My grandfather was born in 1901, joined the army under age to serve in the trenches of the First World War, then re-enlisted and by the age of 21 was discharged again having served in bloody theatres in both the North-West frontier (modern Pakistan) and Iraq.
He was brought up in grinding poverty in the backstreets of the industrial West Riding, but was a melodious baritone, energetic dancer and a natural comedian. After leaving the army for good, he appeared on the northern music hall circuit with his best friend Billy, but was forced to give it up because my great-grandmother insisted that he find a proper job.
That meant he never got further in his life than being an unskilled labourer. He was unemployed during the Depression, and his last job, when he retired at 65 in 1966, paid less than £5 a week.
But he was a perennial optimist and he loved the idea of success. His heroes and heroines were figures like Charlie Chaplin and Gracie Fields. And so it was that the story of Nymphs and Shepherds, a million-selling record made by a children’s choir in Manchester in 1929 – in the era of the wind-up gramophone – was something that I was aware of from being a tiny tot. He adored the story of people like him making good, of being able to better themselves.
To him, the recording of Nymphs and Shepherds was a shining example of what ordinary folk could aspire to and achieve if they had discipline, decency, application and the right framework provided by teachers and bosses who cared.
So it with eager anticipation – and with my grandfather firmly in mind, especially as it was Christmas – that I decided to watch Victoria Wood’s ‘The Day We Sang’ musical on BBC2. The previews suggested that this was a bells-and-whistles Boxing Day evening treat, the finest that the BBC could offer.
I should have known better. In reality, this was a crude political tract with every BBC prejudice on display. Ms Wood delivered the bullets – the plot and characters, though based on a real event, were concocted in her imagination – but it was the BBC which provided the lavish budget and put her agitprop class polemics at the heart of its Christmas offerings.
Of course, it was funny and even moving in parts, if in a rather sugary way. An essence of the magic of the choir’s performance was captured. Victoria Wood has many talents and knows how to spin a yarn. But within seconds the grating clichés of characterisation began to appear, and with them, a descent into excruciating parody.
Boo! One of the key characters you loved to hate was the callous, abandoning father of the lead boy who nearly didn’t make it to the choir’s performance. This archetypal male drone was, of course, off to Canada without a second thought – all he could give to his son as he broke his heart with news of his departure was a gramophone.
Hurrah! Another key feature of the play was that the lead boy was being brought up by a heroine put-upon single mother, surviving against all the odds in post- Jarrow march Manchester and clearly a beacon for us all. She was a bit dour maybe, and a bit of a killjoy – but that was because she was down-trodden and scared in a world that didn’t care (even thought there was a Labour-led Coalition government in 1929).
Boo –again! The second Mr Nasty, another vital pillar of the plot, was the lead woman’s boss, a callous, brain-free buffoon motivated only by what was in his trousers. He was a Capitalist and therefore devoid of any decent human characteristics at all, and he had led his saintly female employee into personal Armageddon by forcing an affair upon her. Not quite an ‘all males are rapists’ characterisation – but only a whisker away.
Shock Horror! The male lead, played Mr Nice Guy himself, the singer Michael Ball, was a decent caring male. But here, of course, there was a sting in the tale. He was romantic and caring in a bumbling, vacuous sort of way – and that’s because actually, like the Capitalist Boss, he had not much between the ears and therefore was incapable of artifice or scheming.
Hurrah -again! For the saintly and put-upon (also by the nasty Capitalist Boss) secretary who with care, compassion and brilliant human insight ensured that the two leads could continue with their romance despite the male vacuity, domination and unpleasantness all around.
Boo! Too, for the middle class participants in this tale of class warfare. They were boring, self-interested, essentially thick, and their only aspiration was to be able to eat in a Berni Inn.
Nicholas Booth has already on The Conservative Woman over the Christmas period adroitly made the point that BBC drama, along with most of the output, has gone beyond redemption in its bias. What leapt out from ‘The Day We Sang’ in block capitals was how simplistic, uni-directional and in-your-face this campaign has now become, and how bankrupt the BBC is in not offering any alternative viewpoints.
All in all, less subtle than a pantomime.
My grandfather, I guess, is turning in his grave.
John Humphrys ‘admission’ behind a paywall in the Sunday Times that the BBC has botched and skewed coverage of immigration – and failed to reflect genuine concern and genuine cultural and infrastructure issues, not to mention the malign influence in the equation of the EU – is a classic and totally meaningless Corporation mea culpa.
