The BBC - The Bent Broadcasting Corporation

A state broadcaster that would have been comfortable in the old Soviet Union

Vernon Coleman

It has long been clear to me that the BBC is a very biased broadcasting organisation which takes a strong pro-establishment line on almost every issue.

I used to work for the BBC regularly - presenting programmes on both radio and television. But I don't get invited to appear much on the BBC these days. Review copies of my books are sent to programme editors and presenters but, on the whole, we would get as much response if we sent copies to the Man in the Moon. When representatives of the BBC do ring up it is usually to invite me to appear on something in which I have absolutely no interest and which is unlikely to give me any opportunity to embarrass any part of the official establishment. A little while ago, for example, I received a message offering me a fee of 2,000 to appear on a `celebrity' issue of a BBC quiz programme. I declined. I rather doubt, however, that I will be invited to discuss this book on any BBC programme.

The BBC seems to me to support the medical establishment, the meat industry and the drug industry and to say that it is not keen to give air time to my views on doctors or the health service or to my views on the pointlessness of animal experimentation is something of an under-statement. I have never heard a BBC programme (on radio or television) which was fair to pro-animal campaigners, that dealt with the EU fairly, that dared to criticise American Imperialism with gusto or that criticised doctors and drug companies. The BBC usually only gives air time to politicians and other establishment figures and gives little (or preferably no) time to anyone threatening the establishment with contrary or original thoughts. Not for nothing is the BBC known not as the British Broadcasting Corporation but as the Blair Broadcasting Corporation, the Bush and Blair Chorus and the Bent Broadcasting Corporation. The whole darned organisation spins more than a top. After watching a BBC news programme I feel dizzy from all the spinning.

It has, for some time now, also been pretty clear to me that the BBC does not like to broadcast uncomfortably trenchant criticism of the European Union. My book England Our England is probably the biggest selling book on politics to have been published in England in recent years. And yet I have discussed it just once on the BBC, on a late night local radio programme. (The presenter later reported an unprecedented interest in the broadcast.)

I am not the only person to have noticed that the BBC takes an unusually partisan line on the EU. This pro-European bias has been evident to many listeners for many years and few people were surprised when, in June 2004, a study conducted by the Centre for Policy Studies revealed that the BBC gave twice as much coverage to pro-EU speakers as to eurosceptics. (I'd like to see, but am unlikely ever to obtain, a list of all the direct and indirect grants and financial inducements the BBC may have received from the European Union.)

Naturally, representatives of the BBC are invariably quick to defend their organisation. I suspect that some of them really believe that they are impartial and it is certainly a fact that they often fail to realise just how much their bias is showing. People who work for the BBC don't think of themselves as being part of the establishment (in fact many of them like to think of themselves as being rather radical) but with the possible exception of the British Medical Association I don't think I've ever known a more pro-establishment body than the BBC. The BBC has a hierarchy based on the civil service and certainly doesn't reflect the diversity of opinion in England. Very few BBC employees have ever experienced life in the free market (the ones who have, have often failed).

The problem is that the BBC's internal environment, their in-house culture, is terribly biased towards Labour and all its best-established enthusiasms. Any honest broadcaster would have left the BBC in disgust years ago. The European Union is important to Labour and so it is important to the BBC too. (The BBC's uncomfortable, and for it rather embarrassing, position over the illegal invasion of Iraq was merely a reflection of the Labour Party's own internal schism.)

Most BBC staff members are recruited through advertisements which appear exclusively in left-wing pro-Labour newspapers such as The Guardian and the organisation grows and grooms its own managers instead of recruiting from outside. Inevitably, most of the people who work for the BBC are Guardian readers. There are uncomfortable and unacceptable links between BBC staff and the Labour Party. One BBC presenter and her company are alleged to have received 600,000 in public money since Labour took over the government.Would anyone trust a journalist reporting on, say, the drug industry who earned part of their income working for the drug industry?

Is it really surprising, therefore, that the BBC ends up supporting the EU and refusing to allow the critics of the EU fair access to its airtime? Is it surprising that BBC staff invariably seem frightened of producing anything likely to upset the establishment? Was it really surprising when one well-known presenter referred to the Labour Party as `we'? Most BBC staff may not be stupid enough to endorse one party but they don't even realise that their prejudices are prejudices. They simply regard their views as `right'.

The BBC produces very little real investigative journalism and no consumer protection. The organisation is plump, complacent and infinitely pro-establishment; full of people who are terribly pleased with themselves and scared witless that their comfy sinecure may end. Is it any wonder that young BBC broadcasters do nothing original or daring or likely to upset any part of the establishment, unless it is acceptably original or daring (in which case of course it is neither).

The ultimate insult, of course, is that it is impossible to listen to the radio or watch television in England without paying a hefty annual fee to the BBC. Where else in the world do the citizens have to pay to be indoctrinated? Does no one outside the BBC realise that any broadcaster which is totally dependent upon the establishment and the government of the day for its very existence must end up as no more than a tool for both.

Although the BBC gets its income from a tax on the public (whether they watch its programmes or not) the BBC is effectively a state owned broadcaster. It certainly acts like one. No one with a brain would expect to turn on the BBC to listen to the news. The BBC is a good old-fashioned state broadcaster. It would have been comfortable operating in the USSR in the 1960s.

Copyright Vernon Coleman 2005

Taken from The Truth They Won't Tell You (And Don't Want You To Know) About The EU by Vernon Coleman, published by Blue Books at 9.99. Available from the webshop on this website, from all good webshops and from all good bookshops everywhere.