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.
Nigel Farage has responded to the latest developments in the Harlow killing of last August. He has demanded an apology for a BBC2 Newsnight package which included claims that he now had ‘blood his hands’ The full story is here.
— LBC (@LBC) September 11, 2017
On August 31 last year, the £1billion taxpayer-funded BBC news machine went into what can only be described as incontinent anti-Brexit overdrive in response to the killing of a Polish man in Essex.
This, its headlines declared, was being regarded as a race hate killing triggered by the Brexit vote two months earlier.
It emerged on Friday at the final sentencing hearing in this sorry case that what happened that day was the polar opposite of what the corporation projected so forcefully in in its headlines.
After the EU referendum, every part of the BBC was working flat out to show why the vote was a huge mistake, as illustrated in News-watch reports here and here. Programmes in Radio 4’s Brexit Collection predicted – with scarcely a peep of counter-opinion – that there would be rioting on the streets over food price hikes.
Then, on August 31, the news broke that a well-liked Polish immigrant in Harlow had been killed. Rumours were circulating that a gang of feral youths were responsible and that there could be a racist element. Police were ‘not ruling this out’.
For the corporation, this was too good to be true. Reporter Daniel Sandford’s account in the main BBC1 bulletins that night suggested strongly that this was a ‘frenzied’ race-hate murder by feral youths and was triggered by Brexit. To reinforce the point, his report – along with other material on the BBC website – included edited reaction to that possibility from the local MP and a Polish diplomat. The full transcript can be seen here.
Later, over on BBC2’s Newsnight, John Sweeney ratcheted up this crude tabloid sensationalism by including an interview in his edited package about the killing in which a friend of the dead man suggested that Nigel Farage ‘now has blood on his hands’.
Let’s not mince words. The death of Polish immigrant Arkadiusz Jozwik, 40, following a late-night altercation in Harlow’s Stow shopping centre, was a sordid, tragic affair, and a sorry reflection of the escalating level of violence in Britain today.
But with Friday’s sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court of the youth responsible for Mr Jozwik’s death, we know the full story. And it was light years away from what can now be seen as the BBC’s deliberate anti-Brexit editorial drive. Its elevation of the ‘race hate’ angle was especially biased and in tune with its overall portrayal – as also illustrated here – that the Leave vote was swayed by uneducated, bigoted thugs.
The facts that are now clear are, first, that Mr Jozwik was not the victim of a gang killing, nor was he murdered. One youth, said to be a ‘shrimp’ little more than five feet tall and then aged 15, was responsible, and he was convicted of manslaughter.
The youth felled Mr Jozwik with one ‘superman’ punch delivered from behind. But the cause of death was impact with the pavement. All parties in court – including the Crown Prosecution Service and the judge – accepted that the punch was vicious but was not intended to kill.
Second, the ‘gang’ involved did not instigate the incident which led to the punch, and were not spoiling for a fight. It was, as emerged on Friday in court, totally the other way round. The defendant and his friends were provoked. Mr Jozwik had been out drinking with a friend and, according to police statements gathered by a team of detectives and read out in court, was rolling drunk.
Patrick Upward, counsel for the youth, told the sentencing court: ‘Far from being the all-affectionate individual of those that knew him, the deceased and his companion, according to witnesses, were staggering from drink. They made racist remarks to the youths and invited violence from those youngsters, and they were considerably bigger and stronger than the young people. It was after the deceased pushed one of the youngsters that this defendant did what he did.’
The teenager, now aged 16, was sentenced to three years in a youth detention centre.
So what are the lessons? In any killing where the facts are not clear, there should always be a degree of caution by journalists in their framing of initial reports. This applies especially to the BBC which has to adhere to Charter impartiality requirements and its associated editorial guidelines.
On August 31 last year, Daniel Sandford did mention briefly that there was doubt in some quarters about the racist motive, but the race-hate angle was unquestionably most prominent in his report and online. The Sweeney report on Newsnight amplified further the overall BBC approach of outright sensationalism.
Immediately afterwards, News-watch formally submitted detailed complaints to the BBC’s Complaints Unit. With total predictability, they were dismissed.
Meanwhile, the deluge of anti-Brexit BBC reporting has continued, including the angle that race-hate was involved in the vote. And how did the BBC report Friday’s sentencing hearing? With a headline that this was not a race hate murder connected to Brexit? That Daniel Sandford had been wrong to afford such prominence to that possibility? That the (English) killer had been provoked by racist chants by a drunken Polish man 25 years his senior? And that the Farage blood-on-hands quote had now been shown to be preposterous?
Of course not. Tucked away in the BBC’s regional website Essex pages is a short 280-word report that makes no mention of last year’s intemperate sensationalism by the corporation, and notes only towards the end the key point that the racism involved did not emanate from the killer.
We are never keen on the argument that being attacked by both sides shows you must be getting it right. It’s quite possible to be wrong in two different ways, so we always take such criticisms seriously. In any case, few issues only have two sides, so teetering in the middle of the proverbial see-saw is seldom the right place.
It’s also characteristic of such pieces that our two brave BBC bigwigs give examples of what went right (eg. an interview with Douglas Carswell) but don’t give examples of what went wrong.
Plus they place complete trust in their own reality-checking process – something that continues to ring alarm bells with me. The BBC sitting in statistical judgement on hot topics of political controversy, and doing so under the banner of impartiality, is a much more questionable proposition than our two BBC high-ups seem to realise.
What a fascinating exercise in throwing everything at a subject, including the kitchen sink. Much of it is rehashing the usual defense talking points, but the Complaints From Both Sides thing was especially galling.
At first, I was prepared to be refreshed that they dared suggest that just because they get Complaints From Both Sides it doesn’t automatically mean they’re getting it right. Of course then they went on at great lenght to explain how they did.
Nor did the BBC shirk its responsibility to analyse the competing claims of both sides. Extensive use was made of Reality Check, the BBC’s fact-checking brand, in TV news bulletins, as well as online.
No, sorry, this is utter BS. Complaints about accuracy and detail are not the only kind they get, and it’s dishonest for them to pretend it’s the case. As for Fact Check, well, we know how that turned out. Bias by omission, bias by perspective, bias by contextualizing. Dateline London panels aren’t addressed here, nor is the ‘Brexageddon’ programming with no pro-Brexit equivalent, nor is the referendum vote night coverage.
Sometimes the stopwatch isn’t the best judge, but sometimes it is.
This reads like they had a whole list of ‘the usual moans’, with a ready list of defensive talking points. you can tell they sat down and went through some sort of checklist.
They make an interesting point about a referendum being a different animal to cover than other elections, as it’s a single issue. Brexit isn’t a single issue so much as it is a collection of specific issues, but fair enough.
But none of what they said addressed the issue of Laura K. with quivering lip and near to tears, Dimbleby croaking as he told us that sterling had crashed, the obvious anger and disappointment from so many Beeboids out in the field, Nick Robinson basically insulting 17 million people, with every single other reporter repeating his script, sometimes almost verbatim.
Nothing in the article addresses complaints about anything except ‘fact checking’ and time allotments, really.
Fail. I wonder if there’s some way to email a rebuttal to the journalism.co.uk editors.
Scenting Tory blood, the BBC cranks up its anti-Brexit propaganda. That was the conclusion I reached at the end of the BBC’s shameless last week of anti—Brexit coverage a year on from the referendum victory. The Tories’ election debacle appeared to have given them carte blanche to revolt.
Now they have declared all-out war. Last night on Newsnight Evan Davis used that time-honoured tactic to justify what is clearly now the BBC’s official stance. He rewrote history – in this case the very recent history of the election result.
In an aggressive and rude interview with David Jones MP – a minister in the Brexit department until the election – Evan Davis asserted as a fact that the ‘Theresa May plan for Brexit’ was one ‘which clearly didn’t grab the population in the election’. How he was party to this knowledge we were to find out.
“I don’t think it was that,” Jones immediately countered, “I think frankly the big issues were other non-Brexit-related issues, most particularly the issue of social care but also one or two other issues too. But I think so far as Brexit is concerned, we are now in the position where 80 per cent of the electorate of this country voted for parties who want to take Britain out of the EU.
To which our insolent BBC apparatchik replied: “Sorry, what planet are you on?
“Loads of swing voters who might have voted Tory voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party because they so detested the Theresa May version of Brexit. Metropolitan, liberal Remainers . . .”
Yes, of course, this was why the swing voters voted for Corbyn!
Quite rightly, Mr Jones retorted: ‘I don’t see how you can …’ but before he could finish, Evan bulldozed over him: “….We cannot vote for Theresa May because we don’t like her Brexit . . .’ This was his theory of the election result and that was that.
David Jones once more attempted to question this thesis: “I don’t see how you can possibly read that into the election result – 80 per cent of the population voted for parties that clearly support Brexit.”
No, they didn’t – not at least according to Newsnight’s mind reader: “ … the polls show more people didn’t like her version of Brexit than did like her version of Brexit. You can’t say that anybody who voted Labour was endorsing Theresa May’s Brexit, because they voted for a party . . .”
Mr Jones tried again, once more to be ridden roughshod over.
Davis was not letting go of his cherished theory: “But hang on, you were saying if somebody voted Labour they were effectively endorsing Theresa May’s Brexit and that is completely untrue isn’t it? They voted Labour as a protest against Theresa May’s Brexit.”
If that is not a fake fact I am not sure what is.
The valiant David Jones had one more go: “Well, I don’t see how you can possibly read that into it”.
And guess what, Evan couldn’t wait to explain to this poor idiot Tory what was going on in the mind of the man on the Clapham omnibus on the way to vote (according the Book of Evan, and the Holy Gospel of the BBC, that is). It was, he avowed:
“Because they thought they’d get a softer Brexit from Labour and potentially stay in the customs union, because they thought it was bonkers to leave it.”
Is that so? How many voters I wonder would have passed a quick test outside the polling booth on exactly what the customs union is?
You have to be quick with your repartee if you are not going to be a lamb for the slaughter on the BBC. By now poor Mr Jones, like a torture victim who manfully keeps repeating his name, rank and serial number, could only respond: “I think that that is a complete misreading of the election if I may say so”.
It was, of course. But that didn’t stop Evan triumphantly snarling: “Do you accept polls that show more people believe that Theresa May’s Brexit should be amended than support it?”
The much tried Tory didn’t contradict him. A pity. The polls show no such thing.
What one showed with quite crystal clarity on the eve of the election was nine out of 10 people rejected the idea that this was a “Brexit election” at all – insisting that it should also be about public services. A poll for The Independent showed quite simply they did not believe her. They saw the election as being about public services. This, not Brexit, was uppermost in their minds. It was, of course, the ground Mr Corbyn’s Labour fought on and what dominated the public debate – certainly from the ‘dementia tax’ cock-up onwards.
Evan Davis’s interpretation of the election was bizarre. In contrast to his assertions about a lack of support for Mrs May’s Brexit plan, eve of election polling showed that the Conservatives had a strong lead when people were asked which party has the best policy on Brexit – 47 per cent named the Tories against only 19 per cent naming Labour, and of Labour voters one in five thought the Tories had the best approach to Brexit.
I must say I am looking forward now to Evan’s creative take on the rejection of Chuka Umuna’s Remoaner amendment to stay in the single market and customs union in Parliament yesterday – by 322 votes which included the Labour leadership and the majority of Labour MPs.
I can’t imagine he will he let the truth get in the way of a good story. Especially when that story supposedly justifies an all-out BBC assault on the Brexit process over the next 19 months.
