Felicity Lawrence doesn’t understand what a market is

OK, she’s rather overplaying her hand here but fair enough:

But our habits have changed. The recession and prolonged squeeze on incomes has forced us all to remember prices rather more comprehensively. We don’t want the illusion of “choice” that 30-40,000 lines offer, especially when so many of them are just variations on the same theme of highly processed fats, sugars, and salt disguised by additives. We don’t want expensive, cosmetic but tasteless fruit and vegetable perfection. Supermarkets may offer 30-40% of their goods on promotion, but our budgets are limited: we can’t spend any more. Besides, we’ve clocked that their two-for-one offers have all too often disguised longer-term price rises.

Many of us have reverted to the common sense that we used to take with us when we shopped before we were seduced by their complex global supply chains. Strict shopping lists, far fewer impulse buys, smaller baskets of purchases, more frequent provisioning, more locally produced food. We have become, as the industry crudely describes it, promiscuous. Who needs any one grocery brand to define their social position? Much cheaper to shop as and when you need things, rather than fill a trolley with a week’s supplies, a fifth of which will go to waste. Far easier to click online and have shopping delivered than crawl through traffic, battle over parking, wander round aisles looking for products that are constantly moved to make us buy things we never intended to buy. We are unlikely to fall for that particular sell again.

Consumer tastes have changed, producers are having to alter their business models to accommodate this.

this is a colossal market failure.

Dear God the woman’s a cretin. In what manner is producers having to change their behaviour in order to accommodate changing consumer preferences a market failure?

It’s the fucking market in operation fer cryin’ out loud.

A key trigger to current disruption has been the decoupling of the usual relationship in recession between falling incomes and falling costs. When there’s a downturn, you would normally expect supermarket costs to fall too. Instead, driven by global commodity inflation and energy prices, they have been rising rapidly, just when incomes have been stagnating.

Umm, you don’t think the 25% or so devaluation of the pound had anything to do with it?

The supermarket model was built on cheap energy in an era of low oil prices that will never return.

Bit of a hostage to fortune that, isn’t it? After all, there’s a real possibility (possibility only) that we’re about to see a collapse of the oil price.

In a further blow, the internet has thrown up new competitors.

It’s a real market failure, isn’t it?

73 comments on “Felicity Lawrence doesn’t understand what a market is

  1. It doesn’t seem that long ago a trip to the grocers set you back fifty quid or so. Nowadays the bill’s in excess of a hundred and fifty; and whilst this includes the odd bottle of firewater, most of the supplies are staples, tins of tomatoes and boxes of tea bags. I shrug and pay up, but for a fair number of people (customers) this isn’t an option – and their shopping habits have changed. As you rightly say, supermarkets will adapt, as all businesses do.

  2. There are heroic amounts of The Guardian ‘We’ being deployed here.

    So whats she proposing then? A new Jersusalem of local shops, artisan this and that and 3 hour shopping times?

  3. Dan,

    “So whats she proposing then? A new Jersusalem of local shops, artisan this and that and 3 hour shopping times?”

    It would be *fascinating* to drop a female Guardian writer back in the 1960s and see them trying to balance up a job commuting to Fleet Street every day with having to queue up for some chops in the butcher 3 times a week.

  4. Like many Guardian contributors/journos, I imagine her to have regular dinner parties with like-minded intellectual friends at which matters of common current concern are discussed.

    And when I eavesdrop, all I can hear is bah, meh, moo, bleet etc.

  5. “It would be *fascinating* to drop a female Guardian writer back in the 1960s and see them trying to balance up a job commuting to Fleet Street every day with having to queue up for some chops in the butcher 3 times a week”

    And see her face at the prices relative to her income – around 25% of income was spent on food back then, vs around 10% now.

  6. It would be *fascinating* to drop a female Guardian writer back in the 1960s and see them trying to balance up a job commuting to Fleet Street every day with having to queue up for some chops in the butcher 3 times a week.

