Monday, 25 January 2021

Later January Open Thread

 


The National Guard are out in force around the blog, so it's time to inaugurate a new Open Thread. 

Thanks for your comments.

Computer Says No (again)

  


We wondered, a day or so ago, how Panorama would get on with their Freedom of Information requests to the BBC regarding the Martin Bashir/Princess Diana affair. 

It would be truly extraordinary if the BBC turned down its own current affairs flagship, but then the BBC is a strange beast. 

The Scotsman newspaper reports today that their own FoI request to the BBC - asking the BBC to provide a breakdown of the number of complaints received by the corporation for each broadcast of Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government’s daily televised briefings - has been refused. 

The broadcaster gave The Scotsman the usual response, that the information has to be kept secret for the purposes of “journalism, art of literature”.

Here's a bigger slice of the BBC's waffle:

“Editorial complaints form part of the ongoing review of the standards and quality of particular areas of programme making with a view to further enhancing these standards; the complaints themselves and the information associated with them plays a significant role in helping to inform editorial discussion and decisions going forward.

"In this way, information relating to editorial complaints is used to inform future content and improve the quality of journalistic output. This is an important part of the BBC’s process of creating and improving programmes.

"The BBC, as a media organisation, is under a duty to impart information and ideas on all matters of public interest and the importance of this function has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights.

"Maintaining our editorial independence is a crucial factor in enabling the media to fulfil this function.”

Well might The Scotsman feeling aggrieved. All they were asking for were the numbers. 

I'm guessing that the BBC finds them embarrassing.

Snowflakes

  


If you were watching the paper reviews on the BBC News Channel last night, you might have caught presenter Lewis Vaughan Jones talking about the snow, and snowmen. Guess what this Lewis calls 'snowmen' though? 

22:44 We'll stick with the front page of The Daily Telegraph seeing as we're there. There's a snowperson there wearing a mask. Very good. Giles, very quickly because we're almost out of time. Did you get out and throw a snowball today?

23:43 OK, let's go back to the front page of The Times, because a conversation isn't really a conversation here without talking about the weather, and that's exactly what we're going to do. The snow. And now the front page of The Times. Unfortunately...This is a lovely story. People out building snowpeople, throwing snowballs at each other. The Times has gone with a picture with a police van in the middle of the snow scene. Lizzie, what's going on?  

Sunday, 24 January 2021

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye

 

The BBC's main defender in print, The Guardian/Observer, has a piece today that comes out very strongly against Andrew Neil & Co. and their new television service(s). 

The first witness it calls in opposition to Andrew Neil's GB News (and another new service) is none other than the BBC's Jon Sopel. 

The Observer introduces his contribution by saying that he "sees the promised channels as a greater potential threat to democracy than Britain’s already openly biased newspapers."

And what is Jon Sopel then quoted as saying by The Guardian/Observer

Well, he's quoted at some length but I can sum it all up in a few words: He thinks that he's getting it about right, and that the BBC and the other existing main UK news channels are also getting it about right. Why? Because, he says, he and they seek to be 'fair' and 'balanced' and don't propagandise. 

Paging Mandy Rice-Davies!

And pull the other one!

I'm surprised Andrew Neil hasn't commented on this on Twitter yet, as far as I can see (and I've checked). Wonder what he thinks of Jon Sopel's appearance in this anti-GB News piece?

*******

UPDATE: On a related theme, and fresh in...SHOCK NEWS!!! The Guardian (which 'some say' is the inky wing of the BBC) comes out in favour of the BBC: 


*******

FURTHER UPDATE: And here's a little Twitter feedback for Jon Sopel:
Martin Daubney: Absolute cobblers here from BBC’s North America Editor who sees new British TV channels as a “threat to democracy”. If the BBC & the rest had been impartial over Brexit/Trump/COVID we might not need alternatives. Bring it on - and let the market decide!
Ella T: The BBC's Jon Sopel said what? Can there be a more biased, warped individual reporting from USA than him? The gravy train for him and his ilk is coming to an end.
Richard Hammonds: Sopel has been a Trump hater from day one. Every single report he makes is negative biased and twisted. Just watch him about turn into the 'love-in' mode for Biden. Utter garbage is the BBC. It is now a propaganda unit not a news outlet.

