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Posted by Helen Sunday, May 15, 2005

Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph ran an interesting article about Robin Aitken, former reporter and economic specialist of the BBC. In it he explained that he has always felt a bit of an outsider in the Corporation simply by being middle-of-the-road Tory. He did not belong to any political party, because he felt it to be inappropriate for a BBC journalist.

To his surprise and discomfort he found out that this assumption did not extend to people who wanted to be active members of the Labour and Liberal-Democrat parties.

The interview with Robin Aitken is well worth reading as he enumerates and tries to explain the various manifestations, of what he (having, perhaps, read this blog a few times) calls “a sort of unconscious, institutionalized Leftism”.

Northern Ireland, of course, where he had had stint as a reporter. All stories that put the Unionists in good light and told a bit more about the Republicans were ruthlessly suppressed.

Economically, the BBC gives the free-market view only occasionally, as a kind of a freak. Crime on the street stories refused to give anything like a balanced analysis.

And then there is the United States and, consequently, the Iraq war. Just what made the BBC so spectacularly biased before, during and after the war? Remember, this was the only organization that stayed on in Baghdad even after they had been forced to reveal that the “stories” they broadcast were those given to them by the Ministry or Information. Even Al-Jazeera had refused to kow-tow any longer.

“They cannot bear President Bush because he’s a Republican and an evangelical Christian. The sight of a Labour Prime Minister going into battle alongside such a man was more than many BBC people could stomach.”
How delightful to know that dear old Auntie takes such a dim view of an enormous proportion of the world’s population.

Anti-Republicanism is built into the BBC’s view of the world, according to Mr Aitken, and let’s face it, we have noticed that ourselves. Still, on that score, not everything is lost:
“Last autumn, Today sent Jim Naughtie over to Washington to cover what they imagined would be the defeat of America’s knuckle-dragging President.

And what did we hear? Jim reporting Bush’s re-election through gritted teeth. Honestly, it would have taken a heart of stone not to laugh.”
Mr Naughtie, who was heard to refer to the Labour Party in one programme just before the official election campaign started as “we”, is not going to be happy about that comment. But it does indicate another problem about the BBC.

Not only they are institutionally biased, they are also ignorant, about the details of what they are talking about and about even wider political issues or (for instance, in Iraq) military realities.

The British and European media was so biased about the American elections that Bush’s triumph came as a real shock to many people. But anyone who spent even ten minutes a day with the American media would have known that Kerry’s campaign was going from bad to worse. Did Mr Naughtie and his colleagues on the Today programme not realize this?

And so to the issue that interests most of us. How does Mr Aitken think the BBC will handle the referendum campaign?
“Europe is one area in which there has been some improvement, thanks to constant pressure from critics.

I am sure that pro- and anti-constitution voices will be carefully balanced. The content of news bulletins will be beyond reproach. But it’s much harder to monitor the tone adopted by presenters and interviewers, so many of whom are supporters of further European integration.”
Well, it may all be true but I am looking forward to the day on which Mr Naughtie and his colleagues stop going on about the 3 million jobs we will lose if we don’t sign up to whatever we are being presented with by Brussels.

Needless to say, that support for further European integration is based on no knowledge or understanding whatsoever but a pleasant feeling of sophistication brought about by numerous holidays and, perhaps, the ownership of a second home in France or Spain.

Robin Aitken is writing a book on the BBC bias. He has already done a good deal of the research and marshalling of the material for a dossier he presented to the Governors in the 1990s. It was comprehensively ignored and you can bet that this dossier will not be mentioned in any searching BBC analysis.

In its own way this could be as devastating as the various revelations about the “liberal” bias in the American networks some years ago.