Sunday, August 26, 2007

Auntie Beeb misses the point, as ever

The award for the silliest media statement of the week has to go the BBC, which today reported on the new tests that the Australian government will be imposing upon prospective immigrants to that country. Naturally, the BBC is incapable of delivering anything like an objective report on the matter without sneaking in its own opinion: "critics believe the requirement of an English language exam discriminates against non-English speakers." That's the fucking point, you wankers. You don't test people's knowledge of English unless you intend to screen out those who don't know English! Presumably people emigrate for the purpose of making for themselves a better life than the one they left behind; how can they even begin to prosper in a new land without being able to communicate in the most basic way with their neighbours? (And will the BBC, in the interests of consistency, determine next that calculus examinations are biased against the innumerate?)

Also telling is the article's treatment of the concept of "mateship". I'm not Australian, so I can only guess at what the full cultural resonance of this word might be. According to the Beeb's report, Aussie PM John Howard says that "mateship" is about people helping each other out in times of adversity. Sounds like a blameless enough idea, you'd think, but the article goes on to say that a previous attempt to include it in the constitution was dismissed because it was "sexist" (even though "mateship" doesn't specify any sex) and because it was also deemed to be -- gasp! -- "inappropriate for a formal document."

Surely, if that "document" was intended to be one which reflected the way of life that a majority of people in Australia held dear, how or why on earth could it possibly have been made so "formal" as to have excluded a basic concept that ordinary Australians felt to be at the core of their national identity? I'm reminded of Bertolt Brecht's sarcastic remark that if the people proves itself to be unsatisfactory, the government should dissolve it and form another -- but since we don't live in a Marxist police state as Brecht did, perhaps the modern liberal democratic equivalent is that our betters should feel free to dismiss out of hand the people's opinions on the most important issues of the day.

We should never deceive ourselves into thinking that the BBC is merely reporting contrary opinions in a spirit of fairness. Whenever you see the words "critics say...", "it was criticized...", or variations thereof in one of their news items, you can be pretty sure that what is to follow is in accordance with the views of most of its journalists. The veteran BBC producer Antony Jay recently revealed the innermost workings of the corporation in an article in the Times of London, and his confirmation of the political bias warping even the most basic coverage of the world and its affairs should give the lie to the Beeb's pretence of journalistic objectivity once and for all.

No comments: