Sunday, 24 September 2017

Open Thread (bumped)



The doors of Morecambe's Midland Hotel swing open to welcome you to another Open Thread. Please come inside and partake of another cocktail (or whatever takes your fancy, at a price) in the rotunda.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Despite Brexit



Alan at Biased BBC poses me an interesting question: Was Charles Moore correct to claim, during his spat over BBC Brexit bias with Jonathan Dimbleby (and the usual booing AQ audience) on Any Questions today, that the BBC uses the phrase 'despite Brexit' "whenever there’s a business story on the BBC"? Or was Jonathan Dimbleby right to cast doubt on his assertion and demand proof?

Well, I have been half-keeping my eye on this ever since the referendum - and ever since people I like began claiming that the BBC was using the phrase 'despite Brexit' a lot - and I've found very few BBC News website cases where the BBC uses the specific form of words 'despite Brexit'. 

To the three headlines Alan quotes in his post (Obama: Special relationship remains despite Brexit; UK construction rises despite Brexit vote; and Siemens promises UK investment despite Brexit warning). I've only found one more: Ryanair raises passenger growth forecast despite Brexit

The fact is that there's been a heck of a lot of 'despite Brexit' reporting from the BBC but very little use of the actual phrase itself. 

As Alan notes though, that form of words isn't the only form of words used. He's spotted examples of that, and I've also heard many a turn of phrase that means or suggests 'despite Brexit' but never specifically uses the precise words 'despite Brexit', plus many a report that implies as much without ever using equivalent turns of phrases.

I've harboured the suspicion for a while (a sensible suspicion I believe) that the BBC spotted all the complaints about the BBC's 'despite Brexit' reporting in the weeks immediately after the referendum result - specifically the multitude of claims that the BBC was actually using that very phrase - and warned their staff against ever using that form of words again, knowing that people would be monitoring them closely for their use of that phrase and would make hay with any such evidence that they were using it a lot. (And if I'd found it, yes, I would have made hay with it!) The BBC is constantly doing things like that, with their endless style guides, memos and meetings about language.

Of course, there have been examples of the BBC using it on air and on official BBC Twitter feeds but the BBC is very good at enforcing language rules and their reporters/presenters are very good at following 'suggestions' when it comes to such matters.

So despite the vast amount of 'despite Brexit' reporting that the BBC has put out in the light of recent decent economic news (etc), Jonathan Dimbleby doubtless felt completely confident in making that challenge to Charles Moore, knowing that Mr Moore wouldn't be able to provide enough examples to back up his point if the challenge was confined to finding specific uses of the exact phrase 'despite Brexit'. 

Despite that, Mr Moore was correct in the broad point he was making.

Give the BBC any flotsam or jetsam to cling onto though - such as by claiming that the BBC uses the phrase 'despite Brexit' "whenever there’s a business story on the BBC" - and they will grab onto it and whack you over the head with it without mercy.

If that deflects attention away from the real essence of the point you are making, all the better for them.

P.S. For proof that Charles Moore is correct in the broad point he was making you only need to read News-watch's Today business news report which showed that pretty much everything they said amounted to things being 'despite' or 'because of' Brexit. 

A Brief Encounter with 'Today'



I thought I might actually listen to an edition of Today in its entirety today, following yesterday's post about its 'dumbing-down'. 

It was disappointingly political and hard-news-focused, with lots on Mrs May's speech and Moody's downgrading and Rohingyas and Uber and capitalism and universities and undocumented migrants. 

There wasn't a single science story on it and the only arts bit was James Naughtie interviewing a children's author. 

There was, however, the new Nature Notes section - something I wholly approve of. 

Today's Nature Notes featured Charles Smith Jones of the British Deer Society answering elementary-level questions from Mishal Husain that any Autumnwatch viewer would have been able to answer. Still, Mr Smith Jones volunteered the interesting fact that some stags are known to travel up to 50 kilometres to join in the rut. (After Brexit can we go back to miles please?)

