Category Archives: allegations of bias

Yvette Cooper Is Shadow Home Secretary? That’s News To Me!

Have a look at this Guardian headline.  Can you see anything wrong with it?

The subtitle says: “Colleagues show support after shadow home secretary criticises Theresa May for breaking snap election promise”. The thing is, Jeremy Corbyn attacked May for the same thing twenty minutes before Cooper rose to her feet. Here, Jessica Elgot,  by not mentioning Corbyn, is claiming that only Cooper “criticised” May (Dennis Skinner also put the boot in). That’s how bias works, folks, and Elgot is nothing if not transparent.

Elgot gushes:

Labour MPs heaped praise on Yvette Cooper’s performance at prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, during which the former shadow home secretary attacked Theresa May for breaking her promise not to hold a snap general election.

The whirlwind of supportive comments from Labour colleagues will fuel speculation the MP is already laying the ground for a second leadership bid, given the prevailing feeling in the parliamentary party that Labour should choose a woman as its next leader if Jeremy Corbyn loses on 8 June.

But when was Yvette Cooper appointed Shadow Home Secretary and does Diane Abbott know she’s taken her job?

Given The Guardian’s loathing of Jeremy Corbyn is this a subtle way of telling people who they’d prefer to lead the Labour Party in the event of a defeat?

Remember, in Britain it’s not the voters who decide who leads the Labour Party (or the country). That’s the self-appointed job of the corporate media.

You can read Elgot’s syrupy drivel in full here.

UPDATE 19/4/17 @ 1623

The Guardian have corrected their, erm, error. I have the screengrab and will be keeping an eye on the paper.

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Filed under allegations of bias, Free Press Myth, General Election 2017, Journalism, Media

But… But… The Polls Say…

I can’t count the number of times people have said to me on Twitter or Facebook that the polls have “told them” (as if the polls are some present day Oracle at Delphi speaking especially and directly to them) that Jeremy Corbyn is ‘unelectable’. This usually happens when you demolish their narrative (I won’t dignify their discourse with the word ‘argument’) that only a Blairite or a similar stuffed shirt would make a better Labour leader. They base this notion on the fact that he (Blair) won three General Elections in a row. That the Blair-led Nu Labour party won those elections is irrefutable, however as I pointed out in a previous blog, Labour lost 5 million voters in the space of 13 years. Of course, that fact is also ignored because it reveals an uncomfortable truth: the policies of Nu Labour and its variants Blue Labour, and the unfortunately coined ‘Brownism’, are unpopular with many people. So why do people persist in citing polls as some kind of ‘evidence’?

For eons, humans have sought to master nature. One way in which people have tried to achieve a mastery over  powerful unseen forces is by attempting to predict future outcomes.  For some, tarot cards do the trick and for others, it means consulting their horoscopes in the papers.  Sometimes, the future will be divined from random signs that have their origins in folklore: bones scattered on the ground and animal entrails thrown onto a fire have both been used with little or no success.

Polling deals with numbers, so it is seen as being more scientific and less susceptible to human fallibilities. I mean, numbers don’t lie, surely? Well, they do. It all depends on how numbers are interpreted and who is doing the interpreting. Sadly, polling companies don’t employ people who have been produced in an ideological vacuum and free of discourse. They may make all kind of plausible claims that their ‘research’ (sic) is ‘rigorous’ but this is done to throw people off the scent. I mean, how objective was Lord Ashcroft’s polling? At least he declared his political position from the outset. Polling companies don’t do that and will claim to be ‘objective’, but as many academic researchers will tell you, it isn’t possible to be totally objective.  This is why qualitative researchers use self-reflexivity.  Pollsters don’t bother with such things because they see themselves as the impartial interpreters of signs and that’s their weakness.  Thus, we can regard them, quite literally, as the self-appointed high priests of psephological divination. In the eyes of the mass media, therefore, they are uncritically accepted as politically-neutral soothsayers; mere observers of a history to come. Their legitimation having come entirely from their claim of being impartial.

