G. A. Posonby’s book London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum is a fine account of media bias during the Scottish independence referendum. The focus of the book, and now, documentary, though was the BBC which when put under any sort of objective scrutiny, clearly lost any sort of objectivity during the referendum campaign to the point where outright propaganda was the norm, rather than standing out like a sore thumb.
The problems with the documentary though are more than niggling. Building a case against the BBC means using examples is fine and as it should be, but then to use Russia Today clips (and indeed, RT mouthpieces like Max Keiser) without mentioning the fact that RT is a massive propaganda exercise is creating an open goal for critics. Same goes for when the documentary slips into the realm of conspiracy theory, which to be fair, is easily done, but the often menacing music and direction distracts from telling the facts here and there’s a large reliance on talking heads rather than outline the actual examples, or include those examples for added impact.
However, the film does work. There’s a clear narrative of how the BBC, with the aid of the then Tory/Lib Dem coalition government with the aid of their proxies in Scotland, the Labour Party as well as ”grassroots’ groups supporting the Union helped manipulate opinion. After all there’s still a number of people who don’t get their news from the internet, or the root sources, and will rely upon the BBC for all their information and when the BBC decides to work on behalf of the establishment, or even push an agenda to help shape opinion, they’ll do so. The example of Nick Robinson skewing reality to make it look like Alex Salmond didn’t answer a question during the campaign is by far the most famous example of BBC bias, and when the documentary deals with things like this it tends to be superb.
On the whole, London Calling is a fine documentary that deals with not just establishment propaganda, but post-truth politics which with Brexit and Donald Trump’s election is something we should be aware of as the simple act of telling the truth and letting the public decide is gone.What we have now are narratives, and it’s whether we trust those narratives or not which for democracy is dangerous as it means those with the ability to control those narratives controls how democracy is shaped. In 2014, the people who shaped the narrative were the UK establishment and this film is a brutal reminder of how we need to fight to ensure democracy isn’t crushed.