Today Programme

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:

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This election is a battle between the Tories and the broadcasters

This election is a battle between the Tories and the broadcasters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BBC Business News coverage of Brexit ‘continues Project Fear’

BBC Business News coverage of Brexit ‘continues Project Fear’

A report by News-watch into the BBC’s coverage on Brexit covering the six month period after the referendum vote  has found  overwhelmingly negativity about Britain leaving the EU – breaching the Corporations rules on impartiality.

The report into the BBC flagship Today programme on Radio 4 found that of the 366 guest speakers who appeared in the Business News segment, 192 of them (52.5%) were negative about the impact of the vote and only 60 (16.3%) expressed opinions which were pro-Brexit or saw the post-referendum economic outlook as positive. There were 114 (31%) neutral contributions.

That there were three times more anti-Brexit speakers than pro-Brexit ones invited by the BBC to participate in the prestigious slot breaks its charter requirements to be impartial.

The most serious imbalance was that only 10 (2.9%) of the Business News interviews (from six speakers) took place with supporters of withdrawal from the EU. They were a tiny minority in the overall welter of negativity, and their positive points were generally not followed up by programme presenters and the pro-Brexit sector of business was virtually ignored.

News-watch, who carried out the investigation, has been scrutinising the BBC’s EU output since 1999.

In the six months between June 24 (the day after the EU referendum) and December 22, 2016 it monitored all 208 EU-related items broadcast on Radio 4’s Today programme in its Business News slots.

The investigation – which involved analysing more than 130,000 words of transcription – took place to check whether the BBC’s coverage met Charter requirements to be impartial in what the Corporation declares is the ‘agenda-setting’ platform for the Business News sector.

The intensive analysis shows that the overwhelming editorial purpose of the Business News slot was to air sustained and multi-faceted pessimism about the immediate and long-term consequences of the vote to leave the EU.

In classifying 60 speakers as ‘positive’, News-watch has erred on the side of caution. Only 31 were strongly optimistic about the post-Brexit economic landscape. The others were favourable, but only lukewarm or qualified in their assessments.

The BBC’s negativity towards Brexit was also blatant in the introductions to the Business News sequences. Only 22 (10.6%) of the opening sequences were clearly positive – though often even they were immediately followed by negative interviews.

Between them, the negative guests painted a relentlessly pessimistic picture of gloom, doom and uncertainty; of plunging economic prospects; of a collapse of consumer confidence; of rising inflation; of a drying up of investment; of job freezes; of a drain of jobs from London to mainland Europe; of skills shortages because of the ending of free movement; of the introduction of tariffs; and of endless complex renegotiation.

Given the BBC’s over-arching requirement for impartiality, the simple question that must be asked is: how the BBC can justify this gross imbalance given the pro-Brexit vote?

Based on the analysis, it clearly shows that the Today programme has effectively continued the Remain campaign’s ‘Project Fear’, beginning at dawn on June 24 and persisting until Christmas despite mounting post-Brexit positive news.

Another startling finding which has come to light through News-watch analysis is the massive level of bias by omission: a failure to include on Today at sufficient levels those who favoured withdrawal. By largely ignoring and not following up the themes and perceived opportunities which the few pro-Brexit guests did raise, and excluding from coverage important business figures who supported Brexit, the BBC appears to have further compromised itself.

The BBC is now duty bound to explain to the people who fund it how this editorial imbalance could have been allowed to occur. Failure to do so will seriously damage people’s confidence in its future coverage of Brexit.

This analysis is being circulated with the endorsement of a cross-party group of politicians who urgently request that the BBC’s director-general, Lord Hall, tells the truth to all licence fee payers about the astonishing catalogue of failure which News-watch has uncovered.

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More BBC pro-EU bias in Farage ‘painting by numbers’ interview

More BBC pro-EU bias in Farage ‘painting by numbers’ interview

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For 16 years, News-watch has been monitoring in interviews by the BBC of Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

It’s the broadcasting equivalent of painting by numbers.

With wearying predictability, each one has been essentially the same. Question one usually suggests they are racist by wanting immigration controls. Question two posits the party is a flash in the pan, and then that their electoral bubble has definitely burst. Voters are now realising that supporting the party was a bad mistake. And then comes number three: why are there so many nutters and closet Nazis in party ranks?

All the main presenters – from John Humphrys to James Naughtie  and from Justin Webb and Evan Davis to Sarah Montague – have clearly been tutored in  this mechanical interviewing approach, and none of them deviates beyond a few commas and names from the script.

The goal has been relentlessly and viciously the same: to discredit the party and its leader and to sabotage the chances that withdrawal from the EU is properly on the political agenda.

In any other organisation, such lack of originality would be considered a risible dereliction of duty, but this is the Biased Broadcasting Corporation, whose agenda is to attack UKIP’s core policies – restriction of immigration and departure from the EU – with every sinew of its £2bn-a-year news budget. Handling of the party by BBC presenters makes it blatantly obvious they are dealing with the political equivalent of the stench of rotting fish.

It was the turn of Today presenter Mishal Husain to have her crack at Mr Farage on Thursday morning. She did not disappoint – exactly true to form in terms of content. The right-on Ms Husain spiced it up by adopting a sharply judgmental, condescending and authoritarian tone. It was if she was dealing with someone who should be subjected to the worst excesses of Sharia law.

Section 1:  Ms Husain attempted to show that Mr Farage’s concerns about communities becoming segregated as a result of the volume of immigration are actually racist. This is what the Corporation has done for years on the topic of immigration. It has been so blatantly obvious that BBC correspondents such as Nick Robinson have been forced to make apologies for it. But no matter:  This is Ukip and any chance to discredit Mr Farage would clearly do for Ms Husain. Instead of having a sensible, grown-up exchange about the how immigration can be managed, Ms Husain preferred instead to descend into the broadcast equivalent of crude name-calling.

Section 2: Here, Ms Husain tried to rubbish the concept of an Australian-style cap on immigrant numbers. Her ammunition – which she fired with both barrels and with such vehemence that Mr Farage could scarcely get a word in edgeways – was that it is totally impracticable because it is hard to define what a skilled worker actually is and where such immigrants should come from. Mr Farage very patiently persisted that it was possible, but Ms Husain was having none of it. Her focus then shifted to suggesting that if there was a cap on immigrant numbers at all, it would be economically disastrous for Britain. Normally, the BBC hates big business, but here, Ms Husain invoked the authority of the CBI to posit that Ukip policies were dangerously misguided. Mr Farage then raised a very important point: that cohesion of communities is more important than economic wealth. Ms Husain ignored that and moved on….to

Section 3:   Ms Husain kept to the script again, precisely. Now it was time to show that Ukip are a bunch of dangerous, venal nutters, and she had a string of names to prove her case. Her examples were larded with the usual alarming  labels: Nazi, Adolf Eichmann…more painting by numbers. Mr Farage politely pointed out that other political parties have also had similar problems with candidates, but this did not make headlines. Ms Husain was totally unresponsive to his protests. She ploughed on with the theme and ensured that in several different ways she was able to tell the audience that Ukip members are dangerous extremists.

What remains clear is that as the election coverage gathers pace, the Biased Broadcasting Corporation has no intention of portraying Ukip and all it stands for as anything other than a dangerous aberration.  The Commons European Scrutiny Committee recently highlighted that bias. One mercy is that the more these attacks continue, the more voters see through it- Ukip has risen despite the relentless opposition of the BBC. But the Husain interview illustrates graphically that many of the real issues of the campaign are not properly being discussed.

Read the full transcript below:

 

Bias by Omission as Romania and Bulgaria Influx Rises

Bias by Omission as Romania and Bulgaria Influx Rises

Happy New Year – it’s the anniversary of when, courtesy of the EU’s Free Movement of Peoples directive, restrictions were lifted on the numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians entering the UK.

Latest figures released by the Oxford Migration Observatory show that 250,000 are now here and 47,000 arrived during 2014.  That’s equivalent to a city the size of Wolverhampton – and 20% are jobless.

The inflow of around 50,000 a year, it should be noted, is exactly in line with what Migration Watch predicted in January 2013, and as Sir Andrew (Lord) Green pointed out, are likely to cause huge additional pressures in terms of the ability of our infrastructure and services to cope.

The playing down by the BBC of the likely scale of the inflow from the two countries began in earnest in April of 2013, when Newsnight told us that its own survey showed that Romanians weren’t really interested in coming here.

By commissioning such a poll (not cheap, but, hey ho, it’s only licence fee money) , the programme fired a clear shot showing  the extent editors would go to  spike the guns of those who wanted to raise immigration issues.

Then last January, as the restrictions were lifted, programmes continued the effort to tell us that there would be no repetition of the Polish surge of EU immigrants back in 2004. A good example is  this, filed at the end of January 2014. The reporter tells us he could find only one Romanian family in Peterborough. His approach clearly reflected the corporate editorial angle:  nothing to see.

But it was on May 14 – just over a week away from the poll in the European election on May 22 – when the BBC editors demonstrated the full weight of their desire to discredit those with concerns about immigration. Provisional government figures showed a minor blip in the upward trend in entries from Bulgaria and Romania. Such interim totals should always be treated with caution. Not at the BBC.  Political editor Nick Robinson went to town, as this transcript shows.

For him, and the BBC news machine, it seems this was exactly the ammunition for which they had perhaps been praying.

In the BBC1 6pm and 10pm News that day – in a feature bristling with righteous indignation – Robinson first spoke to a Romanian who told him that all his fellow countrymen who wanted to come to the UK were already here.

Then he inserted a soundbite from Nigel Farage deliberately edited, it seemed, to make him look both immoderate and foolish in his predictions. And finally, just for good measure, he lined up Yvette Cooper , Vince Cable and Conservative employment minister Ester McVey all to say what total tommyrot he – and those with fears about immigration – were talking.

Yvette Cooper kicked off, laying into  Farage’s ‘shrill claims’; Cable  referred to ‘scare-mongering’   and Ms McVey said that the latest figures showed Mr Farage was ‘wrong’.

This was a pivotal movement in the election coverage, as the News-watch report covering the campaign, pointed out. It epitomised the Corporation’s main editorial approach – to seek to undermine wherever possible the case for withdrawal from the EU and the restriction of immigration.

Of course, UKIP surged to first place in the European poll and have since won two by-election victories. Many at the BBC argue, therefore, that this shows that their coverage towards those who have concerns about the EU and immigration is fair.

But this is utter nonsense. Close scrutiny of transcripts over long periods shows that their bias both by deliberate skewing and ignoring key reports and evidence. The electoral victories are being achieved despite constant editorial obstruction.  And maybe also – to an extent – because people see through the bias?

What the new Romanian and Bulgarian figures also show is just how much the BBC is prepared to distort or ignore the actual evidence.

The Oxford Observatory report containing the latest figures was released on an embargoed basis to the media on December 29 at the latest and posted on its website on December 30. The report was mentioned widely and prominently in the national press that morning.  But on the BBC website?  Not a peep. On the Today programme? Zip.

Instead, on Today, we got guest editor Lenny Henry doing his level best – in every way he knew – to accuse UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir of being racist and a traitor to ethnic minorities for daring to want a points system for immigration. Yes, the admirable and good humoured Bashir gave us good as he got – but there was no disguising Henry’s vehement distaste.

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Clarkson – Yes, Immigration – No

Clarkson – Yes, Immigration – No

The BBC – as News-watch posted yesterday here and here  – doesn’t give a hoot about complaints about imbalance in its programmes when they relate to important issues such as immigration control.

But if something to do with potential racist name-calling, well, no expense is spared and inquiries are launched, as is reported here in the BBC’s house journal, The Guardian.

News-watch holds no candle for Jeremy Clarkson or his programmes, and nor has it ever investigated his approach to issues of race.

But it’s clear that his alleged use of the N-word has led to major alarm bells ringing inside the Corporation and a full-scale report has been commissioned. What’s clear is that this whole area has been elevated to a major matter relating to the BBC’s approach and image.

Would that the same happened when data is presented to the Trustees that shows beyond doubt that Today presenters regularly skew the debate about EU withdrawal, and, in effect, call those who don’t support the free movement of peoples principle as racist.  In reality, the Corporation ignores it.

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Today Editor’s  ‘Blackpool Rock’ Propaganda

Today Editor’s ‘Blackpool Rock’ Propaganda

Jamie Angus, the young editor of the BBC Radio 4 Today programme appointed to the role a year last May, has risen through the BBC ranks virtually without a trace.

Aged 40, he’s already had stints as editor of sister programme World at One and as acting editor of Newsnight. He was parachuted into that role after the McAlpine libel fiasco, but failed to get the job full-time when director general Tony Hall decided it needed more left-wing influence and would go to Guardian deputy editor Ian Katz.

Despite Angus’s high-profile roles, search Google, and you draw a virtual blank on him, apart from this piece on the News-watch website a few months back.

But now, he’s decided to come down from his BBC mountain and has give an interview to The Guardian.  On first sight, it’s one of those soft-touch meejah ‘profiles’ without an obvious peg. But read between the lines and it speaks volumes about the man and his mission – as well as the Corporation he works for.

‘BBC propagandist’ is emblazoned there as clearly as if it had been extruded through a stick of Blackpool rock.

On the momentous occasion of his first national newspaper interview about his role, his list of priorities seems somewhat narrow. There’s not a squeak about the integrity of its journalism – for example, about how and whether his programme is fulfilling its role as the BBC’s declared flagship news and current affairs programme.

Many doubt that, but Angus’s priorities seem rather different: they are (in no particular order), whether there are enough female presenters, whether Thought for the Day should be changed, the need to make the ‘pop-py’ items he has introduced to the programme more ‘mainstream’, and how to procure more 35-54 listeners, though he appears to already have the answer: new six-second slots that appeal to them.

Of course, such issues have some significance in the overall fabric of the programme because the appeal of Today is that it does have variety and changes of pace and tone as well as the more serious interviews. But they are minutiae.

It seems astonishing that – given that not a single external  BBC interview happens without clearance at the highest PR levels – this would appear to be this thrusting new editor’s main public agenda for the BBC’s flagship programme.

Buried in the interview are some more worrying points. First, it’s clear that Angus is completely sold on what he calls the ‘pluralist’ agenda. He states:

“One of the great things about living in Britain is that we are a pluralist society that is immensely tolerant of a wide range of different religions. I think Thought for the Day is one of the hidden pillars that absolutely supports that architecture.”

That seems like BBC code for something rather less tolerant. What he actually means is that Thought for the Day has in the past been far too Christian and he is working with the rest of his chums to ensure that the need for such ‘pluralism’ ensures that Christian voices are actually heard as little as possible. And in a wider news and current affairs sense, those with ‘establishment’ views are often ignored or swamped out by the need for ‘diversity’.

And far more serious is what he reveals about  his BBC-biased attitude towards editorial impartiality.

Mr Angus says he ‘defended’ his decision to allow Lord Lawson on to the programme to discuss the Somerset floods, despite a complaint being upheld against the programme as Lord Lawson was not an expert on the subject and therefore had only ‘opinions’ and not scientific views.

He asserts:

“The BBC can’t say, ‘we aren’t going to put that point of view on air because scientists tell us it’s not right’.

Actually, he means the reverse, as becomes clear:

“People always raise flat earth at this point, but if you go into a pub on Oxford Street you won’t find anyone who says the earth is flat, but you will probably find a couple of people who are unconvinced by the science on climate change”.

There, in a sentence, is the entire problem with a crucial element of the current BBC treatment of editorial impartiality. Angus clearly thinks, that:

·        In a busy, typical pub (presumably that’s why he chooses Oxford Street) you will find only a couple of people who dare not to believe in the ‘science’ of climate change, and they are akin (but not quite as bad as) flat-earthers.

·        And the ‘science’ of climate change is so well established that those who do not accept it do not have a legitimate position – rather, they have not yet been ‘convinced’ by it.

The article also reveals that young Jamie began his career as a researcher for the Liberal Democrats – perhaps in the orbit of climate change alarmists such as Chris Huhne and Ed Davey.  How very, very fitting.

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BBC ‘non denial denial’ about Climate Change

BBC ‘non denial denial’ about Climate Change

All the President’s  Men, the Woodward-Bernstein book on Watergate, contained the rather neat phrase a ‘non denial denial’ to describe the contortions and distortions of the truth that Nixon’s White House manufactured  to deny that the body politic was infested with cheating, lying crooks.

The latest utterance from the corridors of the BBC in what looks increasingly like a dictatorial imposition of bias in the treatment of debates about climate alarmism brings the phrase forcibly to mind.

There were numerous reports last week that Lord Lawson had, in effect, been banned from BBC news and current affairs discussions about the subject because he dares to challenge what the Corporation says is overwhelming ‘consensus’ among scientists that we are seriously at risk from escalating temperatures.

The row ignited over reports of a ruling in the Guardian. It related to an item on the Today programme about the Somerset floods back in February.  In this, Lord Lawson argued that official responses should not accept unquestionably that the floods were caused by escalating climate change.

The Guardian now says that the BBC has issued a statement claiming that the reports about the ruling, and in particular that Lord Lawson had been banned from appearing, were wrong. It falls beautifully in the category of a complete non denial denial. The BBC says:

“Nigel Lawson has not been banned and nor is there a ban on non-scientists discussing climate change. We have also not apologised for putting him on air. The BBC is absolutely committed to impartial and balanced coverage, whatever the subject, and would not bow to pressure from any quarter whatever the story. This ruling found a false balance was created in that the item implied Lord Lawson’s views on climate science were on the same footing as those of Sir Brian Hoskins.

“Our position continues to be that we accept that there is broad scientific agreement on climate change and we reflect this accordingly. We do however on occasion offer space to dissenting voices where appropriate as part of the BBC’s overall commitment to impartiality.”

The saying: “Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves” applies here exactly.  Not only that, the Corporation is being massively disingenuous and alarmingly naive – or wilfully pig-headed – because their reaction is based on an ocean of prejudice and bull-necked corporate arrogance.

First, Nigel Lawson – though he is not a scientist – is a part of the debate about climate change alarmism because he has established the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a body which counts many eminent scientists as its trustees and advisors, and is rigorously marshalling the facts. Despite this, the BBC has only ever once (in the Today appearance) invited him to contribute to climate-related items.

