Those on the left seldom accuse the mainstream media of bias, for the simple reason that the left pretty well dominates the MSM. When non-lefties make accusations of bias, our concerns are of course quickly shrugged off. But what happens when those in the MSM themselves make the charge of bias? Their complaints cannot so easily be dismissed.
In the past few days there were two recent examples of this. Both examples are quite revealing, as they involve two heavyweights of the media.
The first involves the former editor of the Melbourne Age, Michael Gawenda, who made some very interesting comments about the political climate of the Age. At the end of a short piece in the Weekend Australian (July 21-22, 2007) about Gawenda’s conflict with leftist Age cartoonist, Michael Leunig, there appears this closing paragraph:
“Gawenda, who moved after his stint as editor-in-chief to Washington to become US correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, says the default position of most journalists at The Age was on the political Left. They were ‘on the left: pro-environment, pro-feminist and anti-American, especially when it comes to American popular culture and American patriotism’.”
Of course the curse of political correctness and leftwing bias is true of all the Fairfax Press, including the SMH and Canberra Times. But it was very nice of one of its own to ‘fess up.
Australia is not alone in this problem. Much of the West is plagued with the leftwing domination of the MSM. This is certainly the case in Britain. As veteran BBC reporter Robin Aitken has documented, leftist bias is endemic at the BBC. He has just written a book on this: Can We Trust the BBC? (Continuum, 2007).
He summarises his case in today’s Australian. Says Aitken, “For decades the BBC has been the playground of the British liberal-Left; its internal political culture has been heavily tilted towards the progressive view of politics. Its preoccupations have been those of the bien pensant classes and its news agenda has been tailored to suit. I know these things because I worked for 25 years as a BBC reporter and came to know Aunty’s little ways intimately. And it seemed obvious to me that, for all its talk of impartiality, the BBC was, deeply partisan. It showed in so many ways, some trivial, some deeply serious.”
“For instance, there was the editor who, in the aftermath of the IRA’s attempt to murder Margaret Thatcher in 1984, remarked to me, ‘pity they missed the bitch.’ A tribal remark of stunning nastiness. What was far more troubling was the day-in, day-out slanting of the news agenda on every issue from the economy (where the BBC fiercely resisted free-market monetarist ideas) to issues of social morality such as multiculturalism and abortion (the BBC views both as inherently good things). Scripts were often as opinionated as any editorial in The Guardian. (In the Australian context, it would be like saying ABC scripts are often as opinionated as any editorial in The Age.) Yet the bias was consistent, deep-seated and apparently invisible to the people who worked in the place.”
For years Aitken complained about this bias, and perhaps his efforts are now paying off: “Last month the BBC did a most unexpected thing and released a document that opened up its impartiality for public discussion. It was entitled, with cumbersome pomposity, ‘From seesaw to wagon wheel: Safeguarding impartiality in the 21st century’ and it set out 12 ‘guiding principles’ that the BBC will adopt as best practice. . . . The report, authored by ex-BBC man, now independent producer, John Bridcut, shows clearly how deep the problem goes. An opinion poll accompanying it found nearly 60 per cent of people felt that the BBC ‘failed to reflect the views of people like me’ with only 15 per cent disagreeing. That should set alarm bells ringing for it shows how out of step with public opinion the BBC is.”
He concludes his piece with these words: “When Gorbachev began his reforms he spoke of glasnost, openness, to be followed by perestroika, or restructuring. The BBC has allowed the first bit of daylight in on a subject it has always hitherto treated with lofty disdain. And who knows where the process might now lead?”
The same questions need to be asked about our ABC, SBS, the Age, and other culprits. But if there is light at the end of the tunnel for the BBC, perhaps we can still hope for similar glasnost with our own MSM.