Well, I wasn’t intending to come back to this topic so soon after uploading yesterday’s posting; but things have rather taken on a momentum of their own, so here’s a bit more on the same subject.
In that posting (which can be seen here), I actually condemned the BBC for being an enemy of the average UK citizen in two different respects. Here are the two paragraphs that present my accusations:
As far as the cultural health of the nation is concerned, the modern BBC has quite shamelessly abandoned the principles of its original foundation — in a manner and to an extent that has turned this massively powerful organisation into a broadcasting Behemoth hugely destructive of the cultural awareness and empowerment of the UK population.
Whereas, as far as the political health of the nation is concerned, the BBC has, every bit as shamelessly, maintained the principles of its original foundation — to the extent that its nowadays undisguised elite-serving neoliberal bias and transparent anti-left-wing manipulation of the news agenda mean that it constitutes the single greatest force acting to limit the political awareness and empowerment of the UK population.
As I said at the time, I was happy to leave detailed discussion of the ‘political’ part until a later occasion — allowing interested readers time to examine some broadcasting and online output in the light of the extended list of BBC biases I appended. As it happens, though, two people have been privately in touch to ask me if I wouldn’t mind explaining what that second paragraph referred to; so I’ll put my answer here in case others are interested.
In referring to the BBC ‘maintaining the principles of its original foundation’ as far as politics is concerned, I had in mind what you might call the real, as opposed to the confected, history of the organisation. Whereas ‘officially’, publicly, the Corporation strenuously maintains the pretence that its reporting cleaves to the ideals of political neutrality and journalistic impartiality, the reality is that the BBC — the world’s oldest national state broadcasting organisation — has always been a state propaganda apparatus disguised as a quasi-autonomous public service broadcasting organisation.
As early as 1926 — the time of the General Strike, and a mere four years after the foundation of the BBC in its original form — the die was being cast. Once the strike had begun, John Reith (the BBC’s General Manager, later Director General) did not merely ‘sympathise’ with the government, but worked actively to assist it and to oppose the 1.7 million striking workers. Reith refused to allow the leaders of the labour movement any opportunity to put their case to the nation, denying them access to the airwaves until after the strike was over; at the same time, the anti-union speeches of Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin were not simply broadcast by the BBC, but were actually written by Reith himself. Nor was the Corporation’s partisan behaviour an early example of a broadcaster being ‘strong-armed’ by a determined government: Reith’s own diaries from the time of the strike make it perfectly clear that ‘objectivity’ and ‘neutrality’ were nothing but high-sounding words disconnected from the reality of the organisation. As he wrote in his entry of 11 May, 1926:
They [i.e. the Cabinet] know they can trust us not to be really impartial.
Now, you may point to the amount of time that has passed since then, and say that a lot can change in 90 years — and I wouldn’t disagree in the slightest. In particular, I would draw attention to the change wrought by a decades-long process that, by now, is more or less complete: the corporate enfoldment of the ostensibly ‘democratic’ state. What this means is that the description of the BBC that I provided above requires to be slightly re-written: the BBC is now a state-corporate propaganda apparatus disguised as a quasi-autonomous public service broadcasting organisation.
Thus — to take just one prominent contemporary example — the BBC will cheerfully arrogate to itself the responsibility of deciding who should or should not be the leader of the Labour Party: any politician in that role who appears insufficiently enthusiastic in their acceptance of the state-corporate-military-imperial agenda finds the massive, multi-media resources of the BBC being deployed in a full-spectrum assault from which even the pretence of ‘fairness’ or ‘impartiality’ is obtrusively — and, indeed, often ludicrously — absent. Needless to say, this is never reported in the power-serving corporate media; but if you take to Twitter, you will see that the reality is continually being diagnosed, reported and condemned by countless ordinary people — myself among them:
Now, I wouldn’t be making such a meal of my ‘Twitter history’ were it not for the fact that we who have been complaining about this particular piece of BBC bias (which, let me remind you, is being directed against the man whose 250,000 membership and associate-member votes give him the biggest mandate of any party leader in British political history) have today received impressive confirmation that our accusations are indeed factual and accurate. In the last few hours a story has broken which reveals… well, let me simply append an extract from an internal BBC blog posting which was put up yesterday — and then very rapidly taken down again. By the time I heard about it, it had been carefully ‘disappeared’; but, as we all know, the internet is a place where very little is unfindable, to someone who knows where to look…
The full text reads as as follows (added emphasis is mine) :
Resignation! Making the news on the Daily Politics
Wednesday is always an important day for the Daily Politics because we carry Prime Minister’s Questions live, which brings with it our biggest audience of the week and, we hope, a decent story.
As I arrived at Millbank at 7am it was clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s cabinet reshuffle, which had ended before 1am, was going to dominate at Westminster.
When the programme editor phoned in we agreed that in addition to covering other major stories, including the junior doctors’ strike, fallout from the reshuffle was likely to continue throughout the morning and this was a story where we could make an impact.
When the producers arrived at 8am they began putting out texts and calls to Labour MPs we thought were likely to react strongly to the sacking of several shadow ministers for “disloyalty”.
Just before 9am we learned from Laura Kuenssberg, who comes on the programme every Wednesday ahead of PMQs, that she was speaking to one junior shadow minister who was considering resigning. I wonder, mused our presenter Andrew Neil, if they would consider doing it live on the show?
