BBC bias may be a worry, but Newscorp dominance would be a cultural disaster

Political neutrality in television is too easily lost

Our media are a long way from perfect. The slavish devotion to sales, the persistent dumbing down, the glorification of celebrity….and that’s just the FT. But the very imperfection means we need to keep in mind what the alternatives are to current examples of media behaviour….like, for example, the BBC.

Many fingers are poised above keys on seeing those last five words. But I urge you to weigh the evidence and think about it.

Yesterday (Saturday) I listened to The News Quiz on Radio Four at midday. I like TNQ, it can be very funny – and Sandi Toksvig has one of the fastest comedic minds in Britain. But from start to finish, this edition of the programme was a nonstop political broadcast on behalf of the Right-On Party. Sometimes it was laugh-out-loud funny – but only when it forgot it was a PPB on behalf of the ROP. And like all dated, narrow satire, there was nothing positive on offer: it was all ‘get the Tories and hate the LibDems’. Not a single gag was devoted to the clowns who had helped create the mess in the first place

However, it only lasted thirty minutes. Whereas the hour before it had Kate Adie fronting From our Correspondent, a programme you simply wouldn’t find anywhere other than on the BBC. Scrupulously objective and marvelously informative, the programme made me proud to be British. It unravelled complexity, interrogated propaganda, and coated the whole with wit.

What we have to ask ourselves – as we digest the truly unpleasant practices to which Newscorp in all its forms is clearly addicted – is whether the Murdoch philosophy of television could ever live up to the standards set by the BBC. I know the Friedmanite wing of the Tory Party and the Young Right of the Daily Telegraph lack the intellectual discernment to consider this, but for the rest of us it is a valid question and an important consideration.

The Lord Reith approach insisted that the BBC was there to inform, educate and entertain. The idea that News International exists for any other reason beyond the empowerment of its family ownership dynasty is laughable. (Even Newscorp shareholders would be among the first to observe that they are a long way down the food chain from the Murdoch family).

Much as we all dislike the casually fluffy-liberal nature of so many BBC programmes, can anyone seriously imagine Fox News or Sky coming out with Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse? Morecambe and Wise? The BBC gave us Match of the Day: Sky gave us Andy Gray the sexist yob. Would any Murdoch television Channel tolerate Jeremy Paxman?

But if this doesn’t convince you, why not allow me to ask the question the other way round: could you imagine the BBC – or even ITV at its worst – promoting a bigot like Glenn Beck?

British readers probably don’t know who on earth Glenn Beck is, in which case the only observation I can make is “lucky you”. Beck is the resident far-Right nasty headcase ranter on the Newscorp-owned Fox News in the US. His spot is called The Glenn Beck Program, a title that puts me in mind of a boot-camp sentence handed down by a particularly sadistic judge.

I understand that Glenn is a great personal favourite of Rupert Murdoch, who never misses his show. This isn’t altogether surprising, as the Beck view of life is perilously close to Roop’s.

Above all, before allowing our suspicion of the BBC to let the Barbarians into Rome, we need to try and imagine the circumstances in which an arm of the Corporation would ever collude with the police and Government Ministers to spy on its viewers….or fire an employee in revenge for attempting to bring wrongdoing to justice.

There are antediluvian elements within the Conservative Party who would just love to stick it to the BBC. What we need to remember is that equally braindead tendencies in the Labour Party would do exactly the same given half a chance. Even if Mark ‘armbiter’ Thompson is a complete prat, he is a relatively harmless Birtist: it wouldn’t be that hard to get rid of him.

By contrast, it’s now 43 years since Rupert Murdoch wormed his way into our culture, and began the process of reducing media output to the lowest level of vulgarity – while using his control of public opinion to make and break successive Prime Ministers. Kicking him and his corrupting style out of Britain may no longer be possible without bringing down the Government at a critical time.

