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Malcolm Glazer, surely?

'Fact-based' in looking at the media is always a bit of a grey area, of course. One man's fact is another's misreading of fact. No media is unbiased - what I object to is the BBC's belief in its own objectivity; I much prefer (speaking as a Right-footer) the more self-conscious Leftism of Channel 4 News. Because Channel 4 News pursue an agenda, you know where you stand and they're also more open to contrasting voices; with the Beeb, rather conventional lightweight liberal platitudes are taken as untainted truth with no room for difference.

Third Avenue

You caught me red handed on Malcolm. Well, I said football wasn't my thing.

Of course, no media is truly and utterly 'unbiased'. A purely 'unbiased' media would run stories like 'how much better life would have been had Hitler won' as often as 'Britain's great victory in the war'. But no-one really calls for that (I hope).

'Fact-based' analysis is indeed tricky, but I prefer its imperfections to the 'assumption-based' analysis practised by so many anti-BBCites. The war is a good case in point. Biased BBC and their like just 'knew' that the BBC was anti-war. As the Cardiff research I cite (and another international one in Germany that I can't lay my hands on at the moment) makes clear, the BBC was in fact more obsequious to the pro-war side than all the other UK networks, and, indeed, more ready to swallow government stories whole than any of the major US networks. But many on the pro-war side couldn't see this because they had decided in advance that it couldn't be true and therefore only heard the stories that proved their point. In that sense, the Gilligan fiasco was a complete gift to Blair as it enabled him to portray himself as the 'victim' of an anti-war media.

I would also be amused to hear Channel 4 admit to being 'self-consciously' leftist...

Of course, the Beeb is far from perfect, and you have a point in saying that it is fond of 'conventional lightweight liberal platitudes' - but no more, I would hazard a guess, than most prominent members of the Tory party. It also, let's not forget, dedicates huge chunks of the Today programme to 'Business' news, a specific slot on its website to the same, and numerous television and radio programmes. What would you say if it were to abandon this in favour of a 'Workers' rights' segment? But if it did, wouldn't this just be correcting a current right-ish bias?


How can you bring yourself to read that Biased BBC pap? It's AWFUL.

Blimpish has got a point about Channel 4 News though - their email bulletin apparently styles itself as "liberal news for liberal people" - quite how news can be "liberal" I have no idea. But that doesn't stop Channel 4 News and Newsnight being by far the best news programmes going.

I also still can't quite get how an organisation that gives Andrew Neil his own political show, co-presented with Michael Portillo and usually having a definite Tory/rightish slant, can be accused of "leftism". They have left-wing presenters/editors/producers, certainly, but there's just as many right-wingers, and the balance is normally - in my view - spot-on. In fact, the Beeb is just about the only thing that keeps me proud to be British these days.

Third Avenue

Nosemonkey - Biased BBC has the fascination of some repulsive insect in a zoo. Horrible, but you can't take your eyes off it. I agree, though, with your 'awful' description.

But yes, the BBC is a great British institution. That's why so many on the right hate it, I guess.


Deep breaths, count to ten, and...

But yes, the BBC is a great British institution. That's why so many on the right hate it, I guess.

Yes, the right is famous for wanting to destroy British institutions. They don't call us conservatives for nothing, you know.

The problem with the BBC is simple. It produces great product. It really does. Look across its range of drama, documentary, educational programmes, kids programmes, and it's all fantastic. Then you watch the news, or a political show, or a discussion panel show, or similar, and it's like having a day where you find 20 quid in the street, and then step in dog-shit. It should be a great day, the 20 quid more than covers the cost of getting your shoes cleaned, but the shine has gone. You're left with a bad feeling. That's the BBC. Such a great heritage, such lazy journalism. It's a real shame.

The problem with Nosemonkey's assertion (any channel that employs Andrew Neil can't be leftist) is that it's not logical. The Guardian employs Ed Vaizey as a columnist. Doesn't mean it's not leftist.

