Readers of this site will need little persuading that the BBC’s coverage of Brexit is biased. The Corporation vehemently denies it of course, but since the referendum vote, they have been seemingly on an all-out mission to find every reason why leaving the EU is disastrous for the UK – and to avoid reporting the benefits.
Hillary Clinton, on a book plugging visit to London, claims the Brexit result was based on a ‘big lie’? Immediately it’s a BBC headline. Wages aren’t rising in pace with the cost of living? Another ‘hold the front page’ moment ‘because of Brexit uncertainty’.
What is surprising, however, is the sheer scale of the Corporation’s failure to meet its Charter requirement of impartiality. A paper by News-watch published today (January 26) by Civitas, based on a collation of research conducted into the BBC’s EU coverage over the past 18 years, chronicles the immense problems for the first time.
The report, The Brussels Broadcasting Corporation? – How pro-Brexit views have been marginalised in the BBC’s news coverage, can be read in full here: http://www.civitas.org.uk/content/files/brusselsbroadcastingcorporation.pdf
The paper also demonstrates that the Corporation’s complaints process is not for purpose. It is a self-serving mechanism for kicking impartiality issues into touch rather than dealing with them honestly, independently and robustly. The only remedy, it is argued, may be a judicial review or a public inquiry.
News-watch has been monitoring BBC output since the European Parliamentary elections in 1999. This work is based on rigorous academic principles followed by university media schools around the world. There are 38 reports covering hundreds of hours of EU output and 8,000 programme transcripts, and it is believed to be the largest systematic study of the media ever undertaken.
The key findings, which show that supporters of withdrawal from across the political spectrum have been severely under-presented, include:
- Of 4,275 survey-period guests talking about the EU on BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme between 2005 and 2015, only 132 (3.2 per cent) were supporters of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
- In 274 hours of monitored BBC EU coverage between 2002 and 2017, only 14 speakers (0.2 per cent of the total) were left-wing advocates for leaving the EU, and they spoke only 1,680 words.
- In the same period, Tory pro-EU grandees Kenneth Clarke and Michael Heseltine made between them 28 appearances, with contributions totalling 11,208 words – over nine times the amount of airtime allocated to all left-wing supporters of Brexit.
- In Today’s business news covering the six months after the EU referendum, only 10 (2.9 per cent) of 366 speaker contributions were from supporters of withdrawal from the EU. http://news-watch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/News-watch-Business-News-Survey-.pdf
- More recently, in October-November last year, of 68 non politically allied speakers in the Brexit-related coverage on on Today, 52 were anti-Brexit or pro-EU, and only 16 were pro-Brexit or anti-EU, an imbalance of worse than 3:1 – despite the Leave vote.
Of course, measuring bias is not solely about numbers. They are one factor among many in News-watch assessment methodology. http://news-watch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/News-watch-Methodology.pdf
The News-watch reports also include detailed textual analysis which confirms that these blatant numerical imbalances are indicators of across-the-board bias against EU withdrawal.
Equally as disturbing is the BBC’s attitude towards this work. Over most of the 18 years, successive figures from the senior hierarchy have refused point blank to even consider the News-watch work. The one exception, in 2007, was a travesty http://news-watch.co.uk/today-programme-survey-and-response-to-bbc-independent-advisors-findings-winter-2007/
The Corporation’s stone-wall excuse boils to that they are the wrong kind of complaint because the internal BBC process deals only with issues arising from single programme editions.
The most recent dismissal of a News-watch report – about coverage of the EU and Brexit issues in last year’s General Election http://news-watch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/News-watch-2017-General-Election-Report-1.pdf – was derisory. Without providing any evidence, the BBC press office claimed that it ‘would not pass basic academic scrutiny’. The speed and content of their response suggested that they could not have properly read it http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/22/bbc-invited-third-pro-eu-eurosceptic-speakers-appear-election/.
Another key point in the equation is what the BBC have not covered in the Brexit terrain. The News-watch work has been championed in Parliament by a cross-party group of MPs which includes Kate Hoey and Kelvin Hopkins from Labour, Philip Davies and Philip Hollobone from the Conservatives and Ian Paisley from the DUP.
Sir David Clementi, the BBC Chairman and his predecessors, and Lord Hall, the Director General of the BBC, have refused to meet the group to discuss the bias issues – and have been unable to supply to it a single BBC programme since the referendum which has examined the opportunities of Brexit.
News-watch has been scouring the schedules to spot one – but in vain.
Guest post from BBC Watch, originally published on their website
On December 31st the BBC News website published an article titled “How fake news plagued 2017” which provides readers with the following definition under the sub-heading “What is fake news?”.
- Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform
- Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive – or old photographs shared as new
- Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people
Unsurprisingly, the BBC’s article about ‘fake news’ in 2017 does not include any of its own content – which would not fall under the definition it has chosen to promote.
