Committment to bias

Tom Leonard:

It's fair to say the message is finally getting through: the BBC has a problem with impartiality. The row over BBC bias has been rumbling on longer than war in Sudan and always seemed just as unresolvable. The format was always the same: take a bunch of Left-leaning, liberal-minded television executives and a bunch of Right-leaning politics wonks with obsessions about BBC reporting of the Middle East, the EU and the Tory party. Then they hit each other over the head with rolled up, heavily underlined copies of programme transcripts from Newsnight or Today.

And this is a battle that the BBC has become very adept at fighting. Every time the clamour of bias on some particularly hard news issue, such as Israel, Iraq, or Brussels, gets too loud, the corporation commissions some research that finds no bias, or – next best – evidence of bias on both sides.

But no matter how much BBC bosses swear blind there is no problem, the issue refuses to go away. Why? Because for many licence-payers, the BBC's skewed assumptions about what the world is about and how its inhabitants should think is the most annoying thing about it – more annoying than dumbing down, than the universal licence fee, than Jonathan Ross's £18 million pay packet. More annoying even than Natasha Kaplinsky. And particularly infuriating when the BBC denies it outright, as did Michael Grade, the BBC chairman, in an article published a few days before a governors' impartiality summit a month ago.

Not that he'd already made up his own mind or anything. Anyway, embarrassingly, it emerged (through leaked minutes that were rather harder to elicit from the corporation than Mr Grade's article) that even some of his most senior journalists disagreed. Andrew Marr, hardly one of the BBC's token Right-wingers, declared that the BBC "is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people". It has, he added, "a liberal bias, not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias." The meeting also heard that the BBC was patronising its audiences and constrained by an intolerant version of politically correct liberalism.

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I wouldn't know where to start in tackling the political correctness of BBC drama, but I think the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves would go to Spooks, BBC1's flagship series about impossibly right-on MI5 agents. The series was originally praised (by the BBC) for its accuracy about the real work of the Security Service. So what did it kick off with on the first episode? A pro-life extremist bomber out to cause mayhem. Come on, you must know about them! No? Well, what about episode two, which tackled the equally pressing issue of racist extremists in league with Right-wing politicians plotting mass murder of immigrants? I lost interest in Spooks, but tuned in again a few weeks ago for the start of the fifth series. It was about homegrown al-Qa'eda terrorists taking over the Saudi embassy and murdering innocent people. Except that they weren't British Muslims at all, but undercover Israeli agents. Once again, the villains are a million miles away from the ones you might expect, and top-heavy with the forces of reaction.

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The embedded bias of the BBC with its free ride on the license payers dole is one of the reasons for the decline of British culture. Liberalism is a disease that saps the strength of any country. The BBC thinks it is its duty to be the typhoid Mary of liberalism.

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