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Craig Byers

Craig Byers: BBC ‘European’ Correspondent bias ‘off the scale’

Craig Byers: BBC ‘European’ Correspondent bias ‘off the scale’

Well, ten minutes after posting that piece about BBC Europe correspondent Damian Grammaticas’s Remain-biased piece for Monday’s BBC One News at Six his latest report popped up on tonight’s BBC One News at Six

…and I think we may now have the winner in ‘Most Biased Report in the BBC’s EU Referendum Coverage’ category.

I know it’s an early call but I really can’t see anything topping it over the next six weeks. It was that biased.

It discussed the UK’s contribution to the EU – a highly controversial issue. And what did impartial BBC Europe correspondent Damian tell us?

Well, firstly, he showed us a dramatic graphic showing the huge amount of money we make as a country each year (UK GDP 2014 – £1,817 bn) and then total government spending (£747 bn). One and a bit columns of huge numbers of coins stacked up next to him. The graphic then shed two tiny coins to show us our EU contribution (£11 bn). It make it look like mere chicken feed (or sparrow feed).

[Of course, comparing our EU contribution to the totality of the UK economy (and the totality of UK government spending) is the most extreme comparison imaginable. Of course it will make our EU contribution seem tiny. It makes nearly all UK government (i.e. UK taxpayer) spending seem tiny.]
A second graph then showed us that we put in way less than Germany and France (and even Italy). Ah, but we put more in that Malta: so a third graph was then used to show that “we pay by far the lowest measured by our share of national income” [his emphasis].

Why this “special treatment”? In two words (Damian’s own two words): “Maggie Thatcher”.

He called the rebate our “discount”.

“What happens to our cash?” he then asked. More than half “comes back to us”, he answered, “to be spent in the UK”. He then listed all the wonderful things the EU spends this money on here before saying:

If we controlled this money we could spend it on other things. But only by depriving these of funding.

And by ‘these’ he meant the list he’d just given: farmers, “poorer regions, roads, ports, businesses”, “research grants, universities, companies like Rolls Royce”.
Would you want to “deprive” those things of funding by voting to leave the EU? That was very clearly the unspoken question Damian Grammaticas was putting to BBC One viewers here.
After all this there’s still the UK’s net contribution to the EU of £5.5 bn [half of that ‘chicken feed’ figure he quoted earlier]. Damian quickly told us that we’re one of 10 countries that pays more in that we get back [so we’re far from alone] and that Germany and France pay more than us anyhow. The money goes to Europe’s farmers, poorer regions and Europe-wide projects – infrastructure, energy, “spent in space even – European rockets and satellites” [and who doesn’t like European space missions involving the UK?].
And this tiny £5.5 bn figure?

Essentially it’s our fee for entry into Europe’s single market, with which we do more than 40% of our trade.

Who wouldn’t want to pay such a tiny amount to get us that much, and as well as saving Rolls Royce?
Frankly, my Biasometer was going off the scale by this point. But then came Damian’s closing comments and it exploded. The BBC man – despite a pretence at even-handedness – played the ‘uncertainly card’ (the ace in Project Fear’s pack):

But all these figures could be dwarfed by what might happen to our economy if we quit the EU. If it grew a lot or shrank a lot the impact either way on our government’s finances and on us all could be huge.

And that was how it ended.
This article first appeared on Is the BBC Biased
Evan Davis: helping to spread the pro-EU message?

Evan Davis: helping to spread the pro-EU message?

(This article was first published by Is the BBC biased?)

If you were wondering where the BBC’s Evan Davis was on Saturday (and why wouldn’t you be?), well he was in Paris at a conference for UK school children (sixth formers) called Your Future in Europe.

(I stumbled across this by accident, so, no, I’m not stalking Evan!)

I was especially struck by the list of speakers for the conference.

Along with Evan, there’s also ex-boss of Liberty Shami Chakrabarti, Alan Johnson MP and Dominic Grieve MP.

They all have something in common: Mr Johnson is leading Labour’s pro-EU campaign, Mr Grieve is among the most pro-EU of Conservative MPs and Shami Chakrabarti turns out to be pro-EU too (surprise, surprise!)

