The BBC has long committed to delivering impartiality to licence-fee payers. But it’s currently failing to do so. And its crisis over reporting on Donald Trump’s racism highlights everything that’s wrong with the public broadcaster today.
‘Impartial’ in all the wrong places
As comedian Shappi Khorsandi wrote on 27 September:
The BBC has decided that [BBC Breakfast presenter] Naga Munchetty “breached” its guidelines for pointing out that Donald Trump was being racist when he said things which were racist.
She also stressed:
this is an obvious example of the corporation stifling people of colour.
The BBC explained that it had “partially upheld the complaint against” Munchetty because she had commented “directly and critically on the possible motive for, and potential consequences of, the president’s conduct”. This, it said, “went beyond what the Guidelines allow for under these circumstances”. Below is part of the discussion in question.
— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) July 17, 2019
Most hypocritically, however, the BBC added that “audiences should not be able to tell” what its journalists’ opinions were “on matters of public policy”. This will come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the broadcaster’s coverage of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his party in recent years. And it certainly seems odd that the BBC would fail to crack down on this obvious bias while seeking to be neutral on a topic as serious and dangerous as racism.
— Paul Bernal (@PaulbernalUK) September 27, 2019
BBC have just released a further statement on why Naga was disciplined
Apparently..the audience.. "shouldn't be able to tell the presenters opinion on any politician or matter of public policy"
Have they never seen Emily Maitliss discussing Corbyn?🤔
— Coolagorna (@trueclausefour) September 26, 2019
Presenters the BBC allows to share their opinion on racism:
Andrew Neil ✅
Kirsty Wark ✅
Fiona Bruce ✅
Emily Maitlis ✅
Laura Kuenssberg ✅
Naga Munchetty ❌
Spot the difference. https://t.co/y4z70tKnQF
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza (@TheMendozaWoman) September 27, 2019
Fuck You, BBC. Fuck you.
You’ve spent 4 years claiming on your every political programme that anti-racist Jeremy Corbyn is a racist.
Yet when a woman of colour on your staff calls out an *actual* racist, you punish her?!
This is a total disgrace.https://t.co/I7lG8wOrnM
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza (@TheMendozaWoman) September 25, 2019
This crisis for the BBC has now sparked its own Twitter hashtag, and high-profile public figures have slammed the BBC‘s ruling:
Telling people to "go back" to "places from which they came" is racist. Naga Munchetty stated a fact.
She shared experiences of racism she's suffered. That can’t be at odds with any editorial guidelines.
The BBC must explain this astonishing decision.https://t.co/VTtvJRJAgR
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) September 26, 2019
— Diane Abbott (@HackneyAbbott) September 27, 2019
When it comes to racism, there’s no such thing as ‘impartiality’ – an open letter to the BBC | Afua Hirsch, Lenny Henry, Adrian Lester, Krishnan Guru-Murthy and 40 others https://t.co/mZBjdcNeL8
— Krishnan Guru-Murthy (@krishgm) September 27, 2019
When one of the largest and well-respected broadcasting corporations sends the message that racism should be treated as a subjective opinion, you realise that not only have we not made much progress in race equality but we have actually gone backwards @BBC #IStandWithNaga https://t.co/dvy22DxJM1
— Dr Zubaida Haque (@Zubhaque) September 27, 2019
Naga was asked by her co-presenter to detail her own lived experiences of racism. To ignore that and then punish her is unfair and unjust.
When people speak about racism, the advice is to listen and centre their experiences. Not shift the goalposts on what is deemed 'impartial' https://t.co/9pcifafE8S
— TellMAMAUK (@TellMamaUK) September 26, 2019
In fact, even BBC staff are apparently unhappy with their employer’s decision.
In a sea of propaganda, telling the truth is revolutionary. And the BBC today is far from revolutionary.
The Canary has been documenting BBC bias against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters ever since we launched in 2015. And the pro-establishment stance of the public broadcaster unfortunately continues today. One example was its treatment of Diane Abbott on Question Time earlier this year. The shadow home secretary – Britain’s first ever Black female MP – is the target of massive amounts of abuse from the right (she received around half of all abusive tweets directed at female MPs in the six weeks leading up to the 2017 general election), yet Question Time host Fiona Bruce saw fit to make fun of her in the warm-up to the programme. And as Abbott recently said, “Bruce has yet to apologise”.
Anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu once said that neutrality “in situations of injustice” means choosing “the side of the oppressor”. But the problem with the BBC isn’t just that it has tried to enforce neutral reporting on Trump’s racism – it’s that the political positions of its presenters are all too often clear for everyone to see, and they’re almost always in favour of the political and economic establishment. That’s why the hypocritical treatment of Naga Munchetty highlights everything that’s wrong with the public broadcaster today.
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