When I was on work experience on a BBC programme, I was let in on an interesting fact, by staff bemoaning the extra work created by that fact*. If you write to the BBC in the form of a complaint, due to their obligation as a public service broadcaster, the show you complain about absolutely must reply to every complaint made via letter or online form submission. Here’s the form by the way.
*Not forgetting that some of this extra work is taken up by replying to crazy people asking things like ‘why won’t you show a picture of my cat on the lunchtime bulletin?’
This obligation doesn’t extend to things posted on Facebook or Twitter! So if you want your comments not only READ but REPLIED TO, get on the form because we all pay for the BBC.
Instead of typing in the name of the show BBC Breakfast, (of which there should only be one, so no problem?), you will be asked to break it down by clicking a number of drop-down boxes: BBC News (TV, Radio, Online) > TV News > BBC One > Breakfast (TV News).
It is a laborious form, but stick at it and you will be rewarded with the freedom of the comment box at the end… make it long and hard work for them or short and hard to avoid your questions, this bit is all up to you.
That’s my extremely quick guide to complaining to the BBC. OK it’s not a guide, more of a plea for my friends and anyone who reads this to realise they can do this. Of course, the more people who do it the more chance something will change (but even if 3 people complain or one person complains regularly, that is plenty of annoying extra work! You will make a difference, if only to their cushy well-paid jobs!)
In case you were wondering what I complained about today, I’ve published a copy of my letter below.
All of the letter is available for you to copy, paraphrase or disagree with in YOUR complaint to the BBC. Happy complaining and I look forward to posting my personal reply by a human being who works at the BBC :)
Time of issue: 07:14
I feel that the standard of interviewing has dramatically fallen over the last few years. Culminating in my complaint today about the interview with Iain Duncan Smith, I have been left feeling hopeless for months by the BBC Breakfast programmes that I grew up loving.
It is supposed to be a news programme yet politicians and public figures are allowed to use it as a podium for their propaganda instead of being scrutinised by the public. They work for us and so do you - so not only are you shirking your responsibility as journalists and broadcasters, but you are with a rising number of magazine-type segments contributing to the braindeath of this country and in turn, making people switch off to the kind of quality journalism needed to keep politicians in check.
Onto today’s specific complaint, the interview with Iain Duncan Smith about capping the rise in benefits to 1% for the next 3 years.
When I heard that Iain Duncan Smith was going to be interviewed for this subject, I posted an appeal on the Breakfast Facebook page for the presenters to really challenge him on this issue. Simply put, I pleaded:
At one point Iain says that 70% of the people affected are not in work, but later Susanna says that 2/3 of the people affected are working people. Which one is it? I assume Susanna is right but in that case why didn’t she pick up on what Iain said earlier?
Summary of questions in my complaint:
-Why was Iain Duncan Smith allowed to recite script from his agenda during time that could’ve been used to ask and answer questions?
-Why are concepts like the ones I’ve raised about who-is-important and what-is-right not challenged?
-Why are discrepancies in figures not challenged or explained?
Finally, I want my BBC News to seek the truth. If that means losing a few important contacts at Westminster, brilliant. You will gain credibility while politicians who aren’t prepared to be scrutinised will lose it.
The Home Office is fast-tracking new laws that would allow GCHQ to monitor ALL texts, emails and web usage.
Let’s not forget this could mean your private Facebook chat messages or your direct messages on twitter, as well as your personal emails and behaviour online (Downloading a few songs or films illegally? Subscribing to anti-government groups? Researching conspiracy theories?).
Already disagree? Sign the petition now!
The government says it won’t use the laws except to catch terrorists, paedophiles and serious criminals.
But as we’ve seen before, recent history is littered with laws that were created for one purpose being used for another.
In the first eight years of its existence, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 was used to detain people 180,000 times, resulting in only 255 arrests. We’ve seen local councils using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to catch litter bugs and parents who try to get their kids into better schools than their catchment area boundaries allow. During the 2005 Labour Party Conference, over 600 people were detained under the Terrorism Act, including anti-Iraq war protesters and an OAP that called the then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw a liar.
“I’m not a paedophile or a terrorist - What kind of things might I not want the government or the police to know?”
So, we can throw the idea that these powers will only be used in extreme circumstances out the window. Here are some examples of how they may really be used against normal people.
Example 1 - You’re a student on a very low income and you need to use a particular kind of software to do your work. You can’t get enough time in the computer suites at university or college and so you download an illegal, cracked copy of the software to use at home.
Example 2 - You have a past. Perhaps you used to be involved in drugs or other minor crimes when you were young, and communicated with your friends about it over Facebook. Some might say this kind of communication was already known to be foolish. But if you are trying to get a job in politics, the armed forces or the police, this kind of stuff could see you with a lifetime ban, just as if you’d failed an RAF drugs test.
Example 3 - You disagree with a new law the government is bringing in, say, to allow the police to “stop and search” anyone under the age of 25 without giving reason (its not that far-out). You set up a Facebook group or website in defiance of this law that you feel is discriminatory, encouraging people to protest outside Westminster. You get a black mark against your name, IP addresses and phone numbers with tags like “incitive”, “rabble-rouser” or “anarchist”. They could keep their eye on you and next time you slip up and break a real law - however minor, they can know about it and pass it on to the police. You’re out of their way for a while.
What does GCHQ do?
GCHQ (Government Communications Head-Quarters) is not a government department, although it is the responsibility of the UK Foreign Office. They spy on people in this country and abroad to provide intelligence about serious crime to the government and the military, maintain “relationships” with similar organisations in other countries like America’s NSA (National Security Agency) as well as being responsible for securing the IT systems of UK government departments.
What you may not know is that GCHQ already monitors these communications like texts, emails and web usage, although the legality of what they do is uncertain and so intelligence seems to be used mainly to catch terrorists and paedophiles (because if you disagree with measures used to catch terrorists or paedophiles you must be a terrible person).
Skip to 4:16 on this BBC Radio 4 Today interview with Director of GCHQ, Iain Lobban. The interviewer asks: “There have been reports that you’re building some super-huge database down in the basement here, to collect all the communications data and that you’ll have access to everyone’s phone records and email records - is that true?”
Mr Lobban replies with a clear no, and re-enforces this negatory with: “there is no such database, there is no such access.”
That was in March 2010. Perhaps he meant to add to the end of his reply, the word “yet”.
Do you trust this Tory government to act responsibly with your information? Sign the petition now!
30 Day Photo Challenge - Day 4: Something green
You might think its a bit of a cop-out but how could I resist my beautiful green phone?!