BASC's Phil Pugh did an excellent job of explaining the benefits of shooting to a rather hostile sounding Anna Hill on BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme yesterday. In today's programme (12 Aug), Anna went deerstalking in Suffolk. She appears to be getting it, slowly, although she still asked a few rather odd-sounding questions: "Can it become addictive to some people," she asks, as if she finds it hard to believe that deerstalkers aren't all blood-crazed psychopaths.
When it comes to shooting, the programme always gives the impression it's terrified of guns and finds shooting rather unsavoury. An odd perspective for a programme aimed at the farming community. Last week's report about stolen shotguns being used in crime was a case in point where Anna Hill was practically standing on her chair going "Eek! A gun!" She's come a long way in a few days - I suspect BASC's press office may have been hard at work behind the scenes.
This perfectly illustrates the problem shooting has with the media generally, and the BBC in particular. Robin Page made some very anti-BBC comments at the CLA Game Fair debate 'The BBC and the countryside: friend or foe?' He sees anti-fieldsports and anti-farmer conspiracies behind every pot-plant. He was very amusing, but I think he's wrong.
Many journalists come from an urban middle-class background. These people rarely encounter shooting, except the sort that goes on between rival drug gangs. They can't imagine why anyone would want to 'kill things for fun'. And that attitude comes through when they report shooting.
There's another problem fieldsports have with the BBC in particular, and that's the word 'controversial'.
BBC culture says that if something is controversial, they must report it impartially. In other words, let both sides of the argument have their say. This is set out in the organisation's charter.
Watching the BBC Countryfile programme on the CLA Game Fair, it was clear that the programme makers considered that shooting and fishing were not controversial. They could cover both with no need to find an anti for 'balance'. But hunting was 'controversial', so to cover their backsides against complaints, they went the 'impartiality' route and dragged in the awful Louise Robertson from LACS to bleat about 'cruelty', thereby 'balancing' the fact they had shown a few hounds in the main arena.
Who decides if something is 'controversial'? So far as I can tell, the programme's producers decide for themselves. And in that sense, the BBC is simply holding up a mirror to public opinion, rather than pursuing any agenda of its own.
Unfortunately, by giving a handful of vociferous antis a platform, this policy ensures that some subjects continue to be 'controversial', even though 99.9% of the general public never give them a moment's thought. And it ensures that those same people never become sufficiently well informed to form a valid opinion.