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Kathy  Gyngell: In the BBC’s Alice in Wonderland world, criticism by MPs compromises its impartiality

Kathy Gyngell: In the BBC’s Alice in Wonderland world, criticism by MPs compromises its impartiality

Biased Today, biased yesterday and biased tomorrow,  the BBC  has much to answer for over its uncritical and inadequate EU coverage.

More than any other news outlet the BBC shapes and moulds public opinion. Over the years, it has inspired an unwarranted public confidence in the EU. It has been responsible for conveying a sense of the inevitability and necessity of British membership

Had it not so determinedly stuck to its view that the EU was ‘a good thing’,  a fact of life that anyone in their right mind should accept,  Britain might not be in the mess it’s in today.  We might not have uncontrolled immigration; we might be able to deport who we want when we want; and we might still have a vibrant fishing industry. That’s just three of the many areas over which we have lost national authority at great cost.

The  House of Commons all-party EU Scrutiny Committee’s report, published yesterday, which accuses  the BBC of ‘falling down severely’ in its obligation to provide impartial coverage of the EU, raises these questions.

Its findings confirm what many of us have been arguing for years – that BBC coverage of EU matters is deplorable, that it has a ‘concerning’ pro-EU bias, and that Eurosceptics have been given inadequate airtime.  Specifically the MPs criticise Lord Hall for failing in his role as the BBC’s editor-in chief .

All this rings a profound bell with me, just as does the arrogance of the BBC’s response.  The crux of it is that the BBC cannot be criticised because (in their perverse world) any criticism by MPs (however valid it may be) constitutes a breach of the Corporation’s independence. It can’t be seen to follow MPs criticism – no, not even if it is right.

I wonder which Propaganda (sorry Press) Officer there dreamed this excuse up as he pondered the embargoed document before publication? I know that nothing should surprise me but I am amazed that Lord Hall signed off such a response for release. Perhaps for this particular editor-in-chief,  intent and belief are adequate substitutes for whatever is actually broadcast.  During his appearance before the Committee, his claim that the desire for balanced output “ran deep” within the BBC and that he believed that this was being achieved now, sounded like weasel words.  It isn’t being achieved.

This is far from the first time that the BBC has stonewalled criticism about its EU coverage.  I have in my files copies of an ongoing correspondence with Helen Boaden, the then Controller of Radio Four, back in the early 2000s. Like today’s BBC spokesperson, her response that the Corporation provided extensive and impartial coverage of European and Parliamentary issues was (or should be, she thought) sufficient unto the day.

Boaden refused to consider the consistently logged, timed, comprehensive transcript evidence and analysis,  that we (Minotaur Media Tracking) sent her, as evidence.  In her thinking no external monitoring of BBC output could or would ever constitute evidence – however objective or impartial – because the BBC editorial process meant that the BBC was always impartial – and therefore above criticism. It’s surprising to find she has a degree in English literature;  the concept of tautology could not have featured in her studies.

Despite Lord Wilson’s subsequent critical report, despite the cumulative log of evidence of BBC bias by News-watch, despite the fact that this is far from the first time that the BBC has been called to account, the BBC never wavers in it pre-programmed ‘Boaden’-style response. It refuses to harbour any self doubt – not a smidgeon.

Lord Hall has taken a leaf out of Ms Boaden’s book. “As Lord Hall told the committee, we are and will be impartial in all matters concerning our coverage,” the BBC spokesman said.

James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News and `Current Affairs, was not backward in going on the offensive either. His ‘Aunt Sally’ was that if the public was going to trust the BBC to report on politicians impartially it had to be clear that BBC journalists weren’t “asked by politicians to come and account for what they do and in effect do the bidding of those politicians”.

True to form the Today programme thought there was nothing to defend either.

In its own inimitable way yesterday morning’s edition of Today devoted 8 minutes to a Mark Knopfler record plug but nothing to the EU Scutiny Committee’s report that just happened to criticise the BBC on a subject of fundamental importance to every British citizen!

This article first appeared on The Conservative Woman

Photo by John Christian Fjellestad

Springshot: The Great European Disaster Movie

Springshot: The Great European Disaster Movie

Scratch the surface of almost any BBC statement about ‘impartiality’ or ‘bias’ and you unearth a rather an unpleasant smell.

The BBC says no EU money was used in the making of its Sunday night pro-EU extravaganza The Great European Disaster Movie, which depicted  in ludicrous, extremist terms  the total disintegration of civil society across the continent, if, God forbid, the EU was forced out of existence.

Note the weasel words: ‘in the making of’. The reality is that post-production, the film-makers Bill Emmott and Annalisa Piras – both of whom are pro-EU fanatics – have told the outside world they are receiving EU money for the transmission of the film in other languages. So put another way, it is an EU propaganda project.

And the BBC were co-producers of that film.

What’s also not clear is who did fund the project. It was made by Piras’s company Springshot Productions, and that means its financing is totally opaque. Things here don’t add up. It’s unlikely that the budget of a project of such scale and production standards would be anything less than £1m, and yet Springshot is tiny. According to the company website, it has made only one other film, two years ago.

The point here is that it is only larger production companies turning over millions a year that can afford to make glossy hypothetical dramas – and they don’t generally make money, which is why they are so relatively scarce. Someone with deep pockets and a deep desire to spread massively pro-EU propaganda was behind it. The BBC should tell us who this was so we can make up our own minds about the decision to show it.

It seems that someone, somewhere in the higher echelons of the BBC hierarchy has a guilty conscience, because immediately after it was shown, a very rare occurrence happened, the BBC equivalent of a Blue Moon. In a Newsnight special hosted by Robert Peston,  two genuine EU ‘come outers’, Mark Reckless, the Ukip MP, and Peter Hitchens, the Mail on Sunday columnist, were fleetingly allowed to make some of the arguments in favour of withdrawal and to explain why the claims by Emmott and Piras were preposterous.

Unlike the unremitting one-sidedness of the film, the views of Reckless and Hitchens were of course offset, notably by a spokesman of the Greek Marxist party Syriza, who agreed with Emmott in ascribing all the current massive economic problems of the EU to nasty ‘austerity’.

There are other BBC-related problems in this film which only surface with digging. Emmott, a former editor of the Economist, and Piras, an Italian who worked as a foreign correspondent in London for many years, are clearly united in their huge desire to ram the need for the EU down our throats.

They are so fanatical that they have set up an organisation called The Wake Up Foundation, a so-called charity, the main aim of which – though clothed in high-flown language – is as another vehicle to spread their EU bile. A feature by Emmott on their website in which he compares Nigel Farage to Silvio Berlusconi typifies the approach.

Far more concerning about the Wake Up Foundation, however, is that one of its trustees is Richard Sambrook, who is a former head of BBC newsgathering and Director of News, who was moved sideways to the World Service at the end of his BBC career because of question marks in some quarters in his judgment relating to the BBC’s handling of the fall-out from the Iraq war.

Sambrook, after a spell as a public relations advisor, re-surfaced as a Professor of Journalism at Cardiff University.  His department was commissioned by the BBC Trustees in 2011 to conduct research linked with the Stuart Prebble inquiry into whether the BBC was covering EU-related issues in accordance with the Charter.

That research, as has been reported by Kathy Gyngell on TCW, was ineptly conducted and as a result gave the wholly false impression that BBC news programmes gave adequate coverage to eurosceptic and withdrawalist opinion. Not only that, the main person who conducted the research had recently received a substantial slug of EU cash from the EU for a project designed to ascertain how the EU might better project itself.

So, put another way, the BBC commissioned a rabidly pro-EU programme from a programme making duo who have close professional and organisational links with a former Director of BBC News who, in turn, has been appointed by the Corporation to tell the outside world – on a supposedly ‘objective’ basis – how balanced and impartial the BBC’s output in relation to the EU is.

The linkage raises several awkward questions.  Was Sambrook directly involved in the making of the European Disaster Movie? Was he involved in any way in persuading the BBC to show it and to become co-producers? To what extent is he involved in the dissemination of the pro-EU propaganda of the Wake Up Foundation? Were the BBC aware of his links with Emmott when they commissioned his department to do the Prebble survey?

Something in the state of Denmark, if not rotten, smells very fishy indeed.

Bias by Omission as Romania and Bulgaria Influx Rises

Bias by Omission as Romania and Bulgaria Influx Rises

Happy New Year – it’s the anniversary of when, courtesy of the EU’s Free Movement of Peoples directive, restrictions were lifted on the numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians entering the UK.

Latest figures released by the Oxford Migration Observatory show that 250,000 are now here and 47,000 arrived during 2014.  That’s equivalent to a city the size of Wolverhampton – and 20% are jobless.

