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David Keighley

BBC BIAS DIGEST 3 JANUARY, 2021

BBC ‘LAUNCHES BITTER LAST-MINUTE ANTI-BREXIT ONSLAUGHT’: Chris Hastings (Mail 3/1) said that BBC broadcasters and presenters had launched ‘ a bitter last-ditch onslaught against Brexit in the New Year schedules. He added that the UK’s departure from the EU on December 31 had coincided with what critics had said were ‘ill-tempered tirades, offensive remarks and heavily biased reportage’. Among them were:

  • Comedian Nish Kumar, appearing on Graham Norton’s BBC1 New Year’s Eve special, had described Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage as ‘a sack of meat brought to life by a witch’s curse’, adding, ‘now we have finally completed Brexit, I predict we will have a taste for leaving things and will vote to leave more stuff, starting with the continent of Europe, then the United Nations and finally the Earth by strapping rockets under the country and blasting off into space.’
  • Another comedian, Frankie Boyle, hosting a special edition of his BBC2 show ‘New World Order’, had said that Brexit was like finding cancer had spread to the walls of your house, and that, sooner or later, Britain would ‘re-enter Europe’ – as refugees.
  • In News output, business editor Simon Jack had spoken of firms facing ‘a mountain of new paperwork’ to deal with trade with the EU; politics editor Laura Kuenssberg had also warned of extra paperwork covering trade and holidays; and Katya Adler, the Europe editor, had also spoken of difficulties with trade.

Mr Hastings reported that the BBC had responded by stating that the corporation was ‘impartial on all topics’ and featured a variety of different perspectives.

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST 2 JANUARY, 2020

‘ALMOST HALF OF BRITONS DON’T TRUST BBC’: A report in the Times  (£ 2/1) said that, according to a YouGov poll, almost half of Britons thought  the BBC no longer represented their values amid declining levels of trust in the broadcaster, down from 62% in 2016.

The report said:

‘The results are understood to chime with the unpublished research recently conducted by the BBC which found that residents of well-off and diverse neighbourhoods held the broadcaster in higher esteem than people from poorer and less diverse communities.

‘The findings also tally with an Ofcom report in November which said that the BBC’s bedrock older middle-class audience was going off it. The report added that it was seen as the least impartial public service broadcaster, below ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Channel 5. Fifty-four per cent of adults believe that it provides impartial news.

‘The new research, by YouGov, found 44% of the public thought that the BBC represented their values badly. This was particularly true of older people, with 48% saying that the BBC did not adequately represent their views. In the north of England it was 51% and Scotland 47%. Among those who voted for Brexit, 58% were unhappy with the overall stance of the corporation.

‘Asked how their views of the BBC had changed over the year only 4% said that its values had become more like theirs while 33% said it had become less like theirs. Older male viewers outside London and the southeast were the most likely to be dissatisfied with the BBC’s perceived values.

‘The findings come before a government review on public sector broadcasting. Boris Johnson has made little secret of his desire to reform the BBC amid speculation that the licence fee in its present form could be scrapped.’

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST 20 DECEMBER 2020

“MAJORITY OBJECT TO BBC LICENCE FEE’: Glen Owen (Mail 20/12) reported that 40% of those questioned in a poll commissioned by the Defund the BBC Campaign wanted the abolition of the BBC licence fee, compares to 37% who supported the £157.50 annual charge.  He said the poll had also found that 15% of respondents  had asserted they would not watch any BBC programmes during Christmas , while 33% said they would only watch the BBC for five hours or less.  In the same report, Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns condemned the BBC’s ‘dismal’ Christmas schedule as ‘dispiriting’, and ‘littered with endless repeats and cheap game shows’.

 

BBC CORRESPONDENT ACCUSES TRUMP OF ‘CATASTROPHIC’ FAILURE’: Craig Byers (Is the BBC Biased? 19/12) said that the BBC’s New York correspondent Nick Bryant had claimed in a year-end posting for the BBC Radio 4 programme From Our Own Correspondent that Donald Trump’s handling  of the coronavirus outbreak could come to be seen as ‘the most catastrophic domestic policy failure of the past 100 years’.  Mr Byers also noted that Mr Bryant had suggested that male heads of state had handled the pandemic worse than female ones, and had quoted Donald Trump’s America, Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil and Boris Johnson’s Britain as three example of ‘macho’, swaggering populist surfers who had discovered that the virus ‘could not be sloganed away’.

