BBC Complaints Process

BBC’s Harlow ‘Brexit race hate’ claims debunked

BBC’s Harlow ‘Brexit race hate’ claims debunked

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.

Confirmed: BBC complaints process is unfit for purpose

Confirmed: BBC complaints process is unfit for purpose

At the heart of the BBC’s reform under its new Charter – due to come into effect imminently – is that for the first time, an outside body, Ofcom, will become the final court of appeal in complaints about impartiality.

The idea is that this will clean the Augean stables and the Corporation will end its rampant bias towards Brexit, climate alarmism, the impact of immigration, multiculturalism and rafts of other issues.

This is looking increasingly like poppycock. For a start, the members of the Ofcom Content Board are drawn from exactly the same prejudiced background as the BBC Trustees. But putting that aside for one moment, the tale below illustrates precisely why.

On August, 31, Arkadiusz Jozwik, a Polish man living in Harlow, was killed in a late-night fracas in the pizza parlour where he worked.

In the immediate aftermath of the crime, police arrested six local youths (all under 16) but quickly released them on bail without charge.   There were no further developments until this week when a 15-year-old from Harlow was charged with Mr Jozwik’s manslaughter. Of fundamental importance, it has also emerged that a race hate charge in connection with the death is not being pursued.

When news of the killing emerged, the BBC’s news operation went into hyper-ventilating overdrive.

On the BBC1 News at Six, reporter Daniel Sandford compiled a report in which the fulcrum was there were now fears that this was a ‘a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum’.

A few hours later, John Sweeney, on BBC2’s Newsnight – one of the Corporation’s main investigative journalists – took matters a step further in the editing of his report. He included as the conclusion so that it could not be ignored this inflammatory sounbdbite from another local Polish man:

But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er . . . yeah, it’s your call.

Clearly in play and being reinforced to maximum extent by the Corporation was the central idea – evident in other programmes, too, as is documented on the News-watch website here –  that June 23 had unleashed a torrent of racist venom. In the BBC’s world the jackboots were now out – and on the march.

The following Monday, Guardian columnist and political activist (sorry, ‘rights campaigner’) Garry Younge was allowed to put together for a BBC Radio 4 series a barrage of sensationalist allegations in the same vein: that Britain, overnight since June 23, had become a seething cesspit of race-hate. Attacks were underway in terrifying, unprecedented volume.

On the advice of a senior BBC news executive – who claimed that the Corporation was listening to problems about post-Brexit coverage – News-watch submitted a formal complaint about the coverage of Harlow killing to the BBC Complaints Unit, focusing principally on the Sandford report.

Over seven-pages, it detailed that his approach was sensationalist, deliberately contrived to give maximum impact to the race hate claims, and also pointed out that it was seriously irresponsible and premature – in the light of the facts known to the police on August 31 and more generally about race-hate crime – to speculate so prominently either about race-hate motivation or about the crime’s possible link to Brexit.

The BBC’s response? A curt high-handed letter. It asserted that such speculation was legitimate because there had been a rise in reports of race-hate crime since June 23, and because other possible motives for Mr Jozwik’s death had been included in Sandford’s report.

The letter – which was mostly in an obviously standard format, and was so slipshod that it even spelled the name of Sandford incorrectly, omitting the ‘d’ – glossed over with what can only described as haughty arrogance the key points.

In response, News-watch submitted a second complaints letter pointing out the omissions and stating that the reply was totally unsatisfactory. That was on October 20.  On November 30 (ironically, the day of the manslaughter charges were laid) came the Complaints Unit’s second reply. It states:

‘We are sorry to tell you that we have nothing to add to our previous reply. We do not believe your complaint has raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation. We will not therefore correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions made about this issue or our responses to it.’

The lessons learnt? The core BBC complaints process, which will remain as the conduit which will deal with most of the complaints submitted to the BBC after Charter renewal, is intrinsically and, irrevocably unfit for purpose. The Corporation remains the primary judge of what is deemed a ‘significant issue of general importance’

The second Complaints Unit letter does point out that the BBC Trust, in some circumstances, does entertain appeals. But the fact is that – as Richard Ayre, one of the current Trustees, has admitted – it has not upheld a complaint on EU-related matters in its entire existence.

