EU Referendum

Dead Ringers clangs out anti-Brexit bias

Dead Ringers clangs out anti-Brexit bias

On 29 March 2018, the Radio 4 broadcast a day of programming under the title ‘Britain at the Crossroads‘ marking a year to Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU. The following is an extract from News-watch’s forthcoming report into the day’s coverage.

Performers from the Radio 4 comedy impressions programme delivered six two-minute sketches broadcast at intervals throughout the day, featuring ‘imagined voicemail messages from key players in the Brexit negotiations.’[1] Three impressionists – Jon Culshaw, Jan Ravens and Duncan Wiseby – imitated the voices of nine politicians: Theresa May, David Davis, Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbot, Nigel Farage, Michel Barnier, Jean-Claude Juncker, Angela Merkel and Donald Trump.  The six editions were as follows:

Sketch One, 9.45am

David Davis leaves a voicemail message for Theresa May, focusing mainly on the implications of Brexit for the Irish border.  David Davis was presented as naïve: believing Ireland to be ‘a magical place full of whimsy’, but taken to an ‘abandoned farmhouse’ and electrocuted by men who had placed his feet in a bucket of water and attached bulldog clips to his genitals.

Sketch Two, 1.55pm

Diane Abbot leaves a voicemail message for Jeremy Corbyn. The main target of the sketch was Labour’s inconsistent Brexit policy. Ms Abbot noted that Owen Smith had been sacked for stating that Britain should have a second referendum, despite her having taken a similar position and remained in post. She outlined a convoluted plan for: ‘a Britain both out of the single market and the customs union, whilst inside a customs union and single market. So we are inside the outside, trading freely and not freely, as a member and not a member of the EU’, and noted ‘It’s so simple.’  Towards the end of the sketch there were references to the Anti-Semitism row engulfing the Labour Party.

Sketch Three, 4.57pm

Nigel Farage leaves a message for David Davis, who is ‘unable to come to the phone right now, as Barnier has me in a headlock’.  In the first section of the sketch it was revealed that Mr Farage, rather than being in a busy pub, was using a sound-effects CD he had bought ‘from a Russian’, and there were references to the 2016 referendum being won by ‘shadowy billionnaires’ and ‘that Cambridge data whatsit firm’.  The second half of Mr Farage’s message focused on the issue of the ‘iconic blue passport’ being made in France, and issues surrounding the Common Fisheries Policy, with Mr Farage suggesting that both issues could be solved simultaneously by replacing the current burgundy passport with fish.

Sketch Four, 6.30pm

A message from the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier to Brexit Secretary David Davis. The premise of the skit was that Mr Barnier’s claims that Brexit was ‘a sad milestone in EU history’ were belied by the sounds of a celebration going on in the background, replete with ‘a conga line passing through’. Mr Barnier flattered the UK for having brought ‘so much to the European project’, with ‘the spirit of generosity and compromise’, only to suggest he was mistaken and actually talking about Finland.

Sketch Five, 8.58pm

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leaving a voicemail for EU President Jean-Claude Juncker. She noted that the British had humiliated themselves in the negotiations, singling out David Davis as having poor negotiating skills. In contrast with the view from the EU portrayed in previous edition, Mrs Merkel was keen to ‘find a way to make the UK stay’, her reasoning being that ‘hating Britain is the glue that prevents the entire EU project crashing down’, and she expressed her fear that Britain would make a success of Brexit. The sketch ended with her suggesting that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could ‘fix it’ so that Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable could be swept into power before March 2019.

Sketch Six, 10.43pm

Theresa May leaving a message for US President Donald Trump, to remind him that it’s exactly a year to Brexit and to assert that Britain can rely on the ‘special relationship’ with the US. She explained that she is looking forward to a ‘new era of free trade between our two great nations’, including inedible biscuits, overpriced medicines and chlorinated chicken. Midway through, President Trump picks up the call, at first mistaking Mrs May for Stormy Daniels, and suggesting that Theresa May ‘is such a great porn name’, and notes that he has ‘bigly plans’ for the NHS, which Mrs May agrees to sell to him.

 

Analysis:

The politicians lampooned by the Dead Ringers team have been excluded from the speaker and word count totals for the survey as whole, given that their input could not be fairly compared to contributions from real-life guests.  However, statistics have been compiled separately for each ‘contributor’.