I was curious about that ‘And more to be confirmed’ though, as it suggested there might be some balancing pro-Leave politicians too…

…but here’s a photo (recently tweeted) showing the full panel for the conference’s Question Time:

Yes, alongside Shami, Alan and Dominic is pro-EU Lib Dem Kate Parminter

…and the SNP’s Angela Constance, whose views I don’t know but can guess, given that the SNP is presently fiercely pro-EU, so she’ll doubtless be too.

So that’s an entirely pro-EU panel then.

Now, what take on the EU referendum might the near-voting-age British school kids get from this entirely pro-EU panel? I think we can guess that too.

Of course, this isn’t a BBC event, so it’s not a case of BBC bias, but…

…it’s interesting, isn’t it, that Evan Davis is there, chairing the interestingly-titled – Your Future in Europe – as he apparently does every year?

From what I can gather on Twitter, he also gives the opening talk and answers questions about the EU from the children. Wonder what he tells them?

Returning to official BBC matters in the light of all this: How many episodes of the BBC’s own Question Time will have an overwhelmingly (or entirely) pro-EU panel over the next few months?

I bet someone will be counting.

David Kieghley writes:  Another major BBC figure appears to be deep in a pro-EU propaganda exercise. Former deputy director of BBC News, Fran Unsworth, who now heads all the BBC World Service  output, lists on her BBC declaration of interests that she is a director the EU’s Erasmus Mundus programme for students. Among its goals are spreading the EU’s policies relating to climate change and international development, which are saturated with socialist dogma.

Photo by Policy Exchange

Ofcom: Europhile content board head Bill Emmott ‘will not rule on EU issues’

Ofcom: Europhile content board head Bill Emmott ‘will not rule on EU issues’

This is a guest posting from Craig Byers of the Is the BBC Biased? website.

Further to an earlier post
 
This is what that Ofcom statement says:

“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.”

Isn’t that extraordinary?
For starters, they’ve clearly conceded David’s point that Mr Emmott’s appointment is problematic and, even more strikingly, they’ve shown themselves to have absolutely no confidence in the poor man’s capacity to behave in an impartial fashion in his new job on matters related to the EU referendum!
So, if what Ofcom are saying is true, Mr Emmott will surely have to leave the room or keep his mouth firmly shut every time matters relating to the EU referendum are raised?
Given that he’s supposed to be chairing those meetings, that isn’t exactly going to be an ideal situation for his fellow board members, is it?
Especially as Ofcom’s Content Board is likely to have quite a lot of discussions and make a lot of decisions on matters of related to the EU referendum over the coming months (or years).

Photo by UK in Italy

Craig Byers: BBC comedy, the EU and BBC bias

Craig Byers: BBC comedy, the EU and BBC bias

This week’s Feedback featured a clip from the first episode of the 47th series of Radio 4’s eternally somewhat-less-than-side-splitting Now Show – a comedic ‘team rant’ in favour of the EU and against critics of the EU.

Unlike the recent ‘rants’ from Andrew Neil and Emily Maitlis, this particular rant was absolutely nothing new.

And I’m not just talking about the 46 previous series of the Now Show either. I’ve heard many a pro-EU rant on BBC Radio 4 comedy shows over the years – or, more accurately, many a rant against critics of the EU – especially UKIP supporters and right-wing Conservatives.

Left-wing bias on BBC comedy programmes is, of course, hardly news. Even Nick Cohen’s recent robust defence of the BBC, which saw very little evil in the corporation, contained this brief aside:

And, yes, thank you for raising it, I know, there is BBC bias. I accept that Radio 4 will give us left- and extreme left-wing comedians but never their right- or far-right equivalents.

But, still, on it goes.

What is the BBC going to do about it, especially as the EU referendum approaches? Cue Roger Bolton and the BBC’s chief political advisor Ric Bailey – whose conversation I will now transcribe. I can’t say that Ric Bailey’s tone overly impressed me, and he seemed quite evasive to me at times as well. (And all credit to Roger Bolton for pressing him somewhat here).You might also note yet another statement from a senior BBC boss of the BBC’s outright refusal to carry out statistical studies – even very simple, routine ones – in order to help monitor and regulate its bias.

Quite why it’s so obvious to Ric Bailey that doing such studies, or even doing a basic count, is absurd isn’t explained. He simply caricatures the whole idea, making it into a straw man (or several straw men) and repeatedly sneering at it (as you’ll see).