That is an inordinately high price to pay – and, with the benefit of hindsight, a needless expense. Many were the voices in 1968 who predicted exactly what the chippy Murdoch would do to The Times. Many were the observers of the man who correctly gave little or no worth to his word.

We mustn’t let this happen to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Part and parcel of removing the monetary element from our politics should be a guarantee of complete freedom from political influence for the BBC. In turn, the obsession of British television companies with ratings brought us Eastenders, Big Brother, The X-Factor and endlessly tedious programmes about property. Whatever arguments may be vomited forth by the Friedmanite nutters, none can hold water in the face of what our television ‘choice’ has become.

If the BSkyB takeover is allowed to go ahead, it will be the end of any aspiration at all to television as an improving medium in the UK. It will mark a victory for grubby political influence, illegality in reporting, and news in the hands of big business. Along with the abandonment of Net neutrality, it will tighten the grip of globalist Establishment selfishness on our ability to see and hear unfiltered news coverage.

We mustn’t let our healthy desire to see an end to pc and the continuation of healthy competition blind us to the Murdoch alternative. The BBC may be imperfect and irritating, but a television market dominated by Newscorp would be impossibly illiberal.




32 thoughts on “BBC bias may be a worry, but Newscorp dominance would be a cultural disaster

  1. I suspect you’re never or rarely seen Glenn Beck. Been watching and listening on and off for years and bears no resemblence to your characterization. You should follow one of his principles and do your own research or at least cite one example.


  2. John, here’s an offer you shouldn’t refuse:

    In return for blocking Rupe’s takeover of BSkyB, the BBC should be broken up into sensible parts and the annual licence tax abolished. No ifs and no buts. Future access would be via subscription at channel level which ought to rid us of countless BBC channels which serve no useful purpose other than to dominate the airwaves with trash.


  3. As a great fan of Beck – he’s an avowed American Constitutionalist who despises socialism – I tend to agree with you.


  4. John, I am not privy to Beck’s relationship with Rupe. But from the few dozen times I’ve watched Beck on Fox, he rants a bit about the continual trampling of the American Constitution by big govt and about the growth of the mental disease known as ‘socialism’ by Obama’s govt.

    These are the same things I rant about all over the place ;-)

    But I wouldn’t describe any of that as “far-Right nasty headcase” stuff.
    IMV Beck is a strong traditional American Conservative who believes in small govt, fiscal conservatism and personal responsibility. As you will know, he’s very popular over there!

    Perhaps you know a private side to Beck that I don’t.


  5. I get what you’re saying Mr Ward but it comes down to this, I am forced to pay for the BBC, whether I want its fluffy bollocks and bias or not. On the other hand, I choose to pay for Sky and, ironically, SkyPlus actually helps me to not miss the good stuff put out by the BBC.

    I choose not to subscribe to Times Online even though I used to love to view the Times political cartoon every day. I choose not to read the BBC news on the web even though I’ve paid for it because there is always an agenda running through it; I see it, I don’t like it but there is bugger all I can do about it. I choose to get my news and analysis from sites like The Slog because generally you’re honest, of superior quality and if I don’t agree with something you’ve written, I can always let you know.

    I’m just letting you know. Thank you.


  6. ‘Political neutrality in television is too easily lost’

    When was the BBC ever politically neutral?

    Global warming?


  7. There is no political neutrality in TV, or the printed media. Nor do any of these media challenge the excesses, lies and stupidity of the ruling class enough, simply because they’ve grown fat and lazy, spoon-fed with press releases. This is much cheaper than paying good courageous investigative journalists what they’re worth. The media are therefore required to toe the Establishment line, or have their access denied. Leaks and blogs (of all political flavours) are the only real antidote to this cosy symbiosis. Or failing that, follow the examples of Tunisia and Egypt.