Plus the programme ended with Simon Jenkins and Mr Bruce the Station Master plugging Simon's new book on English railway stations. I liked that. (And I like Simon's highly judgemental books on buildings). Near to me is Carnforth Station where Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson shared a Brief Encounter to the strains of Rachmaninov. The ticking clock is still there, and it's usually working

My highlight though was Today's Matthew Price, that ultra-emoter, doing a typical Matthew Price piece on the sad plight of undocumented migrants facing the government's "hostile environment policy". There were tales of woe, lots of voices condemning the government's policy and speaking up for the undocumented migrants, plus (as bonuses) a delightfully gratuitous contribution slamming Brexit as well as Matthew saying that the government was "insisting" something or other in defence of itself. And to add insult to injury, the 'balancing voice' got just a few seconds - and I do mean 'just a few seconds'. 

If Sarah Sands could kindly get rid of that kind of report it would be simply spiffing!

New Zealand matters


For some reason I've been watching the New Zealand election result with some interest today and found the BBC News website very reluctant to give any news on it. 

They didn't post any updates for nearly a day - unlike various newspapers, some of whom even ran live blogs. A couple of hours ago, however, the BBC did publish an update, though it's never made it onto their Home page, and has only ever been a minor item on their World page. 

It remains curious what interests the BBC, and what doesn't interest the BBC. 

'Complaints from both sides' - Part 659


Puppy showing bias

A very dear anti-Brexit friend of mine gave me a spontaneous lecture recently, telling me to open my eyes to BBC bias. 

"Why can't people see that the BBC does exactly what the Tories tell them to do?", she asked incredulously. "It's all government propaganda". 

"They are so biased over Brexit," she continued. "Whenever there's an interview, the pro-Brexit person is always allowed to speak without interruption while anyone who opposes Brexit is talked down by the BBC". 

"It's so obvious, the bias", she concluded, before re-asking in total exasperation, "Why can't people see it?"

There are obviously more people out there who think like this than I realised. They obviously aren't only on Twitter.

******

Those on Twitter, however, were sounding the same note about BBC bias this morning. 

One, listening to the same Radio 3 news bulletin that I listened to at 8 o'clock, fumed that the BBC was "lying" about Theresa May's speech by "saying the EU has welcomed it", calling it "state propaganda" from the BBC.

The newsreader actually said that EU leaders had given the speech "a cautious welcome" before quoting a further demand on the UK from one particular EU leader and then moving on to the story of Moody's down-rating of the UK's credit rating in part because of uncertainty over Brexit. Hardly pro-Brexit 'state propaganda' for the Tory government then!

The fact that both Radio 3 and BBC Breakfast put the Moody's story second was making such people even moodier, for example the woman saying that BBC Breakfast are living in a "parallel universe" because "Item 1" is "world welcomes TM's Florence speech" and "Item 2" is "Moody's downgrades". It's "BBC bias" you see because they didn't lead with the ratings agency being negative about Britain's post-Brexit prospects merely ran it second.

Others, of course, see the ratings agencies as a busted flush and see the BBC's heavy promotion of their views today as evidence of bias in the other direction.

This morning's Today on Radio 4 certainly didn't underplay the ratings agency story. It had two segments on it - one an interview with former BBC reporter Linda Yueh, the other an interview with Alastair Wilson of Moody's. And tonight's PM was still making a lot of the ratings agency story, carrying an interview with someone who used to work for Fitch.

And this morning's Today had a Remain-voting MP (Hilary Benn), a Remain-backing peer (Lord Bridges) and a Czech minister on to discuss Mrs May's speech - not exactly evidence of pro-Brexit bias either!

I'm guessing the same Tweeters won't be tweeting about any of that. (Or maybe they will, and still find a way to complain about BBC bias.)

It's yet more evidence that the 'complaints from both sides' fallacy is a fallacy. Years of incredibly detailed studies of Today have shown that the bias goes consistently in just one direction, and to a remarkable degree - and it's not the direction that people like my friend believe. Very far from it!

Let these examples stand as yet more proof of the true nature of the 'complaints from both sides' fallacy.

Polls


"According to recent polling, if a referendum were held today Britain would vote to stay in", Anita Anand told us on Any Answers today

And she didn't fail to repeat the point either. 

How much recent polling has shown that or whether (as I suspect after Googling around) it's actually just that one single BMG poll for the Independent (showing 52% for Remain, 48% for Leave) I can't say for sure but, regardless, our Anita was certainly making the most of that 'recent polling' today.

