Tuesday, 15 October 2013

A handful of Tories scattered amongst 23.000 employees doesn’t mean the BBC isn’t screamingly biased

Prominent lefty journalist Kevin Maguire wrote a piece in the Mirror yesterday deriding the notion that the BBC is almost exclusively staffed by left-wingers (here). To support this patently ridiculous claim he dredged up the names of prominent Tories who once worked for the corporation, and two who still do. He mentioned, among others, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, MP Charlotte Lesley and the BBC’s current Political Editor, Nick Robinson. Let’s look at each in turn.

When Michael Gove was working for the Times, I piloted him as a presenter for the BBC2 political talk show, Midnight Hour. He did a superb job – courteous, incisive, no-nonsense and utterly professional. Confident of a thumbs-up, I handed the tape of the show to my superiors. Within a day, I received instructions not to use him. When I queried this peculiar decision, I was told he was too “cold”. Strange, because I had never realised our presenters were all supposed to be cuddly “people” people. Besides, Gove had struck me as an extremely amiable chap, on-screen and off. Maybe it was his innate courtesy that put off my bosses. Or maybe they meant that his political views left them cold.

As for Nick Robinson, well, he might once have been a Tory, but if he still is, he keeps it remarkably well-hidden. (I should point out that, as the BBC is meant to be unbiased, it's his job to sound politically neutral. But if he's still a Tory, I suspect he's of the dripping-wet, soft-left, Chris Patten type that isn't remotely right-wing.)

As for Charlotte Lesley, who was a researcher on The Weakest Link (politically powerful or what!), she responded to the use of her name as proof that the BBC is positively heaving with right-wingers by sending the following email to the Guido Fawkes blog (here):
It was at the BBC that a fellow Conservative caught me by the lift, gave me a secret handshake having overheard a phone conversation I’d had with a Conservative friend and whispered ‘I’m a Conservative too, but don’t let them find out or you’ll be going nowhere’. Be worth a little survey of Conservatives in the BBC, and just how socially acceptable it is to be one!
A Fawkes pointed out, “A few token Tories, however high-profile, can never balance out a culture.”

The BBC employs 23,000 people. As I’ve said before, I’d be astonished if as many as 10% voted for right-wing parties. As for editorial staff – i.e. those who have something to do with content – I bet the figure’s closer to 5%. (Or 100% if you focus on comedy output.)

Maguire (who somehow find time to pen a few words for the Mirror in between his myriad appearances on live BBC News programmes) ended his article thus: "…spare us the guff about the BBC being a Left-wing conspiracy. If only that was true."

No, it isn’t a conspiracy. But accusations that it’s an overwhelmingly left-wing broadcaster – the most significant left-wing media organisation in Europe – aren’t guff. And just because it employs a few right-wingers (Andrew Neil acts as its most significant fig-leaf at present) it doesn't mean that staff feel comfortable expressing right-wing opinions - they don't.

Apart from dressing presenters in Mao suits, displaying a prominent “Vote Labour/Tories Are Scum” banner across the bottom of the screen at all times, and cancelling Top Gear it’s hard to see how the BBC could be any more left-wing!


  1. While we're on the subject of the BBC,I was watching its World News yesterday and one of the banners which passed along at the bottom of the screen every few minutes declared "Norwegian citizen wanted for Kenya.mall bomb-blast."
    The follow up story later on-much later on- did mention almost in passing that the wanted man was of Somali origin,but for an anxious half-hour I was nervously scanning the hotel lobby for blond,blue-eyed giants,and this being Thailand in October,there were quite a few of them.

  2. You make a really good point: undoubtedly many people (I suspect it's a majority) feel a sense of having been cheated when they realise that the term "Norwegian" or "British" is being used to refer to someone who bears no relationship whatever to their concept of what a Norwegian or a Briton looks, sounds or behaves like. It's especially galling when it turns out that the "Norwegian" in question hated everything about the country that had been so stupidly generous as to issue him with a passport.

    I wonder if news organisations should substitute a phrase along the lines of "A Somalian who holds a Norwegian passport", in which case we'd all know where we were.

  3. Dear old Home Office to the rescue, with its invaluable 16+1 system: B2 Norwegian.

    1. I'm half a W1 and half a W9, so I'll split the difference and define myself as a W4.5