BBC Trust

BBC Trust defends Corporation’s Harlow ‘race hate’ sensationalism

BBC Trust defends Corporation’s Harlow ‘race hate’ sensationalism

The killing last August of a well-liked Polish man, ‘Arek’ Jóźwik, after a late night fracas in a pizza parlour in Harlow sent the BBC newsgathering operation into overdrive.

It was the end of the silly season and only ten weeks after the referendum.

The BBC, of course, was then, as now, hell-bent on finding and giving maximum exposure to every possible reason why the Brexit vote was a catastrophic mistake.

To the Corporation, which for years has also been on a mission to downplay the impact of immigration on the UK and to label opponents as at best xenophobic, at worst racist, this was a story that ticked every box. They dived into reporting the crime with grim, hyperbolic relish.

BBC1 man-on-the spot Daniel Sandford gave most prominence in his feature for the BBC1 bulletins on August 31 to that the alleged crime – prematurely said by him to be a ‘murder’ – was being investigated as a frenzied attack by a gang of six local youths triggered by race hate stirred up by the referendum vote.

To ram home the message about the race-hate dimension, Sandford carefully collected and edited quotes from the Polish ambassador and Robert Halfon, the local MP.

To be fair, he also mentioned that police were considering other options, such as ‘youths looking for trouble’, but there was no doubt which reason for the attack he thought was more likely.

And later that evening, on BBC2’s Newsnight, correspondent John Sweeney’s outro to his feature about the death was a quote from a friend of Mr Jóźwik, who declared that Nigel Farage had ‘blood on his hands’. The full transcripts of the Sweeney and Sandford reports are contained in the correspondence with the BBC, below.

Fast forward to the present. It has since emerged that Mr Jóźwik’s death was not murder at all.  Nor, say the police, was race-hate involved, and nor was the crime committed by a frenzied gang of youths.

Instead, a sole 15-year-old youth has been charged with manslaughter. He has indicated a plea of ‘not guilty’ at a preliminary hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court and has been released on conditional bail until his trial, which is expected to be in July.

It has also emerged since Sandford’s report in August that police are now convinced that a rise in the reporting of race hate crimes during the summer – heavily stressed by the BBC after June 23 and undoubtedly part of the reason the facts of the Harlow killing were so heavily exaggerated – was not linked at all to the referendum, but was the result of better and easier self-report procedures.

After Harlow, some journalists (unlike the BBC) decided to investigate further. They found that ‘race hate’ domain has become a major self-perpetuating and highly lucrative industry in its own right. One of the main hubs of this new world-wide enterprise is Sussex University where its principal advocate is partly lavishly funded by (you may have guessed)…the EU.

News-watch filed a formal complaint about Sandford’s report. This claimed in essence that the reporting of Harlow was deeply irresponsible journalism that deliberately sensationalised the known facts about the killing, and too readily linked it to ‘race hate.’  There was supporting evidence showing how very rare killings with a racial motive are in the UK, and warning that the available statistics were not reliable.

This was rejected by the Complaints Unit.  The verdict? Move along there, nothing to see – Sandford (whose name was misspelled by the complaints officer) was merely doing his job.

Under the Corporation’s elaborate complaints rules, News-watch in early January submitted an appeal to the BBC Trust about the ruling. Former BBC producer Fran O’Brien, who is now the Trust’s Head of Editorial Standards, has now, finally – a month later than the maximum time permitted under the BBC’s own rules – responded.

Her decision? Surprise, surprise, exactly the same as the Complaints Unit. There was, she ruled, no exaggeration, no inaccuracy, no breach of rules linked to over-emphasising ‘race-hate’. Everything was totally tickety-boo and in line with the BBC Editorial Guidelines.

And that, said O’Brien, was that. Her verdict was final: there could be no appeal. As far as the Trust is concerned, the matter is well and truly closed. The full letter from O’Brien can be read below.

In two weeks, of course, from April 2, the Trust will be no more. Under the new BBC Charter, its role in adjudicating complaint appeals is being taken over by the Content Board at Ofcom.

But this last-gasp ruling underlines yet again that BBC journalism exists in its own bubble, and the Complaints Unit does nothing to prick it; if anything the reverse.  The Corporation reports on its terms, no matter how inflammatory or at odds with the facts and common sense its output is.

The blunt truth is that the Sandford report of Mr Jóźwik’s killing grossly and irresponsibly exaggerated the race-hate dimension and must be seen in the overall context of the BBC’s determined desire to undermine the referendum result.

It’s now down to Ofcom to sort out BBC bias. Don’t hold your breath. First, the Content Board is packed with ex-BBC staff, and second, the overall Ofcom boss, Sharon White, seems more focused on the diversity agenda and getting more women on screen than clearing the Augean stables.

The reality is that until BBC bias is governed by genuinely independent scrutiny, the Corporation will remain locked in that skewed journalistic bubble – massively and crassly out of touch with the British people.

New boss Clementi faces uphill struggle against liberal bias

New boss Clementi faces uphill struggle against liberal bias

How totally hostile can the BBC’s coverage of the Trump presidency and Brexit actually become? Recent evidence suggests that the race to the bottom is well and truly on.

Exhibit A is the weight it gave on Tuesday morning to Kenneth Clarke’s utterly preposterous (and chilling) claim that the referendum vote is a reflection of the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ In the BBC’s world, that was worth Today headlines as part of the general Corporation-wide delight at the Supreme Court’s decision to put new hurdles in the way of Brexit.

Exhibit B in that same parallel BBC universe is that the prospect of a new free trade deal with America is no longer a potential benefit but a major threat to national wellbeing.

Mishal Husain (again on Today) suggested that such a deal would lead to a deluge of US Frankenstein chlorine and hormone-drenched foods on our supermarket shelves, bypassing (God forbid!) superior EU food regulations. In other words, to the BBC, trade with Trump’s America is a totally poisoned chalice.

Corporation chiefs claim with brass-necked obstinacy on their own tame ‘complaints’ platform Newswatch that they are justified in reporting in these terms because they are simply posing questions about unanswered details of policy.

Garbage. It’s an all-out war against what the Corporation sees as ‘populism’. The BBC is so locked in its £4 billion gilded cage of self-defined ‘truth’, ‘due impartiality’ and alleged fact-checking, that those who work there can’t even begin to see their grotesque bias against what the most senior among them so strongly dismiss – in lockstep with Kenneth Clarke – as the malign influence of demagogues.

Will it ever improve?

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee last week grilled former Bank of England deputy Governor Sir David Clementi about his credentials to take over as Chairman of the BBC, in charge of the so-called Unitary Board, which is part of the Corporation’s new charter.

Merchant banker Sir David, though possessing no broadcast experience, is unquestionably a smooth and accomplished operator, light years away in his abilities from the incompetent and utterly colourless predecessor as Chairman of the Trustees, Rona Fairhead.

But what also emerged from the Commons hearing was, in parts, deeply disturbing.

On the one hand, he said something encouraging, that – in the context of the reporting of Brexit – he felt that the BBC’s Public Purpose Charter requirement to ensure impartiality needed, in effect, more rigorous policing. He indicated that he wanted to consider the introduction of ‘scientific monitoring’ towards achieving that.

This would be a welcome development in that for years, senior news executives have strongly pooh-pooed such rigorous monitoring and have maintained that their own internal editorial meetings somehow keep an overview of coverage.

But – and it is a big ‘but’ – there were also clear signs that Sir David may already have gone native and is in the maw of senior BBC executives – even before his appointment is formally approved.

Why? Well, when asked further about coverage of Brexit, he declared that he believed the Corporation had got it ‘about right’, then added that the Brexit-related ‘reality checks’ introduced by the news department during the referendum campaign were a step in the right direction.

Poppycock! The BBC’s coverage of the referendum campaign was not anywhere near being impartial. This paper about Newsbeat explains why.

Further, as Craig Byers of Is the BBC Biased? adroitly chronicles here, the checking unit is itself a mouthpiece of strident pro-Remain bias. Of the relevant EU-related rulings between November and January, seven were pro-Remain and none at all were pro-Brexit.

Sir David has thus, in effect, already endorsed the deeply-flawed internal BBC processes that over decades have made the BBC into a fountainhead of right-on bias.

Forces against Clementi’s plan for other ‘more scientific’ monitoring are in any case also already circling. Ray Snoddy, former Times and FT media editor who presented the BBC’s Newswatch programme, and has since become a mouthpiece of pro-BBC opinion, has forcefully attacked the concept.

He sneeringly dismisses all such work as being by right-wingers with stopwatches – despite the fact that the BBC Trustees themselves used such methodology by former senior BBC staff at Cardiff University to defend the Corporation’s output.

Clearly, Director of News James Harding is of the same mindset, as he showed when the BBC Trustees made a rare finding against BBC journalism. He simply dismissed it as wrong.

The reality is that until BBC journalists – including Harding – are subject to properly independent and highly-rigorous scrutiny in terms of impartiality, they will continue to inhabit their deeply biased, liberal bubble covering not just Trump and Brexit but populism in general, climate alarmism, multiculturalism, and much more.

Sir David Clementi, an outstanding operator with a sharply analytical mind, undoubtedly has a window of opportunity to transform things. But on the evidence so far, don’t hold your breath.

Photo by CraigMoulding

Does Fairhead departure presage May action against BBC bias?

Does Fairhead departure presage May action against BBC bias?

The abrupt and unexpected departure of Rona Fairhead from her post as BBC Chairman is interesting indeed.

David Cameron had appointed her Chairman for the first, crucial phase of the new Charter covering the abolition of the Trustees and their replacement by a souped-up executive board – but suddenly, seemingly as a result of intervention by Theresa May, she’s toast.

Could it presage that the May government – as Brexit gathers pace – has woken up to that something urgent and radical needs doing to curb BBC bias?

This is a Corporation that is still treating Brexit as a major mistake, looking for every opportunity to rubbish the idea, and to link it with racism.  Martha Kearney, for example, on Radio 4’s World at One on Wednesday, chose to pick up with relish Jean-Claude Juncker’s malicious claims that the Brexit vote was linked to a huge upsurge in race hate, including the murder of a Polish man in Harlow – when no such linkage has yet been established by the police.

David Cameron’s approach to the Corporation, from the moment he took office in 2010, was both lenient and laissez-faire – largely, it now seems most likely, because he saw the Corporation as a key ally in his battle to remain in the EU.

Lord Patten, Fairhead’s predecessor as chairman, was (and is) a EU-zealot of the most extreme kind. He was appointed by Cameron in 2011. Patten predictably and obdurately resisted strongly any suggestion that the BBC’s coverage of the EU was biased, most notably by refusing repeated summons to appear before the Commons European Scrutiny Committee in connection with their inquiry into whether the Corporation was adequately covering EU affairs.

After Patten suddenly stepped down because of ill-health, high-flying executive Fairhead,  who had no broadcast experience, was parachuted in.  Precisely why remains a mystery, especially as there were huge question marks about her conduct as a director of HSBC. Some have claimed a link with George Osborne, perhaps via her husband, a former Tory councillor.

The newly-appointed Fairhead did appear before the European Scrutiny committee, under duress. It became clear immediately that she had gone native. Under her regulatory regime, there would be no change in the dead-bat approach to any complaints about EU reporting. She sat smug-faced as her fellow Trustee –a former BBC employee of 30 years – Richard Ayre intoned nonsensically that he knew coverage of the EU was not biased because, well, he said so; his experience told him that it was impossible that his BBC colleagues could ever be biased.

Pardon? Ayre is a past Chairman of the Article 19 ‘journalists’ rights’ organisation which under an alleged ‘neutral’ banner campaigns vigorously for Palestinian rights, against Israel, and to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the ‘climate change’ debate. Here is an example of their ‘unbiased’ approach, to which Ayre presumably subscribed:

‘The threats from climate change are not gender-neutral and it is essential that gender be incorporated into strategies to address climate change. In order to reach adaptation strategies and policies that are truly gender-sensitive, women’s voices need to be heard. To make their voices heard, women need information about their rights and the policies that affect their daily lives. This ARTICLE 19 project seeks to foster the exercise of communication rights to challenge women’s vulnerability to climate change.’

The BBC defence against EU bias (and everything that went with it at the hearing) amounted to similar baloney and obfuscation on a huge scale. The subsequent ESC’s report, written immediately before the 2015 General Election, was excoriating.  Bill Cash, the chairman, concluded in his report about the BBC:

“Accountability to Parliament and proper impartiality must be a key factor in the forthcoming review of the BBC Charter.”

Since then, John Whittingdale – whose appointment as Culture Secretary’s was a huge surprise because of his known antipathy towards the BBC – prepared his Green paper on the BBC’s Charter Renewal.  The predictions were initially that the licence fee could be replaced by subscription.

But then George Osborne intervened. The licence fee would be set in aspic for another decade. That meant Whittingdale’s plans for major reform were in totally scuppered.  What emerged was a messy compromise: the abolition of the Trustees, their replacement by a new executive board with powerful outside, independent directors, and some elements of complaints handling handed to the ‘independent’ Ofcom.

Yet this will solve nothing. The left-leaning Ofcom content board is drawn from the same cadre as the BBC Trustees, and is chaired by the arch-Europhile Bill Emmott,who makes even Patten look tame.

In reality, the changes were only a rearrangement of the deck chairs, and a continuation of the status quo. Cameron’s appointment of Fairhead to oversee the so-called transition period confirmed that.

Today (Thursday), the unknown and untested new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley, an accountant with no previous experience of the broadcasting industry, is due to announce the main details of Charter renewal, following the White Paper in May. The key issue is whether she and the May government will grasp that until there is genuine rigorous, independent scrutiny of BBC content, heavy, left-leaning bias will continue.

And that could well derail Brexit.




Photo by Ashley Pollak

Charter Renewal Review Fails to Tackle BBC Bias

Charter Renewal Review Fails to Tackle BBC Bias

Former deputy governor of the Bank of England Sir David Clementi’s review of BBC governance as part of BBC Charter renewal looks impressive at first glance – but he has badly misunderstood what is required.

What he proposes will leave the Corporation entrenched at the heart of the broadcasting establishment and almost impervious to real change; even worse, the proposals will do nothing to attack endemic BBC bias.

It’s an elegantly worded, absorbing read, and contains some good logistical proposals for improving the Corporation’s internal administration, including the creation of a beefed up BBC executive board, with a full-time chairman who would be more senior in the pecking order than the director-general.

That could provide a much-needed counterweight to arguably the most powerful figure in world media; Lord Hall, the current incumbent, is – almost uniquely in big media organisations – effectively both chief executive and editor-in-chief.

Sir David has also recommended that, as widely predicted, the current Trustees should be abolished. Bravo. But here, his good ideas ran out because his solution is that the BBC should then be placed under Ofcom.

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.

For example, Ofcom’s current chairman, is Dame Patricia Hodgson, who spent a quarter of a century as a BBC producer, strategy executive, and a BBC Trustee. She has never worked outside the public sector.

All that will happen as a result of Sir David’s proposals is that the Corporation will be absorbed into the overall broadcasting establishment. There might be a few more challenges to some of its more nakedly commercial activities – such as the dominance of the internet – but the chances of radical reform, for example of the licence fee, will vanish, because Ofcom overwhelmingly favours the status quo. To them, it’s an article of faith that taxpayer funding is the highest good.

