BBC

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The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is the world's largest broadcasting corporation by both audience numbers and employees. Founded in 1922 as the British Broadcasting Company, it was nationalised in 1927 and turned into the public-owned, yet independent, corporation which exists today. Producing television and radio programmes for its dozens of television channels and radio stations, it also sells books, CDs and DVDs related to the programmes. The BBC Website and the BBC iPlayer[1] represent two of the UK's biggest online services, providing news and stories and catch-up TV respectively. The BBC is often referred to as "The Beeb" or "Auntie."

It has no commercial breaks; instead, UK residents have to pay a license fee to access its channels. There are only advertisements for merchandise related to the show just broadcast, and, on television, they only appear at the beginning and end of programmes, never in the middle. Contrast this to television 'cross the pond, where it was decided that every kids' programme should be interrupted twice in a half hour in addition to between shows, and is it any wonder people have attention spans lasting shorter than... ooo, shiny!

The BBC's charter states that it must be politically neutral in its broadcasting; it maintains this neutrality by offending Conservative and Labour governments alike (that's a good thing). Over the years, the BBC has been accused of being anti-war, pro-war, left-wing, right-wing, socialist, liberal,[notes 1] and when all else fails, simply wasteful. Previously, it was extremely Anglocentric,[notes 2] although that record has improved.

As with other British television stations, its coverage of the British royal family tends towards the fawning commentary side of journalism, although the odd investigative story may turn up once in a long while. This was somewhat expected, as it was established by a royal charter.

Funding[edit]

BBC Broadcasting House. Any resemblance to Breugel's Tower of Babel is purely coincidental.

The majority of the BBC's funding comes from the television licence fee. In order to legally watch or record live television programmes (by television or computer), including channels other than the BBC, a household is required to own a television licence. As of 2010, that's £145.50 (around $250 USD or 180 euro). Black and white televisions can be licensed for the reduced rate of £49. People over the age of 75 receive a free licence. The second largest source of income is through BBC Worldwide, a profit-based company which sells the BBC's content to overseas audiences.

While surveys have shown that the majority of the public are in favour of the continuation of the television licence, it is not without its controversy. Some conservatives are against a publicly-funded broadcasting service, and all of the private news providers try to gang up and accuse the BBC of... well, anything they can think of. Rupert Murdoch, for example, hates the BBC because he can't get his tentacles around it. There has also been serious criticism in recent years of the way that people are harassed concerning the licence. Broadcaster Noel Edmonds said he would begin boycotting the licence fee in September 2008:[2]

I worked for the BBC for 30 years. When I was there it promoted the licence fee by saying how wonderful it was. But now Auntie's put boxing gloves on. I am not going to have the BBC or any other organisation threatening me. I’ve cancelled my TV licence and they haven't found me.[3]

Many people in remote parts of Scotland haven't paid their licence fees in years, since it is so expensive to retrieve them. In Wales, there have historically been several boycotts due to Welsh language issues. Needless to say, Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish, not to mention the Manx, have all had issues with it.

The BBC also has substantial viewing figures in the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands, where English is widely spoken. Of course, neither the Dutch, nor the Irish in the Republic bother to pay licence fees to the BBC, and that's the problem right there.

Science[edit]

The BBC is usually consistently good with its science news and programming.

BBC Four[edit]

Pretty much all factual programmes on the BBC have now been relegated to BBC Four. The channel also provides extremely "intellectual, esoteric content," and has been parodied frequently, such as on Family Guy where they watch a show called "Condensation."[4]

Wonders[edit]

Since early 2010, the BBC brought science back to its main channel with Wonders of the Solar System, followed by Wonders of the Universe (2011) and Wonders of Life (2012). These were presented by Brian Cox but were criticised for being too "dumbed down." Wonders of the Universe had its soundtrack remixed to sound less intrusive, something that Cox disagreed with, claiming that Wonders... was supposed to be like cinema and not a lecture.

Homeopathy[edit]

Their neutrality requirements would appear to prevent them from speaking directly against homeopathy, though as Brian Cox pointed out in his (televised) Royal Television Society Lecture in 2010, this is not actually the case. In 2002 Horizon put it under a sceptical test featuring James Randi.[5] A Google search for "BBC homeopathy" will also show that their news reporting style can often put down 'homeopathic practitioners' and is generally anti-homeopathy.