The question was put to Laura, who thought it was a great idea. Considering it a long shot we carried on the usual work of building the show, and continued speaking to Labour MPs who were confirming reports of a string of shadow ministers considering their positions.
Within the hour we heard that Laura had sealed the deal: the shadow foreign minister Stephen Doughty would resign live in the studio.
Although he himself would probably acknowledge he isn’t a household name, we knew his resignation just before PMQs would be a dramatic moment with big political impact. We took the presenters aside to brief them on the interview while our colleagues on the news desk arranged for a camera crew to film him and Laura arriving in the studio for the TV news packages.
There’s always a bit of nervous energy in the studio and the gallery just before we go on air at 11.30am, but I’d say it was a notch higher than usual this week. By this point we weren’t worried about someone else getting the story as we had Stephen Doughty safely in our green room. Our only fear was that he might pull his punches when the moment came.
When it did, with about five minutes to go before PMQs, he was precise, measured and quietly devastating – telling Andrew that “I’ve just written to Jeremy Corbyn to resign from the front bench” and accusing Mr Corbyn’s team of “unpleasant operations” and telling “lies”.
As Andrew Neil handed from the studio to the Commons chamber we took a moment to watch the story ripple out across news outlets and social media. Within minutes we heard David Cameron refer to the resignation during his exchanges with Jeremy Corbyn.
During our regular debrief after coming off air at 1pm we agreed our job is always most enjoyable when a big story is breaking – but even more so when it’s breaking on the programme.
If you’ve taken the trouble to read all that, you will have seen at once why someone at the BBC rapidly made their (inept) attempt to grab this text back and consign it to the Memory Hole. For what it reveals is that two senior BBC political journalists — Jeremy Corbyn’s self-appointed nemesis Laura Kuenssberg, and the egregious, nakedly right-wing former Murdoch man Andrew Neil — were both engaged in what is transparently an act of direct interference in the political process, conspiring with a disaffected member of Labour’s shadow-ministerial team to engineer a broadcasting spectacle whose nature and timing would be certain to undermine the Labour leadership and present political advantage to the Conservatives minutes before Parliament attempted to hold the Prime Minister to account…
Sacking offence? Not in this universe! For, as I’m sure I am not the only person to realise, it’s only when the bias works in the opposite direction — acting to oppose or offend the state-corporate complex and its agents — that pearls are clutched and arms are waved in horrified outrage, and demands are issued from on high that ‘something must be done’. Pursue an agenda of genuine democratisation and inclusive egalitarianism, on the other hand, and you’ll find that you’re on your own: the BBC — along with all the other attack dogs of concentrated private capital — will be after your anti-corporate ass without you even being granted a right of reply.
[[The original blog posting in which citizen-journalist Alex Little presented his deeply shocking (but hardly surprising) discovery can be read here: I recommend it wholeheartedly — as I do the longer and more detailed write-up by Matt Turner that appears here. NOTE ADDED 9 JAN: Now that further scrutiny has been brought to bear on the BBC’s statements, let me also recommend the posting from Tim Fenton that is here.]]
For the rest, pause and consider that the only reason we ever found out about this abuse of BBC power is that one dim-bulb BBC employee actually asked another one to blog about it. What on earth have these people been getting up to that we have never heard about…?
* * *
Having thus explained what I meant when I referred to the BBC’s ‘nowadays undisguised elite-serving neoliberal bias and transparent anti-left-wing manipulation of the news agenda’ — and substantiated it, too (see? I wasn’t making it up at all!) — I want to move on from examples of the BBC doing things it shouldn’t be doing, and go back to BBC Four and the Corporation not doing things that it should.
After uploading that last posting, I heard from one of my spies about the amount of licence-fee-payers’ money being spent on what I called ‘the broadcasting farce’ that is BBC Four. Here is what she told me (figures for the year 2014/15; i.e. up to April 2015):
BBC Four: Content £46m, total incl. infrastructure, distribution &c £63.1m
BBC Four’s content cost was the same as Radio 2’s (£46.2m) but just more expensive on transmission costs, being television.
£46m content spend for a TV channel is jaw-droppingly little, though that doesn’t excuse what they choose to spend it on. […] As I gather, the savings from making [BBC] Three online only will largely be spent on BBC One — already the most expensive channel at over £1bn p.a. on content, £1.5bn in total.
Pardon my maths; but those total annual costs of £63.1 million work out at £1.2 million per week for the proud beacon of ‘arts, music and culture’ broadcasting that is BBC Four. Do you want to see what the allotted portion of that money — your money, not mine! — is buying you tonight? Here’s the BBC Four schedule (be sure take a deep breath before you look):
Personally, I think comment is superfluous at this point. But since that’s no way to end a posting, I am actually going to conclude by inserting another schedule — the one that shows today’s broadcasting on the Murdoch-owned subscription-only satellite service Sky Arts. As you read it (be sure to go all the way to the end!) and compare its quantity and range of content with the offerings of our publicly funded national broadcaster’s ‘arts, music and culture’ channel — you remember: the one tasked with providing ‘innovative, high quality programming that is intellectually and culturally enriching’, and whose remit requires it to take ‘an expert and in-depth approach to a wide range of subjects’! — bear in mind that while Ofcom happily allows the culturally desertified ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to revel in the status of ‘Public Service Broadcasters’, Sky Arts simply doesn’t qualify.
Wouldn’t you love to have the answer to that one?
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