David Blackburn

The Culture Secretary’s loaded gun is jammed

The Culture Secretary’s loaded gun is jammed
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Ben Bradshaw is in gladiatorial combat with the Beeb. Battling the BBC is an all consuming passion for BB and, like the Lone Ranger, he fights alone. With Twitter as his Tonto, he has already fired salvos of no more than 140 characters at the Corporation’s “disgracefully feeble” scrutiny of the Conservatives, and this morning he targeted the Today Programme.

Outraged by Evan Davis’, I thought, appropriately pointed interrogation of George Osborne, Bradshaw tweeted:

"Another wholly feeble and biased Today programme rounded off with a fawning interview with a Tory pundit!!"

I will gloss over the Culture Secretary’s use of two exclamation marks because, as the Education Secretary misspells the title of his brief on communiqués, liberality with crass punctuation is a minor offence. Besides, BB’s comments raise two issues. First, if the Culture Secretary, who is crucial to the ongoing licence-fee debate, believes the BBC is biased, then the House of Commons would prove an effective arena to develop his argument. As you can see, Bradshaw, despite great precision and clarity of expression, has nearly exhausted his allocated character allowance without justifying his claim. Even if old “Ordure, Ordure” still reclined in the Speakers’ Chair, interjecting on alternate syllables, Bradshaw would better express his concerns than he does via an internet gimmick; they might also be debated.

The BBC can be feeble, but it’s not biased. That is why Lord Mandelson escapes admonishment when he claims that Labour have saved 500,000 jobs, and why interviewers waive through George Osborne’s estimate that his pension plan will save £13bn a year. The clamour, from left and right, that the BBC is iniquitous is nonsense. The BBC provides balanced analysis and, most of the time, excellent factual reporting – its line that Osborne’s plans are necessary but represent an electoral gamble is the exemplar of arch fence-sitting. Bradshaw’s baiting is irrelevant and unfounded - time wasted that would be better spent on protecting arts funding and promoting 'Digital Britain'. Then again, he should be excused: if I’d given up a promising career as a BBC reporter and found myself serving in this fag-end of a government, I doubt I’d see the wood from the trees.