Then yesterday John Humphrys prefaced a question about the type of Brexit Leavers want with the words that this is “all getting a wee bit technical and I’m sure people are fed up to the back teeth of all this talk of stuff most of us don’t clearly understand” (2’12” in).
All this (and you can no doubt think of more or better examples) is a symptom of a BBC bias – a preferences for reporting splits and divisions rather than detailed analysis of policy. This has nasty effects.
One is that, as Nick says, it creates a bias against understanding. The question: “what type of Brexit do you want?” is a vitally important one. The fact that one of the BBC’s best-paid journalists can dismiss it as “stuff most of us don’t clearly understand” is therefore an admission of colossal failure. Polls show that the public are wrong about many basic social facts. Our biggest broadcaster must surely take some responsibility for this.
Secondly, it generates a bias towards charlatans. Because the BBC doesn’t do policy detail, empty windbags who don’t have such policies get a free pass. Brexiters who don’t have a plan for leaving have gotten far more coverage and deference than they merit. This bias perhaps plays against the Tories as well as Labour. The fact that clowns like Johnson (the mere fact that journalists call him Boris in a way they don’t use first names for (say) Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn is itself revealing. ) get more coverage than the likes of Rory Stewart, Robert Halfon, David Willetts or Jesse Norman surely puts the Tory party into a much worse light among thinking people than it would get from a reputable broadcaster.
By the same token, MPs who cultivate links with journalists (and share their posh backgrounds?) get better coverage than those with, say, technocratic backgrounds or links to trades unions. I suspect that one reason why the BBC has been so bad at covering Corbyn (especially soon after his election as Labour leader) is that it has been blindsided by the fact that he has much more support outside Westminster than in.