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David Keighley

Bashir wasn’t the first BBC royal interview scandal

Bashir wasn’t the first BBC royal interview scandal

DIGGING into the Martin Bashir affair for TCW has reminded me of another huge scandal about BBC integrity in 1985 in which I was centrally involved. It showed that then, as ten years later, nothing would stop senior BBC management from flagrantly breaking editorial guidelines if these got in their way. On that occasion it cost them a rumoured £750,000 in civil damages, equivalent to at least £2.3million today.

In a High Court ruling, the Corporation were adjudged to be guilty of a ‘scandalous breach of copyright’ against the ITV breakfast channel TV-am, which was at that time trouncing the BBC’s Breakfast Time in the ratings, much to senior management’s chagrin.

The fulcrum of the case was the BBC’s piracy of an interview secured by TV-am presenter Nick Owen with Princess Michael of Kent concerning her father’s alleged involvement with the Nazi SS during the Second World War. News of the connection was a huge national story and everybody wanted to get the princess’s reaction.

Owen had known her for some time, and he said at the time that she decided to talk him exclusively to avoid a media scrum and to get the ordeal over in one go.

The BBC were having none of that.

I had joined TV-am as head of the press office from the BBC, where I had been head of news and current affairs publicity, just two weeks earlier.

TV-am boss Bruce Gyngell put me in charge of all external relations in connection with the interview, one of the first major news exclusives secured by TV-am. The station had been through a disastrous launch – to a significant extent because the BBC set out to sabotage it – and in early 1985 was beginning a determined and successful fight back under Gyngell’s expert leadership. In that context, the interview was ratings gold dust, and Bruce was determined to keep it as an exclusive.

The BBC argued however that because Princess Michael was a royal, the material should be made available to other stations under established pooling arrangements which applied on royal events to limit the size of the media pack.

Our legal advice was that this interview was emphatically not pool material because Princess Michael had decreed otherwise. So when, as the hours ticked down to transmission, the editor of BBC Breakfast Time rang me and asked for a copy of the interview for their programme the following day, my answer was an emphatic ‘no’.

He was not happy, and during the evening there followed a series of calls to me from BBC executives of escalating seniority, culminating with the overall boss of BBC News.

They used every trick in the book from honeyed words to outright threats to try to crack my defences, but my instruction from Bruce Gyngell against the onslaught was to stand firm.

At 11pm came the final weapon in the BBC’s arsenal. It was an Exocet. That evening the Queen was hosting a state dinner at Windsor Castle for Hastings Banda, the president of Malawi. Still on duty, I picked up the phone. ‘Are you David Keighley?’ a cut-glass voice inquired. When I replied that I was, the voice continued, ‘Well, I am Michael Shea, the Queen’s press secretary.’ He told me he was rather displeased with TV-am because he been called out of the banquet and acidly continued, ‘And I am telling you, no, ordering you, to give the Princess Michael interview to the BBC because the royal rota rules apply.’

Somewhat shaken, I responded that I disagreed and told him that our legal advice was that it was our exclusive. Shea’s tone turned icy. He told me in very direct language that (a) I was wrong, and (b) there would be ‘consequences’.

We stuck to our guns, but the following morning at 6.50am BBC Breakfast Time showed the interview almost in its entirety. We had started broadcasting 25 minutes earlier and they simply recorded it and re-ran it. As brazen as that. Aware of the possibility that the BBC would try this, we had made our TV-am strapline at the foot of the screen double the usual size. The BBC blanked out the lower half of the screen to obliterate our ID, so on their version it looked as if Nick Owen and the princess were peering over a wall! There was no attribution whatsoever of how the interview had been obtained. In their arrogance the BBC had indulged in an act of major copyright piracy.

After we came off air at 9am, the TV-am news director Bill Ludford and I hurried from Camden Lock to the Inner Temple where we instructed our legal team in seeking a High Court injunction to stop further showings of our interview and return the pirated copies of it. We also applied for substantial damages for breach of copyright.

Two hours later, the injunction and return order were granted with Mr Justice Walton in the Chancery Division calling it a ‘scandalous breach of copyright’. The BBC, again in its arrogance, and with flagrant disregard for licence fee cash, appealed. Another hour later, that too was turned down in equally forthright language.

The subsequent damages case was resolved out of court in TV-am’s favour.

The episode showed in spades that when it comes to journalistic integrity, the Corporation has the morals of an alley cat. TV-am at that stage, thanks to the BBC’s blunderbuss attempts to sink it, was a struggling minnow which had only recently been on the edge of bankruptcy. But BBC news chiefs could not bear the idea of being outflanked or told they were wrong. Their flagrant act of copyright piracy, as with the Bashir and Cliff Richard cases, illustrates that in pursuit of their interests their editorial guidelines are little more than a window-dressing sham.

 

Photo by Anthony from Pexels
Hall and Birt deny responsibility for Bashir fiasco

Hall and Birt deny responsibility for Bashir fiasco

THE Lord Dyson report established that the BBC acted appallingly in its handling in 1995 of the interview of Princess Diana.

Prince William reacted by stating that it showed his mother had been ‘deceived’ and asserted that ‘the ripple effect of (the BBC’s) culture of exploitation and unethical practices ultimately took her life’. He also said: ‘She was failed not just by a rogue reporter, but by leaders at the BBC who looked the other way rather than asking tough questions.

Serious charges indeed from the second in line to the throne. But who was to blame in this catalogue of coercion, forgery, gross professional incompetence and cover-ups?

Why had Martin Bashir been, in effect, cleared of misconduct in 1996 even though he owned up soon after the interview to forging documents? Who were the ‘leaders’ at the BBC who had looked the other way? And why was Bashir, a proven liar, re-hired by the BBC as religious affairs editor in 2016?

That was what the Department of Culture (DCMS) select committee sought to find out last week.  Summoned to appear before the MPs were Lord Birt, director general of the BBC in 1995, Lord Hall, the then director of BBC News (and director general from 2012-20), along with Tim Davie, the current director general and Richard Sharp, the current BBC chairman.

How did the committee, chaired by Conservative MP Julian Knight, fare in its task?  You can judge for yourself here from the 32,000 words or so of transcript.

Put bluntly, it was a textbook example of BBC stonewalling and obfuscation. Far from owning up to failures of leadership, the corporation doubled down in its insistence that such was not the case.

One element stands out like a Belisha beacon. This was that, according to the Tweedledum and Tweedledee of the inquiry, the Lords Birt and Hall – both looking like insolent schoolboys called to see the headmaster – Martin Bashir was the villain of the piece. He was a rogue reporter, a conman and a charlatan who had lied and practised deception on a monumental scale, and had duped senior management into trusting him.

Was anyone else at the BBC at fault? They themselves? Other senior management figures such as the editor of Panorama, who broadcast the show and was thus editorially responsible for the content as well as the conduct of his staff?

Goodness me, no! In both lords’ views, the actions of the main senior management figures involved – Steve Hewlett, the editor of Panorama, Tim Gardam, the head of current affairs, Tim Suter, the managing editor of all BBC news and current affairs, Richard Ayre, the director of BBC editorial standards, and Anne Sloman, the BBC chief political adviser – were beyond reproach.

Not only that, said the two peers of the realm, they had talked the matter through among themselves and with Steve, the two Tims, Richard and Anne, and all agreed they were on the right track and had handled matters correctly. That, they believed, proved that no one was to blame for the fiasco. They knew it to be the case and, lo! – it therefore was.

The MPs on the committee – some of them former BBC staff, including chairman Knight, the SNP’s John Nicholson and Steve Brine – pulled no punches in their attempt to hold Lords Birt and Hall to account. Their tenacity was impressive.

They may have failed in their task of obtaining direct confessions, but in response to their efforts, Hall and Birt did some monumental buck-passing. They showed that then, as now, the BBC is a disgrace to journalism, that those who run it are arrogantly unaware of their shortcomings and that as an institution, the BBC is rotten to the core with shared values of the gutter.

After the Dyson report appeared, on TCW and Briefings for Britain I wrote:

‘Don’t hold your breath [expecting reform] . . . The danger is that despite the evidence of incompetence, almost unlimited arrogance and moral turpitude, the corporation carries on regardless because no one has the political guts or will to tackle a massive overhaul. The core problem is that the BBC will never admit misconduct, and has been immune to outside complaints for most of its history because it is its own judge and jury in that domain in most respects.’

The testimonies of Lord Birt, Lord Hall, Tim Davie and Richard Sharp are remarkable for the reasons already outlined above, but they deserve further analysis in future blogs, and these will appear on TCW in the coming weeks.

As a taster, current director general Davie revealed that – although he never discussed Bashir with him – he ‘fairly regularly’ talks to Lord Birt, and believes him to be ‘a wise and trusted source of advice for me around how we reform the BBC, how we go through this job’.

Be afraid, be very afraid. The man who in 1993 playwright Dennis Potter called a ‘croak-voiced Dalek’ in his approach to BBC management and reform still has a hand on the tiller almost 30 years on.

An end to BBC bias? Don’t count on it

An end to BBC bias? Don’t count on it

The Bashir affair has brought into sharp focus again that BBC journalism is not fair and impartial, as its Charter requires. But after decades of bias in BBC reporting of the EU, what are the chances of genuine change?

Much has been written about the Lord Dyson report into the 1995 BBC Panorama interview of Princess Diana. Columnists and politicians galore are clamouring for urgent action to mend the Corporation’s broken ways. According to Lord Dyson these primarily included lying in pursuit of a story, coupled with massive brick-walling by senior management against any suggestion of wrongdoing.

And it seems that steps to reform and rein in the excesses of BBC bias and rank bad journalism might now be under consideration as part of the Corporation’s mid-term Charter review, due in 2022. Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, has suggested that structural governance reform will be on the agenda.

But don’t hold your breath. Much in a similar vein was written in 2012 when the BBC was caught entirely wrong-footed over its handling of Jimmy Savile. Or when the corporation in 2019 was landed with a £2 million+ legal bill for its cruel, vastly over-the-top coverage of baseless claims of sexual misconduct against Cliff Richard. Once again, with the latter, senior management disgracefully claimed no wrongdoing in their hounding of the singer. The High Court Judge in the case very strongly disagreed.

Through it all, the BBC has so far survived intact, a bloated, £3.5 billion-a-year protected state relic from an age when broadcast frequencies were a scarce resource. The danger is that despite the evidence of incompetence, almost unlimited arrogance and moral turpitude, the Corporation carries on regardless because no-one has the political guts or will tackle a massive overhaul.

The core problem is that the BBC will never admit misconduct, and has been immune to outside complaints for most of its history because it is its own judge and jury in that domain in most respects.

No government from those of Margaret Thatcher onward has dared grasp the nettle of genuine root-and-branch reform.

Under the new Charter operational from 2017, Ofcom assumed a regulatory role over some BBC matters including the conduct of BBC journalism. But this was too little, too late, and the Ofcom scrutiny has so far proved totally ineffectual, not least because most of its content board appointees are former BBC advisors or employees and have the same mindset as the Corporation itself.

So how can this problem be solved? Over the past 40 years – arguably since Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979 –  the BBC  has become increasingly opinionated and left-wing to the extent now that no part of its output is unaffected. Even the BBC1 programme Antiques Roadshow is larded with lectures by presenter Fiona Bruce on topics such as the evils of Britain’s colonial past.

In this vein, News-watch recently conducted a thorough survey of BBC Ideas, a catalogue of 600 or so five-minute videos ‘for the curious minded’

This is a project launched by former Labour culture secretary James Purnell at vast expense when he was BBC director of radio and education. The findings? of the titles, the majority (around 350) have controversial or political content in subject areas such as history, race, capitalism, climate change and feminism. Only 25 of them have points which could be regarded as ‘conservative’.  The rest could have been taken from a manual on how to construct ‘woke’ propaganda based on post-modern critical theory.

News-watch has also thoroughly scrutinised the Corporation’s EU coverage for more than two decades, and – as readers of this blog are painfully aware – this is the domain in which the most crass corporation bias has operated.  The 40 or so News-watch reports since 1999 summarised here show a massive weighting towards pro-EU opinion up to and including the Brexit referendum and then continuing through the Brexit process itself to the present day.  When has the BBC constructed a programme which shows the problems of the EU, and revealing that it is ultimately a huge anti-democratic project?

The BBC’s response to those News-watch reports? It has been characterised throughout by the same arrogance and stonewalling identified by Lord Dyson in his report on Bashir.  Corporation senior management – including many of those involved in the Prince Diana interview – chose to ignore them all. Without providing a shred of evidence, they claimed that they were worthless.

An easy and respectful way of testing their veracity would have been to appoint an independent panel to assess the quality of the News-watch work. But that possibility was never even on the BBC’s agenda.  They preferred instead to launch ad hominem attacks against me and eminent Eurosceptic Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who partially funded the News-watch work.

A key character in the Bashir affair identified by Lord Dyson was Anne Sloman, who was BBC chief political adviser, and therefore one of the key advisers to Tony Hall, who was then BBC director of news. Sloman was among those who investigated in 1996 claims of impropriety against Martin Bashir, and despite abundant evidence to the contrary, concluded that he was ‘honourable’.

She betrayed similar arrogance in her treatment of News-watch and the claims of anti-EU bias. In an editorial meeting in which the Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle was present (in his then role of editor of the BBC Today programme), she asserted that eurosceptics like Lord Pearson were ‘mad’ and therefore should be ignored. Her treatment of me was even more outrageous. At a summer drinks meeting between Parliamentarians and the BBC attended by Lord Pearson, she told him that the reports I was compiling should be ignored because I had been ‘sacked by the BBC’.  This was an outright and baseless falsehood.  I had worked for the BBC for seven years without a blemish on my staff reports and had been promoted regularly throughout. I left the BBC because I found a more senior job at the ITV breakfast television station TV-am, where I became director of public affairs.

As a result of her claims, I was forced to fire off (at considerable expense) a pre-action letter for defamation of character, and she huffily backed down. But her intention was clear. She wanted me out of the way, to be discredited and taken off the case.

This illustrates that a basic tactic of BBC senior managers at the BBC is to try to destroy or discredit those who oppose it. That applied in the Bashir case with the graphics designer who drew the forged bank statements, with BBC Newsnight journalists in 2011-13 who wanted to blow the whistle on the BBC’s treatment of Jimmy Savile (their BBC contracts were not renewed) and in the Cliff Richard affair, when the BBC tactic was to throw the blame on to South Yorkshire police.

So how can be the BBC senior management be so arrogant and disdainful towards those who oppose the Corporation?  A central problem is that the BBC’s Charter gives the Corporation almost unassailable independence. It was as designed to protect BBC journalism from political interference. Noble aim. But the drafters of the legislation surely never envisaged that the Corporation would, in effect, go rogue – as its approach to EU coverage and BBC Ideas shows – and become an enemy of the country and the culture which pays for it.  A dangerous enemy, too, because its goals appear increasingly to be the complete denigration and destruction of Western values.

A manifestation of its unassailability is that the BBC complaints process is not fit for purpose. It is designed to protect the BBC rather than to deal conscientiously with the concerns of audiences. The complaints process could be a shop window for BBC transparency, and for the further debate of matters of public controversy. Instead it has become another brick wall which the BBC hides behind and a vehicle to discredit opponents. An example of this is that New-watch has within the past month received a warning letter from the complaints unit (which is sub-contracted to facilities company Capita) warning us that we are making too many complaints and that they are too complicated to deal with so we are wasting Corporation resources.

A second manifestation is that the BBC refuses to produce any independent evidence to verify its impartiality. Instead, it relies on opinion polls. This is absurd and simply not good enough. News-watch reports into the BBC output are based on scrupulously-applied academic principles which can be seen and debated by anyone. By contrast, the BBC simply tells the world it knows it is impartial, and therefore it is. Yet the Corporation provides no evidence to support its position and claims it would be a waste of time to do so. That is an absurdly arrogant stance for an organisation in receipt of £3.5 billion of public funding to adopt.

In that context, as cries for reforms intensify, an acid test of the government’s intent will be whether the proposed structural reforms include such monitoring and an overhaul of the complaints system. Only when these operate on an independent basis and thus hold the BBC genuinely to account will BBC bias end.  As things stand, it is an obdurate, arrogant and unprincipled law unto itself.

BBC Ideas: an extravaganza of bias

BBC Ideas: an extravaganza of bias

News-watch has completed its biggest-ever survey into BBC output. It is utterly damning. The focus is BBC Ideas, a group of 600 or so short factual videos for ‘curious minds’ aimed at 18-45 year olds. The project – launched in 2018 –  is the brainchild of former Labour culture minister James Purnell during his tenure in charge of BBC radio and education.

His bequest to licence fee payers can be best described as a bewildering cacophony. In my desk, I have a Christmas stocking-filler present, a book  called 1,339 Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop. BBC Ideas seems to be the video version. 

