Trevor Phillips: BBC ‘digging its own grave’ with its liberal bias

Trevor Phillips. Photo courtesy of Heinrich Böll Stiftung / CC-BY-SA Stephan Röhl / www.boell.de / Wikimedia Commons
Trevor Phillips. Photo courtesy of Heinrich Böll Stiftung / CC-BY-SA Stephan Röhl / www.boell.de / Wikimedia Commons

The BBC was the object of accusations of bias from both sides of the political spectrum during the recent General Election campaign, both the Conservatives and Labour accusing the corporation of political bias against them. Boris has even threatened the BBC with decriminalization of non-payment of the TV licence.

Whilst I am not convinced of the truth of either party’s accusations, I have long held that the BBC — certainly parts of it — are far from impartial, showing both a progressive and sometimes an anti-Christian bias. The BBC, of course, denies this vehemently.

I was interested, therefore, to read Trevor Phillips’ comment piece in the Times (21st December) in which he advised the BBC to stop “digging its own grave” with its liberal bias.

“When a figure such a Trevor Phillips, a staunch supporter of the BBC and former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, comes on and says the BBC is ‘liberal-biassed,’ then it hasn’t got anywhere left to hide.”

Both Rob Liddle in the Times and James Kirkup in the Spectator have highlighted this liberal bias in recent weeks, Liddle describing the BBC as part of a “cultural liberal elite” that is out of touch with the UK public. In September, Libby Purves described the BBC — in spite of much of its broadcasting now coming from Salford — as still being “tone deaf” to the voice of the swathes of England outside of London.

But when a figure such a Trevor Phillips, a staunch supporter of the BBC and former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), comes on and says the BBC is ‘liberal-biassed,’ then it hasn’t got anywhere left to hide.

Curiously enough, Phillips does find the BBC to be at times politically biassed, saying that “it breathes Toryscepticism.” I’m not sure exactly what he means by this, or what programmes he’s been watching or listening to, but he describes this manifesting itself in various “sly digs in its comedies,” as well as in its obsession over particular figures in the Conservative party (Rees-Mogg?).

“By trying to lead the UK public in a ‘progressive’ direction rather than representing UK society as it actually is, the BBC is losing the case for being an institution funded by the licence fee.”

By trying to lead the UK public in a ‘progressive’ direction rather than representing UK society as it actually is, the BBC is, Phillips argues, losing the case for being an institution funded by the licence fee.

My own view, as I mentioned earlier, is that parts of the BBC seem more liberal-biassed than others. Radio 4 on the whole seems to me relatively impartial (in spite of the Conservative party’s current boycott of its flagship Today programme), whereas the BBC News website has (in my humble opinion) become a disgrace, about which I have felt the need to complain to the BBC frequently. Having said that, I did grow tired some time ago of Radio 4’s “woke” 6.30 comedy slot and stop listening. Perhaps it is this kind of thing to which Phillips is referring.

I have always been a staunch supporter of the licence fee until recently. This was because I felt that the BBC offered something unique — intellectually stimulating, educational — which frankly wasn’t available on the commercial channels (TV or radio). The licence fee was the BBC’s guarantee of educational independence.

Its decline over recent years into outright liberal bias has now lost the BBC, in my view, its right to such a funding model. This didn’t happen overnight. For me, the moment I gave up my belief in the licence fee was when somebody alerted me to a pre-Election online Newsbeat article entitled, “General election 2019: ‘Faith is the number one thing influencing my vote’.”

“Could [BBC] Newsbeat not find a Christian anywhere for whom their faith was the most important driver for their voting choice? What is the BBC saying by this? That religious faith isn’t important to Christians in the way it is to a Jew or a Muslim? That issues affecting the Christian vote don’t matter?”

It’s quite a minor issue in the grand scheme, and not something that will be eliciting one of my letters of complaint to the BBC. Nevertheless it was the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back.’ In this article, Newsbeat managed to find two young Jewish people, Josh and Alice, and two young Muslims, Bilal and Aaminah, and asked each of them how their faith affected their voting choice.

Inevitably, of course, some faith groups won’t be represented in this article. But really, could Newsbeat not find a Christian anywhere for whom their faith was the most important driver for their voting choice? What is the BBC saying by this? That religious faith isn’t important to Christians in the way it is to a Jew or a Muslim? That issues affecting the Christian vote don’t matter? No surprise, then, to see no mention here whatsoever of the Labour or Lib Dem manifesto policies on abortion.

I guess Trevor Phillips was referring to people like me — people whom the BBC has alienated over recent years with its persistent bias. Let’s hope that in 2020 the corporation heeds his advice and stops “digging its own grave.”

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