Is the BBC left-wing?

Discussing art and media trends and organisations generally

Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Gavin » 20 Feb 2012, 00:12

I watched this video from your other link to it and it is indeed appalling. A shame, as I quite like some of the other Horrible Histories material, but it being the BBC they have to bias it to the left and so they cannot ever be fully believed. The trouble is many viewers will not think for themselves - the BBC still has a kind of respect just for being the state broadcaster, yet other state broadcasters are rarely respected (and rightly so).

The video in question is grotesquely one sided, but even worse, I think, is the reply you received, which does not even address your objection.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Caleb » 20 Feb 2012, 02:18

The reply also contains plenty of incorrect English.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Gavin » 20 Feb 2012, 08:50

Yes, I noticed that too. The reply is so bad actually you wonder whether the writer is indeed deliberately avoiding addressing your points or is so stupid and brainwashed by BBC propaganda themselves that they haven't even understood them. It's nothing to do with the "tone", the "humour", but the content! The reply just beggars belief. I have seen similar replies from the BBC though - this just seems to be how they bat things away. I suppose they just give the e-mail to a junior and say "get rid of this person".
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Elliott » 20 Feb 2012, 09:44

Here's the full reply, with even more bad English:

Thank you for contacting us.

I understand you’re unhappy with song about Queen Victoria and the Britain broadcast in ‘Horrible Histories’.

Horrible Histories delights it’s viewers with its funny sketches from real historical events. Regarding the content, BBC executive producer Kim Shillinglaw has said of the series:

"Horrible Histories will be stuffed full of blood, battles and black humour – and will also give children some of the great facts and narratives of history."

The programme aims to stay true to the spirit of the books and get the factual information across in an appealing way to the age group the programme is aimed. While I appreciate that you are unhappy with the content of the programme, it has been well received around the globe as both entertaining and educational.

The Sketch in question is a funny song used to highlight some of the stereotypes and facts associated with Britain. We feel children and adults are generally aware of the tone of the programme, so will not take offense to the humour within it.

I appreciate you feel quite strongly on this matter and can assure you that I have registered your concerns on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers. The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content. The logs are also published on the BBC's intranet site, so are available for all BBC staff to view.


Perhaps I'm insecure, but that last paragraph seems more like a threat - all these Guardianistas will be able to see any complaints conservatives send in and they'll have a good chortle about them.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Gavin » 20 Feb 2012, 10:24

I believe that paragraph is cut and pasted into all BBC responses, Elliott. I know what you mean about it seeming subtly threatening. It's also quite a patronising e-mail, it seems to me, with its line "I appreciate you feel quite strongly on this matter" while ignoring your points!
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Damo » 22 Feb 2012, 15:59

Such a shame they didn't mention the British navy's role in the ending of slavery from Africa.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Liviu » 02 Mar 2012, 22:31

I am a regular visitor of BBC news website for the last 10 years or so. In the last 3 or 4 years I felt they leaned more and more to the left, some postings being pure propaganda. I am not sure why I see it more now, it is because I am more capable of spotting the bending of truth or it is because they became more and more a politicized outlet.

One of the things I find repelling is the way BBC reports murders or accidental deaths, by quoting what relatives or friends had said about the deceased, invariably that he/she was a wonderful, unique, precious person (which in some cases it is true, but in many others it is evidently not, because the dead individual is himself a criminal). It is a shameful appeal to reader’s vacuous sentimentality, and is dishonest because it doesn’t provide genuine information about the person involved or about what has happened.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Gavin » 26 Mar 2012, 20:59

I was listening to the podcast of the BBC Radio 4 Film Programme this evening in which actor John Cusack launched into a left wing political rant (his own word). So far, so predictable. He excused himself, only to have presenter Francine Stock say that was perfectly okay, and that personally she agreed with him, though she could not do so on behalf of the BBC. No need! That's why they hired you!
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Rachel » 27 Mar 2012, 05:55

I used to find John Cusack quite dishy and attractive when he was younger. You've put me off him now :).

