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David Keighley

New BBC drive for onscreen ‘diversity’ swamps need for Brexit impartiality

New BBC drive for onscreen ‘diversity’ swamps need for Brexit impartiality

Last week, the key people responsible for making UK television programmes gathered for the biennial Royal Television Society Cambridge convention, aimed at tackling the main issues facing the industry.

What emerged from the gathering rammed home that as long as public subsidy drives and feeds the industry, those managing it seem less concerned with entertaining and informing audiences than with meeting – with obsessive zeal – targets linked to social engineering.

Those addressing the £1,500-a-head delegates in the rarefied elegance of King’s College included the chief executive of Sky, James Murdoch, the culture secretary, Karen Bradley, the new BBC chairman, Sir David Clementi, and the chief executive of Ofcom, Sharon White.

The main topic of this stellar line-up? Perhaps the increasingly serious skew against Brexit on television news programmes? Or why Britons should continue to be forced to pay £147 a year through the BBC licence fee for programmes they don’t want? Or why the BBC is on a hell-for-leather mission in almost every element of its output to undermine British values and culture and to push a Left-wing perspective?

No. The main preoccupation and source of worry of Messrs White, Clementi and Bradley was – maybe you’ve guessed it already – diversity.

Never mind better programmes; each of them, with a manner reminiscent of medieval penitents, told the gathering that they and the industry must do better and continue to work flat out out to ensure that there are more ethnic minority faces on our screens and in the workforces of production companies.

No matter that in the 16 years since former BBC Director General Greg Dyke described the Corporation as ‘hideously white’, enormous efforts have been made to recruit and reflect ethnic minorities, and the diversity monitoring initiative Project Diamond has been set up – the framework for achieving change would make the Stasi’s recording techniques look modest. It emerged with a vengeance that the changes are not considered to be enough.

Leading the charge was Ofcom’s Sharon White. Ofcom, of course, under the new BBC Charter, now regulates aspects of the Corporation. In an interview with the BBC Newsnight interviewer Kirsty Wark (who else?), Ms White outlined her pride that under her regulatory watch, a new industry-wide intensified regime of form-filling, box-ticking quotas is now being rigorously implemented.

Especially in her sights in this respect, however, it emerged, is her new charge, the BBC. Not content that, according to BBC management board member Baroness Grey-Thompson, the Corporation must, if necessary, spend up to £100million on meeting diversity targets, Ms White noted censoriously that recent figures in the domain were rigged because they included the BBC World Service. That, she said, would definitely not do (or count), because lots of ethnically diverse people already worked there. Must try harder. Much harder.

Ms White also revealed that no matter what is achieved with ethnic, gender and disabled diversity, another issue was troubling her and was now in her sights. Class, of course. Straight from what sounded like the Corbyn and McDonnell text book on class war, she told Ms Wark, in effect, that far too few working-class people were currently employed across the industry, and that this, too, must be remedied. She was not yet sure how, but was working on it as part of her drive towards ‘transparency’.

Be very afraid. It turns out that the BBC – always keen to spend public money on such causes – has, in fact, pre-empted her. BBC Director of Radio James Purnell, the former Labour Cabinet minister who was privately educated and is an Oxford graduate, said at the convention that, in an effort to reduce numbers of ‘privileged’ employees, the Corporation was already experimenting with ‘anonymised’ recruitment, which involved redacting from job applications names, places of education and home addresses.

He is reported to have said he would ‘love’ to introduce, as another part of this process, new social class targets to combat the BBC’s ‘tendency towards hiring privileged people’. The problem, he claimed, was that almost 25 per cent of managers went to private schools, compared with only 7 per cent in the UK population.

‘We don’t have targets on socio-economic [backgrounds] but we’re thinking about it . . . We would love to have a target, we would be very happy to do that,’ he told the Daily Mail.

Another who addressed the conference, as an after-dinner speaker, was Tony Blair’s henchman-in-chief, Alastair Campbell. Surprise, surprise, they did not invite Nigel Farage. It is said that Mr Campbell had been warned ‘not to bang on’ about Brexit. But, according to reports, he disobeyed.

Under the splendid hammer-beamed ceiling of the King’s dining hall, he asked the delegates how many supported Brexit, and invited a show of hands. There was none.

That perhaps says it all about the state of the television industry. Out of touch with audiences, unconcerned about and uncomprehending of its deep bias against Brexit, and focused on ethnic and class diversity rather than programme quality and appeal.

 

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Talk Radio’s Julia Hartley Brewer slams BBC post-Brexit bias

Talk Radio’s Julia Hartley Brewer slams BBC post-Brexit bias

Transcript of Talk Radio, Julia Hartley-Brewer interview with David Keighley, News-watch, 13 September 2017, 12.03pm

JULIA HARTLEY-BREWER:  First up, a fascinating story that I wanted to get to, because it was something that did concern me at the time, this is something that went back all the way to the end of August last year,  a couple of months, of course, after the Brexit vote. Now, Nigel Farage, one of the keen, leading figures of the Brexit campaign was somebody who was accused of having ‘blood on his hands’ after, we were told, there had been an increase in violence against EU migrants and indeed migrants from other parts of the world in the wake of the Brexit attack (sic) this was reported repeatedly on the BBC, and in particular, on August 31, news broke that a Polish immigrant in Harlow had been killed.  Rumours circulated that it was a gang of feral youths who were responsible, and that it could have been a racist attack, because he was Polish and triggered by Brexit.  This was reported on by the BBC repeatedly.  But, last Friday we had the sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court of the youth responsible for that man’s death, and now we know the full story, and it’s really rather different. So I’ve invited David Keighley on, he’s the managing director of the media monitoring company News-watch, and himself a former BBC producer who has written about this. Now, and to tell us the full story, David – thank you very much for joining us.

DAVID KEIGHLEY: Good morning and thank you very much for having me on the programme.

JHB:       Well, thank you very much for talking to us.  I saw your article you wrote on this online yesterday and I wanted to ask you about this, because it is something . . . it was a report that, I suppose, I  accepted on face value when I heard the reports but talk us through what happened and what the reporting claimed.  And then, if you could outline for us what actually were the real, objectively true events that have now been proven in a court of law?

DK:         Right, yes, basically, this man, Mr Jozwik who was a Polish man living in Harlow, well-liked by all accounts, was killed in a . . . after a fracas of sorts, late night, few days before the reports broke out.  He banged his head and a couple of days later the story broke.  Basically, what the BBC said that evening, very excitedly and very sensationally was that he had died after what some were saying was ‘a frenzied race hate attack’ following, or ‘triggered by’ – was the exact phrase – the Brexit vote. Now . . .

JHB:       But was this just the BBC claiming this, or did other news outlets claim the same.

DK:         Yeah, no, other outlets also took that line, though to a lesser extent than the BBC. And of course, the BBC has got extra responsibilities as a public service broadcaster to check out the facts before reporting something quite so sensationally. Now, to be fair, the report, the main report on the 6 o’clock news did have the alternative theory that this was youths and nothing to do with Brexit, but the overriding impression in the reports, the sensationalist side of it was that this was a race hate attack. And that was added to by John Sweeney, later on in the evening, on Newsnight, and he actually interviewed a friend, or someone who was said to be a friend of the killed . . . the dead man, who said, as you said in your intro, that Nigel Farage . . . he said, ‘Thank you Nigel Farage, you now have blood on your hands.’ Now this wasn’t a live interview, it was a package, it was recorded, so John Sweeney deliberately included that in the report that he presented that evening, and there were lots of other lines about the level of race hate going on.

JHB:       And we have discovered since that a lot of research into what was now considered to be these supposedly race hate crimes, but actually that doesn’t even have to have been even a police investigation, there doesn’t even have to have been a complaint from the person who was supposedly the victim, it is an entirely subjective view of a person who may have just been an onlooker, an exchange between two friends where there was a . . . perhaps there was a word used that perhaps most of us wouldn’t use in our daily lives, someone else might say, ‘Well, I thought that was racist’ – they can report it to the police, whether there’s an investigation, any conviction or anything at all, any charges brought, that now stands as a race crime that has been reported and there stands in the stats?

DK:         Absolutely, it’s a self-report crime, which is almost unique on the British statute books. For the police to record such a crime there has to be . . . there need not be any evidence whatsoever, it’s just that somebody perceives there’s been an offence. Now, what’s happened subsequently is that, first of all the police . . . the point was on the day, the police said they hadn’t ruled out race as a motive, but any journalist knows that if you ask the police when they’re opening an investigation if they’ve ruled anything out, they will routinely say, ‘No, we’re looking at all possibilities’ – they don’t know, so they’re cautious. The BBC weren’t cautious in their approach . . .

JHB:       No, but what’s emerged when it came out in court with the actual sentencing, and a 16-year-old has eventually been sentenced to 3 years in a youth detention centre, not for murder, but for manslaughter, but it’s also emerged, categorically accepted in court by all sides that the gang, so-called gang involved, didn’t instigate this incident which led to the punch, but they, the defendant and his friends were provoked, and that this man, the man who sadly lost his life was very drunk and very aggressive with a bunch of his friends, and had actually started the fight, very taunting, very aggressive towards this bunch of young youths, and they had made, themselves, racist remarks to the youths and invited violence from the youngsters, and that was when the punching, the punch happened and then very sadly this Polish man died.  So, in no way was this a racist attack on a Polish immigrant because of anything to do with Brexit, it wasn’t a racist attack at all, on the contrary it was a youth who felt that he was under attack himself.

DK:         Yes. That sums it up very neatly. And the point was that however you look at this, it was nothing to do with what the BBC actually reported. Now, as I say, the BBC has responsibilities as a public service organisation, special responsibilities to do with impartiality and getting balance in their reporting, and yet when the sentencing hearing happened on Friday and all these final facts emerged, that it was the polar opposite of what had been said, what did they do? They had, basically, one piece on their website which was on their Essex section, so it wasn’t even the national part of the website, and it didn’t mention their role in their reporting. This was surely a case where they should have done a full apology, they should have outlined that they’d got it wrong, that this was not anything to do with race hate. People are saying that what they did last August amounted to racial provocation by them and yet . . .

JHB:       But . . .

DK:         . . . and yet, they’ve just glossed it over as if they’ve done nothing . . .

JHB:       (speaking over) But this is the interesting thing, the attempts to get newspapers to make sure that they give correct reporting and that they correct mistakes and they apologise when they get things wrong would require a newspaper that’s signed up to that plan, post-Leveson, for them to give exactly the same prominence to that story, to do the correction, not a small, little ‘news in brief’ on page 16, it would have to be a full page apology, effectively, in a newspaper, on the front page, probably, equivalent. And I remember, certainly, how prominent that story was and its been brought up in debate after debate in the last year, when people say, ‘Well, yes, but, you know, all those racists who voted Leave and how they all started being more racist because of the Brexit vote, and isn’t it your fault?’ – I mean, I personally have had tweets from people saying that I’m partly responsible for Joe Cox being murdered.  I know Nigel Farage has had those, because I’ve spoken to him about it.  Now he has actually asked for an apology on this himself, hasn’t he?

DK:         Indeed, yes, he . . . on his show on your rival station – perhaps not rival, your . . .

JHB:       (speaking over) We don’t know who they are!

DK:         Yes, he actually said he wants an apology from the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall. And it will be very interesting to see now how the BBC reacts, because of course, they so often just brush off complaints, they pretend that they have done balanced reporting when they haven’t, there’s loads of evidence of that on the News-watch website. And, it’s just an endemic, systemic problem in the BBC. They are incapable of admitting their own errors, and the bias seems so deeply entrenched now in their Brexit coverage.

JHB:       Well, I mean, there’s been lots of complaints about this recently, haven’t there, and there’ve been, you know, formal complaints from the Conservatives, because we know during election periods, during referendum periods, I mean, there are strict laws. I don’t work for the BBC, I’m allowed to give my own opinion but not during election campaign periods, I mean, I quite, absolutely . . . as much as it’s tying my hands behind my back, I completely agree with it as someone who believes in democracy, that we shouldn’t be having bias, but I mean, it is something . . . and I say as someone who loves the BBC and does a lot of work for the BBC as well, freelance, that I am stunned on a daily basis by their reporting on this issue. But then, is it that ‘I would say that wouldn’t I, because I’m a Brexiteer, and you would say that, wouldn’t you, because you’re a Brexiteer, and Nigel Farage would say that, wouldn’t he, because you’re a Brexiteer’ – isn’t it the case that everyone sees bias against their own personal viewpoint?

DK:         Of course that’s true to an extent, but again, if you go to our News-watch website, the way we measure bias is not just on an impressionistic basis, we look at coverage over a long-term period, we do it properly and academically. And basically, what we’ve looked at is, for example, the Today programme’s Business News coverage after Brexit, and . . . for the six months after Brexit, every single edition, and transcribed every single word that was said, and the amount of . . . the number of people who have appeared on the programme who were pro-Brexit was minuscule, the numbers are so small as to be vanishing. They just are not taking into account properly pro-Brexit opinion.

JHB:       Well, we shall see, David Keighley, thank you for talking to us, managing director of the media monitoring company News-watch, he’s a former BBC producer himself. I wanted to highlight that because, you know, I was as horrified as everyone else, I think, at the thought that there could be an increase in violence and certainly racist violence, violence against EU migrants, that wasn’t . . . that wasn’t what the Brexit campaign was about, that’s got nothing to do with Brexit, nothing whatsoever, and I really object to any racist hijacking [of] a cause for democracy, to carry out such crimes.  It would appear that they just haven’t been those crimes, and claims that there have are just totally unfair. I absolutely, if I was the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall, I would issue that apology, because I think, you know, you’ve got to admit when you get it wrong, and we don’t always get it right.

 

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Farage demands BBC apology for ‘blood on hands’ race hate claims

Farage demands BBC apology for ‘blood on hands’ race hate claims

Nigel Farage has responded to the latest developments in the Harlow killing of last August. He has demanded an apology for a BBC2 Newsnight package which included claims that he now had ‘blood his hands’ The full story is here.

 

BBC’s Harlow ‘Brexit race hate’ claims debunked

BBC’s Harlow ‘Brexit race hate’ claims debunked

On August 31 last year, the £1billion taxpayer-funded BBC news machine went into what can only be described as incontinent anti-Brexit overdrive in response to the killing of a Polish man in Essex.

This, its headlines declared, was being regarded as a race hate killing triggered by the Brexit vote two months earlier.

It emerged on Friday at the final sentencing hearing in this sorry case that what happened that day was the polar opposite of what the corporation projected so forcefully in in its headlines.

After the EU referendum, every part of the BBC was working flat out to show why the vote was a huge mistake, as illustrated in News-watch reports here and here. Programmes in Radio 4’s Brexit Collection predicted – with scarcely a peep of counter-opinion – that there would be rioting on the streets over food price hikes.