    Quite. As mentioned by someone t'other day, Local Shops have resolutely kept to old-timey 9-5 opening hours, thus excluding all those awful plebs who have to work during the day.

    It's the sheer fucking cheek that irks me about the supermarket crusaders - complaining that food is too cheap, and this, exclusively, from The Left.

  7. Ooh, don’t know what happened there. I decided to get adventurous with the the HTML tags. Should have read;

    Quite. As mentioned by someone t’other day, Local Shops have resolutely kept to old-timey 9-5 opening hours, thus excluding all those awful plebs who have to work during the day.

    It’s the sheer fucking cheek that irks me about the supermarket crusaders – complaining that food is too cheap, and this, exclusively, from The Left.

  8. All the problems she complains of–recession, rising prices etc–are creations of the very state whose arsehole she already inhabits and up which she schemes to drag the rest of us.

  9. If she did understand about markets she wouldn’t have a sinecure at the Tox Dadger, would she? Market forces, innit?

  10. The Left appear to believe two completely opposite ideas: (1) that food is too cheap (‘obesity’, blah blah) and too expensive (supermarkets, ‘market failure’, blah blah).

    No wonder they are all mad.

  11. Strange that supermarkets offer 30-40,000 lines when we don’t want them. You would think by now they would stop wasting their money.

  12. Delighted to see she is getting a breasting in the comments. This one sums it up:

    “Piffle, and you know it.”

  13. Rob, supermarkets need that many SKUs in order to seduce us with their complex supply chains.

    OMG, I think I’m in the thrall of a kumquat’s peregrinations.

  14. “Dear God the woman’s a cretin. ”

    I think it is an illuminating remark she makes. It is as if she expects markets to be perfect, and perhaps static, in expecting the big supermarkets to have changed before shopping habits sent them those signals.

    Is it an example of confirmation bias? If you hold markets to an unreasonable standard it makes everything look like ‘market failure’.

  15. “Delighted to see she is getting a beasting in the comments.”

    Yes, sometimes even the Grauniad reeders come through. Interesting to note most the ones who do agree all come from the same viewpoint “I don’t like or need this choice, therefore everyone else doesn’t like or need this choice”.

    Also, this is a classic example of a nostalgia-fest;

    “In the 1950s, my mother made a weekly trip to the Co-op where she handed in her shopping list to the manager. He had a nice chat with her while he totted up the list. She paid him. We went home and the shopping was delivered later that day”

    Christ almighty, you can almost hear the Hovis theme playing in the background.

  16. She doesn’t even know what a supermarket is. Surely Aldi and Lidl are supermarkets, just with a slightly different strategy?

  17. Much cheaper to shop as and when you need things, rather than fill a trolley with a week’s supplies, a fifth of which will go to waste.

    I keep seeing this “20%” waste figure. Where the fuck does it come from? I’ve been married twice and lived in three different continents, and no-one I’ve ever met throws out 20% of their weekly food supplies. Maybe it’s a Hampstead thing. I’d really like to see from where the Groan gets this figure.

  18. I have also been seduced by their complex global supply chains. There it is I admit it.

    Obviously our standard of living has risen tremendously since the 70’s, and the food we eat is very much more interesting and costs a lot less.

    But at what price to our souls I wonder?

  19. Thanks Dan

    A quick squiz of the pdf (103 pages) gives a total sample size of 1267 (319+948) and two periods of 7 days fieldwork. Pretty representative of the UK for sure /sarc.

    No figure of 20% avoidable waste to be found. Plenty of mention of tea leaves, coffee grounds, vegetable peelings and fruit core and skins.

    So it walks like a duck, smells like shit and it’s in the Groan. Just like CliSci then.

  20. Dan,

    ““In the 1950s, my mother made a weekly trip to the Co-op where she handed in her shopping list to the manager. He had a nice chat with her while he totted up the list. She paid him. We went home and the shopping was delivered later that day”

    Christ almighty, you can almost hear the Hovis theme playing in the background.”

