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“The BBC must uphold the highest standards of due impartiality in its news output,” we are told, as it reprimands #EmilyMaitliss.
I could buy that - perhaps - if the rest of its output were not one long hymn to established power.
Take the BBC’s daily use of anonymous “sources”, spinning a line on behalf of powerful people.
Take its business reporting, which is *completely* unbalanced, seldom allowing any critic a slot.
Take its daily use of lobbyists claiming to be independent observers (IEA, TPA etc).
Take its obsession with noise above signal, providing a massive platform for buffoons (Johnson, Farage, Rees-Mogg, Francois) because of the reaction they generate, thereby empowering them and radically changing our politics.…
Take the *outrageous* practice of allowing its reporters and editors to moonlight for corporations, receiving massive fees from oil companies, banks etc for speaking at or chairing their events. Channel 4 bans this outright. Why doesn’t the BBC?
But the problem is actually much deeper than any of that.
It’s about frames: the mental structures through which it sees the world.
To give a few examples:
In the BBC’s worldview, politics begins and ends in Westminster.
A political issue is one that divides the major parties (or divides people within a party). If the parties aren’t divided, it doesn’t exist.
“Political” reporting is basically court reporting: what one powerful person said to another, who’s in, who’s out, who will win, who will lose. Most of it would fit comfortably into a gossip column.…
In the BBC’s worldview, news is what other journalists are talking about. If it’s in the newspapers, it’s news. If it’s not, it isn’t. Every day, the BBC takes its cue from other outlets. Most are owned by billionaires, promoting their interests and the politicians they favour.
This is the “normality” the BBC constructs. Its journalists either come from, or are immersed in the worldview of, the billionaire press. They *think* they’re impartial. They *think* they are everyman and everywoman. But they belong to a peculiar and highly partial culture.
The “normal world”, as presented by the BBC, is the world of wealth and power. If you challenge this world, it doesn’t matter how much you have to say, or how well you say it. You’re a weirdo. Most of the BBC’s news and current affairs programmes will no-platform you.
Perspectives that lie outside the frame of wealth and power either, in the BBC’s worldview, don't exist, or are utterly marginal. If they can’t be dismissed, they are boxed into separate categories: “environmentalism”, “labour issues” etc, and safely isolated from “real” news.
The spotlight, as a result, is on a tiny number of issues, most of which, in the wider scheme of things, are trivial, but reported frenetically and obsessively. The really big questions – such as the gathering collapse of life on Earth – lie outside the circle of light.
They tend to be reported only when there’s a world summit or another event involving “leaders”. And then it’s about which leader said what to whom, and how this might affect their chances of re-election (which is of course the “real” issue).
These are impartiality issues much deeper than whether a news presenter was even-handed in her reporting of a government scandal. Impartiality is not just about balance. It’s about the way you construct a picture of the world.
I have seen no evidence that most BBC bosses even understand what impartiality means, or recognise that issues like those I’ve raised here are worth discussing. They see the surface. They don’t see the depths.
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