It is time for BBC News to die. It is in a dreadful state, like a horse in the Grand National that’s about to be shot.
But as the vet loads up the shotgun and gets ready to do in Dobbin, one should at least ask why the old nag should be put out of its misery.
For horses, it’s a broken leg or some other hazard that comes with wearing a short Irishman for a living. But for the BBC, the tragedy is far more Shakespearean… But less Hamlet, more Iago.
The Sexism O’Clock News
Three examples leap to mind. The most recent is the equal pay scandal. While some (I’m looking at you, Peter Oborne) tried to derail the discussion over BBC greed in general, the truth of the matter is that no employee, regardless of their role, should be short-changed simply by virtue of their ovaries.
But the cherry on the cake, styled to look like Toby Young in a drain, is how the BBC has dealt with journalists who spoke out in support of Carrie Gracie’s complaint. The Beeb banned them from being able to report on gender pay issues, which is a bit like banning Chris Packham for having a dog.
Theresa May would simply not be Prime Minister
without BBC News’ support.
Hrumph to Humphrys…
More insidious is BBC News’ main problem, which just so happens to be John Humphrys-shaped. The old crypt ghoul’s main purpose on the Today show is to butt in when his guests are talking, make snide comments, and goad those few souls he does agree with to be even more right wing than they already were.
If you listen for long enough, you will, of course, end up with ‘that’ John Humphrys moment. This is where he makes your stomach turn and you decide that even local radio is better than this. Yes, even local radio. My moment was that time a guest appeared on Today to raise the issue of young Asian girls who had vanished without trace. Halfway through, with an audible sneer, Humphrys interrupted him and demanded to talk about dead white girls instead.
Let’s be clear. Humphrys is merely the most extreme example of a running theme in BBC News. The Tories have taken over. Look at Nick Robinson’s completely blasé bias. Andrew Marr’s soft-soap of Theresa May while she casually dismissed that time he nearly died of a stroke. Or Andrew Neil, that jovial old cove of an uncle, who might be alright on his own, but not in the midst of so many fellow believers.
Elsewhere, Laura Kuenssberg snarls at lefties like a vicious Geography teacher. UKIP gets non-stop free airtime, even though it has had less electoral success than even the Greens. And throughout, the non-stop pro-Tory, pro-Brexit, pro-Status Quo tone to the Beeb’s coverage just carries on, without end. Its claims of impartiality are a bit like North Korea’s claim that it is a Democratic People’s Republic. By accident or design, this is now just taking the piss.
Chartered to Death
Now, there are two things here. Those amongst you who are conservative may point out that I view the topic from a left wing perspective, and that is true. What is also true, however, is that BBC News was largely just as slavish to New Labour during its 13 year tenure. Time and again, the BBC’s news output has ended up toadying, often blatantly, to the government.
In part, this is due to the “back us or else” threat granted by the BBC charter. Every time it is renewed, the government of the day uses this to grab the corporation by the throat and make it do its bidding.
The last time the Beeb took on the government, it was brought to its knees and saw the fall of Director General Greg Dyke. This compliance has been easy to maintain. David Cameron’s veiled threat to the BBC during the 2015 election is a case in point.
‘We had to destroy BBC News to save it’
None of this is new. British governments have always had a faintly Mafioso way in how they ‘deal’ with the media. Look at how Thames TV lost its franchise as punishment for its ‘Death on the Rock’ documentary. The Jimmy Savile scandal, one of the BBC’s own making, has also weakened its hand. This, of course, is why politicians just love charter renewal so much.
Theresa May would simply not be Prime Minister without BBC News’ support. Its reticence over the sheer scale of the Brexit train wreck shows it is a pro-government organ. But watch what happens if Jeremy Corbyn becomes Prime Minister. It will become his poodle too.
The Tories have taken over.
BBC News needs to be broken up. Since it is so prone to interference, it is plain that it cannot be trusted to provide reliable journalism. News coverage should be produced by independent, well-regulated, not-for-profit bodies. Or even a for-profit news company you can halfway trust.
With BBC News, we now have a news monopoly with much of the bias of the UK Press. No wonder Rupert Murdoch envies it so.
BBC News really is a bit pony
Which brings us back to the poor horse, waiting to see if Buckshot really is magic. There is, of course, one crucial way in which it and BBC News are not alike. People with any heart will find the poor horse’s plight hard to bear.
But in the long run, no one will really miss BBC News, at least in its present form. It’s time it went to the knacker’s yard, like the worn out old trotter it has become.
Original image by Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain.
Alexander Hay is a writer and polemicist based online and in print.