|Typical anti-BBC flak from the Mail elides public and the Mail (read more)|
I'll probably add more to this over time, but, writing before her controversial £10m funeral on Wednesday coming, here's a few pertinent points on this...
CLEAR BLUE LINES: HOW THE PRESS REPORTED HER DEATH
More below on the anti-BBC flak that featured in this, but you can see a very clear example of how the right-left binary functions in our national press through their coverage of her death.
You can view every front page here; analysis here.
The Mail and Mirror fronts sum it up rather neatly: grim-faced, divisive figure v bright, effervescent saviour (apt, as Maggie is held up as a divinity by the likes of the Mail)
Dissenting voices were rounded on by the Mail et al - indeed, the Telegraph took the highly unusual step of banning all reader comments on Thatcher's death/funeral, after they discovered many of these were highly critical of her. Of course, Leveson didn't mention online press content, so had nothing to say on this topic.
RIGHT-WING PRESS v (INdependent???) BBC
IN BRIEF: The BBC was roundly attacked for featuring any anti-Thatcher views, its presenters not wearing black ties from the moment Thatcher's death was announced, and not banning the Ding Dong the Witch is Dead track1: PUBLIC OPINION ON BEEB COVERAGE
, by a right-wing press determined to see the BBC privatised or radically reduced in scale (thus enabling their own TV/broadcast interests to grow and further reducing the likelihood of encountering counter-hegemonic voices). Here's detailed analysis of the Mail's coverage.The BBC's response? Full coverage of the controversial non-state funeral (presenters wearing black ties) and the Ding Dong ... track not playlisted (it swiftly topped iTunes charts, but the online element is being ignored), and only a small fragment to be played as part of a news article within the Top 40 countdown!!!
Lets start with some facts over the BBC's 'controversial' coverage, condemned as typically lefty and anti by the right-wing press (who cite public opinion as outraged - see links above and pic of Mail headline at at the start of this post):
BBC figures in fact show that more people have complained that the coverage has been biased in Lady Thatcher's favour than against her, while the largest group think the volume of coverage has been excessive. [Guardian editorial, 11.4.13]2: CONTEXT OF CONGLOMERATES SEEKING SMALLER/PRIVATISED BBC TO FACILITATE VERTICAL INTEGRATION
Only the Guardian isn't owned by billionaire/multi-millionaires, whose corporate interests typically render the BBC as a barrier to their own entry/progression into the UK broadcast market (with Sky, for example, set to become the world's most profitable TV network by 2015). Already we have two major press groups with significant vertical integration: Richard Desmond's Northern and Shell (Express, Star, C5, OK! etc: read more) and Murdoch's News Corp (S*n, Times, BSkyB etc [Wiki]), while DMGT (Daily Mail and General Trust: Mail, Metro, 20% stake in ITN, radio etc) is looking to build their assets too.
The Indie are also getting on board this race to secure a post-print future, with newspaper circulation continuing to tumble as online content becomes king: owner Lebvedev has appointed the i's editor as editorial director of London Live, one of 19 new local TV franchises awarded by OfCom.
There has been particular hostility to the BBC's online presence, with the right-wing press routinely accusing the BBC of unfair competition and effectively blocking its own ambitions, calling for the BBC to spend less online (which their recent spending review, Putting Quality First, duly did).
3: BEEB BOWS TO FLAK BY BANNING DING DONG...
As the BBC decision to play up to 5 seconds of the 51 second long "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead", wrapped in a news feature, shows, the BBC remains (over?)sensitive to press flak, which flew thick and fast, with a prominent Tory MP also unsubtly threatening the BBC:
John Whittingdale, a Tory MP and chairman of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, told the Daily Mail: "This is an attempt to manipulate the charts by people trying to make a political point. Most people will find that offensive and deeply insensitive."(Quoted from Lisa O'Carroll 12.4.12 article, BBC chief to decide on Ding Dong after Thatcher press storm).
Whittingdale said ultimately it was a matter for Hall, "who will be appearing before my committee in two weeks".
The Daily Mail splashed on the story on Friday with the headline "BBC Witch Song Insult to Maggie", telling readers Radio1 was "to play single driven up charts by Thatcher haters".
Friday's Daily Telegraph front page splashed with the headline "BBC chief refuses to ban Thatcher death song".
Here's the Telegraph on why it should be banned, and some archetypal Mail outrage over it.
4: iTUNES MAKES THE BAN PREPOSTEROUS?
Nick Cohen (Observer, Guardian's Sunday sister paper) argues that this Ding Dong over Thatcher song makes the BBC no better than China (13.4.13); its worth a lengthy excerpt from this to make the point about the overlooked online element in this (my emphasis):
The silencing of the Munchkins must rank as one of the most inept acts of censorship Britain has seen. The days when the Radio 1 playlist made or broke a song's chances went with the invention of the web. Neither the Daily Mail nor the parliamentary Conservative party appeared to know that if you want to ban a single today, you need to compel YouTube and iTunes to take it down.The seeming ignorance over web developments can also be seen in Leveson, which somewhat preposterously set out to re-regulate the press without any mention of the online world.
