Wednesday 9 September 2009

Both sides hit out at BBC but miss benefits

The debate about the BBC goes on and on and on.
Historically the BBC gets it in the neck from both the activist left and the right. The right constantly hits out at the BBC for being some kind of haven for lefties reporting with one hand tied behind their backs, while parts of the activist left tend to rip into the BBC as being in thrall to government and therefore in the pocket of Labour, because it is partly publicly funded they believe it is some kind of Pravda-style mouthpiece.
Neither is correct, and both underestimate the value of the BBC to society.
Wherever you stand politically, you can find yourself at odds with BBC news coverage, depending on the day of the week, the correspondent, or the programme, and the way they cover a news story.
If you are a news lover you can find yourself yelling at the radio/TV; "Why aren't you asking him...(fill in the gap)?" But for some reason the Telegraph Tories think they are alone in this and it is some kind of conspiracy. Oddly, or perhaps not, some Labour party hacks or hackettes feel the same way.
There are often bones to pick with BBC news. But what most people are missing is that news correspondents want to question the system, so they will be harder on the party in power or the establishment than the opposition, but they will want to their story to kick ass, so if there is an angle they want to find it, if there is someone to catch they will want to catch them. This is not political, this is an element of news.
If you are holding an establishment position and you want to set out a contextual argument you may feel that this way of creating "news" is not fair or just or intelligent. That is just a different argument.
As James Macintyre sets out in a blog today, there is right on both sides, and those politically affiliated to the right and the activist left would do well to acknowledge it.
More than that we also need to understand the value of this modern form of publicly funded broadcasting. Public funds do not mean this is a government mouthpiece as some would like us to believe.
The funds are there so the BBC like so many broadcasters worldwide doesn't have to be driven by pure profit to create programmes. They have money to put out programmes that are better informed and better researched or create brand new pieces of drama that just wouldn't exist without this funding.
Look around the world and you would be hard pressed to find competition and that's why in many parts of the world those who are looking for the facts tune into the BBC World Service.
A day spent listening to Radio 4 can like a day in school, you can learn about anything and everything, from why visually impaired people are having trouble getting around Birmingham New Street, to the latest news, to tuning into a piece of new drama.
For me, this is well worth paying a license fee for.


Stuart White said...

Rachel: I very much agree with the general point you are making. However, I also think there are real questions to be asked about the quality of some BBC reporting. I will never forget the experience of having my dignity trampled by the Met at the G20 protests and coming home to watch the BBC News report the G20 protests entirely from the standpoint of how well the police kept control of things. I don't think this was a matter of conscious, nefarious bias on the part of the reporters. I do think they were naive, uncritical and possibly just a tad lazy in doing their job on this occasion.

The Management said...

Stuart - I can see that as someone personally involved in the other side of a news story you should be unhappy with the way the BBC covered this story. But I think my general point is that via BBC News - particulary radio - we can get a much better quality of information and reporting than most people around the world. I feel particularly strongly that BBC Radio 4 is a service that excels at what it does in bringing us news from around the world and some in-depth analysis of many stories that would not normally be broadcast.

Newmania said...

Rache not even the BBC would pretend as you do that there was an equivalence between left and right wing complaints on the bias of the BBC ( They would hardly retain any vestige of credibility if they did ). Polly Toynbee was Editor of Social Affairs for most of the 90s ...POLLY TOYNBEE !!!! ??? Do you know who she is ? I do wonder…
I could give you endless examples as well as surveyed evidence but its hardly worth it given the fact that I would get rid of it/clip its wings and you would not. QED. The BBC is not precisely pro Labour but in practice it is so anti Conservative it amounts to the same thing.
Many Conservatives will forgive David Cameron much and proceed with balanced pragmatism .On this however we want blood .There can be no rapprochement now and the smart arse baby boomer lefties of the 90s and beyond are to blame . The BBC knows this .