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New boss Clementi faces uphill struggle against liberal bias

New boss Clementi faces uphill struggle against liberal bias

How totally hostile can the BBC’s coverage of the Trump presidency and Brexit actually become? Recent evidence suggests that the race to the bottom is well and truly on.

Exhibit A is the weight it gave on Tuesday morning to Kenneth Clarke’s utterly preposterous (and chilling) claim that the referendum vote is a reflection of the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ In the BBC’s world, that was worth Today headlines as part of the general Corporation-wide delight at the Supreme Court’s decision to put new hurdles in the way of Brexit.

Exhibit B in that same parallel BBC universe is that the prospect of a new free trade deal with America is no longer a potential benefit but a major threat to national wellbeing.

Mishal Husain (again on Today) suggested that such a deal would lead to a deluge of US Frankenstein chlorine and hormone-drenched foods on our supermarket shelves, bypassing (God forbid!) superior EU food regulations. In other words, to the BBC, trade with Trump’s America is a totally poisoned chalice.

Corporation chiefs claim with brass-necked obstinacy on their own tame ‘complaints’ platform Newswatch that they are justified in reporting in these terms because they are simply posing questions about unanswered details of policy.

Garbage. It’s an all-out war against what the Corporation sees as ‘populism’. The BBC is so locked in its £4 billion gilded cage of self-defined ‘truth’, ‘due impartiality’ and alleged fact-checking, that those who work there can’t even begin to see their grotesque bias against what the most senior among them so strongly dismiss – in lockstep with Kenneth Clarke – as the malign influence of demagogues.

Will it ever improve?

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee last week grilled former Bank of England deputy Governor Sir David Clementi about his credentials to take over as Chairman of the BBC, in charge of the so-called Unitary Board, which is part of the Corporation’s new charter.

Merchant banker Sir David, though possessing no broadcast experience, is unquestionably a smooth and accomplished operator, light years away in his abilities from the incompetent and utterly colourless predecessor as Chairman of the Trustees, Rona Fairhead.

But what also emerged from the Commons hearing was, in parts, deeply disturbing.

On the one hand, he said something encouraging, that – in the context of the reporting of Brexit – he felt that the BBC’s Public Purpose Charter requirement to ensure impartiality needed, in effect, more rigorous policing. He indicated that he wanted to consider the introduction of ‘scientific monitoring’ towards achieving that.

This would be a welcome development in that for years, senior news executives have strongly pooh-pooed such rigorous monitoring and have maintained that their own internal editorial meetings somehow keep an overview of coverage.

But – and it is a big ‘but’ – there were also clear signs that Sir David may already have gone native and is in the maw of senior BBC executives – even before his appointment is formally approved.

Why? Well, when asked further about coverage of Brexit, he declared that he believed the Corporation had got it ‘about right’, then added that the Brexit-related ‘reality checks’ introduced by the news department during the referendum campaign were a step in the right direction.

Poppycock! The BBC’s coverage of the referendum campaign was not anywhere near being impartial. This paper about Newsbeat explains why.

Further, as Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased? adroitly chronicles here, the checking unit is itself a mouthpiece of strident pro-Remain bias. Of the relevant EU-related rulings between November and January, seven were pro-Remain and none at all were pro-Brexit.

Sir David has thus, in effect, already endorsed the deeply-flawed internal BBC processes that over decades have made the BBC into a fountainhead of right-on bias.

Forces against Clementi’s plan for other ‘more scientific’ monitoring are in any case also already circling. Ray Snoddy, former Times and FT media editor who presented the BBC’s Newswatch programme, and has since become a mouthpiece of pro-BBC opinion, has forcefully attacked the concept.

He sneeringly dismisses all such work as being by right-wingers with stopwatches – despite the fact that the BBC Trustees themselves used such methodology by former senior BBC staff at Cardiff University to defend the Corporation’s output.

Clearly, Director of News James Harding is of the same mindset, as he showed when the BBC Trustees made a rare finding against BBC journalism. He simply dismissed it as wrong.

The reality is that until BBC journalists – including Harding – are subject to properly independent and highly-rigorous scrutiny in terms of impartiality, they will continue to inhabit their deeply biased, liberal bubble covering not just Trump and Brexit but populism in general, climate alarmism, multiculturalism, and much more.

Sir David Clementi, an outstanding operator with a sharply analytical mind, undoubtedly has a window of opportunity to transform things. But on the evidence so far, don’t hold your breath.

Photo by CraigMoulding

Confirmed: BBC complaints process is unfit for purpose

Confirmed: BBC complaints process is unfit for purpose

At the heart of the BBC’s reform under its new Charter – due to come into effect imminently – is that for the first time, an outside body, Ofcom, will become the final court of appeal in complaints about impartiality.

The idea is that this will clean the Augean stables and the Corporation will end its rampant bias towards Brexit, climate alarmism, the impact of immigration, multiculturalism and rafts of other issues.

This is looking increasingly like poppycock. For a start, the members of the Ofcom Content Board are drawn from exactly the same prejudiced background as the BBC Trustees. But putting that aside for one moment, the tale below illustrates precisely why.

On August, 31, Arkadiusz Jozwik, a Polish man living in Harlow, was killed in a late-night fracas in the pizza parlour where he worked.

In the immediate aftermath of the crime, police arrested six local youths (all under 16) but quickly released them on bail without charge.   There were no further developments until this week when a 15-year-old from Harlow was charged with Mr Jozwik’s manslaughter. Of fundamental importance, it has also emerged that a race hate charge in connection with the death is not being pursued.

When news of the killing emerged, the BBC’s news operation went into hyper-ventilating overdrive.

On the BBC1 News at Six, reporter Daniel Sandford compiled a report in which the fulcrum was there were now fears that this was a ‘a frenzied racist attack triggered by the Brexit referendum’.

A few hours later, John Sweeney, on BBC2’s Newsnight – one of the Corporation’s main investigative journalists – took matters a step further in the editing of his report. He included as the conclusion so that it could not be ignored this inflammatory sounbdbite from another local Polish man:

But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er . . . yeah, it’s your call.

Clearly in play and being reinforced to maximum extent by the Corporation was the central idea – evident in other programmes, too, as is documented on the News-watch website here –  that June 23 had unleashed a torrent of racist venom. In the BBC’s world the jackboots were now out – and on the march.

The following Monday, Guardian columnist and political activist (sorry, ‘rights campaigner’) Garry Younge was allowed to put together for a BBC Radio 4 series a barrage of sensationalist allegations in the same vein: that Britain, overnight since June 23, had become a seething cesspit of race-hate. Attacks were underway in terrifying, unprecedented volume.

On the advice of a senior BBC news executive – who claimed that the Corporation was listening to problems about post-Brexit coverage – News-watch submitted a formal complaint about the coverage of Harlow killing to the BBC Complaints Unit, focusing principally on the Sandford report.

Over seven-pages, it detailed that his approach was sensationalist, deliberately contrived to give maximum impact to the race hate claims, and also pointed out that it was seriously irresponsible and premature – in the light of the facts known to the police on August 31 and more generally about race-hate crime – to speculate so prominently either about race-hate motivation or about the crime’s possible link to Brexit.

The BBC’s response? A curt high-handed letter. It asserted that such speculation was legitimate because there had been a rise in reports of race-hate crime since June 23, and because other possible motives for Mr Jozwik’s death had been included in Sandford’s report.

The letter – which was mostly in an obviously standard format, and was so slipshod that it even spelled the name of Sandford incorrectly, omitting the ‘d’ – glossed over with what can only described as haughty arrogance the key points.

In response, News-watch submitted a second complaints letter pointing out the omissions and stating that the reply was totally unsatisfactory. That was on October 20.  On November 30 (ironically, the day of the manslaughter charges were laid) came the Complaints Unit’s second reply. It states:

‘We are sorry to tell you that we have nothing to add to our previous reply. We do not believe your complaint has raised a significant issue of general importance that might justify further investigation. We will not therefore correspond further in response to additional points, or further comments or questions made about this issue or our responses to it.’

The lessons learnt? The core BBC complaints process, which will remain as the conduit which will deal with most of the complaints submitted to the BBC after Charter renewal, is intrinsically and, irrevocably unfit for purpose. The Corporation remains the primary judge of what is deemed a ‘significant issue of general importance’

The second Complaints Unit letter does point out that the BBC Trust, in some circumstances, does entertain appeals. But the fact is that – as Richard Ayre, one of the current Trustees, has admitted – it has not upheld a complaint on EU-related matters in its entire existence.

Will Ofcom change that approach? Don’t hold your breath. And meanwhile, the totally inaccurate BBC assumptions about Brexit and race-hate continue to spew forth.

 

 

News-watch Referendum survey of Radio 1 Newsbeat finds strong BBC bias towards ‘Remain’

News-watch Referendum survey of Radio 1 Newsbeat finds strong BBC bias towards ‘Remain’

During the EU referendum, the BBC adopted special editorial guidelines which required strict even-handed treatment of the Leave and Remain cases.

News-watch has now completed a rigorous academic survey which shows conclusively that these guidelines were effectively ignored. There was heavy bias towards the Remain side in BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat, a flagship news programme which reaches millions of the under 30s.

A summary of the findings is below and the full report is here. The key points include that audiences were 1.5 times more likely to hear Remain opinions and speakers, alleged ‘fact checking’ by the programme which favoured the Remain side, and feature reports that were heavily skewed towards Remain arguments, especially with regard to immigration.

A disturbing implication of the survey is that – as the BBC refused to put in place rigorous bias checks – there is a high likelihood that other elements of the output were similarly skewed.

News-watch analysis found during the referendum build-up and campaign numerous examples of bias covering the flagship news and EU-related programmes on Radio 4, BBC1 and BBC2.

  • Newsbeat devoted only 10.7% of its available airtime to the referendum, and 83% of this coverage was in the three weeks immediately before June 23. Many issues particularly affecting young voters were ignored. There was a narrow editorial focus on immigration and the economy. Important topics, such as national sovereignty, the workings of the EU, travel and residence in the EU, and the impact on universities were only very briefly mentioned. This was thus major ‘bias by omission’ and an over-simplification of the issues involved. The BBC news programme with the biggest audience of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 did not explore the referendum sufficiently to meet the BBC Public Purposes requirements.
  • Newsbeat audiences were 1.5 times more likely to encounter a Remain supporter than a Leave supporter. 238 guest speakers contributed to the various discussions on the referendum. The analysis shows that 45% spoke in favour of Remain, 30% in favour of Leave, with a further 25% giving a neutral, undecided or factual perspective.
  • In 38 Newsbeat reports with guest speakers, 19 (50%), showed a speaker weighting in favour of Remain. Only five similarly favoured ‘leave’. Fourteen had even numbers of speakers. This demonstrates a severe imbalance in favour of Remain.
  • Politicians supporting Remain outnumbered those wanting Leave by 47 to 34. In terms of the number of words spoken by politicians, Remain supporters received 64% of the airtime, compared to 36% for Leave – a ratio of approximately 2:1.
  • There was a much greater breadth of opinion in Remain contributions – they came from Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Green Party. Conversely, the Leave side featured only Conservatives and UKIP. There were no Leave contributions from the Labour party or wider Left. There was no input at all from the nationalist parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Just over half the contributors were ‘ordinary’ people – vox pop interviewees, members of the public or Newsbeat listeners. On occasions, the programme appeared proud of its ‘anti-politician’ stance, portraying the debate as ‘a playground argument’ and promising in one edition that there would be ‘no boring EU experts’. This trivialised the debate.
  • Throughout, Newsbeat found ways editorially of enhancing or even amplifying the views supporting Remain, and they did not subject such views and alleged related facts to due rigour.
  • Conversely, opinions and alleged facts in favour of Leave were robustly scrutinised, made to look ignorant or contradictory, xenophobic or unfounded (Section 2.4). The most striking example of this was that the Leave claim that EU membership cost the UK £350 million a week was categorically said to be untrue, whereas, George Osborne’s estimation that Brexit would cost each household £4,300 annually was subjected to far less scrutiny.
  • In an immigration special from Wisbech, significantly more prominence was given to views favouring EU immigration, and the ‘fact checking’ sequence was similarly skewed about the economic contribution of EU incomers.
  • A special report from Berlin promoted heavily the role of the EU, over-emphasised its role in creating ‘peace’, featured young expats who strongly agreed with free movement of people, and contained unqualified warnings that Brexit would result in damage to the UK car industry.
  • Overall, Newsbeat presented ‘Fact check’ assessments that were tendentious and imbalanced. It was said without qualification that immigrants contribute more cash to the UK than they received in benefits, when this is disputed. In addition, the impact on the UK of current levels of immigration was minimised.
  • Opponents of current levels of immigration were cast as xenophobic and inward-looking, whereas the comment from those who approved of immigration were made to appear outward-looking, open and broad-minded.
  • Newsbeat attacked editorially the over-presence of ‘experts’ in the EU debate and suggested their contribution was ‘boring’. Their appearances were limited to a handful. That meant conversely that by a large margin, most contributions came from members of the public and politicians.
  • Newsbeat sought strongly to encourage its young audience to register to vote. Was this in the light of the perceived wisdom that young people were more likely to vote Remain?
  • There were several occasions when the Remain case was put by contributors in the strongest possible light, whereas equivalent Leave contributions were edited to be more qualified, less convincing and less robust.
  • Also on this theme, alleged benefits of remaining in the EU were clearly identified in some items, for example, visa-free travel, or ‘very cheap travel’, but there was much more limited mention of the perceived advantages of Brexit. A Newsbeat presenter specifically said that one possible benefit – reduced immigration – might not be guaranteed by departure.

Photo by Fey Ilyas

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

Ten of 13 ‘independent’ Ofcom Content Board members have close BBC links

Ten of 13 ‘independent’ Ofcom Content Board members have close BBC links

At the heart of the BBC’s new Charter – due to be formally adopted within the next fortnight – is that the new ‘independent’ court of appeal for complaints against the BBC will be the Ofcom Content Board.

The end of the BBC being totally its own judge and jury on these matters is supposed to herald the dawn of a new, more rigorous impartiality regime.

A criticism of the BBC Trustees in this respect was that far too many of them were ex-BBC employees, such as (in the current line-up) Mark Damazer, the former Controller of Radio 4, and Richard Ayre, a former Controller of BBC editorial standards.

So how does this compare with the Ofcom line-up? Astonishingly, nine of the 13 board members have spent several years of their careers in direct employment by the Corporation, and one, Mary Anne Sieghart, is currently paid by them for semi-regular work as a presenter.

This is a complete list of the BBC connections of the Content Board:

Aled Eirug was, for 14 years, BBC Wales’s head of news and current affairs and a member of BBC Wales’s Board of Management.

Zahera Harb is now a university lecturer in journalism at City University, but earlier in her career as a journalist in the Middle East was a correspondent for the BBC Arabic service. Her first job in the UK was at Cardiff University, which has strong links to the BBC, and is commissioned by them to do most of the Trustees’ ‘impartiality’ reports.

Andrew Colman was, for 13 years, head of news and current affairs for BBC Northern Ireland, and was editor of all BBCNI’s election programmes between 1986 and 1998.

David Levy worked for the BBC from 1982 until 2007, and from 2000-2007 was Controller, Public Policy, which involved him leading the Charter renewal negotiations. He was Head of Policy Development and chief adviser and head of European Policy (1995-2000),

James Thickett was Controller of Business Strategy at the BBC, responsible for ‘all the BBC’s performance and measurement functions’, as well as leading editorial and business process change across the organisation. He was involved in the BBC’s Charter review process and Greg Dyke’s ‘Making it Happen’ culture change project.

Janey Walker, currently Deputy Chair of the Board of Governors of Brighton University, began her career at the BBC and worked there as a journalist from 1982-94. She then joined Channel 4, where she became managing editor for commissioning.

Nick Pollard began his broadcasting career in BBC Television in 1977 and worked there for around five years before joining ITN and then Sky News, where he became Head of News. He led the inquiry into the BBC’s handling of the Newsnight investigations of Jimmy Savile (appointed by the BBC).

Robin Foster, an economist, worked at the BBC from 1993 to c.2001 in ‘senior strategy positions’ and was responsible for developing its online and digital channel services.

Andrew Chitty has worked in software production at the BBC and has produced BBC2 programmes. More recently, he participated as a board member in David Puttnam’s report A Future for Public Service Television: Content and Platforms in a Digital World. This strongly defended the licence fee.

Mary Anne Sieghart, the journalist, has worked principally on newspapers, but also extensively for the BBC as presenter of programmes such as Radio 4’s Start the Week, Profile, One to One and Beyond Westminster.

Those who do not appear to have employment links with the BBC are:

Tony Close, who is currently Ofcom’s Director of Content Standards. He joined Ofcom in 2003, and before that worked for the Broadcasting Standards Commission (which Ofcom superseded). There is no trace of his earlier career.

Professor Philip Schlesinger holds the Chair in Cultural Policy at Glasgow University. He has written about using communications to expand the legitimacy of the EU. During the Scottish referendum on independence, he warned that an independent Scottish broadcaster (envisaged by the SNP) would be inferior to the BBC.

Dame Lynne Brindley is a former CEO of the British Library (2000-12), and spent her career in that sphere. A connection with the BBC is that in 2009, she signed a wide-ranging deal with the BBC involving collaboration over digital rights and access to archives. Roly Keating, a former BBC executive, succeeded Dame Brindley as CEO of the British Library.

Overall, therefore, the Content Board has ‘BBC’ etched through it like a stick of Blackpool rock. Looking at the various affiliations of the members –  for example Andrew Chitty’s membership of David Puttnam’s group or Zahera Harb’s board seat on the so-called the Ethical Journalism Network (which advocates that the Syrian war was caused in part by climate change) – it is not hard to see that they are likely to share the same biased mindset as their former BBC colleagues.

Joe, Smithies, a spokesman for Ofcom, said: “Ofcom is scrupulously independent and our track record shows that. Members of the Content Board, which plays an advisory role for Ofcom, have experience across the broadcasting industry including Sky, BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and S4C.”

Mr Smithies also pointed out that James Thickett has now left the Content Board. He has been replaced by Graham Mather, who, he says, has not ever worked at the BBC.

Photo by Matt Biddulph

BBC Radio 4 Brexit Collection: strong bias against leaving the EU

BBC Radio 4 Brexit Collection: strong bias against leaving the EU

The Brexit Collection is a selection of 31 programmes and features, originally broadcast on Radio 4, and posted by the BBC on its iPlayer website. It is presumably thus thought by the Corporation to be a balanced representation of its referendum coverage. Analysis by News-watch has now shown that the Collection was, on balance, very strongly anti-Brexit.

News-watch transcribed and rigorously analysed all the items (24 separate programmes, one collection of four brief clips on personal finance, and six news features in the Brexit Street series) that were posted between the launch of The Brexit Collection on July 11 and August 23 – two months after the referendum. In total, this amounted to eleven and half hours of broadcasting.

Overall, there were no attempts in any programme to explore the benefits of leaving the EU, but conversely, Brexit came under sustained negative attack. This was reflected in the balance of contributions and comment contained within the items. Analysis by News-watch shows that only 23% of contributors in the programmes as a whole spoke in favour of Brexit, against 58% in favour of Remain and 19% who gave a neutral or factual commentary.

Nine programmes and six features, amounting to 5 hours 20 minutes of programming, were strongly anti-Brexit, contained unchallenged predictions that civil unrest and rioting were now on the horizon and cast the ‘out’ vote in negative terms, inferring that the result had been a consequence of racism and xenophobia. The balance of programme guests in all of these items was strongly – and sometimes overwhelmingly – pro-Remain.

By contrast, only two programmes, from the series Points of View, were clearly Eurosceptic in tone. They both attacked the EU project as a whole, but did no explore the possibilities presented by Brexit.

A group of six documentaries in the Collection, originally broadcast in 2009 and 2012, looked critically at the EU and examined claims that there were structural faults in the EU project, especially in relation to the euro. However, the vast majority of guests on these programmes were wholly in favour of the EU project, or were EU officials, and as such the issues were observed through a strongly pro-EU lens.

A further eight programmes have been classed as neutral. Many of these, such as the comedy programmes Dead Ringers and The Now Show, contained strong anti-Brexit content, or expressed doubts about it, but did contain some balancing material.

The items that were strongly anti-Brexit were editions of culture series Front Row, The Briefing Room, six editions of the feature Brexit Street on the news programme PM, one edition of A Point of View, How to Make a Brexit (a one-off documentary about Greenland’s exit from the EU), Farming Today, More Less, The Food Programme, The Bottom Line and Call You and Yours.

In some of these, the range of anti-Brexit opinion was astonishing and light years from any definition of ‘impartiality’ and there was no balancing comparable pro-Brexit material. A majority of the country had voted ‘out’ on June 23, but this was not reflected in the space given to each side of the debate, or the thematic emphases of the various programmes.

The Food Programme, for example, contained predictions from ten contributors ranging through civil unrest, substantial food price rises, the demise of food businesses and years of turmoil.  Only one contributor (described disparagingly as a ‘former speech writer for Nigel Farage’), thought that Brexit could have positive outcomes.

And in The Bottom Line, presented by Evan Davis, three strong supporters of Remain (one a former Liberal Democrat candidate) feared a drying up of investment, the introduction of tariffs, an increasing complexity of doing business through the need for additional paperwork, price rises, unfair treatment of workers, unwise and impractical restrictions on immigration, a curtailing of the opportunities available to young people, and a rise of xenophobia and racism to the extent there was imminent danger of ‘personal attack’ for those supporting Remain. They were ranged against a contributor from Switzerland, who – although accepting briefly that Brexit could be positive – also warned that the process was very complex.

In all anti-Brexit programmes, presenters worked with the contributors to ensure that the negatives of Brexit were pushed to the maximum extent, and they did not challenge their extreme claims, for example, about civil unrest and racism.

Analysis of the contributions across the series as a whole raises other major issues of imbalance. Of the 59 politicians to appear, 37 were pro-Remain. With academics and lawyers, 11 supported Remain and none favoured Leave, and with businessmen and financial experts, 19 were Remainers and only six wanted ‘out’.  Another striking imbalance was that, across the board, 41% of the speakers who supported Leave were ‘ordinary’ contributors (i.e. members of the public with no obvious expertise, for example, in vox pops), compared to only 27% of pro-EU guests. In terms of the number of words spoken, members of the public contributed 34% of the Leave total, compared to only 8% on the Remain side.

Eleven of the 20 ‘ordinary’ speakers who spoke in favour of Brexit were from two locations in Northern England, Thornaby-on-Tees and Wakefield. All of these were from social classes D and E and together they were responsible for 80% of the words spoken by ‘ordinary’ Leave supporters.

News-watch research has shown that such serious imbalances have been a feature of BBC coverage of EU-related issues since 1999.

This raises big questions about how the BBC defines ’impartiality’ in the aftermath of the June 23 vote. During the referendum campaign, there were BBC-wide referendum editorial guidelines which stipulated that the Leave and Remain sides should be treated even-handedly. The evidence presented here suggests these rules have now been set aside and that a version of ‘due impartiality’ is in force which gives much greater precedence to the Remain side.

Whatever the reasons, the evidence presented here shows that the Corporation seems to be on a mission to show that Brexit is a fool’s errand, which elements within the BBC are doing their best to frustrate. There can be no other explanation why this flagship collection of programmes is so deeply biased.

The full report, including full transcripts of the 31 programmes analysed by News-watch is available here:


 

 

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Pro-EU zealot quietly dropped from Ofcom content board

Pro-EU zealot quietly dropped from Ofcom content board

Hallelujah! Quietly, a significant positive development in the broadcasting establishment may have occurred.

Might it be that the government is at last waking up to that the liberal figures who occupy the key regulatory posts are a menace to Brexit?

