Recently, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity held a demo which saw 50,000 march from the BBC London HQ. The Beeb said nothing about it until inundated by Tweets and complaints at which point their response was a curiously slap-dash post of a video with no commentary on the website. After 6,000 complaints the BBC released a less than satisfactory statement which said there were larger stories to cover, which must have included one about the length of the grass at Wimbledon.
For years, there has been a myth that the BBC is left wing. It is time to put that idea to rest. Here are some facts, figures and quotes that demonstrate the BBC’s politics are not biased to the left, starting with this excellent interview with Owen Jones following the People’s Assembly protest.
Andrew Neil, presenter of two main political talk shows on the BBC is openly right-wing.
“In November 2005, a well-known BBC presenter delivered the 14th annual Hayek lecture at the Institute of Economic Affairs, in which he called for “a reorientation of British foreign policy away from Europe . . . a radical programme to liberalise the British economy; a radical reduction in tax and public spending as a share of the economy; a flat tax . . . the injection of choice and competition into the public sector on a scale not yet contemplated . . . excellence in schools with vouchers for all”.
“These are views, drawing on the libertarian philosophy of the long-dead Austrian free-marketeer Friedrich Hayek, that are to the right even of the modern Conservative Party. The BBC presenter was Andrew Neil.”
Nick Robinson, BBC political editor, former President of the Conservative Party Youth Group.
Former Conservative Party chairman Lord Patten became chairman of the BBC Trust
“Take two institutions not normally associated with liberals or left-wingers: the church and the monarchy. Wouldn’t a “culturally Marxist” (to use Dacre’s phrase) institution have long ago abandoned Thought for the Day and Songs of Praise? In 2008, the BBC broadcast more than 600 hours of religious programming on television and radio, up year on year. And can anyone really disagree with Jeremy Paxman’s accusation that the BBC “fawns” over the royal family, behaving more like a “courtier”? The corporation’s coverage of the Queen’s golden jubilee celebrations and the marriage of Charles and Camilla was stomach-churning both in its excess and in its deference.
“The BBC’s bias is thus an Establishment bias, a bias towards power and privilege, tradition and orthodoxy. The accusation that the BBC is left-wing and liberal is a calculated and cynical move by the right to cow the corporation into submission.”
Guto Harri, Former Chief political correspondent for the BBC, became communications director for Boris Johnson within months of resigning at Beeb.
“Analysis of the airtime given to different political parties found that, while the government of the day is always favoured on the BBC, that dominance increased twofold after the Conservatives took power in 2010.”
During the Iraq War, Education Secretary Michael Gove accused the BBC of an anti-war agenda.
“The non-partisan, Bonn-based research institute Media Tenor found that the BBC gave just 2 per cent of its Iraq coverage to anti-war voices. Another study by Cardiff University concluded that the BBC had “displayed the most pro-war agenda of any [British] broadcaster”.
Nigel Farage was the most requested politician on BBC Question Time before the election, despite having no MPs. UKIP has received 25 times more coverage than the Greens in the last 12 months, and 5 times more than any other main political party.
“The BBC is much more likely than other broadcasters to turn to right-wing politicians or business leaders, Cardiff Uni says – a thesis borne out by totting up the number of appearances by business representatives and right-wing journalists on Question Time, as compared to union leaders or environmentalists. ”
Following the agenda
Former BBC Journalist, Robert Peston recently spoke out about the myth of left-wing bias, saying:
“Because the BBC’s routinely so anxious about being accused of being left-wing, it quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, rather right-wing direction, so that it’s not accused of that.”
“If I’m honest, the thing that’s most frustrating is… the BBC is completely obsessed with the agenda set by newspapers. There’s a slightly ‘safety first’ thing at the BBC – if we think the Mail or the Telegraph is gonna lead with it, then we should lead with it. I happen to think that’s mad. But it does exist.”
Following the news agenda set by newspapers is absolutely dangerous for a ‘non-partisan public broadcaster’, as they are following the interests of the proprietors of those papers who are in the cases Peston has mentioned, right wing and favour corporate interests.
“Repeatedly the BBC ropes in unqualified “skeptics” to talk against experts. The scientific consensus is overwhelming, so this “false balance”, to use the phrase from a critical March report from the Science & Technology Select Committee, can only be an attempt to avoid flak: there’s a large overlap between those who believe the BBC is too left-wing and those who think decades of rigorously cross-checked and peer-reviewed climate science are an outlandish hoax.”
Of course there have been examples of figures with left-wing links working at the BBC. But helped along by the empty lie that the BBC is intrinsically left-wing the coverage of this is far more widespread and the moves are far more criticised and put under scrutiny. Balance or reporting on right-wing BBC staff goes ignored as in this Daily Mail article that says the appointment of James Purnell, ex-Labour Minister was ‘unprecedented’ due to his political past, and highlights none of the above roles in the BBC HQ.
The BBC is clearly not running on a left wing bias, but the myth works in the favour of the opposition because for fear of being perceived this way, the Beeb over-compensate in removing themselves from liberal coverage. Yet, their offices have many key staff who are avidly right wing and from Peston’s experience, led by newspapers with similar attitudes. Time to zone out.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass