Tag Archives: right-wing allegations of left-wing bias

Telegraph Comment of the Week (#28)

On Monday, Dan ‘Tribal Loyalty’ Hodges, the Telegraph’s Blairite-in-residence, attempted to write something objective about the BBC. But as anyone will tell you: the right – especially those who leave comments on Telegraph blogs – hates the BBC, because of its imagined ‘left-wing’ bias. Hodges’s blog: “The BBC isn’t anti-Tory. It’s anti-government” sounds like it should be anti-authority, maybe even counter-cultural, but rather predictably, it is anything but.

He kicks off with,

Today has seen yet another significant drop in unemployment; down 125,000. The trend is clear. The war against unemployment is being won.

Groovy. So what is this really about?

Which of course isn’t what’s supposed to be happening. Only yesterday I became involved in a round of Twitter handbags with former MPC member David Blanchflower, who had confidently predicted “Tory public spending cuts ‘could push unemployment to 5 million’”. According to Blanchflower “If spending cuts are made too early and the monetary and fiscal stimuli are withdrawn, unemployment could easily reach four million.

The thing is, Dan, that apparent ‘drop’ in the numbers of unemployed is entirely concocted. You’re forgetting the numbers of people who’ve been sanctioned, forced into workfare, working ‘self-employed’ and all those other people who are on zero hours contracts. Then there are all the part-time workers who want to work full-time but can’t because the jobs aren’t there. You’re not exactly playing with a full deck. Are you, Dan?

Two paragraphs down and we get to the real point of the blog.

So how does the Today programme choose to cover this dramatic fall in unemployment? With a feature on the scourge of youth unemployment.

Oh dear. Yes friends, the Today programme hasn’t done what it was supposed to do: suck up to the government, which it does every day without fail.

But hang on, what’s this?

But this charge of “Left-wing bias”, or more accurately “pro-Labour bias” is too lazy. It’s true there is a small “l” liberal culture which dominates the Corporation.

Dan, if this is your idea of trying to persuade your headbanging readers to accept the BBC is anything other than ‘left-wing’ you’re wasting your time. Oh and god damn those liberals! Yeah. That’s a sentiment that even this week’s commenter,  CassandraKing, can agree with.

CassandraKretinThose damned left-wing scumbags at the BBC allowed people with dissenting views to express their opinions of Thatcher when she died. Did they? The thing is, the coverage of the week-long Thatcher binge was dominated by gushing tributes from those who worshipped her  as the ‘saviour of Britain’.  The same oleaginous types even tried to rewrite history before our very eyes. “Cassandra” (a delusional choice of online name for sure) can’t see this. “The Maggie haters got more air time than those who loved her”,  she thunders. Aw, diddums.

“CassandraKing” then claims that the BBC turned into “North Korean TV” in their coverage of the death of Nelson Mandela. I hate to tell you this, Cass, but Mandela was a better politician than Thatcher. In fact, Mandela fought a struggle against oppression. Thatcher fought on behalf of the oppressors. She hated unions, unless they happened to be in Poland and she defended apartheid.

Tony Benn is next for the Cassandra treatment.  She whines “The BBC will allow no demonstrators or critics airtime”.  First, let me ask “what demonstrators”? Right doesn’t do demonstrations because it doesn’t need to. I mean, just look at the Rally Against Debt a few years ago. The right couldn’t even muster two hundred supporters for an issue about which it was apparently passionate. Not even Toby Young could be arsed to turn up. No doubt about it, “Cassandra”, like many right-whingers is playing the victim here.

“CassandraKing” closes with the standard “the BBC is the mouthpiece of extremist left/green axis”. The “left/green axis”, eh? The BBC? Yeah, right. Only in DelingpoleWorld.

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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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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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