The inflow of around 50,000 a year, it should be noted, is exactly in line with what Migration Watch predicted in January 2013, and as Sir Andrew (Lord) Green pointed out, are likely to cause huge additional pressures in terms of the ability of our infrastructure and services to cope.

The playing down by the BBC of the likely scale of the inflow from the two countries began in earnest in April of 2013, when Newsnight told us that its own survey showed that Romanians weren’t really interested in coming here.

By commissioning such a poll (not cheap, but, hey ho, it’s only licence fee money) , the programme fired a clear shot showing  the extent editors would go to  spike the guns of those who wanted to raise immigration issues.

Then last January, as the restrictions were lifted, programmes continued the effort to tell us that there would be no repetition of the Polish surge of EU immigrants back in 2004. A good example is  this, filed at the end of January 2014. The reporter tells us he could find only one Romanian family in Peterborough. His approach clearly reflected the corporate editorial angle:  nothing to see.

But it was on May 14 – just over a week away from the poll in the European election on May 22 – when the BBC editors demonstrated the full weight of their desire to discredit those with concerns about immigration. Provisional government figures showed a minor blip in the upward trend in entries from Bulgaria and Romania. Such interim totals should always be treated with caution. Not at the BBC.  Political editor Nick Robinson went to town, as this transcript shows.

For him, and the BBC news machine, it seems this was exactly the ammunition for which they had perhaps been praying.

In the BBC1 6pm and 10pm News that day – in a feature bristling with righteous indignation – Robinson first spoke to a Romanian who told him that all his fellow countrymen who wanted to come to the UK were already here.

Then he inserted a soundbite from Nigel Farage deliberately edited, it seemed, to make him look both immoderate and foolish in his predictions. And finally, just for good measure, he lined up Yvette Cooper , Vince Cable and Conservative employment minister Ester McVey all to say what total tommyrot he – and those with fears about immigration – were talking.

Yvette Cooper kicked off, laying into  Farage’s ‘shrill claims’; Cable  referred to ‘scare-mongering’   and Ms McVey said that the latest figures showed Mr Farage was ‘wrong’.

This was a pivotal movement in the election coverage, as the News-watch report covering the campaign, pointed out. It epitomised the Corporation’s main editorial approach – to seek to undermine wherever possible the case for withdrawal from the EU and the restriction of immigration.

Of course, UKIP surged to first place in the European poll and have since won two by-election victories. Many at the BBC argue, therefore, that this shows that their coverage towards those who have concerns about the EU and immigration is fair.

But this is utter nonsense. Close scrutiny of transcripts over long periods shows that their bias both by deliberate skewing and ignoring key reports and evidence. The electoral victories are being achieved despite constant editorial obstruction.  And maybe also – to an extent – because people see through the bias?

What the new Romanian and Bulgarian figures also show is just how much the BBC is prepared to distort or ignore the actual evidence.

The Oxford Observatory report containing the latest figures was released on an embargoed basis to the media on December 29 at the latest and posted on its website on December 30. The report was mentioned widely and prominently in the national press that morning.  But on the BBC website?  Not a peep. On the Today programme? Zip.

Instead, on Today, we got guest editor Lenny Henry doing his level best – in every way he knew – to accuse UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir of being racist and a traitor to ethnic minorities for daring to want a points system for immigration. Yes, the admirable and good humoured Bashir gave us good as he got – but there was no disguising Henry’s vehement distaste.

Photo by Holidayextras

Is the BBC Biased?

Is the BBC Biased?

The answer is that on one particular subject – the coverage of EU affairs – it most definitely is.

For 15 long years, News-watch has been investigating. Our reports deploy the most robust analytical methodology and demonstrate that, for example, over the treatment of withdrawal from the EU, the Corporation’s coverage is outrageously limited and skewed.

The latest report, focusing on the European elections in May, shows that during the entire campaign on the Corporation’s most high-profile news and currents affairs programmes, no supporter of withdrawal was asked a single question about the topic.

Instead, the focus was relentlessly – to the point of persecution – on whether those who supported withdrawal (UKIP of course) were racist, incompetent or corrupt.  The latest full report can be read here.

Over most of those 15 years, the Corporation’s senior management and Trustees have disgracefully refused to engage with this research.

Instead they come up with a whole series of stonewall defences. This includes bunging loads of licence-fee cash to their media chums and former employees  in academia to write rival reports. But their methodology, as News-watch demonstrated conclusively in a Civitas paper, is lamentably poor.

