Monday, March 13, 2006

BBC Zoology

As part of it's committment to public service broadcasting, the BBC offers us an answer to the age old riddle: what's the difference between 'campaigners' and 'lobbyists' ? Answer: the side of the issue they're on.

Both words are used in their coverage of the 10th anniversary of Dunblane (Boris Johnson, please call your office!), but you can't help noticing that activists on only one side of the debate are labelled 'campaigners', i.e. concerned citizens working for a better world, while folk on the other are referred to as a 'lobby', no doubt plotting and planning in smoke-filled rooms.

Just about the only people who talk about the 'gun lobby' are members of the hoplophobic loon lobby. Take, for example, this effusion from the Cindy Sheehan of Scotland:
[Mick North] said the pro-gun lobby claimed it was their right to carry on a sport responsibly, but the right to bring up his daughter had been taken away from him.
That's it, that's the closest we get to any comment from pro-freedom campaigners, a notorious hate speaker telling us what his opponents might say.

Well, I guess it cuts down on the phone bill if one interviewee can supply both sides of the argument. But seriously: What. The. Hell! The BBC often like to caricature bias spotters as political anoraks, sitting there with their stopwatches, making sure both sides get equal time. Well, there's no question of equal time here, they just don't cover one side at all.

This is the central point about BBC bias. No one - strawman-loving BBC apologists to the contrary - seriously believes that BBC staff all meet up of a morning and decide how they're going to spin today's news. Nope - it's worse than that. They just don't think there are any other perspectives in the first place. It wouldn't occur to them that there are alternative worldviews to the rantings of the hoplophobes, anymore than they'd think of the bigoted rantings of 'Cindy' North as anything other than common sense.

No doubt there's a willing audience for this kind of easy pandering to prejudice, but how exactly does it count as public service broadcasting ?


Of course, no mention of North's crazed rantings about the 'gun lobby' should pass with taking note of this.... revealing exchange when his own Gun Control Network gave evidence before a Parlimentary select committe:
Mr Fabricant

Just before I get on to my main small area of questioning, Mr Singh asked you about your organisation and you said you were set up after Dunblane but I am still not clear in my mind—and I suspect Mr Singh and others feel the same—exactly who you are. We know who the RSPCA are, the NFU and we know who their members are. How many members do you have?
(Mrs Marshall-Andrews) We were set up after Dunblane in July 1996 as a voluntary organisation with an executive committee of seven. We had families of people from the Hungerford tragedy as well as academics and lawyers.

Mr Fabricant: How many members do you have now?

(Professor Taylor) I am interested in the reason for the question.

Mr Fabricant

283. I do not have to give a reason for a question, I want to know how many members you have. Do you know how many members you have?
(Mrs Marshall-Andrews) Can I just explain a bit of the background to the organisation? We set up with an executive committee of seven, we decided not to have a public membership of this organisation, and on the advice of some Canadian colleagues who had set up a similar organisation and found it infiltrated by shooters and had to stop and restart again with a very, very small group, we decided to remain as a very small group, and that is what we are still.

Mr Winnick

284. Financed by whom?
(Mrs Marshall-Andrews) We started off by being financed by a trust which came to us after Dunblane with an unsolicited donation, and that helped us over the course of our major campaigning until the legislation took place. Since then, we are just operating on a voluntary basis, occasionally we have small donations by trusts but we are a very small group.

Mr Fabricant

285. Can you tell us which trust?
(Mrs Marshall-Andrews) No. It was asked that the donation should remain anonymous. It is a charitable organisation.
So there you have it. Consider for a moment the thought process the BBC must have used to decide that a country GP who likes shooting clays is part of the 'gun lobby', but a group which couldn't fill a minibus and won't come clean about who's backing them are 'campaigners'.

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