Follow the money


When the idea of a  united Ireland is put forward, the unionist response is usually based on hard-headed economics: who would want to be tied to the coat-tails of the south, so heavy with massive debt?  And who could blame them? The same applied to Scotland’s referendum: David Cameron and Co successfully persuaded the Scottish people that they’d pay a heavy financial price if they broke from the union. And in recent days, whatever about the outrage over “the bastards” and ‘the Trojan horse” and “Curry my yoghurt” and Gregory Campbell’s choice in toilet paper, people here were particularly irate when that hammer of justice, the BBC’s Spotlight, revealed that Sinn Féin MLAs had claimed almost £700,000 in expenses for research from a company run by the party’s finance managers. And just to be even-handed, the BBC revealed that £4, 355 was claimed in one year by the DUP’s Willie Hay for his constituency office’s heating oil  – the cost of heating his offices increased from £265 over a ten-year period.

Fear nor favour for no individual or party, then. We’re lucky to have Spotlight and Nolan and the other shows that peer into dark political corners on our behalf. That’s why I’m looking forward to a programme on Alan Yentob. In 2008, the BBC Creative director who at the time had a basic salary of £300,000, got £27,000 in expenses for stuff like a £120 cake, £125 to have the CD player in his car fixed, and £16,830 for “entertainment”,which included meals with celebrities and dinners for BBC staff. Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers Alliance at the time, said: “Licence fee payers will be dismayed by these incredible figures”. You said it, Matthew. They might even have reached for the b for bloody awful word.

Then there’s the case of the BBC’s Digital Initiative, which the Corporation said was really necessary. Here’s what Margaret Hodge, the Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts said about it last April:

“The BBC’s Digital Media Initiative was a complete failure. Licence fee payers paid nearly £100 million for this supposedly essential system but got virtually nothing in return”. Apparently the BBC told her Committee in 2011 that it was “an absolute essential to have”.In fact the BBC only ever used the Digital Media Inititiave to make one programme called, appropriately enough, ‘Bang Goes the Theory’.

What’s that you say, Virginia? At least the Beeb has laid bare the skullduggery of Sinn Féin and the DUP in money matters? Well, maybe. But I bet you hadn’t heard about the DMI fiasco that cost us £100 million. Or that nice Mr Yentob has or had a £3 million house in London and has a £2.5 million BBC pension.

Stand by for a Spotlight exposé on same any day now.

15 Responses to Follow the money

  1. paddykool November 28, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Well Jude, the Beeb has been getting a right old kicking this past while anyway …all those sex scandals behind their doors.There’s some truth in that whole digital changeover thing too. We all had to tweak our radios and televisions only to be told that we’d be watching repeats a bit more often in the future .As well as that the changeover caused me personally to lose any analogue channels from RTE and I had to start listening to local radio through my television because none of my old radios were worth a damn. All of this on the very day that apparently vinyl….the ultimate analogue sound ….is now making such a comeback with the public , that it is beginning to outsell cds…The world is moving back a step in time and we’re really no further ahead with content.i’m glad , of course , that we have programmes like Spotlight and I have to admit, that Nolan really does try to chase the crooks.I’m not so sure they’ll ever be tempted to bite the hand that feeds though!
    The thing matter how mad . bad or crooked the BBC is or was behind closed doors, , it is still head and shoulders the best broadcaster on the planet…faults and all.How much is that worth to us all?

    • Jude Collins November 28, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

      I half-agree with you, PK. I think the Beeb is superb outside the politics sphere. But like Time Magazine, if you’ve first-hand experience of the subject under analysis, your respect for the organ drops quite a few notches. I suppose that’s why it’s called the British Broadcasting Corporation…

      • Argenta November 28, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

        You seem a bit ambivalent on whether programmes like Spotlight are a good thing.Is it because Spotlight has dared to probe the financial arrangements of Sinn Fein?Few would disagree that the BBC was right to investigate the affairs of the former M L A Iris Robinson a few years ago.As I understand it , the programmes remit is to deal with topical matters in Ireland both North and South.Why would you expect it to deal with Alan Yentob?Can we assume that you will decline any future requests from B B C (N I) to appear on their programmes?!!

