BBC Bias – you don’t have to look as far as all that.

Much hoo-hah from the usual suspects on the subject of the BBC’s new report suggesting that they might not be flawlessly impartial. An interesting, and mostly correct, piece on it from Peter Wilby in MediaGuardian today. The thrust of it is that bias is not such an easy thing to adjudicate as it once was.

That may be so, but, having just watched Newsnight, I’m not so sure we need to look so far for examples of bias, or to widen our definitions at all. In particular, what annoyed me was this evening’s “GB tour” item, where Paul Mason went in search of the “progressive vote”. You can’t yet find it as an item in its own right on their site, but when you can, it will be part IV of the item. At the moment, you can use their “latest programme” feature to see it. It starts about 37 minutes through.

Like pretty much all of tonight’s Newsnight, it studiously ignores the existence of the Lib Dems. Nothing terribly notable in that, you might think, since they have a lot to focus on with Gordon’s ongoing arrival and the objections of Eurosceptics to the new EU not-a-constitution. But in a report dealing with the voting options available to the “progressive vote”, including an extended discussion with a “solid Labour voter who feels let down and lied to over Iraq” and more widely with a group of surfers clearly engaged with environmental issues, then one can only conclude that to avoid not only a serious discussion of but even the slightest mention of the party of both principled opposition to Iraq from the outset and the most radical green policies of any main party approaches Orwellian levels of thought management.

One can only hope that Paul Mason’s sinister bounding of debate comes from thoughtlessness, rather than a Machiavellian decision on his part that he can decide for us which parties are realistic prospects for government and which aren’t. Such an attitude, whether conscious or not, is shockingly prevalent throughout the press in this country. Since when was it decreed that only the two biggest parties can be considered as credible governments? That is a decision to be made by the voters, not the media.

It is one of the great fights that we as a third party who believe we offer something more than a protest vote must undertake: to force the news media not to force the converse judgement onto the general public. We cannot underestimate the unconscious effects that this kind of avoidance of discussing us as an electoral prospect has on the results of elections, and it is something about which we should really start to dig in our heels. We cannot be frightened of being labelled as whingers. This is too important.

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