Thursday, May 01, 2008

Why City Pay is So High (explained)

I will not deny it. I like the BBC, and rate the World Service rather highly. By comparison to most sources of "news" and information, I think them indispensable. In particular, I admire their critical analysis, general even-handedness (at least before tipping their hand), and their Jeremy Paxman, Tim Sebastian style of Hardtalk "in-yer-face" journalism that is not only scintillating to watch when successfully catching someone out, but socially necessary.

Even as devotee, I do not defend them categorically, and are disappointed when in American baseball parlance, they "swing and miss" such as they did this morning whilst reporting on the FT headline re: the BoE's report that The Worst is Over. Fortunately, for the economics team, it wasn't in regards to their analysis of the BoE report, or their subsequent evaluation of its findings. Rather it was in regards to a guest-speakers analysis regarding Mervyn King's (related) statements on financial sector compensation. The guest, a senior analyst at a well-regarded Banking Consultancy, mocked Mr King, (ok in my book) and defended pay levels (still within the bounds of reason) by positing that (now here is where you hold on to you seats) that the City MUST pay much higher salaries and bonuses (twice the UK national average) to its minions since (and here goes the incredulous dross) " one would want to work there otherwise...". And the BBC interviewer's response to this was ... "Oh yes right then...thank you very much....And in our next story...".

There are of course lots of [good??!?] or at least reasons why City pay is relatively high, but this Mr Consultant, isn't one of them. Not one of BBC's better journalistic days. Was it perchance a sunny spring morning in London today??!?


Anonymous said...

The BBC "even-handedness" - The BBC is more left-wing than any other media service. If by tipping their hand you mean content in their bias, then I have not seen that.

"Cassandra" said...

Anonymous said - "The BBC is more left-wing than any other media service.

To be correct, your statement should read: "The BBC is more left winf than any other commercial news organization IN THE USA...."

This of course is not setting the bar very "left" in the political continuum. Deutche Welle, Radio Nederland, heck even the CBC is typically on-message with the BBC on most things (Hi Charles!) and equally "unbiased" in relation to commercial news organizations, and this is before even mentioning print media where almost evereything globally outside the USA (which is not owned by Murdoch or Berlusconi) is closer to BBC objective reality than American commercial media.

Despite the leanings of Auntie's reporters, the editorial line is careful to examine all the sides of an issue before smirking, expressing disblief, or ending a story with a question that implies the reporters opinion or slant. Opposite viewpoints are represented as commentators on most issues all the time,. They employed David Frum as their USA election-night commentator, and didnt't the piss out of him at all and treated him with due respect. Can you really imagine FOX inviting Gore Vidal or Jimmy Carter to give his unimpeded opinions for several hours on election night?

Macro Man said...

1) The Beeb does have a pretty clear bias in certain issues, such as the treatment of a sensitive geopolitical situation a few time zones to the East.

2) It was a sunny London day, albeit with the obligatory rainshower mid-afternoon.

3) I personally work in the City because there is really no other job I am qualified to do where I can stand up and shout "F***!" at the top of my lungs, and no one bats an eye.

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with being left-wing?

"Cassandra" said...

MM - I cannot imagine you not being able to pick up rivetting, tying rebar, or floating concrete in short order, and I doubt any colleagues there would notice your vocabulary - at least on the monosyllabic tail.

As for Auntie Beeb's alledged slant towards the people who it has been said by Said to "..never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity..." (no typos there!), one man's bias is another man's objectivity.

Which leads me to anonymous question: "What is wrong with being left-wing?" While I have nothing against being left-wing, have myself obligatorily flirted in youth with Marx, Braverman, Marcuse etc., before carving out my own belief system, though am still left-of-the-centre by any American continuum, you would have to go to Mencius Moldbug's Blog to get a truly articulate answer. For my part, I simply like my information delivered "pure", with as much objective historical/factual background, and as little editorial slant as possible. And where objective reality is contentious (not in the Creationism sense but in the semitic peoples disagreement of "Who smited who, first", sense) introduction, discussion and debate and giving air to alternate realities is much preferred to O'Reilly or Coulter-ville.

Charles Butler said...

Hi Cass! Albert Hoffman died.

There is a certain, sometimes dreary, similarity between all western public broadcasting services - be it in news or programming, radio or telly. And all this irrespective of language. The tone of voice, the earnestness. They must, at some point have all gotten together to work out the template.

