BBC bashing is nothing new in Britain; it did not start with the vote to leave the European Union. For as long as I can remember, people have been complaining that the Beeb is biased in one way or another. I have usually taken this as evidence that the BBC is doing its job properly: if both left and right think you are playing for the other side, you are probably doing something right.
As a result of this, I have dismissed a lot of the BBC-bashing coming from Remainers for a long time. However, I am starting to think they have half a point. Only half of one, but still. And it has less to do with Brexit – although that is the subject upon which this trend is acutely felt – and more to do with the role of a state broadcaster in an age where an increasing number of people don’t even live in the same reality as other sets of people, never mind agree with them politically.
On Brexit and the BBC: I still think the idea that the BBC is actually pursuing an explicit pro-Leave agenda absurd. The problem is much deeper than that. As the state broadcaster, it wants to represent all views equally, somehow or another. Back when politics was mostly centrist with a small band of extremes here and there, this was relatively straightforward. These days, it feels the need to have on a staunch Leaver and then to balance it, some Momentum representative that says communism isn’t what you think it is, really, but having said that Stalin wasn’t actually a bad guy. In other words, the BBC’s coverage of politics has gone mental because politics itself has.
Having said all of that, one of the main reasons I think the broadcaster can come off as pro-Brexit a lot of the time is down to a hard to understand laziness on the part of the Beeb in terms of simply bringing their journalists up to speed on the basics of how the EU actually works, the technicalities of the Brexit negotiation, etc. This seems a lot worse of late because a significant portion of Brexiteer spokespeople have started talking complete drivel as opposed to only partial drivel (note to the BBC: falling back on WTO rules is not a “trade deal”. It is in fact the literal opposite of one). I just don’t think they bothered to get their people up to required competence on the technical details of Brexit, and thus people like Redwood and Rees-Mogg come onto their programmes and run rings around the presenters. This is the unforgivable thing the BBC has done, not some sort of conspiracy towards bias. There are distinct exceptions to this – for instance, Andrew Neil has been generally great on Brexit, giving both Leavers and Remainers a decent grilling when called for – but sadly, very few.
In other words, I see the BBC a lot like I see Theresa May: trying desperately to square a circle and failing to do so because that was never the right approach in the first place. A better one would be to go back to basics: what is objectively true here? Let’s figure that out and then hold everyone to account based on objective reality. I think one day, and even one day soon, the Beeb will get back there again.