Saturday, 1 March 2014

Positive feedback?


All that enthusiast pro-BBC feedback which Feedback is so keen to report really shouldn't come as a surprise. (Does it to you?)

It's only the fact that I tend to spend a lot of time writing about BBC bias and reading blogs where the sheer awfulness of the BBC pretty much seems to go without saying - and where the BBC's redeeming features only rarely get a mention and, even when they do, only grudgingly and heavily accompanied by caveats - that....if you're still following this long, Henry James-like sentence...it still does come as a bit of a shock to hear viewers and listeners enthusing about the BBC.

This failure on my part to keep remembering that most people don't share my intense negativity towards the BBC and that a large number of people - especially Radio 4 listeners - actually love it is something I'm going to have to try much harder to counter.

Both Sue and myself have been long aware of the 'constant negativity' trap and have tried to give praise where praise is due. (It was even in our 'mission statement' when setting up "Is"). 

But even we don't give praise where praise is due that often. 

Speaking purely for myself here, that could be because (and I know I risk sounding a bit daft here) it feels almost sinful to betray the anti-BBC-bias cause by saying nice things about the BBC. 

But it's surely perfectly reasonable to say, openly and without embarrassment, that parts of the BBC's output are truly wonderful (so wonderful that, if the license fee were abolished, plenty of people - including me -would willingly pay for it), but that there's an awful lot of dross too - and far, far, far too much bias. 

Perhaps if BBC-bias-related blogs (like ours) made their case less negatively some bridges could be built between the 17% of us who (according to that YouGov poll I keep citing) think the BBC is biased against the Right and the 83% of the population who just don't seem to agree with us (even though we know we are right and believe that either (a) almost everyone else thinks so too and that that YouGov poll is nonsense or (b) that everyone else bleedin' well ought to agree with us, and that they are merely brainwashed 'sheeple' if they are stupid enough not to do so).

Those Radio 4 listeners, for example, who love The Archers, Round Britain Quiz, Something Understood, Just a Minute, Start the Week, In Our Time, Ramblings (etc) may still share our unease about the BBC's biases over social and political matters - or may be persuaded to share our unease about such biases by compelling arguments (preferably backed by evidence) - but it seems (to me) very much less likely that they'll warm to our arguments (and evidence) if they think we are nothing but haters who dislike almost everything on the BBC, including all the programmes they feel so emotionally attached to, and that all we want to do is to take their precious radio programmes away from them and leave them with nothing but dross (which is exactly what many such people seem to fear if their beloved BBC Radio 4 is lost). 

As many of you are doubtless already sympathetic to my BBC-bias-bashing instincts, do you think the points I'm making here hold water, or not? I'd appreciate your input (though don't feel pressured to give it!)

The counter-thoughts that rush into my head are that, with the BBC's recent self-inflicted traumas, the growing antagonism between the BBC and much of the press - and the consequent growth of BBC bias awareness at widely-read online sites like those belonging to the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph - plus the evident anger of some in the government at the BBC's partiality, the force may be with us, despite all of this pro-BBC sentiment. So just keep on bashing.

But that's, probably, to fall into several traps.

The first is the danger of believing that the BBC's recent self-inflicted wounds won't quickly be forgotten. 

The second is the danger of believing that those parts of the internet which you read so avidly are really representative of what most people think (especially if you can't bring yourself to believe that they actually aren't.) 

The third is the danger of relying on an aggrieved political party (the Conservatives), only part of whose parliamentary membership [the only ones who really count] actually seems to feel aggrieved, and which has a long record of being timid when it comes to seriously confronting the BBC, and which - whisper it if you dare - doesn't even seem that likely to win an overall majority at the next election (and, thus, be in any position to actually do anything about it).

So, if these traps are as real as I think they are, the BBC-bias-concerned blogger surely needs to think about how they project their message so that they aren't merely preaching to the converted and might instead strike a chord with those people who love the BBC, but don't love it blindly - people who may help us get what we want (whatever that is).

Hope you enjoyed the navel-gazing there!

4 comments:

  1. Have you noticed, Craig, that our viewing stats show some inexplicable, seemingly random spikes? I can’t understand it because, as our reader may very well know by now, we do not advertise or spam other blogs with links and tags.

