13 April 2021 — True Publica
By Rob Woodward – TruePublica: The BBC’s wall-to-wall coverage of the death of Prince Philip has become the most complained-about moment in British television history. It has elicited one of the most negative reactions to BBC programmes ever seen.
The 110,000 complaints received dwarfed the previous record of 63,000 when the BBC was embroiled in a controversy for broadcasting Jerry Springer’s – The Opera – which made its name for extensive profanity, surreal images and attacking of religious groups.
The Guardian reported these complaints but did so by placing it in a corner of the newspaper that also said – “BBC One and BBC Two dedicated Friday evening’s programming to Philip, and their ratings fell as viewers switched off altogether, turned to streaming services or watched shows such as Gogglebox on Channel 4.”
The BBC itself declined to comment, of course.
The whole thing smacks of the fawning right-wing Daily Mail tapping into its ageing Brexit loving audience with its 144-page pullout of the death of Prince Philip. That edition was a record-size for the DM. It beat its coverage any life-changing events since its first publication is 1896, such as – the start of global conflict, the ending of the Second World War, the end of the Cold War, the death of Diana, 9/11, the invasion of Iraq or the bank-led financial crash that cratered our economy. When Margeret Thacher died – who the Daily Mail considered was the economic deity that saved Britain, the ‘special edition’ pullout was not 144 pages – but 25 pages.
The reality of the BBC’s coverage of this particular event, is, as I hear it on the ground, one of coercion. The Boris Johnson government have made no attempt to cover up its intentions when it comes to the national broadcaster and this is one of the outcomes – long drawn-out puff-pieces that are excessively complimentary.
It wasn’t so long ago when we saw just how fast this government threatened to “review” Channel 4’s licence when it empty-chaired him for refusing its climate debate. C4 was subsequently sidelined from major political events such as the G7 for criticising Johnson. They are now made to apologise for the slightest error (source). It appears C4 is being held to account by the government, but it is not allowed to do the same to the government.
Ofcom was prepared to back C4 back then – but the price it paid was to see its chairman fired and replaced (if the Tories can push it through) with the rampantly right-wing Paul Dacre – the former Daily Mail editor (source). This is a man who thinks journalistic regulation should be binned, thinks nothing of printing disinformation and propaganda and has a very limited respect for the rule of law – as seen through countless lawsuits it has lost under his supervision.
Of course, we all know that Downing Street threatened the future of the BBC by insisting it was seriously considering decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee, which it subsequently shelved this January but went on to threaten it by saying the decision – “remains under active consideration” (source). Then a crony was appointed as its Chair in the guise of Tory donor and Sunak mentor – Richard Sharp. Ironically, this is the same man who advised Boris Johnson on financial matters when he was Mayor of London (source). Sharp is an establishment figure with extremely close ties to the government. It’s all very Putinesque, isn’t it!
People tell me that there are morning meetings at the BBC about what can and cannot be reported about this government and especially about Boris Johnson himself. The evidence for that is plain as day as it is not holding the Johnson government to account at all. Take the Arcuri scandal which has not had any prominent BBC coverage. At the height of its revelations, it was only reported about once (source) – and that was about legal bills, not taxpayer-funded road trips so Johnson could relieve himself in a pole-dancing ‘businesswoman,’ the malfeasance of public office and baggage that comes with it.
And the BBC is not the only news outlet being constantly threatened by this government. Indeed, Jennifer Arcuri has confirmed it herself – that for some reason, no major newspaper will cover the story (source). The Mirror had a go, but social media miraculously managed to generate just 31 comments. If my mangy street cat is caught pissing in a plant pot – social media responses go through the roof. It is not possible that this story is of no interest to the public – quite the opposite.
The BBC is being intimidated – and that is what this story of Prince Philip is really about. It’s about distraction tactics in a time of impropriety, of corruption, cronyism, nepotism and so much more.