BBC and Channel 4’s obsession with so-called ‘impartiality’ is stifling true debate

PUBLISHED: 13:50 15 July 2017 | UPDATED: 13:50 15 July 2017

Jon Snow

Jon Snow


Forget the social media whirlwinds around media bias, impartiality is overrated

As Britain continues to career head-long towards the cliff-edge that is Brexit, we can no longer afford the luxury of so-called broadcasting ‘impartiality.’

We’ve just had a mini social media whirlwind, puffed up by the announcement that the Head of the BBC in Westminster is to leave Auntie to become Head of Communications for Theresa May in No 10 Downing Street. A cry went up that this proved that he must have been “biased” towards the Tories during his time at the Corporation. I have no proof that this is the case and wouldn’t make any such accusation.

My argument is that the idea of impartiality itself is not only not achievable but actually is not desirable. By that, I’m not saying that all broadcast journalists must appear on screen telling us their own personal opinions about what they’re reporting on...though it might be rather more honest if they did.

No, I mean that trying to achieve supposed ‘balance’ often means that even when one side of an issue is demonstrably right and the other wrong, broadcasters feel compelled to give ea’sch the same weight and amount of coverage.

Take Climate Change, for example. Often the BBC, especially the Today programme on Radio 4, will have on the arch-climate change sceptic (denier?) and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, as if he’s a respected voice on the matter and an equal to the many, many top scientists who all affirm that human activity and the burning of fossil fuels is, overwhelmingly, the cause of the catastrophic and humanity-threatening changes to our climate.

When the BBC and others give climate-sceptics the same coverage and respectability as that of genuinely respected international scientists, that makes a laughing stock of so-called ‘impartiality’ and ‘balance’.

On Brexit, too, we see attempts at giving equal weight to those who claim that all is going to be rosy when (if!) Britain does finally leave the European Union, when all the major indicators show that Britain is already starting to feel the pinch and that our Prime Minister is an increasingly isolated figure at international meetings.

We’ve also just seen another small but significant social media storm erupt, this time surrounding Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow allegedly saying something rather disobliging about the Tories whilst enjoying himself at Glastonbury. His detractors say this “proves” he’s left-wing.

Whatever he did or didn’t say, shouldn’t mean we disregard his decades of independent thought, of critical analysis, of seriously holding to account those who wield power and influence. He and the programme he presents are, probably, centre-left on the political spectrum, but that doesn’t make him or it any the less valuable to our public discourse.

Many here mock right-wing American news channel Fox News and its left-wing alternative in the US, MSNBC, but at least they’re both honest about where they stand on politics and in their wider world view. Both, yes even Fox News, still produce much excellent journalism and commentary. Whether you agree with it or not.

Especially MSNBC. There’s few better anchors/commentators in the world than one of their prime-time hosts, Rachel Maddow.

Yes, we know she’s a progressive, but that doesn’t stop her holding supposedly progressive politicians to account when they fail to live up to their own purported standards and values. ‘Neutrality’ or ‘impartiality’ might seem attractive but, actually, all they really mean is stifling honest debate and giving equal weight to arguments which should be mocked, not respected.

So, I politely suggest, maybe it’s time our broadcasters stopped trying to be impartial and, instead, allowed debate to be free and truly fair. We, the well-informed viewer and listener, should be allowed to make up our own mind what we believe, rather than be force fed non-existent ‘impartiality’ like babies.

Mathew Hulbert is a former broadcast journalist and a former Lib Dem Councillor in Leicestershire

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.

Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European

If Yes, Name to appear in The New European

Latest articles

Trump makes Nixon look like the good guy

The US is stumbling towards an autocracy, as it emerges Donald Trump is exploring ways to pardon himself even before any accusations have been made.

What would Doctor Who do?

I find I’m just as uncomfortable with sneering schadenfreude when it’s our “side” doing it as when it comes from the opposition.

Why every philosopher’s death seems to hold meaning

The tragic drowning of French philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle while trying to rescue two stricken children has prompted tributes from across the globe.

Robert Miller update: “I don’t hate the EU… I just don’t want us to be in it”

The New European has finally decided to publish one of persistent Brexiteer Robert Miller’s letters. But was it worth the wait?

Football clubs were ethnically cleansed along with the population during the Bosnian War

The story of the Bosnian War is also the story of its football clubs which were ethnically cleansed along with the population

Fox says ‘I’ll take care of the chicken’ amid chlorine-washed meat fears

Trade secretary Liam Fox has played down claims importing foods under a new UK-US trade deal could mean a loosening of food standards post-Brexit.

Rattenkrieg 2017: How the destruction of Mosul was templated in Stalingrad

The haunting image of a ruined city is nothing new. Here we examine the horrors of urban warfare from Stalingrad to Mosul

Sexuality reality: How the first gay rights movement was destroyed

A burgeoning gay rights movement in Europe in the early decades of the 20th century was crushed by rising authoritarianism.

RIP common decency... welcome to the age of hate in belligerent Britain

We used to be a mild-mannered people. Now random spite is the cornerstone of our crumbling culture

British media fail: Why we need a new cultural education

The British media has always failed in its coverage of European affairs.

Cracks show for Labour as party fails to grasp anti-Brexit feeling of members

Labour’s Brexit divisions have become apparent once again with trade spokesman Barry Gardiner saying staying in the customs union would be a “disaster”.

Brexit will be the great environmental disaster

When it comes to Brexit and the environment our ties to the EU are complex.

What the UK means to me: “Britishness oftentimes hits me in the face”

The zealots who allow the Brexit fiasco to happen are diminishing the UK inch by inch, day by day.

Macron: the rule breaker who smashed up the system

Emmanuel Macron has been lucky. But also courageous. Here’s how the combination has led to a remarkable turnaround in previously gloomy nation

How the Dutch are falling out of love with Britain

We Dutch used to make fun of the Germans and admire the Brits, says Vanessa Lamsvelt. Now, we find ourselves laughing at, not with, the UK

Blow for Hard Brexit as Cabinet ‘unites’ behind transition deal

The Cabinet is “united” in backing a transitional Brexit deal which would mean continued access to migrant labour, Michael Gove has said.

What Euratom really stands for

The Euratom row lays bare the innate flaws of Brexit. But it also gives pro-Europeans their biggest chance yet to regain the initiative

How did Brexit Britain lose the spirit of the 2012 Olympics?

How did Brexit Britain lose the spirit of the 2012 Olympics?

Brexit could force UK to set up new healthcare scheme for tourists

Brussels is holding out on the government’s hopes of continuing membership of the European health insurance scheme post-Brexit.

Fox says UK does not need trade deal with Europe after Brexit

Brexiteer cabinet minister Liam Fox has reiterated the government’s widely ridiculed negotiating tactic of “no deal is better than a bad deal”.

Watch us on YouTube

The rollercoaster ride of Theresa May's plummeting approval ratings

Views: 325

A year of failure and fiasco in May’s Number 10

Views: 251

Tory minister Steve Baker demands the EU is to be ‘torn down’

Views: 451



Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter