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BBC complaints system and ‘fake news’ attacked

BBC complaints system and ‘fake news’ attacked

Guest post from BBC Watch, originally published on their website

On December 31st the BBC News website published an article titled “How fake news plagued 2017” which provides readers with the following definition under the sub-heading “What is fake news?”.

  • Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform
  • Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive – or old photographs shared as new
  • Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people

Other proposed definitions of the phenomenon are wider. As Claire Wardle of First Draft (which is partnered by BBC News) has noted, it can also include misinformation promoted by journalists.

Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s article about ‘fake news’ in 2017 does not include any of its own content – which would not fall under the definition it has chosen to promote.

However, BBC Watch has recorded numerous examples of misinformation promoted by the BBC throughout the past year. Among the inaccurate claims made by the BBC to which we have managed to secure corrections are the following:

1) The claim that most Gulf Arab countries “now accept the existence of the Jewish state”:

BBC partially corrects ‘The World Tonight’ inaccuracies

2) The claim that Jerusalem as a whole is “occupied”:

Following complaint, BBC Arabic corrects partisan terminology

3) The claim that nine people murdered in a terror attack in 2002 were “Jewish settlers”:

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

4) The claim that an attack in Syria was carried out by Israel:

BBC News website amends claim of Israeli strike in Syria

5) The claim that Tel Aviv is “the Israeli capital”:

BBC Watch prompts edit of BBC WS inaccurate location of Israel’s capital

6) The claim that Jews rioted in Manchester in the 1940s:

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

Error acknowledged, complaint upheld – yet BBC inaccuracy still remains online

7) The claim that Israel was “carved out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians”:

BBC WS acknowledges inaccurate claim in history show

8) The claim that Mt Scopus and the Hebrew University are “Israeli settlements”:

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

9) The claim that the Battle of Beersheba “led to” the Balfour Declaration:

Inaccurate BBC Balfour Declaration claim misleads audiences

10) The claim that “most Jewish organisations” rejected the 1947 Partition Plan:

BBC Watch complaint on Partition Plan inaccuracy upheld

11) The claim that a convicted soldier held the rank of sergeant:

BBC News website twice reports convicted soldier’s rank inaccurately

12) The claim that attacks on Israeli communities were carried out using “mortars”:

Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

The BBC’s narrow definition of ‘fake news’ is of particular interest given that just last month the corporation announced that it was “launching a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information”.

“James Harding, the director of BBC News, said: “This is an attempt to go into schools to speak to young people and give them the equipment they need to distinguish between what’s true and what’s false.” […]

“I think that people are getting the news all over the place – there’s more information than ever before,” said Harding.

“But, as we know, some of it is old news, some of it is half truths. Some of it is just downright lies. And it’s harder than ever when you look at those information feeds to discern what’s true and what’s not.”

Given the above examples (as well as countless others) of misinformation promoted by the BBC – along with its notoriously slow complaints procedure and inadequate corrections mechanism which does not even include a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website – one might well conclude that the physician first needs to heal himself.

BBC Watch would like to thank all the many readers who contacted us during 2017 to bring problematic BBC content to our attention. Please continue to write in – your tips are an invaluable contribution to our work of identifying content that breaches BBC editorial guidelines and trying to secure corrections to claims that mislead and misinform BBC audiences in a manner no less pernicious than the type of ‘fake news’ that the BBC does recognise.

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Confirmed: BBC complaints process is unfit for purpose

Confirmed: BBC complaints process is unfit for purpose

At the heart of the BBC’s reform under its new Charter – due to come into effect imminently – is that for the first time, an outside body, Ofcom, will become the final court of appeal in complaints about impartiality.

The idea is that this will clean the Augean stables and the Corporation will end its rampant bias towards Brexit, climate alarmism, the impact of immigration, multiculturalism and rafts of other issues.

This is looking increasingly like poppycock. For a start, the members of the Ofcom Content Board are drawn from exactly the same prejudiced background as the BBC Trustees. But putting that aside for one moment, the tale below illustrates precisely why.

On August, 31, Arkadiusz Jozwik, a Polish man living in Harlow, was killed in a late-night fracas in the pizza parlour where he worked.

In the immediate aftermath of the crime, police arrested six local youths (all under 16) but quickly released them on bail without charge.   There were no further developments until this week when a 15-year-old from Harlow was charged with Mr Jozwik’s manslaughter. Of fundamental importance, it has also emerged that a race hate charge in connection with the death is not being pursued.

When news of the killing emerged, the BBC’s news operation went into hyper-ventilating overdrive.

On the BBC1 News at Six, reporter Daniel Sandford compiled a report in which the fulcrum was there were now fears that this was a ‘a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum’.

A few hours later, John Sweeney, on BBC2’s Newsnight – one of the Corporation’s main investigative journalists – took matters a step further in the editing of his report. He included as the conclusion so that it could not be ignored this inflammatory sounbdbite from another local Polish man:

But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er . . . yeah, it’s your call.

Clearly in play and being reinforced to maximum extent by the Corporation was the central idea – evident in other programmes, too, as is documented on the News-watch website here –  that June 23 had unleashed a torrent of racist venom. In the BBC’s world the jackboots were now out – and on the march.

