yes-platform v. t. Intentionally provide a public platform for a specific point of view or ideology
Journalist Peter Oborne exposed BBC’s (and other broadcasters’) political interviewers’ and presenters’ willingness to allow politicians to lie unchallenged in interviews and on panels. In Broadcasters enable Johnson’s lies he said
“I have talked to senior BBC executives, and they tell me they personally think it’s wrong to expose lies told by a British prime minister because it undermines trust in British politics.”
Anyone expecting BBC to refute or even just deny Oborne’s claim would have been mistaken. Instead, David Jordan, BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, backed up what Oborne had reported. In a letter to the Guardian (screenshot below) Jordan said
“What we don’t do is label people as liars – that’s a judgement for the audiences to make about an individual’s motives.”
What Jordan described is BBC policy of allowing charlatans and con artists to spout whatever they want without being asked for evidence, without any exposure by the interviewer of untruths and without corrections provided in real time.
If the BBC or other broadcasters provide a platform then they have professional, moral and legal obligations to stop blatant lies being aired without immediate refutation. Political news programmes should not be vehicles for manipulators and propagandists.
Jordan claimed audiences should decide on a guest’s motives. Generally, viewers and listeners to news programmes will do their own analysis but there is reasonable and correct expectation that broadcasters will do some of the work of fact checking at the time when false statements are made. Jordan is aware that such expectation exists and, thus, he is aware that if lies are not challenged when they are uttered then audiences will be less inclined to assume that something is untrue.
If a broadcaster’s guest lies and the interviewer or host knows the guest lied then the lie should be exposed and corrected and the guest should be admonished. To not do that is a failure of journalism and a failure of broadcasting responsibility. In such a scenario the interview is a platform not an inspection. A broadcaster might claim that a searching question is inspection but, however clever a question may be, if the interviewee’s answer receives no swift inquisitive response then she or he can say anything regardless of veracity or mendacity.
Jordan has form. In September, after BBC Complaints Unit upheld a spurious complaint from a far-right viewer unhappy with presenter Naga Munchetty’s comment on racism with respect to Donald Trump, Jordan backed the Complaints Unit’s action. He thought it was wrong for her to connect racism to its perpetrator.
“[It] is not about calling out racist comments it’s about how you go on to discuss the person who made the comments and make assumptions or remarks about that. The issue is about when she [Munchetty] went on further to discuss President Trump himself, what his motivations were for that, and that breached our impartiality requirements. I think it’s probably unwise of the BBC to be calling out people for being liars or racist.”
In the same statement in September he differentiated between pointing out a lie and calling someone a liar.
“I think it’s probably unwise of the BBC to be calling out people for being liars. If someone’s told a lie, we call it out for being a lie.”
Jordan didn’t contradict himself above. His stance is that, although a lie might be addressed later, it should not be done directly to the liar because that would call the guest a liar which is, according to Jordan’s skewed logic, a separate charge from noting a liar’s lie. He applied the same separation logic to a racist comment and deducing that someone is racist.
Separation of acts (or words) from their source is absurd. According to Jordan and the BBC, lies and racism are sentient entities and their sources are merely hosts. It isn’t obvious if his flawed methodology is deliberate but it is clear that its consequences include manipulation of information.
David Jordan’s letter to the Guardian