Today on Radio 4…

Today on Radio 4…

Stuart Millson briefly forsakes the Third Programme and tunes in to a day of left-leaning bias on BBC Radio 4

Famous for programmes which have become “national treasures” such as The Archers, Desert Island Discs, Any Questions, Today and PM, BBC Radio 4 is conventionally seen as an influence for civilised, open debate, intellectual curiosity and the sort of listening which readers of broadsheet newspapers would regard as their cherished, familiar choice of network.

The BBC in general has long been criticised for left-leaning bias – by Tory backbenchers in rabble-rousing conference speeches and by media-bias vigilantes, who are often able to compare the number of broadcast hours given to (for example) “Remainers”, Labour spokespeople or the heads of “progressive” charities, as opposed to Vote Leave supporters, Christian fundamentalists or climate-change sceptics. However, despite the BBC’s duty to provide impartial political coverage, and Radio 4’s pride in its own editorial integrity, a day’s listening to the network – despite the quality of its programmes – shows how our national broadcaster now reflects the in-built cultural and political prejudices of its leading personnel; confirming, not necessarily a party-political bias, but a predisposition to a liberal-left view of the world which – in this age of resurgent “Corbynism” – could easily be taken for a broadcasters’ version of political activism.

What proof is there for this statement? Perhaps it might be worth returning to the BBC iplayer, and listening again to the news reports and (supposed) “analysis” of Labour’s conference during the PM Programme on the 27th September. Forsaking their usual nit picking and newsgatherers’ cynicism, the presenter and political editor (the usually incisive Norman Smith) seemed almost to reflect, rather than dissect, the new Corbyn-set agenda, which states that Labour occupies a new consensus in British politics: the financial crash of 2008 and the Grenfell Tower disaster having turned the voters against the banks, against institutions and what they are told by politicians etc. Intriguingly – and worryingly – Norman Smith then informed listeners that Corbyn’s aides had even berated him for representing “the old media”, the old ways of doing things and no longer spoke to or for the new generation of voters. Naturally, I could have misread this: so much of the argument is about interpretation, and I, too, have my own in-built bias. But there seemed in Smith’s commentary an acceptance of Labour’s position, a willingness not to argue too much against it – the BBC’s editor choosing to talk about Mr. Corbyn’s electoral “gamble” with an undiluted Socialist message, rather than picking up on the party’s apparent hijacking by the Left.

Assessing Labour’s political shift the next morning on the Today programme, presenter Nick Robinson observed that: “The guys with beards, who used to hand out the leaflets outside the party conference, are now in there leading it.” A true statement, but Robinson seemed almost to soften and sentimentalise the “guys with beards” – failing to observe that many of them are former Trotskyites, and that in so much of the Labour Party now, Marxism has replaced Methodism – often using determined, some might say, ruthless, tactics. During their time in Brighton, some sections of the party were accused of making anti-Israeli, or even anti-Semitic statements – and yet no word of this appeared on the Today coverage. Can you imagine if a Tory conference fringe meeting had harboured such views? The BBC News would be brimming over with condemnation: “the rotten heart of the Tories”, “the racism which lurks just beneath the surface”, “Theresa May must step down!” – not to mention the ensuing Guardian editorials which would ram the message home and discredit the “intolerant” and “out-of-date” Conservatives.

Yet it is not just in its news coverage that we find disproportionate amounts of favouritism or acceptance. During the early part of September, cultural historian and “Guardianista”, Patrick Wright took to the airwaves in a series entitled ‘The English Fix’ devoted to various famous figures from the past – Sir John Betjeman, George Orwell, but also living exponents of Englishness, such as Professor Sir Roger Scruton.

Sir Roger Scruton, by Pete Helme

Wright interviewed Scruton about “why” he thought our country was being encroached upon, and could he (Scruton) offer some real, tangible examples of how or why England was in decline? Sir Roger duly obliged, citing the replacement of English Common Law by EU diktat, and making the point to his interviewer that the many other cultural threats to our country since the end of the Second World War were no less real than the possibility of a physical invasion of the Realm in 1940. The programme, though, began to niggle: why was Patrick Wright given the paid job of asking the questions? Why did Scruton have to account for himself – to explain what, for most of us, is a self-evident truth that much of traditional England, or Britain, has been eroded? Why was Wright not being asked why he thought what he did – why he was content with society as it is today, and why “diversity” or the European Union are seen as innately desirable? The programme would have been much improved by Sir Roger Scruton’s quest to find what makes modern liberals tick. How about a working title for such a series: The liberal fix…?

