Jean Seaton (born 6 March 1947) is the leftist 'Professor of Media History' at the former Polytechnic, now 'University' of Westminster, and the Official Historian of the BBC. She is the Director of the left-wing Orwell Prize, and is on the editorial board of Political Quarterly. She is the widow of Ben Pimlott, the socialist British historian.
Criticisms of her BBC Book
Despite being left-wing, the title of her volume of the official history of the BBC, Pinkoes and Traitors: the BBC and the Nation 1970-1987 was spot on. It was published by Profile Books in February 2015. The talentless media "luvvie", negress Bonnie Greer, writing in the far-left paper The Independent found Seaton’s book to be a "densely argued and magisterial account" (doubtless it was "dense" to her), adding: "Seaton is unsentimental, robust, devoid of jargon and clear as a bell".
However in The Guardian, Seumas Milne – son of former BBC director general Alasdair Milne, whose ousting in 1987 is a key part in Seaton’s book – praised the author’s "evocative detail" but criticised the book for its position on his father, finding that "in her enthusiasm to show that the collision of the 1980s was as much the fault of BBC obduracy and incompetence as government ideology and menace, she tips over into rewriting history. There is a no man’s land between journalism, subject to libel law and instant challenge, and established history – and it’s in that land of factual licence that Pinkoes and Traitors sits". He added: "The book is littered with inaccuracies and demonstrable distortions: from names and dates to the self-serving spin of those who have survived to tell the tale". Clearly it was a standard left-wing publication.
David Elstein also found numerous errors in the text. A long paragraph detailing errors in names concludes with Elstein noting: "Two of those whose names are mis-spelled are amongst the twelve people thanked for reading drafts of the book". His review finishes by stating, "Yet surely what we need from a 'professor' of media history is a degree of accuracy, respect for the facts, ability to check detail, detachment and sound judgement, all of which Pinkoes and Traitors so lamentably lacks. Let us hope her successor as BBC historian serves us better." The (naturally) anonymous reviewer in the smear-sheet magazine Private Eye concurred with Milne and Elstein about the errors, saying: "According to this, the sixth volume of the official history of the BBC, Blue Peter celebrated its 15th anniversary in 1979, yet it was the 21st anniversary, the IRA hunger strikes took place in 1982 (when it was 1981) while the controversial 1980 documentary Death of a Princess is called a "Channel 4 programme" (it was ITV – Channel 4 did not exist until 1982)." The magazine’s reviewer noted: "It would be bad enough if a serious factual error on practically every page was Seaton’s only offence, but that’s not all. In the acknowledgements, she says "It was a challenge to attempt to meet the BBC’s standards of hard impartiality". It seems to have been so challenging she gave up trying, and started editorialising like mad." The review concluded: "The book is littered with egregious howlers that wouldn’t last half an hour on Wikipedia (another left-wing organ). That this is the official history of a major institution written by a supposedly respected academic simply won’t do. She thanks the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust for funding her research. They should all ask for a refund."
Other selected works
- editor only: The Media in British Politics', Avebury, 1987.
- Politics and the Media in Britain: Harlots and Prerogatives at the Turn of the Millennium, Wiley, 1998.
- editor only, The Media of Conflict: War Reporting and Representations of Ethnic Violence, Zed Books, 1999.
- Carnage and the Media: the Making and Breaking of News about Violence, Allen Lane, 2005.
- (with John Lloyd) What Can Be Done? Making the Media and Politics Better, Wiley, 2006.
- (with James Curran) Power Without Responsibility: the Press and Broadcasting in Britain, Routledge, 7th edition 2009.
- Thorpe, D.R. Obituary: Professor Ben Pimlott, The Independent, 14 April 2004
- Greer, Bonnie (26 February 2015). "Pinkoes and Traitors by Jean Seaton, book review: History of the BBC examines its uneasy relations with the Establishment". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/pinkoes-and-traitors-by-jean-seaton-book-review-history-of-the-bbc-examines-its-uneasy-relations-with-the-establishment-10072421.html. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
- Milne, Seumas (27 February 2015). "Pinkoes and Traitors by Jean Seaton review – my father, the BBC and a very British coup". The Guardian (London). http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/27/seumas-milne-on-pinkoes-and-traitors-by-jean-seaton-review-my-father-the-bbc-and-a-very-british-coup. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
- Elstein, David "'Pinkoes and Traitors': a tunnel vision of broadcasting history", Open Democracy, 20 March 2015
- "Tragedy of errors". Private Eye (London): p. 29. 20 March 2015.
- The book has gained more positive reviews from Nick Fraser (The Observer, 1 March 2015) and Chris Patten (Financial Times, 27 February 2015)