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.

Conservative BBC reform?  Don’t hold your breath

Conservative BBC reform? Don’t hold your breath

The BBC made it abundantly clear who they wanted to win this election. The interview by Mishal Husain of Nigel Farage which was highlighted here, is a typical manifestation of their subtle-as-a-brick approach.

To protect the licence fee and their imperialist, state-protected dominance of the UK’s media, they desperately wanted in power an alliance of Labour, SNP and the Greens.

So from inside their blinkered metropolitan bubble, they worked consistently to ridicule anything they saw as opposition. Then there was bias by omission, an avoidance of discussion as much as possible of issues such as the EU and immigration control.

Another strand was that no opportunity was missed to play up Nicola Sturgeon’s brilliance.

In the same vein, almost every utterance by Ed Miliband was treated with fawning reverence. It’s no wonder he had his Moses tablet moment. The BBC was already treating his policies as the Holy Writ.

Throughout the campaign were interviews and features in these deep grooves. Amongst the most obvious examples was this, spotted by expert BBC-watcher Craig Byers on Radio 4’s the World Tonight on the eve of the election. The BBC’s version of ‘fairness’ was three strident anti-austerity voices against only one very moderate local businessman. He was actually one of the few people in the country who favoured a continuation of the Coalition.

Another example was the approach of Mark Mardell. His biting anti-Ukip tone was especially pronounced in a stream of negative invective in his commentary in this interview sequence during the 2009 European election. His main thrust was that Ukip are the British National Party in blazers. Mardell’s interview on the World This Weekend of Mark Reckless five days before the 2015 poll was every bit as negative. It was as if nothing had changed – to him, four million Ukip voters are definitely wrong.

Ex-Europe editor Mardell’s interview on the World This Weekend five days before the 2015 poll was every bit as negative. It was as if nothing had changed – to him, four million Ukip voters are definitely wrong.

As part of their election campaign, on top of this blatant bias in interviews, the Corporation used their vast resources to commission rafts of programming that crudely rubbished opponents: drama that was so left-wing that it was risible, so-called comedy that savaged anti-austerity, and endless programmes that in different ways promoted multiculturalism and green agendas.

But despite all their efforts, a result that Tony Hall and his lefty-packed Management Board dreaded has now come to pass. Middle England, thank God, despite BBC’s relentless torrent of propaganda, have different concerns.

Back in 1997, observers noted that after the Blair landslide, the corridors of Broadcasting House were strewn with empty champagne bottles. It marked 20 years of continuing gravy-train financing.

Prospects are not so rosy now, and Lord Hall and his board will no doubt be locked his week in WIA-style meetings to recalibrate their survival campaign.

The news that John Whittingdale – twice shadow culture secretary and chair of the Commons Media Committee for a decade – has become Culture secretary looks on the surface an appointment that could lead to significant change and even some kind of assault on BBC bias.

He is decent man who is on record as saying forcefully that he cannot see the licence fee lasting for more than 10 more years. He has also said he wants BBC governance altered so that the current lapdog trustees are replaced by a body that has genuine independence and will hold the Corporation properly to account.

On top of that, change cannot be stalled: Charter renewal has to be agreed in time to come into effect at the beginning of 2017.   Suddenly Lord Hall might be ruing the appointment of former Labour minister James Purnell as his policy advisor.

But it might not yet be time to anticipate definite improvements.

Elsewhere there are abundant signs that life rafts won’t actually be necessary for the BBC or any of the liberal-left concerns that Cameron has championed rather than attacked. The administration now assuming office is not rooted any more in genuine principles of conservatism, free speech or social liberalism. This article on Spiked by deputy Tim Black, sums up the current position neatly:

“In fact, the Conservative Party under David Cameron’s near-decade-long tenure has been in the process of being emptied of any distinctive political content. Traditional commitments have been thrown over, like so much unnecessary ballast. The Union, the family, let alone economic liberalism, barely register as Conservative touchstones anymore….