Frankly, if someone were to listen to all episodes of The Now Show over each series from now until the referendum – as people at the BBC will inevitably do, including the show’s producers – it’s hardly either time-consuming or rocket science to make a quick note of whether there are pro-EU-biased sections or anti-EU-biased sections in each episode, and then keep a tally. If there are, say, 17 pro-EU-biased sections (of the kind we heard last week) across six series between now and the referendum and 0 anti-EU-biased sections, then there’s bias! And simple, cost-free counting will have proved it, won’t it?

Anyhow, here’s the transcription:

Roger Bolton: Ric Bailey, will The Now Show be told to make anti-EU jokes in future?

Ric Bailey: Look, comedy and satire are absolutely part of what the BBC has to do when it’s covering politics and, of course, when it’s covering this referendum. The idea that you do that by numbers and that you count the jokes and then have a sort of grading system for how funny they are…you only have to say it to think how ridiculous that is.

Roger Bolton: But will it require some form of balance? You don’t say it’s got be 5 for, 5 against, but does there need to be some sort of balance?

Ric Bailey: So, the BBC…every genre has to be impartial. And the word that everybody always forgets when you talk about impartiality is the word “due”. And that means thinking about the context in which you are doing the programme. So, a referendum clearly is a very particular context. Now, that’s why we have guidelines to spell out what those particular circumstances are, what the context is. But also, different genres give you a different context for how you achieve impartiality.

Roger Bolton: So in comedy is there any requirement for balance over a period over a controversial subject?

Ric Bailey: Well, like most programmes, there’s a long way to go before the referendum. It’s a topical satire programme, so its job is to take the mickey out of politicians. take the mickey out of what they say and so on. But the idea that you have to do it in one single programme in a beautifully perfectly mathematically-balanced way would be ridiculous. And the word that gets used in the guidelines for the actual referendum period itself is “broad balance”.

Roger Bolton: But over a period there should be jokes about all sides, not just one side?

Ric Bailey: I always take the view, particularly in comedy, the more the merrier. So, the more you are looking at the whole range of politicians, a whole range of views, and subjecting them to your biting wit the better. Of course, if week in week out any comedy show only took lumps out of one side of an argument or only took lumps out of one particular political party that would not be impartial. But those are the judgements that all programmes make, including comedy, day in, day out, and this is no different.

Roger Bolton: Well, let’s suppose it’s 10 or 16 weeks, Before the period starts, when we know the date of the referendum but the so-called campaign period hasn’t started, nothing will change? No extra requirements on people to be fair, balanced, to be duly impartial?

Ric Bailey: Roger, my view is: the BBC has to be duly impartial about this referendum. It has to be duly impartial about it today. It has to be duly impartial about it the day before the referendum. There is no difference. Part of the idea of the guidelines is not only to be clear about what impartiality means during that referendum period but it’s also to set our the parameters so that programme makers, on behalf of the listeners and viewers, can scrutinise the arguments properly. Sometimes often people think, oh, the guidelines are there to stop broadcasters doing things during these periods. Actually it’s the opposite. They’re there to set out a broad territory in which broadcasters have the freedom and the editorial judgement. That’s the first principle. Editorial judgement must dictate how you approach it.

Roger Bolton: How well qualified do you think BBC journalists are to cover this issue? Because it seems that James Harding, the director of news, thinks they need some mandatory training. He’s going to introduce that. Do you think that’s a reflection on the fact that, in the past, the journalists have not been particularly well qualified?

Ric Bailey: Absolutely not. No, I mean…

Roger Bolton: So why might there be training?

Ric Bailey: Before every election I, as part of the guidelines, talk to journalists right across the board about the particular circumstances of any election or referendum. This is a very important referendum and, whereas most of the time there will be a specialist number of journalists who are likely to cover Europe, this is something that’s going to….you’ve already pointed out, it’s already in The Now Show. So lots of people who may not normally be covering this sort of story…It will be part and parcel of their journalism for up to two years. Now, it’s really important in those circumstances that we know that everybody understands the issues, the arguments and the very particular context of this referendum.

This guest post from Craig Byers originally appeared on Is the BBC Biased.

—————————————————————————————————–
News-watch has transcribed the Now Show sequence on the EU. This is what they said:

HUGH DENNIS:       There are lots of people here who hanker after being the country we once were.  And it’s because of those people that we’re having to have a referendum on whether to leave the 21st Century . . . the, the European Union (laughter).