Ham-fisted though it may be, the attack on The Wizard of Oz tell us much about the authoritarianism of British conservatism and the cowardice of the BBC. It proves that the right can be just as politically correct as the left. ... They might, in short, have tried to have convinced their opponents of the justice of their cause in free debate. Instead, they tried to silence.
As for the BBC, what is there left to say about it? Can it show The Wizard of Oz again? Can it only run the film after the 9pm watershed? Must the announcer warn: "This children's story contains Munchkin choruses that some viewers may find offensive"? Its decision to ban every part of the song except for a five-second clip in a news report shows clearly something that many people outside the media rarely understand: the BBC folds under pressure.
During the debate on the politicians' plans to regulate the press and news websites, many people have asked why journalists should worry when regulation works so well at the BBC. The behaviour of the BBC last week explains why. Tory MPs and the Daily Mail picked on the BBC rather than iTunes or YouTube because they knew they had a chance of winning. Any other media organisation might have said it stood by the principles of free speech. If music buyers had, for whatever reason, put a song in the charts they had a duty to play it.
Because the BBC is funded by a licence fee everyone must pay, because it is in the end a state broadcaster, it is far easier to intimidate. "Free speech is an important principle," said Tony Hall, its director general, as he struggled to explain his behaviour. Politicians know he doesn't mean it. They understand that if they make life hard enough for the corporation it will abandon its principles.
5: PRECEDENT - BBC BANS PISTOLS IN 1977
As the BBC showed back in 1977, when they not only refused to play the Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen but declared it was number 2 in the charts in the week of the Queen's Jubilee when sales showed it clearly number 1, the BBC can be relied upon to represent that part of the public which the politicians who ultimately control the license fee find palatable or acceptable. They received intense press pressure back then too.
6: BBC ANNOUNCE FULL COVERAGE OF FUNERAL
The BBC also set out to mollify its right-wing critics (a Sisyphean [impossible] task?!) by announcing full coverage of the funeral - not a state funeral, officially at least. And, yes, presenters will wear black ties! (The Mail slammed the Beeb for not making presenters wear black ever since the announcement of Thatcher's death)
7: GUARDIAN EDITORIAL ON HOW THIS BATTLE REFLECTS ANTI-BBC HISTORY
Here's the Guardian editorial (11.4.13) on this in full:
Conservative hostility towards the BBC – and hostility was often a rather mild word for it – was a constant theme of the Margaret Thatcher era. Underlying it was a conviction that the BBC was unpatriotic in international affairs and liberal-left in domestic ones. "If the television of the western world uses its freedom continually to show all that is worst in our society," Lady Thatcher said after the riots of 1981, "while the centrally controlled television of the communist world and the dictatorships show only what is judged advantageous to them and suppress everything else – how are the uncommitted to judge between us?"
There was a crescendo of such denunciations at key moments: during the Falklands war, over Ireland and, especially fiercely, over the bombing of Libya in 1986. Following the raid on Libya, the then party chairman Norman Tebbit produced a dossier claiming that BBC coverage had been "riddled with inaccuracy, innuendo and imbalance". Ministers eager for brownie points often joined in, especially in front of the party conference audience. The BBC, said Nigel Lawson on one such occasion, should really be known as the Bash Britain Corporation. This was far from untypical.
Over the past 20 years, the sneerings and bullyings have rightly died down. With the death of Lady Thatcher, however, there has been a fresh spike in anti-BBC hostility. The former minister Peter Lilley told MPs on Wednesday that the BBC's use of the word "divisive" in relation to Lady Thatcher "probably tells us more about the BBC than it does about her". The former MP Louise Mensch accused the BBC of spinning Lady Thatcher's legacy. Rightwing commentators have been much more intemperate, accusing the BBC of hating Lady Thatcher and complaining about everything from the reporting of Gerry Adams's views about her to Huw Edwards's failure to wear a black tie.
Most of this is silly stuff. The BBC's coverage has been extensive and balanced. Channels have cleared their schedules – imagine the complaints if they had not. The coverage has rightly reported opponents and protesters. It has not done so to excess and certainly not at the expense of the more extensive tributes and some excellent TV and radio documentaries. BBC figures in fact show that more people have complained that the coverage has been biased in Lady Thatcher's favour than against her, while the largest group think the volume of coverage has been excessive. Clearly, the BBC must answer any criticisms and reflect on the totality of its coverage when the funeral is over. Yet with Tony Hall having barely had time to get his knees under the director-general's desk, too many of the complaints seem wildly excessive, wrong, premature and to be pursuing other, even ancestral, agendas.