Janet Daley's Sunday Telegraph article this week tackles the increasing popular theme of BBC bias:
The news media are engaged in a political argument about whether the purpose of journalism is to report the world as it is or to purvey an idealised view
Her article begins by discussing the present "fight to the death" over the future of the press here in the United Kingdom. It's a fight, she says, that's not just between sections of the media and large parts of the political class, but also a fight between parts of the media - between "the BBC/Guardian axis" and "the Right-of-centre newspaper camp", who "are tearing lumps out of one another on matters that must seem bizarre to the folks at home."
She then moves onto the bigger question:
What is the dissemination of news for? For the BBC – by which I mean, for those who decide these things at the corporation – there is little doubt that the function of news broadcasting is to enlighten the public. I use that word advisedly, in its specialised sense, meaning not simply to inform but to “free from prejudice and superstition”.
BBC news output is specifically designed to counter what it sees as ignorance and popular prejudices. Its coverage of issues in which it believes such prejudices to be rife – immigration, for example – is intended to be instructional and, specifically corrective of what its managers think of, and describe openly in conversation, as the influence of the “Right-wing press”.
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the loathing that the BBC feels for the Daily Mail – and its readers. I once remarked at a corporation seminar on the visceral contempt that I had heard BBC news personnel express for “Right-wing” papers, the Mail and the Sun in particular: had it occurred to them, I asked, to compare the relative circulations of the papers which they despised, with the ones they embraced (ie The Guardian, The Independent, etc) and to ask themselves what proportion of the licence-fee payers they were serving?
But, of course, that was missing the point. The BBC approach to news is aimed precisely at those people who read the papers that are hated by its staff. It is intended to offer an alternative vision of reality in which immigration is not a threat to anyone, patriotism is a joke, religious belief (as opposed to ethnic identity) is not taken seriously, conflicting cultural values never create social problems and government spending is inherently virtuous.
The unabashed dissemination of this highly political official viewpoint is justified on the grounds that it is needed to balance the influence of scurrilous newspapers. One might ask, of course, what would happen if the “Right-wing press” really was extinguished: would the BBC then feel it could drop its social engineering function?