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:
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?