2017 General Election

BBC ‘leaders’ debate was programme car-crash

BBC ‘leaders’ debate was programme car-crash

The so-called ‘leaders’ debate on BBC1 last night was a car crash of a programme that should never have been broadcast.

‘Balance’ was never going to be possible in a set-up involving five strident left-wing parties ranged against two from the ‘right’. Those at the Corporation paid substantial salaries to achieve ‘impartiality’, including the Director of News, James Harding, should have spotted this a mile away.

Further, despite anything that the BBC might say, the audience was seriously biased against Amber Rudd for the Conservatives and Paul Nuttall of Ukip. The Corporation afterwards claimed this was not their fault because they had sub-contracted the polling organisation ComRes to select the audience members on a ‘scientific’ basis.

Poppycock. The BBC are responsible for programmes that they broadcast and in a General Election the Corporation has a clearly-defined responsibility under both the Charter and electoral law to ensure balance.

The reality is that the make-up of audience was a first-order farce. Nothing the BBC broadcasts subsequently can ‘balance’ this, so gross was the problem.

This Cambridge mob was not just biased in its reactions throughout the 90 minutes but risibly so.  Everything Jeremy Corbyn said was cheered to the rafters, whereas Rudd and Nuttall were subjected to catcalls.  The camerawork (was that sub-contracted, too?) further exaggerated the problems by homing in on the negative reaction.

Returning to the intrinsic imbalance of the 5 ‘left’ to two ’right’ set-up, a major problem here was that the moderator, Radio 4 Today presenter Mishal Husain, was never equal to the task.

But there were deeper problems, that meant Husain’s basic failure of control was compounded.  The result was that programme was shot through with basic unfairness.

Nowhere was this more risibly evident than in the handling of immigration. Put bluntly Paul Nuttall’s call for tougher controls was ganged up upon and shouted down by the SNP, Green, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat panellists – who, like playground bullies, called him a racist.

There was nothing new about this. Those on the left such as Tim Farron and Caroline Lucas have been disgracefully and indiscriminately using the ‘R’ word against anyone who disagrees with uncontrolled immigration for decades.

But that is where the BBC failed at the most basic level in their duty as public service broadcasters.  They should have foreseen such unfairness, and known it would be an inevitable outcome. The problem is that the British political system is no longer binary, and the majority of parties are now left-wing, so ‘debates’ like this simply cannot work.

Another point is that the BBC intrinsically does not care a stuff about right-wing opinion. For years it has been working to undermine and belittle the views of Ukip, and so in that mind-set, the latest twist last night was only par for the course.

Everybody who watched last night could see this blatant bias, but not the BBC itself. Its headlines yesterday morning did not mention the bias claims, but focused instead on that Theresa May had been shown to be a coward for not turning up.

BBC ‘environment analyst’ Harrabin: don’t vote Conservative or Ukip

BBC ‘environment analyst’ Harrabin: don’t vote Conservative or Ukip

At what point do BBC ‘correspondents’ cross the line from offering a properly judged and impartial assessment into propaganda and overt electioneering?

News-watch surveys provide abundant evidence that it is all too often – and a new prime example was 556 words on the doctrine of climate alarmism from Roger Harrabin the BBC’s ‘environment analyst’ on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend yesterday. (His report starts at a round 1.25pm)

This amounted to a BBC party political broadcast against elements of the Conservative party, and especially – to Harrabin – the real villains of the piece, Ukip.

A transcript of the full horror of what he delivered in this ‘impartial assessment’ is below.

Where to start? In Harrabin’s world, our seas are ‘full of plastic’ (!), and the fact that Stephen Hawking thinks that climate change is the biggest long-term threat to humanity makes his speculation sacrosanct.

Then we must take into account that, according to government surveys, only 1% ‘strongly oppose renewables’ and so that, in Harrabin’s world, makes the spending of billions on such energy (instead of, say, the NHS) OK.

No mention in his equation of the thousands of old people who freeze in winter because of the huge bills generated by wind farm and solar subsidies.

And who, according to Harrabin, are the irresponsible and reckless parties who are opposing the climate alarmism agenda? Top if his list are ‘Conservative libertarians’, followed by – boo, hiss! – Ukip. Of course! Every BBC correspondent’s favourite whipping boys.  Along with Donald Trump, who also dares to question this sacred dogma.

Next on the list of Harrabin infamy is The Mail on Sunday, which had the temerity to launch its Great Green Con campaign and thereby ‘legitimised’ anti-environmentalism’.  How very dare they.

Next target? Brexit – this is the BBC so how could another aspect of related problems be avoided? , Now at risk is all the wonderful legislation emanating from Brussels designed to ‘restore nature’ (whatever that means). As a result ,too, of leaving the EU at risk will be flood control, along with the drive to spend billions on insulating millions of homes.