Brexit Secretary David Davis received the most space (419 words), appearing in three of the six sketches, first leaving an extended voicemail for Theresa May, and then, in subsequent editions, acting as recipient of messages from Nigel Farage and Michel Barnier.  Despite being awarded so little space elsewhere in the ‘Britain at the Crossroads’ strand (just a short 25 word contribution to The World Tonight), an impression of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage accounted for the second largest amount of space (355 words), indicating that Mr Farage is still seen as a pivotal figure in the Brexit negotiations, despite  UKIP receiving a sharp decline in coverage in the mainstream news and current affairs programming monitored by News-watch since the referendum.[2]

Dead Ringers, as with all parody, depends on a level of audience familiarity: its targets are individuals whose voices, mannerisms and opinions are well-known, and the humour is created by exaggerating established perceptions, or playing on well-worn stereotypes. It also relies on familiarity with current ‘big themes’ in news and current affairs – audiences will only understand and appreciate the jokes if they are aware of a particular topic through its coverage in serious news programming.

Studies into the persuasive impact of satire discount the idea of immediate attitude change following exposure to a humorous message, with audiences being likely to dismiss its contents as ‘just a joke’.[3] However, research also provides evidence of a potential ‘sleeper effect’: memorable messages may encourage audiences to think about issues more over time, which can increase the persuasive effect and influence on attitudes.[4]

On Dead Ringers, the jokes tended to fall into a number of distinct categories:

 

‘Little Englander’ stereotypes

The sketches lampooning David Davis and Nigel Farage were predicated on links between anti-EU sentiment and xenophobia, an association repeated regularly on BBC news and entertainment programmes over the last two decades.[5]

In his Dead Ringers incarnation, David Davis was cast as the ‘Brexit Bulldog’, noting that it was just ‘one year to go till we march up to Johnny Foreigner’, while explaining that he only speaks two languages, ‘English and slightly slower, louder English for when I’m on holidays.’ At one point he referred to an imaginary EU national as ‘Pedro’.

Similarly, the script for Nigel Farage featured the former UKIP leader referring to an EU border guard as ‘Fritz’, stating that he didn’t ‘bloody well care’ about the Irish, and stating that unless the Brexit issue was sorted he would ‘unleash the kind of hell not seen since my local introduced Peroni on tap’ – the inference that he would dislike the Italian beer on account of its nation of origin.

 

Personal Attacks

The Dead Ringers sketches also used their characters to ‘say the unsayable’, using mimicry to make strong personal attacks, or, conversely, to make a particular target seem foolish by implying ignorance.

Michel Barnier, for example, referred to David Davis’s ‘stupid, grinning, gappy-toothed face’, adding, ‘But I am being rude and unprofessional, and I really should not – because that is your department’.  Similarly, Nigel Farage called David Davis an ‘old snaggletooth, inbred embarrassment’.  Mr Farage was later mocked for having adopted a ‘salt of the Earth Englishman’ persona, while relying on Russian billionaires and the services of Cambridge Analytica to secure the Leave vote in the referendum.

Prominent Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees Mogg also came under fire, with jokes at his expense bookending the six editions.   In the first sketch, Theresa May noted that she was unable to come to the phone ‘as Jacob Rees Mogg has rung for his elevenses’ – presumably a combined reference to his social class and the prime minister’s perceived subservience to the pro-Brexit wing of her party. Nigel Farage complained to David Davis that he had let the EU ruin the fishing industry, noting that ‘soon the only wet fish left in the country will be Jacob Rees-Mogg’.  In the final skit, an imagined conversation between Theresa May and President Trump, at the suggestion that selling the NHS to Mr Trump would make her ‘the most hated and reviled politician in Britain’, Mr Trump responded, ‘There would still be Jacob Rees-Mogg’, at which point Mrs May concedes to the deal.

By contrast, there were relatively few jokes aimed at the European Commission or EU leaders, and the quips were less personal in tone.  They also tended to simultaneously criticise Britain or its government.  For example, Angela Merkel began her message, ‘I’ve had a difficult time recently, but it could be worse, I could be Theresa May,’ and said later, ‘Yes, I know they are belligerent and small-minded, but that is the point: without Britain to hate we’ll all end up squabbling with each other.’

Only two brief sequences were aimed squarely at the EU institutions: first, EU bureaucracy was mocked in the answerphone message of EU President Jean-Claude Juncker, ‘I can’t come to the phone right now, as doing so would directly contravene the EU Directive 8976/456 subsection 923/83 paragraph 7, appendix 2’; second, Angela Merkel revealed that her darkest fear was, ‘what if Britain actually makes a success of Brexit?’.

 

The Impact of Brexit

The sequence of sketches also included material focusing on the possible material effects of Brexit, and these were unremittingly negative: the hard border in Northern Ireland potentially ushering a return to terrorism; that ‘taking back control’ meaning that Britain would be doing exactly what the EU said for the next two years; that the NHS could be sold to the Americans; that any future trade relationship with the US would lead to a decline in food standards.

The ability of the British negotiating team was criticised frequently. Angela Merkel said, ‘it would have been so easy just to humiliate the British and make them look like idiots, so far better that you allow them to do it for themselves’, and Michel Barnier suggested that he had avoided David Davis’s ‘little traps’ and left him ‘flat-footed every time.’

Theresa May, meanwhile, referred to herself as ‘a strange grey-haired lady’, and was positioned by the narrative as being so ineffectual that she was forced to remind President Trump who she actually was.  The notion of a trade deal with the US was pilloried, ‘Of course, there are those claiming you won’t give us a good trade deal, based on nothing, as far as I can see, but every single decision you’ve made as President’.

 

Conclusion

It is difficult to deconstruct jokes semantically in the same way one might analyse news and current affairs.  Mimicry as a comedic genre is multi-layered: audiences may focus on of the skills of the imitators, gain pleasure from assessing the impressions for accuracy, or simply enjoy suspending their disbelief and hearing familiar voices articulating points that their real-life counterparts would never (or could never) make.

In addition to the impressions themselves, Dead Ringers also depends on the topical: audiences recognise issues and themes made salient by ‘serious’ news and current affairs.  There is a symbiotic relationship – for audiences to be ‘in’ on a particular joke, it must reflect news themes that have gained traction elsewhere.  So, for example, the impressions of Nigel Farage and Angela Merkel referenced the alleged influences of Cambridge Analytica, ‘Russian billionaires’ and Facebook on the 2016 EU Referendum and US Election. Dead Ringers could, alternatively, have satirised Remain having spent significantly more than Leave on its campaign[6], or mocked the BBC  for carrying anti-Brexit advertisements on its overseas website,[7] but because these issues have been downplayed or ignored by mainstream news programmes it would be difficult for them to resonate as readily with the Radio 4 audience.

Similarly, the David Davis sketch focused on the potential of a return to sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland. A paper for the Policy Exchange has argued that the Irish border issue has ‘disproportionately dominated discussion over the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU’ and that, ‘arch-Remainers have used it to scaremonger about the threat to the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Northern Ireland.’[8] But Dead Ringers acted in concert with its ‘serious’ counterparts to echo and amplify a strong anti-Brexit message.

There were further textual imbal

A year prior to the current survey, News-watch monitored the Today programme in the week that Article 50 was triggered.[9]  On 4 April 2017, Today carried a report on The Craft of Comedy, an annual conference held in Llandudno.[10]  Correspondent David Silitoe reported that, in a room containing approximately one hundred comedy writers and performers, only one person admitted to having voted Leave – writer James Cary. Mr Cary said that being pro-Brexit ‘is not a widely-held view within the comedy community,’ and when asked by Mr Silitoe if this was a good or bad thing, he replied:

I think in a sense it’s a bad thing, because you would hope that there would be a range of views, within those people who are writing comedy and aspiring to write comedy. I think it’s because Brexit is associated with conservatism and patriotism and nationalism, which are all things which comedians generally find distasteful. I think what some comedians are realising is that if you are very much a London based . . . that England and London are two very, very separate places. People in London should be a little bit careful about seeing England as, as backward and nationalistic or patriotic or racist.