STEVE PUNT:          The European Union, er, is what you meant there, Hugh.  Er, David Cameron, the elected leader of a majority government has been forced by the unelected leader of a party with one seat, and a rabble of his own troublemakers into what could be the greatest leap in the dark since once of Russia’s long-jumpers took so many drugs his run-up lasted all night. (laughter)

HUGH DENNIS:       Although, to be fair, we still don’t really know what Jeremy Corbyn thinks about leaving the EU.

STEVE PUNT:          No, that is true.  I mean, are you in favour of leaving the EU, Jeremy?  Just nod your head for yes.  Is he nodding his head (laughter) I can’t tell if he’s nodding his head or not (laughter) and neither can anyone else.  Er . . . anyway, no one has any idea what’s going to happen, and Cameron is planning for two scenarios, he gains party support for reform, or he fails and he’s driven out of office.  This strategy often referred to as:

HUGH DENNIS:       Back or sack.

STEVE PUNT:          And then there’s a third option (laughter) the third option is that his backbenchers drive Cameron to a breakdown, the so-called:

HUGH DENNIS:       Back, sack and crack. (laughter)

STEVE PUNT:          Now, this week . . .

HUGH DENNIS:       It took nearly a week to write that. (laughter)

STEVE PUNT:          Now this week, he and his team announced that they had four European goals, something that Cameron is about as likely to achieve as Jose Mourinho.  The goals were suitably vague and non-specific and the suspicion is that any new measures will have to pass a series of rather easy tests.  First:

HUGH DENNIS:       An Italian probity test.

STEVE PUNT:          Second:

HUGH DENNIS:       A Greek financial test.

STEVE PUNT:          Third, and easiest of all.

HUGH DENNIS:       A German emissions test. (laughter)  How will these renegotiations actually happen? Well Cameron sent his goals to the head of the European Council in a letter.

STEVE PUNT:          In a letter.  Only politicians ever send letters anymore.  It’s so quaintly old-fashioned.  But of course Cameron knows that since Theresa May now reads all our emails, he didn’t really have any choice (laughter)  Now, it’s not just UKIP who want out of the EU, of course lots of Tory backbenchers do as well, you know, those are the people who keep saying . . .

MARGARET THATCHER IMPRESSIONIST:     These people have power, but are completely unelected.

STEVE PUNT:          . . . and then tell you how much they support the royal family (laughter) the royal family, of course, absolute proof that European immigrants can fully integrate into British society (laughter)  Now these types are already saying that Cameron has softened his initial demands such as that EU migrants wait four years before being able to claim benefits.  Er, Jacob Rees-Mogg said . . .

JACOB REES-MOGG IMPRESSIONIST:            This is pretty thin gruel. (laughter)

STEVE PUNT:          Coincidentally also what he proposes migrants should live on during those four years (laughter) but can we actually leave?

HUGH DENNIS:       Well, yes we can, er, because Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon provides for just such an eventuality.  It says:

ANNOUNCER:         If you’re not entirely happy with your membership of the European Community, just return it to Brussels with two years’ notice and we’ll cancel it with no questions asked.

HUGH DENNIS:       Now, we’ve paraphrased that slightly (laughter)

STEVE PUNT:          But that is basically what it says.  Two years’ notice and you’re out.  However, is it really that simple? I mean, it’s hard enough to cancel a Sky subscription, (laughter) or an ISP contract.  Surely getting out of half a century’s worth of legal treaties and trade deals is going to be at least as hard.

HUGH DENNIS:       Okay. And click ‘cancel.’ Ah, you can’t cancel online, you have to phone this number. (sound of phone being dialled)

ANNOUNCER:         Thank you for calling the EU unsubscription line.  You are held in a queue and will be shortly transferred to a pre-recorded announcement to try and talk you out of unsubscribing.  Do you really want to unsubscribe?

HUGH DENNIS:       Yes.

ANNOUNCER:         Did you say ‘No’? (laughter)

HUGH DENNIS:       No.

ANNOUNCER:         You said, ‘No.’ (laughter)

HUGH DENNIS:       Aargh!

