UKIP

Humphrys told Farage that Brexit is ‘literally unthinkable’

Humphrys told Farage that Brexit is ‘literally unthinkable’

Back in August, in the backwash of the referendum result, News-watch issued a challenge (during an off-the-record lunch) to a very senior executive of the Corporation: for the BBC to make a programme that properly celebrated Nigel Farage’s achievements as a politician.

The answer? None, directly, so far, but a few days later the Corporation announced the commissioning of Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back, described as a ‘sharp satire’ about the then ex-Ukip leader readjusting to his former life.

It was produced at great speed, broadcast on BBC2 at the weekend, and is now available on the BBC iplayer.

How was it?   A full review of the whole sorry car crash can be read here.

In summary, an alleged ‘satire’ that was not remotely funny. It showed that, without doubt, the comrades at the BBC think the man who many believe was a decisive influence in securing the Brexit vote is a racist, vacuous, inept, unfunny pub bore.

This was called ‘satire’ but in reality was the equivalent of taking gurning pot-shots at the disabled.  And it was exactly in line with how the BBC have been treating Farage ever since he rose to national prominence in the late 1990s as the then 30-something chairman of Ukip.

Proof of the stereotyping of Farage – together with the Corporation’s unwavering adherence to the importance of Brussels – can be found in the News-watch archives. A short interview from back in 1999 illustrates this perfectly, so much so that it deserves a re-airing.

The underlying approach undoubtedly also throws light on why the BBC continues to treat the referendum result with bewildered, indignant disbelief.

In 18 years, the Corporation has not changed its reverence for the Brussels machine one iota.  Farage said he simply wanted his country back on an amicable basis, and free trade; Humphrys’ stance was that this was ‘literally unthinkable’.

The exchange took place on May 20, 1999 in the build-up to the June 10 European Union Parliamentary elections. It was the only interview in the entire campaign by the BBC at national level of anyone from Ukip – even though the party went on to achieve its first electoral breakthrough with 7.7 per cent of the national poll (700,000 votes) and three seats.

The full transcript is included below.  In summary, Humphrys did everything he could to attack the credibility of Ukip and asked nothing about the thinking behind the need for withdrawal.

His opening gambit was to observe that it was ‘funny’ (peculiar) and ’puzzling’ that Ukip was contesting seats in the European Parliament when it wanted to withdraw from the EU.

Humphrys then strongly challenged Farage’s assertion that opinion polls supported Ukip because they showed that up to 50% of the UK population wanted to leave the EU; contended that the party, if it did win seats, would simply jump on the Brussels ’gravy train’; and then asked if Farage was worried that a big supporter of the party was the British National Party, because of a positive article in their magazine Spearhead.

In the opening sequence, Humphrys thus put firmly on the agenda Ukip’s credibility, and bracketed the party with racism and venality. Next came the BBC’s unwavering belief that leaving the EU, and Farage’s hope of ‘getting his country back’ was cloud cuckoo land. Indeed, it was ‘literally unthinkable’.

The sequence dealing with this has to be seen in full to be believed. Humphrys said:

…but of course it can’t happen can it?  I mean the fact is that we are tied by innumerable treaties and it is literally unthinkable isn’t it?

Nigel Farage: No its not unthinkable – you may think its unthinkable but a growing number…

John Humphrys: (interrupting) … well I think in legal terms you know the turmoil that would be created is just, well it’s just extraordinary… (voice tails off) turmoil

Nigel Farage: (interrupting) I don’t think any turmoil would be created. Look, we’ve got countries like Norway, countries like Switzerland…(they) trade quite happily with France and Italy without being members of the European Union. All I am saying is that we want to divorce ourselves amicably from the whole process of the European Union and go back to the free trading agreement that the British people thought it was going to be in the first place.

Humphrys, clearly now lost in the fog of his own disbelief, finished by observing caustically that even if Farage did win a seat ‘he’d be there for a very short time’.

Back to the present, others are planning to honour Farage with a glitzy tribute event in central London next week. The BBC may not be prepared to do justice to Farage by examining his political achievements – but others are.

 

TRANSCRIPT:

John Humphrys: The UK Independence Party is launching its manifesto for the European elections today. The only one saying that Britain should withdraw from Europe entirely. The party Chairman is Nigel Farage. Good morning to you.

Nigel Farage: Good morning

John Humphrys: The thing that puzzles me about this is that you want to get us out of Europe altogether but you are standing for the European parliament and you will take seats if you win any in the European parliament – well that’s a bit funny isn’t it?

Nigel Farage: Yes, we will take seats in that Parliament and we will link arms with the other moderate groups from the other European countries who feel exactly the same as we do, and we will go there and we will find out what information we can about what is going on. We will expose further the frauds and corruption that are taking place within the EU. We will bring that back to this country and when we have elected representatives we will have a voice in the media. At the moment we’ve got 50% of the country that agrees with the UK Independence Party’s point of view …

John Humphrys: Oh, well come on – if that was the case you’d have had an awful lot of votes last time around wouldn’t you?

