BBC DG: Olympic Coverage Is Too Patriotic, Must Now Support Other Nations

This was brought up in comments thread of  the “Nearly Back” post by Number 7, but I think it’s worthy of a full post itself and deserves discussion.

We are too focused on Team GB: Astonishing memo from ‘increasingly unhappy’ BBC boss over patriotic tone of news coverage

BBC chiefs have ordered their news teams to stop focusing so much on Team GB’s stunning Olympics success.

Director general Mark Thompson is said to be ‘increasingly unhappy’ with the patriotic tone of the news coverage of the Games.


TV and radio newsroom staff were astonished by an email sent yesterday, which told them to focus on the achievements of other nations as well as our own.

In the message, titled ‘An order from the DG’, director of news Helen Boaden wrote: ‘Mark Thompson is increasingly unhappy that we are focusing far too much on Team GB’s performance to the exclusion of all else.

‘This is also becoming a theme within the Press.

‘As editor in chief, he has issued a directive that this needs to change from today. So you need to get cracking on making that shift.’

What, no hugs? Seems like a strange directive for the national broadcaster of the United Kingdom. Especially considering the bit in the Charter about “bringing the UK to the world”. Assuming that the following bit about “bringing the world to the UK” is about news reporting and not jingoism in sports, that is. Even so, this raises some serious questions.

1. Does Thompson believe that in reality there are enough immigrants or communities of immigrant origin in the UK who would prefer to hear about their own country’s success that he is seriously directing staff to pay more attention to other countries? If so, doesn’t that betray the entire concept of a nation united by values and that the much-vaunted concept of multiculturalism is in fact divisive balkanization? Not enough British people living in Britain, then?

2. Is this revealing of a certain embarrassment at the top levels of the BBC about openly supporting British success in the face of non-white nations? I’m pretty sure Thompson isn’t concerned about so much attention being lavished on Usain Bolt for his two brief events rather than on US athlete Ashton Easton for winning gold and setting a world record in the decathlon, which used to bestow upon the winner the title, “World’s Greatest Athlete”. Nor is Thompson talking about giving more credit to the French.

3. Has the BBC’s lust for evil profits, global reach and dominance caused Mark Thompson to subsume the BBC’s ultimate remit – providing public service broadcasting for the license fee payers in the UK as the official State broadcaster – in favor of pandering to audiences in other nations where the BBC reaps or stands to gain commercial revenue?

4. Is Thompson simply the Panderer General?

5. What does this tell us about the line of defense we’re always fed that there is no top-down editorial directive at the BBC, that there are no memos handed down from on high giving editorial directions, that the BBC is too large and too disorganized for there to be an institutional bias of this kind? According a BBC insider the Mail quotes, this never happens:

‘We never get direct orders like this.

Except, we know they do. Maybe it’s just that there’s been no serious objection before when orders come down from on high about Global Warming or Islam, for example.

6. Does the shock amongst regular BBC staff signal at least some hope for the reformation of the BBC after all?

‘It is only natural that our viewers and listeners want to hear about Team GB’s successes. All the other countries celebrate their own medal winners.

‘It would be a shame if we had to water down our coverage to satisfy an abstract notion of fairness.’

Do they not feel, as Thompson seems to, that a significant amount of their audience in the UK is not British or proud of British achievement? Presumably it’s more than just the one or two disgruntled assistant producers who leaked this to the Mail. Or will this current patriotism vanish next week and it’ll be back to business as usual because the only time Beeboids approve of patriotism or nationalism by the English, British, or certain other countries is during sports tournaments?

As an outsider living in a country where the BBC is most definitely trying to increase influence, audience share, and evil profits, I find this very amusing as well as important.


Doesn’t BBC DG Mark Thompson sound a tad defensive?

Mark Thompson, the BBC director-general, has suggested criticism of its faked wildlife programme scenes had been fuelled by newspapers’ bitterness over the corporation’s coverage of the phone hacking inquiry. Mr Thompson questioned whether condemnation of misleading footage of polar bears in its Frozen Planet show had been influenced by the BBC’s comprehensive reporting of the Leveson inquiry into press standards. “I do rather wonder whether this is really about polar bears or about Lord Leveson and other matters,” he told MPs.