“… the Tory Party’s raison d’être is to define itself against itself, to affirm its modern identity by negating and trashing what it was. This process of ‘detoxification’, of so-called modernisation, this party-political cleansing, this determination to jettison the political past, has been the defining cause of the modern Conservative Party.”

The most immediate and compelling evidence of this is the appointment of Amber Rudd as climate secretary. She is a total climate alarmist – so much so that the Guardian has welcomed her appointment.

It boils down to that in many respects, the Conservatives are now part of the same metropolitan bubble as Labour, the SNP the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. Janet Daley of the Telegraph describes it adroitly here. The BBC remains the ringmaster of their interpretation of public opinion. To them all, the rest of the UK is a different country. 4m Ukip votes? They don’t give a stuff about any of them.




Photo by David Holt London

UK voting system means that anti-EU voters are denied representation

UK voting system means that anti-EU voters are denied representation

One of the early and most enthusiastic supporters of the Electoral Reform Society was the Rev Charles Dodgson, aka author Lewis Carroll.

The ERS has been arguing for proportional representation since 1884, and for all that time they have been viewed as little more than well-meaning cranks.

The Liberal Democrats, of course forced a vote on the issue during the last Parliament, but by then they had shown how nastily Machiavellian, unprincipled and two-faced they were when in power. As a result, many people voted against them rather than the issue at stake. The baby was well and truly thrown out with the bathwater.

Yet what we now seem to be entering as a result of our rigid allegiance to the first-past-the post-system is an Alice Through the Looking Glass world in which 1.5m SNP-voting Scots (out of a registered UK electorate of 46m) could well force us into another kind of nightmare: a reversion to 1930s-style Marxism.

So has as the time come to think of abandoning our current voting system? This is not going to change Thursday’s poll, of course, but the issue could assume crucial importance in the horse-trading that ensues.

One factor in the political landscape that has changed massively over the past five years and is obviously centre stage in this ballot is the huge surge in support for SNP.

This means that the 51% of Scots who now seem likely to vote for the party in the 59 Scottish Westminster seats are likely to hold massive, disproportionate clout. Because SNP support is concentrated in relatively few seats, the first-past-the-post system means they will win. Put another way, around 4% of the electorate could – and would, as Nicola Sturgeon has boasted about – hold the UK to ransom.

This will be – despite Ed Miliband’s protests to the contrary – either as a coalition partner or as a large street-fighting, self-focused, independent faction whose primary purpose is to smash asunder the United Kingdom. The meaning of the Glasgow Kiss will take on a whole new dimension.

They could paralyse a governmental process that has primarily grown round a gentlemanly two-party system and has never encountered such a set of circumstances before.

The other major change is an equivalent rise in support for UKIP. Largely because of the massive negativity towards the party by the media, and especially the BBC, their support now seems to be softening from the 15% that persisted throughout the campaign. But even if it falls back to 10%, it is likely that between 2m and 3m voters will support Farage and his rag-tag army.

The contrast with SNP here could not be sharper. Because of the first-past-the-post system, and because support for UKIP is attenuated across England, even if UKIP achieves double the vote of the Tartan Army, it will win on latest forecasts only a maximum of five or so seats.

In turn that will mean that the issues that it supports – the return of grammar schools, withdrawal from the EU, and end to the insane climate change alarmism and stricter immigration controls – will be totally ignored by the other parties. And put the other way round – three million votes will have very little influence, to the point almost of being disenfranchised.

The problems with our current voting system go much deeper. Voter apathy was so extensive in 2010 that 35% of the electorate did not vote(compared with 22% in 1992). So David Cameron attracted 36% of the votes cast but the support of only around a quarter of the total electorate.

If this pattern continues next Thursday, it could mean that Labour and Conservative combined win the support of less than half of electors.

Sooner or later, that’s a democratic deficit that will cause friction. Just how is, of course, impossible to predict. Almost certainly, however, the English in the South-east, will be increasingly resentful of the Jacuzzis of public cash that already go north of the border. At the same time, the legions of voters who are concerned about the pressures of immigration and have no means of expressing their views other than via Ukip are going to become increasingly discontent.

