Wednesday, 19 October 2016

A uniquely small world

That tweet from LEAVE.EU yesterday saying "10 of the 13 members of the 'impartial' Ofcom board charged with regulating the BBC have strong ties to the BBC" derives from a characteristically fine piece of digging from News-watch's David Keighley. 

David has posted the details of his research at The Conservative Woman today and it makes for fascinating reading. Please take a look for yourselves. 

David writes that:
The Content Board has ‘BBC’ etched through it like a stick of Blackpool rock. Looking at the various affiliations of the members – for example Andrew Chitty’s membership of David Puttnam’s group or Zahera Harb’s board seat on the so-called the Ethical Journalism Network (which advocates that the Syrian war was caused in part by climate change) – it is not hard to see that they are likely to share the same biased mindset as their former BBC colleagues.

Taking a stance

Two reports have appeared on the BBC News website overnight - How do you verify the age of child asylum seekers? and Dentists condemn call for child migrants' teeth to be tested - concerning the widespread perception that many of the 'children' brought into Britain from Calais earlier this week were fully-grown adults. 

Both articles have a heavy bias in favour of voices opposed to checking these 'children's' ages/critical of those questioning the 'children's' ages. 

Newspapers are also criticised for showing unpixelated images of the 'children's' faces. (One of these BBC articles shows pixelated images of two of the 'children'; the other a generic image of a children in Calais.)

There is little doubt about where the BBC journalists behind either of these reports stands on the issue.

Update (afternoon): The Dentists condemn call for child migrants' teeth to be tested report has been updated to give more of a balance of voices. It has also been opened to comments and, as at the Daily Mail, the public aren't buying that these people are children. Here are the top 5 comments:
  • Has anyone seen the 'child migrants'? The government really thinks we're all stupid.
  • Dental check? They'll be needing hip replacements before long.
  • Having seen some photos of these 'children', I don't believe dental tests are necessary. Using all your skill and judgement, open your eyes and look at them. Personally, I'm confident I can tell a child from an adult pretty much every time. These are adults.
  • These people hijack lorries to try to get into this country. Of course they will lie about their age to do the same. I had to laugh at the BBC V Derbyshire show, having three lefties arguing against the only person talking any sense, David Davies.
  • We are being taken for fools. A shame that only one MP had the kahunas to speak about this...
Further update: The BBC appears to have heard the criticisms. Today's BBC One's News at One showed some of the photos of the oldest-looking 'children' (unpixelated) and said that some people were concerned that they weren't children. Also, the French authorities were quoted saying they hadn't really checked the migrants' ages, and the report ended by saying, "On both sides of the Channel officials know maintaining public confidence is vital". 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Making a difference

Why can’t the Home Affairs Committee do one of their lip-service game-changing inquiries into antisemitism in the BBC? 
After all, the BBC’s conduct parallels the Labour Party’s in many ways. 

Just imagine Tim Loughton, Chuka Umunna, David Winnick (if compos mentis at the time) and the gang (perhaps Keith Vaz will be back?) - ensconced in their judicial horseshoe-shaped seating arrangement, gravely and purposefully interrogating Jeremy Bowen, Tony Hall and other appropriate heads of departments, with perhaps a couple of quasi legal advisers passing down notes on little bits of paper.

As Craig has stated, the BBC confounded our (justifiably) low expectations by treating the Home Affairs Committee’s report on Antisemitism in the UK as newsworthy.

In fact the report headlined Radio 4’s early Sunday morning bulletins, but was subsequently relegated to second place behind a rather lame tale of Boris Johnson’s alleged duplicity over Brexit. 

The Sunday Programme (Radio 4) didn’t mention the antisemitism inquiry,  but various lacklustre interviews with Tim Loughton (who has replaced Keith Vaz as chair of Home Affairs Committee) were shown on most of the news channels throughout the day. There didn’t appear to be much appetite for analysing or scrutinising the report and I didn’t see any constructive suggestions as to what measures might be taken to rectify the situation. Maybe I missed it. 
It now looks as though the media has lost interest altogether.

The BBC doesn't try to delve beneath the superficiality of the Home Affairs Committee’s hearing or its findings. 
Nor, for that matter, have the BBC fully examined Shami Chakrabarti’s mishandling of the enquiry into antisemitism, (and all forms of racism) at any rate in comparison with the tenaciousness with which they’ve pursued other scandals.  They haven’t really exposed the extent to which she discredited herself, firstly, by compromising her independence by joining the Corbynistas before undertaking the enquiry. Secondly, with those oh so shifty responses of hers when asked (by Kirsty Wark) if she’d been offered a peerage (“No, have you?) and (“I’ve been offered peerages many times”) and that shame-faced evasiveness when asked  if an appointment to the shadow cabinet was in the offing. 

Andrew Marr conducted a brief interview with Tim Loughton who is dutifully acting as spokesman in the absence of the committee’s incapacitated former chairman.


Andrew Marr said: “I don’t believe Jeremy Corbyn has a single antisemitic bone in his body. “
I‘m not sure what an antisemitic bone is, but it’s not Jeremy Corbyn’s bones we should be worrying about, but his cerebrum; and the only bodies I’m interested in apart from Jeremy Corbyn’s - perish the thought - are the bodies with deeply antisemitic roots, which he has consistently shown such enthusiasm for.

