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A BBC for the 21st-Century!

by John Brian Shannon

The UK government needs to drop the present funding model for the BBC by 2021 and help the corporation get ready to serve Britons even better than in the 20th-century. Which it did quite remarkably, considering the times and the level of technology available back in the day.

However, it’s a new century now, and even the hallowed institution of the BBC must gear-up for the new media environment that’s only begun to impact the world, and the first thing that needs to change is that the BBC license fee must end by 2021. That’s it. Gone! Just like that.

Of course the BBC will need to fund its programmes and it should sell advertising on all of its websites, TV programmes, radio broadcasts, and on all other media, in the same manner as other media outlets.

There won’t be any problem getting companies to advertise with the BBC as it remains one of the premiere media providers in the world. And, the day the BBC license fee model ends, the BBC should begin funding its programming via advertising.

The UK government should consider taking a page out of the Canadian government’s book when it moved the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the CBC is Canada’s national broadcaster) from 100% government control to a more arm’s length relationship with the Canadian government. Until the 1990’s, the CBC didn’t run ads unless the adverts were government advertising of some sort (during elections, or to provide public information, etc.) thereby making the CBC 100% dependent upon the government for their funding. Not the best way to build a free-from-government-control media empire…

The really smart thing the Canadian government did was insist that the CBC provide 50% Canadian content (CANCON) in its programming. That is, half of the programmes that aired on CBC TV or CBC Radio were required to have significant numbers of Canadian actors, hosts, Canadian news, or even if an American host was conducting the interview the interviewee had to be a Canadian in order to qualify for supplementary funding from the government.

This so-called CANCON requirement allowed Canadian programming to flourish — even though the gigantic American media machine lived right next door to Canada which could’ve easily subsumed Canada’s entire media establishment had they wanted to.

In exchange for providing CANadian CONtent, the CBC received supplementary CANCON funding from the government for Canadian programming on a per show or (sometimes) on a per series basis.

In some cases, the Canadian government paid up to half the cost of Canadian programmes, depending upon how many Canadian actors appeared on a show or series, and depending upon where the story took place. More CANCON funding was paid when the shoot was in Toronto than if shot in New York city, for example. A little complicated, but apparently not that onerous.

The Canadian film industry loved the new arrangement — and it saved the Canadian government millions of dollars per year — as the cost of running the entire CBC was no longer borne by the government, rather, they paid only for the portion of the programming that was considered Canadian content.

It was a win for the Canadian government which saved millions per year and got the taxpayers off their backs, it was a win for Canadian actors, directors, producers and theatre houses because they got rapid access to the massive (massive for Canada, that is) CBC which was suddenly hungry for Canadian content, and it was a win for Canadian viewers who got to see more programmes that interested them and fewer American shows that were less relevant to the Canadian experience.

Yes, the one downside was that Canadians had to suffer through commercials. (Oh, the agony!)

But there likely isn’t one Canadian who’d willingly go back to the old days of wall-to-wall American TV shows (mostly about crime) and American news (also, mostly about crime) and American soap operas (also, mostly about crime) with only bits of Canadian content scattered here and there.

CBC News, CBC Sports, and CBC Documentaries are of exceptional quality nowadays, and are broadcast and rebroadcast on many channels around the world. And even with that said, all of it seems to have improved every year since the Canadian government gave the CBC an independent mandate.

Yet, at the time the model was unilaterally changed by the Canadian government, some old-school CBC hosts tut-tutted the change, complaining that ‘Canadian television would never be the same’. And in a way, they were right, it’s even better now!

Today, as a result of the Canadian government’s foresightedness, the Canadian movie industry is booming and Hollywood movies are often shot in Canadian cities because the economics work so well. Even Hollywood film makers can qualify for CANCON funding when they shoot in Canada, and that’s in addition to the savings due to the Canadian dollar presently pegged at 75 cents to the American dollar.

Based on the successful CBC example, the BBC could break free from government funding and control, from the bad press surrounding the BBC license-fee, add more revenue to their operations via typical advertising, and gain additional funding from the government whenever it creates a made-in-the-UK film, series, documentary, news programme, or other UK-based programming.

To be fair to smaller centres, the BBC should receive slightly more funding per capita from the government for creating programming set in or geared towards Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, or in any economically depressed town or region of the country. For one example: What could a television series that is shot in the Orkney Islands do for the economy there? And for another example, what could a new BBC production centre mean for Blackburn?

There are plenty of spectacular landscapes in the UK and millions of fascinating stories to tell — one only needs to watch Escape to the Country to get a sense of the history of the UK and of the interesting people hiding in plain sight all over the country.

In short, the UK government needs to simplify the BBC’s funding model, it needs to lower its total spend on the BBC while rewarding it for producing UK-created content, it needs to drop the abhorrent BBC license fee, it needs to allow the BBC to advertise, and it needs to provide supplementary funding to the BBC and film makers hailing from Hollywood, Bollywood, or from anywhere in the world that film movies, documentaries, or series anywhere in the UK, especially in economically depressed regions.

