Their Beeb
October 2, 2012 11:47 AM   Subscribe

In the two years building up to the government’s NHS reform bill, the BBC appears to have categorically failed to uphold its remit of impartiality, parroting government spin as uncontested fact, whilst reporting only a narrow, shallow view of opposition to the bill. In addition, key news appears to have been censored. The following in-depth investigation provides a shocking testimony of the extent to which the BBC abandoned the NHS.
posted by infini (19 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Dr Eoin Clarke has been doing some good research into the connections between party donations and every private firm that won NHS contracts over £10 million.

having said that it is clear that the privatisation of the NHS started way back in 1986, and has continued piecemeal since then no matter which party is in power.

this is something the majority of health professionals in the UK agree is Britain's pride. Every day I see people give time outside of their contracted hours, unpaid, to improve the health structures here. They've always done this to a certain extent, but for the most part they could claim professional leave from their hospitals. So people who examine, recruit, train, inspect, mentor, plan programmes etc., for the next generation of NHS trained staff, do so in large part in their own time, and/or to the detriment of their private practice income. This is unique to the NHS in my experience. Increasingly hospitals are telling these staff they will not be released for this activity and so they should use their annual leave. Because it doesn't help the hospitals individual bottom line.

Cherry Picking NHS cases was relatively common and will probably get worse taking routine cases out of public hospitals and crucially away from the medical teams who need to train on these bog-standard presentations.

Competition in Healthcare does not work in the kind of health service we have in the UK which is why the imperative is to change the health service in order to support competition. The UK public is being sold profit creation from people's ill health in a way that is so complex they cannot object in huge numbers.
posted by Wilder at 12:17 PM on October 2, 2012

BBC actually a mouthpiece for government.
Newsnight at 11.

Stretching back as far as I can remember, the BBC has always been pro-government. The only depressing thing about it is that other British news sources are so lacking, so corrupt and the population is so uninterested that there is no other proper journalistic voices.
posted by zoo at 12:26 PM on October 2, 2012

The UK public is being sold profit creation from people's ill health in a way that is so complex they cannot object in huge numbers.

Seems to me all that needs to be done is show them what the for-profit US system is like. That should scare the living piss out of them.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:30 PM on October 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Stretching back as far as I can remember, the BBC has always been pro-government.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: [sounding very stern and serious] "Good afternoon. This is the objective and strictly impartial BBC World Service, operating on behalf of the Conservative Party. And now a news flash..." (The Young Ones - Time c. 1984)

Although if you were to ask my dad, he would tell you that the BBC has always been fiercely anti-Tory. Sigh.
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:51 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

This isnt just boil down to being about a 100% socialist healthcare system ( like Canada's, more or less) or a 100% for-profit system ( like the US, more or less). There are many hybrid varieties in between, including in Western Europe - the NHS has always been a hybrid model to some extent. BBC reporting on this issue may or may not be deeply flawed and misinforming ( though I think saying the BBC is inherently always "pro-government" is a facile oversimplification ) ; but I'm not sure what is meant by the idea of the BBC "betraying" the NHS here - they are not automatically supposed to be " on the same side"
posted by Bwithh at 12:57 PM on October 2, 2012

I've known people in BBC news and current affairs for twenty years, including those working the newsdesks and former editors of Panorama, investigative reporters, and so on, and I can tell you they are about as far from government mouthpieces as it's possible to get. By and large they are a bunch of lefty iconoclasts with just a smattering of Fleet Street rottweilers thrown in for good measure. But the former outweigh the latter about ten to one.
posted by unSane at 1:06 PM on October 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

That's my impression of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp over the last few years as well. As they came under more and more criticism for being a "state broadcaster" and were accused of preferentially supporting Left-wing causes and policies, they just made it clear that they're pro-government. I was expecting more, but that's probably the economically rational thing to do, given their relationship with the Taxpayer.
posted by sneebler at 1:07 PM on October 2, 2012

The NHS is actually an extremely well run organisation already. I'm sure people could cherry pick stories and incidents, but this chart and the many other charts available on that website tell quite a story.

That story is as follows: The NHS provides good to excellent care (depending on the indicator) and does it on a very reasonable budget. Some countries do better by spending much more, some do worse despite spending much more. The NHS is the mid-range Japanese sedan of medical systems - you might choose something else for emotional reasons, but deep down the facts are not on your side.

Oh, and the ridiculous idea of healthcare choice? The choice people want is scheduling appointments not selecting their oncologists (something that laymen are comically unqualified to do even if they wanted to which they do not).

Don't even get me started on the bizarre idea of putting people with no management experience in charge of healthcare commissioning. Managing large organisations is hard, medicine is also hard, the idea that someone who is good at the latter would be automatically suited to the former is deeply odd.
posted by atrazine at 1:13 PM on October 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

Thanks, atrazine, that's about my view too. The NHS isn't great, but it's efficient and satisfactory.
posted by Jehan at 1:16 PM on October 2, 2012

unsane: That would be my impression of the BBC as well. That's why (to me) this story is surprising/newsworthy.

