BBC Digest

BBC Bias Digest 28 July 2020

SKY ARTS ‘TO FILL GAP LEFT BY BBC CUTS’: Luke May (Daily Mail 28/7) reported that satellite broadcaster Sky had decided make its dedicated arts channel available from September on the Freeview platform with no extra charge because cuts on the BBC Four television channel meant there was an important gap to fill. Mr May said that the BBC had cut the budget for BBC Four because it had decided to focus instead on a more youth-focused service on BBC Three. He added that Sky had also announced a raft of new commissions for the arts channel, including Landmark, designed to bring communities together to create the next ‘great British landmark’, as well as a programme about the playwright Harold Pinter. It would also be offering a series of arts bursaries.


BBC CHURCHILL REPORT ‘WAS OUTRAGEOUS CALUMNY’:  Henry Getley (Conservative Woman 28/7), analysing further a BBC news report which posited that Winston Churchill had killed three million Indians by triggering the 1943 Bengal famine, asserted that  to ‘anyone with the slightest knowledge of history and an ounce of humanity and common sense, the BBC’s outrageous calumny beggars belief’. Mr Getley, noting that ‘ironically’ a 2002 BBC poll – responded to by 1.6m viewers – had found Churchill the greatest Briton ever, also argued that in siding with the mobs who had defaced Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square, the BBC had sold its soul to Left-wing creeds of progressiveness, virtue-signalling, identity politics, diversity, race, gender and man-made climate change’.

BBC Bias Digest 27 July 2020

BBC ‘FINALLY ADMITS’ PANORAMA BREACH: Guido Fawkes (27/7) said that the BBC had finally admitted – after receiving 800 complaints –  that its April Panorama programme ‘Has the Government Failed the NHS’ had breached editorial standards by not labelling one of the contributors, Dr Sonia Adesara, as a Labour activist. But the article also declared:

‘The organisation, however, refuses to apologise for not labelling other left-wing campaigning contributors accurately, including ‘Docs not Cops’ member Irial Eno, Labour member of 53 years John Ashton,  or Corbyn-rallying Unison steward Libby Nolan.’


BBC CORRESPONDENT APOLOGISES TO STURGEON: Freddy Mayhew (UK Press Gazette 27/9) said the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) had ruled that a report by Scotland editor Sarah Smith on BBC One News at Ten had inappropriately said that Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon was ‘enjoying’ the opportunity to make her country’s own lock down rules.  Mr Mayhew noted that Ms Smith had apologised via a Tweet for her choice of word the following day and claimed she had meant to use the word ‘embraced’ but mistakenly used ‘enjoyed’. He reported that the ECU, in its ruling in response to seven complaints about the ‘biased’ report by Ms Smith, said it had been appropriate to issue apologies, and on this occasion via a Tweet because Ms Sturgeon had registered her objection via a Tweet.  The ECU had also ruled that no further action was required.

BBC Bias Digest 26 July 2020

BBC VETERAN ATTACKS ‘SPITEFUL AND VENOMOUS’ REPORT ABOUT CHURCHILL:  Writing in the Mail on Sunday (26/7), veteran BBC investigative reporter Tom Mangold – who joined the Corporation in 1964 –  expressed ‘sadness’ at the BBC, provoked by watching ‘for the tenth time’ an ‘outrageous’ News at Ten report which branded Winston Churchill a racist responsible for the 1943 Bengal Famine. He described the six-minute report as ‘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’, adding ‘Viewers were left in no doubt that the reporter agreed with her own preferential report’.

Mr Mangold said that had led him to wonder ‘what on earth has happened’, given that the BBC’s charter remains ‘unequivocal’ about its statutory commitment to impartiality.  He added:

“Today that holy contract is well and truly broken. And so it is that News at Ten is allowed to use Huw Edwards’s authority and credibility – and the Corporation’s reputation for truth – to call Churchill a racist killer. The protester who sprayed graffiti on the statue of the wartime leader during the Black Lives Matter protests, accusing him of racism, must be overwhelmed with gratitude at the BBC’s vindication”.

Mr Mangold attributed the breach in obligations  down to ‘the BBC’s bizarre obsession with youth, diversity and the ever-growing pressure of woke argument’. He suggested that it ‘threatens to become its final act of self-harm’ because the movements the BBC is seeking to appeal to ‘still represent in total only a very small part of Britain’, a ‘minority audience’.

