Search Results for: European Disaster Movie

Springshot: The Great European Disaster Movie

Springshot: The Great European Disaster Movie

Scratch the surface of almost any BBC statement about ‘impartiality’ or ‘bias’ and you unearth a rather an unpleasant smell.

The BBC says no EU money was used in the making of its Sunday night pro-EU extravaganza The Great European Disaster Movie, which depicted  in ludicrous, extremist terms  the total disintegration of civil society across the continent, if, God forbid, the EU was forced out of existence.

Note the weasel words: ‘in the making of’. The reality is that post-production, the film-makers Bill Emmott and Annalisa Piras – both of whom are pro-EU fanatics – have told the outside world they are receiving EU money for the transmission of the film in other languages. So put another way, it is an EU propaganda project.

And the BBC were co-producers of that film.

What’s also not clear is who did fund the project. It was made by Piras’s company Springshot Productions, and that means its financing is totally opaque. Things here don’t add up. It’s unlikely that the budget of a project of such scale and production standards would be anything less than £1m, and yet Springshot is tiny. According to the company website, it has made only one other film, two years ago.

The point here is that it is only larger production companies turning over millions a year that can afford to make glossy hypothetical dramas – and they don’t generally make money, which is why they are so relatively scarce. Someone with deep pockets and a deep desire to spread massively pro-EU propaganda was behind it. The BBC should tell us who this was so we can make up our own minds about the decision to show it.

It seems that someone, somewhere in the higher echelons of the BBC hierarchy has a guilty conscience, because immediately after it was shown, a very rare occurrence happened, the BBC equivalent of a Blue Moon. In a Newsnight special hosted by Robert Peston,  two genuine EU ‘come outers’, Mark Reckless, the Ukip MP, and Peter Hitchens, the Mail on Sunday columnist, were fleetingly allowed to make some of the arguments in favour of withdrawal and to explain why the claims by Emmott and Piras were preposterous.

Unlike the unremitting one-sidedness of the film, the views of Reckless and Hitchens were of course offset, notably by a spokesman of the Greek Marxist party Syriza, who agreed with Emmott in ascribing all the current massive economic problems of the EU to nasty ‘austerity’.

There are other BBC-related problems in this film which only surface with digging. Emmott, a former editor of the Economist, and Piras, an Italian who worked as a foreign correspondent in London for many years, are clearly united in their huge desire to ram the need for the EU down our throats.

They are so fanatical that they have set up an organisation called The Wake Up Foundation, a so-called charity, the main aim of which – though clothed in high-flown language – is as another vehicle to spread their EU bile. A feature by Emmott on their website in which he compares Nigel Farage to Silvio Berlusconi typifies the approach.

Far more concerning about the Wake Up Foundation, however, is that one of its trustees is Richard Sambrook, who is a former head of BBC newsgathering and Director of News, who was moved sideways to the World Service at the end of his BBC career because of question marks in some quarters in his judgment relating to the BBC’s handling of the fall-out from the Iraq war.

Sambrook, after a spell as a public relations advisor, re-surfaced as a Professor of Journalism at Cardiff University.  His department was commissioned by the BBC Trustees in 2011 to conduct research linked with the Stuart Prebble inquiry into whether the BBC was covering EU-related issues in accordance with the Charter.

That research, as has been reported by Kathy Gyngell on TCW, was ineptly conducted and as a result gave the wholly false impression that BBC news programmes gave adequate coverage to eurosceptic and withdrawalist opinion. Not only that, the main person who conducted the research had recently received a substantial slug of EU cash from the EU for a project designed to ascertain how the EU might better project itself.

So, put another way, the BBC commissioned a rabidly pro-EU programme from a programme making duo who have close professional and organisational links with a former Director of BBC News who, in turn, has been appointed by the Corporation to tell the outside world – on a supposedly ‘objective’ basis – how balanced and impartial the BBC’s output in relation to the EU is.

The linkage raises several awkward questions.  Was Sambrook directly involved in the making of the European Disaster Movie? Was he involved in any way in persuading the BBC to show it and to become co-producers? To what extent is he involved in the dissemination of the pro-EU propaganda of the Wake Up Foundation? Were the BBC aware of his links with Emmott when they commissioned his department to do the Prebble survey?

Something in the state of Denmark, if not rotten, smells very fishy indeed.

Brexit the Movie –  a perspective not on the BBC

Brexit the Movie – a perspective not on the BBC

This month marks the 17th anniversary of tracking by News-watch of the BBC’s EU-related output. The first survey was commissioned by a cross-party group of peers who were concerned that the case against the EU was not being aired by the BBC. It covered the build-up to the European Parliamentary elections on June 10, 1999.

