I still can’t figure out why any Leave campaigner who gets onto the BBC fails to fire (and I mean fire every time) the most obvious ammunition about the BBC’s vested interest in pushing Remain -- especially when a presenter tries yet again to reduce the argument to how much British business would allegedly lose if the UK left the EU.
What is needed at such a point – before batting away the allegations as speculative and open to dispute, and anyway we are talking about self-government here, not some business deal – is a comment on just how much money the BBC would lose if the UK escaped the EU.
But I never hear it.
Figures, as from the European Commission website: over seven years between 2007 and 2013, the BBC received from EU institutions €30,180,057. That’s about £23m.
And it is not mentioned in the BBC annual reports. You would reckon that many millions rather destroy the idea of BBC impartiality and the Leave campaigners would not let any BBC presenter or producer forget about the £23m-plus. But the complaints about BBC impartiality are not coming from the Leave campaigners.
No, the complaints are coming from the Remain campaign, who are now complaining that ‘fairness and balance’ – which the BBC insists it is delivering, while never mentioning it is on the EU payroll – is ‘a pretty dodgy concept.’
Under the headline, ‘Fairness and balance won’t woo the young,’ Peter Preston writes in the Guardian:
‘Why pretend that the accumulated weight of the IMF, OECD, Bank of England, White House, NFU, TUC, CBI and IFS can somehow be wiped away when Chris Grayling demands his rebuttal moment? Fairness - a pretty dodgy concept anyway when you try to refine it - includes context and transparency, not merely he-says-she-says.’
Following him comes Jim Murphy, the former MP and leader of Labour in Scotland (as good a definition of a loser as any), writing in the current New Statesman: ‘I want to suggest something that at first glance many may find strange. At best it may sound counter-intuitive and at worst it might even appear anti-democratic.’
‘I believe that one of the dangers in Britain today is that our broadcast media is often too impartial, especially during this EU referendum campaign. And in a referendum campaign, absolute neutrality lacks integrity and can cause inaccuracy….’
‘Put plainly, it is “balanced” to give airtime to the pro-Remain CBI and the small Brexit organisation called Business for Britain. But despite the complaints of the Brexiteers, it’s not “due impartiality” to imply equivalence. To allow both arguments to be presented with equal weight surrenders not just impartiality but also accuracy…’
You could say Preston and Murphy are just embracing Orwell’s Newspeak: impartial means partial, balanced means weighted.
But really the Leave campaigners are just saying out loud what they have always thought, that the opinions of people who are not among their self-designated elite are unworthy to be heard. Citizens who back Leave are common, they are not P.L.U. – people like us.
I had thought that designation ended around the time debutantes stopped being presented to the Queen. Apparently not.