The most recent post Cowardice of Politics sought to argue that our politicians are afraid of saying what they believe for fear of losing votes, and that I believe that they should actively contribute to the social debate of issues – whether or not this leads to them winning votes.  An article in the Guardian newspaper yesterday would suggest that the situation is infact even more more insipid: and that an unwillingness or refusal to speak out not only skews the debate, but also infact directly harms the credibility of the person/ body which is being reticent.

According to the Guardian, internal messages and emails from within the BBC show that the editorial staff of BBC News responded favourably to government requests to limit the use of certain words when reporting news stories.  One example cited, is that Downing Street requested that the BBC refrain from using the word ‘Lockdown’ when referring to covid restrictions.  In another example, an editor advised staff that the government of the day were asking the BBC to be more critical of their political oponents (the Labour Party):

“D St complaining that we’re not reflecting Labour’s mess of plan b online. ie Ashworth said it earlier this week, then reversed. Can we turn up the scepticism a bit on this?”

This is neither fact-checking, nor correcting the record.  The BBC agreeing to ‘increase the scepticism’ of the government’s opponents clearly demonstrates an end to the supposed ‘impartiallity‘ that the BBC claims.  Responding to pressure from a government to counter the arguments of the oppsition, when taken in context; is fascism.

The government has been pressuring the BBC for years through a reduction of funds and the oppointment of partisan board members:

  • in 2015 the chancellor George Osborne forced the BBC to include in its budget the cost of providing free licence fees to senior citizens (£750m)
  • Boris Johson when Prime Minister threatened to abolish the licence fee for the BBC and also decriminalise not paying it
  • Ministers refused to appear on the BBC’s morning news programme (The Today Programme)
  • the recently appointed chairman of the BBC Richard Sharp has donated £400k to the Conservative Party
  • the current Director-General Tim Davies used to be deputy chairman of the Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative party

Clearly, the removal of funding, the removal of co-operation for news stories and the appointment of Conservative Party ‘friends’ to the BBC Board – all threaten the BBC’s ability to perform its duty, and hence have a knock-on effect on its popularity.  These attacks comprise both direct (funding, co-operation) and indirect (appointments) threats to the BBC.  The indirect threats are the more insidious of the two as they often pass unseen by the public and result in slow, gradual changes.

The BBC recognised these threats to its existence and in an effort of self-preservation, it reacted and sought to become less of a ‘threat’ to both politicans and their direct competiton: privately-owned media companies.  During Brexit the BBC gerry-mandered its audiences to Question Time, ensuring that the audience comprised a majority of Brexit-Supporters.  This week again was an example of bias – when the presenter Fiona Bruce commented that “it was a one-off” when Alibhai-Brown described Boris Johnson’s father as a wife-beater (a matter of public record), without mentioning that the woman in question claimed it happened regulalry.

A further example of bais came again this week when BBC News interviewed Alastair Campbell concerning the Lineker suspension.  Campbell was introduced as someone having “business links” with Lineker (a true statement: he does a podcast for Lineker’s company) – in a way which implied bias on the part of Alastair Campbell.  Cambell retorted that this was odd, and that if the BBC wished to properly declare influences it should state at the front of every bulletin that the BBC chairman “makes massive donations to the Conservative Party…”  Needless to say, the BBC do not state this, and likewise do not often declare the interests of commentators from ‘think-tanks’ which are often funded by right-wing interest groups.

In trying to defend itself from governmental criticism, the BBC has pandered to a government with an authoritarian approach to news.  The result is for all to see: the BBC can no longer claim impartiality.  It is ironic that in seeking to protect itself from the current regime, the BBC has destroyed its own reputation, and given the government the excuse it needs to close the BBC.  The whole point of the BBC was to deliver impartial content to all viewers – if it can no longer do that, then it serves no purpose.

When we allow lies, or even simply a statement which is deliberately less than the whole truth to be presented wthout challenge, we effectively create the impression that the lies/ half-truths are on an equal footing to the facts.  We create the idea that there is a debate to be held, or a choice to be made.  In doing so, we lend credence to the lies, and bias is introduced.

Silence is not impartiality.  Impartiality cannot be protected through silence; it can only be protected through vocal debate.

This is exactly why we need our media and our politicians to ALWAYS stand up and say what they think.  To avoid an issue because you think some people may not want to hear it only increases the space in which the lies have to prosper.  When all of the discussion is lies, because challengers are too afraid to speak up, then it is easy for people to perceive the lies as the truth – since no alternative is presented.

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