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UK TV Media: should the requirement to impartiality be lifted?

Infinite Chaos

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Watched the regular news review on Saturday BBC Breakfast which had a feature on the yearly media seminar at Edinburgh.

One of the main subjects was about lifting the requirement for impartial and balanced TV news reporting that affects all domestic TV channels - three journalists were interviewed for their views including Trevor Kavanagh who obviously works for Murdoch's empire and could be seen as a mouthpiece.

I wanted to ask a couple of questions to European posters -

  • Would you watch news that had obvious partial views?
  • Currently, journalists are scrutinised by Ofcom but they are free to write and post very partial internet blogs where their personal views can be expressed - should we allow TV journalists put their personal views more openly on news programmes?

Personally, I think it is important that impartiality is maintained in the major outlets - I do think Murdoch is trying to push for differentiation and more openess as he wants to make money from news and if everyone is doing impartial news then the viewer simply picks the most qualitative source.

An "editorial" slot or a more personal and separate news slot could work - the journalists all felt we wouldn't go down the US route where you find some of the more colourful characters - but I would want to see two opposing editiorials / journalists present the programme. I also think any such programme should be as close to prime time viewing as possible.

There is a very late slot with Michael Portillo and Dianne Abbot which is presented by ex Times editor Andrew Neill: I don't get to watch "This Week" very often and it's primarily UK Politics so I think this format could be the basis where a wider news remit could be allowed.
 

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Simple answer... no.

That is what makes UK TV media so great and beacon for the rest of the worlds TV media.
 

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Frankly I had no idea that such rule existed, considering the heavy bias of the majority of the British media networks.
 

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Frankly I had no idea that such rule existed, considering the heavy bias of the majority of the British media networks.
Shows you how much you know about what bias is... there is very little bias in UK tv media. Newspapers is another matter.
 

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Watched the regular news review on Saturday BBC Breakfast which had a feature on the yearly media seminar at Edinburgh.

One of the main subjects was about lifting the requirement for impartial and balanced TV news reporting that affects all domestic TV channels - three journalists were interviewed for their views including Trevor Kavanagh who obviously works for Murdoch's empire and could be seen as a mouthpiece.

I wanted to ask a couple of questions to European posters -

  • Would you watch news that had obvious partial views?
  • Currently, journalists are scrutinised by Ofcom but they are free to write and post very partial internet blogs where their personal views can be expressed - should we allow TV journalists put their personal views more openly on news programmes?

Personally, I think it is important that impartiality is maintained in the major outlets - I do think Murdoch is trying to push for differentiation and more openess as he wants to make money from news and if everyone is doing impartial news then the viewer simply picks the most qualitative source.

An "editorial" slot or a more personal and separate news slot could work - the journalists all felt we wouldn't go down the US route where you find some of the more colourful characters - but I would want to see two opposing editiorials / journalists present the programme. I also think any such programme should be as close to prime time viewing as possible.

There is a very late slot with Michael Portillo and Dianne Abbot which is presented by ex Times editor Andrew Neill: I don't get to watch "This Week" very often and it's primarily UK Politics so I think this format could be the basis where a wider news remit could be allowed.
I think that the statutory requirement for news TV to be presented with due impartiality (not complete, but 'due') is what ensures that TV news in the UK is the communication medium of choice for the vast majority, and the reason why the print news media is in decline. You want to know you can trust what you're watching and not being fed partisan spin. There are plenty of outlets for opinion and polemic, but the news should not be that outlet. You only have to watch Sky News and Fox News, both Murdoch outfits, to see what a difference the Ofcom regulations make to the reliability of the information transmitted. I know Murdoch would love Sky to more closely resemble Fox. I hope he never gets his wish.
 

