Ranjona Banerji: Has the BBC become an open stooge of the UK government?

29 Sep,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji


I spent all morning on Tuesday watching TV news. When I say “all morning”, it’s a gross exaggeration. Maybe a couple of hours. If I actually watch TV news all morning, all I could type was “kiajsoihasuyfaukjdbfbvliusyrfwiuahc.,jmzx.,cn”.

Add head exploding emoji.

But there were two reasons for this mad decision. The first was the “fuel crisis” across the UK where I am now. The second was to check the complaints that I’ve been reading about on social media about how the BBC was not fair or balanced when it came to reports on political parties in the UK, specifically that it was skewed towards the government.

So was there a fuel crisis or not? Watching TV, you never could tell. From anecdotal evidence, this is what I could fathom: On Saturday, September 26, there were queues at petrol pumps in Nottingham. On Sunday morning, a relation drove miles to fill up with diesel and managed to do it. By Sunday afternoon, there were no queues and there appeared to be fuel everywhere. Only one petrol pump on the drive to Manchester had a “no fuel” sign on it. We managed to get petrol with no waiting on Sunday evening. But who knows. Anecdotal evidence goes only so far.

On Monday night and Tuesday morning, the BBC was full of news about this fuel shortage, with weeping and angry people still sitting in their cars in queues around the London area. Was it the lack of lorry drivers? Was it something else? Was it official incompetence? Was it rumours and social media that sparked the panic buying? Or was it the panic buying that created the panic and caused the shortage? Frankly, if you watched TV alone, you would have no way of knowing.

The news before the panic buying began pointed to Brexit and the shortage of lorry drivers or “HGV” drivers for the impending and/or real fuel crisis. Temporary visas for those who had left the UK because of Brexit were discussed. The army has been put on standby. The Guardian and European newspapers blame Brexit and the Boris Johnson government.

The links below to articles from The Guardian look at different aspects of the crisis. Including the sadly funny story of people who filled the wrong fuel into their cars, adding to the chaos and possibly severe problems for their vehicles! The most interesting of the links is the interview with the HGV driver who says the UK needs to improve conditions for lorry drivers.




The Sky News website offered a slightly more rounded perspective than BBC news:


A more dire perspective came from The Financial Times which, unlike the BBC and other media blamed the Tory government in power in the UK and also presented the fuel crisis as being about more than panic buying, which is the government line.


So, are the critics of BBC News correct? Has the most venerable and trusted news channel in the world, especially for post and post-post colonials become an open government stooge?

Certainly not, if you set your standard by Indian news channels. Or whatever Goebbels ran in Nazi Germany. Or the propaganda news of North Korea.

However, interestingly, the lack of scrutiny of the government’s role in this crisis, on the BBC, stood out. The focus appeared to be on the fact itself. A few interviews with affected people. And that was it.

If you wanted politics and political responsibility you had to wait for the next big story – the resignation of a Labour Party member during an important Labour conference. The reporting and discussion on dissensions within the Labour Party were far more intense than the biggest problem facing the UK today: a Brexit-related fuel shortage.

Like so much of the Indian media, this displacement therapy seems the norm for journalists who cannot face the dangers of criticising a government in power. Therefore, you concentrate on the Opposition and present them as the reason why the country is in power. It’s a neat deflection argument: if these Opposition politicians were better, then “those” people would not be in power.

If only life was as simple as a cowardly media organisation imagines!


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Friday. Her views here are personal


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