Shifting the goalposts

  


Blog favourite Lewis Goodall has, as ever, been in the thick of the Twitter action today.

It all began with John Stevens of the Daily Mail tweeting (following the Andrew Marr show): 

Hancock: UK has vaccinated more people in past three days than France has in total.

Enter Lewis, stage left:

Lewis Goodall, Newsnight: No doubt the UK is doing well on the vaccines front but long term we probably need to realise that the “World Cup of Vaccines” prism isn’t very helpful. Our biggest neighbour not vaccinating people quickly isn’t just their problem, it’s ours too.

That goes for the whole world. If we can see anything at the moment it’s the danger of variants arising where prevalence is high. Those variants may prove resistant or semi-resistant to vaccines. We’re not truly out of this until the planet is, or at least has it under control.

Moreover we might need to revisit how we’re talking about this and say “given one dose” rather than “vaccinated”. Behavioural scientists I’ve spoken to are concerned that the word “vaccinated” while we’re primarily giving one dose risks giving people a false sense of security.

Here's what happened next - with a special callout to Mr Whelk for spotting a particularly sly move by Lewis:

*******

Iain Lees: Ffs grow up, you whiny little man.

******* 

redfeathers: Given the flack they took for not participating in the EU procurement scheme, can't really blame them for comparisons with EU.

Lewis Goodall: Think entirely fair for them to point out NHS is doing very well at rolling out and to praise the Vaccine Task Force which has done a great job. But as I say, long term this isn’t going to be solved through one or even several national roll outs. It’s got to global action.

Billy Whelk: Going well... it’s the NHS wot done it. Going badly it’s Boris personally at fault. Is that how journalism works now? This is very poor analysis.

*******

Jill: Why is it? Can’t you for once acknowledge how well we’re doing. Husband had his jab this morning and hasn’t stopped praising the slickness, speed and competence of the people involved. Take a day off from running our country down there’s a good boy.

LGB: He really is an overpaid activist.

*******

Emma Lercy: True. But can you imagine the storm of criticism from press and public if France was doing so many more jabs than UK?  It’s all pretty unproductive commentary but when the media bang on about “worst this, slowest that”, with little analysis and context, it’s inevitable.

*******

David Woodley: So it is no competition? Why then do you in the MSM keep comparing death rates?

Phil: Very much doubt you will get an answer - really does show the underlying narrative that is being pushed.

******* 

And my favourite:

Chris Merchant: From the reporter who last year reveled in the "World Cup of PPE" and the "World Cup of Ventilators" and this year is "helpfully" giving us the "World Cup of Cases" and the "World Cup of Deaths".

Lewis is certainly one for shifting the goalposts, when it suits.

One for BBC Trending?

 


Sounds interesting, Marianna. But what about daft MSM conspiracy theories promoted by political editors of major UK broadcasters, like the one about a Downing Street photo of the UK PM's call to Joe Biden featuring a photoshopped telephone cord?

Well, ITV's Robert Peston read a tweet today from a right-bashing parody account called Michael Govern Ready (@mikegove12):

It was a joke of the kind such left-leaning political parody sites favour - i.e. clever, if not especially funny - but ITV's political editor didn't seem to realise that and took it seriously. 

(The parody tweeter himself/herself couldn't believe that people ('normally sane' people) were actually taking it at face value. Whoever it is behind that account has had quite a day!). 

The sainted Robert then put his tin-foil hat on, stuck a couple of carrots up his nose, said 'Wibble!' out loud, and sprang into Twitter action with 3 characteristically gormless tweets (no offence!) spread over a couple of wasted hours:

  1. This is flipping weird. The phone cable should be visible in the mirror descending from Boris Johnson's watch, in this official Downing St picture. It’s not. What is going on?
  2. Or maybe the angle of the mirror just means it looks as though the cable is going straight down when in life it’s at an angle. I am just trying to work out if that’s physically (as in physics) possible.
  3. And just for the avoidance of doubt, Downing St tells me they would never doctor or photoshop a picture, and - as I assumed - it is the angle that makes it look strange. But it is certainly strange.