He concluded: ‘It really is extraordinary how the BBC can claim to be impartial when its senior reporters are given free rein to write and broadcast such one-sided, contentious stuff.’

BBC BIAS DIGEST 13 DECEMBER 2020

SURVEY FINDS 74 PERCENT OF BBC COMEDY IS BIASED TO LEFT:   Christopher Hope (£ Telegraph 13/12) said that the BBC had been accused of ‘flagrant bias’,  after a survey of comedy output during November (available here) had found  that 74 per cent of comedy contributors on its main channels were given to left-leaning, ‘woke’-supporting or anti-Brexit comics.  He reported that the survey – conducted by the Common Sense Campaign –

had identified that only two contributors in the 364 slots had openly expressed pro-Brexit or Conservative sympathies. Mr Hope noted that Tim Davie, the BBC director general, had already acknowledged that the BBC’s comedy output was seen to be too one-sided, but reported that a BBC spokesman had responded to the survey by stating that the corporation did not analyse comedy by comparing numbers, but judged it on whether it was funny and whether it reflected ‘ a range of different views’.

 

BBC BOTANIST: ‘GARDENING IS RACIST’: Harry Howard (Mail 13/12) said that BBC Countryfile presenter James Wong – a botanist – had come under attack after claiming on a series of Twitter posts that British gardening had racism ‘baked into its DNA because of its ‘fetishisation’ of terms such as ‘heritage’ and ‘native’.  Mr Howard noted that Mr Wong had approved a tweet which stated: ‘Gardens are denied their political agency because they too often reveal uncomfortable politics of individual ownership, spatial inequity and unsustainable practices.’

BBC BIAS DIGEST 9 DECEMBER 2020

BBC INSERT ‘FINGER-WAGGING PREJUDICE’ INTO VICAR OF DIBLEY:  Allison Pearson (£ Telegraph 9/12), noting that the eponymous character played by actress Dawn French in BBC1’s comedy series The Vicar of Dibley would ‘take the knee’ – in line with Black Lives Matter protocol to acknowledge white racism  –  stated that it was no surprise that ‘some people’ were upset that the Christmas version of the show had shoehorned in references to the BLM movement.  Ms Pearson opined:

‘Deep sigh. Is nowhere safe from this aggressively sanctimonious new religion? Clearly not. Dibley’s vicar, Geraldine Kennedy (Dawn French), takes the knee on the village green while the church organ plays in the background – if you can imagine such a thing. I prefer not to. Getting down on one knee is something Britons used to only do to propose marriage or tie a shoelace. What on earth will the Dibley Parish Council make of this incongruous juxtaposition of gentle English comedy and furious US identity politics? One member, Jim Trott (Trevor Peacock), who is known for his slow wits, inappropriate sexual references (is that even allowed any more?) and for stuttering “no” repeatedly, would probably say, “No, no, no no no…” And I reckon a few million viewers could agree with him.

‘. . . The BBC obviously finds this difficult to comprehend but rather a lot of white, middle-class people pay the licence fee and they quite enjoy seeing their lives represented amid the hourly, finger-wagging lectures from News and Drama about how dreadful this country is and how appallingly prejudiced we all are. The Ten O’Clock News’s recent obituary of Peter Alliss appeared to take a sideswipe at the well-loved golf commentator because the 89-year-old had made a few jokey remarks which didn’t find favour with the po-faced thirtysomething Corbynistas who seem to make up most of the corporations’s staff. Although not its audience, funnily enough.’

BASHIR ACCUSED OF ‘DESPICABLE’ CONDUCT:  Sam Greenhill (Mail 2/12) reported that the BBC’s journalist Martin Bashir – who had conducted the corporation’s 1995 Panorama interview of Princess Diana – had been accused of being ‘despicable’ in the way he behaved in a murder case in 1991. Mr Greenhill said that Karen Hadaway, the mother of a nine-year-old child who had been murdered in the notorious ‘Babes in the Wood’ double killing in 1986, had handed some of her child’s clothes to Mr Bashir after he promised to take them away for DNA testing because police investigation of the murders had been put on hold. Mr Greenhill added that Mrs Hadaway had not heard from Mr Bashir again and that she had since claimed that the clothes had never been returned. Mr Greenhill further reported that there had been speculation that the absence of the clothes had delayed the eventual police resolution of the case by more than 20 years.

