European Union

Bias by Omission? BBC under-reports latest EU assault on Internet freedom

Bias by Omission? BBC under-reports latest EU assault on Internet freedom

BBC bias comes in many forms. One of the most insidious is bias by omission, when the Corporation chooses not to report key developments or perspectives in areas of major controversy.

It is a major issue in the referendum campaign. For example, the Corporation barely touched the story about a poster – ostensibly designed to encourage ethnic minorities to vote – which crassly depicted those who oppose immigration as a bullying skinhead thug.

The reason? Covering the story would have unavoidably opened a can of worms in the ‘remain’ strategy.

Front-line presenters John Humphrys and Nick Robinson have both admitted that such bias has been particularly evident in BBC coverage of the immigration debate. The views of opponents of the unprecedented levels of mass immigration into the UK since 2004 have routinely been ignored by the BBC or, just as bad, dismissed as racism or xenophobia.

It has also applied for decades in the BBC’s general reporting of the EU. Until forced to change by the EU referendum rules, the BBC vastly under-reported the withdrawal perspective, and anything to do with the case against the EU, as Brexit The Movie so vividly confirms. Emphatically, you did not hear those arguments first on the BBC.

Although the BBC is now reluctantly giving the opponents of the EU some airtime, it is mostly through gritted teeth. The default-position is still almost invariably Brussels good, Westminster bad.

Evidence of this? As Andrew Marr illustrated vividly at the weekend ‘remain’ figures such as Sir John Major – who was given a platform to attack viciously his perceived opponents – often get much better treatment than ‘leave’ supporters.

Such negativity to the ‘leave’ case is abundant elsewhere. For example, Today presenters Justin Webb and Mishal Husain filed three-part special reports (from Cornwall and Northern Ireland respectively) about what were said to be the local ‘facts’ in the referendum debate. Both, it turned out, injected a central theme: the cardinal importance of ‘EU money’ to the deprived economies in each area.

Neither bothered to tell the audience in their relentless focus on EU benevolence the simple but vital fact that, in reality, ‘EU money’ is actually from the British taxpayer.

Compounding the glaring omission, Justin Webb seemed conveniently not to know that a recent official report commissioned on behalf of local ratepayers in Cornwall had found that the spending of £500m of this ‘EU money’ had been so questionable and inefficient that, for example, it led to the creation of only 3,300 local jobs at a staggering cost of £150,000 per job.

Such blatant bias by omission by the BBC in the EU’s favour extends heavily into other areas.

Take for example, the reporting of one of Brussels’ latest highly controversial initiatives: to combine with Microsoft and other web giants in rooting out what the European Commission calls ‘hate speech and xenophobia’.

The BBC web story about this enthusiastically declared:

‘Microsoft, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have pledged to remove hate speech within 24 hours, in support of a code of conduct drafted by the EU. The freshly drafted code aims to limit the viral spread of online abuse on social media. It requires the firms to act quickly when told about hate speech and to do more to help combat illegal and xenophobic content. The firms must also help “educate” users about acceptable behaviour.’

What’s not to like? But hang on.  Did no-one in the 8,000-strong BBC newsroom think to check out the potential threats to civil liberty and journalistic freedom involved in such a move? Seemingly not. There’s not a peep about such issues in the web story.

The reality – as the Spiked! Website eloquently explains – is that phrases as vague as ‘hate speech and xenophobia’ and ‘acceptable behaviour’ are a legal nightmare and a lawyer’s paradise. They can be interpreted with deeply sinister intent, and, for example, can be used by the EU to attack and attempt to silence those who disagree with its free movement of people and immigration policies. Indeed, that may be the central agenda here.

The background of this new move also speaks volumes about how undemocratic and insidious the EU is.  The loosely-phrased laws against hate speech and xenophobia were first enacted by the European Commission in 2008. Has anyone ever been seriously consulted about them? No.

Yet since then, a vast continent-wide operation has gradually been set up to root these twin perceived evils out, including a European Commission against ‘racism and intolerance’.