The following Monday, Guardian columnist and political activist (sorry, ‘rights campaigner’) Garry Younge was allowed to put together for a BBC Radio 4 series a barrage of sensationalist allegations in the same vein: that Britain, overnight since June 23, had become a seething cesspit of race-hate. Attacks were underway in terrifying, unprecedented volume.

On the advice of a senior BBC news executive – who claimed that the Corporation was listening to problems about post-Brexit coverage – News-watch submitted a formal complaint about the coverage of Harlow killing to the BBC Complaints Unit, focusing principally on the Sandford report.

Over seven-pages, it detailed that his approach was sensationalist, deliberately contrived to give maximum impact to the race hate claims, and also pointed out that it was seriously irresponsible and premature – in the light of the facts known to the police on August 31 and more generally about race-hate crime – to speculate so prominently either about race-hate motivation or about the crime’s possible link to Brexit.

The BBC’s response? A curt high-handed letter. It asserted that such speculation was legitimate because there had been a rise in reports of race-hate crime since June 23, and because other possible motives for Mr Jozwik’s death had been included in Sandford’s report.

The letter – which was mostly in an obviously standard format, and was so slipshod that it even spelled the name of Sandford incorrectly, omitting the ‘d’ – glossed over with what can only described as haughty arrogance the key points.

In response, News-watch submitted a second complaints letter pointing out the omissions and stating that the reply was totally unsatisfactory. That was on October 20.  On November 30 (ironically, the day of the manslaughter charges were laid) came the Complaints Unit’s second reply. It states:

‘We are sorry to tell you that we have nothing to add to our previous reply. We do not believe your complaint has raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation. We will not therefore correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions made about this issue or our responses to it.’

The lessons learnt? The core BBC complaints process, which will remain as the conduit which will deal with most of the complaints submitted to the BBC after Charter renewal, is intrinsically and, irrevocably unfit for purpose. The Corporation remains the primary judge of what is deemed a ‘significant issue of general importance’

The second Complaints Unit letter does point out that the BBC Trust, in some circumstances, does entertain appeals. But the fact is that – as Richard Ayre, one of the current Trustees, has admitted – it has not upheld a complaint on EU-related matters in its entire existence.

Will Ofcom change that approach? Don’t hold your breath. And meanwhile, the totally inaccurate BBC assumptions about Brexit and race-hate continue to spew forth.

 

 

Kate Hoey welcomes new BBC complaints website

Kate Hoey welcomes new BBC complaints website

A new website, BBC Complaints – www.bbccomplaints.com – has been launched by News-watch.

Its purpose is to help hold the BBC to account: to ensure that, as is required by law (expressed in its Charter and Public Purposes), it is properly impartial in its coverage of news and current affairs; to fill an important gap by creating a new, independent conduit for the thousands of complaints about BBC programmes such as Today and Question Time.

There are two primary reasons why it is needed.

First, the BBC’s own complaints procedure is not fit for purpose and stacked to an unjustifiable extent against viewers and listeners. Between April 2005 and August 2015, the BBC received 2.1 million complaints from viewers and listeners.  However, only 3,335 were considered by the Editorial Complaints Unit, and 88% of these were rejected, usually on spurious grounds.

It boils down to that the Corporation is so locked in its own bubble that it cannot see the problems that taint especially its EU coverage, and also severely distort reporting of topics such as climate change and immigration.

It has constructed a hugely complex complaints procedure that is designed largely to protect the Corporation and its journalists. In the same vein, editorial guidelines have been fashioned around the false yardstick of ‘due impartiality’, a concept that allows BBC editors and executives to in interpret balance in controversial areas entirely on the Corporation’s own terms.

Under ‘due impartiality’ for example, those who oppose climate alarmism are virtually banned from the BBC airwaves because in the BBC’s own judgment – arrived at on the basis of a so-called ‘expert’ appointed by the Trustees – the case for catastrophic global climate change is proven. The Corporation has thus adapted the role of a self-appointed censor.

Second, the area where BBC bias is moist acute is in its coverage of EU affairs. News-watch has chronicled those problems for almost 17 years and its many reports – based on the highest academic principles – can be viewed on this website.

Because of this, during the build-up to the EU Referendum, News-watch has mounted an unprecedented monitoring exercise. Using the latest technology, it covers all the main news programmes and channels, ranging from Newsbeat on Radio 1 to From Our Own Correspondent on Radio 4, and from BBC1’s Breakfast to Newsnight on BBC2.

BBC Complaints has been launched as a vital part of this effort. It’s impossible to keep track of everything that the BBC does, so this is a new conduit where listeners and viewers can register the examples that they hear and see.

Everything noted on the site will be carefully scrutinised and the flow of extra intelligence will enable the team at News-watch to both cross-reference and extend the reach of its own efforts.

Throughout the referendum campaign, News-watch – using the evidence gathered by this detailed monitoring – will be exerting as much pressure on the BBC as possible to improve the quality of its output and to ensure its Charter obligations.

Kate Hoey MP, the former Labour minister who supports exit from the EU, said:

‘In the ensuing referendum it has never been more important that the BBC is absolutely unbiased in its coverage. Unfortunately, in the past this has not always been the case with a form of institutionalised pro EU bias prevailing in the organisation. This new website will ensure all complaints will be publicly aired and should be welcomed by the BBC.”