The findings can still be read here. Key points relating to BBC bias are eerily familiar. They included bias by omission: election-related items on BBC television added to only 2.5% of airtime. Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight described the voters’ reaction to the poll as an ‘outbreak of narcolepsy’.  In the event, only 24% of the electorate voted, which still stands as the UK record lowest turnout in a national election.

Other points in the report were the virtual ignoring of the infant Ukip, despite the fact it came fourth,  attracted 700,000 (7%) of the votes cast and won three seats; a totally-predictable crude comparison of Ukip to the BNP in the sole interview featuring the party; a heavy and disproportionate focus on the breakaway Pro-Euro Conservative Party, which despite all the publicity, polled only 140,000 (1.4%) of the total turnout; a constant search for ‘Tory-splits’, even though – Michael Heseltine apart – the evidence seemed to be that William Hague’s party was remarkably united on EU policy; and virtually no exploration of either the overall Labour approach or potential splits within the party over the euro.

All of which brings Brexit the Movie – which, from today will have a permanent, prominent place on this site –  neatly into focus. For those of you who have not yet heard of it, this 71-minute feature by Martin Durkin – which was partially crowd-funded –  is a must-see. It’s a total revelation because it is a first: it straightforwardly and vigorously presents the ‘out’ case.

In Durkin’s estimation, negatives about the EU include that there are a staggering 10,000 European Union employees paid more than David Cameron; that Switzerland – despite being outside the EU – is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with earnings double the average in the UK, and unemployment far lower; that the EU ‘Parliament’ is the only body with that name in the world which has zero powers to propose legislation; that although the EU claims to be a promoter of trade via the ‘single market’ , the reality is that for most of its history it has been a repressive force against the free movement of goods; and that far from promoting harmony, the fundamentally undemocratic structures of the EU are promoting unprecedented frustration and triggering the rise of extremist parties of both left and right.

This is a perspective and a range of information that News-watch monitoring shows beyond doubt that the BBC has never presented in a coherent form. Of course the BBC, it will probably argue, is not in the business of producing such material.  But why not? Last year, the Corporation commissioned and broadcast with great fanfare The Great European Disaster Movie, which showed at length the chaos and panic the makers claimed would ensue, if, God forbid, the UK exited the EU.

That film was made by former Economist editor Bill Emmott, a self-declared EU-fanatic, who has a set up his own ‘charity’ (with Richard Sambrook, a former Director of BBC News) to promote such propaganda. The BBC was so keen on his film project that it applied for (and obtained)  EU funding so that it could be translated into as many languages as possible; the fruit of their efforts is that screenings are due in Geneva, Bologna, Cardiff University and Bucharest over the next month.

Continuing monitoring by News-watch during the referendum campaign shows that the BBC is at last – for the first time –  airing some detailed elements of the Brexit case. But at best this effort can only be described as begrudging and half-hearted. Craig Byers, for example , of the Is the BBC Biased? site has shown this weekend that  since April 14, the BBC1 News at Six’s coverage of EU-referendum related headlines have led with ‘remain’ headlines 14 times, compared to the ‘out’ side three times.

In the same vein, News-watch analysis of the May 11 and 12 News at 10 coverage of the Mark Carney, Sir John Major and Christine Lagarde interventions into the referendum debate was heavily skewed towards the ‘remain’ case. And other long-term investigations have shown that Newsnight, World Tonight and The World This Weekend coverage of referendum matters is strongly similarly imbalanced.

What is certain is that – although it is impossible to frame a definitive verdict at this stage about BBC coverage – the facts assembled by Durkin have never been presented in such a way by the Corporation. Don’t hold your breath that they will. Watch Brexit the Movie instead.

Pro-EU zealot quietly dropped from Ofcom content board

Pro-EU zealot quietly dropped from Ofcom content board

Hallelujah! Quietly, a significant positive development in the broadcasting establishment may have occurred.

Might it be that the government is at last waking up to that the liberal figures who occupy the key regulatory posts are a menace to Brexit?

The current deluge of anti-Brexit propaganda emanating primarily from the BBC, but also from Ofcom-regulated services such as Channel 4, is the consequence of their current stranglehold over the regulation of broadcast services.

Back in January, the Department of Culture – as the referendum debate snapped into gear – incredibly appointed arch-Europhile and former editor of The Economist, Bill Emmott as chairman of Ofcom’s content board.

