The threat against BBC and our credible media is much wider


Yesterday Iain Duncan-Smith put out his tweet and it was retweeted by one of our Sussex MPs Nusrat Ghani, referring to some evidence identified by an Australian thinktank called the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. According to this Guardian article which IDS was referring to, the ASPI had identified that in January and February this year

China’s Communist party orchestrated an international campaign to undermine the BBC and discredit its reporting during the first two months of the year, using western social media networks

The ASPI according to Wikipedia

is a defence and strategic policy think tank based in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, founded by the Australian government and partly funded by the Australian Department of Defence. In addition to domestic funding, it is also funded by foreign governments such as the United States State Department as well as military contractors

Now it has been very clear in recent weeks and no doubt for much longer that Nusrat Ghani and Iain Duncan-Smith have been very critical of the Chinese Government and no doubt that makes a lot of sense. However there has been a significant number of efforts to discredit the BBC and the sources are much closer to home than the Chinese Communist Party. If IDS is being credible he will personally stop discrediting the BBC and publicly raise concerns about the discreditation from other people. Now of course the BBC which has been discredited for the last decade by the current Government is now being dominated by the Conservative Party in a number of ways. That might explain why people like IDS are more concerned or perhaps he is simply wanting to criticise China and the BBC is a useful opportunity at the moment. As George Monbiot explained in this Guardian Column in October

In an interview with the Guardian last week, the presenter Andrew Marr warned: “The Murdoch empire and others are trying to push us towards a world in which the BBC is pretty marginal and people are getting most of their news and their views from privately funded television companies, as in America.” He’s right. A forthcoming book by Patrick Barwise and Peter York, The War Against the BBC, shows that Johnson’s attacks arise from a long-standing plan to cripple it. Dominic Cummings sketched out his strategy in 2004: discredit the BBC; set up rival, partisan channels; and lift the ban on political advertising. It seems to be falling into place.

But when I watch Marr’s Sunday programme, it seems to me that the BBC is already part-owned by the oligarchs. To an even greater extent than most BBC news and current affairs, his show follows the newspapers’ lead. Six years ago, Robert Peston, then the BBC’s economics editor, remarked that BBC news is “completely obsessed by the agenda set by newspapers”, especially the Mail and the Telegraph. Since then, nothing has changed. The BBC follows the billionaire press like a faithful dog.

There is also a very useful piece in Wikipedia under the title of Criticism of the BBC which includes this section

A study by Cardiff University academics, which was funded by the BBC Trust, was published in August 2013 and examined the BBC’s coverage of a broad range of issues. One of the findings was the dominance of party political sources; in coverage of immigration, the EU and religion, they accounted for 49.4% of all source appearances in 2007 and 54.8% in 2012. The data also showed that the Conservative Party received significantly more airtime than the Labour Party. In 2012, Conservative leader and then Prime Minister David Cameron outnumbered Labour leader Ed Miliband in appearances by a factor of nearly four to one (53 to 15), and governing Conservative cabinet members and ministers outnumbered their Labour counterparts by more than four to one (67 to 15).

A former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, criticised the BBC as part of a “Westminster conspiracy” to maintain the British political system.

Before to the 2019 general election, the BBC was criticised for biased coverage that favoured the ruling Conservative Party. For instance, issue was taken with a clip used from a BBC Question Time leader’s special episode in which the part showing audience laughter at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to a certain question was edited out. BBC officials addressed the issue and admitted their mistake. Furthermore, the BBC was accused of subjecting Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson to a gruelling interview by Andrew Neil but not requiring Johnson to go through the same and of arranging it beforehand. The Guardian columnist Owen Jones also took issue with the BBC rescinding its policy of not letting Johnson be interviewed by Marr unless he went through one with Neil. The BBC defended its decision to waive the requirement by citing national interest amidst a terror attack in London on 29 November 2019.

A classic example comes in the website The Conservative Women in this piece published in March 2015 by Kathy Gyngell who wrote

Biased Today, biased yesterday and biased tomorrow,  the BBC  has much to answer for over its uncritical and inadequate EU coverage. More than any other news outlet the BBC shapes and moulds public opinion. Over the years, it has inspired an unwarranted public confidence in the EU. It has been responsible for conveying a sense of the inevitability and necessity of British membership. Had it not so determinedly stuck to its view that the EU was ‘a good thing’,  a fact of life that anyone in their right mind should accept,  Britain might not be in the mess it’s in today.  We might not have uncontrolled immigration; we might be able to deport who we want when we want; and we might still have a vibrant fishing industry. That’s just three of the many areas over which we have lost national authority at great cost.

Some of the other discredits from Conservative MPs – of course none of this is the same sort of discretisation that China is involved in, but drip drip drip can be as problematic.

Bill Cash: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. This is about the licence by this House to the BBC as to our proceedings, and what I believe to be a failure by the BBC under the House of Commons rules of coverage…The matter is now with the House authorities and under investigation. I have complained to the BBC, which says it is editing; I disagree. I wish to put this matter on the record as part of my continuing complaint.

Iain Duncan Smith: I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. The review is overdue and most welcome, and I want to make two particular points about it. First, it is absolutely right to ask for the BBC to be looked at. If a subsidised organisation is able to become a publisher, which it was not prior to the arrival of the internet, then it is now in the same space as others that do not benefit from such a subsidy and have to earn money. That has caused a problem, and we must look at how the BBC operates given the amount of money that it receives and at what damage or problems that causes.

Bill Cash: I was glad that the Chancellor did not refer to the words “soft” and “hard” Brexit in his speech. The words “soft” and “hard” Brexit, so favoured by the BBC and others in the media, are an exercise in casuistry, a weapon of propaganda intended to create a fog when we need above all else clear lines and meanings.

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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