He continued that,  though ‘the BBC at its best is the most wonderful public service broadcaster in the world’, now suddenly, the Twitter trolls, the social media addicts, the young, the immature and the often daft have become the BBC’s recruitment and audience target.’ He concluded:  ‘If you believe Winston Churchill was a racist killer, sit back and enjoy the product. If not, try to help the BBC leap off the greasy slope down which it is sliding faster every day.’


BBC ‘NOT HELPING’ NOSTALGIA TV SERIES: Simon Heffer , discussing the nostalgia TV service Talking Pictures (£ Daily Telegraph, 25/7) -which was run from a garden shed and claimed to have up had 6 million viewers a week  –  reported that the BBC had refused to sell founder Noel Cronin the rights to the 1960s TV series Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green.  Mr Heffer speculated that ‘either [the BBC] is being the dog in the manger, or perhaps its executives realise they have misjudged the viewing public, and have retro plans of their own’. He added that the latter would be better, as the Corporation was continuing ‘to force upon viewers programmes pandering to the right-on, metropolitan prejudices of the small but noisy minority they meet at dinner parties’. Mr Heffer  concluded: ‘If it really does think such nonsense, then the sooner the licence fee is abolished, the better.’


JOHN HUMPHRYS: ‘EU IS WONDERFUL ORGANISATION’: The Sunday Times (£ 26/7) reported comments made by former Today presenter John Humphrys during a Times Radio interview in which he said he was  ‘not a fan’ of Boris Johnson, claimed not to remember who he voted for in the 2019 general election and expanded on his Remain vote in the EU referendum. Mr Humphrys had said:

‘I felt fairly strongly about it. But I did my job, which was to question both sides with equal vim and vigour. I was born in the war. I believed one of the ways to stop it happening again was to join this wonderful organisation where the countries in Europe would be friends. That was what drove me to vote remain.’

The article also noted that Mr Humphrys had been accused of ‘seeming (to be) Eurosceptic’ in interviews by critics.


‘CREATIVE DIVERSITY’ AT THE BBC: The Observer (26/7) interviewed June Sarpong, the BBC’s director of creative diversity, quoting her saying that she had ‘rarely’ been on sets ‘where there were other people of colour’.  The article  also noted that the corporation was spending £12m of its commissioning budget ‘to making diverse and inclusive content’ for the next three years, 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.


BBC ‘GIVING NICOLA STURGEON A ‘PLATFORM TO SCORE PARTY POLITICAL POINTS’: The Sunday Times (£ 26/7),reported claims by opposition politicians that the BBC in Scotland hasd given Nicola Sturgeon an ‘unacceptable platform to score political points’ by continuing to broadcast her hour-long Covid-19 briefings on the BBC’s main Scottish channel while they ‘struggle for airtime’.  It was reported that the Labour Party has requested a breakdown of how much airtime has been given to Ms Sturgeon and Scotland’s other political leaders but it was said that the request this has been ‘declined’ by the BBC.

Labour party deputy leader Jackie Baillie had said:

‘The BBC’s refusal to answer these extremely significant and important questions is highly disappointing. The BBC has a duty to ensure that it remains an impartial broadcaster and that important broadcasts such as the first minister’s coronavirus briefings do not degenerate into the party political sniping and grandstanding we have seen in recent weeks. I urge the BBC to seriously reconsider its refusal to answer these very simple questions. If we cannot rely on the national broadcaster to be straightforward in its dealings, then serious questions around impartiality and professionalism will be raised.’.


ESTHER MCVEY ATTACKS OVER-75s LICENCE FEE DECISION: Former minister Esther McVey, and leader of the Blue Collar Conservatism group (Sunday Express 26/7) had warned that the BBC ‘could be mortally wounded’ by its decision to go ahead with requiring over-75s to pay £157.50 for their licence fee from August 1. She had asserted:

‘I think the best thing that you could do to keep the public on board is to actually be a public service broadcaster and look after the people in this country who pay £5billion a year for the service.’

The article noted that Ms McVey was one of 66 Conservative MPs in her BCC group who had written to BBC director general Tony Hall last week questioning the need to penalise over-75s when savings could be made elsewhere.


