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David Keighley

Commons Savages ‘Complacent’ BBC Trustees over Digital Project

Commons Savages ‘Complacent’ BBC Trustees over Digital Project

The Commons Public Accounts committee has published its final verdict on the BBC’s failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI), which wasted almost £100m of licence fee money.

The project, which was started in 2008 and abandoned last year, was supposed to create the most advanced digital film handling system in the world.

But in a devastating attack on the BBC’s conduct, committee chairman Margaret Hodge says the corporation failed from the Trustees downwards to manage the initiative and also refused to share when asked vital information about how the project was being managed.

The committee has issued a six point list of demands about future BBC management. They amount to a requirement that the  corporation follows the basic ABC of management procedures.

The committee’s report is the latest in a long line of critical investigations into the DMI debacle, including an inquiry by the National Audit Office in January which documented a catalogue of mistakes.

The only usable system delivered by DMI was an archive and ordering system that was slower than the 40-year-old process it was intended to replace, with just 163 staff and a running cost of £3m a year, four times the £780,000 annual cost of its archaic predecessor.

The BBC’s former chief technology officer John Linwood, who paid for the DMI fiasco with his job last summer, is understood to be continuing his legal action against the corporation.

The committee called on the BBC Trust to “set out…what changes it will make to be more proactive in chasing and challenging the BBC executive’s performance in delivering major projects so that it can properly protect the licence fee payers’ interest”.

Mrs Hodge said: “When my Committee examined the DMI’s progress in February 2011, the BBC told us that the DMI was “an absolutely essential have to have” and that a lot of the BBC’s future was tied up in the successful delivery of the DMI.

“The BBC also told us that it was using the DMI to make many programmes and was on track to complete the system in 2011 with no further delays. This turned out not to be the case. In reality the BBC only ever used the DMI to make one programme, called ‘Bang Goes the Theory’.

“The BBC was far too complacent about the high risks involved in taking it in-house. No single individual had overall responsibility or accountability for delivering the DMI and achieving the benefits, or took ownership of problems when they arose.”

Photo by break.things

Bias by Omission…again

Bias by Omission…again

John Humphrys, as has been reported here, has pointed out that the BBC has been guilty on a systematic basis of ‘bias by omission’ – that is, ignoring core stories that would ensure audiences are kept in touch with the key facts and developments in controversial areas.

This report, by Andrew Montford, of the Bishop Hill site, and published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, assembles devastating evidence that many schools are now bombarding on a massive, systematic scale pupils with propaganda about climate change alarmism.

It raises important points to the extent that Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has said that such activities are illegal. He states explicitly that on matters of scientific debate, pupils must be given a balanced picture.                                                                                  

This is a cracking story, and it was covered extensively by the national press                                                              

And what has the  BBC made of it? Well, nothing, nothing at all. So far, they have not published a word on the website about the report, preferring instead to continue to push their own propaganda angle for millions of pounds to be spent on subsidising wind farms.

Their approach fits exactly with what John Humphrys warned about – and with their own alarmist climate change agenda, which means that those who disagree with the BBC orthodoxy are banished to the outer edges of news coverage, or are not reported at all.

Photo by woodleywonderworks

Humphrys: ‘BBC Not Sceptical Enough on EU’

Humphrys: ‘BBC Not Sceptical Enough on EU’

Update:  Autonomous Mind has made an invaluable contribution following up John Humphrys’ remarks about EU coverage, reported in full below.

The core of his story is that when questioned further on the BBC’s Feedback programme about the problems, Mr Humphrys  added to his Radio Times interview by saying categorically that there had been systematic ‘bias by omission’ – essentially by ignoring key stories or refusing to have on the Today programme a range of guests who were negative about the EU.

This is a major charge, but the BBC steadfastly denies it.

The problem was, in fact, first identified as a problem in the BBC’s EU output by Lord Wilson of Dinton in his report of 2004-5 for the former BBC Governors.  He wrote:

‘We note that across the spectrum of opinion there is widespread criticism of the narrow nature of the coverage and the lack of reporting of issues which have a considerable domestic impact.’ (p 8.25)

Almost a decade on, the evidence regularly gathered by Newswatch shows that nothing has changed despite reassurances from the BBC that it would.  This reinforces John Humphrys’ views, although Mr Humphrys claims that matters have now been corrected, whereas Newswatch research shows that they most certainly have not.

In the latest survey period, for example, only 513 words in 13 weeks of the Today programme were ‘come-outers’ talking about their views about withdrawal. That was only 0.7% of the EU output – so low that it was unquestionably bias by omission.

John Humphrys has joined the long list of senior BBC figures who say that the corporation’s EU-related coverage has been biased and not sceptical enough.

According to reports in the Guardian and the Daily Mail, he told the Radio Times (article not available online) that the reporting of immigration had also been not sufficiently sceptical.

His words echo those of former director general Mark Thompson and political editor Nick Robinson already reported by Newswatch, as well as those by former head of television news, Roger Mosey. Who asserted:

“On the BBC’s own admission, in recent years it did not, with the virtue of hindsight, give enough space to anti-immigration views or to EU-withdrawalists; and, though he may have exaggerated, the former Director-General Mark Thompson spoke of a ‘massive bias to the left’ in the BBC he joined more than 30 years ago.

‘I share Mark’s view that there was more internal political diversity in recent times, but that isn’t enough unless it’s evident in a wider range of editorial view on air.’

In line with these earlier remarks, Mr Humphrys appears to offer no evidence for his contention about past bias, or about how he arrived at his conclusion that coverage has now improved.

Mr Humphrys, who has presented the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 since 1987, said that BBC staff were more likely to be liberal rather than conservative because they were the ‘best and the brightest’ and tended to be university educated.

The 70-year-old said that ‘The BBC has tended over the years to be broadly liberal as opposed to broadly conservative for all sorts of perfectly understandable reasons.’

He added: ‘We weren’t sufficiently sceptical – that’s the most accurate phrase – of the pro-European case. We bought into the European ideal.

‘We weren’t sufficiently sceptical about the pro-immigration argument. We didn’t look at the potential negatives with sufficient rigour.’

Mr Humphrys also claimed the BBC was no longer so biased towards the EU.  He asserted: ‘I think we’re out of that now. I think we have changed.’

