BBC Bias Digest 23 July 2020

BBC ‘WRONGLY BLAMES CHURCHILL FOR INDIA FAMINE’:  Writing for The Critic magazine (21/7), Christopher Howarth accused the BBC, ‘the most powerful megaphone in the land today’, of airing ‘a one-sided attack’ on Winston Churchill.  He wrote that a feature, by the BBC’s Yogita Limaye, which was broadcast on Radio 4’s Today programme (20/7), only included voices critical of ‘Britain’s most famous politician’, all concurring in presenting him as ‘reprehensible’ and ‘racist’. Mr Howarth added that the Radio 4 piece focused on the devastating 1943 Bengal famine, and held Winston Churchill ‘responsible’ for it. Mr Howarth argued that it reflected the BBC’s ‘obsession’ with ‘a particular version of history based on…poisonous, chronic racial essentialism’, projecting a ‘narrative of British evil and oppression’ . He added that it was not ‘worthy’ of the BBC to report it ‘as fact, without any semblance of balance’.

Rory Tingle (Daily Mail 23/7) reported that historians had attacked the BBC for an ‘unbalanced’ BBC One News at Ten report (on 21/7)  by Yogita Lamiye  claiming that Churchill was responsible for the ‘mass killing of three million people’ in the 1943 Bengal famine.  Mr Tingle said that in the item – part of a series examining Britain’s colonial legacy’ – contained claims from Indian academics that the then prime minister had framed policies which made him a ‘precipitator’ of mass killings and that he  could have  prioritised ‘white lives over Asian lives’ by not sending relief.  He added that LSE academic Tirthankar Roy had pointed out that the weather-induced famine had been due to the Bengal government’s unequal distribution of food and its failures to invest sufficiently in agricultural development. Mr Tingle said the BBC had responded that the report had contextualised Churchill’s actions  in relation to his overall war strategy, and that they ‘stood by’ the story.


VETERAN RADIO 2 PRESENTER ATTACKS BBC MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE: A report by Matthew Moore in The Times recorded BBC Radio 2 veteran Ken Bruce’s interview with David Lloyd’s Radio Moments Conversations podcast (£ 21/7). Mr Bruce, host of the Britain’s most popular radio programme, told Mr Lloyd that the BBC is ‘a frustrating place to work’ and that he sometimes thinks ‘a cull of managers would be no bad thing’, except that, ‘somehow’, whenever such a cull happens, ‘they come back within a few years’. Complaining about licence fee money being spent on the Director-General’s car, Mr Bruce asks, ‘How much does Radio 2 need a policy unit dealing with government?’.


BBC ‘SHOULD MOVE BEYOND BIG CITIES’: In a piece in The Times headlined ‘Time to move the civil service out of London’ (£ 22/7), Ben Houchen noted that, ‘too often’, for organisations including the BBC, ‘the north seems to mean Manchester’, arguing that ‘real change’ will come when such  organisations broaden out and also base themselves outside big cities.

In a similar vein, Jim Waterson, media editor of The Guardian (22/7), quoted former Culture Secretary, now Government minister, John Whittingdale saying that it is ‘absolutely essential’ for the BBC to ‘try to sustain support for the licence fee in all these communities [people who live in smaller towns and rural areas] and not just serve the metropolitan elite in London and Manchester. I am very much aware that communities like Cleethorpes begin to feel that the BBC is not providing sufficiently for them’.


JOHN WARE ‘CONSIDERING SUING JEREMY CORBYN’: BBC Panorama presenter John Ware (Daily Mail 23/7), noting that former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn had said that his party’s decision to pay damages to him over an edition of Panorama which had investigated anti-semitism in the party was ‘political’ rather than legal, said he had been advised by his legal team that the statement was defamatory and potentially actionable. Mr Ware also said that ‘pro-Corbyn conspiracy theorists’ were persisting in spreading falsehoods about him on the internet. Mr Ware asserted:

“It is broadcasters like the BBC that are trying to hold the line on standards, not the self-appointed ‘media activists’ who make up their own rules and whose self-righteousness leaves them with dangerously little self-doubt. If we want fair and truthful journalism to prevail over deceitful propaganda on the internet, we must hold their authors to account. If we continue to let them get away with it, truth will not be the only casualty. Democracy itself will be wounded – perhaps fatally.”

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