BBC Bias: The Shock Is that Anybody Might Be Surprised

Writing in the Daily Mail today, Robin Aitken flags up his new book, Can We Trust The BBC? in a devastating critique of what he describes as a form of “institutionally Leftist”. This follows on from the Daily’s editor Paul Dacre who lashed out at the Corporation in January.

I pick out one or two of Aitken’s key points,

In 1984 I returned to BBC Scotland after covering the Tory conference in Brighton. The IRA had come close to assassinating Margaret Thatcher with a bomb and the country was in shock.

Apart, that is, from some of my BBC colleagues. ‘Pity they missed the bitch,’ one confided to me.


That was coupled with a devotion to the European ideal. I remember arguing with a senior editor about the Maastricht Treaty and saying it was an issue of democracy, not economics. He told me I was mad.

Robin Aitken worked for the BBC from 1978 to 2005.

@ Peter Vanderheyden

VRT and your typical left wing media (GVA, De Morgen, Standard, etc..) are controlled by the government.. They will do whatever they can to "squelch" the view from the right.. I for one don't consider the VB as "extreme" right..but the government and more in particular the Verhofstad doctrine will go to extremes to fight "freedom" of expression. They constantly translate "realism" into "racism".

Indeed your "freedom of expression" proves that Al Jazeera is more important then Fox News..

Bruno is the one....

....who got it right, at least on this one.

The root problem is the educational system where people get their world view "formatted".   Flemings may be 'rightist' in terms of wanting to stop subsidizing francophone Belgium, thus based on self-interest, but their educational system feeds them a naive-left worldview.  So pvdh is probably right that there wouldn't be much of a 'market' for alternative newscasting in Belgium.   There isn't even much of a market for 'objective' newscasting anymore in Belgium, particularly w.r.t. America. 

All this is going to change of course, when the extended 'vacation from history' (since the end of the Cold War, about 1990) will come to an end.  For example, when 'Al Qaeda' will succesfully detonate its first radiological bomb in a European city.  There are of course numerous other doom scenarios possible, some with greater probability than others.   History teaches that all such 'vacations' must end.    

@frank Lee,

Let me explain the Flemish situation to you. In Belgium there is one state owned television company(VRT) and one, almost as big, private owned company (VTM). The deal is that the VRT is not allowed to use advertising income. In return they are subsidized. That way the commercial television company has enough possibilities to make a decent living with commercial income. So yes, it is possible in Belgium to make money in the media, without being subsidized. The point is that advertisers are prepared to pay more if the market share of the VTM would be bigger. If there is a right majority in Flanders, you would expect them to tell the “rightist truth” rather then the “leftist lies” (Your terms, not mine). But they don’t. My question is: why? Perhaps that rightist majority only exist in the wildest dreams of the average Brussels Journal reader?

@ peter vanderheyden

The reason why in Europe (France's situation is probably very close to Belgium's) a rightist view can't be expressed in the media is :
_The journalists are formatted on a left-wing frame in journalist schools.
_the "intellectual terrorism" (to paraphrase Jean Sevilla who wrote a book named "Le Terrorisme Intellectuel de 1945 A nos Jours" where he details how since 1945 the french left put gradually in place a system of blackmail, threats and street disorder to silence rightist opinions) is a permanent threat on non-conformist thinkers and writers. Look at what Finkelkraut endured last year : this moderate french leftist (who happens to be jewish) was the victim of a ferocious witch-hunt for delivering a different view (than the leftist politically-correct one) on the "youth"(code-word for the pepertrators, actually, muslim youths)riots in France 16 months ago.
Today, in addition to this intellectual terrorism by the left against people they consider as rightists, any writer has to weigh the possibility of the leftists' allies stepping in : Islamists and muslim arabs who are easily pushed to violence through their hate-mongering websites, blogs and low-on-journalism, high-on-incitement TV channels. Think to french teacher Robert Redeker who is in hiding indefinitely now for death threats related to an op-ed he wrote for a newspaper about Islam and violence...

Not surprising that with these threats, you think twice about creating a rightist newspaper, or even only an independant newspaper bent on challenging politically-correct nonsense...

@ peter vanderheyden (again)

Again, your economic logic is not airtight.  At best, the complaints made here about leftist media suggest that there is a large potential listenership/readership for non-leftist media in Europe.  They do not suggest that such media would ever make it financially, since the market may be such that no news media can survive without state subsidies, regardless of the size of their audience.  It may be for this reason that no one with money jumps into the gap and starts a conservative newspaper or radio network.


