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BBC bias: a response to Iain Dale

Posted By Sunny On 19th September, 2007 @ 4:05 pm In Party politics, Media | 13 Comments

In response to my article [1] on CIF yesterday, Iain Dale was annoyed enough to [2] write a reply in the middle of his holiday. But I’m afraid he read my article rather too quickly to see what I was getting at.

1) Institutional bias
Iain Dale says he does not recall anyone alleging the BBC has admitted being “institutionally biased”. Well, he should have read the article [3] I linked to. In the comments of Iain Dale’s blog, Septicisle also linked the [4] original article.

It has become a constantly regurgitated line that the BBC has admitted it was “institutionally biased” towards liberal ideas in a recent report. It did no such thing. The BBC is a huge organisation and its producers are fallible people. Some have an inbuilt liberal bias, some have an inbuilt conservative bias. This is the organisation after all that employees a Political Editor (Nick Robinson) who was chairman of Young Conservatives at university.

2) Backing down
Iain Dale says: “[Sunny] seems to object to anyone on the right objecting to examples of left of centre bias within the BBC, and accuses the BBC of backing down far too often to people on the right.

People on the right who see a liberal bias at the BBC are of course welcome to complain. As should people on the left. If it makes a mistake, fine. My problem is that the BBC capitulates too easily as recent examples have shown. They did not demonstrate a mistake on the BBC’s part and none of my critics (including Dale) have shown how the BBC was right to back down.

3) Conspiracy theory
Dale says: “There are just as many left wing bloggers who believe there to be a vast right wing conspiracy.

Well, that’s because most of the press, excluding the Daily Mirror, Guardian and Independent have a declared right-wing conservative bias. They make no bones about it. So its unsurprising that liberal-lefties see a vast right-wing media.

But Iain Dale and most of the right have become convinced that the BBC represents a vast left-wing conspiracy just because Andrew Marr said there were a few producers who were liberal. And that’s it. Andrew Marr’s comments are twisted out of proportion and the Beeb suddenly becomes a communist organisation. The fact that so many right-wingers have fallen prey to this ludicrous conspiracy theory is never challenged by Dale. Why? Because, as [5] Unity pointed out recently, the BBC’s fairly balanced coverage is a challenge to a press that is moving even further to the right while the country remains stubbornly liberal.

As [6] ErrorGorilla points out:

From Radio 4’s Thought for the Day to BBC 1’s Songs of Praise; from Radio 2’s awful Jeremy Vine Show to BBCi’s Have Your Say (both of which invariably couch debate in terms designed to get right-wingers frothing about the liberal conspiracy reducing the country to its knees); from the genuflection before the Windsors to the courting of Alastair Campbell; from former Young Conservative Nick Robinson to Spectator Chief Executive Andrew Neil; from Dragon’s Den to the Apprentice; from Jeremy Clarkson (who last night spent an hour soiling the Arctic in a Toyota and concluded that the “inconvenient truth is [that the damage alleged to have been done by the car to the environment] doesn’t even appear to have scratched the surface”) to Jon Gaunt. Hardly Marxism is it?

4) Strategy
Iain Dale finally says: “But now we come to the most idiotic part of Sunny’s article, for in this next paragraph he actually admits that there IS a liberal bias within the BBC, which surely undermines everything which precedes it.

Actually I don’t. I said: “For many of us on the liberal left, the BBC is a useful if somewhat increasingly dumbed-down antidote to the hard-right propaganda of most of the press. It keeps us vaguely sane, so we support it.”

My point is that (for the most part) the BBC sits at the political centre. Liberals can deal with it because its better than having to consume the hard-right propaganda of most of the right wing press. I can read the Times usually but ever tried reading the Daily Mail or the Express? Ergh. I shudder at the thought. I don’t even bother with Torygraph. In comparison to them, the BBC is way better even if it does not reflect more liberal-left values (like the Guardian, Indy). That was my point. It’s hardly an admission the BBC is infected with liberal bias.

I’ll repeat my main point again.