LICENCE FEE IMPLEMENTATION ‘DISTINCTLY AMATEURISH’:  Media correspondent Rosamund Urwin (£ Sunday Times 26/7) warned that the BBC was in danger of making a ‘complete hash’ of the implementation of the decision to force over-75s to pay for their licence fees. She reported that Caroline Abrams of Age UK had claimed that implementation was  ‘distinctly amateurish’ because the TV Licensing unit would only start issuing the 4.5 million ‘payment invitation’ letters on August 1 – the date the new fees were due –   and they would be  posted in batches, ‘so many pensioners face a longer wait’. Ms Abrams claimed the approach smacked of being a last-minute decision,  of a last-minute decision’ and added that it did not give much confidence that it would be well- administered.

BBC Bias Digest 24 July

PANORAMA PPE PROGRAMME ‘BREACHED EDITORIAL STANDARDS’: A report in the Daily Mail (24/7), said that the BBC,, having initially defended an edition of BBC One’s Panorama programme about the provision of personal protection equipment (PPE) by the NHS, had now admitted that it had breached editorial guidelines. The ruling, by the Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU), was that the programme, called ‘Has The Government Failed The NHS?’, had broken the internal editorial code ‘by failing to reveal’ that programme contributor Dr Sonia Adesara (who had attacked the Government’s alleged failures in the supply of PPE) was a long-time Labour party member.

The ECU ruling was that ‘the nature and extent’ of Dr Adesara’s political affiliation ‘was such that it might have been relevant to the audience’s evaluation of her contribution insofar as it was critical of the Government, and that it was a breach of the BBC’s editorial standards not to have given viewers appropriate information about it’. The report also noted that the unit had qualified its decision by also stating that ‘her criticism of the Government was in keeping with what might be expected from a doctor with experience of inadequate PPE provision, and that information about her political affiliations would not have called the validity of her concerns into doubt in the minds of viewers.’


BBC ‘LIES ABOUT CHURCHILL IN BRANDING HIM RACIST AND VILLAIN’: Writing for the Daily Mail (23/7), historian Dominic Sandbrook claimed that BBC news reports on BBC Radio 4 and BBC One about the 1943 Bengal famine were a ‘smear’ against Winston Churchill, conveying the ‘incredible’ impression, that the wartime prime minister Churchill ‘bore personal responsibility for the deaths of three million people’.  Professor Sandbrook added that, while ‘watching in disbelief’, he  had wondered which historians would be included to counter the arguments of the academics in the report who had asserted that Churchill was the ‘precipitator’ of the mass killings and guilty of ‘prioritising white lives over Asian lives’. He had found that the answer was ‘nobody’.

Professor Sandbrook also asserted that there had been ‘no mention of the complexities of wartime’; ‘no mention of Churchill’s national service’; and ‘no room for nuance’, ‘only a one-sided, almost deliberately misleading account, utterly divorced from context.’

He added:  ‘The BBC’s message was clear. Churchill was a racist and a villain – and if you don’t agree, then so are you.’, He concluded:

‘Are BBC producers unable to see that if they keep lying about Britain’s history, they will lose popular support? Do they really care so little about the truth of our past? And are they really so cocooned in their smug metropolitan prejudices they can’t see how deeply they are offending millions of people? The answer, I fear, is clear. But this will not end well for the corporation’.


BBC ‘IS TONE DEAF’: A letter to The Times (24/7), from Janis Pringle from Undy, Monmouthshire, backed criticisms of the BBC management structure voiced by veteran BBC Radio 2 presenter Ken Bruce (£ 21/7).  Ms Pringle contended that the BBC, though a ‘magnificent’ organisation, is ‘sclerotic’ in its ways, and so concerned with ‘pigeonholing’ its audience and so ‘obsessed’ with attracting a younger audience, that it plied its daytime ‘mass’ audience with ‘recycled playlists’ and consigned ‘anything more interesting to the evening’ when younger people are supposed to be listening. She argued that audiences of all ages ‘can cope’ with more variety and wrote of the BBC, ‘. . .that this insults their entire audience seems to have escaped their notice’.


BBC ‘NAVEL-GAZING’ AND THE LOSS OF JENNI MURRAY: In her weekly column for the Daily Mail (25/7), Amanda Platell expressed regret that Jenni Murray will be leaving Radio 4’s Womans Hour on October 1, wondering if it was after she ‘enraged…the LGBT lobby’ that she ‘realised the Beeb was no longer her natural home’.