But he broadened his criticisms: He said: ‘There are too many of them (managers). I think they think that. I think [director general] Tony Hall thinks that – I don’t know, I haven’t asked him, but I think he thinks that.

‘Over the years we’ve been grotesquely over-managed, there’s no question. They’re now getting a grip on it. A lot have gone. I think more need to go.’

Photo by Amplified Group

BBC: ‘Has received £20m from the EU’

BBC: ‘Has received £20m from the EU’

The Spectator, by good journalistic digging – and persevering with a freedom of information request – has found that the BBC has been boosting its coffers by applying on a regular basis to the EU for grant funds.  The article homes in on the  huge potential conflict of interest, and points out that Lord Patten, the BBC chairman – the man thus in charge of BBC impartiality – is already in the sway of the EU because he receives a pension from it of an estimated £100,000 a year.

Richard North, on the EU Referendum website, has been following through and filling the gaps, and found that sums involved – though a fleabite in terms of the BBC’s overall revenues of £3.65bn a year – have added up to more than £20m for rafts of projects in the period 2007-12.

The money, it seems, is mainly channelled through the BBC’s charity arm, the body formerly known as the World Service Trust, and now with the title of ‘BBC Media Action – ‘transforming lives through the media around the world’.

In fact, a moment’s digging shows that among the main goals of ‘Media Action’  are concerted efforts to spread propaganda about climate change, sinisterly but clumsily masked as objective research, as this faux sociological exercise in Asia reveals.  The goal is clearly to brainwash vast swathes of Asia – in line with the EU’s own collective thinking – that climate change is adversely affecting their lives and political action needs taking to combat it.

Another scheme for which BBC  ‘Media Action’ successfully applied for money – to the tune of almost £4m – wasEuropean Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. This is the EU’s own definition of the Orwellian scheme:

“The ENP is a broad political strategy which has the ambitious objective of strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of Europe’s neighbourhood in order to avoid any dividing lines between the enlarged EU and its direct neighbours.”

That sounds like spreading pro-EU propaganda. Neither the BBC nor the EU are specific about how the BBC’s money has been used, but it seems that one goal is the training of journalists in the Ukraine.   Would that be so that they can tell their fellow citizens how important links with the EU are?  Newswatch has found in its latest report that a constant feature of coverage of the tension in the Ukraine by the BBC Today programme during the autumn was the characterisation of a battle between those who supported the EU and Russia.

The BBC, as it always does, denies flatly that its programme-making activities are affected in any way by the receipt of such funds.  But Kate Hoey MP told the Spectator:

‘I have grave concerns about the bias of the BBC when it comes to EU matters. I find the whole thing shocking. The lack of transparency is unjustified. Why does it seem so worried about people knowing where it gets its money? What has the BBC got to hide other than knowing that many of us don’t trust them on EU matters and the need for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership?’

Ms Hoey adds that she has concerns that the BBC ‘very rarely’ reports Labour MPs’ views on Europe. She says:

‘Even Today in Parliament [on Radio 4] always tries to convey Tory splits on Europe, and this doesn’t help the perception of an EU bias. There are Labour MPs with strong views on Europe as well. It doesn’t help that the BBC very rarely reports these views.’

Photo by Images_of_Money

Drowned Out: Balanced BBC Reporting of Climate Change

Drowned Out: Balanced BBC Reporting of Climate Change

With predictions that this winter’s run of gales may finally be coming to an end (February 16), the BBC’s ‘climate change’ propaganda deluge has reached a perfect storm level.

High prominence on the BBC website is given to Labour leader Ed Miliband’s claim – made in the Observer, part of  the corporation’s favourite newspaper stable – that ‘climate change’ is now an issue of national security. He demands the spending of billions of pounds on ‘decarbonisation targets’ and attacks the Conservative party for daring to doubt elements of his green fanaticism.

The story, of course, fits perfectly with the corporation’s own strongly pro-climate change agenda, endorsed at the highest levels of the BBC and – as the evidence lower down this page shows  – is pursued with vigour on a daily basis by programmes such as Today.

In consequence, you will search in vain on the BBC website for any mentions of the numerous stories also running on February 16 that provide clear evidence that this winter’s storms – though unusual – are not exceptional, and that the role of the Environment Agency in possibly making the flooding worse is under increasing investigation.

Christopher Booker, for example, argues strongly that the ‘climate change’ theory about the cause of the storms is mired in political axe-grinding by the Met Office, politicians, and the academic community that is paid billions to support such views.

What you will find on the BBC website, linked prominently to the claims by Mr Miliband, and therefore to buttress it,  is this story in which John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, calls for ‘climate change action’ and this guide to ‘climate’ change’ which puts the case for disastrous anthropogenic causation with a missionary zeal that first exactly with the corporation mindset.

John Kerry’s intervention was being delivered in Indonesia – where the BBC’s campaigning arm, Media Action, is particularly active in pursuing a ‘climate change’ agenda.  Without doubt, the main objective throughout Asia is to brainwash the maximum number of people  into alarmism, and to demand that billions are spent in averting the threat – as defined by the BBC.    Their climate change survey, funded by foreign office and EU grants, runs to hundreds of pages with sub reports for each major country, including Indonesia. It has dozens of alarmist sub-themes, and a primary methodology is asking people if they think weather is changing – and then using that data to ‘prove’ that climate change is real.  Astonishing.

A deluge of BBC coverage of the floods continues, so much that it is impossible to keep detailed track. But one thing is for sure: bias against what are increasingly dubbed ‘climate deniers’ continues. Never mind that those who say that the floods are not caused by ‘climate change’ claim they have a strong case; what is clear is that BBC journalists are continuing the battle to swamp or ignore their arguments.

Take Lord Lawson’s appearance on the Today programme on February 13. The full transcript is below.  The BBC has resolved, that only ‘due impartiality applies to such climate-related interviews. The sequence shows very clearly the practical consequences of this.

a)       Any advocate of climate change is treated with respect and deference by the interviewer

b)      Supporters of climate change are almost invariably given clear space to make their case, no matter how unsupported or controversial their claims are

c)       The interviewer sides with the advocate of climate change and ensures that the audience have heard and grasped the key points.

d)      The interviewer interrupts the guest who is a ‘denier’ to the maximum extent, through tone of voice, stopping he or she finishing points, cutting them off, and interrupting as many times as possible.

