Author Archives

David Keighley

BBC Radio 4 Brexit Collection: strong bias against leaving the EU

BBC Radio 4 Brexit Collection: strong bias against leaving the EU

The Brexit Collection is a selection of 31 programmes and features, originally broadcast on Radio 4, and posted by the BBC on its iPlayer website. It is presumably thus thought by the Corporation to be a balanced representation of its referendum coverage. Analysis by News-watch has now shown that the Collection was, on balance, very strongly anti-Brexit.

News-watch transcribed and rigorously analysed all the items (24 separate programmes, one collection of four brief clips on personal finance, and six news features in the Brexit Street series) that were posted between the launch of The Brexit Collection on July 11 and August 23 – two months after the referendum. In total, this amounted to eleven and half hours of broadcasting.

Overall, there were no attempts in any programme to explore the benefits of leaving the EU, but conversely, Brexit came under sustained negative attack. This was reflected in the balance of contributions and comment contained within the items. Analysis by News-watch shows that only 23% of contributors in the programmes as a whole spoke in favour of Brexit, against 58% in favour of Remain and 19% who gave a neutral or factual commentary.

Nine programmes and six features, amounting to 5 hours 20 minutes of programming, were strongly anti-Brexit, contained unchallenged predictions that civil unrest and rioting were now on the horizon and cast the ‘out’ vote in negative terms, inferring that the result had been a consequence of racism and xenophobia. The balance of programme guests in all of these items was strongly – and sometimes overwhelmingly – pro-Remain.

By contrast, only two programmes, from the series Points of View, were clearly Eurosceptic in tone. They both attacked the EU project as a whole, but did no explore the possibilities presented by Brexit.

A group of six documentaries in the Collection, originally broadcast in 2009 and 2012, looked critically at the EU and examined claims that there were structural faults in the EU project, especially in relation to the euro. However, the vast majority of guests on these programmes were wholly in favour of the EU project, or were EU officials, and as such the issues were observed through a strongly pro-EU lens.

A further eight programmes have been classed as neutral. Many of these, such as the comedy programmes Dead Ringers and The Now Show, contained strong anti-Brexit content, or expressed doubts about it, but did contain some balancing material.

The items that were strongly anti-Brexit were editions of culture series Front Row, The Briefing Room, six editions of the feature Brexit Street on the news programme PM, one edition of A Point of View, How to Make a Brexit (a one-off documentary about Greenland’s exit from the EU), Farming Today, More Less, The Food Programme, The Bottom Line and Call You and Yours.

In some of these, the range of anti-Brexit opinion was astonishing and light years from any definition of ‘impartiality’ and there was no balancing comparable pro-Brexit material. A majority of the country had voted ‘out’ on June 23, but this was not reflected in the space given to each side of the debate, or the thematic emphases of the various programmes.

The Food Programme, for example, contained predictions from ten contributors ranging through civil unrest, substantial food price rises, the demise of food businesses and years of turmoil.  Only one contributor (described disparagingly as a ‘former speech writer for Nigel Farage’), thought that Brexit could have positive outcomes.

And in The Bottom Line, presented by Evan Davis, three strong supporters of Remain (one a former Liberal Democrat candidate) feared a drying up of investment, the introduction of tariffs, an increasing complexity of doing business through the need for additional paperwork, price rises, unfair treatment of workers, unwise and impractical restrictions on immigration, a curtailing of the opportunities available to young people, and a rise of xenophobia and racism to the extent there was imminent danger of ‘personal attack’ for those supporting Remain. They were ranged against a contributor from Switzerland, who – although accepting briefly that Brexit could be positive – also warned that the process was very complex.

In all anti-Brexit programmes, presenters worked with the contributors to ensure that the negatives of Brexit were pushed to the maximum extent, and they did not challenge their extreme claims, for example, about civil unrest and racism.

Analysis of the contributions across the series as a whole raises other major issues of imbalance. Of the 59 politicians to appear, 37 were pro-Remain. With academics and lawyers, 11 supported Remain and none favoured Leave, and with businessmen and financial experts, 19 were Remainers and only six wanted ‘out’.  Another striking imbalance was that, across the board, 41% of the speakers who supported Leave were ‘ordinary’ contributors (i.e. members of the public with no obvious expertise, for example, in vox pops), compared to only 27% of pro-EU guests. In terms of the number of words spoken, members of the public contributed 34% of the Leave total, compared to only 8% on the Remain side.

Eleven of the 20 ‘ordinary’ speakers who spoke in favour of Brexit were from two locations in Northern England, Thornaby-on-Tees and Wakefield. All of these were from social classes D and E and together they were responsible for 80% of the words spoken by ‘ordinary’ Leave supporters.

News-watch research has shown that such serious imbalances have been a feature of BBC coverage of EU-related issues since 1999.

This raises big questions about how the BBC defines ’impartiality’ in the aftermath of the June 23 vote. During the referendum campaign, there were BBC-wide referendum editorial guidelines which stipulated that the Leave and Remain sides should be treated even-handedly. The evidence presented here suggests these rules have now been set aside and that a version of ‘due impartiality’ is in force which gives much greater precedence to the Remain side.

Whatever the reasons, the evidence presented here shows that the Corporation seems to be on a mission to show that Brexit is a fool’s errand, which elements within the BBC are doing their best to frustrate. There can be no other explanation why this flagship collection of programmes is so deeply biased.

The full report, including full transcripts of the 31 programmes analysed by News-watch is available here:


 

 

Photo by Girard At Large

Pro-EU zealot quietly dropped from Ofcom content board

Pro-EU zealot quietly dropped from Ofcom content board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Photo by UK in Italy

BBC News Chief James Harding shows anti-Brexit bias

BBC News Chief James Harding shows anti-Brexit bias

James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News, has fired a broadside against those poor, misguided souls who have dared to think that the BBC’s coverage of the referendum and its aftermath have been out of kilter.

His chosen medium for this homily? Why, where else but that neutral newspaper so loved by the BBC – The Guardian?

For those not versed in BBC obfuscation (otherwise known as complaints handling), this was a classic piece. His wheeled-out-a-thousand-times defence was that he and his battalions of heroic, do-no-wrong journalists have received complaints from both sides in the referendum debate, so the coverage must therefore have been balanced.

For good measure, he also quotes BBC audience research, which he says shows that 90% of the UK population tuned into BBC programmes – further ‘proof’ that everything in the impartiality garden was rosy.   That’s alright then.

Never mind that the BBC audience domination is only achieved because of the enforced regime of the television licence fee.

There’s also – as is customary in such exercises – an obligatory mea culpa. Harding accepts at the very end that mistakes in the EU coverage have been made, and states that the BBC must do better. But – as is also customary – there are no details, no examples to back this up.  Whatever it was that the BBC accepts it got wrong is not disclosed.

How very convenient (for the BBC) this is. Nothing to check, nothing to look at – only a nebulous, vague misdemeanour that only the Corporation knows about.

That aside, Harding, in fact, takes up most of the space in his article in dealing with those on the Remain side who think the BBC gave too much prominence to the lies and distortions of the Brexit side.  Clearly, he thinks that bias against Remain was the biggest problem. What does that say about his unconscious (and real) bias?

His defence here is that the BBC (from dear Newsnight presenter Evan Davis to that nice economics editor Kamal Ahmed) made it abundantly clear that the weight of economic opinion overwhelmingly showed – just like the BBC so rigidly maintains that there is a ‘consensus’ of scientists in favour of alarmism in the climate change debate – that leaving the EU was foolhardy.

In Harding’s book, the BBC had thus fulfilled its duty – and it was voters who got it wrong by having the temerity to ignore ‘the facts’.

Harding’s, analysis of the Brexiteers’ complaints, in sharp contrast, takes up only one paragraph, so little space that it can be quoted in full. He declared:

‘The Leavers’ complaint will, in no small part, be answered by what happens next and how we report it. The fact is that, since the EU referendum, there has been a revaluation of sterling, the Bank of England cut interest rates because it says the outlook for economic growth has weakened markedly and the government’s plans for Brexit are unclear. But consumer confidence has bounced back and manufacturing and services sectors have rebounded accordingly. In the months ahead, our job is to understand what Brexit actually means – without relish or alarm.’

This is yet more obfuscation.  Of course, no-one can yet tell the outcome of Brexit, and the ‘out’ side’s complaints are not rooted there.

The reality is that since the referendum vote, there have been mixed signals about the economy, but the IMF, the OECD , the Treasury and all those who the ‘remain’ side wheeled at as ‘proof’ that Brexit would spell immediate disaster for the British economy have been proved wrong.

The nub of the ‘out’ side complaints is that the BBC has been at best mealy-mouthed and begrudging about reporting this slow-motion car crash of economic forecasting. Night after night during the referendum campaign, Davis, Ahmed and Co. trumpeted the predictions of doom with relish; the reporting of the retractions and the back-tracking since June 23 have been delivered through gritted teeth.

The reality, too, is that since Brexit, there has been a torrent of BBC negativity about the consequences of out, and all normal rules of reporting seem to have been suspended to ensure that those 90% who Harding claims watch BBC bulletins can be in no doubt that they have made a grave mistake in ignoring the economic forecasters of the OECD and elsewhere in the BBC canon of approved sources.

Take, for example, the series of reports launched on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme called Brexit Street, which is supposedly a typical ‘out’-voting area in Thornaby-on-Tees.  The reality is that this is a hugely deprived inner city area with a highly atypical quota of asylum seekers.  The purpose seems to be to show primarily that ‘out’ voters are bigoted, bitter, irrational xenophobes.

And what of the killing of a Polish man in a Harlow pizza parlour at the end of August? BBC reports immediately speculated that there was a fear that this was is was a racial attack triggered by Brexit – even though police had made no charges, and had only confirmed that they had not ruled out such motivation from their inquiries. John Sweeney muttered darkly on Newsnight that Nigel Farage might now have blood on his hands.

Such sensationalist reporting by the BBC  gave European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker the ammunition to attack the Brexit vote and to insinuate it had unleashed a tide of racism.

James Harding has thus – as is usual for the BBC – ignored the elephant in the room.  The BBC has never reported the EU impartially, fundamentally because they totally do not acknowledge or understand the case for ‘out’.  Harding’s clumsy obfuscation confirms that – in spades.

Diane Abbot has reportedly asserted at the Labour Party Conference that those who voted ‘out’ were racists. How much has the BBC’s  reporting supported her in coming to that conclusion?

 

Photo by German Embassy London

Does Fairhead departure presage May action against BBC bias?

Does Fairhead departure presage May action against BBC bias?

The abrupt and unexpected departure of Rona Fairhead from her post as BBC Chairman is interesting indeed.

David Cameron had appointed her Chairman for the first, crucial phase of the new Charter covering the abolition of the Trustees and their replacement by a souped-up executive board – but suddenly, seemingly as a result of intervention by Theresa May, she’s toast.

Could it presage that the May government – as Brexit gathers pace – has woken up to that something urgent and radical needs doing to curb BBC bias?

This is a Corporation that is still treating Brexit as a major mistake, looking for every opportunity to rubbish the idea, and to link it with racism.  Martha Kearney, for example, on Radio 4’s World at One on Wednesday, chose to pick up with relish Jean-Claude Juncker’s malicious claims that the Brexit vote was linked to a huge upsurge in race hate, including the murder of a Polish man in Harlow – when no such linkage has yet been established by the police.

David Cameron’s approach to the Corporation, from the moment he took office in 2010, was both lenient and laissez-faire – largely, it now seems most likely, because he saw the Corporation as a key ally in his battle to remain in the EU.

Lord Patten, Fairhead’s predecessor as chairman, was (and is) a EU-zealot of the most extreme kind. He was appointed by Cameron in 2011. Patten predictably and obdurately resisted strongly any suggestion that the BBC’s coverage of the EU was biased, most notably by refusing repeated summons to appear before the Commons European Scrutiny Committee in connection with their inquiry into whether the Corporation was adequately covering EU affairs.

After Patten suddenly stepped down because of ill-health, high-flying executive Fairhead,  who had no broadcast experience, was parachuted in.  Precisely why remains a mystery, especially as there were huge question marks about her conduct as a director of HSBC. Some have claimed a link with George Osborne, perhaps via her husband, a former Tory councillor.

The newly-appointed Fairhead did appear before the European Scrutiny committee, under duress. It became clear immediately that she had gone native. Under her regulatory regime, there would be no change in the dead-bat approach to any complaints about EU reporting. She sat smug-faced as her fellow Trustee –a former BBC employee of 30 years – Richard Ayre intoned nonsensically that he knew coverage of the EU was not biased because, well, he said so; his experience told him that it was impossible that his BBC colleagues could ever be biased.

Pardon? Ayre is a past Chairman of the Article 19 ‘journalists’ rights’ organisation which under an alleged ‘neutral’ banner campaigns vigorously for Palestinian rights, against Israel, and to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the ‘climate change’ debate. Here is an example of their ‘unbiased’ approach, to which Ayre presumably subscribed:

‘The threats from climate change are not gender-neutral and it is essential that gender be incorporated into strategies to address climate change. In order to reach adaptation strategies and policies that are truly gender-sensitive, women’s voices need to be heard. To make their voices heard, women need information about their rights and the policies that affect their daily lives. This ARTICLE 19 project seeks to foster the exercise of communication rights to challenge women’s vulnerability to climate change.’

The BBC defence against EU bias (and everything that went with it at the hearing) amounted to similar baloney and obfuscation on a huge scale. The subsequent ESC’s report, written immediately before the 2015 General Election, was excoriating.  Bill Cash, the chairman, concluded in his report about the BBC:

“Accountability to Parliament and proper impartiality must be a key factor in the forthcoming review of the BBC Charter.”