Infinite Chaos

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Frankly I had no idea that such rule existed, considering the heavy bias of the majority of the British media networks.
This thread is about News Media production - like BBC News, ITV News etc. Documentaries and TV entertainment programmes tend not to have the same rules. The BBC however has more of those rules applied to nearly all it's scheduled programmes - so some light entertainment programmes like "Vicar of Dibley" have been pulled up occassionaly.

There are means to protest if anyone thinks a news report on mainstream news has shown bias and you or anyone else are free to prove that "bias" exists by challenging the TV programme makers. The fact you are unaware of Ofcom or the rules about impartial reporting shows that you have some research to do before you post any further.
 

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I think that the statutory requirement for news TV to be presented with due impartiality (not complete, but 'due') is what ensures that TV news in the UK is the communication medium of choice for the vast majority, and the reason why the print news media is in decline.
I would have thought print news would survive in the niche of more in depth coverage and informed opinion - do you think the papers are missing a trick here? Print by nature is a frozen moment in time so (I think) there is greater opportunity for in depth coverage.

-- I know Murdoch would love Sky to more closely resemble Fox. I hope he never gets his wish.
It was interesting that it was two Murdoch employees who specifically said they couldn't foresee any "Rush Limbaugh" or "Fox News" type programmes here. Were they simply allaying fears?

I just personally wonder that some journalists have to set up private blogs where their private opinions can be expressed.
 

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Shows you how much you know about what bias is... there is very little bias in UK tv media. Newspapers is another matter.
I'm speaking generally, but that includes UK TV media networks.
BBC news, Channel 4 news, etc.
I find them to be quite biased on their own right.
 
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PeteEU

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I would have thought print news would survive in the niche of more in depth coverage and informed opinion - do you think the papers are missing a trick here? Print by nature is a frozen moment in time so (I think) there is greater opportunity for in depth coverage.
Most of the print media is already owned by very few, and mostly by Murdoch. They rely on sensationalism more than actual fact and news. Look at the cricket scandal presently haunting the Pakistani cricket team.. it now seems after the sensational crap News of the World (Murdoch owned) brought out that, the actual evidence against the supposed crooked cricket players is weak as hell.

It was interesting that it was two Murdoch employees who specifically said they couldn't foresee any "Rush Limbaugh" or "Fox News" type programmes here. Were they simply allaying fears?

I just personally wonder that some journalists have to set up private blogs where their private opinions can be expressed.
I disagree. The two Murdoch employees are either ignorant or stupid. There is already "Rush limbaugh" type programs on radio, and Fox News is already shown in the UK behind a pay wall.. But other than that, it idiotic to think that Murdoch would not try to transplant his Fox News empire in the UK. He has used his son and now his employees to get rid of the protections because he knows that if they are removed then he can control the political agenda as he does in the US. Sky News already had a show life from the Gurkan with a former biz bigwig/politician, and it was highly charged towards the right of the political spectrum. The name eludes me though.

If Murdoch were given free reign, then he would turn Sky News into Fox News 2.0, switching loyalties depending on which political colour is most profitable at the time. He has done it in the US, China and every where else he has media operations. It is ironic that Murdoch is a good commie in China, and a far right nutjob in the US ...

And lets not forget, Murdoch already owns most of pay TV in the UK and Germany. He is fighting against Berlocolunny in Italy and is thinking of entering other European markets as well. When he does enter a market he destroy's it and does everything to keep out competitors. Look what he tried with Virgin media a few years back.. thank god for Ofcom and other regulators I say.

I hope one day the EU gets balls enough and takes on Murdoch for monopoly like practices, but as long as he keeps away from France and Spain then I suspect he wont be touched since he can claim he is not in all big markets.

Doing away with Ofcom and the rules would be the end of the free press in the UK and we would see US like news and that is not good in any way.
 

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I'm speaking generally, but that includes UK TV media networks.
BBC news, Channel 4 news, etc.
I find them to be quite biased on their own right.
If you are watching those networks in the UK, or BBC World News anywhere in the World, you have a right to complain to either the neywork itself or the regulatory body about unduly biased coverage, and you have a statutory right to have your complaint responded to. You don't have that right with the print media, only a right to have factual errors corrected. I don't know whether other countries have that degree of accountability in their broadcast media, but I'm quite proud that the UK does, and that's why British people have a high regard for their TV news services.
 

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There is a very late slot with Michael Portillo and Dianne Abbot which is presented by ex Times editor Andrew Neill: I don't get to watch "This Week" very often and it's primarily UK Politics so I think this format could be the basis where a wider news remit could be allowed.
That's a showcase for only the endorsed points of view which don't diametrically clash on the massive issues, like EU membership or whether or not to introduce a protectionist economy, the dangers posed by religious extremists in their exploding communities (no pun intended), dealing with serious crime or the full impact on every area of life of 'no upper limit' immigration. It's not all politically correct but too much effort is invested in not offending the liberal consensus.

The 'colourful characters' like Michelle Malkin in the USA would actually challenge the 'approved' range of arguments and force the mainstream pundits to sink or swim in a debate. Elephants in the room must be mentioned if we were to bother with a full-on editorial department at the likes of the BBC.

But as it is there are debate shows anyway which could be opened up without having to alter the news show formats.
 
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Grant

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Only those who are slaves to the BBC would ever claim they are "fair and balanced". In fact their bias is so widespread that there are several web sites devoted solely to BBC bias.

I debated on the BBC for several years before they did away with their Great Debate boards and soon most North Americans came to realize not just how bias they were but how they played down news, or even hid it, to maintain their left wing agenda. Or perhaps an agenda isn't the right word. The fact is that they hire people almost exclusively from the left, and the BBC hierarchy, leftists themselves, believes this to be a sensible thing. Now, as we can see by this post, anything that is not left should be opposed, that alternative points of few are too scary and disruptive and could negatively effect British sensibilities.

It was soon quite easy to spot the Brits and Americans on their Debate Boards.. Not only were the Americans more worldly aware than their British counterparts, they were much more articulate. There were exceptions of course, but as a general rule this held true. That any self respecting Brit would want to maintain this status quo says more about the Britain of today than I ever could.

Here's one Canadian commentators view on a recent BBC program in regard to a similar situation in Canada.

"A couple of weeks ago, the BBC’s so-called “Ethical Man” Justin Rowlatt presented an analysis of professor James Lovelock’s assertion that “climate change” is so serious a crisis that it “may be necessary to put democracy on hold.” As a BBC host, Mr. Rowlatt is scrupulous not to have any views of his own; he merely presents those of others—and, as he put it, “there is a growing view that mitigating climate change means we have to change our view of democracy.”

Really? That view is “growing”? Certainly in the BBC green room. Six of the seven experts interviewed by Justin Rowlatt were in favour of suspending democracy—i.e., fascism. But don’t worry: it’s to save the environment, so it’s eco-fascism, which has a nicer ring, doesn’t it? The show concluded with Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute insisting that “the condition of the planet for future generations is more important than the retention of democratic principles.” The BBC, paid for by the citizenry, has just broadcast a lavishly produced advertorial for totalitarianism.

Imagine how the non-hyperventilating Dornan and Newman would react were Fox News to do such a thing for one of its pet causes. Yet, when the BBC does it, the entire, extraordinary enterprise is cloaked in the state broadcaster’s garb of dispassionate impartiality. The conceit of objectivity is vital to the mission—which is why the urge to rule dissenting views beyond the pale comes so naturally to supposed “liberals,” to the point where, for example, Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., Canada’s chief censor, and “Journalism Doctor” John Miller of Ryerson University, support the criminalization of unacceptable opinions. I expect we’ll get used to a lot more of that once democracy’s been suspended to save the planet, right?"

SteynOnline - YOUR HYPERVENTILATION STATION
 

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Elephants in the room must be mentioned if we were to bother with a full-on editorial department at the likes of the BBC.
Come again! Elephants? Bother with a full-on editorial department? This sentence makes no sense.
 

