Criticism of the BBC


Criticism of the BBC

Contents

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has been criticized for various reasons, by the British government of the day, as well as from other political groups and various media outlets.

Iraq and the Hutton Inquiry

The BBC was criticised for its coverage of the events before the invasion of Iraq, in 2003.[1] The controversy over what it described as the "sexing up" of the case for war in Iraq by the government, led to the BBC being heavily criticised by the Hutton Inquiry,[2] although this finding was much disputed by the British press, who branded it as a government whitewash.[3][4]

The BBC's chairman and director general both resigned following the inquiry, and its vice-chairman Lord Ryder made a public apology to the government – which the Liberal Democrat Norman Baker MP described as "of such capitulation that I wanted to throw up when I heard it".[5]

Allegations of bias

Political bias

BBC News forms a major department of the Corporation, and regularly receives complaints of bias, mostly of being overly left-wing[citation needed], while some on the left criticise the BBC for being part of the establishment. The Centre for Policy Studies has stated that, "Since at least the mid-1980s, the Corporation has often been criticised for a perceived bias against those on the centre-right of politics."[6] Similar allegations have been made by past and present employees such as Antony Jay,[7], North American editor Justin Webb,[8] former editor of the Today Programme Rod Liddle,[9] former correspondent Robin Aitken[10] and Peter Sissons, a veteran news anchor.[11] Former political editor Andrew Marr argues that the liberal bias of the BBC is the product of the types of people the Corporation employs, and is thus cultural not political.[8]. In 2011 Mark Thompson, the current BBC Director General, wrote, "In the BBC I joined 30 years ago there was, in much of current affairs, in terms of people's personal politics, which were quite vocal, a massive bias to the left."[12] In 2011, Peter Oborne wrote, "Rather than representing the nation as a whole, it [the BBC] ]has become a vital resource – and sometimes attack weapon – for a narrow, arrogant Left-Liberal elite".[13]

Accusations of a left-wing bias were often made against the Corporation by members of Margaret Thatcher's 1980s Conservative government. Norman Tebbit called the BBC the "Stateless Person's Broadcasting Corporation" because of what he regarded as its unpatriotic and neutral coverage of the Falklands War, and Conservative MP Peter Bruinvels called it the "Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation".[citation needed] Steve Barnett noted in The Observer that "back in 1980, George Howard, the hunting, shooting and fishing aristocratic pal of Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw, was appointed [BBC chairman] because Margaret Thatcher couldn't abide the thought of distinguished Liberal Mark Bonham-Carter being promoted from vice-chairman. "Then there was Stuart Young, accountant and brother of one of Thatcher's staunchest cabinet allies, who succeeded Howard in 1983. He was followed in 1986 by Marmaduke Hussey, brother-in-law of another Cabinet Minister who was plucked from the obscurity of a directorship at Rupert Murdoch's Times Newspapers. According to Norman Tebbit, then Tory party chairman, Hussey was appointed 'to get in there and sort the place out, and in days not months.'"[14] But controversies continued with the likes of the Nationwide general election special with Thatcher in 1983, a Panorama documentary called Maggie's Militant Tendency, the Real Lives interview with Martin McGuinness, the BBC's coverage of the United States' 1986 Bombing of Libya and the Zircon affair. In 1987 Director-General of the BBC Alasdair Milne was forced to resign. Thatcher later said: "I have fought three elections against the BBC and don't want to fight another against it."[15] In 2006 Tebbit said: "The BBC was always against Lady Thatcher."[16]

Speaking to journalists at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in 2009, Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Cabinet Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, claimed that BBC News needed more Conservatives: "I wish they would go and actively look for some Conservatives to be part of their news-gathering team, because they have acknowledged that one of their problems is that people who want to work at the Corporation tend to be from the centre-left. That's why they have this issue with what Andrew Marr called an innate liberal bias."[17]

In contrast, writer and journalist John Pilger has frequently accused the BBC of a right-wing bias, a view shared by the left-wing Media Lens website. The editors' of Media Lens claim that the BBC acts to narrow the range of thought and like most commercial broadcasters it inherently portrays the opinions of the powerful.[18] Former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, has criticised the BBC as part of a "Westminster conspiracy" to maintain the British political system.[19] The former Respect MP George Galloway has referred to it as the "Bush and Blair Corporation".[20]

