Monthly Archives: December 2021

Mail on Sunday editorial slams ‘useless’ BBC complaints process

Mail on Sunday editorial slams ‘useless’ BBC complaints process

The Mail on Sunday December 26, 2021

The BBC is Silencing the viewers who should be heard

THE BBC’s existence is an attempt to answer a series of linked riddles. How can you sustain a national broadcaster to pursue the best in everything, free from commercial pressure? How can the state collect the funds for such a body, without turning it into a lapdog of the ruling party? How can such a corporation be regulated to ensure impartiality? Once, the BBC contained so many men and women who profoundly believed in its mission that this task was easier and governments worried about it less. But since the 1960s, a growing number of BBC personnel have decided these high principles do not apply to them. If nobody stops them, they turn the Corporation into a megaphone for their largely Left-wing opinions. And, increasingly, nobody does stop them. The public have noticed and so they turn to the BBC’s own complaints system in the hope of having some influence. But as we report today, that system is more or less useless. Its supposed backstop is the quango Ofcom, crammed with ex-BBC staffers and marinated in the same ideas. And the first stage of the complaints procedure itself is just a sort of spongy layer, outsourced to the service company Capita, apparently designed to soak up and ignore public discontent. As we report today, only a tiny number of complaints – roughly one in a thousand – ever reach the real complaints department, the grandly named Executive Complaints Unit. Most viewers almost certainly do not know how to get their grievances past Capita’s software. This is a mockery of the licence-payer. Whatever the right answer is to the BBC’s complaints, this is the wrong one. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries is correct to be worried and should act swiftly to ensure the voice of the viewers is actually heard in the Corporation’s sequestered corridors.

 

… while broadcaster investigates less than 0.1% of its complaints

By Anna Mikhailova

DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR

THE BBC’s complaints process faces being overhauled by the Culture Secretary amid concerns too few are being treated seriously. Analysis presented to Nadine Dorries shows that out of almost half a million complaints in the year 2020-21, less than 0.1 per cent were investigated by the Corporation’s Executive Complaints Unit. It follows concerns from MPs that the BBC is ‘marking its own homework’ and needs to Stop handling complaints from viewers and listeners in-house.

The data, seen by The Mall on Sunday, shows that just 455 of 462,255 complaints were looked at by the Executive Complaints Unit in 2020/21. Of these, only 185 were escalated to the media regulator Ofcom – 0.04 per cent of the total. That year – a record number for complaints – included 23,674 about Emily Maitlis’s critical monologue about Dominic Cummings on Newsnight in May 2020. In 2019-20, 759 out of 368,377 complaints were looked at by the Executive Complaints Unit – or 0.2 per cent -while 233 were escalated to Ofcom, some 0.06 per cent.

The unit represents the second stage of the BBC’s complaints process. The first stage is out-sourced to private firm Capita. Ian Paisley, the DUP MP for North Antrim, said:

‘The figures are absolutely astounding. No other credible complaints process would justify those outcomes. There is something systemically wrong with the system that has to be changed.’

Ms Dorries is expected to look at the complaints system as part of next year’s mid-term review of the BBC’s Royal Charter. A Government source said:

‘The process needs to maintain public confidence. With so few corn-plaints being reviewed, it raises serious questions.’

The BBC said referring cases to the Executive Complaints Unit is down to complainants. However, it is up to them to tell the BBC they are unhappy with the response they received from the network. The process of referring to the unit is contained in a lengthy 52-page document that has to be downloaded from the BBC website.

Last night, the BBC refused to reveal how many complaints are handled entirely by Capita on its behalf. A spokesman said.

‘The BBC has a thorough, transparent and easy to use complaints process, We keep the process under review. This includes a public consultation held last year following which we made changes to increase transparency and the information provided to audiences.’

An Ofcom spokesman said: ‘We have consistently called for the BBC to be more transparent.’

News-watch Survey – The Nationality and Borders Bill

News-watch monitored the 18 hours of original programming broadcast by GB News between 6am and midnight on 6 July10 and compared its coverage of the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill on eleven of the BBC’s main television and radio programmes, along with the BBC News Channel, amounting to 27 hours and 10 minutes of BBC airtime.

