The Decline (and Fall?) of the BBC

  1. Represent a plurality of views, and hold each to the same scrutiny. This is what the BBC tends to do, and people absolutely hate it. It means recognising the different sides of each debate, even when they seem fringe or even conspiratorial. Brexit was a good example of this, where people on the centre and left raged about the amount of coverage given to Brexiteers (coverage that, the BBC would argue, was justified by the result), and covid and climate change are other flare points. The biggest issue with this version of impartiality is that it tends to involve representing the extremes of any debate — the least impartial margins of an argument — and hoping that a counteracting force is at play. It is also the logical extension of the corporation’s pursuit of diversity, an agenda now hard-coded into its ethos. Different ethnicities, religions, communities, identities etc should, and must, be represented by the national broadcaster. Because that has become, to most people, incontrovertible fact, the pursuit of view diversity in political and news broadcasting has been almost grandfathered in. The intentions are not bad, but the execution has been.
  2. The other way of doing it is to seek true impartiality. This is something that the BBC does do with quite a lot of its programming — avoid expressing any real political views, shoot for the milquetoast middle-ground. It is why the BBC is often accused of having real centrist energy. Its broadcasts often come down to people arguing about the root issues (things that everyone agrees on like “everyone should be able to afford their energy bills!” or “we want really good healthcare outcomes for all!”) rather than the, much more controversial and much more important, solutions (like “we want a massive windfall tax on energy companies!” or “we need to dismantle the NHS and sell it off to private companies!”). A further issue is that centrism has, since New Labour, become an increasingly ideological position. For plenty of people on the left and on the right, self-identifying as ‘centrist’ would be seen as no different to calling yourself a socialist or conservative. The reality is that there is no apolitical political position — and by trying to maintain this air of impartiality, you create a broadcaster that gets criticised for playing politics while also not creating a political discourse that serves anyone’s needs.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Nick Hilton

Nick Hilton

27K Followers

Writer. Podcast entrepreneur. London. Interested in technology and the media. Co-founder podotpods.com Email: nick@podotpods.com.