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The BBC White Season only shows how little Auntie has really changed

Rod Liddle says these tokenistic programmes demonstrate that the BBC’s view of the vast majority of people in this country remains appallingly patronising. The Corporation has not renounced its bad old metropolitan ways at all

12 March 2008

12:00 AM

12 March 2008

12:00 AM

I hope you are enjoying ‘White Season’ on the BBC — a brave and groundbreaking attempt by the corporation to devote 0.003 per cent of its airtime to issues which bother 92 per cent of its licence payers. One of the senior commissioning monkeys at the BBC, Richard Klein, admitted that white people — some of whom he has met — have been underserved by the corporation, and especially ‘working-class’ white people. Mind you, it is surely difficult to serve such a hidden and secretive tranche of the population, especially when they live beneath stones and only venture out to get drunk and shout ‘darkie!’ at passers-by. But at least the BBC has tried to understand these awful people and shown them where they are going wrong.

One of the films during the White Season was about a white (i.e. British) girl growing up in a part of the north of England which is heavily populated by Muslim immigrants from the Indian subcontinent. The BBC has not shirked from dealing with immigration issues before, of course. There is a huge and very costly unit within the BBC which tells broadcasters precisely how they should deal with tensions occasioned by ethnic minorities moving into traditionally white areas. Broadcasters should at all times be on the side of the immigrant communities, rather than the side of the racist indigenous whites. Politicians who try to stick up for the whites should be kicked from pillar to post and their arguments ridiculed. Forgive me if this seems to be a simplification — but that is how it felt back in the days when I worked for the BBC.

But maybe things have changed. These days, the stuff that was considered beyond the pale and racist even three years ago is now uttered, open-faced, by the boss of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and by inner-city Labour MPs. Multiculturalism has ceased to be the unchallengeable paradigm; it is now dead in the water. Partly this is down to the astonishing success of those very politicians who dared to stick up for the working-class whites: the British National Party now holds ten seats on Barking and Dagenham Council. The political class saw that there was a quiet revolution in the air and swung 90 degrees to the right. These days, Jack Straw can tell you he insists that women who arrive at his office for surgery must remove their hijab because he doesn’t like it very much. Five years ago he’d have been deselected: now he’s ‘opening a very real and valuable debate’. Five years ago even the BNP would not have been so crass. Even a Monday Club politician would have thought twice before saying such a thing.

And so we have BBC1’s White Season, which is hanging on the coat-tails of this dramatic paradigm shift. Or, at least, is pretending to. That film about the white girl in northern England ended with her converting to Islam, converting her mum to Islam, and both of them waving goodbye to their abusive, white, Christian, family patriarch and living happily ever after.


Well, as a sop to the trenchant views of the displaced and neglected white working class, this seems to me to be a little wide of the mark. It is hardly seeing the world from a white working-class perspective, is it? It is instead seeing the world from the perspective of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) — which is not to say that it is wrong, per se, merely that it would serve to annoy still further those white working-class people who feel the BBC could not give a toss one way or another about their grievances.

There was another film, too, about white working-class people in Barking and how, basically, it’s a generational thing — with the young whites mixing happily with young people of every colour of the rainbow and only the thick-as-mince, time-warped, older generation cleaving to either racist or embittered points of view about immigration. Is that an accurate reflection of how it is?

It seems to me that in both cases it is how the BBC fervently wishes it to be; it is the point of view of the educated, middle-class, metropolitan white liberal elite — the very people who, as it happened, foisted the damaging and now rejected creed of multiculturalism upon the rest of us. If the MCB had been handed the task of devising a series of programmes to highlight the problems of the white working classes in Britain, it would undoubtedly have shown a greater awareness and sensitivity than did the BBC.

It is all there in the title of the series, ‘White’, as if once these programmes have been put to bed — with a suitably uplifting message for the untermensch such as convert to Islam and make friends with everybody — then the whole business can be dropped. They can return to making programmes which have absolutely no relevance whatsoever to white working-class people, with their horrible views and their perpetual smoking and drinking.

It is this, rather than any conscious political bias, which bedevils the BBC. It is, to misquote the former director-general, Greg Dyke, hideously middle-class. Hideously metropolitan. Hideously civilised (which means, in terms the rest of us would understand, hideously liberal). But much more than all of these, hideously arrogant.

When those programmes were commissioned and the BBC executives sat around discussing the content, they undoubtedly caught the whiff of the zeitgeist — that, come on chaps, we really ought to do something about those dreadful people in the north who somehow feel estranged and alienated. But they were singularly incapable of commissioning anything which said, actually, they might have a legitimate grievance. That would have been a step too far.

Instead they commissioned a bunch of programmes that said: white working-class people, we feel your pain, but unfortunately, you’re wrong. In other words, they demonstrated precisely the same mindset which infects every single news bulletin, documentary and drama we have witnessed for the last 20 years on the BBC. Can you imagine them commissioning a film about a Muslim girl who converts to Christianity, converts her mum — and by the denouement is proven right to have done so? It will never happen.


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