 

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST 1 DECEMBER 2020

BBC ‘PRE-JUDGES DIANA INQUIRY’: Robert Mendick (£ Telegraph 1/12) reported that the BBC had been accused of pre-judging the outcome of its inquiry by retired judge Lord Dyson into the circumstances surrounding the 1995 interview of Princess Diana by Martin Bashir, who had been a BBC Panorama journalist. Mr Mendick explained that lawyers for Allan Waller, who had been head of security for Earl Spencer, Princess Diana’s brother, had written to the BBC  accusing Martin Bashir of ‘conspiracy to create an instrument of fraud’ (allegedly, forged bank statements purporting to show payments to a former employee of Lord Spencer). He added that the BBC legal department had responded that it believed the corporation did not bear any liability.  Mr Mendick said that ‘there would be anger’ that the BBC appeared to have made its own findings about the claims before the Dyson inquiry had properly started.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 22 NOVEMBER 2020

MPs DEMAND PM REINS IN  BBC ‘WOKE’ BIAS: Glen Owen (Mail 21/11) said that Conservative MPs had written to prime minister Boris Johnson demanding that he launch a fightback against the ‘politically correct woke agenda of institutions including the BBC. Mr Owen reported that the letter, from 60 MPs and peers in the Common Sense group, chaired by senior backbencher Sir John Hayes, was asking for a number of ‘drastic’ measures including decriminalising non-payment of the BBC licence fee on the basis that it was time ‘to defend British traditions and values’ as well as standing  against ‘the senseless woke whingers and the soulless militants who despise the best of Britain’.  Mr Owen quoted from the letter, written in the context of the BBC’s decision to remove the word ‘faggot’ from the The Pogues’ Christmas song Fairytale of New York in deference to the LGBTQ+ lobby:

‘In light of the BBC’s repeated refusal to address its organisation’s undoubted liberal bias, illustrated most recently by its bizarre decision to censor a well-known Christmas song (perhaps, similarly, the whole canon of popular music is to be reviewed by a highly paid zealot!), we believe it is now time to decriminalise the licence fee, so enabling ordinary Britons to choose whether or not to pay for the BBC’s content.’

Mr Owen noted that the BBC had said Fairytale Of New York would be played with its full lyrics on some stations, but not Radio 1, whose young listeners ‘are particularly sensitive to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality’.

MANGOLD ‘ASTONISHED’ BY OMISSION IN BBC PRINCESS DI PROBE:  An article in the Mail (22/10) said that veteran BBC investigative journalist Tom Mangold had ‘expressed astonishment’  that the BBC panel set up by the corporation ’s management board to investigate whether the BBC Panorama interview of Princess Diana by Martin Bashir in 1995 had been properly set up and conducted  would not investigate as part of its remit whether there had been a ‘cover-up’ within BBC ranks.   The piece quoted Mr Mangold, who had been a ‘leading light’ on Panorama when the interview occurred:

‘I am somewhat baffled by the complete absence of any reference in Lord Dyson’s (the former judge chairing the inquiry) brief to investigating the events within the BBC after the story of the forgeries broke.’

It was also stated that Mr Mangold has previously spoken about his conviction that executives on the programme had ‘conspired, lied, deceived and cheated’ to hush up the scandal, adding: ‘The true story is much bigger than Bashir.’

It was further reported that Mr Mangold had outlined the points he believed Lord Dyson must address in investigating the (alleged) use of faked bank statements and other ruses which led to Diana agreeing to the world exclusive interview.

He suggested the questions should be: ‘1. What steps did the BBC and, in particular, Martin Bashir take with a view to obtaining the Panorama interview in 1995?

‘2. Were those steps appropriate, particularly in regard to the BBC’s editorial standards at the time?

‘3. To what extent did the actions of the BBC and, in particular, Martin Bashir influence Diana’s decision to give an interview?

‘4. What knowledge did the BBC have in 1995 and 1996 of the relevant evidence, such as the forged bank statements?

‘5. How effectively did the BBC investigate the circumstances leading to the interview?’

