Many people argue that attacking the BBC is disingenuous. Indeed, as a national broadcaster and also the world’s most trusted news organisation, it really does hold a significant and unique position in British society. So, with this in mind, how has it failed us so badly, in our time of need?
We need not look further than when BBC 2’s Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark interviewed Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie on Friday night. She began by asking questions on a variety of topics including the complicity of Facebook in allowing CA to harvest data from millions of users and then use such data to target voters in elections, including the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election and the Brexit vote. They then moved to discuss the recent ruling from the Electoral Commission which declared that Vote Leave had broken electoral law. Yet, despite the insurmountable evidence, Kirsty Wark dismissed Chris Wylie 5 times, claiming that rulings are just ‘allegations’, adding: ‘we couldn’t prove that this data misuse actually swung elections.’ In an attempt to rebuke, Chris Wylie responded: ‘Vote Leave have been found to have broken the law’, ‘these aren’t allegations and every time I come on the BBC I get told these are just allegations.’
If this doesn’t concern you, it should. Undoubtedly – as I have said before – the BBC is a key mechanism in holding the government to account. What’s more, as a public service broadcaster, it also has a duty to the public to uncover scandals such as this. But when Kirsty Wark merely states that “we can’t prove the effect that such data misuse has had on elections”, it suggests that the BBC has lost its investigate drive. Similarly, as news leaked that Vote Leave was going to be found guilty of breaking the law, Laura Kuenssberg cast doubt by writing the following piece. In took her just under 4 lines to quote a criticism and 5 lines to write about how it was being rebuked by prominent Brexiteers. This sets a dangerous precedent, I understand the BBC must find a balance on how it reports on breaking news, giving views that represent its entire audience, but she is the political editor of the BBC, and the article she wrote undermined a critical institution in a British democracy that is slowly crumbling.
With the BBC’s style in serious doubt, it seems that Channel 4 has adopted the responsibility of demanding difficult answers to the difficult questions that this country so desperately craves. For example, it broke the news on Cambridge Analytica having conducted months of undercover evidence gathering and seems to be asking the hard-hitting questions. Take for example the recent news about Aaron Banks, it’s been reported that he was seeking to gain investment for his failing diamond mine from Russian businessmen as early as 2015. At this moment in time, despite the various allegations, there is no link between Russian money funding the Brexit vote through an intermediary. It is, however, suspicious that a man who’s diamond mines have failed and are bankrupt in South Africa, was the largest donor to the Vote Leave campaign. Again, the BBC which has a responsibility to investigate such matters has failed. As one of the largest broadcasters, it invests vast sums of public money into journalism, but where’s our return? With this in mind, you’d be surprised at the work Channel 4 do. When you consider that their total revenue was in 2017 £970 Million in 2017, in comparison to the BBC where revenue in was over £5 Billion, we are treated to far more in-depth expose
My view? In struggling to provide a balance to cater to a deeply divided country, the BBC has lost factual objectivity. Facts are now debated on the BBC, in a way they shouldn’t be, in ‘simplistic’ terms. As flippant as it may sound, if my house is green, no impartial news programme should then invite two guests and allow one of them to tell viewers that it’s actually red. Although it may be a lighter/darker shade, it can still be classified as red. What’s worse is that in recent times, views often go unchallenged, no-one properly interrogates wild, inaccurate, and improper statements.
A recent report on BBC bias concluded that a pro-Brexit bias exists within the organisation, it would be unfair to judge an organisation based solely on this. The BBC has a duty to the people to change, but it ’s running out of time. The problems lie in the way guests are interviewed, the lack of preparation from presenters, its crumbling accountability. We should be careful what we wish for, but we should wish for much better.