Why? Well Humphrys produces not a shred of evidence to back up his claim. It’s a lofty pronouncement from a high priest of BBC journalism to us less lesser mortals, the audience.
He doesn’t say in which interview, with which guests or how or when he arrived at the judgment. Was it perhaps when for the nth occasion, he patronisingly told Nigel Farage he was a corrupt fruitcake and failed to treat him seriously? Or maybe when he and his colleagues deliberately ignored yet another report from Andrew Green at Migration Watch, and instead focused on the risibly skewed findings of ‘researchers’ at UCL who said the total influx of Polish immigrants would be 14,000? Of which, more, later.
No, this ’bias’ happened at some undefined, mysterious time in the murky miasmic mists of the Blair era. It evidently made Humphrys queasy and uneasy, but back then, he and his chums above and below him in the BBC hierarchy did nothing at all about it.
Now, though, says the great man, the bias is fixed – it’s a matter of regret, but move along there, folks, nothing to see: everything in the BBC garden is tickety-boo.
Humphrys joins in the mea culpa confession stakes political editor Nick Robinson – who said pretty much the same thing at the beginning of the year – former television news chief Roger Mosey (ditto, the year before, but only after he had left the Corporation and was safely ensconced as master of Selwyn College, Cambridge), and former director general Mark Thompson (ditto, the year before that).
All the confessions are eerily similar, as if emanating from a common hand in the BBC equivalent of the Politburo. Roughly, give or take a few commas, they should have been tougher in exposing the Blair government’s undeclared unlimited immigration policy, but, whoops, weren’t, because a) it’s jolly difficult terrain, and b) they were afraid of committing the biggest sins of all in the BBC lexicon: being seen as racist or a spanner in the works of multiculturalism.
This raises two massively crucial points about the BBC £1bn news operation.
First, Humphrys and those he works with don’t have any real knowledge. What his ‘confession’ seems to be based upon is gut journalistic instinct rather than any form of measurement. And it’s only now, when UKIP is winning by-elections and voters are showing that they do deeply care about the impact of the biggest influx of immigrants in British history that they have seen the light, and then only as a flickering flame of shame in the distant past.
Second, the BBC – from Humphrys downward and upward to the Trustees – will never, ever respond to genuine concerns about bias. Here, the facts are incontrovertible.
Back in December 2004, my organisation News-watch (then Minotaur Media Tracking) was commissioned by Sir Andrew Green to investigate across seven flagship programmes whether editors were paying enough attention and were properly balanced in covering precisely the issue and period Humphrys is talking about – the lifting of the controls (because of changes in the EU) that led to an influx of Poles and others from Eastern Europe.
The meticulous 12,000-word report involved the transcribing of every item in which immigration or asylum was mentioned over a three-month period. Its headline conclusions included this:
‘TODAY – for example, despite broadcasting 30 items on the topic, had only three on economic migration as opposed to asylum. It scrutinised poorly the moves towards the dropping of the UK’s EU veto, and paid had disproportionate attention to asylum seeker problems while not investigating the impact of immigration on the UK.’
With the benefit of hindsight, this could have been a little clearer. What the meticulous research actually spotted was that Today was virtually avoiding escalating immigration from the EU while focusing on the bleeding heart cases of those who were trying to obtain asylum – and mixing the two together as if they were the same thing. This was larded, of course, with frequent direct and indirect accusations of racism.
‘In the entire three month period in coverage of immigration, there were only around 20 brief mentions of the figures involved….‘The coverage of immigration, therefore, was carried out with only minimal analysis of one of the key components of the debate…This was rather surprising, given the debate itself – for all political parties – is mostly about numbers.’
‘During the 14 weeks, apart from one brief mention of a planning inquiry for a new centre for illegal immigrants, there was no item designed to examine the impact of immigration on British communities, and little effort to cover why there was concern about immigration.’
Sir Andrew Green presented these findings to then BBC news chief boss Helen Boaden soon afterwards – but she did nothing, to the point that (I am told) Sir Andrew now believes that any form of protest to the BBC news management is pointless.
In other words, despite what Humphrys says, the BBC did have knowledge of the glaring inadequacies of its coverage. His ‘confession’ is thus utter nonsense. It boils down to that there was a disgraceful avoidance by he and the BBC of debate in an area of crucial public importance.