But it’s not just the numbers, it’s how people arrive at their responses . This is rarely, if ever, discussed. Polls exist, not to gauge public opinion, but to shape it.  Thus, the questions that are asked of respondents are equally important as the numbers themselves.   Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the right-wing press and the Nu Labourites of the Parliamentary Labour Party have persisted with the narrative that Corbyn is “unelectable”.  There is no basis for this claim and it seems to be based entirely on antipathy towards him, rather than his policies or ability to connect with voters (which is also disputed).  Narratives like this and “Corbyn has failed to reach out to working class voters” are trotted out frequently as kinds of truths.  But if you start to subject these narratives to scrutiny, they quickly fall apart.  Polls may start with a statement like “It has been said that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable”.  To this, a question will be added that reads something like “how likely are you to vote for a Labour Party led by him”?  The polling companies prompt respondents to react in a certain way.  Thus the narrative has been planted in their minds from the outset.  The narrative will also be repeated in the mass media as a kind of Truth.

This article in the New Yorker asks if polling is destroying democracy.  If polls are being commissioned by the newspapers and broadcasters, then questions need to be asked, not only of their validity but of their purpose.  Last week, the Daily Express produced a story from a survey that claimed “Most people want to go down the pub with Boris Johnson”.  My first question was “who did they survey” and my second question was “who commissioned this rubbish”? Perhaps the most important question is “who is this story and survey for”? It tells us nothing and if The Express commissioned this poll, then it begs the question of why it’s still in business as a serious (sic) newspaper.

The failure of the polling companies to predict the future was brought into sharp relief by Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory and last year’s UK General Election. Their fallibility was laid bare for all to see.  “Ah, but what about the margin of error”? What about it? Whenever polls are criticized, especially in the case of their claims of Corbyn’s apparent unelectability, the margin of error canard is deployed as an appeal to authority.  Crucially, those who defend polls never consider the fact that those questioned in these surveys may be Tories who won’t vote for Corbyn or who may not even vote at all.  They may even change their views between now and election day. Some respondents may even lie. Apparently, these variables are factored into polling but how accurate is this margin of error? Not very, by the look of things.

YouGov is often cited by polling experts and watchers as being the most accurate of the polling companies, but this company was founded by Tories, Stephan Shakespeare and Nadhim Zahawi.  The latter still has questions to answer over his involvement in a Jeffrey Archer charity in which millions of pounds, apparently destined for Kurdish refugees mysteriously vanished.  Shakespeare is a twice-failed Conservative Parliamentary candidate and former member of the Socialist Workers’ Student Society.

The latest YouGov poll repeats the by now familiar “Labour is x points behind the Tories”. Polling companies and the mass media work hand-in-glove with each other.  The latter produces a constant stream of negative stories and the polling companies respond by producing a poll, which reinforces the claims of the former.  Sometimes the poll will be commissioned by persons or organizations known or unknown.  In any case, they feed each other.

 

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The Mainstream Media’s Relationship With The Far-Right

The Right often accuses the BBC of having a “left-wing bias”. Yet when pressed to provide salient examples of this bias, they produce some truly absurd examples. One person on Telegraph blogs claimed that CBBC and CBeebies were biased to the Left because one programme mentioned climate change. Others will splutter “the comedy is left-wing”. Really? All of it? How about My Family? The real discourse being expressed here is this: for all their talk about ‘freedom’, the Right wants to control all discourse and set the terms of debate. Their economic experts pop up all the time on BBC News spouting the same line about the necessity for cuts and are never challenged by an opposing economic point of view. Instead, the economist in question is presented as ‘neutral’ expert.  It’s no wonder that when some BBC reporter conducts vox-pop interviews about the economy, the people on the street tend to repeat the official discourse with lines like “the country is broke”, “we have to make cuts somewhere” and “people on benefits are lazy”.

As many of you are already aware, UKIP and Nigel Farage are frequent guests to the BBC’s studios. Their message is carried on the broadcaster’s airwaves without much opposition. Timid and lazy journalists refuse to put Farage to the question and are sucked in by his oily charm. If you think this is a new phenomenon, think again. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the BBC interviewed John Tyndall and other prominent members of the National Front.

This clip shows the timidity of the BBC’s handling of the far-right.

Tyndall dismisses the allegation that the NF was extremist and the interviewer fails to drill into his façade. Tyndall also claims that he was involved in an extremist group but it was nothing more than youthful hi-jinks. Again, the interviewer fails to ask follow up questions and instead treats Tyndall with the greatest degree of respect.

Here’s an interesting clip of the late Prof Stuart Hall talking about racism in the media in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s almost surprising to learn how little has changed.

In the recent French municipal elections, the BBC told viewers and listeners that Marine Le Pen’s Front National had performed well. They gave the impression that the FN was now in a position to win the next Presidential election. Unfortunately, the BBC didn’t bother to conduct proper checks and failed to report on the successes of the Front de Gauche and as this graphic illustrates, the FdG out-performed the FN and is poised to win around 600 seats on local councils in the second round of votes.

FdG v FN graphic

 

Instead of reporting the facts, the BBC gives the impression that the FN is poised for some kind of landslide victory. Last night’s edition of Newsnight, carried a weird little item about the FN and their mayoral  candidate for Avignon, which was  sandwiched between a story about Malaysian Airways flight MH370 and an item about gaming. Significantly, Kirsty Wark didn’t mention the story in her introduction. The reporter, Hugh Schofield, claimed that the FN had changed its image and was now more “acceptable”, adding she’s (Le Pen) “cleaned up the brand”. Schofield dismissed student demonstrations against the FN and didn’t mention the Front de Gauche at all. According to him, the FN is the only game in town.  He also went further and claimed that many “immigrants” were going to vote for the FN and interviewed Phillipe Lottiaux, the FN candidate, and accepted every word he said without a challenge. Here’s a link to Newsnight, the story starts at 10.42. You have another 6 days to watch it.

The BBC also fails to question Farage and his cronies about their party’s links to far-right parties in the European Parliament. As I mentioned in this blog, UKIP is a member of the far-right European Party for Freedom (EAP). It has cordial relations with parties like Jobbik and Geert Wilders’ PVV. Indeed, this is not guilt by association, UKIP actually shares many of these parties’  ideologies. When members of Jobbik arrived here a couple of months ago to spread their poison, the BBC failed to report the story.

Next Monday, Channel 4 will move their main news programme from 1900 to 1800 to accommodate Martin Durkin’s affectionate portrait of Farage. Yes, you read that correctly. Channel 4 are moving Channel 4 News from its usual slot to 6pm. Durkin is already known to this blog as are his colleagues in the LM Network. Durkin’s film will contribute nothing to any debate and will serve to reinforce UKIP’s feeble claim that Farage is a ‘man of the people’.

Here’s Farage being ‘interviewed’ by Andrew Marr. Compare this interview to the one with John Tyndall.

Not so much an interview as a chat between two old friends. Wouldn’t you agree? At no point does Marr challenge Farage or talk down to him. Instead, Marr allows Farage to produce loads of evidence-free assertions and even joins in with a laugh or two.

The media’s response to the far-right is, quite frankly, too deferential. The Left, on the other hand, are rarely invited into the studio. If they are, they are shouted down or patronized by the interviewer and other guests. By contrast, right-wing politicians are accommodated and their views are given credence. The media’s attitude towards men like Farage effectively legitimizes the far-right and their repugnant views on ethnicity and national identity. Objectivity is like a fabulous creature: it exists only in the imagination.

If the far-right make any gains in this country, it will be with the connivance of the mainstream media channels, which seem to prefer fascism to democracy. Of course, they would claim otherwise and tell you that they want to examine all political views and place party leaders like Farage under greater scrutiny. Nothing seems further from the truth.

