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Andrew

Lord Pearson’s Question on News-watch Website

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am most grateful. Have the Government examined the News-watch.co.uk website, which shows how the BBC has so far failed to allow fair debate between the two sides in the forthcoming EU referendum and thus to respect its present charter? Might it be good to involve the public in the next charter by allowing the licence fee-payers to elect the BBC’s trustees and, through them, the chairman and the director-general?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: My Lords, I have not seen the News-watch website that was referred to, but I will obviously take the opportunity to look at it as part of my induction into this vital area. All aspects of the kind that the noble Lord describes will be looked at in the review. As I said, I think that the comments from this House will be very helpful to us in coming to the right conclusions.

HL Deb, 4 June 2015, c514

Latest News-watch survey Published: More BBC Pro-EU Bias

Latest News-watch survey Published: More BBC Pro-EU Bias

As the BBC’s coverage of the general election gathers pace, the latest News-watch survey shows that reporting of European Union affairs by the Corporation continues to be deeply inadequate and biased.

In March, the House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee – which had heard evidence from News-watch as well as senior figures from the BBC  – strongly attacked the BBC’s EU-related output. It said that Charter requirements to provide audiences with balanced and wide-ranging coverage of EU affairs were not being met, and that, especially, eurosceptic perspectives were not being properly reflected.

In its latest survey, independent monitoring organisation News-watch monitored four BBC programmes for an eight-week period between Monday 27 October and Saturday 21 December 2014.   The programmes were: The World at One and PM on BBC Radio 4, BBC1’s News at Ten, and BBC2’s Newsnight. This equated to approximately 131 hours of broadcasting. This analysis, based on complete analysis of a range of flagship news programmes makes the following findings:

  • Coverage of the issues surrounding withdrawal was both minimal and inadequate.
  • The vast bulk of news about Conservative handling of EU affairs was through the lens of party splits, which, it was emphasised by BBC correspondents, had been raging since Maastricht. There was disproportionate effort to cover these divisions, exaggeration of the scale of the problem and a corresponding failure to scrutinise policies; rows took precedence over informing audiences about the bread and butter issues of EU membership.
  • There was relatively little analysis of Labour policies towards the EU. Party members were afforded regular platforms to attack Conservative and Ukip policies, but their own controversial approach towards limitation of immigration or the potential threat posed by Ukip was seldom featured or analysed. Members of the party who are strongly eurosceptic occasionally were asked for comment, but their quotes were too brief to give a true indication of the debate within the party about EU membership
  • The main theme of coverage of Ukip continued to be (as has been noted in earlier News-watch reports) that both individually and as a party, it was  inept, confused and potentially both venal and racist. There was a heavy focus on its shortcomings, but very little coverage or analysis of key issues such as withdrawal and the limitations of the EU.  And the main editorial reaction to Ukip’s victory at Rochester was to ask Conservative MP Phillip Davies if he would not defect to Ukip.
  • Another problem was that, while it was frequently said that the EU opposed reform of matters such as the Free Movement of Peoples Directive – and platforms were often given to EU figures to say that – there was no editorial effort to scrutinise why such policies could not be changed or reformed.

The full report is available to read or download using the link below.

 

Photo by e-magic

Lords Debate on European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EUC Report)

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I cannot resist speaking briefly in the gap, because I think this is the first time in 25 years that I am able to congratulate an EU Select Committee on one of its reports, and indeed the Government on their reply.

I also take the opportunity to apologise for scratching last Wednesday 11 March from our debate on the competences review, or balance of power between Brussels and our Government. A long-standing family engagement meant that I could not have stayed to the end—not that I would have asked the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, any questions. I would just have explained why the whole exercise is pretty much a waste of time that will do little to curb the appetite of the corrupt octopus in Brussels.

I will, however, take this opportunity to say that I am disappointed that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, took the opportunity—at col.748—to criticise me and my views on the European Union in my absence. The richest bit of this criticism was perhaps that the noble Lord opined that Euroscepticism in this country is a belief, a faith, a prejudice. Yet it is surely our Europhiles who demonstrate a disease-like blind faith in the project of European integration, which is failing before our eyes, causing great misery across the continent, and which will continue to do so until it eventually collapses.

This report and the Government are rightly critical of the Commission’s stubbornness in continuing with its plans for a European public prosecutor. I therefore thought that it might be helpful if I put the powers of the unelected Commission on the record, perhaps for the first time, so that people can see what our powerless national Government are up against.

First, the Commission enjoys the monopoly to propose in secret all EU legislation, and thus a large proportion of our national law.

Secondly, its proposals go for still-secret discussion in COREPER—the Committee of Permanent Representatives, sometimes described as EU ambassadors—where the bureaucrats from the member states negotiate their national interest, the members of the Commission having sworn allegiance to the EU and not to support any partial national interest. I have never understood how our privy counsellors square their oath of allegiance to Her Majesty with that one. That is their problem, I suppose.

Thirdly, when the proposals emerge from COREPER as pretty much a done deal, they go for ratification to the Council of Ministers from the member states, in still largely clandestine discussion, and to the European Parliament, with its powers of co-decision.

Fourthly, our Parliament can scrutinise the emerging legislation but cannot change it. Indeed, it has never done so, as we see with this proposed public prosecutor.