ANNOUNCER:         Thank you for choosing back, sack and crack. (laughter)

STEVE PUNT:          Now, what’s fairly obvious is that David Cameron really doesn’t want to have to leave Europe, because the economic risk of doing so is so massive.

HUGH DENNIS:       But the case for reform is different.  The EU has many faults, however voting to leave could have all sorts of consequences, for a start, it could immediately trigger a second referendum in Scotland, and maybe even Wales, which receives a lot of EU money.

STEVE PUNT:          So, by 2020 it’s not unrealistic that England could be a truncated half-an-island, kept afloat by its remaining industries, banking, armaments, and Burberry raincoats (laughter).  Now, a lot of it really will boil down to the exact wording of the question.  Now, in the Scottish referendum the wording was . . .

ANNOUNCER:         Should Scotland be an independent country?

STEVE PUNT:          And that replaced the SNP’s original wording which was

ANNOUNCER:         Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?

STEVE PUNT:          And that, in turn, replaced Alex Salmond’s original first draft.

ANNOUNCER:         Scotland should be an independent country. (laughter) Are you going to argue, pal? (laughter)

STEVE PUNT:          So, er . . . what should the . . . what should the wording of the European referendum be?

ANNOUNCER:         Do you agree that unpicking every piece of legislation and trade agreement for the last half a century and then renegotiating separate deals with every other nation on earth, whilst simultaneously restructuring the entire financial and legal framework of the country can all be done in two years?

STEVE:          Hmm, well, what do you think Mr Putin?

VLADIMIR PUTIN IMPRESSIONIST:       Well, I think you must be taking some banned substances (laughter and applause)

Photo by Matt From London

BBC NEWS CHIEFS CLAIM THAT MONITORING FOR POLITICAL BIAS ‘IS VERY UNHELPFUL’

BBC NEWS CHIEFS CLAIM THAT MONITORING FOR POLITICAL BIAS ‘IS VERY UNHELPFUL’

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

One of the big BBC-related stories of the past week has been the appearance of Lord Hall, James Harding and David Jordan at parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee discussing the BBC’s policies in the light of the upcoming EU referendum.

Two parts of the discussion have dominated the media’s reporting of it:

The first was that “all BBC journalists” will be sent for “mandatory training” so that they become “as well-informed as possible of the issues around the workings of the institutions of the EU and its relationship to the UK”.

(So that’s John Humphrys, James Naughtie, Evan Davis, Kirsty Wark, Katya Adler, Jeremy Bowen, etc?)

The second concerned the meeting’s most heated moment – when Jacob Rees-Mogg confronted David Jordan (director of editorial policy and standards) over EU funding for the BBC – the reporting about which has been somewhat confusing (to my mind).

Mr Jordan began by replying that the BBC “doesn’t take money from the EU” and that the organisation that does take money from the EU (£35 million), Media Action, is “owned by the BBC” but “independent”.

On being pushed further (over a FoI request by The Spectator into EU funding for the BBC), however, things got murkier and Mr Jordan and Mr Rees-Mogg began to fall out:

David Jordan: There are two things you were referring to – the question that you asked last time, which was in relation to Media Action, so I answered…

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Well, I wasn’t actually. Last time I was asking about EU funds broadly, not Media Action.

David Jordan: Well, it’s that £35 million figure which you quoted which relates to the Media Action…

Jacob Rees-Mogg: But you replied about Media Action when I was asking about all EU funding….

Having watched their earlier exchange again, Mr Rees-Mogg is correct. He didn’t ask about Media Action or “quote” that £35 million figure earlier. Here’s how their discussion started:

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I just want to go back to a question we came to the last time you came to the committee, on the money that the BBC receives from the EU, which I know isn’t huge in your overall budget but which is still some tens of millions. One of the standard contractual terms when the EU hands out money is that those receiving money won’t say or do anything damaging to the interests of the EU. Does the BBC agree to those standard contractual terms and will they take money from the EU between now and the referendum?

David Jordan: The BBC as a public service broadcaster doesn’t take money from the EU. The organisation to which you’re referring that take money from the EU is an organisation called Media Action and that’s an independent part of the BBC with independent trustees……..

The committee’s chairman, however, only added to the confusion here by wrongly ascribing that “quote” about the £35 million to Mr Rees-Mogg himself shortly after, so maybe Mr Jordan’s apparent confusion on that point is more understandable:

William Cash: Why do you need to receive the £30 million I think that Jacob referred to…?

The disagreements continued, however, and David Jordan, in answer to pushing on that Spectator FoI request, said that independent companies who make programmes for the BBC also receive some EU funding and that the EU also funds some other things, such as translating programmes made in English into other EU languages (as seemed to have been the case with the highly controversial pro-EU mockumentary The Great European Disaster Movie).

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Look, you are now giving me a really different answer from the one you gave before. I never mentioned Media Action. I only mentioned EU funding. You gave an answer about overseas aid and now you’re saying the BBC does receive money to help with some of its programming and does receive money to translate some of its programming and you are therefore signed up to the contractual agreements from the EU that require you not to damage its interests. Why didn’t you give the full answer the first time.

David Jordan: I gave a very full answer about Media Action and now I’m giving a very full answer about how other funds are occasionally available for other programmes to make use of…

Jacob Rees-Mogg:…which you denied in response to my first question.

William Cash then told them to calm down and moved the discussion on – which is unfortunate, I think, as many issues were still left dangling in the air over the EU money that isn’t spent on Media Action. Mr Rees-Mogg still seemed unclear about that. I’m certainly unclear about it.

And does the BBC sign up to that contractual agreement with the EU when it accepts the funding for innocuous-sounding tasks like translations and those other aspects of programming (whatever they may be exactly), apparently always involving independent companies?

And what if those independent companies only produce pro-EU programmes for the BBC (like The Great European Disaster Movie?) How would that free the BBC from charges of pro-EU bias? Does their independence’ and the apparent fact that the EU money they get goes on things like translations really get the BBC off the hook here?

Such questions need a lot more scrutiny.

Why the BBC doesn’t monitor itself for bias

One of the less-reported things about the European Scrutiny Committee’s encounter with the three top BBC bosses was that it discussed something close to our hearts: monitoring bias.

What I took away from it was that after the Wilson Report into the BBC’s (pro-) EU coverage, the BBC had pledged to put some form of monitoring into place but that, having tried doing so, has now abandoned monitoring again and won’t be re-introducing it in the run-up to the EU referendum.

Sir Bill Cash, repeatedly citing News-watch’s close monitoring of the BBC’s EU coverage, argued that the BBC ought to be carrying out such monitoring and making its finding publicly available for people to check. He wants a Hansard-style logging system, comparable to News-watch’s extensive archive of transcriptions, and, given its huge budget and sheer size, wanted to know why the BBC isn’t doing so?

The most concise statement of the BBC’s position came from David Jordan, the BBC’s head of editorial policy and standards:

I think we gave up the monitoring that the chairman is talking about at the time because we found it to be actually very unhelpful and not helpful at all in even deciding and defining whether we were impartial.

And I think in the context of other appearances and elections we’ve discovered the same thing. For example, if you’re covering an election how do you define somebody who’s on a particular party but it opposing something that party is doing at the time they were appearing on the radio? Are they, as it were, in that party’s column or are they in another column that tells you what they were doing? It becomes very, very confusing and doesn’t necessarily sum up the nuances and differences that exist in election campaigns in our experience.

So that was the reason I think why we gave it up.

It was also very, very expensive and time-consuming too.

And we thought that allowing editors to be essentially responsible for impartiality in their output and having an overall view which we get through a series of meetings and discussions which take place in the BBC, were a better way to ensure we achieved impartiality that through simple number-counting.

I have to say I laughed when he said that such monitoring had proved to be “actually very unhelpful and not helpful at all”. Cynically, I thought, “I bet it wasn’t – especially if it came up with the ‘wrong’ results” (a bit like the Balen report?)

I didn’t buy his example either. For me, it’s hardly rocket science to, say, note in one column that Kate Hoey is a Labour Party representative and in another column to note that she’s anti-EU. I can’t see why that would be “very, very confusing”.

Also, I don’t buy the it’s “very, very expensive and time-consuming too” argument either. If a small number of people at News-watch can monitor and transcribe every EU-related interview on major BBC programmes over many, many years then surely an organisation of the size and resources of the BBC can run something similar for its major news bulletins and flagship programmes too. It’s not that difficult. I work full-time and still managed to monitor every political interview on all the BBC’s main current affairs programmes for nine months (in 2009-10) – and at no expense whatsoever!

