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July 2, 2003 8:12 AM   Subscribe

The BBC are liars who put out Nazi propaganda, are rife with political bias and seem to taking it from all sides recently (though the publically funded body is not without a history of this sort of thing.)
The Guerilla News Network writes a nice little summation of the corporation's recent fisticuffs, and wishes America had a news organisation with balls like Auntie.
Snubbed by the Chinese, Israel and Alistair Campbell... they must be doing something right, surely.
posted by Blue Stone (36 comments total)

 
If only American journalism cared about the truth.

Sensationalism is good for ratings. Popular opinion is what they give us, not news.
posted by graventy at 8:19 AM on July 2, 2003


If only American journalism cared about the truth.

Ever seen the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on pbs? 3-5 minute intros for each piece followed by a 10 minute moderated round-table discussion with people on all sides of each issue. Every weeknight for 1 hour with no commercial interruptions.

It airs at the same time as NBC nightly news. It's interesting to compare what stories the two programs lead with, and the manner in which they are presented.
posted by jsonic at 8:31 AM on July 2, 2003


Yeah, and it's incredibly boring.
posted by smackfu at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2003


Because, of course, the news is there solely for our entertainment, right smackfu?
posted by whatnot at 8:41 AM on July 2, 2003


It's only boring if you don't care about the issues they're talking about.
posted by kahboom at 8:44 AM on July 2, 2003


Personally I think that auntie performs sterling work, I have many comrades (sorry friends) who have found gainful employment after graduating from those denizens of socialism and homosexuality, no not public schools but university.
posted by johnnyboy at 8:58 AM on July 2, 2003


Because, of course, the news is there solely for our entertainment, right smackfu?

Remember, we (Americans) are living in a country where "the public interest" has been redefined as "that which the public finds interesting" by no less a figure than the chair of the FCC.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:18 AM on July 2, 2003


Worth reading for an alternative view of just how bad American media News can be is Michael Levine's stuff about the CIA & drugs and the American mainstream media's misrepresentations and complicities (if you believe him (and I do.))

I was reading it in "Abuse Your Illusions," but it's also online.
posted by Blue Stone at 9:31 AM on July 2, 2003


If only American journalism cared about the truth.

Hey, nice way to dismiss *every* journalist in an *entire* country.

Are you always this pithy?
posted by Ayn Marx at 9:52 AM on July 2, 2003


Hey, nice way to dismiss *every* journalist in an *entire* country.

Are you always this pithy?



How about if any journalist really cared about the truth?
posted by angry modem at 10:15 AM on July 2, 2003


All right Ms. Marx, I'll refine my statement. If only mainstream American journalism cared as much about the truth as they do about ratings.

Our nation would be better off if news channels didn't compete for our viewership, if they just reported the news.

Also, out of curiosity, why do they call it 'auntie'?
posted by graventy at 10:27 AM on July 2, 2003


As far as I'm aware, the beeb became known as Auntie Beeb back in the days of its inception, due to its straight-laced we-know-best tone. Its an affectionate term though.

I'm loving the Beeb vs. New Labour bust up right now. Clearly the Government came up with this nonsense to divert attention from the Iraq/WMD select commitee, but the BBC is having absolutely none if it.

It makes me feel warm and fuzzy to see the Director General, head of news, and the BBC as a whole rally around a reporter branded as a liar, simply so the government can try to dig itself out of a pool of shit of its own making. Its pretty amazing that Labour still believes it can tell the BBC what to do.
posted by influx at 11:11 AM on July 2, 2003


If only mainstream American journalism cared as much about the truth as they do about ratings.

I hate to break it to you, graventy, but Lehrer and Frontline and NPR are mainstream American journalism. Morning Edition and All Things Considered in particular are among the most-used sources of news in the country, drawing bigger audiences than any network TV newscast.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:38 AM on July 2, 2003


"Morning Edition and All Things Considered in particular are among the most-used sources of news in the country, drawing bigger audiences than any network TV newscast."