Then, on August 31, the news broke that a well-liked Polish immigrant in Harlow had been killed. Rumours were circulating that a gang of feral youths were responsible and that there could be a racist element. Police were ‘not ruling this out’.

For the corporation, this was too good to be true. Reporter Daniel Sandford’s account in the main BBC1 bulletins that night suggested strongly that this was a ‘frenzied’ race-hate murder by feral youths and was triggered by Brexit. To reinforce the point, his report – along with other material on the BBC website – included edited reaction to that possibility from the local MP and a Polish diplomat. The full transcript can be seen here.

Later, over on BBC2’s Newsnight, John Sweeney ratcheted up this crude tabloid sensationalism by including an interview in his edited package about the killing in which a friend of the dead man suggested that Nigel Farage ‘now has blood on his hands’.

Let’s not mince words. The death of Polish immigrant Arkadiusz Jozwik, 40, following a late-night altercation in Harlow’s Stow shopping centre, was a sordid, tragic affair, and a sorry reflection of the escalating level of violence in Britain today.

But with Friday’s sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court of the youth responsible for Mr Jozwik’s death, we know the full story. And it was light years away from what can now be seen as the BBC’s deliberate anti-Brexit editorial drive. Its elevation of the ‘race hate’ angle was especially biased and in tune with its overall portrayal – as also illustrated here – that the Leave vote was swayed by uneducated, bigoted thugs.

The facts that are now clear are, first, that Mr Jozwik was not the victim of a gang killing, nor was he murdered. One youth, said to be a ‘shrimp’ little more than five feet tall and then aged 15, was responsible, and he was convicted of manslaughter.

The youth felled Mr Jozwik with one ‘superman’ punch delivered from behind. But the cause of death was impact with the pavement. All parties in court – including the Crown Prosecution Service and the judge – accepted that the punch was vicious but was not intended to kill.

Second, the ‘gang’ involved did not instigate the incident which led to the punch, and were not spoiling for a fight. It was, as emerged on Friday in court, totally the other way round. The defendant and his friends were provoked. Mr Jozwik had been out drinking with a friend and, according to police statements gathered by a team of detectives and read out in court, was rolling drunk.

Patrick Upward, counsel for the youth, told the sentencing court: ‘Far from being the all-affectionate individual of those that knew him, the deceased and his companion, according to witnesses, were staggering from drink. They made racist remarks to the youths and invited violence from those youngsters, and they were considerably bigger and stronger than the young people. It was after the deceased pushed one of the youngsters that this defendant did what he did.’

The teenager, now aged 16, was sentenced to three years in a youth detention centre.

So what are the lessons? In any killing where the facts are not clear, there should always be a degree of caution by journalists in their framing of initial reports. This applies especially to the BBC which has to adhere to Charter impartiality requirements and its associated editorial guidelines.
On August 31 last year, Daniel Sandford did mention briefly that there was doubt in some quarters about the racist motive, but the race-hate angle was unquestionably most prominent in his report and online. The Sweeney report on Newsnight amplified further the overall BBC approach of outright sensationalism.

Immediately afterwards, News-watch formally submitted detailed complaints to the BBC’s Complaints Unit. With total predictability, they were dismissed.

Meanwhile, the deluge of anti-Brexit BBC reporting has continued, including the angle that race-hate was involved in the vote. And how did the BBC report Friday’s sentencing hearing? With a headline that this was not a race hate murder connected to Brexit? That Daniel Sandford had been wrong to afford such prominence to that possibility? That the (English) killer had been provoked by racist chants by a drunken Polish man 25 years his senior? And that the Farage blood-on-hands quote had now been shown to be preposterous?

Of course not. Tucked away in the BBC’s regional website Essex pages is a short 280-word report that makes no mention of last year’s intemperate sensationalism by the corporation, and notes only towards the end the key point that the racism involved did not emanate from the killer.

BBC ‘leaders’ debate was programme car-crash

BBC ‘leaders’ debate was programme car-crash

The so-called ‘leaders’ debate on BBC1 last night was a car crash of a programme that should never have been broadcast.

‘Balance’ was never going to be possible in a set-up involving five strident left-wing parties ranged against two from the ‘right’. Those at the Corporation paid substantial salaries to achieve ‘impartiality’, including the Director of News, James Harding, should have spotted this a mile away.

Further, despite anything that the BBC might say, the audience was seriously biased against Amber Rudd for the Conservatives and Paul Nuttall of Ukip. The Corporation afterwards claimed this was not their fault because they had sub-contracted the polling organisation ComRes to select the audience members on a ‘scientific’ basis.

Poppycock. The BBC are responsible for programmes that they broadcast and in a General Election the Corporation has a clearly-defined responsibility under both the Charter and electoral law to ensure balance.

The reality is that the make-up of audience was a first-order farce. Nothing the BBC broadcasts subsequently can ‘balance’ this, so gross was the problem.

This Cambridge mob was not just biased in its reactions throughout the 90 minutes but risibly so.  Everything Jeremy Corbyn said was cheered to the rafters, whereas Rudd and Nuttall were subjected to catcalls.  The camerawork (was that sub-contracted, too?) further exaggerated the problems by homing in on the negative reaction.

Returning to the intrinsic imbalance of the 5 ‘left’ to two ’right’ set-up, a major problem here was that the moderator, Radio 4 Today presenter Mishal Husain, was never equal to the task.

But there were deeper problems, that meant Husain’s basic failure of control was compounded.  The result was that programme was shot through with basic unfairness.

Nowhere was this more risibly evident than in the handling of immigration. Put bluntly Paul Nuttall’s call for tougher controls was ganged up upon and shouted down by the SNP, Green, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat panellists – who, like playground bullies, called him a racist.

There was nothing new about this. Those on the left such as Tim Farron and Caroline Lucas have been disgracefully and indiscriminately using the ‘R’ word against anyone who disagrees with uncontrolled immigration for decades.

But that is where the BBC failed at the most basic level in their duty as public service broadcasters.  They should have foreseen such unfairness, and known it would be an inevitable outcome. The problem is that the British political system is no longer binary, and the majority of parties are now left-wing, so ‘debates’ like this simply cannot work.

Another point is that the BBC intrinsically does not care a stuff about right-wing opinion. For years it has been working to undermine and belittle the views of Ukip, and so in that mind-set, the latest twist last night was only par for the course.

Everybody who watched last night could see this blatant bias, but not the BBC itself. Its headlines yesterday morning did not mention the bias claims, but focused instead on that Theresa May had been shown to be a coward for not turning up.

BBC ‘environment analyst’ Harrabin: don’t vote Conservative or Ukip

BBC ‘environment analyst’ Harrabin: don’t vote Conservative or Ukip

At what point do BBC ‘correspondents’ cross the line from offering a properly judged and impartial assessment into propaganda and overt electioneering?

News-watch surveys provide abundant evidence that it is all too often – and a new prime example was 556 words on the doctrine of climate alarmism from Roger Harrabin the BBC’s ‘environment analyst’ on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend yesterday. (His report starts at a round 1.25pm)

This amounted to a BBC party political broadcast against elements of the Conservative party, and especially – to Harrabin – the real villains of the piece, Ukip.

A transcript of the full horror of what he delivered in this ‘impartial assessment’ is below.

Where to start? In Harrabin’s world, our seas are ‘full of plastic’ (!), and the fact that Stephen Hawking thinks that climate change is the biggest long-term threat to humanity makes his speculation sacrosanct.

Then we must take into account that, according to government surveys, only 1% ‘strongly oppose renewables’ and so that, in Harrabin’s world, makes the spending of billions on such energy (instead of, say, the NHS) OK.

No mention in his equation of the thousands of old people who freeze in winter because of the huge bills generated by wind farm and solar subsidies.

And who, according to Harrabin, are the irresponsible and reckless parties who are opposing the climate alarmism agenda? Top if his list are ‘Conservative libertarians’, followed by – boo, hiss! – Ukip. Of course! Every BBC correspondent’s favourite whipping boys.  Along with Donald Trump, who also dares to question this sacred dogma.

Next on the list of Harrabin infamy is The Mail on Sunday, which had the temerity to launch its Great Green Con campaign and thereby ‘legitimised’ anti-environmentalism’.  How very dare they.

Next target? Brexit – this is the BBC so how could another aspect of related problems be avoided? , Now at risk is all the wonderful legislation emanating from Brussels designed to ‘restore nature’ (whatever that means). As a result ,too, of leaving the EU at risk will be flood control, along with the drive to spend billions on insulating millions of homes.

Harrabin concludes – with outrageous partiality – during an election campaign:

The Conservatives’ ambition looks limited here compared with the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru and also Labour who want to make home insulation an infrastructure priority. The SNP hasn’t published its manifesto yet but it too wants to take a strong line on climate change.

So there we have it. Vote anything but Conservative and Ukip, and avoid Brexit and all will be well with the world. Humanity will be safe.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘The World This Weekend’, 28 May, 2017, Climate Change, 1.27pm

MARK MARDELL: And as one Carlisle resident said, there hasn’t been much about the environment generally, even though it was once near the top of many a politician’s agenda. What happened? Here’s our environment analyst Roger Harrabin.

