The day nothing happened

Nothing at all happened on April 18th, 1930. There was no news at all. The BBC announcer for the 8.45 pm radio news bulletin announced to the nation, "Today is Good Friday. There is no news." The rest of the 15-minute bulletin was filled by piano music, until the BBC resumed with a broadcast of Wagner's opera, Parsifal.

The BBC took itself very seriously in those days, with a self-imposed mission to use its broadcasting monopoly to uplift the nation morally. The newscaster would be wearing a dinner jacket to read the news, even though no-one outside the studio could see him. The point was that he could see himself, and be aware that the news was a very serious matter, something to be treated with dignity.

On that Good Friday, the BBC thought there was nothing worth reporting. In more modern times, with better, more rapid communications, they might have reported that Indian rebels led by Surya Sen attacked and burned the Chittagong armoury in Bengal, part of the Indian Empire. It took martial law and British troops to restore order. The BBC might have covered the church fire in Contesti, Romania, when candles set fire to church fabrics, or maybe covered the typhoon that struck Leyte in the Philippines. But they didn't.

They showed bias, of course, not in the way they covered the news, but in deciding what counted as news. They do this currently every day, picking the stories to cover that fit in and support the BBC's world-view. In modern times they have added bias to promote their agenda in the way they report events, as well as in deciding what events to cover. An earthquake might have killed hundreds in Asia, but if someone has made some unfounded criticism of President Trump, the natural disaster will rank low on their agenda, hardly competing with the interviews and speculation as to how much the criticism will undermine Trump's presidency.

Similarly, the murder of dozens of Christian worshipers in Africa is unlikely to feature if a new scare story of the impending Brexit disaster has been contrived. For the most part it is unlikely that the BBC staff even think of this as bias. To them it just reflects how the world is. They nearly all share a common outlook that to them seems like common decency. Those not sharing this view are disregarded as some kind of extremists, there to be mocked if they are mentioned at all.

This is all done with public money, with funds extracted from the people whose views they disdain. These days they would never announce, "There is no news." They would just manufacture some.