Some direct questions for the BBC that it’ll never answer.
The revelations of the last couple of weeks, have shone a bright light into some dark corners of the BBC and what’s been exposed, while very disturbing and quite frankly seamy, comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve long entertained doubts on its supposed impartiality, integrity and even its basic journalistic competence. There’s for too long been an air of smug complacency about the whole organisation, buttressed by their idea that everyone just naturally couldn’t help but love it to bits.
This has led to the corrupting mindset that anyone critical of the organisation, was somehow just a reactionary and therefore their criticisms could at best be humoured or at worst, totally discounted. Any person or any organisation, who thinks they’re above criticism, are on that arrogant slippery slope into decadence. They stopped listening to any viewpoint which wasn’t comfortably approving years ago.
The Newsnight team, who put together the exposé of the serial paedophile Jimmy Savile, had multiple sources, and lots of hard evidence. The person who initially authorised it to be broadcast, did a complete change of mind in the space of 24 hours, telling them to spike it. He looks to be gone now but quite frankly, the realistic question has to be, who told him to kill the story and why?
Superficially, their decision could be ascribed to not wanting to damage the reputation of the BBC, for having employed a paedophile as a high-profile star of their light entertainment schedule for decades. I’m sorry but as fuller details of the scandal have came out and more people arrested, the pertinent question has to be; is there a long-standing and institutional acceptance of a sub-culture of paedophilia at the BBC?
A well-researched article by Andrew O’Hagan (H/T Jack Wilder), a link to which is below, paints a shocking picture of predatory sexual deviants, allowed to satisfy their appetites with impunity within the BBC, since nearly the start of television broadcasting by the organisation. What’s more, and contrary to popular assumptions, such individuals tend to aggregate into loose groups, the purpose of which is to swap their victims with other people in the group.
Judging by the number of BBC stars being arrested and charged on suspicion of having sex with underage minors, Savile was far from some solitary aberration. A group like that can only exist in any organisation if the organisation either turns a blind eye to its activities or individuals within the organisation are active participants in the abuse. So was it just a few of the stars like Savile or were members of staff, senior enough to protect the group, involved?
Which one is it BBC?
If it’s the former and the management ignored it, then those people bear the direct responsibility for giving access to, and allowing a serial paedophile to continue blighting the childhoods of young people for decades. If it’s the latter, they should be identified and suffer the full rigour of a criminal trial. Personally, I think there’s a case to answer in law, either way. It all comes down to a cynical betrayal of our society’s most innocent members; the children.
The next scandal was Newsnight actually running a programme, accusing but not actually naming, a right-wing peer as a paedophile. They did so without even bothering to contact him, never mind offering any right of reply. As it turned out, he was wrongly identified by showing a victim of the abuse a photograph of someone else. When the story broke and Lord McAlpine’s picture appeared in the newspapers, the victim, in my view showing admirable courage and integrity, immediately came forward to clear McAlpine’s name. No second sources, no double checking, no verification, not even any semblance of journalistic good practise.
How did McAlpine’s name actually become public? They’d hinted during the programme that the name of the person they were accusing was freely available on social media and, lo and behold, as if by magic, there it was. That was very convenient, wasn’t it?
The question I have is, who originally put it up on the web? Was it a staff member of the BBC or the investigative organisation it used to research the programme?
Lord McAlpine has retained a specialist computer firm, which has captured all electronic instances of his name being connected to the scandal, and I do hope the person who seeded the rumour, is tracked down. That’s actually very doable, despite the common misapprehension that everything is anonymous on the web. While the tracking down might be expensive, any costs incurred would come out of the costs and damages the BBC will shortly be paying McAlpine. There’s a certain justice in shining the light of exposure right back on the cowardly individual, who undertook to trash another individual’s good name anonymously.
But there’s a broader question here. How could they have possibly got it so badly wrong? The answer is they so desperately wanted it to be true, they abandoned any pretense of journalistic professionalism to nail him. McAlpine was awarded a life peerage for services to the construction industry and also for rendering services to the right-wing conservative party. He was a noted confidant of Margaret Thatcher throughout her administrations.
Rich, a tory, a life peer, a Thatcherite; that combination was irresistible, because not only would disgracing him satisfy everyone’s overwhelmingly left-wing sentiments but would also divert the heat away from the growing Savile scandal. Even their sock puppet, the Guardian newspaper, joined in on the trial by twitter and unsubstantiated innuendo. The lynch mob was stoked up by the righteous indignation of journalists like George Manbiot, showing an appalling lack of any sort of journalistic professionalism or even a basic sense of fairness. Whether the BBC will admit it or not, its spin on everything is systemically left of centre, which is why Newsnight went after McAlpine with such reckless abandon.