However, BBC Watch has recorded numerous examples of misinformation promoted by the BBC throughout the past year. Among the inaccurate claims made by the BBC to which we have managed to secure corrections are the following:
1) The claim that most Gulf Arab countries “now accept the existence of the Jewish state”:
2) The claim that Jerusalem as a whole is “occupied”:
3) The claim that nine people murdered in a terror attack in 2002 were “Jewish settlers”:
4) The claim that an attack in Syria was carried out by Israel:
5) The claim that Tel Aviv is “the Israeli capital”:
6) The claim that Jews rioted in Manchester in the 1940s:
7) The claim that Israel was “carved out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians”:
8) The claim that Mt Scopus and the Hebrew University are “Israeli settlements”:
9) The claim that the Battle of Beersheba “led to” the Balfour Declaration:
10) The claim that “most Jewish organisations” rejected the 1947 Partition Plan:
11) The claim that a convicted soldier held the rank of sergeant:
12) The claim that attacks on Israeli communities were carried out using “mortars”:
The BBC’s narrow definition of ‘fake news’ is of particular interest given that just last month the corporation announced that it was “launching a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information”.
“James Harding, the director of BBC News, said: “This is an attempt to go into schools to speak to young people and give them the equipment they need to distinguish between what’s true and what’s false.” […]
“I think that people are getting the news all over the place – there’s more information than ever before,” said Harding.
“But, as we know, some of it is old news, some of it is half truths. Some of it is just downright lies. And it’s harder than ever when you look at those information feeds to discern what’s true and what’s not.”
Given the above examples (as well as countless others) of misinformation promoted by the BBC – along with its notoriously slow complaints procedure and inadequate corrections mechanism which does not even include a dedicated corrections page on the BBC News website – one might well conclude that the physician first needs to heal himself.
BBC Watch would like to thank all the many readers who contacted us during 2017 to bring problematic BBC content to our attention. Please continue to write in – your tips are an invaluable contribution to our work of identifying content that breaches BBC editorial guidelines and trying to secure corrections to claims that mislead and misinform BBC audiences in a manner no less pernicious than the type of ‘fake news’ that the BBC does recognise.
A central part of the New BBC Charter is that appeals about complaints are now handled not by the BBC itself, but Ofcom, the independent sector media regulator.
This change – recommended in a report to the former culture secretary John Whittingdale by Sir David Clementi, who has since become BBC chairman – was trumpeted as a way of ensuring independence of outlook and greater fairness in the complaints process.
So how is this panning out? Well, it has taken nine months for what seems to be the first BBC-based complaint to find its way through to the Ofcom Content Board.
The complaint was submitted by Gavin Hunt, an avid viewer of BBC1’s Question Time, who tracked the 25 editions of the programme in the series running from January 2017, and found that 22 had panels which contained a majority of EU Remainers. This, he claimed, showed significant bias against the Leave case.
The Ofcom response is contained in a five-page letter which can be read here.
They based their findings on only two of the editions of the programme. This was because the Content Board thought it would not be ‘proportionate’ to examine all 25. Instead they picked the two programmes which had five Remainers and no supporters of Leave.
One of these, the Board decided, was irrelevant to the complaint because it was broadcast from Salford soon after the Manchester Arena bombing, and there was no EU-related content.
Thus their inquiry was into the edition – from Oxford – broadcast on April 27, the panel on which was Damian Green (then Work and Pensions Secretary), Clive Lewis, the shadow Defence Secretary, Jo Swinson, the former Liberal Democrat MP, Stephen Gethins of the SNP, and Camilla Cavendish, a non-affiliated peer who was an adviser of David Cameron.
Two questions posed during the edition were deemed by Ofcom to be relevant to the complaint:
Has the General Election been called for the benefit of the Conservative Party and not the country?
Is tactical voting undemocratic or a way to prevent Hard Brexit?
The conclusion? A key passage of the Ofcom letter relating to panel composition said:
…we considered that there were also views expressed which could be described as supporting Brexit in some form, or otherwise challenging the Remain position. For example, Damian Green disagreed with various statements that were supportive of a Remain position. He said most people had not changed their mind since voting in the 2016 EU Referendum (“the referendum”), and although he was part of the referendum campaign for Remain, he respected democracy and the referendum outcome. He also: rebuked Tim Farron for saying the Liberal Democrats would frustrate the Parliamentary process for introducing Brexit; stated a strong and stable government would get a good Brexit deal; the referendum outcome ruled out membership of the Single Market and being subject to the European Court of Justice; and argued that Brexit had to mean more control over immigration and our budget. We considered that these were views that could be reasonably described as supporting what may be termed a form of “Hard Brexit”.
The second key element of the Ofcom finding related to David Dimbleby’s handling of balance issues, The Content Board letter said:
There are a range of editorial techniques that broadcasters can use to preserve due impartiality. In the case of Question Time, the role of the presenter, David Dimbleby, is crucial. In our view, and as evidenced in the Oxford and Salford programmes, Mr Dimbleby consistently provides critical challenge to panellists’ stated positions, summarises with due objectivity and, where necessary, offers alternative viewpoints. Panellists themselves also challenge viewpoints put forward by their fellow panellists. Alternative viewpoints are also expressed by audience members, who are given the opportunity to challenge statements made by panellists.
In essence, therefore, they turned the complaint down, basically on the ground that first, Damian Green expressed the Hard Brexit perspective, and also because, in Ofcom’s judgment, host David Dimbleby ensured that debate was marshalled fairly and impartially.
Was this ruling robust, independent and fair? Eyebrows might be raised by that Ofcom only looked in detail at one of 25 programmes, and considered that Damian Green’s remarks added up to an expression of support for a ‘Hard Brexit’ perspective, especially as Mr Green is on record as not supporting it. Some would also wonder how on the basis of only two programmes out of 25 – one of which contained nothing of EU coverage, the subject of the complaint – the Content Board were sure that David Dimbleby’s handling of his ringmaster’s role was always as balanced as they decided.
