Well done to Gavin Esler for his opinion piece on why he’s changed his mind on Brexit. I also worked at the Beeb for many years and know Brexit was far from its finest hour.
BBC staffers could and should have looked at the meaning of ‘balance’ and how they could help the debate, not simply measure minutes of broadcast coverage hoping to achieve ‘balance’, as at an election. Instead, the BBC over-compensated.
The most comical effect of this was when Barack Obama said the UK would ‘go to the back of the queue’ for future trade deals with the USA after Brexit. In an attempt at ‘balance’ this important view by the leader of the free world was portrayed as being equal to the views of a few market traders in Newcastle opposed to the metric system.
The vast majority of UK economists said Britain would suffer economically from being outside the EU. This was not clear in the way the BBC framed the debate, where they were set equally against virtually the only Leave-supporting economist the BBC could find to create their sense of ‘balance’, the hard Brexiteer Professor Patrick Minford.
The BBC and other broadcasters were only too well aware of the consequences of giving credence to Dr Andrew Wakefield when he created a vaccination scare. The same journalistic standards should be upheld on matters associated with Brexit, and the BBC should not be spineless, or apologetic in presenting the nation with facts that will annoy the populist press and politicians.
Clearly inured in the ideology of the BBC, Ed Williams (‘Careful what you wish for, Beeb bashers‘) did however strike a chord with ‘BBC journalism is impartial, fair and independent. By being so, it exhibits what we like to think are the elements of being British’.
There’s the problem. A significant and increasing number here in Scotland – witnessing the Westminster shambles which has effectively abdicated jurisdiction over Brexit to a vociferous Tory clique – simply no longer wish to be part of the UK, or British.
Though you wouldn’t know this watching a BBC that regularly fails to report popular independence marches and rallies, limiting exposure of Scottish government and economic success stories while majoring on any difficulties the blue and red Tories claim to foment an insecurity to protect the UK union.
Had the Scottish independence issue been given the same disproportionate exposure as Nigel Farage and his electorally small band of UKIP in recent years, isn’t there every likelihood Scotland would be independent already and not being forced out of the EU against its democratic wishes?
Ed Williams doesn’t want critics of the BBC to hold back but the whole thrust of his article appears to be that critics should hold back lest they damage the BBC, which is ‘vital for our society to thrive’.
The BBC is being accused of bias by both Leavers and Remainers, and Williams asserts that it faces enough challenges without being caught up in a proxy war over Brexit. I think he is missing the point.
The proxy war that the BBC is caught up in, is not between Leave and Remain, it is between Fact and Fiction. Facts, opinions and downright lies are given equal airtime, and it’s this false equivalence that causes so much fury.
I want to see an independent broadcaster reporting the cold hard facts without fear or favour, and I’ve no desire to see the BBC damaged, but if it exists only to tack towards the prevailing wind then I think critics are right to question its purpose. Or does Ed Williams think it’s better to stay silent and just switch off?
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