British Broadcasting Corporation

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The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the major national public service broadcaster of the United Kingdom. It is the leading broadcaster in the UK and is the largest broadcaster in the world by audience figures.

BBC was given a royal charter in 1927 as a public body; it replaced a private, commercially run British Broadcasting Company, which began in 1922. The royal charter and license, constitute the BBC as a public corporation with a mandate to provide broadcasting as a public service. BBC is funded by an annual license fee levied on the majority of UK residents owning a television set regardless of income. The BBC's monopoly on lasted from 1922 until 1973 and the introduction of commercial radio. It monopolised television from 1936 to 1954, when the Television Act allowed for the establishment of commercial stations financed by spot advertising.

The BBC is criticised for political bias by members of the Conservative Party for particularly liberal ideology, and for being overly politically correct and overly supportive and selective in its coverage of the Labour Party. And likewise those in the Labour Party accuse it of having an inbuilt Conservative bias and being overtly hostile to the working class. Analysts have accused the numerous extremist links to this BBC indicates a possible propaganda media network connection to Al Qaeda. [1] In general, the BBC succeeds in broadcasting material that have offended varying elitists, Conservatives, and Liberals alike.

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Broadcasting

The BBC operates eight national television channels (nine including the High-Definition service- BBC HD)[2] in the UK and ten national radio stations[3]. Alongside these are its regional television services, which are variations of the national services, and separate regional radio stations.

The BBC produces many well-known television programmes, including The Ten O'Clock News, Newsnight, Question Time, Eastenders, Holby City, Casualty, Top Gear, Match of the Day, Have I Got News For You and Doctor Who.

Its best known TV channels in the UK are BBC 1 and BBC 2. The other channels are broadcast as digital-only services and are available to owners of terrestrial digital receiving equipment. BBC 1 typically shows more mainstream programmes while BBC 2 has a reputation for more diversity and special interest content.

Outside the UK the best known service is the BBC World Service radio network which transmits in 33 languages to an estimated 163 million listeners a week[4]. The BBC operates a number of commercially-funded international television channels including BBC World, the international news channel.

Funding

The BBC is a Crown corporation supported by a licensing fee applied to television owners[2] of £135.50 (about $250 ) per year. All owners of TV receiving equipment are obliged to pay the fee whether they watch BBC content or not. As such the license fee is often criticised as being a tax.

BBC programming is free of commercial advertising. However, it has some obligations to transmit statements by political parties and it advertises its own programmes. BBC channels transmitted in the UK are nevertheless free of commercial advertising - with the exception of sporting events, during which it is still permitted to display commercial advertising. Cricket matches were a previous source of contention as adverts projected onto the field of play are only visible to television viewers. This results in much greater non-advertising broadcasting time and uninterrupted broadcast of feature films. However, since the funding is determined by the government, the BBC can be slow to criticise those in power. This arrangement means the government has to do very little to apply pressure on the BBC and often the BBC will self regulate in favour of the government without any formal instruction being given.[3] This in turn leads to the government and the BBC being able to declare independence and neutrality officially, while in reality this is far from the case.

Whilst there is a vocal minority campaign to have the BBC changed into a commercial company, this appears highly unlikely to happen.

Ownership

The BBC is an independent body which is held in trust for the British people. The BBC was most recently given a ten-year royal charter in 2006 that defines its purposes and allows it to act somewhat autonomously, free from commercial and government influence.

Control rests with the 12-person BBC Trust, which replaced the Board of Governors in 2007. Trust members are paid and are appointed by the British prime minister and are supposed to represent the interests of a broad cross-section of the British listening and viewing public. Day-to-day management is handled by the board of management, headed by the director general; its members are appointed by the board of governors.

BBC News

BBC News and Current Affairs is the largest news organisation in the world. It has at least 2,000 journalists and 44 news-gathering bureaus, three in the UK and 41 overseas. [5] It produces some 120 hours of news broadcasts daily.

News programmes are produced for both TV and radio stations. Much of the TV news programming is delivered in a few major news bulletins throughout the day, the most recognised of which is the flagship Ten O'Clock News in the evening on BBC1. On BBC radio, news is delivered in mostly smaller segments on the hour or half hour. However, the Today programme on Radio 4 is broadcast from 7am to 9am and is often considered the most influential news broadcast in the UK.

