It’s a question that is even older than David Dimbleby’s Bullingdon blazer: does the BBC have a political bias, and if so, in which direction does it run? In today’s Guardian Owen Jones argues that rather than possessing a left-wing bias its political leaning is discernibly to the right. Our view is that such an institutional position is more than one of political partisanship: the BBC shouldn’t be viewed as either right or left wing but instead as a ‘regime broadcaster’; an organisation which will inevitably favour existing concentrations of economic, political and cultural power. You only need to watch five minutes of the official fluffer of the House of Windsor – Nicholas Witchell – to know that much. What is more it’s a gravy train full of people advocating market fundamentalism but who take a wage from the licence-fee payer and a state broadcaster. Below are five muppets who personify the BBC.
1. Evan Davis.
You might know Evan Davis from Dragon’s Den or the historically illiterate Built in Britain, you know, that series where he said that the UK economy would move up value chains by making lattes while it imported just about everything else? Well, Evan hasn’t always been a rubbish TV journalist, in fact his economics training meant that one of the first jobs he landed was at the Institute for Fiscal Studies where he worked on… the poll tax.
In 1998 Davis wrote Public Spending (which you can now buy for 1p) arguing how privatization led to increasingly efficient services. I guess that means he thinks its fine for G4S, A4E and Serco to make hefty profits as long as his secure, well-paid, state-funded job sticks around. If Davis loves markets so much why is working for a state broadcaster?
2. Andrew Marr.
Rejoice! Andrew Marr on the ‘split Watermelon smiles’ at 10 Downing Street as Britain invaded Iraq. Imagine if you saw a Russian TV broadcaster report like this over Russia’s recent intervention in Crimea – would you call it ‘impartial’?
3. Stephanie Flanders.
The Beeb is a real champion of social mobility – emblematic of that proud tradition is Stephanie Flanders, its former economic editor. Stephanie went to the pricey St Paul’s school (‘Old Paulinas’ also include Harriet Harman and Carol Thatcher), and like Evan Davis she spent some of her early career at the London Business School and the market fundamentalist Institute for Fiscal Studies. Last year Flanders joined JP Morgan, but when was she first approached and when did she agree to take the position on offer? To what extent did it impact her reporting in the intervening period? Surely this represents a major conflict of interests? Flanders’ move encapsulated the intimacy of politics, media, class and high finance in the UK.
4. Andrew Neil.
In the 1980s Neil was Rupert Murdoch’s ‘rottweiler’ and was the founding chairman of Murdoch’s Sky TV operation. They’ve since fallen out and that really hurts Andy but as OJ points out in the Guardian he still wears his politics on his sleeve and is chairman of the Conservative Spectator magazine. Andy’s major business dealings – The European and The Business newspapers – have been spectacular flops. It’s kind of weird for a bloke to lionize free markets to such an extent given his frankly dreadful business record and the fact he has been employed by a state broadcaster since the 1990s. If he loves free markets so much why accept such a handsome wage from the licence-fee payer? Surely he and Davis could start another flop venture together?
5. Nick Robinson.
The BBC calls itself impartial. And yet its political editor, Nick Robinson, was president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. A short while later he was to be president of the Young Conservatives. That was in 1986 – the same year that Conservative students plastered ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ posters all over Blackpool for NUS conference. To many observers Robinson’s ‘journalism’ is coloured by his student politics. How long before he follows that other ‘impartial’ commentator – Danny Finkelstein (OBE) – into the House of Lords?