I'm curious. Do you have a reference to support this?
posted by cedar at 11:43 AM on July 2, 2003


you also have to consider how news is disseminated. NPR may be the leading secondary-source news provider measured by size of audience, which certainly qualifies it as "mainstream." Given the rank stupidity of American foreign policy of late, a policy hijacked by a small elite to spend American political capital and military blood in pursuit of an experiment in imperialism predicated upon false premises, and the honest examination this situation is given by news (as opposed to newstertainment) sources, being "mainstream" news means you only matter to the depressingly small minority that actually gives a rat's ass. When you include tertiary sources like talk shows, water-cooler banter, forwards no more verifiably accurate than a "chain this letter and Bill Gates will give you a buck!", and, well, Metafilter, who has the most impact on the American public's perception of the news, Bill "Now" Moyers or Bill "Hard Copy" O'Reilly?
posted by Vetinari at 12:11 PM on July 2, 2003


cedar: not anymore. Googling led me to an "NPR fast facts" or similar page, but I'm too lazy to go find it again. It was a pdf, I think.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:16 PM on July 2, 2003


BTW, if the BBC is so "anti-military", then how come nearly all of their home & garden shows have miltary-sounding names?
Home Front
Ground Force
House Invaders
Charlie's Garden Army
(at least, those that made it to BBC America...)
posted by wendell at 1:03 PM on July 2, 2003


I skimmed the article in the guardian and one of the things Israel seem toe be upset about is being portrayed as being in violation of international law. Israel is in violation of at least one UN resolution, to pull out of the occupied territories seized in the 1967 war. Also Israel has allowed settlements to be built on said same disputed land.
posted by MrLint at 1:22 PM on July 2, 2003


Much as I'd like to complain yet again about mainstream American media, I'm starting to wonder if the problem is more mainstream Americans. The spinning-intel-to-foment-war story has been reported in both the US and UK. The UK's leader is now distrusted by two-thirds of his population. In contrast, the US's leader is believed and trusted by over half of his (heck, a quarter believes WMDs have been found!).
posted by win_k at 2:34 PM on July 2, 2003


There seems to be a tendency to blame the organisation as a whole for the alleged mistakes of the individual. This is a category error, even when the organisation as a whole defends the individual. A better charge to attempt to stick on them is: 'does the news organisation as a whole have robust and professional ethics, impartiality and a grievance procedure?'

Given the fact that the Beeb pisses off governments of both persuasions, over a period of some time, and is open to comments & complaints from public and politicos alike, I would answer 'Yes!'

And long may it remain so.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:18 PM on July 2, 2003


One minor correct to the GNN story: the BBC is not "government owned" it is "state licensed". Technically it is run by a board of governors appointed by the Queen - although she picks them from 'suggestions' by ministers. The Charter (PDF), which grants the BBC its existence, is due for renewal in 2006 and - theorectically - could be refused (thus ending the BBC's existance as we know it). The Charter is drawn up as a matter of parliament and signed off by the Queen.

Perhaps my favourite moment of the whole smoke and mirrors business so far is George W Bush defending Tony Blair - like that's going to convince a sceptical British public.
posted by anyanka at 3:30 PM on July 2, 2003


the only reason i came in to read the posts on this thread was to see how quickly the discussion turned into an 'oh yeah, what about the american...'

by the third word! this must be among the top five.
posted by shoos at 3:36 PM on July 2, 2003


anyanka - yeah, verily.

I've made the point here before: I accept that I am taxed £2 a week (approx.) for the beeb - a fee I cannot legally avoid if I own any sort of TV receiver - but I believe some taxes are beneficial, and this is one.

Like national insurance and local taxes. We should all have the bollocks to admit that some pro-social services are actually worth what we pay for 'em (yeah I know, how terribly European of me )
posted by dash_slot- at 3:37 PM on July 2, 2003


I love that this whole debate has made a lie out of the ongoing accusations that the BBC is little more than a state own broadcaster in the pocket of the government.

And that it's large enough for one branch to be debating the failings of another. Sometimes.
posted by feelinglistless at 3:45 PM on July 2, 2003


I accept that I am taxed £2 a week (approx.) for the beeb ... I believe some taxes are beneficial, and this is one.

