Yesterday marked the welcome return of Autumnwatch to the BBC, at a time when the trees are turning a multitude of golden colours. I’m never certain what my favourite season is, except that it’s not that boring wretch that it is summer. Autumn is certainly a contender. Spring has new life bursting out all over. Winter has frost, crystal clear mornings, snow, and a barren beauty. But autumn has a riot of colour and a changing of the guard.
In autumn the pattern of species we see around us changes. Birds you may not have seen through spring and summer appear to claim territories, and to take advantage of our garden feeding habits as natural sources. At the same time, migration and hibernation may both see species that have been prominent for 6 months disappear.
The winds seem to have been conducive for a fallout of migrant birds on the east coast with regular and often exciting appearances by a range of Siberian and Scandinavian species. It’s not knocked on to my garden in York yet, though I have already seen a few small flocks of Redwing pass over, which wasn’t the case this time last year. It doesn’t feel like a waxwing winter is imminent either, but keep an ear out for their jingly calls just in case.
The programme has returned at a time when, sadly, the BBC coverage of nature and the countryside is once again under attack from sinister forces masquerading under the guide of concerned conservationists. Whatever you think of Chris Packham or his way of expressing his personal opinions, it should be clear to all that petitioning for people to be sacked for expressing views you disagree with isn’t the way forward. I think the heads of the Countryside Alliance, the NFU, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, and You Forgot the Birds are all pretty reprehensible but they are entitled to their opinions. I’m not about to ask Sky to sack Ian Botham just because he behaves like a fool on matters away from the cricket pitch.
Yet as always where the BBC is concerned, the agenda is never quite what it seems. When sources like the Telegraph and the Mail attack supposed BBC bias, it must be remembered this is ultimately about their own belief that a public service broadcaster shouldn’t exist at all, at least not with the strength and quality of the BBC. Only commercial entities should be big. It’s a worldview, one I don’t share and one I think would ultimately leave us all poorer.
Bias is a strange concept anyway. Every single one of us carries biases, consciously and unconsciously, and they shape our opinions. They also mean we will also generally see anything truly balanced as appearing biased, because most of us believe our viewpoint is that of most people.
There is a good rule of thumb to apply. If anybody tells you they are speaking for ‘ordinary’, ‘decent’, hard-working’, ‘real’ or ‘right-thinking’ people, run a mile. The person you are talking to is dangerous.
I speak for myself, because it’s the only person I’m able to speak for. The same applies to everybody else, including newspaper editors who cannot speak for their readers, and MPs who cannot speak for their constituents. Not all of them at once. The world is far too beautiful and complicated for that.