I’ve been thinking about the fact that the right wing regard the BBC as a hotbed of lefty intellectuals and the left regard it is a toadying propaganda tool of neoliberalism. Some say this indicates the BBC must be doing something right because it offends both sides. But I don’t buy that.
When I look at the BBC it is clear that it has largely embraced a neoliberal hegemony. Economic comment seems incredibly partisan and simply reflects the neoliberal consensus of many academic economists. Shows like the Apprentice, Dragons Den etc seem to relentlessly push a pro-business agenda. From my perspective the BBC is manifestly right wing.
And yet many on the right don’t see this, they see a BBC that relentlessly promotes what they regard as wishy washy metropolitan liberal values.
Then it struck me, the BBC , like many commercial corporations, has indeed accepted a set of metropolitan liberal values that celebrate sexual and racial diversity, regards social, sexual and racial identity as an individual choice, has a proscriptive vocabulary (political correctness gone mad) and seems intoxicated by urban ‘trendiness’.
This metro-sexual, multi-cultural world-view is clearly at the heart of the modern BBC and is surely regarded within the BBC simply as a given, as not even being a political perspective, as being common sense. Yet such values are not appreciated by many and especially those on the right. To many conservatives (with a small c) public expressions of sexuality of any kind are embarrassing not to say offensive. Homosexuality is still regarded with anger, fear and suspicion. Racial diversity is alarming and undermines ‘the British way of life’. And much of what is regarded as ‘trendy’ in London is simply bafflingly laughable.
Yet most BBC comedy laughs on a daily basis at the values these people hold dear – tradition, hierarchy, hard-work, obedience to authority, good manners and love of queen and country.
So it seems the BBC has become a sort of grotesque deformed child of New Labour; promoting far-right neoliberal economic values that offend the left, while simultaneously endorsing a kind of metropolitan liberalism that many on the right regard as a sort of moral degeneracy.
So unfortunately both sides are correct – in news and current affairs the BBC does have a right-wing neoliberal bias, but in drama and entertainment it does have a relentlessly metropolitan liberal bias. Thus the BBC is not reflecting the nation back to itself or attempting to objectively inform and educate the viewers but is merely reiterating the views of the metropolitan elite who run the thing and who, like most modern elites, do indeed tend to be economically neoliberal but liberal in terms of identity politics.
And of course what is missing from that worldview is class. Tony Blair, perhaps the epitome of this slick metropolitan neoliberal, claimed that we are all middle-class now, which enabled him to ignore the issue as he continued with Thatchers dismantling of the Welfare State and yet to be ‘intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich’ – including himself…