Alexander Nekrassov writes from London: Well, it has come to this. I’ve decided to write a letter to the BBC Director General, Tony Hall, who has inherited a money wasting monstrosity from his predecessor, Mark Thompson. Yes, that’s the one who has since then moved to New York, to run the New York Times as its chief executive. Proof if any was needed that Mr Thompson is hard-core leftie who’d been pretended during his shift at the BBC to be politically impartial, even at one time banning the statue of George Orwell from the New Broadcasting House, on the grounds that it might have been interpreted as a ’tilt to the left’.
But it was not Mr Thompson’s left-wing bias that was the main problem during his years at the top of the publicly funded BBC, with a huge annual budget that came in whether it did a good job or not. Yes, not only was the BBC meddling in politics and helping Labour to win the 2005 general election, against all odds, and saving it from meltdown in 2010, but it was coming up with abysmal amateurish programmes and shows, some of which were made by private companies for extortionate money, making this whole arrangement look like a badly made farce. BBC content for the past decade or so looked so unprofessional that it was a wonder that it managed to cling to the licence fee.
Anyway, one of Mr Thompsons’ sins during his unremarkable reign was the outrageous way the BBC execs and so-called ‘stars’, all lefties and politically corrects freaks, were paid outrageous salaries and fees, while freelance contributors were at best paid peanuts but usually paid nothing at all. Under Thompson a system was introduced of avoiding paying contributors at all costs or even promising them to ‘sort it out’ but doing absolutely nothing.
So with this in mind here is my short letter to Mr Hall, which I will be sending to him. And trust me, if he decides to ignore it, I will be making a big fuss about it. Along with other freelancers who were cheated by the BBC out of their fees.
I would be grateful to all the readers of Stirring Trouble to send their suggestions, as this is still a draft letter and can be amended. Any other victims of the BBC are especially welcome.
Dear Mr Hall,
First of all, let me extend my sympathies to you as regards the appalling mess you have inherited from the departed Mark Thompson, with the stench of that paedophile scandal still hanging in the air and the revelations about huge pay-outs to departing BBC execs. Not to mention, of course, lack on any exciting content made by the BBC itself, on all of its TV channels and radio stations, even though it has an annual budget of £3.6 billion.
And how can we forget the £1 billion New Broadcasting House development that looks like it was erected, if you pardon the word here, by a bunch of illegal immigrants from Albania, no offence to that fine country, on tiny salaries, with the overall budget going twice over the initial estimate.
But here is something else very embarrassing that was going on at the BBC on Mr Thompson’s watch. (Incidentally, I think he was paid £1 million a year, even though he did not deserve even half of it.) It so happened that the Corporation had been underpaying, or not paying at all, the many freelancers who contributed as guests to the BBC news programmes, both on television and radio. In fact, under your predecessor a system was quietly introduced when everything was done to avoid paying freelancers, even if they insisted on it.
Now, I have been contributing to the BBC as a freelancer for two decades at least and I know all the tricks of the trade. (I was actually pushed out from the BBC in 1998 where I had a regular 1-hour slot on Radio 5 Live for three years, on orders of Tony Blair and his henchmen, because I was ‘too conservative’ for them. As you know, there is not a single conservative commentator on the pay-roll of the Corporation.) But under the leadership of Mr Thompson, the situation with freelancers got out of hand completely. You worked in the BBC and, of course, you must have heard about these things. But when you left to dabble in arts, and with great success I must say, it got worse and maybe you have not been yet enlightened on this matter.
Here are my specific proposals. First of all, the BBC should establish a fair and transparent system of paying every freelance journalist contributing to news programmes automatically, with his name going into the system.
Secondly, the fees should depend on the length and importance on the contribution, having a sliding scale, say, from £50 upwards to £200. These people share their experience and knowledge with others, so they should be treated with respect.
Thirdly, all BBC producers and editors should stop playing games with contributing guests, who are freelance journalists, and treat them as colleagues and not ‘hostile entities’ when it comes to payments.
And finally, fourthly, if some people are owed money for their contributions in the past 5 years and have kept a record of the dates of the shows and programmes they took part in, the BBC should pay them on the basis of the current average fees for their contributions.
I hope, Mr Hall, that you will react to this letter constructively and provide a sensible solution. If not, we, freelance journalists, will take protest outside New Broadcasting House and report this matter to parliament and the government. Because to deny income to people while paying yourselves astronomical salaries and bonuses and golden goodbye pay-outs is simply not right.
Wishing you all the success in your new very demanding job.