Ryan Bourne, head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), has recently noted that, according to News-watch research, of 4,275 Today programme guest speakers on EU themes between 2004 and 2015, only three were left-leaning supporters of EU exit.

 

Bridgen putdown underlines rot at heart of BBC complaints process

Bridgen putdown underlines rot at heart of BBC complaints process

As the crucial referendum vote looms, how DO you complain about the BBC?

The reality is that the Corporation is its own judge and jury in dealing with complaints and has neatly-honed putdowns for almost every eventuality.

The odds are particularly stacked in the EU debate, as the News-watch submission to the DCMS consultation on BBC Charter renewal outlines. In the nine years since they were formed, the BBC Trustees have never upheld a complaint about EU coverage – even though senior BBC figures have admitted at various times that this aspect of their output has been biased.

Tough cookie MP Andrew Bridgen explained in the Daily Telegraph that he is the latest to try registering a complaint – only to be swatted aside like a tiresome bluebottle.

He very reasonably noticed that in the kick-off to the referendum campaign, the Corporation, as usual, is favouring the ‘remain’ side by, for example, allowing them to dominate the guest list on Newsnight; that coverage is representing David Cameron’s agreement as legally binding when it is not; and that business news on Today is regularly inviting pro-EU commentators to say what a vital and wonderful institution it is. All of which has been evidenced elsewhere.

Surprise, surprise, BBC Director of News James Harding disagrees. On what basis? Well primarily, it seems that because what poor, naïve Bridgen has observed is only the early days of the campaign and it will all even out in the ‘ebb and flow’ of events. Well silly him for not realising.

Of course balance is not a precise daily calculation and James Harding is right that there are days when almost inevitably, one side will receive more exposure than the other.

But the problem here is that – as Ryan Bourne of the IEA pointed out on the TCW – the BBC has got form in this respect, lots of it. For example, over 11 years of Today’s output, in monitoring by News-watch that covered almost half the programmes transmitted, only three Labour or other left-leaning guests favouring Brexit appeared. Was that down to the ‘ebb and flow’ of events? – or was another factor, such as outright BBC bias, in play? More examples abound on the News-watch website.

What Harding’s letter also underlines is that the BBC has got a neatly worked out answer to almost every situation. Another favourite is that both sides have complained, so the offending item must be balanced. Today editor Jamie Angus recently used this on Radio 4’s Feedback programme (which is supposed to represent listeners, but is mainly a conduit through which BBC executives rubbish them). He stated:

‘It’s a bit glib in a way to say if both sides are complaining volubly then we’re just about in the right place but I do sometimes fall back on that…..Genuinely, my perception is that I’m getting a pretty balanced mailbag.’ 

Any academic researcher would tell you the pitfalls of such crass generalisations.

Another is the ‘find the lady’ approach. When News-watch complained about Newsnight’s coverage of the David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech back in 2013 because the programme that evening contained 19 pro-EU guests ranged against only one definite withdrawalist (Nigel Farage, of course), the response was that we had missed that the previous December, there had been an edition which had debated the exit option and both sides had been evenly balanced.

This was bunk – in reality, the programme did not give the out camp a fair shout – but it was a classic BBC response which is wheeled out regularly: the complainant is wrong because somewhere in the thousands of hours of BBC output is something that miraculously balances the offending item.

James Harding has recently deployed yet another of his classic arguments. Here, the complainant alleged that on Today, Sir John Major had not been challenged firmly enough by James Naughtie (on December 16 last year) when he claimed that Brussels would become hostile to the UK, if God forbid, the electorate decided they wanted to leave the EU.

Harding’s response? He stated:

‘The ebb and flow of political discourse cannot, I think, be reduced to a check list of rebuttals’.

Clearly, ‘ebb and flow’ is a favourite phrase – but in other respects, too, this was a perennial favourite defence: it boils down to that in the BBC’s book, and especially on EU issues, presenters can do whatever they want, even when a pro-EU guest is getting away with blue murder.

What has now emerged through the response to Andrew Bridgen is that Harding and the high command at the BBC are likely to persist in this stonewall denial against Brexit complainants throughout the referendum campaign. He, Tony Hall, the Director General, and David Jordan, the Director of Editorial Standards, told the European Scrutiny Committee last year that this would not be the case.

Pigs, it seems, might fly.

News-watch calls for scrapping of ‘biased’ BBC complaints system

News-watch calls for scrapping of ‘biased’ BBC complaints system

News-watch has told culture minister John Whittingdale’s review of the BBC  that the current BBC complaints system is not fit for purpose.

The 10,000 word submission argues that it should be replaced by scrutiny through a completely independent body.

It provides comprehensive evidence – from News-watch’s own experience of submitting complaints – that the Trustees, who police BBC impartiality and have overall responsibility for complaints, are too much in the sway of BBC management and are not robustly independent.

The introduction to the submission states:

“News-watch  has unique experience over the past 16 years in dealing with the BBC about issues of impartiality relating especially to the coverage of the affairs of the European Union[1].  We have found that the current structure of BBC governance favours too much the interests of the BBC itself, is not properly independent, and, because of multiple operational inadequacies, is not fit for purpose. There is brick-wall negativity in dealing with complaints[2].