Ms Platell said that ‘the great personalities of the BBC — Jenni, Libby Purves, Jeremy Paxman, John Humphrys, both the Dimblebys, Andrew Neil — are disappearing before our eyes’ and that ‘they’re being replaced by navel-gazing, metropolitan chat-show hosts obsessed with a diversity agenda that ignores the views of the majority.’


THE NEW HOME OF BBC WALES HAS ‘A LEAKY ROOF’: According to the Daily Mail’s Izzy Ferris (25/7), the newly-opened BBC headquarters of BBC Wales in Cardiff, which took four years to build and cost £120m, ‘has a leaky roof every time it rains’. She writes of the Foster + Partners-designed building, that ‘Cleaners have to get out large buckets to stop the fourth floor from getting soaking wet.’ The BBC said that the leak hasn’t affected the BBC’s operations.


BBC Bias Digest 23 July 2020

BBC ‘WRONGLY BLAMES CHURCHILL FOR INDIA FAMINE’:  Writing for The Critic magazine (21/7), Christopher Howarth accused the BBC, ‘the most powerful megaphone in the land today’, of airing ‘a one-sided attack’ on Winston Churchill.  He wrote that a feature, by the BBC’s Yogita Limaye, which was broadcast on Radio 4’s Today programme (20/7), only included voices critical of ‘Britain’s most famous politician’, all concurring in presenting him as ‘reprehensible’ and ‘racist’. Mr Howarth added that the Radio 4 piece focused on the devastating 1943 Bengal famine, and held Winston Churchill ‘responsible’ for it. Mr Howarth argued that it reflected the BBC’s ‘obsession’ with ‘a particular version of history based on…poisonous, chronic racial essentialism’, projecting a ‘narrative of British evil and oppression’ . He added that it was not ‘worthy’ of the BBC to report it ‘as fact, without any semblance of balance’.

Rory Tingle (Daily Mail 23/7) reported that historians had attacked the BBC for an ‘unbalanced’ BBC One News at Ten report (on 21/7)  by Yogita Lamiye  claiming that Churchill was responsible for the ‘mass killing of three million people’ in the 1943 Bengal famine.  Mr Tingle said that in the item – part of a series examining Britain’s colonial legacy’ – contained claims from Indian academics that the then prime minister had framed policies which made him a ‘precipitator’ of mass killings and that he  could have  prioritised ‘white lives over Asian lives’ by not sending relief.  He added that LSE academic Tirthankar Roy had pointed out that the weather-induced famine had been due to the Bengal government’s unequal distribution of food and its failures to invest sufficiently in agricultural development. Mr Tingle said the BBC had responded that the report had contextualised Churchill’s actions  in relation to his overall war strategy, and that they ‘stood by’ the story.


VETERAN RADIO 2 PRESENTER ATTACKS BBC MANAGEMENT STRUCTURE: A report by Matthew Moore in The Times recorded BBC Radio 2 veteran Ken Bruce’s interview with David Lloyd’s Radio Moments Conversations podcast (£ 21/7). Mr Bruce, host of the Britain’s most popular radio programme, told Mr Lloyd that the BBC is ‘a frustrating place to work’ and that he sometimes thinks ‘a cull of managers would be no bad thing’, except that, ‘somehow’, whenever such a cull happens, ‘they come back within a few years’. Complaining about licence fee money being spent on the Director-General’s car, Mr Bruce asks, ‘How much does Radio 2 need a policy unit dealing with government?’.


BBC ‘SHOULD MOVE BEYOND BIG CITIES’: In a piece in The Times headlined ‘Time to move the civil service out of London’ (£ 22/7), Ben Houchen noted that, ‘too often’, for organisations including the BBC, ‘the north seems to mean Manchester’, arguing that ‘real change’ will come when such  organisations broaden out and also base themselves outside big cities.

In a similar vein, Jim Waterson, media editor of The Guardian (22/7), quoted former Culture Secretary, now Government minister, John Whittingdale saying that it is ‘absolutely essential’ for the BBC to ‘try to sustain support for the licence fee in all these communities [people who live in smaller towns and rural areas] and not just serve the metropolitan elite in London and Manchester. I am very much aware that communities like Cleethorpes begin to feel that the BBC is not providing sufficiently for them’.