Religion[edit]

The BBC is ostensibly neutral about religion, but in practice is careful not to be overly critical.

Its Sunday programming, though, usually has a strongly religious flavour. On TV there is a (usually interesting) panel programme with officials of various faiths (and frequently people of no religious faith) discussing ethics in the morning. In the evening there is the hideously dull Songs of Praise, which has been running for so long that some historians believe it may predate Christianity itself. On Radio 4, the early-morning programme Sunday discusses religious issues and is followed shortly after by The Sunday Service, a usually live broadcast from a church somewhere in the UK. Something Understood which focusses on religious, spiritual and ethical issues[notes 3] is broadcast twice on Sunday; very early in the morning and late at night. Focussing on classical music, Radio 3 will have several broadcast of sacred music; while on Radio 2, the early morning The Sunday Hour features "uplifting spiritual music" and is followed by Good Morning Sunday, described as "the weekly Radio 2 faith show." The yoof-oriented Radio 1 has no discernible religious content, unless playing godawful music counts.

Thought for the Day and Pause for Thought[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Thought for the Day

These are God-slots included in, respectively, Radio 4's flagship current affairs programme Today, and the Breakfast Show on Radio 2. Both are heavy on platitudes and tend to feature quite desperate attempts to piggyback religion onto current events with no discernible religious element. Thought for the Day in particular has attracted a lot of controversy from religious groups, non-religious groups, and various people who aren't that bothered either way about religion and just think the time could be better spent. Oddly, Pause for Thought hasn't attracted anything like as much controversy, despite being included in what is ostensibly a music programme, and having a larger audience to boot.[notes 4] Both slots use a rotation of speakers from various different religions: obviously Christians feature heavily, but Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu also turn up frequently. (Actually, if you listen to Pause for Thought, the sentiments aired are usually so vague and woolly, it's hard to guess which religion, if any, the speaker is from. We're not talking hardcore fundamentalism here.)

Desert Island Discs[edit]

Desert Island Discs is a radio programme aired regularly on Radio 4. The show was conceived and originally hosted by Roy Plomley on 29 January, 1942 and is one of the longest running programmes on radio.

The premise of the show is that a guest is castaway on a desert island and must choose just eight recordings that they would like to listen to during their isolation. The choice of records is interspersed with a review of the castaway's life, the choice of music supposedly telling us something more of their character. At the end of the programme the guest is asked to choose one special recording that they would save should a freak wave happen to wash the collection away. In addition the castaway is asked to select a luxury item (supposedly something of no practical use for survival or escape) and a book. To preempt many people choosing either the Complete Works of Shakespeare or the Bible, and therefore give the programme more interest — these two volumes are presumed to be already present, although the Qu'ran or other holy book may be substituted by those of a non-Christian faith.

However, some non-religious guests have caused controversy by not wishing to take the Bible.

  • Lawyer Michael Mansfield said, "I would like to take another bible: Leith's Vegetarian Bible," but the presenter, Kirsty Young, insisted that he had no choice, he had to have a Bible (and "not one in quotes") or another religious book. He compromised on a philosophical tract: The Rights of Man by Thomas Paine.[6]
  • The comedian David Walliams refused to take the Bible, saying "I don’t want the Bible, I don’t like the Bible."[7]
  • Fellow Little Britain co-star, Jewish-born Matt Lucas, had refused both the Torah and the Bible.[8]
  • David McVicar, the opera director, requested to "leave the Bible behind, I'm not interested in that," but when he discovered that he could substitute it with another religious text chose the Bhagavad Gita.[9]
  • Tariq Ali, the one-time radical, simply declined a religious text.[10]
  • Joe Simpson, the mountaineer and writer, having established his unbelieving credentials earlier in the programme, was "obviously" not offered the Bible but opted to take the Sutras of Gautama Buddha for interest rather than any religious reason.[11]
  • Anna Ford, the broadcaster and journalist, said, "Would it be very rude of me not to take the Bible?"[12]

Trans issues[edit]

