This is one in a series of ‘Open Letters’ addressing non-Muslim neighbours, colleagues, family and others in Britain. Please pass it on to anyone who you think might find it useful or interesting.
BBC Crisis: More focus on managers than criminals or the values that made them!
Many of you will be all too aware of the details of the deepening crisis the BBC has found itself in over the past few weeks.
Jimmy Saville’s sordid behaviour, the decision not run the Newsnight expose about it, the allegations of child abuse by a prominent Tory politician that fuelled defamatory online innuendo about unnamed suspects – all of these have contributed to a worsening of trust. The ComRes poll for BBC Radio 5 live found only 45 per cent said the BBC was “trustworthy”, and a YouGov survey showed 32 per cent said trust in the BBC had decreased.
I must confess I am not surprised by these figures. Whilst, many in Britain may be disturbed by learning that their trusted ‘auntie Beeb’ has taken on more of an appearance of being a ‘dirty old uncle’, many in the Muslim community have seen the BBC, as much as any other media organisation, peddling politically-driven propaganda about Islam and Muslims over the past few years. Trust in the BBC was lost quite some time ago, not least because of programmes like Newsnight.
Yet I believe the real danger is that the circus about the BBC management has completely overshadowed the very serious issue of the grooming and abuse of children at the heart of Britain’s entertainment industry and beyond – including children’s homes like that in North Wales.
This distraction will only reinforce the BBC’s blind spot about the societal values it reflects in its programming, without considering how they contribute to some of the problems it faces now.
Former BBC radio presenter Liz Kershaw described her disturbing experiences when joining Radio One in the 1980s, comparing it to walking in to a ‘rugby club locker room’. Many people have suggested this was a different era. But those who think that a public opinion that permitted promiscuity, sexual harassment and dishonouring women was a thing of the past, need to look more honestly at the present.
Recently, the musician James Rhodes bravely wrote about his own experiences of abuse in childhood in the aftermath of the Saville affair, saying: ‘We simply cannot on the one hand have sexualised images of children on billboards and magazines, underwear for six-year-olds with pictures of cherries on them, “school disco” themed nights at bars and community service sentences for downloading “indecent” images (indecent? Saying “sh**” in church is indecent – this is abominable), and on the other hand regard the Saville story with abject horror.’
The BBC may not consider that it is in the same league as the advertising industry and commercial media in sexualising society. It has however, in its chasing of ratings and its attempt to appear contemporary, moved away from the more conservative standards of the past in much of its radio and television schedule.
It may consider that its fig leaf of the nine o’clock watershed is a robust firewall to protect society from its more excessive content – but few others would agree.
The BBC has done very little to challenge the excesses of modern liberal behaviour, the commoditisation of women and the sexualisation of society – even though the harm they cause is manifest.
More than that, it is very much part of a culture and media that uses women for art and entertainment.
It is all too likely that the coming weeks and months will see activity in reshuffling managers and tightening to editorial decision making, instead of considering the values that underpin Saville’s sordid behaviour, the child abuse in North Wales, and the treatment of women like Liz Kershaw.
At best we will see yet more coverage of strategies aimed at safeguarding children from predators, instead of challenging the environment that breeds and nurtures such predators.
Would it not be brave if Newsnight and other programmes, instead of trying to expose the abusers, spent more time exposing the values that nurture a culture of abuse? Would it not be refreshing, and truly in the public service, if a broadcaster tried to uphold a moral standard instead of simply echoing the society’s weaknesses? Would it not be a lesson learned, if people were treated to a serious discussion about Islam as a way of life that is distinctly different from today’s liberal capitalist norms, instead of smearing it with labels of ‘extremism’?
That would be a media standard worthy of the label ‘public service broadcasting’.
“He does not utter a single word, without a watcher by him, pen in hand!” [Surah Qaf 50:18].
Chairman, UK-Executive Committee
Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Liberation Party)