Being the other side of the world when hearing of the Paris attacks has been a strange experience. But it’s made me even more appreciative of the BBC’s online presence. Anti-BBC “culture” secretary John Whittingdale (his philistinism really does justify the scare quotes) may want to get rid of it, but as a licence fee payer overseas on work, I’d say I ought to be able to access it.
Why’s it been so good? Let me give two examples. First, BBC caution about confirming their facts meant that news might be a little slower than CNN which I could get on TV, but CNN were exaggerating the death toll by around 25. Secondly, CNN managed to include in successive sentences “This is an attack on French multi-culturalism” and “This is an attack on laïcité”. Since the secular policy of “laïcité” is what makes France the least multi-cultural society in Europe, this seems to represent the triumph of rhetoric over understanding. By comparison BBC explanation has been careful and acknowledging its limits.
When something bad happens in the world, I, like millions of others, including a great many citizens of other countries, trust the BBC. We do so with reason (and not uncritically). This government’s ideological crusade against it, is a disaster in the making for those who want a trustworthy source for news. No doubt they are pandering to their friends the wealthy proprietors of newspapers who resent being held to the BBC standards rather than pursuing the profit drive downmarket. But it seems a wilful attempt to dilute one of the greatest of British brands, and the removing of a world-renowned benchmark for accuracy and truth.