News-watch released last weekend a pair of meticulously-researched reports that exposed yet again the BBC’s continued serious bias in the reporting of Brexit.
One survey showed that during the General Election, there was a heavy imbalance towards anti-Brexit opinion; the other, that over 18 years, the Corporation has covered left-wing views in favour of withdrawal at only derisory levels – thus effectively ignoring the views of at least 3.5m Labour voters who supported Brexit.
The BBC’s response? In a word, abuse. The Press Office – utterances from which have to be sanctioned at the highest level – claimed, in effect, that the News-watch work was not worth the paper it was written upon.
They said:”We do not recognise the allegations made by News-watch and to describe this as a ‘report’ would be a gross overstatement for what is a defective and loaded piece of work which wouldn’t pass basic academic scrutiny”.
Their evidence for this unpleasant ad hominem attack? Zilch. News-watch has been trying to get the BBC to engage with News-watch reports for 18 years, but they never have. The Corporation claims with bull-headed obstinacy that the so–called complaints procedure precludes consideration of such detailed analysis – complaints must be confined to single programme issues.
In addition to the Press Office attack, BBC personnel, including the editor of the Andrew Marr show, then also engaged in a twitter storm of insults against the News-watch reports (h/t Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?).
The next stage in the saga was that on Monday, the website Open Democracy – a principal funder of which is George Soros – added more ‘ad hominem’ vitriol about News-watch, its methodology and its funding. A full-scale hatchet-job.
Was this coincidence? Or the BBC co-operating, or working in tandem with, attack dogs who share the Corporation’s views about Brexit?
Whatever the chain of cause and effect, it is certain that Open Democracy and the entire Soros empire are engaged in a full-scale battle to prevent the UK leaving the EU. Its contributors include Roland Rudd, the brother of Amber Rudd, who was a major figure in and behind Britain Stronger in Europe, the designated Remain organisation.
Mr Rudd is the UK lynchpin in the aggressive £13.7 billion drive by Soros – the amount he has just donated to his ‘charitable’ interests such as Open Democracy – to achieve EU integration, allow fully open borders, and smash the nation state.
And what was the evidence for the Open Democracy attack on News-watch in terms of the BBC bias ? Open Democracy canvassed the opinion of an academic called Dr Tom Mills, who works at the University of Aston and is linked to group which seriously believes that the BBC is right-wing.
‘News-watch and other pro-Leave lobbyists are obviously trying to influence debates around Brexit in certain interests… through what looks like a rather crude coding framework. The problem with dividing everything into pro and anti camps is that it makes a substantive and informed discussion of the issues at stake very difficult… what’s lacking is a clear and transparent methodology that can deal with how the underlying issues are dealt with, rather than the question of how much time is given to two sides of a political argument.’
Like the BBC, it seems he had not read the reports properly before commenting. Every News-watch survey contains a clear outline of the methodology. His point about ‘a rather crude coding framework’ is utter tosh. Even a cursory reading will reveal that the classifications involved in the surveys are complex, nuanced and highly detailed. They are most definitely not – as he implies – binary or simplistic.
Perhaps what Dr Mills is actually trying to say rather crudely that putting on fewer supporters of Brexit than those who oppose it doesn’t matter.
The reality of News-watch funding is that it is a minnow. Costs amount to the tens of thousands. Donors include a charitable foundation, individuals from a variety of backgrounds (and political affiliations) but none of them have any influence (or have ever had) on the content of reports.
By contrast Open Democracy, according to its website, receives millions of pounds from a variety of left-leaning trusts and Soros-related sources, all of which clearly want to subvert democracy by reversing the Brexit vote. And as noted above, this is all part of an £13.7 billion effort by George Soros and his many-tentacled empire to reinforce and expand the European Union. And to topple democratically-elected governments.
Aided and abetted by the BBC?
The survey covers EU content in the campaign period (3 May to 7 June) of the 2017 General Election on BBC1’s News at Ten and BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. In the 74 hours of combined airtime, 10 hours and 59 minutes were devoted to EU affairs – 14.7% of the available space.
There was clear Europhile bias in guest speakers. Of the 375 contributors, 189 (50%) were pro-EU or negative about Brexit; 140 (37%) were anti-EU or positive about Brexit; and 46 (12%) were neutral. Thus, in an election where Brexit was a pivotal issue, across the two BBC flagship programmes there were a third more pro-EU/anti-Brexit speakers than those who supported leaving the EU. The differential on the Today programme was greater: two-thirds more contributors were opposed to Brexit than supported it. Across the two programmes, only 62 speakers (16.5%) had campaigned or voted ‘Leave’ in the 2016 referendum, with only four from the business community appearing on Today and just one on News at Ten.
This bias applied across all areas of coverage, and was made worse by BBC correspondents and presenters. They one-sidedly emphasised the difficulties of Brexit; examples are detailed at pages 61-63. This was compounded by the BBC’s so-called Reality Check Team, which put further undue weight on the disadvantages of leaving the EU. For example, Chris Morris, the unit’s EU ‘expert’, posited as certain that halting immigration would have negative economic consequences, when this was disputed by many.
