The programme-makers and the Establishment have rushed to defend Andrew Marr’s ‘hot mike’ moment on his show this morning. Marr appeared to believe a moment too early that audio had switched to a Nicky Campbell intro to the following programme and was captured giving Tory minister Penny Mordaunt a thumbs-up and whispering,
That was very good.
The inadvertent TV moment sparked outrage among those who accuse the BBC of bias, but the programmes editor and some journalists defended it as mere politeness or good manners.
There’s a disingenuousness in this defence. ‘You did well’, ‘you came across well/held your own’ or ‘thank you’ would be good manners. But ‘that was very good‘ is a value judgment that strongly suggests an agreement with the ‘that’.
That’s fine. Nobody expects an interviewer to have no opinions – but to let those views show on air is definitely embarrassing for Marr and to some extent to the programme’s makers.
However, it would be a stretch to treat it as a definitive moment of bias – but that doesn’t justify the attempts by those more at ease with it to brush it off as mere manners.
Nor does it make those who are expressing outrage risible – seen in context their reaction is reasonable, because that context is a continual favouring among the media of right-wing guests and viewpoints.
Elsewhere on the BBC…
A week ago Crispin Flintoff appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme – the result of an error by the BBC in inviting him on to speak about an event he didn’t know anything about, while telling him he would be there to talk about the Stand up for Labour comedy shows he organises.
Flintoff wrote about the dismissive way in which he was treated by the programme’s presenter, alleging that:
At the end of the show, as I went to leave she said: ‘see you soon’ and then turned to me and said ‘I don’t mean you. I won’t be seeing you again’.
It seems politeness to guests is by no means as universal at the BBC as we’re being asked to believe.
If the shoe was on the other foot…
Another illuminating way to consider this morning’s slip and the subsequent reaction is this: Marr whispered encouragement to a Tory guest.
But if he had done so to a left-wing interviewee, would right-wing Establishment commentators and sympathisers be brushing it off as unworthy of comment?
But that’s unlikely to happen. As famous left-wing political activist and social critic Noam Chomsky once told a young Marr, if he didn’t think the way he did, he wouldn’t be in the chair he’s in:
Storm in a teacup or tip of an iceberg?
Is Marr’s slip, in and of itself, proof positive of Establishment bias in the news fed to the UK’s people?
But it’s a possible glimpse of the tip of a very big iceberg discerned by many – an iceberg that routinely treats Tory values, policies and perceptions as credible and implies that genuine Labour values, policies and perceptions are not.
The reaction this morning is to the iceberg, not just to the hot-mike moment.
Marr’s slip, to those who see the BBC’s right-wing bias – to which academics and even the BBC itself have attested – is just an unusually clear glimpse of it breaking the surface.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.