The latest initiative with a Microsoft, therefore, is arguably a very substantial intensification of the Commission’s assault on those who disagree with its policies towards free movement, as the reams of explanation in the press release about the development clearly show.

And the BBC accepts this without a murmur. Why? Because, it still instinctively supports the EU, and will publish derogatory views about Brussels only if forced.

In this referendum, the BBC should be grasping every opportunity to explore EU-related issues, and especially the controversy surrounding them. Andrew Marr will call Boris Johnson ‘abominable’ for daring to raise Hitler in connection with EU operations, but he and his colleagues ignore EU actions that are patently and blatantly a threat to our fundamental, hard-won freedoms.

John Wilkes? He will be surely turning in his grave.



Springshot: The Great European Disaster Movie

Springshot: The Great European Disaster Movie

Scratch the surface of almost any BBC statement about ‘impartiality’ or ‘bias’ and you unearth a rather an unpleasant smell.

The BBC says no EU money was used in the making of its Sunday night pro-EU extravaganza The Great European Disaster Movie, which depicted  in ludicrous, extremist terms  the total disintegration of civil society across the continent, if, God forbid, the EU was forced out of existence.

Note the weasel words: ‘in the making of’. The reality is that post-production, the film-makers Bill Emmott and Annalisa Piras – both of whom are pro-EU fanatics – have told the outside world they are receiving EU money for the transmission of the film in other languages. So put another way, it is an EU propaganda project.

And the BBC were co-producers of that film.

What’s also not clear is who did fund the project. It was made by Piras’s company Springshot Productions, and that means its financing is totally opaque. Things here don’t add up. It’s unlikely that the budget of a project of such scale and production standards would be anything less than £1m, and yet Springshot is tiny. According to the company website, it has made only one other film, two years ago.

The point here is that it is only larger production companies turning over millions a year that can afford to make glossy hypothetical dramas – and they don’t generally make money, which is why they are so relatively scarce. Someone with deep pockets and a deep desire to spread massively pro-EU propaganda was behind it. The BBC should tell us who this was so we can make up our own minds about the decision to show it.

It seems that someone, somewhere in the higher echelons of the BBC hierarchy has a guilty conscience, because immediately after it was shown, a very rare occurrence happened, the BBC equivalent of a Blue Moon. In a Newsnight special hosted by Robert Peston,  two genuine EU ‘come outers’, Mark Reckless, the Ukip MP, and Peter Hitchens, the Mail on Sunday columnist, were fleetingly allowed to make some of the arguments in favour of withdrawal and to explain why the claims by Emmott and Piras were preposterous.

Unlike the unremitting one-sidedness of the film, the views of Reckless and Hitchens were of course offset, notably by a spokesman of the Greek Marxist party Syriza, who agreed with Emmott in ascribing all the current massive economic problems of the EU to nasty ‘austerity’.

There are other BBC-related problems in this film which only surface with digging. Emmott, a former editor of the Economist, and Piras, an Italian who worked as a foreign correspondent in London for many years, are clearly united in their huge desire to ram the need for the EU down our throats.

They are so fanatical that they have set up an organisation called The Wake Up Foundation, a so-called charity, the main aim of which – though clothed in high-flown language – is as another vehicle to spread their EU bile. A feature by Emmott on their website in which he compares Nigel Farage to Silvio Berlusconi typifies the approach.

Far more concerning about the Wake Up Foundation, however, is that one of its trustees is Richard Sambrook, who is a former head of BBC newsgathering and Director of News, who was moved sideways to the World Service at the end of his BBC career because of question marks in some quarters in his judgment relating to the BBC’s handling of the fall-out from the Iraq war.

Sambrook, after a spell as a public relations advisor, re-surfaced as a Professor of Journalism at Cardiff University.  His department was commissioned by the BBC Trustees in 2011 to conduct research linked with the Stuart Prebble inquiry into whether the BBC was covering EU-related issues in accordance with the Charter.

