HAS BBC’S MARTIN BASHIR HAMMERED THE FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN?

One view truly unites people across the UK’s political spectrum: the BBC is outrageously biased (although they seem to be biased in favour of different political positions, depending on who is making the accusation).

Brexiteers have alleged that the cooperation is stuffed full of Remainers, while Remainers have claimed that the reverse is true. Corbyn supporters attack BBC reporters such as Laura Kuenssberg, while Conservatives insist that the cooperation has an anti-Tory bias. But it doesn’t end there. Supporters of Scottish independence have argued that the broadcasting company took the side of the ‘No’ campaign, while Unionists have lambasted the BBC for broadcasting Nicola Sturgeon’s daily Covid briefings, claiming that they became party political broadcasts for the SNP.


That report …

The recently published Dyson report accused the BBC and in particular Martin Bashir, of using unethical and possibly illegal methods to secure an interview with Princess Diana (she was led to believe MI5 was spying on her when Bashir gave her brother fake bank statements). The findings of the report were damning, and Diana’s family were rightly furious. Don’t get me wrong, the BBC makes mistakes. Emily Maitlis is a brilliant journalist, but her now-infamous diatribe against Dominic Cummings after it was revealed that he broke Covid regulations, was clearly a breach of impartiality rules.

That said, it is pretty galling to watch tabloids such as The Sun handwringing about the report’s revelations. That would be the same tabloid press that hacked a dead schoolgirl’s phone, smeared victims of the Hillsborough disaster, and hounded Amy Winehouse when she was having a mental health crisis. Given their past conduct, the tabloid press has arguably done far more damage to Princess Diana than the BBC.

BBC’s track record

Currently an unfashionable viewpoint, I know, but the BBC does a pretty good job of upholding impartial, independent journalism. Take the BBC’s Andrew Neil. Politicians of every political party fear being interviewed by him. The interview Jeremy Corbyn gave to Andrew Neil (who will leave the BBC to chair GB News) during the 2019 general election campaign was brutal. And, during the same election campaign, Boris Johnson was not even brave enough to be interviewed by Neil — knowing full well that he would not spare him. Last year, Andrew Marr was widely praised for his questioning of the Chinese ambassador about the treatment of the Uighur people, having confronted him with footage and asking him to explain. It was a perfect example of why the BBC is trusted and respected around the world. This is why any attempt to undermine, or even abolish the cooperation, would be a huge blow to the UK’s soft power.

Despite a torpedo of attacks from both Left and Right, the broadcaster continues to be widely trusted by the British public.  And trust in the media is not something that should be taken for granted. We have seen the consequences of having a deeply polarised media landscape in the US (with Fox News and Newsmax on one side and other channels such as CNN on the other), which culminated in the Trump presidency and the storming of the Capitol on January 6 2021. Referencing Andrew Neil once more, his interview with the American conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was highly revealing. Shapiro assumed that Neil must be a ‘lefty’ because he challenged his arguments. In the US, interviewers tend to be on the side of interviewees, which creates echo chambers, the consequence of which is a deeply divided society. Having an independent, impartial public broadcaster like the BBC, however imperfect, sets the UK apart from other countries where press censorship and childish partisanship dominate the news agenda.

There must of course be an inquiry into the treatment of Diana. But we should also be aware that the BBC’s critics are not always acting in good faith. There are enough people across the political spectrum who do not like hearing other points of view. Such people would rather the BBC only asked questions that they felt comfortable with, and only interviewed guests that echo their own beliefs. If this doesn’t sound right to you, then think again about condemning the BBC.