Sunday 14 February 2021



So, we in the UK banned the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN and, in traditional Cold War tit-for-tat fashion, the Chinese then banned the BBC from mainland China and Hong Kong, provoking the BBC's DG Tim Davie into a strong defence of media freedom:

Media freedom matters. The latest developments in China, including the banning of the World Service in Hong Kong, are deeply worrying developments. The BBC should be able to do its reporting without fear or favour. 

It is of deep concern when our journalists are restricted and their work curtailed. Importantly, in these difficult times when misinformation is rife, we have seen growing audiences for trusted news sources -  including hundreds of millions coming to the BBC.

This is not just about stopping the BBC from broadcasting news in China, there are significant and growing global threats to the free media as some seek to increase their control of information.  Now, more than ever, it is important that we speak out to defend free and fair journalism.

Here's a possibly controversial thought, and one I hesitate to state because I have no desire whatsoever to in any way aid the cause of the communist dictatorship in the People's Tyranny of China in spreading their increasingly malign influence (lest they and their agents of influence are massive readers of this blog!):

There's a heck of a lot of banning and censoring and cancelling going on at the moment - by governments, national regulators and previously libertarian-seeming social media giants (often egged on by overly-influential political partisans of certain stripes with ever-switched-on Twitter feeds and Facebook pages). 

Some of it is by 'the good guys' and some of it by 'the bad guys'. 

As with the social media giants permanently banning  people they disapprove of politically (including elected politicians - orange-coloured presidents included - with massive support), banning 'deplorable people' might be all the rage and might feel morally right, but it can rebound on the banners, or on others the righteous banners approve of...

Here Ofcom banning the Chinese, and the BBC paying the price as a result.

Things are seriously spiralling out of control on the banning, censoring, cancelling front, even in the world's great democracies, and when things spiral out of control they can lead to all manner of unexpected consequences and aid the darkest enemies of democracy, such as the present PRC ruler-for-life. 

The triumphant tech giants, for example, may think they've played a blinder over the US election, but who's to say they won't be sent reeling and brought down in a very few years by people even more censorious than they are?

I'd never heard of CGTN until yesterday. By banning it, even if pretty much no one in the UK watches it, didn't Ofcom hand the ruthless, ultra-censorious Chinese regime a justification (however dubious) to censor the BBC in China and Hong Kong? 

'One act of censorship against one 'fake news provider' deserves another act of censorship against another 'fake news provider''?

If they'd just left it alone and let the Chinese propaganda channel wilt on the vine here in the UK, because next to no one was watching it or even knew of its existence, surely Xi the Pooh's mob wouldn't have had a leg to stand on when they banned the UK's main publicly-financed broadcaster?

To sum up: Stop banning, censoring, cancelling things. Trust to free speech, disagreement, argument, persuasion, reasoning, and, yes, intense fact-checking and refuting. Even against Chinese propaganda channels. 

It's the polite and decent (h/t Jeremy Bowen) and, I believe, the most beneficial thing to do. It's what democracies are meant to do (in times of peace).

It's even what we Brits do against the BBC, despite BBC journalists (like John Simpson) fulminating against us for so doing. 

It's part of what democracy is all about. 

If large swathes of a democratic nation think their main, publicly-funded broadcaster doesn't represent their values then we say so, including on blogs like this. 

The BBC are no CGTN-style state propaganda outfit (as Dominic Cummings would testify), but they're flawed and far from impartial. 

It's us telling the BBC what they don't want to hear in the cause of liberty

I could, of course, be wrong and naïve here - and please say if I am (after all, I'm better I think at writing about examples of bias than editorialising on general subjects) - but censorship is massively on the rise again. 

It's becoming quite the 'in' thing. 

Even the BBC's Disinformation Unit, headed by Mike Wendling, seem to be gleeful in support of it, if it hits the right targets.

It's a very dangerous thing though and we must stop indulging it, even when it peacefully harms those we disapprove of and who threaten our freedoms. We all must (with BBC-style Dads Army 'woke' apologies for metaphorical language, especially if Ms Pelosi & Co are passing by and faint after a hissy fit) fight, fight and fight again with words, argument and reason against people who we think are wrong, whilst not banning them from having their say.

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