The reality is that the majority of broadcasters are drawn from a certain metropolitan class. The personnel seem an interchangeable network, speaking the same language, disapproving of the same things (usually Brexit, or Donald Trump), finding “disarray” in the EU withdrawal talks, but “new-found purpose” in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. Such views might not be so difficult to contend with, were they part of a wide-ranging political debate – with right-wingers having as much a crack of the whip as the Patrick Wrights and others. Disappointingly, the national broadcaster – supported by the compulsory TV licence fee and supposedly “belonging to us all” – is now the preserve of the socially-liberal Left. It is an employment service for them, and a wonderful opportunity to influence the outcome of elections and the thoughts of an entire population. Fortunately, the incessant Remain message from the airwaves missed its target in June 2016, proving that we may not hang on the media’s every word. Ironically, Jeremy Corbyn and his followers could just be right: perhaps it is the case that the people have seen through the “old institutions” and no longer trust the mainstream media or politicians? If this is the case, Mr. Corbyn should be as worried as anyone else holding high office in our political system…

STUART MILLSON is QR’s music critic

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11 Responses to Today on Radio 4…

  1. David Ashton says:

    But “Betjeman was a fogey, Orwell a closet fascist, Scruton an embodiment of Utter Evil.”

    The BBC has a down on Christianity (see e.g. Daily Telegraph, October 2, Charles Moore) but an up on homosexuality and porntertainment. The Soft Left provides an opening for the Hard Left. The Race and Equality Acts provide the opening for the “race-gender-class” cultural revolution. There is one god Marx, and The Guardian is his prophet. May is a doomed politically correct robot; Corbyn a spearhead of insurrection. The “Daily Mail” undermines the Royal Family. Children are “mixed infants” in a new sense. Normal white male patriots are designated “Far Right” aka “Nazi”. In less than two generations the BAMEs will be the majority in the former England. Even Peter Hitchens advises young people to escape abroad.

    “The greatest danger [when] race war and class war combine to finish off the white world” (Oswald Spengler, 84 years ago).

    Resistance is useless. OR IS IT?

  2. Stuart Millson says:

    I have to say, I felt very sorry indeed for the PM yesterday – the coughing fit and the appearance of this supposed “prankster” (probably an ideological person with an axe to grind). On the plus side, she showed her determination – and spoke from the heart about bringing the country together, offering a better deal for tenants and people in difficulty. She fought back over the P45 stunt, and gained the first really visceral Tory cheer of the entire proceedings.

    I recall her speech when she took over from David Cameron – telling “those who are struggling” that “we’re on your side” – and confirming her passionate support for the Union and for seeing Brexit through. I feel that the defence of “free markets” was probably a bad move, as although enterprise delivers wealth, people tend to see the free market as a term to describe bankers and city slickers. Instead, Theresa May should have mounted a defence of small businesses and manufacturing. (I was glad that she spoke up for British invention and scientific innovation – but there was nothing about Britain’s artistic virtues and achievements.)

    What I disagreed with was a tendency to follow the “cries of the age” – especially her introduction of an ethnographic audit in relation to the use of public services and agencies. This is, surely for a Conservative, misplaced. The truth is that everyone – whatever their background, be they a white person from the “working class” or someone from a black or Asian community, faces indifference or a “wait your turn” mentality from official bodies and public services.

    Finally, anyone wishing to judge the broadcasting media could do no better than listen again to the interrogation given to Amber Rudd by Radio 4’s Eddie Mair on the PM programme yesterday. The questions from Mr. Mair seemed to seethe – and scythe into the Home Secretary; there was a definite “tone” to his (relentless) line of attack, which later extended to Boris Johnson. A list of mistakes and comments from the Foreign Secretary was recited by Mair – as if the whole interview was an assault on the Government. At times, Amber Rudd seemed wrongfooted by the vehemence of the questioning, often pausing before answering. But she stood her ground reasonably well and replied that she was not going to be drawn down the “Boris vortex”.

  3. David Ashton says:

    I agree about the obtrusive “ethnic” aspects (prison, NHS, stop&search, immigrant welcome &c). She has always been an “equality & diversity” politician. Ditto, Greening, Rudd and Ms Scotsperson. Only Hammond has warned against the coming African invasion, while Bojo has recommend amnesty for illegal immigrants (despite an awareness years ago of the “third world” population explosion), but Hammond’s bright idea of selling Communist China our latest technology is the same old story. Boasts of progress in defence, crime prevention, and teacher & nurse supply are ridiculous.

    However, the speech was not the “COMPLETE DISASTER” as explicitly described by the “unbiased” BBC. She managed very well despite an unfortunate cough. She clearly thought on her feet with an unexpectedly witty response to the P45 stuntman and the cough sweet. The media vilification and the feeding-frenzy over Bojo is partly the desire for constant (and irresponsible) conflict on screen but also knee-jerk sympathy for Labour Party.