In the process, it has become abundantly clear that despite their protestations, Corporation news mandarins do not have the faintest idea of how to measure their own output. Their approach relies principally on bluster and insults.

So it was with great interest that I watched the latest defence against the recent big guns Tory attack  when call me Dave and George Osborne accused the BBC of bias and exaggeration in its coverage of the Autumn statement.

The response of the BBC press office?   “We’ll undoubtedly get more criticism from across the political spectrum as the election gets closer, but we’ll keep doing our job.”

Well golly. In other words, sometime in the next six months until the General Election, the Corporation will receive another complaint from someone from the other side of the political fence.

A defence, it seems, based on a new-found capacity of serried ranks of 180 in the Press Office to foretell the future.  The sybils at Delphi would have been envious.

In fact, this argument – that because the BBC is criticised from all sides, it must be doing something right – is perhaps the oldest weapon in the Corporation’s armoury, wheeled out with wearying predictability.

News-watch records show the first use of the tactic back in summer 2000.  In response to a report, they produced two letters by listeners one attacking John Humphrys for pro-EU bias, the second for his anti-EU bias.

There was no additional commentary, but incredibly, Corporation chiefs believed both that it was an-ace-of-hearts trump card, and that it showed that Humphrys could not be biased towards both sides of the argument simultaneously – so therefore he must not be biased at all.

A moment’s reflection shows that such ‘logic’ is utter tosh.   One of the viewpoints could be correct and the other completely wrong.  There is no way of judging the credibility of the two viewpoints chosen. There might have been hundreds more letters supporting one perspective than the other, yet both are given equal weight. And one might have been based on robust fact and research, the other purely on impression.

The second defence, said by media pundits to be ‘unprecedented’, was that the BBC Press Office moved to tackle the Sun newspaper head on , issuing line-by-line rebuttals of two editorials.

The Sun December 2 leader said that, despite pledges of reform, the numbers of senior managers earning more than the Prime Minister continued to rise. The next day, there was a follow-up, this time calling for the licence fee to be scrapped, accusing BBC bosses of handing top jobs to friends of friends, and it tearing into what is said were the ‘left-wing prejudices of this Guardian-reading elite’

The BBC response was every bit as limp as its attempts at fortune-telling described above.  The principal defence – presented without a scrap of supporting evidence but as if it was  unarguable fact – was that the BBC provided ‘programmes and services which the public love’ and a claim that, ‘…at just £2.80 a week per household the BBC provides excellent value for money.’

Well that’s alright then. And as BBC Director of Television Danny Cohen (salary £327,800)says, we must not dare criticise.

On senior management pay, the defence was a classic Watergate ‘non-denial denial’ that perhaps would have made even Nixon blush. The press office said: “…senior manager numbers fell again last year from 445 to 410”. But that was not even the point the Sun had made. The specific complaint was that 91 senior managers earned more than the PM.

In response to the criticism of recruitment and left-wing bias, the BBC argued “We appoint people from a wide variety of different backgrounds – including newspapers from across the political spectrum” It was unclear from the nonsensical sentence construction (or course the BBC doesn’t appoint newspapers to its roles) whether this meant appointments were advertised across a range of newspapers or that journalists from various newspapers were subsequently appointed by the BBC.

This, of course, is an equally unsubtle variation of the two-complaints- from-different-sides prove balance argument. I have no doubt that, somewhere in the Corporation, if you dig hard enough and deep enough, in some dusty corner, there are those who have worked for the Daily Mail. But as this book by former BBC correspondent Robin Aitken brilliantly pointed out, they definitely do not cancel out the liberal-left bias.

Photo by hans s

Kathy Gyngell: We need a road map on how to quit the EU. Don’t expect head-in-the-sand BBC to help

Kathy Gyngell: We need a road map on how to quit the EU. Don’t expect head-in-the-sand BBC to help

Photo by CJS*64 A man with a camera

Why was I not at all surprised to read of the huge shortfall in EU spending of £259 billion pounds? Yes, the one to which, all of a sudden, Britain will be expected to contribute to some £34 billion?

I am talking about that hole in the EU budget that the BBC has kept the British public so abreast of, the one it made sure we all knew about prior to the EU elections.

Of course the BBC did no such thing. It has never fulfilled its mission to ‘inform and educate’ us about our progressive capture by and capitulation to the EU’s changing agenda since we joined, let alone how it spent our taxes.