My problem is that the BBC is forgetting its own guidelines and seems to be increasingly worried about answering its critics on the right that it has a liberal bias. If that dictates its behaviour, then it becomes strategically important for the broader mainstream left to also complain and let the BBC know that they won’t accept its right-wing bias. Only with criticism from both sides can the BBC remain in the middle. If the criticism only comes from the right, it will inevitably move to the right.

Update: On my CIF article, a comment by LordSummerisle [7] sums it up:

What I took Sunny’s words to mean was that in light of an what is beginning to appear to be an organised right wing anti-bias blogging campaign exposing left wing bias at the BBC, the left should stop sitting on its collective backside and point out examples of right wing bias at the BBC.

Because the squeaky wheel gets the grease and the loudest squeaky wheel is, at the moment, the right.

[Thanks to [8] Septicisle, [9] CuriousHamster and [10] Tim Ireland for clarifying my views at Dale’s]

13 Comments To "BBC bias: a response to Iain Dale"

#1 Comment By Garry On 19th September, 2007 @ 4:34 pm

My pleasure. It will be interesting to see whether Iain informs his readers that his “interpretation” of your point was wrong now that you’ve made it crystal clear?

#2 Comment By Tim Ireland On 19th September, 2007 @ 5:08 pm

You’re welcome. And Garry, for the good of your health, I suggest you do *not* hold your breath waiting.

#3 Comment By ChrisC On 19th September, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

I agree that some of “Biased BBC”’s posts can be on the trivial side, but they produce the specific content to which they object.

That’s not the same kind of thing as saying look, Nick Robinson was a young Tory so the BBC cannot be biased or (ludicrously Hari-style) must therefore be biased to the right.

Where are your examples of (as you see it) biased content within specific news reports?

#4 Comment By Sunny On 19th September, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

Oh but I have those criticism too ChrisC. The only difference is I don’t spend my time obsessing about it all the time.

[11] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1265

[12] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1206
(the end bit of that one)

[13] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1128

[14] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1100

[15] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1279
(end bit)

#5 Comment By septicisle On 20th September, 2007 @ 12:35 am

No worries. I was hoping to write my own response today but it’ll have to be tomorrow.

#6 Comment By newmania On 20th September, 2007 @ 1:53 pm

Well, that’s because most of the press, excluding the Daily Mirror, Guardian and Independent

Leaving what , The Mail, The Telegraph and the Sun … (which is not especially ‘Conservative’ supporting )? Sounds like it roughly reflect the views of the buyers which is what you would expect. The question is why doesn`t the BBC ?
I understand what you want , to manufacture a set of grievances so as to set up a centre point further to the left. This would be pushing an open door and would be gleefully clutched by the Beeb to demonstrate their “predicament” It really is nonsense though. I went through the vast numbers of past crosses from Guardian to BBC to Labour and a specific recent example of active bias ,unanswered of course.The pretence of the left to be supportive of the Beeb in a disinterested way and because of their commitment to impartiality is one so hilariously self deluding that I can only encourage more of it.The small c socially conservative majority are the most abused and I doubt many at the BBC would even try to disguise their contempt for nationalism , the monarchy and such cross Party affections

I `d suggest the Solomon answer. If you don`t like it and I don`t like it why not kill it ? Then we will both be happy won`t we…….answer that impartially…..as if. In fact I like it more and more . My commitment to impartiality can no longer rest happily with the continued existece of this desperately right wing Lord Haw Haw organisation. Joining hands with Sunny I would like to back his call for its immediate demise.

In doing so I echo the equally sincere wish of the pig in lipstick Brown for cross Party cooperation !

Glad to help old chap

#7 Comment By Jherad On 20th September, 2007 @ 5:25 pm


- ‘Sounds like it roughly reflect the views of the buyers which is what you would expect. The question is why doesn`t the BBC ?’

I’m a little unsure as to what you are suggesting - that the BBC *should* be right wing instead of impartial?

- ‘I understand what you want , to manufacture a set of grievances so as to set up a centre point further to the left.’

