I count myself fortunate to be of a nationality that has a national publicly funded treasure such as the BBC. It produces stunning documentaries that are probably some of the best, if not THE best, in the world. Its contribution to modern british comedy is also not to be understated – top gear for instance :P. With remarkable regularity, I’ve noticed a new and wonderfully satirical sketch show will break through roughly once a year. Also importantly, it has provided a home for one of my favourite TV Shows of all time: Doctor Who. And don’t forget the nostalgia of all the crappy-but-awesome retro shows its produced over the past 70 years or so. So, for the most part I feel I owe a great deal of loyalty, as well as my license fee, towards an institution that promotes my country’s cultural values in a positive and, frankly, nice way. So it is with a heavy heart that I commence a post criticising a particular section of it.
As some of you will probably know already, the BBC is a publicly funded Media Broadcaster. It provides weather services, television, radio, news, as well as other bits and pieces. As such, historically when conducting journalism, the BBC will usually lean politically towards the ideals of the current or soon to be inbound government of each era. It makes sense, since the government controls whether the licensing fee increases, freezes or drops. It has always done this. Newspapers and other media organisations do this as well, so this in itself I don’t have a problem with. The world is after all driven by money. If you look hard enough, one can always find a producer of content that suits ones own tastes and opinions.
The root of my frustration, as far as I can see, stems from two seeds. Firstly it’s the BBC’s (and to some extent media in general’s) contradiction with my own belief in how journalism should be created. People rely on news and media outlets to provide them with the ability to perceive events that they have no direct involvement in. One could argue that newspapers, blogs and twitter are a citizen’s eyes in a constantly connected and evolving world. To a certain extent, I believe news should carry at least some of the emotional context felt both by those in the area of the event and by the journalist. After all, to exclude this would be to deny a part of our humanity. However, the BBC is a prime example of where I think this has gone awry. A new style was adopted for its articles online two or three years ago. Often you will see a phrase in quotation marks, put in bold in the middle of an article. Take a look at this article for example: BBC News - Petrol pump sales decrease over five years, says AA.
This is not an arbitrary statement made by the journalist and editors involved in the creation of article. It is not a quote. Nor is it a fact. I find, almost without fail, that these statements are designed to create an emotional response in the reader. It is surreptitious and intrusive. And yet, as I said previously, the BBC has its own political leanings that reflect how this particular style is used. I believe this is a double edged sword not to be wielded lightly, and yet it is used with remarkable regularity. A technique designed to ‘inflame’ the reader. This is perhaps a reflection on the modern political establishment’s tendency to use scare tactics with its citizens.
The second problem I have with the BBC’s current methods of journalism originates from what on first appearance looks like political influence on news material. As stated previously, this is at least partly unavoidable. The majority of articles scream at me from a critical point of view subtle manipulation. But equally I lay the blame firmly at a lazy journalistic attitude. The article posted above is a prime example of this. Not only is it written from a one-sided political viewpoint – that of any oil company director who’s lost 20% of his 200 million bonus each year (oh no!), it also doesn’t even bother to create a full spectrum of opinion from different sources. All the sources used have a single agenda. It’s lazy but also subtley manipulative. I actually struggle to see why Americans often find the BBC preferable to Fox or CNN. At least both of these company’s agendas are in plain sight and open for all to see. What does it matter that they’re fascist, xenophobic and racist? Its so obvious after-all!
Fundamentally what disturbs me most about all of this is that this style of journalism is thoroughly manipulative. Also, a lot of these people don’t even realise they are being manipulated. And, by a government run institution, that in so many other areas, and for so many years has been such a shining light.
I’m really keen to hear what view point each of you hold on this. Do you mind being manipulated into thinking and acting a certain way towards political events? Do you critically analyse everything that you read? Do you find yourself depressed and angry when reading the news? And even more so now that new journalistic tactics are being implemented? What do you choose to read?
I await discourse! (and plenty of it! :3)
“Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
- George Orwell