Where has JonDon gone?


Regular readers of this blog will, perhaps, be interested in the latest Jon Donnison news. 

I just heard him on PM reporting on the Uber story.

Yes, the great man has abandoned his beloved Gazan shore and his far-from-beloved Australian shore and been posted back to Blighty. 


I'm sure he'll be his usual 'impartial' self in London (and, yes, that's sarcasm). 

Friday, 22 September 2017

Hot water


Adam Rutherford

A widely-reported BBC bias story this week concerned a BBC freelancer on Twitter - namely Inside Science presenter Adam Rutherford. 


Adam didn't think that Mr Stringer (a former analytical chemist) should be appointed to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee because of his 'sceptical' views on global warming, and urged his followers on Twitter to protest against the Labour MP's appointment. 


That's a striking affirmation of the BBC's policy - a policy many a BBC tweeter regularly ignores on all manner of issues. 

Listening to this week's Inside Science, Adam (in passing) mentioned his telling-off:
Some controversy followed with questions about the scientific credentials, the gender imbalance and some of the opinions of some of the members of the committee. As you may be aware this has been the source of some indignation from some of us in the science community. I got myself in some hot water earlier this week by tweeting about it. Setting that aside...
Inside Science then broadcast an interview Adam recorded "last week" (i.e. before the storm about his tweet) with the resolutely non-sceptical-about-global-warming, anti-Brexit Lib Dem MP Norman Lamb, focusing on how outrageous both of them felt it is that there aren't enough woman on the committee, and on Brexit-related matters.

I've noted before how Inside Science does sometimes seem to take on a campaigning role on various issues. Though Adam Rutherford went too far even for the BBC on Twitter (by directly attacking a Labour MP), his programme often 'goes too far' for me on air in the way of pushing agendas, despite often being very interesting. I doubt even this will make that change. 

Expats


Anyone you recognise?

Recognising people, including obscure politicians, is a handy tool for a blogger. I wish I could do it more often. Thankfully though, others remain on the alert


Populism stalking Europe


Stephanie Flanders


I was driving to work this morning an heard a voice I recognised as being very familiar but couldn't immediately place. 

Thankfully someone very soon called her 'Stephanie' and it immediately clicked from her low, dusky voice that it must be Stephanie Flanders - the former BBC economics editor who left to work for Goldman Sachs and who campaigned vocally against Brexit during the EU referendum.

She was guest-presenting Today today (and yesterday). 


Chatting about Mrs Merkel this morning to like-minded Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, she talked about "populism stalking Europe" in the light of certain recent European elections and referendums, and got Neil to go along with her assertion that "And, of course, her belief in Europe...I mean, people who are wanting her somehow to put Britain...her, sort of, liking for Britain...ahead of the future of Europe are going to be disappointed". 

Sarah Sands on Brexit bias


Sarah Sands

A copy of The Spectator awaited me when I got home today.

(That's not news. It always arrives on a Friday. Unless it comes on a Saturday that is, or isn't delivered at all.)

Among the first of its items this week was a 'diary' by Sarah Sands, the new editor of Today, laying out her stall.

(The Speccie hasn't posted it online yet, so the transcription below is from my own fair hand). 

She's proud to be moving the programme away from its heavy, grim-hospitals-and-even-grimmer-prisons-led news stories towards more of a newspaper-like programme with daily puzzles and much more science, art and fashion. 


To be honest, I'd rather have far more science and arts stuff than Today trying to set the nation's agenda.

I've had more than enough of the BBC trying to set the nation's agenda, thank you very much. 

So Sarah, please don't listen to these criticism. Please don't stop dumbing Today down! (How about an astrology section, and a daily cartoon featuring a droll cat or a whimsical dog too?)

*******

Mrs May (if you didn't recognise her)

As an outsider to the BBC, Sarah Sands might have been hoped to bring a breath of fresh air to Today. Her Spectator diary comments suggest to me that it's going to be business as usual regarding the BBC's Brexit coverage - something not helped by the well-known fact that she was pro-Remain in the EU referendum. 