Will Ofcom change that approach? Don’t hold your breath. And meanwhile, the totally inaccurate BBC assumptions about Brexit and race-hate continue to spew forth.

 

 

Bridgen putdown underlines rot at heart of BBC complaints process

Bridgen putdown underlines rot at heart of BBC complaints process

As the crucial referendum vote looms, how DO you complain about the BBC?

The reality is that the Corporation is its own judge and jury in dealing with complaints and has neatly-honed putdowns for almost every eventuality.

The odds are particularly stacked in the EU debate, as the News-watch submission to the DCMS consultation on BBC Charter renewal outlines. In the nine years since they were formed, the BBC Trustees have never upheld a complaint about EU coverage – even though senior BBC figures have admitted at various times that this aspect of their output has been biased.

Tough cookie MP Andrew Bridgen explained in the Daily Telegraph that he is the latest to try registering a complaint – only to be swatted aside like a tiresome bluebottle.

He very reasonably noticed that in the kick-off to the referendum campaign, the Corporation, as usual, is favouring the ‘remain’ side by, for example, allowing them to dominate the guest list on Newsnight; that coverage is representing David Cameron’s agreement as legally binding when it is not; and that business news on Today is regularly inviting pro-EU commentators to say what a vital and wonderful institution it is. All of which has been evidenced elsewhere.

Surprise, surprise, BBC Director of News James Harding disagrees. On what basis? Well primarily, it seems that because what poor, naïve Bridgen has observed is only the early days of the campaign and it will all even out in the ‘ebb and flow’ of events. Well silly him for not realising.

Of course balance is not a precise daily calculation and James Harding is right that there are days when almost inevitably, one side will receive more exposure than the other.

But the problem here is that – as Ryan Bourne of the IEA pointed out on the TCW – the BBC has got form in this respect, lots of it. For example, over 11 years of Today’s output, in monitoring by News-watch that covered almost half the programmes transmitted, only three Labour or other left-leaning guests favouring Brexit appeared. Was that down to the ‘ebb and flow’ of events? – or was another factor, such as outright BBC bias, in play? More examples abound on the News-watch website.

What Harding’s letter also underlines is that the BBC has got a neatly worked out answer to almost every situation. Another favourite is that both sides have complained, so the offending item must be balanced. Today editor Jamie Angus recently used this on Radio 4’s Feedback programme (which is supposed to represent listeners, but is mainly a conduit through which BBC executives rubbish them). He stated:

‘It’s a bit glib in a way to say if both sides are complaining volubly then we’re just about in the right place but I do sometimes fall back on that…..Genuinely, my perception is that I’m getting a pretty balanced mailbag.’ 

Any academic researcher would tell you the pitfalls of such crass generalisations.

Another is the ‘find the lady’ approach. When News-watch complained about Newsnight’s coverage of the David Cameron’s Bloomberg speech back in 2013 because the programme that evening contained 19 pro-EU guests ranged against only one definite withdrawalist (Nigel Farage, of course), the response was that we had missed that the previous December, there had been an edition which had debated the exit option and both sides had been evenly balanced.

This was bunk – in reality, the programme did not give the out camp a fair shout – but it was a classic BBC response which is wheeled out regularly: the complainant is wrong because somewhere in the thousands of hours of BBC output is something that miraculously balances the offending item.

James Harding has recently deployed yet another of his classic arguments. Here, the complainant alleged that on Today, Sir John Major had not been challenged firmly enough by James Naughtie (on December 16 last year) when he claimed that Brussels would become hostile to the UK, if God forbid, the electorate decided they wanted to leave the EU.

Harding’s response? He stated:

‘The ebb and flow of political discourse cannot, I think, be reduced to a check list of rebuttals’.

Clearly, ‘ebb and flow’ is a favourite phrase – but in other respects, too, this was a perennial favourite defence: it boils down to that in the BBC’s book, and especially on EU issues, presenters can do whatever they want, even when a pro-EU guest is getting away with blue murder.