That’s a BBC model that will allow the corporation and its great people to succeed even better in the 21st-century than it did when it was founded in 1922 and every year since.

Brexit: Well, That Only Took 1317 Days!

by John Brian Shannon

 

After a gestation period that would’ve impressed a Brontosaurus (44-months, or 188-weeks if you prefer to measure time by the week, or 1317-days, or 31,608-hours) the UK government finally kept its promise to Britons who voted for Brexit on June 23, 2016.

So, after bobbling the ball for 3.5-years, the UK government finally got it right (Thanks, Boris!) and at 11:00pm GMT on January 31, 2020, the UK left the European Union. And not a moment too soon, as if the dithering on the UK side had continued much longer the UK would’ve been thrown out of the EU  — instead of leaving of its own accord! Yes, the frustration with successive UK governments grew to record highs over the past 3.5-years…

Anyway, that was then, and this is now, as they say.


What Next for the UK?

According to the terms of the Brexit agreement with the EU, the parties have 11-months to agree a trade deal to govern the future trading relationship, unless the parties decide to extend the trade deal negotiating period for another year, or longer.

I feel positive about getting a trade deal with the EU as it’s so obviously in the interests of both parties to arrange a fair-to-both-sides trade agreement, that there will be a signing ceremony before the end of 2020. Let’s hope!

Of course, the EU isn’t the UK’s only trading partner, so a trade deal with the Americans is important for the UK, And that too, must be concluded in a reasonable timeframe if the UK is to capitalize on its economic prospects following its departure from the European Union.

Let’s hope that Boris Johnson’s team sees the value of signing onto the CPTPP agreement — to become a member of the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership agreement — which is a huge trading region headed by Japan as the leading economy in the bloc.

Subsequent deals with Commonwealth of Nations countries — I’m hoping for a massive agreement between all Commonwealth nations, on par with the excellent CPTPP trade agreement. And, why not? The UK has ignored the Commonwealth for far too long now and huge opportunities await UK companies within that 2.5 billion member bloc (2.5 billion citizens/consumers in the Commonwealth of Nations countries by 2022) and further, the economy of that bloc consists of rapidly developing economies whose citizens are now beginning to enjoy real growth in their disposable income. Disposable income that could be used to purchase UK goods and services if you take my meaning.

Yes, huge trade opportunities await the UK, and not a moment to lose going after it. Because if the UK doesn’t go after that business, some other country or bloc will snap-up all of it and could completely displace UK trade in each country. That’s the punishment for taking too long to agree a trade deal.

Former UK Prime Minister Theresa May and her government found out what happens when it takes too long to accomplish something really important to the UK people, and those excessive delays are the only reason that Boris Johnson is now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. So… fast, fast, Boris, on the trade file!

And thanks for getting Brexit done.


Putting the UK – EU Relationship in Context

All in all, the UK – European relationship has been a good one when measured over the past 107-years.

In that time, the UK fought to bring peace to the continent in WWI and WWII, it was a solid contributor to the NATO alliance during the Cold War, the UK participated in operations like the Berlin Airlift, the fall of the Wall/reunification of Germany, and in missions in the Balkans to try to prevent genocide and enforce International Court of Justice rulings against non-state actors there, and it invested trillions of pounds sterling in the continent in the 20th-century.

The UK helped to bring peace and prosperity to Europe and was an early supporter of a unified Europe from the time of former UK Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill — although Winston often said that the UK did not belong “in” continental Europe, but rather, that it should support a unified continent from “outside” continental politics.

Having played a pivotal role in the creation of a peaceful and prosperous European continent, the UK can now leave with its head held high, having accomplished all of its long-term objectives there, knowing that the ongoing peace and prosperity on the continent will continue for decades to come, due in part to the UK’s huge commitment to continental Europe since 1913, or thereabout.

Although the Brexit process might have frazzled nerves on both sides, there’s no doubt that the United Kingdom and the European Union will continue to be allies sharing a similar worldview and will continue trading with each other on an epic scale. While some tears have been shed over Brexit, the special relationship with our continental friends will endure for centuries to come, of that there’s no doubt.

Now, let’s make it easy on ourselves and quickly agree a fair and comprehensive trade agreement, so that both parties can continue to build on the successes of the previous century — as befits true neighbours, friends, families, and allies — thereby setting the bar for how countries can and should work together to create a better world.

And I wouldn’t expect anything less from Prime Minister Boris Johnson or from EU President Ursula von der Layen. In fact, we’ve only just begun!


Thumbnail image courtesy of www.ft.com

Empowering UK Cities to Meet CO2 Targets in the Post-Brexit Era

by John Brian Shannon

C40 Cities Initiative, CO2, UK cities

Image courtesy of the C40 Cities Initiative.

Whether you believe in global warming and sea level rise or not, most people would agree that breathing clean air is better for you than breathing toxic exhaust fumes and that drinking clean water is healthier for human beings. If you don’t believe that statement, you’ve got bigger problems than polluted air in cities.