There’s a further vital area that Sir David missed altogether – so glaring an omission that it negates and renders virtually useless the whole exercise.

The rot in the BBC is not as Sir David appears to think, primarily about management systems. It is that almost every aspect of the Corporation’s output is biased – and the staff are so much in a liberal left bubble that they are blind to it.

That’s because the BBC is its own judge and jury in the handling of complaints and over the years, has constructed a hugely complex complaints procedure that is designed primarily for one purpose: to protect the Corporation and its journalists. In the same vein, editorial guidelines have been fashioned around the false yardstick of ‘due impartiality’, a concept that allows BBC editors and executives to interpret balance in areas such as climate change and immigration entirely on the Corporation’s own terms.

The upshot is that most complaints are rejected on highly cavalier grounds, and the BBC is totally out of touch with its audiences. It despises ‘populism’ in all its forms – and especially the Brexit variety.

Over the years, the Corporation has become cumulatively more biased in line with the prevailing liberal left ideology that forms the stifling orthodoxy at the heart of British public life. Those who work at the BBC would never acknowledge this in a thousand years; but to any outside observer of a different mindset it is blindingly obvious.

Against this background, Sir David’s proposal is that complaints are still handled in the first instance almost exactly as before by the BBC itself and those focused on impartiality that are not resolved at that level will be passed on to Ofcom’s content board. He glibly concludes that this will hold the BBC ‘more publicly to account’ – but he’s badly wrong.

His ‘Broadcaster First’ internal complaints handling approach will solve nothing. The ‘unitary executive board’ will go native and like the boards of all public sector organisations, their primary drive will be to defend themselves against outside criticism.

Nothing will change about the editorial guidelines, a grotesque creation that allows BBC producers, executives and journalists to get away with blue murder in the name of ‘editorial judgment’.

There is no insistence on regular, robust assessments of content, only a vague requirement that the same sort of (biased) impartiality reviews that the Trustees have been trotting out for years continue.

Even worse is Sir David’s suggestion that Ofcom becomes the final court of appeal. Ofcom’s content board – which deals with impartiality issues – is chaired by Bill Emmott, a fanatical Europhile whose current main objective is to spread propaganda on a massive scale warning that Brexit would spell disaster for the UK.

Bizarrely, when this was pointed out in a previous TCW and News-watch blog, Ofcom’s response was to acknowledge that this was a potential problem. A spokesmen said Emmott would be forced to stand down when any matters connected to the EU were discussed.

But that would not help either, because as the same TCW post also pointed out, nearly every other member of the board has cosy links to the BBC and has spent considerable parts of their career in the BBC orbit. Thus, the handling by Ofocm of BBC complaints will not make one iota of difference to the current regime.

Culture secretary John Whittingdale told an audience of the broadcasting establishment after he received Sir David’s report that he was impressed by it. This TCW blog last year warned that the BBC consultation that he ordered could easily become an empty exercise – that David Cameron wanted the BBC to remain unreformed so that it would help him win the referendum. If Whittingdale adopts the Clementi report, there will be no change. ‘Biased Broadcasting Corporation’ will become a fully accurate description of our most powerful broadcast institution and be set in stone for another generation.

Photo by Matt From London

Commons media select committee misses the elephant in the room

Commons media select committee misses the elephant in the room

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee has spent six months considering reform of the BBC in connection with the imminent renewal of its Royal Charter.

Its report – published last week with little fanfare – contains some half-decent proposals, such as abolishing the current Trustees and replacing them with a regulatory Board with real teeth, including checks on the currently unfettered powers of the Director General.

That said, the strength of such a body would depend on the appointment of members with genuine independence and a real desire to make sure the Corporation is properly impartial and provides distinctive programmes that justify the £3.7 billion public funding.

And the reality of British public life now is that taxpayer-funded bodies are staffed and run by individuals who are to a man and woman followers of liberal-left, right-on ideology. Nothing the Conservatives have done over the past six years has changed this one iota; if anything David Cameron has made things worse.

What is being recommended, therefore, is likely to lead to more of the same: an expensive and fruitless exercise in re-arranging the deck-chairs.

In one fundamental respect, too, the culture select committee might never have bothered with their inquiry. They have totally botched their approach to complaints handling. What they propose in this vital arena will make matters worse, not better.

The rot at the heart of the Corporation is that every aspect of its output is locked in liberal-left thinking. The staff are virtually all so like-minded that they incapable of seeing it. As a result, the BBC is on an unrelenting, no-holds-barred crusade to ram down our throats the importance of the EU, multi-culturalism, feminism and a whole lot more.

This is massively obvious to anyone who listens or watches. But the BBC, from the Trustees downwards, deny it, and they justify their stance using bizarre rules of ‘due impartiality’ which allow Corporation executives and editors to interpret balance entirely on their own terms.

The current complaints-handling system is a department of the BBC. The vast majority of what they receive is rejected. It defies belief that the culture committee have recommended this continues in its present form.

The only proposal for change is in dealing with complex complaints that are currently pushed upstairs to a unit of the Trustees, the Editorial Standards Committee. This is chaired by trustee Richard Ayre, who worked at the BBC for 30 years. A key lieutenant is Mark Damazer, a former controller of Radio 4 who made it the temple of right-on orthodoxy that it has become.