Do you have any impressions or ideas why the BBC might be uncritical on this issue? Do you think the linked article is off in its assessment? If so, why/how?

While PBS has a reputation for being left-leaning, it certainly had a number of right-leaning reports during the last Bush administration (some Frontline episodes that seemed very weighted in a direction it normally doesn't take). This could be because the right in the US have been looking to slash PBS funding and PBS was trying air 'different perspectives', but just because an organization has had a general perspective in the past doesn't meant that it will always continue to do so (in the face of political and/or other pressures).
posted by el io at 1:25 PM on October 2, 2012

First they got the Labour Party.

Then they got the BBC.

Now they've got the NHS. And the Welfare State.

I know. Let's all watch X Factor!
posted by motty at 1:43 PM on October 2, 2012

The reason that the BBC often seems to support the government (of whatever flavour) is that it often interprets its mission of impartiality in such a way that it lets the government frame the debate.

For example:
Conservatives: The NHS needs reform, this is what we're going to do (a, b, c, d)
Labour: a&b are bad ideas, d is a New Labour policy they copied from us*.
BBC News: Labour and the Conservatives disagree over how to reform the NHS. The key disagreements are over a&b but both parties seem to agree on the need** for d.

Notice how the need to reform the NHS has now become implicit knowledge that the reader is expected to already be familiar with.

Now, you might think that Labour should have attacked the idea of the NHS needing reform, to prevent that idea from becoming implicitly accepted. Unfortunately news cycles don't tend to work that way and it is very difficult to challenge the idea that something needs to be fixed by countering that it doesn't need fixing and very easy to challenge the specific changes proposed. See also: Social Security in the US.

Not surprisingly, newspapers like The Guardian are more resistant to this kind of creeping implicit assumption because they don't need to be impartial.

*Which they will say even if the idea came from a whitepaper and was never actually Labour policy
**See above, and how a Labour comment that was meant to paint the Conservatives as ideologically bankrupt has now morphed into a broad consensus for an idea that may not have had majority support in either party until they saw on the BBC that it was widely accepted that d was necessary.
posted by atrazine at 1:46 PM on October 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

There's a lot - a lot of allegations in the OP that are probably actionable for libel under the UK's very dubious libel laws. If I had to guess a single reason for the BBC not touching them as stated, that would be it.
posted by cromagnon at 3:14 PM on October 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure the BBC can be accused of abandoning the NHS since they have no particular responsibility to them other than that to any organisation they report on. Journalistic integrity and a duty to the licence payer on the other hand are both well within their remit to abandon. It's the people of the UK they could be accused of "betraying" (as the article has it) if their reporting fails to accurately reflect an issue.
posted by comealongpole at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2012

The NHS isn't great, but it's efficient and satisfactory.

"Satisfactory" is not a standard people seem to be interested in holding a government to anymore.
posted by gjc at 2:51 AM on October 3, 2012

I think that it would also be relevant to point out that the last two rounds of the licence fee negotiation (one each by New Labour and the coalition) took place in an atmosphere of fairly open intimidation on the part of the government of the time. The chickens are coming home to roost after the shameful knobbling of the BBC by the Hutton inquiry. It's becoming more and more rare for the BBC to take a strong editorial line on any government-related issue regardless of any evidence of error, poor faith or hypocrisy. It's pretty much just he-said-she-said, so they rely on a strong opposition to expose these failings and push the analysis. Unfortunately, Milliband's Labour have been shockingly inept in not just missing, but almost completely ignoring, the massive political open goal of the NHS privatisation. In fact, so inept one might wonder if they should be considered complicit?
posted by Jakey at 4:49 AM on October 3, 2012

I ceased to trust the BBC's impartiality way back. A few years ago I was complaining about part of the BBC website's uncritical treatment of some controversial complementary therapies.

I quoted their own guideline about "due impartiality", but got an astonishing piece of sophistry that their duty of due impartiality only applied to areas of coverage where they defined due impartiality to apply - topics of "political and industrial controversy". And since they didn't define complementary medicine as being in that sphere, they had no obligation to impartiality.

Plus they're astonishingly resistant to admitting errors. I tried for a couple of years to get them to get expert amendment on this piece of ill-informed herpetological shit in which a stunned (maybe they mean stoned) BBC wildlife expert gives a shock-horror comment on frog multiple amplexus being a three-headed frog, but it looks likely to be there forever.
posted by raygirvan at 6:19 AM on October 3, 2012

There's a spoof BBC site been set up by Scots nationalists as they're pissed off by the relentless pro-Union tenor of the real article; similar root cause to that I think - reporters increasingly drawn from/operating in the same narrow bubble as the think-tank types and politicos, where wisdom is often received.
posted by Abiezer at 8:14 AM on October 3, 2012

forsaking all others.... this is NOT an unusual attitude.
posted by Wilder at 12:07 PM on October 3, 2012

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