News produced by the BBC is made available and archived on the BBC news website.

Internet

The BBC has a news and archive website, one of the top twenty most popular English language websites. Like its TV and radio broadcasting it is not allowed to show advertising if the site is viewed from within the UK. This has prompted some criticism from within the BBC as it means funds from the licensing fee used for the website are not available for TV and radio programming. However, some costs of the site are now, since late 2007, offset by advertising to non-UK based visitors to the site.

Competitors have also criticised the BBC website due to its ability to fund itself non-commercially without advertising to the detriment of its commercial competitors such as on-line versions of national newspapers and other news broadcasters such as Sky and ITN.

History

From its inception in 1922, J. C. W. Reith, the first director-general of the BBC, envisioned the organisation as an integral advocate of patriotism and the empire at home.

Second World War

From June 1940 to March 1941, the writer J. B. Priestley (1894-1984), broadcast a widely popular series of Sunday-night radio talks, 'Postscripts to the News.' He became the best known, most gifted, and probably most popular BBC commentator, for he had caught the mood of the British people during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz. His forced departure was controversial and harmful to the BBC. Priestley blamed Prime Minister Churchill's negative reaction to his left-wing views on postwar reconstruction. Actually his firing was mainly due to Ministry of Information and BBC reluctance to allow an extended forum to a 'demagogic' personality who might attract a personal following, as Father Coughlin had done in the United States in the 1930s. The upshot was employment of a wider range of speakers and careful avoidance of controversy.

The BBC played a major role in promoting the British Empire worldwide during The Second World War, 1939-45. The BBC became the voice of Britain, reflecting as well as constructing the nation's history, culture, and tradition. At first the BBC worked aggressively to deflect criticism and insure that the Empire appeared as a source of strength. It presented British imperialism as a benefit to both Britain and the colonised areas. However, as the war progressed and postwar objectives became a concern, the focus of the BBC expanded to include the importance of maintaining Britain as an imperial power.[4]

Special programs were directed to peoples controlled by the Nazis; listening to the short-wave broadcasts was illegal but widespread. The German-language Austrian Service was directed by Patrick Smith, who emphasised the 'separateness' of Austria from Germany and on 'freedom and independence' as the Austrian goal. As victory approached the BBC stressed the need for Austrians themselves to take part in their own liberation. There were interviews with Austrian prisoners of war held in Britain.

Until 1944, broadcasts by the BBC's Hungarian service avoided describing the plight of the Jews in Hungary for fear that it would create an anti-Semitic backlash against one of the few Jewish populations in Europe which, though persecuted, was still allowed to live. Shortly after the Nazi occupation of Hungary in March 1944 the rounding up and deporting of Jews to death camps began. For the next four months, until Hungarian regent Horthy suspended the deportations, the Hungarian service repeatedly broadcast news of the deportation of Jews and urged Hungarians to obstruct, delay, and hinder the deportations in the name of humanity and Hungarian patriotism. Altering BBC Hungarian service policies regarding the Final Solution would perhaps have done little to slow the Holocaust in Hungary.[5] The BBC Home Service rarely mentioned the massacre of Jews for many reasons, including the restraints formally imposed by a government at war, the notions that such reports simply would not be believed (or, being incomprehensible, written off as propaganda) or might spur a latent anti-Semitism, and the fact that people were not interested in gloomy stories but wanted to hear about the war effort.[6]

Cultural Impact

Monopoly years

As the only TV broadcaster until the mid 1950s and only radio broadcaster until the mid 1970s, the BBC had a monopoly hold on British electronic media. As such its content was highly influential.

'Children's Hour', begun in the late 1920s, was intended as a medium for democracy and the production of exemplary citizens through the dissemination of idealised middle-class values. In time, this approach proved to be out of touch with the listening habits and working class context of many 'Children's Hour' listeners.