Coverage of the political parties was clearly inspired by the negative editorial input, and Conservatives who appeared in relation to EU issues were toughly scrutinised. By contrast, the Labour party’s policy towards the EU was hardly examined at all. There were only two interviews with a serving shadow minister about Brexit, both with Angela Rayner, whose portfolio was actually education. Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit minister, was not interviewed at all. This severe bias by omission is detailed in our other report ‘Leave and the Left, 2002-2017.’ It left ambiguous and almost unexplored the party’s approach to the key issue of the election.
These headline criticisms of the coverage, supported by the detail of our 164 page report, show that the BBC’s coverage of the 2017 General Election was not impartial and was therefore in breach of its Charter.
This paper examines the BBC’s coverage, since 2002, of those on the left who wanted to leave the EU, including during the 2016 Referendum and the 2017 General Election. Data is from 30 individual News-watch surveys, analysing over 5,500 hours of BBC output, and 274 hours of EU-related content.
The BBC’s editorial values commit it to reflect ‘a breadth of diversity of opinion… so that no significant strand of thought is knowingly unreflected or under-represented.’ However, News-watch has found that left-wing arguments for Britain to leave the EU have been avoided on the BBC’s flagship news programmes, in spite of prominent MPs, trade unionists, journalists and commentators from the left supporting the policy, and polls suggesting that up to 3.5 million Labour voters in the 2015 General Election subsequently voted Leave in the 2016 referendum.
The paper shows that a total of 6,882 speakers contributed to this coverage, but that only 14 (0.2%) of the total – one in 500 – were left-wing advocates of Withdrawal; the majority of these appearances were too short to explore their views in any detail.
In total, those 14 guests contributed 1,680 words to the debate, but approximately one third of them came from a single 531-word Gisela Stuart appearance on Today, in which her actual contribution in favour of leaving the EU amounted to just 49 words. So only 1,198 words across the entire 30 surveys came from left-wing speakers making any sort of case for Withdrawal, an average of 86 words per contributor. In comparison, during the same period, strongly pro-EU Conservatives Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine made between them 28 appearances with contributions totalling 11,208 words – over nine times the amount of space allocated to all left-wing withdrawalists – with an average contribution length of 400 words. BBC audiences were thus made fully familiar with right-wing reasons for Remain. They were, by contrast, kept in the dark about left-wing/Labour support for leaving the EU.
Core left-wing arguments against the EU have been ignored, for example: the EU’s prohibition of state aid to protect jobs, the threat to the NHS from the TTIP agreement, the EU’s treatment of the Greek socialist government and people, unemployment in the eurozone, import tariffs for developing countries, and the belief that the EU has evolved into a ‘neoliberal marketplace’.
Between 2002 and 2014, there were only four left-wing contributors who supported Withdrawal in the Today Programme’s EU output, adding up to just 417 words. There were more than twice as many appearances on EU matters in this period by the British National Party (BNP).
In the 2015 General Election campaign, despite the proposed EU referendum being a central issue, there was only one interview with a left-leaning advocate of Withdrawal. During the referendum itself, there were only five contributions from Labour supporters of Brexit totalling 161 words (1 minute 31 seconds) on BBC1’s News at Ten, and none at all on BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat. In the Radio 4 collection of post–referendum programmes, The Brexit Collection, there were only two left-wing supporters of Brexit, and their contributions were minimal.
Even though Withdrawal had evident cross-party support in both Parliament and the country at large, the BBC saw it as a right-wing policy causing ‘splits’ within the Conservative Party, while ignoring ideological disagreements and debate elsewhere on the political spectrum.
The absence of voices offering alternative perspectives in the BBC’s coverage led to the creation of a false dichotomy: forward-thinking, progressive, open-minded, anti-racist pro-Europeans set against the bigoted, inward-looking, nationalist, anti-EU faction.
Despite having been alerted to this failure by News-watch over the last fifteen years, the BBC has continued to deny a voice to millions of the electorate. Had left-wing arguments for Brexit been properly aired, it is entirely feasible that a greater majority of the British people would have voted to Leave.
This is a full-scale effort, involving the Crown Prosecution Service, police forces, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, and sundry anti race hate groups, many of which are tax-payer funded.
‘Hate’ in this context covers such crimes generally – against the disabled, religions, different sexual orientations, and race – but the principal focus is on race because the bulk of such crimes (78 per cent, according to late Home Office data) fall into this category.
Centre stage in this campaign, of course, is the BBC. True to form, they last week produced a Panorama programme in which sinister Brit thugs – fired up by the Brexit vote – were attacking anyone from the EU they could find. Over on This Week, they then gave a platform to a transgender person who declared that ‘the white race’ is ‘the most violent and oppressive force of nature on earth’.
Aiding the Corporation? Step forward Superintendent Paul Giannasi OBE, the National Hate Crimes Coordinator, who runs for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) the portal for reporting hate crime. No, he is not a secret member of UKIP. Rather, he is part of a Facebook group called ‘We Love Europe’, and boy, does he. Mr Giannasi believes that the Brexit vote was a change ‘unwanted and unexpected’ that was an ‘expression of the tyranny of democracy’ which was ’caused by political arrogance, thirst for power, idiotic fears, prejudice, bigotry and incredible stupidity’.
And let’s not forget the special contribution of Hillary Rodham Clinton. On a book-plug visit, she was given oodles of BBC airtime to reject Brexit. Nigel Farage, she claimed, duped the British people with the ‘big lie’ – about topics such as immigration – and then went on also to sabotage her own election as US President.