Certainly Dead Ringers made these precise associations, particularly in the stereotypes used in the portrayal of David Davis and Nigel Farage. If the straw poll taken at the conference in Llandudno is representative of views within the comedy industry more widely, then Dead Ringers’ inclusion as part of the ‘Britain at the Crossroads’ strand was not editorially neutral. Rather, it was a decision guaranteed to produce sketches dwelling on the negatives of Brexit and presenting audiences with an almost entirely pessimistic view of both the ongoing negotiations and the personalities involved in delivering Britain’s future outside the EU.

 

References

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2DlFhZD2bCDfCTgsl6pGWJ1/six-brexit-sketches-to-help-you-see-the-funny-side-of-it-all

[2] In the last News-watch survey of Radio 4’s Today programme, undertaken in October-November 2017, of the 183 speakers on EU matters, there was only one appearance from UKIP, a short 76-word soundbite from leader Suzanne Evans, equating to 0.2% of the words spoken on the EU during the survey. http://news-watch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/News-watch-Winter-2017-Survey.pdf

[3] Nabi, R., Moyer-Gusé, E. and Byrne, S. (2007). All Joking Aside: A Serious Investigation into the Persuasive Effect of Funny Social Issue Messages. Communication Monographs, 74(1), p.41

[4] Ibid. p.49

[5] See, for example, News-watch’s reports on the BBC’s ‘How Euro are You?’ (October 2005) in which Andrew Marr and Dara O’ Briain invited audiences to undertake a quiz to ascertain their level of support for the EU. The programme used blunt cultural stereotypes throughout, with the most Eurosceptic category referred to as ‘Little Islanders’. http://news-watch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/How-Euro-Are-You-Newswatch-Analysis.pdf

[6] https://capx.co/remain-not-leave-had-an-unfair-advantage-in-the-eu-referendum/

[7] During the referendum campaign, the BBC ran advertisements from Britain Stronger in Europe focused on George Osborne’s claim that Brexit would cost each household £4300 on its international websites, visible to up to 2 million British ex-patriots living on the continent.  See: http://news-watch.co.uk/bbc-passes-the-buck-over-pro-eu-website-ads/

[8] https://policyexchange.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Getting-over-the-line.pdf

[9] http://news-watch.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/News-watch-Today-Programme-Article-50-Survey.pdf

[10] BBC Radio 4, Today, 4 April 2017, ‘The Craft of Comedy’ Conference, 7.42am

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BBC Continues to Push Brexit ‘race hate’ despite fall in prosecutions

BBC Continues to Push Brexit ‘race hate’ despite fall in prosecutions

It’s national hate crime awareness week.

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.

 

Talk Radio’s Julia Hartley Brewer slams BBC post-Brexit bias

Talk Radio’s Julia Hartley Brewer slams BBC post-Brexit bias

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.

 

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Farage demands BBC apology for ‘blood on hands’ race hate claims

Farage demands BBC apology for ‘blood on hands’ race hate claims

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.

 

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.

BBC Chiefs defend anti-Brexit ‘balance’

BBC Chiefs defend anti-Brexit ‘balance’

Two very senior voices from within the BBC bubble – David Jordan, the BBC’s director of editorial policy and standards, and Ric Bailey, the BBC’s chief political adviser – have penned a rare and important joint piece for a somewhat out-of-the-way pro-public-broadcasting media site called journalism.co.uk headlined Impartiality and the BBC – ‘broad balance’ in a two-horse race. It concerns the BBC’s coverage of the EU referendum.
It’s a thoughtful piece, well worth reading. And it’s refreshing to read:

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.

That said, after reading the piece through, what will you find to be its main message?
(Shall I save you the trouble?)
Well, get the smelling salts ready folks. Its message can be summed up like this: We think we got it about right.
(OK, you can put the smelling salts away now. False alarm!).
Yes, alas, despite all its welcome hand-wringing, it ends up being wholly and depressingly complacent, always giving the BBC the benefit of the doubt and painting the corporation in the most favourable colours.
Typically, David and Ric dismiss ‘stopwatch’ monitoring of BBC coverage and place their trust in the BBC’s good judgement.
For them it’s all down to the judgements of individual BBC editors to measure the ‘balance equations’ within their particular programmes.
That, of course, doesn’t answer the question of how those individual editors are to police their own editorial decisions.
Nor does it answer the question of how the BBC’s coverage overall can be judged.
To be blunt, I trust stopwatches more than I trust BBC editors. I don’t see why we should take on trust the BBC’s claims that their editors – people like Ian Katz – are unbiased. I used my stopwatches on Newsnight during the referendum and found it was far from even-handed.

