 4’s ‘flagship news and current affairs programme’ holding power to account — John Humphrys-style!”

    According to Wikipedia, modern flagships ” are designed primarily for command and control “.
    They are, therefore, integral to the exercise of power.
    They are not used (as Humphrys preens himself as to the nature of his role on the command deck) in order to hold power to account. Oh, unless of course he means when they are instrumental in cheerleading the gang banging of foreign and defenceless peoples.

    As to his salary, the BBC obviously prize the pander, the obsequious and the self-deluded.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m wondering, though, why the BBC should be so transparent. Surely not because it contemptuously enjoys the spectacle of all those noses being cracked and broken on the glass ceiling (?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • These salaries were never meant to be made public: the government — no doubt expecting that ‘the left-wing BBC’ had all the black lesbian staff on the highest salaries — made them reveal the biggest earners as part of the new Charter agreement…


  3. Well, you need to remember — and how could you ever forget? — that this is a government of total mediocrities who are so rich that they can easily afford to be richly deluded: it doesn’t matter how stuffed with Tories the BBC is, or how slavishly it follows the Tory line on everything, there will still be a crowd of nutters, in and around the Cabinet, for whom the organisation is pure Communism. They think the BBC is out of control — and in very many ways it is. Just not the ways they imagined, mad and stupid as they are…

    I hope none of this is unclear!


  4. That was a powerhouse of a post Mark and beautifully laid bare the concealment and hypocrisy presented day after day with a straight face, as “news”.


  5. Humphrys and other Today presenters, and indeed other BBC created celebrities, also earn substantial sums based simply on their high-profile from being BBC presenters/celebrities. I’ve attended three business conferences where the event was ‘chaired’ by Humphrys, Justin Webb or Jonathan Ross. I was informed that at one of those conferences the presenter was paid a few thousand pounds for their appearances. I will say that at least Jonathan Ross had clearly done a lot of homework so appearing to be well informed about the subject (but too well informed for a generalist).

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is an excellent point (and related to my reference to the ‘add-ons’ in the posting itself).
      While people routinely try to brush aside this kind of issue (“Why can’t successful people be even more successful?”, they cry. “This is just envy!”) the fact is that these external gigs are deeply problematic. There are individuals at the BBC whose high-earning ‘outside’ activities involve the very people, organisations, institutions and businesses whose activities they are meant to report on as journalists: global finance corporations and banks; billionaire-owned newspapers and other corporate media; domestic and foreign military personnel; ‘defence’ industry manufacturers and contractors, etc. It should not be too hard to see that any kind of fee-paying relationship between, say a weapons manufacturer and a ‘Defence Correspondent’ represents a massive conflict of interest; yet on the strength of their familiarity and status as ‘a BBC broadcaster’, such a person will often be ‘the obvious choice’ to speak, moderate, interview or compere at a ‘defence industry’ conference or event.
      At the very least, the BBC should produce a publicly inspectable register of Journalists’ External Activities.
      Meanwhile, what do you make of this…?

      Liked by 1 person

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