CORRECTION

I said that C4 News had been moved back an hour. It remains in its usual time slot but has been shortened by 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

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Telegraph Comment of the Week (#25)

Dan Hodges is a bitter man. In fact, when it comes to being bitter, there’s no better a bitter man than Dan. Tribal Loyalty used his blog on Friday to moan that he hasn’t been asked to appear on The BBC’s weekly bunfight, Question Time. Instead, comedian, Kate Smurthwaite appeared as the only voice of sanity on an otherwise gruesome panel. I mean, Mark Littlewood. Why? In fact, Dan Hodges. Why?

Hodges’s blog bears the title “That’s it. If the BBC don’t want me, I’m boycotting them”. I’ll scweam and scweam and scweam! But Dan has been on the BBC. Is it because he see himself as the authentic voice of the British Left? A Blairite? Left? In one sentence? Please. Maybe it’s because he sees himself as a potential voice of reason on the often unreasonable Question Time? In which case he’s just as deluded as his fetish-object: His Holiness, Pope Tony of Sedgefield Mayfair Jerusalem.

Tribal Loyalty’s whine actually uses Kate Smurthwaite as a framing device. He opens with:

Yesterday, at about a quarter to midnight, I was sat at my computer Googling Kate Smurthwaite. Who, you may ask, is Kate Smurthwaite? Good question. I didn’t know, and I desperately needed to find out.

Does Mrs. Hodges know what you’re up to, Dan?

So it’s the witching hour, and a middle-aged man is hunched over his computer screen in south-east London, studiously ignoring his wife’s desultory instructions to come to bed, whilst frantically trying to find out everything he can about this mysterious person. You can park that image for a moment, but we’ll be returning to it.

Yes, I think I will “park that image”. Mind bleach!

The blog closes thus:

Kate Smurthwaite was born 9 December 1975, is a British Goth, a stand-up comedian and a political activist. And last night she was ace on Question Time.

For most of his piece, he’s complaining about how he hasn’t quite managed to get his voice heard beyond the confines of the Telegraph or, indeed, The Daily Brillo. “Last year” he confides, “I got asked three times if I’d like to appear on QT. Three times. And three times they said at the eleventh hour: “I’m sorry, we don’t think this is the right show for you this week.” Not the right show? I was born to be on that show”. Sheesh, turn it in.

Now to this week’s comment.  As you’d expect with the Torygraph, any blog that mentions the BBC is bound to have its online readers venting their spleen about “left-wing” this and multi-culti” that. This week’s comment is really two comments. It’s another one of those exchanges between two dimwitted souls that often get on these threads.

steelplateinheadHere “Lord Loopy” complains that a Ukrainian protester was tortured by that country’s repressive apparatuses and the BBC (I guess) focussed on this story much to his nibs’ displeasure. It’s a bloody outrage! It’s the bloody news, mate. Get real.  Steelwheels is equally outraged but in a different sort of way. For him, it’s all about skin colour. The beaten protester is a “fellow Caucasian from a Christian heritage” he insists. Yeah, but what if he turns out to be an, erm, left-winger instead of an, erm, neo-Nazi?  Such questions don’t cross the minds of this pair,  one of whom loathes anyone who appears to want to join the European Union and the other, a definite racist,  who completely ignores the OP to squeeze his skin-based hatreds into one, stinky paragraph. Lord Loopy at least keeps his vexation within the limits of the BBC’s supposed pro-EU, left-wing agenda, but that doesn’t say much. He still ignored the OP.

Next week, Tribal Loyalty demands to know why he wasn’t asked to take part in The Great British Bake-off.

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Telegraph Comment of the Week (#3)

This one comes from Janet Daley’s blog about the Centre for Policy Studies’ (CPS) evidence-free and non-peer reviewed report that claims the BBC has a “left-wing bias”. Only in your dreams, Janet.