Second, how on earth can the BBC declare with certainty that there is ‘broad scientific agreement’ about such a massively complex subject or that science is established by agreement?  And why on earth is it ‘false balance’ to include the views of a former Chancellor of the Exchequer into a discussion about whether resources relating to flood management are being wisely spent?

This new statement suggests the BBC, from top to bottom, are continuing to frame their reporting of climate alarmism on the basis that it has been proved. They may not have actually ‘banned’ figures such as Lord Lawson, but the facts speak for themselves – such appearances are very rare.

This seems every bit as sinister as Nixon’s White House. No lying or cheating, but preventing major national figures from properly taking part in debates of major public importance is surely  tantamount to the latter; audiences are entitled to expect the full facts, not a BBC diced and sliced and sanitised version.

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Back to the future: the BBC’s attacks on EU withdrawal

Back to the future: the BBC’s attacks on EU withdrawal

Another European election and the BBC are in full cry again trying to find ways of showing that those who support withdrawal are racist. They have form, and it has been tracked in detail by News-watch.

Their justification, of course, is that the party has ‘controversial’ policies that need probing.

The latest story elevated to front page status is that a supporter of withdrawal who is fighting a local council election (not a European parliamentary seat) has made ‘offensive’ tweets against both the black comedian Lenny Henry and Islam.

In the BBC’s lexicon there is perhaps no higher crime.

Conservative minister Jeremy Hunt is enlisted to say so: overt racism, he claims.

The story also includes ‘balancing’ comments from Roger Helmer, the UKIP MEP, who states that the remarks were not party policy, and also that he believed that the way the story was written amounted to an attempt to smear UKIP.

The problem here is not that the BBC has reported the story, or even that they have included the allegations. If a candidate is racist (but, note, there are different sides to the story), then it is legitimate journalism to say so.

The issue rather this is back to the future:  the wearily predictable way the BBC always reports the ‘come out’ cause.  The important arguments about withdrawal from the EU are totally subsumed by the focus on racism, or some other problem.

The evidence for this is epitomised in a transcript – included fully below because it is so astonishingly negative – from the 2009 European elections. It was broadcast on May 30, 2009, and became the subject of a formal complaint by Lord Pearson of Rannoch which was – of course, as are all complaints about their EU coverage – airily dismissed by the then Today editor Ceri Thomas, who, on a salary of £166,000 a year, has since been promoted and now has a central role in shaping the whole of the BBC’s news coverage.

Most amazing was the 428-word preface by then European editor Mark Mardell, who, with delicious irony, was appointed to the role in 2005 to ensure greater impartiality in the BBC’s reporting of issues such as withdrawal. In three minutes he cobbled together every possible insult against UKIP, without once focusing on its objective of withdrawal; almost gleefully, he heaped against the withdrawal movement the epithet ‘BNP in blazers’ – and claimed MEPs were relentlessly voting against British interests, and were venal.

John Humphrys then kicked off the interview with Nigel Farage with heavy accusations about corruption, followed by…of course, further allegations of racism. This was aggressive interviewing at its most ferocious and gave Mr Farage only minimal space to put points about party policy and withdrawal.

The negative treatment of ‘withdrawal’ in this interview must also be seen in the handling of the topic in the whole election campaign. News-watch surveyed the campaign output across ten flagship news programmes across the BBC output. Among its conclusions were:

·         Only six interviews of withdrawal candidates in the whole campaign 

·         The UKIP “expenses” issue was mentioned in all but one of the interviews, and also in several other reports.

·         Aggressive questioning of the party on alleged racism and inefficiency, with a high rate of interruptions

·         There were only two brief questions about withdrawal and few opportunities to describe EU-related policies. 

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Today, 30th May 2009, Interview with Nigel Farage, 7.32am

JOHN HUMPHRYS:                If we are to believe the opinion poll in The Times this morning, UKIP will get more votes than the Labour Party in the European Election.  A result like that would obviously be calamitous for Gordon Brown, but what effect in the long run would it have on UKIP – seen as one of our fringe parties, perhaps?  It won a dozen seats at the last European elections, but doesn’t have a single MP at Westminster and, more important still, what effect would it have on our future in the European Union.  I’ll be talking to its leader in a moment, but let’s hear first from our Europe Editor, Mark Mardell.

