There’s a good article from George Monbiot today, highlighting the obvious but usually unmentionable point that the British (and American) political system has been entirely captured by the corporations. They really run the country, with the politicians simply fronting the show.
Implicitly echoing Russell Brand’s point about the futility of voting, Monbiot notes that Britain’s Labour party is now just another party of capital, making the British political system a mirror of the US one:
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown purged the party of any residue of opposition to corporations and the people who run them. That’s what New Labour was all about. Now opposition MPs stare mutely as their powers are given away to a system of offshore arbitration panels run by corporate lawyers.
Since Blair, parliament operates much as Congress in the United States does: the lefthand glove puppet argues with the righthand glove puppet, but neither side will turn around to face the corporate capital that controls almost all our politics.
There’s even a rare dig at the liberal media – in this case, the BBC – for conspiring in this charade.
That the words corporate power seldom feature in the corporate press is not altogether surprising. It’s more disturbing to see those parts of the media that are not owned by Rupert Murdoch or Lord Rothermere acting as if they are.
For example, for five days every week the BBC’s Today programme starts with a business report in which only insiders are interviewed. They are treated with a deference otherwise reserved for God on Thought for the Day. There’s even a slot called Friday Boss, in which the programme’s usual rules of engagement are set aside and its reporters grovel before the corporate idol. Imagine the outcry if Today had a segment called Friday Trade Unionist or Friday Corporate Critic.
This, in my view, is a much graver breach of BBC guidelines than giving unchallenged airtime to one political party but not others, as the bosses are the people who possess real power – those, in other words, whom the BBC has the greatest duty to accost. Research conducted by the Cardiff school of journalism shows business representatives now receive 11% of airtime on the BBC’s 6 o’clock news (this has risen from 7% in 2007), while trade unionists receive 0.6% (which has fallen from 1.4%). Balance? Impartiality? The BBC puts a match to its principles every day.
Monbiot’s basic assumption here is questionable. He suggests that those media not owned by proprietors like Murdoch are not part of the corporate press. The implication is that the BBC is only acting as if it is owned by a corporation, when in fact it isn’t. There is a further implication that the Guardian – Monbiot’s employer – is not only not owned by a corporation but that it also doesn’t behave as if it is.
The reality is that the trusts overseeing the BBC and the Guardian are simply foils to distract us from the fact that they are as much embedded in the corporate world as the Murdoch-owned media.
The Guardian Media Group’s chief income derives from the transport, property and software industries. And the BBC is really owned by the British government, which decides on its level of income through the licence fee. Even a perusal of the BBC Trust members shows that they are heavily drawn from the establishment, with half of the current board having received honours from the Queen. The other half can presumably look forward to an honour when they retire from the trust.