Bigging up the BBC

The post is an update to a post first produce in March 2023

An echo chamber is a place where you are only exposed to information and opinions that reinforce existing beliefs and biases. Surrounded by like-minded individuals who tend to consume news and information from sources that reconfirm pre-conceived notions. It happens everywhere.

In the UK, most of us know that newspapers have bias. The Telegraph is for posh Tories, The Guardian is for socially conscious liberals, The Daily Mail is for ultra right-wing old people (see if you can guess which of those three I read!!). If one of these newspapers is your only source of information, it will create a distorted view of the world and reinforce pre-conceived narratives, whoever you are whichever paper you read.

Social media has exacerbated the potential to be locked into one of these echo chambers. And we don’t realise it, simply because that’s the way it works. Social media algorithms are designed to show users content that is most likely to keep them engaged and on the platform for longer periods of time. This means that the content that users see on their feed is tailored according to past activity – the posts you have clicked on or liked.

This creates self-reinforcing feedback loops. People will read or click on content that aligns with their existing beliefs and biases, so the algorithm shows you more stuff like that, and nothing else. So you might think your feed is a mix of eclectic sources, but it’s not. It’s a chamber designed to expose you to information that confirms and strengthen existing beliefs and biases.

The result is that false or misleading information spreads rapidly to millions of people. And creates a perception that ‘everyone’ is talking about the same topic, whether it false, fact or fiction. But they are not all talking about that topic, just the people in your news feed. Welcome to the Post Truth era.

The US has gone a massive step further in to the dark side on this than the UK, because their TV landscape is almost entirely divided by political affiliation (Fox News best example of their blatantly biassed media, as the TV station was a massive Trump advocate in the run up to the last Presidential election). So in the US, the echo chambers of social media is broadened to include TV ‘news’.

The fact that the UK has started to go down this terrible US route is something we should fight against. Did you know that the TV channel called ‘GB News’ is not a news channel?? That means it is not subject to the same rules of impartiality as other broadcast news providers. How the fuck is that possible or allowed? But it means that they can spout whatever gobshite views and opinions they like in the name of entertainment, and do not need to reflect alternative or opposing views.

Thank goodness for the BBC. It’s not perfect, but in my view the BBC works hard to be a gateway to facts and to hearing diverse voices and opinions.

Personally I would make the BBC stronger. Scrap the licence fee, and replace it with a guaranteed long-tern income from Government. It requires a robust system of governance that ensures the organisation is independent of its paymasters, and is always trustworthy.