Last night Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre used the Hugh Cudlipp lecture to the beat the BBC for its stifling political correctness and left-wing bias. (The editors of the Guardian have printed a transcript, presumably to demonstrate their more open and embracing form of liberalism.)
His basic line of argument – that a national, tax-funded media organisation should take care to reflect the opinions of its nation – is pretty hard to refute, even for an unreconstructed auntie lover like me. But, true to form, he still repeatedly manages to make my lower jaw start wobbling in impotent fury.
I’ll give just two examples. First off, there’s the fact that the right-hand side of his face appears to come equipped with blinkers:
But let’s pose this question: what if a civic BBC finds itself dealing with an administration that does not behave in a civic way? An administration that manipulates news organisations and the news agenda, that packs ministry press offices with its supporters, that chooses good days to bury bad news, that favours news bodies that give it positive coverage and penalises those who don’t, that fabricates health and education figures…
These are all reasonably disgusting things for a government to go about doing. But – and admitting I’ve trimmed the quote to lose a couple of Blair-specific points – aren’t these exactly the kind of things the Thatcher government did in the eighties? You know, Bernard Ingham, Marmaduke Hussey, that kind of thing?
Come to that, despite Dacre swallowing the line about liberal media bias in the US, doesn’t the lack of criticism the Bush administration received during its first five years rather suggest that they, too, might have persuaded a pliant media to roll over and play dead?
And most of all, doesn’t the fact that we’ve all spent the past decade listening to constant complaints about Labour’s efforts to control the media suggest that, far from being the masters of spin, they’re actually appallingly bloody incompetent at it?
Even more annoying than this, though, is the ‘silent majority’ stuff. Some extracts:
How often do you hear, on the Today programme or Newsnight, contemptuous references to the tabloid or popular press as if it was some disembodied monster rather than the very embodiment of the views of the great majority of the British people…?”
…Over Europe, for instance, the BBC has always treated anyone who doesn’t share its federalism – which just happens to be the great majority of the British population…
…that political correctness has become an intolerant creed, enabling a self-appointed elite to impose its minority values on the great majority…
Lets get this straight. Dacre is criticising the Beeb for not recognizing the range of political opinion in Britain. And in order to bolster his cause, he refers repeatedly and without evidence, to the great conservative mass of the British people, who all silently nod along with his politics and style of journalism?
As much as I love the Beeb, and believe it provides a much needed liberal voice in a media that is increasingly dominated by the right, there is a good argument against funding it through tax. But by pretending to speak for the great mass of British people and ignoring past Tory spin, all Dacre does is highlight the fact that, when it comes to the media, the right play exactly the same game as the left.