Political correctness

On Friday 22 September 2006 the BBC's Board of Governors held an impartiality seminar which was streamed live on the internet. The previous day the then Chairman of the Governors, Michael Grade, explained the thinking behind the seminar in an article in The Guardian newspaper.[21] He also announced in the same article a live stream of the seminar would be available on the BBC Governors' website. The stream was only available live and was not publicised on the main BBC or BBC News websites, causing some media reports, including in The Mail on Sunday, to mistakenly claim that it was "secret". The full transcript of the seminar was released in June 2007.

In the seminar there was a hypothetical discussion including senior BBC executives about what they would allow controversial Jewish comedian Sacha Baron Cohen to throw into a dustbin on the satirical television show Room 101. It was imagined that Baron Cohen would wish to throw into Room 101 kosher food, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Qur'an, and the Bible. Most at the summit agreed that all would be permissible - except for the Qu'ran. There was also a hypothetical discussion about whether a Muslim BBC newsreader should be allowed to wear a headscarf.[22]

In the seminar former BBC business editor Jeff Randall claimed he was told by a senior news executive in the organisation that "The BBC is not neutral in multiculturalism: it believes in it and it promotes it." The Daily Mail claimed in 2006 that Andrew Marr stated, "The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias".[23] These comments were reported in the UK national press a couple of weeks later. At the seminar Helen Boaden (Director of BBC News) said that the BBC must be impartial on the issue of multiculturalism. Boaden responded to press criticism of the seminar in a post on the BBC's Editors' Blog. Mark Thompson responded to press criticism in an article in the Daily Mail,[24] as did Mark Byford in an interview in The Sunday Telegraph.[25]

Racism

The BBC has also been accused of racism. In a speech to the Royal Television Society in 2008, Lenny Henry said that ethnic minorities were "pitifully underserved" in television comedy and that little had changed at senior levels in terms of ethnic representation during his 32 years in television.[26] Jimmy McGovern in a 2007 interview called the BBC "one of the most racist institutions in England".[27]

The BBC is striving for 12.5% of its staff to be from a black and minority ethnic background (12% at 31 January 2009).[28] This is over 4% higher than the current percentage of ethnic minorities in the UK as a whole, though the BBC is largely based in urban areas with a more diverse demographic. However, it has been argued that much of its ethnic minority staff are cleaners and security guards and not presenters and programme makers.[29]

"Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st Century"

A report commissioned by the BBC Trust, Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st Century,[30] published in June 2007, stressed that the BBC needed to take more care in being impartial. It said the BBC broke its own guidelines by screening an episode of The Vicar of Dibley that promoted the Make Poverty History campaign.[31] The bias was explained as the result of the BBC's liberal culture.[32] A transcript of the impartiality seminar is included as a separately published appendix to the report available via the BBC Trust.[33]

After press reports emerged that BBC employees had edited the Wikipedia article's coverage of the report, the BBC issued new guidelines banning BBC staff from "sanitising" Wikipedia articles about the BBC.[34]

Israel / Palestine conflict

Criticism of the BBC's Middle East coverage from supporters of both Israel and Palestine led the BBC to commission an investigation and report from a senior broadcast journalist Malcolm Balen, referred to as the Balen Report and completed in 2004. The BBC's refusal to release the report under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 resulted in a long-running and ongoing legal case.[35][36] This led to speculation that the report was damning, as well as to accusations of hypocrisy, as the BBC frequently made use itself of Freedom of Information Act requests when researching news stories.[37]

After the Balen report, the BBC appointed a committee chosen by the Governors and referred to by the BBC as an "independent panel report" to write a report for publication which was completed in 2006. The committee said that "apart from individual lapses, there was little to suggest deliberate or systematic bias" in the BBC's reporting of the middle east. However, their coverage had been "inconsistent," "not always providing a complete picture" and "misleading".[37] Reflecting concerns from all sides of the conflict, the committee highlighted certain identifiable shortcomings and made four recommendations.

