by Felix McHugh
Sun 4th Aug 2013
And today's resident of the gutter is........the BBC!
The 6 o'clock news may not have mentioned it but an investigation by the BBC Trust, headed by former Tory minister Chris Patten, this week criticised the John Humphrys TV show The Future of the Welfare State, shown in 2011, for giving a misleading impression and failing to back up its presenter's opinion with statistics. In other words, Humphrys presented a biased programme in which he was allowed to give his own uninformed opinion and present it as fact.
If this had been a show about film, TV or sport then fair enough. If it had been advertised as a polemic then viewers would have known what they were about to see, but for a well-respected TV personality to pretend to be presenting an impartial documentary, when what we were actually seeing was an opinion piece, is pretty disgraceful and I for one am glad to see Humphrys get his knuckles smacked with a ruler. How can we take him seriously as a Today interviewer after he has demonstrated his own frankly unpleasant and, more seriously, poorly researched opinion? It is like David Attenborough appearing in a party political broadcast for UKIP.
Personally, I am always aghast when the BBC is accused of left wing bias. Shows like Nick & Margaret and Saints and Scroungers simply reflect and encourage the broad ignorance about benefits and the demonisation of claimants, which readers of right wing newspapers are already familiar with. But if someone reads the Daily Mail or the Sun then they expect to be presented with news stories from a particular slant. The BBC is supposed to be above such things. However, the news these days is presented in a way which is totally different from the era of Robert Dougall. Fiona Bruce, for example, has two faces and two tones of voice: one for serious stories which are supposed to make us indignant, and a smiley light-hearted one for royal family or celebrity events. It is shameless manipulation. A photograph of a baddie or a victim of a crime will appear on the screen and the camera will close in for effect. Stories are routinely described as "dramatic" as if the viewer is too dim to be able to concentrate unless the story is given a sexy twist.
When the news presenter becomes the news, something has gone wrong. I suppose an apology from Mr Humphrys is too much to expect?