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October 31, 2006

William D. Rubinstein asks, when the BBC admits its own bias why will politicians take no serious action to tackle it?

Posted by William D. Rubinstein

Recent reports suggest that - in private - the BBC is willing to acknowledge its own biases. Yet politicians of both main parties - while occasionally making pronouncements about bias in BBC reporting over, say, the Iraq war - seem unwilling to take any serious action to tackle these biases. William D. Rubinstein - professor of modern history at the University of Wales-Aberystwyth - asks why this should be so.

Anyone who reads my column on this site will know that I am not a fan of the BBC. Indeed, and in common with many other people, I think that it ought to be abolished, at least in its present form (see my column: Why the BBC in its present form should be abolished). The Licence Fee which is extracted from every pocket in Britain is a scandalous anachronism, and in Britain we have a state broadcaster which compels us to pay for it, use it or not, but gives the ordinary viewer no say in how it is run or what is broadcast. There might have been some justification for a BBC in the period down to the 1960s when it saw its role as "elevating" cultural levels among the British population. There is no justification for its existence today, when it has no clear or apparent purpose, and many believe that it actively detracts from whatever passes as culture in Britain.

But it is not, of course, its effects on culture that constitutes the main charge against the BBC, but its blatant, intrusive left-wing political bias, about which so many have commented in recent years. The BBC is anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israeli if not de facto anti-Semitic from a left-wing perspective, anti-Christian, and, to its core, anti-Conservative and anti-conservative.

I have asked this question before in a previous column, but it might be worth repeating: one would be interested in learning just how many employees of the BBC at the level of manager or presenter are normal Conservative voters. Did someone say 5 - 10 per cent? That would be my estimate, too. And what percentage of its employees regard themselves as either on the left of the Labour Party or supporters of fringe left-wing parties like Respect or the Green Party? Did I hear more than half? That's my guess, too. If the BBC thinks that these estimates are wildly off, let it take said poll and release the findings.

Two recent newspaper stories have highlighted the inherent bias of the BBC as never before. One received a good deal of publicity in the Mail on Sunday (We are biased, admit the stars of BBC News, 22nd October 2006), but was not widely picked up in the rest of the media, and least of all on the BBC's news stations or news website - where, of course, it was verboten and taboo. A "leaked account" of an "impartiality summit" called by BBC chairman Michael Grade (by the way, in my opinion one of the better heads the BBC has had in recent years) revealed:

that BBC executives would let the Bible be thrown into a dustbin on a TV comedy show but not the Koran, and that they would broadcast an interview with Osama Bin Laden if given the opportunity. Further, it discloses that the BBC's "diversity tsar" wants Muslim newsreaders to be allowed to wear veils when on air.
This interesting report continues that:
At a secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation ... deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than of Christians.
Most remarkably - there is some hope left -
BBC figures queued up to lambaste their employer.
Amazingly, for instance, Justin Webb, its Washington correspondent, said that:
the BBC is so biased against America that deputy director Mark Byford had secretly agreed to help him "correct" it in his reports. Webb added that the BBC treated America with scorn and derision and gave it "no moral weight".
Andrew Marr stated:
The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias.
Others went on in similar fashion.

In recent years possibly no area has seen the BBC's all-pervasive left-wing bias at work more blatantly than in its coverage of the Middle East, where its hatred of Israel and love of Muslims is virtually a pastiche. For anyone not familiar with these things, in recent decades Israel has become one of the number one objects of hate to the Western world's left, its hostility to the Jewish state often bordering on open anti-Semitism.

Orla Guerin, its egregious former correspondent in that region (now happily transferred to South Africa) was assuredly the most biased single reporter I have ever seen on any topic on any television station.

In contrast, the BBC goes out of its way to be nice to Muslims in general and Muslim terrorists in particular. Possibly one motive is fear of being targeted by Muslim extremists. But the real reason, surely, is that the Western left and Muslim fundamentalists, seeming polar opposites, are engaged in a joint struggle against Western democracy, and the enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is a wide-ranging topic, which deserves a fuller discussion than can be attempted here.

Another report in the Telegraph (BBC mounts court fight to keep 'critical' report secret, 15th October 2006) will make some of the effects of this clear. So blatant is the BBC's anti-Israel bias that the Corporation was forced, in 2004, to appoint Malcolm Balen, a senior editorial adviser, to compile a report on the BBC's coverage of the Middle East. The BBC has never made this report public, although it was compiled at taxpayers' expense for a public corporation. A lawyer named Steven Sugar then sued the BBC to get access to the document under Freedom of Information legislation. According to the report:

The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of licence payers’ money trying to block the release of a report which is believed to be highly critical of its Middle East coverage. The corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism.
The obvious question is, what are they trying to hide? The obvious inference, as this quotation implies, is that this Report shows what so many have long suspected, that the BBC is biased to its core against the Jewish state.

The lesson from this is that the BBC in its present form should be abolished, starting with the Licence Fee. The Prime Minister who seemed most likely to have done this was Margaret Thatcher. Probably the worst thing that Mrs Thatcher did not do in her eleven years as Prime Minister is not to have reformed the BBC, a non-event which remains incomprehensible. Possibly the Iron Lady, who remembered the BBC as it was during her youth and during the Second World War, had a rose-coloured view of what it still broadcast. If so, she cannot have listened or watched much of it in recent years. The BBC should have been the very first body to be privatised, not the very last. We are all paying the price - literally as well as figuratively - for the inaction of the Tories when there was ample opportunity. Perhaps Michael Grade and co. can clean up the BBC, but the task will make the efforts of Hercules in the Aegean Stables appear like painting over graffiti on walls instead of thirty years in the slammer.

There is a maxim among legal scholars that the reason no government should be given the right to torture prisoners is because it will always abuse the right. Much the same applies to the BBC - give the otherwise unemployable left a permanent, untouchable niche venue, paid for by the taxpayer, and it will be harder to alleviate than an STD.

William D. Rubinstein is professor of modern history at the University of Wales-Aberystwyth. The Social Affairs Unit is publishing a fully updated and revised edition of Prof. Rubinstein's seminal Men of Property: The Very Wealthy in Britain since the Industrial Revolution.


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A mon avis, what lies at the basis of the BBC’s behaviour is their abominable self-righteousness. They think they sit in the place of God, deciding what is right and what is wrong. If they ever do turn their thoughts towards heaven, it is to say “Thank you, Lord, that you have not made us like those awful Pharisees over there” (Victorians, Bible-Belt Americans, or whoever).

What took the biscuit for me was years ago seeing Cliff Michelmore asking a senior Rabbi if he could forgive the Germans.

Any why won’t the politicians tackle the BBC? One can’t really shout “The Emperor has no clothes!” if one is naked oneself.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at November 6, 2006 06:17 PM
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