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Only those who are slaves to the BBC would ever claim they are "fair and balanced". In fact their bias is so widespread that there are several web sites devoted solely to BBC bias.

I debated on the BBC for several years before they did away with their Great Debate boards and soon most North Americans came to realize not just how bias they were but how they played down news, or even hid it, to maintain their left wing agenda. Or perhaps an agenda isn't the right word. The fact is that they hire people almost exclusively from the left, and the BBC hierarchy, leftists themselves, believes this to be a sensible thing. Now, as we can see by this post, anything that is not left should be opposed, that alternative points of few are too scary and disruptive and could negatively effect British sensibilities.

It was soon quite easy to spot the Brits and Americans on their Debate Boards.. Not only were the Americans more worldly aware than their British counterparts, they were much more articulate. There were exceptions of course, but as a general rule this held true. That any self respecting Brit would want to maintain this status quo says more about the Britain of today than I ever could.

Here's one Canadian commentators view on a recent BBC program in regard to a similar situation in Canada.

"A couple of weeks ago, the BBC’s so-called “Ethical Man” Justin Rowlatt presented an analysis of professor James Lovelock’s assertion that “climate change” is so serious a crisis that it “may be necessary to put democracy on hold.” As a BBC host, Mr. Rowlatt is scrupulous not to have any views of his own; he merely presents those of others—and, as he put it, “there is a growing view that mitigating climate change means we have to change our view of democracy.”

Really? That view is “growing”? Certainly in the BBC green room. Six of the seven experts interviewed by Justin Rowlatt were in favour of suspending democracy—i.e., fascism. But don’t worry: it’s to save the environment, so it’s eco-fascism, which has a nicer ring, doesn’t it? The show concluded with Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute insisting that “the condition of the planet for future generations is more important than the retention of democratic principles.” The BBC, paid for by the citizenry, has just broadcast a lavishly produced advertorial for totalitarianism.

Imagine how the non-hyperventilating Dornan and Newman would react were Fox News to do such a thing for one of its pet causes. Yet, when the BBC does it, the entire, extraordinary enterprise is cloaked in the state broadcaster’s garb of dispassionate impartiality. The conceit of objectivity is vital to the mission—which is why the urge to rule dissenting views beyond the pale comes so naturally to supposed “liberals,” to the point where, for example, Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., Canada’s chief censor, and “Journalism Doctor” John Miller of Ryerson University, support the criminalization of unacceptable opinions. I expect we’ll get used to a lot more of that once democracy’s been suspended to save the planet, right?"

SteynOnline - YOUR HYPERVENTILATION STATION
One has to wonder if you have actually watched the BBC in the last decade. This is the same old tired drivel cast against any government controlled news organisation by the right wing since the dawn of time.. and only when the right wing was not in power. I remember using the same idiotic comment as a young man against the Danish national broadcaster just because they showed more of the socialists one day than the liberals.. yes I was foolish back in the day.

Got any actual proof of continuous bias? And remember, bias is not "stuff that you dont agree with", but the station actually hiding facts to benefit someone and openly promoting one point of view without any response.
 
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'Elephant in the room' is a figure of speech, whilst a full-on editorial department would doubtless take the BBC form of extra rooms full of trendy talking heads, guffing about the entire day to decide what some newscaster's point of view would be for 30 seconds.
 

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Most of the print media is already owned by very few, and mostly by Murdoch. They rely on sensationalism more than actual fact and news. Look at the cricket scandal presently haunting the Pakistani cricket team.. it now seems after the sensational crap News of the World (Murdoch owned) brought out that, the actual evidence against the supposed crooked cricket players is weak as hell.
I dislike the NOTW as much as the next educated person, but really?

Obviously they have milked the story the way tabloids do, but something untowards must be going on here!

