24 July 2009.
For immediate release.

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Road Pricing Supporters Given Easy Ride by BBC
Radio 4 Today Programme Distorts Transcom Report
This morning's BBC Radio 4 coverage presented the Transcom report on taxation of road users as an attack on Government "dragging its feet" on road pricing. The real thrust of the report, calling for fair and proportional taxation of drivers and an end to the blackmailing of local authorities by tying TIF funding to road pricing schemes, was largely ignored.
 
Louise Ellman MP, Chair of Transcom, was interviewed at 07:15, with road pricing as the only subject on the agenda. Later on, at 07:50, a broadcast from Cambridge showed that the local chamber of commerce were completely against road pricing, with the Council representative sitting firmly on the fence.
 
Then it was back to the studio for an interview with road pricing fan Prof. Stephen Glaister, who was very happy to accede to the interviewer's line that the public opposition to road pricing was all down to the failure of spin doctors to explain it properly. A new clip of Louise Ellman was then played, where she suggested "voluntary" road pricing in exchange for reduced VED and fuel duty.
 
“It is disturbing that the BBC allows the likes of Glaister to insult the intelligence of both the public and anti road pricing campaigners without any critical questioning, and without any balancing arguments from his opponents,” said ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries. “Those pushing road pricing are just being allowed to duck the arguments against their schemes, which is exactly what they want. Louise Ellman's suggestion of swapping fuel tax for road pricing on a voluntary basis is clearly unworkable, yet she was unchallenged by the BBC on this risible point. Perhaps ‘voluntary’ will work like ID cards, where you won't get a passport if you don't ‘volunteer’ .”
 
John Bridge of the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce did a good job of exposing the blackmail of the Transport Innovation Fund, where provision of Government funds for transport projects are tied to local road pricing schemes.
 
Graham Hughes, of Cambridgeshire County Council, equivocated throughout the interview and did not commit himself to supporting road pricing, describing it as "one of a number of options".
 
Prof Stephen Glaister trotted out a number of very weak arguments for road pricing, none of which the BBC saw fit to challenge or even question. 'If you don't charge, you don't get sensible usage patterns' is an old chestnut that fails to recognise that:
 
1 Fuel duty means you are charged per mile — a fact recognized as the fairest way to raise tax in this very Transcom report.
 
2 Congestion imposes its own "charge" for travelling at peak times — if people could avoid this, they would.
 
Apparently, the problem was that the government hadn't explained itself well, and pay-as-you-drive road pricing would 'restore trust'.
 
“Make no mistake — road pricing is still very much on the agenda,” said ABD Chairman Brian Gregory. “And the government still believes it can soften up the public with spin and pseudo intellectual drivel to the point where those opposing it lose the will to live. Sadly, the only place this has worked appears to be the headquarters of BBC Radio 4!”

 
 
NOTES FOR EDITORS
 
The BBC Statement of Promises in 1997/8 committed to 'ensure that interviews are rigorous but courteous - testing all opinions fairly with appropriately forceful questions'.
 
The BBC set itself the following Producers' Guidelines on interviews in 1999.
 
* Evasion should be exposed. This should be done coolly and politely
 
* ....academics and journalists from other organisations should not automatically be assumed to be impartial. It should be made clear to the audience if they are associated with a particular standpoint.
 
* Anyone expressing contentious views during an interview must be rigorously tested. People in power and those seeking it, or those who advocate or criticise policies must be approached with a broad consistency of tone. When a testing interview becomes charged, the emotion should come from the interviewee, not from the interviewer. BBC interviewers should not appear to be sympathetic to a particular position if that position is controversial. They should appear searching, sharp, sceptical, informed - but not partial, discourteous or emotionally attached to one side of an argument. They should avoid impressions of bias through tone and inflexion or through careless wording. The BBC should be known for a dispassionate approach to contentious issues.
 
 
 
Notes for Editors about the ABD