My favourite chain of Twitter responses (so far) runs like this:

  • Giles Dilnot: What ARE you talking about? It took less than two seconds to locate and is exactly where it should be.
  • Prof Colin Talbot: Giles is right. Think Robert should be going to Specsavers.
  • SharonTateModern: I think he should be going to the job centre, but suit yourself.

An even stranger thing here is that Downing Street actually dignified Robert Peston's dopey conspiracy-mongering with a response. 

I suppose they felt they had to because he's one of the UK's top broadcast political editors. 

(And the fact that he's one of the UK's top broadcast political editors is the strangest thing of all here).

JoJo gets a coming-out present from the BBC



Some people aren't impressed that the JoJo story [JoJo Siwa 'never been more happy' after coming out] is on the BBC News home page as one of the Top 5 headline stories:
  • This is on the BBC News front page on their website. Unbelievable!!
  • Quick everyone, drop what your doing. Some YouTuber you've never heard of is gay. This is the absolute most important thing in the whole world right now. Bow down and pay homage to a gay stranger!!!
In fairness to the BBC, yes, the piece may be clickbait to appeal to the young and 'woke' but it working for them: JoJo's the 3rd 'most read' at the moment:

Inevitably

 

Andrew Marr had the Israeli health minister Yuli Edelstein on today to talk about Covid and vaccines. I guessed yesterday that Mr Marr would do the usual BBC thing, and he did: Precisely 34.5% of the 7½ minute interview consisted of Andrew confronting (and interrupting) Mr Edelstein over Israel's behaviour towards the Palestinians. 

I'm assuming that this interview is what provoked David Collier to post the following:

The BBC pushed more disgraceful lies and anti-Israel bias today.

Truth is, the BBC love dead Jews, weak Jews, injured Jews, scared Jews.

It's why they hate Israel so much. They can't stand  independent, strong, empowered Jews.

A successful Israel is a nightmare for the BBC.

It's one muddy marathon after another


For those who missed it, here was Andy Marr's intro this morning
Good morning. Everyone seems to agree - this is a race. We vaccinate as fast as possible, it mutates as fast as possible. If we win, Covid-19 withers, falls back and lurks on the sidelines of human society. If it wins, then all of our futures are narrower, poorer, bleaker, and, in some cases, shorter. The vaccine roll-out is going well, but even the Prime Minister, a natural optimist, is talking about the new variant being more deadly and refusing to confirm we will be back to normal life by the summer. What we're learning right now - sorry, folks - is this race is not a sprint, it's one muddy marathon after another.

Hugs

 

 

As StewGreen notes, at her first press conference Fox News's Peter Doocy asked Jen Psaki tougher questions than Jon Sopel:

Peter Doocy: Why wasn’t President Biden and all members of the Biden family masked at all times last night if he signed an executive order that mandates masks on federal lands at all times?

Jen Psaki: I think, Steve, he was celebrating an evening — a historic day in our country. And certainly he signed the mask mandate because it’s a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks, how it can save tens of thousands of lives. We take a number of Covid precautions, as you know here, in terms of testing, social distancing, mask-wearing ourselves as we do every single day, but I don't know I have more for you on it other than that. 

Peter Doocy: As Joe Biden often talks about, it is not just important the example of power but the power of our example, was that a good example for people watching who might not pay attention normally?

Jen Psaki: Well, Steve, I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders — including almost half of them related to Covid. The requirements that we’re all under every day here to ensure that we’re sending that message to the public. Yesterday was a historic moment in our history. He was inaugurated as President of the United States. He was surrounded by his family. We take a number of precautions, but I think we have bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time. 

(In your were wondering, Peter Doocy's dad, a Fox anchor, is called Steve. Jen Psaki was mixing them up).  

