The rulers of the UK would have us believe that all is well and our futures rose tinted, with bliss and well-being the norm for now and evermore. Its greatest propaganda arm is the BBC. Oh yes, that good old national institution the Beeb, the UK’s favourite Auntie, the guardian of the nation’s morals. Daytime scheduling is littered with property-obsessed programmes like Homes Under The Hammer and Escape To the Country, where people with a good few hundred thousand pounds and more at their disposal, do what most young people in this country can only ever dream of. In the former, people dabble in the property market buying homes which probably came up for auction because the property was repossessed in a tragic back-story that is never told. The heroes of the programme bid for properties at knock-down prices and either rent them out, or sell them on at a nice little profit. In the latter our protagonists are looking for their dream home well away from the rat race of urban living. The homes are in rural areas where the majority of locally born people could never afford the deposit, let alone ever earn enough to get a mortgage.
BBC1’s flagship investigative journalism programme is Panorama. Its latest offering to prime-time viewers was “Plane Drunk”, an exposé of drunken British passengers causing mayhem at 30,000 feet. Whilst this may be a problem for a tiny percentage of the population it is hardly being remotely near to a national crisis. It’s previous offering was an exposure of bad management at the top of the RSPCA. As an animal lover I am more than sympathetic to things which have an effect on our four-legged friends but again, it isn’t something that will keep most people awake at night. Poverty is, but you won’t find much, if any, content on the main BBC channels that cover how widespread it is and how debilitating its effects are on those who suffer it.
Telling truths about life in Britain for the vast majority of people is outside the remit of the self-appointed propagandists for the middle classes, who control the output of BBC1 and BBC2. By vast majority I am not, of course, talking about the impoverished themselves. Thankfully, at present it is still a minority who experience it in an extreme way. I do contend however, that the vast majority are affected by it. People who work in the public sector, be it in housing, social work, the NHS, the education system or those who work for charities, are affected by it. Friends, family and neighbours of the impoverished are affected. But the main BBC channels, despite being funded solely by an entertainment tax from even the most impoverished themselves, don’t ever mention it.
Compare and contrast this to BBC3, a channel where you not only have to pay for the rubbish that isn’t worth watching on the mainstream channels, but also have to fork out for a broadband subscription. BBC3 is only available online. Last week the BBC produced something that was worth watching but decided to squirrel it away from the great unwashed on an internet-only, niche viewing channel. Stephen Paul Manderson, (not to be confused with anyone called Mandelson), AKA Professor Green, presented an insight into child poverty in the UK. Called, appropriately, “Living In Poverty” it showed the harrowing and heartbreaking experience of children living on the breadline in 21st Century Britain. I don’t mind admitting that I shed tears both of sorrow and of anger whilst watching it.
His introduction at the start of the programme sets the tone when he describes his own childhood and how children are still experiencing the terrible suffering he endured as a child. Here, for once, poverty is not entertainment, but visceral and devastating.
In one of the richest countries in the world 1 in 4 children are living in poverty and the numbers are predicted to rise by over one million in the next five years. Why are questions about these facts never asked on Question Time or Any Questions (hosted, of course, by the establishment-clinging Dimbleby brothers)? The simple answer is provided in an old saying – out of sight, out of mind. They don’t show this to a mainstream audience because they are afraid of the consequences which would result.
Living in Poverty is a documentary rather than a drama, which makes it so much more shocking than anything the BBC aired in more enlightened times like the Ken Loach Drama Cathy Come Home. If anyone ever tells me that the BBC isn’t a biased right-wing institution these days I try to resist physically assaulting them and laugh resignedly instead.
In the first three minutes we meet a family from Dagenham who are being evicted on the day of filming. Nikki is the single mother of three children who are being evicted because their landlord has sold the property. It is obvious that the house they have lived in for the last five years was once social housing, built using taxpayers’ money but, thanks to Thatcher, is now privately owned. Nikki’s children are four-year-old Robert, five-year-old Kirsty and ten-year-old Kelly Louise. They have lived in the house since before Robert was born. Now their mother is getting ready to send them off to school without a home to come back to. Because she can’t afford a deposit for another rented property they are off to school knowing that when the bell rings at home-time, they have no home to go to. All of this in the first three minutes! If you can steel yourself for the following 53 minutes it doesn’t get any better. It is almost an hour of unremitting misery.
If you aren’t reduced to tears of sorrow and rage when Kelly Louise sobs about fearing she will lose her friends and that she doesn’t want to move any more, you don’t deserve to be called a human being. This is why it’s on BBC3. They have to balance the middle-class, right-wing propaganda on their other channels so they can claim to have a fair, impartial output. The problem for them is that it isn’t balanced if the flip side to the capitalist coin is only shown as niche viewing for the tech-savvy and those who can afford broadband. The other problem for them is that this content is more likely to be watched by young people, as opposed to the people who have voted Tory all of their lives.
TV programmes such as Living in Poverty must be given a wider audience if they are to have any impact on what is happening in Britain today. However, it is the duty of all who are left of centre to keep getting the message out, because we are not a fair and equal society, never have been and never will be. We could be, though, if we take a once-in-a-generation chance and elect a Corbyn-led Labour government.
Rise, like lions after slumber In unvanquishable number!
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you: Ye are many—they are few!"
Phil Gage for Political Provocateur