The Centre for Policy Studies is publishing a paper tomorrow, Confessions of a
Reformed BBC Producer, by Antony Jay, co-writer of Yes, Minister. Robin Aitken, a more recent employee of the BBC who has spoken out on its institutional bias with his book, has yet to be interviewed about it by the BBC. The Telegraph has a large extract of Jay’s paper, highlights of which are below:
The chattering classes: "They are that minority characterised (or caricatured) by sandals and macrobiotic diets, but in a less extreme form found in the Guardian, Channel 4, the Church
of England, academia, showbusiness and BBC News and Current Affairs,
who constitute our metropolitan liberal media consensus – though the word “liberal” would have Adam Smith rotating at maximum velocity in
his grave. Let’s call it "media liberalism"."
Tonight programme: "My stint coincided almost exactly with
Macmillan’s premiership, and I do not think my ex-colleagues would quibble if I said we were not exactly diehard supporters. But we were not just anti-Macmillan; we were anti-industry,
anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit,
anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-Empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place, you name it, we were anti it."
On the Queen Mother: "It was (and is) essentially, though not exclusively, a graduate phenomenon. From time to time it finds an issue that strikes a chord with the broad mass of the nation, but in most respects it is wildly unrepresentative of national opinion. When the Queen Mother died the media liberal press dismissed it as an event of no particular importance, and were mortified to see the vast crowds lining the route for her funeral, and the great flood of national emotion that it released."
To look down on society from above, from the point of view of the ruling groups, the institutions, is to see the dangers of the organism splitting apart, the individual components shooting off in different directions, until everything dissolves into anarchy. Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for order, discipline, control, authority and organisation.
To look up at society from below, from the point of view of the lowest group, the governed, is to see the dangers of the organism
growing ever more rigid and oppressive until it fossilises into a monolithic tyranny. Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for liberty, equality, self-expression,
representation, freedom of speech and action and worship, and the rights of the individual.
Inherently anti-institution: "Ever since 1963, the institutions have been the villains of the
media liberals. The police, the armed services, the courts,
political parties, multinational corporations – when things go
wrong, they are the usual suspects. In my media liberal days our
attitude to institutions varied from suspicion to hostility."
On Margaret Thatcher: "It often
surprised me how regularly the retired brigadier from Bournemouth and the taxi driver from Ilford were united against our media
liberal consensus. Those same media liberals who today demonise Margaret Thatcher simply cannot understand why she won big majorities in three successive general elections and is judged by
historians around the world as having been Britain’s most successful peacetime prime minister of the 20th century."
Disdain for local government: "We were in a tribal institution, but we were not of it. Nor did we have any geographical tribe; we lived in commuter suburbs, we knew very few of our
neighbours, and took not the slightest interest in local government. In fact we looked down on it. Councillors were self-important
nobodies and mayors were a pompous joke. We belonged instead to a dispersed ”metropolitan-media-arts-graduate” tribe."
Group-think: "We met over coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner to reinforce our views on the evils of apartheid, nuclear deterrence, capital punishment, the British Empire, big business, advertising, public relations, the Royal Family, the defence budget… it’s a wonder we ever got home. We so rarely encountered any coherent opposing arguments that we took our group-think as the views of all right-thinking people."
Ignorance of the realities of government: "We saw ourselves as part of the intellectual élite, full of ideas about how the country should be run, and yet
with no involvement in the process or power to do anything about it.
Being naïve in the way institutions actually work, yet having good arts degrees from reputable universities, we were convinced that Britain’s problems were the result of the stupidity of the people in charge. We ignored the tedious practicalities of getting institutions to adopt and implement ideas."
Ignorance of the market economy: "That ignorance is still there. Say ”Tesco” to a media liberal and the patellar reflex says, "Exploiting African farmers and driving out small shopkeepers". The achievement of providing the range of goods, the competitive prices, the food
quality, the speed of service and the ease of parking that attract
millions of shoppers every day does not show up on the media liberal radar."
Faith-based liberalism: "For a time it puzzled me that after 50 years of tumultuous change the media liberal attitudes could remain almost identical to those I shared in the 1950s. Then it gradually dawned on me: my BBC media liberalism was not a political philosophy, even less a political programme. It was an ideology based not on observation and deduction but on faith and doctrine. We were rather weak on facts and figures, on causes and consequences, and shied away from arguments about practicalities. If defeated on one point we just retreated to another; we did not change our beliefs."
Media liberalism is now establishment: "Today, we see our old heresy becoming the new
orthodoxy: media liberalism has now been adopted by the leaders of all three political parties, by the police, the courts and the Churches. It is enshrined in law – in the human rights act, in much health and safety legislation, in equal opportunities, in employment
protections, in race relations and in a whole stream of edicts from Brussels."
Jeremy Hunt, the new Shadow Minister for Media, Culture and Sport will soon answer your questions on the BBC and other issues.