BBC ‘MUST DIVERSIFY AWAY FROM WHAT WHITE PEOPLE THINK’: Jemma Carr (Mail 20/11) reported that Jonathan Munro, the BBC’s head of newsgathering, speaking at a Creative Coalition conference and Media Masters podcast, had said that the BBC should ‘diversify’ its senior news staff because editorial meetings tended to be dominated ‘by what white people think’.  Ms Carr said that Mr Munro had noted that when he had joined the BBC in 2014, every member of his team had been a Caucasian male, and a consequence of the lack of diversity had been that in the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire of 2017 – which had killed 72 people – the BBC news teams had not understood the gravity of issues faced by council house tenants.  Ms Carr also reported that Mark Mardell, who had retired as presenter of the BBC World This Weekend programme, had warned the BBC against ‘annoying and dismaying’ its basic audience in its pursuit of the diversity agenda.

 

BBC BIAS DIGEST 18 NOVEMBER 2020

CUMMINGS DEPARTURE ‘STOPS CHANCE OF BBC REFORM’: Robin Aitken (£ Telegraph 16/11) argued that the removal of Dominic Cummings from the inner circle of Boris Johnson advisors was a ‘disaster for any hope of serious BBC reform’. He stated:

‘The taxi that took Dominic Cummings away from Downing Street for the last time was carrying more than just the Prime Minister’s ex-chief adviser; it also carried away any realistic hope that the Johnson government might deliver on reform of the BBC. With Cummings gone the chances that there will be any serious assault on the Corporation’s privileges and prerogatives are severely diminished.

‘Dominic Cummings was the one person in the heart of government who understood why it was essential to take on the BBC. He could see what so many others seem unable to – that the BBC stands in opposition to everything that real conservatism consists of. Cummings departure is therefore a huge victory for the liberal-left Establishment.

‘When the Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis unburdened herself of her heartfelt contempt for Cummings and Johnson back in May she left no one in any doubt about her own politics. But her forthright editorialising also gave an insight into BBC thinking. It should always be remembered that what the BBC broadcasts is never the work of just one individual; broadcasting is a collaborative venture.

‘Maitlis would not have been able to simply write out her diatribe and then deliver it on-air without anyone else knowing. That script would have been seen and maybe amended by at least a couple of other BBC journalists – probably a senior producer and the programme editor would have read it through. It was, in fact, a considered and calculated attack which had the approval of senior editorial figures.

‘And what Maitlis’ verbal assault showed was just how rattled the BBC was by the knowledge that standing just behind the Prime Minister, and whispering in his ear, was someone who was its sworn enemy. Which is why the BBC news operation mounted such a sustained and vicious campaign to paint Cummings’ road-trip to the north in the blackest of colours; the Corporation was desperate to get rid of a man it rightly saw as a threat.

From the amount of coverage the BBC gave the story, and its tone, one might have thought Cummings stood accused of some serious crime rather than a minor (non-criminal) infringement of the rules made by a concerned father making childcare arrangements. However on that occasion the BBC’s hysterical campaign to unseat Cummings failed and Johnson stood by his man; but now, thanks to the PM’s girlfriend,  they have the scalp they most wanted and the chances of meaningful reform of the BBC have  plummeted.

‘Buried amid all the media comment over the weekend about the defenestration of Lee Cain and subsequent resignation of Dominic Cummings was a line about how the government is now going to drop its much-trailed intention of decriminalising non-payment of the BBC license fee. This is highly significant. The plan to make non-payment a civil, rather than a criminal, matter had been bruited since the beginning of the year. It was strongly hinted that this was one of Cummings’s ideas designed to undermine and weaken the BBC’s position.

‘There were some, perhaps inflated, estimates of how much such a move would cost the BBC in lost revenue – between £200 and £300 million annually, it was said – but more significantly it would have demonstrated a symbolic distancing from the principle of the license fee. And nothing is more important to the Corporation’s high command than ensuring the license fee’s continuation because it is the foundation upon which the entire edifice rests.

‘So the fact that now, in the immediate aftermath of Cummings’ departure, de-criminalisation is off the agenda points to an important new development; the government is suing for peace, and on the BBC’s terms. For who now, in the upper reaches of the government has the stomach for a fight with the BBC?

