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BBC director Lord Hall says 'mainstream media' has become 'term of abuse' in wider assault on free expression

The phrase “mainstream media” has become a “term of abuse” and part of a wider assault on freedom of expression, the head of the BBC has said.

BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall said the term was used by people of all political stripes and claimed “traditional journalism” was now being depicted as a problem in society, rather than a solution.

He made the comments in a wide-ranging speech to the House of Lords yesterday, which touched on fake news, attacks on the press and plans for a BBC-led local news charity.

Lord Hall said he was worried by attacks on journalism in the UK, saying journalists faced “constant anonymous threats online” for reporting opinions that “others might not want to hear”.

He added: “Every day we see attempts to target, troll, intimidate them. To stop them from doing their job. This is more than an attack on journalists. It amounts to a campaign to denigrate their craft.

“The phrase, ‘mainstream media’, is now a term of abuse – used by people of all political persuasions. Traditional journalism is painted as part of the problem rather than the solution. This really worries me.

“Ultimately, it’s an assault on freedom of expression and our duty to seek out the facts – without fear or favour – no matter how inconvenient they might prove to be.”

His comments came a day after international media groups pushed the United Nations to adopt a convention on the safety of journalists.

In a Society of Editors lecture last year, Lord Hall remarked how the term “fake news” had become a “weapon of choice for repressive regimes”.

Speaking to peers yesterday, he described fake news as “the poison in the bloodstream of our societies” that undermined the rule of law.

He added: “In the West, we have witnessed its power to distort our discourse, fuel divisions and influence voter decisions.

“In emerging and developing economies, the picture is even starker.”

Lord Hall pointed to fake news stories around elections in Nigeria last month and the deaths of ten people in India last year following “inflammatory reports about child abduction gangs” that spread online, in illustrating his point.

He added: “In countries where democracy is fragile and digital literacy low, the rise of misinformation now constitutes an urgent crisis.

“And it’s set to grow worse as the weapons of disinformation warfare become ever more sophisticated.”

The BBC boss closed his speech by highlighting the Iranian Government’s harassment and persecution of BBC Persian staff, adding that the “stakes” for the broadcaster’s staff abroad were “often far higher”.

He said: “Our journalists frequently face real dangers in their efforts to expose corruption or simply do their job. They play a priceless role in supporting democracy and the UK’s democratic values around the world.

“So I’m pleased that we’re now talking to the Government about extending its support for what the BBC does overseas – including our BBC World News channel on television.”

Asked for information on its plans for the BBC World News channel, a BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC currently receives some funding from the government for the vital work the World Service does across the globe.

“Such funding is always subject to discussion and we are speaking with the Government about future support, including for BBC World News, in advance of the spending review later this year.”

Lord Hall also proposed a new charity to fund local news reporters with money from outside the corporation, saying he had spoken with publishers, Government and tech companies about the proposal.

Picture: Channel 4 News

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9 thoughts on “BBC director Lord Hall says 'mainstream media' has become 'term of abuse' in wider assault on free expression”

  1. Depends who the Journalist is? Many at the BBC do their job correctly, but as always, there is a strain of ‘lime lighter’ individuals that go to work just to cause trouble and waves at the expense of the people, the name of good journalism and their unfortunate targets.

    They are the ones that need remedial action to ensure balance.

  2. The media doesn’t help itself. Look at its reporting on Brexit, on Corbyn, on climate change, on trans issues, etc. It complains about being accused of dishonesty, and yet it is unabashedly dishonest in its reporting of many important issues.

    The main culprits, of course, are the national newspapers, almost all of whom are overtly right-wing and don’t even pretend to be impartial.

    But the BBC has also been proven, by one major content analysis study after another, to have a significant right-wing bias. It gives more airtime to right-wing speakers, has more overtly right-wing news/current affairs/political presenters, and often presents the Government’s position on an issue with zero reportage of the opposition’s position.

    And is it any wonder the BBC’s most prominent news, current affairs and politics presenters are all right-wingers, when they’re all being paid exorbitant salaries that push them into the top tax bracket and they all try to avoid that tax by having their salaries paid to companies? They all have an enormous conflict of interest when somebody like Jeremy Corbyn starts campaigning on a manifesto of taxing the highest earners and clamping down on tax avoiders.

    That’s not to say all the BBC’s failings are ideologically driven. Its reporting on Brexit was atrocious, for example, because its pathetic obsession with fake impartiality prevented it from doing its duty and calling out the leavers’ constant, blatant lies. Facts are, in and of themselves, impartial – but the BBC seems to think impartiality is balancing a fact against a lie and giving them equal weight.

    And why has the BBC completely failed to investigate or even give sufficient coverage to the many revelations since the referendum about the various leave campaigns’ simultaneous campaigns of electoral fraud and data crimes? And why does it refuse to cover the general public’s enormous anti-Brexit demonstrations, yet show up to cover pathetic political stunts like Jacob Rees-Mogg promoting Brexit by molesting a fish?

    Until the media starts properly investigating, being impartial, presenting facts instead of conjecture and spin, and producing proper journalism instead of pathetic clickbait, complaints and distrust will only spiral.

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