Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The disabled, Capital Gains Tax and the British media

In his seminal work “Manufacturing Consent”, Noam Chomsky wrote that the media in democracies mobilise support for the dominant special interests by “their choices, emphases and omissions”. 

With the benefit of that insight, it is remarkably easy to see how this actually happens in practice. Of course, it is only possible to do that if you have done some of your own investigations; obviously, you cannot simply rely on the media that you are critiquing.

Today’s Budget is a good example of the system in operation. Consider, for example, the media treatment this evening and tomorrow morning of two issues. These are the disgraceful and bullying treatment of the disabled and the slashing of Capital Gains Tax (CGT) from 28% to 20% (except on properties).

Last week the government forced through a measure - in the teeth of opposition from the Lords - to reduce the amount of the ESA benefit for some disabled people by £30 per week. 

In addition, in the Budget, it was announced that the severely disabled - some 640,000 - will have up to £150 per week deducted from their Personal Independence Payments for aids and appliances.

Meanwhile, the cut of CGT will mean a windfall for those who are rich enough to have capital and the richer they are the bigger the windfall.

On Twitter, many disabled people are expressing their fury and desperation. They feel bullied and victimised by this government. 

I blame the government but I also blame the media which makes choices in what it reports and what it emphasises and what it omits. I have no expectations of the bulk of the press, which is controlled by right-wing tax-dodging billionaires. 

I still believe, however, we are entitled to demand better of the BBC. It’s shop window - the Today programme and the TV and radio news - needs to fundamentally review how it makes its choices. The BBC has a duty to give the disabled a voice. 

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