Here's the bit about Brexit in full:
On Brexit bias, tone has become almost as important as argument. I notice that cheerfulness can grate on some, who regard it as political comment. When the Australian high commissioner asked on the Today programme why Brits were so gloom, it was categorised as an anti-Remain intervention. It is true that whoever came up with the word 'Remoaners' delivered a lasting blow. The Brexiteers own optimism just as Remainers claim reason. 
I want to try to tell the story of Brexit through concrete examples rather than positions. We looked at the fashion industry the other day and the designer Patrick Grant made a simple case. When he is making a suit, he imports parts from different countries. He can order a zip from Italy overnight. If he deals with America, he has to fill in a great pile of forms. He dreads the additional regulation. Boris Johnson wrote in his 4,000-world article that was meant to have been a speech (journalists so hate wasting material) that leaving the EU would lessen regulation. Can he explain to Patrick how?
There are three things I want to say about that: 

(1) She is well aware that Today faces huge pressure over anti-Brexit bias so, seemingly playing the 'complaints from both sides' game, cannily cites an example from the other side (a transparently silly example of course). 

(2) So Brexiteers are associated with feeling/emotion ("optimism") while Remainers are associated with logic ("reason")? In Sarah's mind too?

(3) The one "concrete example" of Brexit stories she cites raises a negative angle on Brexit. Why not a positive angle? 

Does Sarah Sands inspire you with confidence after reading those two paragraphs?

Updating an update


Nigel juxtaposed on an image of Broadcasting House


News-watch have pursued the matter with great diligence (with us tracking their pursuit closely), helping prompt Nigel Farage to hand-deliver a complaint to the BBC about the coverage - especially about Newsnight's promotion of an unfounded and shocking smear at his expense. 

Thankfully, some parts of the British media have given space to people critical of their reporting of this story but it appears that the BBC is, characteristically, digging its licence-fee-funded heels in and refusing to acknowledge any errors on its part. 

The BBC have apparently "vehemently defended" their reporting, describing their coverage of the Harlow killing as "fair" and in line with what other media organisations were reporting (as if that's a proper defence from the BBC! 'Most trusted media organisation in the world', eh?) 

The false assertions and smears in the BBC's reporting have been listed several times. (They are summarised here). They are not in doubt. 

And the BBC have failed to respond to the charge/fact that the true facts of the killing were, as David at News-watch notes, "reported at a much lesser level (primarily on the Essex pages of the BBC’s regional website) and without sufficient acknowledgement that the race-hate angle (imposed sensationally on the story by them) had been discounted" - in marked contrast to the original reports which "had been blasted at headline level on their most-watched BBC1 bulletins and BBC2 Newsnight".

A prominent correction, an apology from Newsnight (and John Sweeney in particular), maybe even a Panorama special hosted by an open and fully contrite John Sweeney admitting to all the BBC's errors over the reporting of this story, are what is needed.

The BBC should take a good hard look at itself over this.

In Between


In Between

Newsnight hasn't done an Israel/Palestinians feature for quite a while but last night's edition plugged a new Palestinian film opening in cinemas here this weekend - a film that has apparently upset socially conservative Muslims in Israel whilst simultaneously 'showing' that Israeli Arabs are treated as "second-class citizens" in Israel, even in liberal Tel Aviv

Is that a case of the BBC having their cake and eating it?

The film's director Maysaloun Hamoud spoke to Kirsty Wark and was almost as hard to understand as Kirsty.

That said, Maysaloun's English is a good deal better than my Arabic, which barely extends beyond 'Allahu Akhbar', 'jihad', 'kuffir', 'taqiyya' and various words for headscarves. 

Back



I do like Upstart Crow, Ben Elton's formulaic, old-fashioned but warm and funny comedy centred on William Shakespeare starring David Mitchell.

But, of course, obviously, naturally, it goes without saying, et cetera, et cetera, there were a fair few jokes bashing Brexit, trashing Trump and trumpeting immigration. 

It wouldn't be a BBC comedy without such things these days, would it?

Little bit of politics there, little bit of politics. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Mark Mardell Goes to Swansea


Dylan Thomas, quoted from by Mark Mardell today

Mark Mardell was back on The World This Weekend today. Surprisingly, the much-travelled Mark didn't go to Florence for his final item. His jaunt this week was merely to Swansea - that "ugly, lovely town". 