In this case, the interviewer was Justin Webb. He ensured that Sir Brian Hoskins, a political activist advocate of climate change who is paid to advance arguments in its favour, was not only given the lion’s share (by a ratio of approximately 2:1) of the sequence to advance his arguments, but also failed to challenge any point he made.  A moment’s analysis of Sir Brian’s arguments shows them to be highly contentious and woolly, lights years away from convincing scientific evidence.

But when Nigel Lawson’s turn came, Mr Webb’s tone and approach changed entirely. Everything he said was suspect, and not only that, Mr Webb was clearly straining to put across – irrespective of what Lord Lawson wanted to say – his own (the BBC’s?) main point, that money must be spent on climate measures because there was a more than a 50% chance of it happening.

In response, Lord Lawson had a brief opportunity to outline that he thought that such spending (on shemes such as wind farms) was a waste of money and that there was a need instead to pursue cheap energy policies and create adequate flood defences.

But the overall framework and approach was clearly designed to allow Sir Brian Hoskins to put across his climate change advocacy; what is clear is that when, rarely, ‘deniers’ such as Lord Lawson  are invited on to BBC programmes they are treated in almost exactly the same way as those who are against the EU: with disdain.

Source: BBC Radio 4: Today Programme

URL: N/A

Date: 13/02/2014

Event: Sir Brian Hoskins on the missing heat: “Oh yes, it’s there in the oceans”

Credit: BBC Radio 4

People:

  • Sir Brian Hoskins: Head of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change
  • Lord Lawson: Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, Chairman of the Board, GWPF
  • Justin Webb: Presenter, BBC Radio 4 Today programme

Justin Webb: Is there a link, Sir Brian, between the rain that we have seen falling, in recent days, and global warming?

Brian Hoskins: There’s no simple link – we can’t say “Yes” or “No, this is climate change”. However, there’s a number of reasons to think that such events are now more likely. And one of those is that a warmer atmosphere that we have can contain more water vapour, and so a storm can wring that water vapour out of the atmosphere. And we’re seeing more heavy rainfall events around the world, and certainly we’ve seen those, here.

Justin Webb: So it’s the heavy rainfall, it’s the severity of the event, that points us in this direction?

Brian Hoskins: Well, in this event, we’ve had severe rainfall but we’ve also had persistence, and that’s where I say: we just don’t know whether the persistence of this event is due to climate change or not. But another aspect is sea-level rise, that the sea level has risen about 20 centimetres, over the 20th century, and is continuing to rise, as the system warms, and that of course makes damage in the coastal region that much greater, when we get some event there.

Justin Webb: But can a reasonable person, possessed of the evidence, as it is known to us at the moment, say “Look at the rain that we’ve had recently”, and say “Look, I do not believe that the evidence exists, that links that rain to global warming”?

Brian Hoskins: I think the reasonable person should look at this event, they should look at extremes around the world, the general rise in temperature that’s well recorded, reduction in Arctic sea ice, the rise in sea level, a number of extreme rainfall events around the world, the number of extreme events that we’ve had – we’ve had persistent droughts, we’ve had floods and we’ve had cold spells and very warm spells. The number of records being broken is just that much greater.

Justin Webb: Lord Lawson, it’s joining the dots, isn’t it?

Nigel Lawson: Now I think that Sir Brian is right on a number of points. He’s right, first of all, that nobody knows. Certainly it is not the case, of course, that this rainfall is due to global warming, the question is whether it is marginally – global warming has marginally exacerbated it. He’s right, and nobody knows that. Though, he’s right, too, to say that you have to look at the global picture. And, contrary to what he may have implied, in fact, people who have done studies show that there has been no – globally, there has been no increase in extreme weather events. For example, tropical storms, which are perhaps the most dramatic form of weather events – there’s been, in the past year, there has been an unusually quiet year for tropical storms. And again, going back to the “nobody knows”, only a couple of months ago the Met Office were forecasting that this would be an unusually dry winter. So –

Justin Webb: Do you accept that, Sir Brian? Just on that point, that important point about the global picture. Do you accept, Sir Brian, we haven’t actually seen the kind of extreme conditions that we might have expected?

Brian Hoskins: I think we have seen these heavy rainfall events around the world. We’ve seen a number of places breaking records – Australia, with the temperatures in Australia going to new levels, um…

Justin Webb: Trouble is, we report those, and we’re interested in them. There is an effect, isn’t there, that is possibly an obfuscatory effect, actually, on the real picture, and you accept that that might be the case.

Brian Hoskins: Absolutely, and we have to be very careful to not say “Oh, there’s records everywhere, therefore climate is changing”. But we’re very sure that the temperature’s risen by about 0.8 degrees, the Arctic sea ice has reached a minimum level in the summer, which hasn’t been seen for a very, very long time, the Greenland ice sheet and the West Antarctic ice sheet have been measured to be decreasing. There’s all the signs that we are changing this climate system. Now as we do this, as the system warms, it doesn’t just warm uniformly. The temperature changes by different amounts in different regions. And that means the weather that feeds off those temperature contrasts is changing and will change – it’s not just a smooth change, it’s a change in the weather, it’s a change in regional climate we can expect.

Justin Webb: Lord Lawson?

Nigel Lawson: Yeah, I think we want to focus, not on this extremely speculative and uncertain area – I don’t blame the climate scientists for not knowing. Climate and weather is quite extraordinarily complex, and this is a very new form of science. All I blame them for is pretending they know, when they don’t. But anyhow, what we want to focus on is what we’re going to do. And I think this is a wake-up call. We need to abandon this crazy and costly policy of spending untold millions on littering the countryside with useless wind turbines and solar panels, and moving from a sensible energy policy of having cheap and reliable forms of energy to a policy of having unreliable and costly energy. Give up that – what we want to focus on – it’s very important – is making sure this country is really resilient and robust to whatever nature throws at us, whether there’s a climate element or not. Water storage, when there’s drought –

Justin Webb: Surely the wise thing… Can I just put this to you –

Nigel Lawson: – flood defences, sea defences – that’s what we want to focus on.

