Wednesday, July 17.
There are lots of very good reasons why people don’t trust the BBC, as it sinks to the level of CNN fake news.
It’s Mr Trump and his faithful against the Democrats, the media, including the BBC, and the stone cold loser Khan. That’s just the way the president wants it.
How can the BBC hold power to account when Robbie Gibb – former head of BBC Westminster, in charge of Daily and Sunday Politics, The Andrew Marr Show, This Week and Radio 4’s Westminster Hour – waltzes out of the job and into No 10 as Theresa May’s director of communications? Or when Rona Fairhead left her post as chair of the BBC Trust to become an unpaid minister of state at the Department for International Trade?
If you can still get a cushy job with the same government that your broadcaster has hounded for years, then at best it’s a failure of your political programming. At worst it’s evidence that seemingly antagonistic forces, the press and politicians, actually have their overall interests as part of the establishment in alignment. There are rules that apply to people who have served in ministerial roles, limiting what jobs they can take for two years after being in government: the same should be the case for those in a position of seniority in the BBC.
Another chronic malady for the BBC is impartiality and platforming. For the most part, the organisation takes a Millwall approach to accusations of bias: “Nobody likes us, we don’t care.” The reasoning here is that if both the left and the right, or Leavers and Remainers, are equally angry then that’s proof of a balanced approach. But the BBC does have its biases. It had the most pro-war agenda out of all the British broadcasters during the invasion of Iraq. A study by the Media Reform Coalition has shown a pattern of hostile coverage of Jeremy Corbyn and those who support him. And strangely enough, it’s not the left who have been best able to capitalise on this breakdown of public trust in the BBC. It’s the far right.
People say that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”, and that’s why the BBC should allow the far right on its flagship political shows. I don’t think that “no platform” is a moral imperative; I think that it’s right that even figures I find loathsome receive fair coverage on a state broadcaster. But the BBC needs to recognise that it has been outplayed at the very game it set the rules for. Nigel Farage wasn’t interested in winning a head-to-head with Andrew Marr: he used the platform to whip up his base, and delegitimise the BBC itself. What’s more, it looks as if he’s succeeding.
The BBC has got to recognise, and deal with, the limitations of some of its formats. Short, combative interviews are the bread-and-butter of far-right media. They create fantastic, viral content, and play on social media users’ frustration with establishment media outlets. If the BBC wants to cover the far right, while preserving its own values and future viability, it needs to make more room for long-form content.