Since then, John Whittingdale – whose appointment as Culture Secretary’s was a huge surprise because of his known antipathy towards the BBC – prepared his Green paper on the BBC’s Charter Renewal.  The predictions were initially that the licence fee could be replaced by subscription.

But then George Osborne intervened. The licence fee would be set in aspic for another decade. That meant Whittingdale’s plans for major reform were in totally scuppered.  What emerged was a messy compromise: the abolition of the Trustees, their replacement by a new executive board with powerful outside, independent directors, and some elements of complaints handling handed to the ‘independent’ Ofcom.

Yet this will solve nothing. The left-leaning Ofcom content board is drawn from the same cadre as the BBC Trustees, and is chaired by the arch-Europhile Bill Emmott,who makes even Patten look tame.

In reality, the changes were only a rearrangement of the deck chairs, and a continuation of the status quo. Cameron’s appointment of Fairhead to oversee the so-called transition period confirmed that.

Today (Thursday), the unknown and untested new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, an accountant with no previous experience of the broadcasting industry, is due to announce the main details of Charter renewal, following the White Paper in May. The key issue is whether she and the May government will grasp that until there is genuine rigorous, independent scrutiny of BBC content, heavy, left-leaning bias will continue.

And that could well derail Brexit.

 

 

 

Photo by Ashley Pollak

BBC continues to push Brexit race hate line

BBC continues to push Brexit race hate line

Photo of Gary Younge by boellstiftung

So what is it that the BBC is trying to prove about Brexit?

It looks increasingly that, as the dust settles on the referendum result, they are mounting an all-out campaign to find evidence to support the Corporation’s long-held belief that the who support ‘out’ are motivated by xenophobia and racism.

Last week, on BBC2 Newsnight, reporter John Sweeney chillingly gave a platform to a Pole in Harlow – and indeed seemed to encourage him to say – that Nigel Farage had ‘blood on his hands’ in connection with the suspected murder a local Polish man.

This was before an inquest has been held, and before police had properly begun their investigations. But in the BBC’s book, here was race-hate in action.

The Harlow allegations were re-hashed and claims of post-Brexit xenophobia and racism heavily embellished on Monday night on Radio 4, in the first of a two-part series presented by Gary Younge called Eastern Europeans in Brexitland.

Younge visited Bristol and reported evidence that since the Brexit vote, the lives of virtually all the eastern Europeans living there had become, in effect, a living hell.

According to Younge, the streets of Bristol had overnight on June 23/4 turned into an overt, seething cesspit of prejudice. Eggs were being thrown at immigrants, they were so terrified of being identified as Eastern European that they were afraid to speak their own languages, their cars were vandalised, they were spat at and their children’s hair was being set on fire.

So who is Younge? For the uninitiated, he is an equalities campaigner who, it seems, has a brother who is a senior BBC executive, and who works primarily for The Guardian. Of course, many fine journalist work there, and it may be that what he reported from Bristol was a fair reflection of what is going on out in the sticks (in BBC terms): in effect, a breakdown of civil society and tolerance.

But then again, maybe not. Go through Younge’s past articles, and this is what he wrote on June 30, a week after the referendum result:

‘This (the result) did not happen overnight, and the sorriest conduct of the referendum campaign was only the latest indication of the decrepit state of our politics: dominated by shameless appeals to fear, as though hope were a currency barely worth trading in, the British public had no such thing as a better nature, and a brighter future held no appeal.

‘Xenophobia is no longer closeted, parsed or packaged, but naked, bold and brazen and was given free rein. A week before the referendum, an MP was murdered in the street. When the man accused of killing her was asked his name in court he said: ‘Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.’

Despite such overt prejudice (and poor writing) and huge assumptions about the Jo Cox killing, he was commissioned by the BBC to make this Radio 4 series. It seems that the sole intent was for him to go out and collect material that confirmed his view that the Brexit vote was nothing more than the ignorant expression of deep underlying hatred and malaise.

That exactly chimes with the treatment of the Harlow murder. A third element of this naked display of BBC xenophobia-themed bias also came on Monday in the latest in the series of Radio 4’s PM reports from what they have dubbed Brexit Street (transcript below).

The show’s editors have claimed that this street in Thornaby-on-Tees is ‘typical’ of areas that voted for ‘out’, but it most certainly is not. Houses there sell for a quarter of the national average, and it has number of asylum seekers, because the local councils on Teesside are the only ones in the North-east to have volunteered to take a high quota.

In the BBC’s world, Brexit voters, of course, are almost invariably downmarket, prejudiced against immigrants, talk in difficult-to-understand local accents and are relatively uneducated.

Emma Jane Kirby’s latest report report ticked all the requisite boxes. She has already concentrated heavily on that the asylum seekers are disliked by the locals, have been forced into isolation, and are generally being treated as sub-human.  Their only solace is the local church and a heroic Somalian refugee who has set up an asylum seekers’ football team.

On Monday, her first guttural, angry Brexit Street interviewee, ensconced with a pint in his working men’s club, complained that asylum seekers received benefits but did not work.

Emma Jane was duly deeply indignant. She told the surly Teessider that in effect, he was ignorant, they were asylum seeker so couldn’t work.

So let’s get this straight. The BBC commissions a series based on a street that it claims is ‘ordinary’ but most definitely is not, not least because an atypical, constant stream of asylum seekers has been housed there. It then highlights how badly these asylum seekers are being treated by the locals – and then starts to berate residents for, in effect, being intolerant and xenophobic, and then imputes that this is the reason for the Brexit vote.

BBC ‘impartial’ reporting in all its glory.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, PM, ‘Brexit Street’, 6 September 2016, 5.41pm

CAROLYN QUINN:              Talking about Brexit, the majority of the North East of England voted leave the EU in the referendum, and since the summer we’ve been following the residents of one street, we’re calling it Brexit Street in Thornaby on Tees near Middlesbrough, to try to understand more about the reasons for how they voted.  Although the street, and Thornaby as a whole, has very few migrants from EU member states, it does how’s a large number of asylum seekers.  In an earlier report, we heard from their perspective about life on Brexit Street, today Emma Jane Kirby’s at Working Men’s Social Club, where Paul, John and Colin, who often work in Europe, are discussing immigration over a pint.

PAUL:     I’m an HGV driver, I go all over Europe.

EMMA JANE KIRBY:           Do you like Europe, when you drive through Europe?

P:           Yeah, I love it.

EJK:        But you just didn’t want to be part of the EU anymore . . .

P:           No.

EJK:        . . . the European Union.

P:           Hm. And I voted out for the reasons of, one, I don’t think the country’s being run right as it was, two there was a lot of money being sent over to other countries that, you know, we’re not getting the benefit from, and three, immigration round here is a big part of why I voted for that.  So that’s why I voted Out.

EJK:        What, what about immigration, you mean on your streets there are a lot of asylum seekers, or . . . ?