Nigel Farage: Well no, I’m afraid that’s not the case. I mean, 46% of people in recent MORI polls said they wanted to leave the EU immediately. Now, it takes time for political parties to get credibility and it’s taken the UKIP several years to get to this position.

John Humphrys: And once you’ve got a chance to get it – you will, as your former leader said, jump on the gravy train…

Nigel Farage: No, that is not the case at all – every one of our candidates has signed a declaration that they will take only genuine expenses allowances. All of that will have to be receipted and we will put our expenses up for annual inspection by producing an audit – excess expenses that we have,and there will be excess expenses because they will force us to take money that we don’t really need – will all be given to a fund which we are going to establish to help the legal expenses of victims of the European Union.

John Humphrys: Does it worry you that you have been singled out for praise – you particularly, incidentally – by the British National Party in their newsletter, Spearhead?

Nigel Farage: Well, I haven’t read the BNP newsletter Spearhead and all I would say about that is that we have no links or associations with the BNP whatsoever. We are an alliance of people from the right, from the centre and from the left – all we want is our country back.

John Humphrys: But of course it can’t happen can it – I mean the fact is that we are tied by innumerable treaties and it is literally unthinkable isn’t it?

Nigel Farage: No its not unthinkable – you may think its unthinkable but a growing number…

John Humphrys: Interrupts well I think in legal terms you know the turmoil that would be created is just, well its just extraordinary… (voice tails off) turmoil –

Nigel Farage: I don’t think any turmoil would be created look we’ve got countries like Norway, countries like Switzerland…they trade quite happily with France and Italy without being members of the European Union. All I am saying is that we want to divorce ourselves amicably from the whole process of the European Union and go back to the free trading agreement that the British people thought it was going to be in the first place.

John Humphrys: (seemingly sarcastic) So if you won a seat you’d only be in it for a very short time would you?

Nigel Farage: Hopefully, it will be the shortest job that I have ever had in my life – hopefully we will be so successful we’ll hasten the day at which Britain does leave the European Union

John Humphrys: Nigel Farage thanks very much.

Photo by Euro Realist Newsletter

BBC comedy ’spoof’ about Farage sounds alarm bells

BBC comedy ’spoof’ about Farage sounds alarm bells

So finally, then, the BBC is going to make a programme about Nigel Farage.

Not – as might maybe expected from the UK’s main public service broadcaster – a documentary explaining his remarkable role over 20 years in triggering the UK’s exit from the European Union.

That’s not yet in the pipeline. The Corporation is still far too busy finding different ways of telling us what a mistake Brexit is. Monday’s Today programme, for example, had an Oxford historian commenting on whether it was a foreign policy disaster that ranked with Suez.

No, instead, the boys and girls in the BBC so-called comedy department – fresh from this week’s disastrous re-make of Are You Being Served? – have in mind something a bit more in keeping with their thoughts about the former Ukip leader.

For those who did not have the doubtful pleasure of seeing the Grace Brothers’ revival episode, Michael Horgan, the Daily Telegraph’s TV reviewer is helpfully to hand. Among his comments were that it ‘crammed innuendos into the script with a crowbar’, and he then noted:

‘It was 12 minutes before candyfloss-haired Mrs Slocombe (played by a gurning, hammy Sherrie Hewson) made the first reference to her pussy and 17 minutes until Mr Humphries (Jason Watkins) trilled “I’m free”. Both were greeted with cheers yet it wasn’t enough to save this turgid, interminable half-hour.’

What Horgan didn’t say was that the script, by Benidorm writer Derren Litten, also converted the department store’s Young Mr Grace into a nasty speculative, people-hating opportunistic, capitalist who could have walked straight out of the pages of Jeremy Corbyn’s ’nationalise everything’ policy manual. How very, very BBC.

So what do the comedy department plan for Farage? According to the Radio Times, it’s a jolly one-off ‘special’ called Nigel Farage Gets His Life Back, and it will feature ‘the former politician coping with life out of the limelight’.

Now, of course, it may be that something very funny is on the drawing board. And politicians must expect to be the target of satire and mickey-taking as part of being held to account.

The BBC news department – and especially presenters such as Evan Davis – have always faithfully delivered in this respect. They have with clockwork reliability in dozens of interviews treated Farage as something of a a joke, and mechanically – even maniacally – asked questions about him being the BNP in blazers, a one-trick wonder, and worse.

Former BBC perennial presenter Sandi Toksvig – whose mindset underpins much of BBC comedy – was also in on the act, though a touch less subtly. She compared Farage to Hitler at the Hay literary festival.

Something in this equation of Farage + the BBC + comedy sets special alarm bells ringing. One clue is that ‘insiders’ told the Radio Times that his character was already being described as a ‘cross between Basil Fawlty and Enoch Powell.’

