The BBC has begun its effort to sanitise, downplay and distort the comments by Radio 4 presenter, John Humphrys, in the Radio Times in which he said that BBC coverage of EU and immigration matters has been biased to the left because the corporation is ‘broadly liberal’.
Despite the Humphrys piece being picked up across the media for his observations about liberal bias, you can see in the image on the left that the BBC is instead focusing on his comments about the corporation being ‘over-managed’. Move on, little to see here is the clear message. Humphrys is doing his bit to backtrack by claiming this was in the past and the BBC isn’t like that any more.
To be sure listeners get the message, Radio 4’s Feedback programme, presented by the pathologically smug and condescending Roger Bolton, continued the fightback today by broadcasting an interview with Humphrys (audio below). But what the BBC hadn’t counted on was Humphrys inadvertently making the hole even deeper, with comments about the editors and how they work, which confirms all we have asserted over the years about ‘bias by omission’, where voices that dissent from the BBC worldview are deliberately denied airtime, effectively censoring the counter viewpoint.
The following exchange begins on the You Tube clip at 4 min 21 seconds…
Roger Bolton: But the point surely is this, it’s not what people may feel in the BBC, it’s whether they control those feelings and remain as objective as possible. So to make the claim that the BBC was liberal is to say that its policies and its decision making were liberal, not necessarily that those [unitelligible]
John Humphrys: No, I think it’s to make the claim that the mindset was liberal. So when somebody suggested, might suggest, on this programme or others ‘let’s do so and so’ a particular politician who’s known for his anti European, his sceptical views, people would tend to say ‘mmm a bit bonkers isn’t he? Hmmm well maybe not’. And maybe he wouldn’t then be interviewed. So it wasn’t rampant, I’m not suggesting, I didn’t suggest in that conversation, that Radio Times conversation, that it was rampant, that we were kind of foaming at the mouth pro Europeans, you know, federalists to a man and woman. We weren’t. But there was a mindset that thought that the right approach to Europe should be supportive. So no, of course there was no conspiracy, but it was a mindset, it was an approach. And I think if you do an analysis of our coverage during those years I think that’s the impression you would gain as well.
Then a few minutes later at 7 min 41 seconds as the interview draws to a close, there followed this exchange which illustrates the point perfectly, that the problem of bias which needs addressing is the editors who are able to shape the programmes to reflect whatever point they want to make, be it political or activist…
Roger Bolton: And just finally for the record, has any editor ever told you to go soft on a political interviewee?
John Humphrys: Nope. Nope. Nope.
RB: Has anybody ever told you to go soft on the question of immigration?
RB: Has anybody ever told you to go soft on the question of Europe?
JH: Nope. But that doesn’t prove the point, Roger. Because I don’t edit the programmes, I don’t decide who gets interviewed and that is crucial to it.
The bias problem at the BBC that Humphrys is at pains to tell us is a thing of the past, is still very much alive and all too apparent. But thanks to Humphrys’ candid comments, we now have helpful confirmation that the BBC treats with contempt and frquently excludes from its programmes those who do not share its worldview (unless they are so poor a speaker or utterly disagreeable that they put people off) and that contributor selection is what counts.