BBC and Xenophobia: Why I Cancelled My TV Licence

nae BBC

When there’s sufficient distance between historians and the events taking place today, regarding Brexit, it will be interesting to read the analysis of the role played by the BBC during this time. As an immigrant, a category often used to score cheap political points during the political debates or used in newspaper headlines to push divisive agendas, my gut feeling is that the corporation has been instrumental in both heightening the xenophobia prevalent in Brexiteers’ obsession with people like me, and it has failed in any substantive way to offer an accurate representation of the actual facts, because it’s obsessed with this damaging notion of balance – that both sides of an argument have equal validity, even when one of them knowingly fills the airwaves with porkies.

A month ago, I decided to give up on my TV Licence. Why? Not because I want to live in an echo chamber and only listen to the stuff I agree with – I’m perfectly comfortable with Conservative voices. But I can’t stand lies, blatant propaganda, and the manipulation of the truth to convey a specific agenda – that’s what prompted me to say cheerio to the BBC and move on to brighter, less xenophobic pastures than anything on live TV / iPlayer / BBC radio.

Enough of talking about British expats, and everyone else being an immigrant. Enough of talking of EU citizens as tools that are either needed to “pick our strawberries”, or disposed of whenever they become inconvenient. Enough of the BBC putting nasty idiots like Boris hosting political shows, or failing to proper scrutinise the rhetoric coming out of some politicians.

BBC has played a major role in the negative rhetoric about immigration

One of the greatest examples of the corporation’s role in projecting the voices of hatred and division is its flagship political show, Question Time. Be it the propensity of right-wing voices with unpalatable views (the toad from UKIP), the shady lobbyists from obscurely-funded “Think Tanks” (Taxpayers’ Alliance), or xenophobic journalists manipulating the anxieties of their viewers/readers (that idiotic lass from the Daily Mail who is a pal of Arron Banks), the fact is that the show constantly puts on the panel people who have little of worthwhile substance to contribute.

And then there’s the audiences. Don’t get me started on the audiences. From the frothing at the mouth gammons that go on 1-minute rants about immigrants and this country needing to take back control, to the questionable plants purposefully given a microphone to convey the producers’ narrative. At first, I was skeptical of people going on about the show’s producers having an agenda, but after the Billy Mitchell scandal in Scotland (a failed UKIP candidate invited to the show several times and who later admitted in a Times interview that the producers had called him because they wanted his views), it became obvious that there was no amount of “Oops, we didn’t mean it!” that could disguise the agenda being played.

But the BBC doesn’t care. They have been called out on this several times, and yet they keep doing it. I have cancelled my TV Licence more than a month ago, but I still get the wee clips from Question Time shared by people on my social media, and, quelle surprise, last night there was a guy going on about the stupidity of having democratic referendums (that guy’s mind will be blown with the concept of having regular elections, by the way, because that’s the essence of Democracy – letting people change their minds). People were quick to point out that it wasn’t just an uninterested audience member who had casually happened to have been given a microphone.

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Another “random” audience member. Yeah, right.

I watched the first episode with Fiona Bruce, back in January, with the hopes that she would bring with her much needed change to the tone of the show. Yeah, fuck that. If anything, Fiona has heightened the most pervasive aspects of the show. The Daily Mail “journalist” and Arron Banks’ pal I mentioned earlier, in one the January shows, went on a rant about freedom of movement based on a hateful lies, and Fiona didn’t do her journalistic duty and contradict what was being said. That’s a disgrace. It also doesn’t help my sense of self-worth, as an immigrant in Scotland, that part of the audience cheered her xenophobic twattery (video below).

The problem extends beyond Question Time

Question Time is the prime example of everything that’s wrong with political coverage on the BBC, but it certainly isn’t the only culprit. From Politics Live constantly doing right-wing talking points and inviting people from shady think tanks, to Andrew Neil attacking journalists like Carole Cadwalladr on his own Twitter and the BBC refusing to chastise him, to actual actors being asked to play the role of a vicar as part of an audience Q&A in Newsnight.

The BBC has not created the right-wing monster taking over the public debate in this country – but they have fed it, contributed to its growth, and done nothing credible to acknowledge their own failings. From the times they would put a climate denier against a scientist to debate climate change, creating a false sense of equivalence, to them purposefully lowering Diane Abbott’s microphone volume on Question Time to make her look weak. It’s incredible what’s being done in plain sight.

No matter its cultural output, which I’ll happily admit has quite a substantial amount of high-quality content, like Killing Eve, Fleabag and Bodyguard, the role the BBC has played as the voice of the UK establishment, a particularly Tory/UKIP tinged voice (have you counted how many times Toad Farage has been on shows like Question Time?), has been detrimental to this country.