Transcript of BBC2 Newsnight, 28 June 2017, Interview with David Jones, 10.41pm
EVAN DAVIS: Well, I’m joined now by Conservative MP David Jones, who was, until very recently, the Minister of State for Exiting the EU. A very good evening to you. How long do you give Theresa May?
DAVID JONES: Well, I think we have to acknowledge that it was a difficult election campaign, we didn’t do as well as we wanted to. But I think that most Members of Parliament were very impressed by what she did immediately afterwards. She came to the 1922 Committee, she acknowledged that there had been mistakes, she put her hands up to it, and she got a great deal of support from everybody who was present in the room. And I think that slowly but surely, she is building up her credibility with the party and I think that she’s got quite a long time ahead of her.
ED: It’s interesting you say she’s building up her credibility, because today, the first vote in Parliament, so it was a vote on a Labour amendment to get rid of the public sector 1% pay cap. You stuck with the vote, you voted against the Labour amendment, the morning briefings were you were going to get rid of the cap, despite voting against the Labour amendment, this afternoon retreated on the change on policy. It was like complete confusion. Can the next 1722 days of this Parliament carry on like that?
DJ: Well, I have to acknowledge that today was not one of the best days. But nevertheless, looking at what has happened over the last two weeks, I have seen Theresa May stabilising the ship, and I think . . .
ED: (interrupting) Sorry, stabilising the ship? Since the election, which was a disaster, Grenfell – she’s had to apologise to the nation for the reaction to that. And she’s . . . we’ve had today, a complete confusion over policy?
DJ: It has been a very difficult time, I don’t deny that.
ED: But you said she’s building up her credibility rather than burning through her credibility.
DJ: Yes, well yes I do, because quite frankly, at the end of the election campaign, that credibility was very low, in fact, the entire party’s credibility was very low. But nevertheless I don’t detect any appetite within the Parliamentary party to see her go.
ED: Would you describe your old department, DExEU, the department you were dropped from, would you describe that as chaos?
DJ: No, I wouldn’t. I would actually say that DExEU is an extremely effective department, I think that it’s got an extremely strong team of officials and I think they’re very well prepared for the negotiations.
ED: But you were dropped and another one resigned about five days before the negotiations started, that’s madness isn’t it?
DJ: Well, I’m not second-guessing why the Prime Minister decided to . . .
ED: Well, why do you think she dropped you? Why did she drop you?
DJ: I just said, I’m not second-guessing why the Prime Minister decided to dispense of my services. Any politician who takes a ministerial role knows that from the moment he is appointed he is that much closer to leaving.
ED: Hang on, we basically five days before the negotiations started, we lost two of the people in the department who were going to be doing the negotiating. We had to bring in two new people who had five days’ notice to get ready to meet Monsieur Barnier.
DJ: Two very competent people who I think will do an extremely good job, but most importantly backed up by an extremely strong team of officials and led by the very competent David Davis.
ED: It’s all going so well, on your account, do you think David Davis and Philip Hammond can both stay in post for the next two years and agree something between them on . . .
DJ: Yes, I do. And in fact, quite contrary to the reports in today’s newspapers, they actually work very closely indeed, they have regular meetings and discussions. I think that today’s reports have been overblown and I think that it’s essentially a difference of emphasis. But I think that actually they’re working extremely closely and very effectively together.
ED: What is the difference of emphasis do you think between them?
DJ: Well, I mean, this morning for example, there was the suggestion that Philip Hammond wanted us to remain in the customs union and David Davis saying not. But in fact . . .
ED: (laughs) That’s not . . . that’s not an emphasis!
DJ: Well it is, because in fact both David Davis and Philip Hammond are agreed that we will have to be out of both the customs union and the single market by the end of this Parliament, in five years’ time.
