The BBC Enacts the Ministry of Truth Playbook

February 22, 2022

The National Review calls out the BBC, comparing the organization to the Ministry of Truth from George Orwell’s 1984, in “The BBC Quietly Censors Its Own Archives.” Writer Charles C. W. Cooke informs us:

“The Daily Telegraph reported that ‘an anonymous Radio 4 Extra listener’ had ‘discovered the BBC had been quietly editing repeats of shows over the past few years to be more in keeping with social mores.’ To which the BBC said . . . well, yeah. In a statement addressing the charge, the institution confirmed that ‘on occasion we edit some episodes so they’re suitable for broadcast today, including removing racially offensive language and stereotypes from decades ago, as the vast majority of our audience would expect.’ Thus, in the absence of law or regulation, has the British establishment begun to excise material it finds inappropriate by today’s lights.”

See, the BBC was just trying to be helpful. There are just a few problems with that defense: Does the audience, which as British taxpayers effectively owns this content, really “expect” it to be unceremoniously altered? If so, why the secrecy? There is value in being able to see how vile prevailing attitudes used to be, after all. Then there is the fact that not all alterations simply removed racist, misogynistic, or other offensive tropes and language. We learn of a particularly self-serving set of alterations:

“Per the Telegraph, the BBC has ‘purged mentions of disgraced stars Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris’ from its collections. And down the memory hole goes that.”

The memory hole, of course, being a 1984 reference. See the write-up for more Orwellian correlations. The piece continues:

“One might reasonably wonder where such a project might end. Whether one likes it or not, Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris existed. They were real people, who had a real effect on the culture, and who appeared on a vast number of real radio and television shows that were produced and disseminated by the BBC. That they turned out to be extremely bad people is regrettable, but it does not alter material reality.”

Indeed. Cooke points out the BBC, which has been operating since 1922, has generated and collected a wealth of valuable historical information. One hundred years later, the de facto government agency should not be allowed to alter that content as it sees fit. Whatever its motives.

Cynthia Murrell, February 22, 2022


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