BBC assault on Brexit prospects continues

BBC assault on Brexit prospects continues

The third series of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Brexit: A Guide for the Perplexed’ was broadcast on five consecutive days between 19 February and 23 February, 2018. Each programme was 12 minutes long and was presented by the BBC’s EU ‘Reality Check’ reporter, Chris Morris.

Each edition dealt with the projected impact of Brexit and there were five separate themes: the UK pharmaceuticals sector, food and agriculture, the future of British Overseas Territories (the featured ones were Gibraltar and Anguilla), the regions of the UK outside London, and the so-called ‘transitional phase’ after March 2019.

It was projected as an objective examination of the issues of Brexit, but it was not. Instead, Chris Morris and the programme team assembled and edited a range of contributions which were overwhelmingly biased against Brexit and pro-EU in their outlook.

There were 46 speakers in total but 22 made very short contributions, often as part of montage sequences, amounting to 285 words in total, and equating to just 3 per cent of the overall programme airtime.

The ‘meat’ of the programme was delivered by the 24 main interviewees who provided longer contributions.  This group accounted for 48 per cent of the total airtime. 18 of the 24 were pro-EU/anti-Brexit; only three were anti-EU/pro-Brexit; two contributors made points both for and against; and one was neutral.  The imbalance was startling. The 18 who made negative points on Brexit delivered 3,824 words (76 percent of words spoken by guests in this category), those speaking positively 352 words (seven per cent), and mixed/neutral speakers 838 words (17 per cent). The anti-Brexit to pro-Brexit word count ratio was thus almost 11 to one. The ratio of pro-EU to anti-EU speakers in this category was 6:1.

Bias in broadcasting, of course, is not measured by metrics alone, but such calculations are held in academic methodology to be a reliable pointer to its existence. Transcript analysis confirms that the negativity from these contributors against Brexit was very strong. At  a headline level, it included predictions of serious problems in the regulatory regime governing the pharmaceuticals sector and huge delays in Britain being able to use pioneering medical drugs; the danger of food price rises of up to 46 per cent; the sovereignty of Gibraltar and the economic well-being of both Gibraltar and Anguilla coming under unprecedented attack; the West Midlands, as the chosen main example of a region of the UK, facing serious threats to its prosperity; and a transition period likened to walking the plank, with the likelihood of a UK ruled by the EU without any say.

The pessimism was heavily compounded by the comments and opinions of Chris Morris, who spoke 49 per cent of the words across the five programmes.  His positive points are detailed in Part Two and were a very minor part of the programmes. Mostly, Mr Morris amplified the negativity of those gloomy about the impact of Brexit, and he strongly challenged or cut short those who made positive points. His primary intent seemed to echo the ‘walking the plank’ metaphor introduced in the final programme.

Mr Morris did not tell listeners in his introductions and commentary that some of the key contributors who were negative about Brexit had clear pro-EU views and had been campaigners for Remain since before the EU Referendum.  One, Professor of Law Catherine Barnard, held the Jean Monnet chair at Cambridge, and was thus at least partly paid for by the EU.

This boils down to that BBC ‘Reality Checking’ is a complete misnomer. In this series, the BBC seemed intent to cram into 60 minutes as many potential problems about Brexit as it could, with only a fig-leaf acknowledgement of the belief that it presents the UK with vibrant new opportunities.

The full report is available here:

News-watch Survey of Radio 4’s ‘Brexit: A Guide for the Perplexed’

News-watch monitored the five editions in Series 3 of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Brexit: A Guide for The Perplexed’, broadcast each lunchtime between Monday 19 and Friday 23 February, 2018.

Each programme was a 12-minute pre-recorded package, presented by the BBC’s Europe Correspondent, Chris Morris. The titles were: ‘Medicines’; ‘Food’; ‘Gibraltar’, ‘Brexit’s most Vulnerable’ (principally about post-Brexit prospects in the West Midlands), and ‘Status Quo’ (about the transition period).

