The BBC then and now

A few years back the Daily Mail reported on the BBC’s “impartiality summit.” The story discussed the political correctness that suffocates the BBC. Only a few years earlier, the BBC was publicly disgraced in the Hutton Inquiry. The Hutton Inquiry failed to prompt the kind of historical examination of the BBC that it richly deserves. The institutional rot at the BBC is generations old.

Biographies of Winston Churchill note mostly in passing, for example, that the BBC systematically barred Churchill from discussing his defense and foreign policy views during the 1930’s; Sir John Reith was head of the BBC at the time. In the second volume of his Churchill biography, William Manchester states that “Reith saw to it that [Churchill] was seldom heard over the BBC…” Reith wrote of Churchill in Reith’s monumentally voluminous diaries, “I absolutely hate him.”

In the fall of 1938 Churchill was scheduled to appear on the BBC for a half-hour talk — on the Mediterranean. When the Czech crisis erupted, Manchester reports, Churchill asked that the program be canceled. On the Saturday before Parliament’s debate on the Munich Agreement, Churchill agreed nevertheless to meet with (future Communist spy) Guy Burgess of the BBC. Churchill complained to Burgess, according to Burgess’s recollection, that “he had been very badly treated in the matter of political broadcasts and that he was always muzzled by the BBC.”

Why did Reith detest Churchill? In Reith’s eyes, Churchill was of course a warmonger, and Reith, not coincidentally, held Hitler in the highest regard.

Now comes word from the director general of the BBC that his organization had been guilty of a “massive bias to the left,” but that “a completely different generation” of journalists now works at the broadcaster.

Has the culture at the BBC really changed? The director general’s admission smacks of public relations rather than substance, and the folks at Biased BBC remain unimpressed.


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