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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ThinkScotland Article - BBC State Propagandists Not "Balanced" Reporters

  Latest article up at ThinkScotland - Please put any comments there.

"EVERYBODY at the BBC is a liar and the moral equivalent of child rapist gang members. This is so well known no further evidence is needed."

If you think that statement isn't completely balanced you would be wrong. Let me prove it.

The BBC Charter says its reporting has to be balanced - it's a legal duty. The BBC broadcast almost exactly that accusation about those of us who doubt that we are experiencing catastrophic global warming. A number of us sceptics wrote to the BBC gently suggesting they either provide some evidence for what is obviously an obscene attack on (what some polls say) is most of the people of Britain, or retract it. The BBC decided not to bother replying and not to retract.

QED. If such behaviour is balanced then the opening line is too. Indeed a lot more justified since it isn't wholly gratuitous. As the BBC obscenity was.

In a free society the justification for "public service broadcasting" can only be that it serves the public better than a free market would. There is some justification for that - a free market in media means it is owned by rich people. Though, if they are making money from their media ownership they have to defer to the wishes of their poorer customers, as Murdoch has so successfully done.

But who does state owned media defer to?

Researchers at Harvard compiled a report Who Owns the Media on the extent and effects of state ownership of the media worldwide. While only 29% of newspapers worldwide are state owned 64% of broadcast news is. By that standard, with 4 terrestrial channels giving news (i.e. excluding C5) we are at about 75% - not that much worse than the world average. But compared to developed countries and even moreso comparing us to the anglosphere, where freer media are the norm, the disparity is stark.

But is public service broadcasting not a desirable and necessary way to inform the nation? Well not according to the research -

"We find that government ownership of the media is greater in countries that are poorer, have greater overall state ownership in the economy, lower levels of school enrolments, and more autocratic regimes"


"Countries with greater state ownership of the media exhibit lower life expectancy, greater infant mortality, and less access to sanitation and health system responsiveness. Private media ownership is associated with health as well as economic and political outcomes, which is consistent with the public choice but not with the public interest theory"


"the data reveal ... no benefits of state ownership".

Public choice theory is an academic hypothesis that politicians and civil servants, whatever they say, actually serve their own interests rather than the public's (cynical non-academics have been known to suggest the same). Unfortunately the academics, using statistical evaluations, have a large body of evidence, worldwide, that this is indeed the case.

But is the BBC not the outstanding beacon of purity in a naughty world? Does its legal duty of balance mean nothing?

Well time and again on a myriad of subjects "the BBC's coverage of the issue abandoned the pretence of impartiality long ago" - (Jeremy Paxman) said by him about alleged catastrophic global warming but it could equally have been said of many other subjects).

If every other bit of propagandising (the EU; promoting bombing foreigners; pushing the hacking story, which everybody including the Guardian had been doing for years, just when Murdoch was about to expand Sky into a real competitor; proposing more government as the answer to all problems; interviewing only "dissidents" in Russia; and Democrats in America) could be justified - there is one that cannot.

Censorship and propagandising in British party politics. If our parties are stifled by censorship and dishonest coverage what sort of "democracy" do we have?

You can easily check how corrupt, in the interests of particular parties, the BBC is. Or you can follow my investigation. Comparing the number of hits Google gives BBC and party name gives a very rough estimate of how often they cover it. Balance that with the proportion of people who vote for them. If the BBC's coverage was attempting balance it would cover all parties proportionately to their support. We all know coverage of the Greens is always supportive and of the BNP always critical but this at least shows one form of bias.

The results show that the Greens at get far and away the most coverage per vote received, Labour 1/8th as much, the Conservatives 1/16th, the LibDems 1/22nd, the BNP 1/10th and UKIP 1/40th (the SNP gets 1/5th the Green amount compared to the UK total, but if you Google outside Scotland results may differ).

I did this exercise in 2011 based on the election results. With UKIP rising and the Greens falling in the polls this understated the bias then and moreso now.

That means even on pure coverage terms the BBC is showing itself 97.5% propagandists between UKIP and the Greens who are both minority parties. The relatively high BNP coverage shows the limits, not of BBC bias, but of this simple way of measuring.

I don't think the greatest supporter of state owned media could deny that BBC coverage of the BNP consists of throwing shit at them. Indeed this is one of the assumed justifications of its coverage. On pure airtime they do OK but it isn't the obsequious coverage we all see of the approved parties.

Those of us who want free media that reports without fear or favour, must face the BNP issue. Like pregnancy it is still censorship when it is only of a little bit.

Personally I think that a party that opposes bombing small countries; doesn't want more government control to fight "global warming"; doesn't support taking over Libya; wasn't keen on setting ethnically cleansed successor states across Yugoslavia run by WW2 Nazis and supports Israel's right to self defence would be chucked out of any self respecting Fascist organisation. The BBC is on the other side on all of these positions and would presumably be welcomed with open arms were it a party.

If our media, or at least the most influential parts of it, are simply the modern version of Orwell's Ministry of Truth (Orwell worked for the BBC and the satire is obvious but still not dated) then we do not live in a real democracy. The BBC itself has often used this argument to say Russia isn't a "real" democracy (the control is actually less thorough - they have a legal right to airtime for opposition politicians) and can hardly object to it now.

Because genuine opposition is stifled we are in economic decline. When did you last see a supporter of more economic freedom allowed on air? When did you even see an admission of how much our economy is underperforming the world average? When do we ever see true formal debate allowed on ANY subject?

I hope we will see more discussion of this subject. It underlies almost every other political question. Perhaps somebody in the BBC may feel able to disagree. If so that would be good. Finding truth depends on testing theories against each other.

At the very least the BBC should retract the obscene lie about those that challenge catastrophic global warming discussed at the start of this article.

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