Saturday, August 18, 2007

BBC liberal bias? Give us a break.

Last night Politaholic settled in front of the ITN main evening news after a few beers and the first item was about the Redwood/Osborne report, and in particular the proposal to abolish inheritance tax. The report began: "As taxes come, they don't get much more unpopular than this one...". Even as I write the Conservative bloggers are angrily firing missives at ITN executies complaining of media bias. Yeah, right.
What are we to make of the claim of BBC "liberal bias"? My initial reaction is simply to laugh out loud. It is so ludicrous. But actually there are several distinct claims bound up in the allegation. In one way the BBC does have a liberal bias; and quite right too. If a racist or a homophobe is interviewed on the BBC the interviewer is likely to indicate his distaste for the views expressed. This seems to me reasonable: it is not the job of public service broadcasting to reflect back the basest and most vile prejudices of our socety without mediation.
But other aspects of the allegation are simply crazy. It is nonsense that the BBC is "anti-American". It is not even anti-Bush (which is not the same thing). What it has done is to report e.g. the rise in anti-war feeling in the USA, the criticisms of the Bush/Rumsfeld strategy within the US military, and the chaos in Iraq. Spokesmen for the Bush regime get plenty of airtime; but critics get some airtime too. So it is with Israel. For decades we have been bombarded with news reports which routinely refer to "Palestinian terrorists" and "Israeli peacekeepers", to "Palestinian extremism" and Israeli "heavy-handedness" (a particularly loathsome euphemism), to Palestinian "bombs" and Israeli "strikes". When Israel invades another country it is called an "incursion" (a word I have never seen used in another context). Israeli spokesmen are intervewed at length and generally with a great deal of deference. But the BBC will also report e.g. that Israel uses cluster bombs, that there were many civilian causalties in the attack on Lebanon. (Then again, some things go largely unreported e.g. we hear very little of the Shin Bet torture centres. And collusion between loyalist paramilitaries and British intelligence in "Northern Ireland" - well known at the time - went unreported for years. There are many other examples). What do the critics of the BBC "liberal bias" actually want? Do they want the BBC not to report these things? Not to report what Amnesty and Human Rights Watch say about Israeli actions? Not to interview anyone who doesn't parrot the Bush-line?
As for the claim that the BBC is anti-Tory that is simply stupid. As between the main parties (those within the political mainstream) the BBC seems pretty impartial to me. Showing Redwood miming the Welsh national anthem is dictated by news values not anti-Tory bias; it reminds the viewers who he is and places the story in some sort of context (I seem to remember that when Neil Kinnock nearly feel into the sea clutching Glyns that this was shown repeatedly, and we have seen Prescott's punch a few times). The row about the "sexed up" dossier hardly showed an anti-Conservative bias, although the BBC retreat showed deference to government (and fear for the licence fee).
As I say, between the main parties the BBC shows no bias that I can discern. Outside the mainstream it is a different matter. Not much has changed in this respect since the Bad News/More Bad News research carried out years ago. The BBC overall is pretty safe, conservative (with a small "c") and establishment; it is "liberal" in so far as it discourages racism and homophobia; it is pretty fair between the main parties; it is overly respectful to the powerful, but it does allow some dissenting voices to be heard (occasionally a Pilger or a Fisk is given air time), and will report at least some well-attested facts which discomfort the powers-that-be (such as the Israeli use of cluster bombs). Let's be clear. The concerted atack on the BBC for its so-called "liberal bias" is an attempt to muzzle criticism, stifle debate, and silence dissidence; it is authoriatian in its impulse. And the people who are launching this attack speak from the heart of the establishment: the Conservative Party and the Tory press (with Tory blogggers as cheerleaders). The BBC is far too conservative and establishment for me but it is not Fox News. And thank God for that.


Blogger Marc said...

The evidence of BBC bias, support for Islamists and anti American and Israeli bias is overwhelming.

3:43 pm  
Anonymous I.M. Small said...


When there was just a glimmer of a rumor of a charge
(Or evidence illegally obtained)
Then it was hunting season, as reporters sauntered large
Though decorous civility was strained--

Yet subsequent to Clinton other presidents it seems
Have had concealed rape charges that nobody
Raises amongst the press corps preferential weaving dreams,
Then too forgetting that war can be bloody.

Those making allegations--say of rape or of cocaine--
While unreported in the press have gone
To suicide conveniently--can anyone explain?
The public, blithely ignorant, goes on.

Why in one hand the allegation gets treated like fact,
Whilst in another utterly ignored?
Ah well, the world loves Clinton--weathering that was attacked--
But how much weather ought our race afford?

Perhaps what policy or what a man has done before--
Successful or a failure in his business--
Were best to be examined before opening one´s door
Relying not on hearsay borne of laziness.

The populace as never sinned a day in all its life
Has made a mountain from man´s little foible:
A man is wise who tells a little white lie to his wife,
As I learned that much from the Holy Bible!

4:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marc said...

The evidence of BBC bias, support for Islamists and anti American and Israeli bias is overwhelming.

There called MUSLIMS not islamists, stop listening to fox news and limbaugh because there the only people who call them by there wrong name,

2:01 pm  

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