The answer is that on one particular subject – the coverage of EU affairs – it most definitely is.
For 15 long years, News-watch has been investigating. Our reports deploy the most robust analytical methodology and demonstrate that, for example, over the treatment of withdrawal from the EU, the Corporation’s coverage is outrageously limited and skewed.
The latest report, focusing on the European elections in May, shows that during the entire campaign on the Corporation’s most high-profile news and currents affairs programmes, no supporter of withdrawal was asked a single question about the topic.
Instead, the focus was relentlessly – to the point of persecution – on whether those who supported withdrawal (UKIP of course) were racist, incompetent or corrupt. The latest full report can be read here.
Over most of those 15 years, the Corporation’s senior management and Trustees have disgracefully refused to engage with this research.
Instead they come up with a whole series of stonewall defences. This includes bunging loads of licence-fee cash to their media chums and former employees in academia to write rival reports. But their methodology, as News-watch demonstrated conclusively in a Civitas paper, is lamentably poor.
In the process, it has become abundantly clear that despite their protestations, Corporation news mandarins do not have the faintest idea of how to measure their own output. Their approach relies principally on bluster and insults.
So it was with great interest that I watched the latest defence against the recent big guns Tory attack when call me Dave and George Osborne accused the BBC of bias and exaggeration in its coverage of the Autumn statement.
The response of the BBC press office? “We’ll undoubtedly get more criticism from across the political spectrum as the election gets closer, but we’ll keep doing our job.”
Well golly. In other words, sometime in the next six months until the General Election, the Corporation will receive another complaint from someone from the other side of the political fence.
A defence, it seems, based on a new-found capacity of serried ranks of 180 in the Press Office to foretell the future. The sybils at Delphi would have been envious.
In fact, this argument – that because the BBC is criticised from all sides, it must be doing something right – is perhaps the oldest weapon in the Corporation’s armoury, wheeled out with wearying predictability.
News-watch records show the first use of the tactic back in summer 2000. In response to a report, they produced two letters by listeners one attacking John Humphrys for pro-EU bias, the second for his anti-EU bias.
There was no additional commentary, but incredibly, Corporation chiefs believed both that it was an-ace-of-hearts trump card, and that it showed that Humphrys could not be biased towards both sides of the argument simultaneously – so therefore he must not be biased at all.
A moment’s reflection shows that such ‘logic’ is utter tosh. One of the viewpoints could be correct and the other completely wrong. There is no way of judging the credibility of the two viewpoints chosen. There might have been hundreds more letters supporting one perspective than the other, yet both are given equal weight. And one might have been based on robust fact and research, the other purely on impression.
The second defence, said by media pundits to be ‘unprecedented’, was that the BBC Press Office moved to tackle the Sun newspaper head on , issuing line-by-line rebuttals of two editorials.
The Sun December 2 leader said that, despite pledges of reform, the numbers of senior managers earning more than the Prime Minister continued to rise. The next day, there was a follow-up, this time calling for the licence fee to be scrapped, accusing BBC bosses of handing top jobs to friends of friends, and it tearing into what is said were the ‘left-wing prejudices of this Guardian-reading elite’
The BBC response was every bit as limp as its attempts at fortune-telling described above. The principal defence – presented without a scrap of supporting evidence but as if it was unarguable fact – was that the BBC provided ‘programmes and services which the public love’ and a claim that, ‘…at just £2.80 a week per household the BBC provides excellent value for money.’
Well that’s alright then. And as BBC Director of Television Danny Cohen (salary £327,800)says, we must not dare criticise.
On senior management pay, the defence was a classic Watergate ‘non-denial denial’ that perhaps would have made even Nixon blush. The press office said: “…senior manager numbers fell again last year from 445 to 410”. But that was not even the point the Sun had made. The specific complaint was that 91 senior managers earned more than the PM.
In response to the criticism of recruitment and left-wing bias, the BBC argued “We appoint people from a wide variety of different backgrounds – including newspapers from across the political spectrum” It was unclear from the nonsensical sentence construction (or course the BBC doesn’t appoint newspapers to its roles) whether this meant appointments were advertised across a range of newspapers or that journalists from various newspapers were subsequently appointed by the BBC.