    On the whole we don’t know who we’re addressing, and we always like to think that we’re not preaching to the converted or surrounding ourselves with a (silent) echo chamber.

    That’s why we’re here rather than else-you-know-where, an that’s why we sometimes write apologetic-looking essays in which we restate our objectivity and boast of our mental agility.

    One of the aforementioned random page-view spikes was for something I wrote a year ago, which I called ‘Suicide by clich√©’. I think it was a bit like your recent essay which was filed under ‘introspective’
    because in it I’m trying to say ‘we’re fair, we are’ and we don’t encourage commenters who whip each other up into a frenzy of extreme rhetoric, and thereby discredit everything we’ve ever said. Handing our critics free ammunition and all that.

    Come to think of it, the other day I posted another one in that category too. It’s beginning to be a habit,
    moaning about being discredited by your own supporters. Clearly, lots of websites are vulnerable. Take the Commentator, Trending Central, Breitbart UK, and umpteen others, not to mention the classic example Biased BBC.

    Perhaps if BBC-bias-related blogs (like ours) made their case less negatively some bridges could be built between the 17% of us who (according to thatYouGov poll I keep citing) think the BBC is biased against the Right and the 83% of the population who just don't seem to agree with us (even though we know we are right and believe that either (a) almost everyone else thinks so too and that that YouGov poll is nonsense or (b) that everyone else bleedin' well ought to agree with us, and that they are merely brainwashed 'sheeple' if they are stupid enough not to do so).

    Who said that? Craig, it was you-hoo.
    You give some examples of programmes that people love, then speculate as to whether the people that love them might share our unease at the BBC’s social and political biases. Let me just say that anyone who loves, for example, the Archers and even ‘Something Understood’ and doesn’t notice the political and social bias therein is a lost cause.
    (Did you hear Something Understood this morning? The one about fasting?) Samira Ahmed did a good one the other day, but anyone who loves Mark Tulley, a nice man who seems markedly uncritical of Islam, is not my idea of the perfect example of someone who might share our unease at social or political bias.

    Having said that I also like many radio 4 programmes, even the ones with annoying bits. I like hearing things that make me think, even if it’s only to think of the best way of expressing criticism of them on here. I like BBC4 as well. I even like some of BBC3 and BBC 2. See me? I’m a fan too. That’s why I get so upset at the bias and its pernicious reach.

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    Replies
    1. Call me deluded (and you probably will!), but I still hope that we could get through to other people - even the fans of Mark Tully.

      Is there really nothing we can do to win them over?

      As for Mark Tully, maybe they just like his reassuring voice, and remember liking the euphonious sound of 'Mark Tully in Dehli' when BBC news readers used to introduced his reports.

      Maybe that warm glow of affection makes them miss his pro-Islam bias, and that they'd see that bias - and object to it - if someone pointed it out to them and persuaded them that it's wrong?

      You're probably right though.

      There are plenty of psychology books out there at the moment suggesting that people are essentially driven by their emotions, their instincts, and that trying to persuade them through logical argument is like pissing into the wind.

      That's a depressing thought for a Sunday afternoon.

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    2. You’re not deluded! I’m not calling you deluded!
      You were probably right when you said we should make our case less negatively (maybe ‘we’ should mean ‘me’ because I don’t think you ever make your case negatively) and I didn’t mean you when I mentioned boasting, I meant me. I should have qualified it as you always do; you’re always careful to clarify that you’re only speaking for yourself.
      Yes, we might persuade people who like The Archers. Our house is an Archer-free zone - ‘We’ll have no Archers here’ - the radio gets switched off at the first dum of the dum de dums - "I'm not an Archers fan but I can understand those who are” as the saying goes.

      In the case of bias against Israel I do think it’s driven by emotion, and it’s bound to be me who’s pissing in the wind, not you.

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    3. Hopefully not. Don't ever think that, Sue.

      We never listen to 'The Archers' either, and I'm first to the radio to switch over as sound as it comes on.

      All those corny corn-chewing accents put me off. I

      f 'The Archers' is biased, like you, I'll never know, as I've absolutely no desire to..oh aaaahh..listen to it, but will defend to the death the rights of those who do.

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