The BBC’s Anti-Labour Bias

JVL Introduction

Whatever was left of the BBC’s reputation for balance and neutrality has been totally destroyed by a number of “honest mistakes”, writes decades-long blogger, A Very Public Sociologist.

He concludes, sadly, that if the BBC weren’t so important to this country’s cultural life, it would deserve everything coming to it.

This article was originally published by A Very Public Sociologist on Wed 27 Nov 2019. Read the original here.

The BBC's Anti-Labour Bias

You could write a book about the BBC and its coverage of the 2019 general election campaign. Whatever was left of its reputation for balance and neutrality has been totally destroyed by a number of “honest mistakes”, and the cringing behaviour of its chief political correspondent, our friend Laura Kuenssberg. Would you like a recap? Recently, we have seen:

The BBC apologising after using 2016 footage of Boris Johnson laying a wreath at the Cenotaph. The actual 2019 footage had Johnson looking dishevelled, and saw him place the wreath upside down.

The BBC apologising for editing the leaders’ Question Time programme for its news bulletins the following day. Here, derisive laughter greeting Johnson’s responses to a question about honesty was edited out to give him a more positive gloss.

The BBC was found editing an online report about a Tory candidate suspended for anti-semitic remarks. It went from a factual reporting of the specifics of the comments to merely branding them “unacceptable”.

The BBC invited Jeremy Corbyn to sit down with Andrew Neil as part of their leaders’ interviews series. They later admitted that Johnson isn’t booked and, as of the time of writing, appears to be doing everything to avoid it. His previous outing didn’t go well.

Following Labour’s press conference about how the NHS is on the table when it comes to trade negotiations with Donald Trump, Laura Kuenssberg retweeted and then un-retweeted the following from Piers Morgan: “Wow. The breathtaking arrogance of this chump [Barry Gardiner} telling journalists what questions to ask. They should all ignore him and pummel Corbyn about anti-semitism.” Fair and balanced, Fox News style.

Kuenssberg later plugged Dominic Cummings’s racist blog, which for good measure invokes an anti-semitic trope. No “pummelling” for Mr Cummings.

And last of all, Corbyn gets scrutiny. And Johnson gets the fawning treatment.

We’ve talked about BBC bias so many times it feels dull to even write about it, but this behaviour cannot be swept under the carpet. Whether it’s doing piss-poor hit jobs that flagrantly disregarded inconvenient evidence, to under-reporting Tory stories, or we’re looking at the questionable framing of the BBC’s top journalist, to suggest the BBC is balanced when the Tories never receive the same treatment is utterly untenable.

The BBC is biased. As discussed before, the BBC has always followed the lead of the establishment. And so whoever is in charge of the government are treated within certain parameters, and especially so since the Dr David Kelly affair in the aftermath of the Iraq War. The BBC has exercised its independence from the powers that be by not exercising its independence. Its political coverage of the centre right, the centre, and the centre left have been all of a piece. And so, when the Tories were troubled by a right wing insurgency arising from its own decomposition, they were treated with a mix of novelty and horrid fascination. UKIP was simultaneously of the establishment and a reaction against it, and was indulged for precisely this reason. And then when Corbynism broke through during the 2015 leadership contest, the BBC at first was enraptured by what they regarded as a fleeting appearance of a left thought long-buried, and once Jeremy has won the party leadership Kuenssberg and friends amplified every attack from ostensible Labour MPs. As the left consolidated its power and the reliables on Labour’s right squeezed out so the attacks grew, and once the party became a contender in 2017 the BBC closed ranks and its fabled impartiality became increasingly threadbare. And that’s how it’s been since. The BBC remain biased toward the establishment, and with centrism routed in Labour and the LibDems set to deflate yet again, protecting the status quo means protecting the Tory party.

We shouldn’t at all be shocked by this, as the BBC is the establishment. Or at least an arm of it. But the paradox of its behaviour over British politics these last few years is how it has systematically dismantled the base of mass support it has in the public at large. It is weakening itself, so if the Tories win they will come for it. Getting the BBC to stump up the cash for free licences for the over-75s is one of the few pledges the Tory manifesto contains. That means more marketisation, more precarity, and a pressure on mega salaries for stars, including well remunerated chief correspondents, and less money for interesting programming and well resourced journalism. And there won’t be anyone outside of parliament willing to run to its defence. If the BBC wasn’t so important to this country’s cultural life, it would deserve everything coming to it.

