When making investment decisions it is important to know where the information you base your decisions on comes from. Everyone has a bias and a point of view and it is important to understand and account for that bias when considering the information provided.
The BBC is meant to be an unbiased commentator which acts solely in the public interest. However, there are a number of financial incentives which I believe may bias it against new independent entrepreneurs and small individual property investors. I will lay out my case and leave you to be the judge.
What Control Does The Government Have Over The BBC?
The Chairman of the BBC Board is appointed by the Queen under the advice of Ministers. As Britain is a constitutional Monarchy this means that the advice of Ministers is always taken by the Queen. Essentially Ministers of the Government select this person. The BBC Board then select the Director-General of the BBC who is “responsible for the creative, editorial and operational leadership” of the broadcaster.
Furthermore, the BBC is paid for via the TV licence fee and the Government have the power to propose legislation to remove this source of funding should they choose to do so.
Of course, this arrangement does not lead to a potential for bias in favour of the political party in power, as they could be replaced by the opposition, therefore it would not be in the interest of the BBC to lean entirely in one direction or the other. What does make sense however is for the BBC to have a bias – conscious or otherwise – in favour of the interests that back both main political parties.
Following The Money In Politics
As generally speaking, the Government is either controlled by Labour or The Conservatives, we will focus on these two parties.
The Labour Party receives many of its largest donations from trade unions. In Q1 of 2020, for example, it received £401,875 from Unite the Union, £291,575 from UNISON and £290,125 from GMB. Unions represent the interests of workers, not business owners and may have a negative view of landlords. Unite the Union, for example, is in favour of rent controls which would set limits on the amount that can be charged by landlords.
The Conservative Party’s big donors tend to be rich individuals and large companies. Donations in Q1 of 2020 include £250,000 from a former banker and head of an online trading company, £200,000 from a Russian government-linked businesswoman and £125,000 from a construction machinery company, Unatrac Limited.
Although it may seem at first glance that the Labour Party might be seen to be biased in favour of workers, and the Conservatives might be considered to have a bias in favour of big business, we need to consider the incomes of outgoing prime ministers.
Following Ex-Prime Ministers’ Money
When a Prime Minister leaves office, they will look for work in the private sector. It, therefore, makes sense for a PM to pay heed to the recommendations of big business when they are in power to build up such relationships.
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair has taken a number of roles after leaving office including appointments with JPMorgan Chase, earning £2 million “in his part-time role as adviser….without ever having to go into the office” according to the Telegraph, and a role with Zurich Financial Services. He has also spoken at corporate events including being paid £182,000 for a 30 minutes speech. Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown took an advisory role at PIMCO, the world’s biggest asset manager (although his fee went to the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown to support his charitable and public service work rather than to him directly).
Former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has received a number of appointments in the private sector including with life sciences company Illumina Inc and consultancy for First Data Corporation. Former Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has received a number of speaking fees including £100,000 from bank UBS Switzerland.
This means that the leadership of both major parties have a financial reason to support big business, regardless of their public political positions.
What BBC Bias Could This Lead To?
As we have seen the BBC is indirectly influenced by the government. The government is invariably run by parties that are either backed by big business or the unions.
Big business has a financial interest in preventing competition from smaller firms so parties backed by them are likely to support legislation which favours larger enterprise over smaller businesses.
The Unions represent the interests of workers rather than business owners and investors and therefore parties backed by them are more likely to be biased against business more generally. However, the politicians that lead these parties also have a personal interest in listening to big business and therefore may turn their attention to smaller players.
This means the pressure from both sides is for the BBC to be biased against small business owners and property investors, particularly ones that are not seeking the backing of major corporations.
If my hypothesis is correct, this would mean the BBC would be more likely to run programming that is biased against wealth creation education, small entrepreneurs that are not seeking funding from large enterprise and individual landlords. Where property and starting a business is mentioned, little instructional information would be provided and conventional paths would be advocated for. The BBC would also be more likely to back more traditional career paths and university education.
I will leave you to judge if you think my hypothesis is correct and if this is reflective of BBC programming or not. Either way, every business and organisation has the potential for bias in favour of its backers and its own products/services. This is not a problem. The problem only arises when you are not aware of the potential bias. Even if you disagree with my conclusions, I hope this gets you thinking about this topic more deeply.