There are several points in this Home Affairs Committee report that need to be examined more closely, but first, let me go back to the hearing itself, which I blogged at the time, here, here and here.  (Incidentally, in one of those posts I said: 
“Next to Ms Chakrabarti in the front row, directly behind Jeremy Corbyn, sat a stern-faced man in a dark suit who Keith Vaz referred to as “Mr. Rotherham.”  
At the time of writing I failed to realise that I was / should have been familiar with the gentleman in question, Mr. Rotheram (without the ‘h’) because I had already seen him in BBC 2's enjoyable documentary “Inside the Commons”, where he was followed, alongside Sarah Champion, as a new MP getting to know the ropes. This 4-part documentary is currently being repeated, and it’s worth taking a look to see just how much has changed since it was made.

Surveys and stats.
Anyway, from the shocking statistics about antisemitism in the UK, if they are to be believed:
“recent surveys show that as many as one in 20 adults in the UK could be characterised as “clearly antisemitic”.” 
Oddly, that figure roughly equates to the number of Muslims in the UK. We assume it isn’t only Muslims or Muslim MPs who’ve been expressing antisemitic and anti-Zionist views, but it does rather imply that, if anything, one in 20 is a gross underestimation. It seems that some degree of antisemitism is indeed almost the norm in the UK. 

In fact, the report also quotes figures  given to them by the Community Security Trust, which state that:
 “a description of the offender was provided in only 58% of reported antisemitic incidents” and “of these 84% male, 54% were white European. 20% were South Asian, 13% were black and 1% were S.E. Asian” 
I find this confusing.   

You can see the complexity of collating evidence of antisemitism. It boils down to “incidents”. 
If you bother to look at the CST website you can access a pdf of their reports over individual years. you will find on p9: 
“CST classifies as an antisemitic incident any malicious act aimed at Jewish people, organisations or property, where there is evidence that the victim or victims were targeted because they are (or are believed to be) Jewish. Incidents can take several forms, including physical attacks on people or property, verbal or written abuse, or antisemitic leaflets and posters.  

CST does not include the general activities of antisemitic organisations in its statistics; nor does it include activities such as offensive placards or massed antisemitic chanting on political demonstrations. CST does not record as incidents antisemitic material that is permanently hosted on websites, nor does CST proactively ‘trawl’ social media platforms to look for antisemitic comments in order to record them as incidents.” 

None of the BBC’s “structurally antisemitic” reporting would fall into the category of an ‘incident’. That means editorial decisions to show a conflict from one particular perspective more sympathetically than the other (because they consider it morally righteous) wouldn’t count. The same applies to the Labour Party and its leader. When Jeremy Corbyn stands in front of Hezbollah flags while he bellows into a loudspeaker at a Stop The War rally, that wouldn’t count either.

The other statistic, which Paddy O’Connell was so keen to highlight, was that 75% of incidents came from the far-right. Almost as if, for some personal reason, he wanted to exonerate the Corbynistas and the Muslims from charges of antisemitism. Why would he want to do that? 

Who knows how the 75% figure was derived. Perhaps it was purely from the recorded number of physical attacks on visibly identifiable Jews, in which case neo-Nazi hooligans would likely be perpetrators rather than those timid keyboard warriors of the left. You know, the ones with acne and cauliflower noses that Andrew Marr says operate from their mothers’ basements. 

I was curious. I mean who voluntarily identifies as ‘far-right’ these days? I’d just like to know how all these statistics were gathered and categorised, because to a lay person like myself all those numbers and percentages are virtually meaningless.

Of course the Home Affairs Committee accepted it, so maybe they know something I don’t, but I would tend to question the extrapolations from those figures rather than parrot them unquestioningly. Clarification, you know..

Demonisation of Israel
The sharp increase in antisemitic incidents between 2014 and 2015 is equally striking, which coincides with Operation Protective Edge, mistakenly described in the report as “launched by Israel in 2015”. It was, of course, 2014.  

The hatred for Israel that was generated during the both the 2009 ‘Gaza war’ and the more recent “Operation Protective Edge” was exacerbated by, if not positively incited by the BBC’s woefully biased and decontextualised reporting, particularly in its weakness for relaying Palestinian propagandists’ stock-in-trade images of child casualties.

The BBC has some kind of tacit moratorium on reporting the truth about the Palestinian leadership. All one asks for is the truth; not selected stories relayed through the romanticised prisms of ‘gone native’ reporters like Yolande Knell in Ramallah and Lyse Doucet in Gaza. 
Organisations like Palestinian Media Watch have started to make a difference in that regard, but there’s a long way to go. 

If the BBC were somehow forced to acknowledge their own institutional bias (and rectify it) much of the antisemitism in the UK would fizzle out. It stands to reason, merely because reasonable people dislike terrorism and religious-based violence. If they knew exactly what was happening to Israelis on the proverbial ‘daily basis’ and why it was happening, the public would be equipped to judge.

One-sided reporting is one of the biggest injustices of our times. Even Jeremy Bowen, one of the worst offenders when it comes to demonising Israel, inadvertently admitted such thing during Samira Ahmed’s piece on Newswatch, emphasising the need to give a rounded picture -  albeit about Syria rather than his despised Israel. 
“Mainly children are shown for maximum emotional effect when in reality the majority of casualties are adults including many Sunni Jihadists” 
observed one viewer.