It meant he was in charge of investigations into allegations of bias in commercial radio and television’s coverage of EU affairs.

On The Conservative Woman, I wrote that this was, in effect, appointing a fanatical fox as guardian of the hen house. Emmott, with funding from the EU – and in close collaboration with the BBC – had made The Great European Disaster Movie, which envisaged right-wing Armageddon if the supremacy of the EU was challenged or changed.

Not only that, through his Wake Up Foundation, Emmott was engaged in a full-scale propaganda exercise – with Richard Sambrook, a former BBC Director of News, and using the BBC film as ammo – around the universities of Britain and across Europe to brainwash students  into believing that exiting the EU would indeed be a disaster.

Immediately after the piece appeared, however, Emmott’s appointment began to unravel. On this website, I wrote:

‘After the publication of this post, an Ofcom spokesperson has contacted Newswatch with the following statement: “Any conflicts of interest involving non-executive Board members are managed appropriately and Bill Emmott would not be involved in discussions or decisions related to the EU referendum.”

Ofcom thus formally acknowledged that – at a crucial time in the coverage of EU affairs – Emmott’s interests and pro-EU passions were a conflict of interest.

That was back in February. In the meantime, Analisa Piras, Emmott’s partner in the making of The Great European Disaster Movie, wrote to News-watch:.

the piece… (about The Great European Disaster Movie) is slanderous and full of falsities. Please remove the slanderous comments or take it down immediately.

Please note that in the absence of any action from you I will be taking legal action.

That was back in June. News-watch replied robustly that the item was fair comment on a matter of public and national importance and there has been nothing back since.

There matters hung. It seemed that Emmott was gradually taking up his role at Ofcom, despite the contradictions and his unbridled campaigning pro-EU zealotry. But then – without fanfare – it has been announced that he is definitely leaving. The Guardian here discusses the reasons without – surprise, surprise – mentioning the elephant in the room, Europe, at all. Neither side is commenting ‘for legal reasons’ but it is clear that Ofcom finally woke up to the massive conflict of interest issues.

This begs the question of why the hell the Department of Culture sanctioned the appointment in the first place – it was plain as a pikestaff to anyone with access to Google that Emmott’s pro-EU passions were a central driving force in his life.

But could now it be that the new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has seen – and is taking action on  – the crucial issue  that such appointments are the core reason why the broadcasting establishment is so fundamentally biased?

Ofcom will become the court of appeal for complaints against the BBC from next year when the new Charter comes into force. Meanwhile, BBC Trustee Chairman Rona Fairhead – drawn from the same mould and outlook as Emmott – has also been given her marching orders. The crucial next phase will be the appointment of the new BBC management board. Watch this space.

 

 

Photo by UK in Italy

For Europe, Against the EU

For Europe, Against the EU

The case for leaving the EU has never been put by the BBC in a programme wholly dedicated to the ‘out’ case. By contrast, the Corporation has, over many years, broadcast an unbalanced barrage of pro-EU material – as is documented on this site – and in March 2015, presented in prime time The Great European Disaster Movie, made by euro-fanatics Annalisa Piras and Bill Emmott. This was, as Toby Young wrote in the Telegraph, concentrated multi-pronged pro-EU propaganda, with the added twist that it envisaged that major civil unrest in the UK would be a consequence of departure. Young’s parting line in his review of the programme was that he wondered when the BBC would broadcast a similar programme from the ‘exit’ perspective.  The answer is ‘never’.

That is why For Europe, Against the EU, a film by the Spiked website is so important. Uninterrupted by the BBC injecting its own warped version of ‘balance’, it spells out some of the core arguments for leaving the EU and nails once and for all the prevailing myth so often perpetuated by the BBC, that being anti-EU is absolutely not the same as being anti-‘Europe’ and thus xenophobic.

This is what the folk at Spiked! say about their film:

At spiked we have long made the case that the EU is a deadweight around the neck of this exciting continent, limiting the power of its peoples and submitting its parliaments to petty bureaucracy and diktat. In this 20-minute film, featuring Brian Denny, Daniel Hannan, Kate Hoey, Tim Stanley and Bruno Waterfield, we make the democratic case for voting Leave on 23 June.

We argue that the referendum is an opportunity for the British public to strike out against the risk-averse, technocratic elites of Brussels and Whitehall, and an opportunity to inspire publics across Europe to do the same.

Do watch it. It’s revelation to hear the full case for British exit!

Ofcom: Europhile content board head Bill Emmott ‘will not rule on EU issues’

Ofcom: Europhile content board head Bill Emmott ‘will not rule on EU issues’

This is a guest posting from Craig Byers of the Is the BBC Biased? website.