The culture committee has accepted the blindingly obvious, that this is the equivalent of having foxes in charge of the hen house, but their solution defies belief. They propose that responsibility is passed over to the content board of Ofcom, the body which regulates commercial broadcasting.

How can this improve things? – if anything, it will make matters worse. For starters, the Board is chaired by European Union fanatic Bill Emmott, who is so determined to prevent Brexit that he makes propaganda films showing the nasty outcomes that he believes will inevitably occur if the British electorate has the temerity to disagree with him. Ofcom itself is so worried about his fanaticism that they can’t trust him; they have stated that he will take no part in discussions about anything to do with the EU.

Scratch the surface, and it also emerges that almost every member of the Ofcom content board has worked in some way for the BBC. This TCW item observed:

‘What makes Emmott’s appointment so utterly damaging is that the rest of the Ofcom content board – in step with Quango Land generally, are like minds and like spirits; right-on ‘liberals’ to the core. The full list of 10 is here. What leaps out from their CVs is that all but two have worked for significant parts of their careers at the BBC. They write papers about how wonderful and important the BBC is. Many are closely linked to a BBC-favoured propaganda organisation called the (Reuters) Oxford Institute of the Media – which last November held a seminar about ensuring ‘fair’ coverage of the EU. Guess who chaired it? Bill Emmott!

One of the two content board members who has not worked at the BBC is Dr Zahera Harb, who began her career in journalism in the Lebanon, and is now a board member of the worthy-sounding Ethical Journalism Network. Don’t be deceived by such Orwellian double-speak. Its main concerns include attacking the ‘hate speech’ of Donald Trump and ensuring that the Palestinian Authority – along with immigration generally – gets better coverage in the media.’

And there we have it. The culture select committee’s proposal can only be described as bonkers. It is also a dereliction of duty. Their report only mentions ‘complaints’ 13 times, contains no discussion about the shortcomings of the current system, and no suggestion that they looked at alternatives.

What they propose won’t make a whit of difference to the BBC’s output – if anything, it will reinforce the already blatant bias because in future, editors and senior management will claim they are ‘independently’ monitored.

What’s doubly concerning is that no-one in the media has seen the need to comment on this. Charter renewal is a once in a decade opportunity to reform the BBC. It’s now clear that MPs aren’t prepared to tackle – or worse, don’t understand – what is required to halt the unrelenting stream of propaganda that is poisoning our culture, our civic life and our politics.


Photo by Mike Knell

Are BBC procedures for measuring impartiality fit for purpose?

Are BBC procedures for measuring impartiality fit for purpose?

David Cameron is gearing up this week for another attempt at telling us that leaving the EU will be disastrous for the UK and to outline more of his ‘renegotiations’.

Meanwhile, under far less media scrutiny, the House of Lords has been debating much more crucial work: whether special steps should be taken to ensure that the BBC is impartial in its coverage of the EU referendum.

Here, there was a bit of a surprise. Baroness Anelay, the government spokeswoman, responding to the calls for tough new measures, was unexpectedly tough on the BBC.

She acknowledged that the Corporation’s EU-related coverage is a major cause for concern, and also that in the past there had been justification for worries about the BBC’s impartiality.

She added that on that basis Culture Secretary John Whittingdale had written to the BBC in June, and revealed that he had now received a reply outlining the BBC’s approach to coverage which promised tough vigilance.

But don’t hold your breath. Baroness Anelay did not reveal to their noble lords what the steps were, but it’s likely that they are on similar lines to the approach outlined by News Director James Harding when he appeared before the European Scrutiny Committee last month, as was reported on this site in a guest post by Craig Byers.

Basically, Harding risibly said that talking to audience councils, having a referendum hotline for campaigning groups, and a programme of half-day seminars for BBC journalists will do the trick. At the same time, he set his face against any kind of independent academic monitoring of BBC content. He and David Jordan, the Director of Editorial Standards, claimed that such methodology was ‘unhelpful’, expensive, confusing, and too much based on number-crunching for their liking.

How could something as sacred as BBC journalism be subjected to such unrefined analysis was their indignant tone.

Harding also went so far as to claim that the conducting of such research threatened editorial freedom and to hem editors in. He did not outline why. Did he mean that if editors knew that they were being watched, they would not be able to perform their duties?

If so, that’s astonishing. The whole point of the public service journalism broadcast and published by the BBC is that it is continually subject to scrutiny in terms of fairness and balance. If editors feel constricted by that, they should be doing something else.

Harding’s and Jordan’s snooty claims about monitoring, however, are, on further investigation, frankly bizarre – because they are sharply at odds with existing BBC practice.

Why? Well, for years, the BBC Trustees, and before them, the BBC Governors have been holding what they call ‘Impartiality Reviews’.

That’s actually a total misnomer, because the reality is that most – like the 2011 review of Science coverage, or the 2012 Prebble Report into the EU, or the 2014 equivalent into rural affairs – are actually conducted by BBC lackeys who confirm what the Trustees want to hear: that almost everything in the garden is rosy.