        • Jude Collins November 29, 2014 at 10:29 am #

          Ah dear, dear Argenta…You’re getting shockin’ predictable. To take your last question first – no I won’t be decline any future requests to appear – why would I cut off my nose to spite my face. On the other hand, I don’t intend to allow appearance or non-appearance to affect my comments. ‘Topical matters north and south’ – oh really? Check the record over the years and see how often programmes are made about the south. The link in this case is regarding the misuse of money. If you’re charging others with unnecessary expenses, it’s just a teensy bit daft to ignore the fact that your own organisation has wasted public money in such spectacular fashion. Or were the licence payers in the north exempt from paying the costs for Yentob et al?

          • giordanobruno November 29, 2014 at 10:44 am #

            So about that ambivalence mentioned by Argenta…you do welcome the exposure of the misuse of taxpayers money by the DUP and Sinn Fein, don’t you?
            I’m sure you are composing a scathing piece even now about this parcel of rogues.

          • Jude Collins November 29, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

            I don’t know why I waste my time responded to you – and Argenta – gio – maybe it’s because you make me laugh from time to time. As predictable as a pair of music-hall twins.Maybe you should send me a list of the things you’d like me to write about and I’ll try to think of something to do with it…

          • Argenta November 29, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

            I repeat my question.Is it because Spotlight has dared to probe the financial arrangements of Sinn Fein?Do you seriously expect a current affairs programme from N I to probe financial matters relating to Alan Yentob and digital media initiatives?We can speculate whether such a programme is ever likely to be made,but I’d imagine Panorama would be a more natural vehicle for such,rather than a regional one like Spotlight.

          • giordanobruno November 29, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

            Happy to amuse you.
            It just seems like the kind of story that might interest you. Local politicians, scandal , media involvement. I can’t think of any reason you would be avoiding it!
            Now I better get started on that list.

    • ben madigan November 28, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

      paddy –
      I’m not sure many Scottish independistas or devo max supporters would agree with you.
      One of their major complaints is BBC bias with reference to scottish news.
      They even had an “ask” for Scottish broadcasting in with the Smith Commission (got nowhere).
      Like Jude says it’s British Broadcasting – and it is what it says on the tin

      • paddykool November 29, 2014 at 11:36 am #

        Fair point, Ben .There’s always going to be an Establishment bias in there.I was thinking more of the quality of content , I suppose.

  2. Norma wilson November 28, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Maidin JUDE conas atá tú inniu.

    I hope you appreciate my effort Jude,

    In my Grand Mother’s time, she would have been born when Ireland was Ireland there was no divide, no border, just as she oft said, “the land of the Saints and Scholars”.
    She must have woke up one morning and the country was split. Fast forward two generations, this is how it looked when I was born, I had no contribution plus/ minus to the present day situation. Do I like it….don’t know anything else, when I go to Dublin, I like it, but it’s not home, it’s strange, it’s foreign, but yes I do like it, like Spain Portugal, Italy Germany , I go to England and I am glad to get home.
    As for the BBC I have issues with it, they don’t report things even handed on the ISRAEL/ Palestxxx Arab situation.
    Apart from all that things will work themselves out, maybe not in my life time, but they will be sorted. Not by any gunman or bomber, no that’s not how to bring two sides together, that just gets people’s hackles up.
    So on that note Dr Collins, I will bid you goodnight, and good luck.

  3. Perkin Warbeck November 28, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    700 thousand squids: a mollusc-loving dude would indeed need a fair-sized aquarium to feed this number of smelly shelly pets in, for shore.

    Ditto, a political party. Unless, of course, it’s a party of storm-weathering sleeveens who are used to trading in fishy commodities and whose name is designated in a language them wot is fluent in Billingsgate do not know.

    Those who are at the curry and yoghurt stage of the lingua franca-learning process will be fascinated to hear that the leprechaun for a squid is ‘mathair shuigh’. With a fada over the ‘u’. That would be, in the Q’s English: ‘mother sucker’. One looks forward to hearing this succulent phrase being mediated through the Gregorian chant on the sophisticated side of the Stormont benches..