A second flash of warning comes from Kevin Bishop, the actor/comedian who has been selected to play Farage. He told the Radio Times:

‘Nigel Farage is the gift that keeps on giving…there is the moustache and now the appearance at the Trump rally, it’s going to be fun’.

Now, of course that might be true. But somehow, in a ‘spoof’ project emanating from the BBC, that juxtaposition suggests that ‘fun’ is likely to be the perennial, wearisome innuendos about of racism and right-wing extremism that have been the hallmark of the Corporation’s entire treatment of Farage.

Craig Byers, of Is the BBC Biased?, has observed:

‘And yes, alas, apparently his wife really will be brought into the mockery too. Which other well-known politician would the BBC do this to? Astonishingly, reports even say, “If the episode is a success it could be given the green light to be turned into a full series”. Just imagine that with your ‘BBC impartiality’ hats on!’

Quite. The BBC would do this to no other politician. Not even Jeremy Corbyn.

Photo by Jennifer Jane Mills

NEWS-WATCH SURVEY:  MASSIVE BIAS BY OMISSION OF EU ISSUES IN BBC GENERAL ELECTION COVERAGE

NEWS-WATCH SURVEY: MASSIVE BIAS BY OMISSION OF EU ISSUES IN BBC GENERAL ELECTION COVERAGE

Analysis by News-watch of the BBC’s EU-related general election coverage in selected flagship news programmes reveals massive bias by omission.

There was a failure to explain in any depth the EU-related policies of the main parties, despite the fact that the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the EU were a central part of election manifestos.

For example, questioning of David Cameron about the Conservative proposals to re-negotiate the terms of EU membership  amounted to only four minutes over the entire election campaign.

And UKIP’s policy of withdrawal from the EU was the subject of only a handful of questions. Coverage of withdrawal  itself  was swamped by consideration of the potential shortcomings of the main party supporting it.

David Keighley, managing director of News-watch, said:  “The BBC of course has a duty to report the skirmishing of election campaigns. But as the main public service broadcaster it also must ensure that audiences are properly informed of key election issues. It seems that the reverse was the case. Explanation of the EU policies was very limited indeed.”

Below in full is the executive summary of the preliminary findings of the report. You can read the full report here:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

News-watch research indicates that across the four highest-profile BBC news and current affairs programmes, coverage of the EU during the 2015 General Election between March 30 and May 10 was extremely limited and did not sufficiently convey to audiences the issues involved.

Policies and attitudes towards the EU were a central point of difference between the political parties, with their respective approaches potentially having a huge impact on the UK, but this was not reflected in coverage.

Especially, the analysis shows that the issue of possible withdrawal was not explored fairly or deeply enough. The possibility of withdrawal was central in both Ukip and Conservative EU policy. 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.

On the other hand, the only advocates of withdrawal who made points on that subject – apart from one brief sequence involving the Socialist Labour party and a minor mention by the former leader of the BNP – were from Ukip. But the main editorial focus on the party was whether they were competent or potentially racist and this clouded the treatment of withdrawal as an issue in itself.

In response to the Wilson report , the BBC promised to ensure that coverage of the EU was treated as important, and would include detailed explanation which ensured that audiences were fully abreast of the complex issues involved. But analysis by News-watch, based on the monitoring throughout the campaign of BBC News at Ten, Radio 4’s Today, and World at One and BBC2’s Newsnight, shows that this was not the case.

A major point here is that across the four programmes, coverage of EU-related election material amounted to only to 3.1% of the available programme airtime, a cumulative total of around 4 hours out of 130 hours of total programme time.

The key findings of this preliminary survey are:

Overall, there was only minimal editorial effort to explain to the audience what the respective party policies meant. This is best illustrated by the fact that Labour leader Ed Miliband was not interviewed at all about his EU-related election policies. When Mishal Husain (Today) and Evan Davis (Newsnight) interviewed Nigel Farage, no direct question were put to him about EU withdrawal or policy. David Cameron was interviewed by John Humphrys – but there were only four brief questions about the EU, and this portion of the exchange lasted only four minutes. The only questions put to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg were whether he agreed that holding a referendum in 2017 would be damaging to the British economy and whether he would join a coalition which supported the holding of a referendum.

The Conservative party’s core policy was renegotiation of the relationship with the EU, followed by an in/out referendum. These bare facts were conveyed to audiences, but there was little of substance beyond that. David Cameron and George Osborne were asked a few questions which included whether uncertainty about the EU would lead to a loss of trade, and whether their policies were actually an attempt to placate anti-EU backbenchers. But there was no attempt to ask them to explain their decision to a hold a referendum, or what the poll would mean for voters and the United Kingdom .

