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Monday, January 19, 2004
What television could gain

Bobbie at PolitX charges those who complain of left-wing media bias of exaggerating the case. The mushy Guardianings of the BBC, he claims, is more than balanced by high-circulation dailies like the Sun, Telegraph and Daily Mail.

I agree. On the whole, Britain's media does make room for people of a great variety of perspectives. But this is entirely a matter of newspapers filling in the gap for the failings of television and the radio. I am proud of the British press. For all the criticism raised at the supposed hysteria and fury (for which read: interest and circulation) our tabloids in particular generate, I think British newspapers are probably about the best in the world. Whether one wants high-brow or low-brow, left-wing or right-wing, mushy-centrism or forthright conviction, the press caters for you somewhere. The Mail, Independent, Telegraph and Sun all serve their purpose well. My reasons for liking the right-of-centre press are obvious. But although I attack Guardian columns constantly on this site, that doesn't mean I deny that it too does a good job for its readership. I rather like it that American or Australian bloggers often turn to it or to the Indy when they want to find a left-wing 'idiotarian' to fisk. I may not agree with the views espoused in these cases, but it does please me that our newspaper industry fills that market niche so well, as it does so many others.

And it is precisely this that makes the BBC's dominance of television and radio so depressing. British journalism is naturally exciting and challenging, catering for a great range of views very well by any global standards. The only thing that holds it back from succeeding in other media is an anachronistic state monopoly whose idea of diversity of opinion is to mix the occasional Thatcherite in with a dicussion panel of social democrats and then have the presenter mock him throughout. If we saw on our television screens one-tenth of the vibrancy and diversity of opinion that exists in the British press, we would all be the better for it, public debate being hugely enhanced. The British press should not be the corrective to British television. It should be the model for how its political content and opinion could work. The BBC behemoth prevents that, and all those who seek more intelligent, thoughtful and open debate are the worse for it.

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