—Just an update, as of 27 February, I’ve yet to have even an acknowledgment from the BBC. That’s listening to your licence payers.
Over the past weeks, the BBC has become a source of anti-gay propaganda in the United Kingdom as the Government drafts and calls for a free vote in Parliament on the equalisation of marriage. Two of these instances have been most notable over the holiday season. However, there is also an underlying issue in language.
The BBC addresses the issue of marriage equality as ‘same-sex marriage’ or ‘gay marriage’ and not as marriage equality. This suggests that, from the outset, the BBC is approaching marriage equality by ‘othering’ the gay community and thus suggesting that ‘gay’ marriage is somehow different to ‘straight’ marriage. If the BBC were to phrase their headlines in terms of equality, the UK’s primary news source would be in a better position to treat the question from all points of view in their articles.
This is the major stumbling block we encounter as a closer reading is made of recent BBC news pieces. On Christmas Day, the primary news on the BBC’s website and a major segment on the BBC News channel was dedicated to the Archbishop of Westminster’s illogical and vitriolic statement about marriage equality. The archbishop was not countered online or on television by statements from any other organisation, religious or not.
In contrast, when the BBC reports on a step towards equality or a statement in favour thereof by a government minister or a religious organisation, mention is always made of counter arguments. If the Unitarians were to make (another) statement in favour of equality, note would have to be made of the Church of England’s position against it. If Teresa May stands at the dispatch box to support her party’s position, mention will be made of an MP who is set to vote ‘nay’ as well as a clear redaction of the position held by religious institutions. When an article is about an MP who stands against marriage equality, a litany of names of politicians who support it will be given in a single sentence without describing what they support. Thus, equal weight is given to both sides when the main thrust of the article is in support of marriage equality but this is not at all the case when it is against. In fact, one article proclaimed in its headline the PM’s support of equal marriage yet the text was slanted to explaining the position of the opposition.
Today, the BBC has had as its top news a statement from a High Court judge, drawn from The Times, asking why so much time has been spent discussing a minority issue. Supporters of marriage equality may well ask why a vote need be had at all. If it is a minority issue, why do I need to ask for a government to vote on my marriage when they need not vote on Coleridge LJ’s? In the article, no mention is made of Liberty’s stance on marriage equality nor does it appear they were asked to comment. When reporting the news, does the BBC not ask Stonewall to comment on what someone has said, if it is considered newsworthy to report what a single High Court judge has written in a newspaper?
The BBC has recently suffered a severe blow to its credibility in the fiasco over Jimmy Saville. Now they are beginning to stand out as a news outlet with an agenda prejudiced against the GLBT community. BBC licence payers expect balanced news without overt support of the church (as seen in a news report directly before Christmas) or slanted against a selected group. To avoid ending up with another shuffle at the top, the BBC must once again be reminded to seek comments from all sides when presenting the news. If they do not, they are no better than the horrors of news reporting which can be seen in the United States. That sort of bias has no place on the public broadcaster.