Justin Webb: Can I just put this to you though: if there is a chance – and some people would say there is a strong chance – that global warming, man-made global warming, exists and is having an impact on us, doesn’t it make sense, whether or not you believe that that is a 95% chance or a 50% chance or whatever, does it not make sense to take care to try to avoid the kind of emissions that may be contributing to it? I mean, what could be wrong with doing that?

Nigel Lawson: Everything. The – first of all, even if there is warming – and there’s been no recorded warming over the past 15, 16, 17 years –

Justin Webb: Well, that’s – oh yeah, there is a lot of controversy about that.

Nigel Lawson: No, there’s not – that’s a fact. It’s accepted even by the IPCC. No measured warming –

Justin Webb: No, no measured warming , but… Well, all right –

Nigel Lawson: No measured warming, exactly, well, that’s –

Justin Webb: We’ll get back to that.

Nigel Lawson:  – measurements are actually not unimportant. The – but what  – even if there is some problem, it is not able to affect any of the dangers, except marginally. What we want to do is to focus on dealing with the problems that there are, with climate – which there are, with drought and floods, and so on. These have happened in the past – they’re not new. And as for emissions, this country is responsible for less than 2% of global emissions. Even if we cut our emissions to zero – which would put us back to the, sort of, pre-Industrial Revolution, and the poverty that that [inaudible] – even if we reduced and did that, it would be outweighed by the amount of the Chinese, China’s emissions’ increase, in a single year. So it is absolutely crazy, this policy –

Justin Webb: Sir Brian?

Nigel Lawson: – it cannot make sense at all.

Justin Webb: Sir Brian?

Brian Hoskins: I think we have to do – to learn two lessons from this. The first one is that by increasing the greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, particularly carbon dioxide, to levels we’ve not seen for millions of years on this planet, we’re performing a very risky experiment. And we’re pretty confident that that means – if we go on like we are – that temperatures are going to rise somewhere 3 to 5 degrees by the end of this century, sea levels up to half to one metre rise –

Justin Webb: Lord Lawson was saying there, there has been a pause, which you hear a lot about – a pause in what, 10, 15 years, in measured rising of temperature. That is the case, isn’t it?

Brian Hoskins: It hasn’t risen much, over the last 10 to 15 years, if you measure the climate from the global averaged surface temperature. But during that time, the excess energy has still been absorbed by the climate system, and being absorbed by the oceans, which are warming up.

Justin Webb: So it’s there, somewhere.

Brian Hoskins: Oh yes, it’s there in the oceans. And the oceans –

Nigel Lawson: That is pure speculation.

Brian Hoskins: No, it’s a measurement.

Nigel Lawson: No, it’s not, it’s speculation, with respect.

Justin Webb: Well, it’s a combination of the two, isn’t it, as is this whole discussion. Lord Lawson, and Sir Brian Hoskins as well, thank you both very much.

Brian Hoskins: Thank you.

The transcript of a Today programme item on February 5 about new methods of controlling floods in urban areas speaks volumes about the BBC’s attitude towards the subject of climate.

Two years ago, the BBC decided at Trustee level that dangerous man-induced ‘climate change’ was definitely happening and that climate issues must reported on that basis. Impartiality, that is, balanced referral to those who thought otherwise, was ruled out.

Alison Hastings, the Trustee for England, who – off the back of once working as editor of a minor provincial newspaper and as a member of the Press Complaints Commission – is now in overall charge at regulatory level of BBC editorial issues, explains why here. The report on which she based her findings, by Steve Jones, who Ms Hastings says was ‘independent’ despite being a frequent BBC contributor, is here.

In consequence, the BBC slavishly and enthusiastically follows any story that it believes ‘proves’ climate change. A good topical example is this based on alarmist remarks from Julia Slingo at the Meteorological Office, who has claimed that the ‘clustering’ of the current wave of UK storms is a firm indication of ‘climate change’. Many genuine climate experts think otherwise, for example in this analysis which puts into perspective the Dawlish railway line collapse, but you won’t see their perspective on the BBC  Their version of ‘balance’ does not allow that.

The BBC have also not reported claims in the Mail on Sunday  and the EU Referendum website that the Somerset levels floods are directly the result of EU directives which stipulate that more  should be done to drown, rather than dredge, wetland areas.

The February 5 floods sequence is important because it is a prime example of the BBC’s approach to this topic. One report is never evidence of cumulative bias, but this one shows graphically elements of the BBC’s entirely one sided approach.

It was news, of course, that a new flood dispersion schemes was being trialled, and the processes involved were well explained. This part of the sequence was fine.

But then Roger Harrabin’s report took an altogether different turn towards being a propagandist – exactly as the Alison Hastings ruling has facilitated. He said:

“Well, Welsh Water think this scheme is applicable not just here, but right across the country, they think it will save water companies money, and they think it will be more effective at preventing floods.  And the children at this school will learn, unlike their parents, that climate change is predicted to bring more extreme weather in the future and to raise the sea levels, so they may consider using the land differently to the way their parents did.”

Pardon?  Suddenly, the report is in a different dimension. The correspondent is no longer a reporter of events, but the direct purveyor of futurology – and it’s not a small point. He says directly that children in schools must consider changing ‘land use’ because ‘climate change’ (whatever that may be) will probably bring more rain in future.

And hey presto, at hand is someone to ram home this point. Back in the studio, Justin Webb interviewed Lord Krebs, an Oxford professor and part of Parliament’s committee on climate change.  Why was he chosen to appear? Presumably, it was because he is a member of that committee. It’s certainly not because of particular expertise, because Professor Krebs’ academic works have focused on bird behaviour. He is, however, a political activist with regard to ‘climate change’ – he is chairman of the national network of Science Learning Centres, which has a major role in spreading climate alarmism.

Professor Krebs did not disappoint. Justin Webb’s first question provided an open goal for him bs to say what he wanted. He duly delivered, culminating in his main point that most of the problems related to flooding were due to man-made climate change, and this meant that there had to be a massive diversion of expenditure – and changes in our way of life – to accommodate that. Greenpeace would have been proud.

Overall, this item vividly shows that the BBC has an overt and deliberate political agenda in this field. There was no attempt to provide a contrasting opinion to those of Professor Krebs, because the Trustees have said that such normal journalistic balance is not required. The corporation has become the mouthpiece of propagandists.

