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.
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.