We must learn from what happened over Brexit when, for over a decade, the Brexiteers worked hard at getting more of the public on their side. We assumed that they so distorted the truth that people would see through them, but they did not, mainly because they spoke to people’s basic emotions.
We have seen the bias in comments about Dominic Cummings’ appearance before the select committee on 27th May, slanting it to the first Covid wave and Dominic’s own lack of credibility, rather than focussing properly on what actually happened, especially in subsequent events. Before that ‘interview’ I wrote a letter to my local paper and it was published on 26th May:
The most worrying result of Martin Bashir’s method of getting the interview with Princess Diana is the lift it gives to this Conservative government and enemies of the BBC. The previous staff at the BBC failed to investigate properly and Martin was also wrong to use deception to get the interview. On the other hand, In the previous year Prince Charles had done an interview admitting his adultery and Princess Diana was itching for an interview having previously tried to get one with the Daily Telegraph. Then after the famous interview she stated she had firmly agreed to it and had no regrets.
Martin Bashir broke the BBC’s own guidelines and the BBC has changed its governance structure twice since then. So there is no reason to radically alter its status or reduce support as a national independent broadcaster.
The public need to be more aware of the huge campaign going on by Boris Johnson and many Conservatives to increase the already right-wing influence of so much of our media. They are using Royalty as one of their means to achieve this. The new Chair, Director-General and a senior Board member are all rich donors to the Conservative Party, two new media channels are being set up by right wing wealthy people and the PM wants Paul Dacre, extreme right-winger of the Daily Mail, to be head of Ofcom, the media regulator. They are embedding a one-party culture.
This trend took off when Brexiteers accused the BBC of bias; that was nonsense, because they always presented both views and gave huge airtime to Nigel Farage. In fact they did not do enough to allow Remainers to challenge what Brexiteers were saying. The PM complains about Bashir’s deception, yet he himself was sacked from the Times newspaper over allegations he fabricated quotes, lied to the people during the Brexit campaign and has continued to deceive on major issues such as test and trace and new border rules.
Perhaps the most important institution that needs to change its ways is not the BBC but government, to prevent deception by ministers and better represent the people.
* Nigel Jones is currently secretary of Newcastle under Lyme Liberal Democrats and the Chair of the Liberal Democrat Education Association.