Does Nick Robinson not understand the role of a state broadcaster in a democracy?
The BBC faces an unprecedented problem with its credibility as a purveyor of news. So much so that one of the BBC’s senior news presenters, Nick Robinson, has issued a something in response.
Sadly, Robinson’s ill-judged tweet flippancy does not address whether it targeted at the criticism of ‘establishment’ pro Government pro Tory bias from guests on the BBC or from staff at the BBC, especially from senior staff. We’ll presume both, as both represent serious editorial bias.
Robinson used to be the political editor for the BBC, a role currently occupied by the highly criticised Laura Kuenssberg. Kuenssberg was found guilty by the BBC Trust of breaching their rules of impartiality when she edited an interview with the leader of Britain’s opposition to falsely represent his views on an issue related to policing and security.
Sadly, Nick Robinson has confused his job with that of the BBC. Possibly, Robinson has done some of the public a favour. There is the BBC and its role and there are people like Robinson and his fellow presenters and they have a job too.
The BBC’s role, as the single state broadcaster in a democratic country is to provide the people with a balanced political viewpoint and, where appropriate, to hold the government accountable. Much of the criticism of BBC presenters like Robinson and Kuenssberg are actually misdirected criticisms of the BBC. If, from the perspective of the public, Robinson and Kuenssberg are Tory lickspittles well, they may just be doing their job; it is up to the BBC to ensure balance and that is clearly where the BBC has been falling down.
Does it matter if there is political bias at the BBC?
Why is the BBC’s coverage of the news, especially politics, vitally important? The majority of the public presume that the BBC present balanced news. People take for granted that, if it is on the BBC, that it is likely true and, to some degree, impartial. In a way that no other outlet of news has such credibility in Britain, the BBC is the respected voice. It is then the gravest of breaches of trust when, as has happened with BBC News, the outlet becomes an arm of Tory (or government/establishment) propaganda.
The current investigations of #ToryElectionFraud are a case in point. The investigated fraud by the Tories have been reported as ‘mistakes’ by Laura Kuenssberg. The exceptionally serious cases of fraud that are consuming the Tory party have been intentionally downplayed by BBC News, having all but ignored them for over a year. Where Robinson asks, rather patronisingly, for the public to suck it up, I have to wonder if the BBC intentionally attempting to influence public opinion on ongoing criminal investigations isn’t, itself, criminal.
Robinson’s pleas for the public to button it ring a little hollow if senior BBC News staff have sailed too close to the wind and have actually crossed the line from merely saying things some might not want to hear, to the outright lies of Kuenssberg, and potential interference in criminal investigations or attempts to pervert the course of justice for future criminal prosecutions.
I’ll guess the vagueness of Robinson’s tweet holds no answers. It is fairly clear that the corruption of the BBC News, introduced through appointments by David Cameron will have to be addressed. The capability for governments to compromise the BBC News’s integrity will require robust measures in place to resist it in the future.