The Trustees have obdurately and unreasonably refused to accept extensive evidence that the EU-related output has continuing serious shortcomings of the type first highlighted in the Lord Wilson of Dinton report of 2005.

The findings of News-watch, based on the systematic monitoring of BBC output and analysis using rigorous academic methodology, include: under-representation and poor understanding of the eurosceptic perspective, a continual tendency to view the European Union through the prism of Conservative splits, a failure to discuss properly the case for withdrawal, and severe under-reporting of EU affairs, to the extent that it is ‘bias by omission’.”

Full report here.

 

[1] News-watch has been analysing BBC output on a structured basis, in accordance with academic practice of media monitoring, since 1999.

More than 6,000 hours of news and current affairs programmes have been systematically logged and analysed on a regular basis through longitudinal surveys. It is arguably the largest research project ever undertaken into BBC output.  An archive of this work is here: www.news-watch.co.uk/archive .
[2] In 2014, according to the Trustees’ complaints bulletin, only nine complaints out of 144 considered by the Editorial Standards Committee were upheld.

Photo by ell brown

BBC complaints ruling: ‘Is major threat to free speech’

To the Guardian and presumably its diminishing band of readers, the issue of climate change alarmism is settled. We are all going to fry and they know it beyond doubt. They have an army of correspondents who tell us so.

Many disagree strongly, but the Guardian is entitled to its views. That’s the reality of a free press:  a newspaper can choose its own editorial policy, no matter how biased or against the odds.

Not so the BBC. It’s governed by a Royal Charter which dictates that on matters of public controversy, it must be even handed and balanced in its coverage of events.

But it appears that any pretence of this has gradually been abandoned by the liberal elite that now run it – as the latest ruling by the Corporation’s head of complaints, Fraser Steel has vividly and chillingly shown.  The Corporation is now acting like its own version of Big Brother, dictating what we should think about key issues of national and international debate. And guess what? Its army of publicly-funded staff are uncompromisingly pursuing a leftist agenda.

Back in February, Lord Lawson – who became so concerned about climate change alarmism that he has set up the Global Warming Policy Foundation – appeared on the Today programme to react to the appallingly cack-handed official response to the Somerset floods. Many believed they had been greatly made worse by the Environment Agency’s green and alarmist approach to flood management, and Lord Lawson said so. That in itself was a miracle – for once, the Today programme allowed an opponent of its worldview to put a different perspective.

On the programme with him was Sir Brian Hoskins, a well known alarmist, who is so fervent in his views about the topic that he believes that billions of pounds must be spent on combating the environment dragons he sees in every temperature change. He is also hugely active in pursuing his cause, a one man-band of propaganda who has huge resources behind him, regular unchallenged access to BBC microphones, and the ear of government.

After the programme, one Chit Chong, a member of the Green party, wrote to the BBC and complained that allowing both men too put their views was totally unfair, because  a consensus of scientists believed that Lord Lawson was wrong and Sir Brian was ‘right’. He argued that the BBC had given too much airtime to Lord Lawson’s views. The greenie warrior stated that the Corporation had, in effect, legitimised the illegitimate.

Enter Fraser Steel, the BBC’s complaints chief. And in jaw-dropping, nakedly Orwellian fashion, he has now ruled that Chit Chong was right. According to a leaked report of his findings in – surprise, surprise, the Guardian – Mr Steel has said that Lord Lawson’s views on climate change alarmism  ‘are not supported by computer modelling and scientific research’ and ‘this was not made sufficiently clear to the audience’.  He reportedly concludes:

“I don’t believe this was made sufficiently clear to the audience… it is important to ensure that such views are put into the appropriate context and given due (rather than equal) weight.”

If this is true, let’s not mince words. What this means is that because the BBC has decreed that climate change alarmism is proved by ‘consensus’, Lord Lawson, and those who doubt the BBC’s alarmism,  should not ever be given equal airtime to put their case, if at all. And it also raises the ludicrous prospect that before any such broadcast involving an opponent of alarmism, there should be editorial comment that such views are not supported by consensus.  So in future, this, in effect, is what must happen (if Lord Lawson is ever asked to appear again, which now must be in doubt):

John Humphrys: “With me now is Lord Lawson. I have to tell you first that the BBC has decided that the point of view he is expressing is not backed by scientific facts because a consensus of scientists tell us that this is the case.  Now Lord Lawson, what do you think about this matter?”

This, surely,  is a chilling assault against the concept of free speech.  It’s hard to discover anything about Fraser Steel or his background because the BBC website says nothing about him other than that he is head of the complaints unit. But what we now appear to have in place have is an army of BBC bureaucrats armed with a set of  cock-eyed, right-on rules; they use their own brand of prejudice in measuring every damn piece of BBC broadcasting  to see if it measures up to the Corporation’s Own Version of The Truth.

An end to BBC bias? Don’t count on it

An end to BBC bias? Don’t count on it

The Bashir affair has brought into sharp focus again that BBC journalism is not fair and impartial, as its Charter requires. But after decades of bias in BBC reporting of the EU, what are the chances of genuine change?