Samira Ahmed:
 “Are we getting a full picture of the conflict?” “Some viewers have told us that they’re concerned that we’re getting a distorted view of the conflict”

“Most of the reporting I’ve done has been from the government side[…] Being with the rebel side is too dangerous.”
explained Bowen.

“News should not be about goodies versus baddies. […] 
An intro gives you a flavour of what’s coming up, and it’s not the whole story. You’ve got to take the whole, and in fact you’ve got to take, probably the whole in more than one piece, because I try and look at the number of pieces that I’ve done from one reporting trip other than from one individual report.  
I know that’s difficult because not everyone watches the news with the same obsessive zeal that journalists do but you can’t get everything in in every piece and what I try to do, and for me it’s a challenge of TV reporting particularly. 
 I do a story, which, for someone who’s interested but doesn’t know much, will ‘get’ and learn something, and will come away, hopefully a bit wiser; and will also hopefully at the same time, have something in it that the top diplomat in the office who deals with in the Middle East will find quite interesting as well, so it needs to be a bit like a layer cake, and you know that is not an easy thing to do.  
You need very good material, some of the pictures, and you need to be very careful with your words, and - good interviews, good sound, and you know, sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we don’t.”

Jeremy Bowen sounds quite objective here, doesn't he? He hasn’t got that visceral loathing for one side, as he has when he's dealing with Israelis and Palestinians, although he has appeared rather fond of softly spoken, Israel-hating Bashar al-Assad in the past. My enemy’s enemy?

The Home Affairs Committee could have had a field day with the BBC, but if they did, would the BBC report it?

Ofcom and the BBC

The communications watchdog Ofcom will take over regulation of the BBC from the BBC Trust next spring. So this is a very interesting claim:

Too white and middle-class?

The Daily Telegraph has also been reading the new Radio Times

They've picked up on Martin Hughes-Games saying that he's been giving the push from next year's Springwatch because the present trio of presenters "are all white and middle-class" and that the BBC wants "a more diverse team". 

Martin (being as nice as ever) says he also sees the need for that too.

The BBC, however, (a) denies having having said anything about diversity ("This is not a decision about diversity and was never described as such") and (b) says that Martin's final fate actually hasn't been decided yet and that he's "a valued member of the ‘Watches’ team".

It's odd that Martin believes it did have something to do with the present team being "all white and middle-class", but that the BBC is so emphatic in denying that. (It does sound 'very BBC' though, doesn't it?)

Someone clearly has the wrong end of the prickly stick insect (Acanthoxyla geisovii) - a New Zealand species of stick insect that, along with two others, has now established itself in the south west of England (as the UK has no native stick insects).

Well, we'll have to see who's right, next Spring.

Funny old world! (updated)

Here's something we posted earlier today...with a substantial update:

The BBC is very aware of its role in shaping people’s consciousness: this is the story you should hear about, these are the people worth listening to. It’s manipulative and deeply political.
Many of us might say 'Well said!' to that. 

Who said it though? Well, it was a director who the Guardian says "has had a long and fruitful relationship with the BBC" and whose latest film (which he's presently promoting) was "made in partnership with BBC Films". 

Yes, it's Ken Loach. He wants the BBC to do more "socially conscious" TV drama - meaning, of course, more of his kind of "socially conscious" TV drama. 

(The BBC surely already does more than enough "socially conscious" TV drama of their kind?).

Well, that's how the Guardian tells it, making it mainly about him criticising the BBC.

The BBC News website also has a report on Mr Loach' comments in the Radio Times and it has a different take to the Guardian's (to put it mildly!). The BBC News account makes it sound as if Mr Loach is mainly criticising ITV (over Downton Abbey) and broadcasters in general rather than launching an onslaught against the BBC in particular.

If you have a spare few minutes, please just read the Guardian report and the BBC report side by side. They are shockingly different in where they suggest Ken Loach is laying the blame...

...and the BBC article fails to quote what I quoted at the top of this post (taken from the Guardian report) about the BBC's manipulative, political agenda.

So who's right?

Well, I've got a copy of The Radio Times and its headline is "At 80, Ken Loach is still the angry young man of cinema...and he's gunning for the BBC".

And when you read the Radio Times interview it becomes clear that the Guardian version is the correct one and that the BBC website article's version is simply a ludicrous whitewash (one so extreme it might almost make Shami blush). Red Ken really is mainly gunning for the BBC in that interview.

Here's just one example. The Guardian writes:
[He] said there was a need to “democratise” the corporation. “Diversify it so that different regions can make their own dramas. And its notion of news has got to be challenged,” he told the Radio Times.
The BBC writes:
The filmmaker also said broadcasters should "diversify" so regions could create their own drama...
The Radio Times says:
So what should be done with the BBC? "Democratise it. Diversify it so that different regions can make their own dramas."
The BBC News website certainly hasn't reported this in an impartial or accurate manner. It's remarkably, blatantly biased reporting.

BBC journalist suspended over social media comment

You may recall:

Well, Guido Fawkes now has an update...

We've been here several times before. 

Of course in the long run it doesn't always work out too badly for the BBC journalist in question. 

You may also recall Jasmine Lawrence, the BBC News Channel editor who tweeted about UKIP being a party that "stands up for white, middle class, middle aged men w sexist/racist views" and got taken off taken off election duty by the BBC (in 2014) as a result. A few months ago she was promoted to Deputy News Editor at the BBC News Channel.