This, of course, is an equally unsubtle variation of the two-complaints- from-different-sides prove balance argument. I have no doubt that, somewhere in the Corporation, if you dig hard enough and deep enough, in some dusty corner, there are those who have worked for the Daily Mail. But as this book by former BBC correspondent Robin Aitken brilliantly pointed out, they definitely do not cancel out the liberal-left bias.
Why was I not at all surprised to read of the huge shortfall in EU spending of £259 billion pounds? Yes, the one to which, all of a sudden, Britain will be expected to contribute to some £34 billion?
I am talking about that hole in the EU budget that the BBC has kept the British public so abreast of, the one it made sure we all knew about prior to the EU elections.
Of course the BBC did no such thing. It has never fulfilled its mission to ‘inform and educate’ us about our progressive capture by and capitulation to the EU’s changing agenda since we joined, let alone how it spent our taxes.
The BBC’s output from day one has never reflected the importance of the EU in ordinary Britons’ lives – how it spends their money. I know. This is what the consistent and painstaking monitoring of its output by News-watch, the BBC bias monitoring website, since 1999 has demonstrated. The unsurprisingly low turnout for the 1999 European election was described sneeringly by Jeremy Paxman as an ‘outbreak of narcolepsy’. And whose fault was that?
The BBC’s lack of interest persisted through important summits as well as the process of creating the new EU constitution.
Awareness of the the EU’s catastrophic finances has been a long time coming. Yet the evidence that all in the garden was far from rosy was there back in 2001. Then the EU’s former chief accountant Marta Andreasen refused to sign off the 2001 European Commission accounts for good reason; she said its accounting system was open to fraud.
Her criticisms ignored, Andreasen went public with her concerns only to be sacked for her pains (she was suspended from her job by the Commission for “violating Articles 12 and 21 of staff regulations, failure to show sufficient loyalty and respect”).
Yet, despite her stand, few people in the UK were made aware of this financial catastrophe in the making; not least because of the BBC’s bias and negligence in its reporting of all matters EU.
They kept the British public in the dark by virtue of that BBC default – bias by omission.
You can either put their indifference down to their being part of a liberal metropolitan conspiracy whose main concern was to avoid reporting the encroaching powers of Europe. Heaven forfend that they should thereby antagonise the public and made them more Eurosceptic than already.
Or you can accept the BBC’s own excuse (on the rare occasions that they have ‘fessed up’) that much of what takes place in Brussels and Strasbourg is complex and boring and the British public don’t want to know – the lazy excuse of an organisation that had weakened its own raison d’etre by its continuous dumbing down, as the Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover once put it.
You might have thought that the rise and rise of UKip and Nigel Farage would have forced a reconsideration of the BBC’s approach to EU coverage. But no, the BBC continued to forgive all EU failings in the name of that higher cause – “Europe – the European idea”; the one that European Council President Herman van Rompuy and his predecessors, all the way back to Jean Monnet, adhere to.
Despite the fact that the demand for an EU exit is now political mainstream – made all the more so by the former Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson’s speech on Monday – the BBC’s coverage remains not just resolutely negative but totally inadequate. Worse it has continued to smear and sideline Ukip’s best efforts to raise the issue of our membership.
This I believe is why, before Owen Paterson raised it, there was never any discussion on the BBC of David Cameron’s option of serving notice on the EU – that of invoking Article 50 of the EU’s governing treaties.
Correct me if I am wrong, but my guess is that apart from the Sunday Telegraph’s Christopher Booker, forensic Brussels expert Richard North and Tory MEP Dan Hannan, few people in the British Isles would have known this was an option – let alone a strategy.
Whose fault is that?
The Sun thinks we can do without the EU; Ukip’s defiance has changed the game plan. When, if ever, will the BBC catch on?
Yes, I know, Cameron’s promised referendum hangs in the balance of the next election but the pressure to quit the EU is not about to diminish any time soon.
After reading the Telegraph’s headlines this morning, a whole load more people must have been thinking, like me: ‘Wouldn’t it be better to be out before the bill lands on the mat.”?
Ukip, one way or another, may force a referendum sooner rather than later, leaving us with the question of how we are to get out.
Yet, despite Mr Paterson, no one in the BBC is addressing it – anymore that they addressed the EU’s financial black hole.
Have you heard any discussion of this? How we get out – outside the hallowed realms of right wing think-tanks? Certainly nothing serious on the BBC.
Yet, how we do it matters a lot for our future trading prosperity. Never more was there something that we need to get right.
So, since there is no way we can rely on the BBC to inform us, I plan to make my best effort to get an informed debate going – here on TCW.
Soon, I will blog on a lunch-time discussion I attended at the Centre for Policy Studies led by Dan Hannan and founder of the Trade Policy Research Centre Ronald Stewart Brown. It certainly opened my eyes to the question of whether we would be best to negotiate some form of free trade association with the EU or negotiate to stay in a ‘customs union’ on a new intergovernmental basis.
It may sound arcane. It is actually vital that we get it right.
Kathy Gyngell is co-founder of News-watch and co-editor of The Conservative Woman, where this article was first published.
Tony Hall, the BBC director general, says he has investigated the BBC’s conduct in the reporting of the searching of Cliff Richard’s home in connection with an alleged sexual offence.
Sir Michael Parkinson and Geoffrey Robertson (the latter not known for affinities with the Liberal-Left) are both deeply experienced in the practise and ethics of journalism. Both say the decision by the Corporation to treat the search as a major news event complete with helicopter aerial shots was at best seriously over the top and at worst could be seen as a witch-hunt against the star.
Also seriously concerned are the Commons Home Affairs select committee who have ordered Lord Hall and the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire (who directed the search) to appear before it to explain their behaviour.
Before that, however, Lord Hall Lord Hall has written to Keith Vaz, the chairman of the select committee, stating, in effect, that there is nothing to investigate. He declares:
“I believe that BBC journalists have acted appropriately in pursuing this story. As you rightly say, the media has a right to report on matters of public interest.
“Sir Cliff Richard is one of the most successful British entertainers of all time and has been a prominent public figure for several decades. Investigations into historic sex abuse cases have – and will continue to have – a profound impact on the lives of well-known individuals and the standing of public institutions.
“The disclosure of a sex abuse allegation against Sir Cliff Richard and the police search of his property was clearly a significant story and the BBC was not alone in providing extensive coverage.
“The protection of sources is a key principle for all journalism – from broadcasters to newspapers – and for that reason the BBC will not be providing details about the source. This makes it difficult to answer some of your questions specifically; however, following speculation about this story, we did confirm that South Yorkshire Police were not our original source regarding the investigation into Sir Cliff Richard.”
So, in the BBC’s book – in other words – that’s alright then. Move along there, nothing to see. We decide how we act, what’s in the public interest and that’s that. Not only that, there won’t be any further explanation because we don’t believe it is necessary.
This would be marginally more acceptable if the BBC was properly accountable and subject to genuinely independent control and sanction by a body that took its responsibilities seriously. The reality is that the only check on BBC journalism is through the BBC Trustees – and, as has been repeatedly shown on this site, they defend the conduct of the BBC rather than act as a watchdog.
The Hall response is par for the course. In effect, he is hiding behind the mock shield of the integrity of BBC journalism to justify what experts clearly believe amounted to a massive breach of ethics and conduct.
The Guardian has been running a series of features which claim to give an overview of the BBC’s state of health. They are emerging as text book examples in biased, vacuous analysis.
Latest up by Clare Higgins is an overview of the BBC’s journalism – an purported audit of the health of its journalism.
The Guardian, of course, is the most-bought newspaper by the BBC (more than 200 copies a day!) – in effect, according to some, its ‘house organ’.
The verdict of Ms Higgins? Rather predictably, she decides the Corporation’s biggest problem is not ‘institutional bias to the left’. The possibility is dismissed in a single sentence.
She provides no analytical evidence to back this up. Her sources for deciding are figures such as two former senior BBC news executives, Richard Sambrook – now a professor of journalism at Cardiff University (which receives project money from the BBC) – and Mark Damazer, now an Oxford don, along with correspondents such as Jeremy Bowen and Robert Peston.
Sambrook sums up their approach to Higgins’ questions: ‘It is a wonderful news organisation. It does fantastic journalism every day.’ So that’s OK, then. With 5,000 staff in the field and £1bn of funding, who would expect anything less?
Peston complains about the pressures that correspondents are put under by editors pursuing the agendas of newspapers, and claims that if anything, the bias in BBC output is towards the Daily Mail.
He reveals only that he, the Guardian and his BBC colleagues – present and past – are totally trapped inside an illusion of their own making. Oh, and that the journalism of he and his Guardian colleagues is risible.