MARK MARDELL: A small sea, more like a pond perhaps, of Union flags drop in front of a diminished group of men in the European Parliament.  They thought their election heralded a revolution, but what have they achieved?  Not, obviously, their main ambition of getting the UK out of the EU.  Most members of the European Parliament regard UKIP as profoundly unserious pranksters with a weird obsession.  ‘Criminal betrayal’ – so said UKIP’s rising star Robert Kilroy-Silk MEP, the former Labour MP and daytime TV host, he’s the man with the orange complexion, you’ll remember, before he quite the party.  ‘An incompetent joke’ – that’s the verdict of another leadership contender.  The pronouncements of sore losers, perhaps, but there’s something of a theme here which real opponents have been quick to pick up on: ‘fruitcakes, loonies, closet racists’ was what David Cameron said about them, and it’s the last bit that annoys the current leadership.  Nigel Farage has dismissed the idea that they’re the BNP in blazers, but their main plank in this election is perhaps their opposition to unlimited immigration, and Mr Farage admits he’s spent a lot of time and energy fighting off a take-over by the far right.  That must say something about the sympathies of some members.  And what about the MEPs?  Of the dozen elected, Robert Kilroy-Silk has disappeared from the political scene and two others have been expelled, one jailed for fraud, the other awaiting trial on similar charges.  UKIP condemns the EU gravy train, but a good proportion seem to have prominent gravy stains all down their blazers.  The European Parliament, for all its bad reputation, is a place where the politicians have a serious job modifying, tweaking, even kicking out proposed new laws.  UKIP don’t boast of any achievements on this front, and their opponents say they’ve voted against Britain’s interests in a host of areas from fishing to trade talks.  A UKIP news release ruefully admits that occasionally UKIP do miss pieces of legislation.  If not the BNP in blazers, then there is something of the golf club militant about UKIP – so old-school they’re in constant danger of being expelled, the boys who didn’t make prefects because they were too ready to cock a snook and put two fingers up at the establishment.  But there’s no doubt there is a market for this at the moment, but in a parliament that’s about quiet conciliation not gestures, they make a lot of noise, no one is unaware of their cause.  For them the risk is that they become part of an institution they despise, the licensed court jester, who can poke fun at the EU’s po-faced pretentions, as long as they make withdrawal look like a lost cause for mavericks.

JH:           Mark Mardell there.  Well, Nigel Farage is the leader of UKIP, he’s on the line, good morning to you.

NIGEL FARAGE:     Good morning.

JH:           Let’s deal with that bit about the gravy train first.  You yourself have done rather well out of it haven’t you?

NF:          Certainly not.  I’ve given up a career in the City of London, I would be earning substantially more money than I am now, but the point is, UKIP MEPs are not in this for a career, they’re not in this for money, they’re in it because they absolutely believe that we’ve got to have a different relationship with the EU, one that is based on . . .

JH:           (interrupting)  Alright, we’ll come that in a minute, the different relationship with the EU, we’ll come to that in a minute, you say you’re not in it for the money.  You have taken, I’m quoting what you said to Denis McShane, the Foreign Press Association asked the other day about your expenses and all that sort of thing, and you said ‘it’s a vast sum, I don’t know what the total amount is, but oh Lord, it must be pushing £2 million’

NF:          We don’t get expenses . . .

JH:           No, no.

NF:          We get set allowances.

JH:           Indeed.

NF:          It’s an entirely different system to Westminster . . .

JH:           (speaking over) Nonetheless, £2 million since you’ve been there?

NF:          Well, every single MEP gets the same, you know, Glenys Kinnock gets the same as I’ll get . . .

JH:           I know.

NF:          And what we have done is we’ve used that money to campaign up and down the country over the last few years, telling people the truth about the EU, and that perhaps is one of the reasons why there’s now a majority of people in Britain who support our view.

JH:           Right, so you have used tax payers’ money to peddle the interests of your own party?

NF:          No, to peddle the interests of our cause.  Last year, the EU . . .

JH:           (interrupting) I’m not sure I see the difference.

NF:          Last year the European Union spent €2.4 million, sorry billions euros, telling students and schoolchildren that the EU was a wonderful thing.  All that UKIP has done is take a little bit of money that’s been given to us and try to counteract some of those arguments.

JH:           I don’t know about ‘little bit of money’, most people would consider two million quid in your case quite a lot of money.

NF:          We haven’t put it in our pockets, we’ve used it in our campaigns.

JH:           Well, you’ve paid your wife to help run your office.

NF:          For seven years she helped me on an unpaid basis, since I was leader of a group in the European Parliament and The UK Independence Party, she’s helped me for the last two years.

JH:           The question is what effect you’ve had and the answer to that is, apart from the fact that you have used a lot of money, spent quite a lot of money to alert people to what you consider the bad things about Europe, in terms of influencing legislation and the like, you have been entirely ineffective, haven’t you?

NF:          Well, I thought Mark Mardell’s report was really grossly unfair.  For the first time in thirty years there has been an opposition group in the European Parliament, which has been my privilege to lead over the course of the last five years, we’re seen as the focal point for eurosceptic groups right across the continent, we’ve played a big role in the French referendum, and in the Irish referendum, the day after the ‘no’ vote, the prime minister in Ireland blamed me personally – and my group in the European Parliament – for the ‘no’ result in Ireland.  I think that’s pretty effective opposition.

