The New Observer Media Comment What is the BBC?

What is the BBC?

This an article in the Observer by someone who is described as the BBC’s Moscow correspondent. I guess he probably got paid for this (?). If nothing else it is lazy journalism. Once you have a position you can turn out articles on demand and (in most cases at least, get paid). The key is to follow the template required by the politically connected editors. What the British establishment wants is a text which jeers and sneers at Russia. The BBC serves the British establishment and this is the service they are doing in exchange for their comfortable tax-payer funded jobs. It is easy to deconstruct this fly-weight “journalism”.

The ‘reporter’ trots out the line about how ‘normality ended in Russia’ when Russia launched their “full-scale invasion of Ukraine”. This is the ‘full-scale invasion’ which didn’t happen and which exists only in their imaginations. As the International Relations scholar John Mearsheimer has pointed out there were nowhere near enough forces in the Russian supposed ‘invasion’ force to carry out anything even remotely like a “full-scale invasion of Ukraine”. You may choke on the words, but it was indeed a ‘Special Military Operation’ – designed to put pressure on the Western installed Kiev regime to agree to Russian demands e.g. about NATO, and to secure some territory in the East, where there is a significant “pro-Russian” population.

For some reason the ‘reporter’ thinks that seeing a military recruiting poster destroys the “illusion of normality” conjured up by the tinsel in Moscow. He has missed the point. Putin is doing (in his terms) a very good job of combining managing and sustaining the war with maintaining life as normal for the majority. One way he has done this is to avoid further mass mobilisations (after the initial one in Autumn 2022), instead relying on people who sign up voluntarily for large salaries. Meanwhile clever economic management combined with a willingness of people all over the world, not just neutral countries, but even Western businesses to continue to work with Russia (e.g. German car exports have multiplied massively to Kirgizstan; it is not credible that their German manufacturers do not know what is happening) means that the economy is just about holding on. Inflation is high yes, and that is a pressure. But the collapse that they dreamt about in the West hasn’t happened yet.

The ‘reporter’ jokes about how Russian Santa’s sacks will be full of Chinese goods. (I don’t think they actually have sacks, but anyway). Yes; China has increased investment and more Chinese cars are being sold, but, sorry to have to break it to the journalist (though in reality he must know if he really lives in Moscow) you can still get ‘sanctioned’ or blocked-by-the-manufacturer Western goods; there is no problem, for example, buying Samsung phones on Ozon (the Russian equivalent of Amazon). Most shopping centres seem to have an iPhone shop. And, as I mention above plenty of German cars are still reaching Russia though parallel import routes in Central Asia.

The ‘reporter’ mocks (the quite possibly easy target) young pop singer Shaman with his lyrics:

“I am Russian. I go all the way… I am Russian. To spite the whole world.”

However, the quote is taken out of context and the author, despite being the BBC’s Moscow correspondent, reveals his lack of understanding of Russia. The full verse says something like:

I go to the end, I am Russian, I got my blood from my father, I am Russian, I got lucky, I am Russian, with spite to the whole world, this song flies to the skies, and calls me with it, my heart burns inside me, lights the way home, where I simply want to love and breathe, I don’t need anything else, I’ve already got all this.

So – it is not really what the journalist says it is. Furthermore; if you understand even a little about Russians you would understand that they can be quite direct and ‘raw’ in their expression of emotions. The verse is clearly patriotic and seems to say “I am Russian, that’s all I need, stuff the rest of the world”. I agree of course that this is propagandistic music to Mr Putin’s ears – but it is not further confirmation that all Russians are evil and just act out of irrational spite – which is the (quite clever) propagandistic message the reporter is trying to sneak in here.

This ‘article’ is simply neither reportage nor journalism. It is something that you might perhaps read on a North Korean government website, but more insidious. It is curating a political narrative. I think these people do it for money.

Media Studies Discussion: does being a publicly-funded body, much like a Local Authority, influence the kind of news reporting the BBC produces? If you think so; how? If not; do you think that the funding model and management structure of a media organisation has any or no affect at all on the style and content of its output?