Further to an earlier post
 
This is what that Ofcom statement says:

“Any conflicts of interest involving non-executive Board members are managed appropriately and Bill Emmott would not be involved in discussions or decisions related to the EU referendum.”

Isn’t that extraordinary?
For starters, they’ve clearly conceded David’s point that Mr Emmott’s appointment is problematic and, even more strikingly, they’ve shown themselves to have absolutely no confidence in the poor man’s capacity to behave in an impartial fashion in his new job on matters related to the EU referendum!
So, if what Ofcom are saying is true, Mr Emmott will surely have to leave the room or keep his mouth firmly shut every time matters relating to the EU referendum are raised?
Given that he’s supposed to be chairing those meetings, that isn’t exactly going to be an ideal situation for his fellow board members, is it?
Especially as Ofcom’s Content Board is likely to have quite a lot of discussions and make a lot of decisions on matters of related to the EU referendum over the coming months (or years).

Photo by UK in Italy

BBC NEWS CHIEFS CLAIM THAT MONITORING FOR POLITICAL BIAS ‘IS VERY UNHELPFUL’

BBC NEWS CHIEFS CLAIM THAT MONITORING FOR POLITICAL BIAS ‘IS VERY UNHELPFUL’

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?

One of the big BBC-related stories of the past week has been the appearance of Lord Hall, James Harding and David Jordan at parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee discussing the BBC’s policies in the light of the upcoming EU referendum.

Two parts of the discussion have dominated the media’s reporting of it:

The first was that “all BBC journalists” will be sent for “mandatory training” so that they become “as well-informed as possible of the issues around the workings of the institutions of the EU and its relationship to the UK”.

(So that’s John Humphrys, James Naughtie, Evan Davis, Kirsty Wark, Katya Adler, Jeremy Bowen, etc?)

The second concerned the meeting’s most heated moment – when Jacob Rees-Mogg confronted David Jordan (director of editorial policy and standards) over EU funding for the BBC – the reporting about which has been somewhat confusing (to my mind).

Mr Jordan began by replying that the BBC “doesn’t take money from the EU” and that the organisation that does take money from the EU (£35 million), Media Action, is “owned by the BBC” but “independent”.

On being pushed further (over a FoI request by The Spectator into EU funding for the BBC), however, things got murkier and Mr Jordan and Mr Rees-Mogg began to fall out:

David Jordan: There are two things you were referring to – the question that you asked last time, which was in relation to Media Action, so I answered…

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Well, I wasn’t actually. Last time I was asking about EU funds broadly, not Media Action.

David Jordan: Well, it’s that £35 million figure which you quoted which relates to the Media Action…

Jacob Rees-Mogg: But you replied about Media Action when I was asking about all EU funding….

Having watched their earlier exchange again, Mr Rees-Mogg is correct. He didn’t ask about Media Action or “quote” that £35 million figure earlier. Here’s how their discussion started:

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I just want to go back to a question we came to the last time you came to the committee, on the money that the BBC receives from the EU, which I know isn’t huge in your overall budget but which is still some tens of millions. One of the standard contractual terms when the EU hands out money is that those receiving money won’t say or do anything damaging to the interests of the EU. Does the BBC agree to those standard contractual terms and will they take money from the EU between now and the referendum?

David Jordan: The BBC as a public service broadcaster doesn’t take money from the EU. The organisation to which you’re referring that take money from the EU is an organisation called Media Action and that’s an independent part of the BBC with independent trustees……..

The committee’s chairman, however, only added to the confusion here by wrongly ascribing that “quote” about the £35 million to Mr Rees-Mogg himself shortly after, so maybe Mr Jordan’s apparent confusion on that point is more understandable:

William Cash: Why do you need to receive the £30 million I think that Jacob referred to…?

The disagreements continued, however, and David Jordan, in answer to pushing on that Spectator FoI request, said that independent companies who make programmes for the BBC also receive some EU funding and that the EU also funds some other things, such as translating programmes made in English into other EU languages (as seemed to have been the case with the highly controversial pro-EU mockumentary The Great European Disaster Movie).

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Look, you are now giving me a really different answer from the one you gave before. I never mentioned Media Action. I only mentioned EU funding. You gave an answer about overseas aid and now you’re saying the BBC does receive money to help with some of its programming and does receive money to translate some of its programming and you are therefore signed up to the contractual agreements from the EU that require you not to damage its interests. Why didn’t you give the full answer the first time.