Labour policy on the EU was that there should be a more enthusiastic engagement, a referendum should be denied unless there was treaty change, and that the Conservative approach was a major risk to jobs and investment. Their basic stance to the EU was explored briefly, but there was no attempt to ask what such enthusiastic adherence to the EU actually entailed. More Labour figures than Conservatives appeared on EU themes, and a handful of adversarial questions – such as why the public should not be trusted to vote on EU membership and why Ed Miliband had not talked more about foreign policy – posed to them, but the interrogation was superficial and limited. Labour figures had frequent brief platforms from which to attack Conservative policies and were not challenged in their views.

The Liberal Democrats were asked only whether they agreed with holding a referendum in 2017, and later in the campaign, whether they would join a Conservative coalition which included a referendum promise. As with Labour, there were frequent soundbites from party spokesmen who attacked Conservative and Ukip policies towards the EU.

Most of the questioning of Ukip did not relate to the party’s core policy of withdrawal from the EU, but was about their competence or attitudes towards race and immigration. Party spokesmen had the opportunity to make a handful of key points about the EU – such as that the UK could leave the EU and subsequently have a trading relationship with it. But editorial effort was minimal, and on the day of the launch of the Ukip manifesto, more focus was on telling audiences that Mr Farage had called the 2010 manifesto ‘drivel’ than conveying what was in the 2015 version.

A further major issue was business coverage. Throughout the campaign, there was a focus on interviewing business and political figures who believed that leaving the EU would be damaging to business in the UK. For instance, the Today programme interviewed only four guests who spoke in favour of the Conservative referendum policy, or who more broadly supported EU reform, and 18 speakers who saw the proposed referendum as a threat or a worry to business. There was not a single contribution from any speaker who believed that withdrawal from the EU would benefit British business. This frequent one-sided reporting amplified the suggestion that there was strong opposition to both the referendum and withdrawal. Put bluntly, it was an extra and sustained strand of bias against the policies of both the Conservative and Ukip parties, and against withdrawal as an issue in its own right.

Photo by blu-news.org

Al Murray campaign in Thanet against Farage ‘backed by BBC’

Al Murray campaign in Thanet against Farage ‘backed by BBC’

Al Murray, the pub landlord, clearly wanted – to put it politely – to pour cold ale all over Nigel Farage’s South Thanet campaign when he decided back in January to stand against him.

His boast was that the country needed a leader who could wave a pint around and invent common sense solutions. Some of it was good old-fashioned humour. But there is no doubt that some of what he claimed in newspaper interviews was designed deliberately to mock Ukip immigration policies and the right-wing perspective. Why else would he choose an upside down £ sign as his party logo?

So what’s the problem? Well the company who made a television programme about his campaign that went out on election night was Avalon Entertainment.  They claimed they had made a fly-on-the-wall programme about his campaign.

Scratch the surface and problems begin to emerge. First is that on the official return for the real-life campaign that Murray waged, he is listed as ‘party leader’. But his campaign officer was Tris Cotterill, who is Avalon’s ‘head of digital’ and his ‘treasurer’ was Chris Scott – Avalon’s head of marketing.   Avalon are also Murray’s showbiz agents, so on this basis, this looks less like a real campaign and more like a programme-making stunt.

Unbelievably, perhaps, the Election Commission gave the party official recognition. Did they really know what they were doing?

It gets even murkier. The programme was actually commissioned by UKTV, which owns a clutch of television channels on Freeview.  It went out on their entertainment channel, the improbably named Dave. And guess who owns UKTV? Well the 50 per cent  shareholder – maybe you’ve guessed it – is the BBC, through its wholly-owned commercial subsidiary BBC Worldwide.

So put another way. The BBC commissioned a programme that centred on what was projected as a ‘real’ political campaign.  Except that it was not. It was arguably instead a publicity stunt dreamed up by Avalon.  And a main purpose was to undermine and heap odium on the Farage campaign in a highly-contested and deadly serious political process.

In the event, Murray attracted only 300 votes, far less than Farage’s margin of defeat. But there’s no way of telling how much damage this jolly jape inflicted on the real political process that was going on in Thanet and had central importance  in the General Election.

There is abundant evidence that Avalon worked flat out to court as much publicity as they could for their campaign wheeze in both the traditional and social network media.  Murray had enough clout (as the Avalon programme shows) to draw the full political press pack down to Thanet for at least two major photo-calls.  And company ‘reporters’ interviewed real people about their voting intentions. The point is that it was not clearly a spoof.

In reality, it blurred the lines of choice in a crucial election seat. And funding was from the bloated coffers of one of the country’s most successful independent production companies who, in turn, were financed by BBC cash.  This gave the campaign Murray considerable fire power beyond what normal candidates can afford. Some would argue this is precisely what electoral law is there to prevent.

It defies belief that any part of the the BBC (even if it was indirectly)  commissioned such a programme. Effectively, they gave Murray a PR platform to ridicule the Farage campaign. The results can be seen on the BBC website.

