Can we trust the BBC? As its slanted coverage of the Arab Spring is laid bare, how the reputation of the corporation is rotting
You will be pleased to know that the BBC’s coverage of the Arab spring was impartial. I know, because the headline on the BBC website about an inquiry into the matter says so. If you look at the story underneath you will find that this actually means ‘generally impartial’. The coverage could also have done with ‘greater breadth and context.’
After that the BBC website’s tale about the inquiry goes on about how courageous and remarkable the BBC reporting was, and so on.
I got stuck on that difference between ‘impartial’ and ‘generally impartial’. If you think about it for a minute, you will realise that ‘generally impartial’ means ‘sometimes not impartial’, or, to put it more bluntly, ‘not impartial’.
The meaning of ‘impartial’ and ‘context’ and one or two other interesting little words has a tendency to go in and out of focus at the BBC these days.
It is not as if the analysis of the BBC’s coverage of the first months of upheaval in the Middle East was carried out by some vicious right-wing bigot, determined to do down the Corporation and probably in the pay of Rupert Murdoch. It was commissioned by the BBC Trust, and led by Edward Mortimer, a former Financial Times leader writer and UN communications chief who is not famous for wanting to upset apple carts.
You have to be careful about these things, of course. People have for years criticised the BBC over its reluctance to use the word ‘terrorist’ to describe those who use indiscriminate and deadly violence against ordinary people in order to achieve political aims.