JH:           But what you haven’t been doing is sitting there, getting on with the job of being an MEP, and if you run for a post, the post of Member of the European Parliament, surely people who’ve put you into that expect you to . . .

NF:          (interrupting) Well I’m sorry, I . . . .

JH:           . . . to form the part of a constructive opposition.   I mean, the line when you say Mark Madell was unfair, but he’s right about your news release, admitting occasionally you do miss pieces of legislation.

NF:          And so does everybody, just remember John that there are days in the European Parliament where we vote on up to a thousand amendments in the space of sixty or seventy minutes.  I mean this is . . . the mass of legislation going through is such that nobody from any party could ever tell you they’ve got every single thing right, but I’ll tell you this: unlike the other British parties, we have never voted for any new directive that impacts upon British business, we have opposed it, we have fought hard through parliamentary committees to stop things like the exemption on the 48 Hour Week being removed, we’ve played our full role as MEPs, but what we do not do, we do not support any European legislation, believing that we should make those laws in this country.

JH:           The accusation that you are the BNP in blazers . . .
NF:          Well, it’s ludicrous.

JH:           Because of your . . . well, you are hugely opposed to immigration, any more immigration.

NF:          No, we’re not opposed to immigration per se, we believe we should control immigration.

JH:           Well, everybody says that.

NF:          They do, and they’re not telling the truth, are they?  I mean, this has been the problem, the expenses scandal has drowned all of this out.  The British public need to know that what’s being done in their name is we’ve signed up to total, unlimited immigration to the whole of Eastern Europe, and the only party that voted against that was UKIP, and we believe in controlling immigration.  The only people . . .

JH:           (interrupting) But, but, but hang on.  You believe in controlling that, a lot of people came in here from Eastern Europe, they did jobs that needed to be doing, now many of them are going back again.  What’s wrong with that?

NF:          Oh, come on.  We’ve still got about 800,000 people net increase from Eastern Europe since those countries joined, and that figure is due to rise.  I mean look, a few weeks ago, the President of Romania issued a million passports to people in Moldova.  Those people now, if they want, can all come to Britain.  Our argument is the British people themselves should decide who comes to live, work and settle in Britain, not the President of Romania.

JH:           If you get more MEPs in the European Parliament, if – and it’s a very big if – if you do well in the Westminster elections, I say ‘a very big if’ because you’ve made no impact on the Westminster elections thus far, when will you pull us out, given a chance when would you pull us out?  Would you, would you . . . let’s dream for a moment, imagine you were in power, would you pull us out the next day, next week, next month?

NF:          The very next day.  No question about it.  And we would sack ourselves as MEPs and we would then renegotiate a sensible free trade agreement, rather like the one that Switzerland has.  This is absolutely vital, it’s a majority view in this country, and I believe it will grow. And what I would really like to see is if UKIP can cause an earthquake next Thursday, if we can really send a loud and clear message to the big party leaders, I would like them to go into the next general election promising us, the British people, the right that we can have a referendum to decide whether we’re part of this Union or not.

JH:           Nigel Farage, many thanks.

Photo by theglobalpanorama

Geert Wilders: the ‘maverick’ damned by BBC reporting

Geert Wilders: the ‘maverick’ damned by BBC reporting

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders and his Freedom political party (PVV) stir up strong sentiments.

He is renowned for his stance that Islam in his country is responsible for major social divisions and has lead to the radicalisation of young Muslims to the extent that they are joining terrorist organisations.

Mr Wilders is also strongly against the EU and openly advocates departure.

He has a strong following and PVV is the third largest party in the Dutch Parliament with 24 seats, having won over 15% of the vote. PVV , like UKIP, is also expected to win significant numbers of seats in the May 22 European elections, perhaps becoming the biggest single party from the Netherlands.

Because of his stance against Islam and the EU, many in the left in Britain view Mr Wilders as  ‘far right-wing and ‘extremist’ and seek to bracket him with intolerance, racism and potential civil unrest. This article in the Independent is typical .

And how does the BBC treat Mr Wilders?  Well, they don’t openly vilify him. But…

In this item, filed this weekend, BBC  online correspondent Anna Holligan is keen to say he has a good chance of improving his standing in the European elections and can ‘claim that he is the only politician unafraid to discuss the real concerns of Dutch voters. .

But the rest drips innuendo , and is clearly designed to establish  that a primary goal is to ‘stir race hatred’ and that he is a ‘maverick’  who has fomented a ‘race row’.  None of Mr Holligan’s construction  – apart from the ‘maverick’ label – accuses Mr Wilders directly; it is done entirely by association.