On the other hand, it is sort of weird to see taxes being used for such noble purposes as delivering sitcoms and soaps.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:06 PM on July 2, 2003


There is a certain irony in the fact that on the same day all these BBC anti-Labour accusations kicked off, the Tories were meeting the BBC to discuss anti-Tory bias.

The BBC evidently has trouble making friends with politicians. Political coverage in the UK has always been combative. It's always been seen as healthy for the media, and the BBC in particular, to challenge the government, and the opposition. The accusations of the BBC being pro or anti anybody is frankly ridiculous.



(This is of course the BBC News division particularly. The rest of the BBC is not so squeaky-clean)
posted by influx at 4:16 PM on July 2, 2003


ROU_Xenophobe, the BBC spends way more money than it earns from the license fee alone. BBC Worldwide is hugely succesful in its own right, and is run for-profit, unlike the BBC proper. All the profts are put back into the BBC, however.

The license fee allows, and more importantly requires the BBC to produce vitally important output that is not profitable at all. BBC World Service, for instance, is an incredible achievement. If it was not free to the world, it would not exist.
posted by influx at 4:22 PM on July 2, 2003


The BBC is generally pro-government. However, the Labour government has recently been asking (in public) some quite damning questions about issues such as BBC Worldwide, internet spending and Digital Licences. In the last year or so, the BBC seems to have been placed under extra pressure to explain why it needs (a) more money from licence fees and (b) any licence fees at all. I think a lot of this pressure comes from government think tanks.

So you can understand why they're having a bit of a go at Labour at the moment.

As for the implication that state sponsorship of the BBC should increase the possibility of bias, then I think you have to question (in the western world at least) how much influence governments have on sponsored broadcasters. Government members sit on boards of companies (or at least recieve funds from companies) that buy huge swathes of adverts which help to pay for the news. For example, I think Bush has more say as to what appears on the news than Blair.
posted by seanyboy at 5:04 PM on July 2, 2003


ROU_Xenophobe, the BBC spends way more money than it earns from the license fee alone. BBC Worldwide is hugely succesful in its own right, and is run for-profit, unlike the BBC proper.

I've got nothing against the BBC (or the CBC, which is what I was really thinking of), and even if I did it's their business anyway.

Just one of those "You people are aliens" moments, like with the state-paid Catholic schools in Canada. But it's a big world with plenty of room for all kinds of weirdos.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:10 PM on July 2, 2003


ROU_Xenophobe ~ "On the other hand, it is sort of weird to see taxes being used for such noble purposes as delivering sitcoms and soaps."

I don't think of it that way, I think of it as a tax to stop rich capitalists, like Rupert Murdoch, from stamping their own LCD TV, all over the British airwaves.

Seems worth it to me.
posted by Blue Stone at 5:12 PM on July 2, 2003


Just as an aside, the BBC doesn't fund the World Service. The Foreign Office do.

Like dash-slot, I am quite happy to pay my TV license fee. If nothing else, the standard of news, current affairs, documentaries and coverage of the arts means that the commercial stations have a higher bar to aim for.

I don't buy the argument that the BBC is biassed in any way. It's method of funding allows it to be more independent than practically any other broadcaster. I agree with seanyboy: Bush has more control over the American media than Blair has over the BBC.
posted by salmacis at 1:26 AM on July 3, 2003


The BBC news is supposed to be an independent media source intended to provide impartial coverage. I believe this is a laudable aim and as such makes the BBC worth preserving. However, I also think there is an institutional bias. Not to any party or political grouping but to its own internal views on what is right and wrong. The coverage of the war in Iraq to my mind demonstrated this.

Reporting there consistently painted a negative view of the war - that is, the perception the war was going badly - until suddenly the Americans were in Baghdad and Rageh Omar was getting excited on his mobile. To those who only watched the news through the BBC, it must have been case of 'wha... I thought this was a quagmire?' It really, really pissed me off.

Furthermore I find the argument 'China's annoyed, Israel's ansty, Tony Blair's livid - they must be doing something right' a little bit short-sighted. Just because these three parties are seen by many as morally dubious, doesn't mean they are always wrong.