What has now emerged through the response to Andrew Bridgen is that Harding and the high command at the BBC are likely to persist in this stonewall denial against Brexit complainants throughout the referendum campaign. He, Tony Hall, the Director General, and David Jordan, the Director of Editorial Standards, told the European Scrutiny Committee last year that this would not be the case.

Pigs, it seems, might fly.

BBC apology over Quentin Letts’ climate change programme  ‘is the stifling of free speech’

BBC apology over Quentin Letts’ climate change programme ‘is the stifling of free speech’

Once in a blue moon…? Hold the front page… because the BBC complaints department has actually apologised to someone.

Not, of course, to the battalions of folk who have been saying for years that coverage of topics such as feminism, multiculturalism, the EU and immigration is beyond the pale.

The response to them – as News-watch chronicles in its submission to government review of the BBC that closed today (October 8) – is ‘brickwall negativity’, combined with a liberal dose of bone-headed obfuscation to defend the Corporation at all costs.

The document notes that, according to Complaints Unit figures, only around 6% of complaints are ever fully upheld by the Corporation – and those that are usually revolve around marginal points.

So, step forward instead to collect this rare-as-hen’s- teeth apology a certain Dr Andy Smedley. Who? Well, he pursues a career publishing obscure papers on snow, ice and (of course!) renewable energy at Manchester University. And, if his Twitter feed is to be believed, he spends most of his time telling the world that we are all going to fry.

The good doctor complained that Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts had the temerity, in the Radio 4 series ‘What’s the Point Of…?’, to dare to criticise the forecasts of the Met Office and to include a range of contributors who – shock, horror – even mocked the Met’s inaccurate forecasts.

Those who earn an estimated $1.5 trillion from governments round the world for pursuing their scared mission of alarmism clearly don’t like their gravy train being threatened. Dr Smedley, it seems, was particularly incensed.

The Complaints Unit grovelling response to him was:

‘…we do not consider the programme met our required standards of accuracy or impartiality in its coverage of climate change science. As previously stated, we also recognise that in giving voice to climate change sceptics, it failed to make clear that they are a minority voice out of step with the scientific consensus – which we would normally expect on the occasion when we include such viewpoints.’

Then in chilling Orwellian vein, it added:

‘Since writing to you originally, we have carried out an examination of the programme’s productions processes to discover how it (sic) went wrong. We are confident that the programme came about through an unusual combination of circumstances which we have now rectified to avoid any repeated problems.’

Put another way, the BBC has decided that the science is settled and that’s it. Quentin Letts and his chums are dangerous deviants because they do not agree with the ‘the consensus’. The programme’s production team is going away on a BBC indoctrination course to be told about their extreme folly in inviting them to speak. And in future, Letts et al won’t be allowed back on unless an army of Dr Smedleys first gets the chance to say they are talking rubbish.

Those of you who have followed the BBC’s bigotry in this arena will not be surprised by the approach – a similar torrent of alarmist bile was unleashed when, after the 2013/4 Somerset floods, Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked on the Today programme about the causes and possible remedies.

It illustrates graphically that the Corporation is bursting its sinews to limit free speech in an area of science that is highly complex and far from settled. The Cameron government confirmed two weeks ago that it was continuing to waste billions of pounds a year on the assumption that climate alarmism is warranted, so this is a matter of massive public concern.

One ray of sunlight is that Culture Secretary John Whittingdale told the Conservative party conference this week that, in connection with Charter renewal, the Corporation will no longer handle complaints against its output because it had not ‘always been as fair and impartial as it should’. He declared:

“I know from the many letters and conversations that I have had that you have sometimes felt that the BBC has not always been as fair or as impartial as it should….

“…what is important is that the public should have confidence that complaints are examined independently and carefully. And that it is no longer the case that if you make a complaint against the BBC, the decision on whether it is justified is taken by the BBC”.

Let us hope that in this vital area, he delivers. Handing such complaints to an outside body which is both robust and genuinely independent will put an instant check on the Corporation’s rampant bias. The News-watch submission to Whittingdale shows in graphic detail how far the rot has taken hold – and the ludicrous contortions the Corporation performs to stifle free speech.

 

 

 

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