As UK coronavirus death rates hit Europe’s highest the corporate press insulted us all

An image representing the mainstream media
Steve Topple

One of the overriding features of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in the UK has been the corporate press’s subservience to the Conservative government. And it went into overdrive on Wednesday 6 May as the UK’s death rates from the virus became the highest in Europe.

Coronavirus: deflection mode

As The Canary previously reported, the UK currently has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe – at over 32,000. You’d think that this devastating and damning fact would be front page news. But for many of the UK’s newspapers, it was far from it.

UK political editor of Business Insider Adam Bienkov neatly summed it up:

Yes, many right-wing outlets focused on the resignation of Dr Neil Ferguson as a government adviser. He quit because he broke social distancing rules. While this hypocrisy may well have made Ferguson’s position untenable, it certainly doesn’t warrant the domination the story had across many of the papers. But it did dominate – from the Times and the Telegraph to the Metro and this screaming front page from the Sun:

The Sun's front page

And the BBC also managed to descend several steps further into the abyss of government sycophancy.

The BBC: descending into the abyss

Firstly, every one of BBC News UK‘s tweets about the death rate was constructed with an effective ‘but’. So, the UK has the highest death rate in Europe – ‘but’ the government says our counting is different!

Another ‘but’, now with “experts” thrown in just to reassure us that we shouldn’t panic:

And another, again questioning the notion that the UK has the highest death rates in Europe:

Even the BBC‘s fact checking service BBC Reality Check got in on the act. It said that the “UK overtakes Italy”. Instead, why didn’t it say “the UK now has the highest number of deaths in Europe”?

While the accompanying articles to the tweets drilled down into some detail, the headlines told a different story. And this is our public service broadcaster’s approach to journalism all over.

Low-level propaganda

Many people who use social media could well see these tweets, think that we shouldn’t take the UK having the highest coronavirus death rate in Europe too seriously, and carry on with the rest of their day. It’s this kind of low-level yet manipulative propaganda that the BBC does so well. It doesn’t scream like the Daily Mail. It drops in key government lines to ensure that the majority of people get the right message.

It’s debatable whether you can compare the UK’s and Italy’s death rates. But in this instance, that’s not the point. The BBC was essentially parroting the government’s line, repeatedly. Considering it’s a public service broadcaster, it should have balanced this series of tweets out with some alternative viewpoints. But it didn’t. And in some respects, this makes its conduct worse that the privately-run corporate press.

Trashing democracy

Throughout the pandemic, the BBC‘s news output has done little more than provide cover for the Tory government. Now, it’s propping it up by playing down the extent of the devastation unleashed upon the UK. Couple this with the right-wing press’s ‘gossip column’ front pages and, as musician and activist Lowkey summed up:

The Tories are treating the public with contempt. And our corporate-dominated press is assisting them.

Featured image via pixabay – Geralt

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