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Don't Blame the BBC

The BBC isn't becoming less neutral — we're just more political

When the British Broadcasting Corporation boasted the existence of a neutral news organisation, it all seemed a little too good to be true. Despite calls for the ‘truth’ being thrown around more often than ever, the notion of exactly what the ‘truth’ entails has become increasingly complex. When the political wings here at home are obsessed with vilifying the opposition, can ‘neutrality’ still exist in spaces at the crossroads? Or will the BBC succumb to the trending politicisation of news?

Staying true to impartiality is seemingly a more daunting task than we give the BBC credit for. Impartiality requires rigorous research using an already stretched-too-thin budget and short-of-time staffers, who’s jobs rest on their ability to keep their political views out of the public eye. According to BBC regulations, the big names of the BBC are prohibited from displaying political views on social media. This is what landed Gary Lineker in hot water when he criticised the Tory government’s new asylum-seeker policies on Twitter, and subsequently stripped him of his Match of the Day post. The problem is that BBC journalists are seen as extensions of the Corporation themselves, so a proportion of the public will take the political spoutings of Gary Lineker as gospel, believing it impartial truth and not personal opinion. 

At a time where sensationalism and ideology overshadow fact, it seems as if neutral, unbiased journalism is being shunned in favour of political, opinionated pieces that tell one side of a story. We seem to be searching for a winner, a victor we can relate to and rally behind, rather than sifting through exaggerations in order to unearth reality. 

Yet the one organisation that has continuously taken it upon themselves to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth has continuously come under fire for doing just that. The role of the BBC has been one that has historically lain outside the political spectrum. However, both political sides will try to argue that an apolitical stance is un-occupiable. As the left wing grows more left-wing and the right more right, they expect the rest of the political spectrum to shift with it. This is the manipulation of the ‘Overton Window’ – anything lying outside the window is considered politically “outside the box” and/or radical. In shifting the Overton window right, anything proverbially “inside the box” shifts away from its central position, and becomes ever-so-slightly centre-right. As the BBC, despite its many attempts to remain apolitical, is publically considered politically central, refusing to shift to the right results in right wingers accusing it of shifting to the left, and vice-versa. With the BBC being accused of favouring the left by the right-wing, and the right by the leftists, is it in danger of falling through the hole in the middle – occupying a space which too few of us are interested in engaging with?

Being publicly funded adds another pitfall to the road the BBC must traverse. If the BBC relies on public funds in order to operate, then, some would argue, it is well within the rights of the public to demand representative news coverage. The BBC is then stuck in an impossible situation. If neutral, unbiased news coverage lands them in hot water, what can they do? Neither political side of a politically bipartisan country can be satisfied. 

True, the BBC has made its fair share of mistakes. Previous outdated regulations have meant that scandal has wrought the publicly funded corporation; and making the BBC as the people’s enemy has become all too easy with a history of pedophilic accusations involving Jimmy Saville and other more recent failures. It seems the BBC doesn’t really help itself. 

However, we must recognise the BBC for what it tries to be. Unbiased, apolitical journalism is hard to come by and even harder to maintain. The efforts of the BBC must be recognised at a time when everyone is expected to take a side in matters that often don’t – and shouldn’t – involve them. The fight for the truth is as tiresome as it is treacherous. The sheer existence of the BBC as the fulcrum of journalism is something we should be proud of.

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