The wrong mea culpa 

18 July 2007

DELETE—It’s all very well all this wailing and gnashing of teeth going on at the BBC and aired in public. We know that the phone-in quiz business was industry wide, but it’s only the BBC that, so far, is indulging in public dirty-laundry washing. The editorial “breaches” are rather more serious, because nobody else is owning up to having made far bigger errors – deliberately and not by accident.

Mark Thompson and Michael Grade alike have recognised the importance of telling the truth. Yet at the time of writing, only the BBC is in the mea culpa hair-shirt business. The inference is that nobody else has committed similar “editorial breaches”. Or at least nobody with a Public Service aspect to their remit.

The fact is that Mark Thompson was only able to find a handful of cases – six cases in a million hours of television. That’s incredible: everyone makes mistakes and to be this good is truly commendable in my view.

Look, on the other hand, at Channel 4. Look at the alleged behind-the-scenes manipulation that goes on in Big Brother for example, where situations are apparently set up without the participants’ knowledge and participants are given psychological “advice” deliberately to encourage more lively and ratings-worthy inter-participant behaviour (see this article and this for example).

And while we are looking at Channel 4, consider this. On Thursday March 8th, the channel aired Martin Durkin’s alleged documentary titled The Great Global Warming Swindle. It was rubbish from virtually one end to the other (for a complete rundown, read this). And this wasn’t even the first time the man has produced so-called documentaries appearing almost deliberately designed to mislead the audience. But they just keep asking him back.

By all means let the BBC admit to its (occasional) shortcomings. But don’t make too much of it. Six instances of errors in a million hours. How many errors in an one-hour Durkin programme? Quite a few. And not a public peep out of Channel 4. How much fakery in Big Brother – never mind the public scandals?

A sense of proportion might be in order. And a bit of BBC-style honesty elsewhere.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Richard G Elen Contact More by me