ROGER HARRABIN:            Air pollution, melting sea ice, wildlife depletion, a soil crisis, seas full of plastic.  Why isn’t the election full of environmental angst?  Well I think it’s mainly a question of worry capacity. Stephen Hawking would tell you climate change was the biggest long-term threat to humanity but in the meantime we’re also beset by terrorism, the refugee crisis, Brexit – they’ve filled up our worry-space.  Coupled with that there’s been a shift in the way the media discusses the environment.  The old consensus on climate change has been rattled by a long campaign from Conservative libertarians and UKIP.  They scored their first success with wind farms, scattered protests against turbines were at first below the radar of the national media, but those angry local voices were eventually amplified by the Telegraph, and that began to influence policy.  The government’s own surveys actually suggest that just 1% of the populace strongly opposes renewables, but that’s by the by.  Then the Mail on Sunday launched its Great Green Con campaign criticising failings in renewables and highlighting uncertainties in climate science.  When it was previously non-PC to declare yourself a climate change sceptic, a stance of what you might call anti-environmentalism has now been legitimised.  This steady pressure from over its right shoulder has led the government to mostly gag itself on climate change over recent years and the sceptics have been claiming victory.  But wait a minute – except UKIP, all the manifestos published so far, that’s including the blue one, recommit to the Climate Change Act.  That sort of consensus hardly stimulates media interest, but it does prove the issue hasn’t gone away.  There are details over policy of course.  The Conservative manifesto aspires to the cheapest energy prices in Europe.  The Greens promise affordable energy, not cheap energy.  But as a slogan that’s not quite so catchy.  For all parties Brexit looms large, 80 % of the UK’s environmental policy comes through the EU.  How will politicians translate that into UK law?  How will they handle the massive opportunity to restore nature as they’ve promised following British withdraw from the common agriculture policy?  Can they direct some of the agricultural budget to catching water on farmland to prevent the floods we discussed earlier?  How will they improve the chaotic waste and recycling policies and how will our next government solve the conundrum of persuading tens of millions of people to insulate their own homes as part of the supposedly inexorable drive towards the low carbon economy?  The Conservatives’ ambition looks limited here compared with the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru and also Labour who want to make home insulation an infrastructure priority.  The SNP hasn’t published its manifesto yet but it too wants to take a strong line on climate change.  Then how will the parties deal with the thorny issue of air pollution?  Policies are there in other manifestos but details are strikingly absent from the Conservative document, presumably to avoid upsetting diesel drivers.  So many environmental questions still, so many unanswered.

 

 

Photo by Chatham House, London

News-watch survey of BBC Article 50 survey shows deep anti-Brexit bias

News-watch survey of BBC Article 50 survey shows deep anti-Brexit bias

The latest News-watch detailed analysis of BBC output, covering the UK’s Article 50 letter and its aftermath, shows heavy bias against the case for Brexit.  The report, which included more than 73,000 words of programme transcripts, can be found in full here. Coverage of the survey’s findings is in the Daily Express here.

In the week of the filing of the UK’s Article 50 letter (March 29 – April 4, 2017), BBC Radio 4’s Today programme broadcast six editions which contained almost five hours of material about the letter and its aftermath. This was almost half of the available feature airtime.

The programme coverage was strongly biased against Brexit and made special efforts to illustrate the extent to which leaving the EU could have catastrophic consequences for the UK. There was, by contrast, only minimal effort to examine the potential benefits.

A measure of this overwhelming negativity was that only eight (6.5%) of the 124 speakers who appeared over the six editions were given the space to make substantive arguments that the future for the UK outside the EU would yield significant benefits.

The overall gloom was buttressed by the programme’s editorial approach. Presenters and correspondents, for example, pushed at every opportunity to illustrate potential (and existing) problems. At the same time, they were strongly adversarial towards Brexit supporters, but much less so to guests who advocated that the UK was, in effect, now staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.

Problems that were deliberately pushed to the forefront included the wealth of City of London being under threat, the creation of a ‘legislative soup’, the EU not agreeing with the UK’s preferred path of negotiations, and the possibility the of exit talks extending up to 10 years.

BBC ‘fact-checking’, though presented as objective, was anything but. Chris Morris, the ‘fact checker’ was most focused on choosing topics that showed Brexit in a negative light, and failed at even the elementary level of pointing out that ‘EU money’ was actually provided UK taxpayers.

A series of reports from Sunderland, purportedly to explore both Leave and Remain perspectives, focused most on this negative fact checking. It also gave most prominence in its framework to the possibility of Nissan leaving the area and negative business developments since Brexit and the possibility of arts funding drying up. Local voices supporting Brexit were included, but in vox pops with only soundbite points.

Special effort was made throughout to show that the City of London was under pressure as a result of Brexit. A story that Lloyd’s of London were establishing a Brussels ‘headquarters’ was elevated to major significance in the bulletins, and across several mentions in Business News slots, even though the chief executive admitted that ‘only ‘tens’ of jobs were involved.

By contrast to this blanket negativity, a News-watch report from 2002 covering the introduction of euro notes and coins across the EU was strongly positive about the prospects for the new currency and strained editorial sinews and resources to show that its advent had been joyfully received in the relevant EU countries.

The BBC strongly defended its post-Brexit coverage during the survey period (through a high profile article in Radio Times by Today presenter Nick Robinson) as being in accord with its own rules of ‘due impartiality’. The evidence of this survey is that its assessment methods are seriously skewed against Brexit and in favour of the EU.

The full report is here:

Photo by James Cridland

BBC still resists Brexit – against the will of even Remain voters

BBC still resists Brexit – against the will of even Remain voters

YouGov’s latest poll on attitudes towards Brexit – as the New Statesman outlines here – demonstrates that 69 per cent of the public now support leaving the EU and only 21 per cent want to ignore the result of the referendum.

Not only that, 25 per cent in the Brexit-supporting total are Remain voters who accept that the British people have voted to leave, and that the Government thus has a duty ‘to carry out their wishes and leave’.