Still, the programme faithfully followed the by-now-painfully-familiar format which I've outlined so many times I could probably sketch out Mark Mardell's pieces for him in advance.

First came the anti-Brexit angle announced in the programme's introduction:
Mark Mardell: Welcome to The World This Weekend. This is Mark Mardell. Boris Johnson is rebuked by Cabinet colleagues for an ill-timed intervention on Brexit. The Foreign Secretary was promising to spend more money on the NHS after we leave, but what will happen to poorer parts of the UK which got buckets of cash from the European Union? I've been to Swansea.
Voice 1: My fear is that Brexit will be used as an opportunity not only to grab powers back from our National Assembly but to reduce the amount of investment that we are getting in Wales as well.
Voice 2: Cutting edge projects, like rail electrification, like Swansea Bay Lagoon, are going to be burned on the altar of Brexit.
Mark Mardell: We'll hear what the Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has to say about that. 
Then came the usual heavily one-sided report from Mark Mardell where - despite Wales (including Swansea) voting Leave - MM simply presented us with a string of voices worried about/critical of Brexit. The one exception was a Remain voter who thinks things it won't make much difference to the success of his business one way or the other. If a single one of those voices voted Leave in the referendum I'll eat Mark Mardell's hat (if he's got one). 

Finally came the final scene of the usual The World This Weekend script - the 'balancing' interview. This was the Remain-voting Conservative minister Alun Cairns, now cast as the pro-Brexit 'counter' voice to all of these Brexit doomsayers. As always happens at this stage, the interruptions started flying in as Mark questioned the minister from the perspective of those featured in his report. 

Job done for another week. Repeat again next week. 

Oh, Boris!



Andrew Marr certainly got himself a headline-making scoop this morning, getting Amber Rudd to agree that Boris was behaving like a "back seat driver", as well as getting her to talk about him as if he was an overexcited child, or dog. ("Aww, Andrew, he's soooo full of enthusiasm and energy, bless him! And he can be reeeally entertaining too!", she almost said - several times). 

Boris was certainly the main story this morning for AM's programme. Andrew's introduction began as follows:
It's strangely easy to forget, but as a country we are under attack. The Parson's Green bomb was the fifth terrorist attack this year and the police say they have foiled another half a dozen serious plots. You'd think that would dominate today's front pages - but no, Boris Johnson has lobbed a verbal firework into the Brexit debate and snaffled the headlines. Oh, Boris! 
Well oddly, today's front pages, contrary to what Andrew said, were actually dominated by the Parson's Green terrorist attack. The Observer, the Sunday Express, the Daily Star on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror led with it. The Sunday Times led with tuition fees, not Boris, but actually put the Parson's Green story first on their front page. The Sun on Sunday and the Sunday People went with their own stories. Boris only led the Sunday Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday. Oh, Andrew!

Jokes on Sunday


(Mostly garnered from this amusing corny Twitter feed. One I heard a few times on my holiday in Spain. Can you guess which one?)

  • Took the shell off my racing snail. Thought it might speed him up. If anything, it made him more sluggish.
  • My wife accused me of being a transvestite. So I packed her things and left.
  • Have YOU had to walk 500 miles? Were you advised to walk 500 more? You could be entitled to compensation. Call the Pro Claimers now!
  • A Muslim strip club in Benidorm. The Muslim stripper comes out. The crowd gets rowdy. Suddenly someone cries out, 'Come on love, show us your face!'. And then the chant goes up, 'Get your nose out for the lads!'
  • I went to the doctors with hearing problems. He said, "Can you describe the symptoms?" I said, "Homer's a fat bloke and Marge has blue hair".
  • My wife told me women are better at multitasking than men. So I told her to sit down and shut up. Guess what? She couldn't do either!

And the biggest joke of all...

  • If you don't have a TV licence, you could get sent to prison...where you can watch TV all day, without needing a licence.

Sunday Morning Live



In other Sunday morning-related news, Sunday Morning Live had a very odd discussion on the question, 'Is religion dying out in Britain?' It was odd because there were 5 religious people on the panel (or on the video screen) who think it isn't and just one humanist who thinks it is. 

