Apparently Radio 4’s Today programme has lost a million listeners in the last year, and presenter Nick Robinson puts this down to ‘news avoiders’. This may be true of some people, but, I think, many others may be avoiding the BBC for quite the opposite reason. It fails to properly cover the news. Typically the BBC puts two opposing views on in the belief that this represents balance. Often one of these points of view is a professional lobbyist from one of the Tufton Street ‘think tanks’, that are all funded by unaccountable sources, usually foreign billionaires and fossil fuel companies. They should not be referred to as ‘think tanks’, rather more accurate would be ‘propaganda units of fossil-fuel corporations and oligarchic power’ (but that is rather a mouthful!)
This BBC belief in balance is misguided. When pitting someone who consistently lies up against someone who rigorously sticks to verifiable facts and claiming this is a balanced view seems bonkers to me. (I did write a blog on this in 2014). It is the job of journalists to speak truth to power, and the BBC and much of the media are failing to do this.
The ways in which I absorb the news has changed much over the years. In the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s sometimes I owned a TV but often I didn’t. I never regularly bought a daily newspaper but did subscribe to the Guardian Weekly, and I did listen to BBC World Service and Radio 4 quite a lot. Magazines such as Resurgence, Undercurrents, Vole, the UNESCO Courier, Ecologist and many others were very important to me. I lived and travelled in many countries and always tried to gauge how good local sources of information were, and often visited public libraries.
I started using computers in universities and libraries in the late 1980’s and in 1996 bought my first computer and connected into the World Wide Web. The internet changed my life, or at least how I accessed information. I had long been interested in climate change, ecological destruction and the possibilities of turning these crises around through profoundly different lifestyles. I had experimented, living without electricity and visiting numerous projects working on renewables and sustainable ways of living. I had often travelled miles to visit projects. Now I could digitally access a vast number of projects and ideas very quickly. I started a long process to researching a book, then giving talks and running evening classes, and writing these blogs. Eventually I got my book written.
I joined Twitter in 2012 and it has become quite a big part of my interaction with the world of news and ideas. I could carefully select the academics, politicians, activists and journalists who I thought asked the best questions or provided the most truthful and factually accurate information. I made a point of following young climate activists from every corner of the World. I wanted to hear the voices of the poor and oppressed directly, as actors in their own right, not portrayed as helpless victims of circumstance, in need of western benevolence, as is so often the case in our media.
Since Elon Musk bought Twitter he has tried to swing it as a tool to present his own pro billionaire oligarchic views, and so is inevitably soft on Putin. He may have bought Twitter with the objective of silencing the voices of those pressing for climate action and global social justice. He may find that impossible. Twitter is a battle ground. Musk has lost a lot of money and done much damage, and he could yet be ousted. Many Twitter users would love to see the back of him.
Most of the newspapers in UK are owned by foreign billionaires and the client journalists they train then go on to be the main presenters of radio and television. I can’t see myself going back to watching TV, reading newspapers or listening to the radio unless there are some very big changes at the top of these organizations. The fact that Tory Party donor and Brexiteer Richard Sharp was made Chairman of the BBC highlights the bias of the BBC. The BBC would never make someone with my views Chair, so next week I’ll write a blog, painting a picture of the media I’d love to see, if only I had some influence over it!