Home » Apologies for everything » Why I’m partial to a spot of impartiality

Why I’m partial to a spot of impartiality

The BBC must be bracing itself for an electronic tsunami of spittle-powered tweets from Outraged of Tunbridge Wells – not to mention highminded Conservative politicians – following this morning’s edition of the Today programme.

The entire three-hour show, even the sports news (Olympics = state repression) and the God slot (? er…), was given over to an alternative, beyond-leftwing editorial policy, driven by singer-songwriter and general ‘right-on’ feminist, PJ Harvey: guest editor for a day.

Special reports were commissioned from notoriously biased left-wing commentators and human-rights lawyers on foreign policy, the arms trade, the use of torture, economics, the security state, the politics of sport, and otherwise generally on the profound imbalances in society. Songs and poems were included from lefties like former Archbishop Rowan Williams, Tom Waites, Joan Baez and Pete Seeger – the ‘usual suspects’.

Where the show differed from normal was that the special reports went almost entirely unchallenged in the conventionally vapid, ‘balanced’ reporting and interviewing style we normally expect from the BBC. At times it sounded almost embarrassingly propagandistic – also curiously amateurish, but not in a lovable way. Why does the Left so admire Julian Assange? To me, he seems an obvious, self-serving little creep. And I’m a fellow-traveller myself!

It frequently drives me into a rage, when the Today programme refuses to advance any argume nt more than a millimetre either way, or to try to get at the truth of a story, until someone has been forced to ‘apologise’ for, or to ‘condemn’, some heinous act for which they were not personally responsible, that they have been brought on ostensibly to defend. Only through the cleansing ritual of grovelling words can they be considered morally fit to trade their views with the largely middle-class listeners, as embodied in the eminently ‘reasonable’ figure of that tendentious old humbug, John Humphrys. Thus, Today imposes its own biased agenda on the news, rooted not in leftwing politics, but in Welsh chapel Methodism.

At least we were spared that for one day.

Now, readers of this, muh bogl, may have noticed that I maintain a certain radical perspective on world affairs. Even so, I was mildly shocked by the programme.

The BBC is frequently castigated for having a left-of-centre bias. This morning’s flagship news and current affairs show, in the hands of a dyed-in-the-wool slayer of Establishment hypocrisy, proved that the BBC hasn’t ever yet come within a million miles of promoting a genuine leftwing agenda.

Harvey held the Corporation’s skirts to the fire, lifting the crinoline on a potentially vast body of hitherto under-reported facts, statistics, opinions and human stories concerning corporate and government greed, deceit, bullying and evasion on a global scale, undermining Auntie’s bland daily ‘news agenda’ that feeds public opinion; hinting at the extent to which we are manipulated and controlled by the information machine, and the degree to which the supposedly impartial BBC actually conforms to the consensus of the political right.

At the same time, however, it demonstrated perfectly just how ghastly it would be to have a State-controlled media promoting an exclusively biased agenda, either to left or right, unchallenged by any attempt at balance or impartiality; such as is seen in Orwellian states like North Korea; or in the corporatist USA, with its endless, mindless hectoring by controlling business interests. Not only is propaganda of any kind offensively patronising, it is also deeply boring. The independence of the Beeb is something worth fighting for.

Despite my broad leftist leanings, then, I really couldn’t listen for more than a few minutes to a public-service broadcaster controlled by a PJ Harvey without resorting to the petrol bomb and the Kalashnikov, to shut it up. Or reach for the off-switch.

I hope she realised that.


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