ED: But what’s interesting is, because even though you were dropped from the government, you are behaving, if I may say, and this is not being, being rude, you’re behaving in a very loyal way, you clearly think Theresa May should stick it out for quite a while, you’re basically with the party on all of this. In a way it seems like the leadership issue has become a proxy for the Brexit issue. It’s interesting listening to Nicky Morgan thinking, well, the clock’s ticking on Theresa May and Jacob Rees-Mogg in that piece saying, no, she is the right person to steer us through. Is this the case now Brexiteers are putting their faith in Theresa May, soft Brexiteers or Remainers are saying maybe we need to get rid of her and we can get something moving on (words unclear due to speaking over)
DJ: (speaking over) I think there is no doubt that Brexit is going to be the defining issue of this Parliament and of course, we’ve only got a very limited timetable to work through: we’ve got one year and nine months. And so really, what we can’t afford is the indulgence of talking about alternative leaders, or putting in place somebody else, for someone who actually I think will do a very good job and will lead the country through these negotiations very effectively.
ED: Well, you’re making my point, the Brexiteers clearly have more faith in Theresa May than anyone else. But you say, you know, ‘this is no time for indulgence’ but it is surely the time for people to discuss and express their concern over the Theresa May plan for Brexit which clearly didn’t grab the population in the election.
DJ: I don’t think it was that, I think frankly the big issues were other non-Brexit-related issues, I think most particularly the issue of social care but also one or two other issues too. But I think so far as Brexit is concerned, we are now in the position where 80% of the electorate of this country voted for parties who want to take Britain out of the EU.
ED: Sorry, what planet are you on? Loads of swing voters who might have voted Tory voted for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party because they so detested the Theresa May version of Brexit. Metropolitan, liberal Remainers . . .
DJ: I don’t see how you can . . .
ED: . . . said ‘We cannot vote for Theresa May because we don’t like her Brexit . . .’
DJ: (speaking over) I don’t see how you can possibly read that into the election result.
ED: Well, the polls show, and I know we don’t put a huge amount of weight on polls, but the polls show more people didn’t like her version of Brexit than did like her version of Brexit. You can’t say that anybody who voted Labour was endorsing Theresa May’s Brexit, because they voted for a party . . .
DJ: Brexit, actually, to coin a phrase, does mean Brexit. We have already set ourselves on the course for leaving the European Union.
ED: But hang on, you were saying if somebody voted Labour they were effectively endorsing Theresa May’s Brexit and that is completely untrue isn’t it? They voted Labour as a protest against Theresa May’s Brexit.
DJ: Well, I don’t see how you can possibly read that into it.
ED: Because they thought they’d get a softer Brexit from Labour and potentially stay in the customs union, because they thought it was bonkers to leave it.
DJ: I think that that is a complete misreading of the election if I may say so.
ED: Do you accept polls that show more people believe that Theresa May’s Brexit should be amended than support it?
DJ: Look, Theresa May’s Brexit is absolutely clear and that is to leave the European Union but to seek the best possible relationship with the European Union in terms of a free trade agreement and in terms, of course, of access to the single market.
ED: (speaking over) Why not have a free vote on it? All those MPs have been honest about their views on the situation in the election, we’ve just had an election, they (words unclear due to speaking over) voted, post referendum . . .
DJ: (speaking over) We’ve had the vote already.
ED: Well, then let the MPs vote on which Brexit they want.
DJ: Forgive me, but we’ve already agreed and decided to leave the European Union, we . . .
ED: (interrupting) And there are multiple ways of leaving the European Union, it doesn’t have to be the way you want to do it.
DJ: The ways of leaving the European Union are specified in Article 50, and that’s the process we are going through at the moment.
ED: Are you saying, sorry, this is really important, are you saying there is literally only one way of leaving the European Union, there are no choices whatsoever in that at all?
DJ: The choice has already been made, we’ve served the notice under Article 50 . . .
ED: (speaking over) Yes . . .
DJ: . . . and we are therefore on our way out of the European Union. What we’re now doing is attempting to seek the best possible relationship with the European Union after we have left. And I think that is something that is shared by members of parties on both sides of the House.
ED: David Jones, thank you very much.
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