Yet again this has been misrepresented. The point is that the ‘left’ is asking for a moderate ‘centre’ BBC with a balance of views, and the ‘right’ is pushing for a… right wing BBC (colour me surprised). The currently /perceived/ centre point between the arguments is too far to the right of the /real/ centre between the camps because of this. To simplify Sunny’s point - we should argue left, to attain centre.

- ‘I `d suggest the Solomon answer. If you don`t like it and I don`t like it why not kill it ?’

To be replaced with what? Why not just fix it?

#8 Comment By septicisle On 20th September, 2007 @ 10:04 pm

Actually newmania, I did respond to your comment, and noted its lack of relevance seeing as most of it was years out of date. As for the Sun not being Conservative supporting it’s true, but it’s definitely a Thatcherite right-wing newspaper. If you really think the socially conservative are those being most abused, you really haven’t expanded your horizons much.

#9 Comment By QuestionThat On 21st September, 2007 @ 12:48 am

The difference is that the social conservatives and libertarians still HAVE TO pay a £100 per year subscription fee for the privilege of having their TV sets broadcast the transmissions that they do not wish to watch.

Consign Tax TV to the dustbin of British history.

#10 Comment By septicisle On 21st September, 2007 @ 1:05 am

Just social conservatives and libertarians? I think plenty of others too. Stop framing it politically when there’s a perfectly decent argument for the BBC not continuing to be taxpayer funded; it’s just nothing to do with any actual bias it has.

#11 Comment By ChrisC On 21st September, 2007 @ 8:16 am

Sunny’s comment on the prior BBC thread:
“The idea that the country is mostly to the right of the BCB is a fallacy. It’s actually to the left.”

I fail to see how that can possibly be true.
On which issues is the country to the left of the BBC?

#12 Comment By newmania On 25th September, 2007 @ 11:06 am

and a specific ‘recent’ example of active bias ,unanswered of course

Learn to read or shut-up Septic !

‘I `d suggest the Solomon answer. If you don`t like it and I don`t like it why not kill it ?’
To be replaced with what? Why not just fix it?

Oh what a suprise you want to keep it, that says it all.A free press and free media .I do not want to have to discuss with people like you what is or isn`t biased.The BBC has had its chance and consistently failed to reform its arrogant statist prefernces. Until it is dissolved it should,adjust its editorial standpoint from the current Independent /Guardian to something more like the the balance of the Press. a tad to the right of the Times would be about right and a fair reflection of the people who are forced to pay for it .

The probklem with these people is they spend all their time with others like themslesves and quite literally cannot conceive that they are not representative nor qualified to estimate what is

#13 Pingback By Pickled Politics » Sanctimonious bullshit On 8th October, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

[…] rubbish. The report said nothing of the sort and the second paragraph is merely Phillips own froth tacked right behind a mention of […]

Article printed from Pickled Politics: http://www.pickledpolitics.com

URL to article: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1383

URLs in this post:
[1] on CIF yesterday: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/sunny_hundal/2007/09/liberals_abandon_the_bbc.html
[2] write a reply: http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2007/09/sunny-hundals-biased-view-of-bbc.html
[3] I linked to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6764779.stm
[4] original article: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1942948.ece
[5] Unity pointed out: http://www.ministryoftruth.org.uk/2007/02/21/cut-the-bullshit-and-back-the-bbc/
[6] ErrorGorilla points out: http://errorgorilla.wordpress.com/2007/08/24/thought-for-the-day/
[7] sums it up: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/sunny_hundal/2007/09/liberals_abandon_the_bbc.html#comment-82122

[8] Septicisle: http://www.septicisle.info/
[9] CuriousHamster: http://bsscworld.blogspot.com/2007/09/king-of-spin.html
[10] Tim Ireland: http://www.bloggerheads.com/archives/2007/09/the_bbc_records.asp
[11] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1265: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1265
[12] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1206: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1206
[13] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1128: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1128
[14] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1100: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1100
[15] http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1279: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1279