Sunday, 26 July 2020

The Battle of the Beeb


Yogita Limaye

If you subscribe to it, you may well have read former Head of BBC Television News Roger Mosey's interesting piece in The Sunday Times last week where he claimed that there's a "battle" going on at the BBC between older hands who want to stay true to the Corporation's long commitment to fairness and impartiality and newer, younger recruits who want to make it "more of a campaigning organisation in which journalists shape the agenda to harmonise with their personal views". 

Well, this past week suggested that the newer, younger recruits - the activist reporters - are starting to win. 

Now, of course, blogs like this have existed for a couple of decades now, and that's because some of those older BBC hands weren't entirely clean on the 'fairness and impartiality' front themselves, and some BBC journalists have been shading into campaigning and shaping the agenda to harmonise with their personal views for quite a while now (Mark Easton anyone?), but at least they usually tried to put on a proper show of fairness and impartiality, and knew they had to do so.

Both last Monday's Today programme and last Monday's BBC One News at Ten featured reports by BBC journalist Yogita Limaye, and she clearly felt no obligation whatsoever to show fairness and impartiality. 

Her pieces were nothing more than concerted efforts to brand Winston Churchill a racist and hold him responsible for the 1943 Bengal Famine. 

Writing in this week's The Sunday Times Tom Mangold, a BBC older hand if ever there was one, called her New at Ten report "biased, partial, unbalanced and filled with the spite and venom of the worst of toxic woke culture now pulsing through the heart of the Corporation" and added that "viewers were left in no doubt that the reporter agreed with her own preferential report". 

If you've also been reading about the goings-on (and goings-off) at The New York Times, where younger, more groupthink-driven, openly activist reporters have gained ascendance and are abandoning all pretence of impartiality whilst displaying ever greater unwillingness to tolerate fellow citizens (and colleagues) who don't think or feel like them, then it's very possible that we can already see where the BBC is now inexorably heading, and Ms Limaye's report is an early swallow.

Mr Mosey blames 'Twitter culture' for the rise of openly campaigning journalism and the difficulty people who think like him and who are still at the BBC are now having trying to get such journalists to represent both sides of a story, and obviously there's some truth in that. Without the spell cast on her by Twitter and the lure of applause from the Twitterati, would Emily Maitlis, for example, have ever thought of, never mind dared to deliver, that infamous impartiality-busting monologue of hers? I doubt it. She didn't used to behave so brazenly. And the arrival of newer, younger recruits like Lewis Goodall - people who live the majority of their journalistic lives on Twitter and give every impression of 'shaping the agenda to harmonise with their personal views' while deliberately speaking to their own narrow echo chambers both when they tweet and when they broadcast - has had a noticeable, radicalising impact on programmes such as Newsnight

But it take two to tango. Let's remember that Yogita Limaye's reports were broadcast on two of the BBC's flagship news programmes, both edited by BBC editors who evidently felt it acceptable to put it all out. If anyone, they should be held responsible for making that decision. 

Did they put them out without serious qualms though? Surely they must have known how controversial, indeed inflammatory, they were. In other words, are they on the losing, surrendering side of the battle and putting such reports out with heavy hearts, or (like Newsnight's Esme Wren) are they now actively aiding and abetting the winning, campaigning side? 

I fear the BBC is going to get much, much worse before it gets better.

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