KISS GOODBYE TO JAMES DELINGPOLE

If you want to know what an ‘Ofcom for the press’ will do, ask me.  The ‘reasonable’ restraints of Ofcom have resulted in a shocking restriction of free speech. Ofcom acts like the polite face of a left-Statist lynch mob.

Broadcasters are wary of incurring the wrath on Ofcom.  They are nervous of the forced on-screen apologies (which can be cited in support of legal action against the channel), the hefty fines and the threat of having the channel shut down.

It is well known in the industry (ask any Channel Four lawyer) that if Ofcom receives a lot of complaints, it feels under pressure to uphold a couple.  The regulator is anxious not to be portrayed as ‘toothless’.  And Channel Four and other broadcasters know that if a programme rocks the boat (as mine tend to) they are likely to receive a lot of complaints (in my case from angry Guardian readers).

Very quickly it becomes a ‘brave’ decision to commission a programme that rocks the boat.  A commissioning editor might get away with one or two minor Ofcom decisions against them, but any more and they jeopardise their career.  They will not advance to higher management.  They may have to resign.  Film-makers, for their part, risk their careers every time they make a film that goes against the consensus or upsets vocal lobby groups.  I have been warned countless times that I must be mad for daring to take on the greens, or for making shows demanding radical cuts in public spending. (After The Great Global Warming Swindle it was three years before Channel Four felt able to commission another film from me).  These shows invite complaints to Ofcom, and Ofcom judgments ruin careers. 

Ofcom's regulations may seem perfectly ‘reasonable’ on the written page, but their effect is far from reasonable in practice and, for all the reassurances of our nice reasonable Statist politicians, they kill dead free speech.

Let us take, for example, Ofcom’s demand for ‘balance’.  Sounds eminently reasonable.  Who could argue against it?  I recently made a film for Channel Four (a ‘brave’ commission) called Britain’s Trillion Pound Horror Story.  For this film I interviewed a whole load of MPs and asked them if they knew the size of the official national debt, and the difference between the debt and the deficit.  As it happens, almost every Labour MP was utterly clueless, the Lib-Dem MPs were slightly less dim but not much, and the Tory MPs almost all had a very good idea of both.

But when my excellent Channel Four lawyer reviewed the show (the man is dedicated to keeping me in the industry despite my Kamikaze inclinations) he said it wouldn’t wash.  For ‘balance’ we would need to make out that all MPs were equally stupid, which we did.

Behind ‘balance’ is a great deal of bias.  Those who dominate public discourse get to shut out the critical voices.  For example, all those TV and radio shows which take global warming as a fact, feel under no pressure to ‘balance’ their views with those of skeptics.  But when I made The Great Global Warming Swindle I had to provide written proof to Ofcom that I had sought interviews with key global warming believers, and that they had, of their own choice, refused to take part.  This was balance. 

On the BBC’s Today programme politicians are regularly berated for not doing enough about this or that, or for threatening worthy projects with their cuts.  How many times, in the past ten years, have you heard the Statist BBC reporters asking about the shocking levels of debt?  Or demanding of politicians with new proposals: ‘Who’s paying for all this?  Where’s all the money coming from?’  Where is the balance here?

A famous Supreme Court decision in America warned of the “chilling effect” of regulating free speech.  Regulation, which seems perfectly ‘reasonable’ on paper, has devastating results.  This form of  the censorship is not obvious.  It operates in large measure by inducing so-called 'self-censorship' or a wariness about speaking out. And this makes it all the more sinister and hard to counter.  When we hear (as I did this morning) politicians declaring that the press should be ‘accountable’ (in a reasonable sort of way), it should induce panic.  

In our newspapers, at the moment, we have fantastically popular, radical writers like James Delingpole and Janet Daley and Rod Liddle and Toby Young and Simon Heffer and Melanie Philips. I am often asked why, on our TVs, we don’t we see much of these enormously popular columnists.

The trouble is, if you allowed these writers to do on TV what they do in the papers, you would find yourself up to here in Ofcom complaints. And complaints lead to judgements.  And judgements ruin careers.  To give these people space on TV would be ‘brave’.

Mark my words, if there is an ‘Ofcom for the press’ you can kiss goodbye to the Rod Liddles and James Delingpoles.  Harriet Harman may be pleased, but the rest of us should be very worried indeed.