A British citizen emits more CO2 in two weeks than some people in Africa do in a year, research shows

“The UK ranked 36th in the world for its CO2 emissions from consumption spread across its population, totalling at 8.34 tonnes per person in 2017 – the last year when such data for the UK was available. The global average for that year was 4.7 tonnes of CO2 per person.” — The Independent

As always, there’s a hard way to go about accomplishing something and an easier, more efficient way of getting things done. Which brings me to the point of this particular blog post, and that is… there is no reason that UK cities need to ‘go it alone’ in their quest to lower CO2 emissions — rather, by aligning with the C40 Cities initiative which provides expertise and other supports to member cities, UK cities can streamline their progress and get even better results by taking the C40 cities route to clean air and water.

Cities around the world are building a brighter future

“Human civilisation is facing an environmental crisis on a global scale. The world has failed to stop carbon emissions rising in a way that is consistent with a sustainable future for humanity and now we face a climate emergency. But the world’s leading cities are taking action to respond to the climate crisis and create the future we want.” — C40 Cities

There is help in numbers. There is also an unparalleled degree of technical assistance offered by the C40 Cities organization, and member cities share the results of their various CO2 reduction programmes with other member cities. And, being part of a larger group dedicated to clean air and water and better health for citizens means that UK cities won’t be ‘going it alone’.

Europe's Biggest CO2 emitters

Europe’s Biggest CO2 emitters. Image courtesy of Statista


Clean Air and Clean Water Works to Lower Healthcare Spending

Macmillan Cancer Support says that half of the UK population will develop cancer in their lifetime — which puts an unbelievable strain on the NHS, on families where half of them will face some kind of cancer in their life, and on the GDP of the United Kingdom.

Although there isn’t a direct link from highly polluted city air to cancer, it is widely acknowledged that respiratory ailments of all kinds are common in cities known for poor air quality and respiratory cancers represent some percentage of those ailments.

Half of UK population ‘will get cancer in lifetime’

The number of people in the UK who will get cancer during their lifetime will increase to nearly half the population by 2020, a report has forecast. Macmillan Cancer Support said the projected figure of 47%, up from the current 44%, would put huge pressure on the NHS. But the charity said that more people were surviving cancer compared to 20 years ago. — BBC

Even though cancer survival rates have improved in recent years, it becomes ever more costly as new (and astonishingly expensive!) technology comes online to improve the survivability odds of cancer. Prevention therefore, becomes more important as the incidence of various cancers increase and treatment becomes more expensive.

Cancer in the UK 2019

In the 1970s, only 1 in 4 cancer patients would survive their disease for ten years or more. By 2010, this had risen to 2 in 4, and survival continues to improve today. This is due to groundbreaking research, innovative new treatments, and the tireless efforts of staff right across the NHS. However, there is still much to be done. This report summarises the current state of cancer in the UK, recognising where progress has been made, and highlighting the challenges that we continue to face. Cancer Research UK’s ambitious vision to see 3 in 4 people with cancer survive for ten years or more by 2034 serves as a driving force […] across the UK to achieve this.” — cruk.org

By working to improve air quality in UK cities, respiratory disease rates will fall — including cancers of the respiratory kind — which will help to lower NHS spending. See how it all weaves together? Investing in clean air in cities means lower healthcare spending.

And that’s a point sometimes forgotten by some of the good-hearted clean air purists pushing for lower CO2 emissions. Clean air in cities will save us money! Even hard-nosed business tycoons should understand that kind of logic.


What Can You Do?

What can you do to help improve the air in UK cities and lower your chances for air pollution caused illness?

Here are five ways to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem:

  1. Leave your car at home and use public transit to commute to any UK city.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat in your home and set it to ‘Eco Mode’.
  3. Install double-glazed windows, insulated exterior doors and seal drafts.
  4. Once per week, consume plant-based protein instead of meat protein.
  5. Shop locally. Decide to buy your meat and veg from local suppliers.

By choosing to lower your CO2 footprint, you’ll be working to lower the overall air pollution in the city in which you live or work, and you’ll help lower your chances of contracting some kind of respiratory disease (including respiratory cancers) and you’ll be setting a fine example for your family, friends and associates.

Living a healthier life, emitting less CO2, and living in cleaner cities will help to deliver the kind of transformation that Britons and UK cities need to survive and thrive in the 21st-century.


Related Articles

  • The UK Grows its Economy as it Replaces Coal with Renewables (LettertoBritain)
  • The U.K. Cut Emissions to the Lowest Level Since 1888. Here’s How (Fortune)
  • How Westminster Politicians Could Help the UK Environment (LetterToBritain)
  • UK power cut: National Grid promises to learn lessons from blackout (BBC)
  • How UK Utility Companies Select Power Producers (LetterToBritain.com)
  • What will it take for the UK to reach net zero emissions? (The Guardian)
  • Want realtime energy information on the UK grid? (GridWatch.co.uk)
  • Floating wind farms just became a serious business (Quartz)
  • Building a Failsafe Energy Grid post-Brexit (LetterToBritain)
  • Will 2020 Be the Year that Britain Shines? (LetterToBritain)
  • Theresa May: Environment Speech, 2018 (LetterToBritain)