June 15, 2024


The Legal System

Double deception of the public as teetering Tories move to purge the BBC and lofty liberals rush to defend it

Double deception of the public as teetering Tories move to purge the BBC and lofty liberals rush to defend it

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’s announcement of a coming end to the BBC licence fee is an obviously cynical effort to distract attention from her now completely disgraced leader and a government in mounting crisis. 

But those rushing to defend the BBC as a bastion of ‘balance’ and ‘impartiality’ are also serving to gaslight and deceive the public by shrouding essential truths about the state broadcaster. 

The claim that the BBC is being punished by Johnson for ‘holding him and his government to account’ is utterly risible. The BBC has played no significant part in exposing this corrupt and criminal administration. On the contrary, as Jonathan Cook shows, its leading ‘correspondents’ have consistently failed to reveal the deeply-known truths about its illegal and tawdry conduct, keeping safe and secure the privileges of ‘access journalism’
Liberal-minded objections to Tory party pressure on the BBC not only miss these gross journalistic failures, they also overlook the BBC’s much more essential function as a protector of the system, not just of this or any other government.

This includes the BBC’s:

  • Upholding of all state and political structures as fundamentally fit, democratic and decent. BBC Question Time is itself a respectful ‘mirror’ to Westminster’s weekly ‘show’ of ‘democratic accountability’. The suggestion that we actually live in a state of oligarchic rule could never be aired or entertained by the BBC.  
  • Reverential promotion and cultural reinforcement of British militarism. In its reporting and features on UK weaponry, the BBC acts as an effective spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence, and PR platform for the corporate arms industry. 
  • Solid support for all UK, US and wider Western-led wars, ‘interventions’ and coups, most notably over Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. As historian Mark Curtis notes: “Many intelligent people still believe the BBC promotes “impartiality in news & current affairs”, and not just those personally earning millions from it. The reality – that on UK foreign affairs, BBC is basically straight propaganda, easily demonstrated – shows we have a way to go.”
  • Unstinting reverence for the institutions of monarchy, promotion of the royal family and mitigation of its crises. Anti-royal and republican feeling, though widespread, is routinely excluded as a valid public viewpoint.
  • Default castigation of all official foreign enemies, from the ‘threat/menace’ of Russia, China and Iran, to the denigration of anti-neoliberal states like Venezuela and Cuba. The BBC’s current amplification of UK/US/NATO talking points on Ukraine is a key case in point, headlining Russia’s ‘aggressive intent’, omitting vital context, and giving primary airtime to Western-supporting commentators and ‘think-tanks’ like RUSI.
  • Soft treatment/selective reporting of official allies. Contrast the kind of deferential coverage of Saudi Arabia and other brutal Gulf states to that reserved for North Korea. We’re being “info-bombarded” on Russian ‘aggression’ in Ukraine, but not UK/Saudi bombing of Yemen. Likewise, BBC North America correspondents may carry reports of social dislocation and violence across the US, but will always hold its system, leaders and ‘Shining House on the Hill’ in mystical awe. The revelation that BBC executives “wait in fear for the phone call from the Israelis” tells a similar kind of story about states to be ‘more carefully treated’. And never forget the BBC’S disgraceful refusal to air the Gaza Appeal.
  • Leading role in taking down any serious internal political threat to the established order, the most infamous example being the BBC’s key part in the brutal smearing and removing of Jeremy Corbyn, an effective British coup.
  • Omission and marginalisation of radical voices, as in the BBC’s blanket silence over the prosecution and persecution of true journalist, Julian Assange.
  • Rearguard response over any threat to the Union, as seen in the loaded BBC coverage of the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014.
  • Very belated efforts to acknowledge the climate emergency, and continuing failure to address the true forces behind it. Why is there still no serious discussion of corporate-driving capitalism as the principal cause? This massive omission takes us well beyond any notion of the BBC as ‘neutral observer’. 

The paradox of this latest Tory assault on the BBC is that it is attempting to call time on the signature institution helping to preserve the principal ideas and interests of the ruling class. Yet, while Johnson et al may regard themselves as born-to-rule Etonians with deep roots in the establishment, their first and most self-serving concern is political survival.

While much of the liberal-left appear reluctant to join in any Tory kicking of the BBC, all those blue-tick liberals and vast-salaried BBC employees now rushing to the barricades in it’s defence have very little incentive to see the real purpose of the body so fulsomely rewarding them.

Such defenders insist that as the BBC receives complaints of bias from both left and right – or any other opposing sides of an issue – it ‘must be doing something correct’; ergo, it cannot be biased. This facile ‘logic’ amounts to ‘testing’ a proposition by way of measuring relative claims about it, rather than any rational evaluation of the proposition itself. Claim, if you will, that the BBC is not institutionally biased, but at least attempt to do so with real argument and rigorous evidence. 

Nor do such lines of defence account for the vast differentials of influence brought by major lobby forces in contrast to standard public complaints. The pro-Israel lobby maintain relentless pressure on the BBC to uphold its views and interests. Does this demonstrate, in any meaningful sense, that the BBC is somehow anti-Israel? Or could it, more obviously, signify a level of pressure and intimidation intended to ensure it never actually does go against Israel’s interests? 

Tory attacks on the BBC amount to the same kind of pre-emptive calculus: we’re powerfully watchful, on your case, and can cause you grief, why take the chance of upsetting us? 


Other liberal warnings over the Tory assault on the licence fee reduces us to a dismal ‘choice’ between ‘Murdoch or the BBC’, as if the only possible provider of our daily diet of news and information could ever come via corporate media or state media. Where, in this ‘debate’ over the BBC and ‘new future’ of public media are the wider options on truly independent journalism and its potential funding? 

With dark irony, the very liberal class which so eagerly lined up with the BBC to destroy the Corbyn left now seek that same left’s support in saving the BBC. Understandably, it’s not readily forthcoming.

It’s deeply revealing how those now running appeals for the BBC’s ‘rescue’, while proclaiming its ‘inherent values’ of ‘balance’ and ‘impartiality’, seem so comfortably contained in their liberal bubble. How many will be aware of, or have ever consulted, the academic studies laying out the BBC’s support for establishment interests and positions? How many will have ever read or invoked critical writers like MediaLens on such matters? Deeply-conditioned and career-dependent, could any ever contemplate calling the BBC, as John Pilger so incisively does, “the most refined propaganda service in the world”? 

Much easier to live in a state of passive compliance, shielded from uncomfortable explorations and self-reflections. This ‘learned restraint’ in ever even daring to imagine the BBC as anything other than ‘benign Auntie’ demonstrates its very efficiency as an establishment institution, serving to nullify ‘abnormal’ thought, foster conformity and displace awkward questions. 

Thankfully, many still see through the posture and deceptions, resiliently posing the real questions. As MediaLens concisely ask here: “Save the BBC? In whose interests?