The BBC’s racism crisis highlights everything that’s wrong with the public broadcaster today

BBC logo and Naga Munchetty
Ed Sykes

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.

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.

#IStandWithNaga

This crisis for the BBC has now sparked its own Twitter hashtag, and high-profile public figures have slammed the BBC‘s ruling:

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.

Featured image via Tim Loudon and screenshot

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