Sunday, February 20, 2005

Tip For The Day

When trying to quell suspicions that you're a collection of out-of-touch elitists with no interest in serving a large part of your customers, try to do better than breezy arrogance, a stupid canard and an absurdly biased example. Otherwise, you end up with something like this:

Every day, BBC News is accused of bias by small sections of the audience. It's either pro-Tory, pro-Labour or pro-anyone but the complainant. In the run-up to a likely general election, we asked Andrew Marr to respond.
I wonder what the reaction would be at the Beeb if any other company sneered at customer complaints this way. If Railtrack had dismissed complaints like this, we'd never have heard the end of it.

Aside from the high-handed tone though, the substance of the point is absurd. Sure, some people attack the Beeb for being too right-wing, but they also attack the Lib Dems & Labour for being too right-wing. Speaking personaly, I'm fat - and that would still be true even if Michael Moore was my next door neighbour, and so it is for the BBC and bias.

Besides, despite what the Beeb likes to imply, questions of BBC bias aren't mere matters of taste, nuance and the like. Take this one from last week. Marr can indulge in whatever polysyllabic adjectivising he wants, but the information given was objectivly not true. Never mind the Beeb's attempt at 'cheat & retreat', does anyone really think that a similarly vile slander aimed at one of the Beeb's favoured victim groups would be aired ? That's your bias right there.

But, it gets worse:

If [the general election] sounds complicated, the European constitutional referendum, assuming it takes place, will be even harder.

Individual parties are split. The "yes" campaign will be united in calling for a single outcome - the EU constitution ratified.

But the "no" campaign will include a range of opinions, from people who are not happy with this particular constitution, to people who believe our national interest requires leaving the EU as soon as practicable.

Fairness, or balance, will involve explaining this without implying the "no" campaign is incoherent, simply because it is divided on the ultimate outcome.
Say what ? By that measure the 'yes' campaign is similarly diivided, comprising as it does folk who want a single country of Europe right now, people who want to work towards a USE and even people who claim it's all just a tidying up exercise. More to the point, why even mention incoherence if you don't think it applies ?

If you believe that I and my colleagues at the BBC are honestly and rigorously trying our level best to be fair, and that we do not have preconceived political positions, then you will be likelier to relax and concentrate on the information, not the informant.
But that's the point. Even in an article disavowing bias Marr slanders the Eurosceptics - and his editors let him -most probably because he doesn't see it as bias at all. He thinks it's a truism that the Eurosceptics are a ragbag of prejudices while the Eurofanatics are the very model of coherency, and there's no one around to tell him differently. That's the thing - for all this talk of diversity, the only type that really matters is the type they won't support - diversity of opinion. As long as the publically-funded BBC is allowed to remain a political monoculture then it can't help but continue to be biased.

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