Here’s Daley’s appraisal:

The Centre for Policy Studies has published an impeccably researched report which offers objective statistical evidence of the BBC’s persistent habit of describing (which is to say, effectively dismissing) the proposals of think tanks such as the IEA, the Centre for Social Justice, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, and the CPS itself as emanating from “Rightwing” organisations, while offering up material from Leftwing or Labour-supporting groups without any such health-warning. The effect, needless to say, is to cast political suspicion on the published claims or policy suggestions of the outfits labelled “Rightwing”, even when the material they contain is factual and empirically indisputable.

Yes, but Janet, the CPS is right-wing. It was founded in 1974 by Thatcher, Sir Keith Joseph and Sir Alfred Sherman. You can’t get more right-wing than the CPS. But “factually and empirically indisputable” is something the CPS’s reports are not. Right-wing think tanks don’t think they need to bother with such trivial things as evidence as I pointed out in this blog.

Enter sage and nationalist wit, offaofmercia or “Offal of Mercia” as I prefer to call him (it has to be a him) with this week’s Telegraph Comment of the Week.

Offal of Mercia (cropped)

Let’s have a look at his points.

1. It “hates British history”… which is why there are tons of programmes about various aspects of British history on BBC Television at the moment. David Starkey is currently presenting a programme about the Tudors and Music.  Offal has also missed (some might say deliberately) the She-Wolves documentary presented by Helen Castor on BBC4 and Michael Wood’s series King Alfred and the Anglo-Saxons on the same channel. Massive FAIL.

2. Not sure where Offal gets his ideas that the BBC “hates that Britain was once the greatest power” drivel from. I guess he keeps missing those nationalistic programmes fronted by Dan Snow and others. FAIL.

3. It “hates Christianity and Christians”, which is why the dreary Songs of Praise is still running after 52 years. FAIL.

4. It “protects and promotes Islam”. I can’t see how that’s the case and like the CPS report, Offal’s assertion lacks evidence. FAIL.

5. It “promotes the welfare state which is destroying Britain”. In which case, it must be doing a pretty poor job of it. Offal hasn’t seen Saints and Scroungers or that shitty John Humphrys’  Future of Welfare that was recently slapped down by the BBC Trust. In the latter’s case, the right-wing press went into overdrive with claims of BBC’s ‘left-wing bias’. FAIL.

6. It “promotes the NHS which is killing women left, right and centre”. The BBC has said nothing about the NHS privatization plans and has actually danced to the government’s tune.  The BBC has actually failed to offer a voice that is against the government’s plans. As for “killing women”. How has the NHS done this? Offal offers no examples.  So that’s a FAIL.

7. It “promotes the EU and continental orgs/entities that want to destroy British sovereignty”. The BBC only promotes the BBC and the words of government ministers. FAIL.

8. It “promotes pc culture which has the entire nation walking on eggshells at all times”. What is a “pc culture” and how is it “promoted” by the BBC? Is it because The Black and White Minstrel Show was axed over 30 years ago? That must be it. In which case it is a FAIL.

9. It “despises anything to the right of the Labour party”, which is why it invites government ministers to appear without a dissenting point of view being put to them. Besides, the Labour leadership is right-wing and has been that way for years. Another FAIL.

10. It “promotes depriving a citizen of his/her freedom  because of his/her thoughts and words”. Truly silly stuff from Offal. I can’t see how the BBC does this. It probably says more about Offal’s paranoia than it does the BBC’s allegedly magical ability to control people’s thoughts and actions. I mean, that’s what the remote control is for: if you don’t like what you see or hear, turn it off or change the channel. Tin Foil Hat City. FAIL.

11. It “forces people to give to it through ‘voluntary fees’ though it has NO TOLERANCE for views on the Right”.  First, the license fee isn’t “voluntary” it’s compulsory if you own a television. The Right’s views are given much more airtime on BBC News than any other views. So again, it’s a FAIL.

So Offal of Mercia thinks the BBC controls our minds and never has any right-wingers in their studios.  Yes and I’m King Cnut.

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Anyone for right-wing comedy? Not for me, thanks.

Jim Davidson: the archetypal right-wing comedian.