On that theme, Jon Sopel kept calling Wednesday's inauguration "a socially distanced inauguration for a nation tearing itself apart", but I was puzzled by all the hugging going on at the inauguration and the fact that no one on the BBC was commenting on it. 

Before going back inside the Capitol building, for example, I saw Kamala Harris hug both Barack and Michelle Obama. She then leaned in to talk to someone in the military while keeping her face very close to his. And then - ironically at exactly the moment Jon Sopel started talking again once more about how "socially distanced" it all was - she hugged another couple (at some length). She then gave a man a hug, and then hugged two more women as she walked up the stairs. And that was only the bits when she was being viewed by the cameras. She probably hugged more. 

Was the new VP acting as a super-spreader then? No one seems unduly bothered. Indeed, as Jen Psaki, might say, Kamala Harris was celebrating a historic day and they have bigger issues to worry about. Maybe.

Frustration at 'Panorama'

 


Sticking with the same paper...

The Mail on Sunday's Jonathan Bucks reports that BBC journalists working on a John Ware-fronted Panorama special investigation into how Martin Bashir obtained his famous interview with Princess Diana - and a possible BBC cover-up over it - "have complained that BBC bosses are unwilling to co-operate". 

They are said to feel "frustrated" after "the Corporation denied them easy access to even the most basic documents". 

Producers trying to access the BBC’s broadcasting guidelines from 1995, when the interview was broadcast, were told they would need to submit Freedom of Information requests – an arduous process that takes up to 20 working days for information to be provided.

Oh dear! Many of us are aware of the BBC's reluctance to give in to Freedom of Information requests anyhow. Wonder if Panorama will get the usual response?

We can advise you that the information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of ‘journalism, art or literature.’  The BBC is therefore not obliged to provide this information to you and will not be doing so on this occasion….

Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before

 

It's a strange sensation, dipping into the Sunday papers online and finding The Mail on Sunday going heavily with the BBC Teach telling primary school-aged children that the there are 'over 100 genders'. 

Their political editor Glen Owen has a piece on it, as does columnist Sarah Vine (Michael Gove's missus). The first is headlined: 

BBC lockdown home-schooling programme tells 9-year-olds there are 'over 100 genders' and shows kids talking to adults about 'bi-gender', 'genderqueer' and 'pansexual' identities

and the second is headlined: 

BBC home-schooling programme that tells 9-year-olds there are 'over 100 genders' is a masterclass in indoctrination... on the licence fee

Now, you'll have probably guessed the 'strange' bit about this: The  'over 100 genders' BBC Teach video is old news, very widely reported two years ago. Most of you will probably remember it.

It's something we wrote about in September 2019 and The Times covered it too. And so did the MoS's sister paper the Daily Mail

So why is the Mail on Sunday bringing this up as if it's a brand new story now? 

I assumed that it was perhaps being broadcast again on BBC TV as part of the BBC's much-publicised lockdown school programming, but the article quotes the BBC saying it isn't and itself says it's only online. 

It's still just available on the BBC Teach website, online, unchanged, just as it was when we first wrote about it in 2019. 

So, the Mail on Sunday is just recycling an old story it seems - unless its journalists were completely unaware of it till now.

Still, it's a good story, and one that always makes its readers fume at the BBC's 'wokery'. I'm sure they'll be stirred up all over again when they wake up this morning - those that aren't rolling their eyes at being fed old news that is! 

Update: However 'old news' it is, it's driving a lot of anti-BBC comment on the #DefundtheBBC hashtag on Twitter. It's striking a chord again.

*******

Glen Owen is on a roll, incidentally. He's also got a piece about a new BBC Three documentary 'DIY Trans Teens' which he says (a) "reveals how children can buy sex-change drugs" and (b) "will  publicise the work of a doctor who has been struck off in UK" but "who now has an online firm overseas  that offers gender-change drugs to people" - drugs the effects of which "are unknown and may include long-term harm". He makes it sound irresponsible. Whether or not it is, only time will tell because the programme apparently isn't yet finished. 

Saturday, 23 January 2021

"So embarrassing"

 


Did you see Jon Sopel's first question to Joe Biden's new press secretary Jen Psaki

Did it make you cringe?

