A report released today by the New Culture Forum finds that over the past 15 years, Britain’s public broadcaster has given “greater weight to pro-migration voices”
A study released today claims that the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Britain’s publicly-funded broadcaster, has given “overwhelmingly greater weight to pro-migration voices” over the past 15 years.
The report, produced and published by the New Culture Forum, analyses BBC coverage of major immigration events and issues over the past decade and a half, taking into about the corporation’s radio, television and internet coverage of the subject. The report focuses on the BBC’s most influential programmes such as Newsnight, the Today Programme and the News at Ten.
Ed West, the author of the study, writes that like any organisation, the BBC has a “tendency towards groupthink” and one that perhaps reflects “minority – even elitist – viewpoint[s]”.
Examples of the bias include the use of “unanimously pro-migration interviews” for a special feature on migration in 2002 – a feature which has been slammed as “propaganda”. Even the television soap opera, Eastenders, has been criticised for masking the real truth about immigration in Britain, with the report suggesting that the predominantly white cast in East London is not reflective of reality. It states, “a realistic East London soap opera would have to show a white family moving out every year, to be replaced by Bangladeshis or Somalis, and much of the programme would need to be subtitled.”
Broadcaster Jeff Randall, formerly of the BBC, suggested that the organisation’s attitudes to multiculturalism were not impartial, stating, “When I was there, this was not up for grabs. Multiculturalism was ‘a good thing’. The BBC supported it. Don’t take my word for it because, when I complained to the BBC about our coverage of asylum-seekers, this is what I got back from a very senior BBC news executive: ‘Jeff, the BBC internally is not neutral about multiculturalism. It believes in it, and it promotes diversity. Let’s face up to that’.”
On the subject of Islamism, the report asserts that the BBC “tends to downplay activities on the part of Islamists”. An unnamed producer revealed that, “The BBC has a set of anxieties about Islam… they think it’s quaint.” The BBC’s schools website, aimed at educating children, apparently gives an uncritical view of Islam, one in which men and woman are equal and ‘the Prophet Muhammed stressed the importance of women’. But coverage of Christianity tends to be more harsh, with the same website stating, “Many people think the Christian Church is sexist. It does not treat men and women equally.”
The corporation has also been charged with being, “soft on honour killing and FGM (female genital mutiliation)” according to an unnamed producer working within the organisation.
But the report also suggests that while the bias is clearly prevalent, it may not be intentional. It states, “The BBC takes an angle on an issue not because it has an agenda, but because, in an organisation as prone to the ‘echo chamber’ effect as any other, it has not suitably addressed the ‘what if’ of another voice.”
The report recommends, amongst other things, that the BBC publishes a list of all guests together with biographies, and in fact devotes air time toward discussions over its own impartiality. Ed West concludes, “More than any other policy, immigration has changed – and continues to change – British society. And unlike almost any other, this is a change that decent, liberal-minded opponents cannot reverse. For that reason, the issue of immigration must be treated sceptically, argued fairly and aired honestly as part of the national conversation. This is a conversation that can only happen if the BBC takes the lead.”
This paper comes ahead of the publication of the BBC’s own impartiality report, which is due in July 2013. That report is part of a wider look at bias being undertaken by the Corporation. A number of leading corporate figures, including former Director-General Mark Thompson, have expressed concern about whether the BBC was late to the issue of immigration.