But the point you raise does get me thinking about the differences between Europe and America.  This website is good for that, if nothing else:  it reminds me of what I take for granted in the United States.  Here, people seek out alternative points of view when they feel the elites are snowing them.  In Europe (if I may use a broad brush), people tend to accept what they are told, or pretend to -- until they finally snap and start voting for Le Pen, make ape noises at football matches, ethnically cleanse their Muslim neighbors, liquidate the kulaks, send Jews to the camps, and so on.  You know, if only the Europeans weren't so sheeplike (and then so violently rebellious), you might not have so many crazy, murderous despots, and we Americans wouldn't be called on to come save you with such regularity.  Just a suggestion.

What Would Have Said the BBC or France3 Here ?

Story (seen today on Fox) :
Police: Chicago Man Bludgeoned Relatives to Death Because He Felt 'Disrespected'
An enraged Iranian immigrant used a 3-pound hammer to beat his wife, sister-in-law and mother-in-law to death and then stabbed them repeatedly because he felt "disrespected," police said Monday.

Now here in Europe, where such crimes happen regularly among muslim immigrants, the state media would have either :

_Ignored the story (often the easiest way to avoid the "problem".
_Said only that someone (not named of course) was arrested for violence on wife. Not named: That's how we in Europe know that muslims are involved : When France-Info or France3 for example say that a young boy called his brothers and cousins to beat a female teacher for a bad grade (leaving her for dead), or that a brother killed a sister for having a boyfriend, they of course never give the name (even the first name, like they do for other criminals) but we have learnt over the years to decode the leftist state media like the people in the Soviet Union did. "News"people are obliged to name the town or suburb where the facts occured and we all know what they want to hide us because of various clues like that.

leftist conspiracy

O.K. Everybody who feels he is a victim of leftist conspiracy because of the subsidizing of the VRT, answer the next point.

Those VTM bosses must be stupid morons not to jump into that big market hole on the right side of the firmament, you guys claim there is. Could you imagine their marketing income, if they would give non-leftist-biased-news to the big right majority of the Flemings? Or are they infiltrated to. Are their shareholders prepared to make less profit out of leftist idealism? And what about the written media? Why is Palieterke not the biggest newspaper in the country?
If I'm not mistaken, within the Vlaams Belang somebody is for several years already trying to get a rightist big newspaper of the ground. To no avail until now, or I must have missed it in my leftist-infiltrated newspaper shop.

far-left hegemony

PvdH said: "Perhaps that rightist majority only exist in the wildest dreams of the average Brussels Journal reader?"

Not only is there a huge gap between the media and normal people, but the gap would be much wider without the permanent brainwashing. It becomes impossible to measure people's opinions when not all opinions are allowed to be voiced and developed in the media.

"Are their shareholders prepared to make less profit out of leftist idealism?

More likely, they are afraid of the leftists. I don't understand why shareholders do not exert some pressure to change the content of newspapers.
For example, why are journalists allowed to overreport racist violence against immigrants, while suppressing news about anti-white violence, which is much more common? Who really thinks that reporting white-on-black violence generates more advertising revenue than reporting black-on-white violence?

PS: In france, government subsidies are not limited to TV and radio stations. They also go to newspapers, the AFP news agency, political parties, trade unions, cultural organizations, contemporary artists, and so on. As a result, political, intellectual, artistic, and social activity is stifled by the subsidized far-left.

re: leftist conspiracy (PVDH)

I would abhor a state sponsored rightist tv channel as much as I do the actual news related programs on the Flemish state television. All of the rightist Flemings I know would do too. They and I could agree with leftist or rightist programs where opinions are voiced but only if these programs/editors clearly mention what side they belong to.

However, the news, the facts have to stay neutral. And this is the reason why there is no rightist television in Flanders: rightist viewers want the truth and make their decisions on that. The political right has no need for lies, distortions, insinuations, or facts that remain simply unmentioned. For decades the political right survived even with a socialist dominated state television. The political left would be disseminated without the constant indoctrination of the Flemish state television.

When I pay for 't Pallieterke (which I do not) I make a choice. I do not have the choice not to pay for the news related programs on the Flemish state television. I am obliged to do this. This is anti-democratic. I have to support financially programs that run against my opinion.

I am happy with the choice I have: Kanaal Z and VTM.