The main programme did not go out until after the polling booths had closed but the damage was done by the pre-programme publicity, which was clearly a major thrust of the Avalon team’s activities.

The BBC has been under fire for its anti-Ukip stance for many years. How could they sanction such a stunt? Did they make equivalent programmes about the SNP or Labour? Maybe not.

Davis interview of Farage: descends into ‘painting by numbers’ farce

Davis interview of Farage: descends into ‘painting by numbers’ farce

How many ways can the BBC find to insult those who support stronger controls on immigration? And to what extent is this an integrated, pre-planned strategy to rig the election?

The latest round of name-calling came with Evan Davis’s so called ‘interview’ of Nigel Farage on BBC1 on Wednesday evening. It was actually closer to a party political broadcast by Evan Davis outlining the Corporation’s deep loathing of those who do not agree with multiculturalism.

The full transcript of this travesty of an exchange is here.

There is much in the UKIP manifesto that is different from the main parties. Alone among the main parties, they want to leave the EU. And associated with that, the party wants the introduction of an integrated, much tougher approach to immigration.

A poll commissioned by the Daily Mail shows starkly that 90% of voters want radical changes in immigration policy. Most believe the current inflow is a major problem, it is causing stress on communities and infrastructure, and that numbers should be curbed. They do not believe the three main parties are planning to tackle these problems.

For Davis, however, this potentially rich and rather central strand of questioning was of no interest at all.  Nor was the UK’s relationship with the EU.

His approach to the interview was yet another example of the BBC’s ‘painting by numbers’ approach to Ukip. The main intent was to show that all those who support such policies – and Nigel Farage in particular – are dangerous, bigoted racists.

Accordingly, the tone and mannerisms he adopted were those of a superior, enlightened being dealing with something rather unpleasant adhering to his shoe.

One obvious manifestation of this approach was that he interrupted Farage a at least 50 times. Counting the total is quite hard because sometimes there seemed a deliberate desire to stop Farage talking at all, and certainly from presenting an answer that contained detailed reasoning.

Was this simply robust interviewing? Emphatically not. In the equivalent interview with Ed Miliband by Davis, the number of such interruptions was only 32. Further, Davis spoke almost 3,000 words in the Farage ‘interview’ – only 700 less than Farage himself.

In terms of both arithmetic and the texture of the questions, this could thus be seen as a homily on behalf of the BBC worldview by Davis in which Farage was invited to contribute – but not too much.

Davis started the interview with a familiar way – an ad hominem attack. How could he disparage other politicians for being elitist when he himself, and several of his colleagues, had been educated at public schools? Well blow me down with a feather. How original and searching was that?

No matter that Farage pointed out that there was a mixture of backgrounds in party ranks – Davis was determined to make his point.

Thereafter, the main thrust of the questioning was to try trick Farage into revealing that he was totally bigoted. Was Ukip a mean and divisive party? Why had he said on Fox News that some areas were in danger of becoming ghettoes? The agenda here was to show clearly that Farage was anti-Muslim. Did he, shock horror, favour Christians over Muslims? Why did he prefer Australian immigrants over those from Eastern Europe? And why did he think a lot of crime was committed by Romanians? Why was he so sneering about what he called the ‘Liberal Metropolitan elite?

This was actually the relentless pursuit of the same BBC agenda question: all those who say that uncontrolled immigration is bad are racists, even though they say they are not.

In his determination to expose the nastiness before him, Davis even attacked Farage for saying that mothers who wanted to breast feed in Claridge’s should be reasonably discreet about it. How could he be so unenlightened? Farage protested that to him this was not a big issue, and certainly one not central to the election agenda. Headmaster Davis clearly thought otherwise.

To sum up, yet again the BBC chose, in a flagship interview of a leading exponent of alternative policies on immigration and the EU, not to explore the main themes that concern the British public. What unfolded instead was another clumsy but brutal ad hominem attack.

By contrast, as happened on Monday of this week, when EU officials want to come on to the Today programme to talk about the need for a federally-enforced common asylum policy (to add to the Free Movement of People directive) in the wake of the African ferry disaster, there is no problem. They are given oodles of time to do so and are scarcely interrupted.

BBC CHALLENGERS’ DEBATE ‘SERIOUSLY BIASED’ AGAINST EU WITHDRAWAL CASE

BBC CHALLENGERS’ DEBATE ‘SERIOUSLY BIASED’ AGAINST EU WITHDRAWAL CASE

BBC Director General Lord of Hall of Birkenhead, unusually for any big media organisation, is both managing director and its editor in chief. It gives him immense power.

His most important role in a general election is to ensure scrupulous political balance. The BBC Charter and electoral law require him to do so.

He recently told the Commons European Scrutiny Committee that he keeps track of news coverage through a daily briefing meeting and steps in fast if there are any issues of concern.

In this context, the Challengers’ debate on Thursday night was inevitably a key occasion. It is inconceivable that he did not personally discuss and approve the proposed format with his phalanxes of advisors.