Having problems going to the lavatory? Don’t worry, BBC Ideas has an answer to smooth your passage.

Are you a woman with a beard, facing a barrage of nasty discrimination? Ditto.

Or, is it that you are a transgender person, trying to make sense of your sexual identity? BBC Ideas tries especially hard to help here, by suggesting that the solution is to refer to the principles of quantum mechanics .  kid you not.

This is the BBC, and – as can already be gathered from the above  – the catalogue is not value-free. Around 250 titles can be regarded loosely as ‘neutral’. They tackle subjects such as tips for winning at Scrabble or sleeping better. That said, why the BBC wants to waste millions on covering such topics, which are already covered in abundance on You Tube or Ted Talks, could be the subject of a whole separate blog.   

The remaining 350 videos, though, are clearly political or contain political points  Balanced? All but two dozen have a blatant liberal-left or ‘woke’ agenda.

The major themes in this extravaganza of bias are climate change, feminism and gender, and discrimination against minorities of all kinds. The BBC Ideas catalogue can be regarded as a scatter-gun manifesto for the grievance culture. On route, it trashes British culture, history and achievements on a truly epic scale.   

it seems that the editors and producers have left no stone unturned in their quest to validate and propagate their values. The survey itself must be read to appreciate fully the extent of the woke propaganda – there is a summary and analysis of all the political content – but what follows gives a brief flavour.  The introduction to the report summarises:

‘Put bluntly, BBC Ideas casts its host nation as a continuing menace to the rest of the world and rotten to the core. As for the future, the main hopes are the abandonment of capitalism and a revolution, in line with post-modern critical theory and the most extreme demands of the Green lobby. The catalogue reveals, in sharp relief, that the Corporation is acting as a political campaigner, rather than a public service broadcaster bringing to audience attention a broad array of views and perspectives.’

On climate change, the videos project that unless there is the urgent action to end capitalism,  the use of fossil fuels, travelling by air, and all animal farming, Planet Earth is doomed. In their frantic desire to project this catastrophism, the producers see nothing wrong in using clearly terrified children in the videos, thus breaking child performance codes.  Around 50 titles feature environmental or climate change alarmism – with not a whisper of dissent.

On feminism and gender, the goal is to advocate that differences between men and women are a social construct, and that women – especially those who are not white – are heavily and unpleasantly  discriminated against in all areas of British life, with uncontested claims that such favouritism towards men is costing the economy billions of pounds annually (by  – who else? – Cherie Blair). The desire to sniff out evidence of the war against women also involved much sifting of history to unearth as many females as possible whose achievements had been allegedly disregarded. In BBC Ideas, there is no doubt who the real heroines of history are, and they include Simone de Beauvoir and the Greek poet Sappho. 

In the discrimination against minorities category, a main thread is  an unchallenged acceptance of what boils down to the Black Lives Matter agenda. Contributors tell us that the colonisation of America was genocide on an immense scale, probably bigger than that of the Holocaust. In this playbook, the Mercator atlas projection is an expression of white privilege; Muslim terrorism only exists because of economic deprivation; and those who do not support mass immigration are fascists. BBC Ideas editors have also bust a gut to illustrate how badly those who are physically or mentally disadvantaged are treated.   

Do the titles which contain what the report classes as ‘conservative’ content, go any way to balancing this deluge of bias? Jordan Peterson and his 12 rules for living are there; and so is a spokesperson from the Theos think-tank arguing  cogently that religion is still important. Another brave soul maintains that ‘populism’ is much maligned and is a valid and important expression  of democracy. But these are small drops in an ocean of BBC prejudice. 

News-watch has submitted complaints to Ofcom and the BBC about BBC Ideas, and the letters can be read here. But almost certainly, both bodies will find an excuse to reject them. BBC director general Tim Davie claims that his main priority is to ensure Charter obligations of impartiality are met. The evidence of this report is that he has an Herculean task, and that he is blind to the massive scale of the problem.  Depressingly,  there are no surprises in the report; it is confirmation of the scale of bias which has taken over all aspects of BBC output. The issue is why those charged by Parliament to oversee the Corporation, and the government itself are prepared to  do nothing about it. 

