BBC Objectivity?

In response to Ken’s post below, the idea that the BBC is somehow “objective” compared to American t.v. and radio is laughable. (I’ve blogged about the Beeb here, here, and here.

My favorite example is a BBC radio report I heard a couple of years ago. The reporter was in China, reporting on the Chinese health system. With perhaps slight (but only slight) exaggeration, the report went something like this.

Reporter, narrating: China used to have a universal, efficient, publicly provided health system, with medical care provided by the government for free, and each village or farm having full-time medical staff under government salary. Now, however, China has moved to a “free market” system, with devastating consequences. Medical care has become far more expensive, beyond the means of many working class Chinese.

Reporter speaking to Chinese citizen: How do you feel about the medical care you receive today, compared to the days when the Chinese government provided the care?

Chinese Citizen [assumedly the most anti-“free market” citizen the reporter could find]: It’s much better now, we have access to educated doctors and Western medicine.

Reporter: But didn’t medical care used to be free?

Chinese Citizen: It was free, but it was terrible. The “doctor” assigned to our village had only a sixth grade education, and was more likely to kill you than to heal you.

Reporter: But didn’t everyone have equal access to this doctor?

Chinese Citizen: Sure. We were all poor, and we were all free to die in this quack’s care.

Reporter: But isn’t it true that sometimes people can’t afford the medicines they need today?

Chinese Citizen: Yes, sometimes it is very hard to pay, but at least if you can borrow the money, you can save a sick child. In the past, the child had no hope.

Reporter, narrating: So we see that China has moved from an equitable, fair system in which there was universal health care to a free market system in which the rich get good medical care and the poor are left to their own devices.

My jaw was open the entire time. Outside the BBC and the Shining Path, who pines for the days of Chinese Maoism? I remember thinking to myself, wow, the BBC makes NPR sound like Fox News.

Of course, British commentators may be more polite and civil in their tone than are American commentators, but–Question Time excepted–aren’t the British generally more polite?

UPDATE: Thanks to an anonymous reader, here’s a 2006 story from the BBC website with a similar theme. It begins:

A village doctor for the past 55 years, he was just 15 when he started practising as a third-generation herbalist.

In the 1970s he received simple training under Chairman Mao’s programme to send “barefoot doctors” to serve China’s rural masses.

Dr Liu still wears a faded Mao suit and a picture of the Great Helmsman dominates his bare clinic. He remembers those days with nostalgia.

“In Chairman Mao’s time, you could see a doctor whether you had money or not. We could carry out disease prevention, like injections, whether our patients had money or not. Nowadays only those with money can get injections,” he says.

Today the old system providing near-universal access to basic healthcare has been dismantled, as the government tries to spread the cost of providing healthcare to more than one billion people.

The site also has a picture of Dr. Liu, with the caption, “Dr Liu Quan says everyone got equal health care under Mao.”

Nothing like fifteen year old herbalists to provide quality health care!

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