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BBC Mea Culpa?

The BBC was all atwitter yesterday because of “lapses in editorial judgement”. The issue it has focused on is its fake phone-ins to competitions. Both the Director General Mark Thompson and the BBC Trust have expressed deep concern. The Trust said that “significant failures. . .within the BBC have compromised the BBC's values of accuracy and honesty". Mr Thompson said, “I know the idea of deceiving the public would simply never occur to most people in the BBC.”

Unfortunately in matters political BBC staff have been deceiving the public intentionally or not for thirty-five years. The UK Independence Party recently received an acknowledgement from the BBC that it had not been properly involved in commentary and discussion on the proposed EU constitution. Lord Pearson commissioned an analysis of these matters, and showed that the Today programme presented only a small minority of euroskeptic guests. He might have added that none of the anchors were remotely euroskeptic. The last one to be a euroskeptic was renowned anchor Jack DeManio. Thirty years ago he realised the hazards to Britain’s freedom posed by the Common Market. The BBC quickly got rid of him, and he sank without trace.

In matters connected with the EU, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Islam, Christianity, America, the Iraq war, and global warming, the BBC has repeatedly and predictably not only compromised “the BBC’s values of accuracy and accuracy” but the very terms of its charter, which require it to be impartial and to present all sides. Evidently, as we have learned in recent news reports, the BBC does not consider some sides of an argument to be worthy of airtime.

In its 81-year history the BBC has developed a tremendous worldwide presence and reputation. I used to look forward to returning to England, and turning on the BBC to listen to Radio 4 as I drove back from the airport. Now, sickened by its biases, I no longer do. In contrast, when I arrive in America, I can listen to a whole range of opinions, including liberal, conservative, and libertarian points of view.

The libertarian and conservative viewpoints are completely missing from the BBC. I suspect this is not always due to deliberate bias, but because in the limited worldview of its staff they do not realize that other views exist. They are like those Ptolemaic astronomers who were convinced that the Sun and planets circled the Earth, and had the figures to prove it.

There will need to be significant changes at several levels of staffing at the BBC so that the staff can reflect the diversity of views that the BBC charter requires. The present, admitted errors, including the prizes but much more importantly the BBC’s inadequate coverage of EU issues and its recent flagrant misrepresentation of The Queen and Annie Leibovitz, could provide the opportunity for at least a partial cleaning of the Augean Stables. However, I do not think that the Director General or his deputy or indeed the Trust is up to the task.

In spite of the behemoth controlling the airwaves, there are still people such as Lord Pearson and other euroskeptics who are prepared to keep on challenging the BBC. It seems it will be up to the people of Britain, perhaps by withholding their license fees, that will create the needed changes. But more about this later.

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