David Jordan: I gave a very full answer about Media Action and now I’m giving a very full answer about how other funds are occasionally available for other programmes to make use of…

Jacob Rees-Mogg:…which you denied in response to my first question.

William Cash then told them to calm down and moved the discussion on – which is unfortunate, I think, as many issues were still left dangling in the air over the EU money that isn’t spent on Media Action. Mr Rees-Mogg still seemed unclear about that. I’m certainly unclear about it.

And does the BBC sign up to that contractual agreement with the EU when it accepts the funding for innocuous-sounding tasks like translations and those other aspects of programming (whatever they may be exactly), apparently always involving independent companies?

And what if those independent companies only produce pro-EU programmes for the BBC (like The Great European Disaster Movie?) How would that free the BBC from charges of pro-EU bias? Does their independence’ and the apparent fact that the EU money they get goes on things like translations really get the BBC off the hook here?

Such questions need a lot more scrutiny.

Why the BBC doesn’t monitor itself for bias

One of the less-reported things about the European Scrutiny Committee’s encounter with the three top BBC bosses was that it discussed something close to our hearts: monitoring bias.

What I took away from it was that after the Wilson Report into the BBC’s (pro-) EU coverage, the BBC had pledged to put some form of monitoring into place but that, having tried doing so, has now abandoned monitoring again and won’t be re-introducing it in the run-up to the EU referendum.

Sir Bill Cash, repeatedly citing News-watch’s close monitoring of the BBC’s EU coverage, argued that the BBC ought to be carrying out such monitoring and making its finding publicly available for people to check. He wants a Hansard-style logging system, comparable to News-watch’s extensive archive of transcriptions, and, given its huge budget and sheer size, wanted to know why the BBC isn’t doing so?

The most concise statement of the BBC’s position came from David Jordan, the BBC’s head of editorial policy and standards:

I think we gave up the monitoring that the chairman is talking about at the time because we found it to be actually very unhelpful and not helpful at all in even deciding and defining whether we were impartial.

And I think in the context of other appearances and elections we’ve discovered the same thing. For example, if you’re covering an election how do you define somebody who’s on a particular party but it opposing something that party is doing at the time they were appearing on the radio? Are they, as it were, in that party’s column or are they in another column that tells you what they were doing? It becomes very, very confusing and doesn’t necessarily sum up the nuances and differences that exist in election campaigns in our experience.

So that was the reason I think why we gave it up.

It was also very, very expensive and time-consuming too.

And we thought that allowing editors to be essentially responsible for impartiality in their output and having an overall view which we get through a series of meetings and discussions which take place in the BBC, were a better way to ensure we achieved impartiality that through simple number-counting.

I have to say I laughed when he said that such monitoring had proved to be “actually very unhelpful and not helpful at all”. Cynically, I thought, “I bet it wasn’t – especially if it came up with the ‘wrong’ results” (a bit like the Balen report?)

I didn’t buy his example either. For me, it’s hardly rocket science to, say, note in one column that Kate Hoey is a Labour Party representative and in another column to note that she’s anti-EU. I can’t see why that would be “very, very confusing”.

Also, I don’t buy the it’s “very, very expensive and time-consuming too” argument either. If a small number of people at News-watch can monitor and transcribe every EU-related interview on major BBC programmes over many, many years then surely an organisation of the size and resources of the BBC can run something similar for its major news bulletins and flagship programmes too. It’s not that difficult. I work full-time and still managed to monitor every political interview on all the BBC’s main current affairs programmes for nine months (in 2009-10) – and at no expense whatsoever!

Also, if you simply rely on editorial judgement – on both the small and large scales (in individual programmes and at senior editorial meetings) – then many individual biases could result and multiply. In an organisation containing so many like-minded people as the BBC, those biases would doubtless head in the same direction and become self-reinforcing. Therefore, they probably won’t be spotted as biases at all – merely sensible, impartial BBC thinking. Who then would be able to point out that it isn’t being impartial after all?

Given that many people think that this kind of groupthink the problem and that, as a result, the BBC are blind to their own biases, asking us to trust the judgements of BBC editors en masse isn’t likely to reassure us….

….which is where what David Jordan derisively calls “number-crunching” comes in.

If over a year of, say, Newsnight there are 60 editions that deal with the UK-EU relationship in some way. Say 55 of those editions featured a pro-Stay guest but only 35 featured a pro-Leave guest, then number-crunching surely would surely raise a serious question about the programme’s impartiality?

If, say, 9 of those pro-Leave guests came from UKIP and the other 26 came from the Conservatives but no pro-Leave Labour or Green guests appeared then that would also surely indicate a serious bias?

