For those who take the BBC at their word when they say that they are “balanced” and “impartial”, a careful examination of their history and their origins and ties to corporate and political establishments comes highly recommended. Far from being a beacon of truth and objectivity, the corporation’s ties to the political establishment and consistent support for the aims of large multinational corporations in its news coverage reveals it as a vehicle for propaganda, perpetuating the lies put out by government and other vested business interests.
Background and Ties to the Establishment.
The BBC began life as a privately owned organisation called the British Broadcasting Company Ltd in 1922, founded by telecommunications companies such as General Electric, now one of the most powerful multinational corporations on the planet today linked to major media/financial institutions and arms manufacturers, with a track record of scandals over the past few decades. The non-commercial entity known today as the British Broadcasting Corporation emerged from this corporate entity in 1927, established under a Royal Charter by John Reith, the general manager of an engineering firm with ties to the Conservative Party.
As John Pilger pointed out in his New Statesman article, John Pilger Prefers the Web to TV News, the BBC’s founder, John Reith, began his career by suspending the principle of “impartiality” by writing and broadcasting propaganda for Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin during the General Strike. Given Reith’s former ties to the Conservatives this is perhaps unsurprising. It was also revealed in excerpts from Reith’s diary in 1975 that he had also harboured pro-fascist views, writing in 1933, “I am pretty certain… that the Nazis will clean things up and put Germany on the way to being a real power in Europe again. They are being ruthless and most determined.” He commented later, after the invasion of Czechoslovakia: “Hitler continues his magnificent efficiency.” Being founded by a Nazi sympathizer is hardly a ringing endorsement for a corporation claiming a commitment to truth and justice…
Evidence of a consistent pattern of ties between the upper echelons of the BBC and the British power elites may go some way to shedding further light on the corporation’s track record of siding with corporate and political stances over providing coverage with the impartiality they claim to represent. A quick examination of the BBC Trust and executive board today reveals similar ties of a questionable nature:
Sir Michael Lyons (BBC Trust Chairman). Former Labour Party councillor and council chief executive in the United Kingdom
Diane Coyle. Former economist at the UK Treasury, appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009.
Dame Patricia Anne Hodgson. Began her career with the Conservative Party.
Rotha Johnson. A non-executive Director of Allied Irish Bank and Deputy Chair of Invest Northern Ireland and non-executive member of the Northern Ireland Office, a UK governmental department responsible for Northern Ireland affairs. She was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2005.
Tim Davie. Former Marketing Executive at PepsiCo and Proctor and Gamble, corporations with track records of human rights violations.
Peter Salmon. Began his career as a press officer for the British government.
Non-executive directors include: Marcus Aguis, Chairman of Barclays married to Katherine, daughter of Edmund de Rothchild of the Rothchild banking family; Robert Webb QC, who was general counsel at British Airways for more than a decade; Dr Michael Lynch OBE, co-founder and CEO of Autonomy Corporation, one of the world’s leading software companies with close ties to corporations such as Raytheon, Boeing, Nestle, General Electric and BP, as well as governmental institutions such as the US State Department.
Perhaps it is little wonder that the BBC has consistently provided propaganda for war, given the former close ties of those at the top of the corporation’s hierarchy to institutions which gain from the unbridled use of military force. Considering also the number of titles handed out by the British Royal family one can only assume that the Windsors (or should I say Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) are entirely pleased with the services the BBC provides, not least for the fawning and sycophantic coverage of royal events such as the recent wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. The BBC’s phony, fairy tale illusion of this family is perhaps one of the most striking examples of their servility to elites notorious for their insatiable accumulation of wealth no matter what the human cost involved. The number of Earls, Barons, Viscounts and Lords who have occupied the position of Chairman of the Board of Governors since the 1920s lends much credence to the notion that the institution is headed by those who serve to protect powerful interests.
This state-owned and funded corporation, which still pretends to be quasi-autonomous, also has long-standing ties to British military intelligence. From the 1930s through to the end of the Cold War, MI5 had an officer at the BBC vetting editorial applicants, while throughout World War 2, “subversives” such as suspected communists were banned from the BBC. Files recently released to the public record demonstrate long-standing ties between the BBC and security services, including one MI5 officer who reported in 1937, “I lunched today with Mr Pym, director of staff administration at the BBC.” With regard to the general question of vetting BBC personnel, Mr Pym said, “it would be of great assistance if we could, in addition to giving definite views [on] persons whom we considered unsuitable, let him have a private word regarding others of whom we had record but insufficient reason for giving a definite opinion.” By the onset of World War 2, the desire to weed out communists and fascists had moved on to terminating jobs of those with “pacifist or defeatist views”. This process continued – at the very least – until 1985, when Brigadier Ronnie Stonham, Special Assistant to the Director of Personnel at the BBC until 1985, was caught up in the scandal over MI5 monitoring of potential staff.
Further evidence of British intelligence’s involvement in media manipulation includes Operation Mass Appeal, in which MI6 planted stories in the media concerning Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction during the run up to the Iraq invasion in 2003. Weapons inspector Scott Ritter exposed these tactics when he described meetings with a senior officer and at least two other MI6 staff, in which they discussed ways to manipulate intelligence material. “The aim was to convince the public that Iraq was a far greater threat than it actually was … Stories ran in the media about secret underground facilities in Iraq and ongoing programmes (to produce weapons of mass destruction),” said Ritter. “They were sourced to western intelligence and all of them were garbage”.
Anyone who follows global affairs in the mainstream media today is familiar with the strong correlation between warmongering articles and the citing of unnamed intelligence officials as sources of their information. Certainly, this trend has been dominant throughout the corporate press since the advent of the new militaristic ventures launched off the back of the attacks on 9/11 and the beginnings of the “War on Terror” – a climate of fear, after all, can only be maintained by having its fires regularly stoked, and as the historical record demonstrates intelligence agencies such as the CIA and MI5/6 are more than willing to fabricate evidence to justify their belligerent outlook.
Scott Ritter’s revelations regarding Operation Mass Appeal are just one more recent example of a process of collaboration between intelligence agencies and the mainstream media which spans many decades, the true extent of which may remain unclear. A more detailed examination of the BBC’s coverage of major events – especially those that count most to the corporate and political establishment, namely, wars – will help to shed further light on their self-professed impartiality and improve our understanding of just where the corporation’s main interests lie.