Which side are you on? Are you liberal or conservative? Depending on your answer, you likely rely on news outlets that have the same political leanings as you. That is the case for most people. It wasn’t always this way, though. The BBC has been known for its impartiality when delivering news and, until recently, has been generally respected for this.
During the past election there had been record highs in complaints that the BBC has developed a bias, a narrative that has continued ever since. In reality, the impartial manner in which the BBC has always delivered news has recently bothered both conservatives and liberals alike. Both camps believe that the 98-year-old corporation is providing coverage that negatively portrays their politicians.
It’s no longer about being informed, as it was through the Second World War until about five years ago, it is about being reaffirmed in your belief that your side is right. If a news source, even one as reliable and trusted as the BBC, doesn’t reaffirm your political opinion, then they must be biased in favour of the opposing party.
Is it time for the BBC to admit to picking sides? Or is it on the shoulders of the British people to remind the mighty corporation of its purpose in delivering news from all ideological corners and informing its readers? Could it also be the case that the BBC are in fact doing this and that it is we who need to remind ourselves to keep our temper at bay?
A Closer Look
Let’s begin by examining the political landscape of the UK in 2020. Boris Johnson won the 2019 general election in December and will continue on as prime minister. Johnson has received considerable amount of backlash from left-leaning journalists and publications for openly lying on several occasions across several topics.
What has angered critics of the BBC is that they have done little-to-no reporting on Johnson’s lies. Tom Mills from The Guardian states in his article, challenging the BBC’s impartiality, that: ‘its journalists have failed to challenge disinformation at the heart of our political system’.
Peter Oborne, also with the Guardian, wrote that BBC executives have been reluctant to report on Johnson’s lies as they fear it could undermine the public’s trust in politics. The BBC responded by saying that although they will never call the prime minister a liar, they have a willingness to identify untruths.
It is ironic that the BBC fears the public will lose trust in politics and therefore refrains from reporting on things that would inevitably undermine that, with the effect being that people have become suspicious of it. The BBC has failed to understand that there are plenty of publications in the UK that have no qualms with labelling the PM a liar.
As a result, those who disagree with Johnson’s politics and are angered by his deceptive language (mainly liberals and younger people in general), will turn to the publications that call him out for affirmation of their anger. These people will avoid the BBC as their primary news source.
In many ways the BBC have done their job in remaining impartial. To have a news source that does not have any political leanings is a good thing. One, ideally, can feel at ease that the information provided does not carry an agenda written between the lines that attempts to manipulate the reader.
The problem however, is that the BBC are simply too impartial. They’ve failed the public in challenging Boris Johnson when his lies were uncovered. And that is what they are doing wrong when it comes to impartiality.
Take a look here at articles and videos about Boris Johnson on the BBC’s website. You won’t find many, if any, that are a clear critique of the PM.
I have written before about the importance of truth in journalism. This is no different. To not report on the most powerful person in the UK telling the people lies is to fail to deliver the truth to the British public. By remaining so staunchly impartial, the BBC have compromised themselves to the point that they have failed in their own mission to inform and educate.
It is not impartial to admit that someone, including the prime minister, lied. It is simply the truth. It should not be controversial to point that out but the fact that it is highlights how the UK has become a two-tone nation, where you’re expected to have a side and be labelled accordingly.
By trying not to anger one side, the BBC manges to anger the other. It is a complicated process to keep everyone happy; someone always gets upset. The BBC must only fulfil their duty of telling the truth, regardless of the consequences.