So what does it say about Lord Hall and his editorial team that he and they ever thought the framing of this so-called ‘debate’ could be regarded as fair?

There has been much discussion of this in the media already and it has now emerged that Nigel Farage himself is consulting lawyers about especially the composition of the studio audience, which bayed with derision at him and cheered to the rafters the lefty extremism of Sturgeon and Co.

I will address that in more detail later, but there is a much deeper issue here. In crude terms, this ‘debate’ was – and could only ever have been – the broadcasting equivalent of a gang bang. This was predictable from a million miles away. It was four politicians with highly-publicised (especially by the BBC) and very similar anti-austerity, pro-immigration views ranged against one Nigel Farage.

The BBC held the debate because they could, not in the interest of fairness. Could it be seen as an act of revenge on the Conservatives for not agreeing to their desire for a full leaders’ debate? How else could they sign off on a programme that gave an inbuilt totally disproportionate 4-1 bias to the left wingers on the panel?

Senior BBC editors argue in defence of the continual bias against eurosceptics and EU come-outers that Nigel Farage is a big boy who is well able to defend himself against the insults he regularly receives from them.

And, in fact, this was a blue moon occasion on the BBC airwaves. Analysis of the 13,700-word transcript shows that Farage actually had the chance to talk more than few words about some core policies. He seized the opportunity with relish and with calmness under fire.

That said, everything else that followed was a travesty of fairness and balance. It defies belief that Lord Hall approved it. One measure is arithmetic: Farage contributed 2,756 words, 20% of those spoken. That means that those ranged against him commanded 80% of the airtime.  Furthermore, time wasn’t apportioned equally between the other leaders as the debate moved on from the leaders’ formal, timed one-minute responses.   This meant that Farage’s overall contribution was less than two thirds of Miliband’s 4,274 words, and that the Labour leader dominated the airtime, accounting for 31% of the total words spoken by the five leaders.

But the bias against Farage and the withdrawal perspective doesn’t end there. In this election, the British relationship with the EU is a central theme of the ‘right’. Ukip want to come out and the Conservative party has promised an in-out referendum.

So why on earth as there not a direct question about the EU? Farage would still have been howled down by Miliband and Co, but at least such a question would have forced them to declare their pro-EU stance and back it up with supportive facts.

Instead, the Ukip question was about immigration and housing. That meant that Sturgeon and Co could not only heap abuse on Farage, but also effortlessly frame their arguments in terms of their anti-austerity bleeding heart socialism. The way this unfolded was absolutely predictable: the set-up deliberately gave a platform for the left-wing torrent of anti-Ukip abuse that ensued.

It is here that Lord Hall has been most derelict in his duties. He and his advisors facilitated gross imbalance.

But in addition, this was a glaringly biased audience. David Dimbleby instantly denied this, but it has now emerged that ICM has consistently under-represented both the Conservative and Ukip vote. So why on earthy were they chosen as ‘independent’? The BBC response is that ICM was also used to select the ITV debate audience. This is a risible excuse. .

BBC news chiefs know full well – because the European Scrutiny Committee spelled it out last month – that many believe that their coverage of the EU is deeply flawed and biased. In that context, those who hired ICM should have been aware of their controversial track record and turned instead to an above-reproach pollster. That they did not is an indicator of arrogance or incompetence, or both.

A second issue relates to the use of the audience tracking ‘worm’, which was a feature of the debate coverage on the BBC News Channel last Thursday. This conveys instant audience reaction and – unsurprisingly given the overall composition of the audience – was especially negative when Farage spoke.

Yet In using it, the BBC was flying against the advice of academic research by psychologists at Bristol University who analysed use of the worm in the 2010 leadership debates. They found they have a strong and disproportionate power to sway voting intentions. The House of Lords communications committee considered the findings in depth and decided the fears were well-founded. As a result, they warned broadcasters that they should not be used in election debate coverage.

The BBC, of course, considers itself to be above any such strictures. They ignored the research itself, the House of Lords advice and a letter from the Bristol University written to the Guardian on April 13. It opined:

‘Our results….showed that the worm has a powerful influence both on voters’ opinions of who won the debate, and on their voting intentions. An unrepresentative worm poll, based on responses from only 20 to 50 people, has the potential to exert a strong influence on millions of viewers.’

This adds up to that Lord Hall is failing on multiple levels to fulfil his duties as Director General. The only conclusion can be that his organisation is engaged in a systematic effort to shut down elements of democratic debate, especially those related to the EU and immigration.