It’s about truth, Mr Thompson. Is that such a hard concept to embrace? Attenborough misled and has been caught out – it is as simple as that. Trying to deflect everything onto Leveson smacks of desperation to me.


Some interesting comments here from Mark Thompson.

“Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC, went on the offensive against James Murdoch and other critics of the public broadcaster, effectively accusing News Corporation of lapses of integrity and warning that the collapse of the BSkyB takeover was not an excuse to start a debate about the scale and scope of the BBC. 

Writing in the Guardian, just ahead of the start of this year’sMediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, Thompson chose to explictly reject a 2009 lecture given by James Murdoch at the same event, in which the son of media mogul Rupert concluded that for media organisations “the only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit”. 

Noting that the “broader debate about the future media landscape must not deflect us from the most obvious and urgent matters arising from the News of the World case … matters of personal conduct and criminality, and above all of ethics and values,” Thompson proposed recasting Murdoch’s 2009 conclusion.

“If James Murdoch was giving his lecture this year,” Thompson writes, “I’d suggest he amended only one word in that final sentence. The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is not profit. Nor who you know. Nor what corners you can cut. It’s integrity.”

First of all, Thompson can only make this snide comment because HIS organisation raids our pockets to the tune of more than €3bn per annum, with the threat of imprisonment if one does not obey. Murdoch’s point is valid in my view, a profitable business can sustain itself and thus maintain independence. But the BBC does not get the free market imperative and instead adopts a pious holier-than-thou attitude that is only viable because of its bully boy position.
Next, for  Thompson to waffle about broadcasting “integrity” is a bit rich. Not only does it sound arrogant but also monumentally removed from reality. These pages, and elsewhere, document thousands of instances where the thing that is missing from BBC coverage is integrity. I suggest Mr Thompson would benefit from  a little more humility.
Naturally, this story is lovingly catalogued in The Guardian, the print arm of the BBC.


Coincidence? Curious timing of this interview with the DG of the BBC….couldn’t be part of the BBC’s ongoingcampaign to pressure the government to kick the BSkyB deal into the long grasscould it?  

“The director general of the BBC speaks to Joan Bakewell in an exclusiveinterview with the New Statesman.

‘We’re talking about a concentration of media power in the UK that’s unheard ofin British history and unheard of anywhere else in Europe. The combination ofthat kind of power with ownership of a significant part of the newspaperspeople read, as well as an internet service provider – this is extraordinarypower. 

Given the shape of what’s happening – the relative decline of other sources ofelectronic news, the funding security of ITN, the ability of commercial radioto fund news, the difficulty newspapers are having in funding newsgathering -it is going to be more, not less, important that the BBC has sufficientresources to be able universally to deliver high-quality, strictly impartialnews to the British public.’

Quite. Then again one could almost believe he is really saying hewants to hamstring Murdoch to give the BBC a free rein to be the major newsprovider….a free hand to shape the audience’s perceptions to the BBC worldview…


I was sent some of the detailed comments from Mark Thompson’s Edinburgh Festival lecture. Reading it he comes across as an arrogant man suffering from BBC cabin fever. What do you think of his comments? There is a stunning lack of humility in what he says, combined with the delusion that if one is antagonistic to the BBC the fault cannot lie with the BBC!

“Systematic press attacks on broadcasters, and especially on the BBC, are nothing new of course the first hostile campaigns began back in John Reith’s day but the scale and intensity of the current assaults does feel different. So what’s the effect of all this relentless negativity?” 

Not the public interest. Not accountability. They just want to trash us.

We should remain vigilant.

Commercial and political forces are undermining the independence of the public broadcasters ….In the UK, they know that a frontal assault will fail so they adopt different tactics. Exaggerated claims about waste and inefficiency. Nit-picking about the detailed mechanisms of governance and accountability. Even some – not all, but some – of the calls for greater transparency.

Transparency is as important for the BBC and the other publicly-owned PSBs as for any other public institutions. But sometimes calls for transparency turn out to be a cloak for something else.

Everyone knows that such proposals have nothing to do with the public interest or real accountability and everything to do with an agenda of weakening and undermining the public broadcaster. In the UK, the tactics are usually subtler, the language loftier. 

Too often the underlying purpose is the same.’