According to an article in The Independent, the report suggested that BBC coverage in fact favoured the Israeli side.[38] Martin Walker, then the editor of United Press International, agreed that the report implied favoritism towards Israel, but said this suggestion "produced mocking guffaws in my newsroom" and went on to list a number of episodes of (in his view) clear pro-Palestinian bias on the part of the BBC.[39]

Former BBC middle east correspondent Tim Llewellyn wrote in 2004 that the BBC's coverage allowed an Israeli view of the conflict to dominate, as demonstrated by research conducted by the Glasgow Media Group.[40]

In the course of their "Documentary Campaign 2000-2004," Trevor Asserson, Cassie Williams and Lee Kern of BBCWatch published a series of reports The BBC And The Middle East stating in their opinion that "the BBC consistently fails to adhere to its legal obligations to produce impartial and accurate reporting."[41]

Douglas Davis, the London correspondent of The Jerusalem Post, has accused the BBC of being anti-Israel. He wrote that the BBC's coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict is "a relentless, one-dimensional portrayal of Israel as a demonic, criminal state and Israelis as brutal oppressors [which] bears all the hallmarks of a concerted campaign of vilification that, wittingly or not, has the effect of de-legitimising the Jewish state and pumping oxygen into a dark old European hatred that dared not speak its name for the past half-century."[42] "Anglicans for Israel", the pro-Israel pressure group,[43] have berated the BBC for apparent anti-Israel bias.[44]

Writing in the Financial Times, Philip Stephens, one of the panellists, later accused Mark Thompson of misrepresenting the panel's conclusions. He also stated, "My sense is that BBC news reporting has also lost a once iron-clad commitment to objectivity and a necessary respect for the democratic process. If I am right, the BBC, too, is lost."[45] Thompson published a rebuttal in the Financial Times the following day.[46]

The Daily Telegraph has criticised the BBC for its coverage of the Middle East. In 2007, the newspaper wrote, "In its international and domestic news reporting, the corporation has consistently come across as naïve and partial, rather than sensitive and unbiased. Its reporting of Israel and Palestine, in particular, tends to underplay the hate-filled Islamist ideology that inspires Hamas and other factions, while never giving Israel the benefit of the doubt."[47]

In 2008 the BBC was accused by the pro-Israel watchdog group CAMERA of falsifying reports related to the aftermath of the Mercaz HaRav massacre. The BBC later apologised for incorrectly showing footage that they had said showed one of the perpetrator's houses being demolished.[48]

The BBC received particularly intense criticism in January 2009 for its decision not to broadcast a television appeal by aid agencies on behalf of the people of Gaza during the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, on the grounds that it could compromise the BBC's journalistic impartiality. A number of protesters asserted that this showed pro-Israeli bias, while some analysts suggested that the BBC's decision in this matter derived from its concern to avoid anti-Israeli bias as analysed in the Balen report.[49] Many parties criticised the decision, including Church of England archbishops, British government ministers and even some BBC employees. More than 11,000 complaints were filed in a three-day span.[50] Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, protested the BBC's decision by cancelling interviews scheduled with the company; ElBaradei claimed the refusal to air the aid appeal "violates the rules of basic human decency which are there to help vulnerable people irrespective of who is right or wrong."[51]

2006 Lebanon War

During the 2006 Lebanon War, Israeli diplomatic officials boycotted BBC news programmes, refused interviews, and excluded BBC reporters from briefings because Israeli officials believed the BBC's reporting was biased, stating "the reports we see give the impression that the BBC is working on behalf of Hizbullah instead of doing fair journalism."[52] Francesca Unsworth, head of BBC News gathering, defended the coverage in an article for Jewish News.com.[53]

The Balen Report

The BBC is seeking to overturn a ruling by the Information Tribunal rejecting the BBC's refusal to release the Balen report to a member of the public under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that it was held for the purposes of journalism. The report examines BBC radio and television broadcasts covering the Arab-Israeli conflict and was compiled in 2004 by Malcolm Balen, a senior editorial adviser.

