Biased programme content does not a good broadcaster make

Broadcasting propaganda does not build a reputation for good public-service broadcasting

Outspoken bloggingBrussels, 03/09/2019. Much of my listening to BBC R4 these days is ruined by near-constant references by women announcers or programme makers to the tyranny of men. We are all apparently congenitally misogynistic and not to be trusted by the female of the species.

Leaving aside the rather obvious idiocy of such attitudes, you have to question whether the problem is really one of misogyny, or more one of mysandry and the increasing numbers of women who prefer to blame men for their problems, thereby removing any sense of their own responsibility for their actions.

I am constantly surprised that the Beeb allows itself to broadcast such obviously biased material. Apart from the poor quality of the programmes themselves – and there used to be something called BBC standards in the media at one time – they reinforce a narrow and sexist view of society held by programme-makers who are blatantly after nothing more than personal gain.

The hidden agenda of such programmes is pretty obvious – place more women in positions of power. While that might seem a laudable objective on the surface, to achieve this goal by constantly denigrating half of the population as worthless cave-dwellers will not bring it about in any lasting way.

What it will do, and is doing so already, will cause rising mistrust of women by all too many males as they gain in age and experience, to the point where misogyny becomes almost guaranteed. In which case you have to question which is cause and which effect. Was the misogyny endemic in the first place (admittedly that might have been true once, and may still be so among certain religious societies)? Or has it been brought about as a result of experiencing the mysandry, and the greater communicative and manipulative abilities of women?

I am going to say the latter of course. Because the female critic would expect me to do so, and thus confirm her prejudice about the male of the species. But, I am also saying it because there is a truth here, which is that many men become rather cynical about female manipulation as they get older. Most deal with it, and thus retain their sanity, by using humour.

BBC Radio 4 this morning contained a typical example of the propaganda genre – a male with a pronounced west-country accent ranting at length about the lack of female playwrights, while the female other-half made balanced, neutral comments. Laughably simple stuff by anyone’s standards, I thought. But I was trying to do something else while listening, and was forced to switch off when the content became too annoying.

It doesn’t help to shout at the radio when you’re trying to edit a website, so when I registered that the programme was yet another tilt at a fantasy bogeyman who couldn’t possible exist in real life any more (even in the west country), I switched it off.

I honestly doubt that you’d find such narrow views among men in the UK these days, except among a few conformist religious groups. What you might come across is pub-table jokes, which are intended to be taken as seriously as most pub-table conversations.

I still value women as equals in a society which is made up of intelligent, reasoning people. It does seem harder to find that society these days, especially when you start to feel barraged by constant sensory assaults from poor-quality broadcasting.

I used to view the BBC as the example holdout from the worst of that media; its content still driven by the ideals of public-service broadcasting. But it seems those targets are becoming harder to reach these days, leaving audiences with the only remaining option of switching off.

Which leaves me in the same position as so many people. If you can think for yourself, if you don’t accept everything you are told by those who appear to be experts or in positions of authority, you limit your media consumpton to preferred entertainment channels, be they Film 4, Netfix or others.

I can see why audiences for to-air broadcasting are diminishing – the shrinking numbers are direcly related to quality of content. Put out crap on the radio or TV, and just like the print-press market your audience will get fed up and go elsewhere. And as we know, once lost they seldom return.

In my case I’ve largely switched away from BBC Radio 4 as a constant background presence in my house, to classical music. The music feels more welcoming and thus more calming, so is better for my sanity and health. A shame, because for years I regarded Radio 4 as a beacon of light in my dark Brussels home.

No more, however. Times have changed, and what used to be regarded as unacceptable low-brow guff for daytime talk-programmes seems to have become the broadcast norm. But I still work from home, and so need to concentrate, and the mental effort required is not improved by shouting at the radio.

So, BBC, if you wish to retain your position as an important broadcaster in the world, you need to do something about your standards. Much has declined already since the days of the 1990s, when I remember daytime BBC radio and evening BBC TV as unmissable, much to the annoyance of my Dutch girlfriend.

Quality of content is still primary, and if you are to remain a programme-producer at all, you need to up the value of your content. I know the budget cuts have been dire, but reacting by churning out crap will simply lose you your audience, and your raison d’etre.

© Philip Hunt, 2019.

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