Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, David Mason says the BBC News’ coverage of equal marriage was not balanced over the festive period with opponents being given excessive airtime in the wake of Archbishop Vincent Nichols’ outspoken comments against equality.
In recent months the BBC’s decision-making process, and in particular the editorial decisions relating to a Newsnight investigation, have been under scrutiny. Following the Pollard Review which criticised his judgement, Newsnight’s former editor Peter Rippon issued a statement. He said, in part: “I’m pleased that the Pollard Review recognises that all editorial decisions in connection with the Savile story were taken in good faith, for journalistic reasons.”
Now you might think that with all the collateral damage his decision entailed, Mr Rippon would leave the BBC either voluntarily or be dismissed. However, the corporation maintains the stance that ‘editorial judgement’ is not open to question. Mr Rippon will continue to be employed, albeit in a different role.
BBC News editors are effectively given free rein to highlight any stories they think appropriate. And as we can see, decisions are rarely questioned. I was incensed at the way BBC News covered the equal marriage debate over the Christmas period – and indeed whether it was even appropriate for the debate to have been covered at all. For Christmas is considered a time of goodwill and kindness to all people. But in the words of BBC political correspondent Chris Mason (no relation) “there has been no respite in the debate on gay marriage during the holiday season. Those religious leaders strongly opposed to the idea have been making their views very clear.”
Indeed there was no respite – but that was mainly because the anti-equality brigade was given so much air time by the BBC. Of course some religious leaders have been making their discriminatory views clear during the whole of 2012. So why did the BBC, in particular, give so much coverage to them over Christmas, both online and on TV?
It seems to have begun when the Catholic Bishop of Shrewsbury announced, on 23 December, that he intended to use Christmas midnight mass to deliver an attack on government plans to introduce ‘gay marriage’ in England and Wales. This intention was reported next day in the Daily Mail, but received little, if any, coverage on TV.
The Bishop of Shrewsbury, it turns out, was nothing more than a stalking horse for Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.
Come Christmas Day and the main morning and early afternoon news on the BBC was dominated by Vincent Nichols’ attack on marriage equality. ITV also reported the Catholic Church attack, but only in passing. It was relegated to a couple of sentences, and wasn’t ITV’s lead story.
Then on Boxing Day we heard that High Court judge, Sir Paul Coleridge, thought the government was wasting too much time on a minority issue. The BBC reported what Sir Paul had said to The Times but, once again, seems not to have questioned what the judge was about. Where did Sir Paul’s figure of 0.1% of families come from? Aren’t couples allowed to marry if they don’t want children? Does Sir Paul support marriage equality, or not? If he does support it, why has he chosen to talk out against the government on this issue? The BBC simply failed to ask these questions. Instead they allowed Harry Benson, from Sir Paul’s charity, the Marriage Foundation, to back up his views.
Ultimately the BBC’s problems all boil down to what is known as its editorial judgement. Time and time again that judgement is wrong.
The views expressed by David Mason are his own and not those of PinkNews.co.uk