On TV & Radio.

“Liberty” (2018)

This is a remarkable TV meditation on whether the African can be like, or even understand, the European, or vice versa. It makes a rather good and very sad case that they can't, or anyway that the aid system wasn't doing so in the 1980s. Both sides were too busy exploiting each other's many weaknesses. I write the following not least in case it tempts others to pitch in with their reading of the show. Read more...

Published

19 May 2019

Anne Lister & “Shirley” in business

There is a long tradition of women being successfull in farming, landowning and business. Here I look at Anne Lister (Gentleman Jack) and Charlotte Brontë's Shirley in that light. Read more...

Published

19 May 2019

Six brilliant TV proposals

I have made one rather feeble and unuccessful attempt to "sell" these ideas for TV shows. I would like to present, write, mentor or research any of them. But I don't really mind. It would be nice to see them on-air, whoever and however it happens. Read more...

Published

29 December 2017

BHS and capitalism’s moral compass

The BHS and Sports Direct sagas have raised the question: is UK capitalism in a uniquely scuzzy phase? I am inclined to say that it isn't but that anyway capitalism has many forms ranging from the decent to the near-criminal; from the paternalist to the devil-may-care.  The problem for society is how to regulate the intolerably bad bits without killing the vigour some quite dodgy chancers (none of those invoved in the sagas in question have been proved to be so) bring to the economic table. Read more...

Published

15 June 2016

The Battle of Jutland – getting the history right

This is an account of some issues surrounding the historiography of the Battle Jutland, including a critique of a BBC documentary on this enormous naval engagement. It refers especially to two important written sources dated 1921 (and 1986) and 1998. Read more...

Published

09 June 2016

“Scrap the BBC!” (2016) on BBC radio

This month saw the publication of the 2016 government White Paper on the BBC which as part of the 2016 Charter renewal process, will set the purposes, funding and governance of the state broadcaster for eleven years. I was wheeled out on Radio 5 Live and a couple of BBC Radio Scotland shows to defend my view that the BBC ought to be got rid of. Almost all the arguments I used in my book, "Scrap the BBC!": Ten years to set broadacsters free in 2007 seem germane now. The book's main fault was in supposing that by now, 2016, we would be further ahead in freeing ourselves of fear of losing the BBC. Indeed, the White Paper is at the very most merely a small step toward a reduced, let alone an abolished BBC. In one matter, the appetite to be rid of the flat, 12-month licence fee, I have better evidence than I did in 2007. It is an area, see below, in which I have a bit of a beef with Steve Hewlett, the country's leading media guru. Read more...

Published

17 May 2016

RDN on BBC Scotland: “Scrap the BBC!”

I had quite an interesting outing on BBC Radio Scotland's Call Kaye phone-in show on the BBC's charter review which begins in earnest today. I argued as usual for the "nuclear option" of getting rid of this antiquated institution. Read more...

Published

16 July 2015

Prof Cox, fusion and the wonder of risk

Brian Cox has already suggested that mankind is alone, and should celebrate the wonder of it.  But, as he is foremost in reminding us, we are also the shards of star-dust that have become conscious and clever. Indeed, in creating industrial scale fusion reactors, if we ever do, we will have succeeded in not merely imitating our sun, but have found how to deploy its forces. Read more...

Published

20 February 2015

Rory Stewart’s middling account of the Middleland

Rory Stewart, Tory MP for Penrith and the Border and previously a diplomat in some chronic "borderlands" (ex-Yugoslavia and Afghanistan) has given us a TV (and, I gather, a book) account of his love of what he calls the Middleland, between England and Scotland, which he now represents. It's exhilarating stuff, but is it tosh.....? Read more...

Published

16 April 2014

Brutalism: Big it up for Meades

Jonathan Meades is a vital figure, a sort of a Christopher Hitchens for architecture, with a dash of Ian Nairn, but considerable wallops of Suggsy, and a undertone of some late 18th Century person (wonderful to think it might be JM's admired Burke himself). I very much approve his appreciation of Brutalism, though I would go further and wider.... Read more...

Published

26 February 2014
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