Friday 7 August 2015

On 'Last Word' this week...

I set Radio 4 a test earlier in the week (but kept quiet about it). 

My test was to see if tonight's Last Word (Radio 4's obituary programme) would feature the historian Robert Conquest - one of the most influential historians of the last century who brought the sheer scale of Soviet murderousness to the world's attention. Robert Conquest died this week.

I kind-of knew in advance that Ian Katz's Newsnight wouldn't mark his passing. He just's not their sort. Eric Hobsbawm, sociologist Stuart Hall, Gabriel Garcia Marquez & Co (to name but a few), yes, but Robert Conquest most definitely not. 

Today has done better, with an interview with Anne Applebaum and a brief mention during an interview with fellow revealer of Soviet atrocities, Antony Beevor. 

And the BBC website featured a fascinating, rather personal tribute from the BBC's Korea-based correspondent Stephen Evans, whose grandparents and parents were die-hard communists. Robert Conquest may not have penetrated their pro-Soviet armour but he certainly seems to have penetrated the future BBC man's.

Neither, however, have exactly gone overboard (Hobsbawm-style) over the news, and I can't find a BBC website obituary of Mr Conquest anywhere, or very much else besides.

My test, however, was always going to be Last Word. 

ChrisH (in comments both here and at Biased BBC) has made regular mentions of the left-liberal bias of Last Word, where obscure left-wing activists and academics crop up with surprising regularity. Surely not even Last Word could 'drop' Robert Conquest though? 

Well, yes it could. There was no Robert Conquest today.

Instead, we had Cilla Black and George Cole (understandably), as well as a Scottish activist (Evelyn Gillan), a Muslim former Indian president known as the "People's President" (APJ Abdul Kalam) and a history master at Eton who was David Cameron's favourite teacher (Michael Kidson). 

I think that says it all really.


  1. Agreed. Conquest was a key cultural figure.

  2. Robert Conquest's 'Red Empire' mini series is available on YouTube and is recommended viewing. Made in 1990 by ITV's Yorkshire TV - says it all really.

  3. I also listened out for it but the omission just further revealed the BBC's political bias


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