Star comment: Debunking BBC myths
I seem to have upset a couple of applecarts by questioning the myth of ‘left-wing bias’ in the BBC, which somehow survives real-world evidence like the revolving door between the Beeb and the Conservative Party, with yet another BBC journalist joining Theresa May’s team in the last few weeks.
Keith Jones blithely says that he never thought of looking for evidence of bias, which he thought was universally known, in a programme which he never watches. Duh?
M Gough seems determined to take offence at my perfectly normal practice of citing authors by surname. By a happy coincidence, just across the page, Peter Rhodes helpfully refers to an incident which points up the problem with honorifics: the attack on Professor Mary Beard. She can safely be called Beard, or either or both of the other words may be stuck in front of her surname. However, Beard took umbrage – and others took it on her behalf – when some of those disagreeing with her called her ‘Ms Beard’. She has been Prof. Beard since 2004 and Dr Beard since 1982. Using the wrong honorific can be construed as an insult.
M Gough says that if I were honest – a thinly veiled accusation of dishonesty – I would ‘admit’ there was BBC bias in the lead-up to the general election. Duh again? Admit it? The E&S printed a letter in which I accused the BBC of bias, especially with regard to Laura Kuenssberg’s treatment of Jeremy Corbyn. More generally, the BBC was consistently dismissive of Corbyn, treating him as an electoral liability to his party. Clear evidence, I think, of right-wing bias.
As for Brexit, I would expect BBC journalists, with their education and class background, to be broadly in favour of remain. However, the BBC stuck to the ‘fairness and balance’ rule with such rigour that it was shamelessly gamed by the leave campaign, to the extent that the decent Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston actually changed sides from leave to remain.
Any nonsense, or any lie, could be spouted, safe in the knowledge that any rebuttal would gain further air time under ‘fairness and balance’ for it to be repeated. It descended to the level where you expected a BBC announcer to say, ‘Thank you, Professor Hugh G Braine from the Oxford department of geography, for arguing that the earth is round. Now over to a bloke in a pub who will argue that it is flat’.
Keith Jones relies on what he construes as admissions of bias by BBC personnel. Now, here he manages to write something quite interesting about the programme he doesn’t watch. There is a website called Media Lens, which has BBC and Guardian hacks spitting tacks. They hate this little site, run by two blokes called Dave and a geek who does the techy bits. Why? The two Daves meticulously show how the ‘liberal’ journalists, convinced of their right-on righteousness, are in fact just as much corporate hacks as those working for avowedly right-wing media. A BBC staffer who ‘admits’ to left-wing views will probably really not be all that left after all.
Alan T Harrison, Walsall