The BBC’s output from day one has never reflected the importance of the EU in ordinary Britons’ lives – how it spends their money.  I know.  This is what the consistent and painstaking monitoring of its output by News-watch, the BBC bias monitoring website, since 1999 has demonstrated. The unsurprisingly low turnout for the 1999 European election was described sneeringly by Jeremy Paxman as an ‘outbreak of narcolepsy’. And whose fault was that?

The BBC’s lack of interest persisted through important summits as well as the process of creating the new EU constitution.

Awareness of the the EU’s catastrophic finances has been a long time coming.  Yet the evidence that all in the garden was far from rosy was there back in 2001.  Then the EU’s former chief accountant Marta Andreasen refused to sign off the 2001 European Commission accounts for good reason; she said its accounting system was open to fraud.

Her criticisms ignored, Andreasen went public with her concerns only to be sacked for her pains (she was suspended from her job by the Commission for “violating Articles 12 and 21 of staff regulations, failure to show sufficient loyalty and respect”).

Yet, despite her stand, few people in the UK were made aware of this financial catastrophe in the making; not least because of the BBC’s bias and negligence in its reporting of all matters EU.

They kept the British public in the dark by virtue of that BBC default – bias by omission.

You can either put their indifference down to their being part of a liberal metropolitan conspiracy whose main concern was to avoid reporting the encroaching powers of Europe.  Heaven forfend that they should thereby antagonise the public and made them more Eurosceptic than already.

Or you can accept the BBC’s own excuse (on the rare occasions that they have ‘fessed up’) that much of what takes place in Brussels and Strasbourg is complex and boring and the British public don’t want to know – the lazy excuse of an organisation that had weakened its own raison d’etre by its continuous dumbing down, as the Daily Mail’s Stephen Glover once put it.

You might have thought that the rise and rise of UKip and Nigel Farage would have forced a reconsideration of the BBC’s  approach to EU coverage.  But no,  the BBC continued to forgive all EU failings in the name of that higher cause  – “Europe – the European idea”; the one that European Council President Herman van Rompuy and his predecessors, all the way back to Jean Monnet, adhere to.

Despite the fact that the demand for an EU exit  is now political mainstream – made all the more so by the former Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson’s speech on Monday – the BBC’s coverage remains not just resolutely negative but totally inadequate.  Worse it has continued to smear and sideline Ukip’s best efforts to raise the issue of our membership.

This I believe is why, before Owen Paterson raised it,  there was never any discussion on the BBC of David Cameron’s option of serving notice on the EU – that of invoking Article 50 of the EU’s governing treaties.

Correct me if I am wrong, but my guess is that apart from the Sunday Telegraph’s Christopher Booker, forensic Brussels expert Richard North and Tory MEP Dan Hannan,  few  people in the British Isles would have known this was an option – let alone a strategy.

Whose fault is that?

The Sun thinks we can do without the EU; Ukip’s defiance has changed the game plan. When, if ever, will the BBC catch on?

Yes, I know, Cameron’s promised referendum hangs in the balance of the next election but the pressure to quit the EU is not about to diminish any time soon.

After reading the Telegraph’s headlines this morning, a whole load more people must have been thinking, like me: ‘Wouldn’t it be better to be out before the bill lands on the mat.”?

Ukip, one way or another, may force a referendum sooner rather than later, leaving us with the question of how we are to get out.

Yet, despite Mr Paterson, no one in the BBC is addressing it – anymore that they addressed the EU’s financial black hole.

Have  you heard any discussion of this?  How we get out – outside the hallowed realms of right wing think-tanks?  Certainly nothing serious on the BBC.

Yet, how we do it matters a lot for our future trading prosperity. Never more was there something that we need to get right.

So, since there is no way we can rely on the BBC to inform us, I plan to make my best effort to get an informed debate going – here on TCW.

Soon, I will blog on a lunch-time discussion I attended at the Centre for Policy Studies led by Dan Hannan and founder of the Trade Policy Research Centre Ronald Stewart Brown. It certainly opened my eyes to the question of whether we would be best to negotiate some form of free trade association with the EU or negotiate to stay in a ‘customs union’ on a new intergovernmental basis.

It may sound arcane. It is actually vital that we get it right.

Kathy Gyngell is co-founder of News-watch and co-editor of The Conservative Woman, where this article was first published.