Much has been written about the Lord Dyson report into the 1995 BBC Panorama interview of Princess Diana. Columnists and politicians galore are clamouring for urgent action to mend the Corporation’s broken ways. According to Lord Dyson these primarily included lying in pursuit of a story, coupled with massive brick-walling by senior management against any suggestion of wrongdoing.

And it seems that steps to reform and rein in the excesses of BBC bias and rank bad journalism might now be under consideration as part of the Corporation’s mid-term Charter review, due in 2022. Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, has suggested that structural governance reform will be on the agenda.

But don’t hold your breath. Much in a similar vein was written in 2012 when the BBC was caught entirely wrong-footed over its handling of Jimmy Savile. Or when the corporation in 2019 was landed with a £2 million+ legal bill for its cruel, vastly over-the-top coverage of baseless claims of sexual misconduct against Cliff Richard. Once again, with the latter, senior management disgracefully claimed no wrongdoing in their hounding of the singer. The High Court Judge in the case very strongly disagreed.

Through it all, the BBC has so far survived intact, a bloated, £3.5 billion-a-year protected state relic from an age when broadcast frequencies were a scarce resource. The danger is that despite the evidence of incompetence, almost unlimited arrogance and moral turpitude, the Corporation carries on regardless because no-one has the political guts or will tackle a massive overhaul.

The core problem is that the BBC will never admit misconduct, and has been immune to outside complaints for most of its history because it is its own judge and jury in that domain in most respects.

No government from those of Margaret Thatcher onward has dared grasp the nettle of genuine root-and-branch reform.

Under the new Charter operational from 2017, Ofcom assumed a regulatory role over some BBC matters including the conduct of BBC journalism. But this was too little, too late, and the Ofcom scrutiny has so far proved totally ineffectual, not least because most of its content board appointees are former BBC advisors or employees and have the same mindset as the Corporation itself.

So how can this problem be solved? Over the past 40 years – arguably since Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979 –  the BBC  has become increasingly opinionated and left-wing to the extent now that no part of its output is unaffected. Even the BBC1 programme Antiques Roadshow is larded with lectures by presenter Fiona Bruce on topics such as the evils of Britain’s colonial past.

In this vein, News-watch recently conducted a thorough survey of BBC Ideas, a catalogue of 600 or so five-minute videos ‘for the curious minded’

This is a project launched by former Labour culture secretary James Purnell at vast expense when he was BBC director of radio and education. The findings? of the titles, the majority (around 350) have controversial or political content in subject areas such as history, race, capitalism, climate change and feminism. Only 25 of them have points which could be regarded as ‘conservative’.  The rest could have been taken from a manual on how to construct ‘woke’ propaganda based on post-modern critical theory.

News-watch has also thoroughly scrutinised the Corporation’s EU coverage for more than two decades, and – as readers of this blog are painfully aware – this is the domain in which the most crass corporation bias has operated.  The 40 or so News-watch reports since 1999 summarised here show a massive weighting towards pro-EU opinion up to and including the Brexit referendum and then continuing through the Brexit process itself to the present day.  When has the BBC constructed a programme which shows the problems of the EU, and revealing that it is ultimately a huge anti-democratic project?

The BBC’s response to those News-watch reports? It has been characterised throughout by the same arrogance and stonewalling identified by Lord Dyson in his report on Bashir.  Corporation senior management – including many of those involved in the Prince Diana interview – chose to ignore them all. Without providing a shred of evidence, they claimed that they were worthless.

An easy and respectful way of testing their veracity would have been to appoint an independent panel to assess the quality of the News-watch work. But that possibility was never even on the BBC’s agenda.  They preferred instead to launch ad hominem attacks against me and eminent Eurosceptic Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who partially funded the News-watch work.

A key character in the Bashir affair identified by Lord Dyson was Anne Sloman, who was BBC chief political adviser, and therefore one of the key advisers to Tony Hall, who was then BBC director of news. Sloman was among those who investigated in 1996 claims of impropriety against Martin Bashir, and despite abundant evidence to the contrary, concluded that he was ‘honourable’.

She betrayed similar arrogance in her treatment of News-watch and the claims of anti-EU bias. In an editorial meeting in which the Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle was present (in his then role of editor of the BBC Today programme), she asserted that eurosceptics like Lord Pearson were ‘mad’ and therefore should be ignored. Her treatment of me was even more outrageous. At a summer drinks meeting between Parliamentarians and the BBC attended by Lord Pearson, she told him that the reports I was compiling should be ignored because I had been ‘sacked by the BBC’.  This was an outright and baseless falsehood.  I had worked for the BBC for seven years without a blemish on my staff reports and had been promoted regularly throughout. I left the BBC because I found a more senior job at the ITV breakfast television station TV-am, where I became director of public affairs.

As a result of her claims, I was forced to fire off (at considerable expense) a pre-action letter for defamation of character, and she huffily backed down. But her intention was clear. She wanted me out of the way, to be discredited and taken off the case.

This illustrates that a basic tactic of BBC senior managers at the BBC is to try to destroy or discredit those who oppose it. That applied in the Bashir case with the graphics designer who drew the forged bank statements, with BBC Newsnight journalists in 2011-13 who wanted to blow the whistle on the BBC’s treatment of Jimmy Savile (their BBC contracts were not renewed) and in the Cliff Richard affair, when the BBC tactic was to throw the blame on to South Yorkshire police.

