Saturday, October 06, 2018

Robert Peston's criticism of BBC journalism is well founded

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I am slow to join attacks on the BBC out of a certain conservatism - it is part of the fabric of British life that I grew up with - and because it is likely that replaced it would be less good.

But I am not a fan of its news and current affairs crisis these days.

There is too much emphasis on star presenters and not enough on specialist correspondents - call it Humphrysism. There is too much emphasis on generating heat and not enough on casting light - Cliff Michelmore was right about Question Time.

Above all, there seems to be a lack of basic journalism.

Robert Peston, as reported in the Guardian, put it well at the Cheltenham Literature Festival:
He was asked whether the BBC could be blamed for Brexit. He laughed at the suggestion but went on to criticise its coverage. “The problem with the BBC, during the campaign, it put people on with diametrically opposed views and didn’t give their viewers and listeners any help in assessing which one was the loony and which one was the genius,” he said. 
“I do think that they went through a period of just not being confident enough. Impartial journalism is not giving equal airtime to two people one of whom says the world is flat and the other one says the world is round. That is not balanced, impartial journalism.” ... 
He said impartial journalism was about “weighing the evidence and saying on the balance of probabilities … this is the truth. It is the role of a journalist to say, ‘we’ve got these two contradictory arguments, I’m now going to advise all of you which is likely to be closer to the truth.’”
And if this arises from a desire to safeguard the future of the licence fee by not antagonising the right, I fear it will be unsuccessful. The right is still convinced that the BBC is biased against it.

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