The BBC has drawn fire from social media for sharing occasional articles that give virulent transphobes (including the LGB Alliance) undue weight or not providing trans people fair balance.[13][14] One notorious article was titled "We're being pressured into sex by some trans women"Wikipedia[15] which singled out trans people for "pressuring" lesbians to sex and featured Angela C. Wild from the transphobic organization "Get The L Out".[notes 5] The worst component was a contribution from Lily Cade, a notorious figure in the sex worker industry that has multiple abuse allegations. Soon after the article was published, Cade wrote a blog post[notes 6] calling for specific trans people to be lynched. After robust criticism on the article, the BBC withdrew Lily Cade's contribution,[16] though maintained its dedication to neutrality and "hearing all sides". Soon after, Mindgeek scrubbed Cade from their sites, showing that even pornographers who (allegedly) host porn made from sex traffickers[17] think Lily Cade was out of line.

Due to this, there are allegations that the BBC is transphobic, especially given that the United Kingdom has a big transphobia problem in media (see the Guardian based in the UK for example). The BBC, however, does have plenty of stories featuring trans people and their viewpoints and life experiences,[18][19][20][21] so it's more accurate to say they're so committed to neutrality they bend their backs for platforming bigots.

Bias allegations[edit]

The BBC is regularly attacked from both left and right for bias. Often this is dismissed on the basis that if both sides hate them, they must be doing something right. However this section lists some areas of concern.

Right-wing thinktanks[edit]

The BBC has a long history of platforming right-wing thinktanks like the Institute of Economic Affairs, and portraying them as impartial commentators rather than lobbying groups funded by oil and tobacco companies pushing for what are often extreme policies with little public support. There have been repeated complaints from journalists such as George Monbiot and Carole Cadwalladr, but the BBC remains relaxed about explaining who the crazy right-wingers on its news programs are.[22]

Royal family[edit]

The BBC appears staunchly devoted to the British Royal Family. In 1977, the then director general Michael Swann said that "an enormous amount of the BBC’s work was in fact social cement of one sort or another. Royal occasions, religious services, sports coverage, and police series, all reinforced the sense of belonging to our country, being involved in its celebrations, and accepting what it stands for."[23] The organisation Republic, which campaigns for the abolition of the monarchy, said of the BBC's coverage of Elizabeth II's 2022 jubilee:

The jubilee is not a national celebration, it is a carefully staged event to promote the monarchy and the royal brand. The BBC should be stepping back and reporting on what's happening, and why, and they should be reflecting on public opinion, not trying to influence it. Only 11% of the population are 'very interested' in the jubilee according to YouGov, and only 14% are planning to do anything to mark the event. 54% are not interested. Yet if you watch the BBC you'd be forgiven for thinking the whole country is celebrating. The BBC has said as much time and again in their reporting. The BBC website has more than 200 stories about the jubilee, and only one mentions republican opposition.[24]

This approach has cropped up many times since, in events such as Queen Elizabeth II's death in 2022, when the BBC acted less as an impartial commentator on the Royal Family than as a mourner. The BBC's incredibly extensive and over-the-top coverage of the 2021 death of royal consort Prince Philip, which saw them cancelling programs across all channels and replacing them with rolling news, broke records for the most complained about event in the organisation's history, with 110,994 viewers contacting the BBC.[23][25]

Brexit[edit]

Brexit was problematic for the BBC: before the referendum, the BBC was seen as part of a pro-European liberal establishment, while after Brexit it was criticised by supporters of the European Union for being insufficiently critical of the government. One example was the BBC program Question Time, which was criticised as anti-Brexit in a series of studies by right-wing groups such as the Institute of Economic Affairs; however a University of Strathclyde study found that once you consider the BBC's responsibility to give equal space to major political parties (with most of them supporting either the EU or close post-Brexit relationship with the EU), and the fact that many featured people had changed their minds on Brexit (apparently without informing the IEA), there wasn't an anti-Brexit bias on the show.[26][27]

Unionism[edit]

The BBC has been criticised for taking a partisan position in support of the Union and against Scottish independence, although independence supporters have sometimes taken a viciously anti-BBC position out of all proportion for imagined slights. In 2015, as part of the BBC's annual review, the Audience Council Scotland criticised an "Anglified perspective" to BBC coverage, using English-based reporters and commentators with little knoweldge of Scotland, and a failure to represent grass roots activity and wider community views.[28][29] There has also been a lot of far less temperate criticism from the Scottish National Party and other independence campaigners, particularly around the 2014 independence referendum where campaigners gathered outside BBC offices and Scottish first minister Alex Salmond and his then-deputy Nicola Sturgeon argued over whether to protest about the BBC.[30] Independence supporters have also abused and harassed BBC journalists.[31]