So how can be the BBC senior management be so arrogant and disdainful towards those who oppose the Corporation?  A central problem is that the BBC’s Charter gives the Corporation almost unassailable independence. It was as designed to protect BBC journalism from political interference. Noble aim. But the drafters of the legislation surely never envisaged that the Corporation would, in effect, go rogue – as its approach to EU coverage and BBC Ideas shows – and become an enemy of the country and the culture which pays for it.  A dangerous enemy, too, because its goals appear increasingly to be the complete denigration and destruction of Western values.

A manifestation of its unassailability is that the BBC complaints process is not fit for purpose. It is designed to protect the BBC rather than to deal conscientiously with the concerns of audiences. The complaints process could be a shop window for BBC transparency, and for the further debate of matters of public controversy. Instead it has become another brick wall which the BBC hides behind and a vehicle to discredit opponents. An example of this is that New-watch has within the past month received a warning letter from the complaints unit (which is sub-contracted to facilities company Capita) warning us that we are making too many complaints and that they are too complicated to deal with so we are wasting Corporation resources.

A second manifestation is that the BBC refuses to produce any independent evidence to verify its impartiality. Instead, it relies on opinion polls. This is absurd and simply not good enough. News-watch reports into the BBC output are based on scrupulously-applied academic principles which can be seen and debated by anyone. By contrast, the BBC simply tells the world it knows it is impartial, and therefore it is. Yet the Corporation provides no evidence to support its position and claims it would be a waste of time to do so. That is an absurdly arrogant stance for an organisation in receipt of £3.5 billion of public funding to adopt.

In that context, as cries for reforms intensify, an acid test of the government’s intent will be whether the proposed structural reforms include such monitoring and an overhaul of the complaints system. Only when these operate on an independent basis and thus hold the BBC genuinely to account will BBC bias end.  As things stand, it is an obdurate, arrogant and unprincipled law unto itself.

BBC Ideas: an extravaganza of bias

BBC Ideas: an extravaganza of bias

News-watch has completed its biggest-ever survey into BBC output. It is utterly damning. The focus is BBC Ideas, a group of 600 or so short factual videos for ‘curious minds’ aimed at 18-45 year olds. The project – launched in 2018 –  is the brainchild of former Labour culture minister James Purnell during his tenure in charge of BBC radio and education.

His bequest to licence fee payers can be best described as a bewildering cacophony. In my desk, I have a Christmas stocking-filler present, a book  called 1,339 Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop. BBC Ideas seems to be the video version. 

Having problems going to the lavatory? Don’t worry, BBC Ideas has an answer to smooth your passage.

Are you a woman with a beard, facing a barrage of nasty discrimination? Ditto.

Or, is it that you are a transgender person, trying to make sense of your sexual identity? BBC Ideas tries especially hard to help here, by suggesting that the solution is to refer to the principles of quantum mechanics .  kid you not.

This is the BBC, and – as can already be gathered from the above  – the catalogue is not value-free. Around 250 titles can be regarded loosely as ‘neutral’. They tackle subjects such as tips for winning at Scrabble or sleeping better. That said, why the BBC wants to waste millions on covering such topics, which are already covered in abundance on You Tube or Ted Talks, could be the subject of a whole separate blog.   

The remaining 350 videos, though, are clearly political or contain political points  Balanced? All but two dozen have a blatant liberal-left or ‘woke’ agenda.

The major themes in this extravaganza of bias are climate change, feminism and gender, and discrimination against minorities of all kinds. The BBC Ideas catalogue can be regarded as a scatter-gun manifesto for the grievance culture. On route, it trashes British culture, history and achievements on a truly epic scale.   

it seems that the editors and producers have left no stone unturned in their quest to validate and propagate their values. The survey itself must be read to appreciate fully the extent of the woke propaganda – there is a summary and analysis of all the political content – but what follows gives a brief flavour.  The introduction to the report summarises:

‘Put bluntly, BBC Ideas casts its host nation as a continuing menace to the rest of the world and rotten to the core. As for the future, the main hopes are the abandonment of capitalism and a revolution, in line with post-modern critical theory and the most extreme demands of the Green lobby. The catalogue reveals, in sharp relief, that the Corporation is acting as a political campaigner, rather than a public service broadcaster bringing to audience attention a broad array of views and perspectives.’

On climate change, the videos project that unless there is the urgent action to end capitalism,  the use of fossil fuels, travelling by air, and all animal farming, Planet Earth is doomed. In their frantic desire to project this catastrophism, the producers see nothing wrong in using clearly terrified children in the videos, thus breaking child performance codes.  Around 50 titles feature environmental or climate change alarmism – with not a whisper of dissent.

On feminism and gender, the goal is to advocate that differences between men and women are a social construct, and that women – especially those who are not white – are heavily and unpleasantly  discriminated against in all areas of British life, with uncontested claims that such favouritism towards men is costing the economy billions of pounds annually (by  – who else? – Cherie Blair). The desire to sniff out evidence of the war against women also involved much sifting of history to unearth as many females as possible whose achievements had been allegedly disregarded. In BBC Ideas, there is no doubt who the real heroines of history are, and they include Simone de Beauvoir and the Greek poet Sappho. 