As Blimpish says, if the Beeb were honest about their prejudices, it would be fine. I'd even be happy to pay for it. But you're right - they can't claim to be unbiased and impartial. You took the straw man Hitler argument, but there are probably thousands of BNP supporters out there who don't get fair representation from the Beeb, as its Charter demands. You might not like that argument, but it's the logical conclusion of your own. The Beeb isn't balanced, and can't ever be. It should either disclose it's presenter's biases and conflicts, or it should be shut down.

Third Avenue

Andrew - something tells me you and I are not going to see eye-to-eye on this one...

First of all, I've yet to hear the case proven that the BBC's 'prejudices' are as you describe. Biased BBC, for example, is just a string of anecdotes showing leftist tendencies. Its alter ego at medialens (not to say this is a site I necessarily agree with) is just, if not more, effective at 'proving' the exact opposite case.

Or how about the following headline:

Market optimism as British Airways profits soar

This is fairly standard BBC fare. And yet, many might argue it is horribly biased in favour of right-wing, capitalist views, and a more 'balanced' headline would be:

Anguish as major UK polluter contributes further to climate crisis

My point is that we are predisposed not to notice things that are balanced in our favour, while the things we don't agree with stick out like your proverbial dog-shit.

I might be outraged by the constant religious propoganda on Thought for the Day, and the constant stream of business programming output on all BBC channels (when are we to get a 'trade union' programme?). You might be outraged that Thought for the Day is a bastion of trendy lefties, and that the business programming is obsessed with maternity rights and pollution.

The BBC does not, cannot, get it always right. But it is nearly right more often than anything else I know.


No, we aren't going to agree, but I like a good ruck...

I agree with most of your points, but

The BBC does not, cannot, get it always right. But it is nearly right more often than anything else I know.

the problem with this is that your definition of right is somewhere on the centre-left. The Beeb is institutionally leftist. Nothing wrong with that, but it can't be that way and claim to be balanced and fair. It simply isn't possible. The presenters would have to be robots to not let their prejudices get in the way of their work. You even acknowledge this yourself:

The BBC does not, cannot, get it always right.

and therefore it should have the Charter re-written. When Natasha Kaplinsky appears on screen, I want a scrolling ticker to say: 'Warning. Used to work for Neil Kinnock. Opinions may be hostile to the Conservative party.'

That's not too much to ask. Finally,

'I've yet to hear the case proven that the BBC's 'prejudices' are as you describe'

I've yet to hear the case proven that the Metropolitan police's proclivities towards cross burning and hood wearing are as they are widely reported to be. And yet, the BBC has 419 websites containing the keywords 'institutional racism police'. Go figure...


Obviously, I'm with Andrew. I'm always surprised at the way people on the Left are such sticks-in-the-mud, always defending institutions. Times must be slack for the revolutionary struggle....

Seriously though, the point about the BBC is not that it pursues some hardcore SWP agenda to undermine the British state, but that because of its recruitment and its not-always-high standards (Newsnight I make an exception for here), it simply trots out standard liberal clichés about issues of the day. Because primarily liberal people work there (no conspiracy behind this, it's partly down to the type of people who get drawn into TV-media), there's no one to be critical and force them to even reflect on their reiteration of conventional wisdom.

Third Avenue

Andrew - once again, merely repeating that the BBC is institutionally leftist don't make it so. And where did I define 'right' as 'centre-left'?

I rather like your idea of the Kaplinsky scroll, but surely it should read "Used to work for Kinnock. Opinons may be hostile to the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Greens, BNP, UKIP, Militant, Arthur Scargill, certain parts of the Labour party depending on the issue involved, people who don't like redheads or ballroom dancing, the lady who was unkind to her mum in 1976, etc, etc, etc,"

Blimpish - where I would rather nervously agree with you is that the BBC does tend to concentrate on conventional wisdom. This is to a large part inevitable. The BBC is not a political party or a protest movement. So in presenting the mainstream news, say, it will inevitably present it in the light of 'conventional wisdom' (sometimes this will favour the left, just as often it will favour the right). If it did not do this, its credibility would plummet, and it would certainly be seen as getting ideas above its station.

