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Should you trust the BBC with your children?


I’VE never bought Peter Hitchens’s counter-intuitive contention that the Blairites were the true Marxists in the Labour Party, but the behaviour of former Blairite minister James Purnell in his role as the BBC’s Director of Radio and Education occasionally gives me pause for thought. Mr Purnell is the former Labour Party politician who served as Work and Pensions Secretary and Culture Secretary in the Brown Government from 2007 to 2009. Today he appears to be a key BBC figure behind all the pandering to the ‘woke’ brigade. 

Which is why I felt a certain degree of disquiet on reading Anita Singh’s piece in the Telegraph, reporting his expressed wish for the BBC to increase its ‘reach’ by taking ‘a greater role in children’s education’. 

Mr Purnell wants the BBC’s online resources to ‘replace some of the ‘traditional elements of teaching’ and ‘free teachers to concentrate on pastoral care’. This is clearly a serious bid from the BBC to gain an even vaster degree of influence over the nation.

Should we be alarmed? 

Blogs hereabouts, including ours, have picked up on some shocking stuff put out by the BBC’s online resources. But are those just rare lapses massively amplified by bloggers and the anti-BBC papers? 

The BBC’s online education resources and children’s output is a massive field that blogs and websites such as this barely touch but surely urgently need to tackle. What is the BBC teaching our children already? What will it be teaching them? 

We need to know. I checked the BBC’s online education resources for the subject ‘Israel’ as but one example.

All the first four links I clicked on took me to BBC Bitesize GCSE History and to its seven ‘Middle East class clips’.

Though labelled ‘Middle East’ GCSE history, its entire focus is on Israel and the Palestinians (with a little crossover into Lebanon). All the clips are long in the tooth, dating from 2004, yet it’s not an archived resource; it’s still very much alive and kicking – and presumably widely used in schools. 

It’s like a curriculum devised by Jeremy Corbyn. 

What next struck me was the names of the experts mentioned in the blurb for each video. Again it’s like a list devised by Jeremy Corbyn. 

Anyone who follows such matters will immediately recognise many of the names: 

Yezid Sayigh is a former Palestinian negotiator. 

Amram Mitzna is a left-leaning, ‘pro-peace’ Israeli liberal and former Labor leader.

Robert Fisk is a pacifist, non-voting British journalist, highly critical of Israel. 

Noam Chomsky is an academic/libertarian-socialist activist, highly critical of Israel.  

Rashid Khalidi is a Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS)-supporting Palestinian-American academic, highly critical of Israel.

And Benny Morris? Well, back in 2004, when these videos were posted, he was an Israel ‘new historian’ – a controversial critic of official Israeli history. He’s since regretted some of the things he said then and how they were interpreted by people critical of Israel. 

That’s already an astonishingly biased list, but looking at all the videos carefully I found this wasn’t the full list of people featured in them. Avi Shlaim, another Israeli ‘new historian’, and Hanan Ashrawi, a (bitterly anti-Israeli) Palestinian negotiator also feature.

My complete list reveals that not one of the seven ‘Middle East class clips’ includes a voice that strays from the BBC’s left-of-centre, Israel-slamming narrative. 

The reason is simple: All seven clips come from the same BBC schools programme transmitted in 2004, ‘Arab Israeli Conflict’, surely one of the most biased BBC programmes ever broadcast.

Regular readers and readers may recall that this was the very year when anger at the BBC for being so blatantly anti-Israel led to the corporation commissioning an impartiality study from Malcolm Balen which, notoriously, still hasn’t seen the light of day despite dogged Freedom of Information campaigns. 

The big questions that need an urgent answer are:

Is this grotesquely biased pile of one-sided, anti-Israel venom presented as BBC Bitesize still being broadcast in schools? 

Is this the sort of thing James Purnell has more of in mind for British schoolchildren?

And, finally, is this disgustingly unbalanced material typical of the BBC’s educational output?

Especially in an age of reviving anti-Semitism, I think we urgently need to know.

This article first appeared in Is the BBC Biased? on August 1, 2020 (part 1, part 2) and is republished by kind permission.

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Craig Byers
Craig Byers
Craig Byers is a blogger about the BBC, focusing on the issue of BBC bias while living in Britain's finest traditional seaside resort: Morecambe (the one with the Eric Morecambe statue).

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