In other words, they concur that the referendum vote is confirmation – despite the frantic protestations of Tim Farron – that Leave does indeed mean Leave. The 48 per cent support for Remain on June 23 is distant history. The majority of Remain voters have moved on.

Put another way, only around 9 million Britons out of the 43.5m who voted on June 23 are still hankering for a re-run.

Will someone please tell the BBC? New Statesman Political Editor George Eaton pulls no punches in his assessment of how devastating the figures are to the Remain case. He states:

“After voting Remain, they ceased to act as a unified political bloc. The crucial figure for understanding May’s decision to pursue Brexit is not “the 48 per cent” or “the 52 per cent” but the 69 per cent – the number who believe the Government has a duty to leave the EU (more than a third of whom voted Remain). A mere 21 per cent agree that the government should either block Brexit or seek to prevent it through a second referendum.”

Yet the BBC continues to behave as if it is their main duty to show audiences how difficult the Brexit road is going to be, and how suspect the ‘Leave ‘vote was, as is detailed by News-watch here.

BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan has now even also seriously floated on the Today programme (at 8.20am in the edition) what amounts to a conspiracy theory about the Vote Leave project. He has suggested it was backed by a shadowy ‘millionaire’ (how much dodgier in the BBC lexicon can you be?) combined with a publicity-shy software company called Cambridge Analytica, who – shock, horror – are also, in an equally shadowy way, behind Donald Trump.

All this is beginning to look like the BBC – in its dogged opposition to Brexit – is acting like a millenarian cult. A fascinating book on the psychology involved is here. The end of the world is nigh and they are jolly well going to tell us about it – despite what voters now think and very clearly want. And despite any amount of positive news to the contrary.

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This election is a battle between the Tories and the broadcasters

This election is a battle between the Tories and the broadcasters

This is an election like no other for the BBC. They have a mission.

Two weeks ago, as is laid out here, Today presenter Nick Robinson effectively declared war on Brexit with his statement that the Corporation would henceforward work flat out to find the problems with Brexit, and not bring balanced coverage of the Leave perspective.  Of which, more later.

Since then, it has become painfully evident what he meant. The Corporation’s Article 50 coverage relentlessly highlighted the difficulties, with pride of place given to predictions by correspondents of decades-long wrangles, inflation of perceived problems over Gibraltar, the continuing need for the European Court of Justice and dire warnings that the British tourist and hospitality industry would collapse if the UK did not have continued access to EU labour.

In the same vein, after the general election was announced, Today’s business news – like a heat-seeking missile – sought out the views of the (ex BBC) DG of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, on the need for continued free movement, reinforced an hour later by the ultra-Remain businessman Sir Martin Sorrell, who predicted that the real reason for the election was so that Mrs May could achieve a soft-Brexit in line with his own objectives.

To be fair, Andrew Lillico, a pro-Leave business figure also appeared, but there was no doubt which views were considered to be the most important.

So what will happen during the general election? This – despite what the Conservative Party machine might say – is effectively a second Brexit referendum, brought about because, as Theresa May has acknowledged, the Remain side are determined to thwart Brexit.

There are, of course, special rules for broadcasters during general elections. Broadly, they provide that much more attention must be paid to balance between the parties contesting the election.

But here, in this election, is an immediate problem. Those rules (as defined, for example by Ofcom in Section 6 of its programming code) are designed mainly to prevent imbalances between political parties.

That creates an immediate problem with an election so inevitably focused on a single issue: that the overwhelming majority of current MPs (most of whom will become candidates after May 3) were Remainers, and after the referendum vote want a strongly-limited and compromised form of EU exit.

Labour, for example, as exemplified by shadow chancellor John McDonnell on Today on Wednesday morning, says it now supports Brexit. But the form of Brexit it wants is continued membership of the single market, and qualified support for free movement. The Liberal Democrats and the SNP, of course, aggressively oppose Brexit – and make no bones about it.

The BBC, in this framework, has oodles of ‘wriggle-room’ to sidestep the election rules, and to continue to pursue vigorously its self-declared campaign to expose to the maximum the pitfalls of Brexit throughout the election period.

Of course, election coverage of the issues involved is also subject to the normal over-arching rules of public service impartiality. But it is precisely here that the BBC – as is clear in the Nick Robinson Radio Times piece – has interpreted the clauses relating to ‘due impartiality’ according to its own anti-Brexit ends. In the Corporation’s estimation, it is on a mission to spread ‘understanding’ about the exit process. In reality, that means something very different: the goal is to portray exit in the most negative light possible.

News-watch coverage of previous general elections has shown that, despite the supposedly strict general election impartiality rules, the BBC’s approach to EU coverage was seriously flawed. After the 2015 poll, it was noted:

…the analysis shows that the issue of possible withdrawal was not explored fairly or deeply enough…Coverage was heavily distorted, for instance by the substantial business news comment on the Today programme that withdrawal would damage British trade and jobs. The message of potential damage to the economy was supplemented by the provision of frequent platforms for Labour and Liberal Democrat figures to warn of the same dangers. The spokesmen from these parties were not properly challenged on their views.