In fact, the BBC declared war on Brexit, using race hate claims as a main weapon, over a year ago. It was among the most avid in reporting an alleged ‘spike’ in such offences after June 23 (of which more later) and then wrongly claimed on August 31 that the death of a Polish man in Harlow was a ‘frenzied’ murder triggered by post-Brexit race hate.
But what is the truth about ‘race hate’? Everything about the way it is framed and reported should send alarm bells about the veracity of any figures involved.
First, it’s almost certainly the easiest crime on the statute book to register, because, uniquely, alleged incidents are recorded by the police on a self-report basis via their specially-established website, True Vision (run by Supt. Giannasi). All a ‘victim’ has to do is register the ‘crime’ – and hey presto, it’s in the stats.
At a time when – as The Sun reported this week – police forces are working flat-out to limit ‘by hundreds of thousands’ the number of recorded burglaries, shop thefts, and even minor assault charges, they are simultaneously transferring their efforts to the ‘hate crime’ domain. The key supporters of the Stop Hate UK charity, for example, include a clutch of police forces.
Second, the definition of a ‘hate crime’ is also unusually loose. Such an offence is deemed to have been committed if the victim, or any witness of the incident, thinks they have been subjected to ‘hate’.
This ease of reporting has been accompanied by a mushrooming of associated interest groups, spearheaded by the government’s primary service provider, Capita, and this has no doubt contributed to rising volume of ‘race hate’ claims.
This ‘increase’ was trumpeted yet again this week in the annual hate crime figures released by the Home Office, covering until the end of March. True to form, the BBC’s report of the statistics is accompanied by a pic of one of the sinister-looking, Pole-hating thugs it had trawled Britain to find for its special Panorama edition.
These statistics show that there has indeed been a rise in recorded hate crime, from 62,518 in 2015-16 to 80,393 in 2016-17. But in the context of the lax self-report procedures, what does this prove? Does it reflect a rise in actual incidents? Or perhaps far more likely – in tandem with the vast amounts of money being spent in this arena, combined with publicity from the BBC, and the Remain faction generally – simply that there is increased awareness that such ‘crimes’ can be reported?
Whatever the reason, Amber Rudd’s Home Office was keen to stress the alleged ‘spike’ in race attacks and crimes after June 23 last year because of the Brexit vote. But drill down deeper into the report, and it quickly emerges that this, too, must be treated with a great pinch of salt because it is, to quote the report, based only on ‘anecdotal evidence’.
These figures also fail another vital acid test. The Crown Prosecution Service is responsible for bringing hate crimes to court and made clear in its annual report, also published this week, that this is a major priority.
What do their stats show? Well in the last year – despite everything noted above – the number of hate crime prosecutions fell by almost 1,000 over the previous year to 14,480. In other words, the number of so-called hate crimes with sufficient evidence to go to court is in sharp decline, despite all the resources and efforts being expended. On that basis, of the 80,000 race hate ‘crimes’ reported to True Vision, only about 18 per cent will be tested in court.
And the reaction? This BBC report emphasises in great detail the rise in number of recorded ‘crimes’, does not enumerate the fall in prosecutions, and has a long sequence about a Muslim ‘victim’ who concludes: “I really think it’s important for us to report, no matter what.” Of course.
The BBC seems to have appointed Radio 4 Today presenter Nick Robinson as its defender-in-chief.
Back in April, he told those who thought the Corporation was biased against Brexit that they were wrong. The referendum was over, so there was no longer a need to strike a balance between the two sides.
He has been in action again, this time delivering a speech in honour of his friend, the former BBC Panorama editor and media pundit Steve Hewlett, who died of cancer at the age of 58 earlier this year. It can be read in full here.
The message? In Robinson’s opinion the BBC is doing very well indeed, thank you. News output is not biased. This is proved, apparently, by that complaints emanate from all parts of the political spectrum and there are appearances by such controversial figures as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson. Of which, more later.
The first thing to note is that his analysis is not based on any verifiable evidence. No surveys seem to have been conducted. On top of Lord Lawson, Robinson picks out mentions of Nick Griffin here, of Nigel Farage there, to show the inclusion of the ‘right-wing’ figures. But none of his observations are backed up by anything other than his own subjective judgments.
And he conveniently misses out here that almost every time Mr Farage has been interviewed by the BBC, he has been treated as a racist, told he is incompetent – and very rarely asked about withdrawal itself. More recently, too, of course, he was shamefully and ludicrously accused on BBC2 Newsnight of having ‘blood on his hands’ over the death of a Polish man in Harlow when nothing could be further from the truth.
Robinson claims that the BBC is: ‘…staffed by people who – regardless of their personal background or private views – are committed to getting as close to the truth as they can, and to offering their audience a free, open and broad debate about the issues confronting the country.’ Well that’s OK then. Of course they are.
His analysis boils down to that the BBC – in Robinson’s estimation – is a beacon of light and trust in an increasingly dark world. The biggest threat to journalistic integrity comes from elsewhere: the ‘fake news’ and commentary on websites such as Westmonster. They, unlike the BBC, spend their time peddling untruths and rumour and are making social and political divisions far worse.
Yet his invective is deeply flawed and It takes only moments to unpick it. Take Lord Lawson’s appearance. He is mentioned as an example of someone who was invited (in August) to appear on Today, even though many thought he should not be allowed to outline his views on climate change. Robinson claims that this was an example of the BBC’s even-handedness and fairness.
