Oh dear, Aunty!

I have heard it said that if the people on the left and on the right are complaining about the BBC then it must be doing its job right. I wish it were so but the latest incident seems to have raised the bile of the right leaning section of the public far more than any other.

The BBC has clearly lost its way over the Gary Linekar twitter debacle, making a molehill into a mountain, a twitter storm into a tornado. It has been a textbook demonstration of what not to do in a crisis. Its actions have only exacerbated a relatively minor issue for the organisation into a full blown disaster.

Whether you agree with the content of Linekar’s tweet or not, you may be surprised to know that I do, it in itself is not the issue. Instead the problem lies in free speech, the control organisations have over our own lives and political interference in the BBC.

The free speech issue is a strange one as it seems that those clamouring for Linekar’s head are those who shout loudest about the freedom to say what you want. You can’t have it both ways by defending Clarkson and reviling Linekar. Clearly it is not free speech that these people are after but rather the ability to say what they want.

When I worked in the public sector, it was made clear in my contract that I was in a politically sensitive position and was not allowed to make public comments on political issues. I didn’t and now I am back in the private sector, I can and I do. Yet Linekar isn’t an employee of the BBC and its own guidelines make a clear distinction between what those in news and current affairs can say against those in other roles, such as sports presenters. 

The BBC has not been consistent, allowing people such as Neil and Sugar to make specific political comments without any comeback. Indeed Sugar went as far as telling his followers who to vote for. How can that fit in with impartiality guidelines? Then there is the fact that the chair of the BBC is heavily politically tainted. Either the BBC has a policy or it doesn’t. Either its employees and contractors agree to adhere to such a policy or don’t. Either the organisation enforces its policy or it doesn’t. You can’t have it both ways.

The last point is about political intervention. There has been such a backlash as Linekar’s comments could be taken as referring to the government, even though he was talking about language rather than policy. The governing party and its supporters have made capital of the issue. Had his comments been about the opposition there would not have been any hue and cry. 

The government thinks that the BBC should be its mouthpiece and show no dissent from its policies. Such control, worthy of any autocratic regime, would extend to anyone within the organisation’s tentacles.  The BBC is not owned by the Government. It is paid for, in part, by the British public through the licence fee. It should be there to support the wide ranging views of those who enable it to function.

BBC impartiality is a myth. Increasingly so it is impossible to be impartial on anything. Everyone has a history which influences their views. At best it can provide balanced content.

The BBC is an amazing asset to this country and is of world renown. Let’s hope they sort this issue out soon and learn the lessons from the debacle. We don’t need another British Institution to be destroyed.

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