Will this change in 2017? Fat chance. Subsequent News-watch reports have shown that this bias has continued, regardless of the June 23 vote.

The problem now is that – despite the new BBC Charter – the Corporation’s approach to impartiality in news coverage is mainly self-regulated through its own Complaints Unit. Ofcom only enters the frame if there is an appeal against the BBC’s own rulings, and that’s a procedure that takes months. News-watch’s complaint about the BBC’s fantasy race hate murder in Harlow took six months to grind through the BBC machine.

The Conservative Party under David Cameron fluffed the opportunity to achieve genuine reform of the BBC. Will that glaring failure now come back to haunt Theresa May?

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Nick Robinson wheels out usual BBC defences against EU coverage bias claims

Nick Robinson wheels out usual BBC defences against EU coverage bias claims

BBC presenter and ex-political editor Nick Robinson has been sounding off aggressively against those who he complains are ‘moaning’ that the Corporation’s reporting of Brexit is biased.

‘Calm down dears’ is his core, patronising message.

The Radio 4 Today presenter has declared in the Radio Times that, as departure negotiations proceed, there is no need to provide balance between the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ sides in BBC coverage of post-Brexit developments.

Instead, the requirement is only for ‘due impartiality’(defined, as always of of course, by the BBC itself) and the goal is is to scrutinise ‘new questions’ about ‘immigration, trade and industrial policies’.

Robinson is bluntly critical of those who ‘do not accept that the war is over’ and have challenged the Corporation’s coverage by getting out their ‘stopwatches and calculators’ and by querying ‘the alleged tone of questions’ and ‘the number of interruptions’.

In terms of detail, Robinson’s praise for the BBC reporting seems to be based primarily on the Corporation’s Manual of Usual Excuses. This is wheeled out every time the word ‘bias’ is mentioned, and vigorously deployed by the BBC Complaints Unit to repel all boarders.

Direct from its grubby pages come the wearyingly predictable defences.

Robinson first claims that both sides have complained, so that means the BBC must be getting things right; then that Brexiteers such as Gove, Fox and Johnson are ‘remarkably reluctant’ to appear, so any shortcomings in that respect are their fault; and finally (the trump card!) that the BBC’s duty is in any case to its audiences, and they – he opines –  don’t care about the obsessions of stop-watch wielding politicians.  The only duty (again, of course, on the BBC’s terms) is to make sure they ‘understand’.

This all adds up to classic Corporation extreme stone-walling. It has been voiced by Robinson but has undoubtedly been cleared and co-ordinated by the BBC high command – and must also be seen as the official response to the complaint filed a couple of weeks back by Tory MP Julian Knight and 70 other cross-party MPs who wrote to Director General Tony Hall about the Corporation’s failure to explore and reflect the pro-Brexit perspective.

And, with Robinson’s scathingly condescending references to stop-watches and calculators, it is also framed as a direct attack on the latest academic research from News-watch into six months of Today’s business news output.  This found a serious failure to air pro-Brexit viewpoints and an unjustifiably heavy focus on gloomy forecasts for the UK economy that added up to a continuation of the Remain side’s Project Fear.

But despite all the bluster, this exercise in smoke-screen obfuscation is remarkably threadbare.

It boils down to a chilling statement of intent that coverage henceforward will be whatever the BBC decides is impartial – no matter what evidence is produced to the contrary.

The reality is that, as the latest News-watch report detailed, the BBC’s coverage of post-Brexit developments is sharply skewed towards the Remain side – and that in the Corporation’s self-declared agenda-setting business slots, in six months, there were only only 10 contributions from clear supporters of Brexit, ranged against dozens who were not.

Robinson might rail against the use of ‘stop-watches and calculators’ but how can such lack of ‘balance’ or ‘due impartiality’ ever be defensible – and how else other than by careful, systematic counting can such blatant negativity be identified?

The BBC will NEVER countenance a complaint based on detailed research of their output – and that’s a gross affront to the licence fee payers that Robinson claims to be serving and helping to ‘understand’.

It is true that as Brexit unfolds, some elements of coverage do contain a wider range of anti-EU opinion than ever before.  Prominent Leave campaigner, the Labour MP Gisela Stuart, for example, was afforded a very unusual brief slot on Today on the day of the Theresa May Article 50 letter to outline her timetable towards Brexit.

But small morsels aside, the Corporation is otherwise relentlessly focused on the Remain agenda.  There’s a continuing, avid search for anything that suggests that ‘race hate’ has escalated as a result if the Brexit vote; Nigel Farage and Ukip continues to be pilloried – on Wednesday night, BBC1’s main bulletins reported Farage’s contribution to the European Parliamentary debate on Brexit in the worst possible light; and every obstacle in the Brexit negotiations, such as the Gibraltar clause, are seized upon with over- enthusiastic glee.

Robinson may claim that this is simple scrutiny of ‘immigration, trade and industrial policies’, but he’s wrong. It adds up to that since June 24, the BBC has mounted a declaration of war against the Brexit prospects and has sided firmly with the remain side.

There has not been a single BBC programme that has looked at Brexit optimistically.

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