P:           Oh, a hell of a lot, yeah. They just seem to be doing nothing, they’re getting everything for free which, it does annoy a lot of people, because we have to go to work to provide for our wife and kids and the houses, and people are just getting it willy-nilly and nothing’s going into our system.

EJK:        You know that asylum seekers can’t work, they’re not allowed to work, while they’re . . . ?

P:           But they’re allowed to claim benefits, they’re are allowed to get free NHS.

EJK:        But don’t forget, a lot of these asylum seekers are desperate to work themselves.

UNNAMED MALE:              Oh, don’t give me that.

UNNAMED MALE 2:           (speaking over) (words unclear) neighbours . . .

UM:       (words unclear) work themselves, but they’ll, they’ll do it for minimum wage, and that’s what knacking us up.  But if they’re doing it for minimum wage, they’ll knack it up for the likes of me.  You get asylum seekers going in, ‘I’ll do it for half of what he does it.’

UM2:     (speaking under) Yeah, but the minimum wage is shite.

UM:       Who are they going to employ.

UM2:     (speaking under) The minimum wage is shite.

EJK:        Can I ask your name?

JOHN HORNSBY:  Yeah, John Hornsby.

EJK:        John, how did you vote, and can you tell me why?

JH:          I was working Holland, I spray aeroplanes for a living and we pay dual tax, UK tax and European tax.  So . . . now we’re out of Europe, as long as they don’t have another vote, we pay one tax and one tax only.  But the government are going to turn round and say now, they’re going to have a second vote – why? It’s been done once, that’s it. They should know for a fact, they’re going to lie to us, and turn round and say, ‘Sorry, we’re going to stay in the EU, and that’s what’s going to happen.’

EJK:        That’s what you think is going to happen?

JH:          Yes, definitely.

EJK:        You think we’ll stay in?

JH:          Yes, because they’re going to turn round and say . . . because . . . I can’t swear, but all these bent people down the South of England, where all the money is are going to say, ‘We’re going to lose too much money – shell (?) the North, sorry, but we’re all staying in.’

EJK:        Can I ask who you vote for . . . usually?

JH:          Well, luckily . . . I don’t.  Because I’m only here for about three months of the year.  Ex-pat if you like. I’ll go back to Malta, I can go anywhere, go to Gibraltar.

EJK:        capitalism that a benefit of being part of the European Union, that you can work in all these countries?

JH:          Well you can work there anyway.

EJK:        Do you think it will be harder, though, for you to find work when Britain comes out of the European Union.

JH:          Yeah, probably it’s just (two second pause) it’s like swings and roundabouts. The country is not Great Britain no more, that’s the top and bottom of it.  You get all the eastern bloc in, so stop them, kick ‘em out.

EJK:        But of course, the people who are here are not European migrants, they’re not from the EU, they’re asylum seekers . . .

JH:          Yeah.

EJK:        . . . fleeing wars and . . .

JH:          How do you know? The best thing we can do: get out of Europe, close the tunnel, the only way you’ll get into England then is by boat or by plane. You can stop them on flights, you can stop them by sea – but with that tunnel open, they’re just walking all the way through.

EJK:        What’s your name?

PAUL:     Paul. And I voted Out for my grandson who is three years old, to make this country great again, because I think it’s gone to the dogs.  That’s my point of view.

EJK:        How’s it gone to the dogs?

P:           Migrants and what have you.  I’ve been self-employed for, what, 30 year – what am I going to get out of the country when I retire? Nothing.  I’m going to be working until I die, because there is no state pension for me.  I go to work five, six days a week, I’m earning . . . probably two to three hundred pound a week.  And I . . . like when I get told I’ve got pay prescription, £8 pounds, when you get told you got to go to the dentist every month, and you’ve got to pay for them, I just can’t afford to do it and I’m a working man.

EJK:        Can I ask who you vote for generally?

P:           I vote for anybody who is not in, because . . . they all promise they’re going to do this that and the other, and if it’s conservative then, I’ll vote for Labour, and if it’s labour in, I’ll vote for . . . Conservative, or I’ll vote for Monster Raving Loony Party, because they all promise the earth and none of them . . . do it. And it stinks. Instead of closing all these steel places down up here, right, when the government, when we opted out of . . . Europe, right, and they said that they’d save 300 whatever billion a month of whatever, right, why didn’t they say, like, ‘The first thing we’ll do is . . . we’ll plough £2 million into the steel works, get them steel companies back up and running, and we’ll, we’ll supply our own steel rather than buy it in from China.  Put all the money into . . . (exhales)  I’m getting annoyed now, but, you know what I mean? But . . . it wouldn’t take a lot of money to get them up and running again, and getting people back into work.  Would it?  It’s about time we made Britain great again.

CQ:         Paul, ending that report from Emma Jane Kirby, and you can hear all of her reports from Brexit Street on the PM website.

 

 

BBC push Farage race-hate ‘ blood on hands’ post-Brexit claims

BBC push Farage race-hate ‘ blood on hands’ post-Brexit claims

BBC programmes have given a  platform for claims that Nigel Farage has ‘blood on his hands’ for Harlow killing – despite local police warning against ‘jumping to conclusions’ about a ‘race hate’ angle.

In Harlow, six teenagers have been arrested and bailed on suspicion of killing a 40-year-old Polish man who was mortally injured in attack in the town centre on Saturday.

At this stage, very little is known about the crime other that frequent disturbances involving youths have recently been reported in the town centre. Local police say they are following up a number of inquiries.

DCI Martin Pasmore, of Essex police, has said: “The widespread media are reporting this as a hate crime, but that is no more than one line of many inquiries that we’re following. We must not jump to conclusions – let us do the investigation and get the facts right.”

It seems clear from the statement that police, if anything, were playing down the ‘race hate’ angle, – it was only one possibility among many.

That, however, has not stopped the BBC speculating strongly on those lines. The full transcripts of three reports, one on the BBC1 News at Six, the other on BBC2’s Newsnight, and the third on the Today programme on Thursday morning are below so that can readers can form their own judgments about the Corporation’s approach.

In the first account reporter Daniel Sandford stressed in the intro the angle that police thought the attack may have been racially motivated, and then specifically stated:

“The fear is that this was a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum.”

In the Newsnight report, presenter Evan Davis and reporter John Sweeney both strongly stressed the ‘post-Brexit’ nature of the crime and then  comment from an alleged friend of the victim was included. This man, Eric Hind, claimed that the Brexit vote had given the green light for British people ‘to do what they want to’.

Then, towards the end,  Sweeney said:

In Harlow tonight people united for a vigil, but for the town’s Polish community the killing of one of their own makes emotions raw.

ERIC HIND:            (fragment of word, unclear) I don’t know if I can mention names but I mean . . .

JS:            Mention names.

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

JS:            Nigel Farage has always denied this allegation. As the search for clues and answers continues, the fear is that two poisons have come together to a lethal result.