So let me return the question, Peter Vanderheyden. Why is the rightist population obliged to support programs that run against their opinion? Is their no market for the leftist view without it being subsidised by the rightist viewer? Who would pay for the leftist news if the tax payer wasn't forced to do this?

I am very curious for your answer. This is my answer: there is no need for any state sponsored news. Because whatever way you turn it (to the right or to the left) it is always anti-democratic. So if we would be living in a true democracy, the news related part of the Flemish state television and radio would simply cease to exist. In the past, the state used to have this broadcasting function, because there was no one else to do this. I guess it is clear that this situation is over and should be part of the not-so-democratic-history.

@george 2,

I’m as irritated (perhaps embarrassed is a better word) as you are when the anti-American views are ventilated over and over again on the VRT. But then again we have to agree that this is a view shared by a large part of the population. Just like the bashing of Europeans from Frank Lee is embarrassing (for him) but probably the average opinion on Europeans in the US. In that respect the VRT does nothing more then trying to maximize their market share by telling the public what it wants to hear. I don’t believe the statement that they are infiltrated by the left to the point of becoming a propaganda machine.
But you’re right of course, What ever the VRT might do, there will always be some part of the populations that thinks it isn’t their view, but they still have to pay for it.
So yes, you’ve got a point. State owned news is very tricky in a democracy. If abolished, I will miss it though. For me it is still an important source of information.

Mind you, this does in no way alter my point of view that there is no market in Belgium and Europe for commercial Brussels-Journal-like news.

In Response to Armor

Armor: "Sometimes, democracy will be ignored in the name of some economic argument which may be spurious."


Examples of which include the argument that migrant labor (especially illegal immigrants in the United States) support the economy and input more than they take in social services, their impact on wages and their higher levels of crime and lower education. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have upheld American immigration laws or protected those states that border Mexico, mainly because special commercial interests want the cheap labor inputs, the Catholic Churches want greater attendance and income and because politicians want the Hispanic vote.


Armor: "But usually, what is killing democracy in the western world is not economic policy, but far-left ideology, an ideology that runs contrary to our economic interests."


Actually economic interests as noted above play a significant role, especially when those interests are unconcerned with the long-term impact of their lobbying.


Like any socio-political ideology, liberalism contracts and expands; indeed, those movements that forced the resignation of communist governments throughout East-Central Europe were more passionate liberals than the average Western citizen. Why? Because a lack of change causes malaise and stagnation: just as the once feared Red Army was overcome by unarmed protestors in Moscow in 1993, today's liberals are being overcome by movements with more determination and passion than theirs.


Yes. Once I heard that the murderer was Bosnian, I immediately concluded that the act was connected with Islamism, primarily because Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs identify themselves as Croats and Serbs respectively, and the actual Bosniaks are mainly Muslims.

Hardly a surprise

Two years ago, I was in Frankfurt Germany.  One night, my host let me watch BBC News, as it was the only english station he could get at the time.  This was the day of the car bomb in Beirut that assassinated of the former PM of Lebanon.  They covered the reactions of different countries, including that of the U.S., which was somewhere along the lines of getting Syrian troops out of Lebanon.


So the BBC - in THEIR infinite wisdom - brings on Syria's ambassador to the U.K.


"So...was it Syria that did it?"


My jaw dropped to the floor!  YOU MEAN HE MIGHT SAY YES??!!

No, I am not surprised!....

"A Pity They Missed The Bitch".....How nice!....And how typical!...How typical of a Marxist media siding with a terrorist organization like the IRA..How typical that they should have this kind of attitude toward a prime minister, let alone a member of the conservative party (when it was conservative).....Is it any wonder what we are up against with the radical islamists?...And they have CNN, the BBC, CBS and a host of other world wide media outlest on their side in this war!....Back when I first started monitoring shortwave radio, I used to be a big fan of the BBC...Now I am glad they are off of shortwave!....And I refuse to listen to them on my computer.....BBC, you have worn out your welcome with me!...... 

al BBC

I equate BBC with CNN and European TV news. Gone are the days when just the news was reported. Now the networks feel the need to analyze and spout their own leftist views. This is when I turn the TV off. I'm still pissed that Belgium Telenet chose to replace SKY News with the jihad-al Jazeera News. The good news are the blogs that dig up the truth in so many of these stories (and photoshopped) pictures that MSM publish as the truth. The bad news are the people who are not internet savy and are captive to the brainwashing tactics of BBC, CNN and European TV news.     

