"We can achieve a sort of control
under which the controlled, though they are following a code much more
scrupulously than ever the case under the old system, now feel free."
B F Skinner
Gus MacDonald is announced as Corporate
Leader of the Year, Companion of the British Empire, Chairman of the Year.
The list seems endless as he rolls onto a game show type set. He is slapped
on the back by his old mate Billy Connolly who whispers sweet nothings
into his ear and they embrace in a manly fashion. Gus is given a "Lifetime
Achievement Award" live on the TV station he runs, by one of his employees,
while the rest of them form the audience. With tears of emotion welling
up in his eyes Gus approaches the microphone ...at that point the national
grid flinches like a wounded animal. The nation has put on the kettle.
Some of us are wondering while it boils: Was it Idi Amin who awarded himself
the Victoria Cross?
Personalising the issues is going
to be difficult to avoid, but he started it. Yes there is very little criticism
of Gus in the media these days, only words of sanctimonious sycophantic
praise. This is not entirely surprising because Scottish Television is
now the Scottish Media Group or SMG for short. It now (em...) kind of owns
the "independent" media in Scotland as the new name suggests. It owns Grampian
TV, the Herald and the Evening Times, its shareholders, The Daily Record/Sunday
Mail and Flextech run most of what's left. According to the Scotsman--one
of the few publishing houses not controlled by Gus--STV and Grampian alone
will reach 4.7 million out of a possible 5.1 million viewers in Scotland.
Somehow or other that does not constitute a monopoly or any breach of regulations
in the eyes of the regulators, the ITC. This is because they were set up
to de-regulate the market and have stood by while the whole independent
network has become monopolised. If you remember the Monopoly board game,
you don't have to literally own all the properties to control the game,
just some of them. Also, surely any decent monopoly would "influence" its
regulators, assuming that is, that they need influencing.
Last June the 3rd the Scotsman said
that the purchase of Grampian by SMG: "should be subject to the utmost
scrutiny," adding that: "this newspaper must comment, for who otherwise
can?" Left all out on their own they were getting a bit panicky, and their
analysis of the situation suffered, well, proved to be wishful thinking
to be precise. They stated that "the ITC said yesterday it would bow to
pressure and mount a public enquiry into the deal." Somebody was lying
there, because the ITC did no such thing. Let's have a look at what happened.
The boards of Grampian TV and SMG
only confirmed they had been talking together on the 6th of June. They
did this because someone leaked information to a Sunday paper not owned
by them and the stockmarket got wind of it. Four days later both parties
had agreed terms and SMG bought about 20% of Grampian on the open market.1
By July the 11th the ITC had "concluded that there will be no requirement
to conduct public interest test with regard to proposed merger with Grampian."
Let me run that past you one more time. While the deal was being done before
their eyes, the ITC decided that they would not even begin to look into
the matter, and it took them a mere couple of weeks to arrive at this conclusion.
They did not even detect a whiff of monopoly about it, despite the fact
that they had earlier said they would "bow to pressure" after the Scotsman
phoned them with what could easily have been a rumour of a takeover. SMG
went ahead buying bits of Grampian until by September the 3rd it was "entitled
now to acquire compulsorarly (sic) all [Grampian] Shares held by shareholders
who had not yet accepted the offer." A week earlier they had started another
deal, this time purchasing 18.2% of Ulster TV with a view to a takeover.
The ITC just ignored it.
The ITC's decision was also taken
in the light of the fact that they had not so long ago already deemed it
appropriate to investigate STV when it bought Caledonian Publishing, the
owners of the Herald and Evening Times. They found then that:
"the overlap between Caledonian's
circulation and Scottish Television's broadcasting area did not constitute
a threat to the public interest."2
If the Herald's own reporting is
to be believed on the matter, and it might be here, the reason the ITC
let the Grampian deal go through was because:
"The Herald and the Evening Times
were not deemed to be 'relevant local newspapers' in Grampian's broadcasting
That must have been a bit galling
for the Herald to print. A few years ago they had dropped the "Glasgow"
from their masthead in an attempt to convince advertisers that their circulation
was UK-wide and massive. Now it seems we have irrefutable evidence that
they are simply not read--are irrelevant in fact--in huge areas of the country.
