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From the editor: Without change the BBC will keep irking the farming audience

This week from the editor, Ben Briggs.


Ben   Briggs

Ben   Briggs

Do you see the BBC as one of the world’s great broadcasters, or as an out-of-touch behemoth which mainly reflects the concerns of urban audiences to the detriment of rural issues?

 

The answer will depend on your personal view, but the past week has sparked alarm among the farming community about the BBC’s coverage of big stories such as the Godfray bovine TB report and Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommendations.

 

In Your Field writers James Powell and Phil Latham have their say on pages 94-95. And they have a point. For example, last Thursday’s Inside Science on Radio 4 only got reaction from a vet opposed to the cull and Rosie Woodroffe, a long-term supporter of vaccination, who suggested the cull should be abandoned. In the pursuit of balance, a pro cull scientist should have been sought.

 

Things got worse on Friday morning (November 16) when the BBC reported the NFU as saying it welcomed the CCC recommendations that livestock numbers should be reduced by 50 per cent (page 2). With NFU president Minette Batters slamming the article as ’fake news’, the piece was later rewritten to show the union’s support for livestock production.

 

And while all this rankles with farmers, we have, disappointingly, been here before. Back in 2014, a BBC Trust report concluded rural audiences felt there was a metropolitan bias to its reporting, while its coverage of issues such as bovine TB was ’too simplistic’, offering a binary overview of a debate rather than nuanced and in-depth reporting.

 

To think the BBC has an anti-farming agenda would be a step too far and overlook the work its well-informed rural teams do but, without the right personnel in the wider organisation to reflect the voice of the countryside or agendas outside the metropolitan bubble, it will continue to jar with many in the farming community.

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