Monday 24 March 2014

The perfect bias-free BBC day (Part I)

AdrianD posted a thought-provoking comment on our 'Daytime Radio 4' thread today:
AdrianD 24 March 2014 10:42
I’m not sure whether you, or anyone who contributes to this blog, has done this before, but I think it would be interesting to see what you thought a good, non-biased, day of BBC broadcasting might look like. Apologies if you have (please send a link). I know what I want to see less of – I was just wondering what you would like to see more of. Thanks.
Oddly (or otherwise) we have never done such a thing, but it really is an interesting idea, isn't it?

I shall write here as if I'm replying to AdrianD [which, I hope he won't mind], and continue with the theme over several posts as it will give me the chance to dig a little deeper into things, as the day in question provides a useful (if untypical) case study of BBC bias:

As you probably worked out from the blue bits of that post [and an earlier comment or so], I thought that much of Sunday 23 March 2014's Radio 4 output (or at least its daytime broadcasting) lived up to my idea of what a good, non-biased day of BBC broadcasting should be like.

It was one of the best days of BBC broadcasting that I've ever heard, and I fancied PARTIALLY defending it in that post as being atypically unbiased...though, by some accounts, I only made it look even worse for the BBC's reputation for impartiality!

Looking at this Sunday's Radio 4 methodically then...

I always like Bells on Sunday (5.45am): a bit of history & British geography - plus bells. Who, atheist or believer, hates church bells (except the odd noise-averse grump)? Two minutes of weekly bliss.

As I commented on an earlier thread, I thought this week's edition of Lent Talks (5.47am) made up for/balanced out Bonnie Greer's dreary effort the week before. Yes, the speaker made a left-wing point or two along the way, but that's only to be expected for the wife of the dean of Liverpool [Anglican] Cathedral these days. (See various surveys on the disconnect between the liberal C of E leadership and its more conservative membership). But, still, I liked her talk.

There are a few more episodes to go, so an assessment of whether it represents unbiased broadcasting will have to wait. My idea of unbiased BBC broadcasting would be that each programme surprised me in some way, from contrasting angles.

Has that usually happened with Lent Talks?

Too often, past series of Lent Talks have espoused concerns that seem (to me) to reflect with I think of as the BBC's natural biases.

Take last year's series: Its presenters were (1) a Thought for the Day liberal Anglican, (2) a Muslim, (3) a Labour baroness, (4) a well-connected charity worker, (5) a gay Jew who feels abandoned for being gay, and (6) a fiction writer.

That's the sort of thing that makes me write about BBC bias.

We'll see where the rest of this series goes.

Next up came that edition of Something Understood (6.05am) about which I wrote with such mixed feelings yesterday....

A great series, often a jewel among Radio 4's output, usually thoughtfully constructed yet whimsical...yes, such a programme would undoubtedly be a part of my kind of BBC broadcasting day. On a good day, it appeals to believers, non-believers, and those who lie somewhere in-between.

(Two Palestinian poets in two weeks though, and no Israeli poems for months?...oh dear (as I'm sure you'll agree, Adrian.))

Its main presenter has long been that nice Mark Tully (see Sue and myself's discussion of him here). Alongside him have been John McCarthy, Chris Brookes, Hardeep Singh Kohli, Tom Robinson, Lucy Mangan, & various BBC reporters (including the ever-excellent Samira Ahmed)...which is, undeniably, about as left-liberal a collection of people as you could gather together to host a weekly BBC Radio 4 programme.

Conservative voices need not apply it seems - a recurring theme with such BBC Radio 4 staples, as we shall see...

Pause for thought

So where are we now?

Just beginning Sunday morning on Radio 4, yet using it as our kind of BBC broadcasting day.

Praise so far then for Bells on Sunday and Lent Talks (and, therefore, both included in my model BBC day on the strength of this week's editions), balanced by qualified praise for Something Understood (only conditionally included, due to this week's lapses) all set in the context of evidence-backed claims of left-liberal bias on the part of both Lent Talks and Something Understood.  (Deny that evidence if you can!)