So let's look at the ITC's logic. With the Herald/Evening Times all we
had was an 'overlap', nothing to worry about there, Gus may have Mayfair
but Park Lane is just "overlapping". With their second decision on Grampian
they simply did not even consider the position of STV, never mind the Daily
Record, and put the accent on "local" papers. So the SMG empire is thus
insignificant in Scotland because of the existence of the Aberdeen Evening
Express. And what if the ITC conceded that they were significant? Wouldn't
it just be another "overlap?" Some people will be wondering how exactly
the ITC found out what everyone in Scotland watches and reads in the space
of a few weeks. Others will be wondering what are they waiting for? Gus
MacDonald to proclaim himself Lord of Hell and stamp 666(TM) on everyone's
forehead? Then the ITC will perhaps 'consider an enquiry'.
It was left to the Office of Fair
Trading to "scrutinise" the deal in terms of "competition." That too was
passed, although few people could come up with a single name as a competitor
of SMG, maybe someone is secretly running an independent TV station from
their bedroom, who knows? The deal was also completed before the Devolution
referendum. Thus Gus can argue, with a fairly straight face, that SMG is
not a monopoly in the context of the UK; when it comes to an "independent
Scotland", well what are people going to do--write to the papers?
Nearly everyone in Scotland watches
the TV or reads a paper and yet we are all in almost complete ignorance
of who owns and runs what we're watching and for what reasons. Meanwhile,
our nicely anaesthetized minds are being delivered to SMG's advertisers.
Although Gus MacDonald is fairly well-known, a huge part of the public
façade of SMG is this constant portrayal of him is as some kind
of "nice-guy socialist, people's champion." But it is hard to see what
they were all celebrating in that awards ceremony; other than the creation
of another mini-media mogul, say in the mould of Axel Caesar Springer who
controlled 40% of all West German newspapers, 80% of regional newspapers,
90% of Sunday newspapers, 50% of weekly periodicals and two thirds of the
papers bought in most big German cities. He was considered something of
a despot by the German left in the '60s, but these figures are not far
off MacDonald's. Springer was hated because he created an unrivaled nation-wide
political platform which he obviously used. The Labour party are very popular
in Scotland although most people believe them to be corrupt and of having
betrayed them systematically3.
It is a self-evident truth that the promotion of the Labour party in the
Scottish media has had a lot to do with their "popularity". The Daily Record
for instance openly aligns itself as a party paper and donates thousands
to the party.4
Editors may well assert their autonomy
in these situations, but they huddle together like sheep on the big issues.
Their collective viewpoint is increasingly based on a belief that vast
daily sales (largely to individuals whom they consider stupid) means mass
approval of what they offer. They see this as according them a political
mandate. While party politics are only one perhaps vague (in that the press
is biddable) influence on those who run the media: advertisers and shareholders
are another; and here we're talking the language of real politics: hard
cash. And the real language of newspapers is marketing: i.e. hard cash.
One of Gus MacDonald's letters (to
shareholders only) of the 9th of April stated that:
"Your Directors consider that employees
at all levels should be encouraged to identify their interests with those
of the Company's shareholders and that this objective can be furthered
by providing means for employees to become shareholders themselves."5
Is it not idiocy and bad business
practice that the editor of the Herald/Evening Times should identify his
interests with those of the Daily Record/Sunday Mail? "Yes", if they are
competing and "no", if they are working for the same ends. The "competition"
between them seems to be over: for is this not an instruction to ramify
the whole network?
Another point of this "objective"
is that SMG get back some of their employee's wages by acting like a bank.
Their employee's money is 'tied up' for three years and when optioned will
only pay out a limited dividend. But I am being all old socialist here.
Isn't Gus--our former shipyard fitter--not just being realistic in the Thatcher,
sorry Blair '90s? In fact isn't he just advocating a bit of profit sharing?
Sure, but he isn't sharing it with everyone. The next line in the letter
is straight out of Orwell:
"The proposed schemes are a sharesave
scheme and a profit sharing scheme (which will operate on an "all-employee"
basis) and two discretionary share option schemes for those key executives
who are most in a position to affect the fortunes of the Company."
For shit like this Gus MacDonald
gets an award?. The "Company scheme" has been "designed to be approved
by the Inland Revenue." The "Executive scheme" is completely "unapproved".
With this scheme the 'company' itself will decide "which individuals should
participate and the extent of their participation."
As ever the whole project must "satisfy
the guidelines of the institutional investors," the banks and other media
combines who own SMG6.
