On 17 September, the BBC broadcast an episode of Panorama called Inside No 10: Deal or No Deal? But instead of being a hard-hitting documentary on Theresa May, this was nothing short of a party political broadcast for the Conservative Party. And as people are pointing out, this leads to serious questions about our supposedly neutral and impartial public service broadcaster.
Enter Nick Robinson
Nick Robinson fronted the programme. As people highlighted, Robinson was the perfect choice for a May PR extravaganza:
How lucky is Theresa May!
— The Pileus (@thepileus) September 17, 2018
Writing in the Times, Robinson admits the purpose of May’s team allowing the documentary was for good PR amid the Brexit negotiations and party infighting:
That is the reason I and a team from BBC One’s Panorama were invited “Inside No 10” to make a film which they hope will pull back the curtain just a little on the serious, shy, and, at times, awkward leader they serve.
It didn’t disappoint
While Robinson claims that his past affiliation with the Conservative Party doesn’t affect his work with the BBC, the programme would not have disappointed the Downing Street marketing team:
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) September 17, 2018
Newsround would do a better job than #panorama in holding the Tories to account. As deep as a sheet of graphene.
— Peter Smith (@Redpeter99) September 17, 2018
A party political broadcast?
Many people suggested that the programme was just a party political broadcast:
Dear @BBCPanorama, why are you dressing up a Tory party political broadcast as a serious interview?
— Chris Shaw (@The_ChrisShaw) September 17, 2018
Last week I praised BBC Panorama for the Academies docu. I said it was BBC at its best seeking truth about corruption. Last night on Panorama they reverted back to PR dept for Conservative party.
— Paul Dunn (@VotingRed) September 18, 2018
Other people also wondered what had happened to Panorama‘s hard-hitting investigations:
I always thought #Panorama was the BBC investigative flagship. Fuck me, was I wrong. A demonstration of world class arselicking. This kind of biased television will get the BBC done away with.
— Tom Robins (@mywifeisjoanie) September 17, 2018
Impartial public broadcaster or state propaganda machine?
The programme led people to question the purpose of the BBC:
This #panorama episode wouldn’t look out of place on a tinpot dictatorship state channel. An utter insult to millions of BBC viewers.
— Hicham Yezza (@HichamYezza) September 17, 2018
BBC demonstrating once more that they are the masters of media manipulation, a masterclass in state propaganda. #Panorama
— Angel Cage (@AngelCageBand) September 17, 2018
Others lamented the death of journalism on the BBC:
This has been a soft focus tribute to Theresa May by the @BBCPanorama fan club with particular thanks to Nick
The day impartial critical journalism died at the BBC#Panorama
— Yanto #OurNHS (@Yantofullpelt33) September 17, 2018
If you're British and over 50 it was virtually any weekly documentary series on BBC or ITV:Man Alive, World in Action, Panorama etc.
A lost world of intelligent and objective journalism.
— andy peacock (@AndyPeacock999) September 15, 2018
Compare and contrast
Given the BBC’s supposed neutrality, people had a question for the broadcaster:
Yo @BBC when is your Panorama Special taking place with Jeremy @jeremycorbyn? Will it be a Labour supporter interviewing him, so as to keep things fair? Would you say that you are politically unbiased as a media organisation funded by the taxpayer?
— Francis Hall (@FrancisHall) September 18, 2018
— Wolfie. (@Tpopularfront) September 17, 2018
Although others already had the answer:
TORY BBC EDITORIAL DEPT
We’re running a story on Corbyn for weeks about being a commie spy. Get the graphics dept to mock up a pic of him in Russian red against Kremlin backdrop and wearing a commie hat!
And ask them to get a soft focus filter ready for Theresa May.#Panorama
— Ron Moore MP (@RonMooreMoreRon) September 17, 2018
No ….Corbyn & Labour will only get a Panorama hatchet job, not a free party political broadcast like tonight.
The BBC are determined to keep the Tories in power.
— Vote Labour to save the NHS (@CorbynHope) September 17, 2018
We need to talk about the BBC…
I, along with many other broadcasters, have been asking for an interview with the prime minister for many months. She has proved remarkably reluctant to give one.
But if the PM is “reluctant” to engage with interviewers, the answer is not to give in to her every whim and demand. This was essentially a sycophantic puff piece on a PM who is making a mess of the Brexit negotiations with potentially disastrous consequences. And that’s without mentioning the misery her government is causing through Universal Credit, child poverty, record numbers of homeless people and cuts to essential services.
We need to have a serious conversation about the BBC. Because that Panorama only served as grease for the wheels of the May PR machine. And we should all expect and demand better from our public service broadcaster.
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Featured image via screengrab