Ms Holligan deployed a less subtle approach when she wrote about Mr Wilders’ alleged attack on the Moroccan community back in March.

She pitched her story as a classical race row – and gave most prominence to claims from the Dutch Moroccan Alliance (SMN)  that his remarks were similar to those by Hitler about Jews; that he had crossed a line in targeting a specific group of people.

BBC online boxed a quote that typified her approach, a quote from an SMN spokesman: “Now he has gone a step too far it’s very scary and potentially dangerous”.

Ms Holligan also noted:

“Mr Wilders’ comments came as exit polls from local elections in The Hague revealed that the anti-Islam, anti-immigration PVV was running neck-and-neck with the liberal-leaning D66 party.  In the end, the PVV was narrowly nudged into second place in The Hague, winning 14.1% compared to 15.4% secured by D66. But the result, and the enthusiastic response to his anti-Moroccan rhetoric, will galvanise Mr Wilders ahead of the European Parliament elections in May.

“He has consistently campaigned on an anti-EU ticket, blaming “the monster in Brussels” for stealing Dutch politicians’ ability to make decisions about how the country should be run. The PVV is the fourth largest party in the Dutch parliament but leads most national opinion polls.

“Mr Wilders’ popularity has rocketed over the last 10 years, after the murder of anti-Islam politician Pim Fortuyn spurred a surge of anti-immigrant sentiment in a country once famous for its liberal and tolerant attitudes. In 2011, Mr Wilders was acquitted of incitement after being accused of encouraging hatred towards Muslims”.

None of this says directly that Mr Wilders is a racist, but that is clearly what is inferred – he is popular because of his attitudes to Islam and Moroccans  and for his illiberal and intolerant attitudes, which are carefully bracketed by Ms Holligan  with leaving the EU.

Buried carefully in Ms Holligan’s account is that Mr Wilders had actually called for the deportation only of Moroccan criminals, amid increasing concerns that they were responsible for a growing crime wave.

News-watch records show that Mr Wilders is routinely treated in this way, and that there is a consistent attempt to link his anti-EU stance with racism.  In a feature in broadcast by Today last December,  for example,  Mishal Husain noted that Mr Wilders was trying to start a new anti-EU political party in the Netherlands.  But In the report which followed, Gavin Hewitt focused almost entirely on his anti-Muslim stance and asked primarily if he was aiming to stoke up tensions ‘that might be difficult to control’.  Mr Wilders denied that he was, but Mr Hewitt said that there were ‘plenty of people’ who said he did stoke up tensions ’between communities’.

The full transcript is below.

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Today, 13th December 2013, Geert Wilders, 8.51am

MISHAL HUSAIN:                     The controversial Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, is attempting to start a new political party, bringing far right groups together on an anti-EU platform.  UKIP’s Nigel Farage was one of those invited to join, but he’s so far shied away from the project, due to the inclusion of the French National Front.  Our Europe editor, Gavin Hewitt, has been speaking to Geert Wilders.

GEERT WILDERS:         I believe that we have very few things to benefit from the European Union. I believe that a growing amount of voters feel that we pay a lot of money to Europe, but that at the end of the day we are not in charge of our own laws, of our own borders, of our own money, of our own money, of our own budget, and people want to change that.

GAVIN HEWITT:           You say you want to fight the monster in Brussels.  Do you want to bring down the European Union?

GW:     Yes, as a matter of fact, I do, in a way that I would like the Netherlands to leave the European Union.

GH:      You’re Eurosceptic, but the leading Eurosceptic in the UK, Nigel Farage from UKIP, he’s shunning your new alliance, isn’t he?

GW:     Well, I have a lot of respect for Nigel Farage.  I think if you hear and speak what he says he is a politician that I admire a lot.  Of course, I know, you are correct that he is very hesitant in joining the party and working together.  I hope, however, that after the European elections things might change.

GH:      You have said that Islam is not compatible with the Western way of life.  But haven’t Muslim communities become part of the European way of life?

GW:     Well, indeed, I believe that Islam is an inferior culture.  I’m talking about the ideology here, not about the people. I know that a lot of Muslims are law-abiding people whose concern is to have a good life, a good education for their children and a good job and I have nothing against them.

GH:      Do you feel a personal responsibility not to stoke up tensions that could, or might lead to an atmosphere that you might find it difficult to control?

GW:     But I don’t believe I’ve ever done anything coming close to that. A responsible politician I believe never stirs up any problems in any society.

GH:      But there are plenty of people who will say in some of your comments you do stoke up tensions between communities.

GW:     Well, you asked what my intention is, I can only give you an honest answer, from Geert Wilders, I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone else.  My answer, my honest answer to you is, no, I’m not, I’m staying far away from anything that has to do from stirring up anything.

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