BBC Bias

Kathy Gyngell: How dare they? BBC robs the poor to feed millions to its fat-cat presenters

Kathy Gyngell: How dare they? BBC robs the poor to feed millions to its fat-cat presenters

Guest post from Kathy Gyngell – this first appeared on The Conservative Woman

LITERALLY, how dare they? BBC arrogance and entitlement knows no bounds.

Yesterday, because it has to, the corporation published its very own Rich List of its on-air and front-of-house staff paid more than £150,000 per annum in its annual report for 2019-2020. All compulsorily paid for by you and me, including millions of over-75s.

Be ready to be shocked at the sheer uncaring arrogance and brass neck of it in this time of growing unemployment and job uncertainty, when young people’s futures have never looked bleaker because of the coronavirus pandemic. You can see the full list in the BBC Group Annual Report and Accounts 2019/20 published yesterday.

It takes no more than a glance down it to see that the long list of reporters, news hosts and celebrities are being paid, on average, rather more than £150,000, too. A lot more in fact.

At the top is Gary Lineker on £1.75million – a figure reported shortly afterwards to have been reduced this year to a still eye-watering £1.35million per annum, a pay cut the Match of the Day star is understood to have graciously agreed for his new five-year contract.

How did the footballer-turned-crisp-salesman greet the news of the publication of his continuing annual windfall? With humility? With gratitude?

No, Lineker sent out a tweet that shows his contempt for the little people who pay his salary. He said: ‘Oh dear. Thoughts are with the haters at this difficult time.’

Think of that next time you see his smug, smirky face pontificating on Match of the Day.

Settling into the first-class seats on the BBC gravy train with Lineker is Zoe Ball on £1.36million after pocketing a £1million pay rise.

Then comes Graham Norton on £729,999, Steve Wright (who he? I hear you ask) at £479,999, Fiona Bruce on £454,999, Vanessa Feltz on a nice little earner at £409,999 and Claudia Winkleman bringing up the ‘celeb’ rear on a cool £365,000–£369,999 for rather less than a year’s work. Please do turn to pages 82 to 85 of the report for the full mind-boggling list.

Then find me one iota of justification for the inflated salaries for these so-called celebrities who even the kindest would have to admit are no Terry Wogans, Two Ronnies or Bruce Forsyths, the real entertainers of decades past.

The over-rewarded and mainly indifferent editors, reporters and presenters who make up the rest of the list are the reason I have had BBC TV and radio switched off in my home for a long time. Lockdown was bad enough without being driven mad on a daily basis by the BBC’s entitled ones – their propaganda, inanities, bad grammar and substandard reporting.

If I never hear the harassing Nick Robinson (£299,999 per annum) or the maddeningly smug and patronising tones of Mishal Husain (£269,999) ever again, I will be happy. As for the egregious and self opinionated Emily Maitlis on £374,999, well, words fail me.

I am bemused about why I have to pay for their overblown salaries (by any standards) in order to turn on my television.

Nor does this list provide the full story of the BBC’s excesses. I have little doubt there will be plenty of characters just saved from the glare of publicity by coming in at £149,999, just under the ceiling for non-disclosure.

And let’s not forget what the bosses (the BBC execs) are paid. Tim Davie, the BBC’s new director-general, was already on £400,000 last year, no doubt now due to catch up with his predecessor’s £450,000 a year, which is well over double what the Prime Minister gets.

And it doesn’t stop with him. Read the astonishingly long list of backroom executives in receipt of well over £150,000 on pages 85 to 88 of the report.

All the while, the BBC  is robbing cash-strapped Brits to pay staff who are not in demand elsewhere, or they surely would have already left for other channels.

That is the big lie that the BBC feeds us – that these oh-so-talented stars would quit if they didn’t have golden handcuffs. Ha ha! The truth is that most would be unemployable elsewhere, or would have to take huge pay cuts.

There simply aren’t enough prime slots to go round for the fact cats in today’s media outside the protective cocoon of the BBC. They’re not as irreplaceable as they think. It’s their domination of their spots – their monopoly of the airtime – that makes them famous, not their charm, wit or ability.

I vote that the Beeb cut their pay down to 10 per cent of their current amount and tell them if they can find better-paid work anywhere else, go. I bet none would. Who wants them?

That the corporation has seen fit to pay such inflated salaries in recent years for a biased propaganda service that many choose not to watch, and with so many people furloughed or facing redundancy or seeing their businesses closing, is nothing less than an outrage.

And to those over-75s who were war and pre-war babies, for whom watching television provides an essential source of information and acts as a crutch against loneliness and isolation, from whom the greedy BBC steal licence fee money, it is no less than a kick in the teeth.

Mr Davie, you are going to have to do better than this if you don’t want a mass protest over the licence fee.

Nicholas Burnett: Can Tim Davie Turn the Tide of Bias?

Nicholas Burnett: Can Tim Davie Turn the Tide of Bias?

This is a Guest Post from Nicholas Burnett from The Conservative Woman:

THE paradox of the Western World is encapsulated by the angst the BBC so willingly brings upon itself. Once a central plank of British culture, it is now part of a pro-globalising bourgeois media-set who will report ‘largely peaceful protests’ straight-faced against a backdrop of burning cities. It’s as if there is something the rest of us are not privy to. And of course, there is.

Black Lives Matter, a far-Left Marxist organisation, was immediately hailed. BBC coverage continually affirmed the BLM narrative, at times taking a campaigning tone for the cause. Like many, I objected to the clearly favourable line on a movement which descended into rioting, but the wider issue is the corporation’s merger with Left-leaning identity politics.

I complained to the BBC in June. I pointed out that under the BLM narrative white people are summarily accused of racism; that the BBC fails to balance its sudden specific interest in police brutality with a wider context; conflating American experience with the British is absurd and that the far greater cause of violent black deaths is ignored. I finished ‘I despair for race relations following the hysterical coverage and tensions you have abetted’. And I genuinely do. If anyone at the BBC thinks its approach will have a generally wholesome impact on race relations they are deluded. One only has to see the thinking behind UKBLM how divisive their message is.

https://twitter.com/Never_Again2020/status/1298982384059084802

In response, the BBC claimed its reporting ‘reflects the global impact . . . and the strength of feeling . . . galvanised’ insisting that it ‘will continue to report impartially on issues highlighted as this story develops’. When it talks about ‘global impact’ and ‘strength of feeling’ one can only assume it is referring to its own echo chamber which includes other Leftist cultural institutions, academics and campaigners. You can respond back to the BBC if you are unhappy with its first reply, which I did, and two months on no follow-up has been received (rather an email suggesting I try Ofcom as they are oh-so-busy right now).

BLM has explicit aims to destabilise society. Surely its inflammatory messaging is relevant to the looting and violence continuing in America as well as abuse of and attacks on police officers on both sides of the Atlantic? When 36 police officers were injured in London in that first weekend of unrest in June, the BBC talked of ‘largely peaceful protests’ and omitted to inform viewers about what BLM thinks about our police. None of this matters to the BBC in the same way it would (and did) do when those ‘protesting’ are white nationalists. The BBC believes it has an active duty to stand against racism but it conflates the narrative of activism with reporting, apparently assuming the righteous position of BLM from the outset.

Throughout the summer, in the midst of racial tension stoked by Marxist agitators, the BBC chose to amplify individuals’ claims of racism against the police without challenge or context. The same sense of grievance plays out in much of the ‘woke’ narrative too often consuming BBC News output. Many black people don’t feel deeply offended by white society. Many gays feel awkward with train carriages painted in their name. Many women roll their eyes when the next round of gender-pay grievance figures is headlined. Conservative views are omitted from the BBC’s narrative as it gives credence to ‘strong feeling’ over balanced rational coverage. Britons do care about fairness, tolerance and equality but not the version pushed by activists.

Michael Collins, author of The Likes of Us: A Biography of the White Working Class, touched on the issue of race in a recent interview with Peter Whittle: ‘We kind of covered it ’cos we had to . . . we are being educated by people that didn’t have that experience’.  

White working-class Londoners did the BLM thing 40 years ago, moving through and beyond racial tensions as a community that got on with it. The liberal middle classes have apparently suddenly discovered this cause, delivering the message with a tone that insists on national self-reflection and demands a review and cleansing of the past. Many see through this preaching for what it is: vanity.

The ruling elites with a globalised worldview in both the USA and here in the UK were sent packing by electorates in 2016 yet a bourgeois liberal class have retained their position as cultural custodians and decanters of information in the media they control. Trump and Brexit were shocking to these elites but self-explained as mere interruptions to their assured hegemony which with the ‘right information’ the electorate could and would be corrected to understand what’s good for them. The explanation BBC Newsnight editor Lewis Goodall has for public dissatisfaction with output lies somewhere around the retort that ‘sometimes the truth hurts’:

Unfortunately there is another ‘truth’ to which the BBC is oblivious: Brexit didn’t go away and far from being shamed as an embarrassing irony of the misinformed, Trump is hot on the heels of Biden in the American polls and may well be about to take round two. What are the liberals not seeing? Perhaps they, too, need ‘unconscious bias’ training about working-class Britons?

The BBC continues unabashed with a declaration for more diversity. What it sees is not unique among our institutions’ worldview: race, sexuality and gender have become primary factors in the worth and measurement of people. For example, after the selection of Kamala Harris as Biden’s candidate for vice president I was left knowing little about her beyond her sex and race – I could have figured those out for myself. By choosing this path it taps into a navel-gazing narcissism which will only demand ever more attention.

For institutions, identity politics may cynically keep bureaucratic claims of inequality and discrimination at bay but ‘being seen to do something’ hardly lays the foundations for lasting change or growth. For the individual, identity politics may help the existentially weak claim a sense of Self, but it hardly builds real character, resilient enough to integrate into the whole of society ‘just as oneself is’. Last week the Huffington Post reported claims of institutional racism within the BBC with employees of its Africa service complaining that having a white manager is akin to ‘working the cotton plantations’ of old.

This really is what you reap when you sow a vision of humanity that goes no deeper than the immutable characteristics of birth and assumes those are the determiners of our life experience.

We are told that incoming director-general Tim Davie is seeking to reform the BBC and make its output more politically diverse. But will he be able to turn back the tide?

 

Image by Patrick Behn from Pixabay

The BBC’s LOVE AFFAIR WITH BANKSY

The BBC’s LOVE AFFAIR WITH BANKSY

Guest post by Arthur T from Is the BBC Biased?

 

A comment on Is the BBC Biased? a couple of days ago said:

The BBC are displaying their hero worship of Banksy again today. 

Banksy, African migrants and his rescue boat adrift in the Med. It’s a story made in heaven for the BBC metro-liberals. 

Just what is it about Banksy that so attracts the BBC above all other artists?

It’s staggering to find out just how much attention the BBC pay to the day-to-day activities of Banksy, when they hardly ever report on the subjects of any other artist’s work – unless of course their work carries a highly politicised message like Banksy. Even then, by comparison it is a drop in the ocean.

Believe it or not, Banksy has his own page on the BBC News website telling us the latest:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cp7r8vglgj1t/banksy

Entries here are as follows:

  • 29/8/20 Migrants evacuated from overloaded Banksy ship
  • 28/8/20 Banksy funds boat to rescue refugees at sea
  • 28/7/20 Banksy’s works fetch £2.2 m to aid Bethlehem hospital
  • 15/7/20 Cleaners remove Banksy tube art ‘unknowingly’
  • 14/7/20 Banksy dons cleaner disguise to spray paint Tube
  • 17/6/20 Banksy? Yeah I know who he is ‘Louis Theroux and street artist Banksy had a day out watching Peter Crouch play for QPR.’
  • 16/6/20 When Louis Theroux went to a QPR match back in 2001, he met an aspiring street artist called Banksy, and they both saw a ‘lanky, ungainly’ young forward called Peter Crouch play for the home side.
  • 10/6/20 Banksy artwork stolen from Bataclan found in Italy
  • 9/6/20 Banksy has put his suggestion forward for what should happen in the wake of the toppling of Colston’s statue at Sunday’s protest.

etc etc

Away from his own BBC News web pages, Banksy also features strongly elsewhere across the BBC – let’s look at Newsround (aimed at youngsters):

24/2/20 Banksy: Who is the famous graffiti artist?

Banksy is a famous – but anonymous – British graffiti artist. He keeps his identity a secret.

Why does no one know who Banksy is? His identity is unknown, despite lots of people trying to guess who he is.

Why is Banksy controversial? His artwork can be rebellious and is known for delivering political messages.

2 Comments ‘Woah!’ and ‘I think Banksy is Awesome!’

In the Arts and Entertainment pages of the BBC News website:

6/5/20 Will Gompertz has a say:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52556544

‘New Banksy artwork appears at Southampton hospital’

Here, we have the semblance of an art critic’s opinion from our Will, who as we know at ITBBCB? rates art works firstly on their political message (just so long as it’s the correct message), and secondly and then only occasionally, on their artistic merit. Here are some extracts:

The largely monochrome painting, which is one square metre, was hung in collaboration with the hospital’s managers in a foyer near the emergency department. 

It shows a young boy kneeling by a wastepaper basket dressed in dungarees and a T-shirt. He has discarded his Spiderman and Batman model figures in favour of a new favourite action hero – an NHS nurse.

So much for the description. The story moves straight on to the political message:

Paula Head, CEO of the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our hospital family has been directly impacted with the tragic loss of much loved and respected members of staff and friends.

The fact that Banksy has chosen us to recognise the outstanding contribution everyone in and with the NHS is making, in unprecedented times, is a huge honour.

She added: “It will be really valued by everyone in the hospital, as people get a moment in their busy lives to pause, reflect and appreciate this piece of art. It will no doubt also be a massive boost to morale for everyone who works and is cared for at our hospital.

As far as it’s possible to tell from the above image, this isn’t spray painted. The denim effect would be almost impossible to recreate other than by a transfer print taken from a photograph. The 2 D basket, which doesn’t show the return banding, has a lack of perspective to match the figure. The basket also looks out of scale in relation to the size of the figure. We shouldn’t expect the BBC arts correspondent to give his view on the technical aspects of a work, should we?

In reply to Charlie’s question, from OT comments,

Banksy, whose real name is Robin Gunningham, is so liked by the BBC because his work carries a political message more than it does an artistic one. He is a political cartoonist – bang on message for the BBC’s narrative. His work is easily reformatted for printed or webpage imagery. It doesn’t require a second look – there are no details worthy of closer study. His air of secrecy and derring-do seal the deal. He would be the go to number one person to invite to the average Islington dinner party hosted by the Metro LibLeft Beeb programme commissioner. To change the old adage slightly – his work is 90% indoctrination, 10% inspiration.

All of the above doesn’t say much for the BBC’s integrity when they promote to youngsters through Newsround that Banksy’s identity is secret – self-evidently a lie. They say ‘His identity is unknown, despite lots of people trying to guess who he is.’ What a falsehood to promote to young viewers!

Perhaps when the time is ripe, there will be a great reveal in a feature length documentary by Louis Theroux. He is probably staking his claim to that high-earning nugget right now. In the meantime, no doubt the mystery is inflating prices for off-the-cuff napkin sketched by Banksy made during his circuit of north London Beeb dinner parties.

Another benefit of this secrecy is the ‘one stage removed’ strategy adopted by the BBC when they want to avoid scrutiny of their output. Independent think tanks, Cardiff University research or ‘a spokesman said’ are all familiar tactics. The extra plus with Banksy is that his work has to be posted, publicised and then authenticated as a ‘genuine Banksy’ giving ample wriggle-room of deniability should the publicity turn nasty.