    Today, I can get up, click a few buttons on a tablet, order the things I want and they turn up later. And unlike the 50s, I can get things like nectarines, couscous and filter coffee.

  21. Dan,

    ““In the 1950s, my mother made a weekly trip to the Co-op where she handed in her shopping list to the manager. He had a nice chat with her while he totted up the list. She paid him. We went home and the shopping was delivered later that day”

    Christ almighty, you can almost hear the Hovis theme playing in the background.”

    Unlike today, where I get out of bed, open up an app on my tablet, order some items and get them delivered later that day.

    Are people so lonely they need to talk to a shopkeeper?

  22. “In the 1950s, my mother made a weekly trip to the Co-op where she handed in her shopping list to the manager. He had a nice chat with her while he totted up the list. She paid him. We went home and the shopping was delivered later that ”

    Interesting that Guardian commenters now want women to be confined to the home again. Is this ideological volte-face a way of preparing themselves for their new Islamic overlords?

  23. “Are people so lonely they need to talk to a shopkeeper?”

    I don’t think its that exactly, it’s more the rose-tinted view of ‘Olden Days’ as this hallowed time where you would chat merrily with the jolly, red-faced local butcher and everyone knew their neighbours and no-one locked their doors and blah blah blah.

    It’s totally ludicrous and presumably a total fabrication ( I dunno, decades before my time). But it’s telling that this fictional view of the past has a very powerful pull for some. But it’s not how the modern world is, and some people just don’t want to live in the modern world – they’d rather live in a perpetual Hovis advert of their imagination.

  24. ‘It would be *fascinating* to drop a female Guardian writer back in the 1960s and see them trying to balance up a job commuting to Fleet Street every day with having to queue up for some chops in the butcher 3 times a week’.

    What’s the betting that Agata the au pair does the shopping for Miss Felicity?

  25. I think, like many, she gets confused as to the definition of “off-invoice”. It is a discount that appears on the invoice and is deducted from the invoiced price the customer pays.

    Rebates and other supplier payments that she is talking about are not off-invoice.

  26. She writes, “Far easier to click online and have shopping delivered ”
    – by a supermarket, perchance?

    I was under the impression that Ocado and Tesco’s delivery service aren’t really that profitable, but if ever they become so you can bet she’ll be railing against the soulessness of online delivery compared to the good old days of the supermarkets.

  27. Complex supply chains, eh? OK, let us simplify them. Local stuff only.

    Oh dear. No coffee. No tea. No pasta, rice. No exotic foreign spices. No French wine. No mung beans.

  28. At the risk of being apprently on the same side as DBC Spacebar, in a free market agreements like Resale Price Maintenance would be entirely legal. Prohibiting it is an anti-market regulation.

  29. Yes, Resale Price Maintenance was a contract between a manufacturer and retailers. Retailers were perfectly at liberty to sell own-brand products instead (M&S did, and so did the Co-Op).

  30. Stigler

    And unlike the 50s, I can get things like nectarines, couscous and filter coffee.

    True, but you would have been able in the 50s to get apples, porridge and (at least in Scotland) a bottle of camp coffee (complete with 100% non-PC label showing a smiling Indian coffee wallah bringing a tray to a seated kilted soldier). So life wasn’t too bad…..

  31. Bravefart,
    Camp Coffee was available in England as well. I’m by no means averse to making do when the need arises, but that rubbish was a step too far.

    How it would taste now, after 20+ years of actual-proper coffee, one dreads to think.

  32. Oh, and if you treat supermarket staff as normal humans, they’ll talk to you as well. Just like the jolly shopkeeper, only there’s more of them.