Graciously (only) the chairman will not participate. The scheme is patently
open to abuses of the worst kind, I would go as far to say it is abuse.
It seems designed as some form of carrot on a stick to socially engineer
SMG's employees towards cartoon levels of compliance and self censorship--one
day, Smithers you will get the key to the executive washroom. For the wealthy
it will create more wealth (an executive can invest four times their salary
in it). For others it must have seemed that SMG wanted their savings for
some kind of hidden agenda--and left them wondering what happens to my savings
if SMG's empire over-extends itself? It is too late for worries of that
And it is astonishing what is legal
these days. On January the 27th, a couple of months before Gus sent out
that letter, word got out that SMG planned to launch an issue of 200 million
fixed value bonds. Backed by the Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation
and UBS7. The net proceeds
of this issue would be used towards payment of a massive bank debt related
to SMG's acquisition of Southern Water and Manweb, two privatised utilities
supplying water and gas to the north of England, now only part owned by
Scottish Power. Could this be the same "advantageous share scheme" that
is being forced (the scheme if you remember operates on a "all-employee"
basis) upon SMG employees, who are already working harder for less money?
The average wage per year (as a
unit cost) has fallen like a stone: from £33,711 in '94 to £16,306
in '96. In the same period the profit per employee has gone up from £2,000
to £41,000. The return on the shareholders' funds has similarly jumped
from 4.37% to 67.11%. These figures relate to staff who have the impertinence
to request payment for their skills. Were it possible to take into account
those hopefuls who work for nothing, or on an expenses only basis, the
actual remuneration would plummet further.
But SMG workers have nothing to
fear, the people's champion is at hand. No, not Gus, but another old socialist:
Sir Gavin Henry Laird, board member of SMG and member of the Employment
Appeal Tribunal. Gavin has been looking after the worker's interests for
as long as anyone can remember, particularly in the big right-wing Union,
the AEU. Everyone must have wanted rid of him though, because he was kicked
upstairs till his fat arse landed on a seat on the board of the Bank of
England. The same year he joined STV, which seems to be acting like a bank
itself these days. Gavin also "works" for Britannia Life, an insurance
company, so it is unlikely that he is a big fan of the welfare state. He
also "works" for the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (who recently opted out
of the National Minimum Wage scheme) and GEC Scotland. So he decides what
soldiers get paid when they're getting killed by weapons sold to the enemy
by GEC. He also finds time to slave his guts out on the Edinburgh Investment
Trust where the top directors from The Securities Trust of Scotland, Flemings
Bank, Scottish Widows, Clydesdale Bank, Bank of Scotland and the Royal
Bank of Scotland, all pool their knowledge to make a killing on the Stock
Market8. So old Gavin
can be forgiven for not noticing what is happening to SMG employees. It
could also be that he knows fine well.
Aggrieved employees who for some
reason do not trust Gavin could try the Department of Trade and Industry
(DTI). They are a little busy right now, or at least they must be given
that they have been "working" on (some would say suppressing) the as yet
unpublished report on the £100m of profit that went missing when
that other old socialist, Robert Maxwell, did a bit of profit sharing himself.
The Mirror Group, who own the Daily Record/Sunday Mail who own 20% of SMG,
are technically still under investigation. Board members, such as Sir Robert
Clark, still sit on the same seats they used to when Maxwell was there.
As we all know nobody noticed a thing at the time, anyway nobody has been
found guilty of anything and that's the important thing. The hundred million
simply vanished. Nobody is overly worried about that DTI9
report because another old socialist, Helen Liddell, went from working
on the Daily Record to running the country in a few short months. She was
put into the Monklands constituency after the death of John Smith. Monklands
had more or less been designated a Labour Corruption Zone and some facts
were leaking out. As can be imagined the investigative journalism which
brought a lot of open secrets to light was done by one or two people on
a small local paper. The Daily Record did nothing. Liddell claims to have
been only remotely connected to Maxwell, but according to Private Eye 942:
"...she was renowned and feared
for her ruthless devotion to Cap'n Bob. Escorting him to a function in
Edinburgh City Chambers in 1988...she clung to him so closely that at one
point she even followed him into the gent's lavatory--a historic moment
that was recorded by a BBC TV documentary crew filming the event. In the
following two years she often accompanied Maxwell in his private plane
on trips abroad, including a sortie to Bulgaria to advise the new government
on how to run its elections. And in 1991 she was involved in the notorious
Mirror Group floatation, which was the subject of a DTI inquiry."