To be fair to Sweeney, his report also contained comment from local people that youths in the town centre had been behaving badly for some time, and there was local concern that police had not done enough to intervene.  So there was some balancing material.

But the main thrust of his report was that this looked strongly to be a post-Brexit race hate crime that was part of a huge national trend – and he gave a platform for the victim’s ‘friend’ to say that Nigel Farage had blood on his hands. Sweeny pointed out that Farage denied ‘such accusations’ but his commentary suggested that the ‘out’ side in the referendum campaign had unleashed ‘twin poisons’.

In the third report, on Today’s business news, reporter Dominic O”Connell  spoke to the deputy Polish prime minster about efforts he was making to boost investment from the UK and the City of London into Poland.  Towards the end, he asked two questions:

“Now Britain, of course, has a large Polish population, do you expect some of them might want to return home after the Brexit vote?”

“And tragically, we had a Polish man attacked and killed in Harlow in Essex on Saturday, do you fear actually that some Poles might be motivated to return simply because they fear the Brexit vote has stirred some racist feeling against them?”

He thus also deliberately linked the Harlow killing to post-Brexit race hate against the Poles.

Overall the three reports, despite the police’s warning about jumping to conclusions, seem to have strongly inflated the race-hate angle, to the extent that it was treated as the main point. Further, in a recorded news report, John Sweeney gave someone an open goal to attack Nigel Farage as the person responsible. The person making the claims, may or may have not known the victim, and may or may not have had other motives for making such a specific, sweeping attack.

But this was of no account. This was highly irresponsible journalism that (as is reported elsewhere on News-watch) fits with the Corporation’s overall strongly negative approach to the Brexit vote and to Nigel Farage.

 

Transcript of BBC1, News at Six, 31st August, Polish Man Murdered, 6.22pm

FIONA BRUCE:     Five 15-year-old boys and a 16-year-old have been arrested on suspicion of killing a Polish man in Harlow in Essex. Arkadiusz Jóźwik who was 40 was left with fatal head injuries after an unprovoked attack on Saturday night.  Police suspect it may have been racially motivated.  The Polish ambassador to the UK has visited the scene.  Our home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford’s report contains some distressing details.

DANIEL SANDFORD:          On his first day in the job, Poland’s new ambassador to Britain found himself laying flowers, mourning one of his countrymen – a man murdered while eating a pizza in what may have been a racist attack.  This was compounded by that an alleged  friend of the victim

ARKADY RZEGOCKI Polish Ambassador:   I’m really shocked and deeply concerned on this, on this tragedy.  It’s a great tragedy, not only for Polish community but also for, for British community.

DS:           Arkadiusz Jóźwik was 40, he and two friends were attacked just before midnight on Saturday.  Alerted by one of the men who survived, the manager of the pizza takeaway, who didn’t want us to use his name, told us he was the first to find Arkadiusz as he lay dying.

PIZZA TAKEAWAY MANAGER:         He was on the floor and on his side, it’s . . . a lot of thick blood coming out of his left ear on the floor, and very thick, it’s clumped up really. And . . . you could see that it’s . . . it’s really dangerous, he’s badly hurt.

DS:           The fear is that this was a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum.  But while detectives aren’t ruling that out, it may be that Arkadiusz Jóźwik wasn’t targeted because of his race, but simply because he was there when a group of youths was looking for trouble.  People in The Stow shopping precinct said that teenagers had been causing havoc here all summer, and not just harassing Polish people.  But worrying it could be a hate crime, the local MP made this appeal.

ROBERT HALFON MP Conservative, Harlow:           We need to be a kind and decent nation and we shouldn’t allow . . . people who come from the sewers to exploit divisions.

DS:           As people mourn, detectives are pouring through CCTV footage, and have arrested six teenagers, but all have since been released on police bail.  Daniel Sandford, BBC News, Harlow.

 

Transcript of BBC2, Newsnight, 31st August, Polish Man Murdered, 10.44pm

Introduction

EVAN DAVIS:        Also tonight: a Polish man beaten to death in Essex, could it be the latest example of hate crime post-Brexit? And what does it tell us about anti-social behaviour.

ERIC HIND:            Well, to be honest, since the Brexit, I think, you know, all the British people, the Brits here think they’ve got green, er, green light here to do what they want to . . . you know, they feel very kind of, you know, (fragment of word, unclear) secure to . . . to be racist.

Main Report, 10.44pm

EVAN DAVIS:        Now, the town of Harlow in Essex is in something of a state of shock after an attack on two Polish residents on Saturday night, they killed one of them. Arkadiusz Jóźwik died from his injuries on Monday.  Five 15-year-old boys and one 16-year-old boy, all from Harlow, were arrested on suspicion of murder, all but one of them have been bailed.  Now, there are obvious worries in the Polish community, in Harlow at what looks like a hate crime.  The Polish ambassador was in the town today, along with the local MP, to offer support, and our reporter John Sweeney went to hear the local concerns.

JOHN SWEENEY:                  The killing of Arkadiusz Jóźwik, a 40-year-old Pole in Essex was a particular tragedy, and cause for a wider, more general unease about the politics of identity in Britain today.  Saturday night, just before midnight, 15 or 20 youths are here, and they’re trouble.  Arkadiusz the Polishman goes to that pizza restaurant behind me.  His phone rings, he answers it in Polish, and that, people say, is the trigger for what happens next. The story ends with Arkadiusz down on the ground, where those flowers are there now, a dying man. For Poles in Britain, there is mounting anxiety about what happened here. Today, a very public visit from Warsaw’s man in London.

ARKADY RZEGOCKI Polish Ambassador to London:              It’s the beginning of my mission in the United Kingdom, and I’m really shocked and deeply concerned on this, on this tragedy.

JS:            Eric Hind knew the dead man.

ERIC HIND:            Well, to be honest, since the Brexit, I think, you know, all the British people, the Brits here think they’ve got green, er, green light here to do what they want to . . . you know, they feel very kind of, you know, (fragment of word, unclear) secure to . . . to be racist, to, to, to, to, to swear, to say all kind of rude comments, or just to be sarcastic, to, to saying sarcastic comments every day at work. I’ve been there, and, you know, and er . . . it’s not nice.

JS:            All the British people we spoke to told us they were horrified by the killing and had no problem with the Polish community.  Conrad works in the cafe directly opposite the pizza takeaway.  He spoke to us first in English, and then in Polish.

CONRAD:               Three weeks ago, when I was out shopping, there was a group of people sitting on the bench here.  I think they were under the influence of alcohol.  They threw an empty bottle at me, but I didn’t react, I just kept walking, because I didn’t know what would happen, if there wouldn’t be consequences.

JS:            This is not an isolated experience.  What happened here isn’t only a story of the ugly mood in our country post-Brexit. It’s also a story about antisocial behaviour, of people at night being afraid to walk down a British high street.

