‘Look Ahead’ gives a look at the BBC worldview
The correspondents' annual predictions say more about them than anything else
The BBC’s most interesting news programme is broadcast just once a year. It’s Radio 4’s Correspondents’ Look Ahead — in which a group of the Corporation’s finest get together to anticipate the events of the next twelve months. You can listen to the 2022 edition, chaired by Lyse Doucet, here.
A trigger warning though: no programme does more to expose the one-sidedness of the BBC’s worldview.
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I don’t criticise the correspondents for getting some of their predictions wrong. That’s inevitable because we can’t always know what’s coming round the corner. For a sobering example just listen to the 2020 edition in which Doucet and her colleagues chat away for 47 minutes — blissfully unaware of the coming pandemic.
However, when the experts — including the quality media — find themselves caught unawares by the next big thing, I wish they’d do more to examine their own biases and blindspots. Consider the biggest economic story of 2021 — the global supply chain crisis. Last year’s Correspondents’ Look Ahead didn’t see that one coming (nor did most economists). This year’s edition should have asked why, but didn’t.
Perhaps that’s because one of main causes of the crisis — the surge in demand created by the American government’s excessive stimulus program — doesn’t fit the “Trump bad, Biden good” narrative. Similarly when contemplating America’s continuing political polarisation, the Republican delusion about a stolen election was highlighted, but not the doctrinaire woke politics of the other side. For instance, the campaign to “defund the police” at a time of surging crime rates might have been worth a mention.
The partiality of BBC’s analysis doesn’t just apply to American politics. Inevitably it also applies to Brexit. Attempting to explain continuing UK-EU tensions, the BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler repeated the EU line that the British government is playing to a domestic audience. The idea that the gratuitous Brit-bashing of the French government might be similarly motivated went entirely unspoken.
There was also a preachy little section on “global vaccine inequality”. Noting the low levels of vaccination in many developing countries, the question asked for 2022 was “will the West do better?” No consideration was given to the performance of developing world governments or to local levels of vaccine hesitancy. That’s not to absolve the West of its responsibilities in this matter, just to point out that yet again the discussion was one-sided.
I could go on. But I’ll end with another thing that Katya Adler said to (and about) her BBC colleagues: “we’re not supposed to have opinions.” Judging by what they say and don’t say in forums like Correspondents’ Look Ahead it’s manifestly obvious they do have opinions. In itself that’s not a problem, rather the issue is viewpoint diversity and the lack of it.
Instead of maintaining a semblance of neutrality, I’d much rather the BBC allowed and encouraged its journalists to examine the great issues of our time from a variety of different ideological perspectives. We might just get a clearer view of the future if they did.
I’d much rather they just scrapped the BBC. I stopped watching and listening a few years ago when the relentless wokery, partisanship and Brexit-bashing became too much to bear, and my life’s been better for it. And I save the license fee!
Fully get that …
Maybe a compromise would be to close the News Division completely – or at least cut it right back by scrapping the rolling News 24 channel – and replace all “analysis” with actual additional wider information.
Or make it a subscription service, then we could look at what it could provide without the TV tax featherbed.
I would fully support this funding model. In order to watch Christmas season repeats of Benny Hill’s Thames TV programmes on That’s TV, or various other vintage classics (again, from ITV franchises) on Talking Pictures, I am required to fork over £157 PA to the [email protected]$ Broadcasting Communism. This said, I do watch the odd thing on iPlayer and would happily pay for what I watch. Wishful thinking, mind you.
I don’t care whether they are scrapped or not, I just object to paying for them. It is like being forced to pay for the Guardian if I want to read another paper or even read a book.
It’s not just “like” paying for The Guardian – since the BBC reportedly used to advertise mostly in The Guardian, you were paying for it.
The BBC still does mostly advertise in the Grauniad.
I don’t want their opinions, I want objective, fact-based politically neutral reporting of the news, or important public interest topics, so that we, the public, are informed and can make our own decisions. That’s their job. If they want to give their opinions they should leave the BBC and write a book, under their own names and they can then be as biased as they like. The arrogance of BBC journalists nowadays is staggering. Their opinions are not as important as they think they are. They are funded by the taxpayer to provide a public service, not to pontificate like Harry and Meghan
It is not just the news coverage. It is everything broadcast by the BBC, even radio 3
This is an absolutely excellent comment! 100% correct! I used to work at the New York Times–not as a journalist but as a copyboy. I was observing them as they observed the world.
At that time, it was absolutely accepted as an article of faith that the news was unbiased; opinion was opinion–place for it, but on the opinion page. Everyone agreed. That’s what newspapers were for.
