IS BBC bias a threat to democracy? It’s a valid question with an election looming. The BBC is supposedly bound by impartiality rules, but as repeatedly evidenced in this pages as here, here and here, it seems to think that these no longer apply.
Take two interviews in the 8.10am slot on the Today programme last week. The BBC would argue that it achieved balance with Sajid Javid Sajid Javid on Thursday, September 5, and Emily Thornberry the next day. But the way in which the interviews were conducted was a travesty of balance and impartiality.
Nick Robinson interviewed the Chancellor for about 15 minutes. Apart from the reply to the first question and one of the last ones, every other reply – every one – was interrupted by Robinson (something on which he has form) talking over, arguing and disputing whatever the Chancellor said, with his sneering tone evident throughout. Javid handled him well, given the constant harassment. But compare that with the interview with shadow foreign secretary Thornberry, every one of whose answers were listened to in respectful silence. This was quite extraordinary considering her car-crash appearance on the BBC’s own Question Time the night before, in which she was rightly ridiculed for her exposition of Labour policy of negotiating a new deal if they got into power and having achieved this would run a referendum in which, she at least, would vote to remain against her own government’s position and policy. It went by with only a token challenge. True, the interviewer did toss her a couple of tricky questions, but generally let things slide. There was nothing like the forensic tearing apart that would have been handed out if Javid had come up with such a dog’s breakfast of a policy.
This matters because although in the forthcoming election there ought to be monitoring of air time given to the parties by the BBC to prove its impartiality, we know from experience the only organisation to conduct this objectively will be News-watch. We know too, from 20 years of the BBC’s refusal to read or listen to their detailed breakdowns of bias revealed in thousands of hours of monitored programmes, that the BBC has no intention of being objective. Which is why a judicial review process has been launched.
The BBC’s lack of interest in monitoring itself impartially (forget any question of consistency in its interviewing approach or the comparative amount of air time allotted to Brexiteers and Remainers) was recently revealed. In exchanges with the BBC over the past year in connection with the judicial review it emerged that its key approach to establishing its impartiality is via opinion polling. In these polls participants are given a list of news providers (newspapers and broadcasters) and asked which they deem the most accurate, trustworthy and impartial. That 50 per cent opt for the BBC in the impartiality category, is, says the Corporation, a key factor in showing that it is impartial. It’s nothing of the sort and certainly not objective; all it probably shows is that more people know of the BBC than other broadcasters.
So will Auntie during the next election be left free to carry on offering its opinions and harassing those who do not cleave to its view of the world? Will proper debate will be lost in a welter of virtue signalling and general smearing of those with the ‘wrong’ views? I fear so.
The BBC is not any old broadcaster – it is the national broadcaster. As such it has become a genuine threat to democracy by stifling debate in favour of what it thinks is appropriate.