The unfairness of our voting system means that those that rule us are increasingly out of step with the wishes of the electorate. All the lessons of history –from the Boston Tea Party onwards – suggest that this is a recipe for serious civil unrest.

As Walter Bagehot first noted when he wrote his masterful book on the British Constitution in the 1860s, our system of government worked because it was not written down in formulaic fashion. It continually adapted to changing circumstances.

His analysis of the constitution was of course long before there was the juggernaut of the EU at its heart lucking away the power and disenfranchising voters in a different way. But the threat posed by the SNP is another massive challenge and unless the Constitution now evolves to cope with this massive imbalance, we could be entering very dangerous waters indeed.

Voting reform may seem a very left-field response, but in this Carollian2015, Looking Glass world, it may be the recipe needed. Both major parties adhere to first-past-the-post because it has given them leverage to create majority governments. Even in Tony Blair’s ‘landslide’ of 1997, he attracted only 43.2% of the vote (compared to 30% for the Conservatives). In the pre-UKIP and SNP world, this did not matter as much. It does now.

Photo by David Holt London

Latest News-watch survey Published: More BBC Pro-EU Bias

Latest News-watch survey Published: More BBC Pro-EU Bias

As the BBC’s coverage of the general election gathers pace, the latest News-watch survey shows that reporting of European Union affairs by the Corporation continues to be deeply inadequate and biased.

In March, the House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee – which had heard evidence from News-watch as well as senior figures from the BBC  – strongly attacked the BBC’s EU-related output. It said that Charter requirements to provide audiences with balanced and wide-ranging coverage of EU affairs were not being met, and that, especially, eurosceptic perspectives were not being properly reflected.

In its latest survey, independent monitoring organisation News-watch monitored four BBC programmes for an eight-week period between Monday 27 October and Saturday 21 December 2014.   The programmes were: The World at One and PM on BBC Radio 4, BBC1’s News at Ten, and BBC2’s Newsnight. This equated to approximately 131 hours of broadcasting. This analysis, based on complete analysis of a range of flagship news programmes makes the following findings:

  • Coverage of the issues surrounding withdrawal was both minimal and inadequate.
  • The vast bulk of news about Conservative handling of EU affairs was through the lens of party splits, which, it was emphasised by BBC correspondents, had been raging since Maastricht. There was disproportionate effort to cover these divisions, exaggeration of the scale of the problem and a corresponding failure to scrutinise policies; rows took precedence over informing audiences about the bread and butter issues of EU membership.
  • There was relatively little analysis of Labour policies towards the EU. Party members were afforded regular platforms to attack Conservative and Ukip policies, but their own controversial approach towards limitation of immigration or the potential threat posed by Ukip was seldom featured or analysed. Members of the party who are strongly eurosceptic occasionally were asked for comment, but their quotes were too brief to give a true indication of the debate within the party about EU membership
  • The main theme of coverage of Ukip continued to be (as has been noted in earlier News-watch reports) that both individually and as a party, it was  inept, confused and potentially both venal and racist. There was a heavy focus on its shortcomings, but very little coverage or analysis of key issues such as withdrawal and the limitations of the EU.  And the main editorial reaction to Ukip’s victory at Rochester was to ask Conservative MP Phillip Davies if he would not defect to Ukip.
  • Another problem was that, while it was frequently said that the EU opposed reform of matters such as the Free Movement of Peoples Directive – and platforms were often given to EU figures to say that – there was no editorial effort to scrutinise why such policies could not be changed or reformed.

The full report is available to read or download using the link below.


Photo by e-magic

Culture Secretary Javid’s late, late realisation about BBC bias – too little, too late?

Culture Secretary Javid’s late, late realisation about BBC bias – too little, too late?

Photo by mrgarethm

As we head into the final week of this phony, no-real-choice election, the culture secretary, has had a revelation about the BBC.

