Television Switch Board
Roger Bara

Unique to the three of us, I was employed by my state broadcaster, the BBC, for over two decades. I can give you first hand confirmation about how fairness and impartiality are drummed into every reporter and journalist from the first day. And just about every day after that. We had a huge “bible” of BBC rules and regulations, which had to be read and adhered to, with severe consequences for anybody who stepped out of line. 

Of course, there were occasions when they got it wrong, but the BBC has always been very consistent with objective reporting of its own misdemeanours. The whole organisation is funded solely by the public by means of an annual licence fee, and not by any organisation.

I have been retired for over ten years now, and it’s only recently that I have begun to have serious misgivings about how the BBC is being run at the top level of management – and there is now a serious perception of government interference or influence by the ruling Conservative party.

BBC Logo

Extraordinarily, the BBC’s current chairman, Richard Sharp, is a former Conservative donor and was the boss of the current Prime Minister at an investment bank. He was involved in the facilitation of an £800,000 loan guarantee for former PM Boris Johnson, which was not, apparently, properly disclosed when taking up his appointment with the BBC. How on earth could he possibly be offered the job of BBC chairman?

This state of affairs recently came to light because of an exceptional decision by the BBC to take off screen its most highly-paid and popular presenter of the flagship football programme “Match of the Day”, Gary Lineker. 

Mr Lineker, who is a freelancer and thus not an employee, tweeted about the government’s plan to ban people arriving in the UK illegally from ever claiming asylum. He described it as an “immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s”.

Oh, how the Tories cried “Foul!” How very dare he, a mere sports presenter, criticise government policy? The trouble is, the tweet was neither inflammatory nor incorrect. The bloody Tories had voted for a Bill that breaks international law and breaches people’s human rights. It was politically irresponsible, and morally repugnant, like so much that was happening in 1930s Germany.

If Lineker had, instead, tweeted that the policy was welcome, and was needed to curb immigration, would he have been sacked? No, of course not. And thus, the perception is that the BBC caved in to government pressure. 

Interestingly, all of Lineker’s colleagues, to a man and woman, refused to go on-air in support of his right to say what he did, and the presenter was re-installed to the programme three days later. What a farce.

Right now, the BBC has much to do to convince the British public, and a former employee, that it remains impartial and totally objective. It could start by getting rid of Richard Sharp.

How impartial is my state broadcaster?

Our Rusuk Blog writer Sergey

First, let’s come to terms. What is a state broadcaster in Russia’s case? Technically, it is Russia 1 TV channel, a part of the VGTRK state media holding, which, structurally, is something like the BBC, I believe. Unlike its British counterpart, Russia 1 is 100% owned and directly funded by the government. 

Another example is the First channel, or Pervyi, in Russian. It is known as the First channel because, historically, it was always the #1 button. Formally, it was not a state media, but the government is the biggest shareholder, so it is the same. Correspondingly, Russia 1 channel, technically, is the #2 button. These are both state media with minor differences. 

Back in the day, Pervyi was less formal than Russia 1. In fact, the First channel has always been producing more quality content, both the original production and the choice of foreign movies. 

Channel One
Channel 1

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Russian TV was a pretty curious scene because there were several truly independent channels, with NTV paving the way. There were plenty of witty anchors, smart newsmakers, and so on. 

Then Putin destroyed the TV diversity by taking under control all significant non-state channels. Vlad was fighting his media wars because he knew: he could continue ruling Russia only if he controls national state and private TV channels. 

As I write this blog, the First channel, as the biggest state broadcaster in terms of reach, frequency, and ratings, is fully controlled by the Kremlin. If you turn it on at prime-time, you would see a freak show of ‘experts’, discussing Ukraine and mighty Russia which is just about to crush the enemy, and then invade Western Europe. 

If you switch to Russia 1, you would check out another freak show, a competitor of the first. I can’t believe such professional degradation is now a reality in Russia. This dramatic fall took around ten years to happen. What was once journalism, has now become Goebbels-like propaganda.

It is useless to say that no true opposition voice can be heard on the First channel or Russia 1. You can sometimes notice some clowns on talk shows who pretend to be the opposition. Make no mistake, they are like actors who get paid by state producers to vilify and discourage those who think differently. 

Russia One
Russia 1

Now, both Russian state TV media holdings are just Kremlin’s left and right hands. You can choose between various degrees of media BS, but in the end, you will choke, or become a Zombie. No exit here. So the best choice would be to stop visiting this circus, and surf the internet. Please don’t forget about VPN!

How impartial is my state broadcaster?

Photograph of Dean Lewis

The United States is a bit odd when it comes to official broadcasters. While there is a government sponsored broadcaster, called PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), it’s underfunded and not serious.

The height of PBS passed years ago. Most cities had four TV stations, three commercial network channels and PBS. Big cities would also have an independent station that wasn’t associated with any network. 

If I had to point to a single time that was the height of PBS, it was when Carl Sagan’s series, Cosmos aired. Of course, the network is best known for Sesame Street. In general, I would point to the rise of cable and specifically the Discovery Channel as the death of PBS as a serious network. Discovery also had The History Channel, Animal Planet, and The Learning Channel. Together, they pretty much killed public broadcasting. Today, nobody cares what the state broadcaster does – beyond of course, Sesame Street. Public Television has no programmes at all anywhere near top ratings. 

National Public Radio is in the extreme opposite position. Three of the top five radio programs in America are public. Two are NPR’s: Morning and Afternoon drive. That’s prime-time for radio and most programs aired on NPR are top rated, nationwide.

The radio network’s political leanings are very much one focus of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. They would dearly love to kill it. Remember, these folks believe anything to the left of FOX is lame stream media and all lies. NPR is independent and that is far worse than fingernails on the blackboard for this group. They hate it so much some have actually purchased radio stations just so they could kill the service in some cities. 

So just how impartial is this socialist’s sponsor of baby eating, gay pride? Here: judge for yourself. Because the network is News/Talk, 24/7 they will spend 20 minutes on a single story – all of the time. It can be anything from gardening to Ukraine. Listen to NPR for a month and you can talk about almost any subject. I love NPR.

I’ll close with a bonus for Roger: BBC World Service is the 13th highest rated radio program in America. It normally airs late at night on many NPR stations but we can’t understand half what they are saying. They sound smart, though. English lessons anyone?