Anyone who lived through last year’s Independence Referendum will be aware of just how much the British Broadcasting Corporation contributed to retaining the British Union. I know, we shouldn’t be surprised: the clue, after all, is in the name.
Night after night, scare-stories based on unsubstantiated claims were reported as fact, just so long as they were anti-independence. Stories asserting the benefits to Scots of re-taking the power to govern their own country were usually not reported. Those that did make it into news bulletins were often so misreported they became yet more scare-stories warning of the certain cataclysm that would befall Scotland if the country voted to take control of its own affairs.
Of course, the BBC denies it was and remains biased. The broadcaster claims it is impartial.
This is not a case of the BBC being in denial: those in positions of editorial control know the corporation’s news and current affairs output is not impartial. They know the BBC is biased. Quite simply, the denial is issued because the charter of the publicly-funded broadcaster demands impartiality, and because those in the ivory tower of Broadcasting House just don’t care what the public think. It is Westminster politicians who decide whether or not to renew the BBC’s charter: the public just picks-up the bill.
Last month’s UK Election saw the political tectonic plates shift by epic proportions in Scotland. No fewer than 56 of the country’s 59 MPs now represent the Scottish National Party. The result means the SNP is now the third-largest group of MPs in the House of Commons.
The SNP is also the UK’s third-largest political party in terms of membership.
However, the BBC does not seem to have noticed the seismic change in not just Scottish, but UK politics.
Actually, that isn’t true. Of course the BBC has noticed the rise of the SNP; they just choose to ignore it, as much as possible.
Yet again on last Thursday’s edition of the broadcaster’s flagship political programme, Question Time, there was no representative from the SNP, while a fringe party, the Liberal Democrats, with just 8 MPs across the whole of the UK, were featured on the panel.
Also there was a member of the Labour Party, which has one MP in Scotland; a Tory, another party with one MP in Scotland; a former director of a right-wing think-tank formed by Margaret Thatcher; and a freelance journalist who writes a column for the Daily Mirror, a newspaper that sells just 15,000 copies a day in Scotland (by comparison the Daily Record sells 195,000 and the Sun 232,000).
No-one was giving a Scottish perspective to the issues raised by the Question Time audience. No-one was giving the view of the third-largest group of MPs in the House of Commons.
Actually, I didn’t watch the whole of Question Time. It’s becoming a regular occurrence with me and the show. I begin watching it, quickly find myself shouting at the telly in response to contributions from panellists, and then have to turn over the channel when politicians start blatantly lying.
I’ve gone onto the BBC iplayer to check how far into the most recent programme I got before the lies were too much – it was 11 minutes.
A member of the audience addressed a question to the Tory representative, Justine Greening MP, the Minister for International Development. The woman in the audience explained her friend suffers from Myotonic Dystrophe, a disease affecting muscles, the heart, eyes and speech. The desperately ill woman is just 34-years-old.
Ms Greening was asked, “How can you justify what the Tories are doing to her and everyone like her who is disabled? Your government has taken so much money away from our local council that her carers can’t visit her for more than a couple of hours a week.”
The Tory Minister replied, “I don’t accept that, and in relation to how we are ensuring that the most vulnerable people in Britain are taken care of...”
At that point, the audience-member’s voice could be heard saying, “You’re not. You’re not taking care of them.”
Justine Greening ignored the woman and continued, “It’s a really important question about how we take care of disabled people in our local communities. But it’s one of the reasons why we are improving social care.”
The camera cut to the woman in the audience, who simply said, “You’re not.”
Justine Greening was lying. She knows the Tory Party has slashed funding for essential services needed by so many people like the young woman with Myotonic Dystrophe. Ms Greening also knows the Tory Government last week announced a further £12billion of cuts to social security budgets, which will impact still further on the most vulnerable members of society.
The Tory Minister knew she was lying when she said, “we are improving social care”, but she said it anyway.
The BBC regularly misrepresents the truth or simply does not report it. Members of the UK Government, appearing on BBC programmes, simply lie about the effect of Westminster’s social and economic policies. The third-largest political party in the House of Commons and in terms of membership – the main party arguing against further austerity at the UK Election - is excluded from the panel on the BBC’s flagship political programme.
Politicians lie and the BBC reports the lies.
This is Britain. It’s not what I want.