Take Israel's response. The withdrawal of her cooperation was a reaction to the presentation of Israel as being an equivalent WMD threat as Iraq was once perceived to be, and Iran and N. Korea still are. Err... Hello? Israel, whether you agree with its right to exist or not, has throughout its existent faced a threat from its neighbours and as such has developed WMDs to provide a credible deterrent. It hasn't used such weapons, it hasn't expressed the desire to use them against another country except in the most dire of circumstances and arguably, her possession of them may well have prevented conflict in the region by forcing her enemies to step back from a war of annihilation.

OK, I don't know about the last bit but the basic point is there - Israel's WMD program doesn't bare comparison to those of the supposed 'axis of evil'. One can only assume that this unnecessary bias stems from the preconceptions of BBC journalists (perhaps their opposition to Israeli policy towards the Palestinians?). In short, I disagree with the Israeli response but understand it.

The current catfight between BBC and Downing street is annoying because it avoids the crucial issue that both should be forced to deal with - the fact the UK went to war for reasons most now believe to be bogus. The BBC should stop trying to defend a one-source story (unless they can prove that such a contentious opinion is actually fact) and the government should be forced to confront the issue of the war's legitimacy.

Did anyone actually read all that?!
posted by pots at 8:39 AM on July 3, 2003


Pots, Rageh Omar's coverage of a incredibly minor, stage-managed and magnified event was terrible. A poxy statue was toppled with a few dozen Iraqi's standing around. It was misleading propaganda. It was not the end of the war. It was not a 'real' event, perhaps any more than Private Lynch's 'rescue.'

I made acomplaint about the BBCs coverage of the war (to the BBC) for an entirely different reason - the censoring of images of dead bodies - the public should not be sold the lie, through selective editing, that war is all about machinery and explosions and people who die are mere literary references. It's entirely misleading and dishonest regarding what's really going on and the true nature of the actions that people are undertaking, or supporting, I believe.

As for the catfight, it's a well worn tactic to vehemently deny specific issues, hoping that the larger issues (that going to war was done 'becus dubya wanna') will be lost in the fracas.
Simple misdirection and mis-weighting of issues. The Beeb, may have good reason for defending this issue though... like because it may be true!
posted by Blue Stone at 11:24 AM on July 3, 2003


Blue stone I'd have to disagree that the statue toppling was such a minor event - it did signify the end (or what will be remembered as the end) of conventional hostilities and the destruction of Saddam's government. The fact that violence continues, that reconstruction faces considerable obstacles and may yet fail does not in my mind detract from the symbolic significance of that event. As such I don't have a problem with the BBC announcing it as significant, just with its preceding coverage that made it seem a complete bolt from the blue.

And yes I agree with you about the BBC maybe defending the one-source article because they know it's true. It all makes me wonder why the proper questions aren't being asked of the BBC or by the government...
posted by pots at 2:10 PM on July 3, 2003


Err... Hello? Israel, whether you agree with its right to exist or not, has throughout its existent faced a threat from its neighbours and as such has developed WMDs to provide a credible deterrent.

I'm am sure the Israel-Arab war would be an adequate study as to whether it really does need WMDs as a deterrent.

And as far as the documentary goes, the real fuss is the fact they do not admit nor deny that they have the bomb, which makes me wonder whether you watched it at all.
posted by nanothan at 6:14 PM on July 3, 2003


As for the catfight, it's a well worn tactic to vehemently deny specific issues, hoping that the larger issues (that going to war was done 'becus dubya wanna') will be lost in the fracas.

Of course, both the BBC and Channel 4 News (where Campbell went with his simply amazing rant against the BBC*) have repeatedly asked whether the dust being kicked up about this story is to try to hide the bigger issues. I don't think anyone who gets their news from the BBC or C4 is going to fooled by mishandled misdirection like this.

* it was jaw-droppingly inept for someone who is meant to be an expert in media management. He came over as angry, as fudging answers and of not being competent. Body language was all over the place.
posted by anyanka at 12:11 PM on July 4, 2003


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