Monday, 26 April 2021

Truth and lies are not of equal value


A couple of day ago, the BBC reported that the UK and Australia had agreed “the vast majority” of the details of a new free trade agreement between the two states. Whether that was achieved by tying the Australian minister to an uncomfortable chair and having Liz Truss harangue him for nine hours was not reported, but agreeing the vast majority of the text of a trade deal is the easy part. It’s always the details which cause the problems. Time will tell – the possibility floated in the report that the final agreement will be signed in June, something of a record time for a deal, suggests either that one side has given a lot of ground, or else that the deal will turn out to be remarkably similar to an existing deal.

What I noted at the end of the report, however, was the matter-of-fact way in which the BBC report told us that “Trade can also be made simpler if countries have the same rules … The closer the rules are, the less likely that goods need to be checked”. It’s a statement of fact with which it is impossible to disagree, but it marks a major change of position for the BBC. During the EU referendum campaign, and in the interests of a specious form of ‘balance’, they regularly treated this key fact about trade as though it was merely an opinion, and treated the opposite opinion – that having different rules is no barrier to trade – as a position of equal validity. ‘Balance’ is difficult to define, and even harder to achieve, but it should never result in pretending that an obvious untruth has the same degree of validity as a provable fact. There is an old saying in journalism that “If someone says it’s raining and another person says it’s dry, it’s not your job to quote them both. It’s your job to look out the window and find out which is true”. It’s the least we should expect from a publicly funded broadcaster, but the EU issue is far from being the only one on which the BBC seems to forget this basic tenet of news. Getting it right 5 years after allowing the lie to gain credence simply isn’t good enough.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm rather surprised you still think the BBC is in the business of news reporting.

Perhaps this article says more about you than the BBC. It certainly highlights the problems associated with the public funding of anything.