  33. Dan,

    “It’s totally ludicrous and presumably a total fabrication ( I dunno, decades before my time). ”

    it’s an exaggeration. I used to regularly go to a butcher until he shut a decade ago, and we’d have a chinwag as he worked. If no customers, we’d discuss some sport or something for a few minutes. If another customer was waiting, we wouldn’t.

  34. Other things I miss in the soulless present:

    1) Cars not starting between November and March
    2) That lovely internet dial-up noise
    3) Spam
    4) Traveller’s Fayre (British Rail)
    5) Hosepipe bans

  35. Good shout Jack.

    I also miss:

    1. Test cricket in black and white with only two cameras.
    2. Power cuts.
    3. Raincoats which made you sweat.
    4. Alleged ‘bitter’ in seven pint cans.
    5. The lines on VHS recordings.
    6. Rust on cars.
    7. Bicycles heavier than me.
    8. Having to keep 2p on me if I wanted to use a phone outside my house.
    9. Paraffin heaters.
    10. Maggie Thatcher (actually, I do miss Maggie a bit, and I was only 12 when she came to ‘power’).

  36. My mother used to use Camp coffee. Not to drink, of course, but as flavouring for coffee cake.

    Christ, the thought of returning to the 70’s, or even the 90’s. It’s traumatic enough going back three operating system versions on my Mac, let alone doing a Life on Mars. In fact if I contemplate the furthest back in time I’d be willing to go without wanting to slit my wrists pretty soon after arriving, it’s about 2010. I’d cheerfully jump forward to 2035 though.

  37. Jack/Interested,

    1. Queueing up in a travel agency, and then sit while they type all the things in I could do myself and charge me 20% for the privilege.
    2. Wet Sundays with nothing to do because Jesus wouldn’t allow shops and cinemas and pubs to open.
    3. non-servo brakes on cars
    4. driving miles and miles to see someone, only for me to arrive and find there was a problem.
    5. orange juice as a starter
    6. TV channels ruining movies with swearing in
    7. £300 flights to Brussels
    8. Having to go out and spend 20p a go playing video games
    9. Phone calls that were 4p/minute
    10. British Rail

  38. I miss:
    1) Cars that were clapped out at 80k miles
    2) Tools and equipment costing a fortune so that they were handed down from generation to generation.
    3) Calculators the size of house bricks, and costing a weeks wages
    4) Typewriters, running out of ribbon, and tippex.
    5) Nylon sheets, shirts, in fact every thing made out of pure nylon.
    6) Rotary telephones that constantly dialled the wrong number, so you got the phone calls meant for someone one digit off from your number.
    7) Crossed lines
    8) Strikes meaning your favourite comics disappeared off the newsagents shelves for months.
    9) Ice on the glass of water by your bed
    10) Draughty houses
    11) Plastic seats on cars that were freezing in cold weather and like lava on hot days.

  39. Gareth, ” It is as if she expects markets to be perfect, and perhaps static, in expecting the big supermarkets to have changed before shopping habits sent them those signals.”

    Nah, other way around I reckon. I think she believes human wants and needs are perfect hence static (just don’t mention smartphones, fondleslabs, the entire internet, globalisation of trade, etc, etc), but prone to being seduced by goldy looking supply chains or whatever she said. Therefore supermarkets could have perfected their offereings ages ago, and the fact that they haven’t is either market failure or something nefarious. QED.

  40. Gammon and pineapple as the epitome of exotic cuisine.

    The infamous salad- slice of cold tongue, limp lettuce leaf, slice of tinned beetroot.

    What cheese do you want, red or white?

    Blue Nun.

  41. So the past stinks–but I would gladly swap your creature comforts to see again all the people whom I loved in times past and who are now dead.

    And there were also fine things that no longer exist:

    *Kunzle Cakes
    *TV Shows that weren’t repeats, leftist propaganda or full of
    capering dickheads
    * Ghost stories for Christmas–they still do ’em but not so
    well as 71 to 76.

    There are plenty more but I don’t have all day right now.

