Is the BBC too big

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Status: 20.11.2020 9:20 a.m.

Allegedly, in order to maintain neutrality, BBC employees should not express any political opinion even as private individuals. Behind this "neutrality" are tough interests of the political right.

A comment by Andrej Reisin

As soon as he took office as Director General of the BBC in September, Tim Davie, who came from marketing, caused a sensation when one of his first rumored internal instructions was to put "left-wing" comedy and satire shows to the test. BBC insiders said, however, that the pressure to have conservative comedians in the program had been great beforehand.

As one of his first documented official acts, Davie issued new social media guidelines for employees involved in current journalistic affairs. Accordingly, even as private individuals, they are not allowed to take part in political demonstrations and not engage in "virtual signaling" on social media. The adoption of a term that emerged as a right-wing political battle term caused irritation, as it hardly gives the appearance of the supposedly required "neutrality". It roughly corresponds to the German "do-gooders" - and aims to brand people who speak out for social justice or against discrimination on social media as complacent.

VIDEO: Comment: Shift to the right at the BBC as "neutrality" (4 min)

No Pride parades, no Black Lives Matter protests?

The fact that it was initially said that the ban also affected participation in the Pride parades, with which lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals promote the social acceptance and normality of their gendered and sexual identity, caused a particular stir. Anti-racism protests such as Black Lives Matter also fall under the new rules. In retrospect, Davie rowed back a bit with regard to participation in Pride events and stated that participation was in principle possible as long as one stayed away from "controversial" content. What that means in the context of "controversial" forms of sexuality in the conservative spectrum remains unclear, and that leaves the uncertainty.

Reference is made in the guidelines to the definition of "controversial topics" by the British media supervisory authority "Office of Communications" (Ofcom). However, this does not prohibit "controversial" contributions marked as expressions of opinion, but merely requires that the program reflect the entire spectrum of opinion across all programs. The extent to which it can be transferred to freelance workers' social media accounts appears questionable. The largest British media union, Bectu, has sharply criticized the guidelines and urgently called for negotiations.

An alliance of enemies

For years right-wing conservative circles have complained that the BBC is too left-leaning and, in particular, did not accept Brexit and presented it neutrally. The accusations that have been raised over and over again sound familiar from Germany: The BBC is too big, too expensive, it spends too much money on prominent stars, it competes in fields that private broadcasters can order better - and its public funding model is out of date liked, because people wanted streaming services like Netflix according to their own taste.

Little Trump? Boris Johnson repeatedly attacks critical media.

Since 2010, the BBC has already cut 30 percent of its revenue in real terms, as the audience association Voice Of The Listener & Viewer (VLV) has calculated. Their conclusion: "The government's grip on the BBC's coffers has resulted in contributors getting far less program for their money today than they did in 2010." Which in turn weakens the acceptance of the BBC.

The current struggles for the supposed "neutrality" of the BBC are therefore in the context of a long-term development and an alliance of enemies: the right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who owns numerous tabloids and "FOX News", has been trying to weaken the BBC for decades. He has both political and monetary reasons for this, after all, it is a main competitor in the moving image sector, into which his print titles are also increasingly pushing.

When the BBC presenter Emily Maitlis criticized Boris Johnson's advisor Dominic Cummings in May for driving halfway across the country in the middle of the corona lockdown, she was reprimanded and temporarily did not moderate at her own request. In Germany, however, she recently received the Hans Joachim Friedrichs Prize.

The destruction of the BBC

Dominic Cummings, who has meanwhile been dismissed by Boris Johnson for other reasons, put his plan to destroy the BBC on the table back in 2004. The then unknown activist headed the now defunct think tank "New Frontiers Foundation". There it was said that the BBC was the "mortal enemy of the conservative party". His agenda was, among other things, the establishment of a radio based on the model of "Fox News".

Once protected, now closed: Boris Johnson's ex-advisor Dominic Cummings.

First of all, the BBC has to be discredited, people are simply no longer allowed to believe their news. It sounds familiar: Just as Donald Trump never tires of referring to media critical of him as "fake news media", Cummings demanded that one must constantly emphasize that BBC reports are biased or incorrect. The "privileged world of the BBC" must be "turned upside down". This could be achieved with a "network of web offers" that would undermine the BBC and pass scandals and scandals on to the competition.

According to various reports, the Johnson administration is now trying to fill both the top of the regulator Ofcom and the board of directors of the BBC with two arch-conservative BBC critics: the former editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre and the ex-editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph "and Margaret Thatcher biographer Lord Charles Moore. The plans were criticized by numerous media, even the economically liberal "Economist" recommended that the government not start a "culture war". The former "Guardian" boss Alan Rusbridger commented on Twitter, "This is what an oligarchy looks like".

Moore himself has meanwhile declared his waiver, rumor has it that it was not enough for the ardent critic of the "BBC waste" to triple his salary. Dacre, on the other hand, is still in the running. Either way, the threatening backdrop is built up. Dominic Cummings' old plans to destroy the BBC could achieve their goal in the cloak of "neutrality" despite his resignation.

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ZAPP | 02/12/2020 | 11:20 pm