Anyone who was listening to Radio 4’s Feedback on Sunday will have heard some listeners complaining about Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation. One listener complained that the show was a “party political broadcast for the Labour Party”. Another listener bemoaned the fact that there aren’t any right-wing comedians on Radio 4. Right wing comedians? Really? Do I really want to hear right-wing comedy on Radio 4 or anywhere else? Needless to say, the complaints weren’t so much about the show rather than an apparent left-wing bias in the station’s comedy content.

Readers, I have read complaints like these before on Telegraph blogs and on The Freedom Association’s (TFA) website. The issue isn’t so much comedy itself, but with what the Right perceives to be the BBC’s “cultural bias” and, in the absence of any salient examples,  they will often cite the employment of what it sees as “left-wing” comedians at the “licence payers expense”.

We have seen complaints such as these from the Right since the 1970s. The political fringe theatre companies that were funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain, for example, came under attack from Tories like Teddy Taylor, who singled out CAST for special treatment. CAST, it seems, upset him more than most. He said,

“It is an outrageous waste of money. I’d like all grants withdrawn from this theatre company and intend to make representations to the authorities”.

Taylor had an ally in fellow Tory, Norman Tebbit, who complained bitterly of left-wing radicals practising their subversive arts on the taxpayers’ farthing. Thanks to their efforts, the Thatcher government appointed William Rees-Mogg (father of Jacob) as Chairman of the Arts Council in 1983. Under his command, funding was withdrawn from CAST and many other left-wing theatre companies. Consequently, the majority of fringe theatre companies were forced to either fold or change. Ever resourceful, CAST revived the variety form first on their New Variety circuit and then a couple of years later at the Hackney Empire. But funding cuts to local government and the abolition of the Greater London Council would continue to threaten CAST’s and the Hackney Empire’s existence until the mid-1990s.

So what is right-wing comedy? If you have a knowledge of right-wing political ideologies, then you will more or less understand the themes and the butts of its humour. In the 1970s, we had  Granada Television’s The Comedians. Jim Davidson, unless I am very much mistaken, is a right-wing comedian and a supporter of the Conservative Party. Davidson used to work for the BBC fronting such programmes as Big Break and The Generation Game. To the best of my knowledge, he has never graced the Radio 4 studios. Just as well, really.

Commissioning editor, Caroline Raphael defended Jeremy Hardy and reminded the complainants that satire can only work if it attacks those in power. This is axiomatic of political satire, but in the mind of the Right such self-evidence is met with derision. Why would anyone want to challenge the powerful? Aren’t they superior because of their social position and circumstances of birth? Although, they may not speak these words aloud, the underlying social Darwinian sentiment is there.

If left-wing comedy (well, political satire) attacks those in power, then right-wing comedy attacks those without power. It regards ethnic minorities, women, gays, lesbians, trans people, the homeless, the working class, drug addicts and others as objects of ridicule. It does not speak to power because it is power. In the master-slave relationship, it is the master. It presents life as a series of banal and insulting representations. It denies history because it seeks to create mythologies in its place. It is a sad day, indeed, when comedians like Jimmy Carr are described as “left-wing” by right-wing commentators.

The truth of the matter is that there are right-wing comedians, but their politics may not be evident in their comedy. Those who sit on the political Right are more likely to come across as ‘apolitical’ and play for the troops in the Falklands or Afghanistan. Judge them not by their words, but by their actions.

One of the complainants opined that “the BBC is a non-political organisation and yet it is paying for broadcasting what appeared to be a party political broadcast for the Communist Party”.  First of all, the BBC is not a “non-political organisation” and this is evident in it news coverage, which displays a right-wing bias. Secondly, those who complain that Hardy’s show was a “political broadcast for the Communist Party” ignore two things: 1) the Communist Party does not and has never made political broadcasts for the BBC and 2) Hardy is not a member of the Communist Party. But then, this is how the Right regards anything that doesn’t conform to their views. Even the Labour Party is “Communist” in their eyes.

