Referendum Blog: April 3

Referendum Blog: April 3

MARR BIAS? Today’s edition of the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 leaned firmly towards the ‘remain’ side. Three guests – former BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders, business secretary Sajid David and actor Jeremy Irons – all were given the opportunity to declare they favoured ‘remain’ and advanced without challenge from Marr their detailed reasons for doing so. Alison Pearson was the only Brexit supporter. Andrew Marr suggested she was in ‘hot water’ over her suggestion that the UK should leave.

SEESAW PROBLEMS? Now being trailed is Nick Robinson’s two-part show about the history of the UK’s relationship with the EU: Europe: Them or Us: an island apart, due to be shown on BBC2 from April 12.  Alarm bells are already ringing.  First, it is produced by John Bridcut, who was also responsible for the report on BBC impartiality commissioned in 2007 by the BBC Trustees. With the bizarre title From Seesaw to Wagon  Wheel, this set in stone the idea of ‘due impartiality’ which means that the Corporation can interpret impartiality any way they want, and overwhelmingly in its favour. Second the programme blurb shows a clear imbalance in the list of named speakers against the ‘eurosceptic’ side because the only definite ‘outers’ are Tony Benn, Nigel Farage and Iain Duncan Smith. The fear here is that the BBC has never explored properly the arguments for ‘out’ – this looks like more of the same.  A third issue is the title. Most ‘outers’ don’t dispute they are Europeans – their beef is being in the EU. Using the ‘EU’ and ‘Europe’ loosely in the political context creates further bias against the ‘out’ camp, as Brendan O’Neill eloquently pointed out on Spiked! in this blog. Robinson’s programme title itself is therefore biased.  The proof of the pudding in terms of the quality of the series will be in the eating, of course – but these preliminary signs do not look good.

IRISH TROUBLES? The BBC website here gives strong prominence to a report from the Davy Group, an Irish wealth management company known to strongly favour the EU – but that’s not spelled out in the report. Davy speculate that in the event of UK exit from the EU, the border between The Republic and Northern Ireland will become a major problem and inconvenience because the UK will not be able to negotiate a deal which allows the continuation of the current open arrangements for considerable time, if at all. The spectre of strenuous customs checks is clearly raised. The BBC website has carried earlier stories with DUP politicians stating that Northern Ireland has nothing to fear from exit – along with pro-EU ones based on negative claims from Enda Kelly, the Irish Prime Minister – but the issue here is that the importance and credibility of the Davy report is especially emphasised.   Similar selectivity can be seenin this report on the BBC website by Justin Rowlatt about the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Brussels. He mentions that some Indian businesses favour exit – but puts by far the most weight on ‘remain’ opinion.

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