Oil, Polly Peck, Digital TV and
And what of Flextech, SMG's other
20% owner are they any more trustworthy? Although little known by the general
public they have grown to become the second largest provider of satellite
programmes in the UK: they are responsible for Playboy TV, UK Gold, Bravo,
Challenge TV (a game show channel) and a few other even worse channels.
Back in the early '90s they were an industrial holding company mostly engaged
in oil and gas services. Its companies mostly operated in the waters around
Cyprus, Norway and Malaysia, all sensitive military areas. Its deputy chairman
was Lawrence Tindale, chairman of countless off-shore Guernsey companies
and at the time also a director of Polly Peck International, the company
which crashed in 1990 at much the same time Maxwell went overboard. The
company was "supposedly making profits of £200m per year but collapsed
within weeks leaving shareholders with nothing and creditors who were owed
more than £1 billion with little more."10
Flextech moved into media in a big
way when they were taken over by the European business arm of TCI, the
biggest US cable TV operator, ultimately owned (35%) by United Artists,
the American multinational. The driving force behind the company is said
to be its chairman, Roger Luard, who is also on the board of SMG11.
One peculiar thing about Flextech is that although its shareprice has soared
since its early days, it has not made a profit in years. On the contrary
its accounts show it has made huge losses. It would seem that investors
are backing it on the strength of the United Artists connection and on
a promising deal with the BBC, which if you have ever paid your license
fee you have unknowingly contributed to yourself. Back in October '96 the
BBC chose Flextech as its 50/50 partner in the launch of an eight channel
subscription package using old BBC programmes. At one point the Mirror
Group's David Montgomery and Flextech's Adam Singer were in talks about
a joint venture with the big cable companies exploiting the BBC deal. Both
Singer and Montgomery are on the board of SMG, which is probably where
the planning began.
Flextech are also involved in the
chicanery that accompanied the licensing of terrestrial digital broadcasting.
It is predicted that digital will see pay-TV phase out the old analog transmissions.
The decisions were made last year but programmes will not start up till
later this year. At present preparation is in a "complete shambles". Two
competing consortia wanted the license from the ITC: British Digital Broadcasting
(BDB) who won, and Digital Terrestrial Network (DTN) who lost. A legal
challenge (by the losing consortium) ensued and the Office of Telecommunication
(Oftel) intervened, at first to advise that DTN was the better deal and
then to request the removal of BSkyB from the winning consortium. There
was nothing new in the winning bid, most of which is available on Sky.
What is on offer is primarily the Flextech/BBC package, indeed Roger Luard
of Flextech has been rumoured as a potential boss of BDB. Flextech's parent
TCI has also been involved with Microsoft to develop technology to enable
digital TV to link with the internet.
Although the ITC have on the surface
asked BSkyB to drop out of the BDB consortium (which is a 50/50 deal between
Granada and Carlton) Rupert Murdoch will not be shedding many tears. For
a start BSkyB are launching their own digital satellite system (threatening
some 200 channels) and they have been given the job of running the subscriber
management system for BDB, thus having contact with BDB customers. The
BSkyB company, News Datacom will still provide the encryption access and
it will not have to bear any of the start up costs. Most press reports
(in non-Murdoch newspapers) gave the impression that BSkyB had been written
out of the terrestrial deal thanks to the intervention of Oftel. On the
surface this is true, but Oftel have done nothing to 'regulate' on these
'hidden' involvements. But let us focus on the ITC
"Without detriment to programme
The ITC was formed to take over
from the IBA as a result of the White Paper Broadcasting in the '90s, written
in '89 by Douglas Hurd. This proposed a "radical reform of the TV framework
for broadcasting in the UK" for two principle identified reasons: "technological
and international developments"; and that the government wished "a much
wider range of programmes and types of broadcasting to be offered to viewers
and listeners." It was the usual Thatcher government lies about the free
market masking political patronage: "choice should be widened, competition
increased without detriment to programme standards and quality." Back in
1989 everyone was getting excited about Satellite TV. As Rupert Murdoch
himself said/lied: "Sky Television will bring competition, choice and quality
to British Television. The monopoly is broken ...television will begin
to develop the diversity it has lacked." Murdoch the "monopoly breaker".