Radio 4 Feedback programme mocks Brexit supporters

Radio 4 Feedback programme mocks Brexit supporters

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?
Whatever reservations some of us might have about Samira Ahmed’s Newswatch and its usefulness (though I’m glad it exists and that it’s to the credit that the BBC broadcasts it), I really don’t think it can be credibly denied that its teeth are a heck of lot sharper than its Radio 4 equivalent, Roger Bolton’s Feedback
…or that the otherwise very opinionated, censorious Samira Ahmed does a far, far better job of concealing her own views than Roger Bolton ever manages to do.
For example, Samira would never begin an edition of Newswatch like this:

Roger Bolton: Hello. It’s nice to be back. Nothing much has happened at the BBC since we’ve been off-air, just a little local difficulty about gender equality and presenters pay and the usual accusations of leftie-liberal bias. Oh, and the BBC is now the prime target in the age-old political game of ‘Shoot the Messenger’. The reason? This:

BBC newsreader: Senior ministers will meet tomorrow to discuss what the government wants from the final Brexit deal.

Roger Bolton: Yes, Brexit.

Note the dismissive, mocking tone of “the usual accusations of leftie-liberal bias” followed by the emphatic, preemptive, opinionated, even-more-dismissive defence of the BBC in “Oh, and the BBC is now the prime target in the age-old political game of ‘Shoot the Messenger'” (specifically in connection with the BBC’s coverage of Brexit).
Yes, Samira Ahmed (however opinionated and illiberal she might be on Twitter, or in newspapers, or in magazines, or on other BBC programmes) would never glibly mock viewers’ concerns on Newswatch itself.
She’s a professional.
And, likewise, nor would she openly prejudge the main subject of her programme (such as the BBC’s impartiality over Brexit) by openly giving her own view of the subject in advance – as Roger Bolton did here.
We were less than a minute into the first episode of  a new series of Feedback today and already the presenter’s own bias had completely scuppered it for me, impartiality-wise.
I can still see the point of Newswatch, but, really, what is the point of Radio 4’s Feedback?
********
That was, of course, just the introduction to today’s Feedback and Roger, in true BBC style, might have come over ‘all impartial’ later.
Did he?

(Go on, have a guess!)

********
So let’s move on to his introduction to main segment:

First, what is the point of trying to make a balanced and impartial programme about Brexit? The country is so divided that members of the same families aren’t speaking to one another, and the generations and the nations are split down the middle. Facts are scarce and always contested, and fears are omnipresent. So I admire the courage and ambition of Chris Morris who, this week on Radio 4, began a third series of Brexit: A Guide for the Perplexed. Subjects covered include: medicines, potatoes and Gibraltar. As with Brexit itself listeners, were deeply divided in their responses…

Professors of English Language could use this a case study of how to skew an argument in a certain direction before either the pre-interview listener comments or the interview itself had even begun.
The opening rhetorical question was obviously intended as a preemptive sigh on behalf of Chris Morris.

The next sentence is hyperbole.

The third is loaded.

The fourth (beginning “So I admire the courage and ambition of Chris Morris…”) is another blatant signal of where the ‘impartial’ presenter stands.

The fifth sentence is descriptive.