In Response

Aitken: "In 1984 I returned to BBC Scotland after covering the Tory conference in Brighton. The IRA had come close to assassinating Margaret Thatcher with a bomb and the country was in shock. Apart, that is, from some of my BBC colleagues. ‘Pity they missed the bitch,’ one confided to me."


While neo-conservatism was an idea whose time had clearly come (i.e. traditional conservative social values and classical liberal economics), there was a great deal of popular resentment towards Thatcher and her policies; while the majority of Britons certainly wanted to depart from the "socialist path" their state had taken during the postwar years, they were already frustrated with de-industrialisation and wanted the departure to be painless. I fail to see how Aitken's BBC colleagues were alone in condemning Thatcherism, or even how the BBC itself was alone, even if it officially opposed her, for all public agencies fight to preserve themselves from privatisation. As Hegel noted, bureaucracies are an interest unto themselves. As far as the Troubles are concerned, British Labour governments were no less severe in dealing with Catholic republicanism in Northern Ireland than Conservative ones.


Aitken: "That was coupled with a devotion to the European ideal. I remember arguing with a senior editor about the Maastricht Treaty and saying it was an issue of democracy, not economics. He told me I was mad."

As Gordon Gekko exclaimed in Wall Street: " you think we live in a democracy?" Economics triumphs over 'democracy' on a regular basis, irrespective of whether or not the powers that be are businessmen, bureaucrats, both or some combination thereof.

economics & democracy

K.A. said: Economics triumphs over 'democracy'

Sometimes, democracy will be ignored in the name of some economic argument which may be spurious. But usually, what is killing democracy in the western world is not economic policy, but far-left ideology, an ideology that runs contrary to our economic interests.

By the way, support for European integration is not necessarily a sign of left wing bias. At least, it wasn't, until the EU decided to let Turkey in.

re: economics & democracy (Armor)

"But usually, what is killing democracy in the western world is not economic policy, but far-left ideology, an ideology that runs contrary to our economic interests."

You are right, Armor.

Humans are not that much different from animals. First we have to gather food in order to survive (see also Maslov). This is economics. In stead of going after a hare, we (at least most of us) work in order to be able to trade our money for food. This is only natur-al. This is nature. Democracy is a tool to enhance the gathering of food and the achievement of the next Maslov levels.

It is only when ideology (like democracy) becomes more important than economics that we find ourselves in an unbalanced world. It is unbalanced because it is unnatural. People who are able to work have to work for a living. What sets us apart from (most of) the animals, is our ability and wish to take care of the weak (sick, elderly etc).

So it depends how one defines 'weak'. In my opinion, everyone who is physically and mentally able to work is not 'weak'. They can survive by working. This is according to nature, or natural. Far-left ideology is therefore unnatural because they overly protect people who are not 'weak'. At the same time truly 'weak' people are dying of hunger. (We don't care about race, do we?).

First economics and then politics, is only a natural state of nature.

Bias or Community Cohesion

Statements [1] and [2] are taken from a U. K. Government document - "How journalists can contribute to community cohesion".

Section [1] basically advises journalists that any one who opposes Islamic extremists should be portrayed by the media as racist and accused of hiding behind a cloak of respectability while Section [2] advises journalists to conceal the statements and actions of Islamic extremists from the public.        

The document also contains threats of criminal prosecution in the event of a media group or journalist that has been deemed not to have acted in the interests of "community cohesion". 

“A journalist will be guilty of an offence if he or she intends to stir up racial hatred or, having regard to all the circumstances, racial hatred is likely to be stirred up by what is published.”

[1] Expose and counter racist propaganda. Bigots who hide behind a cloak of respectability can be the most damaging. Make sure they are always drawn into the open and their words never go unchallenged.

[2] Take care in reporting extremists. Generally quote people who are representative. Be wary of those with views that might make good copy but to most people seem extreme. Though it is sometimes essential to quote such extremists, be sure to place their views in the context of the numbers they might represent. Be aware of creating negative images. Minorities carry the burden of being different. Don’t make them synonymous with the things that worry everyone, like terrorism, subjugation of women, forced marriage, illegal immigration, fraudulent benefits claims and cruel animal slaughter. Few are.

Read the full document here.

@ peter vanderheyden

I'll join the chorus and note that I don't follow your logic.  The fact that social democratic, anti-American news programs stay on the air with state support doesn't imply that conservative news networks would thrive without subsidies.  Isn't it possible that no television news network could make money without massive state subsidies?

