To mark the 100-year anniversary of the BBC we have collated a ripe and ready selection on and about the BBC, its correspondents and what is or should be next in news reporting.
TELL-ALL ON THE BBC
Getting Out Alive: News, Sport and Politics at the BBC, by Roger Mosey
Delinquent presenters, controversial executive pay-offs, the Jimmy Savile scandal… The BBC is one of the most successful broadcasters in the world, but its programme triumphs are often accompanied by management crises and high-profile resignations.
One of the most respected figures in the broadcasting industry, Roger Mosey has taken senior roles at the BBC for more than twenty years, including as editor of Radio 4’s Today programme, head of television news and director of the London 2012 Olympic coverage.
Now, in Getting Out Alive, Mosey reveals the hidden underbelly of the BBC, lifting the lid on the angry tirades from politicians and spin doctors, the swirling accusations of bias from left and right alike, and the perils of provoking Margaret Thatcher.
To some, it is the voice of the nation, yet to others it has never been clearer that the BBC is in the grip of an ideology that prevents it reporting fairly on the world. Many have been scandalised by its pessimism on Brexit and its one-sided presentation of the Trump presidency, while simultaneously amused by its outrage over ‘fake news’.
Robin Aitken, who himself spent twenty-five years working for the BBC as a reporter and executive, argues that the Corporation needs to be reminded that what is ‘fake’ rather depends on where one is standing. From where his feet are planted, the BBC’s own coverage of events often looks decidedly peculiar, peppered with distortions, omissions and amplifications tailored to its own liberal agenda.
This punchy polemic – now fully updated to cover the Corporation’s tortured relationship with the government and explore the challenges for the new Director-General – galvanises the debate over how our licence fee money is spent, and asks whether the BBC is a fair arbiter of the news or whether it is a conduit for pervasive and institutional liberal left-wing bias.
LIVE FROM BBC CORRESPONDENTS
Islands: Searching for truth on the shoreline, by Mark Easton
No man is an island, wrote John Donne. BBC Home Editor Mark Easton argues the opposite: that we are all islands, and it is upon the contradictory shoreline where isolation meets connectedness, where ‘us’ meets ‘them’, that we find out who we truly are.
Suggesting that a continental bias has blinded us, Easton chronicles a sweep of 250 million years of island history: from Pangaea (the supercontinent mother of all islands) to the first intrepid islanders pointing their canoes over the horizon, from exploration to occupation, exploitation to liberation, a hopeful journey to paradise and a chastening reminder of our planet’s fragility.
Brave, intelligent and haunting, Islands is a deep dive into geography, myth, literature, politics and philosophy that reveals nothing less than a map of the human heart.
Unmasking Our Leaders: Confessions of a Political Documentary-Maker, by Michael Cockerell
Our political leaders spend their careers spinning their images and polishing their achievements; Michael Cockerell has spent his professional life stripping off the gloss. Drawing on his unique experience of having filmed all the past ten Prime Ministers, Cockerell tells how he manages to lull some of the most wary people in the land into candour.
Amongst much else, he recounts: how Margaret Thatcher flirted with him on screen but attacked him by name in the Commons; how Tony Blair said he would willingly ‘pay the blood price’ in Iraq; how David Cameron learned from Enoch Powell always to make a big speech on a full bladder – and how Boris Johnson admitted to doubts about his ability to be Prime Minister.
The paperback edition includes a concise and insightful breakdown of Johnson’s fall from the premiership.
FUTURE OF NEWS
20 Things That Would Make the News Better, by Roger Mosey
We are at a defining point in the history of news. Following a surge of fake news, clickbait and conspiracy theories, the 2020s have ushered in a welter of existential threats for public service broadcasting.
So, where do we go from here?
Former Today editor and head of BBC television news Roger Mosey thinks public service broadcasters must buck the trends and in this incisive book he offers twenty core ways in which the news can save itself by getting smarter, sharper, more diverse, more nuanced and less exposed to pummelling by politicians.
The Press Freedom Myth, by Jonathan Heawood
What does press freedom mean in a digital age? Do we have to live with fake news, hate speech and surveillance? Can we deal with these threats without bringing about the end of an open society?
In a fast-moving narrative, Jonathan Heawood moves from the birth of print to the rise of social media. He shows how the core ideas of press freedom emerged out of the upheavals of the seventeenth century, and argues that these ideas have outlived their sell-by date.
Nonetheless, he argues powerfully against censorship, and instead sets out the five roles that democratic states should play to ensure that people get the best out of the media and mitigate the worst.
For more biographies and insightful books on media and journalism, click here.
Biteback do our own broadcasting, through the Biteback Chats Books podcast. Listen to Michael Cockerell here on a career spent interviewing Prime Ministers.