J P Floru is a Westminster councillor and Head of Programmes at the Adam Smith Institute. Follow J P on Twitter.
Were allegations against “senior politicians from the Thatcher era” simply too good to be checked? During its endless navel gazing this weekend, the BBC never contemplated that possibility. Why? Because most BBC staff are quite unaware of their institutional bias.
When the persistent undertone in the BBC is one of Guardian/Independent progressive compassionate trendy centre-leftism, we are not talking conspiracy. What we have is decent programmes made by intelligent and pleasant people… who, amongst themselves, share
a similar political outlook. They themselves may not know they are thus institutionally biased. They consider themselves to be fair and middle-of-the-road; and are tetchy about anyone saying differently. Robin Aitken’s excellent 2007 book “Can we trust the BBC” is highly informative for anyone interested in the subject.
Benign it isn’t. According to Ofcom the BBC’s share of TV news is more than ten times bigger than Sky’s. BBC websites have ten times the market share. When we have the quasi-subliminal beaming out of a particular ideology in a quasi-monopolistic way, every day, year after year, it must have an impact.
The BBC’s institutional bias permeates throughout its programming. The programmes entirely devoted to more state intervention, such as You and Yours, on Radio 4, are scarce. Usually it is less obvious; and the journalists themselves may be quite unaware that they are doing it. For example, when they invite “experts” to talk on specific issues. We know that during Labour’s thirteen years in office, it kept themselves busy appointing their stooges to the civil service, the legal profession, the arts world, the BBC and the quangos. The large voluntary organisations are now largely headed by Labourites (we have done little to reverse this: in the last year five times more Labour people were appointed to public bodies than Tories). It is these experts which the BBC invites to comment on all and sundry.
- We are experiencing “savage cuts”;
- It is fair that the rich should be taxed more;
- EU = good;
Eurosceptics are xenophobic little-Englanders (only one to be aired is
Farage, as we can then say we are unbiased, while harming the
Conservative Party at the same time);
- Global warming is happening and man-made;
- Palestine = good; Israel = bad;
- The war in Iraq was bad and a disaster;
- Democrats = good; Republicans = homophobic, bible-bashers and assorted freaks;
- Keynesianism will solve the economic crisis (rather than having created it).
We Conservatives will ignore this institutional bias at our peril. Institutional BBC bias has not often been mentioned as one of the reasons why we lost the 2010 election – after all; Lady T herself won elections despite it. But we perhaps forget that Thatcher won elections in an extreme situation. The gravity may well have tipped the election in her favour; in spite of the BBC’s best efforts. Not so in 2010.
And what about 2015? Better bite the bullet now and bring about true impartiality. Privatising the BBC, in whole or in part, would be the most obvious option. If some news reporting or quality programming needs to be supported, the media minister can still outsource it to the different private broadcasters. Personally I see no need to do this, as private broadcasters produce ample quality – but let’s not be doctrinaire about it.
Anno 2012, a quasi-monopolistic state broadcaster, paid for by compulsory contributions irrespective of actual viewing, seems like a leftover from Clement Attlee’s days. If this behemoth doesn’t go, we may never be back.