I consider myself a supporter of the BBC in a hostile environment.
The Tories have undermined its finances and would happily see it go under, to be replaced by commercial interests, including the Murdoch empire, all funded by advertising and free to be as biased a mouthpiece as Fox News, Trump’s favourite channel.
The rightwing press has attacked the BBC for diluting the provision of free licences for old people, knowing full well that it is the government to blame for off-loading this social benefit from the Treasury on to the BBC.
When I became eligible for a free licence, I opted to continue paying the fee by direct debit. In my view, the PROMS alone make the fee worth every penny. For so little money I have BBC TV, probably the best in the world, as well as 24-hour radio.
In a BBC phone-in programme, I heard a very stupid woman describe the service as “obscenely biased and run by undercover communists”.
Of course, the BBC is at great pains to demonstrate that it has stringent safeguards to ensure political balance. There is a whole department scrutinising every radio and TV programme, maintaining a scoreboard to ensure pro and anti comments are equal between left and right.
The BBC Charter says:
“The mission of the BBC is to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality, distinctive output …to provide impartial news and information … accurate and impartial news using the highest calibre presenters and journalists …”
The trouble is that the managers of the organisation, their leading journalists and presenters are overwhelmingly from the same sector of society: private schools, followed by Oxford or Cambridge. It is therefore no surprise that their work reflects their background. There is, indeed, bias, but it is to the right of the political spectrum, not to the left. This is no surprise; those who run the BBC and those who are its principal presenters, all took in a right-of-centre outlook with their mother’s milk. They come from families rich enough to send them to private schools and through university without incurring student debt. They are from that section of society which has wealth and power and the sense of entitlement that results from money, top jobs and being part of the network which links government, the judiciary, academia and high finance.
A prime example of bias was the recent Panorama programme on alleged widespread anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. The chosen presenter was not one of their own highly-paid staff (of which they have plenty) but John Ware, whose background is the rightwing tabloid press. He has no dedication to the requirements of the BBC Charter and the programme’s producer gave him free rein to do a hatchet job on the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbin in particular Ware chose to interview Tom Watson, an MP who has been on this bandwagon for months, as well ex-members of Labour Party staff, who clearly had their axes to grind. One of them was Ella Rose, who has worked for the Israeli Embassy, which has its knife in the Labour Party for sympathising with the plight of the Palestinians and criticising the Netanyahu government for persistently flouting UN resolutions opposing their Jewish settlement programmes. Another bringing heavy baggage to his interview was Alan Johnson, one-time editor of the journal of the pro-Israeli lobby group Bicom. The assemblage of interviewees, through their affiliations and funding did not represent a balance or diversity of opinion. The audience was given little hard factual information, such as that many individuals accused of anti-Semitism were found not to be Party members. Up to February of this year, the number of reported cases of anti-Semitism and as yet unverified was equivalent to 0.1 per cent of the membership.
Ware chose to interview none of the many Jewish members who do not consider there to be widespread anti-Semitism in the Party.
The programme was an utter disgrace, a complete failure to live up to the obligations of the BBC charter.
Last night I wallowed in the first night of the 2019 Proms, but that was not enough to redeem the BBC for that appalling Panorama broadcast.