Both of those provide easy-to-prove claims of BBC left-liberal bias [and, please!, feel free to ask me to go back over several years and prove it even more! ---- In fact, don't bother: I'll do it myself over the coming weeks!].

Next up came an edition of On Your Farm (6.35am) that had me hanging on its every word. 

It related the experiences of a farming family on the Somerset plains, and pushed no apparent agenda (just as I want it) whist so doing. The slow,-slowish,-suddenly fast, &, soon after, very-fast -indeed rise of the flood waters was made to hit home, as was exactly what it meant for the farmer, his family and his cattle. The willingness of British people to come to this good farmer's aid was something I found deeply reassuring.

The programme's presenter here was our old friend Charlotte Smith, whose past feminist agenda-pushing has provoked a pair of previous posts at "Is" (here and here). My vision of an unbiased BBC day of broadcasting would involve Charlotte reporting at she did here (rather than as she did there.) 

My ideal Sunday BBC schedule would have to include my pet project, Sunday (7.10am), as the idea of a religious current affairs programme at breakfast on Sunday morning appeals to even an atheist like me... but, oh, the eternal, devilish bias!...It's so off-putting.

Alan at Biased BBC has (by his own confession) moved his tanks onto my lawn today (good man!) by outlining his own feelings about the clear bias embedded in the latest edition of this most reliably liberal-biased of BBC Radio 4 programmes, and Chrish did the same in the comments field of my own thread about this programme. 

They both made explicit what I made implicit - that Sunday is strongly and instinctively left-liberal in orientation - something this blog has, if it has proved anything, has proved beyond doubt. (Surely? 73 posts about it, and counting!)

So, to keep on answering AdrianD...

...just what do I want from Sunday? What should it be doing in my perfect BBC day (while we're all drinking sangria in the park, hanging on, and reaping what we sow)?

Well, will I want is a range of views (from atheist to creationist, as it were) on matters religious, though with a central focus on mainstream Judeo-Christian beliefs. That wouldn't neglect Britain's new minority religions - Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism, etc - but nor would it make such a great fuss about just one of them at the expense of all the this week's edition most certainly did. Nor would it ignore those who doubt or reject religious belief. 

It would also be the kind of programme that doesn't just push a liberal Catholic perspective on Catholic matters, or that prefers liberal Jews to Orthodox Jews (as guests), or that promotes left-wing causes and dismisses right-wing causes, or that advances socially liberal morality at the expense of socially conservative morality...or that...until this blog stopped it...promotes a left-leaning Catholic magazine at the expense of a right-leaning Catholic magazine in the most blatant way imaginable. 

I want Sunday to keep repenting of its sins, putting its rosary to good use, wearing its Sunday best and giving us an agenda-free buffet of religious affairs. (Mmm...cheese and pickles, sausage rolls, crisps, hot-cross buns and egg sandwiches).

Some of its features and reports already achieve that, of course. Too many don't though. 

Second pause for thought

So where are we now? 

Well, we're finding that the BBC can often be heavily biased, but that sometimes even those sometimes-biased (and biased in-only-one-direction) programmes - Lent Talks, Something Understood, On Your Farm and Sunday - can be good in parts and, on occasions, wonderful...and that such is the BBC for you.

We're still near the beginning of our perfect BBC day. ("You made me forget myself/I thought I was someone else").

Over the coming days, we'll continue outlining what a good, non-biased, day of BBC broadcasting might look like. 

Will the way that real day, this Sunday, reflect those hopes? 

No flicking!! 

1 comment:

  1. I too thought that Caroline Fox Lent Talk was very good.
    It was five minutes too long though-and you can even hear the edit where they tack on the rest( Genesis etc).
    But a great introduction, and some excellent points from her...and the first ten minutes did indeed reset the Greer crap the week before.


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