You can usually tell who's putting the 'unpopular' view on a BBC programme like this though, even when the panels are balanced. They tend to get challenged more by the presenter. Here the chap who thinks drinking alcohol is far less harmful than some people claim found himself on the receiving end of Sean Fletcher's sharpest challenges and, later, Kathy Gyngell of The Conservative Woman got the full interruption treatment from young Sean for espousing socially conservative views on the family. She also endured Sean telling her that people on Twitter will be thinking, "You are from another era", as they heard her views. (Charming!)

The Sunday Politics


The swallows must be getting twitchy. Autumn will soon be upon us, and all the Sunday morning political programmes are now back.

The Sunday Politics looks much the same, except for having a new presenter - Sarah Smith.

Smiley Smiley Sarah Smith

She may have to work on her wit and whimsy lest she makes it a glum watch every week. Dullness doesn't make for enjoyable viewing.

Will she prove as even-handed as Andrew Neil? Only time will tell, but she seemed even-handed enough to me today...

...with one possible exception: It will be interesting to see how she handles Labour Party interviews, particularly if there turns out to be a pronounced difference in how she treats hard-left and centre-left Labour interviewees. The pro-Corbyn interviewee today certainly got much tougher treatment than the New Labour interviewee. We'll see if that's a one-off over the coming months.

Also on the subject of The Sunday Politics...


Thinking again about Julia Hartley-Brewer's complaint on Question Time that she's "the sole Leaver on the BBC panel...most of the time" (which wasn't true about most of her QT appearances), that must have come about, in part, because of her appearances on The Sunday Politics where the three journalists on the panel each week almost invariably consist of 1 Leaver and 2 Remainers.

Indeed, scanning through the episode list for 2017, there have been 25 editions this year. Only one panel has been 'two against one' in favour of Leave. The other 24 have been 'two against one' in favour of Remain.

That's a striking imbalance.

Even the dodgy defence that Andrew Neil is assumed to be a Leaver and, thus, somehow balances it out (dodgy because AN was scrupulously fair on the Brexit issue) will surely no longer hold now that AN is gone, and I doubt anyone seriously believes that Sarah Smith is a closet Leaver.

Priorities


This is curious. Both Sky News and ITV News are still leading their websites with the latest UK terrorist attack:



The BBC News website, in contrast, has relegated the story down its running order. (It's now a lower priority story than a piece on James Bond):


Meanwhile, and perhaps not coincidentally, Mail Online's main headline at the moment is:


Now, the Mail report is more cautious than its headline and adds caveats like "If true", but the question remains: Why is the BBC demoting the importance of this story at the moment? Is it because of where it could be heading?

Update 8.40: The story has now returned to the top of the BBC News website:

Saturday, 16 September 2017

A blast from the recent past



Regular readers of our little blog will perhaps recall our previous posts about the BBC's eloquent Central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe and his many impartiality-busting reports about Hungary and the migrant crisis (and Brexit). 

His support for non-European migrants illegally entering Europe and his disdain for those who oppose their coming (the Hungarian government, the bulk of the Hungarian population, many Hungarian churches) is something his BBC reporting has never bothered to disguise. 

I've not heard him for a while but there he was on today's From Our Own Correspondent and a warm breeze of bias-filled nostalgia wafted across the Danube towards me like a memory of Tokay (a false memory as I've never been lucky enough to sample any).

I listened to him bang on about the migrant situation again this morning - his voice lowering as he described the baddies who oppose the mass entrance of people with names like 'Mohammed', his voice lifting as he described those making it through Hungary's tough anti-migrant measures (including some he's happy - on what didn't some like very long's acquaintance - to call his "friend") and those helping them do so.

And those Christian churches who don't want to bring in those migrants en masse are failing to show Christian charity, according to the BBC's Nick today.

If you read BBC Nick's Twitter feed (which he doesn't link to the BBC, despite his own website saying he's been the BBC's Central Europe correspondent since 1996), you'll see that he's no more impartial there. He's pro-immigration, anti-Brexit, Islamophile, pro-Soros, anti-Orban, etc, etc. 

If you then read the detailed posts we've posted about Nick Thorpe, you'll find most of those views reflected in his official BBC reporting. 

Were I an editor on a programme like From Our Own Correspondent alarm bells would ring over concerns about bias every time Nick Thorpe was asked for a piece. Evidently, those alarm bells don't ring for the team behind From Our Own Correspondent.