  42. Mr Ecks,

    British TV is utterly shite nowadays. And I know people say that the Americans have got more money, but the BBC gets £5bn and can’t turn out a good drama or comedy series. Even when they throw a bit of money at something (like Peaky Blinders) it all goes in the production values rather than good writing.

  43. Things I actually do miss as per Mr Ecks – my granny, the sound of electric milk floats, Battle-Action comic, a time when 14 year olds could learn to shoot, fox hunting, beer pubs (there are some but far fewer), being a young mod (revivalist), not being jaded about stuff, having a Saturday job and earning cash money, my first dog, my dad being a young bloke.

    But then most of these things are inevitably lost and where they’re not they’ve been fucked up by politicians.

    I don’t miss:

    The old London Underground.
    VC10s.
    Cross country running.
    Brian Redhead.
    Tony Benn.
    Stamps and envelopes you had to lick.
    Newsprint that came off on your hands.
    Concrete minimalism done badly in all town centres.
    The idea that Pot Noodles were edible.
    The average male lifespan in the 1970s.
    Cassette tapes. CDs. Sony Walkmans.
    The ZX Spectrum.
    Coming from a well off family and steak still being regarded as something of a treat.
    Childhood leukaemia being a death sentence.
    Having to go to a bookshop to buy a book.

  44. Long, dreary days when it was raining outside, the only consumer electronics was a TV (showing the testcard), a record player and a transistor radio, so you read a book because there was fuck all else to do.

    People have simply forgotten just how much sheer boredom characterised the “good old days”.

  45. Things people don’t miss but I would actually bring back:
    The TV test card – have you actually seen daytime TV?
    VC 10s – class on wings
    ZX Spectrum – oh yes
    Cricket on TV

    Maybe it’s just me.

  46. Books were amongst the very best things about my childhood and superhero comics ( I still remember with nostalgia the Justice League/Justice Society team up to battle Professor Brainstorm renegade 30th century scientist).

    Some time ago–as a memory test–I set out to catalogue the books that influenced my childhood. Most of the titles are gone from my mind now so I will never be able to trace the books but I remember the content.
    * An historical account of the Gunpowder Plot.
    * An historical novel (by a female author I think) telling the story of Xenaphon and the Ten Thousand Greeks.
    * Cassel Caravel books about the Vikings, Conquistadores, The Russians, Alexander the Great and the Spanish Armada.
    * A book in the school library about military uniforms down the ages.
    *Weirdest of all a science fiction/fantasy novel where some astronauts went to Saturn. Their spaceship did not fly but was shaped like a giant steel bowler hat. The got inside with food and air, sealed the ports and dematerialised. They remained at absolute rest in relation to the universe so the Earth moved out from underneath them and they remained at absolute stillness until Saturn moved across space and occupied the space prev occupied by the Earth whereupon they promptly rematerialized. Saturn, rather than the gas giant we know turned out to have a solid and spongy surface and be inhabited by blue giants who threw lightening bolts at the travellers.

    Anyway IanB’s account of his boredom set me off on this ramble so blame him.

  47. @MrSauce

    The TV test card – have you actually seen daytime TV?

    I think the answer there is not to watch daytime TV.

    VC 10s – class on wings

    Not if you had to sit at the back and listen to the engines for six hours. Or if you lived under the flight path. Or if you wanted to watch an in flight movie. Or if you didn’t like orange nylon.

    ZX Spectrum – oh yes

    No. I mean, why? If you like programming, you can programme better on a modern PC. In terms of functionality there is no contest. I think this is a pose, much like those ‘comedians’ you’ve never heard of who pop up on those 100 Things About the 70s telly programmes and ‘reminisce’ about stuff that happened before they were born.

    Cricket on TV

    Cricket is still on TV. It’s also covered far more thoroughly than ever. I’m a reasonable player, or was, and I have watched it semi-religiously since the age of five. I learn a lot more watching the modern day coverage than I ever did watching the old BBC stuff.