Music broadcasts for schools were begun in 1924, and did much to disseminate new ideas, especially through 'music and movement' programs and the enormously popular 'Singing Together' during the Second World War. However, the more formal programs, designed to teach the rudiments of music and notation, were less successful, and Sir Walford Davies's idea of tune building by children was abandoned in 1934. Radio's ability to teach music formally appeared severely limited, and serious doubts as to its precise function in relationship to music teachers were constantly voiced and never answered.[7]

Scottish broadcasters forged a unique and specifically Scottish tradition of radio programming in the 1920s, led by the Aberdeen studies of the BBC. However its role was weakened by a policy of centralisation in London after 1932. Radio drama based on collaboration with local theatre companies was especially strong, included much original work, and made a major contribution to the development of professional theatre in Scotland. The centralisation of radio broadcasting in London reflected the shift in the organisation of the British state toward greater involvement in the everyday lives of its citizens during the interwar years.[8]

Competitive years

Since the late 1970s the BBC, while exposed to high volumes and variable quality of competition, has remained popular with the British public and its cultural influence is still a major force. The BBC is considered the default choice by many when viewing major events such as breaking news or state occasions, even though competitors may be broadcasting the same content.

The BBC has had enormous influence over British attitudes to not just politics but also comedy, multiculturalism, travel, natural history, international culture, popular trends, fashion and even the way the British speak. Through its foreign broadcasts on the BBC World Service, it has also had significant cultural influence outside the UK.

Accusations of Bias

The BBC has a long history of being criticised for bias. As well as persistent criticisms of liberal bias, it also receives accusations of cultural bias, regional bias, political correctness, bias towards and against multiculturalism and minority interests, as well as both pro- and anti-government bias.

The BBC is often accused of right-wing bias by those on the left and of left-wing bias by those on the right. This is sometimes attributed to UK governments of either persuasion simply objecting to negative reporting of its policies. However, it is also common for opposition to the government to be critical of the BBC. In some cases, the BBC can be subject to criticism from both sides citing bias in favour of their opposition, as in its reporting of the war in Iraq.

While the BBC had been accused of bias many times in its history, a liberal bias became prevalent during the reign of Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher, likely as a direct result of her government's efforts to streamline the corporation and make it more efficient. Before her reign, the BBC's overall ideology had fluctuated quite often between being pro-Conservative and pro-Liberal, mostly depending on which party was in power.

It is also perhaps noteworthy that, as a public sector organization, the BBC does have features of a socialist institution and it is believed that this may be reflected in some of its broadcast content.[9]

Bias against the US and Israel

Although its charter requires it to be impartial, critics often accuse it of bias against United States and Israel,[10] and because of these complaints of bias, an internal investigation was conducted on the BBC's coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, after the investigation was completed, BBC officials decided to withhold the 20,000-word report of the investigation, compiled in 2004 by senior editorial adviser Malcolm Balen. Steven Sugar, a Jewish critic of the BBC, attempted to get access to the report under the 2000 Freedom of Information Act, but was denied by the High Court of England and Wales. The information commissioner, Richard Thomas, backed the BBC's decision to block access to the report, but the information tribunal ruled on appeal in August, 2006, in favour of Steven Sugar. Still, the BBC argued at the High Court in London that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction over the case, and the High Court ruled in favour of the BBC on April 28, 2007. The BBC maintains that the internal investigation found no deliberate or systematic bias. Conservative MP David Davies commented: "An organisation which is funded partly to scrutinise governments and other institutions in Britain appears to be using tax-payers' money to prevent its customers from finding out how it is operating. That is absolutely indefensible" and called the BBC's actions a "shameful hypocrisy". It has been estimated that the BBC has spent around £200,000 - £300,000 on the case so far.[11] [12]

In 2003, Media Tenor, an independent, Bonn-based research group, conducted a study and found that the BBC’s Middle East coverage was 85 percent negative, 15 percent neutral, and 0 percent positive toward Israel.[13]

During a 2006 internal "impartiality summit", BBC executives said they would happily broadcast an image of a Bible being thrown away, but would not do the same with a Koran.[14] At the summit, the BBC's Washington correspondent Justin Webb also accused the executives of being anti-American, saying they treated the nation with scorn and derision and no moral weight.

On June 15, 2007, BBC drew criticism due to their apology over calling Jerusalem the capital of Israel.[15] The incident is one of many examples of repeated and systematic anti-Israeli bias from the BBC over a number of years.

