The following is Taylor Francis’ article from our fourth print issue, titled ‘Time to Pay the Piper: the Establishment, the Media, and the Culture War’.
One Core underlining reason, in my view, for the death of conservatism in Britain is that the rules of political debate have thus far been adjudicated by those with an agenda that is far from ‘neutral’.
In each television debate, the truth becomes clearer with each passing minute: conservatives had been invited to play chess, and upon arriving found a Monopoly board, with all the properties already owned. For this, the Establishment deserves the blame, as well as for the marginalisation of true conservative ideas in British culture.
Compare the news services of the United Kingdom to those of the United States and the difference is clear to observe. On the one hand, neutral coverage of the news, with the characteristically British understated delivery, and on the other an emotive, biased news service with its own political views and ideas. The former example may be how it appears on the surface in the UK, when in reality much of this finds its existence entirely within the realms of fantasy. Some choose to look down on US television stations such as Fox and CNN, known for their biased coverage, when compared to the supposed neutrality of the British system. Anyone who has watched, say, Channel 4’s coverage of the news or the BBC’s hosting of political debates would know that British news is far from impartial. We know this of course yet do nothing.
One can imagine Ofcom’s letterbox is full of such complaints of ITV, Channel 4 or any other channel’s biases coming through in their coverage but used to disappointment, the British People take it on the chin, a tut here and there during Question Time and no more. Failure to enforce television and radio impartiality has left us with a predicament: how can we solve the problem?
For some time, the answer seemed simple: enforce the law. I now take a different view. Remove the restrictions for television and radio networks that prevent them from openly holding political opinions, while maintaining the requirements of accurate reporting that reflects the facts.
It is perfectly obvious that news corporations have political agendas, indeed it has proved impossible to remove human bias from their news coverage. But rather than allow these companies to broadcast their opinions with the veneer of neutrality that they are currently afforded, they should be expected to own their bias. By permitting broadcasters to use ‘impartiality’ as a shield from criticism, we risk allowing them to distort the lens through which the public view politics and allowing them influence over public opinion through this artificially constructed ‘neutrality’ (which as we know is anything but). To prevent this, new networks should then be formed, or current ones can take up the mantle, that force the mainstream media to take responsibility for their biases, now free of the restrictions which have otherwise prevented this holding to account.
In the US, Fox News has held left-wing politicians and media to account through figures such as Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity, and CNN does the same with the Right. In the UK, a good example would be the Nigel Farage Show on LBC, which is of course politically opinionated, though it must be stressed LBC itself is not allowed to hold its own public political stance and doesn’t endorse the views expressed within the show. Granted freedom from these restrictions, UK networks can reach the heights of Fox News in the US in challenging the liberal agenda of the Establishment.
The biases in British television are not a simple matter of Left or Right politics, but a cultural divide between conservatives and the new liberals. Take for example Dr. Jordan Peterson’s now infamous interview with Cathy Newman of Channel 4: full of ‘Gotcha!’ lines of questioning; misshaping Peterson’s arguments to extreme misrepresentations, and worse yet; attacks on his character. Despite his popularity with the Right, Dr. Peterson will be the first to tell you that he is not particularly right-wing, he is a classical liberal with conservative leanings. The attacks on his character in both this interview and in general demonstrate a contempt not just for conservative values, but of the prevalent values in Western culture Peterson argues for, namely ideas of personal responsibility and the safeguarding of free speech, the latter being viewed predominantly as a liberal concept but which all conservatives value deeply. Through this, we can see the new Left’s liberalism as a far more insidious and illiberal version of its own tradition, it is a cause for imposed liberalism, using the means of the law and the media to force out other ideas.
There is a demand for more conservatism in the media (not in the form of Fox News, but of a British equivalent, it must be stressed), as shown by the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail being some of the best-selling newspapers in the UK, as well as the popularity of LBC’s Nigel Farage Show.
However, this demand is not being met in television, where the Left now claim their home in most mainstream networks, such as Channel 4. As sad as it is to admit, print media is on the decline. If Britain is to have any hope of a conservative revival in the 21st century, it must challenge the liberal hegemony in television. The Establishment have benefited greatly from liberal dominance of television, now they must pay the piper.
Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr.