Wednesday 14 November 2012

Get a grip!

An official report into the BBC's botched Newsnight programme of 2 November has concluded that during the editorial decision-making process, "some of the basic journalistic checks were not completed". 
Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor of the Sun, and Phil Harding, journalist and broadcaster and former editor of Today, discuss whether the balance tipped (sic)between newspapers and broadcasters in terms of which news sources people trust.”

 James Naughtie presided over the debate. Typically, it’s one of the items on the website without audio.  Obediently, the opponents disagreed, and Phil, batting for the BBC, thought the Newsnight debacle should be separated from the broader issues. He thinks people with - oh noes - an agenda  - to eradicate the BBC - are determined to conflate both issues in pursuit of their wicked, wicked wiles.

There are plenty of campaigners calling for the BBC to take a proper look at itself, some with the aforementioned agenda I’m sure; but there are plenty of critics who recognize the BBC’s value and give credit where it’s due, who call for radical ‘root and branch’ restructuring without wishing for the BBC’s demise.
 When Trevor Kavanagh asked Phil Harding to consider whether the Newsnight team would have acted in such a foolhardy manner had the victim been, say, a member of the Labour party rather than Mrs Thatcher’s Tory toff, it must have given all of us something to think about; Phil said it was an outrageous smear.

Perhaps the individuals responsible  for the serial mistakes made by Newsnight could be pinpointed and suitably punished. No doubt the wish, never-again to be caught perverting the course of a pervert, or ‘being over-cautious,’ influenced the decision to go ahead with the programme, but to many people it looked as though a large dollop of institutional political bias was the catalyst, which precipitated a kind of lynch-mob climate in which "some of the basic journalistic checks were not completed"

We’re all familiar with “the built-in lip-curl directed with contempt towards anybody with whom the BBC disagrees” a phrase coined by Dennis Sewell, who spent more than 22 years working for BBC News, but came to the conclusion that it was wider culture biases in “arts, drama, documentary and religious programmes” that really alienated what he calls “the 32 per cent”, the proportion of definite conservatives in the population. He lists:
 Lady Thatcher, social conservatives, political Conservatives, people worried about immigration or multiculturalism, businessmen, traditionalist schoolmasters, toffs (particularly fox-hunting toffs), Eurosceptics, evangelical Christians, Catholics, Zionists…
as some of the people and things that the BBC doesn’t care for.  They’ve never cared for Zionists at all.

A recent radio 4 programme on this theme was unusual. It was based on evidence contained in documents from the BBC archives and Government papers at the Public Record Office, which have been uncovered during research for a new Radio 4 series, Document. When this programme was trailed I leapt to the conclusion that the BBC would pass the blame onto the government, with their usual “under the circumstances the BBC got it about right.” But on the whole they didn’t do that. This programme is discussed in depth on BBC Watch. Their analysis is relevant to the current situation in so many ways.
”To those of us interested in the subject of the BBC’s attitude towards present-day Jews in Israel, some of the phrases used in the programme to describe BBC policies seventy years ago, may carry an uncomfortably familiar ring.”
However, the BBC has always had a soft spot for holocaust victims, albeit  in a mawkish fashion, and unfortunately this critical self examination of its callous attitude towards Hitler’s victims is unlikely to extend to the well-fed Israelis the BBC so dislikes today.   
There was an article in the Independent, which I didn’t see at the time (22nd August) about this programme, detailing the material that the research uncovered. It makes chilling reading. I wish the BBC would commission a similar investigation into the BBC’s institutional bias against Israel Today. 
Oh! They did, and they spent hundreds of thousands of pounds keeping its findings secret.

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