The sixth is a variant of our old ‘complaints from both sides’ friend…

but the vox pops then featured did NOT show a classic ‘complaints from both sides’ situation, or that the audience was particularly divided. A man called Alan criticised Chris Morris’s programme for being pretty relentlessly negative about Brexit. All of the other criticisms weren’t bias-related. And none of the others went all ‘Lord Adonis’ by claiming the reverse.
********
And then came the interview with Chris Morris.
Well, as with Chris’s previous series of his Brexit: A Guide for the Perplexed, I found this one to be a severe test of patience because of its overwhelming negativity about Brexit. I intend, time permitting, to spell out why at huge length over the coming couple of weeks why I’ve found the latest series so biased (as I’ve done with previous series), but what interests me here – besides Chris Morris’s utter blindless to his own bias – is Roger Bolton’s questioning.
Note how feebly Roger represents the views of Alan.
And note how, intentionally or unintentionally, he weakens him even further by turning him into a straw man with his suggestion that Alan would say “And, of course, you’ve got to trust our governments” (shades of Cathy Newman ‘So you’re saying’ there!)
And note how Roger tells Chris “You are right to point out it’s a problem” before employing an emphasis on ‘he’ to say that he – Alan – would say something else. [Rhetorically-put: ‘You’re right but some bozo would say…’].
Poor Alan strikes me as being the fall guy for pro-Brexit BBC bashers here. Roger isn’t helping him.
And note how the ‘complaint from the other side’ is presented with much greater clarity and conviction…
and by misstating the argument…(19 anti-Brexit economists v 1 pro-Brexit non-economist, as if Patrick Minford & Co. aren’t economists.
And note how Roger then amplifies that marginal, hardline Remain view about BBC false balance’ yet further with his  2+5=4′ v ‘2+2=5 stuff…
…and how he then again sympathises with Chris about how “very, very tricky” his position is. And under how much “pressure” he is.
And Roger’s final line, however jokingly, one final time expresses sympathy with poor put-upon Chris too. (“I hope he’s getting well paid for it”).
********
As for Chris Morris’s replies, well, he’s obviously sticking to his guns and conceding nothing..
…except (in classic BBC style) in conceding that the ‘false balance’ Remain hardliners complain about might be “a problem”!
His one concession, you’ll note, goes in just one direction.
He’s content – despite knowing how much it infuriates people who want Brexit – to say he thinks concentrating on the worst case scenario is justified because….well, because “that shows that we’re taking Brexit seriously”…and it’s a massive “challenge”.
Hmm, I’m not sure that will reassure people that the BBC is being impartial here!!
And I don’t think the two questions he cites as being the ones to ask – ‘What are your concerns?’ and ‘What are your worries?’ – will convince such people either. Couldn’t he, in his ‘road-testing’, have also chose the questions ‘What are your hopes? and ‘ What good things are you expecting?’ as just-as-valuable questions?
Isn’t the positive worth road-testing as much as the negative?
And our Chris is very fond of the word ‘experts’ – rather provocatively so. His tone made the intent of his provocation clear.
********
Please feel free to call this post a sledgehammer to crack a nut…
…but for BBC Radio 4’s flagship ‘watchdog’ programme to discuss the crucial question of bias and for its presenter to dismiss it and mock BBC critics at the start and then for that same BBC Radio 4 presenter to conduct a biased pro-BBC interview with the BBC reporter supposedly ‘in the dock’ is  beyond being funny. It disgraces the BBC, doesn’t it?
Please listen for yourselves here or read, at leisure, our transcript below:

Roger Bolton: Well, I’m now joined by Chris Morris, presenter of Brexit: A Guide for the Perplexed. Chris, why are doing the programme? Because Alan Giles says, “It’s just all based on supposition”.

Chris Morris: I think that began with the desire to get away from some of the political maelstrom, the daily mud-slinging, as you heard from one of the contributors there. A lot of the coverage in the media is about the politics of Brexit. To begin with – it’s changing a bit  now – but there was less about the practicalities of Brexit. And when we were asked to do this programme – essentially 15-minute bite-size chunks (not just for Radio 4 but of importance for a podcast audience as well) l said, well, I’m happy to do so long as it as doesn’t sound like 15 minutes of the Today programme because there’s plenty of coverage of the politics of Brexit elsewhere on Radio 4.

Roger Bolton: But that’s not a surprise because this is essentially about judgment about the future, isn’t it, and, going back to Alan Giles’s point, it’s supposition. So where are the facts that you can, if you like, you know, bring out?

Chris Morris: Well, there are plenty of facts in  there. I agree that what is difficult is the debate around economic forecasting, because by its nature that is something which is essentially trying to predict the future. Now, maybe it’s done by people who have expertise in economics, but it’s still a prediction of the future. But let me give you one example: a programme we did this week about medicines. There are thousands of medicines which are currently registered in the UK, and if we leave the European Medicines Agency pharmaceutical companies will have to move the registration of those medicines to elsewhere in the EU to continue to be able to sell them. That’s a fact. They’ve told us that, and they’re going to do that fairly soon. Similarly with the nuclear medicines, we heard Alan complaining that it’s just about supposition, Well, the people we were talking to – with the chairman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, a representative of the British Nuclear Medicines Agency – these are people who I don’t think have axes to grind. They are experts in their field…

Roger Bolton: But Alan’s point would be: Well, this is the worst case scenario. And, of course, you’ve got to trust our governments. They’re not going to do anything suicidal like this. They’re obviously….you are right to point out it’s a problem but he would say the assumption is it’s an insuperable problem. ‘Be more optimistic!’ That’s what he’d say.

Chris Morris: In some cases it is the worst case scenario, but I think that shows that we’re taking Brexit seriously. We’re assuming it’s going to happen and I think it is without doubt the biggest change this country is facing in decades and, so, I think we have a responsibility to road-test it. And by road-testing we can say, well, we go to the people in various sectors – whether it be medicines or the nuclear industry or potatoes – and say ‘What are your concerns?’ and ‘What are your worries?’ and then we explore them.

