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What are your kids watching?

In my usual stupor, this morning, before all the drugs in my constitutional cup of tea kick-started my ageing brain cells, I watched a snippet of the popular BBC children’s programme, Blue Peter.

This is a perennial of tax-funded British programming, imbibed with your mother’s milk, which delivers a twice-weekly compendium presented by a rotating set of three bright young things, who tour the world looking for informational opportunities for five to 15 year olds.

When I grew up with the programme these were the splendidly quirky John Noakes, the woodenly hip Peter Purves, and the prim but smouldering Lesley Judd. Ah, the things Lesley could do with a hot wet bucket of clay which would warm the confused cockles of a 12 year old boy.

So I watched this morning’s programme with interest. A fresh-faced pretty female presenter wandered around a cocoa plantation in Africa explaining the cocoa pod origins of chocolate production. ‘Fascinating,’ I thought. There was plenty of factual information and so far a distinct lack of anti-capitalist agitation. ‘What is wrong with the BBC, this morning?’ I wondered. Alas, I think the presenter could feel my disappointment at her failure to take a regressively tax-funded opportunity to try to brainwash British children into becoming politically correct. So just to make me happy she moved up into the BBC’s more usual anti-capitalistic gear. This is the essence of what she said next, in front of a group of happy smiling African children:

Now this cocoa farm worker, Mary, only has primitive tools [including a machete and a pole-handled knife] to collect her cocoa pods, which I do find puzzling, but she is happy because she belongs to a co-operative. All the workers here share the co-operative’s profits and are funded by the ‘Fair Trade’ organisation. This means that they have enough money to pay for a water pump and a school for their children. So please make sure that when you buy chocolate it is covered by the ‘Fair Trade’ logo, to help people like Mary, her family, and all the children you can see here.

Absolutely shameless. Leni Riefenstahl would have been proud of her. The subtext message is, of course, very clear:

Collectivism is good. Free markets are bad. Feel guilty if you buy free market chocolate.

At the end of this bright young thing’s piece to camera there was a big smile and then a ‘Fair Trade’ photo plug for their supported brands of chocolate. This was followed by words of hearty support from an even prettier himbo back in the studio. In fact it seems the Blue Peter report is part of a concerted BBC effort to help the ‘Fair Trade’ cocoa campaign. That I am coerced into funding this anti-capitalist rubbish is one thing, as hopefully being over 18 years of age I can make up my own mind about such matters, but broadcasting this anti-free market poison to five year olds is morally outrageous.

So just to preserve a smidgin of balance I thought I would try to improve on what the Blue Peter presenter said this morning, particularly as she seemed so genuinely puzzled as to why Mary had nothing more than iron age tools to cut down her cocoa pods:

Now this cocoa farm worker, Mary, only has primitive tools, such as her machete and a pole-handled knife, which at first I found puzzling until I thought about it. I then realised that Mary and her family are kept deliberately poor at a bare subsistence level by two different sets of collectivists. The first corrupt set of thieves are the tyrannical political classes in Africa who routinely steal from their governmentally-controlled populations, via taxation, import tariffs, and export license corruption, to help finance their personal purchases of Swiss gold and to fund their governmental purchases of arms, which they need to keep their own people down. This deprivation by taxation, inflation, and regulation, means that African farmers are never able to save enough re-investment capital to improve their farm production methods beyond subsistence or to increase their revenue to create better lives for themselves and their families. The second group of corrupt collectivists are the politicians in the protectionist blocs, like NAFTA and the EU, who do everything they can through taxation, subsidisation, and import controls, to increase food costs for their own populations and to protect their rent-seeking farmer clients. The resulting western tax revenue is used to give large numbers of these western parasites comfortable secured incomes and to help African tyrants buy even more western weapons systems to further suppress African people through the arms supply mechanism known in these parts as ‘international government aid’. So all you five year olds out there, if you really want to decrease poverty in Africa, always try to see beyond the immediately obvious problem and try to discover the underlying causative factors, which will almost always be some kind of government intervention. Free markets feed. Collectivism starves. And now back to the studio.

