A BBC ‘documentary’ on Prime Minister Narendra Modi that furthers the stereotype of India becoming an intolerant nation, with Muslims in particular being oppressed, is in the news these days. The Indian Government has trashed its content as reflecting the ‘colonial mindset’. The irony is that none other than British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has stated he does not agree with what has been said.
The professional media has every right to criticise politicians for their actions and policies, but the least required of it is that the presentation is unbiased and preferably not coloured by ideological preconceptions. Broadcasters like the BBC can even be excused for pursuing ‘national’ goals but as made clear by Sunak that is not the case. The BBC’s credibility regarding coverage of Indian events came into question as far back as 1971, when it mostly closed its eyes to the reality in Bangladesh and the impending victory.
Since then, it has only gone downhill. It is not just India but many other parts of the world that are victim of the BBC’s preconceptions and insularity, which tarnish its otherwise high professional skills.
This is not its failing alone – other broadcasters of the Western world suffer from the same problem, with honourable exceptions. They talk down to societies they consider inferior and prefer to interact only with those who adopt the required obsequious attitude. In many ways, this undermines the ‘soft power’ that the Western world, including Britain, retains through its other intellectual products. The amateurish interference in the politics of other countries is the last gasp of what has rightly been described as the colonial mindset, whose adherents are shrinking, not just in number but also influence. Presenting PM Modi as the standard-bearer of an aggressive and intolerant Hindutva at a time when he and India play an important role in maintaining some sanity in a world facing serious economic and political challenges is a disservice to all. It is also an insult to a populace that has exhibited extraordinary maturity in electing its governments over the past seventy-five years. At least minimum respect should be accorded to the mandate given to Modi by the discerning electorate of India. The nit-picking should be left to India’s very vocal opposition. The BBC should, instead, spend some energy on cleaning up its own act in the light of the many scandals that have regularly been emerging regarding its internal functioning.