The BBC’s role in the searching of Cliff Richard’s home in connection with an alleged sexual crime is ‘a witch-hunt’, according to a veteran BBC broadcaster, and has also been strongly attacked as a ‘conspiracy to injure’ Mr Richard by one of the UK’s leading human rights lawyers.
The conduct of the search by the police – in apparently agreeing with the BBC that they could witness it – is also under fire. But it is the Corporation’s decision to film the search using a helicopter, and then to name Mr Richard, and also to quickly ban the playing of all his records on any part of the BBC output that has led to major questions being asked.
On ITV news, chat show host Michael Parkinson suggested that there was some kind of witch-hunt going on against Mr Richard, and that BBC had acted wrongly and too hastily by naming someone who had not been charged.
And in the Guardian, rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson said the BBC had abused public trust. He said that the case called into question both the ethics of the BBC and the legality of the search warrant on Richard’s house, particularly if it had been granted by the courts after a deal had been struck between the BBC and the police.
He was quoted:
“The BBC should have been covering the raid because this was important news but it can be criticised for suppressing the more important news that its coverage was a collaboration with the police. It is the police misbehaviour in orchestrating this public spectacle which deserves to be condemned and the BBC, by keeping their deal a secret, failed in its duty as a public interest broadcaster. By keeping this news a secret the BBC betrayed its public trust and involved itself in a conspiracy to injure Cliff Richard.
“The real question, which goes to the heart of our civil liberties, is how and why this warrant was issued in the first place. The police were under a legal duty to disclose the deal with the BBC to the magistrate – did they do so? How were they able to show a ‘reasonable belief’ that evidence of ‘substantial value’ was on the premises, in relation to an alleged assault 25 years ago? How did they convince a judge presiding they could not contact Mr Richard? There must be a real possibility that this warrant was not properly obtained.”
He added: “I think what the police are doing are trying to pin the blame on the BBC as a pre-emptive strike. How long did the hearing at Sheffield magistrates court take? Was there a careful examination of the application or was it rubber-stamped?”
Mr Robertson and Mr Parkinson both therefore allege the Corporation has not acted according to due process in criminal proceedings, and thereby has seriously damaged the reputation of Mr Richard. Would they have acted so precipitately against someone who was not Christian and on their books? Jonathan Ross or Russell Brand, say?
The BBC keeps telling of us that its coverage of the immigration debate is getting better and fairer.
Remember, for example, when, back in January, political editor Nick Robinson uttered a solemn and very public apology and swore that Auntie was mending her ways? No longer, he suggested, should opponents of the EU’s ‘free movement of peoples’ directive be branded as xenophobic or racist
“My own organisation, the BBC, has admitted that in the past we made mistakes. We were too slow to recognise and reflect the concern, dislocation and anger felt by many.”
Six months or so on, how is Auntie doing? Well…
Exhibit A is from the think tank Civitas, which published a few days ago a very important contribution to the topic by respected Cambridge economist Bob Rowthorn. This former ‘leftist’ (as the Daily Mail gleefully described him) pointed out that on current trends immigration would lead to a population growth of 20m in the next fifty years, and would create massive strains on the country’s infrastructure while at the same time having few discernible economic benefits and only minimal improvement in GDP per capita.
This is a meticulous 83-page survey by a master of economic theory, a cool-headed, objective look at the immigration debate. It received widespread coverage in newspapers, including the Independent as well as the Daily Mail and Telegraph.
So what did the new, immigration-aware BBC make of it?
Well nothing. The BBC website has not mention of it, and David Green, the director of Civitas, says his office has not received a single call from any of the corporation’s serried ranks of 5,000 or so journalists.
Importantly, Professor Rowthorn’s paper debunks a report by Christian Dustmann, a University College, London, immigration ‘expert’, who argued back in November in a paper for the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration that immigrants, especially those from Eastern Europe, were having a strongly positive impact on the UK economy through the increased taxes they paid.
The Dustmann report – unlike Professor Rowthorn’s – did receive widespread coverage on the BBC, those massed ranks of newshounds went to town with items in the bulletins and a string of features, including on Radio 4’s Today. Breathlessly, the bulletins declared:
“A report says recent immigrants have paid substantially more into the public purse in taxes than they have taken out in benefits. The study, by University College London says migrants from European countries have made a particularly positive contribution.”
