A 50,000 strong left-wing demonstration near its own offices was barely deemed newsworthy by the BBC.  How does this fit in with the largely accepted narrative of liberal bias at the Beeb?

On June 21st 2014, the People’s Assembly gathered in central London for a demonstration that gathered the support of 50,000 protesters.  I know this because of social media, not because of the solitary tweet the BBC used to cover the event.  Russell Brand staged a protest in Westminster Square this week, again drawing large crowds.  I learnt this from an article published by the Huffington Post and distributed over social media.  Guess who did not cover this event.

This would not appear to fit the view that has been held by the right-wing media for some time.  The view I am alluding to is that the BBC is an institution biased towards the left.

We have seen plenty of examples of this rhetoric since the start of the year alone.  The Daily Telegraph has led with the headlines: ‘‘BBC accused of ‘leftist bias’ after hiring former Labour minister’’[1]and ‘Conservatives go to war on ‘bias’ at the BBC’’[2], while The Daily Mail has accused the broadcaster of ‘’leaping instinctively to the defense of the europhile Establishment’’[3].

These criticisms also come from within the organisation itself.  In 2006 Andrew Marr noted that it “is not impartial or neutral. It’s a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people’’[4].  Quite how it can have done this while being ‘’hideously white’’[5], according to then Director-General Greg Dyke, just 5 years earlier is baffling.

The events of the past week have not been the only instances in which the BBC has failed to live up to its lefty-liberal image.  Coverage of royal weddings, births and jubilees is enormous and shows little republican sentiment.  UKIP is an extensively reported phenomenon, with Nigel Farage making more appearances on Question Time since 2004 than any politician but Kenneth Clarke (according to IMDB)[6].  Of course it is understandable that the latter, a member of both shadow cabinets and governing cabinets throughout the last decade, has appeared frequently. However, why does an MEP leading a party with no presence in Westminster get so much exposure, even outside of European election season?

In fact, many left-wing groups feel alienated by the BBC.  The NHA frequently questions why the Beeb fails to extensively cover the coalition government’s health policy matching the WHO’s definition of ‘privatisation’.  Many see the organisation as part of ‘the establishment’.  Owen Jones has written of its ‘’right-wing bias’’[7].  This seems odd, given that it is supposedly biased towards the left.  It therefore appears that it is suffering a peculiar existential crisis.  Is it really biased towards the left, right, white majority and ethnic minorities?

What is clear is that impartiality is both subjective and difficult to achieve.  While the BBC needs to be balanced to justify the license fee, the right-wing media has no need to maintain non-partisanship.  It is only really restrained by its consumers, who do not appear to be put off by bias, as we all know newspapers have a bias and who they are biased in favour of.  Even when systematic immoral and even illegal behaviour is uncovered, regulation is difficult to achieve and is branded as part of ‘’anti-press hysteria’’[8].  The BBC has been hit by scandals over the Iraq War, Jimmy Saville, executive pay and many other things, but it would be a tragedy if these were considered alongside supposed bias when the renewal of the Royal Charter is considered next year.

The loss of the sole, publicly funded and largely balanced press organisation would result in the dominance of unbalanced, unchecked, privately funded and mostly right-wing media groups.  This would seem to me to represent a far less balanced press than we currently have and would also involve the loss of the many great programmes I believe the BBC to produce.  I therefore hold the view that accusing the BBC of something largely difficult to prove, difficult to avoid and largely incorrect is a very dangerous accusation indeed.

 

Bibliography:

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/9869855/BBC-accused-of-leftist-bias-after-hiring-former-Labour-minister.html

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/9890162/Conservatives-go-to-war-on-bias-at-the-BBC.html

[3] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2641184/DAILY-MAIL-COMMENT-BBC-bias-rise-protest-votes.html

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3633619/The-BBCs-commitment-to-bias-is-no-laughing-matter.html

[5] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/1120320.stm

[6] http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/03/why-is-ed-balls-scared-of-question-time/

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/17/bbc-leftwing-bias-non-existent-myth

[8] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2670127/DAILY-MAIL-COMMENT-Heavy-price-pay-anti-Press-hysteria.html