I could also go on about how Scotland is parochially treated within the BBC, including its elected representatives from the SNP. I could tell you how, despite me not being a fan of Corbyn in any way, the BBC repeatedly uses fake Tory talking points and smears to attack Corbyn’s leadership. I could go on about some of the individual journalists, broadcasters and radio hosts who peddle demagogue lies to their audiences. The sad thing is, there’s no short amount of things on which to criticise the BBC.

Enough of paying to be diminished as an immigrant

Me and my partner don’t watch much TV – gaming and reading have always been our main sources of entertainment. But we did watch the news, both on the BBC and Channel 4, every night, one followed by the other. Yet we decided to give that up, because we cannot bring ourselves to give our hard-earned money to the BBC, to legitimise the xenophobia they’re feeding.

There were times, after watching Question Time, where I went to bed genuinely distraught and disturbed, made to feel like a burden on this country, even though I know full well the facts, and they are quite clear that immigration makes a massive financial contribution to the UK, on top of the cultural gains we get from diversity.

So we have plugged the antenna cable out of our TV, and have been experimenting with trials of Netflix and Amazon to see if we like them. YouTube has got me covered in terms of following live proceedings in the House of Commons, as well as Channel 4 news clips which they upload regularly, and I continue to read the same newspapers as before, so I keep up on the latest without going through the BBC filter.

I have no time for those who don’t pay the TV Licence but still watch it. Armchair rebels – yeah, we have enough of that. You’re not putting your fist up to the BBC, you’re only showing the middle finger to the people who lawfully pay their TV Licence. And you’re still contributing to the BBC ratings. If you want to send them a message loud and clear, stop watching any live TV or Iplayer, and cancel your TV Licence – and tell them exactly why when you fill out the form.

That’s what we did, and let me tell you, the past month has been like a detox for the brain.

Fiona Bruce on Question Time – a verdict

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Fiona Bruce, new host of BBC’s Question Time

When Fiona Bruce was first announced as the new host of the BBC’s Question Time programme, I was somewhat happy. I knew the corporation would never have gone with anyone too risky – this is a show tailored to draw and amplify the imaginary anxieties of Little Britain – and although I would have much preferred Victoria Derbyshire, as I have witnessed her properly questioning politicians in her morning programme, I was okay with Fiona Bruce.

Many a gammon immediately let out their oink oinks at the idea of a woman, and I have no patience for those insecure men who find a threat in a woman more intelligent than them – which is often the case for every women these men encounter. Some furore was also made of the fact that she was too posh, too Antiques Road Show – but for a show previously presented by David Dimbleby, one can only go down in the overall level of poshness. Unless they went with Jacob Rees-Mogg, which, in these mad time of Brexitlandia, I wouldn’t consider it an impossible consideration for the BBC’s execs.

As such, I tried to watch last night’s programme, especially because the panel counted with the rare participation of an SNP MP (the lovely Kirsty Blackman, in this case, one of the few voices of reason on that show). But I stopped after 29 minutes, because this was around the time that I lost the little bit of hope I had saved for Fiona Bruce as a professional journalist.

Around the 28 minute mark, Daily Mail’s sweet princess and Brexitannia rising star, Isabel Euphemia Oakeshott, came out with a lie that should have been immediately questioned by Fiona Bruce. This was the lie that freedom of movement had been a disaster for the UK. See the clip:

 

The implication of this assertion is that immigration has somehow ravaged the United Kingdom, brought on immense social and economic damage, and made the lives of everyone here worse – for what else could a disaster mean?

My hopes for a change in tone for #BBCQT have died

Such is the scale of the accusation, that any trainee journalist would immediately know that it was his or her duty to offer a contradictory, or to give the person making the ludicrous claim a chance for clarification. But Fiona Bruce, even though she is such an experienced professional, did none of this. Isabel Oakeshott spewed her bile on national television – to the roaring applause of her English audience – and by the hostess failing to do her journalistic duty, it gave the lie an illusion of substance.

Now, to be fair, would have David Dimbleby done any different? I would like to think so, but I doubt it. The problem may go deeper than the individuals here – there is much to be question about the BBC’s Question Time, from its production team’s possible associations with the Far Right, to the BBC’s own editorial guidelines which often make a mockery of reasonable discourse (like the idea that they have to have a climate change scientist debating a climate change denier almost all the time, creating a false perception of it being a 50/50 debate).

I wish Fiona Bruce all the best, and hope that this was only a journalistic faux pas. But, as an immigrant in the UK, I had long stopped watching BBC’s Question Time due to its constant dog-whistling of xenophobia towards migrants. I have no interest in intellectual sadism – I’d rather turn off the TV than go to bed irritated with the lies often spouted by the programme’s audience and panel members. I hoped that a change in host would change the tone of the show, but last night revealed to me that such hopes should be left for fools.

There is nothing much to be gained from Question Time, beyond disappointment and irritation, and the confirmation that Great Britain has now fully metamorphosed into the amalgamation of all the phobias and ignorance contained at the heart of Little England.