Putting that aside, however, considerable effort is made to making these exercises look genuine. It is here that where academic monitoring of output comes in. And in at least nine of the Reviews since 2004, such surveys, conducted usually by university media departments, have been an integral component of the review process.

Moving up to the present, a Trust review into the use of statistics in news coverage is currently underway, and in that connection, content analysis from Cardiff University has been commissioned.

The various surveys have been clearly used by the Trustees to convey to the outside world that the Reviews are conducted on an impartial and independent basis, and then to bolster the claims of overall impartiality. For example, in the most recently published Review, into rural affairs, the BBC Trust, after the official panel report had been received, declared:

Overall, the BBC’s coverage of rural areas in the UK is duly impartial. There is no evidence of party political bias, and a wide range of views is aired.

Analysis of the various review documents shows this claim can only be based on the academic survey work, in this instance conducted by Loughborough University.

That is why Harding and Jordan’s remarks about monitoring can truly be described as bizarre. The Trustees, who are the ultimate guardians of BBC impartiality, use such surveys as proof of editorial balance. But the News department think and do otherwise.

In fact, investigation of the archives reveals more contradictions. A key finding in the Lord Wilson of Dinton Impartiality Review (2004) was that rigorous monitoring of output was essential to achieve impartiality. The then news management (under Helen Boaden), responded that they agreed, said that internal monitoring systems were already in place, and pledged that they would be upgraded.

Similar promises about monitoring were made after three further reviews (covering business, Israel-Palestine and the four UK nations) between 2005 and 2008.

Jordan’s response to the European Scrutiny Committee confirmed that these promises have now been jettisoned by the news executive.

This was BBC business as usual. It boils down to that Harding and the rest of the BBC arrogantly believe that the only people who can measure news impartiality are those from the BBC itself through what they call ‘editorial judgment’.

John Whittingdale may have a letter from the BBC pledging impartiality in coverage of the EU referendum.

It’s not worth the paper it is written on.


News-watch calls for scrapping of ‘biased’ BBC complaints system

News-watch calls for scrapping of ‘biased’ BBC complaints system

News-watch has told culture minister John Whittingdale’s review of the BBC  that the current BBC complaints system is not fit for purpose.

The 10,000 word submission argues that it should be replaced by scrutiny through a completely independent body.

It provides comprehensive evidence – from News-watch’s own experience of submitting complaints – that the Trustees, who police BBC impartiality and have overall responsibility for complaints, are too much in the sway of BBC management and are not robustly independent.

The introduction to the submission states:

“News-watch  has unique experience over the past 16 years in dealing with the BBC about issues of impartiality relating especially to the coverage of the affairs of the European Union[1].  We have found that the current structure of BBC governance favours too much the interests of the BBC itself, is not properly independent, and, because of multiple operational inadequacies, is not fit for purpose. There is brick-wall negativity in dealing with complaints[2].

The Trustees have obdurately and unreasonably refused to accept extensive evidence that the EU-related output has continuing serious shortcomings of the type first highlighted in the Lord Wilson of Dinton report of 2005.

The findings of News-watch, based on the systematic monitoring of BBC output and analysis using rigorous academic methodology, include: under-representation and poor understanding of the eurosceptic perspective, a continual tendency to view the European Union through the prism of Conservative splits, a failure to discuss properly the case for withdrawal, and severe under-reporting of EU affairs, to the extent that it is ‘bias by omission’.”

Full report here.


[1] News-watch has been analysing BBC output on a structured basis, in accordance with academic practice of media monitoring, since 1999.

More than 6,000 hours of news and current affairs programmes have been systematically logged and analysed on a regular basis through longitudinal surveys. It is arguably the largest research project ever undertaken into BBC output.  An archive of this work is here: .
[2] In 2014, according to the Trustees’ complaints bulletin, only nine complaints out of 144 considered by the Editorial Standards Committee were upheld.

Photo by ell brown

BBC Reform? Don’t Hold Your Breath

BBC Reform? Don’t Hold Your Breath

Is the government planning radical reform the BBC? Don’t hold your breath.

Despite a bit of high-profile sabre-rattling, and intensifying speculation in the press based on ‘government leaks’ that this is on the cards, the answer is probably a huge resounding ‘no’.

Figures close to new culture secretary John Wittingdale have clearly been the source of the recent rumours about reform. It has now emerged that a green paper on the subject is due within the next few weeks.

Sounds good, but dig deeper and all that is on the agenda, it seems, is a bit of tinkering: minor reform of and continued pegging (not abolition) of the licence fee, together with privatisation of BBC Worldwide and of some production facilities.

Also mooted is the scrapping after only eight years of the useless BBC Trustees. Even Sir Michael Lyons, the Labour- supporting former BBC chairman, now wants shot of them.

The end result of this limited fudge? The BBC will soldier on a bit bruised – and maybe slightly slimmer and smaller – but essentially the same: an arrogant, corpulent and reactionary presence at the heart of a media landscape that is otherwise fizzing with ideas that could energise our culture and our democracy.

If this really is the scale of the Conservative vision for the reform of public service broadcasting, it’s deeply depressing.

Point One: Nothing short of complete abolition of the current fee and a change to subscription funding will alter the outlook of the Corporation and cease the flow of propaganda. They need to be subject to the disciplines of the market-place.