 

Paxman ‘Shows BBC decline’

Paxman ‘Shows BBC decline’

So, it’s good night from him, then. Jeremy Paxman has ended his marathon quarter century stint as presenter of BBC2’s Newsnight.
Though he achieved some palpable hits – famously, his devastating interrogation of then home secretary Michael Howard – I think he never really delivered in his perceived role of Inquisitor General of the Corporation, a mantle he assumed from Sir Robin Day. In reality such skewerings were extremely rare; in those 25 years only half a dozen stand out. Sir Robin once said – on the anniversary of his 25 years at the BBC – that it seemed to him that he began his career as the fierce Torquemada and ended up as the ever-so-’umble Uriah Heep; that, too, is the fate of Paxman.
Actually the Newsnight Paxman has presented for so long is seen by many to be both discredited and a spent force. It amounts now to little more than a very expensive vanity publishing exercise by the 8,000-strong £1 billion-a year BBC news division. Newsnight is set-piece, very expensive, old-style television, launched in 1980 when there were only three television channels. The rest of the world has moved on in the way it uses and consumes news. It’s very rare that those set-piece interviews yield anything new because our politicians are now trained to the nth degree in dodging bullets.
This staleness is compounded by a long decline in standards. The utter fiasco of Newsnight’s failure to report the Savile affair, and its downright nasty, incompetent an inexcusable accusations against Lord McAlpine are clear evidence of this. Add to that the continued decline in the programme’s average viewing figures, from well over a million each night to around d 600,000 (at times as low as 320,00) and its sectarian colonisation by ex-Guardian journalists – the editor is Ian Katz, a former deputy editor – and the picture of its inadequacy and decay is complete.
It’s the BBC pretending it is engaged in serious investigative journalism of record when in reality Newsnight as it is now does little more than bounce back at the Corporation its own warped left-wing view of the world –on a whole raft of issues such as immigration, climate change and the EU.
And many believe Paxman bears a major responsibility for this. This became clear when back in 1999 News-watch undertook he task of monitoring the BBC’s coverage of that year’s European elections. It was a very different political landscape: William Hague was the then very eurosceptic leader of the Conservative Party, Tony Blair was his all-powerful general electoral nemesis and UKIP commanded only 7% of the vote.
In the BBC’s coverage, what stood out – in an election which Hague eventually won with 36% of the national vote against Labour with 28% – was that the whole event was regarded as a turn-off. There were very few items on any of the BBC’s programmes and those that were broadcast viewed the issues involved mainly through the lazy and biased prism of Conservative splits, even though by that time the vast majority of both grassroots and parliamentary members were united in being massively eurosceptic. News-watch dubbed this ‘bias by omission’ – a failure to report the key issues because the BBC was so pro-EU that it did not think they were important or interesting.
Paxman stood out in our survey because in one of the very few Newsnight election items, on the day of the vote, he leaned to camera, and to the accompaniment of footage showing a battery of deserted polling stations, declared that it had been, and I quote, ‘an outbreak of narcolepsy’.
True, turnout was only 24%, but 10m Britons had actually voted, and the irony of his remark was seemingly totally lost on him. Did no one ask a simple question? Perhaps no one had voted because Newsnight itself and the BBC as a whole had not bothered to make the election interesting. Paxman’s smug talk of sleeping sickness epitomised the massed battalions of the news division’s lethargic and biased approach to the EU.
They were so much in favour of continued membership and ridiculing or ignoring the withdrawal and sceptic lobbies that they failed to put effort into making the key areas of policy, procedure and debate interesting for viewers.
That attitude persists. They might now occasionally discuss ‘Europe’ and ‘withdrawal’ but only through the BBC’s own highly-sectarian lens. There is massive bias by omission, and as a result, many of the British public are woefully under-informed about the true nature of the EU project.
Paxman, John Humphrys apart, has been for at least two decades the most powerful individual journalist at the BBC. Instead of fighting for change, and editorial integrity, he settled for the comfort of the journalistic equivalent of pipe and slippers. In the end, he became totally part of the fabric of a once powerful but now decrepit, outmoded and totally discredited programme.

Photo by dullhunk

Selective Leaking: BBC knocks down its own UKIP Aunt Sally

Selective Leaking: BBC knocks down its own UKIP Aunt Sally

One of the ways that the BBC defends itself against criticism is to say that viewers have complained in ‘record numbers’ against particular aspects of programming.

It’s particularly effective because it creates a smokescreen of the Corporation’s own making and largely within its own control that generates newspaper headlines in the BBC’s favour.

And here, the BBC’s house organ, the Guardian has dutifully bitten, with a story that trumpets that there has been a ‘record number of complaints’ about the BBC coverage of recent elections because it gave too much coverage of UKIP that was too often biased in favour of its leader Nigel Farage.

The trigger  has been perhaps that the Daily Mail, among others, claimed earlier this week  in an editorial  that BBC coverage of the recent elections had been seriously biased against UKIP.

The vehicle of the release of this supposed barrage of complaints  against the BBC’s UKIP coverage was  BBC’s own programme Newswatch, in which the BBC’s own political editor, Nick Robinson was ‘challenged’ to explain why so much coverage was carried.