It seems it came as a bolt from the blue. A remark on the Today programme by Scottish so-called comedienne Rhona Campbell , that all Tories were ‘a cancer’, was responsible. He now sees that the Corporation is biased against his party, and says that’s not fair.

In consequence, culture secretary Sajid Javid is warning that the BBC’s impartiality will be reviewed as part of the Charter renewal process.

Pardon? His revelation is surely five years too late.

For all the years his party has been in power – and arguably for at least a decade before that – the BBC has had its own blatantly obvious agenda, and has put two fingers up towards public opinion on topics such as the EU, multiculturalism, immigration and climate change. The evidence can be seen in abundance here or here.

David Cameron could have tackled BBC reform at any point in the past five years had he summoned up the courage to do so, but he did not. He shook up the world of newspaper regulation – some would say in order to get Rupert Murdoch – so why not the BBC? The suspicion must be because, at heart, call-me-Dave does not demur much from their agenda.

The polls are showing that the prospect of a coalition government based on a shotgun wedding between Labour and SNP looks increasingly likely. The reality is that if this happens, the BBC that David Cameron has chosen not to reform has played a key role in facilitating it.

Without doubt, this has been a political campaign fought by the Corporation. A main agenda is that they want the licence fee to be renewed and increased.

And using the perverse guidance on ‘balance’ emanating from the Bridcut report, which, it is becoming increasingly clear, is actually a manual facilitating deliberate bias, the 8,000-strong newsroom has strained every sinew to ensure that both immigration and the EU, along with a whole range of other topics, have been treated only in the narrow left-wing confines that BBC editors deem are permissible.

What is the overall approach? There are too many facets of this to outline in one blog, but here are some highlights:

BBC manifesto point one is that the Corporation hates with a passion English nationalism, and denigrates with Pavlovian zeal anything that smacks of it. They treat the whole subject as if it is fascist and racist.

Nothing but this can explain the hugely negative treatment of Nigel Farage in interviews by Evan Davis and Mishal Husain highlighted on TCW. Underpinning this approach is the fanatical BBC espousal of multiculturalism, which puts the values and views of incomers to the UK above those of the English, and has at its heart the poison of moral relativity. Behind it also is the view that the United Kingdom in general and English who were in the driving seat was and still is an imperialist power – something that deserves condemnation at every opportunity.

BBC manifesto point two– in the same vein – is that they love Scottish, Welsh and, of course, Sinn Fein nationalism. That’s because by contrast to those who support English patriotism, the rag-tag of parties that advance these causes is deeply socialist and Marxist in their approach to almost every issue, from austerity to childcare and the family.

The blueprint for this approach was laid down in 2008 in this document – a response by BBC management to a Trustees’ report about coverage of the ‘nations and regions’ of the UK. What followed is the elevation of especially Scottish and Welsh interests above those of the United Kingdom as a whole. There is no doubt that Nicola Sturgeon is a competent media performer, but BBC editors have lionized her at every opportunity and – in contrast to Conservative or UKIP spokespeople – have given her a consistently easy ride.

BBC manifesto point three – which will be familiar to readers of The Conservative Woman – is a constant aim to discredit or cast as racists those who want tougher controls on immigration. Evan Davis’ tone throughout his interview of Nigel Farage epitomised this approach, as did Duncan Weldon’s outrageously biased introduction to Newsnight look at immigration. In the BBC’s post-Bridcut world the rights of immigrants take total precedence over the impact on communities.

So, without question, Javid’s late, late conversion to the existence of BBC bias is much too little, far too late. That horse has well and truly bolted. And, in any case, the chances are that his post-election complaints will be dealt with the same negative arrogance as this one, which was lodged by Craig Byers (editor of the Is the BBC Biased? website) about the Duncan Weldon Newsnight piece mentioned above. The complaints department took all of 15 minutes to issue its stock response: you are wrong, we are right – and get lost. Especially, if by then he’s a backbencher.


