BBC Is Too Political When It Comes to Reporting Politics; Media Analysis

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 19, 2014 | Go to article overview

BBC Is Too Political When It Comes to Reporting Politics; Media Analysis


Byline: Roy Greenslade

POLITICAL bias tends to be found in the eyes of the beholder. The Labour voter will see a rich seam of Conservative propaganda in certain media output where the Tory, just as sincerely, will divine the same material to be pro-Labour. These perceptions are the result of any number of assumptions, most obviously about the media organisation, its ownership, declared political stance and, less obviously, the way it is reported by rival media. It is in the nature of competitive media outlets that they seek to create negative images of their rivals while presenting themselves in the best possible light. No organisation knows that better than the BBC. Simply by being a public service broadcaster funded through a mandatory licence fee, it attracts hostility from commercial media, which have a long history of undermining it. One of the most persistent tropes, most evident in the narratives of the majority of newspapers, has been about the BBC's "left-wing bias" in its news and current affairs output. It has also become common currency among right-of-centre politicians who appear to accept it as some kind of self-evident truth. I recall Margaret Thatcher raging about the BBC's coverage of the Falklands war in 1982. One of her ministers described an edition of Panorama, which asked whether the war had been avoidable, as an "odious, subversive travesty". After the Iraq invasion in 2003, the BBC was accused of being to the left of the Labour Government too. Ministers attacked Radio 4's Today because a reporter suggested the UK had gone to war on a false prospectus. A couple of months after that, I read a report by Cardiff University journalism academic Justin Lewis, in which he contended that the reality of the overwhelming majority of BBC reporting on the war was anything but anti-government. …

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