Behind BBC Bias


The BBC seems to have fallen into bad habits in its news coverage of the current pandemic. Being a natural disaster rather than a scandal or a government crisis, it has been necessary for the state broadcaster to defer to the technical commentary of experts.

The experts to whom the BBC defers have been, for the most part, Labour activists of one sort or another. Their politics have informed their commentary to suggest that the government is doing a bad job.

This is unfair for two reasons. The first is that this outbreak is unprecedented in the modern age and as such it is impossible to use any reasonable benchmark on whether the government is doing a good or a bad job. The second is that the NHS is not a specialised anti-pandemic service and these politically-motivated experts appear to pretend that it is.

Any money previously spent on stockpiling and rotating protective and intensive care equipment for this emergency would have been money that could not have been spent on all these sex-change operations on children and teenagers that once seemed to be the NHS’s top priority. The same people attacking the government over its response to this virus would be the same attacking the government over any restrictions placed on the legalised mutilation of children based on cost.

There may be two explanations for the BBC’s conduct. The first is that this left-wingery by the BBC is now mainstream in the UK. It is perhaps only the interested or those of older generations who notice how the BBC has changed. The second explanation is the reverse. The BBC has become a niche broadcaster. The latter, especially after the landslide election result for the Conservatives last December, seems more likely. It seems therefore rather appropriate that the BBC’s news spoof The Mash Report is fronted by a man called Nish.

The possibility that the BBC has recognised it is now a niche broadcaster appears the most compelling, considering how our media landscape has changed in what Coventry MP Zarah Sultana (401 majority) calls the last four decades of Thatcherist governance. Back in 1980 there were only three television channels and four national radio stations. All the radio stations and two of the television channels were run by the BBC. There was a thriving newspaper industry, albeit one subject to union extortion. The Daily Telegraph boasted of selling 1.4 million copies daily. Over five million people read The Sun . The magazine industry was also large. Television programmes could draw in audiences of up to 30 million. For the BBC to fulfil its charter, it had to be mainstream. Programmes aimed at minorities were quite rare.

Consider the change today.

Most printed publications, with notable exceptions like The Spectator, have seen circulations fall dramatically. BBC programmes, for which all television-owning households are required to pay, now have much reduced peak-time audiences compared to the 1970s and 1980s. The BBC has broadcast programmes that officially record a zero audience. Programmes targeting minorities are now in the peak-time.

Of course the reason for the change is obvious. It is the Internet. Television viewing has reduced from providing the entirety of the screen-time for the British public to being a diminishing slice. And with hundreds of channels on digital television, the BBC is just a slice of a slice. If fewer people are watching the BBC’s news and current affairs programmes, it seems that the BBC no longer feels it necessary to be an impartial broadcaster for a general audience that it no longer can reach in numbers.

The reason for this may be practical; since BBC channels are now in the minority of all television channels, it is no longer possible for the BBC to act as a symbol of cohesion and unity. So instead it seems to have decided to push a very left-wing niche agenda as this form of extremism seems to keeps the BBC’s diminished audience watching. Being a codified ideology, socialist ideas are very easy to define and broadcast. Anti-conservatism is as easy to produce – and can find its audience just as easily – as the almost-pornography of some BBC dramas. Nudity, ideological conformity and hate are now the click-bait driving BBC viewing numbers.

The BBC is able to do this thanks to the unique way it is funded. But it is unreasonable for Conservative voters to see their beliefs and the party they support under relentless attack – and to have to pay for these attacks to be mounted for fear of being fined and jailed.

It is unfortunate that just as the country stopped being paralysed by Brexit, something else popped up that was even more paralysing. However the BBC’s conduct during the Brexit crisis and its use of Labour activists for its news coverage of the pandemic does call the organisation into question and invites reform.

The BBC’s problem is that, despite its apparently deliberate niche positioning, it still believes itself to be a major broadcaster in an age when there is no such thing. It is only taken seriously because everybody who uses a television is obliged to pay for it. The corporation’s recent conduct shows that this legal obligation should be curtailed or abolished. At present it is unclear whether the BBC is a public service broadcaster or a party political broadcast for the Labour Party. This should be clarified and the sooner the better.

Paul T Horgan worked in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.