Neither of them took it very seriously, as you can tell from his laughing eyes...


...and her [p]sarky reply:

Jon Sopel: What happened to the Churchill bust and what should be read about its removal from the Oval Office?
Jen Psaki: Oooh, such an important question! It's the plane of today. 

Stephen Bush, the political editor of The New Statesman, wasn't impressed. And nor was another New Statesman author:
Stephen Bush, New Statesman: I know I'm a joyless bore, but isn't, say, that Blinken has said a genocide has taken place in Xinjang and there's another vote on this exact topic coming in Parliament a more important question for our public service broadcaster? Isn't the point of the levy we literally take the country's poorest *to court* to enforce that it frees them up to be joyless bores? 
Ian Leslie, New Statesman: This is pathetic. It makes Jon Sopel look silly but more importantly, as Stephen Bush suggests, it's exactly what the BBC shouldn't be doing. The BBC should always be trying to be more serious than its competitors. That's the licence that the licence fee gives it. And when you aim over the heads of the audience, more often than not you meet them head on. People are not stupid. 
Darren Sugg: "Such an important question". The Press Sec beginning the answer by taking the p*ss is not a good sign. 
Ian Leslie: So embarrassing.

*******

UPDATE: A rather different way of putting it, but a similar sentiment:

The Leave Alliance: See, this is why the BBC is shit. Here you have a "journalist" with privileged access to the *White House*, who could have asked any question under the sun be it pertaining to trade, security, Covid (take your pick) and this is what the useless BBC obsesses about. Total wastrels.

I mean, you can argue the toss whether it's got a left wing bias but if you wanted definitive proof that it's a useless heap shit that adds no value to public discourse, then this is it. But this is essentially a manifestation of that metropolitan bias.
And the worst part about this? You could raise this issue with BBC news producers and they wouldn't even see what the problem was. They think this guy is elite journalism - and the worse they get, the better they think they are.

This is the same media that gives us all the other sub-mediocre deadbeats who routinely waste airspace on trivia, not having the first idea how to interrogate an issue - and then they tell us we should be glad to pay for it.

'Woke' defence work from the BBC website

 

Gingerly re-entering culture war territory, I spotted a BBC article and a response from Raheem Kassam on Twitter:


The links for the two pieces are here:

BBCKrystina Arielle: Star Wars supports High Republic host after racist abuse

AltNewsMediaNew Star Wars Show Host Has History Of Anti-White, Racist Tweets

I'd suggest you read the second piece first. 

I always proceed with huge caution when I'm reading pieces like Raheem's, but having read the evidence of her "history of anti-white, racist tweets" there I felt primed to read the BBC's take and found myself laughing (though not in a good way) at all the blatant partiality. 

Let's put in plainly: AltNewsMedia is full of 'anti-woke' agenda-pushing, but their agenda-pushing is at least matched by the BBC's 'pro-woke' agenda-pushing in this BBC News website report. 

It should all be studied at respectable universities (if there are any left). 

And if AltNewsMedia acts as the hostile prosecution against Ms Arielle here, then the BBC acts, 100%, as her defence.

Here's the whole BBC article, with added commentary from me, in italics and [] - which, hopefully, won't make it too hard to read. Please see if you agree:

The official Star Wars Twitter account has tweeted in support for Krystina Arielle, the host of the upcoming Star Wars: The High Republic Show, after she received online harassment. [Her as the innocent victim, starting off straight away on her side]. 

Tweets by Arielle surfaced of her speaking about the role white people play in upholding racism. [That's one way of putting it. How about saying 'about the role she claims white people play in "upholding racism''? How about also reporting that other people would say she was making offensive, racist statements herself? - Well, that's coming next. Sort-of.]

She then started receiving racist abuse, and accusations of being racist. [Fair accusations or unfair accusations? That's the question. The BBC clearly aren't even going there. They've decided the case already. The accusations are obviously unfair to this BBC reporter, despite them being inflammatory at the very least to surely any truly impartial observer].

