Saturday, 1 January 2011

Bashing the Beeb

The first of January is a time for fresh starts, new beginnings and changed behaviours. Most of us probably spent the best part of today nursing sore heads and swearing 'never again', some might even have come up with a resolution or two.

But not everyone is so keen on the concept of self-improvement; they're more than happy to keep doing the same things and pursuing the same predictably unhealthy activities. Take the Taxpayers' Alliance, for example. Despite the fact that it clearly gives them a communal ulcer just thinking about the BBC, they keep on conducting ridiculous studies into spending within the organisation, and churning out press releases for the right wing press to regurgitate verbatim.

Today's attack on the world's most respected public broadcaster, courtesy of the Telegraph, is a searing indictment of profligate spending and wanton recklessness. According to the esteemed broadsheet, BBC executives in Cardiff have been spending "more than £1,000 a day on taxis". In total, BBC Wales spent £595,551 on taxis over the last 18 months, a sum that the paper helpfully converts into "more than 2,800 annual licence fees".

To the organisation's critics, it's of little or no consequence that BBC Wales also managed to produce 1,500 hours of TV programmes, and another 14,000 hours of radio output in the same 18-month period. Not when accusations of 'Champagne socialism' can be thrown about.

The BBC is everyone's favourite media whipping boy - its directive to represent the opinions, perspectives and communities of all the audiences it serves, means that it's destined to be forever damned by anyone who occasionally finds a contrary viewpoint receiving airtime.

And even a comprehensive diversity, representation and inclusion policy isn't enough for some people. The gay community is currently up in arms about the corporation's recent coverage of Elton and David's newborn baby. They're unhappy with the fact that Stephen Green of Christian Voice was invited to take part in a discussion of the couple's December 25th miracle birth.

Green has something of a reputation for being anti-gay, having described gay rugby player Gareth Thomas as a "wicked role model for children" and compared H from Steps to a mass-murderer. To be fair, he did help to kill our fond recollections of Tragedy and Chain Reaction. 

So it will have come as no surprise to anyone that Green wasn't planning to send a gift-wrapped breast pump to the glowing new parents, telling the BBC “This isn’t just a designer baby for Sir Elton John, this is a designer accessory… Now it seems like money can buy him anything, and so he has entered into this peculiar arrangement… The baby is a product of it. A baby needs a mother and it seems an act of pure selfishness to deprive a baby of a mother.” is currently advising its readers to complain about his inclusion in the coverage of the Elton story, and for the fact that the BBC neglected to mention some of Green's more extreme views. Whilst their intentions are noble, and their outrage understandable, it's important to remember that the BBC takes its responsibility for objective coverage seriously, even if that means giving airtime to objectional viewpoints. 

There's nothing homophobic about enabling alternative voices to participate in the debate. And demanding that they be silenced or excluded is to reject the very principles on which the BBC was founded. As long as gay marriages, adoptions and surrogacy are discussion points in the media, there will be pro and con arguments demanding to be heard. 

If we use our energies to decry every perceived slight or lapse of judgement, our argument is weakened when something genuinely outrageous occurs. Nobody wants to be the boy who cried homophobic wolf. 

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