So, chin up, Danny. In a year or two's time you might actually be running BBC Look North.

Playing down


The latest guilty verdicts on eight members of a predominantly British Pakistani paedophile gang in Rotherham for abusing while girls as young as 13 received no coverage on yesterday BBC One's News at Six, and BBC News at Ten gave the story just 15 seconds:
Eight men have been found guilty of sexually abusing three girls in Rotherham between 1999 and 2003. The court heard how they sexualised their victims, some of whom were as young as 13 when the offences took place. The men, who were all from the town, will be sentenced next week.
And to illustrate the gang's unifying factor - being "all from the town" - BBC News at Ten showed us panoramic views of Rotherham.

Moreover, their online report (which quickly disappeared from the BBC News home page) didn't mention a significant detail from the news story which other media outlets (from the Guardian to the Daily Mail) - did mention: the racial (and possibly religious) element to the rapes.

One of the attackers, Sageer Hussain, told the 13 year-old girl, "All white girls are good for is sex and they are just slags."

It is entirely typical of BBC reporting that this element of the story got censored here.

Seeing is believing

The accompanying footage used on both BBC One bulletins

The first children from Calais have arrived in the UK under the government's new scheme. Both of the main BBC One news bulletins briefly mentioned the fact:
14 teenage migrants from the so-called 'Jungle' camp in Calais have arrived in the UK under a new Home Office fast track registration scheme. The children, aged between 14 and 17, were taken to a visa and immigration centre in Croydon today where they were to be assessed before being reunited with relatives already in the country.
14 teenage boys who have been living in the Calais camp known as 'The Jungle' have arrived in the UK to be reunited with members of their family. The children, aged between 14 and 17, were taken to a visa and immigration centre in Croydon today where they will be assessed before being reunited with family members who are already in Britain.
Neither bulletin gave us so much as a glimpse of these 'children' - unlike the Daily Mail which published numerous photos of the '14-17 year old boys', including:

...provoking huge amounts of scepticism from DM online readers:
  • Why are the papers continuing to call these individuals "Children"? Can they not see the reality from their own photographs ? 
  • What is going on? These are young adults and not children!
  • England you are just pure and utter mugs....the world is laughing at you...those "kids" are mostly mid 20s.
  • Like something from a Monty Python Sketch!!!! You couldn't make it up!!!!
  • CHILDREN ?????????????????
  • These are men. WTF? Are we losing it???
  • As DM readers have observed, no way are this group 14-17, more like 25-30, no wonder they are grinning!
  • They are NOT vulnerable children, they are Men of fighting age.
  • They haven't seen fourteen for many years. 
  • Only one of those "kids" looks like he is a teenager.... 
I can guess why the BBC chose not to show us these 'children' now.

Sage advice?

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Trouble at t' Minster

I had the pleasure a few years ago of sitting in the grounds around York Minster and listening, for nigh on an hour, to its bell-ringers practising their magnificent art. 

Part of that magnificence comes from the fact that the two Western towers there have more bells than any other cathedral in England - something I learned from this morning's Sunday. 

Quite possibly one of those very bell-ringers that magical afternoon was being interviewed by Ed Stourton this morning. The story that unfolded - from him and his dean  - would make for an easy-to-write novel with a guaranteed TV adaptation to follow. The plot so far, simply put, would, I'm sure, be very appealing to TV executives: 

Chapter One: A new female dean arrives at an ancient cathedral and tries to professionalise it. One day she summons the cathedral's 30 volunteer bell-ringers to her office, telling them they're sacked and handing them a letter confirming their sacking headed "Our cathedral invites everyone to share God's love". A new band will be formed in the new year, she says, and the bells will ring again for Easter. 

Chapter Two: The bells fall silent. The bell-ringers protest. The dean, facing a flood of media attention, stands before the cameras at the cathedral door saying, "I think everyone will acknowledge that ringing bells is something that needs to be done with particular attention to health and safety and security. The law has changed and we have to be compliant". She tells the assembled world media that bell-ringing should be brought "in house". The sacked ringing master, using old-fashioned church terms, is standing in the crowd, along with many of his bell-ring colleagues, and shouts - as the cameras turn swing towards thim - that the dean is "misleading" people and is "ill-formed". The dean, face flushed with anger, strides back into the cathedral, the bell-ringers yelling "Bring back the bells!" as she does. The cathedral door slams shut.

And that's pretty much where we are now (though I may have slightly embroidered Chapter Two), with the female dean appearing on BBC local radio and the ringing master appearing on Radio 4's Sunday.  

How will the next chapters proceed? 

If it's ITV maybe the dean will be visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, her heart will melt and the bells will ring out again for Christmas - and (simultaneously) for her marriage to the ringing master. And everyone will live happily ever after. 

If it's the BBC, the ringing master will turn out to be a Brexit-backing, UKIP-supporting racist and the dean will turn out to be much nicer than she first seems, her heart being softened by a Giles Fraser-like radical priest. And the bells will ring out again at Easter, complete with a new and fully multicultural band of change-ringers (including several newly-arrived refugees, all with heart-tugging back stories). And - closing shot - the dean and 'Giles' will be shown passionately kissing in the cathedral porch to the sound of bells as the camera pans out to show the cathedral in all its magnificence.

"Who will care for the children of Calais?"

Mohammed and Ed Thomas

The BBC is showing a report from Calais tonight by Ed Thomas. Though we see scenes of migrant 'children' (many of whom look like young men - though Ed was clearly taking their declared ages on trust) rioting and battling police, Ed is emoting about how "alone" they are, and wondering "who will care for the children of Calais?" 

The social media reaction hasn't been very positive:
BBC "reporting" from the Calais Jungle on Sunday. Or was I watching an outtake from Drop the Dead Donkey?
@BBCNews report from Calais Jungle shows why we should never listen to BBC journalists. They believe any old tosh and never ask for proof.
6pm @BBCnews TWO journos in #Calais (one for a WEEK) desperate for more #humanrights angles on 'children' who are 16/17 years old! #BBCbias
The problem is with reports from @EdThomas76 and similar is that they don't ask any probing questions. #bbcnews #propaganda
those 'boys'  paid a lot of money to reach France. If they have family in the U.K. why don't their family visit/verify them? #bbcnews
@BBCNews @EdThomas76 How long did u have to rehearse that libleft biased garbage in Calais?? You were an embarrassment #Calais
I am sick to death of this bleeding heart onslaught from @BBCNews in Calais @EdThomas76 parroting 'children children' every sentence guff
@edthomas76: "Mohammed, 16, looking for a way out [of Calais]." Yes, by turning south. France is a huge country 
@EdThomas76 Still doing the dramatic pauses on news stories . Why? @BBCNews Annoying. It's not cinema. Talk normally 

In western Aleppo

After having just written a piece about how I feel that the BBC has focused almost exclusively on the suffering of the anti-Assad, rebel side in the Syrian Civil War (Jeremy Bowen excepted), I tuned into this morning's Sunday on Radio 4 to have my expectations confounded. Ed Stourton talked to someone who works to counter the suffering of people on the other side of the conflict - namely Catholic Armenian nun Sister Annie Demerjian, who helps the sick and elderly in government-held areas. 

Ed, on introducing her, said she "does relief work in Aleppo - western Aleppo that is, not the eastern part of the city which is held by the rebels." He didn't spell out why a Catholic nun wouldn't be helping in (Islamist) rebel-held eastern Aleppo, but it's not hard to guess. Nor did he spell out why a Catholic nun would be able to go about her work in (secularist) regime-controlled western Aleppo, but we can easily guess that too. 

The Christian population has fallen from around 200,000 before the war to just 33,000 now, she said.

She talked of the dangers from "shells and bombs", "rockets, bombs and shells" and I presumed these came from the rebel side. 

The programme's website, however, rather curiously, talks about "airstrikes" (presumably meaning Russian and Syrian regime airstrikes). 

She actually never mentioned airstrikes - presumably because government-held western Aleppo isn't targeted by the Russians or the Syrian government. So why put that on the Sunday website? 

Could it be that the people at Sunday are so used to reporting just one side of this war that they automatically assumed that Sister Annie and the people she's helping would be in danger from the Russians and the Syrian regime rather than from the rebels?

Attempting to play up

A comment at Biased BBC this evening:

I’ve been listening to the BBC R4 news bulletins occasionally today, and each time they have mentioned the Johnson pro-EU essay ‘story’ they have said “Boris is trying to play down”. Talk about a loaded statement. “Trying to play down” is what guilty people do. The message they are trying to convey is quite obvious.

You can hear an example of that ("Boris Johnson has attempted to play down...") on tonight's Radio 4 Six O'Clock News (at 05:48).

Retirement bodes well for Helen

According to the Daily Mail, the future of outgoing, Harvard-bound BBC Director of Radio Helen Boaden looks very rosy indeed, financially-speaking, thanks to her BBC pension:
Helen Boaden, 60, the director of radio who is due to retire soon, will get a pot of £2.8m, worth £840,000 more than she would have done three years ago.

Not sticking with the papers

This morning's Broadcasting House saw Brexit being discussed during the paper review (with a balanced-sounding panel on the subject). 

Paddy always likes to keep things tied to what's in the papers ("Stick to the papers!") but, unusually, broke his own rule today by twice pushing a theme no one else was discussing and which didn't seem to be in any of the papers under discussion: 
Here's a question that I think Radio 4 listeners would like to know, that should be answered by...I don't know if you can answer it...Should our parliament have a vote on the Brexit deal? So, in other words, yes, Brexit does mean Brexit but the shape of the deal - which will have very important things in it - should our parliamentarians have a vote?
His press panel bit on that slightly before getting into a lively debate about fishing quotas and the EU. Paddy, pursuing his original line, responded...and then moved on to a new subject:
And then we come back to the point about when do MPs get to review all this material. Now, Andrew Pierce,...
Now, I'm (perhaps controversially in these parts) quite a Paddy fan but even I could smell something fishy about his random-seeming interventions there. Our Eurovision-obsessed BH presenter sounded as if he was singing from the same Abba sheet music as Mark Mardell today. (The Brexit-voting United Kingdom jury duly awards him nil points).

Interesting LBC's Shelagh Fogarty, in responding to Paddy's first question, said: 
Well, my listeners on LBC, talking about that very question this week...It's amazing how many people who voted Brexit believe that is an attempt just to thwart Brexit and those who voted to Remain say 'Yes, yes, yes, we must have a vote!' 
And Paddy seemed to be questioning, like Mark Mardell, from the standpoint of the latter (losing) side of the argument this morning.