But if right-wing comedy is like anything else that they’ve produced (think of nationalist poetry), then it’s bound to be pretty poor. I think it was Hemingway, who when asked if he preferred right-wing poetry to left-wing poetry, replied by saying right-wing poetry was “boring”. Right-wing comedy is bound to be, not only boring, but abusive as well.

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The BBC and right-wing bias: a very close relationship indeed

The British Gazette: The BBC’s news source during the 1926 General Strike

Many of us on the left have been disgusted at the way in which the BBC treats studio guests who do not conform to the government’s pro-austerity line, while allowing government ministers to speak freely without interruption.  Labour politicians, for example, are routinely interrupted and talked over, while government ministers are fawned over and treated with kid gloves. As far as The Cat is concerned, the worst offenders are Andrew Marr, Jo Coburn, John Humphrys and the various newsreaders on the BBC News Channel who are too numerous to mention.  On the other hand, the Tories and the others on the right will complain that the BBC is “left-wing” yet when you press these people, they’ll splutter something along the lines of “I meant the entertainment not the news”.  What about Upstairs, Downstairs or Parade’s End? Are they left-wing? “It’s the bloody comedy”! What? Like Michael MacIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, you mean?  [the Tory interlocutor then mutters something about immigration and multi-culturalism].

Information was a tightly controlled commodity in the early 20th Century, the property of wealthy Tory-supporting newspaper barons, who offered the public a diet of slanted news and fluff (so nothing’s changed then). Like their American counterparts, they also engaged in a fair amount of red-baiting. But the newspaper printing presses fell silent during the 1926 General Strike, when print workers, along with millions of other workers, walked out on strike for a week to support the miners struggle for better pay and conditions. The BBC (then a private company), which took its news, from a variety of news agencies, found itself without any sources for its bulletins because the journalists had joined the strike.  Winston Churchill, a former journalist who was no friend of the worker, immediately created a government news organ called The British Gazette and it was from this paper that the BBC took all of its news during the strike.

The BBC could argue that it was a young institution, having been founded in 1922 (coincidentally the same year that Mussolini seized power in Italy) and it didn’t know how to “play the game”. But this would be a lie: the BBC was close to the state from day one and this is perhaps best illustrated when its staff and directors attended a dinner party that had been held for Stanley Baldwin in December 1926. The BBC’s licence to operate initially came from the General Post Office and it had no rivals. In this respect it is hegemonic because its dominance over Britain’s cultural production is near supreme. The BBC was incorporated by Royal Charter in 1927 and substituted the word “Corporation” for “Company”.  Officially speaking, the government and the BBC have what is known as an “arms length relationship”. This means that the government is not supposed to interfere with the BBC and use it for political ends. Of course, this is a fiction. The BBC regularly yields to the slightest pressure from government as the example of 1926 shows us. There are other notable examples.

That Was The Week That Was, while not a left-wing programme, was perceived as such by many Conservatives, because it portrayed them in an unflattering light. TW3 mocked all the political parties, because it was tied to a contract of impartiality. It was produced within News and Current Affairs, rather than Light Entertainment  in order to get around the draconian regulations that governed live performances, which by implication meant political satire performed before an audience.

This article from the Daily Telegraph, of all papers, tells us that MacMillan’s Tory government “helped to take TW3 off the air”. Pressure was applied during the first series  by Lord  Aldington, the vice-chairman of the party, who wrote a sternly-worded letter to the BBC Director General, Hugh Carleton-Greene complaining that,

“The Government’s defence policy takes knock after knock from remarks that are only part relevant to the fun of the piece. What is quite defensible if said once or twice becomes objectionable if repeated so as to form a theme of policy or on politics.

“It has begun to look to some – all your friends – as if Frost nurses a hatred of the prime minister which he finds impossible to control.

“This kind of programme can become highly politically charged. If it does then the Conservative Party are bound – indeed ought – to ask for balance.

“Once political targets, policies or persons become discernible we shall all be in trouble and no doubt we shall take up the cudgels.”