On a more serious note. My personaly bugbear with the BBC is the way it treats the Israel. I can not blame the BBC alone because the Israeli media is quite left wing and pro Palestinian too. But the BBC goes really extreme. There was a Louis Theroux documentary called "The Ultra Zionists" which was screened here in Israel. Now I am annoyed about the word "Zionist" being used in a derogatory tone by the BBC. It should also says something about that the Israeli media that they screened that...and that's mild compared to some of the anti Israel stuff that is screened here.
The other day I watched the 1960 epic film "Exodus". It's a bit over long and slow but I found it fascinating at how differently the media portrayed Israel in the 60's, 70's and early 80's to how it portrays it now. Compare "Exodus" to "The Promise" which I haven't seen but have heard that the main character in it gets an epileptic fit whenever she's around Israelis - who are all portrayed as horrible of course.
There are a number of films about Israel in the 60's and 70's that would *never* get made now.
Apart from "Exodus" there was "Cast a Giant Shadow" with Kirk Douglas in 1966 about the true story of an American general who helped in the War of independance. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0060218/
Then there was "Entebbe" in the 70's. These were big films at the time.

Changing the subject away from Israel: I completely agree with what Liviu said about victims + sentimentality.

Another thing with the BBC is that it does not do serious long debates or interviews involving people like Dalrymples verses left wingers.
I wonder if it was different in the past.
I started thinking about this when I spotted this DVD of "Frost on Friday" -a 1960's TV program.
http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info. ... ts_id=1482
Frost on Friday was a popular prime time interview program.
This DVD contains a interview and debate with Enoch Powell about the death penalty. The parents of Derek Bentley are supposed to be in it. I have not seen it but apparently the debate got so heated that they cancelled the schedule for the evening and continued the debate after the news.
TV would not do that today.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Elliott » 27 Mar 2012, 12:10

That's a difficult one to "call", Rachel. I think the BBC's Hardtalk programme is pretty good (despite its ridiculous name) and there are serious debates going on there. I think Stephen Sackur is a very good interviewer.

But their other debating programmes are mediocre. Question Time is a mess, and I am convinced the audience is cherry-picked to present a certain view as dominant.

Their arts programmes are abysmal - always a bunch of smug lefties congratulating each other. I just chose a clip at random on Youtube. Martha Kearney hosts a discussion with Johann Hari, Marina Hyde and Raymond Tallis. All four were privately-educated. Of the four, only Raymond Tallis could not be described as "left-wing". Marina Hyde writes for the Guardian and is married to a head honcho at the BBC. Martha Kearney presented Woman's Hour for years and is known for her left-wing bias. Johann Hari, enough said.

And also in BBC arts programming, there is what TD calls "antinomianism", the belief that change is good and tradition should be smashed for the sake of it; I remember watching an episode of The Culture Show in which the phrase "pushing the boundaries" was used by three different people!

BBC News seems to exist more to massage the egos of its presenters and reporters than anything else - they seem to spend half their time interviewing each other. Their international reporters are unreliable - see this examination of an Orla Guerin report on an Israeli attack in Lebanon.

I don't know if I would say there is a left-wing bias to the BBC's debating programmes - more that they are simply low-quality and unrewarding.

For me, the BBC's left-wing bias really shows in its drama output. It really feels like they have no idea what real British people are actually like, and no interest in them unless they're ethnic minorities. There is a similar detachment from "the public" in government, and even in local councils, and certainly in the EU. In this sense, the BBC seems like one more node of a lefty-liberal elite who are determined to re-make reality as they see fit.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Caleb » 28 Mar 2012, 01:38

Elliott: I agree about Question Time and other debating shows. Very disappointing. They're best watched in the "best of Douglas Murray" compilation format by various Youtube posters. The unedited shows are almost unwatchable.

As for Hardtalk, I think it's really hit and miss. The interview with Kyle Bass (in two parts) was unintentionally hilarious only because the clown interviewing him had a completely open left-wing agenda and got completely hosed by him when she tried it on.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Gavin » 28 Mar 2012, 13:40

That was a very interesting interview. Wow, Kyle Bass didn't half put the woman straight - and in such a leisurely way. She was on the attack but unfortunately on a subject about which she clearly knew far, far less than he did. He's an expert - seemed like quite a nice guy too. I liked him. I liked the way he was evidently not ashamed at all, did not feel he had to justify himself to her but rather educate her about the way the markets work. They were quite lucky to get that interview at all, I think.

Here's another Hard Talk (I agree, silly name) with Wilders. This is six years old now. I watched this some years ago, haven't watched it again now, but I recall it as much of the same again: left wing interviewer continually on the attack while person more immediately acquainted with the problem explains themselves calmly and clearly. The "Hard" in "Hard Talk" must mean hard left, presumably!

