Why the U.S. needs its own BBC

But the inconceivability of a British Trump, I wager, also has something to do with the drastically different media environments of our respective nations. Britain lacks the highly partisan media landscape that has long defined the United States. More importantly than what it lacks, however, is what it possesses: a credible, high-quality, trusted public broadcaster in the form of the BBC.

To be sure, some accuse the BBC of an institutional left-wing bias, though the amount of airtime it has given to Nigel Farage – a man who has never held a position higher than Member of the European Parliament – over the years puts something of a dent in that narrative. Indeed, the fact that it has been criticised for bias by the likes of both Charles Moore (fined for refusing to pay the license fee) and Owen Jones (“stacked full of rightwingers”) must mean it’s doing something right. Regardless what one thinks about its impartiality, the Beeb provides high-quality journalism that regularly breaks important news concerning national and international affairs, and represents a cross-section of public opinion on contentious subjects. It does so because it is a public trust, beholden to a high civic ideal, not the demands of shareholders. Which also means that it can afford to avoid the sensationalism so preferred by American media.

The BBC model is one that has been replicated across Europe, where most countries can boast quality public broadcasters that enjoy high levels of public trust. Contrast that to American attitudes on the media, which are overwhelmingly negative. This is one reason for the proliferation of highly partisan news outlets in the United States, more on the right but increasingly on the left, which lack the professionalism and mission of objectivity embraced by the BBC. While people everywhere across the Western world are gradually cocooning into partisan echo chambers (due in large part to the internet), this negative phenomenon is far more profound in the United States than it is in Britain or Canada, other Anglophone countries with well-funded, widely-watched public media outlets.