    700 thousand squids: such a gargantuan sum. Almost, but not quite cigar enough to fill the wheelbarrows of a couple of RTE superstars to steer home at the fiscal year’s end. Hardly sufficient indeed to enable them to keep their Popeye-proportioned forearms even muscle-toned.

    Divide by four and you would just about but still not quite get the average slave wage of those broadcasters, further down the Donnybrook food chain, who are also squid-dependent upon the licence-paying knob twiddlers.

    And who is to say they are not worth every last plate of calamari. Thus, these watchdogs of the public are to be found in the high-end sea-food brain-friendly restaurants of the lower east end of Liffeyside, farfamed in former times for its cockles and mussels but now a-dead, a-dead oh.

    There they are to be seen, in restaurants with catchy names like ‘The Hull Truth’, ‘A Salt and Battery’ or ‘The Thin Plaice’ sinking their RTE teeth into the tentacles of their squids and washing it all down with the ink of the mollusc. The squid is a good food source for (one thinks) zinc, but is also high in copper. The latter was a particular necessity for RTE cheerleaders of the RUC in times past.

    Sometimes, one can have, perhaps, just too much of a good thing. Take the resident rotweiller of Morning Ireland today. Of late, it has been noticeable that his teeth have become a biteen on the rubbery side from his well known graw for the over-gnaw. Specially when the sleeveens of SF are in the studio.

    Thus, Cathal Mac Coille (for it is he !) donned his alter persona today, his latest in a number of: that of the Woodman. You recognise the advert currently running: ‘Get an earful of The Woodman on Morning Ireland: the one who can Axe the questions the others can’t.’

    It is as if, Perkie’s inner poetaster has noted, he had switched from the bow-wow to the bough:
    ‘Woodman, spare that Tree !
    Touch not a single bough
    In youth it sheltered me
    And I’ll protect it now’.

    Such was the quatrain which quivered through Perkie’s inner p. who is a sensitive soul, this morning. As the Great Acorn (GA) who has morphed with the passage of time into the Great Oak Tree (GOT which is short for GOTcha ! in redtop-speak), was the designated tree, chosen for the chop. By the Woodman who knows how to Axe the questions that de-mand to be Axed.

    P.i.p. need not have worried. For, alas, agus ochon, the dashing old blade of the Ax proved just as blunt as the old guillotine of yore which was first used to lob off the Giolla inconvenince of the surname. Over time an over indulgence by Giolla an Ghillitin (as the broadcaster of many sobriquets became known for a while) subsequently dulled the favourite French implement of the high-end hack as he chopped off his S.F. guests in mid-answer.

    Much knitting of brows from the Madame Defarges of Donnybrook D4, and scarcely concealed cackles of dissent from same was caused when Giolla an Ghillitin had to exchange le rasoir du Paris for an honest to goodness, no nonsense. made in Sheffield axe. The lumberjack was back: Paul Bunyan 2 was ready to step on a few (astutely selected) bunions.

    The, erm, interview this morning started at 8,21 on the dot and in a low-key fashion. Just low enough to gull a few senses into their false comfort zone. The topic was, as promised, ‘hooded men’. Not hoods, ‘hooded men’.

    Less whack, more whick.

    Unimportant enough stuff.’ Hoods’ it became apparent during the tame enough, range- finding opening minutes, are when the terrs don such headgear but when the Goody Two Boots of the BA do the donning for them, then they become mere ‘hooded men’.

    Something trivial to do with the Guv of the Free Southern Stateen bringing a case once more to Europe rhubarb, rhubrarb, rhubarb. On account of the Guv of the British Isles having opted, allegedly, for the ‘Higher Truthiness’ the first time around etc etc. The usual sleeveen guff.Gossamer material, in essence.

    Still more whick, less whack.

    And then, suddenly, without as much as a hint of a Green Alert Weather Warning, the Woodman got into his stride. As the topic changed, with the sacrosanct 8.30 news heads ticking remorselessly nearer on the studio clock, to the REAL DEAL biz of the ‘interview’. Beal, one might say, without the Blath.

    Tell me this, what exactly were Sinn Fein up to in the Dail yesterday?
    -Whack !
    Are you going to answer my question?
    -Whack !

