Is it ever worth responding to a Peter Hitchens piece? The New Statesman invited him to provide the counterpoint to Medhi Hassan’s “actually, the BBC is right-wing” argument. Hassan’s feature is – I think – a tightly argued piece of journalism, drawing on verifiable details about the careers of high-profile BBC personnel and analysis of the corporation’s new content. It strongly makes the case that the BBC has no case to answer in terms of left-wing bias.
How does Hitchens reply? By saying that party bias is not the issue (even though the Hassan piece focused more on policy bias) and arguing cultural bias instead. Quantifiable cultural bias, no less – although Hitchens, as ever, has trouble telling the difference between something that is capable of being quantified, and something that already has been:
Were I a multibillionaire, I could commission the proper research into nuance, tone of voice, who gets the last word, presenters’ backgrounds, running order, drama, soap operas and cultural coverage, that would demonstrate beyond any doubt that the BBC is on the side of the cultural and social revolution that I and many other licence-fee payers oppose with all our hearts.
Actually, you don’t have to be a multibillionaire to commission this sort of study. You could be jobbing journalist like Nick Davies, or even (at the time) a jobbing comedian like Al Franken, and recruit a group of research students to your project. Hitchens could access the sort of information he is hoping for, but his interest in knowledge ends long before it could have any influence over his opinions – his feelings about the BBC (like his feelings about drugs, families and the monarchy) come from his gut, and he emits them with the same thoughtfulness you’d give to any other stomach contents.
© Sarah Ditum, 2009