Outside its mainstream output, part of its role, in my view, should be to question those conventional wisdoms and test their validity. To stretch the public's perception. This it does - not always perfectly, but to a degree far removed from the conformist pap one gets too often, certainly on channels here in the States.


(Re high standards - "Newsnight I make an exception for here" - have we been watching the same programme?)

I can only shake my head in bewilderment at the aggro the BBC receives from the Right. It ranks alongside screaming frenzy Tony Blair drives some more recidivist Tories into, and seems driven by similar urges.

Mike Eagling

This is just a thought but perhaps the BBC is "centre-left" because the UK in general is centre-left? If this is true (and I would argue that it probably is, hence the coexistence of a welfare state and a free market economy) then the BBC is accurately reflecting society-at-large and any perceived bias is due more to the claimant being out of step with the mores of that society than with the broadcaster being endemically biased towards a political ideology. That is, of course, unless you class reflecting society's mainstream values as being institutional bias.


Meaders: ok, I generalised about Newsnight. I meant it's a cut above the rest of the BBC's output. But it would be useless without Paxman.

Third Ave: there may well be some reading of our own wish for an enemy onto this, but... as Mike hints at, the conventional wisdom will be a reflection of the reigning ideology, which is pretty much liberal-Left (less so on economics, but very much so on culcha-type stuff). That's why Righties foam about the BBC - because it reflects a society we're uncomfortable with and want to change, to return it to old-fashioned ways of repression and conformity.


3rd Ave: The wording of the Kaplinsky scroll (great name for a Dan Brown novel, that, by the way...) I am flexible on. The point is that it should be there, so that people think about it.

Merely repeating that the BBC is institutionally leftist don't make it so. And where did I define 'right' as 'centre-left'?

Politics is all about repetition nowadays. And thus, the BBC is institutionally leftist. Obviously, you wouldn't be able to see this, as you're a leftist yourself, much like the policemen of old London town, terrorising our minority communities, and all the while thinking he's upholding the law in his own even-handed way. By 'right' in that other comment, I meant 'correct'.

Mike: The BBC's Charter does not require it to parrot the mean (or median) British punter's view of the world. It requires it to transmit 'impartial coverage of news and current affairs'. Impartial does not mean centre-left. Impartial does not mean centre-right. It means unbiased. Opinion free. If it can't do this, which 3rd Ave even seems to concede it can't, then it is in breach of its Charter.

Let me be clear here. I don't want to tear down the BBC. I'd be happy with some form of Kaplinsky ticker that highlighted potential sources of bias, or even a conflicts register of some kind, open to public access. Then I would be perfectly happy to be threatened with force to pay for the thing. At least it would then be an overt threat rather than a covert one.

dave heasman

NoseMonkey says "Channel 4 News though - their email bulletin apparently styles itself as "liberal news for liberal people" - quite how news can be "liberal" I have no idea".

It's not that hard - "liberal" news means it'll canvass info across the mainstream, from say the Labour Party to the CBI, from the Methodists to the Jesuits. Only when the BNP,the SWP, the more bizarre mullahs, Ruth Kelly, rear up and make news will they get any attention. That's what "liberal" means, isn't it? Fairly wide-ranging acceptance and tolerance of mainstream disparate world-views?
It's not compulsory to have our vocabulary hi-jacked by the septics.

dave heasman

"much like the policemen of old London town, terrorising our minority communities, and all the while thinking he's upholding the law in his own even-handed way..."

"If you say one more fucking word, I'll smash your fucking Arab face in. Do you understand?"

"I'd be happy with some form of Kaplinsky ticker that highlighted potential sources of bias.."

