|Why choose when you can cater for both Labour (left) and the Conservatives (right)?|
How many times have you heard someone say "the BBC is left-wing" or "the BBC is right-wing"? There are two reasons why hearing this drives me up the wall. First, both accusations are equally wrong (see below). Second, accusations like this mask the true bias of the BBC; a bias that is more insidious and dangerous than anything a conspicuously partisan institution could advance.
To understand why the the BBC has no left or right-wing agenda, we need a quick summary of how the organisation works:
- The existence of the BBC is guaranteed by a Royal Charter, which formally grants them the right to demand a license fee from the British public. Even though Royal Charters require the Queen's seal of approval, it's invariably the British government that proposes their granting or removal.
- The government is able to change the value of the license fee. It can also change how funding is distributed to the BBC's various services.
- As well as following the terms of the Charter, the BBC must uphold an agreement with the current Secretary of State in order to keep broadcasting. This agreement on the `functions' of the organisation has previously been used to insert political ideology into BBC coverage, such as the 1988-94 media blackout on Northern Irish republicanism.
This pursuit of unrequited happiness would be easy if there wasn't an election every five years that routinely installs a new government with a new set of ideological goals. Thus, while the BBC remains consistent in its will to accommodate the political class, they're unable to adopt a permanent political position. If they were right-wing, a Labour government (leftist) would cut their funding or take them off the air. If they were left-wing, the Conservatives would do the same. Even if the BBC could change the direction of their bias every five years (and they do to some extent), anything beyond mild or subtle bias towards whichever party is in charge would be condemned by the opposition and punished at a later date.
How is the BBC Biased?
The BBC must cater for anyone that has (or will have) the power to take it off the air. This means Labour and the Conservatives. Both of these mainstream political parties share a lot of views, policies, and agendas, giving the BBC plenty of room to bias their reporting in a consistent way. This pro-establishment bias motivates them to:
- Promote and support only those parties that have a chance of winning an election, i.e. Labour and the Conservatives. They will occasionally promote other parties, such as UKIP, if it helps to preserve the status quo (read more about that here).
- Give almost no coverage to smaller parties or movements seeking to change the current political climate. If smaller parties are mentioned, they're referred to as "protest votes" to make it seem like there's no genuine reason to vote for them besides being temporarily disenfranchised with your natural position in the Labour or Conservative camp.
- Preserve the status quo by limiting the spectrum of political discourse to that which is expounded by the mainstream parties.
- Make disagreement between the mainstream parties seem more overblown than it is in order to reinforce the charade of democracy.
- Disseminate positive propaganda for anything that is supported by both mainstream parties, such as wars (e.g. Iraq War), opposition to Scottish Independence, corporate interests, and the demands of wealthy individuals.
- Restrict coverage of information that is not favorable to these objectives.
- Cover the Royal Family in a way that can only be described as sycophantically positive. Claim to be doing this because of some obligation to be patriotic, rather than the existence of the Royal Charter. This extends to the British aristocracy as a whole, leading to obscenely negative coverage of countries like Zimbabwe.
- Produce international news that supports British foreign policy. As foreign policy changes little from one government to the next, BBC bias on this matter is consistently blatant. For example, countries like Russia, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Venezuela, China, and Cuba are routinely the subject of negative news stories, unsubstantiated gossip, and biased reporting that is intended to shape public opinion in a way that furthers British international interests. Even if some of the stories have an element of truth, the public requires honest reporting, not government propaganda.