Craig Byers: Why Cardiff University’s claims of BBC ‘right-wing’ ‘impartiality’ are not to be believed

Craig Byers: Why Cardiff University’s claims of BBC ‘right-wing’ ‘impartiality’ are not to be believed

The work of Cardiff University’s Media department is continuing to provide comfort to BBC supporters in ‘refuting’ claims of a left-wing bias at the BBC and to be cited as ‘proof’ of a right-wing BBC bias by some left-wingers (especially on Twitter).
Cardiff’s 2012 report, ‘proving’ the BBC to be right-leaning, anti-European and anti-Islam (yes, I know!), was expertly debunked in a Civitas study by David Keighley and Andrew Jubb. David and Andrew got into the statistical nitty-gritty of the Cardiff study and found it wanting. (I provided a summary here.)
The worrying thing about that Cardiff report though – with its fatally flawed and, frankly, bizarre methodology – was that it went on to form the academic underpinning of the major BBC-funded Prebble Report into BBC impartiality, which found (by and large) that, yes, the BBC is impartial.
Statistical trashing is all very well, but the ad hominem approach seems to work better.The lead authors of the original report, part-funded by the BBC, were: Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Richard Sambrook, and Mike Berry.
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen was director of the Prebble content analysis project, and worked previously for the European Commission on a report investigating how the media were reporting the idea of greater European integration and why the UK was sceptical about it. She’s also written for the far-left Red Pepper
Richard Sambrook was the former Head of BBC News until 2008.
Mike Berry, who acted as chief spokesman for the report, is Greg Philo’s partner-in-arms at the campaigning, far-left Glasgow Media Group. He’s not a fan of Israel – to put it mildly.
Yes, ad hom arguments are generally considered fallacious, but if these people’s methodology has been shown to be highly dubious (at best) and their findings seem to fly so insanely in the face of reality, then – given their backgrounds and beliefs – maybe there really is something to be said for the ad hom approach after all, don’t you think?
Later, the top bod at the Cardiff Media department, Justin Lewis, earned the admiration of some on the Left by using those original findings to condemn the BBC for being right-wing.Playing the man rather than the ball, I then checked ol’ Justin out and found him to be very left-wing too (the kind of professor who is openly anti-capitalism and thinks Muslims get a raw deal from the British media).Curiously, however, he exempted (not explicitly, but by not mentioning them) the BBC from that latter criticism (well, could he really pretend otherwise?) and he writes articles with titles like, A monster threatens UK broadcasting? It’s Sky, not the BBC. Hmm.
Why am I regurgitating all of this recent history again? Because the Cardiff profs are back.The Guardian has published their latest election ‘findings’ (repeatedly) and left-wingers on Twitter are linking to it gleefully, saying it disproves charges of left-wing bias at the BBC.
The first of those Guardian pieces found that David Cameron was granted “by far the most airtime of the party leaders in the first two weeks of the campaign” by the media as a whole, but praises the BBC specifically for focusing more on policy than their rivals.
The second of those Guardian pieces – a piece I’d urge you to read as a masterful example of studiously biased academic reporting – found that “BBC and Sky News’ election coverage featured Conservative sources speaking for longer than those from other parties” but that Channels 4 and 5 gave the Tories even more airtime. [Ed: Tory ‘Channel 4 News’? Jon Snow on Cardiff Uni’s Line One!] 
Even this leftist-outpouring-dressed-in-the-cloak-of-academic-‘impartiality’ was honest enough to report something that must really have stuck in their throats to have to report: They described the BBC as “an outlier”, in that the BBC gave “more time to Miliband, who made up 24.3% of time leaders were speaking on screen, compared to 21.9% of time for Cameron”.
Still, “Nigel Farage appeared in more image bites on the BBC than David Cameron”, so that’s evidence of BBC pro-UKIP bias, eh?
The Guardian pieces as a whole, however, were consistent with the spirit of the 2012 Cardiff report and Justin Lewis’s later comments. They portrayed the broadcast media (Channel 5, Channel 4, ITV, BBC) as essentially right-leaning, but – despite some criticisms – the BBC came out as the least biased of all (if still right-leaning).
And who were the Cardiff University authors of these two Guardian pieces? Former BBC head of news Richard Sambrook and his colleague Dr Stephen Cushion.
Now, Dr Cushion is new to me. Is he a Cardiff Media department with a non-BBC background – unlike Richard Sambrook?

