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Pesticides and reporting on the EU

Pesticides and reporting on the EU

I was irked this morning by the way the BBC Radio 4 Today programme was reporting the changes in pesticide regulations. It was the way that the report was phrased that particularly annoyed me, it was as if only British farmers would be affected by these changes in regulations, rather than farmers across the whole EU. This struck me that this sort of biased reporting by the British media that is driving a lot of the narrow minded xenophobic attitudes which appear to be becoming more prevalent in this country.

Maybe I am being over pedantic, but had they reported this change in regulations as being something that will have an impact across the whole EU (which they will) and then go on to look at a local example of how it would affect a British farmer, it would have come across as a far less biased and anti European. It is also notable that there has been very little discussion or analysis of why the regulations are changing, it is merely reported as a random decision made by some distant “EU bureaucrats” with no input from people across Europe.

This is far from the truth, these changes in the regulations on pesticides have not been driven by some monolithic super state bureaucracy, but (rightly or wrongly) by a grass roots campaign across Europe, run largely by Greenpeace. Therefore, they are due to democratic pressure from across Europe, with the agreement of elected representatives from across Europe, and yes our Government did have a say in it. Whether there has truly been an open, honest and fully informed debate over the issue around the use of pesticide, is another matter (and one for another blog post).

The point is that words matter, and clear unbiased reporting matters in a democracy. Here in is the strength and the weakness of democracy, in order for democracy to work it is needs and informed and engaged citizens. For citizens to be well informed they need to be educated and have access to enough information to be able to have a have an informed debate on the issues before decisions are made.

In the EU in order to have a common market there is a need to have a uniform set of regulations across the whole market. Without a common set of regulations there can be no common market. There are those who will insist that there should be no regulation of markets, but the evidence shows that unregulated markets are less efficient and frequently crash, as fraud takes over.

Ultimately Britain has benefited from being a part of the EU and having access to the rest of Europe. However, if Britain is to remain a part of the EU, British citizens need to be better informed about what is happening in the rest of Europe, and what their Government is doing in their name. For this to happen we need clear unbiased reporting and sadly that is something which we getting less and less from the British media.


The BBC and the myth of “road tax”

The BBC and the myth of “road tax”

Why is the BBC so keen on perpetuating the myth of “road tax”? The term is totally misleading in that it suggests that roads are paid for out of taxes raised on motoring. As I have pointed out before, this is totally false. Today (Monday, 29th Oct 2012) there is a news story about a right wing lobbying group suggesting that the roads system be privatised and a system of two tier charging for use of the roads be introduced. I first heard about this on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, which made persistent references to “Road Tax”. This was then repeated on the hourly news bulletins. It is not just today that the BBC has made references to “Road Tax”, it frequently uses this misleading term for motoring taxes.

Today I found this so annoying that I decided to send a formal complaint to the BBC (Case number CAS-1748928-PFD9YS):

In BBC programmes and News broadcasts we are being told that there is a thing called “Road Tax”, this is simply not true. There is no such thing as “Road Tax”, there are taxes on motoring such as Vehicle Excise Duty. These taxes are a part of general taxation and do not contribute directly to the maintenance of the roads, any more than taxes on tobacco pay directly for the NHS.

It is time the BBC stopped propagating this myth. The Road Fund was abolished in 1936 by Winston Churchill, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the grounds that it was giving motorists a dangerously inflated sense of ownership of the public road. By doing so, he brought to an end to hypothecated road taxation in Britain. It is the BBC’s stated Mission that it is to ” inform, educate and entertain”. The perpetuation of the Myth of Road Tax is clearly contrary to the first two of these aims. Please in future make it clear in your news and current affairs programmes that motoring taxes are not hypothecated and have not been so since 1936. There is a very real issue around the motorists’ dangerously inflated sense of ownership of the public road, as it leads to death and serious injury on a daily basis. Research has shown that there are over 800 deaths a year (mostly of pedestrians and cyclists) due to disrespectful driving as a result of this mistaken sense of ownership.

Where your entertainment programmes make reference to “Road Tax”, could you make it clear that this is fiction, and not a reference to the real world.


I hope to get a reply within the next two weeks, and will post it here when I do.

There was a time when the BBC was a respected organisation which was prepared to speak truth to power, but those days are sadly gone and now it just repeats PR releases from dodgy “think tanks” without questioning validity or accuracy. It is really sad that it has come to this.

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