William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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REMARKABLE – AT 9:03 A.M. ET:  There is another scandal going on, and I am amazed, and gratified, by the fact that some in the American media are taking it seriously.  Even The New York Times has noticed.

I refer to the growing scandal enveloping the BBC.  The British Broadcasting Corporation is the world's largest news organization.  For years it has skidded along on past glories and unearned prestige, presenting a warped view of the world that satisfied its many left-wing fans in a variety of countries.  Some viewers of public television stations in the U.S. eagerly await the BBC news each night, thinking they're getting the truth because the presenters sound so good.  For some viewers, style and substance are the same thing.

For years the BBC has been under serious criticism, some of it in-house, over the actual quality of its journalism.  A recent broadcast accused a former conservative member of Parliament of child abuse, and turned out to be entirely wrong.  The new director-general of the BBC has resigned in humiliation.  And now the scandal has wrecked the careers of two others.  From the Washington Post: 

LONDON — The BBC’s news chief and her deputy “stepped aside” on Monday, just two days after the broadcaster’s chief resigned amid tough questions over the network’s handling of an escalating child sex abuse scandal.

Helen Boaden, the BBC’s head of news, and her deputy Steve Mitchell, relinquished their responsibilities following a report by the BBC into how the broadcaster came to air a program on Nov. 2 that falsely implicated a former Conservative politician in a child abuse case.

In a statement on Monday, the BBC said neither Boaden nor Mitchell “had anything at all to do” with the problematic investigation that wrongly accused the politician. Still, the broadcaster said, the news executives are “not in a position” to oversee news coverage until a probe of the errant report is complete.

“Consideration is now being given to the extent to which individuals should be asked to account further for their actions,” the statement said. “And if appropriate, disciplinary action will be taken.”

Trustees of the global broadcaster have begun a desperate search for a new director general after George Entwistle, 50, quit after he conceded he did not know about the serious allegations that implicated the politician before the episode was broadcast.

With the BBC facing its deepest crisis in years, government officials have called on the organization to find a way to regain the public’s confidence.

Integrity might help.

COMMENT:  The story is important because it may finally help lead to a desperately needed discussion in the United States about the increasingly biased and corrupt journalism that we are given every day.  Great names like The New York Times and NBC News are being tarnished, as their credibility slips.  They are egged on by some journalism schools and a disturbing number of "intellectuals," who believe that the purpose of journalism isn't to report the news, but to be a "change agent" in a sinful, capitalist society.

There have always been problems in journalism.  The press has never been entirely noble, to put it mildly.  But our current problems go beyond the traditional issues of sensationalism, tawdry stories and hack work.  They began in the 1960s with the reporting of the Vietnam War, when a new generation of college-educated "journalists" decided they knew far more than they actually did.  For a generation, as Senator James Webb of Virginia has put it, Americans have lived a lie – that we "lost" that war militarily.  In fact, we never lost a single battle.  The war was lost by the shattering of political will at home, in which a headstrong press played a leading role.

Today the in-the-tank bias toward Barack Obama has become a danger to American democracy itself.  Maybe the BBC's growing scandal will encourage press critics in America to demand that serious journalism issues here finally be given their proper treatment.  And maybe some resignations are in order.

Oh, by the way, the former director-general of the BBC, Mark Thompson, has now become the chief executive of The New York Times.  This is his first day on the job, and it's reported that some Times journalists, people of integrity, are none too happy about it.  Thompson's role will undoubtedly be examined by the probes the BBC is experiencing right now.  This will be fascinating to watch.

November 12, 2012