The current deluge of anti-Brexit propaganda emanating primarily from the BBC, but also from Ofcom-regulated services such as Channel 4, is the consequence of their current stranglehold over the regulation of broadcast services.

Back in January, the Department of Culture – as the referendum debate snapped into gear – incredibly appointed arch-Europhile and former editor of The Economist, Bill Emmott as chairman of Ofcom’s content board.

It meant he was in charge of investigations into allegations of bias in commercial radio and television’s coverage of EU affairs.

On The Conservative Woman, I wrote that this was, in effect, appointing a fanatical fox as guardian of the hen house. Emmott, with funding from the EU – and in close collaboration with the BBC – had made The Great European Disaster Movie, which envisaged right-wing Armageddon if the supremacy of the EU was challenged or changed.

Not only that, through his Wake Up Foundation, Emmott was engaged in a full-scale propaganda exercise – with Richard Sambrook, a former BBC Director of News, and using the BBC film as ammo – around the universities of Britain and across Europe to brainwash students  into believing that exiting the EU would indeed be a disaster.

Immediately after the piece appeared, however, Emmott’s appointment began to unravel. On this website, I wrote:

‘After the publication of this post, an Ofcom spokesperson has contacted Newswatch with the following statement: “Any conflicts of interest involving non-executive Board members are managed appropriately and Bill Emmott would not be involved in discussions or decisions related to the EU referendum.”

Ofcom thus formally acknowledged that – at a crucial time in the coverage of EU affairs – Emmott’s interests and pro-EU passions were a conflict of interest.

That was back in February. In the meantime, Analisa Piras, Emmott’s partner in the making of The Great European Disaster Movie, wrote to News-watch:.

the piece… (about The Great European Disaster Movie) is slanderous and full of falsities. Please remove the slanderous comments or take it down immediately.

Please note that in the absence of any action from you I will be taking legal action.

That was back in June. News-watch replied robustly that the item was fair comment on a matter of public and national importance and there has been nothing back since.

There matters hung. It seemed that Emmott was gradually taking up his role at Ofcom, despite the contradictions and his unbridled campaigning pro-EU zealotry. But then – without fanfare – it has been announced that he is definitely leaving. The Guardian here discusses the reasons without – surprise, surprise – mentioning the elephant in the room, Europe, at all. Neither side is commenting ‘for legal reasons’ but it is clear that Ofcom finally woke up to the massive conflict of interest issues.

This begs the question of why the hell the Department of Culture sanctioned the appointment in the first place – it was plain as a pikestaff to anyone with access to Google that Emmott’s pro-EU passions were a central driving force in his life.

But could now it be that the new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has seen – and is taking action on  – the crucial issue  that such appointments are the core reason why the broadcasting establishment is so fundamentally biased?

Ofcom will become the court of appeal for complaints against the BBC from next year when the new Charter comes into force. Meanwhile, BBC Trustee Chairman Rona Fairhead – drawn from the same mould and outlook as Emmott – has also been given her marching orders. The crucial next phase will be the appointment of the new BBC management board. Watch this space.

 

 

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Complaints from both sides (again)

Complaints from both sides (again)

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?
The BBC must be happy today.

Yesterday came Boris at the Conservative Party conference saying (accurately) that the BBC is sometimes “shamelessly anti-Brexit” before adding (doubtless to the BBC’s delight), “I think the Beeb is the single greatest and most effective ambassador for our culture and our values”.

Today in strode (Sir) Craig Oliver in The Times saying that David Cameron had pressured the BBC in the other direction for “mistaking balance for being impartial”, demanding that “BBC editors should have been stamping their own independent authority and analysis on the output” (thus echoing the BBC’s very own John Simpson).

Inevitably, in response, in rides the BBC – bugles blaring, banners raised high – crying out its favourite mantra: “We’re getting complaints from both sides; ergo, we must be getting it about right!”…

and Politics Home quotes a BBC source as saying that very thing:

There’s nothing new in people having strong views about our coverage, but the public will notice a distinct irony in the BBC being accused of failing to do enough to stop Brexit on the one hand while being criticised for being anti-Brexit on the other. As we’ve said before, our job is to challenge politicians from all sides and interrogate the arguments. That’s what we’ve been doing and what we’ll continue to do.
Of course, the two complaints are different in kind. The first is saying that the BBC is biased; the second is saying that the BBC is impartial, but too impartial and ought to be taking sides – i.e. its side. Neither is saying the BBC is pro-Brexit (of course, as that would be ridiculous).

Where the BBC’s ‘complaints from both sides’ argument falls down (as so often) is that anyone claiming that the BBC has been either balanced or impartial over Brexit since the referendum result is arguing from a very sticky wicket. (To put it poetically, in the manner of Sir Andrew Motion, “The evidence is strong/That they are wrong”.) The BBC has had a heavy anti-Brexit bias since June 23 (as demonstrated by Radio 4’s Brexit Collection, for example).

