I suppose if I had Rupert Murdoch on my back I'd act a bit peculiar, but I had been starting to wonder if it was just me that thought the BBC was embracing the idea of cuts to other people with a little too much relish. But today I've seen two pieces that suggest I'm not alone in thinking their presentation of the cuts debate has not been very, well, rounded.
Aditya Chakrabortty, in The Guardian, makes the point that coverage which promotes the inevitability of cuts in certain areas, and has 'in these difficult economic times' on autotext, creates an atmosphere of naturalness which is refuted by many leading economists, let alone those who'll bear the brunt of the cuts. (Poor people, women, children from deprived backgrounds, economically-useless folk like that according to even the flimsy impact assessments done so far.) Like him, I don't buy the conspiracy theories. It is more the sign of a broadcaster weakened by a series of events, going back to the Hutton Enquiry, and lacking clarity and confidence.That, and some tired, dull journalism that likes repeating itself, but that's not confined to the BBC.
Meanwhile, on Article 19, (whose Neil Nesbit is fresh from his appearance supporting some arts funding on a BBC programme in which some saloon bar 'iconoclast' argued for the withdrawal of public money from the arts) has been looking into the BBC headline that 'two-thirds of people agree with the government's stance on cutting funding to the arts'. His article here coolly takes apart the survey, which was commissioned to promote the Threadneedle Prize, far better than I could, so I won't repeat it here. But the point remains why the BBC should take an approach that would shame a tiny local paper? As anyone following the #artsfunding hashtag on twitter will testify, that headline rippled through followers.
Now, we should not dismiss it out of hand. It's true, I'm sure, that many people prefer their visual art figurative rather than conceptual. And the issue of public support - especially when services nearer the base of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, like hospitals and schools, are being cut too - is a crucial one which the sector's campaigns have so far not addressed sufficiently. But a sense of perspective is needed on all sides for the debate about cuts to be meaningful.
Unfortunately, we do have to admit the possibility that it is not meaningful - cannot be in the circumstances, a generous person might say - and we should turn our attention to re-imagining and redesigning and focus more of our messages on this. More on that anon. In the meantime, it is important we use all available media channels to tell the stories of the value of the arts, and hold all of them to account.