It’s long but it’s required reading. The BBC is a viper in our midst, and is ripe for destruction. Paul Dacre has referred to this bias as “cultural marxism” and here Robin Aitken gives chapter and verse.
Daily Mail, London.
What is the loneliest job in Britain? Being a Tory at the BBC
by ROBIN AITKEN -
Working at the BBC can be a strange experience. On occasions during my 25 years as a journalist with the corporation it was jaw-dropping.
In 1984 I returned to BBC Scotland after covering the Tory conference in Brighton. The IRA had come close to assassinating Margaret Thatcher with a bomb and the country was in shock.
Apart, that is, from some of my BBC colleagues. "Pity they missed the bitch," one confided to me.
For three decades I was that rare breed - a Conservative at the BBC. In my time working on programmes such as Today and Breakfast News I couldn't have formed a cricket team from Tory sympathisers.
As one producer put it, you feel almost part of an ethnic minority.
We all know the cliched critique of the BBC: a nest of Lefties promoting a progressive agenda and political correctness.
Depressingly, that cliche is uncomfortably close to the truth: the BBC is biased,and it is a bias that seriously distorts public debate.
In the past 30 years, 'Auntie' has transformed from the staid upholder of the status quo to a champion of progressive causes.
In the process, the ideal at the heart of the corporation - that it should be fair-minded and non-partisan - has all but disappeared.
I suppose none of this should have surprised me. I got a job with BBC Radio Brighton
in 1978 after working in newspapers. I was delighted; I believed I was joining the world's finest broadcasting organisation with a global reputation for integrity.
But by the time I was appointed BBC Scotland's business and economics correspondent in 1981, I had doubts. The BBC in Scotland was deeply antagonistic towards the Conservative Government; our narrative was one of devastating industrial decline and Government heartlessness.
had endless arguments with colleagues.
On one occasion, a producer got so cross with me for defending Mrs Thatcher that we came close to blows. His view, shared by many colleagues, was that her Government's actions were indefensible.
But surely if BBC impartiality meant anything, we would have balanced our story by emphasising the growing banking, oil and electronics industries.
Instead, we constantly lamented the closure of shipyards and fretted about the ailing Ravenscraig steelworks.
By the time I moved to London to work on the Money Programme in 1989, Thatcherite economics could no longer be dismissed: they worked. The Left's bitterness towards Thatcher, however, was undiminished.
The real Britain was recovering, but inside the Money Programme offices it was a gloomy economic winter where every privatisation was doomed and government spending was ruthlessly cut to satisfy wicked monetarists.
Our scripts were as opinionated as any commentary in The Guardian. I argued the case for Thatcherism but was massively outgunned.
I was viewed, I think, as a deluded oddity - more to be pitied than taken too seriously. My face didn't fit and I moved to Breakfast News.
The General Election of 1992 put things into sharp focus. The BBC had privately rejoiced at the downfall of Thatcher in 1990 and there was widespread expectation of a Labour victory. But that optimism was misplaced. Neil Kinnock failed to convince the voters.
On Election night, the atmosphere in the newsroom was one of palpable deflation. A young female producer was in tears. John Major had little opportunity to enjoy his success; within months, Sterling was ejected from the Exchange Rate Mechanism and his Government never recovered.
The BBC mounted a barrage of negative coverage on everything from the NHS to sleaze.
That was coupled with a devotion to the European ideal. I remember arguing with a senior editor about the Maastricht Treaty and saying it was an issue of democracy, not economics. He told me I was mad.
As the 1997 Election approached, the Government was constantly on the defensive and the BBC was often happy to do Labour's Opposition work for it.
Fortunately, I didn't always have to concentrate on domestic politics and did stints in Washington and Russia.
But in 1998 I finally decided to voice my concerns. I was in my 40s, experienced and confident enough to say what I believed.
Also, I had the perfect place to do it. My colleagues had elected me to the BBC Forum, designed to improve communication between management and staff.
At one meeting, director-general John Birt seemed nonplussed when I raised the issue of Left-wing bias.
He asked Jenny Abramsky, a senior news executive, to answer. Her reply was short and dismissive; my fears, she said, were unfounded. I was wrong to raise them.