“The Government’s defence policy” can be read as a euphemism for the Profumo Affair.  Aldington’s “we shall take up the cudgels”,  can be seen as a not-so-veiled threat. Nonetheless, the BBC commissioned a second series. The complaints from angry Tory-voting viewers continued to pour in. The article tells us that,

Some of the BBC’s most senior figures were among the programme’s detractors. On August 13, 1963, the director of television wrote: “Several powerful establishment friends of the chairman are complaining … Especially about vulgarity and smut. You know what I thought about the programme. We agreed that we really disliked the lack of professionalism in production, the lack of judgment about what is funny and what is not.”

The “lack of professionalism in production” seems to refer to the programme’s deliberate breaking of the fourth wall. However the suggestion that there was a “lack of judgment about what is funny and what is not” reminds us of satire’s historical conflict with state power and offers us a glimpse into how the cultural hegemony operates.  It is the voice of the stern Victorian dad, mutton chops and all, as he shows you the back of his hand. “I shall tell you what is funny, my lad”!

TW3 was cancelled in the middle of its run, ostensibly because 1964 was an “election year”. But with the Profumo Affair still rumbling, the Tories’ electoral chances were in the khazi. Alec Douglas-Home, who succeeded MacMillan, who’d resigned due to ill-health was the caretaker leader of a doomed party.The Tories had only themselves to blame for their loss in the 1964 General Election.

There are plenty of other examples but one caught my eye a couple of weeks ago on the BBC Parliament Channel. It was the coverage of the first 1974 General Election. Held against the background of the miners’ strike, power cuts, the three-day week and the international energy crisis, the petulant PM, Heath threw a strop and demanded to know the answer to the question, “Who Governs Britain”? The BBC evidently agreed it was Heath and pretty much told us so. This was evident  in their questioning of Labour shadow ministers and the general, “Hurrah for Heath” tone of the presenters. The result, as we know, was a hung parliament, with Wilson commanding a sliver of the popular votes over the Tories. The irony here is that under a proportional system, it all would have been much different and Heath would have won with his superior percentage of the vote.

The Miners’ Strike of 1984-85 again revealed the BBC’s right-wing bias when, during the Battle of Ogreave, it decided to take the side of Thatcher’s semi-private gendarmerie the police by selectively editing the footage to suggest that it was the miners who had charged the police and not the other way around. The BBC was more than happy to paint the miners as thugs, because this fitted in with  the government’s view of the worker; the enemy within. In the aftermath of Orgreave, the South Yorkshire Police (SYP) fitted up 95 miners whom it accused of being involved in violent affray. Thanks to the work of the Glasgow Media Unit, the truth was revealed and the SYP force was exposed as corrupt. Fast forward to 1989 and we see the same police force involved in the Hillsborough Disaster cover-up with the BBC taking its line directly from the mouths of the cops and the government.

More recently, the BBC has worked hard to shut anyone up who questions the government’s austerity measures. In many instances the BBC news editors will have a panel that is entirely composed of people from the pro-austerity side of the debate. Representatives from the CBI, the IEA, Taxpayers Alliance, Policy Exchange and others all get airtime, while the UK Uncut, the Real Taxpayers Alliance and so forth will either get shouted down by right-wing studio guests or attacked by the interviewer, who will offer “Well, what would you cut” as the only form of counter-argument to the interlocutor’s discourse. There have been instances where I have seen the BBC invite someone like Dominic Raab on to talk about his latest book but offer no balance to counteract his lies and shoddy theses.

This site claims to “expose” BBC bias but it’s a right-wing site that plays a familiar tune on a broken violin. Unhappy with the less than total control of popular discourse, the Right wants all broadcasters to pay deference to their notional ‘superiority’. The charge that the BBC is “left-wing” has been refuted time and time again, yet they persist with this nonsense. The BBC is cheerfully dancing to the austerity tune that is being played by this government. The idea that the BBC has an arm’s length relationship to the government is beginning to look like more and more like a warm embrace of like minds.

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