BBC director-general Tony Hall delivered the prestigious Lord Speaker address to peers last week.
His central message? That the BBC – which Lord Hall has run for almost seven years – is totally impartial, is the best news organisation in the world, and that the Corporation is in the vanguard of upholding news values and investigative journalism.
His evidence for his sweeping assertion about impartiality? Zilch. He simply knows that this is the case. In reality, the BBC’s only verification of its lack of bias is self-run opinion polls.
Yet further down in his speech was clear evidence of his bias. From the heart of his BBC bubble, he trotted out a list of the areas where he claimed BBC was pursuing important journalism.
On the menu was not ‘exploring Jeremy Corbyn’s links with Hamas’, ‘making sure the EU referendum vote is upheld against the tyranny of parliament’, or ‘the strengths of Donald Trump’s administration’. Rather, it was a litany of Leftist concerns: ‘climate change’ followed by ‘population growth, migration, energy and sustainability’ and then ‘healthcare’.
Not in themselves loaded words, of course, but translated into the reality of BBC coverage, what he meant was using the Corporation’s lavishly-funded journalistic machine to ram home climate alarmism, tell the British public how racist and xenophobic they are about immigration, to pursue the green energy agenda and to use every opportunity to declare how brilliant the NHS is, and that there are no alternatives.
Lord Hall also trumpeted in his speech the importance of the BBC ‘reality check’ unit against the advance of so-called ‘fake’ news. In reality, News-watch surveys have shown this unit to be highly biased.
Coincidentally, too, on the day of Lord Hall’s speech, the Briefings for Brexit website demonstrated that in its determination to rubbish both Donald Trump and the dangers of accepting food from the US (rather than the beloved EU), the reality check unit seriously misrepresented food poisoning statistics.
Presenter Chris Morris told Today that more people were affected in the US – suggesting it was because of looser standards across the pond – when the reverse is the case.
Professor David Paton, holder of the chair of Industrial Economics at the University of Nottingham, summed up Morris’s offering thus: ‘The trouble is that virtually every element of Chris Morris’s Reality Check was either flat out false or based on a seriously incompetent use of statistics.’ Ouch!
In the wider context, the BBC is being allowed to get away with such shortcomings in its journalism at least partly because, under the Theresa May administration, there is a continued grave dereliction of duty by parliament in holding the BBC to account.
Mrs May herself has relied on the BBC in furthering her ‘deal’ agenda. Thus she appointed Robbie Gibb, a BBC senior producer, as her main communications aide. Clearly, she thought he had perfect qualifications to meet her objectives. She knew full well that he would take every advantage of the Corporation’s pro-EU and anti-Brexit instincts. News-watch surveys have repeatedly shown that she was not disappointed.
Another factor is that the three culture secretaries to have served under the May regime, the obsequious May apparatchik Karen Bradley, the colourless Matt Hancock and, currently, barrister Jeremy Wright – whose experience of the media before his appointment was conspicuous by its absence – have left the Corporation totally alone.
Were they appointed simply to ensure this? All three campaigned for Remain in 2016, and are now among the most enthusiastic supporters of May’s so-called ‘deal’.
Another matter of concern is the Commons culture select committee. During the first Cameron administration, this was headed by John Whittingdale and he took seriously the need to keep the BBC on its toes.
Now, though, it is chaired by Damian Collins, who is one of the Commons’ most fervent champions of the EU. https://www.conservativehome.com/highlights/2018/10/profile-damian-collins-gung-ho-attacker-of-fake-news-when-committed-by-leavers.html
During his watch, not a finger has been lifted in the domain of BBC impartiality – even though in some areas of coverage, the Corporation has blatantly abandoned all pretence of impartiality, for example by describing those who are sceptical about climate alarmism as ‘deniers’.
Against this background, Lord Hall knew when he stood up in the House of Lords last week to deliver his speech that he could crow about BBC rectitude virtually without fear of real challenge. That was reflected in almost every word he spoke. This failure to hold the BBC properly to account is of major national concern.
His speech chillingly underlined that, through the Corporation’s reliance on bogus fact-checking, increasing colonisation of local news sources (filling the gap left by the collapse of local newspapers, itself triggered partly by the BBC’s aggressive internet expansion into local news provision), and its strident stance towards demonising ‘fake news’ (in other words, those who disagree with its nakedly leftist worldview), the BBC has an increasing stranglehold over national discourse.
And as things stand, nothing is getting in its way.