As an ex-pat living in America a few years back I would on occasion find myself tuning in to Fox News. Not as a means to find out about current events you understand, more as a rubbernecking driver looking on with horror at a particularly grisly car crash. I was genuinely appalled at how such blatant propaganda could masquerade as fact in the 'free' world. The right-wing political allegiance of the Murdoch-owned channel was as blatant as The Sun newspaper back home. The bias was frequently hysteric in its vitriol, the opinions aired extremist and inflammatory. It was trash tv, aimed at reinforcing the prejudices of its viewers whilst pushing an agenda that purely served its owners.
I could never watch for too long as the urge to kick in the screen would grow to dangerous levels and I just can't afford to get through that many television sets per month. I'd reassure myself that at least back home we had the 'impartial' BBC, a bastion of journalistic integrity, funded by the British public and therefore with a responsibility to fair and balanced reporting. If we watch television in the UK then we have to pay the license fee like it or not, therefore we all have a right to be represented fairly and equally. In theory this sets a standard of impartiality that other channels must be measured by, ensuring that our media must at least pay lip-service to ideals of journalistic professionalism.
Now that I'm living back in England I'm not so sure. Following the meteoric rise of Jeremy Corbyn over the last year to the travails facing him today one thing is certain – the media coverage has been anything but fair and balanced. Whatever your opinions of the man - and I make no bones about it, I'm a supporter - the fact is that the knives have been out since day one. And lifting the curtain a little to look behind the scenes reveals some pretty ugly truths.
The Media Reform Coalition reported that Corbyn has been “systematically undermined” by the press since taking the leadership. As early as September last year 61,000 people were moved to sign a petition complaining about the BBC's anti-Corbyn reporting. By May of this year things had clearly failed to improve, former chair of the BBC Trust Sir Michael Lyons calling the continued attacks on Corbyn “Extraordinary”, going on to say “I can understand why people are worried about whether some of the most senior editorial voices in the BBC have lost their impartiality .”
The media constructs a narrative, pushes the stories that fit into the story being sold then this becomes the reality - at least in terms of public perception. Virtually none of Corbyns campaigning for the EU was seen on our screens, therefore he was an "ineffectual" Remain campaigner, triggering the resignations in the Labour Party this week. The fact that this coup had been planned for months and therefore could not possibly have been spontaneous goes unreported - it doesn't fit the narrative.
What is particularly disturbing is the stories that do end up on screen. A single heckler at last weeks Pride march is repeatedly shown on the BBC as evidence of Corbyn's falling popularity amongst former supporters. The 'heckler' was in fact later revealed to be Tom Mauchline, who by an astonishing coincidence is Senior Account Manager at Portland Communication, a PR agency and political consultancy set up by a former advisor to Tony Blair. The company also employs Blair's spin doctor Alistair Campbell, amongst others, and is clearly operating with a centre-left agenda to remove Corbyn from power. All of which, of course, is considered un-newsworthy by the impartial Beeb.
Today the BBC is running a story in which David Cameron is seen calling on Corbyn to stand down. That this is somehow reported as a newsworthy event is beyond me - apparently, for the first time in parliamentary history a party leader has called for his opposite number to resign. Whatever next? Conservative and Labour politicians disagreeing about political issues? Please, do keep us informed BBC!
Of course, the story being sold here is that Corbyn must go, the narrative is that he is unfit for leadership and the 'evidence' hits our screens as regularly as possible. In this way the story is framed, public opinion undermined and history will (theoretically) follow suite.
These are volatile times for a country ripping itself apart at the seams. The Parliamentary Labour Party had it's nose bloodied by Corbyn's popularity and has been planning it's revenge ever since, using every devious trick at its disposal. After failing to topple the man from within they now commit the treacherous act of ransoming the entire party purely to oust his leadership. But, just as Cameron used his country's membership of the EU as a gambling chip to secure his own future and lost with cataclysmic results, the fallout will be most deeply damaging not for the politicians but for the British public.
As the country lurches sickeningly to the right, racist attacks are on the rise and the empty Tory lie of "we're all in it together" rings more hollow than ever, Just when we need a united opposition most, Blairite traitors have chosen to sabotage a golden opportunity to put genuine left-wing politics back on the agenda.
Should their plot come to pass I (along with, I suspect many thousands of others) will be resigning my membership of the Labour Party in disgust. I can choose not to buy The Sun, I can choose not to subscribe to SKY - but where can I cancel my membership of the BBC?