Is it really beyond the ability of programme editors to count and record such figures – and to then make them publicly available?

If their figures show exceptional impartiality (45 pro-Stay, 45 pro-Leave guests), then they will surely win more people over, wouldn’t they?

What would they have to lose?

The full transcript of the committee meeting is available here.

Referendum Blog: May 26

Referendum Blog: May 26

BREAKFAST  BIAS: BBC1’s Breakfast programme examined, with glitzy but highly misleading graphics, the UK’s  contribution to the EU budget. The peg for the analysis is a claim by Brexit campaigners that membership of the EU cost the UK £350 million a week.  Emphatically wrong! said presenter Charlie Stayt. That figure is the headline UK contribution figure  but is actually substantially less because a) there is a rebate of  £85 million (negotiated by Margaret Thatcher); and b) the EU spends a further £88 million in the UK.  Stayt said:

…it’s divided up into five main areas. £50 million of that is spent on farming and fisheries. Most of it goes direct to farmers to keep them in business. Another £11 million goes to rural development to help them improve and maintain life in the countryside. Every week, £20 million is spent on developing less prosperous parts of the country, it’s spent on things like transport infrastructure and helping businesses to grow. £5 million goes to social development, tackling things like poverty and unemployment, and the money goes to education and training. And that last piece £2 goes to other EU projects here in the UK, we’re talking about things like medical research or low carbon energy funds. So if we subtract what the UK Treasury gets back, we end up with a weekly contribution of £188 million. But the UK private sector also gets money from the EU in three main areas. In scientific research, in university funding, and in engineering projects. Add that up, and it is £27 million a week. That means, when you take away the rebate, the EU money is sent to the Treasury, and the private sector funding £161 million a week is going to the EU.

The bias point here is entirely presentational.  The phrasing made it sound as though the EU has a strongly and wholly benevolent role in the UK, and indeed plays a key role in public spending.   Who would want to stop the EU’s assistance to farmers, to poorer communities, to helping small business start-ups, to improving transport infrastructure, universities, unemployment and scientific research?

What Stayt entirely omitted from his analysis is the eurosceptic perspective, that the money is taken out of the UK’s public coffers (tax receipts)  and that EU bureaucrats in the European Commission – an entirely unelected body –  decide how it will be spent. Once the money goes to Brussels, control over it through the UK taxpayer is entirely lost and, in the UK, those seeking to be ‘assisted’ by the EU have to bid for money. In that sense, say eurosceptics, the role of local and central government in providing help for deprived areas has been completely usurped by faceless EU bureaucrats.

Also missing was reference to that the remaining £161 million a week that  – irrespective of the amount of money coming back to the UK  – makes the UK a ‘net contributor’ (EU jargon) to the EU’s budget.  All he said on this topic (in sharp contrast to the detailed weight on the positive side of EU ‘contributions’ to the UK) was this:

So how does that stack up? Well, every week the UK spends £821 million on defence. It spends £1.4 billion on education. On the NHS, £2.6 billion. And on top of that, it spends £3.6 billion on pensions. So the price of EU membership, £161 million a week. Is it worth it?

The effort here was clearly and deliberately to make the £161 million a week insignificant – and in light of the detailed, positive list he had outlined of what the  EU provided – very good value for money.  A key factor here is how this money is spent.  The answer, it seems, is that no-one actually knows. The Full Facts independent charity says:

We can be pretty sure about how much cash we put in, but it’s far harder to be sure about how much, if anything, comes back in economic benefits.

“There is no definitive study of the economic impact of the UK’s EU membership or the costs and benefits of withdrawal”, as the House of Commons Library says.

What IS certain is that the money goes into the EU’s vast bureaucracy. Does it help to pay for roads in Latvia? The salaries of the 10,000+ European Commission employees who earn more than the British prime minister?  In paying for propaganda films about how disastrous leaving the EU would be for the UK?

Of course, that’s a eurosceptic perspective, but the point here is that Stayt did not mention it. He could have but did not; his emphasis was biased.  That skew in presentation was further emphasised by the feature that followed.  It was a location report on how EU money was spent. The reporter, Ben Thompson, said:

…But of course a century later, things aren’t looking quite so rosy for many former industrial towns up and down the country. And many of them now rely on funding from the European Union to, well, help rebalance the economy, to train staff to create jobs, to move away from heavy manufacturing and get us into those high added-value jobs that bring value to the economy. And they need money from Europe, there’s a big question about if we vote to leave the European Union, what would replace that money? Where would the funding come from, and what would it mean for former industrial towns like Manchester and the North West, but also places in Wales and Scotland that we’re told would be hardest hit.

