BBC Hard Talk: SOFT on Power, HARD on Real Journalism, Truth Telling and Glenn Greenwald

Listening to the political gurglings of right-wing commentators a vision is painted of a monolithic BBC acting as an anti establishment, subversive enemy within.

Listening to the political gurglings of right-wing commentators a vision is painted of a monolithic BBC acting as an anti establishment, subversive enemy within. A BBC where leftist executives plot how best to infect society with commie ideals and pollute the minds of youth with an antibusiness, pro EU, anti military, politically correct neurosis. "The BBC is left wing" has become one of those "common sense" truisms read straight from the book of Tory cliches. Alas the idea bears no relation to reality.

According to research by Cardiff University, the "left wing BBC" idea, academically speaking, is crap. For example, we are told Auntie Beeb is "anti business" and "pro unions". Strange then that Cardiff have discovered that "On (the) BBC News at Six, business representatives outnumbered trade union spokespersons by more than five to one (11 vs 2) in 2007 and by 19 to one in 2012." Additionally, whilst discussing the impacts of immigration and EU trade policy, out of 806 sources not ONE was from organised labour.

Organised labour, lest we forget, amounts only to that minor accolade of being the single greatest democratic block of working people in British civil society and those primarily effected by the aforementioned policies. However, the BBC's actions suggest that these union members do not register as economic players, they aren't the movers and shakers, the guys in the big club wielding political and economic capital, the owner and controller class that the BBC routinely embraces for opinion and source material. The BBC has historic form on this front; the fledgling organisation was used by the Baldwin government to peddle government propaganda demonising the 1922 General Strike. Again in this instance the BBC denied appearances to organised labour representatives. Workers renamed the BBC in response as the "British Falsehood Corporation".

This hidden in plain sight bias has long been documented by the fine work of Media Lens. They have presided over a decades worth of ceaseless mainstream/corporate media vigilance, documenting clear trends in bias by scouring vast databases of media output. The bias is firmly to the establishment, of whom a principle culprit is the BBC. In short the BBC of today demonstrates a systematic penchant for parroting, or providing platforms for, the views of pro military interventionists, economic Neoliberals and the unholy trinity of UK party politics. Despite these entities and ideologies being responsible for economic and military extremism that has lead to disastrous foreign escapades and global financial meltdowns, they still provide the bulk of the BBC's primary source material. This was notable during the financial crisis, where the BBC in a perverse and sick twist depended heavily on the city culprits themselves as sources. Cardiff's research shows how they were gifted near saturation exposure by the BBC to exonerate themselves of responsibility.

Additionally, let's take the Iraq war, where former Director General Greg Dyke had the audacity to criticise the pro war bias of the American media. Yet under his own watch - according to both the University of Cardiff and research by Media Tennor - the BBC's war coverage consisted of just 2% anti war voices. This was the single worst performance of any news organisation in the Western Media, where pro war voices outnumbered the antis by a ratio of roughly 10 to 1. The fact that the majority of the British public rejected the war did not reflect in coverage. The BBC's abysmal performance amounted to a psychological crime perpetrated against the very public who fund the institution. Yet this should not surprise anyone. During the Falkland's war the BBC stated in leaked minutes that coverage would be concerned, "primarily with government statements of policy" and that impartial coverage was considered "an unnecessary irritation".

"The BBC is left wing" idea then, is an absurd fantasy with no empirical basis. Those who continue to bleat the claim in Conservative Future blogs seem to suffer from uber dog syndrome; the belief that no matter how obviously the odds are stacked in your favour you cry victim. The BBC in reality is a wolf in sheep's clothing, assuring us of its objectivity whilst acting as a de facto arm of the establishment. The myth of its left wing tendencies is a convenient and self serving smoke screen hiding its true allegiances to establishment power.

"Hard Talk"...hardly

The BBC's shoddy performance was painfully demonstrated again last week on a "Hard Talk" exchange between Glenn Greenwald and BBC journalist Stephen Sackur. The depressing conclusion taken from this laughable interaction is that the BBC is only interested in personally tarnishing the characters of whistleblowers and truth tellers who have conducted brave and substantive journalistic endeavours (often at great personal risk) yet managing to ignore the damning evidence they brought forth exposing establishment duplicity . When conducting this faux grilling session playing devils advocate, the BBC's convenient fall back position is always to credulously repeat the views of the government as though they were handed down on gleaming truth tablets by god himself. Taking to its extreme this kind of servility once lead a BBC journalist to honestly suggest during a live interview that a disabled protestor, Jody McIntyre, with Cerebral Palsy who was violently pulled from his wheelchair by police posed a threat to them.

Greenwald and Snowden have exposed incursions in to civilian privacy and illuminated vast government surveillance programmes that make a mockery of the comparably petty undertakings of the Soviet Stasi. Yet despite this the BBC chooses to ignore the revelations and play the man instead of the ball. Hard Talk seems only to be hard on the rare dissenting voices it permits precious airtime, yet painfully soft on those wielding power recklessly, even criminally, with complete impunity and unaccountability.

At times during the interview Sackur seemed almost emotional in his defence of western intelligence agencies. He was shocked by Greenwald's crazy suggestion that - god forbid! - governments and intelligence agencies routinely lie to the public:

"You are saying something so explosive I have to challenge you. You are saying that the most senior intelligence officials on both sides of the atlantic engage in routine and systematic lying. What is your evidence?!"

Well, duh....

According to a sly barb by Sackur, Greenwald was on a "crusade". This is a classic smear tactic that informs viewers that the person bringing forth damaging information is a fanatic, or motivated by personal aggrandisement and shouldn't be trusted. As Sackur later commented of Greenwald smugly, "...he's not afflicted with low self-esteem".

Objectively this was an astonishing performance from a senior BBC journalist in the post Iraq age, but seems a mundane and normalised occurrence. This from the very BBC who showed an unsurpassed credulity to the pro war case (lies) peddled by intelligence agencies and governments (who lied). Yet, incredibly, Sackur dismissed these documented mega lies that lead to the deaths of over a million people as though they were a boring cliche, "I'm sorry...that is not evidence" he remonstrated.

Yet in the ultimate twist of irony and without any provable evidence of his own, Sackur happily repeated intelligence officials slurs against Greenwald and Snowden - as though automatically worthy of credibility - and threw at them the favoured National Security establishment cliche; that their disclosures had emboldened terrorists and placed public safety at risk, fear tactics at their most cynical.

Greenwalds final retort to Sackur was epic, as devastating as the Zidane headbutt at the 2006 World Cup Final:

"we aren't the kind of journalists that go around repeating what the government says and demanding that everyone except it as true without evidence, we're the kind of journalists that believe the way you hold power accountable is by reporting what the truth actually is"

This is a lesson that Sackur and the BBC seem to have forgotten, if they ever knew it at all. As the BBC's founder, Lord Reith, once wrote candidly in his diary describing the governments relationship with the BBC,

"They know they can trust us not to be really impartial."

This "trust" seems to live on. It is unsurprising then that Greenwald would later say of his BBC Hard Talk experience, "I've not encountered any media outlet as devoted to loyally & uncritically amplifying govt claims in this story as the BBC".


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