But Star Wars tweeted in support of her, stating: "Our Star Wars community is one of hope and inclusivity". [More talk of support for her]

Ms Arielle was recently announced as the host of The High Republic Show, an upcoming web series about Star Wars: The High Republic, a new subseries of the Star Wars media franchise.

She came under attack [or, to put it more neutrally, 'was criticised'] after social media users resurfaced ['resurfaced' as a verb? We're in academese territory here] numerous old tweets, mostly from last year ['old tweets...mostly from last year'?! 'Offence archaeology' against people the BBC doesn't like can take tweets, and other statements, back decades and be held in damning evidence against them, so this is very telling, defensive language from the BBC here] when protests where taking place around the world in support of Black Lives Matter.

In some of her past tweets, Arielle references ['references'? More woke academese] white people while giving opinions on systemic racism. [That's one way of putting it again. Another way would be, 'In some of her past tweets, Arielle made reference to 'white people' while expressing her views on 'systematic racism'. And yet another way would be to say that 'in some of her past tweets she makes makes what some consider offensive, inflammatory comments about white people while talking about what she calls 'systemic racism']. In one, she states: "Just a reminder that white women are just as complicit in upholding and enforcing white supremacy." [Here the BBC might have mentioned that her critics says that she 'targets' whites, conservatives and women.]

"The last 24 hours have been ... not the greatest," she tweeted on Saturday, along with screenshots of highly offensive, racist messages. [Note the steering-the-reader language here. It probably, unfortunately, will have a huge deal of truth of it, but it continues to paint a picture, built throughout the article, that ALL the criticism of her is unfair and abusive and racist. We don't hear any criticism of her, - and there's plenty of reasonable, non-racist criticism out there from what I can see, none of which is featured here.] 

But many have spoken out in support of Arielle, while the hashtag #IStandWithKrystina started trending on Twitter. [Ah, yes, the famous Twitter echo chamber! And here being echoed by the BBC! "Many" have spoken out in her favour, they say...and here they come!]

[Here comes the first defence witness]. Matthew Mercer, host of the Critical Role podcast, which has featured her, said: "There are few as bright, badass and altogether wonderful as [Krystina Arielle], and anyone who tries to step into her ring better know we're right there beside her."

[Now comes another defence point]. This is not the first time someone involved in the Star Wars franchise has reported receiving racist abuse. 

[Here comes the second defence witness, via video link so to speak, to make that point]. Actor John Boyega said his casting in The Force Awakens elicited a blatantly racist backlash from some fans.

"Nobody else had the uproar and death threats sent to their Instagram DMs and social media, saying, 'Black this and black that and you shouldn't be a Stormtrooper,'" he told British GQ last year.

"Nobody else had that experience. But yet people are surprised that I'm this way. That's my frustration."

[And that's where it ends. No 'prosecution witnesses' were heard from, and all the featured tweets were supportive of her case. It couldn't have been more one-sided].

And if you weren't aware that you were reading a BBC News piece by a 'woke' BBC reporter you're given a You may also be interested in video from a London BLM protest organiser entirely from that female BLM protestor's (rather extreme, many might think) point of view


This is one of those 'woke' activist pieces that old BBC hands are said to worry about. And understandably so. 

It takes sides and bends the evidence to makes its case.

It's far, far away from being anything 'traditionally BBC' as far as impartiality goes. 

People may be appalled by the standard of BBC reporting here, but who's shocked anymore? 

In which Nick Robinson lets himself down

 

If only BBC journalists like Nick Robinson could resist the temptation to go for the easy 'gotcha'.

And I'm not talking about politicians here but (possibly licence-fee-paying) members of the public.

Going back to an earlier post, and Nick's notable tweet:

Nick Robinson: Was there a cover up of what was known about sexual harassment allegations? This is an extraordinary story about a war between the two leading figures in the drive for Scottish independence. Imagine how big it would be if it was about, say, Johnson & May.

One reply said

Leading Edge: This is a huge story but the BBC and other MSM hardly touch it.