    (I would scrap the following Sky commentators though: Gower, Botham, Holding, Lloyd, Strauss, Warne. Hussai and Atherton can stay and we’ll get some new blood in alongside.)

    @Mr Ecks sounds like we had a similar library.

  48. Interested

    1) test cricket not on TV, either because (a) England were overseas, or (2) it was Saturday, so the BBC switched to the 3.10 from Wincanton 15 minutes before the start of the race to show horses walking around in circles, or (c) it was 6.01pm, so bollocks to any play after 6pm.

    With the exception of Richie Benaud, test cricket on the BBC was good simply because the alternative was fuck all.

    God bless Sky TV with its ball-by-ball coverage of test series abroad – and not just England series either.

  49. The Stigler

    +100 for that. The BBC says it cannot afford to show cricket any more, but it gets c. £5bn per annum. I would be interested to know what Sky’s turnover is.

    The BBC can afford it, it just spends the cash on something else.

  50. Rob,

    > The BBC can afford it, it just spends the cash on something else.

    The BBC still shows bloody Hollywood films, for fuck’s sake. There used to be a public service justification for that: people who can’t get out to the cinema for whatever reason could still see the big fairly recent blockbusters on TV at home. But, when a DVD player costs £17 at Asda and DVDs are cheap, why the hell are the BBC still blowing millions on terrestrial broadcast rights, especially when their raison d’etre is that crass profit-driven studios such as every studio in Hollywood can’t produce quality like what a poll-tax-funded broadcaster can?

    Far too much of the way the BBC operates is force of habit.

  51. “Strange that supermarkets offer 30-40,000 lines when we don’t want them. You would think by now they would stop wasting their money.”

    This is back to Eoin and his coffee, isn’t it? I don’t want any choice, I just want them to stock exactly what I want and nothing else.

  52. Some of us are old enough to remember those halcyon days, pre-supermarket and pre-being able to afford fridges and freezers when we had the exclusive benefits of organic, local, seasonal food in little shops up and down the high street.

    Those were the days! One bought what there was, not what one wanted. One relished the monotony of the season, some years a glut, others a scarcity… weather, disease, pest.

    Prices were high, quality low with much fruit and veg rotting, bruised, worm riddled but all there was… take it or leave it. Open a tin of peas or peaches.

    The good old days. Who needs choice and supermarkets with their all year round supply, edible food, low prices, efficient storage and distribution and, damn it, competition. Do they not realise what a headache it is to choose these days where to shop and what to buy?

    I certainly would pay extra for little choice and little shops.

  53. One feature of the local greengrocer I remember was the “shows”. Those were the beautifully red, polished, neatly stacked apples, perfect cabbages, blemishless cauliflowers arrayed for the customer’s delight. The purchases were weighed & bagged out of the sight-line & revealed their bruised, ragged, mottled disappointment when you got them home.

  54. As a cricket fan I remember the good old days when the County Championship finished around the middle of Sept, and England weren’t on tour til November and cricket disappeared from the media entirely for about 2 months. Nothing in the press, nothing on the TV of course. Until finally there might be a small report on an England tour match in Rawalpindi, about 3 days after it actually happened. And you might get 20 seconds of grainy footage on the news at 10 of another England batting collapse from one of the Test matches.

    How we manage today with the wall to wall cricket every few days on TV, radio and online I’ll never know.

  55. “. . . fill a trolley with a week’s supplies, a fifth of which will go to waste.”

    This is what I’m not getting – how do you waste up to 20% of the food you buy just a week? You guys do have *refrigeration* over there, right? I lived in Italy from 1998-2002 and had a refrigerator.