In the discrimination against minorities category, a main thread is  an unchallenged acceptance of what boils down to the Black Lives Matter agenda. Contributors tell us that the colonisation of America was genocide on an immense scale, probably bigger than that of the Holocaust. In this playbook, the Mercator atlas projection is an expression of white privilege; Muslim terrorism only exists because of economic deprivation; and those who do not support mass immigration are fascists. BBC Ideas editors have also bust a gut to illustrate how badly those who are physically or mentally disadvantaged are treated.   

Do the titles which contain what the report classes as ‘conservative’ content, go any way to balancing this deluge of bias? Jordan Peterson and his 12 rules for living are there; and so is a spokesperson from the Theos think-tank arguing  cogently that religion is still important. Another brave soul maintains that ‘populism’ is much maligned and is a valid and important expression  of democracy. But these are small drops in an ocean of BBC prejudice. 

News-watch has submitted complaints to Ofcom and the BBC about BBC Ideas, and the letters can be read here. But almost certainly, both bodies will find an excuse to reject them. BBC director general Tim Davie claims that his main priority is to ensure Charter obligations of impartiality are met. The evidence of this report is that he has an Herculean task, and that he is blind to the massive scale of the problem.  Depressingly,  there are no surprises in the report; it is confirmation of the scale of bias which has taken over all aspects of BBC output. The issue is why those charged by Parliament to oversee the Corporation, and the government itself are prepared to  do nothing about it. 

Window-dresser Davie’s bogus BBC revolution

Window-dresser Davie’s bogus BBC revolution

Tim Davie, the BBC director general, has been in his post for six months, and on Thursday he delivered to staff his second raft of big ideas for reform. 

His first proposal, in his first week of office in September, was to make BBC impartiality his number one priority, with a crackdown on biased tweeting by staff.

How’s that commitment going?

Well, hours after his latest staff speech was delivered last week, BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty and her male sidekick, Charlie Stayt, were hauled over the coals by Corporation top brass and ‘reminded of BBC impartiality rules’.

In the scale of PR cock-ups, that was a pretty spectacular own goal. Davie claimed in his staff speech that BBC news was doing ‘an outstanding job delivering impartial output’; hours later, two high-profile presenters were sniggering and sneering like schoolchildren about the idea of a government minister being patriotic by having a Union Jack in his office.

That said, was there anything in Davie’s speech which gave hope that he was intent on improving BBC output and had the vision and drive to deliver it?

Don’t bank on it. The first half of his message was marked by smug complacency. According to the director general, BBC news is brilliant, programmes are spectacularly good, and audiences are soaring.

He evidenced this by quoting a raft of disconnected figures: BBC overall audience reach is 90 per cent; BBC news reaches 86 per cent (up from 81 per cent a year ago); overall BBC viewing is up 8 per cent in both January and February.

Davie carefully avoided quoting other audience research, for example showing that the BBC’s Christmas television audiences were at an all-time low (and reached less than 10 per cent of the population) despite the lockdown, and that less than half the population don’t trust BBC journalists to tell the truth. 

He did not mention that viewing of BBC television is in steep decline with all BBC services now attracting only a total of 31 per cent audience share. 

Put another way, despite the BBC’s £3.5billion licence fee income – more by miles than any other media company in the UK – its audience share is now only three times that for Sky or Viacom (which owns Channel 5).

Seemingly undaunted by this, Davie said he was cutting jobs to make running of the Corporation more efficient, with 900 fewer people now employed, and bureaucracy ‘stripped away’. Paperwork, he claimed, had been cut by over 30 per cent.

Another trumpeted step forward is in ‘diversity’. Despite his claim of reduced paperwork and less bureaucracy, Mr Davie said that every department now had specific targets to reach employment levels of 50 per cent women, 20 per cent ethnic minority and 12 per cent of mentally or physically disadvantaged individuals.

Also targeted is ‘sustainability’. Davie said the Corporation’s ‘clear and strong’ position on this is that ‘a 2030 net-zero target’ has now been set. What this means is as clear as mud, but almost certainly involves a blizzard of bureaucratic effort. Ditto ‘diversity’.

Davie made a point of adding that ‘the over-75s licence fee policy’ had been ‘implemented professionally’ and was ahead of targets. What he meant, of course, was that despite fierce opposition, the BBC is forcing the age group which contains the most lonely, poor and vulnerable section of the population to pay to receive BBC services and that pensioners are subject to prosecution by the ‘door-to-door salesmen’ who enforce licence fee payment.

The alleged meat of his speech was that over the next six years the corporation will shift its ‘journalistic and creative centre away from London’. This, claimed Davie, will create an ‘economic benefit’ for the regions of £850million, provide a dramatic jobs boost ‘and improve representation on and off screen’.

Looking at the small print – and trying to convert his gobbledygook into something comprehensible – it means that, for example, the Today programme is going to come from outside London at least 100 times a year; Newsbeat will be produced in Birmingham; 60 per cent of programmes will be made outside London; a team of 100 ‘digital journalists’ will be deployed across the UK outside London; and two ‘long-running drama series’ will be made outside London.

Davie claims that this will be ‘the biggest transformation of the BBC in decades’.

