Just another day at the BBC -Saturday 26th May

Woke up early, did a few minutes on the cross-trainer and turned on BBC1 as I sweated in 80 degree early morning heat. NewsWatch was just starting (they put it on when no-one’s up on purpose y’know) and elfin Ray ‘Snoddy’ Snoddy lead a debate on whether the BBC’s endless Olympic Torch coverage was maybe a tad over the top for what is supposed to be ‘news.’

The selected viewers consisted of a rabid anti-sports nut who made some good points about the propaganda element of the coverage and some fellar who just appeared miffed that he had to be up at half five to  appear on camera. The BBC News spokesperson replied as they always do that they were ‘just reflecting the public mood’ but are they? If ‘the public’ consists mainly of schoolkids given the day off, pensioners and foreign tourists, then perhaps they’re right but I’m the public, you’re the public, there is no ‘public mood’ or ‘public opinion’ only the suggested arbitrary voice of those who claim to reflect the ‘public.’

As with the jubilee reporting they are not simply reflecting public opinion but creating a climate where a dominant voice and a vested interest take precedence over all other voices and opinions. This is called ‘propaganda’ although the BBC would have us believe that they are entirely ‘balanced’ and ‘objective.’

here is their official guidance on ‘impartiality’

Impartiality lies at the heart of public service and is the core of the BBC’s commitment to its audiences.  It applies to all our output and services – television, radio, online, and in our international services and commercial magazines.  We must be inclusive, considering the broad perspective and ensuring the existence of a range of views is appropriately reflected.

The Agreement accompanying the BBC Charter requires us to do all we can to ensure controversial subjects are treated with due impartiality in our news and other output dealing with matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy.  But we go further than that, applying due impartiality to all subjects.  However, its requirements will vary.

The term ‘due’ means that the impartiality must be adequate and appropriate to the output, taking account of the subject and nature of the content, the likely audience expectation and any signposting that may influence that expectation.

Due impartiality is often more than a simple matter of ‘balance’ between opposing viewpoints.  Equally, it does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles.

The BBC Agreement forbids our output from expressing the opinion of the BBC on current affairs or matters of public policy, other than broadcasting or the provision of online services.

The external activities of staff, presenters and others who contribute to our output can also affect the BBC’s reputation for impartiality.  Consequently, this section should be read in conjunction with Section 15: Conflicts of Interest

Yet during the course of just one hour a news report at 1 o’clock on Radio 4 regarding an alleged ‘massacre’ changed from ‘unconfirmed reports’ from ‘activists’ and ‘rebels’ that 90 people including children had been killed by ‘government forces’ to another report at 2 o’clock which gave a supposed eye witness account of soldiers smothering children by hand and ended with the man stating that ‘Assad is doing what he does best, killing innocent people.’

Even though the reports were ‘unconfirmed’ and relied on ‘internet footage’ the tone was consistently anti-Assad stating that ‘rebel leaders’ were demanding American air strikes. Now maybe they were and maybe there had been a massacre and maybe Assad is a tyrant and maybe the man interviewed really did see children being smothered to death by government forces. Where’s the proof? Where’s the balance and objectivity and pledge to provide a range of views are being reflected, that diverse voices are being heard?

Ah, here’s the get-out clause….

Due impartiality is often more than a simple matter of ‘balance’ between opposing viewpoints.  Equally, it does not require absolute neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles.

So basically that means, if the ‘diverse view’ does not correspond to what the BBC or more importantly their government paymasters, define as ‘fundamental democratic principles’ then there’s no obligation for them to broadcast these voices. Shades of Sinn Fein and Militant, jihadists and other ‘enemies of the democratic process’.

This is itself entirely subjective. My take on democratic principles may not agree with say, David Cameron’s or Jeremy Paxman’s or even Ray Snoddy’s, so who’s to say the BBC are right and others are wrong?