The survey set out to assess whether the BBC was meeting its public purpose obligation to provide ‘a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers.’

News-watch finding:  GB News more impartial than the BBC on immigration

News-watch finding: GB News more impartial than the BBC on immigration

An in-depth survey by News-watch of the recently-launched television news channel GB News has found that its coverage of sensitive immigration issues was more balanced, detailed and wide-ranging than that of the BBC’s news programmes and BBC News 24. The BBC  coverage was weighted very strongly towards those opposed to stricter controls on immigration. By comparison, GB News incorporated that perspective (with more coverage than that on the BBC), but also included the opinions of those who are demanding stricter controls in line with the government’s Immigration Bill.

This is the report’s executive summary:

GB News launched on June 13, 2021, with a specific aim stated its editorial charter to present high quality balanced news and to ensure that all opinions were reflected and respected, including those from members of the public,  in its output.

This survey was conducted to examine whether the news channel is meeting these editorial ambitions, and also to compare the quality and range of its news coverage with that of the BBC. In this connection the BBC’s Charter stipulates that the news it provides must meet the highest editorial standards and provide ‘a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers’. In other words, better than its rivals.

The survey covered all the output of GB News and selected BBC news programmes from 6am to midnight on July 6, 2021, a day chosen at random. The treatment of one of the day’s biggest news items – the government’s Nationality and Borders Bill (details of which were announced on that day) – was the focus of analysis.

All relevant programme items were fully transcribed and 24 themes related to coverage were isolated, including factual descriptions of the bill, the perspectives of the government and campaigners, statistics on the numbers making the crossing, possible solutions to the crisis, and opinions from members of the general public.

Significant differences in the quality and quantity of coverage emerged. GB News covered the bill and its ramifications, together with opinion for and against, in much more detail. The BBC devoted 3.3% of its available airtime in the monitored programmes, compared to 12.4% of total airtime by GB News.

The BBC’s relevant content was skewed heavily towards that the new bill would deter genuine asylum seekers entering the UK.  That of GB News also incorporated similar negative views of the bill, but contained a wider spectrum of views in its favour and unlike the BBC, included substantial input from members of the public on a matter of huge public concern[1].

The BBC output in the survey –  from 11 flagship news programmes plus the content of the News Channel –  devoted just 54 minutes of airtime to the story, half of which was repetitive short items on the News Channel. Six of the main news programmes (such as BBC2 Newsnight and the BBC1 News at Ten) ignored the story, and the biggest chunk of original coverage (approximately 12 minutes) was a discussion on BBC2 Politics Live.

GB News, by contrast, devoted a total of 134 minutes to coverage , and it featured prominently in all seven of the monitored programmes.

As is shown in the full report (p.3) In 18 of the 24 identified themes, the GB News coverage was more detailed than the BBC’s. The biggest differences were in the following categories:

  • Opinions from the Public – GB News 3,185 words, nothing from the BBC;
  • People Smuggling Gangs and Illegality – 2,546 words on GB News against only 542 from the BBC;
  • Were those crossing the Channel genuine asylum seekers or economic migrants? – coverage on GB News was 2,348 words, with only 53 words from the BBC.

Four themes were covered by GB News but not at all by the BBC:

  • Opinions from the public;
  • Criticisms from the UKIP/Brexit Party perspective about the potential effectiveness of the bill (672 words – an interview with Nigel Farage);
  • That the incomers could be dangerous because many were adults posing as children and not genuine asylum seekers (339 words);
  • The asylum system potentially being at breaking point (223 words).

Only two themes of the BBC coverage (amounting to less than two minutes) were not covered by GB News:

  • UK cutting its international aid budget (131 words);
  • Criticism of the general media coverage of asylum issues (118 words)

Interviews

Substantial differences between the BBC and GB News also emerged from the interview sequences. The BBC interviewed six contributors about the bill compared with seven on GB News, but the word count discrepancy was much greater: 3,029 words (BBC) against 5,259. Thus GB News devoted significantly more airtime to exploration of a range of opinion about the story.

