OSBORNE BIAS? News-watch has already noted that the marathon BBC coverage of George Osborne’s remain ‘Exocet‘ on Monday led the senior political reporting team to make claims that the ‘leave’ side did not have satisfactory documents to produce in response, and also that the weight of establishment opinion was strongly against exit. Political editor Laura Kuenssberg and her deputy Norman Smith thus entered the controversial domain of offering strong opinions about key matters relating to the EU referendum. No doubt BBC more senior news executives would defend their comments on the ground that such correspondents are entitled to exercise, and indeed are paid to do so, their professional opinions in the area of their specific expertise. However, that raises further important issues. If the claims of one side of the referendum debate are to be subjected to such examination, is the same happening with the other? Relevant is that it was reported as part of the Osborne ‘Exocet’ that the Conservative high command is still insisting that they can talk with confidence about how Britain will perform in a ‘reformed EU’, and predict the economic future on that basis. But are the EU ‘reforms’ secured by David Cameron actually binding? The BBC has said from the beginning that they are, but there are numerous claims that they are not, most recently from the Vice-President of the European Parliament. It seems that there is a tougher level of scrutiny from Kuenssberg for the ‘out’ camp and another for ‘remain’. Another point here is that the ‘in’ side are being judged to be the more credible – there has been no obvious effort to look at what is likely to happen to the EU, if, after UK exit, there is a scramble by other countries also to leave.
LABOUR ‘HANDS OFF THE BBC’: What is it about so-called social ‘progressives’ that they think that any change in the BBC – as the debate continues about Charter renewal – is going to result in a slide into deteriorating standards and even collapse? Angela Eagle, the Labour party’s shadow secretary for culture, has made a keynote speech in which she has laid out in detail for the first time the Corbyn regime’s thinking about media policy. Her principal message to the government, despite the huge changes and challenges facing media companies is ‘lay off the BBC – any intervention is bullying’. Her core points were:
- Culture secretary John Whittingdale should not interfere at all in the BBC, especially over the EU referendum coverage or in matters of how programme budgets should be spent
- no changes in the licence fee
- no changes to the BBC’s commercial operations, including the possible sale of its stake in UKTV
- No ‘top slicing’ of the BBC licence so that other broadcasters could benefit from a ‘public service fund’.
- The BBC should remain at the heart of a complex state media patronage system in which it hands out cash to ‘independent’ producers
- Only minor changes in BBC regulation, and strong doubt about the ability of Ofcom to become future regulator (as was proposed by the Clementi report). Further, he government should not be involved in any way in the appointment process of a future regulatory body or management board.
This was a facile, lazy speech which suggests that Labour’s only concern is to maintain the BBC’s dominance and the media status quo, along with the continuation of its funding by the licence fee, despite it being least affordable by the poor. The suspicion must be that Eagle and her colleagues do not want change because they know that editorially, the Corporation favours Labour values, and has been for years favouring its agenda – pro-EU, human rights (with all that loaded phrase entail in left-wing politics), multiculturalism, climate alarmism…and so on. Eagle’s only real reservation about the BBC’s current state of health is that it is not diverse enough. And she reserved her loudest cheer for Channel 4 (which she also says must not change) for its ‘360 degree diversity charter’ – a document that could serve as The Bible of the diversity industry.