JOHN WARE ‘CONSIDERING SUING JEREMY CORBYN’: BBC Panorama presenter John Ware (Daily Mail 23/7), noting that former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn had said that his party’s decision to pay damages to him over an edition of Panorama which had investigated anti-semitism in the party was ‘political’ rather than legal, said he had been advised by his legal team that the statement was defamatory and potentially actionable. Mr Ware also said that ‘pro-Corbyn conspiracy theorists’ were persisting in spreading falsehoods about him on the internet. Mr Ware asserted:

“It is broadcasters like the BBC that are trying to hold the line on standards, not the self-appointed ‘media activists’ who make up their own rules and whose self-righteousness leaves them with dangerously little self-doubt. If we want fair and truthful journalism to prevail over deceitful propaganda on the internet, we must hold their authors to account. If we continue to let them get away with it, truth will not be the only casualty. Democracy itself will be wounded – perhaps fatally.”

BBC Digest 22 July 2020

LABOUR PARTY PAYS ‘SUBSTANTIAL DAMAGES’ TO BBC  PRESENTER’:  A report in the UK Press Gazette (22/7) said that the Labour party had paid substantial defamation damages to John Ware, the veteran BBC Panorama presenter’, over an edition of the programme broadcast in July 2019 which investigated the extent of anti-Semitism in party ranks. The report explained that an official party press release had falsely accused Mr Ware of ‘deliberate and malicious misrepresentations designed to mislead the public, and had also claimed that he had invented quotes, flouted journalistic ethics and ‘knowingly promoted falsehoods’ in pursuit of a pre-determined outcome of the question posed by the programme title about anti-semtiism.  The Daily Mail (22/7) claimed that the total libel bill for the party  – which also included payments to seven ‘whistle-blowers’ featured in the programme – would top £500,000. The article also reported that the BBC had called the Labour press release ‘an extraordinarily vitriolic attack’.


BBC ‘DISTORTS PALESTINE’ REPORT: Hadar Sela (Camera UK 22/7)  alleged that the BBC ‘Hardtalk’ programme had allowed Husam  Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to London to misrepresent  – without sufficient challenge – the reasons for the expulsion of the Palestinian envoy to Washington in the US. Mr Sela said that in a question, the show’s host, Stephen Sackur had said that he had been expelled because the Trump administration did not want him around anymore, when the real reason was that Palestine had refused to engage in negotiations with Israel, and had thus flouted US laws pre-dating the Trump administration.

BBC Digest 21 July 2020

BBC PRESENTER ‘SAVAGED’ OVER LICENCE FEE CLAIMS: The BBC’s Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty – paid £190,000 a year by the Corporation – had been savaged by viewers after saying that the BBC licence fee was ‘worth it’ to ensure that people were ‘educated’ (Daily Mail 21/7). James Gant noted that a storm of tweets had followed Ms Munchetty’s claims in the Radio Times that there had been ‘noise’ about the licence fee for years, but her programme was not ratings driven but there to provide a service that informed, educated and entertained viewers, and the £157.50-a-year BBC licence fee was ‘worth that’. Mr Grant noted that, in response, former MP Douglas Carswell had written:

‘If the BBC licence fee is ‘worth it’, as this well-paid BBC presenter insists, they’d have no difficulty getting folk to pay it as a voluntary subscription without criminal records for non-payment #DefundTheseTroughersNOW.’

Mr Gant, noting that the government was considering plans to decriminalise payment of the BBC licence fee,  also said that Ms Munchetty’s remarks appeared to be at odds with fellow Breakfast presenter Dan Walker, who had posted on Twitter the previous month that his programme was ranked the number one breakfast show on television ‘by some distance’.

BBC Bias Digest 20 July 2020

NEWSWATCH COMPLAINT: ‘BBC HAS FAILED BRITAIN’: David Maddox (Express 19/7) said that the media monitoring organisation News-watch had accused – in a complaint to Ofcom – the BBC of ‘systematic failure’ to comply with its charter obligations of impartiality over 20 years. Political editor David Maddox said the complaint had been registered in a week where the BBC’s director of editorial policy, David Jordan, had admitted to a House of Lords committee that the Corporation had not adequately covered issues related to Euroscepticism. He added that the report had been accompanied by reports which showed that since 1999, pro-EU voices had consistently had more prominence than Eurosceptic ones. He stated:

Submission has claimed that the BBC’s bias comes through “considerable bias by omission, with central issues ignored or under-reported, and EU news afforded low priority and downplayed” along with “systematic and long-term under-representation of anti-EU and Eurosceptic guests voicing their opinions.”