Sky began with four channels: the flagship Sky Channel featured game shows,
including revivals of ITV shows such as the Sale of the Century and The
Price is Right, a magazine programme with Tony Blackburn and Jenny Handley,
an evening chat show hosted by Derek Jameson and American imports such
as the Lucy Show. Rupert has been a little bit slack in delivering the
The ITC have "requirements" from
ITV not regulations. These are that each franchise:
1 Show regional programmes (including
programmes produced in the region).
2 Show high quality news and current
affairs dealing with national and international news, in the main viewing
3 Provide a diverse programme schedule
calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests.
4 Ensure that a minimum of 25% of
original programming comes from independent producers.
5 Ensure that a proper proportion
of programme material is of EC origin.
Obviously it is all a bit of a joke.
They don't deal with monopolies, that is the province of the Monopolies
and Mergers commission which was set up rather late in 1973. The ITC just
hands out licenses, it's the government's bagman. The ITC also has "responsibilities"
concerning Satellite TV whereby "steps will be taken to ensure that the
programme content of all such satellite services is supervised." Presumably
Bravo's "Stripping Italian Housewives" is there to fulfill category five.
Bravo (which is run by Flextech) has as its motto "Swearing, Sex and Violence,"
perhaps category three comes into play there. Although the ITC has some
vague code on advertising and sponsorship the government made it plain
that they favoured "liberalising the present restrictions" and then chucked
in the usual nod and a wink pretend proviso: "provided the editorial independence
and transparency for the viewer are adequately protected." This probably
means that we have a right to know the identity of the "News Bunny." (which
is someone in a bunny suit who "reacts" to the "news" on L!ve TV).
The government was also pretending
that it was determined to "impose limits on concentration of ownership
and on excessive cross-media ownership, in order to keep the market open
for newcomers and to prevent any tendency towards uniformity or domination
by a few groups." That statement typifies what the media has become. The
original fifteen franchises have been absorbed into only four groups. Most
of the power has been concentrated into the hands of three men, Lord Hollick
at United News and Media, Micheal Green at Carlton and Gerry Robinson at
Granada, all of which are rampantly involved in cross-media ownership.
So who are the ITC, why are they constantly described as "watchdogs" and
whose interests are they protecting?
Lord Snooty and his pals
Sadly it is all a bit predictable,
but frightfully British! Sir Robin Biggam is the ringleader and gets £65,580
for failing us miserably. He makes more money in the (guess what) arms
trade, working as the director of British Aerospace. He is also a money
seller with Foreign and Colonial Investments12.
Next up is the Earl of Dalkeith (real name Richard Scott), who is the heir
to the title of the Duke of Buccleuch (there are only 24 Dukes and it rates
just under Royal Dukes, such as the Duke of Edinburgh). Mr Scott seems
to do nothing. He was on the board of Border TV for a year in '89, he was
on the old IBA and seems to have been accidentally left behind. He is also
on the Millennium Fund Commission. He gets £12,630.
As does the aptly named Micheal
Checkland. He used to be the Director General of the BBC and before that
also worked on (guess what) an arms company, Thorn Electronics. It was
Checkland who complied wholesale with the lunacies of Thatcher and supervised
the censorship of the eleven Republican and Loyalist groups. During his
tenure we also saw the censorship of Duncan Cambell's programme on Zircon,
where the Police actually raided the BBC, poisoning the air for future
investigative journalism. So much for category two of the ITC's "regulations".
It was Checkland who made the assertion back in 1990 that he "was keen
to work alongside the new TV channels as a programme provider," which was
put into practice in deals with British Satellite Broadcasting, paving
the way for the Flextech deal and the rampant commercialisation of the
But by far and away the most interesting
character on the ITC is Dr Micheal Shea who works for Caledonian Newspaper
Publishing, a subsidiary of Gus MacDonald's SMG. Shea has a long history
of duplicitous activity i.e. telling lies for a living. It is also transparently
obvious that he has intimate connections with the Secret Intelligence Service
(MI6). He joined the Foreign Office (which claims to oversee MI6) in 1963,
serving first in Ghana and then in Bonn in '66 where he was also seconded
to the Cabinet office, then Bucharest in '73, then New York in '76 where
he headed an outfit called "British Information Services"13.
He then became the Press Secretary of the Queen for ten years.