In 1999 the news was dominated by Nato's war against Serbia. The BBC was supportive, in contrast to its sceptical attitude to the Falklands and the first Gulf wars.
Why the difference? At the time Tony Blair enjoyed uncritical support within the BBC, as did President Bill Clinton.
At a Forum meeting in December 2000, I suggested to Greg Dyke, the new director-general, that there should be an internal inquiry into bias. Dyke, a Labour Party donor and member along with BBC chairman Gavyn Davies, mumbled a muddled reply. As he left the meeting, I overheard him demand angrily of his PA: "Who was that f****r?"
At the end of the meeting a reporter from the BBC staff magazine Ariel asked for more details but warned me that "controversial" topics were often spiked. Sure enough, not a word appeared.
I feared I was becoming one of those obsessives -familiar to all journalists - who write long, fastidiously researched but quite mad letters in green ink.
But I felt my worries needed to be addressed - even at the risk of looking ridiculous.
In 2001 I was hired by Rod Liddle, then editor of Radio 4's Today, to report on politics and economics. With an audience of six million, the programme is arguably the most influential in Britain.
But I soon began noticing bias in the subjects chosen, the people interviewed and the tone of voice.
I wrote to Phil Harding, the BBC's director of editorial policy, using the Macpherson Inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence as an analogy.
If the Metropolitan Police was "institutionally racist", I wrote, the BBC was "institutionally Leftist".
He was reluctant to engage and eventually told me he could devote no more time to my views, while Mark Damazer, deputy head of news, accused me of feeling frustrated about my career progress and attacked me for impugning the integrity of my colleagues.
Both allegations were false; I enjoyed my career and never doubted the integrity of my colleagues - they truly believed they were acting impartially, they just didn't recognise their bias.
'Neutral' for BBC journalists is left of centre for everyone else; everything is seen through the distorting prism of the progressive agenda. As one senior news presenter told me: "Anybody who attacks the Labour Government is always coming from the Left, and the Tories are written off as insane or - if there's the slightest chance of them getting anywhere - evil."
But Damazer wasn't interested in my views.
As I was so "disaffected", he suggested I consider leaving the BBC.
The situation was becoming Kafkaesque. I was trying to get the BBC to be true to its obligations and being treated like a mad dissident. Privately, though, many colleagues agreed I had a point.
As Christmas 2002 approached I decided there was one, final avenue left open to me: the BBC governors. However, I hesitated. I was, after all, an ordinary employee and, frankly, I was nervous of repercussions: I could be risking my career.
Nonetheless, I voiced my concerns.
Alongside specific interviews and programmes I thought demonstrated bias, I recounted the story of Steve Richards and John Kampfner, BBC current affairs presenters who both subsequently became political editor of the New Statesman.
About two months later I received a response.
After discussing my letter with Dyke and Richard Sambrook, then director of news, they concluded I "did not provide conclusive evidence of systematic bias".
I was disappointed. It wasn't just the slightly patronising tone of the reply, but the way my concerns were dismissed on the say-so of a senior BBC executive.
What would the BBC have said if the Metropolitan Police, faced with accusations of racism, had held a brief internal inquiry that concluded that there was no problem?
Bias not only stifles public debate; it is destructive for the corporation, too. Adherence to a left-of-centre agenda brought the BBC to its biggest crisis in decades and one I witnessed at close quarters on Today.
Within the BBC, opinion ran strongly against the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Most staff felt war was unjustified; feelings intensified by their contempt for President George Bush.
On Today we occasionally allowed the case for war to be made, but the prevailing tone was doom-laden. Arguing for a better balance was a thankless task: at one meeting I said our coverage was too anti-war; the editor's response was brusque.
"That's a very dangerous view," Kevin Marsh, who took over as Today's editor in 2002, told me. Dangerous to whom? I wondered.
On 25 May 2003, four days before Andrew Gilligan's infamous report, Today presenter John Humphrys wrote about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the reasons for invading Iraq in a Sunday newspaper.
He said: "You need a very good reason to kill people. Which is why so many were opposed to the war in Iraq in the first place. But eventually most were persuaded, even some MPs who had expressed profound misgivings. The question many of them are asking now is whether they were misled."
Four days later Gilligan conveniently provided the answer on the air, in his report about claims that Iraq could launch WMDs within 45 minutes.
