Wednesday, June 21, 2006

BBC Bias?


BBC Director-General Mark Thompson, yesterday.



The Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation


It's a perennial argument. How biassed is the Beeb? Right now the debate is focussing on the corporation's news coverage: some say the news is unfair to the Israelis, some say its hostile to eurosceptics, some people have even claimed its nasty to Tamil freedom fighters.

But in the midst of this debate, something's gone missing. What everyone appears to overlook is the blatant bias of the Corporation's arts programmes. A bias to the liberal left.

Take Newsnight Review - a hugely influential review show. This programme goes out every Friday nights, it features several critics reviewing shows and movies of the moment; the programme is umbilically linked to the current affairs slot: Newsnight

The other night they had Guardian writer John Harris on the panel. No surprise, he's a regular. Even less surprising was Harris's disparaging remark about George Bush. Harris claimed that Bush was a warmongering moron - the usual stuff.

But as I watched this, something struck me. Harris is a very articulate writer, and he is entitled to his opinion, shared by many. But it is just an opinion. Yet, when Harris made his remark on air, no one batted an eyelid. The other panellists just nodded. There was no attempt to challenge Harris's viewpoint; no one reminded viewers that Bush is the democratically elected president of the USA. The snide quip about Dubya was just accepted as the sort of thing every sensible person should agree with.

Annoyed by the fact that I (as a TV licence payer), was being asked to fund this bien pensant backscratching, I rang up the BBC complaints people, and asked about possible bias. They claimed that Newsnight Review editors 'try to balance the panel in political terms'. I asked them to prove it, at which point they replied 'er, well, we have Tory MP Michael Gove on, and once we had Michael Portillo.'

And that was it. That was their idea of balance: one-and-a-half right wing people. Over several years. This makes an interesting comparison with the number of leftwing people they feature as panelists on the same programme. To wit:

John Harris, a well known leftie
Mark Lawson, a well known liberal-leftie
Tom Paulin, a well-known hard leftie
Stewart Lee, a comedian leftie
Germaine Greer, a feminist leftie
Rosie Boycott, a newspaper-editing leftie
Hari Kunzru, an Asian leftie
Andrew Collins, a DJ leftie
Janet Street Porter, another newspaper editing leftie
Johann Hari, a columnist leftie
Jeanette Winterson, a lesbian green leftie
Natasha Walter, a weirdly boss-eyed leftie
Will Self, a wacky novelist leftie
Tina Brown, a Clintonite leftie...

etc etc (trust me, I could go on).

To cap it all off, the programme is now helmed by Kirsty Wark, who is so unashamedly leftie she takes holidays with Scottish Labour Prime Ministers.

They have a funny idea of 'balance' at the BBC.

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