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The BBC or a British Broadcasting Corporation started its operations on October 18, 1922, as a British broadcasting company. On January 1, 1927, it became a corporation dominating the UK information market (Savigny 2016). BBC World News is the most popular among the corporation’s channels; it was launched on March 11, 1991. The BBC aims to enrich people’s lives with programs and services that inform, educate and entertain. Also, the corporation strives to be the most creative organization in the world.
The Structure of the BBC
There is a fee for television devices on the territory of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; the funds collected this way form the budget of the BBC. Outside of the UK, the company is sponsored through the same British funds (Savigny 2016). This allows the corporation to be completely independent of the interests of advertisers, shareholders, or politicians. However, the impartiality of the BBC is now being questioned.
Journalist Martin Summers, according to Mills (2016, p. 46), believes that ‘now BBC avoids serious conflict topics and therefore has to produce a lot of entertainment content to keep the ratings up.’ Although the British government regulates the size of funds from UK citizens, its officials deny the possibility of the manipulation of the BBC through the number of payments (Savigny 2016). Despite all this, the BBC World News channel has a reputation as one of the most objective news channels; it is watched in Western Europe, the United States, and other countries.
Legally, the BBC operates under the Charter. The BBC Charter, which defines the tasks, role, and structure of the corporation, first entered into force in 1927; it is updated every ten years (Schlesinger 2014). The BBC is a Statutory Corporation with no shareholders. It is headed by the BBC Trust, consisting of 12 Trustees appointed by the Queen of England at the suggestion of the Cabinet of Ministers. The BBC is the second in the world regarding the number of employees and has a staff of about 20 thousand people (Schlesinger 2014).
Its executive body is the Executive Board, appointed by the BBC Trust; the highest official is the Director-General of the BBC, appointed by the BBC Trust, he is also the BBC Editor-in-Chief. The BBC’s management includes the national governors for Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland, as well as the Chairman and Vice-Chairman (Schlesinger 2014). The members are responsible for maintaining all levels of programs, keeping a balance of approaches to reporting, as well as providing unbiased information on events and processes that are inconsistent in their structure. Since 1997, the BBC consists of six main directorates: Broadcast, Production, News, and Worldwide.
The BBC’s Techniques
The BBC has regional offices throughout the country: BBC North, BBC South, BBC Midlands, and East, as well as BBC Scotland, BBC Wales, and BBC Northern Ireland prepare regional programs and news. Their specificity is characterized by three directions: informational, educational, and entertaining. To maintain a leading position and competitive advantage among the diversity of the media, the BBC World Service was established in 1994 (Schlesinger 2014). It has managed to maintain its high international prestige and the quality of the set standards of editorial work. The BBC World Service is divided into BBC Foreign Broadcasting and the commercial company BBC Worldwide Limited, which includes television, publishing, and education.
The BBC’s Ideology and Editorial Agenda
Young people are initially the most active category of the population, which tries to implement most of the tasks in the shortest time. This leads to the need for the prompt receipt of all necessary information, so all the media face the challenge to bring maximum information in a minimum of time. News information of global TV channels allows politicians to include certain issues in their agenda and determines priorities among the most important topics.
Therefore, in many government and diplomatic institutions, TVs in offices are set up on CNN or BBC World (Burns 2016). The formation of the agenda is due to the degree of importance of certain issues. The BBC creates a certain image of the event, which will get the most diverse audience. The trend shows that the most attention on BBC is drawn to negative news, so the main content is formed by adverse events.
The public often reproached the BBC, for example, for the insufficient number of live broadcasts and reports from the events, including coverage of events taking place abroad. All the BBC content, especially concerning the commercial sphere and the youth environment, aims to arouse the trust of the audience through an objective presentation of the news. The work on the creation of news releases is limited to a rather strict framework: the BBC has the News and Current Affairs Department controlled by the CEO (Schlesinger 2014). A large number of international correspondents who work in different countries and English correspondents who travel abroad take part in the formation of information messages for broadcasting on BBC radio and television.
Opinion on the BBC’s Bias
The British Institute of Economic Affairs published a report on the analysis of the content of the British Broadcasting Corporation. According to the document, the company’s journalists were biased against big business, the free market economy, and activists who supported the idea of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (Mills 2016). The Institute, which stands for the free market, stated that the BBC needs to be privatized: if the company becomes private, society will cease to trust it so blindly.
According to Mills (2016, p. 53), the Institute representative said, ‘the problem of bias in the presentation of the material seems to be particularly acute about the BBC.’ Any TV owner in the UK, as well as those who watch BBC broadcasts online, is required by law to pay around £145 per year. The report argued that these payments needed to be reviewed. The representative of the BBC said that the company is familiar with the opinion of the Institute of Economic Affairs, as it is not the first time it expresses such claims. However, he stated, this position is contrary to the opinion of society; the British are in favor of fees and consider the BBC the main supplier of unbiased news in real coverage (Mills 2016). This example illustrates that in recent years, reputable organizations have openly declared their distrust of the BBC.
The News Reports on the Syrian War
The world-famous media portal could not ignore the Syrian armed conflict that began in 2011. News reports appeared daily on BBC News, broadcasting military and political events in Syria. The analysis of the BBC articles revealed the topics covered in the reports: military actions in Syria, terrorist and rebel groups, the UK’s position toward the Syrian government, and the consequences of military operations.