Roger Bolton: Now, there’s a lot of criticism about balance, in it’s simplified form, because some people would say, ‘You’ve got 19 economists saying this is potentially disastrous, and you’ve got one non-economist saying ‘No, it won’t be’ and the BBC will have one person representing the 19 and another person representing… what? In other words, you are simply going tit-for-tat and the public is no wiser. Is that a problem with what you’re doing, this almost artificial sense of balance?

Chris Morris: It can be. And I think when it comes to our coverage of…One of the reasons why we wanted to avoid politicians is that we didn’t want to have a say, well, if we’re talking to that person from this party we have to talk to somebody from another party. So we have gone to what we believe are experts in the field. Now everyone has an opinion. I understand that. That’s natural. But I think, as a journalist, you do have to make a judgment whether you think the opinion that somebody brings to the table is valid, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Roger Bolton: So you’re not impartial between right and wrong? If somebody says to you ‘2+5=4’ and the other says ‘2+2=5’ you say ‘One’s wrong; the first one’s right’? You have due impartiality -where it’s, as it says, it’s due. That is very, very tricky in such a toxic political atmosphere.

Chris Morris: It is very tricky but we’re not, in this series, trying to say ‘Brexit is good’ or ‘Brexit is bad’. We are trying to test what Brexit might mean.

Roger Bolton: How much pressure are you under? You’re obviously under pressure from those, as it were, outside the BBC who have passionate views about this, and the various campaigning groups. What about within the BBC itself?

Chris Morris: You know, we have what I would say are robust editorial discussion all time. As we should, I mean, I’d be disappointed if I didn’t have editors who say, ‘Are you sure you want to say that?’. That’s part of the process of journalism. In some ways, because you’ve got people saying ‘Are you sure this is correct? Are you sure you’re comfortable saying this?’, it sharpens the editorial process. I mean, I was based in Brussels – two different postings for eight years. We had that all the time in coverage of the European Union. And my argument about the EU has always been: I don’t really care whether you love it or hate it you but you should take it seriously.

Roger Bolton: Well, let’s look at the way you presented the programme because Rosalind Fox talks about ‘gimmickiness’. She thinks you’ve gone too far. When you listen to some of the things you’ve done, including some of those puns – ‘cheesy’ would describe one or two of them! – do you think you did go too far?

Chris Morris: No, I think it’s been deliberate. I think it’s sort of knowingly cheesy, if you like. I’ve done hundreds of hours of very serious, very sober broadcasting on the EU and on Brexit. If you look at a lot of the audience research we get , it’s (a) that people are a bit bored of the political mud-slinging. Some people get turned off by the ‘He said. She said’. And this is an attempt just to present it in a different way. I accept that some people won’t like it. That’s fine. It’s their right to have that opinion. But I think it’s not patronising the audience – which I think was the suggestion from one of the callers. I think which would be patronising the audience would be playing fast and loose with the facts. We are as scrupulous as we can be that we get the facts right, that we try and have a bit of fun with the way we present them. I think we should always be looking at different ways to present things because we know there’s a big audience out there that we don’t tap into yet, and we want to do that.

Roger Bolton: Chris Morris, the presenter of Radio Four’s Brexit: A Guide for the Perplexed. I hope he’s getting well paid for it.

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BBC put Rees-Mogg under fire

BBC put Rees-Mogg under fire

The morning after being ‘caught up in a scuffle’ at the University of the West of England (a scene that BBC Somerset’s James Craig described as ‘very aggressive and unexpected’), found Jacob Rees-Mogg being interviewed on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme.

The purpose of the interview was not, though, the previous night’s headline-making attack on him, which was sufficiently intimidating to draw condemnation from both Labour’s Shadow Education spokesman Angela Rayner and the Lib Dems’ Jo Swinson.

It was not this at the front of presenter Nick Robinson’s mind. He neither bothered to inquire what had happened (which would have given him an account from the horse’s mouth), nor asked after his interviewee’s wellbeing, or even what Mr Rees-Mogg made of this assault on free speech.

His intent was quite otherwise.

It was to force an apology from Mr Rees-Mogg – the politician who undoubtedly is the biggest threat to the BBC’s pro-EU ‘remainer’ stance.