Will it? The BBC’s main problem is still that it is riddled with bias, obsessed by ‘woke’ virtue-signalling, and has a complaints process which is risibly stacked in the BBC’s favour, existing to defend the corporation rather than to address the concerns of audiences. The Salford Quays development, which a decade ago was meant to signal a major shift by the corporation away from London bias, is every bit as much a woke media bubble as the London operation.  

In prioritising drives towards ‘diversity’ and ‘sustainability’, and by being disingenuous about the massive fall in audiences and trust, Davie showed he is not addressing the real problems of the BBC but further encouraging the metro mindset on which it is based.  The Davie ‘transformation’ is little more than crude window-dressing.

BBC bias: An open letter to the new director-general

BBC bias: An open letter to the new director-general

THE BBC’s bias on Brexit has been proven beyond doubt. That is the Telegraph‘s response to News-watch’s latest report on the BBC’s Brexit coverage this week. In the words of Robin Aitken, former BBC producer and author of The Noble Liar (an excoriating and deeply perceptive book about BBC bias) our report shows an overwhelming pro-EU slant in BBC coverage from the close analysis of one random week.

The conclusion we reached, and Aitken concurs with, is that the Corporation is still regarding Brexit through the lens of Project Fear.

The question Aitken raises is whether the new director general of the BBC will take it seriously. Your move, Tim Davie, he says.

As he reports, we are indeed seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Davie to discuss how he intends to meet his pledge to make BBC impartiality a priority. And we are still waiting to hear whether he is prepared to put his money where his mouth is and, unlike his predecessor, accord News-watch the time of day and the respect its long-term independent monitoring of the BBC’s Brexit output deserves.

To encourage him on the path he’s promised, here is our open letter to him in advance of that meeting.

Dear Mr Davie

On September 3, in your first address to staff after taking over as director general, you stated that impartiality – as required by the BBC Charter – would be your main priority. 

You have announced measures which require staff not to post biased remarks or opinions on social media.

That sounds good, and was handled by the gargantuan 350-strong BBC PR machine to achieve maximum impact but, with respect,  BBC bias is not confined to ill-advised tweets – crass as they may be – from John Simpson and Gary Lineker.

Everything from comedy to drama and from the educational content of BBC Bitesize and BBC Ideas is also infected with woke, partisan zeal. 

One indication of the scale of the rot is the latest News-watch report.

Which, as Robin Aitken outlined, shows that despite everything that has happened since the 2016 referendum and the imminent departure from the EU ratified by the 2019 general election, the corporation is still pursuing Project Fear about life outside the EU, and is still swamping EU coverage with the views of  those who oppose Brexit or are pro-EU .

On top of that, not one programme has ever been broadcast by the BBC which explores possible benefits of departure. In sharp contrast, hundreds of hours of programmes have been devoted to climate alarmism and the supposed benefits of electric cars, so called ‘green’ energy and a carbon-free future.

But the reality is that a full audit of the extent of BBC failures of impartiality would take a team of dozens of scribes and analysts working round the clock for years to achieve.

Mr Davie, you are thus faced with a Herculean task in rooting out bias. But as yet, you have given no indication to the outside world – other than instituting the Tweet purge – about how you intend to achieve this.

Many viewers, of course, do not believe that reform is possible, which is why recent surveys show that  the majority no longer want to pay the BBC licence fee and don’t trust BBC news. 

But the current Charter is in place until 2027, and as the agenda for our forthcoming meeting, may I suggest the following urgent action points as a basis for our discussions and instant attention?

Find top-level advisers who are genuinely independent and will give you a perspective other than the stifling wokery which has infected the Corporation at every level.  Put some of them on the internal management board so their views are heeded.

Ditch opinion polls as a way of determining whether BBC output is impartial and get properly in touch with real people out there north of Watford and west of Oxford who will tell you what needs changing.

Institute instead rigorous monitoring of BBC output compiled by independent advisers who are not in the BBC or woke bubble. This will make the constant struggle to be unbiased a properly transparent process.

Scrap the current internal complaints system and put the 350 BBC publicists (combined pay £15million-a-year plus?)  to work instead in scrutinising output to get rid of liberal bias and in ensuring complaints are properly investigated rather than being seen as an intrusion.

Abandon your defence of the BBC licence fee and the outmoded notion of universal provision and start planning now for major change to reflect changes in the media environment. It’s only when the  Corporation has to fight in the marketplace for audiences that it will become fully responsive to audience needs and preferences, and it will be all the better for it.

Make genuine ‘diversity’ an important internal and output goal without the BBC being an overt arm of the woke ‘racism’ agenda and a fanatical tick-box exercise.

Scrap in its present form the lavish BBC Academy and relaunch it as the bastion of rigorous professional integrity and training to ensure that audiences across the whole of the UK are properly served.

Inject new life into the programme-making process by ditching tired formats such as Question Time and Newsnight – both around 40 years old – and replace them with new offerings which genuinely incorporate diversity of views.

Tell those who write for the BBC that they are not on a mission to convert the audience into woke-infected zombies but rather to stimulate them with challenging, fresh material containing a variety of perspectives and views.

At every level, celebrate British history and culture rather than preaching the message that we are a nation who should be ashamed of our past, and are tarred with blood-guilt. End once and for all the Biased Broadcasting Corporation and make the first ‘B’ stand for British in the full sense of the word.