What's more surprising about Robin Aitken's diatribe Can We Trust the BBC? is that it's taken this long for some disgruntled ex-BBC type to write a apoplectic rant tarring his former employer as the leading light of a vast leftwing conspiracy.
That's a full six years after Bernard Goldberg, the ex-CBS producer, made conservatives across America giddy with self-righteousness with his 2001 bestseller,Bias. But Aitken's tome isn't getting the same kind of play. In fact, according to Amazon, most people (83 percent) who check out Aitken end up buying Goldbreg's Bias instead.
Maybe the problem with Aitken's book is not so much it's content but the timing. His litany of predictable complaints against the BBC include: not-so-secret communist sympathies; really, really liking the Palestinians; and, shock and horror, opposing the Iraq war. And what a terrible disservice that has turned out to be to the British viewing public. As even Goldberg ought to admit, the liberal bastions of our media -- the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN -- knew better than to commit the cardinal sin of questioning our great leader in the run up to the war.
The reasons for their good behavior were recently explained by former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CNN, Walter Isaacson, who told Bill Moyers: "[There wasn't] direct pressure from advertisers, but big people in corporations were calling up and saying, 'You're being anti-American here.' ... So we were caught between this patriotic fervor and a competitor [FOX] who was using that to their advantage; they were pushing the fact that CNN was too liberal that we were sort of vaguely anti-American."
So what's a good corporate news channel to do except roll over and play dead. And they say privatization doesn't work.
BBC has its share of problems -- too elitist, bureaucratic, and essentially pro-establishment -- and yeah, it does tilt left. But there's a huge difference between having progressive sympathies that shape your choice of stories, and a rightwing ideology that fundamentally distorts how you report them. The problem with Fox is not that its conservative, but that it often has so little connection to those pesky things we call facts. Who cares about bias, that's just bad journalism!
BTW, you should check out the Moyers show on the post-9/11 media meltdown on the local PBS channel if possible. Or if you missed the airing, the transcript and video are available here. I guarantee it's a lot more illuminating than reading some guy froth at the mouth about the Big Bad BBC.