At which Nick pounced and replied:

Nick Robinson: Except you’re commenting on the BBC reporting it so...

No, Nick. You're missing the word "hardly" in Leading Edge's comment. 

Leading Edge's point stands. 

Yes, Nick Eardley wrote a piece of the BBC website about it, but, as I wrote earlier, BBC One had barely touched the story, covering it (briefly) just twice so this year so far, and Newsnight has avoided it completely in 2021. 

That, in my book, supports Mr Edge's point that the BBC has 'hardly touched it'. 

I suspect Nick Robinson is well aware of that (he's not daft), but the chance for a cheap comeback proved far too alluring - hence his easy snark.

P.S. Nicola Sturgeon is back on The Andrew Marr Show tomorrow. Will Andrew go hard and dig deep, with an eye-watering, Boris-interview-like battering of interruptions, or not? 

(He's also got on Israel’s Minister of Health Yuli Edelstein, so where will he go with that interview too, as if we can't guess?)

First the came for...

 

It's perhaps a sign of how the particular the focus of BBC Trending's disinformation unit is (tunnel vision maybe?) that they are still busily tweeting away about QAnon and various right-wing sites like Gab being in trouble with the tech giants and seem to have completely failed to register the striking fact that the same tech giants - having dealt with Donald Trump and the Right - now appear to be moving in on the far-Left, apparently suspending high-profile Antifa accounts after the inauguration day riots in Portland (where the Democratic Party's HQ was attacked), Seattle and other US cities, and even shutting down the UK Socialist Workers Party's Facebook page. Censorship, once it begins, has a habit of gaining momentum. Will the BBC Trending crowd be quite as intensely relaxed, jaunty even, about this (if and when they get round to it) as they are when right-wing sites get taken down en masse

The Case of the Deleted Tweet

 

A Twitter mystery. 

Earlier today Emily Maitlis posted a tweet about crowds at a London airport with a cryptic remark that I can't quite remember. I thought on seeing it, 'What's she getting at there?'. I assumed she be 'getting at' something, sending out dog whistles of some kind to her followers to condemn someone or something, but I moved on and postponed thinking about it again till later. 

And now that tweet has vanished. 

Enjoying a bit of detective work I've tried tracking the replies.

One demanded "context", saying the crowds were probably socially distanced and complaining that "a once world-leading Broadcaster, setting the standards for others" has sunk to "now following the clicks".

Another wrote (after the deletion), "I’m a little concerned why you have deleted your earlier tweet featuring a photo of a busy Heathrow Airport terminal? Was it inaccurate? At times like these we need to rely on a vigilant and accurate media, if we don’t have this then what do we actually have?". 

Another wrote (before the deletion), "You do realise a lot of these people would have been sitting in close proximity to each other on their flights. The question should be why are so many people flying at all? Did you need to go to the States? Couldn’t you have done the job from the studio?"

That was a theme others took up: "That's the price you pay for your two week jolly in the States, paid for by licence payers."

Someone else accused her of "stirring": "You know that everyone now flying has had the 72 hour Covid test prior to flying in which case you know these people are  Covid free! Stop stirring - again."

A clue as to what Emily Maitlis might have been 'getting at' came with this reply: "The negative effects of Brexit are already being felt as British passport holders wait in constricted airport lobby with no social distancing."

*******

And having just written all this, I see that some fine soul screengrabbed the vanished tweet:


What point do you think Emily Maitlis was trying to make? And why did she delete her tweet (without comment) after an hour or two of replies?

*******

Whatever, it highlights again the dangers of social media overactivity by BBC presenters, for themselves and for the BBC as a whole. It keeps getting them into trouble.

Plus, that "following the clicks" charge against the BBC is demonstrated by this very tweet. It was just sent out, without context, begging for clicks.

And another good question was raised in those replies: Why does Emily Maitlis keep flitting backwards and forwards between the UK and the US during a pandemic rather than leave it to the US's many US-based journalists (e.g. Jon Sopel and Anthony Zurcher)? Is such travel necessary?

*******

Evening Update: Well, well, well...

