BBC: spine donor wanted

On the day that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt made the entirely predictable announcement that the Government would allow Murdoch to buy BSkyB, news of more dissembling at the BBC.

Liberal Conspiracy reports that BBC reporters have been told to use the word “savings” rather than “cuts” when describing … er, cuts:

BBC journalists have been instructed by senior editorial staff to use ‘savings’ instead of ‘cuts’ in their news coverage, Liberal Conspiracy has learnt, in order to offer a “rosy” picture of government announcements.

The move has drawn outrage from journalists and led to heated editorial meetings and arguments. It is also likely to attract accusations of bias towards the Conservative-led coalition.

In particular, BBC London journalists have been told by senior management that they should use ‘savings’ as much as possible for on-screen graphics and the big plasma (the screen which sits behind the presenter).

Staff were told by senior management that ‘cuts’ made the news coverage appear too negative. New editorial guidelines have not been issued to staff by email, only to senior editors by BBC executives.

A source told us: “People in the newsroom are angry about it and several producers and correspondents have challenged the [BBC London] editors about it.”

Staff from other parts of the corporation, when contacted by this blog, painted a more mixed picture. Some said they had heard nothing about it, while others said that there had been editorial discussions on whether using ‘cuts’ was biased against the government.

There are definite concerns that the BBC is bowing to pressure from the government over its news output.

Another source told us: “This is just a ludicrous example of bureaucracy and the goverment throwing its weight [on the BBC].”

Two separate journalists confirmed that the editorial decision at BBC London had been challenged several times this week in evening meetings. Journalists from the political unit had also raised objections yesterday morning.

“It’s very frustrating for the journalists who feel [that] the true picture isn’t being told and we’re being told paint a rosy picture,” a source told Liberal Conspiracy.

We’re waiting on the BBC press office for a comment.

This is important because the words “cuts” and “savings” have such different connotations.  Savings have the positive sense of used fivers in the building society and are something that people do; cuts are things that are done to people.  And their contexts are different. If you are a single mother losing 10 per cent of your income, the concept of “savings” is pretty irrelevant to your situation. This looks like a quite deliberate attempt to manage the language of political discourse in an ideologically-loaded way; it aligns the BBC definitively with the coalition.

In the early days of the Government, the BBC was called in to No 10 to discuss its coverage of the, er, cuts.  Could this be the fruit of that initiative?


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