And, despite the bias being not as severe before the referendum result, the bias even then still ran overwhelmingly against one side (the same side) – as (hopefully) both Is the BBC biased? and News-watch demonstrated (in considerable detail, and despite honourable exceptions).

Boris was right. The BBC is sometimes shamelessly anti-Brexit.

The campaign from the likes of John Simpson, Mark Thompson, Chris Patten, Paul Johnson of the IFS, Roy Greenslade, Timothy Garton Ash, (Sir) Craig Oliver and David Cameron, etc, however, for the BBC to become even more biased in their direction goes on and is evidently gathering pace. And they are probably knocking at an open door.

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BBC News Chief James Harding shows anti-Brexit bias

BBC News Chief James Harding shows anti-Brexit bias

James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News, has fired a broadside against those poor, misguided souls who have dared to think that the BBC’s coverage of the referendum and its aftermath have been out of kilter.

His chosen medium for this homily? Why, where else but that neutral newspaper so loved by the BBC – The Guardian?

For those not versed in BBC obfuscation (otherwise known as complaints handling), this was a classic piece. His wheeled-out-a-thousand-times defence was that he and his battalions of heroic, do-no-wrong journalists have received complaints from both sides in the referendum debate, so the coverage must therefore have been balanced.

For good measure, he also quotes BBC audience research, which he says shows that 90% of the UK population tuned into BBC programmes – further ‘proof’ that everything in the impartiality garden was rosy.   That’s alright then.

Never mind that the BBC audience domination is only achieved because of the enforced regime of the television licence fee.

There’s also – as is customary in such exercises – an obligatory mea culpa. Harding accepts at the very end that mistakes in the EU coverage have been made, and states that the BBC must do better. But – as is also customary – there are no details, no examples to back this up.  Whatever it was that the BBC accepts it got wrong is not disclosed.

How very convenient (for the BBC) this is. Nothing to check, nothing to look at – only a nebulous, vague misdemeanour that only the Corporation knows about.

That aside, Harding, in fact, takes up most of the space in his article in dealing with those on the Remain side who think the BBC gave too much prominence to the lies and distortions of the Brexit side.  Clearly, he thinks that bias against Remain was the biggest problem. What does that say about his unconscious (and real) bias?

His defence here is that the BBC (from dear Newsnight presenter Evan Davis to that nice economics editor Kamal Ahmed) made it abundantly clear that the weight of economic opinion overwhelmingly showed – just like the BBC so rigidly maintains that there is a ‘consensus’ of scientists in favour of alarmism in the climate change debate – that leaving the EU was foolhardy.

In Harding’s book, the BBC had thus fulfilled its duty – and it was voters who got it wrong by having the temerity to ignore ‘the facts’.

Harding’s, analysis of the Brexiteers’ complaints, in sharp contrast, takes up only one paragraph, so little space that it can be quoted in full. He declared:

‘The Leavers’ complaint will, in no small part, be answered by what happens next and how we report it. The fact is that, since the EU referendum, there has been a revaluation of sterling, the Bank of England cut interest rates because it says the outlook for economic growth has weakened markedly and the government’s plans for Brexit are unclear. But consumer confidence has bounced back and manufacturing and services sectors have rebounded accordingly. In the months ahead, our job is to understand what Brexit actually means – without relish or alarm.’

This is yet more obfuscation.  Of course, no-one can yet tell the outcome of Brexit, and the ‘out’ side’s complaints are not rooted there.

The reality is that since the referendum vote, there have been mixed signals about the economy, but the IMF, the OECD , the Treasury and all those who the ‘remain’ side wheeled at as ‘proof’ that Brexit would spell immediate disaster for the British economy have been proved wrong.

The nub of the ‘out’ side complaints is that the BBC has been at best mealy-mouthed and begrudging about reporting this slow-motion car crash of economic forecasting. Night after night during the referendum campaign, Davis, Ahmed and Co. trumpeted the predictions of doom with relish; the reporting of the retractions and the back-tracking since June 23 have been delivered through gritted teeth.

The reality, too, is that since Brexit, there has been a torrent of BBC negativity about the consequences of out, and all normal rules of reporting seem to have been suspended to ensure that those 90% who Harding claims watch BBC bulletins can be in no doubt that they have made a grave mistake in ignoring the economic forecasters of the OECD and elsewhere in the BBC canon of approved sources.

Take, for example, the series of reports launched on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme called Brexit Street, which is supposedly a typical ‘out’-voting area in Thornaby-on-Tees.  The reality is that this is a hugely deprived inner city area with a highly atypical quota of asylum seekers.  The purpose seems to be to show primarily that ‘out’ voters are bigoted, bitter, irrational xenophobes.

And what of the killing of a Polish man in a Harlow pizza parlour at the end of August? BBC reports immediately speculated that there was a fear that this was is was a racial attack triggered by Brexit – even though police had made no charges, and had only confirmed that they had not ruled out such motivation from their inquiries. John Sweeney muttered darkly on Newsnight that Nigel Farage might now have blood on his hands.