On the filthy lucre side of things
he sits on Scotland's premier Unit Trust, Murray International. Fellow
board members here include George Younger and Angus Grossart, the latter
being a recent ex-STV board member. The Grampian buy-out was put together
by Noble Grossart Merchant Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland , both run
by Grossart. Shea is an independent advisor to Grossart's wing of Arthur
Anderson, the second largest Insurance Broker in the World. Shea is also
the head of "political and government affairs" at Hanson plc. In between
finding time to eat, sleep and go to the lavatory he is on the boards of
Strathclyde University, the National Gallery, Edinburgh University and
Gordonstouns. He joined Caledonia in '93. Shea should not be on the board
of an "Independent" Commission; there should be an independent commission
watching Shea. The notion of characters like this being paid to lord it
over us, deciding what we see or do not see is repulsive and as stupid
as the belief that they are in any way "watchdogs" for the public good.
Even a scant look at their activities offers convincing evidence that they
do not give a toss for the public and consider themselves above and aristocratically
superior. But it is these people who control who gets the license to broadcast.
Despite all the smirking lies masquerading as legality of the White Paper,
the ITC are actively encouraging monopoly.
In 1990 when the ITC were set up,
15,000 people were employed in ITV. As the companies in the network rushed
to 'rationalise' in the run up to the franchise auction two years later,
the number fell to about 10,500. In 1996 according to the ITC's own figures,
the number fell to just over 8,200. The familiar pattern of mergers being
justified on the basis of cost-saving and resource-pooling will be of little
consolation to those skilled workers who were faced with the choice of
either becoming "freelance" (a euphemism for unemployed-but-waiting-in-the-wings)
or giving up altogether. The casualisation of the work-force has seen an
explosion in the activities of "independent" production companies--the "stars"
of the media all have their own and corner the market. With over 1,000
"indies" competing for work largely based in London, those freelancing
are forced to follow in the hope of picking up some scraps. An "anonymous
senior industry source", quoted by Jamie Doward in his Observer article
of September 28th '97 said: "One strength of the old system was its commitment
to regional programming. But the industry is in danger of moving away from
that." This observation contrasts with Gus MacDonald's patriotic optimism
of '93 when, in the STV annual report for '92, he made much of STV's "Scottishness"
claiming it as a major asset which would help ensure future success. His
robust confidence in Scotland's indigenous talent seems curious given that
in the following years he and the rest of the board have reduced the number
and wages of employees. In the accounts they seem to have doubled their
employees but this is only because of all the mergers.
In 1996 the ITV network had an income
of £2.2 billion, none of which came from license fees. It was generated
by advertising. Where do the advertisers get the money? From us, via the
products we buy. Hence, the actual cost per person for the right to have
advertisers in the livingroom becomes a matter of guesswork. An average
family shopping trolley will be full of products, all of which carry a
built-in cost to recover the promotion of the product. Banks Building Societies
and the big companies who simply have to tell us how nice they are, all
pass those advertising costs on to us. In effect we are all paying the
network to sell us what we have already bought. The more we buy it, the
more successful it becomes, the greater the need (and cost) for us to confirm
that we do indeed buy it. In other words, pay over the odds for it now,
pay again later.
The (digital) Revolution will
not be televised
In a country which has rejected
right-wing parliamentary politics so completely, it is essential to remember
that the non-parliamentary right are entrenched to such an extent that
they will always elude democratic attempts at change. They are simultaneously
a coherent and incoherent force in that they are both destructive or allied
to one another at any given time. The alliances in the media, even on this
scant evidence, reveal a complicity with big business with SMG branching
out to own privatised utilities. We must always remember that our local
independent Television Station provides us with an education, an outlook.
Consider the words of another Scotsman who worked his way up to the top
to become an award winning mogul:
"...Andrew Carnegie wrote eleven
essays called The Gospel of Wealth. In it he said that capitalism--free
enterprise--was stone cold dead in the United States. It had been killed
off by its own success. That men like himself, Mr. Morgan, and Mr. Rockefeller
now owned everything, they owned the government. Competition was impossible
unless they allowed it... Carnegie said that this was a very dangerous
situation, because eventually young people will become aware of this and
form clandestine organisations to work against it...Carnegie proposed that
men of wealth re-establish a synthetic free enterprise system (since the
real one was no longer possible) based on cradle to grave schooling. The
people who advanced most successfully in the schooling that was available
to everyone would be given licenses to lead profitable lives, they would
be given jobs and promotions and that a large part of the economy had to
be tied directly to schooling..."14
While this applies (indeed is an
antecedent) to compulsory education it also echos the illusion provided
by the media, particularly television which is akin to the notions behind
B. F. Skinner's "learning machines". As the creepy Skinner quote at the
beginning of the article suggests there are people out there who, through
rampant megalomania or some darkness of the mind, seek complete control.
