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Hi, this is Gerry, and this is my News Digest for Thursday 29th March, 2018. We’re a day early this time because of the Easter holiday. On today’s show I’m going to talk about the way that the BBC is funded  in the UK and how that compares with your system for funding Swiss television. Then I’m going to talk about two newish  English expressions for referring to time. And I’m going to finish with a very brief word about the never-ending Brexit story.
I was interested to read about the Billag referendum you had recently in Switzerland. And my PodClub colleague, Nora, also spoke about it a couple of weeks ago in her show “Zukker im Leben”. The equivalent to Billag in the UK is our television licensing system. If you want to watch live television in the UK using any kind of receiver  you have to buy a TV licence, and that will cost you £147 per year at the moment. The fee  is collected by the BBC, and it’s the BBC that keeps the money to pay for its television and radio services. The BBC carries no advertising, and the licence fee money represents about three-quarters of its income. The government sets  the fee in negotiation with the BBC.
The BBC is the biggest broadcaster  in the UK with a range of TV channels, radio stations and a huge website. The second biggest “free” television broadcaster is the ITV network. This is privately owned and commercially run. Then there’s the Channel Four group of channels. Channel Four is publicly owned but commercially funded. Channel 5 is another private network, and then there are some smaller operators. There’ve always been people who complain that they have to buy a TV licence even if they don’t want to watch the BBC, but the whole system is looking increasingly out of date because more and more people don’t watch any live television. They use streaming  services, watching programmes at times that suit them and not at the times that the broadcaster chooses to transmit  them. It’s now possible to get out of paying for the TV licence by declaring that you do not watch any live television, and this is a real threat  to the future funding of the BBC.
The BBC is governed  by its Royal Charter. This is a sort of contract that controls what it does and how it operates, and it defines its relationship with its government minister, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The Charter was renewed  last year and will be due for renewal next in ten years. The sort of debate that you’ve just had in Switzerland about public service media is very familiar to us here. The objections are basically the same: people are being forced to pay for something that perhaps they don’t want, and their needs would be better served  by a free market. The arguments in favour of the BBC are a bit different from those in favour of the Swiss national broadcasting service. It’s perhaps less a matter of national identity. Here maybe it’s more to do with objective reporting and unbiased  news. We look at the news channels in the US, which seem increasingly to present the news with a particular bias.
Language is constantly changing as we all know and from time to time I like to draw your attention to new expressions that have come into English. The two that I’ve got for you today both concern time – ways we have of referring to the future and the past. Let’s start with the future. For some reason nobody uses the expression “in the future” any longer when they are talking about future plans. This is true at least for people being interviewed on radio and television. What they say instead is “going forward”, or sometimes “moving forward”. The CEO  of a company will say things like “Our sales figures for this year were good but going forward we need to reduce our costs.” Or a football manager will say “We’re happy to win today but going forward I’ll be asking the owners to support me in strengthening the squad .” The expression “going forward” suggests development. I think that’s one of the reasons why people like the expression – it sounds dynamic – it suggests progress – but at the same time it’s very vague. No specific time frame needs to be mentioned. Very useful for politicians and other people who don’t wish to be tied down .
Now here’s an example of the expression relating to the past, Instead of saying “in 2008” people now say “back in 2008”. We used to use the word “back” like this for special emphasis. We might have said: “back in the Middle Ages” if we wanted to suggest that it was a long time ago. But now it’s as though people are not sure that everybody will understand that 2008 is actually in the past. It’s tautological – an unnecessary repetition of something. I’m not sure why people have begun to say this but I hear it all the time.
And here’s one more new word for you. Mrs May used it in a topical  joke at the expense of  Mr Corbyn in Parliament recently. Once a week the Prime Minister has to come to Parliament and face questions about her performance. Most of the questions are put by the Leader of the Opposition – that’s Mr Corbyn at the moment. A few weeks ago it was International Women’s Day but also the day that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia came to visit London. Mr Corbyn wanted to criticise the British government’s friendly reception for an autocratic ruler in a country where women have few rights. So, he started by telling the Prime Minister that it was International Women’s Day and then went on to make his point about Saudi Arabia. Mrs May immediately replied by saying: “I thank my Right Honourable friend for informing me about International Women’s Day. I think that’s what’s called ‘mansplaining’.” This was followed by lots of laughter and cheering  from her supporters. Do you know the word “mansplaining”? It’s a feminist term to describe the pedantic  way men explain things to women as though they know nothing. But I’d better watch out . Perhaps I’ll be criticised for that, too!
The story that’s in the news almost daily here is Brexit, although for the rest of the EU and countries like Switzerland, I imagine it’s not such a hot topic . There are thousands of people working for our government on this, but what do ordinary people think? It’s difficult to say. According to opinion polls, very few people have actually changed their mind on the issue. If the referendum were run again people would vote the same way except that it looks as if there might be a sufficient number of young people who didn’t vote last time but who would vote to remain in the EU. Had they voted  last time, this might have swung  the result. The Irish border question is one that could still cause huge problems. There are real fears of the sectarian conflict reigniting . And nobody’s talking about Gibraltar. The Gibraltarians voted something like 95% in favour of remaining in the EU, but they would probably also vote heavily in favour of remaining a British territory. We’re all waiting to see what our parliament will finally agree to.
And that’s it for today. To comment on my stories, please write via the PodClub website (podclub.ch) or on Twitter under the address @Gerrypod. And don’t forget the PodClub app with its extra features. I’ll be back with my next News Digest on April 27th. Till then, take care!