Director Ken Loach has taken aim at the BBC, describing its news coverage as “manipulative and deeply political” and saying it is a “rotten place for a director”.
Prominent leftwinger Loach, who is promoting his Palme d’Or-winning film about a man’s struggle with the UK benefits system, I, Daniel Blake, said there was a need to “democratise” the corporation.
“Diversify it so that different regions can make their own dramas. And its notion of news has got to be challenged,” he told the Radio Times.
“The BBC is very aware of its role in shaping people’s consciousness; this is the story you should hear about, these are the people worth listening to. It’s manipulative and deeply political.”
In response to the comments, a BBC spokeswoman said: “BBC News is independent and adheres to clear published editorial guidelines including on impartiality. The BBC is consistently rated the most trusted and accurate news provider by the majority of people in the UK.”
It is not the first time Loach, who has been vocal in his support of Jeremy Corbyn, has criticised the BBC’s news coverage.
Last month, he told an audience at University College London to complain to the corporation when they thought coverage was biased against Corbyn, and labelled the corporation a “propaganda” arm of the state adopting a “pretense of objectivity”. “The BBC is not some objective chronicler of our time – it is an arm of the state,” he said.
Loach has had a long and fruitful relationship with the BBC, which 50 years ago broadcast his influential film Cathy Come Home charting a family’s descent into poverty and homelessness. I, Daniel Blake was made in partnership with BBC Films
However, Loach implied that the BBC had lost its appetite for socially conscious TV drama.
“Even then, people overstated how much of it there was. Anyway, now the drama is produced by outside production companies and horribly micro-managed. The directors I know in television say it’s a nightmare. That’s true for all the broadcasters,” he concedes, “but the BBC is a rotten place for a director.”
He also criticised the broader TV industry for choosing shows such as Downton Abbey which present a “rosy vision of the past”.
“It says, ‘Don’t bother your heads with what’s going on now, just wallow in fake nostalgia’,” he said.
“It’s bad history, bad drama. It puts your brain to sleep. It’s the opposite of what a good broadcaster should do, which is stimulate and invigorate. You might as well take a Mogadon as watch it. TV drama is like the picture on the Quality Street tin, but with with less quality and nothing of the street.”
Despite his dislike of nostalgia, Loach told the Guardian in an interview earlier this week that in some respects he preferred the society of the 60s in which Cathy Come Home was set.
“When she was shown as homeless, people were angry about it. Now society is nowhere near as cohesive. The consequences of Thatcher and Blair have eroded the sense that we are responsible for each other, that we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. So in that sense, I prefer the days of Cathy.”
A spokeswoman for BBC Drama cited shows such as Peaky Blinders and Poldark as examples of production made across the UK’s regions.
She added: “The quality, range and ambition of BBC Drama is evidence of an organisation in top creative form that supports both the directors voice and reflects the whole of the UK.
“From world-class British directors like Peter Kosminsky redefining period drama with Wolf Hall, or Julian Farino’s Bafta winning Marvellous, visionary directors have a home on the BBC and this means we also attract directors from across the world like the Emmy winning Susanne Bier on The Night Manager to Oscar winner Jane Campion.”