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Beware the vitriol Tories reserve for the BBC

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13 Nov 2012
Anyone who believes that the BBC "needed a bit of a slap" should have sat where I was in the chamber of the House of Commons yesterday, looking across at serried ranks of Tory MPs grim-faced and eyes glittering with hatred for our national broadcaster. Then they would have understood the visceral hatred that far too many Tory MPs feel for the BBC and how dangerous it is for the rest of us to feed the hysteria now engulfing the institution.

Anyone who thinks this is harmless should follow the Twitter feed of one Rupert Murdoch. He tweeted gleefully: "BBC mess gives Cameron golden opportunity properly reorganise great public broadcaster. Fast inquiry to include both critics and supporters." And then "BBC mess gives Cameron great opportunity to reshape and improve. And listen to non LibDem cabinet colleagues." How it must have choked Murdoch to describe the BBC as a "great public broadcaster". But "properly reorganise" and "reshape and improve" are scarcely veiled euphemisms for the longstanding Murdoch ambition to break up the BBC. And dismantling the corporation was clearly uppermost in the minds of some Tory MPs yesterday.

There are many reasons why politicians hate the BBC.Some are mere bag-carriers for Murdoch like Boris Johnson. He was quick to claim that the Newsnight mess was "more cruel, revolting and idiotic than anything perpetrated by the News of the World". No doubt Murdoch was suitably grateful.But apparatchiks of all parties always cordially dislike the BBC. They want to able to manipulate it and resent any resistance. Hence the New Labour types joining the current clamour.But a certain type of Tory particularly dislikes the BBC. To listen to their complaints is to enter a weird world where Fox News is the gold standard and battalions of grey BBC bureaucrats are actually raving "commies".This is the tide of resentment engulfing the corporation.

Politicians and commentators insist on claiming that Newsnight named the alleged Tory paedophile when it did nothing of the sort. They cannot see the contradiction between attacking the BBC for not running one paedophile story (Jimmy Savile) but then pivoting to attack it for actually running another.The people screaming for yet more resignations at the BBC had nothing to say about the case of Christopher Jefferies who was actually named (complete with photographs) by no fewer than eight newspapers as the alleged murderer of Joanna Yates. Yet no newspaper editor or manager resigned over that.

Nor does the BBC get any credit for the fact that, whatever mistakes Newsnight may have made and however inept some BBC managers may be, it is other BBC journalists who have been ruthless in exposing it all. Instead the corporation's enemies pretend that the Newsnight problem points to a wider malaise in BBC journalism.

The truth is that the BBC remains the most admired broadcaster in the world. The British public trust it far more than their politicians. And, in times of crisis or national celebration, it is the BBC that people turn to.Nobody should give any credibility to the rightwing onslaught against the corporation. And how I wish that, amid all the noise and fury, politicians and commentators would listen to the still small voice of the abused children. Because it is they who are being marginalised.

This article first appeared in the Guardian Comment is Free website

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