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Getting our EU TV quotas.

IN THE PAST decade British viewers have been enjoying a steady flow of European TV drama. It began with Spiral (Engrenages), an everyday tale of Parisian cops, villains, politicians and legal types that reinforced my prejudice that the French are at heart a bunch of thugs. That’s hardly what the Guardian had in mind when it claimed that this “armchair exposure to an unfamiliar world at the least lends understanding to the Europe in which we all live,“ any more than it leads to the knowledge that most doors in Sweden open outward, or that Sicily looks unfeasibly beautiful in the sunshine, but the Guardian exists in a special world of its own, so we shouldn’t take it seriously.

Since Spiral we’ve had programmes from Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Italy and Germany. All of which is fine because some of these series have been good. However, this didn’t come about because the broadcasters decided it would be a brave idea to import programmes from around Europe in the hope of entertaining their viewers. No, this happened because they were told to. And who told them? Take one guess.

YOU PROBABLY HAVEN’T heard of the Television Without Frontiers Directive (89/552/EEC, should you care to ask), and if you’re a British journalist you definitely won’t have. It’s just one more example of how the EU expands its power into every corner of our lives without us knowing about it or having any power to change it.

The relevant part of the directive is that which says, “Broadcasters must also reserve at least 10% of their transmission time or 10% of their programming budget for European works from independent producers (Article 5).”

How thoughtful of the EU to assume control of our broadcast networks, and how accommodating of our national government to hand them that power — and then to do their bidding.

How thoughtful of the EU to assume control of our broadcast networks, and how accommodating of our national government to hand them that power — and then to do their bidding. In this case you may say, well, it’s done something whose results you approve of. To which I’d respond, “So what?” I’d be quite happy to have missed these programmes if it meant not having a bunch of unelected foreigners telling our broadcasters what to do.

It’s worth bearing in mind the old adage of the occultists, “ut superius sicut inferius” (as above, so below), and adapt it to read, “as in small things, so in large ones” to apply to the legalistic theft of national power embodied in the European Union. Telling your broadcasters to allot 10% of their scheduling to certain types of programmes may seem small (it’s not, when you think about it, of course) but telling your government to privatise your railways and postal services, and accept as many immigrants as can make their way to your shores is not. You don’t get one without the other.

WHICH BRINGS ME to the upcoming EU referendum in Britain. Despite the fact that Cameron’s negotiations with our EU partners are a total sham which will have zero effect on the immigration figures, the vote will still go to the remain campaign. This will be a result of two things: inertia and ignorance. Whatever many people feel about the EU, the majority know absolutely nothing about it, how it works or what effects it has on daily life. The politicians and media, who are in most cases equally ignorant, have no intention of informing the electorate on this matter. That ignorance works to the benefit on the remain side. Inertia — indifference, apathy, call it what you will, even fear, will do the rest.

deutsch83I was reminded of of this when watching one of the latest Euro imports, Deutschland 83, set during a crucial period of the Cold War. There’s a character in it called Annett Schneider, who is the girlfriend of the hero, Martin. Martin, an East German soldier, is sent into West Germany to spy on NATO; Annett in the meantime moves in with his mother, Ingrid, to look after her, since she is unwell. She also has a fling with another man, Thomas, although she cools on him almost immediately.

Annett discovers there’s a basement in the house full of “forbidden” books and that Thomas borrows Ingrid’s Trabant, fills up the boot with these books and drives around to lend them secretly to other people. A kind of overground underground mobile library. Like a good East German citizen she informs on Thomas (and consequently Ingrid).

Annett represents the totally subservient, uncritical, unquestioning and naive citizen so beloved of the totalitarian state. Things are so much easier to run when people do as they’re told and don’t get any ideas. And there are different ways of achieving that, from the use of outright violence to subtler forms of control. Such as gaining power through legalistics means and allowing people to believe they’re free to choose how to live – as long as they do so within the ever tightening parameters of the state.

The writers of Deutschland 83, Anna Winger and Jórg Winger, were 19 and 20 respectively when the Berlin Wall came down, so they grew up with some knowledge of the Cold War. I wonder if they can see the irony that the future of Europe is now largely in the hands of an old comrade from East Germany, a committed supporter of a single European state whose political modus operandi is remarkably similar to that of the Soviet Union — but somehow I doubt it.


suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.

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