MANDY SPARKS:                  They terrorise all the shopkeepers. They terrorise people just walking through. It’s awful. Awful. They go into shops, they knock things off shelves, and then walk back out.  Shopkeepers are too scared to say anything.

MAX EDWARDS:                  We have no problem against any foreign people, there is a problem with the police controlling a group of 25 youths, wheeling pushbikes up and down here.  The police have not got the power to come and do it until it’s too late, like today, and now they want to come and deal with the situation.  Well, it’s too late, someone’s died, someone’s lost their family now – all because the police can’t control the situation.  Why is there a group of youths hanging around here anyway?  The police should disperse them.

JS:            It was not supposed to be like this.  12 years ago today, then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, visited Harlow – why? To laud the local success in tackling antisocial behaviour.

ROBERT HALFON MP Harlow (Conservative):          I believe that Harlow is a kind and tolerant place to live, I’m very proud of being MP here.  The vast majority of people are tolerant, we actually have lower levels of antisocial behaviour than other parts, er . . . of Essex, and er, er, the country, relatively.  However of course there are problems in certain areas, we need to find out what has happened.  Today is a day for the family and the Polish community, and the people of Harlow, but we need to find out what has happened, why it’s happened, and lessons that can be learnt from it.

JS:            In Harlow tonight people united for a vigil, but for the town’s Polish community the killing of one of their own makes emotions raw.

ERIC HIND:            (fragment of word, unclear) I don’t know if I can mention names but I mean . . .

JS:            Mention names.

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

JS:            Nigel Farage has always denied this allegation. As the search for clues and answers continues, the fear is that two poisons have come together to a lethal result.

ED:           John Sweeney in Harlow.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Today, 1st September 2016, Business Update, 8.40am

DOMINIC O’CONNELL:     Ever since the Brexit vote, continental capitals have been laying plans to lure away some big institutions from the City of London, today its Poland’s turn, and with me in the studio is the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, thank you for joining us, minister. What’s the purpose of the trip? You are hoping to persuade some big institutions to invest in Poland?

MATEUSZ MORAWIECKI:                  Good morning (fragments of words, unclear) the first purpose is to make our friendship between the British nation and the Polish nation, and our two countries even stronger.  Poland is a very good place to invest and many British companies know this very well, regardless of British Brexit referendum. Er, we already host lots of international companies from Great Britain, and, and we have a roadshow across many different countries and we invite British companies, German companies, American companies, because they realise . . . and there are lots of assets, we have a highly educated staff, very and erm . . . high level of security, we have just had World Youth Day and no er, crime happened over the five days, and there were . . . this was, the (word unclear) was visited by 2.5 million people.

DO:          But do you think the Brexit vote provides you with an extra opportunity?

MM:        There might be some opportunity, but we simply continue our job we, we, we really are doing similar things than, as we were doing, erm, before the Brexit referendum.  We will be the biggest economy in the European Union, 40 million people nationwide, the biggest economy in Central and Eastern Europe, er, so a land of opportunity for British companies, and we have a very good track record in our GDP growth over the last 25 years, the only country in the European Union that did not have recession, stable in a regulatory environment, so a good place to invest.

DO:          Now Britain, of course, has a large Polish population, do you expect some of them might want to return home after the Brexit vote?

MM:        Yes, I think so, I, I believe there will be many people coming back, I don’t know how many, but, erm, apparently there are some, there are some . . . 900,000 people, er, here in the Great Britain, I think a couple of (fragments of words, unclear) hundreds of thousands, er, may come back over the next five, er, ten years, and Poland is now a very low level of unemployment, highly educated staff and, and businesses are growing as nowhere in Europe.

DO:          And tragically, we had a Polish man attacked and killed in Harlow in Essex on Saturday, do you fear actually that some Poles might be motivated to return simply because they fear the Brexit vote has stirred some racist feeling against them?

MM:        This is a very sad day, this was a very sad day (words unclear ‘a sad event day’?) er, I think this, this might be the case that some people might think about this in that context, I know one line of the investigation erm, investigation by the police was that it might have been a, a hate crime, it remains to be seen what were the reasons, so condolences for the family and for the local community, I hope it will never happen again, but, but, but yes, this will, this will pose a question mark in many families, Polish families in Great Britain.

DO:          Thank you very much, Mateusz Morawiecki

 

BBC comedy ’spoof’ about Farage sounds alarm bells

BBC comedy ’spoof’ about Farage sounds alarm bells

So finally, then, the BBC is going to make a programme about Nigel Farage.

Not – as might maybe expected from the UK’s main public service broadcaster – a documentary explaining his remarkable role over 20 years in triggering the UK’s exit from the European Union.

That’s not yet in the pipeline. The Corporation is still far too busy finding different ways of telling us what a mistake Brexit is. Monday’s Today programme, for example, had an Oxford historian commenting on whether it was a foreign policy disaster that ranked with Suez.

No, instead, the boys and girls in the BBC so-called comedy department – fresh from this week’s disastrous re-make of Are You Being Served? – have in mind something a bit more in keeping with their thoughts about the former Ukip leader.

For those who did not have the doubtful pleasure of seeing the Grace Brothers’ revival episode, Michael Horgan, the Daily Telegraph’s TV reviewer is helpfully to hand. Among his comments were that it ‘crammed innuendos into the script with a crowbar’, and he then noted:

‘It was 12 minutes before candyfloss-haired Mrs Slocombe (played by a gurning, hammy Sherrie Hewson) made the first reference to her pussy and 17 minutes until Mr Humphries (Jason Watkins) trilled “I’m free”. Both were greeted with cheers yet it wasn’t enough to save this turgid, interminable half-hour.’

What Horgan didn’t say was that the script, by Benidorm writer Derren Litten, also converted the department store’s Young Mr Grace into a nasty speculative, people-hating opportunistic, capitalist who could have walked straight out of the pages of Jeremy Corbyn’s ’nationalise everything’ policy manual. How very, very BBC.

So what do the comedy department plan for Farage? According to the Radio Times, it’s a jolly one-off ‘special’ called Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back, and it will feature ‘the former politician coping with life out of the limelight’.

Now, of course, it may be that something very funny is on the drawing board. And politicians must expect to be the target of satire and mickey-taking as part of being held to account.

The BBC news department – and especially presenters such as Evan Davis – have always faithfully delivered in this respect. They have with clockwork reliability in dozens of interviews treated Farage as something of a a joke, and mechanically – even maniacally – asked questions about him being the BNP in blazers, a one-trick wonder, and worse.

Former BBC perennial presenter Sandi Toksvig – whose mindset underpins much of BBC comedy – was also in on the act, though a touch less subtly. She compared Farage to Hitler at the Hay literary festival.

Something in this equation of Farage + the BBC + comedy sets special alarm bells ringing. One clue is that ‘insiders’ told the Radio Times that his character was already being described as a ‘cross between Basil Fawlty and Enoch Powell.’

