Urbin Report

Sunday, August 17, 2003

The Weekly Standard on the BBC mess:

"What makes the BBC's behavior particularly heinous," noted Douglas Davis, the London correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, "is the relentless indulgence of its penchant for what might be politely termed 'moral equivalence' at a time when Britain is at war with a brutal enemy and its servicemen are dying on the battlefield." Mark Damazer, the deputy director of BBC News, did nothing to dispel that kind of criticism when he said (in a speech to Media Workers Against the War, no less) that it would be a "mistake" for BBC journalists to use the word "liberate" when referring to areas now under coalition control. Stephen Whittle, the BBC's controller of editorial policy, piled on, telling his journalists to refer to the armed forces as "British troops" and not "our" troops.

Of course, not everyone is certain that the BBC has ever had an "attachment to impartiality and the truth" (the Ministry of Truth in "1984" was partly inspired by George Orwell's wartime experiences working for the BBC). But even many who were previously inclined to show deference to the BBC are now losing that faith: A recent poll found that public confidence in the BBC has fallen by a third in the last nine months, and another poll found that 51 percent of Britons trust TV and radio news less now than they did a year ago. The BBC's current 10-year charter expires at the end of 2006, and a number of MPs are hinting that the terms of the charter will be significantly revised. A few radicals have even raised the idea of full privatization.

In April, columnist Barbara Amiel joked in the Telegraph that "About the only thing in Saddam's favor was that you could get the death penalty for listening to the BBC." Ironically, it just might be the BBC's desire to prevent the death of Saddam's regime that results in the mighty Corporation's own downfall.