There was a lot of mud slung about Jeremy Corbyn’s reluctance to conduct his debate with Theresa May on the BBC. Their pitifully obvious bias alone might have been reason enough to prefer another channel - however given the declining state of the BBC’s political coverage, it’s arguable that they simply aren’t up to the job.
Over the last year, the BBC’s political programming has been so decimated and diluted that it can only be concluded there has been a conscious decision to ‘dumb it down’.
1.The Sunday Politics - hardly merits a mention these days, reduced as it has been to what used to be a small segment of the main show. Now all viewers get is a parochial squib covering regional issues, with barely a glimpse of the full national picture. Almost as if someone didn’t want to encourage us to engage with the wider political landscape....
2. Newsnight – varies from the sublime to the ridiculous, but by and large seems to exist solely as a vehicle to trot out the party line on the selected issues of the day – the Conservative Party, in the main.
Given the amount of slanted opinions and outright untruths passed off as fact, it’s clear that more resources are put into the studio backdrop than into programme quality. And, apparently, on paying actors like the (not) ‘vicar’ Lynn Hayter to pose as unscripted members of the public and say the right thing....
3. This Week – now cancelled, the programme was perhaps intended to be cleverly humorous, but came across as an increasingly patronising platform for its sneeringly smug guests – and has anyone, apart from maybe the Newsnight staff team, EVER used those Portillo,Kendall – or God forbid, Johnson - hashtags?
4. Question Time – the longstanding bias toward right-wing panel members and the proven planting of audience members who are then selected to ask ‘suitable’ questions or put forward the required view has reduced the show to a pitiful shadow of its former self.
5. Marr – the weathervane that is Andrew Marr has abdicated any pretence at impartiality, as is clear in the way he treats his guests; fawning and gentle, as he was with Theresa May and many of her cohorts, or rude and bullying, as illustrated by his recent treatment of Shami Chakrabarti.
6. Last (and most definitely least) Politics Live – the Daily Politics, which whatever your view of its presenters or prejudices, at least gave the impression of being a serious programme, has been replaced by Politics Live – which manifestly does not. The shorter, magazine-style format has seen political discourse descend daily into a lightweight farce of a show which has more in common with Loose Women than any serious commentary. A frankly tacky stage set, regular glitches and a steady stream of ‘noises off’ give it a distinct second-rate feel, and ‘Factcheck Joel’ is only slightly less embarrassing than Peston’s ‘Screeny’. The show is so far removed from intelligent discussion that it doesn’t even merit a listing on the BBC iPLayer’s ‘News’ category – here it isn’t between Political Highlights and Prime Minister's Questions...
And on the subject of iPlayer ‘News’ – apart from the odd one of the programmes listed above (and with the caveat that others can be found by searching the A-Z) the category screen has been transformed into a menu of bite-sized video snippets on everything from Brexit to the Middle East, where the viewing public is comprehensively patronised with titles like ‘Who was to blame for the financial crisis’, ‘What’s the big (Brexit) deal?’, and ‘Yemen – what you need to know’ – this last offering comes in at just 2 minutes, a fifth of the size of an instructive video explaining why we put the clocks back.
The menu of 'The News Explained' programmes on Brexit (which is after all the subject of the much-debated debate) is particularly laughable. A handful of 3 minute slots, effectively the video equivalent of an infographic - and one which actually involves asking members of the public for their opinion, which is just 2 minutes long. Hardly a state of affairs which would commend the channel as a shining example of incisive, thorough news coverage - if, that is, they were not the BBC....
Brexit in under 20 minutes - who knew it was so simple?
Clearly none of these issues can be properly covered in a few minutes, which leads us to believe that in effect, rather than engaging in an informed manner with the issues at hand, the BBC would apparently prefer us to just read the headline and not bother with the actual story.
Even the BBC Parliament channel has been cut, and will now only be shown when Parliament is actually sitting. When we suggested the BBC was restricting public access, the BBC News Press Team insisted that was not the case, pointing out that live coverage would be repeated later, and would also be available on iPlayer. We received no reply to our question asking whether ALL the day’s proceedings would be repeated, or just selected highlights.
Taking all this into account, it's clear that our national broadcaster has become little more than a mouthpiece for the Tory government. It is no longer fit for purpose and any claim it might make of 'impartiality' is laughable.