Comments (9)

  • David Stretton says:

    the BBC have caved in…Johnson is to appear on Marr without a commitment to appear with Andrew Neil. Perhaps, Neil should take a leaf out of Channel 4’s book and put in a substitute for Johnson…a man in a chicken suit perhaps…but then Johnson would only send round his dad quicker than you could spell pinnochio…Solidarity with my Jews comrades.

  • Mary Davies says:

    Excellent article. I really object to subsidising the BBC.

  • Philip Ward says:

    The Editorial Director of BBC News, Kamal Ahmed, has an interesting history. I’ve just seen the film “Official Secrets” in which he does not come out well, although according Ed Vulliamy and Martin Bright the journalists portrayed in the film, the depiction in accurate. Along with the Observer editor, Roger Alton, Ahmed for five months before the 2003 Iraq War prevented Vulliamy from having published his finding that the CIA knew there were no WMD and that Bush had set up a parallel “Intelligence agency” to feed the government false information about Iraq as a result. Kamal Ahmed then vigorously backed up Alton in his initial refusal to publish the information that Katherine Gun supplied the Observer that GCHQ had been asked by the NSA to spy on the non-permanent delegates to the UN security council to get dirt on them in the run up to the debate on going to war. This is the main subject of the film. Ahmed is shown continuing to object even after Alton decides the benefits of a “good story” override the paper’s support for the war and is very explicitly portrayed as pushing Blair’s line. There is a claim in the Independent that he helped to edit Campbell’s dodgy dossier, that was so effectively pushed by the media as a reason for going to war.

    I’m not sure that a person with such an apparently poor grasp of reality and gross political bias in defiance of the facts should now be deciding the editorial strategy for the whole of BBC news.

    There is an hour long discussion of the events portrayed in the film with Katherine Gun, Ed Vulliamy, Martin Bright and the director on the Democracy Now YouTube channel.

  • Jennifer Hobson says:

    It isn’t so much Tory bias, as a pro-government bias. The BBC always, always, reports with one eye on the licence fee. It’s just better at covering this up (usually, but the current Tory leadership is off the charts) than the likes of RT or PressTV.

  • john higginson says:

    When Jo Coburn interviewed Owen Jones about labour and anti-Semitism this week do you think that in terms of impartiality she should have made it clear that she is a Jewish woman and anti-Semitism something that perhaps affects her own community? Owen Jones looked embarrassed in a I-know-that-you-know-that-I-know-but-they-don’t kind of way.

  • John says:

    Both the BBC and the Guardian have sold their ethics cheaply.
    Maybe a Labour government should introiduce a legal duty of impartiality on all the organs of the mass media, with the sanctions of imprisonment and/or large fines on senior executives who fail to follow the guidelines.
    Muzzle the media? Most definitely “Yes”.
    The one we have is failing our democracy by grossly misleading our demos or people.
    It is high time it went and is replaced by something better.

  • Lisa Lisker says:

    The Tory party has been working on destabilising the BBC since 2010, when David Cameron appointed prominent Conservatives to serve on the board. Now everyone has noticed the results and people are turning away from the BBC. This includes Labour supporters and Tory supporters who still hold an out of date view that the BBC has a left bias. As the article says, few will support the BBC when there are further moves to privatisation. This has clearly been the Conservative plan as it follows the blueprint of other privatisations. The likely loss of the BBC is a terrible shame.

  • Emma says:

    I’ve been noticing this lack of balance across a lot of the media and some newspapers for some time.I have raised it time and again and have yet to have a reply or notice any improvement in the lack of balance and as you say what seems to be bias.It is really worrying and all we can continue to do is highlight it at every opportunity to try and counteract it and make more people aware.It is not good for our democracy.One way to help is if labour gets voted in.All hands on deck.Lets hope for change December the 12 is key.

  • Linda Poulson says:

    The blatant bias of the BBC has grown alarmingly and has now turned it into a joke! I have complained this week about allowing Boris Johnson to wriggle out of an interview with Andrew Neil, although he would have given him a much easier time than Jeremy Corbyn who he harangued to apologise for something he hasn’t done (anti semitism row) Corbyn has never been anti Semitic. Most of the top BBC political journalists have links, belonged to the Tory party.

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