All in all, the conclusion must be that the BBC is assisting a commercial enterprise. Books, calendars, posters and other memorabilia must rake in funds for the Banksy brand. The air of mystery, or should we call it deceit, is promoted by the BBC, giving this artist his own pages on their licence-payer funded website, as well as plenty of news and local news coverage.

Craig Byers: Supporters of BBC becoming campaigning organisation ‘are winning’

Craig Byers: Supporters of BBC becoming campaigning organisation ‘are winning’

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

If you subscribe to it, you may well have read former Head of BBC Television News Roger Mosey’s interesting piece in The Sunday Times last week where he claimed that there’s a “battle” going on at the BBC between older hands who want to stay true to the Corporation’s long commitment to fairness and impartiality and newer, younger recruits who want to make it “more of a campaigning organisation in which journalists shape the agenda to harmonise with their personal views”.
Well, this past week suggested that the newer, younger recruits – the activist reporters – are starting to win.
Now, of course, blogs like this have existed for a couple of decades now, and that’s because some of those older BBC hands weren’t entirely clean on the ‘fairness and impartiality’ front themselves, and some BBC journalists have been shading into campaigning and shaping the agenda to harmonise with their personal views for quite a while now (Mark Easton anyone?), but at least they usually tried to put on a proper show of fairness and impartiality, and knew they had to do so.
Both last Monday’s Today programme and last Monday’s BBC One News at Ten featured reports by BBC journalist Yogita Limaye, and she clearly felt no obligation whatsoever to show fairness and impartiality.
Her pieces were nothing more than concerted efforts to brand Winston Churchill a racist and hold him responsible for the 1943 Bengal Famine.
Writing in this week’s The Sunday Times Tom Mangold, a BBC older hand if ever there was one, called her New at Ten report “biased, partial, unbalanced and filled with the spite and venom of the worst of toxic woke culture now pulsing through the heart of the Corporation” and added that “viewers were left in no doubt that the reporter agreed with her own preferential report”.
If you’ve also been reading about the goings-on (and goings-off) at The New York Times, where younger, more groupthink-driven, openly activist reporters have gained ascendance and are abandoning all pretence of impartiality whilst displaying ever greater unwillingness to tolerate fellow citizens (and colleagues) who don’t think or feel like them, then it’s very possible that we can already see where the BBC is now inexorably heading, and Ms Limaye’s report is an early swallow.
Mr Mosey blames ‘Twitter culture’ for the rise of openly campaigning journalism and the difficulty people who think like him and who are still at the BBC are now having trying to get such journalists to represent both sides of a story, and obviously there’s some truth in that. Without the spell cast on her by Twitter and the lure of applause from the Twitterati, would Emily Maitlis, for example, have ever thought of, never mind dared to deliver, that infamous impartiality-busting monologue of hers? I doubt it. She didn’t used to behave so brazenly. And the arrival of newer, younger recruits like Lewis Goodall – people who live the majority of their journalistic lives on Twitter and give every impression of ‘shaping the agenda to harmonise with their personal views’ while deliberately speaking to their own narrow echo chambers both when they tweet and when they broadcast – has had a noticeable, radicalising impact on programmes such as Newsnight.
But it take two to tango. Let’s remember that Yogita Limaye’s reports were broadcast on two of the BBC’s flagship news programmes, both edited by BBC editors who evidently felt it acceptable to put it all out. If anyone, they should be held responsible for making that decision.
Did they put them out without serious qualms though? Surely they must have known how controversial, indeed inflammatory, they were. In other words, are they on the losing, surrendering side of the battle and putting such reports out with heavy hearts, or (like Newsnight’s Esme Wren) are they now actively aiding and abetting the winning, campaigning side?
I fear the BBC is going to get much, much worse before it gets better.
Tom Mangold: BBC’s embrace of woke culture is ‘fatal act of self-harm’

Tom Mangold: BBC’s embrace of woke culture is ‘fatal act of self-harm’

This is a guest post from Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased?
Tom Mangold’s Mail on Sunday piece headlined “I fear that my beloved BBC’s bizarre obsession with a toxic culture of wokeness will end as a fatal act of self-harm” ought to matter to the BBC because Mr Mangold isn’t just any old BBC veteran. He was Panorama‘s lead investigative reporter for many years and has always been held in high esteem. So for him to speak out in such an outspoken way about “the greasy slope down which [the BBC] is sliding faster every day” is really something, and a major sign of just how bad things have got recently. 
 
While expanding on his excoriation of Yogita Limaye’s “biased, partial, unbalanced, filled with spite and venom” anti-Churchill report (see previous post), he adds the words “Never mind the truth”. I doubt he would never the phrase, of course, but essentially what he’s saying is that it was ‘fake news’. 
 
‘What on earth has happened?’, he wonders. After all, the BBC’s charter remains “unequivocal” on its statutory commitment to impartiality. Well, he says, the “holy contract” is now “well and truly broken”. 
 
He seems to believe that Ms Limaye’s late evening report, given the full backing of the News at Ten and Huw Edwards’s “authority and credibility”, was a bone deliberately thrown to the BLM movement. 
 
And the BBC’s doing it, he says, because of its “bizarre obsession with youth, diversity and the ever-growing pressure of woke argument” and because BLM – and “the Twitter trolls, the social media addicts, the young, the immature and the often daft” – have become “the BBC’s recruitment and audience target.” 
 
Why this “‘threatens to become [the BBC’s] final act of self-harm” is because such people are a “minority audience”. 
 
He also quotes another wise old head, Trevor Phillips, saying that “the increasingly woke behaviour by the Corporation is endangering the central justification for special treatment, which is its universal reach.” 
 
All of which is very true. The BBC is alienating its core audience in pursuit of a small demographic that probably won’t be watching it regardless. It’s a sign of the state the BBC’s in at the moment that it doesn’t even seem to see the folly of its position. 
 
The present situation with over-75s having to pay the licence fee from next Saturday is relevant here because 66 Conservative MPs  signed a letter to Tony Hall last week objecting to the BBC’s decision over the licence fee, and added: “We question the need for the BBC to allocate the enormous sum of £100 million on diversity, which with strong management could be achieved for minimal cost”. 
 
Tom Mangold in this article makes a related point: “Tony Hall has found £100 million in an ever-ready slush fund to increase diversity in the BBC. Meanwhile it gets rid of talent such as John Ware and Jane Corbin as permanent reporters from Panorama, presumably to save a bob or two”. 
 
Why is the BBC splashing out such huge sums on diversity? After all, as the Observer observes today, it’s devoting £12m of its commissioning budget “to making diverse and inclusive content” for the next three years, and devoting £100m of the current television commissioning budget to “on-air inclusivity”, and bringing in a mandatory off-screen target for “20% diversity across the networks for new commissions” from April 2021? Because it’s signalling to its new target audience. 
 
Tom Mangold goes on to quote Trevor Phillips saying, “The BBC has to recognise social change, sure, but it is not the institution’s role to lead it.” Well, yes, but that’s not how the young Turks who have been silently taking over at the BBC see it. To take just one example, on being appointed the BBC’s first LBGT correspondent Ben Hunte said “There are a lot of marginalised voices that need to be given a mouthpiece” when he was appointed. He clearly meant that he intended to be that “mouthpiece”. There’s a lot of that about about the BBC now. 
 
Wonder what the bulk of the BBC will think about this? I’m guessing a huge chunk of them are too far gone to care what one of the old hands thinks, especially if it’s in the Mail on Sunday. But some might take it as a proper, serious wake-up call. If they love the BBC as much as Tom Mangold does, what are they going to do about it?
News-watch Launches BBC Bias Digest

News-watch Launches BBC Bias Digest

BBC Bias Digest is now a key, regularly updated feature of the News-watch website, and a central focus of our efforts.

  • To try and hold the BBC to account in the public interest
  • To facilitate reform in its governance.

Each day, we are combing newspapers and the web for stories about the BBC relevant to its Charter obligation to deliver impartiality in its news coverage and the handling of controversial matters in its  general output.

It will thus become a central point of recording the deluge of concerns about BBC bias.

News-watch has been chronicling the BBC’s failures of impartiality for more than 20 years, particularly in EU-related output, where the Corporation has not properly reflected the extent and range of pro-Brexit opinion. The evidence for this is posted on this site.

Recently,  such bias has intensified to the extent that recently, BBC Two Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis delivered a blatantly partisan attack on Dominic Cummings, one of the Government’s key officials.

All parts of the BBC’s output have been infected by liberal-left viewpoints on topics such as Brexit,  climate change and green activism and cultural diversity. This has also been chronicled in books such as The Noble Liar, by Robin Aitken, in some newspapers, and widely in sites on the web such as Is the BBC Biased? and The Conservative Woman.

Despite this, the BBC remains impervious to concern. Its complaints process is designed to allow the Corporation to defend itself, rather than taking into account concerns among its audience.

This complacency – a national scandal – is being addressed by News-watch in various forms, including a recent High Court application for judicial review, together with Freedom of Information requests and other legal challenges to the Corporation’s intransigence.

Deluded BBC’s mission to mislead

Deluded BBC’s mission to mislead

New BBC director general Tim Davie, who cut his professional teeth marketing Pepsi-Cola, was appointed last week to head a £5billion-a-year media empire with a guaranteed income and a news operation which is the largest of its kind in the world. Here is an early item for his in-tray.

The BBC’s annual plan for 2020/21 – required by Ofcom as part of its policing of the Corporation’s public service remit and published quietly a couple of weeks back – is a chilling exercise in self-delusion. 

It provides further evidence that BBC chiefs are hell-bent on intensifying the use of the Corporation’s out-of-control news machine as a weapon of propaganda.

Taking opportunistic advantage of the lockdown, which rather predictably has generated a surge in media consumption, BBC chiefs trumpet that improved audiences in March and April are proof that its output is a vital part of national life and that continuation of its funding via the licence fee is essential.

The document also bellyaches that its income to spend on public services has dropped in real terms by 24 per cent since 2010 (what happened politically back then, one wonders, which makes that date so significant? Could it have been that Labour was voted out?); that it has been forced to make £800million of savings in the coming year; and that continuing to supply free television licences for the over-75s has cost it another £125million.

