Time and again the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has crossed the line. This time it has hurt the feelings of over a billion people. A repeat offender, its chutzpah knows no bounds. The latest of its musings is about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is the democratically elected leader of the world’s largest democracy called India.
The BBC has released a controversial documentary about Modi. The first episode of the documentary was broadcast in the UK on Tuesday last week. The documentary portrays Modi as a villain who caused violence in the state of Gujarat in 2002. The BBC goes overboard in trying to implicate him with baseless allegations – indifferent to the fact that he is already exonerated by the highest institutions (judiciary and investigating agencies) of the nation which uphold the democratic traditions of India.
This documentary’s release conveniently coincides with India’s election to the G20 presidency, the recent attacks on Hindus in the UK and Australia, and India’s growing importance in the world order. Thus, it serves its objectives of discrediting and discounting the positive role played by India in the emerging world order.
- In December 2010, the BBC panelists made jokes and insensitive comments during a discussion about Tsutomu Yamaguchi
- BBC is of racism and sexism on many occasions. Moira Stuart (55) – the first black female television newsreader – was sacked in April 2007 by the news organisation
- BBC is also known to have played role in toppling regimes
- 2011, Peter Osborne wrote in his Daily Telegraph blog that instead of representing the nation, it [the BBC] has become a vital resource – and sometimes attack weapon
- Journalist Christopher Booker has strongly criticised the BBC for its coverage of
The BBC since its inception is marred by scandals and controversies! Its existence has been rocked by a series of scandals that raises questions about its culture and practices, and its relationship with politicians and public. Manipulating public perception is nothing new for the BBC. It’s a trick used by the UK government and the BBC many times to peddle a particular narrative to suit its interests. All the while making one wonder whether it’s the state that controls the BBC or the other way around.
At the entrance to the BBC’s London headquarters, Broadcasting House, there’s an interesting Latin inscription that refers to broadcasting in the original biblical sense of scattering seed: “And they pray that good seed sown may bring forth good harvest, and that all things foul or hostile to peace may be banished thence, and that the people inclining their ear to whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, may tread the path of virtue and wisdom.”
In the years since those words were inscribed, “things foul or hostile” have proved frustratingly hard to erase. And the BBC has been rocked by several scandals erupting from within its own portals. Charlotte Higgins observed that the BBC “is where the British gather to fight their most vicious culture wars… it has crisis in its bones”. But some fights prove more damaging than others and in most cases self-serving. Interestingly, the nervy BBC has never denied allegations of propagating half-cooked truths and allegations as journalism. Interestingly, the BBC has made no attempt to distance itself from the employees or people who brought shame to it through airing of the content all in the name of free speech.
The first major crisis of the 21st century to hit the BBC concerned the invasion of Iraq by British and American forces and precipitated a bitter falling out with Tony Blair’s government. Many more were to follow.
On 2 November 2012, Newsnight broadcast a news implicating former conservative politician Lord McAlpine of child abuse. McAlpine issued a strong statement denying the accusation. What followed was a lawsuit against the broadcasters who made the allegations. The end result was that Lord McAlpine won a compensation of £185,000 from the BBC and £125,000 from ITV.
In December 2010, the BBC broadcast an episode of its TV quiz show QI in which panelists made jokes and insensitive comments during a discussion about Tsutomu Yamaguchi (Yamaguchi had died only earlier that year), who survived both atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. This incident irritated Japanese viewers and Yamaguchi’s daughter. The Japanese mission lodged a complaint. In January 2011, the BBC issued an apology for “any offence caused” to Japan, recognizing “the sensitivity of the subject matter for Japanese viewers”. In February 2011, Japan retaliated by cancelling the filming of part of BBC’s Planet Word documentary in Japan. The documentary was due to be presented by Stephen Fry, the host of QI. India should take a leaf out of Japan’s playbook in showing the rightful place to the BBC.
Not only this, the BBC has also been accused of racism and sexism on many occasions. There’ve many cases where female presenters have cried foul on being sacked for their age, while male presenters were allowed to continue their jobs.
In March 2010, the BBC was involved in a scandal where it falsely accused the Ethiopian regime of diverting money raised for famine to pay for weapons. The Ethiopian ambassador to the UK Berhanu Kebede called it a “disgrace” and a “ridiculous report” and said the BBC had “destroyed its credibility in Africa” by making such claims. Though the BBC initially stood by its report and claimed to have evidence, it was forced to broadcast a series of apologies in November 2010 as it did not have enough evidence that any money was spent on weapons.
The BBC is also known to have played role in toppling regimes.
Even a ghastly politician like Winston Churchill had antipathy towards the BBC and its attitude. The BBC blocked Churchill off the air for 11 years and silenced his voice during the Munich agreement. In a retaliatory move, Churchill’s government passed the Television Act 1954 that permitted the creation of the first commercial television network in Britain, ITV. Churchill called the behavior of BBC tyrannical and openly claimed that the corporation is “honeycombed with Socialists – probably with Communists”.
Organized and Consistent bias
The Tufton Street-based Centre for Policy Studies (a free market orientated think tank) criticized that the Corporation has a perceived bias against those on the center-right of politics since at least the mid-1980s. Testimonies by past and present employees such as Antony Jay, North American editor Justin Webb, former editor of the Today program Rod Liddle, former correspondent Robin Aitken and Peter Sisson, a former news presenter reinforce this fact.
Former political editor Andrew Marr argued that the liberal bias of the BBC happens because of type of people it employs and so it is cultural, not political. In 2011, Peter Osborne wrote in his Daily Telegraph blog that instead of representing the nation, it [the BBC] has become a vital resource – and sometimes attack weapon – for a narrow, arrogant Left-Liberal elite which is the anti-thesis of ‘free speech’ that the BBC claims to stand for.
Journalist Christopher Booker has strongly criticized the BBC for its coverage of India-related matters. He concludes that the BBC’s efforts to reinforce stereotypes of South Asians has been directly responsible for damaging the image of India and encouraging racist incidents against Indians in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
The height of BBC’s bias came to light in 2008 when it referred to the men who carried out the November 2008 Mumbai attacks as “gunmen” rather than “terrorists”, the term it used to describe the attackers in the UK. To protest the use of the word “gunmen”, journalist M.J. Akbar had refused to take part in a BBC interview after the Mumbai attacks and criticized the BBC’s reportage of the incident.
It is time for us to understand the BBC’s legacy when it comes to airing content based on fiction and its distorted world-view, masquerading as journalism. The BBC will top the list if ever there is a competition for substandard journalism and scandals throughout a broadcaster’s existence. It acts like a deep state whose existence is based on vanity and virtual signaling in post-colonial world, shooting itself in the foot with its agendas in the form of documentaries every now and then.