Sloppy BBC reporting

The news bulletin on this morning's Broadcasting House presented the story of Boris's alternative 'Remain' article in a less than accurate manner. 

They selectively quoted his article, which made it seem more adamant (against Brexit) than it was, and then added their own editorial comment along the lines of 'this directly contradicted what he said later' (over the cost of the UK's EU membership fee). 

And, for some reason, they kept on attributing lines lifted directly from The Sunday Times and written by a Sunday Times reporter and ascribing them to "sources" or, even less accurately, "sources close to Mr Johnson". ('Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?', unsuspecting Radio 4 listeners might think):
BBC newsreader: Sources close to Mr Johnson said he wrote the article only to help him clarify this thoughts.
BBC reporter: Sources said Mr Johnson only wrote the piece to help articulate his thoughts and it made him realise the case for staying in the EU was weak.
If you don't subscribe to it, here's a screengrab of the relevant passage from the Sunday Times article proving it was the paper's reporter and not unnamed 'sources close to Mr Johnson' who said what the BBC quoted:

Such sloppy reporting isn't what the BBC is supposed to be about, is it

Update: The new bulletin on The Andrew Marr Show repeated many of the same things but here the BBC reporter (Alex Forsyth) added that "the full content only appears to highlight his long-held Eurosceptic views".

Paddy makes an analogy

Tim Loughton, acting chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, was on Broadcasting House this morning to discuss the committee's Antisemitism in the UK report. Paddy O'Connell put the following, startling question to him (in defence of Jeremy Corbyn):
But then...did you...did you...did you hear evidence that 75% of antisemitic incidents come from far-right sources? Did you hear that evidence?...So...(inaudible)...with Mr Corbyn...It would be the same, isn't it, as saying, with the volume of hate crime in Britain, which is rising, is somehow something to do with Theresa May? That the people who are picking on black people, Muslim people, in the country, Asian people, post the Brexit referendum, you could say that, somehow, that was linked to the Prime Minister?

Complicating the story

The BBC helped in staging Lily Allen's pro-migrant stunt in Calais. It's the kind of thing they do. What they don't tend to do is to dig behind the sob stories and seek the truth. So it's left to the likes of The Mail on Sunday instead to investigate the background to the story which so upset Lily Allen - the story of an Afghan boy who's seeking to join his father in the UK...and this is what they found:

Will the Victoria Derbyshire show update its viewers on Monday? Will Catrin Nye, the BBC reporter who accompanied Lily, ever get round to tweeting something about this (maybe a link to The Mail on Sunday report)?

Antisemitism in the UK

I read a despairing prediction elsewhere that the BBC wouldn't bother to report the Home Affairs Select Committee's report on antisemitism in the UK but, thankfully, this hasn't turned out to be the case and the story is running as the second new story on the BBC website this morning:

The BBC article sketches out all of the main points in the report - the Committee's criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, of Twitter, of Shami Chakrabarti and her report, and of Malia Bouattia of the NUS - and gives rights of reply to all of the people on the receiving end. 

I'd note that the BBC doesn't make explicit the second half of the Committee's summary on Shami, only quoting the first sentence, which criticises her report. The second sentence criticises her personally. Here's what the Committee said in full:
Shami (now Baroness) Chakrabarti's report into antisemitism in the Labour Party is ultimately compromised by its failure to deliver a comprehensive set of recommendations, to provide a definition of antisemitism, or to suggest effective ways of dealing with antisemitic incidents. In addition, her decision to join the Labour Party in April and accept a peerage as a nominee of the Labour Leader, along with her recent appointment to Jeremy Corbyn's Shadow Cabinet, has thrown into question the independence of the Labour Party's inquiry.
As for any criticism that the BBC article has failed to mention 'the elephant in the room' when it comes to discussing the rise in antisemitism in the UK - the rise of a Muslim population that is significantly more antisemitic than other UK population groups - well, that's probably more down to the MPs behind the report than the BBC. The MPs only mention the issue in one section of their report (section 46) and draw no conclusions from it:
46. Polls conducted by the ADL and the CAA indicate that a significantly higher proportion of British Muslims endorse antisemitic statements than the proportion of all Britons. Over a third of British Muslims polled by the CAA agreed with the statement “Jews don’t care about what happens to anyone but their own kind”, compared with 11% of all respondents, and over a quarter agreed with the statement “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave”, compared with 11% of all respondents. ADL surveys reveal that Muslims worldwide hold more antisemitic views than members of any other religion, but geography has a significant impact: 75% of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa express antisemitic views, compared with 20% of Muslims in Eastern Europe.

Update: There's an interesting piece at Harry's Place by Sarah AB about the report itself, that's worth a read. Sarah quotes a passage I hadn't read: ‘Labour voters were no more likely than voters from other parties to express antisemitic attitudes, with UKIP voters demonstrating the highest levels of antisemitism’. 