The plan runs to 78 pages and requires full reading to appreciate the monumental scale of self-delusion and leveraging of the lockdown to justify its existence and argue implicitly for more funding. This paragraph summarises the self-righteous tone:

‘The role of the BBC is never clearer than at times of national crisis. We provide the public – in great numbers, locally, nationally and internationally – with trusted, impartial news and information they can rely on. We help bring the country together, to share, to understand, to laugh and to commemorate. We examine the big decisions taken by those with responsibility over our lives, explaining the choices and making sense of the challenges. We connect people who are isolated, bringing companionship and a link to the world.’

The document was written in response to Ofcom’s annual review of BBC performance, which was published in October last year and – Ofcom being of the same mindset as the BBC itself – largely gave the Corporation a clean bill of health while, with wearying predictability, demanding that more steps be taken to ensure ‘diversity’.It also asked that more should be done to reach young people – and that editorial complaints must be handled better.

So how has it risen to such challenges?

On complaints, the BBC plan says it will become more transparent. But it does not explain how and at the same time it parrots the usual stonewall defence against those who criticise the Corporation, that opinion polls (self-commissioned, of course) show that it is the most trusted source of news in the UK.

The signs are that in reality, it is business as usual.

Exhibit A  is that, as was reported on TCW,  News-watch submitted a highly detailed five-page complaint about the April 27 edition of Panorama which claimed that the government was killing people by not providing enough  personal protection equipment (PPE) for NHS staff. As Michael St George astutely observed on TCW on June 2, the programme resembled more a Labour Party political broadcast than investigative journalism.

The fulcrum of the News-watch complaint was that that the programme produced no concrete examples of failures of PPE provision by the government, and that in any case PPE supply was the responsibility primarily of the NHS rather than the government.  

The BBC response? That a detailed, specific reply would be a wasteful use of resources.

Greater transparency? Pigs might fly.

Further issues that emerge from the Annual Plan document  will be discussed in future TCW blogs, in particular a deeply sinister plan to convert news into wall-to-wall propaganda-based ‘story-telling’; to extend its so-called ‘Reality Check’ approach to news; and to deluge audiences with a blizzard of ‘climate change’ stories.

Justice closes its eyes to BBC bias

Justice closes its eyes to BBC bias

It is very disappointing to have to report that three judges (two in the High Court, one in the Court of Appeal) have thwarted David Keighley’s application for judicial review to challenge the impartiality of the BBC.

Very frustratingly, they have acted without calling a full oral hearing to consider evidence put forward by David and his legal team, relying instead on written submissions to the court. That shows an almost casual disregard for the importance of the need to make sure the BBC meets its main Charter obligations – and leaves no line of redress except through Ofcom, which is itself stuffed full of ex-BBC staff of the same mindset.

Judges lined up to assist Gina Miller in her manic efforts to stop Brexit, but faced with extensive evidence of the need to stop the BBC’s negative reporting of Brexit, they have performed the judicial equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and closing their eyes.

Last summer TCW’s readers helped support the crowdfunding effort get this judicial review in motion.

As David reports on the crowdfunding site, Lord Justice Singh in the Court of Appeal has refused to grant leave to appeal against the decision of Mr Justice Supperstone who on 14 November 2019 rejected his application for judicial review to challenge the impartiality and performance measures of the BBC. This hearing was a review of the refusal of Mrs Justice Lang to grant leave for the judicial review (on the most cursory of grounds).

You can read about the rejection of the appeal in detail, with links to both rulings, here.

David Keighley is left with considerable costs – approximately £18,000 – to shoulder, on top of the £57,000 very generously donated in the crowd-funding appeal, which paid the considerable costs of taking the case through its various stages.

The brick wall nature of the judgment is extremely worrying and frankly raises nearly as many questions about our judiciary as it does about the BBC.

It seems extraordinary, too, that Mrs Justice Lang has decreed this level of costs. She might as well have said: ‘This is a warning to anyone who has the temerity to challenge the action of the nation’s monopoly broadcaster – you will pay for it.’

Neither judgment, of the High Court or the Court of Appeal, took into account the inability of the BBC to exercise its judgment, analyse its performance and properly measure it. There’s no doubt, as David writes, the lack of impartiality of the BBC continues to be a matter of grave public concern – the recent raft of negative newspaper reporting of BBC bias supports that. You would be forgiven for believing there was no current debate about the BBC or the anachronism and inequity of the Licence Fee.

The BBC remains its own judge and jury – which we pay for. As David has written repeatedly, the ‘supervision’ of OFCOM has made no difference. Its October 2019 review of BBC News and Current Affairs content and elsewhere demonstrated that it is not prepared to tackle this issue. 

David has not stopped in his endeavours. This judicial review case is over, but with the support of other like-minded individuals, he will carry on trying to make the BBC accountable and comply with its Charter obligations.

Shock news: BBC-dominated Ofcom backs the BBC

Shock news: BBC-dominated Ofcom backs the BBC

The 2017 BBC Charter bestowed for the first time supervisory regulatory powers on Ofcom, which had previously been in charge of only the independent sector. Its first review of BBC news and current affairs performance shows that this has achieved nothing except to confirm that the broadcasting ‘establishment’ is deeply biased and complacent, and that there is an urgent need to cleanse the Augean stables.

The naive aim – based on recommendations by Sir David Clementi, who subsequently, of course, became BBC chairman – was to create independent scrutiny of complaints and impartiality.