MacDonald and Laird represent an extremely generous and tolerant form of
socialism, so much so that they can encompass its polar opposite. As for
their motives, well they have both gained vast amounts of money and power.
But they're trying too hard, they're trying now, to fool all of the people
all of the time.
Future developments in digital TV
should bring with them a feeling of optimism, access to TV. We must remember
that not every one has the ability or resources to even contemplate this
and that the power of TV is such that the Advertisers/distribution companies
and providers will move further toward a cartel. We will wait a long time
for the software which will provide everyone with TV station-like access
via the internet.
Scottish culture has been represented
on STV in perhaps the most insipid and erroneous ways imaginable. The arts
(whether literature, drama, music or art) have provided some differing
forms of "education" which has tried to counterbalance this situation.
We can wave goodbye to all that in a few years. TV culture ( the voice,
the agenda, the outlook, the people) has always been at a remove from the
reality and evidence of our senses. To understand why requires investigation
not just of the talent for impoverishment broadcast on the programmes,
but investigation of who is running the thing and why. It is seldom attempted.
Scottish Television has reduced
itself to news and sport: the news will have all the formality of the classroom,
sport, all the "freedom" of playtime. We will never be informed that the
news is manufactured or its agenda limited (for instance that by some co-incidence
the exact stories will appear on the other side), or the limitations of
that agenda. STV and now SMG has preached the big lie. And the big lie
is that there is a criminal underworld and an honest overworld and that
they do not interpenetrate. SMG's agenda is fast becoming one which serves
as a cover for the legalised crime which big business engages in every
MacDonald used to be an "investigative
reporter." What was it he found out back in the '70s that made him pretend
to promote free speech in Scotland while working for those who seek to
deny it to us? Perhaps he now feels free. as Skinner would put it; and
glad that he has been given such a "profitable license" as Carnegie would
1 Somewhere along the line the Chase
Manhattan Bank started acquiring more SMG shares, at the same time the
BBC Pension Trust sold theirs.
2 Glasgow Herald July 12
3 And they would be right.
4 This has been complicated slightly
by the attempts to weed out embarrassments among "old Labour" in Scotland,
whether through their corruption or left-wing views, and replace them with
Blairites (i.e. opportunists). This has been portrayed (read 'news managed')
particularly in the Herald, with allusions to a secret group called the
"Network" thus propelling it into the ambit of conspiracy theory. The purge
is real enough, but somewhat ineffectual.
5 SMG's main shareholders are Flextech
(19.95%), Daily Record/Sunday Mail (19.93%), FMR Corporation(7.38%), Chase
Nominees (5.31%), Mercury Asset Management (3.43%). Someone could fairly
easily buy up 40% of SMG which would be a controlling shareholding.
6 They of the Blue Arrow affair.
7 Directors of most Investment trusts
interpenetrate like this.
8 A kind of political ornament
9 Private Eye 808. It collapsed
when money was pumped in by bankers and shareholders, Private Eye 832 states
that a dealer who boosted Polly Peck ended up working for Mercury Asset
Management, who also own about 4% of SMG. Polly Pecks more famous director,
Asil Nadir ran off around May 93 in the wake of court charges, a secret
Scotland Yard investigation, all the Micheal Mates lunacy, connections
to Micheal Hesletine and with £440,000 of Polly Peck money ending
up in the Tory party coffers. A bit of a mess.
10 See Investors Chronicle May 30/97
for background on Luard and Flextech. The Observer of 15/3/98 sttes that
the Mirror Group and the Chase Manhattan Bank have been in close discussion
with Flextech's owners TCI, the Mirror group wants to join with them in
a Cable TV deal.
11 Probably the premium British
12 This more than likely had connections
to the IRD (the Foreign Office's black propaganda outfit) but I have no
13 An Interview with John Taylor
Gatto (Flatland No. 11)