Category: Alerts 2015
- Created on 08 July 2015
- 08 July 2015
'It's A Distortion That The BBC Wants To Be Fair'
Lord Hall, the director general of the BBC, is to be questioned by MPs over his refusal to refer to Islamic State using the term 'Daesh' (an Arabic abbreviation that means 'one who crushes something underfoot' and 'one who sows discord') because it is pejorative and therefore biased. Controversial British prime minister David Cameron had sent a request to the BBC supported in a letter signed by 120 MPs from across the spectrum – Labour, Tory and SNP. Independent journalist Jonathan Cook comments:
'So let us agree that Cameron can insist on the BBC calling Islamic State "Daesh" when he also insists on the broadcaster referring to the Conservatives as the "Revolutionary Neoliberal Party" [RNP].'
Julian Lewis, RNP chairman of the defence select committee, said he would also be writing to the BBC:
'The BBC ought to hang its head in shame – they would never dream of taking this attitude if we were talking about the fascists or the Nazis... We are engaged in a counter propaganda war of ideas – and the British used to be rather good at this during the Cold War.'
Chris Grayling, a member of the RNP British Cabinet and leader of the Commons, apparently detected no self-contradiction when he said the BBC should openly take the side of the UK in international conflicts:
'During the Second World War, the BBC was a beacon of fact, it was not expected to be impartial between Britain and Germany.'
Of course, the idea that political parties should pressure media to produce biased information was one of the horrors Britain was said to be fighting from 1939-1945. Also, the notion that the BBC should be guided by emergency measures adopted in a time of total war against a Nazi state genuinely threatening conquest indicates the curious mindset of some on the right. In reality, as Seumas Milne noted in the Guardian:
'The BBC is full of Conservatives and former New Labour apparatchiks with almost identical views about politics, business and the world. Executives have stuffed their pockets with public money.'
'There is no point in romanticising a BBC golden age. The corporation was always an establishment institution, deeply embedded in the security state and subject to direct government control in an emergency.'
Indeed, the BBC was founded in 1922 and immediately used as a propaganda weapon for the Baldwin government during the General Strike, when it became known by workers as the 'British Falsehood Corporation' (BFC). Perhaps the BBC should rebrand itself. Actor Ken Stott commented in the Radio Times:
'The establishment is a dirty, dangerous beast and the BBC is a mouthpiece for that.' (Radio Times, December 3, 2014)
This helps explain a tweet sent recently by the BBC's high-profile diplomatic editor, Mark Urban:
'Anti-Americanism alive & well as shown by "who is biggest threat to world peace?" Survey via @INTLSpectator'
For the embedded BFC, viewing America, very reasonably, as a lethal threat is to be guilty of something called 'Anti-Americanism.'
But for some, too much is not enough. In the Telegraph, Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, commented on the BBC chief's limp resistance to imposed thought control:
'He appears to believe that impartial reporting means equidistance between a terror group which butchers its victims and the rest of humanity.
'But equidistance is not the same as impartiality.'
Run that past us again:
'Impartiality means accuracy and reliability in news gathering – which ought indeed to be the BBC's governing ethos. It does not mean refusing ever to make any judgments between two sides in a conflict.'
'Because in the real, impartial world, there is no equidistance between Daesh and its victims.'
Whatever 'equidistance is not the same as impartiality' means – arguably, it means nothing – presumably the 'logic' can be applied elsewhere. After all, in 'the real, impartial world,' there is also no 'equidistance' between Nato and its victims. So perhaps we should demand that the BBC describe Nato as 'The Western Corporate Mercenary Army', or 'The Western State-Corporate Militant Mob', because impartiality is one thing and equidistance quite another. As everyone knows.
Inevitably, the response of David Jordan, the BBC's director of editorial policy and standards, to these state-corporate attacks was less than heroic:
'Suggesting that the BBC wants to be fair to the so called "Islamic State" distorts the truth...'
It was 'a distortion', then, to suggest that the BBC aims to be 'fair'. Jordan continued:
'Our aim, as always, is to report accurately and report the facts – nothing else.'
Facts are sacred; it's not the BBC's job to make judgements. Except:
'The BBC has at its cornerstone a commitment to democracy and its pillars. The BBC is no friend of authoritarian repression anywhere in the world and our history shows it.'
The 'democracy and its pillars' being, of course, 'us'. As for 'authoritarian repression' – well, that's 'them', as labelled by the government for a BBC intent on reporting 'the facts – nothing else'.
Appropriately enough, Sir Christopher Bland, who chaired the BBC between 1996 and 2001, argued this week that the BBC 'is worryingly close to becoming an arm of the Government'. Bland said of Cameron's government:
'Rather subtly and unattractively it draws the BBC closer to becoming [sic] an arm of government which is always something that the BBC and government have resisted.'
This recalls former director general Greg Dyke's quickly-buried assertion that BBC bosses and political journalists are determined to protect Britain's elite-favouring status quo because they 'are part of one Westminster conspiracy. They don't want anything to change. It's not in their interests.'