A bit of a rant about the BBC

I have become more and more aware over the last few years how low a priority the environment is on BBC television and radio news and current affairs.

Unfortunately I don’t sleep too well and I tend to hear rather too much of the World Service during the night. I began to notice how environmental stories would be heard on the World Service but not on Radio 4 during the Today programme the following morning. An example would be the massive protest against the construction of the Dakota XL oil pipeline which ex-President Obama eventually halted. I was disappointed (and more) that environmental issues were given such low priority during the last General Election and the run-up to the EU referendum. Caroline Lucas M.P. was occasionally given a slot on one programme or another, and without fail she performed brilliantly. With that exception it seemed that the politicians didn’t want to discuss the environment and no-one at the BBC was willing to take them to task for this. It seemed there must have been an unspoken agreement between them.

Last week on the eve of the crowning of “President Trump” a 30-minute Panorama programme looked into his links with Putin of Russia. It was largely intrigue and speculation. In contrast, half-an-hour earlier, a Channel 4 programme had looked into Trump’s links with “Big Coal” and “Big Oil”. As well as interviews with some of the main players such as lobbyists for the coal and oil industries, C4 had found actual evidence of the massive donations they had made to the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign. This was proper investigational journalism on a crucial issue.

Most recently there have been the executive orders that Trump has already signed. “Obamacare” got coverage on R4 news but not another which was made at the same time to begin to roll back Obama’s Climate Change-related legislation. Last night when the Dakota XL pipeline was given the go-ahead by Trump it was mentioned on every news bulletin on the World Service that I heard – every half-hour, I believe, together with interviews with an oil industry lobbyist and an environmentalist. Questions about the donations to Trump were asked. On Radio 4 – zilch. The Today programme did cover the Executive Order Trump had signed regarding the construction of the Mexican Wall, but rather than then mention the pipeline issue, they went on to speculate at great length about the Wall.

I can’t pretend that I hear every single minute of the Today programme or every single news broadcast. This is not a scientific survey. I’m sure someone at the BBC would be only too happy to prove me wrong but I listen to enough radio to get an impression of the pattern that has emerged. I have been a supporter of the BBC for its unbiased coverage of current affairs for many years but now I really wonder where I can go to hear politicians being challenged about their environmental policies. There is so much speculation in BBC current affairs about what such-and-such a politician will announce later and what will happen then. The BBC should remember that there are far more members of conservation organisations than of political parties. The environment is not a minority interest. It is time that their journalists got out of the Westminster bubble and began doing their job.

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About Jeremy Moore

One of Wales' leading photographers; based near Aberystwyth, and specialising in Welsh landscape and wildlife. He has published the Wild Wales / Cymru Wyllt range of postcards since 1987. His most recent book was "Wales at Waters Edge" (with Jon Gower) published in May 2012. The National Library of Wales has a large number of his prints in its Collection. His exhibition "Bird/land" was shown at Aberystwyth Arts Centre from June until August 2016. It originally received support from the Arts Council of Wales. He is also working on a new book about Wales with the author Jon Gower, due for publication in spring 2018.
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8 Responses to A bit of a rant about the BBC

  1. Brian Boothby says:

    Good point Jerry, it’s the same on the telly.

  2. I don’t listen to the radio but it’s true that there seems to be little coverage on TV.

  3. Simon E says:

    IT’s only when you start following the alternative sources or feeds that you see some of the gaps or ‘blind spots’ in the BBC’s news and current affairs output.

    I’m afraid these days I can’t trust the Beeb to cover what’s really happening, whether the subject is in the UK or abroad.

    • Jeremy Moore says:

      Just wondering who you would recommend for more coverage of the environment? And do any opinion formers read it?

      I guess subscribing to George Monbiot’s blog would be a start…..

      The trouble is that if one only listens to news and opinion that backs up one’s own prejudices it is possibie to get a misleading sense of reality. That’s why it’s good to read the Daily Mail every so often……..

      • Simon E says:

        Ooh, I wouldn’t consider wasting any of my energy and time on the Daily Hate Mail – it’s pretty light on factual content and filled with celebrity rubbish and prejudiced, hate-fuelled diatribe.

        Apart from the faithful Graun and people like of Monbiot, what about publications like The Ecologist, New Statesman, The Economist and The Spectator? You don’t need to read it all, just scan the headlines, RSS feeds or twitter to see what they consider the big stories. Good columns will be ‘sticky’ or ‘float to the top’ (unlike the mainstream press, who care about clicks and ad revenue, not people who actually *read*). Not all journalists are polemical extremists or enslaved by a media mogul’s diktat. Browse some of the shelves in WH Smiths and see if anything there is worth more than 30 seconds of your time.

        For a decent view from across the Atlantic and some excellent photography try the New York Times.

        Although I’m wary of how things can go wrong on social media, if you follow some well-informed social commentators and politically literate people, you do at least get a flavour or what’s going on. Recently created rogue accounts like @RogueNASA and @NotAltWorld (American scientists and NP workers whose official accounts have being muzzled) are a good example of passionate people who care about what they do. There are also individual MPs among the 600+ in parliament who do a fine job, I particularly like what Caroline Lucas has to say (and how she says it).

        You might find the guest speakers hosted by Do Lectures (http://www.thedolectures.com) and their weekly newsletter of interest. Run by the creators of howies clothing, just down the coast from you, they are real ideas people, full of energy and enthusiasm.

        And for an anecdote to the doom and gloom I’d strongly recommend https://www.positive.news. It’s now a quarterly magazine printed on quality paper with a very attractive layout and good photography, projecting a very different view of what may be going on in the world.

      • Simon E says:

        Addendum: I stumbled on an interview with Tom Mills, lecturer in Sociology and Policy at Aston University, about his book on the BBC:

        https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourbeeb/ian-sinclair-tom-mills/bbc-is-neither-independent-or-impartial-interview-with-tom-mills

        Found via https://twitter.com/frankieboyle, no less.

  4. Jeremy Moore says:

    I absolutely agree about the Daily Mail. As far as politics is concerned the Mail is appalling but I still think it makes sense to read it every so often. It makes you realise what you’re up against. It seems as if we are stuck with newspapers (not just the Mail) that mostly have rabidly right-wing owners and editors who do their bidding.

    As far as the BBC is concerned I would expect them to give a balanced viewpoint on environmental issues and they probably would do a reasonable job of it. My argument is that it just doesn’t cover them or relegates them to the Farming programme at 5.45 a.m on Radio 4 or other minority issue programmes at obscure times of day.

    I should probably read the Grauniad more often but I have at least subscribed to George Monbiot’s blog.Not that it makes happy reading…….

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