In any regard, the self servingly auto-defined right-left dichotomy is mighty hard to transfer intact across borders - especially, but not exclusively, if one of them happens to be the American. The US 'left' has, at best, an undecided relationship with a program as fundamentally red as national health care. But no right wing party in any other industrialized democracy is proposing its dismantling (to my knowledge). In other words, despite whatever they might be in their home countries, one is hard pressed to find a European right wing media outlet that is not to the left of the Dems in many respects.

I guess you already know it, but Frum's late sister, Linda, was one of those that made public broadcasting great. Family meals must have been a gas.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, make that 'David's mother, Barbara'. It's all becoming a little vague...


"Cassandra" said...

Charles, I spent my youth tuned-in to the Northern Service on the shortwaves. Pretty uncool with the opposite sex, but always edifying.

I recall his apppearance on Election night. Frum was glum. Frum was very glum. And it was a shame since he is usually passionate and animated, even if I rarely agree with him.

Anonymous said...

Cassandra - America's media has been left of the political spectrum for decades until Fox News filled a void and sated a market demand (as its industry-leading ratings will verify). For an objective expose on this see Bernard Goldberg's Bias, from a former liberal and CBS exec for decades. If we are to compare political specturms internationally, I would classify media outlets as conservative as any that withhold and exploit information for benefit of the status quo. The People's Daily comes to mind even though China is a "communist" country. Thus, it's difficult to compare political spectrums but one thing to me that is clear is American media has long been left of centre and mainstream Western European media left of that. The BBC is the paragon of this left-wing bias and is unquestionably left of centre

"Cassandra" said...

Last Anonymous,
This is a debate that neither of will conclusively convince the other.

But I will try my best to show you the error of your ways. If you discount the range of the political spectrums in the rest of world, and use America as your base political continuum, and from there shoe-horn the rest of the world into a Yankee-centric compass, then you would be correct in placing Americans blue states left and red states right of the center (and euros left of blue). If however, you develop an international political compass on the basis of nuances of political systems and beliefs around the world and in history, like this then Charles Butler's comment is more correct, and you are wrong, for the centrepoint (or origin) of such an international compass
with traditional left vs. right on the horizontal axis and libertarian to authoritarian running north to south, is probably Jimmy Carter, with the CBC (and probably the BBC) also being pretty close to such an ideological center. Essentially, your definition is the problem for the space is two-dimensional with your definition (of witholding information for blah blah) being more a byproduct of authoritarianism, be it of the left or of the right.

Anonymous said...

Would that two dimensions were to do it justice. I get dizzy trying to count them.

Among the inherent problems with the split is that it is self-defined by the participants. A person who considers himself 'left' defines the enemy as 'right' (and V.V.) and the thus pigeonholed party is more than happy to accept the assessment. The problem is that this relative reference has been taken as an absolute for a century and a half, during which the reality of both sides has been unrecognizably transformed.

One ends up with some very odd alignments as a consequence. The post-war 'left' wing policy of respect and privileges for minority groups, in Spain for example, produces political parties like CIU in Cataluña and the PNV in the Basque Country as the post-Franco, anti-authoritarian, references for regonalism in their respective territories. Both though, in their local contexts, are parties of the 'right' and not of the ideological 'left'. This is to say that, were either region to become independent, these two parties would be 'right' wing in those states. But on a national level they label Spanish centralists as 'right', and the more accommodating socialist governments become their friends and themselves lefties of convenience within the context.

If you want to mix it up more, throw republicans (left) and monarchists (right) into the mash. Or ETA - whose political role model is probably Denver Hoxha (or King Zog).

This kind of stuff does not get across borders, although the labels somehow insist on there being a kind of homogeneity.


"Cassandra" said...


Agreed it is simplistic by definition, the two dimensions only marginally better than one, but for the purpose of sparring with LastAnonymous, still better (as in more descriptive). One of course should insert a third dimension in there (economic orientation), or any number additional of vectors.

Systematically ruminating on precisely this, Amin Malouf has a lovely readable extended essay "In the Name of Identity" argues/suggests that "identity" is (1) very complex and multifaceted, (2)constantly changing over time and (3) stochastic in relation to who, where and under what conditions its being examined. This makes the all simple left/right secular/fundamentalist schisms pathetically wanting. And who better to tackle such an issue than a Lebanese catholic arab humanist who's expatriated from his homeland and now writes in french and lives in france...