 

Hall’s BBC Executive Board Climate Change Links

Hall’s BBC Executive Board Climate Change Links

Rona Fairhead, who David Cameron has parachuted in as new chairman of the BBC, is being grilled about her approach to the role by the Commons Culture and Sport Committee on Tuesday – and already questions of conflict of interest are being asked.

A former chief executive of the Financial Times group, she still owns a tranche of shares in parent company Pearson worth around £4.5m – and the BBC commercial arm BBC Worldwide has a deal with Pearson which involves the Corporation promoting  some of its educational products. No doubt the BBC’s spin doctors will come up with reasons why that’s perfectly OK.

Actually, her appointment may be smoke and mirrors and almost an irrelevance. The real power in the Corporation is vested in the Executive Management Board. It takes the day-to-day decisions about how its run.

The Trustees (of whom Fairhead will be chairman)   is supposed to be the BBC watchdog, but since its inception in 2007 has in reality been pretty ineffective and packed with left-leaning climate change alarmists such as Alison Hastings and Diana Coyle.

Under former chairman Lord Patten, they pretty much sat on their hands while former Director General Mark Thompson presided over a bean feast of eye-wateringly massive pay-outs to departing executives, embarked on lunatic  new technology projects that cost licence-fee payers more than £100m, and also spectacularly failed to act as senior Corporation editorial managers effectively suppressed the Savile story.

The executive management board is made up of a core senior BBC executives, such as former director of news Helen Boaden, who rather than being sacked,  was moved sideways to Managing Director radio after huge question marks were raised about her conduct in the Savile cover-up.

But the board also has a range of outside non-executive and it is here that Director General Tony Hall has been making a raft of appointments that show how the BBC is likely to conduct itself in the crucial build-up to 2017 Charter renewal, and who are likely to be far more important in the shaping of BBC conduct.

Who are these people? A mixed bag of fiercely independent minds?  Well no.

Step forward  Sir Nicholas Hytner, Alice Perkins, Dame Fiona Reynolds, Sir Howard Stringer, and Simon Burke.

All, it is true, have impressive-sounding career paths. Hytner is the former director of the National  Theatre; Stringer  a former president of CBS, the US terrestrial broadcaster, and Sony, the Japanese conglomerate; Perkins is Chairman of the Post Office; Reynolds is a former Director General of the National Trust;   and Burke, a retailer, has a career that started with Richard Branson’s Virgin and he is now a director of the Co-op Food division.

But scratch the surface, and familiar alarm bells start clanging immediately.

Alice Perkins hasn’t adopted the name of her husband – he’s the former foreign secretary Jack Straw. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about that in terms of her outlook.

Stringer has a very public obsession pursuing climate change alarmism. Under his leadership, Sony got into bed very firmly with all the usual eco militants in leading the charge towards a 50% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and he is a platform speaker at climate alarmist events such as this. This adulatory piece in the BBC’s house journal The Guardian says it all.

Reynolds , now the master of Emmanuel College , can be seen and heard here in full cry telling the students of St Andrew’s University that we are all going to fry and die unless we mend our wicked ways and all become as madly green as she is.  And under Reynolds stewardship, the National Trust turned from being a body simply conserving our heritage to one screeching that climate change is a major national issue that affects us all.

Hytner is very careful about giving interviews about his political outlook. But my guess from a trawl of his background is that he was never a fan of Margaret Thatcher and he stresses the need for the arts to reflect ‘cultural diversity’ – often the code for the multicultural agenda.

Burke is also a bit of an unknown quantity – his career path too colourless to attract much attention –  but he cut his teeth as a key lieutenant of the right-on green warrior Richard Branson, whose enlightened  philosophy is to tell climate ‘deniers’ to get out of the way.

The problem facing the BBC as Fairhead’s appointment moves towards confirmation is not particularly who she is, or what she represents, but that the Corporation  desperately needs input from genuinely independent radical-thinking  figures who can shake up its slavish adherence to left-leaning ideology and outlook.

All the signs are that it is moving in the opposite direction.  Tony Hall has surrounded himself with a coterie that shares his own worldview – and in turn, that’s exactly the same as that of the Trustees.

On Tuesday, the MPs on the Culture Committee will focus on Fairhead, but she’s destined to be an empty, toothless figurehead.  The real power lies elsewhere.

Photo by Lepti

Humphrys: ‘BBC Not Sceptical Enough on EU’

Humphrys: ‘BBC Not Sceptical Enough on EU’

Update:  Autonomous Mind has made an invaluable contribution following up John Humphrys’ remarks about EU coverage, reported in full below.