In the coverage of events related to military actions, the media are trying to disguise some of the concepts to reduce to dramatize the events. According to Khodadady and Fard (2014, p. 54), BBC News is no exception: ‘Before the end to hostilities was announced, the rebels had retreated to just a handful of neighborhoods.’ This example shows that the word ‘war’ can be replaced by politically correct vocabulary: ‘crisis,’ ‘military campaign,’ ‘circumstances’ or ‘hostility.’ The following example shows that the word ‘war’ can be replaced by an entire phrase. Khodadady and Fard (2014, p. 49) mention the phrase in the BBC report: ‘the reports of atrocities “evoked the darkest days of the history of the United Nations.”‘
All headlines to BBC articles on this topic began with the words’ Syria conflict’, which is a euphemism of the expression ‘Syrian war.’ The term ‘war’ refers to armed confrontation or military action between the armed forces of countries or political groups. ‘Conflict’ is understood by people as something more peaceful than ‘war.’ The very word ‘war’ brings terror and panic to the population. By changing words, BBC inspired people with the idea that the situation in the country was under control.
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The word ‘bombing,’ which carries a negative connotation, is replaced by lexical units: ‘airstrike,’ ‘air raids’ or ‘attack.’ According to Khodadady and Fard (2014, p. 51), the BBC article says, ‘an airstrike on a medical facility near the Syrian city of Aleppo has killed five employees of an international aid agency.’ However, it is worth noting that the euphemisms are mobile. Many of the expressions used for the replacement of a concept lose their euphemistic function over time, turning into a full concept with a direct value. The same can be said about ‘airstrike,’ ‘air raid,’ ‘attack’ in the meaning of bombing. These concepts are already perceived by many as equivalent; therefore, after a short period, they will cease to be euphemisms.
In 2011, the opposition army opposed the regime of the current Syrian government. However, today there are more actors in this conflict. Since 2014, terrorist groups have intensified in Syria; also, there has been a split in the opposition into several groups. Readers sometimes found it difficult to understand which group is responsible for a particular event and on whose side it is fighting. Khodadady and Fard (2014, p. 57) mention another report: ‘The rebels killed were from Jaish al-Fatah, an Islamist group not officially part of the Western-backed alliance but one that works alongside the Free Syrian Army.’
The analysis shows that the articles often featured ‘the Free Syrian Army.’ This expression is a politically correct name for all Syrian rebels who do not obey ISIS and are not members of the people’s self-defense units. The BBC hid the actions of a particular group by using this name.
The articles included other questionable terms, according to Khodadady and Fard (2014, p. 62): ‘Ibrahim Abu-Lait, a spokesman for the White Helmets volunteer rescue group, said 90% of their equipment was out of operation’. White Helmets is an organization for the protection and rescue of civilians (Ahmed 2014). This organization is out of politics and is engaged in saving people in regions beyond the control of the Syrian government. However, this organization could be perceived as terrorist or insurgent, as the reader could get confused in a variety of names.
The reader could easily be misled, as ‘rebel groups’ and ‘the military’ could be both opposition and terrorist. Thus, the BBC deliberately created chaos in people’s minds. The term ‘Pro-government forces’ was used to refer to troops under the current government. The Islamic State group also appeared in articles on the Syrian conflict. The full name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria was not used. Instead, the readers could see the abbreviations IS, ISIS, and the expression IS ‘caliphate’ (Khodadady and Fard 2014). When referring to events related to terrorist activities, the word terrorist(s) was usually replaced by ‘attacks,’ ‘fighters,’ ‘jihadists,” jihadist group,’ or ‘IS militants.’
Analysis of BBC articles showed that the UK’s position on the Syrian conflict is characterized as observational. The British Media only broadcasted the US point of view but did not give their comments. The quotes are taken from news reports of CNN, the US media could be found in some BBC articles. According to Schlesinger (2014, p. 56), the BBC reported: ‘White House spokesman Ben Rhodes said: “There only could have been two entities responsible, either the Syrian regime or the Russian government.”‘
The example clearly shows that the BBC cited Russia’s open accusation given by CNN. However, the quotation was taken in abbreviated form, which made the statement less categorical and harsh. Thus, the real opinion of the British Media was hidden from readers. The British press imposed the US point of view on the audience; however, this is not done as aggressively as in the US media.
The examples from real news notes, articles, and reports on the BBC demonstrate that even the most respected and monetary independent news organization cannot always remain objective. It is inevitably influenced by certain economic and geopolitical factors, which is why the current situation of the Media does not leave people the opportunity to trust only one source of information. Although the BBC’s reputation and its dominant status among European and Asian TV and radio broadcasters speak in its favor, every person who seeks truthful news should verify all the information received. People who watch several news stories on the same topic from different sources, preferably from different countries, are less influenced by any of the parties concerned.
Ahmed, S 2014, ‘Right to reply: how the BBC tackles viewers’ criticism’, Index on Censorship, vol. 43, no. 3, pp. 46-50.
Burns, T 2016, The BBC: public institution and private world, 3rd edn, Springer, Luxembourg.
Khodadady, E & Fard, HK 2014, ‘Ideology in the BBC and Press TV’s coverage of Syria unrest: a schema-based approach’, Review of Journalism and Mass Communication, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 47-67.
Mills, T 2016, The BBC: myth of a public service, Verso Books, London.
Savigny, H 2016, ‘Is the BBC Biased? The corporation and the coverage of the 2006 Israeli–Hezbollah war’, in L Marsden & H Savigny (eds), Media, religion and conflict, Routledge, London, pp. 63-82.
Schlesinger, P 2014, ‘The most creative organization in the world’? The BBC, ‘creativity’ and managerial style’, in C Bilton (ed), Creativity and cultural policy, Routledge, London, pp. 47-62.