A second flash of warning comes from Kevin Bishop, the actor/comedian who has been selected to play Farage. He told the Radio Times:

‘Nigel Farage is the gift that keeps on giving…there is the moustache and now the appearance at the Trump rally, it’s going to be fun’.

Now, of course that might be true. But somehow, in a ‘spoof’ project emanating from the BBC, that juxtaposition suggests that ‘fun’ is likely to be the perennial, wearisome innuendos about of racism and right-wing extremism that have been the hallmark of the Corporation’s entire treatment of Farage.

Craig Byers, of Is the BBC Biased?, has observed:

‘And yes, alas, apparently his wife really will be brought into the mockery too. Which other well-known politician would the BBC do this to? Astonishingly, reports even say, “If the episode is a success it could be given the green light to be turned into a full series”. Just imagine that with your ‘BBC impartiality’ hats on!’

Quite. The BBC would do this to no other politician. Not even Jeremy Corbyn.

Photo by Jennifer Jane Mills

R4 Brexit Street maligns ‘out’ voters

R4 Brexit Street maligns ‘out’ voters

What could be the biggest threat to Brexit?

Tory back-sliding and plotting by remainiacs like Anna Soubry?  Undoubtedly they will have spent much of the summer fomenting new lines of subversion. They are ready pounce on and exaggerate any dissension in party Brexit ranks, as last weekend’s Sunday Times story about the alleged turf-war spat between Boris Johnson and Liam Fox underlined.

Or could Owen Smith confound the whole Westminster village, win the Labour leadership election and, with a miraculously re-unified party behind him, force, as he says he will, a second referendum? Most Labour MPs still obdurately think that voters for Brexit, many of them their constituents, were deluded fools.

Pigs are more likely to fly of course than Owen Smith is to beat Jeremy Corbyn.  But much stranger things in politics have happened in the bewildering battery of developments since June 23.

One constant in the equation, and perhaps the biggest threat of all to Brexit – through the corrosive propaganda they are continuing to generate on an industrial scale – is the BBC. Two months on from the referendum vote, they are still searching relentlessly for reasons why ‘no’ was totally a mistake.

It is impossible to keep track of this deluge. It’s suffused, for example, throughout the Corporation’s business coverage (best evidenced in Today’s 6.15am business news slot), has infected food, environment and comedy programmes, and of course, dominates news coverage. If you have doubts, take a while to browse the Corporation’s Brexit Collection on the iPlayer – almost every programme rams home hard the collective anti-Brexit meme.

Such is the scale of the effort that a whole new mythology is in the process of being forged. In BBC programmes, Brexit voters are mostly unemployed, usually almost inarticulate, and they speak in impenetrable northern or guttural regional accents. They are mostly old and despise the young. Above all, they hate strangers and immigrants to the extent that they are plotting and committing by the hour ‘hate’ crimes on unprecedented levels.

A further bedrock of this new BBC reality is that ‘out’ voters were duped by unprincipled, racist opportunistic politicians such as Nigel Farage who spun a web of fiendishly convincing lies.

Over-egging? No. A manifestation of these fables-in-the-making is being broadcast on Radio 4’s PM programme, Producers have built around a real, but unidentified ‘ordinary’ street on Teesside a series they have dubbed ‘Brexit Street’.

So far reporter Emma Jane Kirby has fronted five reports, each of which has brought listeners – through the views of local residents – what is claimed to be the reasons why people voted out.

In the right hands, this could be interesting, revealing broadcasting. But this is the BBC, and instead it is a caricature of Northern voters that is beyond parody.

For a start ‘Brexit Street’ is not ’ordinary’. The exact location has not been revealed to listeners. All that has been said is that it is in the town of Thornaby-on-Tees, an inner city area sandwiched between Stockton on Tees in the west and Middlesbrough to the east.

A little digging from the facts presented by Kirby (it has terrace houses, a Salvation Army premises, a bookies’ and a supermarket) reveals that it can be only the local thoroughfare, Westbury Street. And once identified, a whole series of alarm bells start ringing.

First, the housing is mainly old inner city stock and a terrace house can be bought there for between £40,000 and £60,000, compared with the local average of around £100,000 and a regional North-eastern figure of around £120,000.  So it’s pretty downmarket, even in an area (Middlesbrough especially) which is facing very tough and exceptional times because of the closure of the local steelworks.

Second – and this is probably the killer blow to any pretence of balanced journalism – Kirby revealed in the opening report that ‘a large number of asylum seekers’ are residents. Further spadework reveals that Middlesbrough and Stockton town councils are the only two in the North-east which are accepting asylum seekers on a large scale. There are nearly 700 in the local government area covering Thornaby, equating to one in 280 local residents.

That said, Westbury Street has only 120 households, and the local average house occupation rate is 2.3 – so it would be expected that only one or two residents there would be asylum seekers. Kirby, however, says there are ‘large numbers’ living there (and of course she’s interviewed many of them) – suggesting that the local council is using the street for their re-settlement because housing there is especially cheap.

What this boils down to is that Westbury Street is not at all average and not at all ordinary. Kirby has focused in two of the first five reports on that the asylum seekers feel isolated and alone and are not integrated, mainly because of the views and implied prejudice of the locals who voted out.

Asylum seekers, of course, are nothing to do with the EU. But never mind the facts. Going there and projecting the alleged prejudice against these unfortunate people (one is a victim of alleged military atrocities in the Congo) as a contributory cause of the Brexit vote fits neatly with the new BBC mythology.

More reports in the series are a treat in store. What has been presented so far is a travesty of balanced journalism.

BBC snooping intensifies in pursuit of iPlayer licence-fee dodgers

BBC snooping intensifies in pursuit of iPlayer licence-fee dodgers

Watch out!  Are you about to be packet-sniffed by the BBC?

The prospect of millions of viewers being snooped upon by Corporation licence-fee collectors in unprecedented ways is firmly on the agenda.

The BBC has denied that the actual ‘packet-sniffing’, which (for the uninitiated) involves breaking into private wi-fi networks using special software, and is illegal if used privately, will be involved in their collection activities, but their protestations are not fully-convincing.

Even their friends on The Guardian smell a rat.  And definitely being deployed the length and breadth of the land by collection agents Capita from September 1 in order to catch miscreants who dare to access the BBC iPlayer via their computers – even if they don’t also have a TV set – are a range of new snooping measures that put the licence evasion operation even more firmly into the Big Brother league.

The BBC won’t reveal what these measures are, or what equipment they will actually use, but they have been granted extra enforcement powers under the Investigatory Powers Act, which was passed by the Blair government in 2000, and enables eavesdropping by authorised bodies using a vast array of sophisticated equipment.

Why is this deemed necessary in the run up to Charter renewal? Because despite pressure on the Conservative government to find new, less repressive and more modern ways of funding the Corporation – and dozens of well-argued options being out there – former Chancellor George Osborne decided instead to cave in to Corporation pressure.