Critics of the BBC claimed that the Balen Report includes evidence of bias against Israel in news programming.[54][55] For examples, on 10 October 2006, The Daily Telegraph[56] claimed that "The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of licence payers' money trying to block the release of a report which is believed to be highly critical of its Middle East coverage. The corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism. The action will increase suspicions that the report, which is believed to run to 20,000 words, includes evidence of anti-Israeli bias in news programming."

It has been alleged that the corporation paid £200,000 for this legal action. The Daily Mail called the BBC's blocking a Freedom of Information Act request "shameful hypocrisy", in light of the corporation's previous extensive use of Freedom of Information Act requests in its journalism.[57]

On 27 April 2007 the High Court rejected Mr Steven Sugar's challenge to the Information Commissioner's decision. However, on 11 February 2009 the House of Lords (the UK's highest court) reinstated the Information Tribunal's decision to allow Sugar's appeal against the Information Commissioner's decision.

The BBC's press release following the High Court judgment included the following statement:

"The BBC's action in this case had nothing to do with the fact that the Balen report was about the Middle East - the same approach would have been taken whatever area of news output was covered."[58]

Sugar was reported after his success in the House of Lords as saying:

"It is sad that the BBC felt it necessary to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money fighting for three years to try to load the system against those requesting information from it. I am very pleased that the House of Lords has ruled that such obvious unfairness is not the result of the Act."[59]

Jeremy Bowen

In April 2009, the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust published a report on three complaints brought against two news items involving Jeremy Bowen, the Middle East Editor for BBC News.[60] The complaints included 24 allegations of inaccuracy or impartiality of which three were fully or partially upheld.[60][61][62] Parts of a news article were found to breach BBC guidelines on accuracy and impartiality. Also, one statement in a radio broadcast was found to breach BBC guidelines on accuracy.[60] The original website article was amended and Bowen did not face any disciplinary measures.[63]

The Jerusalem Post reported the story using the headline "Complaints of BBC bias partially upheld".[64] However, the report did not accuse Bowen of bias.[61] According to The Guardian, the problem was only that "Bowen should have used clearer language and been more precise in some aspects of the piece".[65] Also, for the disputed claim in the radio broadcast, the committee accepted that Bowen had an authoritative source.[65]

Pro-Muslim bias

Hindu and Sikh leaders in the United Kingdom have accused the BBC of pandering to Britain's Muslim community by making a disproportionate number of programmes on Islam at the expense of covering other Asian religions.[66]

In a letter sent in July to the Network of Sikh Organizations (NSO), the head of the BBC's Religion and Ethics, Michael Wakelin, denied any biases on their part.[citation needed] A spokesman for the BBC said the broadcaster was committed to representing all of Britain's faiths and communities.[citation needed]

However, a number of MPs, including Rob Marris and Keith Vaz, called on the BBC to do more to represent Britain's minority faiths. "I am disappointed," said Mr Vaz. "It is only right that as licence fee payers all faiths are represented in a way that mirrors their make-up in society. I hope that the BBC addresses the problem in its next year of programming."[66]

Indophobia

In 2008, the BBC was criticised by some for referring to the men who carried out the November 2008 Mumbai attacks as "gunmen" rather than "terrorists".[67][68][69] This follows a steady stream of complaints from India that the BBC has an Indophobic bias that stems from a culturally ingrained racism against Indians arising from the British Raj.[citation needed] Rediff reporter Arindam Banerji has chronicled what he argues are numerous cases of Indophobic bias from the BBC regarding reportage, selection bias, misrepresentation, and fabrications.[citation needed] Hindu groups in the United Kingdom have accused the BBC of anti-Hindu bigotry and whitewashing Islamist hate groups that demonise the British Indian minority[70]

In protest against the use of the word "gunmen" by the BBC, journalist Mobashar Jawed "M.J." Akbar refused to take part in an interview following the Mumbai terror attacks.[71] British parliamentarian Stephen Pound has supported these claims, referring to the BBC's whitewashing of the terror attacks as "the worst sort of mealy mouthed posturing. It is desperation to avoid causing offence which ultimately causes more offence to everyone."[72]

Writing for The Hindu Business Line, reporter Premen Addy criticises the BBC's reportage on South Asia as consistently anti-India and pro-Islamist,[73] and that they underreport India's economic and social achievements, as well as political and diplomatic efforts, and disproportionately highlight and exaggerate problems in the country. In addition, Addy alludes to discrimination against Indian anchors and reporters in favor of Pakistani and Bangladeshi ones who are hostile to India.