In March 2016, when the Clementi proposals were first published by then culture secretary John Whittingdale, I wrote on TCW:

‘Disaster! The malaise of the BBC is principally that it is run by broadcasting establishment figures with no desire to think radically or independently – and Ofcom is no different. It is a quango, peopled by liberal left quangocrats cast from exactly the same mould as the BBC Trustees . . .

‘Even worse is Sir David’s suggestion that Ofcom becomes the final court of appeal. . . nearly every. . . member of the [content] board has cosy links to the BBC and has spent considerable parts of his or her career in the BBC orbit. Thus, the handling by Ofcom of BBC complaints will not make one iota of difference to the current regime.’

Sadly, the predictions have proved to be spot-on. Recent examples of folk appointed to the Ofcom advisory committee for England are:

· Paula Carter, whose career has been principally at Channel 4 and the BBC;

· Aaqil Ahmed, the former head of religion ethics at both the BBC and Channel 4, and famed, for example, for mounting a BBC Songs of Praise from the Calais migrants’ camp and claiming that inmates could be likened to Joseph, Mary and Jesus nhttp://isthebbcbiased.blogspot.com/2015/08/songs-of-displeasure.html;

· Matthew Littleford, who is a trustee for the theatre companies Frantic Assembly and Paines Plough. He was previously a joint managing director of the TV production company Betty, editorial director for digital at BBC Worldwide, controller of UKTV (joint-owned by the BBC), and controller of entertainment for ITV’s digital channels.

Despite the relentless tide of anti-Brexit bias, the Ofcom content board – eight of the 13 members are ex-BBC – has dismissed the vast majority of BBC complaints appeals referred to it with the same cavalier liberal-Left disdain as the BBC itself.

Most strikingly, a meticulously researched complaint about the anti-Brexit bias of BBC1’s Question Time was dismissed on the basis that a single contribution from Theresa May crony Damian Green proved that the ‘hard’ Brexit perspective had been adequately represented in 25 editions. 

Ofcom has now completed at significant expense – it includes a glossy focus group report from PwC – a year-long review of the BBC’s performance in the news and current affairs domain. Is there any sign that its approach to its new responsibilities might be improving?

In a word, no. I will analyse in more detail the huge inconsistencies of the findings in a second blog, but for now, an outstanding feature of this so-called review is that while it was designed to examine impartiality, it has in reality done no such thing.

As well as the PwC report, Ofcom commissioned the School of Media, Journalism and Culture at Cardiff University to undertake content analysis of elements of BBC output. 

That in itself was a biased decision, because Cardiff, as has been demonstrated by News-watch, is deeply biased towards the BBC. For example, its director of journalism is Richard Sambrook, the BBC’s former director of global news. Irrespective of the personnel, Ofcom unbelievably asked the academics to focus mainly on the depth and range of coverage rather than impartiality.

One of their areas of investigation was Brexit. But none of it was about potential bias and its only finding, from a minuscule sample size, was that in terms of range and depth there might not have have been enough speakers from the EU. Given that most of the Remainer Parliament was made up of those who spoke passionately about the need to stay within the EU, this defies belief.

So how did the wise people of Ofcom decide that output was impartial? A main plank was that they had considered 300 complaints about BBC bias in 2018-19 and upheld none of them. Well, that’s okay then. Or maybe – more likely – it confirms the need for an urgent external investigation of Ofcom itself into confirmation bias – the tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that affirms one’s prior beliefs or hypotheses.

The second main plank of their approach was the PwC report mentioned above. A key element of this was based on 13 interviews and workshops around the country, each attended by a dozen consumers of BBC output. How precisely these were framed is not disclosed – it is assumed by Ofcom that PwC knew what they were doing. But a striking feature of the exercise, at a time when the news agenda was dominated by Brexit, was that those with strong views about the topic were deliberately excluded.

Finally, what were the recommendations of the Ofcom report? News and current affairs is largely tickety-boo – with one major caveat, the ‘D’ word. Wait for it: not enough diversity!

Postscript

Cardiff University’s journalism department has strong links with the BBC other than Richard Sambrook. One is that Ian Hargreaves, who is Professor of the Digital Economy at the university,  was Professor of journalism there  from 1999-2010, and is now on the BBC board of management (the body which replaced the former Trustees), and according to the BBC is is ‘responsible for upholding and protecting the independence of the BBC by acting in the public interest and exercising independent judgement’ 

Further, the BBC is currently moving into a new £100m HQ building in Cardiff. Joining them there is the Cardiff University media department  – and students there are offered placements by the BBC. In that context, it is hard to see how the Cardiff report for Ofcom can be considered even remotely ‘independent’.

BBC censures presenters – but not very much

BBC censures presenters – but not very much

Two rulings have been made in the past ten days by the BBC’s editorial complaints unit (ECU) against Corporation presenters. Both the offending broadcasts, one an attack on Donald Trump, the other the ‘sneering’ handling of an interview with Rod Liddle about Brexit, took place in July.

This is hold the front page territory. Usually, the unit dismisses everything thrown at it, on grounds which have turned stonewalling into a whole new art form. The nature and extent of this is detailed in this blog dealing with the rejection by the ECU of a complaint from News-watch about the pro-EU, anti-Brexit bias in the BBC Radio 4 Mark Mardell series Brexit: A Love Story?