The full transcript is below:

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Today, 5th February 2014, Climate Change, 8.36am

JUSTIN WEBB:       We’ve built homes and superstores on floodplains, we’ve paved gardens and drained bogs which used to catch water, and replaced woodlands with sheep farms which compact the soil and straightened winding rivers, we’ve made them flow faster.  And all of this, we are told, is contributing to flooding.  We are told this by the Committee on Climate Change and we’re also told by them today that it has to stop.  The Committee says we need to catch water in upstream areas, it warns that half a billion pounds of extra funding needs to be spent in the next four year period to keep pace, just to keep pace, with the risk of climate change affecting the UK.  We’ll speak to the Committee in a second, first let’s hear from our environment analyst, Roger Harrabin, who’s been to Llanelli in South Wales, where they’re spending £40 million on reengineering the streets to prevent flooding.

ROGER HARRABIN:               I’m near the centre of Llanelli, and as you might expect it has been raining and I’m here to see a scheme where Welsh Water are digging up the pavements to prevent floods.  I’m joined by Steve Wilson from Welsh Water.  Steve, can you explain to me what you’re doing?

STEVE WILSON:     We’re trying to take the surface water, the rainfall that comes off the house roofs, the roads, out of the sewerage network, find ways back into the environment, to really prevent flooding.

RH:          So, what exactly are you doing here behind us?

SW:         So, we’ve hollowed out the ground, put a depression in the ground, we’re going to fill that with soil, and that will soak the water in that would run down this hill, and instead of going into the sewer network, it will soak it into the ground.

RH:          And it looks like you’ve made holes in the curb so the water will come sideways out of the gutter and into this, this sort of holding system that you’ve built.

SW:         Exactly, you can imagine with the heavy rain here in Wales it pours down the roads, and if we can get it to pour off the road into this planting area and soak into the media that we’ve put in the ground there.  This scheme here should take out 22,500 cubic metres of rainfall every year out of the sewers.

RH:          How can you be confident of that?

SW:         The flow monitors and the design work that we’ve done is already showing us that actually some of the schemes we put in taking out more water than we actually first envisaged.  This is the answer for us, building more bigger pipes or bigger, deeper tanks, that we are reaching the capacity of them too soon, this is a much more sustainable way of preventing flooding.

RH:          I’ve now come up to Stebonheath School, just round the corner where they’ve got another innovative flood management scheme.  And I’m joined by . . .

DYLAN DAVIES:     Dylan Davies.

RH:          And . . .

CAITLIN THOMAS:                Caitlin Thomas.

RH:          What have you been doing here guys?

CT:          We’ve been, we’ve been, we’ve been making a swale, to stop all the floods from the drain.

RH:          What’s a swale?

CT:          The . . .the grass . . .

RH:          This grassy dip in the ground here.  So what happens, the water runs off the playground . . .

CT:          Yeah.

RH:          . . . into the dip.

DD:         Yeah, and it comes from, when it rains it goes onto the roof, then all the rain comes off the roof down into the swale, and the swale all the water and like, and pushes it off into the drain gently (words unclear due to speaking over)

RH:          And is there a big difference, can you see the difference when it rains?

BOTH:     Yes.

CT:          A lot of difference.

RH:          What did it used to be like?

CT:          It used to be all flooded, this area . . . we weren’t allowed to come by here, because it was all wet and puddles everywhere.

RH:          And it looks good as well.

BOTH:     Yeah.

DD:         Definitely.

RH:          Well, Welsh Water think this scheme is applicable not just here, but right across the country, they think it will save water companies money, and they think it will be more effective at preventing floods.  And the children at this school will learn, unlike their parents, that climate change is predicted to bring more extreme weather in the future and to raise the sea levels, so they may consider using the land differently to the way their parents did.

JW:         Hmm.  Roger Harrabin in Llanelli.  Lord Krebs is chair of the Adaptation Subcommittee, part of the Committee on Climate Change, and is on the line from Oxford, good morning.

LORD KREBS:         Good morning.

JW:         I don’t know how much of that report you heard, you would say, would you, presumably, that what they’re doing in Llanelli ought to be a model for the whole of the rest of the country?

LK:          I thought that it was a wonderful project that your reporter Roger Harrabin described in Llanelli.  The fact is that what we are experiencing now in terms of flooding and extreme weather is likely to become more common in the future as a result of climate change, and it’s time now to plan ahead, to make our country more resilient, to move from cleanup and the dreadful damage that occurs to people’s homes and livelihoods, to prevention, to make our country more resilient.  And at the moment, we’re not really doing that, we’re going in the wrong direction.

JW:         Does that mean though, for instance, that you ban people from paving over their front gardens?

LK:          Well, the fact is that the hard surfaces in our towns and cities have increased hugely, almost doubled in the last decade or so because people are paving over front gardens.  You can, of course, use absorbent paving surfaces, so it’s not actually the case that just because you pave over, you’re going to have more water run-off, but if we, it’s really a choice that we as a country have to make, if we want to make our country more resilient we’re going to have to make some difficult decisions to prevent the kind of thing that’s happening now happening more frequently in the future.

JW:         But just to make it clear, you’re saying to the government, it is time to make those difficult decisions, it’s time to say to people, ‘We are going to enforce planning regulations’, whatever they be, about saving your gardens and the various other things that might be discussed, it’s time to enforce them centrally because this matters so much.

LK:          Well, we are building in floodplains, 13% of all new developments in the last decade or so has been in floodplain areas.  The Environment Agency has a responsibility, a statutory responsibility for advising on whether development should go ahead, so there are regulations in place.  The problem we have identified is that in about a third of cases, the Environment Agency never finds out whether their advice has been followed, so it’s not necessarily about new regulations it’s about ensuring that existing rules are being enforced properly.

JW:         (speaking over) Yeah, but the onus is also put on developers now, isn’t it, rather more than on the agency, and that’s been something that the government has consciously done, and you’re saying now should consciously undo?