On the BBC, most space was devoted to figures who opposed the bill because they believed it made it tougher for genuine asylum seekers to enter the UK, and who were deeply critical of the UK’s record of the treatment of genuine refugees. The main interview sequence on BBC2 Politics Live (representing 25 per cent of the airtime devoted to the bill) featured a government minister ranged against three spokespeople who for a range of political, economic and human rights reasons, strongly opposed the bill.

GB News interviews included almost as much pro-asylum seeker opinion against the bill as on the BBC (1,484 against 1,567 words), but also contained views from a range of perspectives which welcomed the bill, including the government, a think-tank worried about overall immigration levels and border control officials who wanted to stop people-smuggling.

The BBC’s first public purpose in its Charter, covering news provision, states:

The BBC should provide duly accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom and of the wider world. Its content should be provided to the highest editorial standards. It should offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers, using the highest calibre presenters and journalists, and championing freedom of expression, so that all audiences can engage fully with major local, regional, national, United Kingdom and global issues and participate in the democratic process, at all levels, as active and informed citizens.

It contains a specific requirement that the corporation provides a news service better than other news providers. This findings are that only shows that only three weeks after its launch GB News covered a major national story in greater depth and at a much higher quality than the BBC, not least because it better achieved ‘due impartiality’ in providing a range of views about the bill, including public opinion.

It is arguable that the BBC’s coverage did not meet its public purpose obligations because it was both clearly biased and failed ‘to provide a range and depth of analysis not available from other UK news providers.’ In sharp contrast, GB News clearly met the requirements of its own Editorial Charter.

BBC Director General Tim Davie, appearing before the House of Commons DCMS Select Committee meeting of September 21, 2021, said that he was worried about what he described ‘BBC groupthink’ and was on a mission to ensure that an appropriate variety of opinion was featured in corporation output. On the evidence of this paper, he has a very long way to go.

[1] This was also despite that the total amount of monitored BBC programming added up to more than 27 hours, compared with 18 hours of the GB News output.

 

The full News-watch report is available here.

 

Craig Byers: Even Libby Purves is slamming Radio 4

Craig Byers: Even Libby Purves is slamming Radio 4

Even former Radio 4 stalwart, ex-Midweek presenter and self-declared ”life-long loyalist and listener” Libby Purves – though in many ways as ‘BBC as can be’ in her outlook – sees that David Blunkett has a point about her favourite channel BBC Radio 4.
In her latest Times column she says that the BBC shouldn’t ignore him, and although she thinks it’s ”not all the way there yet” she obviously thinks it’s a lot of way there when she agrees with him that ”if [Radio 4] starts thinking that its mission to educate is largely moral and progressive, that information should be skewed towards this and entertainment come a poor third, it is in trouble.”
It’s a problem, she says, when ”fine issues…overwhelm the casual, accidentally met joys and surprises of the schedule, drag guilt into comedy and make drama predictable and drear”…which sums up the problem pretty well.
”Radio 4’s screechingly left comedy grates often”, she adds, and new Radio 4 dramas are usually ”dismal”.
She concludes, ”David Blunkett, I feel your pain.”
It’s bad enough for the BBC when a serious Labour ‘big-hitter’ like Lord Blunkett expresses the concerns we’ve been expressing over the years, but when Libby Purves – of all people – comes out in support of him then the BBC ought to take heed.
Dropping ‘below the line’, the highest-rated comment below Libby’s piece says, ”I used to say Radio 4 was worth the licence fee on its own. No more. I have switched it off. I am fed up with having propaganda rammed in my ears”. And this is at The Times.
The second-highest-rated comment said, ”I can’t help myself, and I know it’s silly, but whenever I switch on radio 4 I listen to the first 10 words I hear. Invariably they are about race, gender or climate. Try it.”
It’s the kind of experiment I like, so I tried it around 9.06pm tonight and didn’t hear anything about those three things in the first 10 words, though in the first 20 words I heard ”ash dieback”, which is similarly depressing. But the phrase ”climate change” duly arrived just over a minute later, so I’m giving that to the Times’s second-highest-rated commenter as being near enough to be considered a bullseye.