Point two: Abolishing the BBC Trustees and handing regulation to Ofcom – the route apparently also favoured by George Osborne, who declared his support back in March – won’t change a thing. Key figures on the Ofcom board, the chairman (Dame Patricia Hodgson, who spent thirty years at the BBC before being forced to jump ship by Greg Dyke in 2000) and the man in charge of content regulation (Tim Gardam) are both BBC veterans who spent decades at the Corporation before acquiring their current cushy posts. They will staunchly defend the lefty propaganda emanating from the BBC in exactly the same way the Trustees do because they are wilfully blind to it.

What is needed instead is genuinely independent, robust regulation that forces the BBC to be properly independent in its outlook, and to make sure that every penny of spending is properly focused on generating creativity and content that is in tune with British culture, audience tastes and interests.

Point three: Privatising BBC facilities won’t dilute the massive stultifying influence the Corporation exerts over the UK’s media scene. What is needed is genuine competition so that creativity can flourish. A lion’s share of the money that the public have for television entertainment goes directly and automatically to the BBC coffers; until this changes, innovation from independent players in the business is stifled. For its part, the BBC remains a massive feudal-style dispenser of cash and patronage.

The only conclusion to draw from this half-hearted menu is that in reality, the government does not want real reform. The renewal of the BBC’s Royal Charter due in 2017 is a once-in a-decade opportunity, but what’s apparently so far on the drawing board is only a pathetic fudge that will, in effect, maintain the status quo for yet another ten years.

Why? Well David Cameron and George Osborne desperately want a ‘yes’ vote in the forthcoming referendum. So why would they plan to hobble the best propaganda channel they have?

Research by News-watch indicates that their relentless deluge of pre-EU sentiment – and patronising denigration of anyone who puts an alternative view – continued unabated during the General Election. With Cameron’s attempts at renegotiation hitting the buffers this week, he will be praying for all the help he can get – especially from the experts, the BBC.


Photo by m0gky

New BBC Trustees Fail Independence Test

New BBC Trustees Fail Independence Test

While the BBC agitates with all its sinews to prevent those it loathes from being elected at the General Election, two new Corporation Trustees have been appointed.

Will that change anything at the Biased Broadcasting Corporation? Do not hold your breath.

Most go native the moment they are appointed, as chairman Rona Fairhead has repeatedly shown.

This is what one of the two new appointees says about what he thinks about the Corporation: “It expresses noble ideas of impartiality and fairness. It expands cultural horizons and can make us think, laugh and cry.”

Sounds like high-level sycophancy.

That said, appointment number one is superficially interesting and a tad less predictable than most. He is , an investment banker. Shock, horror, he is possibly even a ‘Conservative’ – the first such Trustee since Lord Patten became chairman – a former party deputy treasurer, and joint founder with Iain Duncan Smith of the respected Conservative think-tank the Centre for Social Justice. Its recommendations in their Breakdown/Breakthrough Britain reports – if they had been implemented by David Cameron – would have led to significant positive change.

Sadly, most weren’t. They were jettisoned by George Osborne, in favour instead of spending billions on forcing mothers out to work.

Scratch the surface of Florman’s activities and a familiar rotten smell begins to appear. He may be Tory on the outside, but it is clear that he is also at the epicentre of the so-called ‘responsible’ investment racket, as this report of the British Venture Capital Association, of which he was chief executive, makes clear.

This means in practice that he and his fellow high-powered financial acolytes are all (or were until very recently) greenie fanatics. Their interpretation of fiscal ‘responsibility’ is that they are totally wedded to the green agenda, and they want, in effect, a Britain that is covered in giant wind farms and solar panels. Their real aim, of course, is self-enrichment in the pursuit of billions in green energy subsidies, and to persuade the government to continue jacking up energy prices through the insane ‘decarbonisation’ dictated by the 2008 Climate Change act.

Florman is not only a leading advocate of greenie investment ideology, he is also a former chairman of LM Glasfiber, said to be the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines, and is therefore also at the heart of the green energy scam.  And his other current main activity listed in his gleaming new BBC biography is that he is a non-executive director of 8 Miles, a venture capital fund that is investing in Africa. In this capacity he works closely with the fund’s main advisor Sir Bob Geldof – yet another greenie fanatic (who rather paradoxically in this context believes the world will end in 2030 unless we abandon capitalism), and is thus a firm BBC long-term favourite activist.

If there was a PR manual on how to spread greenie propaganda, being appointed to the BBC Board of Trustees with the background and experience of Florman would be at the level of the untrumpable gold card. The Corporation has 8,000 journalists who relentlessly spread eco-lunacy as one of their main goals. No doubt Florman and his fellow investment gurus are triumphant about his new role.

Some would call this a massive conflict of interest. But in the warped thinking of our political establishment, greenie causes are not liable to challenge or dissension, so that’s OK then – it was Sajid Javid, the Culture Secretary, who signed off the appointment.

The second new Trustee is Mark Damazer. Here, there is no pretence that this might be an appointment to provide contrasting views or ballast to the other Trustees. Damazer – now the Dean of St Peter’s College, Oxford – was a BBC journalist and executive for almost 30 years from 1981 to 2010 and as head of current affairs, political programmes and then deputy director of news for more than a decade was totally resistant to the idea that the BBC might be biased in its news reporting.