But what he then adds proves sharply otherwise. First he stresses that Lord Lawson got his facts wrong – and then claims ‘we’ (the magnificently unbiased staff of the Corporation?) ‘must say so’.
This, however, was a risible misrepresentation of what actually happened. First, Lord Lawson only appeared at all because the arch-global warming alarmist Al Gore was first invited on Today. He was treated with kid gloves, with virtually no challenge, as he outlined that man’s impact on the climate was intensifying to catastrophic proportions.
To ‘balance’ these highly contentious claims, the interview with Lord Lawson was then arranged. But the odds were stacked against him in that he appeared with with two other alarmist figures who countered his every claim.
Lord Lawson made one minor error over statistics. But he immediately owned up to it and a correction was issued. His slip did not affect his basic points that Gore and the climate alarmist faction have been making outlandish and scientifically unsupported claims for years, and continued to do so.
Robinson also did not mention that immediately after Lawson appeared there was an outcry – reported at great length on the BBC – from climate activists, including the BBC’s own favourite populist ‘scientist’ Brian Cox, who said Lord Lawson’s appearance should never have been allowed. To ram home Lord Lawson’s error, two more alarmists appeared on Today. They both rubbished everything Lord Lawson had said – with barely a squeak of opposition from the programme’s presenters.
This adds up to a ratio of at least 5:1 against Lord Lawson. This is the sort of ‘fairness’ that actually operates at the BBC on controversial issues. For more than a decade, the Corporation has accepted that climate alarmism is warranted and, arguably, its reporting in this sphere adds up to its own campaign to prove it.
The conclusion? Nick Robinson’s speech as a whole, and especially in the mention of of Lord Lawson was, to put it mildly, disingenuous. His appearance on Today did not show, as Robinson claimed, that the BBC allows dissenting voices to appear and is fair to them. The reality is that the BBC has a skewed agenda in this domain, and any opinions expressed by Lord Lawson were both swamped and twisted. So, too, with Nigel Farage.
Robinson accused in his speech those who write for blogs of living in a bubble. Even if they do, it’s nothing compared to the one surrounding the BBC’s approach to editorial impartiality.
Last week, the key people responsible for making UK television programmes gathered for the biennial Royal Television Society Cambridge convention, aimed at tackling the main issues facing the industry.
What emerged from the gathering rammed home that as long as public subsidy drives and feeds the industry, those managing it seem less concerned with entertaining and informing audiences than with meeting – with obsessive zeal – targets linked to social engineering.
Those addressing the £1,500-a-head delegates in the rarefied elegance of King’s College included the chief executive of Sky, James Murdoch, the culture secretary, Karen Bradley, the new BBC chairman, Sir David Clementi, and the chief executive of Ofcom, Sharon White.
The main topic of this stellar line-up? Perhaps the increasingly serious skew against Brexit on television news programmes? Or why Britons should continue to be forced to pay £147 a year through the BBC licence fee for programmes they don’t want? Or why the BBC is on a hell-for-leather mission in almost every element of its output to undermine British values and culture and to push a Left-wing perspective?
No. The main preoccupation and source of worry of Messrs White, Clementi and Bradley was – maybe you’ve guessed it already – diversity.
Never mind better programmes; each of them, with a manner reminiscent of medieval penitents, told the gathering that they and the industry must do better and continue to work flat out out to ensure that there are more ethnic minority faces on our screens and in the workforces of production companies.
No matter that in the 16 years since former BBC Director General Greg Dyke described the Corporation as ‘hideously white’, enormous efforts have been made to recruit and reflect ethnic minorities, and the diversity monitoring initiative Project Diamond has been set up – the framework for achieving change would make the Stasi’s recording techniques look modest. It emerged with a vengeance that the changes are not considered to be enough.
Leading the charge was Ofcom’s Sharon White. Ofcom, of course, under the new BBC Charter, now regulates aspects of the Corporation. In an interview with the BBC Newsnight interviewer Kirsty Wark (who else?), Ms White outlined her pride that under her regulatory watch, a new industry-wide intensified regime of form-filling, box-ticking quotas is now being rigorously implemented.
Especially in her sights in this respect, however, it emerged, is her new charge, the BBC. Not content that, according to BBC management board member Baroness Grey-Thompson, the Corporation must, if necessary, spend up to £100million on meeting diversity targets, Ms White noted censoriously that recent figures in the domain were rigged because they included the BBC World Service. That, she said, would definitely not do (or count), because lots of ethnically diverse people already worked there. Must try harder. Much harder.
Ms White also revealed that no matter what is achieved with ethnic, gender and disabled diversity, another issue was troubling her and was now in her sights. Class, of course. Straight from what sounded like the Corbyn and McDonnell text book on class war, she told Ms Wark, in effect, that far too few working-class people were currently employed across the industry, and that this, too, must be remedied. She was not yet sure how, but was working on it as part of her drive towards ‘transparency’.
Be very afraid. It turns out that the BBC – always keen to spend public money on such causes – has, in fact, pre-empted her. BBC Director of Radio James Purnell, the former Labour Cabinet minister who was privately educated and is an Oxford graduate, said at the convention that, in an effort to reduce numbers of ‘privileged’ employees, the Corporation was already experimenting with ‘anonymised’ recruitment, which involved redacting from job applications names, places of education and home addresses.