Well Jonathan Dimbleby perhaps? The Brothers Dim are about as patriarchal and incestuous as the BBC itself. On today’s ‘Any Questions’ from Rugby High/Grammar School for Girls, the panel consisted of four of the great and good, a typically ‘diverse’ range of middle class accents and views from the soft left, the soft right and the soft middle. Tory minister, Nick Gibb, Labour’s Liam Byrne, The Time’s Camilla Cavendish and some fellar from the Association of Voluntary and Charity Something or Other.

Dimbo made a great fuss of being at this grammar school and seemed delighted that the pupils had selected the questions themselves. Ofcourse one of these questions was ‘whether grammar schools should be re-instated in all areas’ and surprisingly the consensus from the panel sememd to be a resounding ‘no’ as all agreed that the issue was a smokescreen and what was really required was that the education system as a whole needed to be improved to enable greater social mobility, although how they wanted to achieve this wasn’t really debated.

That didn’t seem to agree with Johnny Boy who then put the question to the grammar school audience who voted in favour of the expansion and re-instatement of the grammar school system. Who’da thunk it? This ‘bring back the grammars’ fire is also being stoked by the Tory press who see an opportunity to turn the clocks back to those halcyon days of the 1950s when everyone knew their place and the odd token Tommy Commoner could break on through to the other side whilst the rest of the undeserving poor went in the army or the poor house.

Statements such as Cavendish’s assertion that ‘along with gramamr schools, the rest of education was destroyed’ and Glib Gibb’s statement that ‘illiteracy is the result of progressive teaching methods arriving in our country during the 60s’ (like Asians perhaps) went totally unchallenged by either other panelists or Dumblebum. Such a broad range of opinion!

All panellists also agreed on how terrible the Court of Human Rights was, how they’d ‘over-stepped the mark’ and ‘gone beyond their brief’ in demanding that Britain allows prisoners to vote in line with their agreement. What a terrible insult that was to ‘our’ sovereignty and ‘democratic values.’ On this issue Byrne made Gibb sound like Tony Benn, such was his distaste for these meddlers from Strasburg. ‘It must be resisted’ he said like some anti-Banana Keep The Pound crank.

On another question about the Beecow report Gibb even admitted that his government had scrapped ‘horrid’ EU Health & Safety regulations for small companies. Hoorah! Get killed by a faulty industrial grinder in restriction-free UKPLC and no-one gives a shit. Take that Johnny Foreigner with your silly human rights and health and safety laws.

But human rights in places where they hold the Eurovision Song contest, well, some panelists thought this was a good idea as it exposed the terrible things that went in Azerwhateveristan or wherever the hell it is (certainly not in Europe or part of the tiresome EC with it’s tedious anti-business regulations). Of course holding the olympics in say, China or Eurovision in say, Turkey or Israel, well, let’s not go there. Diversity of opinion has limits y’know.

From the BBC Editorial Guidance on ‘Due Weight’

Impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole, or within a single programme, web page or item.  Instead, we should seek to achieve ‘due weight’.  For example, minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus.

Nevertheless, the omission of an important perspective, in a particular context, may jeopardise perceptions of the BBC’s impartiality.  Decisions over whether to include or omit perspectives should be reasonable and carefully reached, with consistently applied editorial judgement across an appropriate range of output.

———————-

If this sounds a bit Orwellian, then the books chosen by the guests on Any Questions which they regard as ‘essential’ to every child in Britain consisted of Dickens, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill and Tom Browne’s schooldays (there’s mono-culturalism for ya). Only the questioner, one of the grammar school gels, went leftfield with 1984. Not all  views are equal, the ‘prevailing consensus’ (and how they measure or guage that probably rests on the editorial team’s own prejudices) must triumph over ‘minority’ or ‘extreme’ views. In the BBC’s worldview ‘we are all equal but some of us are more equal than others.’ I’m sure we’ll be returning to this theme many times over the course of the next few ‘glorious’ months.

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