However, the BBC was also criticised by some for refusing to show a Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Gaza following the fighting in the region in December 2008 - January 2009. [16]

Liberal bias

Details of the BBC's alleged bias were further tabled in an official report[17][18][19] - in preparation since 2005 - which found that the BBC:

  • has an "institutional Left-wing bias" (its 'Play for Today' series in the 1960s/70s was known as the 'Trot Slot')
  • has "a tendency to 'group think' with too many staff inhabiting a shared space and comfort zone."
  • promotes anti-Christian sentiment
  • allows schedules to be "hijacked by special interest groups promoting trendy issues"
  • over-represents homosexuals
  • over-represents ethnic minorities
  • fails to reflect the views of the British public on issues such as capital punishment
  • fails to reflect the broader views of British people
  • fails to reflect concerns about pornography and family-unfriendly broadcasting (1960s Director General Hugh Carleton-Greene notoriously refused ever to meet broadcasting standards campaigner Mary Whitehouse and would commonly refer to her in opprobrious terms)
  • allows itself to be used by "sinister" campaign groups
  • finds it difficult to understand there may be alternative views of the world

Antony Jay, a former producer on Tonight, a nightly BBC current affairs television programme, said the BBC News and Current Affairs are part of the "liberal media consensus". Jay also said his ex-colleagues "were anti-industry, anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit, anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-Empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place, you name it, we were anti it." [20] [21]Paul Dacre, the editor of the British newspaper, the Daily Mail, in his January 2007 Hugh Cudlipp Memorial Lecture, said that "the BBC is, in every corpuscle of its corporate body, against the values of conservatism, with a small 'c', which just happen to be the values held by millions of Britons." He also accused the BBC of being hostile to the "traditional Right, Britain's past and British values, America, Ulster Unionism, Euro-scepticism, capitalism and big business, the countryside, Christianity and family values."

A survey of BBC employees with profiles on the Facebook site showed that 11 times more of them class themselves as "liberal" than "conservative". [22] [23] Its programme Question Time has been accused of a liberal bias by hand picking its audience.

Regional bias

The BBC is based in London, in the South East of England. It often faces accusations of being London-centric, with events in the North of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland having a reduced profile. A perceived disproportionately private school education is often claimed to be illustrated in the output, with a disproportionate emphasis on private school events and sports. Recently, this London emphasis is shifting, with many high profile BBC programs including Doctor Who being produced in Wales[24], and production of some programs and channels being moved to Salford in 2012. [25]


It is also argued that the BBC also systematically discriminates against Scots speakers. Although over 1.5 million[26] people speak it there is no service in the language of those licence fee payers[27][28]. Supporters of the BBC and some linguists argue that the large number of regional dialects of Scots makes it no more viable to programme for the language than it would be with English[29]. In September 2008, the BBC launched BBC Alba, a Gaelic service consisting of a digital TV channel, a radio station and an online portal[30].

Other

BBC employees have changed Wikipedia entries, including a derogatory word in the entry for George W. Bush and changing the word “terrorists” to "freedom fighters". [31]

The BBC cancelled the commission for a 90-minute drama about Britain's youngest surviving Victoria Cross hero because it feared it would alienate members of the audience opposed to the war in Iraq. [32] [33]

The BBC funded a paintballing trip for men later accused of Islamic terrorism and didn't pass on information about the 21/7 bombers to police. [34] [35]

Pauline Neville Jones, who is a member of Britain's Conservative party, a former spy chief and former BBC governor, accused the BBC of "parroting" Al Qaeda propaganda to children. [36] [37]

While it is true that the BBC does display bias, private news institutions are also guilty of leaning liberal or conservative. For instance, a recent Pew survey found that 46% of the stories about Obama on Fox were negative compared to 6% that were positive and the rest neutral. When it came to the liberal leaning news outlet MSNBC, and their coverage of Romney, 71% of their stories were negative compared to 3% positive stories and the rest neutral.[38]

External Links

Bibliography

  • Briggs, Asa, and Peter Burke. A Social History of the Media: From Gutenberg to the Internet (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Briggs Asa. The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom (Oxford University Press, 1961).
    • Briggs Asa. History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Volume I: The Birth of Broadcasting (1995) excerpt and text search
    • Briggs Asa. History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Volume II: The Golden Age of Wireless, (1995)
    • Briggs Asa. History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Volume III: The War of Words (1995) excerpt and text search
    • Briggs Asa. The History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom, Volume IV: Sound & Vision (1979)
    • Briggs Asa. History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom: Volume V: Competition (1995)
  • Crisell, Andrew An Introductory History of British Broadcasting. 2nd ed. London: Routledge. (2002)
  • Nicholas, Siân. The Echo of War: Home Front Propaganda and the Wartime BBC, 1939-45. (1996) 307p.
  • Hickman, Tom. What Did You Do in the War, Auntie? The BBC at War, 1939-45. (1995) 224p.
  • Scannell, Paddy, and Cardiff, David. A Social History of British Broadcasting, Volume One, 1922-1939 (Basil Blackwell, 1991).
  • Smith, Anthony, and Richard Paterson. Television: An International History (1998) excerpt and text search