Also, if you simply rely on editorial judgement – on both the small and large scales (in individual programmes and at senior editorial meetings) – then many individual biases could result and multiply. In an organisation containing so many like-minded people as the BBC, those biases would doubtless head in the same direction and become self-reinforcing. Therefore, they probably won’t be spotted as biases at all – merely sensible, impartial BBC thinking. Who then would be able to point out that it isn’t being impartial after all?

Given that many people think that this kind of groupthink the problem and that, as a result, the BBC are blind to their own biases, asking us to trust the judgements of BBC editors en masse isn’t likely to reassure us….

….which is where what David Jordan derisively calls “number-crunching” comes in.

If over a year of, say, Newsnight there are 60 editions that deal with the UK-EU relationship in some way. Say 55 of those editions featured a pro-Stay guest but only 35 featured a pro-Leave guest, then number-crunching surely would surely raise a serious question about the programme’s impartiality?

If, say, 9 of those pro-Leave guests came from UKIP and the other 26 came from the Conservatives but no pro-Leave Labour or Green guests appeared then that would also surely indicate a serious bias?

Is it really beyond the ability of programme editors to count and record such figures – and to then make them publicly available?

If their figures show exceptional impartiality (45 pro-Stay, 45 pro-Leave guests), then they will surely win more people over, wouldn’t they?

What would they have to lose?

The full transcript of the committee meeting is available here.

Craig Byers: Why Cardiff University’s claims of BBC ‘right-wing’ ‘impartiality’ are not to be believed

Craig Byers: Why Cardiff University’s claims of BBC ‘right-wing’ ‘impartiality’ are not to be believed

The work of Cardiff University’s Media department is continuing to provide comfort to BBC supporters in ‘refuting’ claims of a left-wing bias at the BBC and to be cited as ‘proof’ of a right-wing BBC bias by some left-wingers (especially on Twitter).
Cardiff’s 2012 report, ‘proving’ the BBC to be right-leaning, anti-European and anti-Islam (yes, I know!), was expertly debunked in a Civitas study by David Keighley and Andrew Jubb. David and Andrew got into the statistical nitty-gritty of the Cardiff study and found it wanting. (I provided a summary here.)
The worrying thing about that Cardiff report though – with its fatally flawed and, frankly, bizarre methodology – was that it went on to form the academic underpinning of the major BBC-funded Prebble Report into BBC impartiality, which found (by and large) that, yes, the BBC is impartial.
Statistical trashing is all very well, but the ad hominem approach seems to work better.The lead authors of the original report, part-funded by the BBC, were: Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Richard Sambrook, and Mike Berry.
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen was director of the Prebble content analysis project, and worked previously for the European Commission on a report investigating how the media were reporting the idea of greater European integration and why the UK was sceptical about it. She’s also written for the far-left Red Pepper
 
Richard Sambrook was the former Head of BBC News until 2008.
Mike Berry, who acted as chief spokesman for the report, is Greg Philo’s partner-in-arms at the campaigning, far-left Glasgow Media Group. He’s not a fan of Israel – to put it mildly.
Yes, ad hom arguments are generally considered fallacious, but if these people’s methodology has been shown to be highly dubious (at best) and their findings seem to fly so insanely in the face of reality, then – given their backgrounds and beliefs – maybe there really is something to be said for the ad hom approach after all, don’t you think?
Later, the top bod at the Cardiff Media department, Justin Lewis, earned the admiration of some on the Left by using those original findings to condemn the BBC for being right-wing.Playing the man rather than the ball, I then checked ol’ Justin out and found him to be very left-wing too (the kind of professor who is openly anti-capitalism and thinks Muslims get a raw deal from the British media).Curiously, however, he exempted (not explicitly, but by not mentioning them) the BBC from that latter criticism (well, could he really pretend otherwise?) and he writes articles with titles like, A monster threatens UK broadcasting? It’s Sky, not the BBC. Hmm.
 