Maybe, it's his eloquence and mellifluous voice. Or maybe it's just the BBC being the BBC.

Another update


John Sweeney

There are times when you absolutely despair of the standards of reporting in this country. 

I certainly felt like that catching up with David Keighley's latest Newswatch posts about the sad death of a Polish man, Arkadiusz Jozwik, in Harlow last year and the BBC's atrocious reporting of it


A youth was sentenced for Mr Jozwik's manslaughter this week. 

Things, however, weren't as the BBC reported them. The BBC got it wrong.

It wasn't just the BBC of course - and Brendan O'Neill rips into the rest of the media at Spiked over this - but the BBC are a licence-fee-funded public broadcaster and their lapses were particularly egregious, especially John Sweeney's absolutely shocking Newsnight report, which, if you recall, ended like this:
ERIC HIND: (fragment of word, unclear) I don’t know if I can mention names but I mean . . .
JOHN SWEENEY:  Mention names!
ERIC HIND: But I mean, Nigel Farage, I mean, thank you for that, because you are part of this death, and you’ve got blood on your hands, thanks to you, thanks for all your decision, wherever you are, er...yeah, it’s your call.
JOHN SWEENEY: Nigel Farage has always denied this allegation. As the search for clues and answers continues, the fear is that two poisons [violence and racism] have come together to a lethal result. 
The BBC asserted on the News at Six that the death of Arkadiusz Jozwik was the result of an "unprovoked attack". The court found otherwise, deciding that Mr Jozwik and his friend (both heavily drunk) had behaved provocatively, shouting racist abuse at a black man and at the English youths. 

The BBC asserted on Newsnight (through the mouth of Evan Davis) that Mr Jozwik was "beaten to death". The court found otherwise, concluding that Mr Jozwik had died from impact with a pavement following a blow from a single youth that was not intended to kill him. 

The BBC's Daniel Sandford on the News at Six asserted it was a "frenzied" attack. The court found otherwise. (See previous paragraph). 

Radio 4 Today reporter Dominic O'Connell asked the Polish deputy prime minister, "And tragically, we had a Polish man attacked and killed in Harlow in Essex on Saturday. Do you fear actually that some Poles might be motivated to return simply because they fear the Brexit vote has stirred some racist feeling against them?" - a linkage the court failed to find.

The whole tenor of the BBC's reporting was that 'people "fear" this was a racist hate crime provoked by the Brexit vote. (Both John Sweeney and Daniel Sandford used that form of words.) The court found otherwise, failing to find any evidence that it was a racist hate crime related to the Brexit vote - rather the reverse in fact.

*******

Nigel Farage is understandably furious at the BBC's behaviour here - especially John Sweeney's - and no one, whatever you think of Mr Farage, could surely feel otherwise. 

John Sweeney and Newsnight owe him an apology for starters. Whether John Sweeney is big enough a man to give Nigel Farage such an apology is something that remains to be seen. It's to be hoped that he is.

(JS seems, however, to have forgotten the story completely, having tweeted nothing about the sentencing this week).

*******

Hopefully the BBC will be held to account over this and will make a full and widely-broadcast apology. 

Such appallingly inaccurate and loaded reporting is hardly what the BBC is supposed to be about.

Accentuating the negative


Catching up with other matters (and with considerable thanks to a reader for helping me do so), the BBC engaged in some strange reporting this past week over Sir James Dyson's latest pronouncements over Brexit. 

Sir James was and is, as you'll probably know, an enthusiast for the prospects of a post-Brexit Britain, but you wouldn't have known it from the BBC's initial reporting of his latest interviews. 

Where Sky News was going with the headline UK should make a 'clean break' from EU, says James Dyson the BBC chose to go with Sir James Dyson expects no Brexit deal

If you read the BBC and the Sky reports side-by-side I suspect you'll agree that the BBC was bringing the negatives to the fore, turning it into a 'bad news' story, while Sky was presenting Sir James's views much more in the round. 

You'd think the BBC had an anti-Brexit bias from such reporting, wouldn't you?

John Simpson lives in hope


The Fallen Lady?

