Monday, October 23, 2006

Biased afterall?

The Daily Mail reported yesterday that the BBC is institutionally biased, by their own admission.

This type of thing is often reported and commented on but on this occasion, some of the BBC's top brass and journos seem to agree.

In this article, the Daily Mail quotes Andrew Marr (Political journalist) as saying

"The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly-funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people.

"It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias."

Ok, so its not exactly earth shattering. Surely even the BBC should change with the times? But should this be counted as liberalism?

I tackled this whole topic of bias myself a few months ago here but for those who need to cut to the chase, I feel that true impartiality is impossible. How can we report crimes involving vulnerable individuals or mass murder without overtly stressing the opinions of the victims?

In essence, impartiality has little to do with fact however it may effect how journalists go about looking for them.

But what about comment and analysis? The BBC dedicates some of its news and current affairs output on individuals expressing personal comments on the big issues of the day, and you can take it from me that most have their own agenda in doing so. Here the BBC relies on balance. We can't expect politicians to comment with impartiality but by giving equal measure to different parties etc, they hope to strike some degree of 'fairness'

The Daily Mail's article also looks wider than the just the news remit though. In the article, they also claimed:

Senior figures admitted that the BBC is guilty of promoting Left-wing views and an anti-Christian sentiment.

They also said that as an organisation it was disproportionately over-represented by gays and ethnic minorities.

It was also suggested that the Beeb is guilty of political correctness, the overt promotion of multiculturalism and of being anti-American and against the countryside.

During the meeting, hosted by Sue Lawley, executives admitted they would happily broadcast the image of a Bible being thrown away - but would not do the same for the Koran.

Now that's a whole new ballgame. The BBC's idea of impartiality only really centers around news reporting, some of these issues would probably be considered under 'Taste and Decency' And that's a whole new topic completely...

Do you think the BBC is biased or do you feel they do a good job?


James said...

Honestly Paul I think this is a total non-story. The Sunday Mail accusing the BBC of bias is laughable. The Mail titles aren't exactly a bastion of fair reporting, and the BBC is one of its favourite targets.

And don't forget the papers in general aren't too pleased about the scope of the BBC's online activities; viewing "text-based" media as their turf.

I'm not saying the BBC is perfect. But are they really biased against religion or merely reflecting a more secular society?

Marr is right that BBC staff aren't representative of society as whole, but that's not surprising. And it doesn't mean those staff aren't trying hard to match programme content to their audiences. As you'll be aware local radio staff in the BBC are encouraged to think of a fictional couple, Dave and Sue, to remind them of the habits, needs and lifestyles of their target audience. This makes sense - local radio staff tend to be a lot younger that the people they're making programmes for and sometimes think they're making radio for grey haired grannies. It doesn't hurt to remember that someone in their mid-fifties today can still be very young at heart.

I'd like to see a much fuller report of this "Impartiality Summit" - it's easy to pull a full quotes from an event like this to spin in pretty much any direction. I think the piece you link to just picks the quotes that'll get Mail readers foaming at the mouth!

I'd better declare an interest here - until the end of June this year I worked for the Beeb. I'm proud of that. And I still think it's a wonderful institution which the nation - and world -would be poorer without.

James said...

"I'd like to see a much fuller report of this "Impartiality Summit" - it's easy to pull a full quotes from an event like this to spin in pretty much any direction."

That'll be "pull a few quotes" of course. Can't even proof-read now!

wodge said...

The Mail accusing the BBC of bias! Pot meet Kettle, Kettle meet Pot!

Man in a shed said...

I fail to understand those who place comments about the Mail on Sunday being biased - of course it is. It has a view point and that's why it sells!

The BBC is biased - and it is an every increasing poll tax raised against the population. (It is also one of the leading causes for imprisonment of women in the UK for non payment of the licence poll tax.)

It is in my opinion institutionally biased. I note that many of those who dismiss the MoS defend the BBC.

The answer ? Either remove the licence fee, or let us decide which public service broadcaster it should go to.

Hel Fire said...

"It's a publicly-funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people."
Well, what do you expect? It is based in urban areas so of course its makeup will reflect the local population's makeup, which may he higher in young people, ethnic minorities and gay people than non-urban areas. I don't think it has this bias on purpose, I think it is merely representing the world around itself.

James said...

MIAS - The imprisonment of non-payers of the licence fee is indeed shameful. But the BBC doesn't set tariffs for criminal convictions. Andrew Marr's "cultural liberals" would probably all want this changed.

Paul Hurst said...

The Mail are re-running this story today. They really don't like the BBC do they?

Anonymous said...

Here's the `fuller report' that James wanted:

James said...

Sorry to re-open old correspondence, but The New Statesman has an interesting piece on this by Peter Wilby.

Paul Hurst said...

far from being 'old correspondence' this is an issue the BBC has to deal with and thats why a story such as this will run and run.