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Tory manifesto pledge to deploy BBC as state mouthpiece is old news

Simon Rite
Simon Rite
is a writer based in London for RT, in charge of several projects including the political satire group #ICYMI. Follow him on Twitter @SiWrites
Tory manifesto pledge to deploy BBC as state mouthpiece is old news
It’s been a tough election for the BBC, and the Tories making it clear in their manifesto that they regard the state broadcaster as a mere propaganda tool ready for deployment won’t help one little bit.

The Conservatives’ election manifesto contains one small, yet telling, sentence: “We will work with our cultural institutions like the BBC and the British Council to expand our influence and project our values”.

In other words, the likely next party of government sees the BBC as a mouthpiece. I mean looking from the outside this is news to no one, the BBC is quite clearly a mouthpiece, but you can bet there is anguish within the Beeb itself, which is always unwilling to reflect on what it actually is. 

The BBC suffers a curious psychosis, where those who work for it believe it should be above criticism simply by virtue of being the BBC, and remain in denial that it is a run-of-the-mill state broadcaster, insisting the quirks of its licence fee funding make it somehow special. 

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The internal propaganda about the BBC’s objectivity is so effective among staff, that there is little to no obvious self-reflection about whether it is true or not.

Even in the days when the BBC World Service was directly funded by the Foreign Office to spread British values around the world, there was always high-minded denial that this was in fact just a euphemism for describing propaganda.

The constant claim that the BBC has some kind of monopoly on objectivity is what really gets people angry, because so much of what comes out of the various arms of the British broadcaster is far from it.  If it just admitted that by definition it can’t help being a tool of state, there would be a lot more clarity for everyone.

I personally subscribe to Noam Chomsky’s theory that individuals within the BBC may not be knowingly biased in the way they reflect the news, but if they didn’t see the world as they do, they wouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place. The bias is built in to the institution.

For example, in the Guardian, sociology lecturer Tom Mills found out that of the what he regards as the BBC’s top 6 political journalists, 5 of them went to either Oxford of Cambridge University.  Whether you like them or not, few could deny that Oxbridge graduates come with a certain world view.

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In the current UK election campaign, the Beeb has twice been accused of shaping footage to make Boris Johnson look better.  On one occasion footage of the Prime Minister embarrassingly holding a remembrance wreath upside down was replaced with pictures from a previous year.  Just a few days later someone noticed that a soundbite in which Johnson was asked about the issue of trust had been edited so that mocking laughter aimed at him from the audience had been removed.

There are also criticisms that the BBC has become so useful for the Conservatives, that they are feeding correspondents with off-the-record stories that are then reported on national news bulletins, before turning out not to be true. 

Journalist Peter Oborne claims that BBC executives told him: “they personally think it’s wrong to expose lies told by a British prime minister because it undermines trust in British politics.”  Good for them, but that is not objective.

BBC representatives, from national presenters to senior management, have been incredulous to all of these accusations which makes their denials seem even worse to the wider public which is left to wonder why they continually miss the point of the criticism they face.

So if you are in favour of the BBC being a mouthpiece of the state, vote Tory.  Or vote for anyone else in fact, because the bias is baked into the institution whether it recognises it or not.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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