So would I. Splashed across Dimbleby's pasty chops:- "Union-basher - lockout merchant".

And Andrew Neil:- "Serial lackey of expatriate tax-dodgers"

Paxman:- "Takes home 5 times what a Cabinet Minister does - available for corporate promotions - call my agent"

Nearly everyone: - "This space to rent".


Dave: Clearly, one bad apple doesn't make a bad harvest (c.f. Jim Naughtie's little confession of being a Labour voter on air). That's why it's called institutional racism. Otherwise, your ticker comments are fine.

dave heasman

"Dave: Clearly, one bad apple doesn't make a bad harvest ..."

One? How many coppers were in that van? And how many tried to cool the insanely violent one down?
Until they discovered they'd been recorded?

I'd say it was the norm. And I'd say it's been the norm for 40 years at least. My first experiences of Met violence was at the demos against Queen Frederika of Greece in 1963 where I saw a copper viciously kick an old lady in the stomach. And that same year was when I first saw the vice squad shaking down club-owners in Soho. And regularly ever since, thieving and violence. They're above the law. They can run you down, too, no problem.

Scott Campbell at Blithering Bunny

I see someone else has decided that a "study" by a left-wing cultural studies professor decides the issue. I can't say I'm at all convinced even by the summary. Even if what he said was completely true, and he had looked at all the right issues and ignored none of the subtleties, all you would have is a comparison with the other leftist or left-leaning news broadcasters in this country, which isn't saying much. But having seen plenty of talks by these sorts of people, I'm not convinced that even that much is true.

Mike Eagling: the UK public is not by-and-large centre-left. The University-educated New Class largely is. Those are the views the BBC largely reflect.

Mike Eagling

Scott Campbell: "the UK public is not by-and-large centre-left".

So whereabouts on the political spectrum would you place them and why?

Third Avenue

Gosh. I turn my back for two days, and the comments have really mounted up. Too much to get through from my New England porch, so I'll probably write another post on this issue as soon as I get a chance. Just one quick thought.

Scott - it is difficult to judge how 'centre left' the British public is, I admit, but the only absolute measure we can have is voting patterns. The British public, overwhelmingly, votes for the centre left, and has done for some decades. Of course, whether the BBC should or does reflect this is a different issue.


Surely, if the terms mean anything, the British public is by and large 'in the centre'. The idea that because the Lib-Lab vote is a majority, this reflects some dominant Left alliance is belied simply by meeting a fair number of old Labour voters and asking them about immigration or hanging. Plus, many southern Lib Dem voters might be anti-Tory but aren't necessarily Left-wing (which explains why they didn't carry their national success on 5th May so well into their target Tory marginals).


IMO the BBC produces some good stuff but mainly dross. I therefore do not think we should be forced to pay for it. The idea that people actually go to prison for not having a TV licence is a absolute disgrace. If any any other organisation upheld its monopolistic powers in this way the L3s would be up in arms.

Add to that the |BBC's arrogance and bias and I see abolutley no reason for it.

Scott Campbell at Blithering Bunny

It looks to me like the British public is about one-third centre left, one-third centre, and one-third centre-right. How this justifies a centre-left BBC -- which supposedly doesn't exist anyway -- I do not know.

And if you break down the politics into particular issues, then the BBC looks even more unrepresentative.

(I seem to remember having this exact same argument with, I think, the same people somwehere else).

Mike Eagling

"the British public is about one-third centre left, one-third centre, and one-third centre-right."

That's certainly arguable, as far as the voting population is concerned, but I suspect the real situation is more complicated than simply expressing the approximate results of the last general election.

For the record I didn't say a centre-left BBC is justified by any of this, just that it may explain why it might exist. As for your previous arguments, I think that must have been with someone else. Although I'm aware of your blithering I don't recall taking part in it before... ;)


I'm still flabbergasted that Kaplinsky used to work for Neil Kinnock. I really didn't know that. Was she his voice coach or his therapist?

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