Similarly, another BBC bias is obvious from their tone of Iraq War coverage. During the war's early days, Aitken was still affiliated with the BBC, via its "Today" radio show. While Aitken viewed the Iraq War, at least in its early days of liberating Ba'athist Iraq, as a positive turn of events, his opinion was an outlier in the halls of the BBC. "Now, you can take whatever view you wish of the Iraq War. But it isn't the BBC's place to have a view in that sense of such a thing. Now, of course this view is never made explicit, I should hasten to add: the BBC doesn't come out and say, 'We think the Iraq War is Wrong.' But the tone of the coverage, the negativity, of the coverage, the starting point for all the discussions about the war" tacitly demonstrates those biases. "I think it took a clear editorial view, from the very first, that the Iraq War was mad, bad, and dangerous," and thus filtered that opinion to its millions of listeners, all the while, feigning objectivity.
An Official Cold Shoulder
While Bernard Goldberg was extremely well regarded amongst his peers in CBS, once he went public with his charges of bias at "The Tiffany Network," he quickly found himself on the short end of a cold shoulder, beginning in 1996, most famously from Dan Rather, after Goldberg's initial article on media bias hit the Wall Street Journal. "Bernie, we were friends yesterday, we're friends today, and we'll be friends tomorrow," Dan Rather said back then, the last time he spoke to Goldberg. When Bias, the book that sprang from that article was eventually released in 2001, "media elites ignored it," Goldberg told me three years later. "Then, when they couldn't ignore it, because it hit The New York Times' bestseller list, some of them got incredibly nasty and mean spirited, and personal."
Predictably, Aitken's new book seems to be meeting a similar fate from his previous employer, although Aitken is quick to add, "I remain on good terms with many of my former colleagues", noting that many of them appeared, off the record, in his book. "Of course, being on good terms with them on a personal level is very different from the view that the BBC," as Aitken draws a long intake of breath, "takes of me officially."
Is Eventual Demassification Possible?
While there are occasional calls for the demise of England's broadcast tax, it's doubtful that it will be going away anytime soon. But it is possible that the BBC's power could slowly be diluted in other ways.
This is somewhat akin to the current state of American news organizations. One of Alvin Toffler's favorite words is "demassified," the splintering of mass production, or in this case, mass media. In the 1970s, the US media essentially consisted of three television networks, two weekly newsmagazines, and as a result of mergers and consolidations, all but the largest metropolises were reduced to one ponderous Big City Newspaper. And they all took their lead from the New York Times and the Washington Post. Then came cable TV. Then Rush Limbaugh and conservative talk radio. Then Fox News. Then Drudge, and then the Blogosphere. While those original three networks are still there, their power has been dramatically diluted. (See: Rather, Dan.)
Slowly, the same thing is happening in England, with several new television channels, the aforementioned 18 Doughty Street Internet TV station, and prior to its launch, lots of new Web and blog sites. But Aitken advises caution: "One hopes very much that we'll begin to see the pack ice breaking up, and that new voices like 18 Doughty Street and others will gain more of a foothold and eventually will become more important, and challenge that hegemony of the BBC. It hasn't happened yet, but it might happen in time."
And perhaps, one day in early 2009, the Bush=Hitler poster might even come down off that BBC newsroom wall as well.
But let's not ask for miracles.