This was brought up in comments thread of the “Nearly Back” post by Number 7, but I think it’s worthy of a full post itself and deserves discussion.
BBC chiefs have ordered their news teams to stop focusing so much on Team GB’s stunning Olympics success.
Director general Mark Thompson is said to be ‘increasingly unhappy’ with the patriotic tone of the news coverage of the Games.
TV and radio newsroom staff were astonished by an email sent yesterday, which told them to focus on the achievements of other nations as well as our own.
In the message, titled ‘An order from the DG’, director of news Helen Boaden wrote: ‘Mark Thompson is increasingly unhappy that we are focusing far too much on Team GB’s performance to the exclusion of all else.
‘This is also becoming a theme within the Press.
‘As editor in chief, he has issued a directive that this needs to change from today. So you need to get cracking on making that shift.’
What, no hugs? Seems like a strange directive for the national broadcaster of the United Kingdom. Especially considering the bit in the Charter about “bringing the UK to the world”. Assuming that the following bit about “bringing the world to the UK” is about news reporting and not jingoism in sports, that is. Even so, this raises some serious questions.
1. Does Thompson believe that in reality there are enough immigrants or communities of immigrant origin in the UK who would prefer to hear about their own country’s success that he is seriously directing staff to pay more attention to other countries? If so, doesn’t that betray the entire concept of a nation united by values and that the much-vaunted concept of multiculturalism is in fact divisive balkanization? Not enough British people living in Britain, then?
2. Is this revealing of a certain embarrassment at the top levels of the BBC about openly supporting British success in the face of non-white nations? I’m pretty sure Thompson isn’t concerned about so much attention being lavished on Usain Bolt for his two brief events rather than on US athlete Ashton Easton for winning gold and setting a world record in the decathlon, which used to bestow upon the winner the title, “World’s Greatest Athlete”. Nor is Thompson talking about giving more credit to the French.
3. Has the BBC’s lust for evil profits, global reach and dominance caused Mark Thompson to subsume the BBC’s ultimate remit – providing public service broadcasting for the license fee payers in the UK as the official State broadcaster – in favor of pandering to audiences in other nations where the BBC reaps or stands to gain commercial revenue?
4. Is Thompson simply the Panderer General?
5. What does this tell us about the line of defense we’re always fed that there is no top-down editorial directive at the BBC, that there are no memos handed down from on high giving editorial directions, that the BBC is too large and too disorganized for there to be an institutional bias of this kind? According a BBC insider the Mail quotes, this never happens:
‘We never get direct orders like this.
6. Does the shock amongst regular BBC staff signal at least some hope for the reformation of the BBC after all?
‘It is only natural that our viewers and listeners want to hear about Team GB’s successes. All the other countries celebrate their own medal winners.
‘It would be a shame if we had to water down our coverage to satisfy an abstract notion of fairness.’
Do they not feel, as Thompson seems to, that a significant amount of their audience in the UK is not British or proud of British achievement? Presumably it’s more than just the one or two disgruntled assistant producers who leaked this to the Mail. Or will this current patriotism vanish next week and it’ll be back to business as usual because the only time Beeboids approve of patriotism or nationalism by the English, British, or certain other countries is during sports tournaments?
As an outsider living in a country where the BBC is most definitely trying to increase influence, audience share, and evil profits, I find this very amusing as well as important.