Such sensationalist reporting by the BBC  gave European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker the ammunition to attack the Brexit vote and to insinuate it had unleashed a tide of racism.

James Harding has thus – as is usual for the BBC – ignored the elephant in the room.  The BBC has never reported the EU impartially, fundamentally because they totally do not acknowledge or understand the case for ‘out’.  Harding’s clumsy obfuscation confirms that – in spades.

Diane Abbot has reportedly asserted at the Labour Party Conference that those who voted ‘out’ were racists. How much has the BBC’s  reporting supported her in coming to that conclusion?

 

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BBC Concedes Political Bias – But Only Against Corbynistas

BBC Concedes Political Bias – But Only Against Corbynistas

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?

Something highly unusual and rather disconcerting happened on Radio 4’s Feedback this week. Questions about BBC bias were put and a senior BBC editor repeatedly admitted that the BBC had got things wrong.

I cannot recall ever hearing such an interview before on Feedback – except over climate change, where various BBC editors have publicly confessed to the sin of not being hard enough on unbelievers like Nigel Lawson and Quentin Letts.

Still, this interview was even more striking than those because the BBC editor in question – BBC Political News Editor Katy Searle – admitted error on the BBC’s part not once, not twice but three times in the course of a single interview.

That must be unprecedented.

The issue at hand was: ‘Is the BBC biased against Jeremy Corbyn?’

Roger Bolton took the question very seriously indeed.

The first Corbynista complaint was that Traingate was a “non-story” and that the BBC should not have spent much time on it. Katy Searle rejected that particular complaint, saying that Traingate certainly was a significant story. (That is the one bit where she behaved like a typical BBC editor on Feedback).

The second Corbynista complaint was that an edition of The Week in Westminster had featured two Labour figures – Chris Mullen and Caroline Flint – discussing Jeremy Corbyn, both of whom said that Jeremy could not win an election. ‘Why wasn’t there a Corbyn supporter present?’ was the question asked. Katy accepted that complaint and said, yes, on that occasion, more could have been done to find a Corbyn supporter.

The third Corbynista complaint was that the BBC has run “factually incorrect” stories about thuggish behaviour by Corbyn supporters, citing the BBC’s reports about protests surrounding Stella Creasey that got where the protests happened wrong. Katy accepted that one too, saying, yes, a mistake was made there. “We” got it wrong, she said, adding: “In live broadcasting mistakes are made and I only think it’s right we put our hands up to that”.

The fourth Corbynista complaint was that the BBC has not been reporting what Jeremy Corbyn has been saying at packed meeting up and down the country. Katy rejected the idea that the BBC has not reported those meetings. However, she agreed that the BBC should talk more about the issues and said, “I would accept actually that we have done perhaps a little bit too much on the party leadership.”

Katy Searle was remarkably contrite and appealed, more than once, to Radio 4 listeners to believe that the BBC takes complaints about bias “very, very seriously”:

“Any accusation or perception of bias is taken very seriously and I, on a day to day basis, look at what we are doing on output and make sure we correct that”.

Isn’t that something?

Given all the years people like us have complained about BBC bias on issues of concern to us and got pretty much nowhere in terms of official concessions about, say, BBC pro-EU bias, or BBC pro-immigration bias, or BBC anti-Israel bias, etc, etc,…

…and given how often we have been told that single editions of ongoing programmes cannot be taken as proof of bias but must be judged, bias-wise, over time and many episodes, and how often our side is excluded from discussion after discussion (or utterly overwhelmed numerically on programme after programme) without the slightest chance of an admission of bias from the BBC…

and given how long and arduous the process of complaining about BBC bias usually is….

…isn’t it then utterly remarkable how easily Katy Searle conceded those points to Roger Bolton and his Corbynista listeners, and just how apologetic she sounded?

We have had pretty much all such complaints dismissively waived away on programmes like Feedback and Newswatch for donkey’s years only now to find that the merest whiff of grapeshot from a few Momentum types has the BBC bowing and scraping.

As I say, a truly remarkable interview.

Curiously, as Politics Home reports, the day before this edition of Feedback saw an intervention from far-left film director Ken Loach urging Jeremy Corbyn supporters to flood the BBC with complaints about bias.

Speaking to a Corbynista gathering, Mr Loach twice read out the number of the BBC Complaints line and coached his audience on the dos and don’ts of complaining to the BBC. (He did not mention Feedback though.)

“The BBC is an arm of the State. The BBC is not some objective chronicler of our time – it is an arm of the State,” he told them: “They have this pretence of objectivity where in fact it is propaganda on behalf of the broad interests of the State.”

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Given the preferential treatment he is usually accorded by the BBC (see Today here and The World Tonight here) “the State” seems happy about the BBC giving Ken Loach a platform. And yet he is not remotely grateful, is he?

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