He is reported to have said he would ‘love’ to introduce, as another part of this process, new social class targets to combat the BBC’s ‘tendency towards hiring privileged people’. The problem, he claimed, was that almost 25 per cent of managers went to private schools, compared with only 7 per cent in the UK population.
‘We don’t have targets on socio-economic [backgrounds] but we’re thinking about it . . . We would love to have a target, we would be very happy to do that,’ he told the Daily Mail.
Another who addressed the conference, as an after-dinner speaker, was Tony Blair’s henchman-in-chief, Alastair Campbell. Surprise, surprise, they did not invite Nigel Farage. It is said that Mr Campbell had been warned ‘not to bang on’ about Brexit. But, according to reports, he disobeyed.
Under the splendid hammer-beamed ceiling of the King’s dining hall, he asked the delegates how many supported Brexit, and invited a show of hands. There was none.
That perhaps says it all about the state of the television industry. Out of touch with audiences, unconcerned about and uncomprehending of its deep bias against Brexit, and focused on ethnic and class diversity rather than programme quality and appeal.
Transcript of Talk Radio, Julia Hartley-Brewer interview with David Keighley, News-watch, 13 September 2017, 12.03pm
JULIA HARTLEY-BREWER: First up, a fascinating story that I wanted to get to, because it was something that did concern me at the time, this is something that went back all the way to the end of August last year, a couple of months, of course, after the Brexit vote. Now, Nigel Farage, one of the keen, leading figures of the Brexit campaign was somebody who was accused of having ‘blood on his hands’ after, we were told, there had been an increase in violence against EU migrants and indeed migrants from other parts of the world in the wake of the Brexit attack (sic) this was reported repeatedly on the BBC, and in particular, on August 31, news broke that a Polish immigrant in Harlow had been killed. Rumours circulated that it was a gang of feral youths who were responsible, and that it could have been a racist attack, because he was Polish and triggered by Brexit. This was reported on by the BBC repeatedly. But, last Friday we had the sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court of the youth responsible for that man’s death, and now we know the full story, and it’s really rather different. So I’ve invited David Keighley on, he’s the managing director of the media monitoring company News-watch, and himself a former BBC producer who has written about this. Now, and to tell us the full story, David – thank you very much for joining us.
DAVID KEIGHLEY: Good morning and thank you very much for having me on the programme.
JHB: Well, thank you very much for talking to us. I saw your article you wrote on this online yesterday and I wanted to ask you about this, because it is something . . . it was a report that, I suppose, I accepted on face value when I heard the reports but talk us through what happened and what the reporting claimed. And then, if you could outline for us what actually were the real, objectively true events that have now been proven in a court of law?
DK: Right, yes, basically, this man, Mr Jozwik who was a Polish man living in Harlow, well-liked by all accounts, was killed in a . . . after a fracas of sorts, late night, few days before the reports broke out. He banged his head and a couple of days later the story broke. Basically, what the BBC said that evening, very excitedly and very sensationally was that he had died after what some were saying was ‘a frenzied race hate attack’ following, or ‘triggered by’ – was the exact phrase – the Brexit vote. Now . . .
JHB: But was this just the BBC claiming this, or did other news outlets claim the same.
DK: Yeah, no, other outlets also took that line, though to a lesser extent than the BBC. And of course, the BBC has got extra responsibilities as a public service broadcaster to check out the facts before reporting something quite so sensationally. Now, to be fair, the report, the main report on the 6 o’clock news did have the alternative theory that this was youths and nothing to do with Brexit, but the overriding impression in the reports, the sensationalist side of it was that this was a race hate attack. And that was added to by John Sweeney, later on in the evening, on Newsnight, and he actually interviewed a friend, or someone who was said to be a friend of the killed . . . the dead man, who said, as you said in your intro, that Nigel Farage . . . he said, ‘Thank you Nigel Farage, you now have blood on your hands.’ Now this wasn’t a live interview, it was a package, it was recorded, so John Sweeney deliberately included that in the report that he presented that evening, and there were lots of other lines about the level of race hate going on.
JHB: And we have discovered since that a lot of research into what was now considered to be these supposedly race hate crimes, but actually that doesn’t even have to have been even a police investigation, there doesn’t even have to have been a complaint from the person who was supposedly the victim, it is an entirely subjective view of a person who may have just been an onlooker, an exchange between two friends where there was a . . . perhaps there was a word used that perhaps most of us wouldn’t use in our daily lives, someone else might say, ‘Well, I thought that was racist’ – they can report it to the police, whether there’s an investigation, any conviction or anything at all, any charges brought, that now stands as a race crime that has been reported and there stands in the stats?
DK: Absolutely, it’s a self-report crime, which is almost unique on the British statute books. For the police to record such a crime there has to be . . . there need not be any evidence whatsoever, it’s just that somebody perceives there’s been an offence. Now, what’s happened subsequently is that, first of all the police . . . the point was on the day, the police said they hadn’t ruled out race as a motive, but any journalist knows that if you ask the police when they’re opening an investigation if they’ve ruled anything out, they will routinely say, ‘No, we’re looking at all possibilities’ – they don’t know, so they’re cautious. The BBC weren’t cautious in their approach . . .
