24 September 2009

Jeremy Hunt: BBC-Bashing Coward

The Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is developing a worrying habit. In his two years in the post, he has come out with numerous criticisms of the operation of the BBC. These include:While these comments did raise an eyebrow (the left one, to be precise), I let these go as they are criticisms on economic grounds... two are about cutting costs and the other about competition.

However his criticism today can't go unchallenged. Hunt has said that the BBC has an "innate liberal bias" and should increase the number of conservatives to their news-gathering team.

This crosses an important line. Given that it is funded by government via the licence fee (something I disagree with by the way), the BBC must be impartial from government interference in terms of its editorial policy. Similarly, the BBC must remain politically impartial given the way it is funded by force.

By no means is the BBC perfect. Their reports do on occasion contain bias. However this bias varies in its political outlook: sometimes statist, sometimes liberal; sometimes socialist, sometimes conservative; too often centrist. However there is no other organisation that does impartiality as well as the BBC. ITV News's constant moral outrage drives a statist agenda. Sky News's frequently yet subtly pushes its right-wing owner's motives. And of course newspapers don't even try.

So I reject Hunt's assessment. However I object much more strongly to him adding pressure on the BBC to bend to his political persuasion. In all likelihood he will be the Culture Secretary within a year's time, and behaviour like this will cast doubt on the BBC's political neutrality. Of course, this may be Hunt's real agenda: to weaken the BBC so that it can be cast to the scrapheap.

It is also incredibly cowardly of Hunt to choose to point his daggers at the BBC. Because it must remain impartial, it can't defend itself. Meanwhile, the rest of the media hates it as it is an untopplable competitor, and smears it at every opportunity.

Conversely, the genuinely biased news outlets get a free ride: politicians daren't criticise the constant distortions and fabrications of the newspapers, because they fear reprisals. Most newspapers are rabidly right-wing; I wonder why he chooses not to criticise them?

If Hunt genuinely wants to sort out bias, he would gain much more credibility of he spoke out about the huge distortions in the press, rather than attacking the animal that can't fight back.

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