Mr Maddox said:

“The core of the Complaint supported by recent case-law is that the BBC has wrongly interpreted its obligation of ensuring ‘due impartiality’ and as a result has breached its long-standing Charter obligation ( which goes back to at least the Television Act 1954).

“Rather the BBC is obliged to proceed by identifying the main strands of opinion within the public discourse and give each a fair opportunity to be heard so as to provide ‘a level playing field for competing views and opinions so that those views and opinions are expressed, heard, answered and debated’.”

BBC Bias Digest 19 July 2020

TORY MPs: ‘AXING OVER-75 FREE LICENCE FEES IS KICK IN THE TEETH’: The Blue Collar Conservative group of 66 MPs had written to BBC Director General Tony Hall to demand a re-think on the decision to charge over-75s for their licence fees (Express 19/7). Ciaran McGrath reported that, pointing to the BBC’s £5 billion annual income, the letter had attacked unnecessary spending of £100m on ‘diversity’ and the excessive salaries of star such as Gary Lineker and senior executives. He added that the letter underlined the bitter the bitter dispute between the BBC and the government over the issue, with Downing Street describing the new policy as ‘the wrong decision’.   Mr McGrath said that the BBC had responded that if free licence fees had continued, it would have led to the closure of BBC Two, BBC Four, the BBC News Channel and Radio 5 Live.


ROGER MOSEY: ‘BBC BOWING TO STAFF TWITTER CULTURE’ Writing in The Sunday Times (£ 19/7) former Head of BBC Television News Roger Mosey claimed that ‘a battle is under way’ at the BBC between those who want the corporation to ‘stick with its traditional values of impartiality and fairness to all sides’ and those who want it to become ‘more of a campaigning organisation in which journalists shape the agenda to harmonise with their personal views’. The risk, he contended, is of the BBC ‘being drawn into the culture wars being fought in our national life, fuelled by social media’ and that ‘its case for universal funding will collapse if it lands too obviously on one side’.

He said that ‘worried’ insiders, some politically left-of-centre, had told him that life for BBC editors is becoming ‘unbearable’ at times because of pressure, not just from external critics of ‘every viewpoint imaginable’ (including ‘Twitter mobs’) but also because of internal pressure. An example: ‘A veteran editorial figure’ who believes that the BBC should be impartial on Trump and avoid calling him a racist told Mr Mosey that this might now be ‘an unpopular view’, one that would even inspire ‘disgust’ among some colleagues.  Citing examples of BBC journalists recently seeking to impose their opinions on programmes and reports, Mr Mosey said that ‘older BBC hands worry that some more recent recruits don’t understand the decades-old commitment to free speech and impartiality, and they have trouble persuading them to represent both sides of a story’ and that the BBC ‘has struggled to separate its liberal stance as an employer from its obligation to reflect the views of the entire UK’, with the focus on increasing gender and ethnic diversity at the BBC running simultaneously with a ‘narrowing’ of its range of thought and an ‘edging towards groupthink’. He contended that this is something that imperils the BBC’s future because the BBC has already shown itself to be ‘wobbly’ on understanding where public opinion lies and in foreseeing electoral outcomes.

The article ended with Mr Mosey arguing that the ‘huge task’ for the new director-general, Tim Davie, is to ‘shift the culture of the organisation and make it better at reflecting the lives that are lived outside the metropolitan and social media echo chambers’ because BBC journalists ‘do need to understand the astonishing range of views in modern Britain and to respect the right to hold them’. ‘It is, after all, those people who pay their wages — and if they are patronised or ignored, consent for the licence fee will disappear’.


BBC ‘PROPAGANDISTS’ AVOID CRITICS OF LOCKDOWN: Peter Hitchens (Mail on Sunday 19/7), in an article challenging the need to wear face masks as a protection against Covid-19, alleged that BBC ‘propagandists’ had tried as hard as they could ‘never to mention the legions of dissenting scientists who dispute the government’s face mask policy. He claimed that people were beginning to realise that despite this, people were beginning  to wonder whether they had been taken for a ride.

