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John Naughton

John Naughton is a lecturer in systems at the Open University. He is preparing a dictionary of systems.

Diary: On the Future of the BBC

John Naughton, 17 December 1992

The notion that the BBC is independent of the government of the day is one of those quaint constitutional myths by which Britain is governed, like the doctrine of ministerial accountability or the notion that no tawdry political thought ever crosses the mind of the Attorney-General. It is true that the Home Secretary (or, nowadays, the Heritage Secretary) does not park his tanks on the Director General’s lawn. But then he doesn’t need to. After all, the government chooses the Governors of the BBC and, through the licence fee, sets its income. If things get rough then the Special Branch can always be sent in (as they were during the Zircon affair). There is also the clause in the BBC’s licence which gives the Home Secretary the power to march in and take possession of all or any of the BBC’s ‘stations, offices and works’ if he thinks an emergency has arisen. These things apart, the BBC is completely independent.

Real Thing

John Naughton, 24 November 1988

Some years ago, during an American Presidential election, rumours began to circulate that Senator Edward Kennedy was again thinking of running for the Democratic nomination. A young reporter had the idea of asking ex-President Nixon for his views on this development. ‘If Teddy Kennedy is serious,’ Nixon is alleged to have replied, ‘then the first thing he should do is lose thirty pounds.’ In a country where Presidential politics have been turned into an adjunct of show-business, it is unlikely that any overweight person will ever again be elected to the White House. A necessary (if not sufficient) condition for electoral success nowadays is that one should ‘come over well’ on television. And fat people, by and large and on the average, do not.

Why the Green Revolution failed

John Naughton, 18 December 1980

Consider an English domestic gardener troubled by a most common affliction: the depredations of the caterpillars of the cabbage-white butterfly (Pieris rapae) as they chomp their way through the leaves of his cabbage plants. Much incensed by this, he has resort to proprietary brands of chemical insecticide available to him courtesy of Messrs Shell, ICI, Fisons et al. Application of this ‘technological fix’ yields eminently satisfactory results. The caterpillars are decimated, the plants restored to former glory.

Thinking the unthinkable

John Naughton, 4 September 1980

The Western powers and the USSR started by producing and stockpiling nuclear weapons as a deterrent to general war. The idea seemed simple enough. Because of the enormous amount of destruction that could be wreaked by a single nuclear explosion, the idea was that both sides in what we still see as an East-West conflict would be deterred from taking any aggressive action which might endanger the vital interests of the other.

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