  8. I am a great fan of Beck and wish we had our own equivalent on British TV. I doubt, however, that as we no longer enjoy freedom of speech in Britain this will ever happen. The BBC is a disgrace; the broadcastasting and brainwashing arm of the Labour party. As someone who grew up and spent most of their adult live in apartheid South Africa I recognise only too readily the lies and propaganda that spews daily from the BBC. Break it up and sell it off and let them compete in a fair market. Do you really want the Labour party back in power? They will be if something is not done to curb the Marxist agenda that the Beeb so enthusiastically espouses.


  9. @shazza, I second Max’s comment. Spot on.

    Our broadcasting laws attempt to impose political neutrality on the TV channels but as we know there are plenty of ways around them and the BBC know every trick in the book and a few more. Can anyone really place hand on heart and say that Andrew Marr is not a fluffy ‘status quo’ wishy washy NewLav-ite?

    I would welcome free political TV of every opinion.
    Watching NewLav whacknuts like Brown and Hattie giving blathering sermons about their version of fairness would be hilarious :-)


  10. Thank you Max and Bankrupt Taxpayer. Even soaps such as Holby City are now so politicised inasmuch as the storylines revolve around ‘cuts, cuts, cuts’and the underlying narrative of heartless Tory policies – how refreshing would it be, to have a programme detailing what would happen to the NHS had Labour won the election, continued their irresponsible ‘investment’ lunacy and the subsequent collapse of their ponzi scheme income. stream.


  11. May I copy JW and also say BOLLOCKS?

    Please elaborate as to what you really think that breaking up the BBC will really achieve. How will that course of action help plurality?
    How will it help open government? How will it stop news by press release?


  12. ….and here also, may I copy JW and also say BOLLOCKS? BBC Marxist!! You start from a very different datum line than most of us!

    Please elaborate as to what you really think that breaking up the BBC will really achieve. How will that course of action help plurality?
    How will it help open government? How will it stop news by press release?


  13. How is the BBC not Marxist? Remember I grew up in a country where the state controlled everything – I recognise authoritarianism wherever it rears it’s ugly head. The BBC was once heralded as a beacon of light; indeed when I frequently visited Britain in the past when I still lived in apartheid SA, I used to rely on them for an alternative viwew of what was happening back home. The BBC now, as did the SABC censors it’s news to reflect their agenda. Let us have open debate, not biased opinion. Breaking up the BBC will allow freedom of choice for the viewers – let the brainwashed British public be exposed to alternative thinking and not be obliged to pay an obligatory tax for the dubious pleasure of being socially engineered by the devotees of the Frankfurt School of Cultural Marxism so beloved and enthusiastically pursued by the Beeb.


  14. shazza
    January 31, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    I have friends that also fought against apartheid in SA so will not dispute your view on authoritarianism there at the time (and still so now in other ways?).

    That authoritarianism that you see in the BBC is I believe a general problem in all our media institutions. Your reply did not address in any way my main questions about plurality and the curse of the press release as news. This is endemic amongst all the MSM whether perceived as left or right wing.

    Breaking up the BBC will not solve this problem, indeed it will only entrench the corporate right wing media as the main providers of news. Whether your political views align with this or not I expect that you can see the danger of having a press that is ALL skewed in one direction.

    The freedom of the internet news experience is to be welcomed but at the same time you must see that much of the populace never get to explore it as they are too taken in with dumbed down TV (& press) entertainment.

    You should also have concerns that there will continue to be an ability of the internet to provide that “mix of biases” that allows you to read what you consider to be a good alternative to the MSM. If you agree with this paragraph then we can agree on the presentation of much that we will then disagree upon!


  15. Agreed KG! Let us hope that the internet will not be censored – I do believe it is the way forward…..but I still want the BBC unbundled and sold off.


  16. Very soon there will be no difference between television and the internet: they will both be interactive and both controlled by the usual lit of suspects.
    Don’t be so complacent: look at what the Chinese have done to it.


  17. Agreed John, but what can we do? No free speech anymore, remember? I think I do understand what the BBC was and what it could be.


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