While liberal media bias is often easy to spot, it's rare to see veteran journalists come clean on the biases of their own news outlets. But when one does, it's hard to dispute the first hand account of the newsroom's consistently leftist politics.
In his new memoirs, veteran BBC news anchor Peter Sissons details the startling depths of leftist politics that pervade coverage at Britain's state-owned broadcaster. Leftism is "in its very DNA," Sissions claims of the BBC.
In excerpts from the memoirs, titled "When One Door Closes", published in Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, Sissons details the groupthink mentality at the BBC:
At any given time there is a BBC line on everything of importance, a line usually adopted in the light of which way its senior echelons believe the political wind is blowing. This line is rarely spelled out explicitly, but percolates subtly throughout the organisation.
Whatever the United Nations is associated with is good — it is heresy to question any of its activities. The EU is also a good thing, but not quite as good as the UN. Soaking the rich is good, despite well-founded economic arguments that the more you tax, the less you get. And Government spending is a good thing, although most BBC people prefer to call it investment, in line with New Labour’s terminology.
All green and environmental groups are very good things. Al Gore is a saint. George Bush was a bad thing, and thick into the bargain. Obama was not just the Democratic Party’s candidate for the White House, he was the BBC’s. Blair was good, Brown bad, but the BBC has now lost interest in both.
Trade unions are mostly good things, especially when they are fighting BBC managers. Quangos are also mostly good, and the reports they produce are usually handled uncritically. The Royal Family is a bore. Islam must not be offended at any price, although Christians are fair game because they do nothing about it if they are offended.
In short, pick the default leftist position on any issue, and odds are it is the position held and espoused on air by the BBC.
And while leftist politics color the news at the channel, they also dictate its corporate structure and inner workings, according to Sissons. One's politics, he writes, can dictate one's success or failure in climbing the Comany's corporate ladder.
If Human Resources — or Personnel, as it used to be known — advise that it’s time a woman or someone from an ethnic minority (or a combination of the two) was appointed to the job for which you, a white male, have applied, then that’s who gets it.
But whatever your talent, sex or ethnicity, there’s one sure-fire way at a BBC promotions board to ensure you don’t get the job, indeed to bring your career to a grinding halt. And that’s if, when asked which post-war politician you most admire, you reply: ‘Margaret Thatcher’.
Sissons also offers what might be anecdotal warnings to all proponents of government-funded journalism in the United States. As he tells it, British politicians consistently attempted to sway the content of the BBC's news programming.
All Governments work hard on influencing the news agenda, but what I found uncomfortable during my years presenting the Nine O’clock and Ten O’clock News was how blatant those attempts to pressurise the BBC became, particularly at General Election time.
The party machines all had the internal BBC telephone numbers of the editors of the major news programmes, whom they would try to bully in person, both before and after the programmes went out.
I remember a night when the editor’s phone rang after the Nine O’Clock News. It was a direct call from No 10, questioning her judgment and complaining about our political coverage that night. This wasn’t a call to the director-general, or the head of news, but to a harassed and tired editor who had been on duty for 14 hours.
This will all come as little surprise to people who have watched the BBC consistently. Its left wing bias is hardly inconspicuous. But Sissons's exposé demonstrates the extent to which this type of ideology was ingrained in virtually everything the channel did - from its management to its news department.