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.

So, nice try guys but it really isn’t washing.
Guest post from Craig Byers of  Original post received the following comment from David Preiser:
26 July 2017 at 23:02

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.

Photo by Andrew Gustar

There is plenty of good Brexit news, we’re just ignoring it

There is plenty of good Brexit news, we’re just ignoring it

Guest post by Kathy Gyngell. This Article first appeared on the i.

It is difficult to believe something is good or going well when everyone around you tells you it’s not; when you are confronted with an unmitigated diet of negative stories whenever you turn on the TV or open a newspaper.
I am talking about Brexit.
From the current negotiations, doomed of course (all the cards are in the EU hands you see) to any post-Brexit Britain scenario – business, trade, travel or the general economy – the message is the same. It’s all a disaster. In fact, the apocalypse is imminent.
Brexit now threatens even our very safety. One snowflake civil servant, terrified of having his “safe” space violated, reports how “it is proving worse than anyone guessed”.
Is it though?Not if you look behind and beyond the headlines.
Against this relentlessly pessimistic picture of gloom, doom and uncertainty; of plunging economic prospects (untrue); of collapsing of consumer confidence (untrue); of a drying up of investment (untrue); of job freezes (untrue); of skills shortages because of the ending of free movement (untrue); of the inevitable introduction of tariffs; and of impossible renegotiation (untrue), positive news stories have been, and are consistently, under-reported.
When Brexit good news does crack the surface it is routinely skewed too. “Despite Brexit” reporting is an editorial technique that particular newspapers excel at. Should the UK’s economy prove “resilient”, it is despite, never because of, Brexit. If ever there was a case of cognitive dissonance it’s this method of rationalising every failed gloomy prediction.
Yet there was good news from the start. Within weeks Britain experienced an economic boom; the much-needed depreciation of the pound had an immediate impact on exports and set off a tourism bonanza.
Then no less than 27 countries with a combined GDP of more than £40 trillion – over two-thirds of the global economy – were up for taking advantage of Brexit and striking new trade deals with the UK dwarfing the benefits of the EU’s £12 trillion single market.
Nor did British or international companies succumb to the nervous breakdowns expected. Au contraire.
The US tech giant Amazon doubled down on its commitment to the UK, creating hundreds more highly skilled tech jobs. SoftBank committed to substantial new investment; so too did Google with its development plans for huge new London headquarters.
As for the gloom and doom-mongers who thought the City couldn’t survive without the European Investment Bank, there is no shortage of alternative cash for start-ups. In fact, the rigid approach to venture capital typified by the EIF hindered not helped tech investing. The Channel Tunnel operator is far from the only company to be positive about Brexit – its net profit rose 20 per cent to €30m this last year.
And this week we have had the most bullish CBI Survey of UK manufacturing virtually ever. The volume of output is the highest since January 1999, and total order books are the highest since October 1988. Did we see that in headlines across the press yesterday? I don’t think so.
We didn’t hear it because good news stories like this are not just not widely reported – they are often not reported at all.
Only some defy the rule. The German car manufacturer BMW picked Oxford over Germany and Netherlands to build its new electric Mini. A story hard to ignore.
Demands by Germany’s Free Democrat Party for a special “Brexit cabinet” in Berlin, to safeguard the vital interests of their country, hardly got a mention. Yet the growing alarm among industrial and manufacturing companies there at EU attempts to humiliate Britain is good news for us.
Meanwhile, trade talks have started – Japan is seeking an early deal, and Liam Fox has been impressing free trade advocates in Washington this week. The White House has made it clear it is in US interest to make the deal succeed and has said it will.
In fact the current economic picture in the Britain is “a complete vindication of the Brexit vote” as Britain’s leading investor Jim Mellon – the UK’s answer to the US billionaire Warren Buffett – put it.
The outlook is good. Models of countries thriving through their freedom to trade internationally are not to be found in the EU but outside it.
New Zealand’s success story of reform and liberalisation started when Britain joined the EU in 1973. Now it engages in half of world trade in sheep meat and one-third in dairy products. Its supply chains span the globe.
Singapore, the Asian powerhouse, has averaged a GDP Growth Rate of 6.77 per cent since 1975. It is the perfect model of how Britain can survive and thrive outside the European Union’s customs union.
Such success is only possible if we break free from suffocatingly negative and anti-democratic EU and the shackles of its failed economic environment.
Deep structural flaws remain within the euro and in its big regional imbalances. The 19-country currency zone at the heart of the failing EU project only grew by 0.3 per cent in the last quarter, just half the rate of the UK.
The German banking system will need a bailout soon while the Southern European economies are forced to break the EU’s rules to keep their economies afloat. Yet Brussels profligacy continues to know no bounds.
That’s before we even mention an EU immigration crisis of catastrophic proportions, which its appears the EU has no will or ability to control, and which is spilling over to us. If we stay, their problems will be our problems. We will be well out of it and that is very good news.
It’s time to reject the safe space, terminal fear-of-change disease that drives the negative Brexit news machine.