At some point–not sure when–it all changed. Now reporters tweet their personal views about the topics they cover. INSANE!
Very very well said!…
Nail on head.
I’d prefer the BBC chose to employ correspondents that are prepared to impartially reflect both sides of any major issue – rather than use the airtime just to push their own views onto others.
Surely the core responsibility of a BBC Editor should be to ensure that this happens – but it appears that the Head of News refuses to employ or direct their staff to behave professionally.
The rot is multi-layered and deeply embedded.
I wonder to what extent the nature of the recruitment process ensures that although each individual journalist honestly believes that they are being objective and impartial, there is no one to put another point of view from an equally honest, but different, belief.
I think it’s the opposite, as it is at almost all American unis. Before anyone can be hired, he or she (or “they”) must express a huge commitment to DEI, and this is an absolute requirement.
Want to teach physics or maths? Hang on, what do you think about BLM? Do you agree that the most challenging maths problem–unsolved so far–is the lack of equity in the maths department?
If so, you’re in. If not, too bad, so sad….
One problem is a lack of diversity. Not the irrelevant diversity of skin tone but the diversity of opinion and background.
The other problem is the idea that journalists contribute something useful by providing a commentary on the facts rather than letting viewers decide what lessons they draw from the facts which will inevitably vary.
Finally the journalists need to provide facts that go against their preferred narrative. Most false narratives rely on suppressing facts that contradict the narrative. None of this is easy but a service like the BBC should try.
BLM does not allow “diversity of skin tone” to be irrelevant.
BLM should stick to the US where 55 years ago there were anti-miscegenation laws in 16 States, something we have never had in the UK. We don’t need their skin colour obsessions here.
I watched a young Polish woman being interviewed on BBC news recently who had decided to leave Britain and return to Poland citing among other reasons that ‘ she didn’t feel safe anymore’. You would have thought any decent interviewer would ask ‘ why not’ but no the conversation moved on and the viewer was left with to speculate for themselves as to the reason. I’ll hazard a guess, she doesn’t feel safe anymore because the BBC and the MSM have told her the reason that people voted Brexit is because they don’t like foreigners!
I doubt as a Pole she feels unsafe because of xenophobia, it’s more likely to be fears about street crime. Whether she’s right to be worried is another matter.
BTW the media’s reporting of street crime over the years – featuring alternating cycles of hysteria and complacency – would be the subject of a much longer analysis.
Poland is one of the safest countries in Europe according to the crime statistics. Probably we, the poles have too high expectations….
Much is related to impressions and many Europeans in the UK do sense that they are not welcome in the UK any more. Personally, brexit has not changed my liking of this country but this is not echoed by quite a few EU citizens. Whether the UK stopped welcoming EU citizens or not is not what matters: it is the impression that is given. And, honesty, it does not always look and sound nice…
Freedom is in cooperation I am afraid…..
Hello Edward, I think most people in the country are open and friendly to people from all countries, most people don’t really worry about a person’s ethnicity, they are more interested in the decency of the person themselves. Much of the spectre of xenophobia is put out there by journalists, especially metropolitan journalists, such as the BBC. That is not to say there are not racist pockets of people in every society, of course there are and they are found in every race and country on this planet. I say this as a non-Brit myself. Good decent people from any country are generally welcomed and celebrated in the UK.
oops, it seems I was not clear enough. I personally have no issues and I know there is no anti-EU citizens movement in the UK at all. I just wanted to point out how the brexit vote has been perceived by some EU citizens and that some of the strong wording in relation to the brexit issues do not help…..
Thanks for making my point for me.
The Correspondents are merely courtiers performing socially approved dances before their true bosses… the Great and Good. The Courtiers perform for patronage within the Establishment.
Expecting them to be aware of and explore the issues of minions outside the ballroom is to expect them to be class traitors. Not going to happen, the BBC has always been part of the Establishment, just rather better in the past at hiding the bias.
Ever wonder why Strictly Come Dancing is so popular? It’s the apotheosis of the BBC culture, the experts indicating the progress and performance of those who would be judged to transcend their limitations. Socially approved bread and circuses to distract the minions.