  56. Actually I do miss cross-country running – if I was up to it I should be joining two or three of my elders and betters next Saturday.
    Other things I miss include the idea that when you are on holiday anything that happens is someone else’s responsibility, doing the job being more important than ticking boxes, plentiful cheap fish, kids being allowed to play football or cricket anywhere where they did no harm (the local cricket never turned a hair as long as you kept off the squares/hockey/rugby pitches in the winter), the confident assumption that council employees wanted to help people, the phrase “he’ll neither work nor want” being one of contempt rather than admiration, victims being allowed to hit back when attacked …
    What I do *not* miss are chilblains, dirty smoke from coal-fired trains and power stations, our neighbour looking embarrassed when asking if she could use our ‘phone (less than once a year), school food, PE,
    I’ll definitely go with “Childhood leukaemia being a death sentence.” – I barely knew the kid but he lived two doors away from my best friend and he was OK.
    However: “Coming from a well off family and steak still being regarded as something of a treat.” I came from a well-off family and I “still” regard it as a treat, which shows just how much richer we are now.

  57. > how do you waste up to 20% of the food you buy

    It’s a typical dodgy stat, as is obvious when you consider the impossibility of measuring such a thing. As someone mentioned further up the thread, it includes things like potato peel and coffee grounds — i.e., someone’s taken the statistic for “food waste” (which is measurable) and erroneously interpreted that as “wasted food”. I believe Gordon Brown got this particular ball rolling.

    And, even when it is perfectly good food being thrown away, the word “wasted” is still a hell of a hostage to fortune. Surely the reason we throw away a certain amount of food is standardised packaging sizes. As I go from having one toddler to two teenagers, what are the chances that the amount of baked beans my family eats at a meal can be divided by an exact number of tins every time? Pretty bloody small, obviously. So there’s usually going to be some left over, and often the leftovers will be too small an amount to be worth saving for another time. That food is thrown away (or given to the dogs, if they’ve been good), but I wouldn’t say it’s wasted, because of the question that lefties never ask: compared to what? How much do we all save in resources as a result of standardised sizes, standardised packages, etc? If we were to try and build the necessary infrastructure to enable people to purchase the exact amounts of each food that each individual actually needs, what would that cost us? A hell of a lot more than the saving in “wasted” food, obviously.

  58. And then I forgot to say, on top of all that, the figures for this “wasted” food come from what’s being collected by local authorities. Except they’re mostly using it these days, aren’t they? Turning it into fertiliser, among other things. So it’s still not being bloody wasted, is it?

  59. S2,

    “why the hell are the BBC still blowing millions on terrestrial broadcast rights, especially when their raison d’etre is that crass profit-driven studios such as every studio in Hollywood can’t produce quality like what a poll-tax-funded broadcaster can?”

    The trouble is that the BBC doesn’t really have a raison-d’etre any longer. It only really made sense when there was limited bandwidth and you needed at least one “quality” option (and you can argue that US TV was worse in that era).

    Once you’ve got hundreds of channels + internet TV, you don’t need intervention. The USA has shown that the TV market can produce high quality drama and TV without intervention and their best stuff destroys the best stuff this side of the channel.

  60. Stigler,

    I agree. But my point is that, even for those people who don’t agree and staunchly support the BBC and keep telling me that British TV would all go to hell without the BBC’s influence, there’s still no justification for the BBC to use any of its money to buy stuff from American studios. Yet they do, and there’s no outcry.

  61. (I would scrap the following Sky commentators though: Gower, Botham, Holding, Lloyd, Strauss, Warne.

    May I ask why? True, they can be annoying at times but Holding and Warne are very knowledgeable and I find Lloyd amusing. Strauss is improving too. Compared to the people the Australians put on…

  62. @The Stigler:

    The trouble is that the BBC doesn’t really have a raison-d’etre any longer.

    I’ve always thought that the BBC was the twentieth century’s replacement for the Church. It existed to propagate a more or less uniform idea of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour to communities that were originally quite distinct and might have undesirable traits. Stop people going to war with the next village, that sort of thing.

    I’d agree that it really isn’t clear why it’s needed now.

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