The great thing about guest columns on the Beeb’s website is that they allow different voices to give their take on the big events of the moment – voices we might not normally hear, such as this piece by [democrat, arch-Obama supporter and] “social commentator” Nancy Giles. So, instead of the usual left-leaning commentary on the significance of Obama’s win on race relations in the US that we’re used to, the Beeb treats us to some full on left-wing commentary on the significance of Obama’s win on race relations in the US. What a fantastic idea!
With the election finally over, let’s take a moment to review the Beeb’s coverage before we move on. This is possibly one for the train spotters, but it’s important not least because of the Beeb’s claim that individual examples of bias aren’t persuasive as they are trying to achieve balance over time. How the Beeb does so is anyone’s guess, as there’s no evidence they monitor it. However, let’s be radical: let’s assume they’re not lying. So let’s look at the coverage of the election (okay, from the moment Palin was selected) on Justin Webb’s blog. And let’s take with the treatment of Palin. To anticipate a few preliminary objections:
- Why Webb? Well, he’s the North American Editor, so it seems reasonable.
- Why the blog? I don’t think the Beeb’s going to let me have all the tapes of Webb’s broadcast coverage. And, frankly, I don’t want them. But not to worry: we know that the same rules regarding impartiality apply, so the blog entries should, if Webb’s doing his job, present a balanced and impartial view.
- Why Palin? Webb’s blogged on her a lot, which means there’s a decent sample. And she’s someone on which there are significantly differing views, which we should therefore expect to see reflected in the coverage. As Webb puts it, she is immensely grating on those who do not like her, but immensely pleasing to those who do.
So let’s look at the balance:
As for Sarah Palin! Her creationist views are bound to become an issue (can you really have a president who denies basic truths about the world?)
So Webb’s coverage of Palin begins, and with characteristic style – ignoring the fact that, as the Beeb’s admitted, she’s not a creationist, and that she’s not running for president. I’m going to chalk that one up as a negative comment.
However, I’m going to exclude those comments that are neutral – and I’m using the term loosely. Comments such as these:
As well as these posts: on the pregnancy; agreeing she is not the new Eagleton; and his entry about lipstickgate.
So what’s that leave us with? Well, here are the postive comments, such as they are:
- Palins Punches: I liked the parliamentary-style jabs at Obama and they have peppered the news coverage, though I still think she is skating on thin ice.
- America’s Answer to Thatcher: with that quote about being grating or pleasing (I’m trying to be generous)
- Two posts about Palin getting more cheers than McCain: Disappointment? and Regan, Clinton, W and Obama. These really seem like digs at McCain, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.
- And an admission that She is not the harbinger of some dark witch-burning retreat into superstition and irrationality.
And on the negative side:
So, on balance, and over time, do you reckon that Webb thinks Palin would have: made a brilliant VP; been an awful one; or do those rules on impartiality and his professionalism make it just impossible to tell?
Radio Five Live discovers (admittedly somewhat late) that there are black conservatives in the United States. Shay of the Booker Rising group blog will be interviewed on the morning show from 9 am. 9 am ? That’s now !
Perhaps one day they could also discover Thomas Sowell, John McWhorter, Walter Williams and a host of others. I guess Larry Elder and Michelle Malkin might be too much for them. I think I did hear Shelby Steele on the BBC – once.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the result is historic. As for the BBC’s coverage, well thanks for your comments. Iain Dale was also unimpressed, and as evidence of the Beeb’s standing at home and abroad, here’s an American perspective:
The real fun network of the night was BBC America, which picked up the BBC feed being aired back in England. The coverage played like a good-natured “Idiot’s Guide to the American Election,” with references to such states as “North Hampshire.”
After all the hard work, though, it’s only right that the last word goes to the Beeb. And who better than John Simpson (a troll challenge here: can anyone make a convincing case Simpson might have voted Republican?) :
The United States has seen the biggest transformation in its standing in the world since the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in November 1960.
This is a country which has habitually, sometimes irritatingly, regarded itself as young and vibrant, the envy of the world. Often this is merely hype. But there are times when it is entirely true.
With Barack Obama’s victory, one of these moments has arrived…
UPDATE: Iain Dale fleshes out his criticism of the Beeb’s coverage here: references to John Bolton’s outburst, “car crash TV”, and a note that this should be David Dimbleby’s last election make it well worth reading.
So this is it. We’ll soon know whether all the work; all the campaigning; all the speeches; all the infomercials have paid off: Have Webb, Frei and the rest of the Beeb done enough to get their man elected? It’s a big night for students of BBC bias, too. If Obama wins as expected will they be able to hide their glee? If there’s an upset and he loses, will there be tears? There’s 175 BBC staff over there, so too much to cover. Over to you, then…