Lying about Farage? At the BBC, it’s par for the course

Lying about Farage? At the BBC, it’s par for the course

AS Marvin Burnell adroitly chronicled here on Thursday, when Nigel Farage told the outside world that he had been appallingly ‘debanked’ by Coutts, the BBC did not even report the story for five days.

They then carried a report on the affair which amounted to what looks like a huge untruth: that his account had been terminated because he did not have enough money to meet the bank’s wealth criteria.

Instead, internal Coutts documents obtained by Mr Farage seem to suggest that he was thrown out on his ear because sinister figures working for the bank had crudely concluded, in some kind of internal kangaroo court, that he supported Brexit and was a bigot, a racist and climate change denier, as can be read here.

After considering the possible reasons for the delay in the BBC covering the story, Burnell concluded that this was a case study in totalitarianism, that Mr Farage was maligned because in the BBC’s mindset, he is ‘an outsider, a dissident . . . the enemy who every right-thinking, inclusive, kind citizen-warrior knows must be destroyed before they can open their mouth’.

Events since then have underlined this conclusion in that the BBC have refused to apologise for their errors. Adding insult to injury, they invited on to their usual Farage attack vehicle, Newsnight, a so-called banking commentator who in reality is an extremist Remainer who’s been spouting vitriol against him for years, not least that he is a racist and xenophobe. 

Even more chilling is that this has been par for the course In the BBC’s treatment of the man who, for over a quarter of a century, led the UK people’s revolt against the EU.

News-watch has been tracking the Corporation’s coverage of the former UKIP leader and the Brexit case since the European parliamentary elections of 1999. The record shows that Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys told him that year that it was ‘inconceivable’ – in the usual BBC dismissive attitude towards the Brexit case – that the UK would ever leave the EU.

The relentless focus of the BBC throughout has been to avoid Mr Farage whenever possible, but when an appearance was necessary under electoral law and coverage rules, to use every trick in the book to discredit him. For example, in 2009 during that year’s European parliamentary elections, and as Mr Farage orchestrated pressure for an EU referendum, the BBC’s Europe correspondent posited that he led an ineffective, extremist party which resembled ‘the BNP in blazers’ with ‘the gravy stains of corruption spattered down their fronts’.

In 2013, on the night when David Cameron announced that the EU referendum would take place, Newsnight assembled a programme in which 18 Remainers were pitched against one representative of the ‘out’ case – Mr Farage. News-watch lodged a BBC complaint. The verdict (with the BBC as ever both judge and jury)? No case to answer, m’lud, because this was ‘due’ impartiality – aka the BBC’s view of it.

And when, in 2016, a few weeks after the EU referendum a Polish man was killed in a Harlow shopping mall by a young man in what the BBC reported as a frenzied ‘race-hate’ crime connected to the Brexit vote, John Sweeney assembled a report for Newsnight which suggested that Mr Farage had blood on his hands. It turned out – despite the BBC’s outrageous sensationalism – that the death of the man was nothing to with his nationality, nothing to do with the Brexit vote and nothing to do with the former UKIP leader. When it comes to Mr Farage, the BBC never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Did the Corporation apologise? No: again they maintained they had reported events with ‘due impartiality’.  The full saga was reported on TCW here.

The full horrors of the catalogue of BBC invective against Mr Farage and the Brexit case can be seen here under the heading ‘News-watch research into the BBC’s coverage of the EU 1999-2016’.

What has happened with the BBC’s ‘debanking of Farage’ coverage can be seen as yet another step in a constant continuum of discrediting and smearing. This time their first instinct was to ignore the story altogether for, in the BBC’s world, Mr Farage has always been considered a blight on the nation.

The man leading this latest assault on Mr Farage is Simon Jack, BBC business editor and erstwhile Today programme presenter. In this domain, he has form. This News-watch report about the hugely biased Today programme’s anti-Brexit business coverage in the post-referendum period presents evidence of his stance. 

A few weeks ago, on July 3, at a charity dinner in the five-star Langham Hotel (cost of afternoon tea there? £75 pp) Mr Jack was seated next to Dame Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest, the owner of Coutts. We don’t know what went on in their discussions, but it looks as if Dame Alison gave a highly misleading briefing which was music to Mr Jack’s ears and he duly posted his story about Mr Farage the following day.

Mr Farage has rightly demanded a formal apology from the BBC. So far, neither Mr Jack nor the BBC have done so. The only ‘movement’ to be seen is that in the online version of Mr Jack’s story, a paragraph has been added which says that the allegations in the article came from ‘a source’. 

No doubt because of this intransigence, Mr Farage upped the stakes at the weekend and lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner against NatWest’s alleged breach of security and mishandling of his personal data. If the case is upheld, the bank could face a fine of up to £17.5million.

Editor’s note: Since this article was written, the BBC and Simon Jack have issued an apology to Nigel Farage, which you can read here.

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