For many of us the BBC is viewed as an untouchable hallowed institution that is an agent for good in the world. Its entertainment output regularly tickles and moves us while its news and sports coverage has often been a benchmark of excellence. It has a worldwide reputation for impartiality and honesty, chiefly earned in its early years. Sadly, it is now doing great damage to that reputation and, worse still, is seemingly oblivious to the fact.
There was a time when complacency set in about its broadcasting output, but the fresh competition brought first by the growing number of independent channels and then Sky and other broadcasters served to sharpen the BBC focus. There are still the odd clangers of course (we all have our bête noires – I cannot abide the serial depression of EastEnders), but it is hard to argue that it does not represent good value for money considering the scale of the output.
Unfortunately, that comes at the price of freedom – because no other newspaper, broadcaster or media company carries the threat of criminal prosecution with it if you do not pay for its services.
The new UK Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale, has the opportunity to change this by removing licence fee prosecutions from the criminal courts by changing them to become civil actions, rather like if you do not pay your gas bill. At a stroke this would make the BBC far more attentive and responsive to its customers, as it would have to chase its debtors, and remove the ignominy of some of the poorest in society ending up with a criminal record because they could not afford the licence fee.
Changes to the BBC’s funding will not, however, be enough to reign in some of its worst behavioural excesses – the chief of which is its politically correct bias.
The worst example of this is not how it reported the referendum – for every complaint by a Nationalist of the BBC being against the Yes campaign I could match it with a complaint about how it gave Salmond and co an easy ride – but how it reports the news of the regular attacks on Israel by Hamas and its terrorist proxies from Gaza.
Despite the existence of a ceasefire, the missile strikes by Palestinian terrorist groups – and the Israeli counter strikes by air force jets – have continued, but this is not how the BBC reports it.
The BBC Arabic language website reported on May 26, June 3, 6 and 23 that Israel had launched air strikes into Gaza – without mentioning they were responses to earlier rocket attacks on its people, and that having identified where they were launched from had sought to eliminate the missile launchers.
Even more strangely, there were no reports of these breaches of the ceasefire in the BBC’s English language pages, not even the reports forgetting to mention the provocations! This demonstrates a clear bias in reporting Israel as the belligerent to the rest of the world when it was simply taking defensive action. That the BBC chooses to be so one-sided, if not duplicitous, in reporting these incidents helps to develop the marginalisation of the one true liberal democracy in the Middle East – while painting Hamas and its violent allies in Gaza as the victims.
Such bias must encourage mistrust, anger and ultimately violence from supporters of the Gaza Palestinians towards Israelis, and indeed all Jews internationally, for differentiation is rarely made. If people believe the BBC to be the word of truth and yet it gives only selective information that blackens the Israelis then it is little wonder that reasonable people are beginning to see the small country as the chief problem.
If, on the contrary, the BBC carried on both its English and Arabic language sites the same full reports explaining how these incidents come about and are responded to it would actually be contributing to the true realisation of the problem – the easy willingness to resort to violence by the Palestinian militants. A fair reporting of the cause and effect could contribute to helping achieve a peaceful solution.
Why the BBC does not realise this baffles me. Maybe there is a reason for reporting the Israel-Hamas dispute differently to different audiences, but I cannot think of one.
And if the BBC cannot report such a clear back and white issue as this without avoiding bias, are we not then right to question its standards in other areas? Can we expect the EU referendum to be reported fairly? The other evening Question Time (well past its sell by date) had four pro-EU panellists to one that was against. Hardly a balanced output. Is this what we can expect in the run-up to the referendum?
The selective and slanted reporting of the terrorist wars around Israel cannot be refuted because it is public record, but is probably not an isolated incident.
Being funded by the British taxpayer through a compulsory TV tax is bad enough, but for the BBC to then play a role in sowing disharmony and deep mistrust between listeners, readers and viewers around the world is not acceptable. John Whittingdale must act to ensure the BBC acts impartially for the benefit of us all.