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Saturday 17 September 2011

Mail Student Endorsement

An attack on the BBC by the obedient hackery of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre is not in itself exceptional. But the level of desperation to which the Daily Mail has descended is truly exceptional, although readers may not have been intended to follow the links provided by Simon Richards in yesterday’s piece, titled predictably “The BBC – Biased, Bloated, Complacent”.

This is classic Mail attack stuff, kicking off with a quote attributed to MP John Whittingdale: “what drives the BBC first and foremost is not a mission to educate, inform and entertain, but a ruthless determination to hang on to the TV licence fee at all costs”. Unsurprisingly, finding a cite for this quote is not easy, because Richards just made it up. Yes, Whittingdale didn’t say that.

But this is a mere taster for the main event: Richards is commending a report by The Freedom Association, or TFA (that’s freedom for those well enough off to enjoy it) criticising the Beeb. The report, titled Free The Airwaves, was written by Tom Waters. Who he? Here we find the first priceless nugget of information: Waters is an undergraduate – yes, the report was written by a student.

And there’s more: Waters wrote his report while working as an intern for TFA during the summer. So we’re being presented with a student’s summer project, which is commended to us as an authoritative and serious work. So what of the subject matter? Sadly, the report is peppered with pejorative language: at the outset, it calls the Licence Fee “cruel and unusual”. Like some kind of punishment.

Otherwise, claims of bias – “left-wing ... pro-Europe, anti-Israel ... pro-global warming” are trotted out, reinforced by such reliably impartial figures as, er, Daniel Hannan, who just happens to sit on the TFA committee. Equally reliable citations come from the Mail and Telegraph. The BBC is held to be too close to Government, an assertion not run past Alastair Campbell.

There is a suggestion – but no assertion, of course – that the Beeb is somehow anti-democratic. Polls asking questions about all broadcasters are then cited as reflecting only on the BBC. The Corporation is accused of waste, but little research of any kind is cited: the report relies entirely on selective and anecdotal evidence, and of course trowels on the “cost of talent”.

All in all, this gives every indication of being knocking copy written to order. Moreover, the quoting of MP John Whittingdale is no coincidence, given that he also sits on the TFA committee. And TFA’s director? Step forward Simon Richards! Yes, the Dacre press is giving free advertising space to another Astroturf lobby group.

No change there, then.

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