Writing for the 2008 edition of the peer-reviewed Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Alasdair Pinkerton analyzes the coverage of India by the BBC since India's independence from British rule in 1947 until 2008. Pinkerton observes a tumultuous history involving allegations of anti-India bias in the BBC's reportage, particularly during the cold war, and concludes that the BBC's coverage of South Asian geopolitics and economics shows a pervasive and hostile anti-India bias due to the BBC's alleged imperialist and neo-colonialist stance.[74]

Anti-American bias

In October 2006, Chief Radio Correspondent for BBC News since 2001[75] and Washington correspondent Justin Webb said that the BBC is so biased against America that deputy director general Mark Byford had secretly agreed to help him to "correct" it in his reports, and that the BBC treated America with scorn and derision and gave it "no moral weight".[76][77][78]

In April 2007, Webb presented a three part series for BBC Radio 4 called Death To America: Anti Americanism Examined in which he challenged a common perception of the United States as an international bully and a modern day imperial power.[79]

American news commentator Bill O'Reilly has repeatedly sought to draw attention to what he calls the BBCs "inherent liberal culture."[80]

John Redwood's deregulation proposals

The BBC has been criticised for the way it covered Conservative MP John Redwood's policy group's deregulation proposals. Prominent political blogger Iain Dale criticised the organisation for leading news reports with the Labour Party's response to the proposals, rather than the proposals themselves, and claimed the BBC was "doing Labour's dirty work".[81] The BBC denied the charge.

British newspaper The Sun also alleged the BBC reports showed bias, criticising the organisation for including embarrassing footage of John Redwood badly singing the Welsh national anthem from the early 1990s. The paper argued that the coverage "was a mockery of impartial journalism" and "could have been scripted by Labour ministers".[82] The BBC later apologised, but denied showing bias.[83]

The Secret Agent Documentary

On Thursday 15 July 2004 the BBC broadcast a documentary on the far right British National Party where undercover reporter Jason Gwynne infiltrated the BNP by posing as a football hooligan.[84][85] The programme resulted in Mark Collett and Nick Griffin, the leader of the party, being charged for inciting racial hatred in April 2005, for statements which included Griffin describing Islam as a "wicked, vicious faith," Collett describing asylum seekers as "a little bit like cockroaches" and saying "let's show these ethnics the door in 2004." Griffin and Collett were found not guilty on some charges at the first trial in January 2006, but the jury failed to reach a verdict on the others, so a retrial was ordered.[86] At the retrial held in November 2006 all of the defendants were found not guilty on the basis that the law at the time did not consider those who follow Islam or Christianity to be a protected group with respect to racial defamation laws.[87] Shortly after this case, British law was amended to outlaw incitement to hatred against a religious group (see Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006).

The BNP believe this was an attempt to "Discredit the British National Party as a party of opposition to the Labour government."[88]

After the second trial, Nick Griffin described the BBC as a "Politically correct, politically biased organisation which has wasted licence-fee payers' money to bring two people in a legal, democratic, peaceful party to court over speaking nothing more than the truth."[87]

Barbara Plett's tears for Yasser Arafat

During the BBC programme From Our Own Correspondent broadcast on 30 October 2004, Plett described herself crying when she saw a frail Yasser Arafat being evacuated to France for medical treatment.[89] This led to "hundreds of complaints" to the BBC, and suggestions that the BBC was biased.[90][91] BBC News defended Plett in a statement saying that her reporting had met the high standards of "fairness, accuracy and balance" expected of a BBC correspondent.[92] Initially, a complaint of bias against Plett was rejected by the BBC's head of editorial complaints. However, almost a year later, on November 25, 2005, the programme complaints committee of the BBC governors[90] partially upheld the complaints, ruling that Plett’s comments “breached the requirements of due impartiality”.[92][91] Despite initially issuing a statement in support of Plett, the BBC director of news Helen Boaden later apologised for what she described as "an editorial misjudgment". The governors praised Boaden's speedy response and reviewed the BBC's stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.[90]