Fifthly, the Commission then becomes the sole enforcer of all EU law and can impose massive fines for transgression, subject only to the Europhile Luxembourg court.

Sixthly, the Commission manages the EU budget so badly that the EU’s accounts have not been signed off by its internal auditors—there being no external auditor—

for the last 19 years. If a public company was in a similar position, its directors would have been in jail many years ago.

Seventhly, the Commission negotiates all our foreign trade arrangements, again badly. Singapore has had free trade agreements with India, China, Japan and the United States for 10 years, but we have none because the Commission is in charge on behalf of all the member states.

I cannot help feeling that if the British people understood the full extent of the unelected Commission’s powers, which I have set out above, and how powerless their Parliament has become in this and other matters, their dislike of our EU membership would increase even further.

I have only one question for the Minister: what happens if the Commission decides to plough on with this proposal?

HL Deb, 19 March 2015, c1186

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills written question

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the benefit or disbenefit of Single Market legislation to United Kingdom companies which do not export to that market.

Lord Livingston of Parkhead (Conservative): The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has not carried out any assessment of the benefits or costs of single market legislation to UK companies which do not export to that market.

HL Deb, 17 March 2015, cW

European Election Survey – Summer 2014

News-watch monitored nine BBC programmes for a period of six weeks between Monday 21 April and Sunday 1 June 2014. The BBC Radio 4 programmes selected for monitoring and analysis were: Today; the World at One (including the World This Weekend each Sunday); PM; The Six O’clock News; The World Tonight. The television broadcasts comprised the three main BBC1 bulletins – News at One, News at Six and News at Ten – and BBC 2’s Newsnight.

The survey interval focused on the 31 days preceding the European election, polling day itself, and 10 days subsequent to the election. This 42 day period equated to approximately 280 hours of broadcasting.

News-watch Survey – Winter 2013

This latest survey covers fourteen weeks between September 16 and December 21, 2013 and encompasses every word spoken about the EU over 84 editions, adding up 251 separate items and a total of 121,000 words. The analysis is based on widely accepted data analysis techniques used by academics in media schools at universities such as Leeds and Loughborough.

Newswatch figures show fewer than one in 1,000 contributors to Today’s EU coverage were supporters of withdrawal from the Labour party or the British left.

Newswatch figures show fewer than one in 1,000 contributors to Today’s EU coverage were supporters of withdrawal from the Labour party or the British left.

BBC Director General Lord Hall told the House of Commons select media committee in a
hearing in October that the Corporation was determined to deliver impartiality by ensuring
that a range of voices on key issues was heard.
Newswatch’s latest figures – based on monitoring approximately half of the Today editions
since 2005 – show the programme has carried interviews and soundbite contributions
from only three left-wing advocates of withdrawal. The statistics show that there were
3,513 contributions to the various EU discussions on Today in nine years, but that
withdrawalists from the Labour Party and British left represented just 0.09% of guests, or
one in every 1,171 EU-related appearances.
The three speakers who contributed to the EU debate were Labour MP Austin Mitchell in
September 2009, Labour MP Gisela Stuart in October 2012, and Labour Party donor John
Mills in June 2013. Their combined contributions amounted to approximately 5 minutes
of airtime, but only 1 minute featured the speakers actually making any sort of case for
withdrawal.

Photo by skuds

Newswatch surveys: Since 2005, Today has carried only six minutes a year of those who support EU withdrawal talking about the subject

Newswatch has been monitoring the Today programme for approximately 6 months of the year since 2005. It is the longest-ever, and most detailed, research project of its kind. In the latest survey period it has been established that withdrawalists talking about withdrawal took up minimal programme time.
That fits in with longer-term trends. Since 2005:
Total feature airtime in monitored programmes: 137,479 minutes
Airtime devoted to EU coverage: 9360 minutes
Total number of EU-related speakers: 3441
Withdrawalist Speakers
There were exactly 100 appearances by speakers who were identified as supporters of withdrawal.
Of these, 73% were UKIP, 13% Conservative Party, 7% BNP, 3% Labour Party, 2% were vox pops,
and 1% from Veritas.
Just over half (37 out of 73, equating to 37%) of all UKIP appearances were from Nigel Farage.
Speakers who discussed Withdrawal
58 Speakers of the 100 made an argument for withdrawal as part of their contribution, (with the
remaining 42 commenting on other EU matters but making no case for withdrawal).
Of the 58 speakers:
41 (70.7%) came from UKIP;
10 (17.2%) were from the Conservative Party,
3 (5.2%) were from the BNP,
2 (3.4%) were from the Labour Party
2 (3.4%) were from vox pop contributors.
 Words spoken on withdrawal by withdrawalists
Total words spoken on withdrawal by withdrawalists between March 2005 and June 2013:  6786
At 140 wpm, this equates to: 48 minutes and 27 seconds. That is six minutes per year in the monitored
periods (half of the total output).
This is 0.5% of total EU coverage, and 0.035% of total airtime available on Today.
Word Counts by Party for those who discussed withdrawal
The 6786 words spoken by withdrawalists who discussed withdrawal can be split into the following:
BNP:  115 Words (1.7%)
Conservative Party: 1042 words (15.4%)
Labour Party: 141 words (2.1%)
Vox Pops 29 words.  (0.4%)
UKIP:  5459 words (80%)