Jacob Rees-Mogg had, Mr Robinson said in his introduction, ‘claimed in the House of Commons . . . that Treasury officials had fixed their economic forecasts in order to show that all options other than staying in the EU customs union were bad’.

What a terrible slander on the oh-so-neutral Treasury. It had to be rectified, to be sure. Enlisted in this project was the Head of the Centre for European Reform, Charles Grant, ‘the man who he claimed had said all this’.

The interview that followed was a BBC classic of its kind – based on a false premise, staggeringly imbalanced questioning and finally laying a flaky claim to the moral high ground.

The full transcript can be found here.

Suffice it to say the item was not premised on the possibility that Treasury officials were again flouting the nation’s will (true to their ‘Project Fear’ form) by fiddling the figures, this time to keep us in the customs union, aka the EU. No, it rested on the false premise that leaving the customs union, though implicit in the Referendum vote to leave and underlined by Mrs May’s decision to create a department to negotiate independent trade deals under Liam Fox, was newly up for discussion and the latest reason for reviewing the ‘leave’ decision.

As for the way the interview was conducted, it was what we have come to expect – interruptions and harassment of the few pro-Brexit interviewees that the BBC deigns to invite to undergo a predictable drubbing.

Indeed, it was a masterclass. Nick Robinson’s non-stop interrupting and talking over Jacob Rees-Mogg was possibly a record – by my count 18 times to just once for his other interviewee, Mr Grant.

Robinson not only gave JRM the much tougher time but allowed Charles Grant to get away with outrageous claims about the impact of a changed tariff regime.

On one level, you could say, it was par for the course, just more evidence that Brexit is challenged massively on the BBC; that no stone is to be left unturned when it comes to demolishing the case for Brexit, whereas Remain perspectives will always be projected as much more attractive and credible.

So it is absolutely to Mr Rees-Mogg’s credit that he gave an admirably clear account of his own position and stood his ground even in face of Robinson’s final (in full stern-headmaster moral-high-ground mode) questioning of his character:

‘A last word to you, Jacob Rees-Mogg, let me ask you this if I may, because this is why, in a sense, this row matters. There are some people who’ve presented you in the past as a sort of amusing backbench eccentric. You’re now, you’re a leading figure in terms of backbench Brexiteers, and many ministers say you are a likely candidate to be our next Prime Minister. Do you not accept that to accuse civil servants of rigging official forecasts is not the behaviour of a man who wishes to lead this country?’

Despite the insulting nature of the question, reprobate Rees-Mogg floored him with his reply. Following the Jordan Peterson and Ben Shapiro school of thought, he walked towards the fire and repeated, yes sir, the Treasury had fiddled the figures. He refused to be bullied.

Which is why this interview will not be the end of it. Jacob Rees-Mogg must know he can expect little sympathy from the BBC on any count – whether he be beaten up or prevented from speaking – and that they will trash his character if they can. It will be personal now.

For it is deep in the BBC’s DNA to ridicule or smear any advocate of conservatism or politician really prepared to challenge the Left, which is what JRM does. It has proved an effective way of demoralising the Tory Right. If the BBC’s previous form is anything to go by they will be out for his blood.

And the BBC has the resources. Look at what they were able to throw at the Cliff Richard story, discarding any decent journalistic principle in the process.

Clever, clear-thinking and calm, the hated by the Left Jacob Rees-Mogg poses the most significant political challenge  to the BBC’s Leftist pro-EU orthodoxies in years. So will he be the subject of BBC special investigations? Will BBC favourite Anna Soubry, featured again this morning trashing the Brexiteers, be enlisted to help? Will we see his country house from BBC helicopters circling above, or BBC journalists set to the task (metaphorically speaking) of investigating his dustbins? It is not beyond the realms of imagination.

 

Photo by James Cridland

Civitas paper lays bare 18 years of BBC anti Brexit bias

Civitas paper lays bare 18 years of BBC anti Brexit bias

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.

 

 

 

Photo by Ashley Pollak

BBC complaints system and ‘fake news’ attacked

BBC complaints system and ‘fake news’ attacked

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

Other proposed definitions of the phenomenon are wider. As Claire Wardle of First Draft (which is partnered by BBC News) has noted, it can also include misinformation promoted by journalists.