Jerry Springer: The Opera

In January 2005, the BBC aired the Jerry Springer: The Opera, ultimately resulting in around 55,000 complaints to the BBC from those upset at the opera's alleged blasphemies against the Christian religion. In advance of the broadcast, which the BBC had warned "contains language and content which won't be to some tastes" mediawatch-uk's director John Beyer wrote to the Director General urging the BBC to drop the programme, saying "Licence fee payers do not expect the BBC to be pushing back boundaries of taste and decency in this way." The BBC issued a statement saying: "As a public service broadcaster, it is the BBC's role to broadcast a range of programmes that will appeal to all audiences - with very differing tastes and interests - present in the UK today."[93] Before the broadcast, some 150 people bearing placards protested outside the BBC Television Centre in Shepherd's Bush.[94] On the Monday following the broadcast, which was watched by some two million viewers, The Times announced that BBC executives had received death threats after their addresses and telephone numbers were posted on the Christian Voice website. The Corporation had received some 35,000 complaints before the broadcast, but reported only 350 calls following the broadcast, which were split between those praising the production and those complaining about it.[95]

One Christian group attempted to bring private criminal prosecutions for blasphemy against the BBC,[96] and another demanded a judicial review of the decision.[97]

In March 2005, the BBC's Board of Governors convened and considered the complaints, which they rejected by a majority of 4 to 1.[98] The subsequent refusal of the BBC to reproduce the actual Muhammad cartoons in its coverage of the controversy concerning them convinced many that the BBC follows an unstated policy of freely broadcasting defamation of Christianity which it would not allow in the case of any other religion.[99][100][101]

Climate change

The BBC has been criticised for hypocrisy over its high carbon footprint, in view of the amount of coverage it gives to the topic of climate change. Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman argues that the Corporation's correspondents "travel the globe to tell the audience of the dangers of climate change while leaving a vapour trail which will make the problem even worse".[102] Paxman further argues that the 'BBC's coverage of the issue abandoned the pretence of impartiality long ago'.[103]

At the 2007 Edinburgh International Television Festival, Peter Horrocks (Head of TV News) and Peter Barron (Editor, Newsnight), said that the BBC should not campaign on the issue of climate change. They criticised proposed plans for a BBC Comic Relief style day of programmes around climate change. Horrocks was quoted as saying: "I absolutely don't think we should do that because it's not impartial. It's not our job to lead people and proselytise about it."

Peter Barron was quoted as adding: "It is absolutely not the BBC's job to save the planet. I think there are a lot of people who think that, but it must be stopped."[104]

Peter Horrocks later outlined the BBC's position on the BBC Editors Blog ("No Line").[105]

The plans for a day of programmes about environmental issues were abandoned in September 2007. A BBC spokesperson said this was "absolutely not" because of concerns about impartiality.[106]

In January 2011, broadcast journalist Peter Sissons told the Daily Mail that "the BBC became a propaganda machine for climate change zealots...and I was treated as a lunatic for daring to dissent".[107]

National Viewer's and Listeners' Association

The National Viewers' and Listeners' Association was formed in 1965 by Mary Whitehouse to "clean up" the BBC,[108] claiming that it "was responsible for the moral collapse in the country".

'London-centrism'

On 1 November 2007 it was reported that Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, criticised the BBC as too London-centric, paying less attention to news stories outside of the capital.[109]

'Overstaffing'

The BBC has been criticised for 'overstaffing' news, sporting, and cultural events and in doing so both wasting licence fee money, and using their dominant position to control the coverage of events.

A 2010 House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report criticised the number of staff that the BBC had sent to sporting events such as the Beijing Olympics and the Euro 2008 football championships[110]. In June 2011 the Corporation sent 263 staff to cover the Glastonbury Festival. The next month they sent 250 staff members to cover an event marking one year until the start of the London 2012 Olympics, ten times the numbers used by other broadcasters[111]. On 19 October 2011 the Liberal Democrats' culture spokesman Don Foster criticised the large number of BBC staff members who attended the eviction of travellers and their supporters from the illegal section of the Dale Farm site. Foster stated that it was 'ludicrous over staffing and hardly good way to get public sympathy for the 20 per cent budget cuts facing the BBC'[112]. The BBC responded that they only had 20 staff members on site.