How very cosy.

The News-watch that runs this site is actually carrying out a properly objective study of the BBC’s election coverage. It’s a massive task that will take at least two months, and will analyse line by line what was actually said about the case for EU withdrawal  on eight of the leading news and current affairs programmes, including R4’s Today, World at One, PM and The World Tonight.

One thing that is already sure is that in the past, News-watch surveys have shown that BBC coverage of the withdrawal case has been seriously biased because over thousands of hours of programming, there has been no effort to explore properly the issues involved.  At the same time, as the Civitas paper shows, the BBC has sought to enlist academic legitimacy to their coverage efforts, which News-watch has demonstrated are deeply flawed.

This Guardian/Newswatch  exercise mentioned above is much more crude: in reality, the BBC setting up its own Aunt Sally (the fake spectre of too much UKIP coverage), with Nick Robinson riding to the rescue to knock it down.

Photo by (Mick Baker)rooster

Caught red-handed: BBC anti-withdrawal bias

Caught red-handed: BBC anti-withdrawal bias

The BBC swears until it is blue in the face that it is not biased against the case for withdrawal from the EU, and that it reports the campaign fairly. It engaged at vast expense Stuart Prebble, a former BBC trainee, and long-time chum of BBC Trustee David Liddiment, to write a highly questionable academic report that said so.

But this is a big fat economy with the truth, as events at the end of the European Parliament election campaign have revealed graphically.

First, as Guido Fawkes has adroitly revealed, Jasmine Lawrence, one of the roster of editors of the BBC News Channel, has let slip in her (now deleted) Twitter account the BBC’s corporate derisive view of UKIP.  They are ‘sexists’ and ‘racists’.  And second, the BBC complaints bureaucracy has been forced to admit that the May 18 News Review Radio 4 programme seriously misrepresented the views about UKIP of Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens.

Mr Prebble, it will be recalled, penned his ‘objective’ report about BBC EU output for his chums at the corporation against a background in which John Humphrys, one of the corporation’s most high-profile presenters, and Mark Thompson, a former director general, were thinking privately (and eventually admitted publicly) that despite outward protestations of fairness, the corporation’s EU coverage was in fact deeply biased against those who supported withdrawal.

Mr Prebble went out of his way to pour a massive bucket of cold water over research by News-watch – conducted over more than 15 years – that showed beyond doubt that what Mr Humphrys and Mr Thompson thought privately was true.  He pointedly ignored statistics taken from sustained monitoring of the Today programme by News-watch that showed that less than  0.004% of programme time was taken by ‘come outers’ talking about their case, together with transcript analysis which emonstrated that interviews with eurosceptics focused relentlessly on the negative and rarely, if ever, touched on the actual arguments against the EU.

News-watch has consistently shown that the reality of the corporation’s EU coverage is that it is, and always has been, pro-EU and has often been venomously negative against those who want to leave.

The Peter Hitchen episode shows how deep and pervasive this hostility actually is. The full account of what Mr Hitchen wrote and what the BBC broadcast is up on Biased BBC. He was quoted in News Review on May 18 as saying that UKIP was ‘doddery’, ‘farcical’ and ‘very unclear about its goals’. The quote came in a newspaper review sequence which contained a torrent of anti-UKIP comments, including that they were racists.   Mr Hitchens’ comments were taken completely out of context from a much longer item in a way which even the most novice reporter would have known was gross misrepresentation.

The BBC is actually going to broadcast an apology (something that very, very rarely happens). This shows how crass the journalism was, but it doesn’t deal at all with the main issue. As Mr Hitchens points out, they routinely do this with his views on such topics. And as New-watch research shows such negativity fits with the BBC’s overall pattern of anti-withdrawal reporting.

Miss Lawrence and her twittering is a different matter. This was a middle-ranking BBC news executive, who tweeted:

#WhyImVotingUkip – to stand up for white, middle class, middle aged men w sexist/racist views, totally under represented in politics today—
Jasmine Lawrence (@journomummy) May 21, 2014

The ‘Why I’m Voting UKIP’ Twitter tag was actually set up as a vehicle for those who want to pour vile opprobrium on both UKIP and the case for withdrawal. It is filled with venomous invective that shows the nastier side of political ‘debate’.  That Miss Lawrence felt it appropriate for an ‘objective’ BBC senior staff member to comment there defies belief. It is surely a disciplinary matter.

But hang on!  This is the BBC that both routinely villifies EU withdrawal, and believes beyond doubt that manmade climate change is a serious threat and that it must report the debate about such matters accordingly, suppressing comment from those who disagree.  Perhaps, in that deliberately anti-capitalist climate,  Miss Lawrence automatically assumed  that espousing withdrawal is racist, and that this gave her permission to go into attack dog mode. The BBC have been saying so for at least 15 years, and much of the other media is joining in, so what’s wrong with that?

Photo by shawncampbell