LK:          Well, as I say, there is a regulatory framework in place, the Environment Agency is the statutory consultee for any development, and it can comment on the potential flood risks.  However, these decisions about risk now and risk in the future, and if the government wants to say to people, look, we are just going to be exposed to more flooding risk and you’re going to have to experience this, that’s fine, but I think we need to be transparent and have an open discussion about how these decisions are made.  There’s also a role, of course, for individual householders because if people do live in a flood risk area there are measures that they can take to make their house more resilient by having, for example, flood resistant ground floor fittings, fitting water guards front of doors and over air bricks and so on.  So there are measures that individuals can take, that local authorities can take, and central government decisions can help too.

JW:         Are you frustrated that so much of the discussion in the last few days has been about dredging and whether or not there had been enough dredging in Somerset, in other words is the focus on that taking our mind, in your view, off what we should be focusing on?

LK:          I think dredging may be part of the story but there is, as I say, a much bigger picture about do we want to make our country more resilient to the kind of weather that we’ve experienced in the last month or so that is likely to get more common as a result of climate change.

JW:         The trouble is, you use that word lightly, and an awful lot of people would say, well yes, it may happen, but it may not as well and weather is, you know, unpredictable we may well go into a period where none of these things that you’re suggesting happen do happen, and we’ll have spent an awful lot of money and then wasted it?

LK:          Well, all we can do is go on the best available science, and the climate scientists who’ve looked at this, using the best models and the best evidence available suggest to us that the weather is likely to become more stormy, more predictable in the future and the kind of extreme weather events that we are experiencing now, rather than being perhaps, one in a hundred year event may become a one in twenty year event.  We can’t be absolutely sure of detail, but it’s sensible in my view to take precautions.

JW:         Lord Krebs, thank you very much.

Photo by MattysFlicks

Mandelson gets open goal to attack EU Referendum

Mandelson gets open goal to attack EU Referendum

One interview sequence is rarely definitive proof of BBC bias. But a recent Today feature about the private member’s bill to commit to a referendum about membership of the EU comes very close to it – and it has now become the subject of a complaint to the BBC.

The interview sequence in question, broadcast on January 10, also underlines vividly what Newswatch surveys repeatedly show: that editors and interviewers give most space to those who want closer ties to the EU and sideline, limit or disrespect the arguments of those who do not.

Update: Lord Pearson of Rannoch and the MPs Philip Hollobone (Conservative) and Kate Hoey (Labour), have lodged a formal complaint about the feature on the ground that it was ‘a striking piece of BBC bias at a crucial time in the debate about the EU referendum’. The full correspondence on the matter can be seen here.

At 8.10am, in the front page slot, Evan Davis interviewed Michael Dobbs – the Conservative peer guiding the private member’s bill through the House of Lords – and Peter Mandelson, the former Labour minister and spin doctor who, it transpires, believes that a referendum should not be held because it would be ‘a lottery’.

Both men were actually on air for about the same time. But the way they were treated was emphatically noteven-handed. One crude measure is that Lord Dobbs had just 250 words to put his case across, while Lord Mandelson had more than 750 to elaborate his anti-bill arguments. The difference in treatment went much deeper, in that Evan Davis allowed in some depth (without interruption) Lord Mandelson’s attack, both on the need for the bill and the reasons why advocates were supporting it.

But I leave you to decide for yourself why – the full transcript is below.

What leaps out is that Lord Dobbs was asked primarily about how he would vote over the bill and whether the measure was a waste of time on the ground that it would be the next Parliament that actually decided the matter. In consequence, he had only two short opportunities to explain why he was introducing the legislation.

After a brief initial question to Lord Dobbs about why he supported the bill, Mr. Davis quickly moved on to what was clearly his main focus – how Lord Dobbs would vote and whether the measure was a waste of time because it would be the next Parliament that determined whether the referendum would actually be held. Lord Dobbs managed to deliver only 250 words (about 95 seconds) about the reasoning (essentially that it was about giving people choice) behind the bill. His argument was heavily curtailed by Evan Davis’s interventions in which he put instead the points about how Lord Dobbs would vote.

By contrast, it was clear from the start that Evan Davis wanted Lord Mandelson to have space to put across his detailed reasoning why the bill was essentially ill-conceived, was Political grandstanding, and was a waste of Parliamentary time. In the end, he was afforded the opportunity to deliver three lengthy sequences amounting to more than 750 words in which he advanced his case that the bill was primarily designed to try defuse the UKIP threat.

On the face of it, elements Mr Davis’s approach to Lord Mandelson were adversarial, in that he suggested that the pro-EU case was not being put very well. But on closer analysis, his questioning actually delivered a framework for Lord Mandelson to plough on expansively with his substantive points. It seems clear, too, that Mr Davis had no desire or intention to interrupt in any significant way. For example, when Lord Mandelson, made the sweeping and politically partisan claim that the bill was grandstanding and playing to the UKIP gallery, why did not Mr Davis intervene to suggest that UKIP actually had popular support and this might instead be seen as something that aimed to give British people (as Lord Dobbs had suggested) a definite opportunity to express their opinions?

This all adds up to a striking example of BBC bias at a crucial moment in the debate about a referendum. And it fits closely with the longer-term and more detailed analysis by Newswatch, which shows consistently that those in favour of the EU almost invariably get the most space and most favourable framework to advance their views.

Full radio transcript here
Photo by Nicholas Smale

Immigration: Anything but the truth.

BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson has announced that the BBC was once – at an unspecified period in the past – biased in its reporting of immigration issues.
He is reported as saying (in connection with pre-publicity for a programme he has made) that the corporation made a ‘terrible mistake’ in not reflecting the public’s concerns about the numbers and issues involved.
Mr Robinson’s mea culpa resonates closely with a similar confession by former director general Mark Thompson. In July 2011, he conceded that ‘taboo’ subjects such as immigration were avoided by the BBC for fear of its appearing too right wing. He said:
“I think there were some years when the BBC, like the rest of the UK media, was very reticent about talking about immigration. There was an anxiety whether or not you might be playing into a political agenda about immigration.”
What’s striking about these BBC admissions about bias in the reporting of immigration issues, however, is they are almost laughably predictable in substance and form.
It’s a routine BBC reaction to criticism that the corporation admits to problems in the past, but then says with total self-conviction (but no objective evidence) that those errors have
now been totally righted.
Then they hire someone from a BBC background and with close connections with the BBC Trustees – such as Stuart Prebble with his recent report into coverage of immigration, the EU and religion – to agree with them.
The evidence of past bias in the coverage of immigration is abundant. In 2004, for example, Newswatch compiled a report based on three months’ output from seven flagship news programmes for Sir Andrew Green’s group Migration Watch that revealed devastating shortcomings, especially with regard to the failure to reflect public concern and in the relentless thrust to portray those who opposed Labour’s immigration policies as xenophobicand racist.
More recently, the think thank The New Culture Forum produced an equally comprehensive report on the topic that revealed in both the past and the present, the corporation was not reflecting properly public concern. Among its conclusions are:
“It would be no exaggeration to say that a foreigner who subscribed only to the BBC might visit this country and be blissfully unaware of many of the social problems associated with immigration. These have never appeared in the national conversation and are instead whispered of in the shadows. This cannot be healthy.”
Nick Robinson says that these failings have been rectified. They have not. Evidence is easy to find. On November 5, the Today programme gave acres of space in bulletins and the main body of the programme to a report by two academics from University College London, in their survey claimed that EU immigrants had made ‘a particularly positive contribution to the public purse’. The editorial goal in giving the item such prominence was clearly to undermine those who are worried about the more negative effects of immigration.
Danny Shaw, the BBC’s home affairs editor, declared:
“I’ve looked back to see what other similar pieces of research have been done, and this does appear to be the most thorough analysis of its kind.”
On that basis, the report’s authors were interviewed and Justin Webb said in the intro:
“People who come to live in Britain make a substantial contribution to the public finances – they make us richer than we would otherwise be. So says the Centre for Research and
Analysis of Migration at University College London. They’ve been studying the figures in some considerable detail.”
Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch was included in the sequence – ostensibly to give balance – but the set-up and the questioning was undoubtedly designed to allow the
authors to amplify their claim that fears about immigration were unfounded. The effects, despite what public opinion believed, were positive.
What Danny Shore omitted to say – and the BBC has subsequently failed to report – is that even the most cursory analysis of the UCL survey shows that – to put it mildly – the statistical evidence in question was totally unreliable. Who says so? The Civitas think-tank commissioned emeritus professor of statistics at UCL Mervyn Stone to examine the findings. His conclusion?
“Most of the underlying crude assumptions that the all-embracing approach has been obliged to make have not been subject to sensitivity tests that have might been made if the
study had not been so obviously driven to make the case it claims to have made.”
Ouch! In other words, the BBC as recently as November shouted from the rooftops the findings of a report about the positive effects of immigration that the most rudimentary of checks would have shown to be highly suspect.
Danny Shore, the home affairs editor who is paid vast amounts to ensure that what gets to air is accurate, endorsed a report ‘ as the most thorough analysis of its kind’ when it was anything but.
 If, as Nick Robinson maintains, the BBC is no longer biased in their quest to hide and manipulate the truth about immigration – how could this be the case?
DYKE: ‘BBC should be regulated by OFCOM’

DYKE: ‘BBC should be regulated by OFCOM’

The vultures are circling increasingly around Lord Patten, who has been savaged – and is still under fire – for his handling of a series of problems, including the Savile inquiry and the House of Commons’ prolonged investigation into excessive pay-offs to senior executives.
Latest to join in the attack on the BBC chairman is Greg Dyke, the former BBC director general who was forced to resign in 2004 because he handled the corporation’s response to the Andrew Gilligan-Hutton inquiry ineptly.
It was alleged that instead of being on top of the journalism, and understanding where it had gone wrong, he thought – as those at the BBC so often do – that he could bluster his way through theissues of journalistic integrity that were raised, and rely on the stock BBC response of ‘we know we are right, because what we do is (almost) always right’.
Noticeably, Mr Dyke chose as platform for his ‘Patten is a busted flush’ attack on the BBC’s favourite newspaper, the Guardian.
Noticeably, too, Mr Dyke has called – in effect – for the BBC Trustees to be dissolved, a chairman appointed and future regulation (from the start of the new BBC Charter in 2016) to be allocated to Ofcom.
But would that solve any of the BBC’s problems? The core issue, as News-watch research has repeatedly shown, is that its journalism is not at all ‘independent’, or impartial, but dominated by left of centre thinking. Institutionally, it cannot see this, and refuses obstinately and systematically to countenance otherwise. Or to even discuss the issue, as the Commons EU scrutiny committee has found.
At the same time, Ofcom – a giant Quango set up by the last Labour government that costs £130m a year to run – has been accused by MPs such as Philip Davies of being dominated by bureaucrats who are drawn from exactly the same liberal-left mould as the current BBC Trustees (including Lord Patten). It is headed by Labour-supporter and placeman Ed Richards. Greg Dyke – who himself is a declared left-of-centre activist who supports both the LibDems and Labour – knows this. Perhaps that is why he wants Ofcom to take over.
In reality, it wouldn’t alter a thing about BBC journalism, but would make its control even more bureaucratic and immune from criticism.

 

BBC Trust ‘Failed a Primary Duty’