"Actually," he told Humphrys, "the Government probably knew that that 45-minute figure was wrong." The crucial point about the Gilligan saga is that the BBC got into a mess because it wanted to believe the story.
Today and the corporation would have quickly disowned Gilligan's story had it not so perfectly fitted their chosen narrative. In late 2003 the Today programme became obsessed with the 'human rights' of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
At a planning meeting I argued that 'human rights' are contingent and that fanatical Islamists cannot expect to be treated as innocent victims. Afterwards, a BBC trainee confided that she often found herself thinking along similar lines but felt unable to speak up.
It is worth bearing in mind what happens if someone at the BBC breaks ranks.
In 2004, TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk wrote about the Arab people and asked: "What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in their hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors?"
Kilroy-Silk's TV career ended the next week.
In a statement, the BBC's director of television, Jana Bennett, said: "Presenters of this type of programme have a responsibility to uphold the BBC's impartiality. "This does not mean that people who express highly controversial views are not welcome on the BBC, but they cannot be presenters of a news, current affairs or topical discussion programme."
But how consistently is the Gospel according to Bennett adhered to? Are sanctions equally applied to all presenters who express "controversial views"? Consider this passage: "The Pope's approach to AIDS has been outrageous. He has called for a ban on the use of condoms in fighting the disease in Africa...The orders from Rome are verging on the wicked."
A controversial view? Certainly among Britain's four million Catholics. An impartial view? Certainly not. And the writer? John Humphrys in a newspaper column in October 2003.
Another example, from a writer seeking "rational debate" on gay sex without a condom: "The first guy I ever f***** without a condom gave me HIV.' Since I've been HIV-positive, I've had 'unsafe sex' more times than I can remember, often with men whose names I could not tell you now."
Controversial? Yes. Impartial? Hardly. So who is writing here? Nigel Wrench, one of the presenters of Radio 4's PM programme, in The Pink Paper in 2000.
So how was the Jana Bennett test applied in these two instances? It wasn't.
The point is that whether a statement is "controversial" or not depends on your starting point.
What Kilroy-Silk said was controversial, presumably, among Britain's Muslim minority but, decisively, it was controversial within the BBC.
What John Humphrys wrote was not. Nigel Wrench is still one of the senior reporters, and sometime presenter, on PM; his views were, presumably, also judged not to be controversial.
After the Hutton Inquiry in 2004 I decided to take voluntary redundancy from the BBC. It was an amicable parting but I felt I could take my complaints about bias no further. The money I got enabled me to write the book which I hope will start a proper debate about the BBC's impartiality.
There is a solid consensus within the BBC on most issues of private morality and, in many cases, public policy. One presenter described the sense of superiority that working at the BBC confers on its staff.
"It's the whole thing that 'we know best' and it's our responsibility to educate the poor unfortunates beneath us in how things should be."
The way the BBC is run is about to change, with the governors replaced by a BBC Trust. But this is unlikely to deal with bias.
The Government will make appointments to the Trust - it will undoubtedly hire 'reliable' people whose political views mirror its own.
The erstwhile young rebels who changed the BBC in the Sixties and Seventies are now the Establishment, and their views, once so radical, have become an ossified consensus - just like the ones they replaced.
However, there is a big difference: the old Establishment was undermined by media scrutiny; the new Establishment is the media. Who can debunk it?
One answer comes from America, where the Right long complained about liberal bias in the main networks. The Americans, true to form, turned to the free market; Rupert Murdoch's Fox News provides a calculated alternative with a brash, patriotic, unashamedly populist tone.
It is time to give people a choice in Britain.
Perhaps the BBC should divest itself of a small part of its £3 billion a year income for an alternative service. Two per cent of revenues would give a newcomer £60 million a year for a speech-based rival to Radio 4.
The centre-right in Britain needs to be clear-sighted about its situation.
The BBC is a profoundly influential opponent of nearly everything conservatives believe, with the Right forced to accede feebly to the Left-liberal consensus.
If the time comes when British conservatives feel like fighting back, broadcasting policy might not be a bad place to start.
€ Adapted from Can We Trust The BBC? by Robin Aitken, published by Continuum at £14.99. To order your copy with free p&p, call the Review Bookstore on 0870 165 0870