Presenters and programmes[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. This extends to being pro-Israel and pro-Palestine at the same time.
  2. The tune "Lillibullero," for example, sometimes used as an interstitial station identifier, had an anti-Irish connotations. See the Wikipedia article on Lillibullero..
  3. That's what they say, but it's mainly religious and spiritual.
  4. But then if you can put up with Chris Evans, you can pretty much put up with anything.
  5. As in, out of "LGBT". They don't like the "GBT" part since they also seem to promote Bisexual erasure, and don't seem too fond of Gay men. If there's ever was a group of deranged misandrist lesbians, this is them.
  6. It reads less like "random blog post" and more like "something you write before telling your friend not to come to school the next day".

References[edit]

  1. BBC iPlayer - Homepage
  2. Edmonds begins TV licence boycott, BBC
  3. "Noel Edmonds may lose title after licence fee boycott", Jessica Salter, Daily Telegraph, 15 September 2008
  4. Condensation-ation-ation...
  5. "Homeopathy: The Test" - programme summary
  6. Desert Island Discs - Michael Mansfield, BBC
  7. Desert Island Discs - David Williams, BBC
  8. Desert Island Discs - Matt Lucas, BBC
  9. Desert Island Discs - David McVicar, BBC
  10. Desert Island Discs - Tariq Ali, BBC
  11. Desert Island Discs - Joe Simpson, BBC
  12. Desert Island Discs - Anna Ford, BBC
  13. Donohoe, K. (February 24, 2021). "BBC defend decision on holding trans healthcare debate with no trans representation". GCN. Accessed November 21, 2021.
  14. Patrick Kelleher (March 18, 2021). "BBC condemned for platforming LGB Alliance in conversion therapy story". PinkNews. Accessed August 3, 2022.
  15. Lowbridge, C. (October 26, 2021). "We're being pressured into sex by some trans women". BBC. Accessed November 21, 2021.
  16. Nolan, E. (November 4, 2021). "BBC Removes Lily Cade Contribution After Transphobic Remarks Spark Outrage". Newsweek. Accessed November 21, 2021.
  17. 40 GirlsDoPorn victims sue Pornhub for hosting “sex trafficking” videos, Ars Technica, December 2020
  18. "The Trans Revolution" (April 3, 2018). BBC Sounds. Accessed November 21, 2021.
  19. "Leo: Becoming a Trans Man". (June 19, 2017). BBC iPlayer. Accessed November 21, 2021.
  20. "Transgender Kids: Documentary. (November 12, 2017). Accessed November 21, 2021.
  21. Baggs, M. (November 20, 2020). Trans Day of Remembrance: 'When one of us is hurt, we all feel it'. BBC. Accessed November 21, 2021.
  22. Rightwing thinktanks run this government. But first, they had to capture the BBC, George Monbiot, The Guardian, 5 October 2022
  23. 23.0 23.1 Mourning sickness, Mic Wright, Broken Bottle Boy, 10 September 2022
  24. BBC slammed for royal bias, Republic press release, 2022
  25. BBC’s Prince Philip coverage breaks UK TV complaints record, The Guardian, 12 April 2021
  26. Was BBC Question Time Balanced or Biased on Brexit?, Heinz Brandenburg and Brian Boyle, University of Strathclyde, UK in a Changing Europe, 27 May 2021
  27. Brexit bias? BBC faces a difficult balancing act in polarised nation, Roy Greenslade, The Guardian, 27 Oct 2019
  28. BBC urged to review Scottish coverage in wake of independence row, The Guardian, 14 June 2015
  29. BBC lacked 'in-depth knowledge during Scottish independence referendum', The Herald (Glasgow), 9 May 2019
  30. Scottish independence: Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon split on Yes supporters' 'BBC bias' protest, The Independent, 16 September 2014
  31. Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon condemns protesters who called BBC reporter ‘traitor’, i News, 17 August 2022