The Commons public accounts committee has questioned whether the BBC’s governance model is fit for purpose in a damning indictment of its handling of severance payments to 150 senior managers.
The committee’s chairman, Margaret Hodge, said its investigations into the pay offs – which included cross-examination of BBC chairman Lord Patten and director general Lord Hall – had uncovered a culture of cronyism that allowed the liberal use of licence fee payers’ money. This had led to 22 of the 150 payments exceeding contractual limits.
And MPs have also raised questions whether some of the eight BBC staff who gave evidence to the committee may have deliberately misled their inquiry.
The Daily Mail reported that Tory committee member Steve Barclay was angry that Mrs Hodge had watered down elements of the findings and in particular that it had failed to criticise BBC chairman Lord Patten for refusing to name all of the BBC staff who had received pay offs.
These are the full conclusions and recommendations of the committee:
1.  As part of its efforts to cut costs, the BBC has significantly reduced the number of senior managers it employs, from 624 in March 2010 to 445 in March 2013. In the course of our inquiry into the departure of the BBC’s former Director General, George Entwistle, we became increasingly concerned about the scale of severance pay for departing senior BBC managers. We therefore asked the National Audit Office to carry out a review of severance payments. The National Audit Office found that in the three years to December 2012, the
BBC gave 150 senior managers severance payments totalling £25 million.
2.  It is unacceptable for the BBC, or any other public body, to give departing senior managers huge severance payments that far exceed their contractual entitlements. The BBC paid more salary in lieu of notice than it was obliged to in 22 of the 150 severance payments for senior managers in the three years to December 2012, at a cost of £1.4 million. Some of the justifications put forward by the BBC were extraordinary. For example, the former Director General, Mark Thompson, claimed that it was necessary to pay his former deputy
and long-term colleague Mark Byford an extra £300,000, not because the BBC was obliged to, but to keep Mr Byford ”fully focused’ instead of “taking calls from head hunters”. This increased Mr Byford’s severance payment to more than £1 million. Recommendation: The BBC should ensure that severance payments do not exceed what is absolutely necessary.
3.  There was a failure at the most senior levels of the BBC to challenge the actual payments and prevailing culture, in which cronyism was a factor that allowed for the liberal use of other people’s money. We were not able to account for every case in which a manager who approved a settlement in excess of contract entitlement themselves later benefitted from a similar arrangement. We believe this contributed to the prevailing culture at the top of the BBC whereby giving inflated severance payments to departing managers was an acceptable way of cutting senior manager numbers and salary costs. We share the view of the BBC’s Director General, Lord Hall, that the BBC had “lost the plot” in its management of severance payments in recent years. We welcome the changes that he has made to cap severance pay.Recommendation: The BBC should remind its staff that they are all individually responsible for protecting public money and challenging wasteful practices.
4.  The checks that the BBC Executive applied to severance pay for senior managers were totally inadequate. The non-executives who sat on the BBC’s Executive Board Remuneration Committee failed to provide an effective check on severance pay for the BBC’s most senior staff. In turn, the Executive failed to exercise sufficient oversight of the 40 BBC staff involved in authorising severance payments to departing senior managers. For example, senior BBC executives were seemingly unaware, until it was brought to their attention by the National Audit Office, that one departing manager received £141,000 more than their contractual entitlement. Responsibility and accountability must be clearly defined and transparent, not only at senior levels but across the organisation, to satisfy the licence fee payer that public money is being used appropriately.Recommendation: To protect licence fee payers’ interests and its own reputation, the BBC should establish internal procedures that provide clear central oversight and effective scrutiny of severance payments.
5.  It beggars belief that the BBC Trust could not locate key documents about the most significant restructuring in recent years of the BBC’s Board and the associated severance payments. These documents, which included proposed payments to the BBC’s former Deputy Director General, Mark Byford, came to light after the BBC Trust Unit had concluded it held no such documents. The documentary evidence also suggests that the BBC wrote to Mr Byford to confirm his severance terms before these terms had been approved by the
Executive Board Remuneration Committee. Poor documentary records contributed to the confusion and lack of transparency about what had been proposed, discussed and approved. Recommendation: The BBC Executive and the BBC Trust need to overhaul the way they conduct their business, and record and communicate decisions properly.
6.  By choosing not to challenge very large individual severance payments, the BBC Trust and its officials failed to fulfil one of its primary duties, which is to ensure the rigorous stewardship of public money. The BBC Trust approves the strategy for executive remuneration but does not examine its implementation in detail. The witnesses from the BBC Trust told us that they do not question individual payments as they are operational decisions for which the BBC Executive Remuneration Committee is responsible. In our view, this is too narrow an interpretation of the BBC’s Trust’s responsibilities. Recommendation: Given its overarching responsibility for the stewardship of public money, the BBC Trust should be more willing to challenge practices and decisions where there is a risk that the interests of licence fee payers could be compromised.
7.  Our examination of severance payments exposed a dysfunctional relationship between the BBC Executive and the BBC Trust that casts doubt on the effectiveness of the BBC’s governance model. The unedifying disagreements between witnesses and the conflicting accounts of what was disclosed about individual severance payments are symptomatic of a wider breakdown in the relationship between the BBC Trust and the Executive. At present the governance model is broken. The Trust and the Executive have a limited amount of
time to demonstrate that the current governance model can be made to work. Recommendation: The BBC Trust and the BBC Executive need to ensure that decision-making is transparent and accountability taken seriously, based on a shared understanding of value for money, with tangible evidence of individuals taking public responsibility for their decisions.
Liddle: Patten ‘ordered to give EU coverage evidence’

Liddle: Patten ‘ordered to give EU coverage evidence’

Former BBC R4 Today editor Rod Liddle has noted that speaker John Bercow has ordered BBC Chairman Lord Patten to give evidence to the Commons European Scrutiny Committee
about the corporation’s EU coverage.
Liddle picked up in his Sunday Times column that Mr Bercow – responding to a question from Labour eurosceptic Kate Hoey – stated:
“I must say that anybody who is invited to appear before a Committee of this House should do so. No one, however senior, should imagine him or herself above such scrutiny. That is a very important principle.”
Andrew Lansley, leader of the House noted:
“I am aware of what the hon. Lady is talking about. I note from Lord Patten’s correspondence with the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee that he expressly did not rely on the fact that he is a Member of the House of Lords in this regard. I will have conversations with the Committee’s Chair and the BBC on the matter, because there is a difference between independence for the BBC, which we absolutely must respect, and accountability, which should enable this House to ask reasonable questions.”
Mr Liddle, in his column, asserted:
“It (Lord Patten’s response) will be interesting because there is not a single British public figure I can think of – not even Ken Clarke, not even Tony Blair – who was more in thrall to the EU than Fatty Pang (the Chinese nickname for Lord Patten when he was governor of Hong Kong). And it will be interesting, too, because the corporation’s director general until September last year , Mark Thompson, accepted there had been a bias against those of eurosceptic…viewpoints.
“It is par for the course for departing DGs to announce airily that the BBC did exhibit bias on one issue or another , terribly sad, hopefully everything’s tickety-boo now, and so on….But the joy of having Lord Patten appear before a committee is that he will be forced to justify a current bias; forced to defend the corporation’s viewpoint – which was once expressed to me – is that those who oppose the EU are ‘all mad’.”
Lord Patten’s response to the EU Scrutiny Committee is here. 
The full chain of correspondence between Lord Patten and the committee is here.
News-watch evidence about the BBC response to the European committee includes this.

Photo by Nanagyei