Wednesday 20 May 2020

Ignoring the problem isn't impartiality

In the days since Boris Johnson’s car-crash speech to ‘the nation’ just over a week ago, it seems that the BBC’s reporting has gone from one extreme to the other in one sense. Having spent weeks failing to distinguish between the constituent parts of the UK, leaving most people with the misleading impression that the English ministers were acting and talking on behalf of the UK rather than simply England, they now frequently go out of their way to emphasise when rules apply across the board and when they are more specific. Sadly, sometimes they use those differences to make mischief – the report by BBC Scotland correspondent Sarah Smith a few days ago was a classic example. It looked more like English reporting about Scotland delivered with a Scottish accent than a report from Scotland for the interest of the UK as a whole, underlining the way in which the first ‘B’ in BBC is still the most important to the Corporation.
In theory, the differences between the approaches of the four governments aren’t actually as different as they seem. All four have attempted to produce some sort of roadmap indicating the conditions which need to be met and the sort of relaxations which can follow the meeting of those conditions. There are differences of emphasis between them, and some things might happen in a different order, but the theoretical position is that progress is determined by conditions on the ground. The differences are much less than those between the different regional governments in places like Germany for instance, although the reluctance of the English nationalists running the central government here to learn anything from mere Europeans means, apparently, that such differences are uniquely unacceptable in the UK.
But the real difference between England and the rest of the UK (or apparently, from an English government perspective, the difference between Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland on the one hand and the ‘rest of the UK’ on the other, in another hard-to-believe example of their own exceptionalism) isn’t in the theory, it’s in the practice. Having set out a strategy which makes it clear that the progress cannot be driven by arbitrary dates, England uniquely has gone on to produce an action plan which sets arbitrary dates and is attempting to drive everyone else into working to those dates. Of course it’s true that people want to have an idea about indicative dates, and I can understand the frustration felt by some that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been so reluctant to do that, but if the plan is seriously based around events not entirely under the control of governments, setting dates, even indicative ones, is potentially dangerous. Turning them into targets is not only utter folly, it also undermines the strategy itself. And even leaving aside the doubts in the other three governments, the plan is falling apart in England itself in the face of opposition from local authorities across England.
The BBC may have gone some way, albeit haltingly and with an occasional lapse into deliberate mischief-making, but they haven’t yet gone far enough in exposing the truth. The problem is England and the English government; failing to make that clear to viewers and listeners isn’t impartial or unbiased reporting, it’s acting as a propaganda tool for just one of the four governments.

1 comment:

dafis said...

George Monbiot speaking/writing a lot of sense about Boris' farcical attempts at tackling the Covid pandemic.

I haven't had much time for this man especially his Rewilding antics which had a lot of covert support from the very segment of society that he criticises in this piece. However this article homes in on the continuing destruction of our care, health and other "social" services so that value/wealth can be extracted and shipped into the coffers of the few seriously wealthy corporates and individuals.