BBC Bias Digest 18 July 2020

BBC “WEAK MANAGEMENT’ FACILITATES ‘WOKERY”: In his regular column for the Telegraph (£ 17/7) Charles Moore compared recent developments at The New York Times with the situation at the BBC, arguing that the weakness of the newspaper’s management there in the face of ‘militant wokery’ has parallels with the weakness of BBC management here in confronting BBC staff over bias, including ‘the key exterior weapon they can use to skew coverage and blow up a storm – Twitter’. He contended that, though the problem of political and cultural bias at the BBC has existed since the 1960s, ‘it is only recently that direct bias has been permitted almost unpunished’, citing the case of Emily Maitlis’s ‘diatribe against Dominic Cummings’ and the Corporation’s coverage of the ‘vandalism committed in the name of Black Lives Matter’. He also criticised the ‘uniform’ character of its coverage, saying:

‘The creeping rule of HR in large media organisations has become politicised so that workplace “diversity” forces coverage to tiptoe round possible hurt or offence caused to self-identifying minorities. So, by a paradox George Orwell would have enjoyed, the more diverse the staff, the more uniform the coverage’, adding that ‘the victim is the BBC viewer, whose role is to pay up or be fined’.


MP SAYS OVER-75s SHOULD NOT BE PROSECUTED OVER LICENCE FEE: With three million over-75s having to start paying for their BBC licence fee from 1 August, Giles Watling, a Conservative member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, told the the Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast (£ 17/7) that such people ‘should be given a “grace period” of 12 months’ before being prosecuted in the courts for non-payment. Though accepting the need for reform, he said that the BBC ‘needs to take people with it’, contending that not everyone is ‘as switched on as the BBC might like to think’.


BBC ‘SANITISES PROMS HISTORY’: In an article headlined ‘The ‘archive Proms’ are a sanitised let-down – why is the BBC afraid of the past?’ (Telegraph £ 17/7) music critic Ivan Hewett argued that the BBC’s decision to ‘airbrush out’ every Prom from before 1987 in their six weeks of ‘treasures from the archive’ preceding the live final two weeks of this year’s Proms season could have been taken for the ‘insidious reason’ that Proms from that era ‘have become politically unacceptable’. He wrote that the BBC is ‘desperate to present a properly “woke” face to the world’ and that ‘offering broadcasts of Proms from the 1960s and 1970s spoils that impression’ -a time which featured few female composers, orchestras and audiences that were ‘uniformly white’, old-style conductors with ‘roving eyes and hands’. and music that was ‘determinedly high-brow’, all of which ‘revealed a mindset very alien to the BBC’s current values of diversity and accessibility’:

‘All this means that the Proms’ early history has become an embarrassment to the current management. By presenting a series that starts in 1987 as an exploration of the “treasures of the archive”, they are in effect rewriting that history. That’s something that should worry us all – not just those of us who care about the Proms.’


BBC ‘DOES NOT REPORT GENDER IDENTITY ACCURATELY’: James Kirkup, writing in the Spectator (17/7) examined a BBC online news report headlined ‘Blackpool woman accessed child abuse images in hospital bed’. He observed that, though the offender was ‘born male, has a male name and is regarded as male by the police’, the BBC’s report ‘refers to a ‘woman’ and makes no reference to the police records’.  Mr Kirkup asked, ‘Did the BBC decide not to tell readers about [the offender’s] gender status out of fear for controversy or trouble, and the dreaded accusation of transphobia?’ or was it because they ‘didn’t want to do so, believing, for some reason, that reporting [the offender’s] gender status would be the wrong thing to do’?  Though arguing that ‘none of this is straightforward’ and seeing ‘several possible and understandable explanations’ for why the BBC reported the story as it did, Mr Kirkup added, ‘I have heard BBC editors confide that some of their editorial colleagues believe that BBC journalism on trans issues should prioritise respect for gender identity above ‘balance’’.


‘BBC DITCHES OLDER SPORTS PRESENTERS’: Writing in The Times (£ 18/7) Martyn Ziegler reported on the launch of a new non-BBC podcast featuring John Inverdale, Mark Pougatch and Jonathan Overend – three ‘outcasts’ who have all been ‘deemed surplus to requirements by the BBC’, something he puts down to ‘the BBC’s policy of ditching older sports presenters in favour of youth’. Along with Sonja McLaughlan and Marcus Buckland and others, they aim to produce an ‘intelligent’ series of non-BBC programmes.