If McAlpine had been a left-wing peer, would the same flagrant disregard of common decency and his human rights been forthcoming? While that’s a rhetorical question, it cuts straight to the heart of the undoubted political bias of the BBC. And what’s more, it’s being posed by someone whose politics are more left of centre than right.
This week’s scandal, rather unimaginatively christened 28gate, refers to the BBC’s attempts to keep secret the names of 28 attendees at a meeting in 2006, in which it was decided to only present the alarmist side of any debate over global warming. Climate skeptics were from then on to be denied any platform at the BBC. They stonewalled legitimate freedom of information requests by a notably determined blogger, while at the same time assuring people that the decision was made for purely scientific reasons and on the best advice of the highest scientific expertise. They even went to court, spending what by common estimates is well into hundreds of thousand pounds of license payer’s money, and secured a favourable decision from a panel of so-called independent judges, one of whom seems to think that habitually referring to climate realists as deniers, didn’t somehow disqualify them from acting impartially.
In response to that, another blogger, using the Wayback Machine and some classic Italian flair, discovered an orphaned page on the internet, listing all the participants. It turned out that only three of the twenty-eight attendees were actually climate scientists, every one of whom was of the alarmist variety, and the majority were representatives of climate activist organisations like Greenpeace. As I said in a previous article, investigative journalism is alive and well; it’s just moved house to the blogosphere.
Putting it bluntly, we were intentionally misled by BBC spokesmen about the composition of the meeting.
Will the BBC be instituting disciplinary measures against staff who deliberately and blatantly lied to the public? Will any acknowledgement that it ever happened be broadcast?
What has been their response to these unfolding scandals? As usual, a few people in middle management are being thrown to the dogs, and are busy lawyering up. They’ll either get their go quietly money in court or the BBC will cave, and pay them directly. The Director General has resigned, and in grateful recognition of his 55 days in the job, will receive a £1.3 million package.
Enquiries, both internal and external, have kicked off and will of course thoroughly investigate everything. It’s perhaps cynical of me, but after watching the numerous climategate investigations do whitewash after whitewash, I can see the same methods at work. Start several enquiries to make it look like a thorough job. Carefully craft the terms of reference for each one to be sufficiently vague, parachute in a few trusted cronies to not ask the awkward questions and make sure they report far enough down the line, to take the pressure off for the moment. Add into the mix the fact that BBC stars and employees, past and present, are currently being interviewed by police, and could possibly face criminal charges in the future, and the sub judice card has now been shuffled into the coverup game.
Will any of these enquiries acknowledge the deeper problems and recommend measures to effect real cultural change within the BBC? In my opinion, no. A few recommendations will be made and gratefully accepted by a suitably penitent management and things will settle back to normal.
Will any of these hard questions I’ve posed even be addressed, never mind answered? I think not.
Longer term, I cannot see the BBC surviving in its present form for several reasons. Like most other big organisations, which are a part of the mainstream media, it’s losing audiences to the internet. The big driver behind this change from the news angle, is the very real perception that it actively pushes only a left-wing politically correct viewpoint on any major subject. It’s seen as the crusty establishment. People, especially the younger audience and the more enquiring minds, want to hear those dissenting views. They’re only finding them on the internet.
The entertainment offering tends to be outsourced clones of formats developed in other countries, especially America, where the quality of programmes produced by the likes of HBO, guarantee the sort of viewing numbers the BBC used to attract with its own in-house programmes in its long-gone heyday.
The mechanism by which it’s funded, a television tax per household called the TV license, looks to be untenable in the face of the explosion in the number of gadgets which are now capable of displaying a TV programme; smart phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. As internet speeds inevitably increase by orders of magnitude, the viewer will not only have free access to literally thousands of internet TV channels, but those channels will offer the freedom of choice and plurality of viewpoint, which is the real driver behind the internet’s exponential growth.
Nobody, not the consumer, the device manufacturer, the service provider, the content provider or anyone else will tolerate the imposition of a levy, though the BBC in its arrogance, apparently seems to think they have the legal right to do so.
If the BBC really wants to test that blithe proposition that everyone is happy to pay a television tax to them, because they somehow revere the venerable institution, then make it a voluntary rather than a compulsory contribution, and see what happens.
They’d be gone within a year and forgotten within another.
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