The divide between hard news and propaganda has become murkier than ever in recent years. Audiences from both sides of the aisle have observed an insidious media bias at play whether they consume their news online, in the morning papers or on the nightly networks. The presentation of alternative facts has inspired a palpable sense of disillusionment and mistrust among viewership. The documentary London Calling, based on the popular book of the same name by author GA Ponsonby, recounts one of the egregious examples of bias as it targets the BBC and their role in defeating the 2014 referendum for Scotland's independence.
The 'Yes' campaign for independence was rightfully viewed as an underdog, but public support was growing. In the lead up to the vote, however, much of the media seemed chilly to their movement. This was definitely the case with the BBC, a large and long-respected organization that many credit with propelling the downfall of the movement. Key figures within the campaign, media insiders and ordinary voters give voice to the frustrations of the 'Yes' campaigners who experienced defeat both in the voting booth and in the promise of an impartial media.
Do they have a point? The evidence points to much more than just sour grapes. The film is littered with instances of bias committed by the BBC. Opponents cite a series of deceitful headlines, cheap tactics that provoked fear in the outcome of a yes vote, and coverage that failed to find a balance between both sides of the issue. The organization willfully evaded the lingering questions, scandals and controversies that marked the campaign to vote against the independence measure. Meanwhile, leaders in the 'Yes' campaign were tormented by manufactured character assassinations and a barrage of exaggerated negative reporting. Pro-union interests who stood against the quest for independence were given a dominant role in programming while many Scots with a different point of view were given short shrift.
For their part, the BBC claims they adhered to the strictest ethical standards of impartiality in their reporting. But the damage seems to have already been done as more viewers consume their media with increasingly discerning eyes. London Calling exposes the importance of an impartial press that is truly representative of the people, and the democratic catastrophes which can occur in its absence. It's a scary potential that we all must struggle against.