  4. David Ashton says:

    Although “ex uno numquam disce omnes” the failure of crime prevention has been terribly highlighted by the horrific experience of my 12 year-old good-looking and cheerful grandson Liam, who was beaten unconscious in an unprovoked “fun” assault four days ago with his head, jaw and eyes given appalling GBH damage. He was nearly three hours in theatre and now has a metal plate in his mouth. We shall see what happens to his assailant.

    The family have been burgled twice in a pleasant area of Derby, as have my brother and sister in law since they moved to Cromer from the Korean Republic of New Malden. Our nearby seaside town was subject to invasion from “Travellers” a few weeks ago with the police literally standing idly with their local chief announcing that we must not “stereotype a whole community”. I presume they are among the those whose “characteristics” are “protected” by the 2010 “Equality” Act, which rules out the “English” as an “ethnic group” as we lack a “racial” dimension even though we are “racists”, but it did include anyone “gender transitioning” for explicit protection against discrimination and “hate”.

    The Land of the Rising Scum. Maybe our criminals need Muslim-style penalties and Chinese-style enforcement, and ironically maybe that’s what our surviving descendants will actually get.

  5. Stuart Millson says:

    “… this other Eden, demi-paradise….”

    • David Ashton says:

      According to Anthony Julius in “Trials of the Diaspora” (2012) the English and their cultural history is preeminently and strongly antisemitic, Shakespeare an influential exponent of the Blood Libel. “Shakespeare’s antisemitic lines aren’t his only hot potatoes” (John Sutherland). “Is Shakespeare racist?” (Gary Taylor, OUP blog, 1o September 2016). Happy breed, throne of kings… fascist filth, surely.

      Never mind. Founder of TV’s “Big Brother”, the supremely “Great and Good” Sir Peter Bazalgette (Observer, 8 October 2017), describes the proposed huge Memorial and Education Centre, confronting Parliament, as an “internationally recognised symbol” that will use “Holocaust stories” against “antisemitism, extremism, Islamophobia, homophobia” and other forms of “prejudice” in society.

      Will the many million victims of Marxism-Leninism, or non-white democides, get much of a mention? The English weren’t involved. So what do you think?

      • David Ashton says:

        Apologies for the grammatical slip in the first sentence.

        A further thought: Caesar divided Gaul into three parts, the Left defines patriotism as racism+xenophobia+NOSTALGIA.

  6. Stuart Millson says:

    Prince Albert conceived his “Albertopolis” – museums, centres of technical excellence and the arts – as a symbol of the goodness of Britain; the vitality and vision of its thinkers and creators; the benevolence of the British Empire – the Empire which built railways – and engineered water and sanitation systems for far-flung cities in tropical countries. (And we must not forget that Joseph Bazalgette did some wonderful work for our own Thames embankment!)

    We now live in an age in which (the “elite”, at least) are trying to create an exact reverse of that Victorian/Edwardian/pre-war and wartime national self-belief and pride. The fact that the ordinary people voted for the independence of their country in June 2016 horrified all the nation-haters of the (illiberal) liberal metropolitan Left. We must be cured of that love for our own country, they proclaim.

    • David Ashton says:

      And St Theresa’s mad mission of the “racism audit” with “nowhere to hide” is her paramount obsession along with forthcoming reinforced thought-crime patrol of the internet.

      “Arise, O England!” AND France, Germany, Sweden, Italy….!

  7. Stuart Millson says:

    This morning’s despatches from South Korea by Radio 4’s Justin Webb saw our presenter delighting in the fact that Donald Trump’s scheduled flight close to the border area with North Korea had to be abandoned due to a fog bank. (It seemed more like a satirical, partisan commentary, than an even-handed report.) The President’s speech was also taken apart by the Today programme’s analysis – the sniffy tone of the report so predictable. And the BBC says that it is a paragon of impartiality…

    I cannot quite decide which broadcast offered more evidence of bias: Mr. Webb’s loaded, slanted anti-Brexit questions on yesterday’s programme – or today’s licence-fee-funded snigger at Donald Trump.

  8. Stuart Millson says:

    At the risk of sounding obsessive – anything that Justin Webb said on Radio 4 yesterday was trumped (forgive the pun) by James Naughtie this morning, in his “review” of a year of the Trump Presidency. There was absolutely nothing positive in the report – not one word, not one tiny concession that anything said or done by President Trump was even halfway to being good. Instead, Trump’s ‘America First’ slogan was – stated Mr. Naughtie – the slogan of “Hitler-supporting isolationists in the 1930s”; and that Trump was dangerously close to siding with the “white supremacists who set off the street violence in Charlottesville”. The White House was also a “revolving door” – the Administration and Presidency beset by dismissals, resignations, scandals etc.

    Thank goodness for the BBC – showing us the error of everyone’s ways, including at the top of the list, the US President (closely followed by Brexit, of course).

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