Professor Dustmann’s views, it is true, were ‘balanced’ in the Today feature with commentary by Sir Andrew Green of the Migration Watch think tank, who questioned the statistical techniques employed by professor Dustmann. But there was also commentary from BBC correspondent Danny Shaw, who said that the report was ‘the most thorough of its kind’. No partisanship there, then.
Back in March Migration Watch itself published a comprehensive report rebutting Professor Dustmann’s arguments. The BBC’s reaction? Well, they completely ignored it.
Exhibit B is that News-watch is now well advanced in the he process of completing analysis of more than 300 transcripts across eight of the major BBC news programmes in the month leading up to European elections, which took place in May.
The clear headline is that throughout, Nigel Farage and UKIP were treated as aberrant, venal incompetents pursuing racist, nasty-party policies focused on immigration. Throughout the coverage there were frequent references to claims by others that the party’s approach was racist.
By contrast, those who favoured the EU’s free movement policies and indulged in the ‘racist’ name-calling, such as the Labour MP Mike Gapes, received a much fairer hearing. Of which, more when the research is complete.
The BBC, as I have already pointed out in a separate posting, have already declared this News-watch analysis to be wrong, without having read or considered it. Their view is that the coverage of the European election campaign was perfectly fair and balanced.
Which leads where? The BBC tells us they are being fair on immigration and indeed, they allow one of the chief correspondents to shout it from the rooftops. But meanwhile, when hard evidence is produced to show that this is not the case, they either ignore it altogether – or say it’s wrong. How very, very Animal Farm.
Scratch the surface of the BBC, and connections with vested climate change alarmist interests and the EU seem to lurk everywhere. Not only has the Corporation become an alarmist propaganda machine, but also its personnel seem to be working on a massive scale behind the scenes to spread the message even further.
Acting chairman of the Trustees Diana Coyle is a paid advisor to energy company EDF – as was former chairman Lord Patten. And fellow trustee Richard Ayre is a former chairman of Article 19, whose goals include climate change rights advocacy throughout the world.
Deputy director of news, Fran Unsworth, can now be added to this list. As well as being one of the BBC’s most senior female executives, she is also a board member of a major EU initiative that includes systematic ‘education’ about climate alarmism. This is called the programme – of which, more later.
First, through, it seems that Ms Unsworth has taken personal charge of the BBC’s response to the row over the Corporation’s coverage of climate change centred on Lord Lawson.
She declares in a letter to The Spectator that Lord Lawson, contrary to some reports, is not banned from BBC coverage. Instead, editors must make it clear that his views don’t carry equal weight to those of alarmists because he is not an expert.
Ms Unsworth’s lofty pronouncement would also seem to mean that Owen Patterson, the sacked environment minister, who has described alarmist lobby as ‘The Green Blob’, will not be afforded ‘equal weight’ in future coverage of environmental issues.
Who else will join this list of ‘non experts’?
This will presumably be down to individual programme editors, who as a result of the BBC’s unbending partisanship on this most complex of subjects, are now in a position of deciding who is properly qualified to comment and who is not. On what basis?
An interesting parallel, I would suggest, comes in the history of eugenics, which I am currently studying. From the 1890s onwards, overwhelming numbers of scientists and liberal ‘reformers’ (Marie Stopes and George Bernard Shaw among them) came to believe – on the basis of Darwin’s theories, as well as a torrent of books –that selective breeding and enforced sterilisation was essential to eliminate mental and physical disease and to improve mankind’s genetic strength. They wanted to help natural selection on its way.
As a result, of course, we got Nazi Germany, but before that (less well-known but perhaps just as chilling, but now almost forgotten) more than 30 US states introduced enforced sterilisation laws and Britain came within an ace of following suit in 1913. Sweden passed laws, too, and they were not repealed until the 1970s. A ‘consensus’ of leading scientists, industrialists and politicians (who included Winston Churchill) believed stridently in this social Darwinism and thought the only way forward was selective breeding.
Would the BBC have then been its cheerleader? On Ms Unsworth’s logic, and with her certainty, it most probably would.
And what of Ms Unsworth herself, what equips her to make such clear adjudications on complex matters of science? Not, I would submit, her education…in fact her degree, according to the BBC, was in drama. Very apt for a BBC journalist, perhaps, but not in the understanding of the finer points of meteorology.
May be she is emboldened by the seminar which the BBC held back in 2006, at which, the Corporation claimed, a consensus of ‘scientists’ advised them that the science was settled. But Anthony Montford, of the Bishop Hill website, has shown conclusively that the whole meeting was a farcical charade – the scientists were in fact, mostly political activists, the ‘Green Blob’ that Owen Patterson has identified.