I think that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for any journalist to give a politically neutral report, they are human (I have been assured of this) and have views and almost certainly a political leaning. What can be done, and should be done, by any news organisation that wished to be taken seriously are two things:
1 Ensure any factual information is given straight with no analysis, and that all the known facts are given no matter how irrelevant they might appear to the news-reader – in effect, the facts, all the facts, and nothing but the facts
2 Allow analysis to be carried out by journalists/commentators who hold different view points, and these should be similarly weighty journalists/commentator; too often when they get someone from the right it is some knuckle-dragging extremist who will instantly alienate the listener or viewer
As I said I don’t think it’s possible to get an unbiassed journalist (who on this site is unbiassed? And what about some of those right-wing shock-jocks?), but if the BBC, and other news organisations, employed people holding different views we could have a proper discussion about issues. Another important point is that sometimes news organisations will counter that they did broadcaste an opposing view and you could have watched it – you know the one shown at 3am on BBC4. This is not good enough the opposing point needs to be given in the same programme; even if it were given at peak-viewing time on BBC1 the next day people may only see one of the programmes and therefore go away with only one side.
It is not impossible to present a balance news programme even with journalists who hold firm views, all it needs is the will to do so. Just as news organisations go out of their way, rightly, to ensure that they have voices of women and ethnic groups (curiously though rarely working-class voices), so they should search out diverse view-points.
The problems are not that a BBC journalist is biased, but that the bias is consistent, and that they are either unaware of it, or think it their duty to suppress ‘ill-informed’ or ‘immoral’ ideas.
With respect, I sort of disagree. I’m not asking journalists not to have opinions–you say they’re human (ahem….)–I just don’t want to know their personal opinions–not relevant to their “journalism” and in fact, it undermines real journalism. It’s not journalism any more, it’s advocacy.
I agree that journalists should not editorialise, but it is almost impossible to entirely keep one’s views out of what is reported; it creeps into whom they interview, the camera angle of the photograph and more. Much of this may even be unconscious and often is not overtly stated, but it’s there, which is why journalists with diverse points of view need to be employed.
I don’t disagree that diversity of viewpoint is needed, but dream on! Media like the unis are completely dominated by extreme left woke advocates. Bari Weiss. I don’t like her much but her podcast HONESTLY is actually quite good.
But journalists need editors to perhaps change the camera angle, change a word here, the tone there, and also what gets covered.
Some decades ago, no one said that journalists could not have opinions, but they were kept to themselves (mostly) as it was accepted that the news was as objective as could be. There was a strict separation between “church and state.”
There has been a 180 degree shift. Now “journalists” are expected to do other media and share their viewpoints on topics they cover. INSANE.
My dream was that Boris, the day after the general election, stood on the steps of Downing Street and said:
“The last few years have exposed the fact that the British establishment holds very strong opinions that are not shared, and in many cases opposed, by the majority of the population.This must change quickly and that will be the priority of this government “.
Then on New Years Eve he appoints 150 new Brexit-supporting peers.
Then new legislation would be passed to limit the HoL to 600 sitting peers split 50/50 Brexit/Remain.
Then new rules would be passed that all parliamentary committees would be split 50/50 – with 50% of chairmen Brexiteers.
The a new law would be passed to have 50% Brexiteer representation on the management teams of all quangos and NGOs that receive public funds. These could be drawn. from the pool of new peers.
Then a Brexit supporting chairman and DG of the BBC would be appointed. And half the newsroom would have to be recruited from Brexit supporting outlets.
And so on…
Alas Covid and lack of interest in this problem within the Government means nothing has changed and the moment has passed.
An easier way would just be to scrap the Lords, but that will never happen
To my British friends, please don’t pay the license fee. BBC is no longer a cultural gem, it’s constant woke propaganda. Sickening how far it has fallen. Some years ago they had a “guest host” from India on one of the major news shows whom I could barely understand–whatever happened to RP? Is speaking the Queen’s English now grounds for cancellation?
There is zero possibility of the BBC taking a more rounded line on the issues of the day. The nature of the BBC, when faced with criticism, is not to draw back but rather to double down.
Or just plain lie. Did you notice how they turned the turned what could have been a very damaging disclosure of excessive salaries into an equal pay story and how there airbrushed out the story of senior employees using private service companies to avoid tax
I have read the article and ALL the comments; I will listen to the report later.
Generally speaking, I am sickened by the reporting of the BBC, in large part because it is NOT reportage but advocacy. Where can someone like me who wants “objective” journalism get it? THE ECONOMIST is completely woke, and it is continually amazing to me how it is so consistently wildly wrong about America. Whenever Lexington ventures outside the Beltway, it’s like he is going on safari, observing exotic creatures for a day or two, and then he can hurry back to Washington, D.C. where he can mock these primitive beasts in the company of his woke friends.
Two examples of advocacy not journalism, and cue the downvotes because I will be highly critical of these two individual women, not women in general. This means you, Mathilda Eklund–give it a go!