Harrabin concludes – with outrageous partiality – during an election campaign:

The Conservatives’ ambition looks limited here compared with the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru and also Labour who want to make home insulation an infrastructure priority. The SNP hasn’t published its manifesto yet but it too wants to take a strong line on climate change.

So there we have it. Vote anything but Conservative and Ukip, and avoid Brexit and all will be well with the world. Humanity will be safe.

 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, ‘The World This Weekend’, 28 May, 2017, Climate Change, 1.27pm

MARK MARDELL: And as one Carlisle resident said, there hasn’t been much about the environment generally, even though it was once near the top of many a politician’s agenda. What happened? Here’s our environment analyst Roger Harrabin.

ROGER HARRABIN:            Air pollution, melting sea ice, wildlife depletion, a soil crisis, seas full of plastic.  Why isn’t the election full of environmental angst?  Well I think it’s mainly a question of worry capacity. Stephen Hawking would tell you climate change was the biggest long-term threat to humanity but in the meantime we’re also beset by terrorism, the refugee crisis, Brexit – they’ve filled up our worry-space.  Coupled with that there’s been a shift in the way the media discusses the environment.  The old consensus on climate change has been rattled by a long campaign from Conservative libertarians and UKIP.  They scored their first success with wind farms, scattered protests against turbines were at first below the radar of the national media, but those angry local voices were eventually amplified by the Telegraph, and that began to influence policy.  The government’s own surveys actually suggest that just 1% of the populace strongly opposes renewables, but that’s by the by.  Then the Mail on Sunday launched its Great Green Con campaign criticising failings in renewables and highlighting uncertainties in climate science.  When it was previously non-PC to declare yourself a climate change sceptic, a stance of what you might call anti-environmentalism has now been legitimised.  This steady pressure from over its right shoulder has led the government to mostly gag itself on climate change over recent years and the sceptics have been claiming victory.  But wait a minute – except UKIP, all the manifestos published so far, that’s including the blue one, recommit to the Climate Change Act.  That sort of consensus hardly stimulates media interest, but it does prove the issue hasn’t gone away.  There are details over policy of course.  The Conservative manifesto aspires to the cheapest energy prices in Europe.  The Greens promise affordable energy, not cheap energy.  But as a slogan that’s not quite so catchy.  For all parties Brexit looms large, 80 % of the UK’s environmental policy comes through the EU.  How will politicians translate that into UK law?  How will they handle the massive opportunity to restore nature as they’ve promised following British withdraw from the common agriculture policy?  Can they direct some of the agricultural budget to catching water on farmland to prevent the floods we discussed earlier?  How will they improve the chaotic waste and recycling policies and how will our next government solve the conundrum of persuading tens of millions of people to insulate their own homes as part of the supposedly inexorable drive towards the low carbon economy?  The Conservatives’ ambition looks limited here compared with the Lib Dems, Greens and Plaid Cymru and also Labour who want to make home insulation an infrastructure priority.  The SNP hasn’t published its manifesto yet but it too wants to take a strong line on climate change.  Then how will the parties deal with the thorny issue of air pollution?  Policies are there in other manifestos but details are strikingly absent from the Conservative document, presumably to avoid upsetting diesel drivers.  So many environmental questions still, so many unanswered.

 

 

Photo by Chatham House, London

BBC still resists Brexit – against the will of even Remain voters

BBC still resists Brexit – against the will of even Remain voters

YouGov’s latest poll on attitudes towards Brexit – as the New Statesman outlines here – demonstrates that 69 per cent of the public now support leaving the EU and only 21 per cent want to ignore the result of the referendum.

Not only that, 25 per cent in the Brexit-supporting total are Remain voters who accept that the British people have voted to leave, and that the Government thus has a duty ‘to carry out their wishes and leave’.

In other words, they concur that the referendum vote is confirmation – despite the frantic protestations of Tim Farron – that Leave does indeed mean Leave. The 48 per cent support for Remain on June 23 is distant history. The majority of Remain voters have moved on.

Put another way, only around 9 million Britons out of the 43.5m who voted on June 23 are still hankering for a re-run.

Will someone please tell the BBC? New Statesman Political Editor George Eaton pulls no punches in his assessment of how devastating the figures are to the Remain case. He states:

“After voting Remain, they ceased to act as a unified political bloc. The crucial figure for understanding May’s decision to pursue Brexit is not “the 48 per cent” or “the 52 per cent” but the 69 per cent – the number who believe the Government has a duty to leave the EU (more than a third of whom voted Remain). A mere 21 per cent agree that the government should either block Brexit or seek to prevent it through a second referendum.”

Yet the BBC continues to behave as if it is their main duty to show audiences how difficult the Brexit road is going to be, and how suspect the ‘Leave ‘vote was, as is detailed by News-watch here.

BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan has now even also seriously floated on the Today programme (at 8.20am in the edition) what amounts to a conspiracy theory about the Vote Leave project. He has suggested it was backed by a shadowy ‘millionaire’ (how much dodgier in the BBC lexicon can you be?) combined with a publicity-shy software company called Cambridge Analytica, who – shock, horror – are also, in an equally shadowy way, behind Donald Trump.

All this is beginning to look like the BBC – in its dogged opposition to Brexit – is acting like a millenarian cult. A fascinating book on the psychology involved is here. The end of the world is nigh and they are jolly well going to tell us about it – despite what voters now think and very clearly want. And despite any amount of positive news to the contrary.

Photo by dullhunk

This election is a battle between the Tories and the broadcasters

This election is a battle between the Tories and the broadcasters

This is an election like no other for the BBC. They have a mission.

Two weeks ago, as is laid out here, Today presenter Nick Robinson effectively declared war on Brexit with his statement that the Corporation would henceforward work flat out to find the problems with Brexit, and not bring balanced coverage of the Leave perspective.  Of which, more later.

Since then, it has become painfully evident what he meant. The Corporation’s Article 50 coverage relentlessly highlighted the difficulties, with pride of place given to predictions by correspondents of decades-long wrangles, inflation of perceived problems over Gibraltar, the continuing need for the European Court of Justice and dire warnings that the British tourist and hospitality industry would collapse if the UK did not have continued access to EU labour.

In the same vein, after the general election was announced, Today’s business news – like a heat-seeking missile – sought out the views of the (ex BBC) DG of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, on the need for continued free movement, reinforced an hour later by the ultra-Remain businessman Sir Martin Sorrell, who predicted that the real reason for the election was so that Mrs May could achieve a soft-Brexit in line with his own objectives.

To be fair, Andrew Lillico, a pro-Leave business figure also appeared, but there was no doubt which views were considered to be the most important.

So what will happen during the general election? This – despite what the Conservative Party machine might say – is effectively a second Brexit referendum, brought about because, as Theresa May has acknowledged, the Remain side are determined to thwart Brexit.

There are, of course, special rules for broadcasters during general elections. Broadly, they provide that much more attention must be paid to balance between the parties contesting the election.

But here, in this election, is an immediate problem. Those rules (as defined, for example by Ofcom in Section 6 of its programming code) are designed mainly to prevent imbalances between political parties.

That creates an immediate problem with an election so inevitably focused on a single issue: that the overwhelming majority of current MPs (most of whom will become candidates after May 3) were Remainers, and after the referendum vote want a strongly-limited and compromised form of EU exit.

Labour, for example, as exemplified by shadow chancellor John McDonnell on Today on Wednesday morning, says it now supports Brexit. But the form of Brexit it wants is continued membership of the single market, and qualified support for free movement. The Liberal Democrats and the SNP, of course, aggressively oppose Brexit – and make no bones about it.

The BBC, in this framework, has oodles of ‘wriggle-room’ to sidestep the election rules, and to continue to pursue vigorously its self-declared campaign to expose to the maximum the pitfalls of Brexit throughout the election period.

Of course, election coverage of the issues involved is also subject to the normal over-arching rules of public service impartiality. But it is precisely here that the BBC – as is clear in the Nick Robinson Radio Times piece – has interpreted the clauses relating to ‘due impartiality’ according to its own anti-Brexit ends. In the Corporation’s estimation, it is on a mission to spread ‘understanding’ about the exit process. In reality, that means something very different: the goal is to portray exit in the most negative light possible.

News-watch coverage of previous general elections has shown that, despite the supposedly strict general election impartiality rules, the BBC’s approach to EU coverage was seriously flawed. After the 2015 poll, it was noted:

…the analysis shows that the issue of possible withdrawal was not explored fairly or deeply enough…Coverage was heavily distorted, for instance by the substantial business news comment on the Today programme that withdrawal would damage British trade and jobs. The message of potential damage to the economy was supplemented by the provision of frequent platforms for Labour and Liberal Democrat figures to warn of the same dangers. The spokesmen from these parties were not properly challenged on their views.

Will this change in 2017? Fat chance. Subsequent News-watch reports have shown that this bias has continued, regardless of the June 23 vote.

The problem now is that – despite the new BBC Charter – the Corporation’s approach to impartiality in news coverage is mainly self-regulated through its own Complaints Unit. Ofcom only enters the frame if there is an appeal against the BBC’s own rulings, and that’s a procedure that takes months. News-watch’s complaint about the BBC’s fantasy race hate murder in Harlow took six months to grind through the BBC machine.

The Conservative Party under David Cameron fluffed the opportunity to achieve genuine reform of the BBC. Will that glaring failure now come back to haunt Theresa May?

Photo by secretlondon123