The core of his story is that when questioned further on the BBC’s Feedback programme about the problems, Mr Humphrys  added to his Radio Times interview by saying categorically that there had been systematic ‘bias by omission’ – essentially by ignoring key stories or refusing to have on the Today programme a range of guests who were negative about the EU.

This is a major charge, but the BBC steadfastly denies it.

The problem was, in fact, first identified as a problem in the BBC’s EU output by Lord Wilson of Dinton in his report of 2004-5 for the former BBC Governors.  He wrote:

‘We note that across the spectrum of opinion there is widespread criticism of the narrow nature of the coverage and the lack of reporting of issues which have a considerable domestic impact.’ (p 8.25)

Almost a decade on, the evidence regularly gathered by Newswatch shows that nothing has changed despite reassurances from the BBC that it would.  This reinforces John Humphrys’ views, although Mr Humphrys claims that matters have now been corrected, whereas Newswatch research shows that they most certainly have not.

In the latest survey period, for example, only 513 words in 13 weeks of the Today programme were ‘come-outers’ talking about their views about withdrawal. That was only 0.7% of the EU output – so low that it was unquestionably bias by omission.

John Humphrys has joined the long list of senior BBC figures who say that the corporation’s EU-related coverage has been biased and not sceptical enough.

According to reports in the Guardian and the Daily Mail, he told the Radio Times (article not available online) that the reporting of immigration had also been not sufficiently sceptical.

His words echo those of former director general Mark Thompson and political editor Nick Robinson already reported by Newswatch, as well as those by former head of television news, Roger Mosey. Who asserted:

“On the BBC’s own admission, in recent years it did not, with the virtue of hindsight, give enough space to anti-immigration views or to EU-withdrawalists; and, though he may have exaggerated, the former Director-General Mark Thompson spoke of a ‘massive bias to the left’ in the BBC he joined more than 30 years ago.

‘I share Mark’s view that there was more internal political diversity in recent times, but that isn’t enough unless it’s evident in a wider range of editorial view on air.’

In line with these earlier remarks, Mr Humphrys appears to offer no evidence for his contention about past bias, or about how he arrived at his conclusion that coverage has now improved.

Mr Humphrys, who has presented the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 since 1987, said that BBC staff were more likely to be liberal rather than conservative because they were the ‘best and the brightest’ and tended to be university educated.

The 70-year-old said that ‘The BBC has tended over the years to be broadly liberal as opposed to broadly conservative for all sorts of perfectly understandable reasons.’

He added: ‘We weren’t sufficiently sceptical – that’s the most accurate phrase – of the pro-European case. We bought into the European ideal.

‘We weren’t sufficiently sceptical about the pro-immigration argument. We didn’t look at the potential negatives with sufficient rigour.’

Mr Humphrys also claimed the BBC was no longer so biased towards the EU.  He asserted: ‘I think we’re out of that now. I think we have changed.’

But he broadened his criticisms: He said: ‘There are too many of them (managers). I think they think that. I think [director general] Tony Hall thinks that – I don’t know, I haven’t asked him, but I think he thinks that.

‘Over the years we’ve been grotesquely over-managed, there’s no question. They’re now getting a grip on it. A lot have gone. I think more need to go.’

Photo by Amplified Group

Newswatch figures show fewer than one in 1,000 contributors to Today’s EU coverage were supporters of withdrawal from the Labour party or the British left.

Newswatch figures show fewer than one in 1,000 contributors to Today’s EU coverage were supporters of withdrawal from the Labour party or the British left.

BBC Director General Lord Hall told the House of Commons select media committee in a
hearing in October that the Corporation was determined to deliver impartiality by ensuring
that a range of voices on key issues was heard.
Newswatch’s latest figures – based on monitoring approximately half of the Today editions
since 2005 – show the programme has carried interviews and soundbite contributions
from only three left-wing advocates of withdrawal. The statistics show that there were
3,513 contributions to the various EU discussions on Today in nine years, but that
withdrawalists from the Labour Party and British left represented just 0.09% of guests, or
one in every 1,171 EU-related appearances.
The three speakers who contributed to the EU debate were Labour MP Austin Mitchell in
September 2009, Labour MP Gisela Stuart in October 2012, and Labour Party donor John
Mills in June 2013. Their combined contributions amounted to approximately 5 minutes
of airtime, but only 1 minute featured the speakers actually making any sort of case for
withdrawal.

Photo by skuds