(btw Rachel, I used to like Cusack too - I suppose his leftism is predictable though. 1408 - good film.)
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Elliott » 29 Mar 2012, 02:05

It's quite interesting. I've been listening to some old episodes of the BBC's Moral Maze radio programme. The show started in 1990 and, while I managed to get all episodes from 2006 onwards, I've always been curious about what an episode from, say, 1993 would be like. Would the assumptions be different? Would the accents be different?

Well, somebody has uploaded a dozen or so episodes onto Youtube. They date from 1992 to 1999.

The first thing to note is that, whereas the programme now features Claire Fox, Kenan Malik, Michael Portillo, Melanie Phillips and a New Labour spin doctor, back in 1994 it had none less than Roger Scruton and David Starkey, and Rabbi Hugo Gryn. The difference these men make is quite noticeable. The whole show has a generally higher-brow feel to it, with much more ground being covered and ideas being rattled through more quickly. By the end, you really feel like a debate has happened.

It's difficult to say why this is, because I quite like the show as it is today. I think Claire Fox and Michael Portillo (and Kenan Malik, even though he irritates me) are good debaters and intelligent people. They've also, at least in the case of Fox and Portillo, got a lot of common sense. Yet somehow their performance just doesn't feel like it measures up to that of Starkey and Scruton.

Another thing, quickly, is that the guests are much more well-spoken than anyone who appears on the show today. 18 years makes a surprising difference to diction. But we knew that already.

Finally, I am struck by the ease with which people can say in these early episodes that the British people don't want lots of foreigners coming over, even when those foreigners are refugees! Nowadays that would get hisses and embarrassed expressions. Then, and remember we're only talking about 1994, it was readily accepted. Nobody even contests it.

Some things happen organically over time, and when you return to a snapshot from 20 years ago you realise that things weren't terribly different to today. But some other things happen suddenly and are imposed, and I think the change in the accepted view on immigration must have been an example of this. Just three years after the Moral Maze episode on refugees was aired, New Labour got in. Two years later and they were talking about unlimited mass immigration, the wonders of multiculturalism, and the vilifying of anyone who disagreed as "racist". If this little snapshot of public debating from 1994 is anything to go by, New Labour were not "going with the flow of public opinion", but very much stating what public opinion henceforth should be. (I can't believe there was some drastic change between 1994 and 1997.)

Perhaps the reason I feel these old episodes are higher-brow is simply that the people on them are being honest. Nowadays, people like Kenan Malik make the Moral Maze feel like a smug game of one-up-manship in which people are competing to be the most right-on. As you can imagine, there's none of that with Starkey and Scruton.
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Caleb » 29 Mar 2012, 04:45

Gavin: Kyle Bass is awesome, and he's very laid back about it. He was one of the few people who predicted the GFC by doing a really deep analysis of what was going on -- and he actually approached banks to warn them about the issue -- and some people vilify him for not being an idiot and running off the cliff like everyone else.

Did you watch the second part? That video is 20 minutes long, but the interview with him is only the first five minutes. The first video was really just a warm up. He completely schools her in those five minutes of the second part. What a clown she was. In the second part, she completely misses his humour. Supposedly, he joked to his mother that she should put her money into buying guns and gold, though he also discusses such things seriously. Likewise, there was some sort of rumour that he had bought a "very large fort in Texas and had an arsenal of weaponry there". It turned out to be him and his friends buying a ranch so they could go there on the weekends.

Where do they get these journalists?
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Re: Is the BBC left-wing?

Postby Gavin » 29 Mar 2012, 09:35

From adverts in The Guardian?!

Yes, I did watch the second part - it was embarrassing. These lefties are so righteous while at the same time being so ignorant of how things actually work.

Elliott, yes you certainly wouldn't be allowed to say "refugee" now. It's one of those expunged words. It seems like all (even moderate) right wing commentators such as Scruton have been banned form the media too now. I used his work extensively during my philosophy degree and that was back in 1994. I read all of his Modern Philosophy and his book on Sexual Desire was pretty interesting too. I generally agreed with his point of view. Then I heard a debate a couple of years ago in which he was arguing against Dawkins and Grayling, defending religion. Then it seemed to me he was in the wrong (because I was mainly concerned with religions' often absurd claims, their retardation of scientific progress and so on) but now, especially after reading TD, I'm not so sure it's all that simple. Some would say "Well, you can have all the good bits of religion without religion". I suppose now I wonder whether that definitely can be the case, en masse.
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