There are enough subtle biases on British television already, I do not think much would be gained by doing away with current impartiality rules.

The BBC, as a public news service, must always be held to the highest standards of impartiality.
 

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There are many ways to determine bias, but only if the person making the determination isn't.

The mere fact that a news media has been so successful in shaping public opinion that a well-conditioned public is convinced their sharing the same point of view proves a lack of bias really only proves the thoroughness of the conditioning rather than the actual objectivity of the reporting. Unanimity of opinion is NOT the litmus test for an unbiased news, but rather, an indication of the degree of bias.


There is no such thing as objectivity when human events are involved. Any of those who claim they are unbiased are either deluded or lying in order to create the impression that THEIR point of view is the only correct one.
 

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One has to wonder if you have actually watched the BBC in the last decade. This is the same old tired drivel cast against any government controlled news organisation by the right wing since the dawn of time.. and only when the right wing was not in power. Got any actual proof of continuous bias? And remember, bias is not "stuff that you dont agree with", but the station actually hiding facts to benefit someone and openly promoting one point of view without any response.
Even your first line suggests that you are cool with the Left but that the views of the Right should be discouraged. This is all BBC conditioning, my friend. As you can read on the post I just sent, if you dare, it contained an item from a recent BBC program that supported the suspension of democracy. Apparently that's now not even a controversial idea in the new Britain, and as six out of seven really smart guys support the idea, there must be something to it, right? Of course this sensible suspension of democracy would only be a temporary measure? You could agree with that of course.

I am all for disagreement on the issues, and from those clashes the middle can then make up their minds where the truth might be. But you, your supporters, and the BBC, don't care much for this clash, that everything should be Leftist, either soft or hard. I do watch the BBC occasionally as I get it on cable here but only to see how they'll spin current events. I haven't watched it for a few months though.
 

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Only those who are slaves to the BBC would ever claim they are "fair and balanced". In fact their bias is so widespread that there are several web sites devoted solely to BBC bias.
We're fully aware of your anti-BBC agenda, having been all around the houses with you on many occasions. You've never substantiated your complaints with any hard, verifiable facts from unbiased sources, and Mark Steyn is certainly not that.

As I've pointed out, the BBC operates a system of statutory internal and external accountability the like of which, I believe, no other broadcaster can surpass. If you have an issue then complain to either Ofcom or the BBC Trust and, if you are a licence fee payer, you have a legal right to have your complaint taken seriously. Does Fox, or even CNN offer that guarantee of impartiality?

I notice that you didn't have anything to say either in support of or against the BBC's broadcast of the Mavi Marmara Panorama programme which many posters (not me, I hasten to add) found to be biased in favour of Israel. Was it that you found that programme to be well-balanced and objective, or that you're okay with biased and partisan provided the bias is in the direction of which you approve?

There are plenty of people who perceive the BBC to have a pro-Conservative bias too. Just shows, you can't win, but what you can do is stick your principles, and the BBC has a fine record in doing that.
 

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'Elephant in the room' is a figure of speech, whilst a full-on editorial department would doubtless take the BBC form of extra rooms full of trendy talking heads, guffing about the entire day to decide what some newscaster's point of view would be for 30 seconds.
BBC editorial policy is decided by the editorial board and approved by the BBC Trust. It is enacted by the various BBC editors, with the Director General, Mark Thompson acting as Editor-in-Chief. If you want to examine the BBC's attitude to impartiality, here is a good place to start.
 

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This is the same old tired drivel cast against any government controlled news organisation by the right wing since the dawn of time
Just to correct you, the BBC is not government controlled. It is controlled by the BBC Trust, whose members are appointed by the government, but are not accountable to the government and cannot be removed by the government, only by the other members of the board, a bit like, apart from the last bit, the US Supreme Court.
 