Er, no. He was brought in by the BBC to work on two BBC Trust impartiality reviews into the reporting of post-devolution Britain and three BBC-funded reports into 24-hour news.And as for the three other Cardiff Uni people credited on those Guardian articles as helping with the latest research – Richard Thomas, Allaina Kilby and Marina Morani – well, here’s PhD student Marina (on the Cardiff Uni website).I’m going to quote the whole of this because I suspect you’ll enjoy it.I haven’t made this up. This isn’t satire. This is the real thing:

It has commonly been noted how Italy shifted in the last decades from being an emigration country to a migrants destination. The presence in the peninsula of a few million of immigrants calls for the urge of communication means that take into account the contemporary multicultural society.

In recent years a number of “intercultural media” – newspapers, magazines, radio programs, websites, online TV – have been created in order to provide alternative sources of information and new representations avoiding the use of cultural stereotypes and stigmatizations which too often affect the mainstream media language.

Among various initiatives, the study will focus on a selection of independent websites where foreign origin together with autochthonous Italians are engaged in producing and sharing information, news, video, stories, experiences, expectations.

In the first phase of the research I intend to build a comparison between the image of the immigrant population emerging in national media and the alternative social representations that these progress media aim to construct and promote.

In the second phase I will analyse the contents of the most effective online projects in their attempt to offer diverse representations on immigration issues. With regard to methodology the main methods will be critical discourse analysis and content analysis of written and audiovisual texts. An important part will be dedicated to the narrative and rhetoric multi-modal constructions.

The use of language here not only counters cultural stereotypes and generalisations but also turn them into new positive representational worlds where “the immigrant” is regarded as persona and “active subject” of the media production.

Well, I think we know where she’s coming from! (And Mike Berry, Justin Lewis & Co. would surely approve).
As for Allaina Kilby…well, here’s one for David Preiser (and it’s based on her university thesis): Jon Stewart has made us laugh at politics – and restored our sanity. (Nothing ‘incriminating’ UK-wise though so far).
And as for Richard Thomas (who writes discourses entitled From Executive Remuneration to the Living Wage: Pre and post-crisis discourses of income distribution on UK television news), well, just allow me to quote his Twitter blurb:

Richard Thomas @rich_thomas99
Writer for All Out Cricket. Doctoral researcher into income inequality, wealth and poverty in the media.

Call me a running-dog capitalist lickspittle if you like, but I’m guessing where he’s coming from too – and checking out the rest of his Twitter feed I’m sticking with that hunch.
A university media department stacked with BBC insiders and leftists produces a couple of studies of BBC bias which find that the BBC is the least biased broadcaster, even though it has a right-wing bias.

And some people still think that ad hom critiques are always wrong?

This article originally appeared on Is The BBC Biased?  Many thanks to Craig for allowing us to post this here.


Newsnight immigration feature casts worried Brits as xenophobes

Newsnight immigration feature casts worried Brits as xenophobes

The BBC’s blizzard of election-related stories that spin immigration as a topic that doesn’t matter is impossible to track. Lift almost any stone and there’s another example.

A Newsnight feature last Wednesday was billed by presenter Emily Maitlis as ‘a long hard look at the subject’.

This, it transpired, was a special piece of BBCspeak. It meant that Newsnight – led, of course, by former Guardian executive Ian Katz- was about to deploy its own form of spin to show in yet another way that those British plebs who support tougher immigration controls are deluded bigots and xenophobes.