The BBC's John Simpson has written a heartfelt piece for the Telegraph about Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's 'Rohingya crisis' (as the BBC describes it) wherein the BBC's World Affairs Editor registers his conflicted feelings about the situation. 

He used to find Daw Suu "magnificent" but, like many others of his way of thinking, is now seriously 'disturbed' by her silence over the treatment of Burma's Muslim Rohingya population.

He's hoping for the best though. He clearly can't bring himself to give in to his deepest fear - that she's not the "captivating" liberal woman he used to fervently believe she was. 

He's still hoping she's actually sympathetic to the Muslims and is about to unleash the full force of her former moral authority at the UN to make everything right again.

He may not have noticed the much-reported comments that Daw Suu's reaction to being grilled by Mishal Husain last year was to complain afterwards, "No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim". 

Committees and Panels


For those who are hoping that Parliament might closely scrutinise the BBC's output for bias over their Brexit coverage then the new composition of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee will probably prove a deep disappointment. 

It's eleven members all opposed Brexit in the EU referendum (though one of its members, Julian Knight, has subsequently taken up cudgels against the BBC's negative reporting of Brexit).

That almost makes BBC panels look balanced. 

Julia in the Remainers' Den

Talking of which, Julia Hartley-Brewer raised that very point about BBC panels on this week's edition of Question Time. The famous David Dimbleby naturally leaped in instantly (in the manner of all BBC presenters whenever the BBC is criticised):
Julia Hartley-Brewer: The reality is, that's not what the British people want, that's why people like me...and I note, once again, that I'm the sole Leaver on the BBC panel...
David Dimbleby: (interrupting) How often are you the sole Leaver on a BBC panel?
Julia Hartley-Brewer: Most of the time...
David Dimbleby: (interrupting) Every time you've been on this programme you've been with Nigel Farage as far as I can see. (Laughter from audience).
Julia Hartley-Brewer: I've never been on the panel with Nigel Farage.
David Dimbleby: Have you not? Have you not?
Julia Hartley-Brewer: Never. Never.
Checking back, Julia has been on Question Time ten times, first appearing in 2004, and, yes, David Dimbleby was wrong. She has never been on the panel with Nigel Farage.

That said, in the past ten years she's only once before been the sole Leaver on the QT panel (8 May 2015) and in the run-up to the referendum (25 February 2016) was actually on a panel where Leavers outnumbered Remainers.

But there are plenty of other BBC panels she's been on besides QT panels. She could be right about those.

BBC on BBC


A friendly fire incident occurred yesterday on Twitter between the BBC's World Affairs Editor and the BBC's Silicon Valley reporter following the Parsons Green terrorist attack:


That didn't go down too well with the irascible John Simpson:


POTUS bad


Hugh Sykes (r)

Having only just come back from a holiday in sunny Spain I thought that the best way to catch up with the news and see if I'd missed anything important was to click onto Twitter and see what the usual BBC suspects were saying. 

The big news yesterday it appears was that Donald Trump had tweeted something objectionable. Oh, and that there'd been another terrorist attack in London.

Apparently, the big news (the Trump tweet) was actually about the other story (the terrorist attack), but the Trump tweet was unquestionably the bigger news event for these BBC tweeters. They certainly weren't impressed with the U.S. president.

Here's Hugh Sykes, for example, representing all the others:


********

Meanwhile, over on the BBC website Anthony Zurcher was adding his 'analysis' to the BBC's main article about the Trump tweet. This went through several edits to tone down its opinionated nature. The title 'Changing the subject' gained a question mark (changing it from an assertion to a question), and the paragraph:
Besides his London remarks on Friday morning, the president again blasted Senate procedural rules, called for his Muslim travel ban to be "tougher", said the fight against the so-called Islamic State should be "nasty", and slammed ESPN, a US sports cable network, for being too political.
was a purged version of what had originally read: 
The president's twitter feed on Friday morning was peculiar, although not necessarily surprising. Besides his London remarks, he again blasted Senate procedural rules, called for his Muslim travel ban to be "tougher", said the fight against the so-called Islamic State should be "nasty", and slammed ESPN, a US sports cable network, for being too political.
Still even these edits didn't tone its opinionated tone down that much it must be said. His 'analysis' still reads like opinion throughout...

...as it usually does.