The BBC appears to have gone full North Korea by censoring clothing supportive of Jeremy Corbyn. Viewers accused the broadcaster of attempting to protect the establishment from Corbyn’s unprecedented surge in popularity.
The fresh accusations come just after the BBC blocked people from listening to the hit song Liar Liar on its website. The public service broadcaster also banned the song from its radio airwaves, despite public opinion springboarding the song into the official top 10 chart. The song, by Captain SKA, calls Theresa May out for her consistent lies while in office.
The BBC censored a T-shirt sported by Grace Chatto from the electronic group Clean Bandit. The group was among many artists which recorded a message of solidarity with the victims in Manchester for broadcast during the One Love Manchester tribute concert. The shirt depicts Corbyn’s name above the Nike swoosh logo, which suggests both ‘vote Corbyn’ and the slogan ‘Just Do It’.
Such a use of the Nike logo doesn’t appear to breach broadcasting rules, since it’s “for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche”. But the BBC still blurred it out:
Shocking! Suppressing a no1 single & now a T-shirt! What's going on at BBC?They blurred out Clean Bandits T-shirt on camera last night: pic.twitter.com/9meZKovWLq
— Grassroots Voices (@GrassrootsJC4PM) June 5, 2017
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The broadcaster is now facing widespread accusations of bias.
A spokesperson said:
Our editorial guidelines require us to remain impartial and the UK is currently in an election period, therefore in the context of this programme in order to include Clean Bandit’s message in a montage of well-wishing clips, the t-shirt was blurred.
Others on social media backed the BBC, also arguing that impartiality rules “require” the broadcaster to blur the T-shirt. But there is nothing in Ofcom election rules that requires the broadcaster to censor an independent individual’s clothing. Many viewers feel that impartiality means not actively suppressing a political viewpoint from a member of the public. They argue the intervention is what’s biased, not the musician exercising her freedom of expression.
The T-shirt is not the first time our public service broadcaster has stood accused of political censorship during this election campaign. The BBC has also tried to prevent people from listening to the protest song Liar Liar, by disabling the play button on its website. On top of this, the BBC intervened in the radio top 10 by removing the song from its channels. As Canary Editor-in-Chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza pointed out:
This is a song about living in Britain under a Conservative government. It is as legitimate as The Streets of London or God Save The Queen.
#r4today BBC can't play Liar liar song because "balance" but reads out anti Labour far right Tory rags every hour on the hour.
— Fiona Worthington (@dustybay) May 31, 2017
In the context of institutional BBC bias, people are suspicious. A number of academic studies have shown the BBC to be systemically biased against the politics of Corbyn’s Labour. A major content analysis from Cardiff University revealed that the BBC is pro-business and conservative-leaning in its coverage. No matter which party is in power. Another study on the coup against Corbyn in June 2016 shows similar bias. The BBC gave double the airtime to Corbyn’s critics as to his allies at the start of the coup, according to content analysis by the Media Reform Coalition and Birkbeck, University of London.
The BBC appears to have gone full North Korea with its political censorship. Indeed, if a state broadcaster was blurring out T-shirts and censoring songs in North Korea, the ‘liberal’ UK media would be calling it out. We must do the same with the BBC. Because it looks like the broadcaster is co-opting impartiality rules to serve its editorial agenda.
– Go out and vote on 8 June. And encourage others to do the same.
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