Since I wrote my last blog about the BBC bias evident in Sir Terry Pratchett’s programme about assisted suicide on BBC Two on Monday night, I have received Phyllis Bowman’s Right to Life newsletter in the post this morning. Bearing in mind that it was written before the BBC Two programme on Monday, this is what she writes, under the subheading “The Biggest UK Pro-Euthanasia Lobby – The BBC”:
The BBC campaign has become more and more outrageous. When the news broke (Sunday 15. 5. 11) regarding the Swiss suicide referendum, the coverage – as always – supported assisted suicide. The story first broke on the 6pm news. There were three interviews, all backing death. Four radio clips backed death with only one against. Four local radio items all favoured death; two listeners’ comments backed death, with one Swiss comment favouring life. The campaigners who were heard were Margo MacDonald MSP (pro assisted suicide), Dr Peter Saunders (pro-life), three from Dignity in Dying, one from EXIT, one from the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide. All three organisations are quite blatantly pro-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia. All this came hard on the heels of BBC’s announcement that they were making a film about Terry Pratchett…
Phyllis Bowman reminds readers of her newsletter to protest to the BBC complaints, PO Box 1922, Glasgow G2 3WT or to write to the new Chairman of the Board of Governors, the Right Hon Lord Patten of Barnes, Chairman, BBC Trust, Room 14, London Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London W1 1AA. Both he and the Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, are Catholics, incidentally.
Phyllis also draws attention to a survey conducted by SCOPE, the leading disability charity which found that 70 per cent of disabled people feared that a reform of the law on assisted suicide would create pressure on vulnerable patients to “end their lives prematurely”. Richard Hawkes, chief executive of SCOPE, is quoted as saying: “While high-profile lawyers, doctors and celebrities such as Terry Pratchett and Patrick Stewart grab the headlines, the views of the thousands of ordinary disabled people who could be affected by this issue are rarely listened to.”
To me, it seems as if the BBC is and will remain impervious to complaints on this issue. I cannot see that writing letters will make it do more than give token coverage to the voices opposed to euthanasia, perhaps throwing in an urbane “explanation” of its enlightened policy as a sop to religious “bigots”. But suppose Catholics and other Christians, indeed anyone concerned about the demonstrable partiality of our “impartial” broadcasting service, were to decide to withhold their licence fee? Money speaks louder than words. If thousands were prepared to do it, they simply could not all be taken to court.
Journalist and biographer Charles Moore took just such a principled stand over the BBC’s refusal to sack Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand for the obscene and insulting messages they left on the answer phone of actor Andrew Sachs and which were broadcast in a nine-minute sequence on Radio 2 in October 2008. Overall the BBC received 25,000 complaints about this incident. The result? Charles Moore was taken to court and fined £262 plus costs, while Ross was suspended for a mere three months. Brand chose to resign from his own show.
Important though Moore’s stand was, this is a much more serious, indeed life-threatening matter than making a protest over nasty jokes. It has never happened before that a huge number of people have said to the BBC in effect: “You have betrayed your Charter long enough. We won’t pay the licence fee again until you agree to impartial broadcasting of moral and ethical issues.”