But no matter how flimsy these foundations, Ms Unsworth must be jolly sure of her facts about climate change, as her other connections also testify. The BBC Register of Interests shows she is also an advisory board member of the EU Erasmus Mundus programme. This, on the surface, is presented as an exchange scheme for students, and it clearly attracts lavish funding. But hang on – there’s a catch.
This paper shows it has extensive climate change alarmist objectives. It is doling out our money to create whole new generations of climate change warriors though a massive programme of international seminars and ‘education’.
No doubt listening only to Ms Unsworth’s approved ‘experts’ and properly constituted BBC reporting as they learn.
The BBC swears until it is blue in the face that it is not biased against the case for withdrawal from the EU, and that it reports the campaign fairly. It engaged at vast expense Stuart Prebble, a former BBC trainee, and long-time chum of BBC Trustee David Liddiment, to write a highly questionable academic report that said so.
But this is a big fat economy with the truth, as events at the end of the European Parliament election campaign have revealed graphically.
First, as Guido Fawkes has adroitly revealed, Jasmine Lawrence, one of the roster of editors of the BBC News Channel, has let slip in her (now deleted) Twitter account the BBC’s corporate derisive view of UKIP. They are ‘sexists’ and ‘racists’. And second, the BBC complaints bureaucracy has been forced to admit that the May 18 News Review Radio 4 programme seriously misrepresented the views about UKIP of Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens.
Mr Prebble, it will be recalled, penned his ‘objective’ report about BBC EU output for his chums at the corporation against a background in which John Humphrys, one of the corporation’s most high-profile presenters, and Mark Thompson, a former director general, were thinking privately (and eventually admitted publicly) that despite outward protestations of fairness, the corporation’s EU coverage was in fact deeply biased against those who supported withdrawal.
Mr Prebble went out of his way to pour a massive bucket of cold water over research by News-watch – conducted over more than 15 years – that showed beyond doubt that what Mr Humphrys and Mr Thompson thought privately was true. He pointedly ignored statistics taken from sustained monitoring of the Today programme by News-watch that showed that less than 0.004% of programme time was taken by ‘come outers’ talking about their case, together with transcript analysis which emonstrated that interviews with eurosceptics focused relentlessly on the negative and rarely, if ever, touched on the actual arguments against the EU.
News-watch has consistently shown that the reality of the corporation’s EU coverage is that it is, and always has been, pro-EU and has often been venomously negative against those who want to leave.
The Peter Hitchen episode shows how deep and pervasive this hostility actually is. The full account of what Mr Hitchen wrote and what the BBC broadcast is up on Biased BBC. He was quoted in News Review on May 18 as saying that UKIP was ‘doddery’, ‘farcical’ and ‘very unclear about its goals’. The quote came in a newspaper review sequence which contained a torrent of anti-UKIP comments, including that they were racists. Mr Hitchens’ comments were taken completely out of context from a much longer item in a way which even the most novice reporter would have known was gross misrepresentation.
The BBC is actually going to broadcast an apology (something that very, very rarely happens). This shows how crass the journalism was, but it doesn’t deal at all with the main issue. As Mr Hitchens points out, they routinely do this with his views on such topics. And as New-watch research shows such negativity fits with the BBC’s overall pattern of anti-withdrawal reporting.
Miss Lawrence and her twittering is a different matter. This was a middle-ranking BBC news executive, who tweeted:
The ‘Why I’m Voting UKIP’ Twitter tag was actually set up as a vehicle for those who want to pour vile opprobrium on both UKIP and the case for withdrawal. It is filled with venomous invective that shows the nastier side of political ‘debate’. That Miss Lawrence felt it appropriate for an ‘objective’ BBC senior staff member to comment there defies belief. It is surely a disciplinary matter.
But hang on! This is the BBC that both routinely villifies EU withdrawal, and believes beyond doubt that manmade climate change is a serious threat and that it must report the debate about such matters accordingly, suppressing comment from those who disagree. Perhaps, in that deliberately anti-capitalist climate, Miss Lawrence automatically assumed that espousing withdrawal is racist, and that this gave her permission to go into attack dog mode. The BBC have been saying so for at least 15 years, and much of the other media is joining in, so what’s wrong with that?
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