So who are the two who have earned such exceptional opprobrium? Step forward Emily Maitlis, of BBC2 Newsnight, and Naga Munchetty, a regular BBC1 Breakfast Time presenter.

An immediate observation is that those in the ECU should now watch their backs. Under the Corporation’s separate but over-riding equal opportunities agenda, singling out in quick succession two women in this way could be deemed by internal and external thought police as both sexist and anti-feminist. Labour MP David Lammy has already called the ECU’s decision against Ms Munchetty ‘appalling’, and 150 black broadcasters are demanding that the BBC reverse the ruling on her.

The pair’s transgressions, according to the ECU? Ms Maitlis was ‘too personal’ when she quizzed Sunday Times columnist and former BBC Today editor Rod Liddle about his book on Brexit, The Great Betrayal, suggesting that his views in it were often racist and xenophobic. The full ten-minute interview is on YouTube, and you can read the transcript here. 

In the sequence, Mr Liddle’s fellow guest was Tom Baldwin, the communications director of the People’s Vote campaign.

Ms Munchetty, for her part, had ‘gone beyond’ what editorial guidelines allowed by asserting that Donald Trump’s views were ‘embedded in racism’ when he tweeted that Democrat politicians Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib should ‘go back home’ to sort out problems there rather than criticising the US. A 40-second extract from the sequence was tweeted by the BBC itself on the day of transmission.

The ‘partly upheld’ ruling added: ‘She went on to comment critically on the possible motive for, and potential consequences of, the President’s words. Judgements of that kind are for the audience to make, and the exchange fell short of due impartiality in that respect.’

Excuse me, if that’s the case, where does virtually all of US correspondent John Sopel’s reporting of Donald Trump stand? His bias is evident in almost every utterance. And what of Roger Harrabin’s almost risible partisanship in the climate change arena?

Miracles sometimes do happen. This might be the start of a whole new chapter in BBC accountability and rigour in enforcing Charter impartiality requirements, a sign that the Corporation is beginning to take action against the blizzard of biased reporting that dominates its coverage of issues such as climate change and Brexit.

But don’t hold your breath. At this stage, the full ECU rulings against the two women are not available; there are only the briefest details on the BBC complaints website.

What’s the point of guilty findings if precise reasons are not given? The BBC is its own judge and jury in the vast majority of complaints, and for that reason, maximum transparency and explanation should be a matter of course so that licence fee-payers can be confident that their concerns are being scrupulously considered.

Further examination of the brief details of the ruling in the Maitlis case in the light of the transcript and video of the exchange with Mr Liddle raises huge concerns.

Point number one is that we are told that Ms Maitlis was said by the unnamed complainant to have been ‘sneering and bullying’ towards Mr Liddle. The ECU does not address this grave core charge at all.

It says simply: ‘The ECU did not agree that it was possible to deduce Emily Maitlis’s view on Brexit from the discussion. It also believed that it was valid to press Mr Liddle on his personal views and noted that he had the opportunity to vigorously defend himself.’ As an action point it adds: ‘The programme has been reminded of the need to ensure rigorous questioning of controversial views does not lead to a perceived lack of impartiality.’

Looking at the interview and checking against the transcript, it’s easy to see why the complainant thought Ms Maitlis was both sneering and bullying. She spoke over Mr Liddle, aggressively interrupted him, relentlessly suggested he was racist and xenophobic and focused the interview in that territory, refused to accept Mr Liddle’s point that some of his barbs in his columns were humorous, allowed fellow guest Mr Baldwin to join in to underline her claims of racism, and throughout reinforced her verbal onslaught with body language which expressed what looked like contempt and was arguably sneering in tone for much of the time.

Her approach was cumulative, but was best typified halfway through the exchange when she asserted in connection with her allegation that Liddle was racist: ‘It’s so consistent, it’s week after week, the bile that you spew up has to be who you are.’

To be fair, towards the end, Ms Maitlis put two adversarial questions to Tom Baldwin, based on the point that holding a second referendum was not democratic. But her tone towards him was strikingly less negative, and she did not follow through with the sort of treatment handed out to Mr Liddle. To be fair again, her questions opened the door for Mr Liddle to attack Mr Baldwin’s approach and to assert that if the second referendum did not back remain, his group would probably press for a third vote.

To sum up, the ECU’s ruling is both disingenuous and an affront to common sense. What it ruled was simply this: ‘It was insufficiently clear that this was not Ms Maitlis’s view of Mr Liddle but that of his critics, and the persistent and personal nature of the criticism risked leaving her open to the charge that she had failed to be even-handed between the two guests.’

Pardon? Her questions, observations, body language and overall handling of the interview can only be described as overtly hostile. This was an outright open attack on Mr Liddle.

The most disgraceful aspects of Ms Maitlis’s handling of the exchange, such as sneeringly calling Mr Liddle a xenophobe – which were the main substance of the complaint – have been glossed over in the outline finding or completely ignored.

Trust in the BBC will only return, if ever, when its complaints procedures become rigorously robust and independent and genuinely tackle the current rampant bias. There is no sea change here. Ms Munchetty and Ms Maitlis behaved in the way they did because the current editorial framework fosters such bias.