Two takes on Boris's doomsters

The third story on the BBC News website this morning is this:

This is based on a somewhat sensationally-presented report in The Sunday Times, which has now printed Boris's 'secret' alternative, pro-Remain article. The paper's main report goes on to puts it (less sensationally) in context:
The text of Johnson’s column is published in this section. Its existence was known but its contents, which contradict positions the foreign secretary has adopted since he joined the cabinet, have remained secret. 
He wrote it on February 19, two days before shocking Cameron by opting publicly for the “leave” campaign. He had already penned one piece arguing the case for “out”, then wrote the “remain” article as a way of clarifying his thoughts, before composing a final article backing Brexit for publication. 
The book dispels the myth that Johnson’s case for “remain” was better than his argument to “leave”. In fact the article was dashed off quickly and seems to be an attempt by Johnson to convince himself the case for staying in was weak. But it nonetheless shows some of the concerns he had about leaving the EU.
Fraser Nelson at the Spectator agrees with The Sunday Times and reprints and annotates the Boris article (useful for those of you who can't see behind the Sunday Times's paywall). 

"Rather than damn Boris, I suspect his “secret” article will underline the authenticity behind his support for Brexit", Fraser writes.

Though the BBC article is a fair reflection of the account given by The Sunday Times, it adds a gloss of its own, betraying its own (anti-Brexit) bias.

Compare what pro-Brexit Fraser Nelson wrote:
A-Ha! Finally he’s going to tell us about the downsides of Brexit. The one he’s supposed to really believe in.
There are some big questions that the “out” side need to answer. Almost everyone expects there to be some sort of economic shock as a result of a Brexit. How big would it be? I am sure that the doomsters are exaggerating the fallout — but are they completely wrong? And how can we know? And then there is the worry about Scotland, and the possibility that an English-only “leave” vote could lead to the break-up of the union.
Was that it? As it turned out, the Doomsters were wrong. Everyone who predicted a recession after the vote – from the FT’s economics editor to the IMF – has now withdrawn their prediction.  Scottish polls show no increase in support for independence after the Brexit vote. 
...with what the BBC wrote:
Mr Johnson also warned that Brexit would cause an "economic shock" and could lead to the "break-up" of the UK. 
He wrote: "There are some big questions that the 'out' side need to answer. 
"Almost everyone expects there to be some sort of economic shock as a result of a Brexit. 
"How big would it be? I am sure that the doomsters are exaggerating the fallout - but are they completely wrong? And how can we know?" 
Since the vote to leave the EU the pound has fallen to its lowest since the 1980s, losing around 18% of its value against the US dollar, while Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has put in place plans for a second independence referendum if the UK leaves the single market.
Fraser Nelson says the doomsters were wrong; The BBC immediately reinforces the doomsters' points, implying they were right. 

The contrast could hardly be starker.

Each has their own bias, though only one is funded by the licence fee and is meant to be impartial. 

Top Trump

Of course (unlike ITV News or Sky) the top story on the BBC News website is (inevitably)...

...drum roll please...

Mark Mardell makes the case for Parliament (against Mrs May and the Brexiteers)

Mark Mardell has long been an admirer of the EU. He could never disguise that fact - or his scepticism about Eurosceptism - even while he was acting as the BBC's Europe editor.

(If you want a reminder of just how far he went in making that clear even at the time then please re-read the remarkable final essay of his old BBC Euroblog from 2009). 

Mark Mardell's latest BBC News website blogpost suggests a man whose heart still beats to a Remain tune. It makes the case against Theresa May's strategy of not allowing MPs to keep voting on Brexit between now and Brexit itself. 

He presents Mrs May as "High Priestess of Brexit, alone able to divine its deep meaning, jealously protecting the holy aura of the oracle", and says she's treating the referendum result "like a magic sack". MPs feel as if they're being treated like "children" and being forced to "play second fiddle" to the referendum result. It would be "perhaps better" for Mrs May to grant some votes to Parliament, however "messy" they might be, he concludes.

Here's the meat of his argument, using the past arguments of Brexiteers (here John Redwood) against Brexiteers (like Mr Redwood) now:
But the trouble with continually dodging and ducking parliamentary votes is the smell.
For years, those who wanted the UK to leave the European Union trumpeted the inviolable glory of parliamentary sovereignty.
They fulminated against politicians going off to Brussels and doing secret deals behind closed doors, politicians who wouldn't even ask MPs to vote on the agreements they made out of sight and away from scrutiny.
Now, for very understandable reasons, they want to go off to Brussels and do a secret deal behind closed doors and then not allow Parliament to have a say on the result.
It may be good politics, but only the signed-up cheerleaders will politely ignore the whiff of hypocrisy.
He does the same with David Davis later (using his past words to hint that people could change their minds in the future over the Brexit result and that democracy should allow for that):
As David Davis once observed: "If a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy."
And, as so often with Mark Mardell's blogposts, there's a link that shows him disagreeing with the Daily Mail. Here he uses that link to defend the BBC (and himself) against the charge of being relentlessly negative about Brexit: 
It is why any reporting of possible negative effects of the decision must be treated as a combination of lese majeste and an unpatriotic stab in the back by bad losers, not as the way a grown-up media in a grown-up democracy works. 
Mark Mardell's blogposts, always so carefully worded and consciously crafted, usually have a message they want to get across, despite the thin veil of impartiality lighted draped across them. That veil was particularly thin here. 

And the prize should have gone to...

