Biased about bias

Never let it be said the Mail won’t take any opportunity to attack the BBC. Yesterday it was over left-wing bias*, today it’s over right-wing bias.

The BBC was caught in a political row last night after its boss Mark Thompson was apparently attempting to cosy up to the Government following complaints over Left-wing bias.

The corporation’s director general was photographed arriving at No 10 clutching a memo insisting the BBC is ready to put its coverage of public spending cuts into ‘context’.

The move will prompt claims that the broadcaster is trying to curry favour with an increasingly hostile Coalition Government to preserve its generous licence fee funding.

So wait, has it been caught in a row yet, or not? There’s no mention in the article of anyone objecting to the memo, and the only verification is from an anonymous BBC source.

The claims in this article come from a single partially obscured telephoto shot of Thompson carrying a document written by the head of news Helen Boaden describing a meeting with the coalition’s Director of Communications Andy Coulson (who is incidentally involved in a much larger scandal that the Daily Mail have curiously forgotten to report on). Does the document support the Mail’s claims? Let’s see. Here’s a transcription of the relevant parts of the memo:

For background which may help…. I had lunch with Andy Coulson [...]

concerned that we give context to the Spending Review Season (I[...]

Birt…). I said that’s what we always try to do and part of the reason [...]

inform the public about the whys and wherefores… though I did exp[...]

a range of voices on all the issues.

Over the summer, we have mostly been driven by news lines and [...]

leaked letter from the Justice dept. Phillip Green being brought in, [...]

milk being axed and then restored, criticism of the OBR and the [...]

the poorest would be hardest hit by the Spending Review implic[...]

tried to put in a broader context.

Does that sound like the BBC trying to “curry favour” with the coalition, or does that sound like the BBC trying to defend their position? They aren’t offering to put its coverage in context, they’re saying “We already do.”

* Despite how the papers tried to spin it, Thompson was only talking about left-wing bias in the 1970s.

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  1. #1 by Jamie on Friday, 3rd September 2010 - 13:55 UTC

    The Telegraph’s article about Thompson’s Thatcher comments includes a lovely bit of unfairness.

    “The BBC’s controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson, drew criticism last year when he said that the corporation should foster “left-of-centre thinking”.

    Jeremy Hunt, then shadow culture secretary, said his remark was a “clear breach of the BBC’s impartiality obligations” and wrote to Mr Thompson demanding an apology. Mr Stephenson later clarified his remark, saying he meant “left-field” creative thinking. ”

    Going back to the Telegraph’s original report suggests that this shouldn’t ever have needed clarification, never mind been brought up over a year later:

    “If we didn’t all think differently, have different ideas of what works and what doesn’t, wouldn’t our lives, and more importantly, our TV screens be less interesting? We need to foster peculiarity, idiosyncrasy, stubborn-mindedness, left-of-centre thinking.”

    I mean, unless you’re desperately looking for something to batter the BBC with, it’s pretty clear from the context that he’s talking about out-of-the-box/left-field thinking. Not politically left-wing.

    (Er, I might turn this comment into a blog after all that)

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/7976318/BBC-was-biased-against-Thatcher-admits-Mark-Thompson.html

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/media/5873063/BBC-executive-says-corporation-should-foster-left-of-centre-thinking.html

    • #2 by atomicspin on Friday, 3rd September 2010 - 14:14 UTC

      Go for it! Could be an interesting post.

  2. #3 by Steve M on Friday, 3rd September 2010 - 21:21 UTC

    Daily Mail being two-faced, surely not! Also amuses me that when Campbell was bullying the BBC it was unacceptable yet when Coulson is trying it on with Auntie Beeb it’s not an issue (and somehow the fault of the BBC!).

    If the BBC were left-wing wouldn’t they have been getting stuck into Coulson and his management of NOTW, when phone hacking was their main investigative tool, long before the general election? The fact they didn’t suggests a right wing bias.

    Anyway The DM and it’s readers are so right wing they’d accuse Fox News of having a left wing bias

  1. The BBC and bias | exclarotive

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