Perversely, the BBC, an organisation that goes into indignation overdrive at the very mention of state intrusion in other arenas, thinks that mass-spying and the criminalisation of 153,000 people a year is both justified and essential in pursuit of its own reservation and ends.

No matter that tens of thousands of these offenders are the least well-off, Osborne ruled in 2015 – despite the advice of then culture secretary John Whittingdale – that the licence fee would not only continue but would be extended to viewing of catch-up services on the BBC iPlayer.

All this interference would be completely unnecessary if the BBC’s totally outmoded financing system, dating from an era when the broadcast spectrum was a scarce resource, was scrapped and replaced by subscription funding.

Audiences would then be able to choose which programmes and services they wanted to buy. This is a consumer model which applies to almost every other product, and which works perfectly well as a revenue model for Sky, Netflix, HBO and legions of other broadcasters.

Instead, the government has gone completely the opposite way, and the UK is saddled with this regressive and repressive regime from September 1 until the next Charter review in ten years’ time.

The statistics on licence enforcement make for fascinating reading and underline that the agenda here is not at all straightforward. Nuts and sledgehammers come to mind. Is such massive intrusion actually required?

And the suspicion emerges that in play also might also be the government’s desire to protect some of its own revenues rather than to open up broadcasting to normal competitive pressures.

Facts (gleaned from a variety of sources, including here):

The BBC, through Capita and the magistrates’ court system, pursues each year 170,000 cases a year of licence evasion.

The number has been rising at the rate of 4% per annum.  They (and Capita) are thus becoming increasingly intrusive.

Of these, 153,000 prosecutions a year are successful.  The vast majority of ‘evaders’ are from low-income households, often those headed by a single parent.

This volume amounts to 11.5% of total cases in magistrates’ courts, but the combined workload takes up only 0.3% of court time because cases are rarely contested and hearings are en masse in special courts. This means that the cost per prosecution is only £28.

The average fine plus surcharges for non-payment (with offenders having to pay the licence fee on top) is £340.  This means that the total yield of licence evasion to the Ministry of Justice is around £52 million. Astonishingly, that’s approximately 10% of the total fines revenue imposed in UK courts (£550m). Put another way, licence fee evasion is a cheap cash-cow for the Ministry.

And yet, conversely, licence fee non-payment adds up to only a small fraction of the Corporation’s £3.7 billion n licence-fee revenues. The £3.7 billion equates to 25.5 million licence fees – roughly in line with the number of UK households. Evasion is only £22.3m, or roughly 0.5% of the total.

The law is the law, of course…but a central question here is whether ever-expanding intrusion, with all the unpleasant elements such snooping entails, can be justified? Is it right that tens of thousands of the UK’s poor continue to be criminalised in this way? Netflix and Sky simply cut people off.

Whichever way you look at it, the system is outmoded, Orwellian and in some respects, plain ridiculous. George Osborne has a lot more than extreme Europhilia to answer for.

Photo by dan taylor

Can new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley Sort Out BBC Bias?

Can new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley Sort Out BBC Bias?

These are frustrating times for those who want an end to BBC bias.

Post-Brexit, there has been a concentrated deluge of pro-EU, anti-Brexit broadcasting. The primary intent seems to be to force a second referendum and keep the UK in the EU. Evan Davis, as ever, is among those leading the charge.

The highly biased coverage of post referendum affairs shows that the Corporation is totally out of touch with the 17m who want out. Their version of ‘understanding’ them is to go to backstreets in the most deprived areas of the country and patronise the locals.

But the malaise goes much deeper. The reporting of Hinckley Point saga last week showed that yet again, their only agenda in the thorny issue of energy supply is that of the Green Blob.

In the BBC universe, fantasy ‘climate’ targets (espoused by the High Priests of EU-funded Greenpeace) to keep temperature rises below 1.5 degrees centigrade are considered far more important than the urgent need to keep millions of pensioners and young families warm at affordable prices.

Add to that their extreme reluctance to attribute terrorism to anything other than ‘mental illness’, and the BBC’s bloody-minded drive to undermine whenever possible British culture and tradition, and the overall picture of bias reaches crisis proportions.    There is a rot at the heart of the Corporation’s outlook that only an Augean cleansing will achieve.

John Whittingdale’s White Paper on BBC reform was published back in early May. Thanks to George Osborne’s meddling over the licence fee, it was sadly a fudge. Instead of effective change, including funding by subscription, which as an Institute of Economic Affairs paper has adroitly pointed out, would have genuinely opened the Corporation up and made it sensitive to viewers’ needs, it perpetuated the licence fee for another decade.

The other changes were thoughtful and significant but nowhere near enough. There was scrapping of the failed Trustees, budgetary scrutiny by the National Audit Office, and the creation of a new, souped-up Executive Board made up of a mixture of BBC executives and independent directors (including the chairman).

Further changes involved overall regulation by Ofcom on the performance and delivery of services, and as the body of appeal in matters of impartiality. This was the most glaring mistake. An end to BBC bias will only come about when the Corporation content is opened up to genuinely independent scrutiny. Ofcom is run by former BBC staff, with their same outlook, and so in this respect the White Paper was a total dud.

All this was thrown into turmoil after Brexit when Whittingdale was unceremoniously fired in the Cabinet shake-up. In his place Karen Bradley – elected as an MP (for Staffordshire Moorlands) for the first time only in 2010 – was elevated to Cabinet level from her previous (and only government) role as ministerial support for May in the Home Office.

There’s nothing wrong with injection of new blood, but it means that the Culture department is now being run by an accountant with no experience of media management at all and very little too, of what Bill Clinton called ‘change-making’ at government level. She is an ingénue when it comes to the Gormenghast-politics of the BBC.

The BBC, by contrast, has years of experience of seeing off challenges to its so-called independence, and indeed has battalions of staff trained to pursue that end. This does not bode well at all. Director General Lord Hall and his main henchman in this department, James Purnell – himself a former Culture Secretary – must currently be feeling like cats who have found the cream.

Bradley, of course, may turn out to be a tough cookie, and there is no rule that says a minister of state must have previous experience of the subject matter of his or her portfolio. Indeed, a fresh eye and an outside perspective can be a catalyst for genuine change.

However, broadcasting is not just any brief, and the BBC not just any adversary. Politicians of every stripe are star-struck and mesmerised by the Corporation. They are terrified that saying the wrong things will incur Auntie displeasure and disfavour.

This, disappointingly, became sharply apparent this week when the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published with very little fanfare its report on its reaction to the Whittingdale White Paper. The findings? They have tamely accepted most of the fudged changes, turning their fire only on a relevantly minor issue, the high level of pay of some BBC talent.

Most tellingly, there’s not a peep about complaints handling.

On that basis, as things stand, the Corporation could well be off the hook yet again (unless Bradley surprises us all). It looks that for another decade the BBC public will be saddled with the licence fee, the deckchairs will be re-arranged slightly. And BBC bias will carry on relentlessly.

Photo by Foreign and Commonwealth Office