Lyse Doucet: If Lyse Doucet worked for an NGO, would her “reporting” be any different? She is not a reporter, she is an advocate for Afghans, especially Afghan girls. It’s none of my business whether Afghan girls go to school or not. I’d like them to, I’m in favor of it, but it’s not my business and I certainly don’t support a war so they can go to school or play football. I’m also against FGM, but I don’t think “we” (the West) needs to invade Nigeria to put a stop to it….
Sarah Rainsford: So after 30 years or so, Sarah Rainsford’s Russian visa will not be extended. Too bad, so sad. Russia gets to make that decision not the BBC. And why has the BBC allowed SR to stay there so long, to “go native” so to speak? Is that really a great idea? Do diplomats spend 30 years in one posting, and if not, why not? What, are you saying there are reasons, good reasons for this? Wow!
BBC is a sickening, woke propaganda organization. WWII German propaganda would be very proud of the BBC’s product…..
I think their biggest problem this year is the fact they’ve been formally identified in a report as being anti-Semitic. Their brand is at risk of going the same way as Corbyn – that should worry them.
Has Lyse Doucet stopped blubbing over the death of Ararat yet?
I think Ararat is dormant, not extinct
What is with the “awaiting approval?”
Seems like half my posts are initially flagged, and I have no idea why? I don’t advocate violence, don’t use banned words, and even when I edit things it still is flagged.
Isn’t UnHerd supposed to be for free speech?
Maybe you shout too much … we can hear you fine in plain text.
Really? I put 2 names in bold italics to make it easy on the reader and that’s shouting?
Perhaps turn your hearing aid down!
“An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself” wrote Camus. BBC journalists have views, same as anyone. Instead of recognising this and admitting it (including to themselves), they opt for the unachievable aim of “neutrality”.
This means we still get a biased view, we just get it through implication – the moral priors of their worldview are simply taken as a given. This underlying ideology is worse than something openly partisan because it’s much harder to notice.
True – and that’s where professional Editors come in …
Like the weather, everyone talks about the BBC but nobody does anything. It was ever such, but will it be always?
Do agree that media people should have to reveal their voting preferences, party affinity, political leanings….end the charade
I listened to this, and thought it was inferior to previous years’ programmes – and I was going to correct you because the programme I listened to wasn’t chaired by Lyse Doucet but by Razia Iqbal – but it turns out that the programme I listened to (on BBC Sounds) wasn’t “Correspondents Look Ahead” but “BBC Correspondents Look Ahead” (broadcast on the World Service on the same date as Radio 4 broadcast “Correspondents Look Ahead”). Confusing!
Like reading Mein Kampf, I am grateful to others for watching this so I don’t have to.
As always, it’s what the BBC does not say that betrays its bias. When did you last hear anything about the government’s critics on the right?
Personally I’d be rather sad to see the BBC disappear. The amount of local news and radio that would disappear, along with commentary of the lower leagues would be a sad thing for me. With the demise of local papers and the like news is already London centric, to me losing the BBC would make this even more the case as there isn’t enough money in local issues for commercial entities to pay any interest. The BBC is also held in quite high regard abroad, with countries such as Australia and NZ amongst others regularly using BBC reports in their own domestic news, and the World Service is still a go to in many poorer parts of the world. It’s almost a form of projection of soft power skin to the Premier League and the Royals, it helps give the country a positive reputation.
However the problems with the BBC are well documented, and I agree with them completely. As an organisation it’s very much a middle class, left leaning Remain grouping, especially amongst the presenters and this bias does come through. Unfortunately though this isn’t a problem unique to the BBC, but journalism in general. With the aforementioned disappearing of local news outlets thanks to Facebook hoovering up all the advertising revenue, many routes into a career in journalism have now been closed off, especially for poorer children. Often the only path is through unpaid internships in expenses cities, which ends up in the situation where only kids from comfy middle class backgrounds can afford to learn the trade. If the journalists available are all from this background, then unfortunately all news organisations are going to reflect this.
I wish I knew what the answer was to fix the problem, but I don’t to be honest. Short of the BBC playing a long game and paying to train aspiring journalists from poorer areas through the local news network in the hope of balancing the views of its staff in the future I don’t really know the solution
When I came to Europe 30 years ago the BBC was the only game in town: knowledgeable foreign correspondents, a wide range of opinions on all issues and wonderful educative programs (on the world service especially) which I would often plan my day around. The direction since then has been all downhill. And about 2 years ago I stopped listening to & watching the BBC altogether. There are better ways to spend one’s time than listening to self-congratulatory rubbish and having your intelligence insulted. In fact, if I saw a “Defund the BBC” petition booth today I’d probably join the queue to sign it!
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