Exactly as in the Stayt analysis above, this put detailed weight on what the  UK’s EU money is spent on. Who could quarrel with the need to inject new life into declining Northern towns?  The report presented the facts in the best possible light – this amounted to a detailed exposition of that the EU is s a vital force in the UK’s economic revival.

What of the eurosceptic perspective?  The reporter said:

Now those vote . . . er, that are campaigning for us to leave the EU, say well we spend so much money sending it to Europe that actually that money would be better spent ourselves here in the UK. So it is a big debate.

There was clearly no effort at this point to introduce any balancing comment about how the EU spent money, only a vague contention that this was a ‘big debate’.

Ten minutes later, Breakfast continued with this theme. Ben Thompson was still at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. He repeated that parts of the UK that had led the industrial revolution and were important manufacturing centres were now in decline, then said:

They have struggled in the wake of a decline in manufacturing. And many are reliant on money that we get from Europe to try and retrain people to create new jobs and to rebalance the economy, over six years we’ll get about £7.5 billion from Europe and it will be used to do just that, to train people in new industries and try to create more jobs.

The message of the importance of the EU and the effectiveness of its investment projects was rammed home to the audience yet again. There was then comment from a spokesman from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institution, who explained that EU funding had to be matched by the UK government, and suggested that the EU component might continue to be provided in the event of Brexit.  But he finished with a question:

But it’s that uncertainty, will it . . . will the same kinds of projects be funded? What will the impact be over the longer term?

Ben then spoke to Christian Spence from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. He asked if he could give examples of how the EU money was used. Spence replied:

The big remit around things like the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) funding is exactly as the name suggests,, it’s about regional development, it’s about helping all aspects of the EU to contribute more successfully to the economy.

Ben wanted to know what this meant on a day to day basis, and that it was not just about ‘creating nice visitor attractions’, but about ‘reskilling, creating jobs and things like that’.  Spence was happy to oblige. He stressed that it was particularly about ‘business and skills development’. He added:

So how do we support new advances within our universities and research in the material science? How do we look to up skill our new generation, through new courses, new workforce skills providers, but also about how do we do innovation, how do we improve productivity, how do we help more businesses to start up? It’s ultimately about creating a more successful economy.

Ben asked what the danger was if the UK left the EU. Spence replied that the funding picture  for regional development was changing in in any case, and was up for debate regardless of the EU referendum. If Brexit happened his organisation would look for cash from alternative Westminster channels.

As the final part of the sequence,  Ben spoke to Nigel and Ian Baxter, brothers who each ran their own freight business, but who had different views on EU membership.  Nigel said he wanted the UK to take back control of borders, immigration and long term economic policy;  Ian worried that supporters of Brexit could not explain what ‘out’ would look like, that it would not be beneficial, and further exit from the EU would upset trading agreements.  Their contributions were reasonably balanced, but overall, the two sequences definitely put the EU and its contribution to the UK in a highly favourable light. Stayt and reporter Ben Thompson – each in his own way – structured the presentations so that it appeared that EU investment in the UK was vital to economic revival and focused on highly important and desirable projects. By contrast, they made virtually no effort to explore the eurosceptic perspective, and it was almost airbrushed out of the equation. An alternative approach would have been to investigate how effectively EU money is actually spent – the blanket assumption instead was that the British contribution is money well-spent, and contributors were found who reinforced this message.

 

 

 

 

Ofcom appointment ‘threatens fair coverage of EU referendum debate’

Ofcom appointment ‘threatens fair coverage of EU referendum debate’

Opinion polls at the weekend gave the EU ‘out’ camp the edge. But it has now emerged that supporters of Brexit will be fighting the battle to win hearts and minds as the EU referendum approaches with their arms tied behind their backs.

That’s because new developments at the BBC and the independent sector regulatory body Ofcom mean that complaints about unfair coverage of the EU debate on television – still the most crucial medium in influencing public opinion – don’t have a cat in hell’s chance of succeeding.

It paves the way for a constant barrage of pro-EU propaganda with the opposition neutered and unable to get a fair hearing for their concerns.

The most astonishing development came last Thursday when the Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced that an EU fanatic with little professional experience of broadcasting is to chair the content board of Ofcom, the body ultimately responsible for ensuring impartiality in news coverage across ITV, Channel 4 and Sky News.

Unbelievably, the press release announcing his appointment claimed that he had not been involved in any political activities for the past five years, and therefore (by implication) could be trusted with this crucial role.

