BBC and Climate Crisis

I used to think the BBC was a fine example of broadcasting, and in some ways it still is, with some excellent reporters around the world, and programmes on radio and TV with high production levels. But in recent years I’ve been very disappointed, even apalled, at a general failure to address some important issue, and with a consistent bias in favour of the status quo and the upholding of some widely held but cleary fallacious views. And with its often slavish following of what our overwhemling right-wing press decides is news and what the view on it should be, most evident in recent years over its assault on Jeremy Corbyn. Academic studies have confirmed the anecdotal impression that his views and actions have been consistently misrepresented, often even falsified.

The BBC employs people who mainly come from a limited section of society; middle-class, university educated, well-off and conservative with a small c – and for its political commentators, usually with a large C too. The board that oversees it comes from the same type of people, part of a metropolitan elite. Perhaps we need quotas to slim out the Oxbridge and Eton mobs and other over-represented groups.

Perhaps most damning has been its failure to properly address the crisis of climate change, potentially the most disastrous issue we all face (though too many still have their backs turned), with the potential to make our own species extinct, along with most others. While the BBC hasn’t entirely ignored it, it has generally failed to recognise the huge amount of sceintific interest and studies, and has often given the views of fossil fuel investors and the flat-earthers of climate studies the same importance as those of climate scientists in the pursuit of a false impartiality.

Climate campaigners from Extinction Rebellion came to protest at the BBC calling it to stop ignoring the climate emergency & mass extinctions of species already taking place and to end its promotion of destructive high-carbon living through programmes such as Top Gear and those on fashion, travel, makeovers etc. Virtually every programme the BBC broadcasts displays a high resource high pollution lifestyle as the norm and is an aspiration for the great majority of viewers in the UK to live beyond their means and well beyond what our planet can support for the great majority of its population.

I’m not sure we can expect TV ever to come real. I gave up regular watching of television back in 1968 for variouis reasons, largely because I saw the time sitting in front a screen as preventing me from doing things I felt both more interesting and more important – like forming and illustrating my own view of the world. It seemed to me to be too passive, allowing others to write my agenda and discouraging of critical thought. And while there have been programmes since which I have watched and admired, the great mass of output from the BBC and commercial channels which I’ve occasionally and rather randomly seen since have fairly definitively confirmed my views.

Every time I’ve come awake in a hotel room to TV’s breakfast shows I ask myself ‘How can anyone watch this drivel?’ which makes even Radio 4’s often infuriating Today programme seem remarkably adult. We truly need a cultural revolution, and I don’t mean red books and Chairman Mao.

The protest outside the BBC was organised by the Climate Media Coalition (CMC) and its director Donnachadh McCarthy; they brought mannequins wrapped in white cloth to the BBC representing the bodies of a Greek village killed by fire, increasingly common as global warming brings higher temperatures and greater instability to the world’s weather systems.

It was a protest directed both at the BBC to live up to the terms of its charter and agreement, and to the mass media in general to wake up and realise and report the real problems the planet faces. We don’t need to know celebrity trivia but we do need to have a future for life on Earth, both human life and that of other species. The current extinction rate from man-made causes, according to the WWF “is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate,” and is rapidly increasing.

Taking place on their doorstep – and with crowds and security barriers through which those working at the BBC had to cross and a volume of noise that they could not ignore even though they chose as usual not to report it, following their policy of not reporting dissent unless it fits a particular agenda (or involves one of their favourite celebrities, political or otherwise) and above all of not rocking the boat.

You can read more about it and see the pictures at Extinction Rebellion at the BBC.

Unfortunately I missed the most newsworthy part of the action, as when the protest organiser deliberately got himself arrested climbing over the barriers I was making pictures at the barrier on the other side of the plaza.


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