The BBC has given much discussion to the question of whether Bob Dylan deserved his Nobel Prize for Literature or not - and, to give them their due, I think they've done so in an unbiased way! - but I myself think it's a mistake, As they obviously felt the need to turn in that direction, the Nobel Committee should have chosen the man who wrote Sisters of Mercy instead....
Well, they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn,
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

"Analysis has found pro-EU voices are twice as likely to appear on Radio 4"

It was the Brexit Collection that did it. 

A cross-party group of parliamentarians has taken the findings of a detailed News-watch study of that heavily biased Radio 4 collection of programmes and sent a strongly-worded letter of complaint to Tony Hall, alleging "a constant stream of negativity" from the BBC in the wake of the Brexit vote.

(The Daily Mail reports it here, the Daily Express reports it here, Breitbart reports it here, and the Guardian rides to the BBC's defence here. The full News-watch report can be read here.)

Some of the essential stats from the News-watch study of those 31 Radio 4 programmes and features are:

  • Only 2 of those 31 items were sympathetic to Brexit, 8 were neutral and the rest biased against Brexit (to varying degrees).
  • Only 23% of contributors in the programmes as a whole spoke in favour of Brexit, against 58% in favour of Remain and 19% who gave a neutral or factual commentary.
  • Of the 59 politicians to appear, 37 were pro-Remain. 
  • Across the board, 41% of the speakers who supported Leave were ‘ordinary’ contributors (i.e. members of the public with no obvious expertise, for example, in vox pops), compared to only 27% of pro-EU guests. In terms of the number of words spoken, members of the public contributed 34% of the Leave total, compared to only 8% on the Remain side.
  • Eleven of the 20 ‘ordinary’ speakers who spoke in favour of Brexit were from two locations in Northern England, Thornaby-on-Tees and Wakefield. All of these were from social classes D and E and together they were responsible for 80% of the words spoken by ‘ordinary’ Leave supporters.
Anyone who's read any of our stuff on The Brexit Collection won't be in the least surprised about any of that. Hopefully, however, it will open a lot more eyes to the remarkable way the BBC has been carrying on, especially since the Brexit vote.

Another post about 'Dateline London'


This week's Brexit discussion on Dateline London was like most previous ones where a single pro-Brexit guest is allowed onto the panel (though, often recently, there's not even been one such guest, so this counts as 'good' by Dateline standards).

It's usually been Alexander Deane of late but this week it was the turn of Alexander Nekrassov.

Different Alexander, same result: All the three other anti-Brexit guests and Gavin Esler piling in against him, often all at the same time (a hubbub duly resulting).

Both Alexanders can more than hold their own though, and the result was worth watching.


Regular readers might recall examples of Gavin Esler's previous demonstrations of apparent derision for Boris Johnson. Two more apparent examples popped up on today's Dateline. 
Gavin (to Ned Temko): And where is Britain in this? I mean, Boris Johnson calling for demonstrations outside the embassy of a country with whom we're not actually in conflict was a very odd thing to happen, wasn't it?......Ned (to Gavin Esler): How surprising that Boris should say something odd!.....(Laughter).
Gavin (to Alexander Nekrassov, after AN called for a 'million man march' for Brexit): Well Boris Johnson's called for one demonstration and you're calling for another! I think he got one protester. Let's see if you can get more!


Here's how Gavin Esler phrased his introductory Brexit-related question on today's Dateline London:
Has Brexit become what one MP this week described as 'a dog's Brexit' - a hugely costly mess - because those who most strongly advocate it haven't actually figured out how to make it work?
Yet another negative take on Brexit from the BBC.


And here are Gavin's other Brexit-related contributions today. Taken as a whole, they fall almost entirely on the anti-Brexit side of the argument (as you will see). Does that make him biased?: 
(Secondary introduction): The advertising for a British favourite spread called Marmite says 'You either love it or hate it'. The same could be said for Brexit, which this week is being blamed for the rising cost of...Marmite. And for Parliament being refused a real say in the most important political decision of our lifetime. Is Brexit being botched?
(to anti-Brexit Ned Temko): I talked to Herman van Rompuy this week, the former EU president of the council, and he said that 'You have to understand that this is not a top priority for the French government, the German government', and he went through the governments. 'It may be your big deal but it's not ours, and it will be terrible'. He suggested it will be really, really difficult. Now, that was a view, but an important view.
(to anti-Brexit Abdul Bari Atwan): But what's really struck me about this week was Parliament attempting to reassert itself. I mean, we are governed by the Queen in Parliament. It's very, very clear what that's supposed to mean...except we've also got the will of the British people absolutely clear we want to get out of the EU....what's not clear is what that would look like and is there a mandate, for example, for leaving the Single Market. That is the question that MPs have been....
(to pro-Brexit Alexander Nekrassov): Well Boris Johnson's called for one demonstration and you're calling for another! I think he got one protester. Let's see if we can get more!
(interrupting Alexander Nekrassov): It's the detail, that's the point, It's the detail. Let me bring Suzanne in.
(interrupting Alexander Nekrassov): It's an advisory referendum.
(to Ned Temko): But also on the specific point of Parliament. You know, it's very difficult to overturn several hundred years of British history in which Parliament effectively scrutinises the executive...well, we will see, won't we?
(interrupting Alexander Nekrassov): Well, there are a lot of cars that are made in Germany, I can tell you that!
(to Alexander Nekrassov): Well, we don't buy Chinese wine, that's all I can say!