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”:

BBC partially corrects ‘The World Tonight’ inaccuracies

2) The claim that Jerusalem as a whole is “occupied”:

Following complaint, BBC Arabic corrects partisan terminology

3) The claim that nine people murdered in a terror attack in 2002 were “Jewish settlers”:

BBC Watch secures another correction to a BBC Arabic article

4) The claim that an attack in Syria was carried out by Israel:

BBC News website amends claim of Israeli strike in Syria

5) The claim that Tel Aviv is “the Israeli capital”:

BBC Watch prompts edit of BBC WS inaccurate location of Israel’s capital

6) The claim that Jews rioted in Manchester in the 1940s:

After nearly 3 months, BBC finally corrects Manchester inaccuracy

Error acknowledged, complaint upheld – yet BBC inaccuracy still remains online

7) The claim that Israel was “carved out of land which had belonged to the Palestinians”:

BBC WS acknowledges inaccurate claim in history show

8) The claim that Mt Scopus and the Hebrew University are “Israeli settlements”:

BBC Watch prompts amendment to inaccurate BBC map

9) The claim that the Battle of Beersheba “led to” the Balfour Declaration:

Inaccurate BBC Balfour Declaration claim misleads audiences

10) The claim that “most Jewish organisations” rejected the 1947 Partition Plan:

BBC Watch complaint on Partition Plan inaccuracy upheld

11) The claim that a convicted soldier held the rank of sergeant:

BBC News website twice reports convicted soldier’s rank inaccurately

12) The claim that attacks on Israeli communities were carried out using “mortars”:

Correction secured to inaccurate BBC News website claim about Gaza attacks

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.

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Ofcom Ruling: BBC1 Question Time’s alleged pro-Remain bias

Ofcom Ruling: BBC1 Question Time’s alleged pro-Remain bias

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.

Soros and the BBC attack News-watch reports

Soros and the BBC attack News-watch reports

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.

He said:

‘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?

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Kathy Gyngell: BBC lights the red touch paper

Kathy Gyngell: BBC lights the red touch paper

Guest post from Kathy Gyngell – this first appeared on The Conservative Woman

The BBC has just started its latest anti-UK democracy drama, Gunpowder, which plumbs new depths of brutality. One by one, it seems the barriers against barbarity are being crossed in the media, with the BBC in the vanguard. But perhaps it is no surprise when you look at who they commission.

The series is written by a gentleman called Ronan Bennett, a novelist and screenwriter who was once a self-styled Irish republican revolutionary who grew up in a Roman Catholic family in Belfast during the Troubles. So he would know a thing or two about trying to destroy the British state. At the age of 18 he was convicted of murdering an Inspector in the Royal Ulster Constabulary during an IRA bank robbery. After 18 months in Long Kesh his conviction was declared unsafe and he was released. He still cites his time there as an ‘inspiration’ to him.

After moving to London he mixed with people he himself describes as ‘young enemies of the state’: activists, anarchists, revolutionary socialists. Before long, perhaps unsurprisingly, he was arrested again and accused of leading a terrorist gang. He spent 20 months on remand but was cleared after a 14-week trial at the Old Bailey  in which he defended himself, helped by leading Left-wing advocates Michael Mansfield, Helena Kennedy and Geoffrey Robertson.

You might wonder who else apart from the BBC would employ a man such as this self-styled activist who admits his fiction is ‘his way to play his part politically’? Two guesses and both are right. Step forward Jeremy Corbyn, who hired him as a researcher, a position which caused a huge security headache and, not surprisingly, a fair whack of controversy. But don’t worry, in case you want to direct him to the nearest food bank, stay your hand. The Guardian also keeps this ‘controversialist’ in business and keeps his measured suggestions flowing. ‘Let’s put May’s grisly new coalition out of its misery as soon as possible’ being a recent highlight of an outpouring of victim propaganda.

No, this no-doubt talented writer is not on the breadline. His focus on violence and his romanticising of terrorism have made him the darling of the liberal luvvies. No doubt, successful and in demand, our film maker, now a reformed fellow who adores British democracy as much as he values the freedom it gives to propagandise what he wants, would never wish to harm innocent people.

However, I put it to the fair-minded readers of News-watch and members of Biased BBC that had he been a man of Right-wing terrorist leanings, no amount of self-analysis and reform would make him fit to be commissioned to write a BBC drama.

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