That research, as has been reported by Kathy Gyngell on TCW, was ineptly conducted and as a result gave the wholly false impression that BBC news programmes gave adequate coverage to eurosceptic and withdrawalist opinion. Not only that, the main person who conducted the research had recently received a substantial slug of EU cash from the EU for a project designed to ascertain how the EU might better project itself.

So, put another way, the BBC commissioned a rabidly pro-EU programme from a programme making duo who have close professional and organisational links with a former Director of BBC News who, in turn, has been appointed by the Corporation to tell the outside world – on a supposedly ‘objective’ basis – how balanced and impartial the BBC’s output in relation to the EU is.

The linkage raises several awkward questions.  Was Sambrook directly involved in the making of the European Disaster Movie? Was he involved in any way in persuading the BBC to show it and to become co-producers? To what extent is he involved in the dissemination of the pro-EU propaganda of the Wake Up Foundation? Were the BBC aware of his links with Emmott when they commissioned his department to do the Prebble survey?

Something in the state of Denmark, if not rotten, smells very fishy indeed.

Kathy Gyngell: We need a road map on how to quit the EU. Don’t expect head-in-the-sand BBC to help

Kathy Gyngell: We need a road map on how to quit the EU. Don’t expect head-in-the-sand BBC to help

Photo by CJS*64 A man with a camera

Why was I not at all surprised to read of the huge shortfall in EU spending of £259 billion pounds? Yes, the one to which, all of a sudden, Britain will be expected to contribute to some £34 billion?

I am talking about that hole in the EU budget that the BBC has kept the British public so abreast of, the one it made sure we all knew about prior to the EU elections.

Of course the BBC did no such thing. It has never fulfilled its mission to ‘inform and educate’ us about our progressive capture by and capitulation to the EU’s changing agenda since we joined, let alone how it spent our taxes.

The BBC’s output from day one has never reflected the importance of the EU in ordinary Britons’ lives – how it spends their money.  I know.  This is what the consistent and painstaking monitoring of its output by News-watch, the BBC bias monitoring website, since 1999 has demonstrated. The unsurprisingly low turnout for the 1999 European election was described sneeringly by Jeremy Paxman as an ‘outbreak of narcolepsy’. And whose fault was that?

The BBC’s lack of interest persisted through important summits as well as the process of creating the new EU constitution.

Awareness of the the EU’s catastrophic finances has been a long time coming.  Yet the evidence that all in the garden was far from rosy was there back in 2001.  Then the EU’s former chief accountant Marta Andreasen refused to sign off the 2001 European Commission accounts for good reason; she said its accounting system was open to fraud.

Her criticisms ignored, Andreasen went public with her concerns only to be sacked for her pains (she was suspended from her job by the Commission for “violating Articles 12 and 21 of staff regulations, failure to show sufficient loyalty and respect”).

Yet, despite her stand, few people in the UK were made aware of this financial catastrophe in the making; not least because of the BBC’s bias and negligence in its reporting of all matters EU.

They kept the British public in the dark by virtue of that BBC default – bias by omission.

You can either put their indifference down to their being part of a liberal metropolitan conspiracy whose main concern was to avoid reporting the encroaching powers of Europe.  Heaven forfend that they should thereby antagonise the public and made them more Eurosceptic than already.

Or you can accept the BBC’s own excuse (on the rare occasions that they have ‘fessed up’) that much of what takes place in Brussels and Strasbourg is complex and boring and the British public don’t want to know – the lazy excuse of an organisation that had weakened its own raison d’etre by its continuous dumbing down, as the Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover once put it.

You might have thought that the rise and rise of UKip and Nigel Farage would have forced a reconsideration of the BBC’s  approach to EU coverage.  But no,  the BBC continued to forgive all EU failings in the name of that higher cause  – “Europe – the European idea”; the one that European Council President Herman van Rompuy and his predecessors, all the way back to Jean Monnet, adhere to.

Despite the fact that the demand for an EU exit  is now political mainstream – made all the more so by the former Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson’s speech on Monday – the BBC’s coverage remains not just resolutely negative but totally inadequate.  Worse it has continued to smear and sideline Ukip’s best efforts to raise the issue of our membership.

This I believe is why, before Owen Paterson raised it,  there was never any discussion on the BBC of David Cameron’s option of serving notice on the EU – that of invoking Article 50 of the EU’s governing treaties.

Correct me if I am wrong, but my guess is that apart from the Sunday Telegraph’s Christopher Booker, forensic Brussels expert Richard North and Tory MEP Dan Hannan,  few  people in the British Isles would have known this was an option – let alone a strategy.

Whose fault is that?

The Sun thinks we can do without the EU; Ukip’s defiance has changed the game plan. When, if ever, will the BBC catch on?

Yes, I know, Cameron’s promised referendum hangs in the balance of the next election but the pressure to quit the EU is not about to diminish any time soon.

After reading the Telegraph’s headlines this morning, a whole load more people must have been thinking, like me: ‘Wouldn’t it be better to be out before the bill lands on the mat.”?

Ukip, one way or another, may force a referendum sooner rather than later, leaving us with the question of how we are to get out.

Yet, despite Mr Paterson, no one in the BBC is addressing it – anymore that they addressed the EU’s financial black hole.

Have  you heard any discussion of this?  How we get out – outside the hallowed realms of right wing think-tanks?  Certainly nothing serious on the BBC.

Yet, how we do it matters a lot for our future trading prosperity. Never more was there something that we need to get right.

So, since there is no way we can rely on the BBC to inform us, I plan to make my best effort to get an informed debate going – here on TCW.

Soon, I will blog on a lunch-time discussion I attended at the Centre for Policy Studies led by Dan Hannan and founder of the Trade Policy Research Centre Ronald Stewart Brown. It certainly opened my eyes to the question of whether we would be best to negotiate some form of free trade association with the EU or negotiate to stay in a ‘customs union’ on a new intergovernmental basis.

It may sound arcane. It is actually vital that we get it right.

Kathy Gyngell is co-founder of News-watch and co-editor of The Conservative Woman, where this article was first published.


BBC drama queen: A warning from history?

BBC drama queen: A warning from history?

Scratch the surface of the BBC, and connections with vested climate change alarmist interests and the EU seem to lurk everywhere.   Not only has the Corporation become an alarmist propaganda machine, but also its personnel seem to be working on a massive scale behind the scenes to spread the message even further.

Acting chairman of the Trustees Diana Coyle is a paid advisor to energy company EDF – as was former chairman Lord Patten. And fellow trustee Richard Ayre is a former chairman of Article 19, whose goals include climate change rights advocacy throughout the world.

Deputy director of news, Fran Unsworth, can now be added to this list.  As well as being one of the BBC’s most senior female executives, she is also a board member of a major EU initiative that includes systematic ‘education’ about climate alarmism. This is called the  programme – of which, more later.

First, through, it seems that Ms Unsworth has taken personal charge of the BBC’s response to the row over the Corporation’s coverage of climate change centred on Lord Lawson.

She declares in a letter to The Spectator that Lord Lawson, contrary to some reports, is not banned from BBC coverage. Instead, editors must make it clear that his views don’t carry equal weight to those of alarmists because he is not an expert.

Ms Unsworth’s lofty  pronouncement would also seem to mean that Owen Patterson, the sacked environment minister, who has described alarmist lobby as ‘The Green Blob’, will not be afforded  ‘equal weight’ in future coverage of environmental issues.

Who else will join this list of ‘non experts’?

This will presumably be down to individual programme editors, who as a result of the BBC’s unbending partisanship on this most complex of subjects, are now in a position of deciding who is properly qualified to comment and who is not.  On what basis?

An interesting parallel, I would suggest, comes in the history of eugenics, which I am currently studying.   From the 1890s onwards, overwhelming numbers of scientists and liberal ‘reformers’ (Marie Stopes and George Bernard Shaw among them) came to believe  – on the basis of Darwin’s theories, as well as a torrent of books –that selective breeding and enforced sterilisation  was essential to eliminate mental and physical disease and to improve mankind’s genetic strength. They wanted to help natural selection on its way.

As a result, of course, we got Nazi Germany, but before that (less well-known but perhaps just as chilling, but now almost forgotten) more than 30 US states introduced enforced sterilisation laws and Britain came within an ace of following suit in 1913.  Sweden passed laws, too, and they were not repealed until the 1970s.  A ‘consensus’ of leading scientists, industrialists and politicians (who included Winston Churchill)  believed stridently in this social Darwinism and thought the only way forward was selective breeding.

Would the BBC have then been its cheerleader?  On Ms Unsworth’s logic, and with her certainty, it most probably would.

And what of Ms Unsworth herself, what equips her to make such clear adjudications on complex matters of science? Not, I would submit, her education…in fact her degree, according to the BBC, was in drama. Very apt for a BBC journalist, perhaps, but not in the understanding of the finer points of meteorology.

May be she is emboldened by the seminar which the BBC held back in 2006, at which, the Corporation claimed, a consensus of ‘scientists’ advised them that the science was settled. But Anthony Montford, of the Bishop Hill website, has shown conclusively that the whole meeting was a farcical charade – the scientists were in fact, mostly political activists, the ‘Green Blob’ that Owen Patterson has identified.

But no matter how flimsy these foundations, Ms Unsworth must be jolly sure of her facts about climate change, as her other connections also testify.  The BBC Register of Interests shows she is also an advisory  board member of the EU Erasmus Mundus  programme.  This, on the surface, is presented as an exchange scheme for students, and it clearly attracts lavish funding.  But hang on – there’s a catch.

This paper shows it has extensive climate change alarmist objectives.  It is doling out our money to create whole new generations of climate change warriors though a massive programme of international seminars and ‘education’.

No doubt listening only to Ms Unsworth’s approved ‘experts’  and properly constituted BBC reporting as they learn.

Photo by Universität Salzburg (PR)

BBC Plugs Sham EU ‘Debate’ About EU Presidency

BBC Plugs Sham EU ‘Debate’ About EU Presidency

A frequent problem in the BBC’s coverage of EU issues, as John Humphrys has accepted, is a failure to present the full facts:  bias by omission.

If the BBC collectively doesn’t like an aspect of UK policy – such as the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ – there is a relentless editorial focus against it. No stone is left unturned by BBC reporters in finding opposition to the measure, and correspondents take every opportunity to fire barbs against it.

But the Corporation is in favour of the EU project as a whole, and News-watch research has shown that its stance regularly leads to both bias by omission and distortion.

This was definitely the case in coverage of the so-called ‘debate’ held on Thursday night (May 15) by the EU featuring leaders of five groups in the European Parliament.  The BBC billed it online as the political equivalent of the Eurovision song contest.  And though words of caution were buried in the small print of the reports, the concerted aim was clearly to project the event as a triumph of EU democracy.

Gavin Hewitt, the BBC’s Europe editor, trumpeted in the beginning of his article that this was part of the ‘EU’s election race’ and that the debate featured ‘five candidates for Europe’s top job’- the presidency of the European Commission.   He also faithfully reflected the EU’s claim that this was a ‘great debate’ and gave the clear impression that it was part of the May 22 elections for the European Parliament.

Mr Hewitt further suggested that the exchanges – between the five leaders of  the pro-EU groupings in  the European Parliament – were a key event towards the ‘election’  not just of MEPs, but also to the EU’s top political and administrative job, the presidency of the  EU Commission.

FACT 1:  the poll to elect MEPs on May has nothing to do with the presidency of the EU Commission. Some in the EU want this to change, but there is little prospect of this.

FACT 2:  the next president of the European Commission will most likely be chosen by the Council of Ministers when they meeting in Brussels at the end of June.  In theory, the appointment could be blocked by the European Parliament, but this is most unlikely.

FACT 3:  the European Commission, which in effect drives the EU legislative process (though the European Parliament can recommend some changes), is not and never has been elected.

FACT 4: Was this a debate anyway? As even Gavin Hewitt noted, all the participants agreed that the way forward for the EU was further integration.

The ‘debate’ on Thursday night might therefore be regarded as nothing at all to do with ‘democracy’, but rather a cynical and blatant PR exercise to distort or disguise the real nature of how the EU operates.

Gavin Hewitt must know this – and indeed, his report contains hints that this is the case – but he projected instead above all else that this was both part of the European elections and would have an impact.  He ignored and down-weighted the key facts.  It was thus a classic case of bias by omission.

Photo by Cédric Puisney

Humphrys: ‘BBC Not Sceptical Enough on EU’

Humphrys: ‘BBC Not Sceptical Enough on EU’

Update:  Autonomous Mind has made an invaluable contribution following up John Humphrys’ remarks about EU coverage, reported in full below.

The core of his story is that when questioned further on the BBC’s Feedback programme about the problems, Mr Humphrys  added to his Radio Times interview by saying categorically that there had been systematic ‘bias by omission’ – essentially by ignoring key stories or refusing to have on the Today programme a range of guests who were negative about the EU.

This is a major charge, but the BBC steadfastly denies it.

The problem was, in fact, first identified as a problem in the BBC’s EU output by Lord Wilson of Dinton in his report of 2004-5 for the former BBC Governors.  He wrote:

‘We note that across the spectrum of opinion there is widespread criticism of the narrow nature of the coverage and the lack of reporting of issues which have a considerable domestic impact.’ (p 8.25)

Almost a decade on, the evidence regularly gathered by Newswatch shows that nothing has changed despite reassurances from the BBC that it would.  This reinforces John Humphrys’ views, although Mr Humphrys claims that matters have now been corrected, whereas Newswatch research shows that they most certainly have not.

In the latest survey period, for example, only 513 words in 13 weeks of the Today programme were ‘come-outers’ talking about their views about withdrawal. That was only 0.7% of the EU output – so low that it was unquestionably bias by omission.

John Humphrys has joined the long list of senior BBC figures who say that the corporation’s EU-related coverage has been biased and not sceptical enough.

According to reports in the Guardian and the Daily Mail, he told the Radio Times (article not available online) that the reporting of immigration had also been not sufficiently sceptical.

His words echo those of former director general Mark Thompson and political editor Nick Robinson already reported by Newswatch, as well as those by former head of television news, Roger Mosey. Who asserted:

“On the BBC’s own admission, in recent years it did not, with the virtue of hindsight, give enough space to anti-immigration views or to EU-withdrawalists; and, though he may have exaggerated, the former Director-General Mark Thompson spoke of a ‘massive bias to the left’ in the BBC he joined more than 30 years ago.

‘I share Mark’s view that there was more internal political diversity in recent times, but that isn’t enough unless it’s evident in a wider range of editorial view on air.’

In line with these earlier remarks, Mr Humphrys appears to offer no evidence for his contention about past bias, or about how he arrived at his conclusion that coverage has now improved.

Mr Humphrys, who has presented the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 since 1987, said that BBC staff were more likely to be liberal rather than conservative because they were the ‘best and the brightest’ and tended to be university educated.

The 70-year-old said that ‘The BBC has tended over the years to be broadly liberal as opposed to broadly conservative for all sorts of perfectly understandable reasons.’

He added: ‘We weren’t sufficiently sceptical – that’s the most accurate phrase – of the pro-European case. We bought into the European ideal.

‘We weren’t sufficiently sceptical about the pro-immigration argument. We didn’t look at the potential negatives with sufficient rigour.’

Mr Humphrys also claimed the BBC was no longer so biased towards the EU.  He asserted: ‘I think we’re out of that now. I think we have changed.’

But he broadened his criticisms: He said: ‘There are too many of them (managers). I think they think that. I think [director general] Tony Hall thinks that – I don’t know, I haven’t asked him, but I think he thinks that.

‘Over the years we’ve been grotesquely over-managed, there’s no question. They’re now getting a grip on it. A lot have gone. I think more need to go.’

Photo by Amplified Group

BBC: ‘Has received £20m from the EU’

BBC: ‘Has received £20m from the EU’

The Spectator, by good journalistic digging – and persevering with a freedom of information request – has found that the BBC has been boosting its coffers by applying on a regular basis to the EU for grant funds.  The article homes in on the  huge potential conflict of interest, and points out that Lord Patten, the BBC chairman – the man thus in charge of BBC impartiality – is already in the sway of the EU because he receives a pension from it of an estimated £100,000 a year.

Richard North, on the EU Referendum website, has been following through and filling the gaps, and found that sums involved – though a fleabite in terms of the BBC’s overall revenues of £3.65bn a year – have added up to more than £20m for rafts of projects in the period 2007-12.

The money, it seems, is mainly channelled through the BBC’s charity arm, the body formerly known as the World Service Trust, and now with the title of ‘BBC Media Action – ‘transforming lives through the media around the world’.

In fact, a moment’s digging shows that among the main goals of ‘Media Action’  are concerted efforts to spread propaganda about climate change, sinisterly but clumsily masked as objective research, as this faux sociological exercise in Asia reveals.  The goal is clearly to brainwash vast swathes of Asia – in line with the EU’s own collective thinking – that climate change is adversely affecting their lives and political action needs taking to combat it.

Another scheme for which BBC  ‘Media Action’ successfully applied for money – to the tune of almost £4m – wasEuropean Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. This is the EU’s own definition of the Orwellian scheme:

“The ENP is a broad political strategy which has the ambitious objective of strengthening the prosperity, stability and security of Europe’s neighbourhood in order to avoid any dividing lines between the enlarged EU and its direct neighbours.”

That sounds like spreading pro-EU propaganda. Neither the BBC nor the EU are specific about how the BBC’s money has been used, but it seems that one goal is the training of journalists in the Ukraine.   Would that be so that they can tell their fellow citizens how important links with the EU are?  Newswatch has found in its latest report that a constant feature of coverage of the tension in the Ukraine by the BBC Today programme during the autumn was the characterisation of a battle between those who supported the EU and Russia.

The BBC, as it always does, denies flatly that its programme-making activities are affected in any way by the receipt of such funds.  But Kate Hoey MP told the Spectator:

‘I have grave concerns about the bias of the BBC when it comes to EU matters. I find the whole thing shocking. The lack of transparency is unjustified. Why does it seem so worried about people knowing where it gets its money? What has the BBC got to hide other than knowing that many of us don’t trust them on EU matters and the need for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership?’

Ms Hoey adds that she has concerns that the BBC ‘very rarely’ reports Labour MPs’ views on Europe. She says:

‘Even Today in Parliament [on Radio 4] always tries to convey Tory splits on Europe, and this doesn’t help the perception of an EU bias. There are Labour MPs with strong views on Europe as well. It doesn’t help that the BBC very rarely reports these views.’

Photo by Images_of_Money

Mandelson gets open goal to attack EU Referendum

Mandelson gets open goal to attack EU Referendum

One interview sequence is rarely definitive proof of BBC bias. But a recent Today feature about the private member’s bill to commit to a referendum about membership of the EU comes very close to it – and it has now become the subject of a complaint to the BBC.

The interview sequence in question, broadcast on January 10, also underlines vividly what Newswatch surveys repeatedly show: that editors and interviewers give most space to those who want closer ties to the EU and sideline, limit or disrespect the arguments of those who do not.

Update: Lord Pearson of Rannoch and the MPs Philip Hollobone (Conservative) and Kate Hoey (Labour), have lodged a formal complaint about the feature on the ground that it was ‘a striking piece of BBC bias at a crucial time in the debate about the EU referendum’. The full correspondence on the matter can be seen here.

At 8.10am, in the front page slot, Evan Davis interviewed Michael Dobbs – the Conservative peer guiding the private member’s bill through the House of Lords – and Peter Mandelson, the former Labour minister and spin doctor who, it transpires, believes that a referendum should not be held because it would be ‘a lottery’.