Funding

The fact that the BBC's domestic services are funded by television licence fees is criticised by its competitors and others on a number of grounds.[113]

BBC Russia

On 17 August 2007 it was reported that FM broadcast of the BBC's Russian language service in Russia would be dropped, leaving only medium and short wave broadcasts in Russia. Financial organisation Finam, which owns the FM radio service now dropping the BBC Russia broadcasts, through its spokesman Igor Ermachenkov, said that "Any media which is government-financed is propaganda - it's a fact, it's not negative".[114] A spokesman, for the BBC responded: "Although the BBC is funded by the UK government... a fundamental principle of its constitution and its regulatory regime is that it is editorially independent of the UK government." Reports put the development in the context of criticism of the Russian government for curbing media freedom and strained UK-Russian relations.[114] Reporters Without Borders condemned the move as censorship.[115]

Wales and Scotland coverage controversy

In August 2007, Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP, highlighted what he perceived as a lack of a Welsh focus on BBC news broadcasts.[37] Price threatened to withhold future television licence fees in response to a lack of thorough news coverage of Wales, echoing a BBC Audience Council for Wales July report citing public frustration over how the Welsh Assembly is characterised in national media.[116] Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins agreed with Price and called for responsibility for broadcasting to be devolved to the Welsh Assembly, voicing similar calls from Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond.[37] Criticism of the BBC's news coverage for Wales and Scotland since devolution prompted debate of possibly providing evening news broadcasts with specific focus for both countries.[37]

Historic

Criticism of lack of impartiality and objectivity have been made by many observers:

The privately owned BBC began in 1922. Its employee general manager was John Reith (knighted 1926, created 1st Baron Reith 1940), who stated that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a General Strike and the Conservative Government feared the outbreak of revolution, as had happened in Russia so very recently. Labour Party politicians such as Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden criticized the BBC for being pro-Government and anti-Unions; however, throughout the strike, Reith insisted that the news bulletins report all sides of the dispute without comment. Reith's attempts to broadcast statements by the Labour Party and TUC leaders were blocked by the Government; in partial response, he personally vetoed a statement that Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury, wished to make, in the belief that allowing such a statement would give Winston Churchill both motive and opportunity to take over the BBC- something for which Churchill had continually antagonized since the beginning of the Strike. Despite admitting to his staff that he would have preferred to allow the Labour and TUC leaders to broadcast directly, Reith's stance was vindicated by a post-Strike analysis carried out by the BBC's Programme Correspondence Department: of those polled, 3,696 commended the BBC's coverage, whilst 176 where critical.[117]

Since 1927, arguments over actual impartiality at the BBC have been ongoing.[118] Prior to World War II, Sir John Reith, in breach of his public duties and obligations, excluded Winston Churchill from the BBC airwaves. In 1927, under a Royal Charter, the BBC became a public entity for the first time - with requirements including the need for impartiality and for staff not to be expressing opinions on controversial subject matters.

See also

References

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  2. ^ Lord Hutton. "Investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr. David Kelly". http://www.the-hutton-inquiry.org.uk/. Retrieved 2006-11-11. 
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  4. ^ CNN: UK press mauls Hutton 'whitewash', January 29, 2004 (on the reaction of the British press to the final report)
  5. ^ Baker, Norman: The Strange Death of David Kelly, London: Methuen, 2007
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  8. ^ a b Simon Walters "We are biased, admit the stars of BBC News", Mail on Sunday, 21 October 2006
  9. ^ The Spectator (12 March 2008). "The BBC White Season only shows how little Auntie has really changed". http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/features/552791/the-bbc-white-season-only-shows-how-little-auntie-has-really-changed.thtml. 
  10. ^ The Evening Standard (2 February 2007). "What is the loneliest job in Britain? Being a Tory at the BBC". http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23385944-details/What+is+the+loneliest+job+in+Britain+Being+a+Tory+at+the+BBC/article.do. 
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