During the broadcast of highlights of a Premier League game between Manchester United and Chelsea on Match of the Day on Saturday (October 24th), that featured Marcus Rashford who is leading a fine campaign to ensure all children have enough to eat, the commentator Guy Mowbray said
“whether you agree with Marcus Rashford’s causes or not, there’s surely only admiration for his continued commitment.”
The only who people disagree with Rashford’s aims are right-wing extremists who hate any social act. If Mowbray was not obligated to mention Rashford’s campaign during the commentary then he could have chosen to just commentate on the football match.
In response to criticism of his comments Mowbray suggested that “programme editors” directed him to make his decision to both-sides his comment on Marcus Rashford’s superb work rather than use intelligent judgement and simply praise Rashford without a caveat, and he claimed he could not have declined to say anything.
“Impartiality broadcast rules mean things have to be phrased a certain way. I tried to do that, having checked my original words in the morning with the programme editors. I had to chage them – it’s in the political arena so balance (however strange that may seem with some topics) is paramount. The first things I said were purely factual. The latter was wholesome praise of someone fighting a noble cause. That’s it. Couldn’t have done anymore. Shouldn’t have done any less.”
If Mowbray is given benefit of the doubt regarding flexibility or not of what he could say, his comment “the first things I said were purely factual” – some people disagreed with “Rashford’s causes” – showed that he and the editors of Match Of The Day were keen to value the opinions of dogmatic right-wing ideologues as equal in worth to opinions in support of feeding children. Mowbray emphasised his intent to evoke an all opinions have equal value approach by stating “impartiality broadcast rules mean things have to be phrased a certain way.”
BBC has a severe problem with its interpretation of impartiality. “Impartiality broadcast rules” do not demand that everything has to be countered by an opposing opinion. An interview with an astronaut does not need to be balanced by a representative of the Flat Earth Society, a debate on racism does not need to be balanced by the opinion of a racist, and an appreciation of Marcus Rashford’s efforts to ensure children can eat does not need to be balanced by the views of people who couldn’t give a damn if children starve.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie, like his immediate predecessor Tony Hall, prefers a parody of impartiality.
Tony Hall, March 2019: “Making sure all sides of a debate are heard – all different views and voices – is fundamental to our mission.”
Tim Davie, September 2020: “We need to explore new ways of delivering impartiality, seeking a wider spectrum of views, pushing out beyond traditional political delineations and finding new voices from across the nation.”
They mock impartiality by turning it into a rigid, simple philosophy wherein nothing is wrong and nothing is right. This approach negates intelligence and inspection of ideas. It ruins analytical thought. The broadcaster, the BBC, becomes an unthinking vessel, a useless empty beaker. For the viewer, knowledge is not imparted. Emotionally, the BBC’s strategy is an eraser.
Mowbray and his editors followed the guidelines. Automatons behaving as coded is what Davie wants from BBC staff: “If you want to be an opinionated columnist or a partisan campaigner then you should not be working at the BBC.”
(Davie was chair of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservative Association.)