Congratulations on your appointment. You have a great job and an important task. Many of us are proud of the best of the BBC, and agree that much of its programming produces good quality entertainment and interesting debate. Some of your critics come from both the political “right” and the political “ left”, claiming that the BBC has institutional bias against their parties.
I do not believe that BBC broadcasters overall have a systematic bias pro Labour or anti Conservative. I have heard good journalists give tough interviews to Labour Ministers, just as they rightly give tough interviews to Conservative Ministers. During the Labour years the BBC did cover the scandals and problems that afflicted Labour, as well as Conservatives. As the BBC often says to a complainant, the fact that both sides have causes to complain proves they are getting something right.
I do, however, think the BBC has an institutional bias when it comes to general views of the world. For too long the BBC has given much too much favourable airtime to those who think the EU, the Euro and all that goes with it is a good idea. Those of us who criticised the project were, until recently, given less time, interrupted more, and often introduced in a way designed to make us appear wrong or worse. Recent interviews have attempted to balance it a bit more on the issue of the Euro, given the daily news of its problems. There is still bias when it comes to examining the debate about long term membership of the EU. The BBC still comes over as believing leaving the EU is an extreme or impractical option. BBC interviewers seem to be soundbite trained to assume we could not trade with the EU if we left it, and to assume that 3 million jobs would disappear overnight if we quit!
The same problem dogs the Corporation’s treatment of climate change theory. The BBC takes the view that the “science is settled”. Any intelligent person should know that by definition the science is never settled. Newtonian physics was a gerat breakthrough, which settled the view of the heavens. In the twentieth century its was challenged and improved. Many intelligent people have many different reaons for disagreeing with pure climate change theory and more importantly with the policy conclusions that flow from it in the debate. The BBC does all too little to give these dissenting voices decent airtime,to explore their disagreements and to allow viewers and listeners to make up their own minds. If the conventional theory is as all conquering as the BBC says, it should be able to handle grown up examination of its alleged shortcomings from its critics. Tackling fuel poverty and promoting more industry in the UK, two popular causes even with the BBC, are difficult to combine with carbon puritanism.
There is above all at the BBC an assumption that state spending is good and more state spending is better. Rarely does the BBC give proper airtime to the case for greater freedom and lower taxes. So many interviews are arranged to regret “the cuts” and to find governmental answers to social and family problems. Even “Thought for the day”, the so called religious slot, is usally taken up with more political commentary of a particular kind, where the department, policy or Minister being criticised does not get to answer back.