Comments (9)

One method which is, by

One method which is, by definition, balanced is formal debate with equal time given to both speakers/teams. If the Tories really are smarter then they should win. If the warming sceptics are both smarter and have the facts on our side they should beat the alarmists big & indeed that is what they consistently do when any debate is held.*

Unfortunately our state owned & our state regulated broadcasters do not seem remotely interested in their official legal duty of balance when it comes to debates. They not only refuse to ever broadcast genuine debates on any subject but the BBC, typically Orwellian, have redefined the word debate to mean the Question Time format - 5 people on one side (including the Dimbelby) and, sometimes, one on the other. This is "debate" to the same extent as tying somebody up, gagging them and arranging for a mob to lynch them is how the marquess of Queensberry defined boxing.

And as incompatible withy freedom.

*I may be biased - I organised a debate on warming to which every one of the 129 Scottish MSPs who voted for the most destructive climate change act in the world refused to attend. I believe this proves that the entire political class know it is a fraud which could not withstand the simple examination such debate amounts to.

On the other hand, since I am thereby accusing them all,, including the "balanced" broadcasters and the Ofgem gestapo, of being wholly corrupt, I may not be biased.

“when I made The Great Global

“when I made The Great Global Warming Swindle I had to provide written proof to Ofcom that I had sought interviews with key global warming believers, and that they had, of their own choice, refused to take part.”

Sorry. This is a bit late. I told the story of your efforts to provide balance which I found in Climategate2, here:
http://ccgi.newbery1.plus.com/blog/?p=534

When I saw Britain's Trillion

When I saw Britain's Trillion Pound Horror Story I was utterly amazed. I could not believe that such a truth telling programme had been able to make it onto TV.
I sent a link to it to every freedom-minded (and some not) friend I could think of.
Congratulations on this programme and thank you for the reminder that totalitarian controls come in by almost unperceived degrees. That we learn to talk the language of "consensus" and to frame our thinking according to the dictates of others.
Until people wake up to the subtle use being made of their own self deception I fear their is not too much long term hope for responsible freedom.
And if responsibility is not based on decisions that come from within rather than imposed from without (however subtly) I also fear that irresponsibility can only become increasingly deranged.

Your comments about the

Your comments about the chilling effect of an Ofcom style regulator are, well, chilling. I would like to see more 'challenging' commentators on tv too but I'm not buying the left wing bias argument - there aren't that many obviously left wing Pilgeresque programmes either.
That the mainstream tv channels are largely left leaning seems moot to me. If they are then they have certainly failed regarding discussion of the national debt/deficit - the entire government programme is based upon the imperative of tackling this asap and the whole country has bought into it, mistakenly in my view.

An excellent article, we must

An excellent article, we must not allow the press to be regulated by the state. When Labour get back in they will ramp up regulation to make the press bland, toothless and weak.

State regulation of the press

State regulation of the press would be the final nail in the coffin of free speech in this country, right enough. But why should free thinkers accept the restrictions on broadcasters documented above? I can just about see the case for BBC 'impartiality' as it is publicly funded by everyone, but what possible justification can there be for the rest of it? America should be our model. Fox News is mocked here in the UK, as though it's a bad thing for people to be able to say what they actually think. We should ask whose interests this censorship serves.

State regulation of the press

State regulation of the press would be the final nail in the cousin of free speech in this country, right enough. But why should free thinkers accept the restrictions on broadcasters documented above? I can just about see the case for BBC 'impartiality' as it is publicly funded, but what possible justification can there be for the rest of it? America should be our model. Fox News is mocked here in the UK, as though it's a bad thing for people to be able to say what they actually think. We should ask whose interests this censorship serves.

You're so awesome! I don't

You're so awesome! I don't believe I've read through something like that before.
So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject matter.
Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is one thing that
is needed on the web, someone with some originality!

MD: "....How many times, in

MD:

"....How many times, in the past ten years, have you heard the Statist BBC reporters asking about the shocking levels of debt? Or demanding of politicians with new proposals: ‘Who’s paying for all this? Where’s all the money coming from?’....."

I'm not usually an advocate of new laws - I think that we've got plenty to be going on with!

But I would like a requirement for all government ministers to make a short statement before they tell us about the next few tens of billions that they're going to spend some useless project like the egregious 2008 Climate Change Act.

Words to the effect:

"The money we're about to spend is taken as a tax on the private sector, obtained under threat of imprisonment. Sometimes we use borrowed money but that will have to be repaid, with interest, by future such taxes. Sometimes we print money, which causes inflation but that's good for the government (if not the general public) because it inflates away our debt"

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