Irony is dead when British state media controllers accuse Russian news outlets RT and Sputnik of “imbalance” over their reporting on the Skripal alleged poisoning affair.
In the past week, Ofcom, the British media watchdog, condemned seven programs aired during March and April this year following the apparent poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury. The Russian outlets may be fined or denied future broadcasting rights in Britain. The latter suggests what the real, ulterior agenda is all about.
It remains a mystery as to what happened exactly to Skripal and his daughter when they reportedly fell ill on March 4 in the famous south of England cathedral town. Neither Sergei nor Julia have been seen in public since, apart from a brief and carefully controlled interview given by Julia to Reuters a few months ago, apparently having recovered from her stricken condition. Russian consular services have been denied access to Julia by the British authorities, despite her being a Russian citizen.
The murkiness of the affair, the flagrant obfuscation by the British authorities and their violation of diplomatic norms speaks of a British state intrigue aimed at provoking international recriminations against Russia. Such is the outrageous apparent skullduggery by the British state, it is arguably very appropriate therefore for critical media coverage of the incident and the subsequent prevarication by London.
However, in a staggering inversion of reality, British media regulators complain that Russian news outlets have broken “impartiality rules” in their reporting on what is a bizarre de facto disappearance of a Russian citizen and her father while in the custody of British authorities. The protagonists are off-limits from criticism; their ropey claims must be treated as the sane version of events.
Within days of the Salisbury incident, senior British officials, including Prime Minister Theresa May, were accusing Russia of an assassination attempt against the Skripals, allegedly with a Soviet-era nerve poison.
London’s narrative inculpating the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin continues, despite Russia’s vehement denial of involvement and despite the lack of independently verifiable evidence.
This week, in her Christmas speech to the nation, premier May again repeated her condemnation of the “nerve agent attack in Salisbury” and she praised British armed forces for “protecting the country’s waters and skies from Russian intrusion”.
So, Russian media are castigated for “bias”, but British media are evidently permitted to report and broadcast official British assertions that are unproven and wildly sensational, if not tantamount to inciting international conflict. Just who is breaking journalistic standards?
Among the news outlets reporting May’s words were the BBC. The government-owned British broadcaster routinely and snidely refers to Russian news outlets RT and Sputnik as “Kremlin-backed”. As if the state-backed BBC is somehow immune from disseminating British government propaganda.
May’s assertions in her Christmas speech about Russia carrying out an alleged assassination and threatening Britain with invasion went unchallenged by the BBC. Nor were her other claims about chemical weapons being used by Syrian government forces against civilians.
On Syria, May was referring to an incident near Damascus in April this year when toxic chlorine was purportedly used in an assault on civilians. Back then, the British prime minister joined with US President Trump and France’s President Macron to order air strikes on Syria, supposedly in retaliation for the Syrian army’s use of chemical weapons. But it soon transpired that the incident was a provocation staged by jihadist militants and their media operatives, the so-called White Helmets. In other words, the British, American and French carried out a criminal act of aggression against Syria under false pretenses.
Yet May in her solemn set-piece nationwide Christmas speech this week was allowed by British media to repeat blatant lies against Syria, and brazenly avoid the issue of justice facing her government over illegal air strikes on Syria, as well as to continue smearing Russia over the murky Skripal affair.
The arrogant hypocrisy of British media and the state regulator is astounding. British citizens are compelled by law to pay an annual license fee of £150 ($190) per household for possessing a television set. Failure to pay can result in a jail sentence. The TV license fee collected by the British state is handed over to the BBC. So, here we have a state-owned media channel that is funded through a compulsory tax on citizens, and yet this same channel willingly broadcasts British government propaganda claims denigrating Russia and covering up for British war crimes in Syria. If that sounds Orwellian, that’s because it is.
The BBC’s corporate advertising claims to be the “world’s leader in breaking global news”. It also assures its listeners and readers that it produces “news you can trust”.
There are countless cases where the BBC’s pompous self-importance can be exposed, revealing an altogether more malevolent purpose. One of the most notorious cases was its complicity in orchestrating the 1953 coup in Iran carried out by the American CIA and Britain’s MI6. In his book, Web of Deceit, British historian Mark Curtis details the crucial role played by the BBC and its Persian service in helping to foment the coup against the elected premier Mohammad Mosaddegh.
More recently, BBC coverage of the war in Syria over the past eight years has been a relentless propaganda assault on the government of President Bashar al Assad. It is not merely about omission or biased distortion. The BBC has been caught out actually fabricating fake news in Syria, such as the case when it accused the Syrian army of using napalm on civilians near Aleppo in 2013. Those reports were later exposed as deliberate fabrications.
More generally on Syria, the BBC, as with other Western news media, are serving as facilitators of the criminal regime-change objective of their governments. May’s grotesque falsehoods reiterated this week – in a Christmas speech of all things! – about chemical weapons are afforded respectability and apparent credibility by the way the BBC and other British outlets dutifully report her words without any qualification, let alone criticism.
It is a measure of how distorted the British media landscape is when alternative news channels which do raise critical viewpoints and insights on propaganda narratives are then accused of being “imbalanced” and “in breach of broadcasting rules”.
In response to Britain’s Ofcom regulator condemning Russia’s RT and Sputnik, Moscow is now saying that its own state regulator is considering filing a case against the BBC and how it operates in Russia. Given how the BBC tried to tie Russia to instigating the Yellow Vest protests in France and how it recently ran an article accusing the Kremlin of “weaponizing satire”, there seems much more credibility to Russian claims that the “British state-backed outlet” is in breach of journalistic standards.
The broader background of how the BBC serves British state propaganda is panoramic in its scope. But such is official British hypocrisy, the authorities attack critical news outlets that happen to expose their propaganda service posing as “news you can trust”.
Free speech in Britain? Yes, as long as you freely speak in the service of British state propaganda.