We need to talk about last night’s Panorama. Because it was nothing but PR for Theresa May.

Theresa May
Emily Apple

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:

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:

A party political broadcast?

Many people suggested that the programme was just a party political broadcast:

Other people also wondered what had happened to Panorama‘s hard-hitting investigations:

Impartial public broadcaster or state propaganda machine?

The programme led people to question the purpose of the BBC:

Others lamented the death of journalism on the BBC:

Compare and contrast

Given the BBC’s supposed neutrality, people had a question for the broadcaster:

Although others already had the answer:

We need to talk about the BBC

The BBC is funded by the taxpayer through the licence fee. In return, it’s supposed to provide impartial and unbiased coverage. Robinson writes that:

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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Emily Apple