The idea that he can now somehow be ‘independent’ in exercising judgments about BBC impartiality is totally risible. Time and time again when in his news posts, Damazer rejected charges of bias in EU reporting – at the very time when Lord Wilson of Dinton found that the BBC’s reporting of EU affairs was grossly unsatisfactory.

In his new role, he joins fellow BBC career placeman Richard Ayre, the chairman of the Trustees Editorial Standards Committee (also a green fanatic), whose job it is to systematically rebut almost all the complaints filed against BBC journalism on any grounds they choose.

The fundamental problem with the BBC, as has been made clear in the TCW manifesto, is that it is the broadcasting arm of the Guardian. If the Trustees were genuinely independent and operated with tough resolve to ensure impartiality – as they undoubtedly have the statutory capacity to do – then there would be a remote chance of reform.

These latest appointments mean that the possibility of this happening is zero. Rona Fairhead and her BBC-loving henchmen are continuing full steam ahead in their deliberate bias.

Photo by Mike_fleming

Kathy  Gyngell: In the BBC’s Alice in Wonderland world, criticism by MPs compromises its impartiality

Kathy Gyngell: In the BBC’s Alice in Wonderland world, criticism by MPs compromises its impartiality

Biased Today, biased yesterday and biased tomorrow,  the BBC  has much to answer for over its uncritical and inadequate EU coverage.

More than any other news outlet the BBC shapes and moulds public opinion. Over the years, it has inspired an unwarranted public confidence in the EU. It has been responsible for conveying a sense of the inevitability and necessity of British membership

Had it not so determinedly stuck to its view that the EU was ‘a good thing’,  a fact of life that anyone in their right mind should accept,  Britain might not be in the mess it’s in today.  We might not have uncontrolled immigration; we might be able to deport who we want when we want; and we might still have a vibrant fishing industry. That’s just three of the many areas over which we have lost national authority at great cost.

The  House of Commons all-party EU Scrutiny Committee’s report, published yesterday, which accuses  the BBC of ‘falling down severely’ in its obligation to provide impartial coverage of the EU, raises these questions.

Its findings confirm what many of us have been arguing for years – that BBC coverage of EU matters is deplorable, that it has a ‘concerning’ pro-EU bias, and that Eurosceptics have been given inadequate airtime.  Specifically the MPs criticise Lord Hall for failing in his role as the BBC’s editor-in chief .

All this rings a profound bell with me, just as does the arrogance of the BBC’s response.  The crux of it is that the BBC cannot be criticised because (in their perverse world) any criticism by MPs (however valid it may be) constitutes a breach of the Corporation’s independence. It can’t be seen to follow MPs criticism – no, not even if it is right.

I wonder which Propaganda (sorry Press) Officer there dreamed this excuse up as he pondered the embargoed document before publication? I know that nothing should surprise me but I am amazed that Lord Hall signed off such a response for release. Perhaps for this particular editor-in-chief,  intent and belief are adequate substitutes for whatever is actually broadcast.  During his appearance before the Committee, his claim that the desire for balanced output “ran deep” within the BBC and that he believed that this was being achieved now, sounded like weasel words.  It isn’t being achieved.

This is far from the first time that the BBC has stonewalled criticism about its EU coverage.  I have in my files copies of an ongoing correspondence with Helen Boaden, the then Controller of Radio Four, back in the early 2000s. Like today’s BBC spokesperson, her response that the Corporation provided extensive and impartial coverage of European and Parliamentary issues was (or should be, she thought) sufficient unto the day.

Boaden refused to consider the consistently logged, timed, comprehensive transcript evidence and analysis,  that we (Minotaur Media Tracking) sent her, as evidence.  In her thinking no external monitoring of BBC output could or would ever constitute evidence – however objective or impartial – because the BBC editorial process meant that the BBC was always impartial – and therefore above criticism. It’s surprising to find she has a degree in English literature;  the concept of tautology could not have featured in her studies.

Despite Lord Wilson’s subsequent critical report, despite the cumulative log of evidence of BBC bias by News-watch, despite the fact that this is far from the first time that the BBC has been called to account, the BBC never wavers in it pre-programmed ‘Boaden’-style response. It refuses to harbour any self doubt – not a smidgeon.

Lord Hall has taken a leaf out of Ms Boaden’s book. “As Lord Hall told the committee, we are and will be impartial in all matters concerning our coverage,” the BBC spokesman said.

James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News and `Current Affairs, was not backward in going on the offensive either. His ‘Aunt Sally’ was that if the public was going to trust the BBC to report on politicians impartially it had to be clear that BBC journalists weren’t “asked by politicians to come and account for what they do and in effect do the bidding of those politicians”.

True to form the Today programme thought there was nothing to defend either.

In its own inimitable way yesterday morning’s edition of Today devoted 8 minutes to a Mark Knopfler record plug but nothing to the EU Scutiny Committee’s report that just happened to criticise the BBC on a subject of fundamental importance to every British citizen!

This article first appeared on The Conservative Woman

Photo by John Christian Fjellestad