There's an interesting and rather persuasive article about BBC from Graeme Archer in the Telegraph:
We need the BBC to be more like the newspapers - open about the unavoidably political beliefs of its staff
It's the Today programme in particular which gets Graeme's goat:
It infuriates me, not least for that studied pretence of political neutrality, contradicted by every nuanced phrase, tone of voice or, indeed, official BBC investigation. (The BBC didn’t realise immigration was a political issue until some time around 2010, for example.)
In the wake of the BBC Trust's partial upholding of a complaint against a BBC documentary presented by John Humphrys, he argues that evidence and statistics are "not a substitute for ideology, for your political outlook on life, through which such evidence is (always) refracted" and that this has implications for the BBC - which, unlike newspapers, "you don't choose to buy":
Which makes it ridiculous for the BBC to pretend that its front-persons remove their own world views the moment they sit in front of a microphone. It’s absurd, because it is impossible, and were it possible, it would be uninformative. I could write these columns as though I weren’t a Tory (see above). I’m sure you’d pick up on it soon enough, and wonder why you’d paid to read someone pretending to be something they weren’t: that is, neutral. That is: a lie.
Such neutrality doesn’t fail only when it is used as an attempted mask for party affiliation. Any policy issue is identically afflicted. Do BBC staff really have no opinions about, say, fracking? Is it conceivable that those views don’t leak through into their broadcasts?
As with so much other establishment practice, this is one best tackled by transparency. Were the BBC to give up on its neutrality dogma – not least because it’s untrue – presenters would be free to say what they actually think. And we would be free to view their arguments through the prism of their beliefs.Please give the article a read in full.
Update: Alan at Biased BBC makes an interesting point in response, which had (far too nebulously) also crossed my mind whilst reading the Telegraph article:
If the BBC were allowed to ‘take sides’, or at least its journalists allowed to shape stories using their own personal views there would have to be a balance of journalists….of all political, religious or other ideological persuasions….clearly impossible.The BBC is already, to coin a phrase ‘left leaning’, imagine if allowed free rein to let rip and indulge in propagating their own world vision untrammelled by even idealistic notions of impartiality imposed upon them as now.
I think that's absolutely right. Graeme Archer's solution would only work if the BBC actively sought to recruit journalists whose personal opinions, in toto, represented a broad and fully representative range of British public opinion. (Wouldn't that be great?)
Unfortunately, BBC employees are, by their own account, largely left-liberal in orientation. To give them license to express their opinions en masse would be unconscionable, especially if the license fee were still in place.
So how could the corporation contend with that? Sack half of their journalists and recruit a fresh batch of right-leaning journalists to replace them? As if that's ever going to happen!
Still, as Alan says, they could at least try to bring a lot of fresh, non-left-leaning blood into their news arm. That would be a start. It might begin to break down the groupthink that even Stuart Prebble, the BBC's own liberal choice of reviewer, found to exist at the corporation.