‘In these pages on Saturday Charles Moore, writing about Mr Cummings’s departure from No 10, detailed his remarkable successes on Brexit which came against all the odds; the referendum campaign itself and then the guerilla warfare in Parliament which coaxed and goaded the opposition into agreeing to a general election which Johnson then won handsomely. As Lord Moore said, all this was achieved “against the most bitter Establishment resistance in living memory”. And it is true that that the BBC was itself the stoutest, most constant supporter of that Establishment fight-back. As close textual analyses of the BBC’s output have demonstrated, the BBC’s coverage of Brexit heavily favoured, by a ratio of roughly 2:1, the pro-EU position.

‘It was that bias which provided the casus belli for the government against the Corporation. The European issue has been the dominant issue in British politics for forty years; it was an issue where unbiased, impartial information and news coverage would have been enormously beneficial to the whole nation. Instead of which, in dereliction of its duty of impartiality, the BBC showed consistent favouritism to the pro-Europeans. For Dominic Cummings that partisanship provided all the justification he needed to take-on the Corporation, to challenge its pretensions of impartiality and to threaten it with the removal of its privileges.

‘So what now? With Cummings gone the danger is that the government will lose all appetite for a war against the BBC because, without doubt, it would have been a protracted and politically bloody affair. It would have required determination and a willingness to spend a lot of political capital. That same Establishment which fought, tooth and nail, to prevent the democratic will of the people from being implemented, would certainly have rallied around the BBC if it was in any serious way threatened.

The BBC can count among its allies the entire arts establishment, academia and the education lobby, reliable media allies like the Guardian and Channel 4, as well as a huge swathe of Parliamentarians in both Houses. The BBC lined-up solidly behind the Establishment on Brexit and the favour would have been returned with interest.

With Dominic Cummings in No 10 – the man who once wrote that the BBC was “the mortal enemy” of the Conservative Party – there was a chance, albeit a slim one, that the Tories would free themselves of the Stockholm Syndrome which has always hampered their dealings with the Corporation. Too many Tories labour under the  illusion that the BBC is neutral towards them and now the one man who was clear-sighted on the issue has been booted out. In his place we have the Prime Minister’s girlfriend Carrie Symonds and her buddy Allegra Stratton.

‘Between them these two seem to have thoroughly brow-beaten the Prime Minister. Johnson is now a much-diminished figure and the BBC will be cheering. It seems more than likely that the Tories under Johnson will now slump back into their comfort zone; that could well turn out to be something depressingly reminiscent of the Cameron administration – a ‘CINO’ government  “conservative in name only”.

‘There is an outside chance that the panel set up by the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden to examine the future of the BBC license fee will recommend its abolition. But the portents are not encouraging. As that indispensable right-of-centre news website Guido Fawkes has pointed out none of the panel members has any track record of criticising the license fee. On the contrary the 10 members look like a mix of industry insiders and establishment placemen much more likely to favour the status quo.

All of this adds up to a black day for reformers and a wonderful one for the BBC. Cummings, its enemy, has been unceremoniously dispatched and the Prime Minister has now chosen his girlfriend as  his principle adviser. With one bound the Corporation was free. As Private Eye’s long-running BBC satirical cartoon strip ‘Corporation Street’ might have put it: “Trebles all round!”‘.

BBC BIAS DIGEST 6 NOVEMBER 2020

BBC STAFF ‘CAN TAKE PART IN TRANS PRIDE EVENTS’: Jamie Johnson (£ Telegraph 6/11) reported that BBC director general Tim Davie had written to staff clarifying several points about the corporation’s new rules about social media and political activities. In particular, he had asserted that there had never been a ban on taking part in Pride or Trans Pride events, or other marches and protests, but that it was forbidden for them to attend rallies organised by political parties.   Mr Davie had stated:

“What we’re asking senior leaders, journalists, producers and those of you who work in news and current affairs as well as factual journalism to do is to take care when making decisions about participating in events and not to take a personal public position, via your actions or your words, on public policy issues.

“Specifically on attending marches, it is absolutely fine for these staff to be at Pride, or Trans Pride, but it would not be appropriate to be marching with a political party, or with a group advocating specific policy changes. I appreciate that this guidance involves many of us making judgement calls about what is and what isn’t appropriate. For some this will be relatively straightforward, while others will have some questions.  To support you on this, we’ll be rolling out a programme of discussions and training on all of these issues over the coming months, and I hope you’ll contribute – as vigorously as you want.”