Today Programme

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.

Photo by Civilian Scrabble

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.

Photo by FaceMePLS

Today editor Jamie Angus: Voice of Prejudice?

Jamie Angus was appointed editor of  Radio 4’s flagship Today programme almost a year ago, in May 2013. Monitoring by Newswatch has shown that a highlight of his tenure to date is that the programme devoted 83 minutes to items on Nelson Mandela on the day of his death – the highest total for any single topic since the introduction of euro notes and coins on January 1, 2002.

Under his watch, too, his main and highest-profile presenter, John Humphrys, has declared that he believes the Corporation has been guilty of ‘bias by omission’ –  that is, excluding key figures from appearances in the debate about key topics such as the EU and immigration.

So who is Mr Angus? He  had previously worked for the BBC World Service, where he held ‘senior editorial roles’. He was also editor of  R4’s World at One, and briefly – in the wake of the Savile and McAlpine debacles  – acting deputy editor of BBC2’s Newsnight.

But the web in general  – and the BBC’s own website –  is curiously silent about him. He seems to have risen without a trace through the BBC’s ranks. Apart from a spasmodic and rather boring BBC blog, he has virtually no web profile at all. That must be through choice and careful management.

In fact, his only public recorded utterance was on his appointment  to Today, when he said the programme was at the heart of Radio 4 news and central to what the BBC offered its audiences.

Whatever his background, behind the scenes  he is now making rulings that nail his colours to the mast.  The Biased BBC website reports that, in effect, he has declared that the debate over ‘climate change’ is over. The background is that listeners were worried that those who challenge climate alarmism hardly ever appear on his programme, as was evidenced by a recent very rare interview with the widely-known sceptic, the former  Chancellor, Lord Lawson on February 13. Mr Angus wrote in response:

‘The BBC’s reviewed its coverage of climate change and climate science, and it has set out some admirably clear guidelines for us to follow. We are able to put on air people who take a differing view from the majority view of climate science. However, that coverage should be proportional, and I think that any reasonable listener who listened to Today’s coverage of climate change, across the past three months, would probably find that Lord Lawson was the only climate sceptic, if you like, who’d appeared in that period. And I think, you know, when Justin and I and the programme team discussed that interview, we thought we’d allowed it to drift too much into a straight yes-no argument about the science. And of course the settled view of the expert scientists is just that – settled, and I believe that our coverage reflects that, over the long term.‘

Put another way, Mr Angus says that he, his fellow editor, the BBC  as a whole and his programme team, have  decided:

·         The issues around ‘climate change’ are known and decided because that’s what the majority believe and because it’s ‘the settled view’ of ‘expert scientists’.

·         It’s a big favour putting on Today anyone who disbelieves the science is settled, because such appearances should be ‘proportional’ to point 1.

·         Climate change debates on the programme, on the very rare occasions they do occur, should not allow a simple  ‘no’ perspective – because yet again, the science is settled.

What this actually means is that anyone who disagrees with the party line, if they appear at all,  will be pushed to the margins of Today and not allowed to argue, especially if it against the majority verdict.  Of course, the BBC Trustees, in their infinite wisdom,  have already separately and definitively decided that climate science is settled. The only surprising element of Mr Angus’s unquestioning obeisance is the Orwellian, mechanistic, dictatorial tone. And, whoever Mr Angus is,  he appears not to have the faintest glimmering of an understanding that science is not, and never has been,  decided by ‘majority views’ but by the facts.

That, as Christopher Booker notes, may be the BBC groupthink, but it’s not the real world.

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

Latest Newswatch report: Today ignored UK Withdrawal from the EU, but gave multiple airings for those who want stronger EU ties.

The latest News-watch report shows that Today went out of its way to give those who were opposed to change in Britain’s relationship with the EU – including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg – multiple platforms in which they had clear time and space to advance arguments in favour of their views, including the hotly disputed claim by Europhiles that 3.5m jobs would be lost if the relationship with the EU was fundamentally changed. This assertion went unchallenged by the Today presenter.