Window-dresser Davie’s bogus BBC revolution

Window-dresser Davie’s bogus BBC revolution

Tim Davie, the BBC director general, has been in his post for six months, and on Thursday he delivered to staff his second raft of big ideas for reform. 

His first proposal, in his first week of office in September, was to make BBC impartiality his number one priority, with a crackdown on biased tweeting by staff.

How’s that commitment going?

Well, hours after his latest staff speech was delivered last week, BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty and her male sidekick, Charlie Stayt, were hauled over the coals by Corporation top brass and ‘reminded of BBC impartiality rules’.

In the scale of PR cock-ups, that was a pretty spectacular own goal. Davie claimed in his staff speech that BBC news was doing ‘an outstanding job delivering impartial output’; hours later, two high-profile presenters were sniggering and sneering like schoolchildren about the idea of a government minister being patriotic by having a Union Jack in his office.

That said, was there anything in Davie’s speech which gave hope that he was intent on improving BBC output and had the vision and drive to deliver it?

Don’t bank on it. The first half of his message was marked by smug complacency. According to the director general, BBC news is brilliant, programmes are spectacularly good, and audiences are soaring.

He evidenced this by quoting a raft of disconnected figures: BBC overall audience reach is 90 per cent; BBC news reaches 86 per cent (up from 81 per cent a year ago); overall BBC viewing is up 8 per cent in both January and February.

Davie carefully avoided quoting other audience research, for example showing that the BBC’s Christmas television audiences were at an all-time low (and reached less than 10 per cent of the population) despite the lockdown, and that less than half the population don’t trust BBC journalists to tell the truth. 

He did not mention that viewing of BBC television is in steep decline with all BBC services now attracting only a total of 31 per cent audience share. 

Put another way, despite the BBC’s £3.5billion licence fee income – more by miles than any other media company in the UK – its audience share is now only three times that for Sky or Viacom (which owns Channel 5).

Seemingly undaunted by this, Davie said he was cutting jobs to make running of the Corporation more efficient, with 900 fewer people now employed, and bureaucracy ‘stripped away’. Paperwork, he claimed, had been cut by over 30 per cent.

Another trumpeted step forward is in ‘diversity’. Despite his claim of reduced paperwork and less bureaucracy, Mr Davie said that every department now had specific targets to reach employment levels of 50 per cent women, 20 per cent ethnic minority and 12 per cent of mentally or physically disadvantaged individuals.

Also targeted is ‘sustainability’. Davie said the Corporation’s ‘clear and strong’ position on this is that ‘a 2030 net-zero target’ has now been set. What this means is as clear as mud, but almost certainly involves a blizzard of bureaucratic effort. Ditto ‘diversity’.

Davie made a point of adding that ‘the over-75s licence fee policy’ had been ‘implemented professionally’ and was ahead of targets. What he meant, of course, was that despite fierce opposition, the BBC is forcing the age group which contains the most lonely, poor and vulnerable section of the population to pay to receive BBC services and that pensioners are subject to prosecution by the ‘door-to-door salesmen’ who enforce licence fee payment.

The alleged meat of his speech was that over the next six years the corporation will shift its ‘journalistic and creative centre away from London’. This, claimed Davie, will create an ‘economic benefit’ for the regions of £850million, provide a dramatic jobs boost ‘and improve representation on and off screen’.

Looking at the small print – and trying to convert his gobbledygook into something comprehensible – it means that, for example, the Today programme is going to come from outside London at least 100 times a year; Newsbeat will be produced in Birmingham; 60 per cent of programmes will be made outside London; a team of 100 ‘digital journalists’ will be deployed across the UK outside London; and two ‘long-running drama series’ will be made outside London.

Davie claims that this will be ‘the biggest transformation of the BBC in decades’.

Will it? The BBC’s main problem is still that it is riddled with bias, obsessed by ‘woke’ virtue-signalling, and has a complaints process which is risibly stacked in the BBC’s favour, existing to defend the corporation rather than to address the concerns of audiences. The Salford Quays development, which a decade ago was meant to signal a major shift by the corporation away from London bias, is every bit as much a woke media bubble as the London operation.  

In prioritising drives towards ‘diversity’ and ‘sustainability’, and by being disingenuous about the massive fall in audiences and trust, Davie showed he is not addressing the real problems of the BBC but further encouraging the metro mindset on which it is based.  The Davie ‘transformation’ is little more than crude window-dressing.

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.’