Saturday 18 June 2022

Is the c-word highly controversial?

Costing some £5 million, the BBC's highly controversial News at Ten/News at Six studio revamp, aimed at attracting a younger audience, was the main topic on this week's Newswatch as viewers objected to the cost of it - especially as it was carried out at the same time as the BBC has been pleading poverty and making cuts.

By describing it as 'highly controversial' there, I was of course trying to make it look bad.

As regulars will know, I've long had a bee in my bonnet about the BBC's used of the c-word. 

Now, sometimes 'controversial' can be used to describe something that is indeed 'controversial' - i.e. with an air of objectivity - but it can also be used as a negative label to predispose an audience against something or someone - i.e. in a biased fashion.

This week, the man on the new highly controversial BBC curved catwalk himself, Huw Edwards, presented Wednesday's News at Ten and read out a bit about the government's Rwanda plan, saying that “the UK Government says it remains committed to its highly controversial plan of taking some migrants to Rwanda”. 

So not even merely 'controversial' but “highly controversial”. 

If he had said 'the UK Government says it remains committed to its plan of taking some migrants to Rwanda', would that have less impactful? 

It would certainly have told us the news, shorn of any suspicion that “highly controversial” was being used there to convey a partial point of view, that the Rwanda plan is a bad thing.

At least the BBC are consistent. Using TVEyes to look back to the News at Ten on the day the Rwanda deal was announced in April [the 14th], the newsreader that day - I'm assuming Huw - described it as “a highly controversial change to UK immigration policy”.

Am I right to have such a long-lived bee in my bonnet about this? Is it the BBC casting the Rwanda plan in a bad light through its use of a negative term?

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