Kathy Gyngell is co-editor of The Conservative Woman

 

 

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News-watch survey of BBC Article 50 survey shows deep anti-Brexit bias

News-watch survey of BBC Article 50 survey shows deep anti-Brexit bias

The latest News-watch detailed analysis of BBC output, covering the UK’s Article 50 letter and its aftermath, shows heavy bias against the case for Brexit.  The report, which included more than 73,000 words of programme transcripts, can be found in full here. Coverage of the survey’s findings is in the Daily Express here.

In the week of the filing of the UK’s Article 50 letter (March 29 – April 4, 2017), BBC Radio 4’s Today programme broadcast six editions which contained almost five hours of material about the letter and its aftermath. This was almost half of the available feature airtime.

The programme coverage was strongly biased against Brexit and made special efforts to illustrate the extent to which leaving the EU could have catastrophic consequences for the UK. There was, by contrast, only minimal effort to examine the potential benefits.

A measure of this overwhelming negativity was that only eight (6.5%) of the 124 speakers who appeared over the six editions were given the space to make substantive arguments that the future for the UK outside the EU would yield significant benefits.

The overall gloom was buttressed by the programme’s editorial approach. Presenters and correspondents, for example, pushed at every opportunity to illustrate potential (and existing) problems. At the same time, they were strongly adversarial towards Brexit supporters, but much less so to guests who advocated that the UK was, in effect, now staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.

Problems that were deliberately pushed to the forefront included the wealth of City of London being under threat, the creation of a ‘legislative soup’, the EU not agreeing with the UK’s preferred path of negotiations, and the possibility the of exit talks extending up to 10 years.

BBC ‘fact-checking’, though presented as objective, was anything but. Chris Morris, the ‘fact checker’ was most focused on choosing topics that showed Brexit in a negative light, and failed at even the elementary level of pointing out that ‘EU money’ was actually provided UK taxpayers.

A series of reports from Sunderland, purportedly to explore both Leave and Remain perspectives, focused most on this negative fact checking. It also gave most prominence in its framework to the possibility of Nissan leaving the area and negative business developments since Brexit and the possibility of arts funding drying up. Local voices supporting Brexit were included, but in vox pops with only soundbite points.

Special effort was made throughout to show that the City of London was under pressure as a result of Brexit. A story that Lloyd’s of London were establishing a Brussels ‘headquarters’ was elevated to major significance in the bulletins, and across several mentions in Business News slots, even though the chief executive admitted that ‘only ‘tens’ of jobs were involved.

By contrast to this blanket negativity, a News-watch report from 2002 covering the introduction of euro notes and coins across the EU was strongly positive about the prospects for the new currency and strained editorial sinews and resources to show that its advent had been joyfully received in the relevant EU countries.

The BBC strongly defended its post-Brexit coverage during the survey period (through a high profile article in Radio Times by Today presenter Nick Robinson) as being in accord with its own rules of ‘due impartiality’. The evidence of this survey is that its assessment methods are seriously skewed against Brexit and in favour of the EU.

The full report is here:

Photo by James Cridland

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.

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Nick Robinson wheels out usual BBC defences against EU coverage bias claims

Nick Robinson wheels out usual BBC defences against EU coverage bias claims

BBC presenter and ex-political editor Nick Robinson has been sounding off aggressively against those who he complains are ‘moaning’ that the Corporation’s reporting of Brexit is biased.

