Did anyone catch this morning’s main headline on the Today programme? The item of greatest public concern this morning was “the British public are becoming more liberal with respect to sexual ethics but more conservative economically”. The BBC’s social policy correspondent reported that in 1983 62% of the population thought homosexual sex was unacceptable and only 36% think so today.
At 8:10, the main morning debate, Justin Webb discussed attitudes to homosexually with Michael Cashman a founder member of Stonewall and a Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun. Again, the message was “social attitudes have been transformed”.
The “news” was read impartially, in the spirit of the BBC, and the debate conducted honourably. What is interesting about these “headlines” is not primarily their content or the manner in which they were delivered, but their timing in relation to the defeat, yesterday, in the House of Lords of the equality bill.
Without initially mentioning the house of Lord’s debate, Radio 4 listeners were first exposed to the fact that our nation’s moral standards on homosexual sex have swung in a short period of time and (for anyone making the connection), therefore, the Lords are out of touch with public opinion. Then, with these statistics in place, the debate at 8:10 was teed up for Michael Cashman to slate the church and claim that one day attitudes in church will be changed as he battles on.
Ignoring any debate on the tyranny of the majority verses the rights of the minority, the editorial positioning of these news items reveal a deeply partisan ruling class at the BBC. The editors are obviously not scared to bias the “news” to promote a their own social agenda. What seems to have escaped them is that this sort of biased redaction has brought about changes in societies morals. If you keep saying loudly enough, on a national platform, that homosexual sex is morally acceptable, eventually attitudes will swing. After all, who will stand up against a national mood? We all want to fit in.
The complex relationship which exists between national broadcasters and the public mood must be taken into account when statistics are analysed. More than that, the role of the established national press needs consideration. What is news and why did these statistics even make headline news at all? Unless of course the editors think it is important to keep campaigning against the Lords decision.