Rush Limbaugh

"Combining those complaints with the right, though divided, majority in Europe, one should think that there is a huge business opportunity. Yet nobody of those free market minded rightists seems to be able to make money."

Easy to say when you are funded by taxpayer money.

 In U.S. twenty years ago nobody could hear a (U.S.) conservative point of view in the news, then Rush Limbaugh started on the radio.  In 2001, Rush signed a contract extenstion for $285 million dollars.  So yeah, there is a market for conservative thought -probably even in Europe.




The entire spectrum of US MSM is left-of-center, except Fox. This infuriates Democrats, who will attempt to muzzle Fox if they sweep at the next elections.

Rush has 20 million listeners, which dwarfs the 3 TV networks combined. Add to that other conservative radio personalities like Hewitt, Medved, Savage, Reagan (yes, Ronald's son), Prager, Hannity, Hume, and a bunch of local ones, and it's safe to say that the vast majority of American men are conservative listeners.

This drives the left crazy, and they are attempting to silence the radio guys with a dagger at the heart of free speech called the "Fairness Doctrine." This is an attempt to impose state control on the media as in Europe. I think they'll fail.

That said, the blogs are really driving the debate in the US. Good example: the Sudden Jihad Syndrome incident in Salt Lake City this week. The local and national papers attempted to bury the story. The conservative blogs (LGF, Jihad Watch, Debbie Schlussel) were tipped by police and FBI agents about what was actually going on (example: the police refused to take the perp's computer and falsely denied that he attended a mosque).

In the past, the local papers would have been able to obscure the truth. No longer. The result has been a precipitous decline in newspaper readership in the US (understandable given that they are more dedicated to political outcomes than good information).

Hopefully, the blogs will take off in Europe as they have here.


"Yet nobody of those free market minded rightists seems to be able to make money."

20 years ago the 6 million Flemish viewers had the choice between two television stations. Both were state sponsored and dominated by the socialist party. How many non state sponsored and non socialist party dominated television stations are there now? Have you been living on a different planet?

If the state sponsored Flemish television station would go private and keep on broadcasting the same biased news, then I think it would go bankrupt because too few people would be willing to pay for it. Although I do not watch their news, I would be willing to pay for it, just because I love democracy. Provided ofcourse they have the guts to call themselves what they are: 'the leftist and anti-american view on the news'. I have the right not to buy a newspaper when I don't like its contents. When people pay taxes for a state television station, they have the right to know what they pay for. The fact that leftist views need state money to be aired, says enough how much they are valued.

PS I do think that some of the non news related programs on the Flemish state television are good to excellent. I do think that spending state money on trying to invent new programs which later can be copied by private stations is money wisely spent. Most of the time I actually watch the Flemish and British state sponsored television stations. Mostly, I refuse to watch their news programs. Selling leftist news for news is a lie. I don't like lies. I would be willing to watch leftist news brought as 'the leftist news'.

What About French France2, France3 and Arte ?

These 3 TV channels (the latter is part german) are so ridiculously biased that it should be a study case for heavy leftism in state-funded media. And their radio counterparts (France-Inter and France-Info) are not better disposed. You can literally feel their anger since Segolene Royal dropped in the opinion polls. I don't understand why : even if the right gets elected, they'll still keep their jobs-for-life....;-)

make money

Don’t you guy’s ever get tired of complaining about the “biased leftist media”?


Combining those complaints with the right, though divided, majority in Europe, one should think that there is a huge business opportunity. Yet nobody of those free market minded rightists seems to be able to make money.




BBC Bias

It is more than bias. The BBC promotes left-wing extremism. Saying that the BBC is biased is like saying that Ken Livingstone is biased.

What Britain needs is not an unbiased BBC, but a real right-wing, conservative, anti-leftist, anti-immigration alternative.

Aitken: ‘Pity they missed the bitch,’ one confided to me.

However, the BBC did not exactly support the IRA. There really was a lack of democracy in Northern Ireland, and the BBC would not even let the matter be discussed. For them, it was only a question of stopping terrorism. By contrast, they have consistently used the word "insurgents" to refer to muslim terrorists bombing the streets of Baghdad.

"I remember arguing with a senior editor about the Maastricht Treaty and saying it was an issue of democracy, not economics."

I wish the English who complain that surrendering sovereignty to Brussels is undemocratic would see the lack of democracy in their own institutions. (criticizing the BBC is a good start).