But a moment’s investigation on the web reveals that this is utter nonsense. As his self-trumpeting website shows, Bill Emmott, a former editor of The Economist, is fighting an all-out political war on several fronts towards his revered dreams of slaying nationalism, allowing the free movement of peoples and of greater EU integration.

At the core of his campaign is a slickly-produced TV programme called The Great EU Disaster Movie, which his production company Springshot made last year in association with the BBC and Franco-German television channel Arte. It posits the collapse of the world as we know it if, God forbid, nasty nationalist factions such as UKIP have their way and the EU weakens its iron grip on the body politic. Predictably, the programme had its first network airing on the BBC. It has since been established that, disgracefully, the Corporation stealthily took substantial funding from the EU to ensure that it was translated into other languages.

Emmott’s so-called charity, Wake Up Europe – a trustee of which is Richard Sambrook, a former Director of BBC News – is in the midst of a major pro-EU propaganda drive at British Universities with the film at its heart. If that isn’t ‘political activity’, the definition needs changing.

The show’s joint producer has claimed in The Guardian that the programme is a neutral examination of the potential problems that would be caused by the UK’s exit. Her stance cuts to the heart of the entire problem of the Brexit debate in that those who want to remain simply cannot see or even begin to accept that they are biased.

What makes Emmott’s appointment so utterly damaging is that the rest of the Ofcom content board – in step with Quango Land generally – are like minds drawn apparently from the liberal left. The full list of 10 is here. What leaps out from their CVs is that all but two have worked for significant parts of their careers at the BBC. They write papers about how wonderful and important the BBC is. Many are closely linked to a BBC-favoured propaganda organisation called the (Reuters)Oxford Institute of the Media – which last November held a seminar about ensuring ‘fair’ coverage of the EU. Guess who chaired it? Bill Emmott!

One of the two content board members who has not worked at the BBC is Dr Zahera Harb, who began her career in journalism in the Lebanon, and is now a board member of the worthy-sounding Ethical Journalism Network. Don’t be deceived by such Orwellian double-speak. Its main concerns include attacking the ‘hate speech’ of Donald Trump and ensuring that Palestinian Authority – along with immigration generally – gets better coverage in the media.

The second important media development was on Friday: the closing date for submissions to a so-called ‘public consultation’ by the BBC Trustees’ in connection with their draft editorial guidelines covering the EU referendum campaign.

Those who favour Brexit should be afraid, very afraid. For all the 16 years that News-watch has monitored the BBC’s EU output, the Corporation has been massively biased against the withdrawal case. It has crudely but pervasively cast EU opponents as racist far-right xenophobes, Conservative eurosceptics as hopelessly ‘split’, and at the same has totally underplayed or ignored the solid, consistent support for withdrawal from Labour figures such as veteran MPs Kate Hoey and Kelvin Hopkins.

The Trustees’ proposals for ensuring impartiality, and no doubt will adopt – because such exercises are only fig leaves to accountability – are a farce. The main problem is that as usual, the guidelines put the BBC in the driving seat in terms of what is fair, under their definition of ‘due’ impartiality. That gives them massive leeway, and the proof is that the BBC Trustees have not upheld a single complaint about EU coverage in all their existence.

Even more disturbing, the final judgment on what constitutes bias in the run-up to the referendum will, in effect, be left to the only two Trustees who have any substantial journalistic experience. Both – surprise, surprise – are ex-BBC career journalists.

Step forward Mark Damazer, former Controller of Radio 4, under whose tutelage it was confirmed as the national channel of right-on causes; and Richard Ayre, a former controller of editorial standards who is an ex-chairman of an organisation called Article 19 which is similar to the Ethical Journalism Network mentioned above, with the addition that another of their obsessions is climate alarmism.

The News-watch submission to the BBC – for what it’s worth, because there is no chance that it will be heeded – is in full here.

A remaining question is who sanctioned the Bill Emmott appointment? Eurosceptic John Whittingdale is ostensibly in charge at DCMS. It seems scarcely credible that Emmott would have been his choice. Did David Cameron or George Osborne force the appointment through as part of their frantic drive to stack the cards as highly as possible against an exit vote? They both know that the BBC is firmly already on their side. Now Ofcom is sewn up, too.

After the publication of this post, an Ofcom spokesperson has contacted Newswatch with the following statement: “Any conflicts of interest involving non-executive Board members are managed appropriately and Bill Emmott would not be involved in discussions or decisions related to the EU referendum.”

Photo by UK in Italy