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.