Both men were actually on air for about the same time. But the way they were treated was emphatically noteven-handed. One crude measure is that Lord Dobbs had just 250 words to put his case across, while Lord Mandelson had more than 750 to elaborate his anti-bill arguments. The difference in treatment went much deeper, in that Evan Davis allowed in some depth (without interruption) Lord Mandelson’s attack, both on the need for the bill and the reasons why advocates were supporting it.

But I leave you to decide for yourself why – the full transcript is below.

What leaps out is that Lord Dobbs was asked primarily about how he would vote over the bill and whether the measure was a waste of time on the ground that it would be the next Parliament that actually decided the matter. In consequence, he had only two short opportunities to explain why he was introducing the legislation.

After a brief initial question to Lord Dobbs about why he supported the bill, Mr. Davis quickly moved on to what was clearly his main focus – how Lord Dobbs would vote and whether the measure was a waste of time because it would be the next Parliament that determined whether the referendum would actually be held. Lord Dobbs managed to deliver only 250 words (about 95 seconds) about the reasoning (essentially that it was about giving people choice) behind the bill. His argument was heavily curtailed by Evan Davis’s interventions in which he put instead the points about how Lord Dobbs would vote.

By contrast, it was clear from the start that Evan Davis wanted Lord Mandelson to have space to put across his detailed reasoning why the bill was essentially ill-conceived, was Political grandstanding, and was a waste of Parliamentary time. In the end, he was afforded the opportunity to deliver three lengthy sequences amounting to more than 750 words in which he advanced his case that the bill was primarily designed to try defuse the UKIP threat.

On the face of it, elements Mr Davis’s approach to Lord Mandelson were adversarial, in that he suggested that the pro-EU case was not being put very well. But on closer analysis, his questioning actually delivered a framework for Lord Mandelson to plough on expansively with his substantive points. It seems clear, too, that Mr Davis had no desire or intention to interrupt in any significant way. For example, when Lord Mandelson, made the sweeping and politically partisan claim that the bill was grandstanding and playing to the UKIP gallery, why did not Mr Davis intervene to suggest that UKIP actually had popular support and this might instead be seen as something that aimed to give British people (as Lord Dobbs had suggested) a definite opportunity to express their opinions?

This all adds up to a striking example of BBC bias at a crucial moment in the debate about a referendum. And it fits closely with the longer-term and more detailed analysis by Newswatch, which shows consistently that those in favour of the EU almost invariably get the most space and most favourable framework to advance their views.

Full radio transcript here
Photo by Nicholas Smale

EU ‘Come-out’ Donor Sykes gets Today Roasting

EU ‘Come-out’ Donor Sykes gets Today Roasting

Newswatch reports show that Today does not give EU ‘come-outers’ the chance to properly air their case.
When they do appear they are usually bracketed with ‘Loonies’, or given no chance to explain their support for leaving the EU.
Today presenter Evan Davis continued the tradition when he interviewed this week (November 18) Yorkshire businessman Paul Sykes about his decision to support UKIP in the 2014 Europe elections. Mr Sykes – who announced his decisions to the Daily Telegraph – said he had decided to resume his political donations because UKIP was the only party clearly campaigning for withdrawal from the EU. But on Today, Evan Davis conducted in an interview that was so crammed full of interruptions that the longest Mr Sykes was allowed to speak was 94 words, about 35 seconds. In an interview lasting five-and-a-half minutes, Mr Davis interjected 35 times…once every 10 seconds.
The transcript here reveals the full gory story.  Read for yourself .
Of course it’s the job of a Today presenter to be adversarial and political donations must be subjected to scrutiny. But this was battering ram questioning that would have been appropriateif Mr Sykes was contemplating an illegal act rather than giving to a mainstream political cause he believed in.
The transcript shows that that Mr Davis deliberately set out to prevent Mr Sykes from explaining either his decision to support withdrawal as a political cause or his reasoning why he thought current policies do not chime with public opinion. It was only the third interview of a clear supporter of withdrawal in the latest Newswatch monitoring period, which is running from mid September until the EU Council meeting in December.

Photo by Astral Media