Now if the BBC were to broadcast that kind of propaganda, though only to adults of course, then even I would be willing to pay the BBC television license fee.

12 comments to What are your kids watching?

  • Julian Morrison

    Co-operatives and “fair trade” are plenty capitalist. The one is working for a cut of the take and a vote rather than a straight salary. The other is a charitable advertising gimmick. Just business as usual, folks.

  • Guy Herbert

    At least the wonderful Konnie Huq (who has a first in economics from Cambridge) wasn’t presenting the item.

  • Andy Duncan

    Hi Julian,

    Check out the BBC Children’s News piece, here, and its central theme:

    Campaigners for fair trade say big companies don’t pay a fair price for the cocoa beans and keep too much money from the chocolate they sell. Because so many people grow cocoa around the world, the companies can look for ages until they find the lowest price possible. They are able to offer much less money than the farmer wants for their crops because of the farmer doesn’t accept the price on offer, the companies will take their business somewhere else. Fair trade companies make sure they pay the farmers enough money to earn a living after covering all their costs.

    It’s business as usual alright, for the BBC. The usual business of condeming people, in front of impressionable children, for trying to make a profit by paying a market price. And the usual business of ignoring the market distorting reason why so many Third World people grow chocolate (and other tropical products), despite low market prices, because organisations like the EU block them from selling the much wider range of potentially more lucrative products which EU farmers produce, usually under heavy subsidy.

  • Julian Morrison

    Irony is, the lefties in the BBC would probably agree wholeheartedly with your condemnation of the EU’s tarriffs. Insular protectionism is no more socialist than it is libertarian. But they’d likely rule it out from Blue Peter as being explicitly partisan. By comparison, they wouldn’t understand that there was any political content in “merely pointing out facts” about market price.

  • Eamon Brennan


    Hah. Jenny Hanley any day.

  • Andy Duncan

    Hi Eamon,

    I suppose it just depends on whenever it was your voice broke. Here’s Lesley as I remember her, the saucy minx.

    Of course, there was always Peri from Dr Who.

    And just don’t get me started on Agnetha from Abba! 🙂

    Who’d have thought that one day an Internet would be invented, and they’d all have their own tribute pages? 😉

  • Nate

    To be fair Andy, co-ops are not anti-free-market.
    One of the more pleasant aspects of economic liberty is the ability of individuals to form institutionst to meet their needs. Sometimes these are for-profit ventures and other times, not.

    In Illinois, where I grew up, we have several farmer’s co-ops. Participation is *voluntary* and it allows farmers to pool resources for certain capital items (such as sprayers) and volume discounts/hedging on fuel.

    I don’t see anything wrong with that.

  • Andy, I have to admit that your choice of Dr. Who babe has its merits. However, it is well known that the Dr. Who babe is in fact Ace.

  • Verity

    No, Andy, even if the BBC followed your Blue Peter narrative, I still wouldn’t be prepared to pay for a licence fee. Taxing the airwaves is wrong.

  • Last week I wrote something about the way Children’s BBC parrot the anti-globo line, and in particular treat the FairTrade initiative as an unquestioned good, in a piece for the “Biased BBC” blog called Fair Trade 4 Kidz

    My particular “favourite” was a showcase article by two thirteen year olds which said that if you buy non FairTrade chocolate “it may have come from a cocoa farm where they use slaves. ” I don’t blame the kiddies for producing this piece of scaremongering – they are only kids – but I do blame the BBC editors who allowed it through.

  • Rob Read

    wot verity sed, (but more rambling and in worse english).

  • Amanda

    I’m doing a project on Political Correctness and Nanny State in Children’s’ Programming and I’d like to say your comments on Blue Peter have helped me very much, and by the way, I agree with what you said, Blue Peter is a means of brain washing children, and as a child I never liked the programe, the presenters seemed too fake for my liking. Again, I thank you for actually having an article on children programes that are politically correct, I’ve searched the internet and found nothing that says children’s’ programming is PC. *I bow to your website* you dont know how much you’ve helped my secondory research!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