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Just to correct you, the BBC is not government controlled. It is controlled by the BBC Trust, whose members are appointed by the government, but are not accountable to the government and cannot be removed by the government, only by the other members of the board, a bit like, apart from the last bit, the US Supreme Court.
I know, but it use to be government controlled (like many European media) and that stigmata continues to be used against them by the right (more than the left) when said media outlets do stories that the right do not agree with.

And because the BBC is funded by the public, then the right, especially from non European countries, love to claim this proves a certain bias.
 
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There are many ways to determine bias, but only if the person making the determination isn't.

The mere fact that a news media has been so successful in shaping public opinion that a well-conditioned public is convinced their sharing the same point of view proves a lack of bias really only proves the thoroughness of the conditioning rather than the actual objectivity of the reporting. Unanimity of opinion is NOT the litmus test for an unbiased news, but rather, an indication of the degree of bias.


There is no such thing as objectivity when human events are involved. Any of those who claim they are unbiased are either deluded or lying in order to create the impression that THEIR point of view is the only correct one.
I can't disagree with any of this. You're right, there is no such thing as objectivity. The BBC however does not claim that bias does not exist, but that it strives to ensure that undue bias and partiality are balanced out and that a system of checks and balances are in place to ensure that their editorial judgement is always open to being challenged and that such challeneges must be dealt with properly, guaranteed under statutory regulations.
 

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BBC editorial policy is decided by the editorial board and approved by the BBC Trust. It is enacted by the various BBC editors, with the Director General, Mark Thompson acting as Editor-in-Chief. If you want to examine the BBC's attitude to impartiality, here is a good place to start.
I don't judge people by what they say about themselves, but by what they say. The same goes for the news medium.

How do they frame an issue? What adjectives do they use to describe a situation? How much effort do they place on telling both sides of a story? What nouns do they choose to describe something?

This is what provides a window for examining bias, and not a mission statement dressed up to provide appearances.
 
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Grant

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We're fully aware of your anti-BBC agenda, having been all around the houses with you on many occasions. You've never substantiated your complaints with any hard, verifiable facts from unbiased sources, and Mark Steyn is certainly not that.
So this program about the favorable possibility of the suspension of democracy in Britain never happened? Mark Steyn is lying? I want to be sure you're making an accurate statement here before I complain to Steyn but, then again, I know how slaves to the Beeb can also deviate from the truth occasionally. So did this program happen or didn't it?


As I've pointed out, the BBC operates a system of statutory internal and external accountability the like of which, I believe, no other broadcaster can surpass. If you have an issue then complain to either Ofcom or the BBC Trust and, if you are a licence fee payer, you have a legal right to have your complaint taken seriously. Does Fox, or even CNN offer that guarantee of impartiality?
I'm aware of the workings of the BBC and if you are happy with that then continue to believe in them. But they are certainly dumbing down the people who do depend on the BBC for their news, and that has become all too evident.

I notice that you didn't have anything to say either in support of or against the BBC's broadcast of the Mavi Marmara Panorama programme which many posters (not me, I hasten to add) found to be biased in favour of Israel. Was it that you found that programme to be well-balanced and objective, or that you're okay with biased and partisan provided the bias is in the direction of which you approve?
In fact you could notice that I didn't include a great many programs. They have more programs than I have to to review them all. That should be clear. Give me a staff of 200 and I could probably cover it quite well. If it is newsworthy though, that the BBC gave an unbiased review of goings on in the Middle East, especially regarding Israel, then I think my point has been made.

There are plenty of people who perceive the BBC to have a pro-Conservative bias too. Just shows, you can't win, but what you can do is stick your principles, and the BBC has a fine record in doing that.
Yes, I agree, but only if those 'principles' are of the left. Those who feel the BBC are too right wing would have to be Communists still bitter about the Cold War and eager to give their favorite system anther shot. It won't take long for the BBC to start reminiscing about the Cold War days when Communism was thought to be a commendable alternative to democracy (or "capitalism" as the Beeb called it) Have they started on those good old days yet?
 
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