BBC Bias Digest 18 July 2020

BBC “WEAK MANAGEMENT’ FACILITATES ‘WOKERY”: In his regular column for the Telegraph (£ 17/7) Charles Moore compared recent developments at The New York Times with the situation at the BBC, arguing that the weakness of the newspaper’s management there in the face of ‘militant wokery’ has parallels with the weakness of BBC management here in confronting BBC staff over bias, including ‘the key exterior weapon they can use to skew coverage and blow up a storm – Twitter’. He contended that, though the problem of political and cultural bias at the BBC has existed since the 1960s, ‘it is only recently that direct bias has been permitted almost unpunished’, citing the case of Emily Maitlis’s ‘diatribe against Dominic Cummings’ and the Corporation’s coverage of the ‘vandalism committed in the name of Black Lives Matter’. He also criticised the ‘uniform’ character of its coverage, saying:

‘The creeping rule of HR in large media organisations has become politicised so that workplace “diversity” forces coverage to tiptoe round possible hurt or offence caused to self-identifying minorities. So, by a paradox George Orwell would have enjoyed, the more diverse the staff, the more uniform the coverage’, adding that ‘the victim is the BBC viewer, whose role is to pay up or be fined’.


MP SAYS OVER-75s SHOULD NOT BE PROSECUTED OVER LICENCE FEE: With three million over-75s having to start paying for their BBC licence fee from 1 August, Giles Watling, a Conservative member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, told the the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast (£ 17/7) that such people ‘should be given a “grace period” of 12 months’ before being prosecuted in the courts for non-payment. Though accepting the need for reform, he said that the BBC ‘needs to take people with it’, contending that not everyone is ‘as switched on as the BBC might like to think’.


BBC ‘SANITISES PROMS HISTORY’: In an article headlined ‘The ‘archive Proms’ are a sanitised let-down – why is the BBC afraid of the past?’ (Telegraph £ 17/7) music critic Ivan Hewett argued that the BBC’s decision to ‘airbrush out’ every Prom from before 1987 in their six weeks of ‘treasures from the archive’ preceding the live final two weeks of this year’s Proms season could have been taken for the ‘insidious reason’ that Proms from that era ‘have become politically unacceptable’. He wrote that the BBC is ‘desperate to present a properly “woke” face to the world’ and that ‘offering broadcasts of Proms from the 1960s and 1970s spoils that impression’ -a time which featured few female composers, orchestras and audiences that were ‘uniformly white’, old-style conductors with ‘roving eyes and hands’. and music that was ‘determinedly high-brow’, all of which ‘revealed a mindset very alien to the BBC’s current values of diversity and accessibility’:

‘All this means that the Proms’ early history has become an embarrassment to the current management. By presenting a series that starts in 1987 as an exploration of the “treasures of the archive”, they are in effect rewriting that history. That’s something that should worry us all – not just those of us who care about the Proms.’


BBC ‘DOES NOT REPORT GENDER IDENTITY ACCURATELY’: James Kirkup, writing in the Spectator (17/7) examined a BBC online news report headlined ‘Blackpool woman accessed child abuse images in hospital bed’. He observed that, though the offender was ‘born male, has a male name and is regarded as male by the police’, the BBC’s report ‘refers to a ‘woman’ and makes no reference to the police records’.  Mr Kirkup asked, ‘Did the BBC decide not to tell readers about [the offender’s] gender status out of fear for controversy or trouble, and the dreaded accusation of transphobia?’ or was it because they ‘didn’t want to do so, believing, for some reason, that reporting [the offender’s] gender status would be the wrong thing to do’?  Though arguing that ‘none of this is straightforward’ and seeing ‘several possible and understandable explanations’ for why the BBC reported the story as it did, Mr Kirkup added, ‘I have heard BBC editors confide that some of their editorial colleagues believe that BBC journalism on trans issues should prioritise respect for gender identity above ‘balance’’.


‘BBC DITCHES OLDER SPORTS PRESENTERS’: Writing in The Times (£ 18/7) Martyn Ziegler reported on the launch of a new non-BBC podcast featuring John Inverdale, Mark Pougatch and Jonathan Overend – three ‘outcasts’ who have all been ‘deemed surplus to requirements by the BBC’, something he puts down to ‘the BBC’s policy of ditching older sports presenters in favour of youth’. Along with Sonja McLaughlan and Marcus Buckland and others, they aim to produce an ‘intelligent’ series of non-BBC programmes.


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