The main section of the item was actually a very unequal discussion which Emily Maitlis pushed very hard to ensure was skewed to the pro-immigration side.  Self-styled shock jock John Gaunt, the main contributor who supported more controls on immigration, explains the way he was ambushed and appallingly treated in Podcast episode 24 here.

On display was the same Newsnight approach to balance as was deployed on the day that David Cameron announced his alleged desire to hold an in-out EU referendum. On that evening 18 pro-EU campaigners were pitched against Nigel Farage.

The main analysis in this blog is of the opening report by Duncan Weldon, hired by Katz as an economics pundit from the TUC. It was actually only 670 words, or five minutes of airtime, but it was so blatantly skewed that it stands almost alone as monumental evidence of the deep bias in this arena.

Former Labour acolyte Weldon’s initial point was that immigration in London didn’t matter because ‘it was a fact’ of life; he contended that the changing demographics, ‘were not a political issue’. Says who?

Maybe these things don’t matter to those at the BBC, who worship daily at the shrine of multiculturalism. But to put it mildly, respected think-tank Migration Watch certainly do not agree that an influx of 1.5m foreign nationals over the past decade – the biggest in the capital’s history by a very long way – can be regarded as ‘only a fact of life or is ‘not a political issue’. MW presents compelling evidence that it has created a massive housing crisis and has driven tens of thousands of native-born Londoners away.

After this glaring bias, Weldon next contended that in order to see ‘where things had changed’ as a result of immigration, you needed to go on commuter lines out of the capital, to places such as ‘Peterborough, Stevenage, Welwyn and Hatfield’. Bizarre, perhaps, that he referred only to a few towns on the London to Doncaster East Coast railway line, but most BBC staff inhabit only a narrow metropolitan bubble, so perhaps he is not aware that immigration issues are also hitting communities further afield as well. Places such as Rotherham, say. Or Oxford.

Next, Weldon turned to that old BBC device, the vox pop, a range of voices from members of the public. Many years ago, when I did my basic training as a BBC reporter in what is now the Langham Hotel, I was warned that these can never be – and should never be projected as – a balanced or objective view of public opinion. They are only ever a subjective snapshot.

Weldon apparently now works according to very different rules.

The sequence of three voices was gathered, selected and edited by him with all the subtlety of a jackhammer to show that those with views against immigration are bigoted xenophobes for no other reason that they hate foreign languages and shops selling foreign goods. On the other hand, his pro-immigration contributor made a reasoned response, making the point that immigrants are ‘different brains from different parts of the world’, who set up new businesses and had a wide range of skills.

Weldon then said that if this selection of ‘public opinion’ (which this most certainly was not) was ‘nuanced’, but the view of business was ‘fairly’ clear’. His source here was Katja Hall, the deputy director general of the CBI, who a search on Google reveals is the leading mouthpiece for a totally uncontrolled flow of foreign labour into the country. And blow me down with a feather – she is also a former BBC employee who was responsible for ‘change management’. What better credentials could a supporter of uncontrolled immigration (and, of course, according to her CV, ‘gender equality’) have? And what better an objective source for a Newsnight quote?

Finally, Weldon delivered his own verdict on the immigration debate and evidence. This was , supposedly ‘neutral’ but was actually more of the same; it was a treatise that could have been written by any member of the TUC, the Labour Party or, for that matter, the SNP.

There is only one explanation: a common mindset and a common set of rules are at work. This one-sided approach emanates directly from the Bridcut report, a Gormenghast-style recalibration of the rules of reporting that was deliberately engineered by the Trustees to allow the BBC’s own agendas to be followed on topics such as immigration and climate alarmism.

The same applies to stories about the EU. During the election campaign, when a has-been political leader whines that Brexit would be damaging, it’s automatically elevated to headline status.

Conversely, when the leader of the only party advocating withdrawal is interviewed, his views about the same subject are not even on the agenda. Instead, Evan Davis works hard to pin a new label on him as a ‘hater’ of that nice Paddington Bear’s version of multiculturalism.

You could not make it up.


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 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.