References

  1. BBC part of 'possible propaganda media network', Telegraphe UK, April 25, 2011
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/info/licencefee/
  3. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200506/ldselect/ldbbc/50/5006.htm
  4. Thomas Hajkowski, "The BBC, the Empire, and the Second World War, 1939-1945," Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 2002 22(2): 135-155
  5. Gabriel Milland, "The BBC Hungarian Service and the Final Solution in Hungary," Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 1998 18(3): 353-373 online in EBSCO
  6. Jeremy D. Harris, "Broadcasting the Massacres: an Analysis of the BBC's Contemporary Coverage of the Holocaust." Yad Vashem Studies 1996 25: 65-98
  7. Gordon Cox, "School Music Broadcasts and the BBC 1924-47," History of Education 1996 25(4): 363-371 online in EBSCO
  8. Adrienne Scullion, "BBC Radio in Scotland, 1923-1939: Devolution, Regionalism and Centralisation." Northern Scotland 1995 15: 63-93
  9. http://biased-bbc.com/2012/04/20/a-socialist-win-is-a-bbc-win/
  10. http://www.bbcwatch.co.uk/index.html
  11. http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,2044130,00.html
  12. http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,2067542,00.html
  13. “Beeb Outdoes Itself”, Tzvi Fleischer, The Review, September 2003, p. 8.
  14. [[1]]
  15. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1181813036973&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
  16. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/4789700/BBC-Trust-chairman-attacks-politicians-over-Gaza-appeal-pressure.html
  17. Revoir, Paul, BBC comes under fire for institutional Left-wing bias Daily Mail June 18, 2007
  18. BBC report finds bias within corporation, Gary Cleland,Telegraph, June 18, 2007.
  19. BBC Report: Network’s Bias Due to 'The Inherent Liberal Culture of its Staff’, Noel Sheppard, NewsBusters, June 17, 2007
  20. Former BBC Producer Explains Why Media Are Liberally Biased, Noel Sheppard, NewsBusters, July 15, 2007
  21. Here is the news (as we want to report it), Telegraph, July 15, 2007
  22. Facebook Provides Fascinating Glimpse Into Society, Media Demographics, Matthew Sheffield, NewsBusters, October 27, 2007
  23. Facebook reveals the BBC as a liberal hotbed, Jane Merrick and Kirsty Walker, Daily Mail, October 27, 2007
  24. http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/arts/map/doctor-who-wales/
  25. http://www.mediacityuk.co.uk/
  26. Language Policy in Scotland and Northern Ireland
  27. Trust the BBC?
  28. BBC NI less than generous
  29. Scottish Dialects and Accents
  30. http://www.bbc.co.uk/alba/
  31. Wikipedia EditGate: BBC Edits, LittleGreenFootballs, August 15, 2007
  32. BBC Cancels TV Movie On Iraq War Hero As 'Too Positive,' Would 'Alienate' War Opponents, Lynn Davidson, NewsBusters, April 11, 2007
  33. Hero's tale is 'too positive' for the BBC, Chris Hastings, Telegraph, July 4, 2007
  34. Paintball for Terrorists? BBC Paid for Islamic Radicals' Amusement, Matthew Sheffield, NewsBusters, December 6, 2007
  35. BBC 'funded paintballing trip for Islamic terrorists and didn't pass on information about 21/7 bombers', Daniel Bates, Daily Mail, December 5, 2007
  36. BBC Still Blaming U.S. for 9/11, Matthew Sheffield, NewsBusters, September 29, 2007
  37. BBC's Newsround fed youngsters Al Qaeda propaganda, claims ex-spy chief, James Chapman , Daily Mail, September 29, 2007
  38. http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/winning_media_campaign_2012

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