    The sacrosanct 8.30 a.m. cut off came.
    Question answered. Question axed once again.
    -Whack ! Whack !
    The sacrosanct 8.30 a.m. cut off went.
    No news. No real news, ie. sports news.
    -Whack ! Whack! Whack!

    8.35 a.m. The news finally got read, the headline of which went as follows: the Woodman stretchered off, exhausted. Axe blunted beyond repair. Great Oak Tree still standing. Songbirds in its branches heard to chirrup:

    ‘Old tree ! the storm still brave !
    And, Woodman, leave the spot;
    While I’ve a hand to save,
    Thy Axe shall harm it not’.

    700 thousand squids: bills are beginning to mount in Donnybook D4. New set of canines, guillotine, fresh axe.

    Aoine Dhubh. Black Friday.

  4. Iolar November 28, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

    The Talking Twaddel Trophy

    This week’s award will be conferred on a cabal that articulated a problem with undetected drug aficionados. The full weight of the cabal was brought to bear on the plight of the police, poised to investigate the underlying cause of the sham fight in the Legislative Assembly.

    A recent seizure of cocaine valued at £2.5m, was flagged up in order to draw attention to the fact that “our province is being turned into a distribution hub for drug gangs” and the need to delegate full investigative powers to the National Crime Agency, given the current resource implications for the PSNI.

    The abuse of alcohol and other drugs is a complex international problem and requires an international multiagency response. The call to delegate full investigative powers to the National Crime Agency rings hollow given a reluctance to delegate full investigative powers into crimes by state sponsored agents.

  5. John November 29, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    I for one Jude would welcome a very inquisitive look – and an even deeper Public Accounts Committee look-see at how the Licence Fee payer’s money is being spent – i’d imagine Alan Yentob isn’t the only one putting in various extravagant multiple expenses claims – and i do have a lot of time for Margaret Hodge (when she gets her teeth into something – or somebody deserving, she’s a sight to behold. When the time arises, and she retires – the Committee will have lost a valuable member of its ‘Team’) – though that’s not to do Austin Mitchell a disservice – nearly, but not quite as fearsome.
    Plus, there’s a long VERY hard look required as to what’s been going on behind closed doors and such at the BBC over the last 4 Decades – one person obviously springs to mind (there’s actually a recording available on Youtube, where John Lydon – Johnny Rotten at the time – is interviewed (on BBC Radio) in 1978, saying that he’d like to kill Mr.S – “We all know what seedy goings-on he gets up to…….I expect this part will be cut” (And it was, recently resurfacing on YT – the interview being with Vivien Goldman, very well placed and redeemed in Punk Culture, then and now).
    It’s also steeped, still, in the ‘jobs for the boys’ culture – casting off female presenters when they reach a certain age (unlike the excellent Channel 4 News – who have Lindsey Hilsum as their International Affairs Correspondent)
    – And finally, in my view – it should be re-branded as the British Broadcasting Conservative channel. – besides the fact that Norma, who won’t let herself type the name of a Country, is also wrong in that respect. The BBC pro-Israeli bias was staggering.

    Finally Jude, i haven’t heard otherwise, neither am i sure whether he saw my final reply – but i do very much hope that Anthony Leipsing (i think i got his surname right there), took and accepted my last message (in the blog regarding to violence against women – Harry’s i believe) – in good faith and with meaning.

    i dtaca le,


  6. Pointis November 30, 2014 at 4:41 pm #


    The BBC are I believe biased in favour of the state with only a few programme producers standing tall and fighting to have the status quo challenged but at the same time I think there cannot be any party or organisation which is not open to scrutiny or challenge and that includes Sinn Fein.

    I think you will find that Sinn Fein have probably not broken any rules and have changed the practices under scrutiny over two years ago. What we are then dealing with are not current concerns but legacy issues which the public may see as seedy but which was widespread among politicians at Stormont (apart from Seamus Close of course).

    I would speculate that as the animosity between Sinn Fein and members of Dissident Organisations who were former members, further sours that there will be a whole lot more of this “no-holes-barred” tell-tailing and Sinn Fein are just going to have to grit their teeth and get on with it. Meanwhile Enda Kenny and the other circus seals, reprieved from a good clubbing, clap enthusiastically from the sidelines!