When loving the establishment is a media natural

Accusations of left-wing bias against public broadcasters is a mainstay of the culture wars (witness the latest non-story in Australia over the ABC). Mehdi Hasan, senior political editor of the New Statesman, argues that the BBC is an inherently status-quo enforcing organisation:

The BBC’s bias is thus an Establishment bias, a bias towards power and privilege, tradition and orthodoxy…

How about foreign policy? The BBC is constantly accused of anti-Americanism, but three of its most recent correspondents in Washington – Gavin Esler, Matt Frei and Justin Webb – have all since written books documenting their great love and admiration for the United States. Esler even used the pages of Dacre’s Daily Mail to eulogise Ronald Reagan after the latter’s death, claiming that he “embodied the best of the American spirit”. Can you imagine the reaction on the right to a former BBC Moscow correspondent delivering a similar encomium to Leonid Brezhnev in the pages of the Guardian?

On Iraq, right-wing voices such as the Tory MP Michael Gove have accused the BBC of pushing an anti-war agenda – yet empirical analysis has yielded the opposite conclusion. The non-partisan, Bonn-based research institute Media Tenor found that the BBC gave just 2 per cent of its Iraq coverage to anti-war voices. Another study by Cardiff University concluded that the BBC had “displayed the most pro-war agenda of any [British] broadcaster”.

Text and images ©2023 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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