Why am I regurgitating all of this recent history again? Because the Cardiff profs are back.The Guardian has published their latest election ‘findings’ (repeatedly) and left-wingers on Twitter are linking to it gleefully, saying it disproves charges of left-wing bias at the BBC.
The first of those Guardian pieces found that David Cameron was granted “by far the most airtime of the party leaders in the first two weeks of the campaign” by the media as a whole, but praises the BBC specifically for focusing more on policy than their rivals.
The second of those Guardian pieces – a piece I’d urge you to read as a masterful example of studiously biased academic reporting – found that “BBC and Sky News’ election coverage featured Conservative sources speaking for longer than those from other parties” but that Channels 4 and 5 gave the Tories even more airtime. [Ed: Tory ‘Channel 4 News’? Jon Snow on Cardiff Uni’s Line One!] 
 
Even this leftist-outpouring-dressed-in-the-cloak-of-academic-‘impartiality’ was honest enough to report something that must really have stuck in their throats to have to report: They described the BBC as “an outlier”, in that the BBC gave “more time to Miliband, who made up 24.3% of time leaders were speaking on screen, compared to 21.9% of time for Cameron”.
Still, “Nigel Farage appeared in more image bites on the BBC than David Cameron”, so that’s evidence of BBC pro-UKIP bias, eh?
The Guardian pieces as a whole, however, were consistent with the spirit of the 2012 Cardiff report and Justin Lewis’s later comments. They portrayed the broadcast media (Channel 5, Channel 4, ITV, BBC) as essentially right-leaning, but – despite some criticisms – the BBC came out as the least biased of all (if still right-leaning).
And who were the Cardiff University authors of these two Guardian pieces? Former BBC head of news Richard Sambrook and his colleague Dr Stephen Cushion.
Now, Dr Cushion is new to me. Is he a Cardiff Media department with a non-BBC background – unlike Richard Sambrook?

Er, no. He was brought in by the BBC to work on two BBC Trust impartiality reviews into the reporting of post-devolution Britain and three BBC-funded reports into 24-hour news.And as for the three other Cardiff Uni people credited on those Guardian articles as helping with the latest research – Richard Thomas, Allaina Kilby and Marina Morani – well, here’s PhD student Marina (on the Cardiff Uni website).I’m going to quote the whole of this because I suspect you’ll enjoy it.I haven’t made this up. This isn’t satire. This is the real thing:

It has commonly been noted how Italy shifted in the last decades from being an emigration country to a migrants destination. The presence in the peninsula of a few million of immigrants calls for the urge of communication means that take into account the contemporary multicultural society.

In recent years a number of “intercultural media” – newspapers, magazines, radio programs, websites, online TV – have been created in order to provide alternative sources of information and new representations avoiding the use of cultural stereotypes and stigmatizations which too often affect the mainstream media language.

Among various initiatives, the study will focus on a selection of independent websites where foreign origin together with autochthonous Italians are engaged in producing and sharing information, news, video, stories, experiences, expectations.

In the first phase of the research I intend to build a comparison between the image of the immigrant population emerging in national media and the alternative social representations that these progress media aim to construct and promote.

In the second phase I will analyse the contents of the most effective online projects in their attempt to offer diverse representations on immigration issues. With regard to methodology the main methods will be critical discourse analysis and content analysis of written and audiovisual texts. An important part will be dedicated to the narrative and rhetoric multi-modal constructions.

The use of language here not only counters cultural stereotypes and generalisations but also turn them into new positive representational worlds where “the immigrant” is regarded as persona and “active subject” of the media production.

Well, I think we know where she’s coming from! (And Mike Berry, Justin Lewis & Co. would surely approve).
As for Allaina Kilby…well, here’s one for David Preiser (and it’s based on her university thesis): Jon Stewart has made us laugh at politics – and restored our sanity. (Nothing ‘incriminating’ UK-wise though so far).
And as for Richard Thomas (who writes discourses entitled From Executive Remuneration to the Living Wage: Pre and post-crisis discourses of income distribution on UK television news), well, just allow me to quote his Twitter blurb:

Richard Thomas @rich_thomas99
Writer for All Out Cricket. Doctoral researcher into income inequality, wealth and poverty in the media.

Call me a running-dog capitalist lickspittle if you like, but I’m guessing where he’s coming from too – and checking out the rest of his Twitter feed I’m sticking with that hunch.
So….
A university media department stacked with BBC insiders and leftists produces a couple of studies of BBC bias which find that the BBC is the least biased broadcaster, even though it has a right-wing bias.

And some people still think that ad hom critiques are always wrong?

This article originally appeared on Is The BBC Biased?  Many thanks to Craig for allowing us to post this here.