JHB: No, but what’s emerged when it came out in court with the actual sentencing, and a 16-year-old has eventually been sentenced to 3 years in a youth detention centre, not for murder, but for manslaughter, but it’s also emerged, categorically accepted in court by all sides that the gang, so-called gang involved, didn’t instigate this incident which led to the punch, but they, the defendant and his friends were provoked, and that this man, the man who sadly lost his life was very drunk and very aggressive with a bunch of his friends, and had actually started the fight, very taunting, very aggressive towards this bunch of young youths, and they had made, themselves, racist remarks to the youths and invited violence from the youngsters, and that was when the punching, the punch happened and then very sadly this Polish man died. So, in no way was this a racist attack on a Polish immigrant because of anything to do with Brexit, it wasn’t a racist attack at all, on the contrary it was a youth who felt that he was under attack himself.
DK: Yes. That sums it up very neatly. And the point was that however you look at this, it was nothing to do with what the BBC actually reported. Now, as I say, the BBC has responsibilities as a public service organisation, special responsibilities to do with impartiality and getting balance in their reporting, and yet when the sentencing hearing happened on Friday and all these final facts emerged, that it was the polar opposite of what had been said, what did they do? They had, basically, one piece on their website which was on their Essex section, so it wasn’t even the national part of the website, and it didn’t mention their role in their reporting. This was surely a case where they should have done a full apology, they should have outlined that they’d got it wrong, that this was not anything to do with race hate. People are saying that what they did last August amounted to racial provocation by them and yet . . .
JHB: But . . .
DK: . . . and yet, they’ve just glossed it over as if they’ve done nothing . . .
JHB: (speaking over) But this is the interesting thing, the attempts to get newspapers to make sure that they give correct reporting and that they correct mistakes and they apologise when they get things wrong would require a newspaper that’s signed up to that plan, post-Leveson, for them to give exactly the same prominence to that story, to do the correction, not a small, little ‘news in brief’ on page 16, it would have to be a full page apology, effectively, in a newspaper, on the front page, probably, equivalent. And I remember, certainly, how prominent that story was and its been brought up in debate after debate in the last year, when people say, ‘Well, yes, but, you know, all those racists who voted Leave and how they all started being more racist because of the Brexit vote, and isn’t it your fault?’ – I mean, I personally have had tweets from people saying that I’m partly responsible for Joe Cox being murdered. I know Nigel Farage has had those, because I’ve spoken to him about it. Now he has actually asked for an apology on this himself, hasn’t he?
DK: Indeed, yes, he . . . on his show on your rival station – perhaps not rival, your . . .
JHB: (speaking over) We don’t know who they are!
DK: Yes, he actually said he wants an apology from the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall. And it will be very interesting to see now how the BBC reacts, because of course, they so often just brush off complaints, they pretend that they have done balanced reporting when they haven’t, there’s loads of evidence of that on the News-watch website. And, it’s just an endemic, systemic problem in the BBC. They are incapable of admitting their own errors, and the bias seems so deeply entrenched now in their Brexit coverage.
JHB: Well, I mean, there’s been lots of complaints about this recently, haven’t there, and there’ve been, you know, formal complaints from the Conservatives, because we know during election periods, during referendum periods, I mean, there are strict laws. I don’t work for the BBC, I’m allowed to give my own opinion but not during election campaign periods, I mean, I quite, absolutely . . . as much as it’s tying my hands behind my back, I completely agree with it as someone who believes in democracy, that we shouldn’t be having bias, but I mean, it is something . . . and I say as someone who loves the BBC and does a lot of work for the BBC as well, freelance, that I am stunned on a daily basis by their reporting on this issue. But then, is it that ‘I would say that wouldn’t I, because I’m a Brexiteer, and you would say that, wouldn’t you, because you’re a Brexiteer, and Nigel Farage would say that, wouldn’t he, because you’re a Brexiteer’ – isn’t it the case that everyone sees bias against their own personal viewpoint?
DK: Of course that’s true to an extent, but again, if you go to our News-watch website, the way we measure bias is not just on an impressionistic basis, we look at coverage over a long-term period, we do it properly and academically. And basically, what we’ve looked at is, for example, the Today programme’s Business News coverage after Brexit, and . . . for the six months after Brexit, every single edition, and transcribed every single word that was said, and the amount of . . . the number of people who have appeared on the programme who were pro-Brexit was minuscule, the numbers are so small as to be vanishing. They just are not taking into account properly pro-Brexit opinion.
JHB: Well, we shall see, David Keighley, thank you for talking to us, managing director of the media monitoring company News-watch, he’s a former BBC producer himself. I wanted to highlight that because, you know, I was as horrified as everyone else, I think, at the thought that there could be an increase in violence and certainly racist violence, violence against EU migrants, that wasn’t . . . that wasn’t what the Brexit campaign was about, that’s got nothing to do with Brexit, nothing whatsoever, and I really object to any racist hijacking [of] a cause for democracy, to carry out such crimes. It would appear that they just haven’t been those crimes, and claims that there have are just totally unfair. I absolutely, if I was the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall, I would issue that apology, because I think, you know, you’ve got to admit when you get it wrong, and we don’t always get it right.
Popular Posts and Pages
- About News-Watch
- BBC climate alarmism: ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good scare story'
- Dead Ringers clangs out anti-Brexit bias
- Contact Us
- Monitoring Projects and Reports
- BBC Environment programme flouts BBC impartiality rules
- Ofcom Ruling: BBC1 Question Time’s alleged pro-Remain bias
- A figleaf swept away in the torrent of anti-Brexit bias