Here I am sticking up for the BBC again…

OUT and about in the sunshine yesterday, I spotted something on Facebook and felt moved to comment. Oh, the idiocy of looking at Facebook on a sunny bank holiday.

Sometimes technology makes fools of us, or amplifies our foolish nature, but there you go.

I was photographing the Soapbox Challenge in York, managing to capture one of the carts flying past at speed. And what a lovely York event this is.

Anyway, after taking pictures I had a quick look at Facebook, and dear God how life can end up being measured in ‘quick looks’ at Facebook. There I spotted something being shared that ‘proved’ the BBC was hopelessly biased.

This claim is often made on Facebook by the usual suspects (mostly avid Jeremy Corbyn supporters) – and kicked around by another usual suspect (me with a frown on). The post was from the left-wing blog The Skwawkbox, a Corbyn supporter and frequent critic of the BBC.

On this instance, the accusation was that the BBC was involved in a cover-up (another one). The blog began: “If you get your news from the BBC, you may well have no idea that the Tories are now being investigated for serious multi-faceted election fraud in the recent General Election affecting no fewer than ten seats the Tories won in June.”

The blog then praised Channel 4 for uncovering the story – adding with a snarl: “Our so-called national broadcaster has put beyond question the fact that it is suborned by and in the pockets of the corrupt few against the interests of the many.”

If you get your news from the BBC… Well, as mentioned before, I do – along with the Guardian, Observer and other sources, including Channel 4 News. And I spotted the story the BBC is alleged to have smothered in an evil cover-up. It went up on their website on Saturday, when I first read it, and is still there now. The headline is: “Police probe claims Tories used call centre to canvass vote.”

Within the story there is a link to a previous BBC website story on June 23. That earlier story was, it is true, mainly a report on how a Channel 4 News investigation alleged that the Conservative Party contracted a secretive call centre during the election campaign and that this may have broken data protection and election rules – something the Tories deny. And will no doubt go on denying until they are even bluer in the face.

Now this is a good story and kudos to Channel 4. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that it was true; they’re a slippery lot, those Tories. But the BBC has covered it and that undoes the complaint made by The Skwawkbox, doesn’t it?

Now it is true that the BBC hasn’t given a lot of space to this story or much if any airtime. But it has covered the story on its website and the story is easy to locate. I found it with two or three clicks while standing in the sunshine watching those carts whiz by.

Nowadays anyone can have a platform, or indeed a ledge, but I worry when you see smears that aren’t true. You can argue that the BBC is too complacent/corrupt/whatever to cover this story properly. But you can’t say they haven’t covered it at all because they have.

People from right and left moan about the BBC, and this offers the Corporation the traditional defence that it must be doing something right if everyone is complaining. I don’t defend the BBC without qualification, but on balance believe that we would be much worse off without it.

The BBC does much more than supply a mostly reliable source of news, but even if you stick with that part of its remit, we are surely better off with the BBC at the cornerstone of our national life than, say, having to rely on a nakedly partisan broadcaster such as Fox News.

For all its faults, the BBC is mostly a good thing – and mostly a good British thing. That’s why I am happy to pay the licence fee.

As for the story in question, The Skwawkbox post complained about the BBC without exactly explaining what the story was. For that I had to read the two stories on, ahem, the BBC website, where a link was provided to the Channel 4 News page.

Such wildly critical items are shared widely on Facebook, and fair enough – it’s all part of the mix. But if you get your news from them, you may have no idea that you are only getting a partial picture.

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