Monday, 13 August 2007

Confessions of a BBC liberal

[...] We in the BBC were acutely detribalised; we were in a tribal institution, but we were not of it. Nor did we have any geographical tribe; we lived in commuter suburbs, we knew very few of our neighbours and took not the slightest interest in local government. In fact we looked down on it. Councillors were self-important nobodies and mayors were a pompous joke.

We belonged instead to a dispersed “metropolitan media arts graduate” tribe. We met over coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner to reinforce our views on the evils of apartheid, nuclear deterrence, capital punishment, the British Empire, big business, advertising, public relations, the royal family, the defence budget – it’s a wonder we ever got home.

The second factor that shaped our media liberal attitudes was a sense of exclusion. We saw ourselves as part of the intellectual elite, full of ideas about how the country should be run. Being naive in the way institutions actually work, we were convinced that Britain’s problems were the result of the stupidity of the people in charge of the country.

This ignorance of the realities of government and management enabled us to occupy the moral high ground. We saw ourselves as clever people in a stupid world, upright people in a corrupt world, compassionate people in a brutal world, libertarian people in an authoritarian world.

We were not Marxists but accepted a lot of Marxist social analysis. We also had an almost complete ignorance of market economics. That ignorance is still there. Say “Tesco” to a media liberal and the patellar reflex says, “Exploiting African farmers and driving out small shopkeepers.” The achievement of providing the range of goods, the competitive prices, the food quality, the speed of service and the ease of parking that attract millions of shoppers does not register on their radar.

The third factor arises from the nature of mass media. The Tonight programme had a nightly audience of about 8m. It was much easier to keep their attention by telling them they were being deceived or exploited by big institutions than by saying what a good job the government and the banks and the oil companies were doing. Read more

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Revd John P Richardson said...

What this seems to indicate is that in the 1950s and 60s public opinion was shaped by an organisation dominated by rather silly people who thought the country was run by rather stupid people.

Anonymous said...

A fine article, though the attitude that Jay describes is endemic across most media organisations - in the US, for example, about 85% of media people would be Democrat supporters. I'm sure the situation in the UK is comparable, so there is no way broadcasting will reflect the spread of opinion in the nation. The further problem for the UK is that the BBC has a vastly disproportionate hold on public broadcasting as the source for news(contrast print media) and thus on public attitudes, and this through a compulsory tax. No political party has the courage to seize the nettle and propose the abolition of the licence tax ('fee'), and Labour and the Liberals have no interest in doing so. But this is where reform has to lie. The licence tax is an indefensible anachronism in a world of sat TV, internet etc.
B Kelly, Kent