‘Calm down dears’ is his core, patronising message.

The Radio 4 Today presenter has declared in the Radio Times that, as departure negotiations proceed, there is no need to provide balance between the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ sides in BBC coverage of post-Brexit developments.

Instead, the requirement is only for ‘due impartiality’(defined, as always of of course, by the BBC itself) and the goal is is to scrutinise ‘new questions’ about ‘immigration, trade and industrial policies’.

Robinson is bluntly critical of those who ‘do not accept that the war is over’ and have challenged the Corporation’s coverage by getting out their ‘stopwatches and calculators’ and by querying ‘the alleged tone of questions’ and ‘the number of interruptions’.

In terms of detail, Robinson’s praise for the BBC reporting seems to be based primarily on the Corporation’s Manual of Usual Excuses. This is wheeled out every time the word ‘bias’ is mentioned, and vigorously deployed by the BBC Complaints Unit to repel all boarders.

Direct from its grubby pages come the wearyingly predictable defences.

Robinson first claims that both sides have complained, so that means the BBC must be getting things right; then that Brexiteers such as Gove, Fox and Johnson are ‘remarkably reluctant’ to appear, so any shortcomings in that respect are their fault; and finally (the trump card!) that the BBC’s duty is in any case to its audiences, and they – he opines –  don’t care about the obsessions of stop-watch wielding politicians.  The only duty (again, of course, on the BBC’s terms) is to make sure they ‘understand’.

This all adds up to classic Corporation extreme stone-walling. It has been voiced by Robinson but has undoubtedly been cleared and co-ordinated by the BBC high command – and must also be seen as the official response to the complaint filed a couple of weeks back by Tory MP Julian Knight and 70 other cross-party MPs who wrote to Director General Tony Hall about the Corporation’s failure to explore and reflect the pro-Brexit perspective.

And, with Robinson’s scathingly condescending references to stop-watches and calculators, it is also framed as a direct attack on the latest academic research from News-watch into six months of Today’s business news output.  This found a serious failure to air pro-Brexit viewpoints and an unjustifiably heavy focus on gloomy forecasts for the UK economy that added up to a continuation of the Remain side’s Project Fear.

But despite all the bluster, this exercise in smoke-screen obfuscation is remarkably threadbare.

It boils down to a chilling statement of intent that coverage henceforward will be whatever the BBC decides is impartial – no matter what evidence is produced to the contrary.

The reality is that, as the latest News-watch report detailed, the BBC’s coverage of post-Brexit developments is sharply skewed towards the Remain side – and that in the Corporation’s self-declared agenda-setting business slots, in six months, there were only only 10 contributions from clear supporters of Brexit, ranged against dozens who were not.

Robinson might rail against the use of ‘stop-watches and calculators’ but how can such lack of ‘balance’ or ‘due impartiality’ ever be defensible – and how else other than by careful, systematic counting can such blatant negativity be identified?

The BBC will NEVER countenance a complaint based on detailed research of their output – and that’s a gross affront to the licence fee payers that Robinson claims to be serving and helping to ‘understand’.

It is true that as Brexit unfolds, some elements of coverage do contain a wider range of anti-EU opinion than ever before.  Prominent Leave campaigner, the Labour MP Gisela Stuart, for example, was afforded a very unusual brief slot on Today on the day of the Theresa May Article 50 letter to outline her timetable towards Brexit.

But small morsels aside, the Corporation is otherwise relentlessly focused on the Remain agenda.  There’s a continuing, avid search for anything that suggests that ‘race hate’ has escalated as a result if the Brexit vote; Nigel Farage and Ukip continues to be pilloried – on Wednesday night, BBC1’s main bulletins reported Farage’s contribution to the European Parliamentary debate on Brexit in the worst possible light; and every obstacle in the Brexit negotiations, such as the Gibraltar clause, are seized upon with over- enthusiastic glee.

Robinson may claim that this is simple scrutiny of ‘immigration, trade and industrial policies’, but he’s wrong. It adds up to that since June 24, the BBC has mounted a declaration of war against the Brexit prospects and has sided firmly with the remain side.

There has not been a single BBC programme that has looked at Brexit optimistically.

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