Sky News is tweeting tonight about Sky's editor-at-large (must resist cruel puns!) Adam Boulton. 

Adam's not happy:
"This is welcome to Britain... not ideal." Sky's editor-at-large @adamboultonSKY was in a queue for one hour and 20 minutes at Heathrow, returning from the United States. The airport has said a two-metre rule inside has never been feasible.

It doesn't reflect well on Adam Boulton or Sky that they clearly failed to guess how most people would (very naturally) react to that 'entitled' tweet. 

They are now, of course, getting an absolute pasting for it.

Here's a small but representative selection:  

  • My heart bleeds for him. I’m sure the trip to the US was really essential too.
  • I noticed Sky, BBC, Ch4 etc. all sent multiple presenters and crew members to the US this past week. Could that not be covered by people already on site or remotely? It’s no use lambasting people who are struggling to put food on the table. Expecting them to step aside for you.
  • And to be fair no news reporters need to travel. Just use colleagues in the relevant countries.
  • We're in the middle of a global pandemic where most of us are stuck in our houses, so my cup of sympathy about his airport woes is, quite frankly, empty.
  • What was so important that he had to travel? Not heard of video calling? Instead just adds to the problem. Well done!

Many have been far less charitable.

Looking at this, Emily Maitlis now seems almost sensible for deleting her tweet. Adam Boulton and the crowd at Sky appear utterly clueless in comparison. (Kay and Beth might have a chuckle at this, if no one else).

TV tears at teatime

 

A letter to The Telegraph:

Larry King 1933-2021

 

An interviewer with a very different style to most interviewers today, Larry King has died aged 87.

The BBC News Channel bungled their announcement of his passing this afternoon:


Characteristically, Piers Morgan has combined a tribute with something about himself, but I do like the quote from Larry King here:

Larry King was a hero of mine until we fell out after I replaced him at CNN & he said my show was ‘like watching your mother-in-law go over a cliff in your new Bentley.’ (He married 8 times so a mother-in-law expert). But he was a brilliant broadcaster & masterful TV interviewer.

Another of our stories is missing

  


The extraordinary civil war in the SNP between supporters of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is proving gripping if nothing else, and now has the potential to bring down the previously all-conquering Scottish First Minister. 

As my favourite commenter on Scottish politics, Effie Deans, notes today though:

If the Salmond Scandal had happened in England it would be headline news on the BBC every day.

So far this year, it's made BBC news bulletins just twice - once on 8 January (when it got less than 2 minutes) and once last night (where it got 25 seconds) and - Newsnight hasn't covered it at all. 

Indeed, Lewis Goodall, who hyperactively tweets about every possible hint of scandal involving the Westminster government, remains resolutely uninterested in the story. He's tweeted nothing specifically about Mr Salmond since 24 Jan 2019

Wow. 14 counts against Alex Salmond. 9 sexual assaults. 2 attempted rapes. 1 breach of the peace. 2 indecent assaults. If these prove to be true, there are huge questions about how much, if anything, was to known to his SNP colleagues and those in the wider Scottish govt.

If those questions were "huge" then, now they're surely even bigger, given that "how much, if anything, was known" to Nicola Sturgeon is only the starting point. An even bigger question is: What there a conspiracy against Mr Salmond? And: Has there been a cover-up? Given that Lewis regularly travels up to the Scotland to report for Newsnight, why isn't he reporting on them now?

(Just to add to my point, he's retweeting stuff today about the Welsh Tory leader resigning after a Covid-busting booze-up). 

*******

UPDATE: Blimey, even Nick Robinson seems to see there's an issue here: 

Was there a cover up of what was known about sexual harassment allegations ? This is an extraordinary story about a war between the two leading figures in the drive for Scottish independence. Imagine how big it would be if it was about, say, Johnson & May. 

The top-rated reply reads:

This is a much bigger story about government corruption on an unprecedented scale Nick. Scottish media outlets silenced, pro indy quangos all over the place, misuse of data, grant based organisations government criticism bought off, Covid politicised. You guys have gone AWOL.  

*******

P.S. More from Effie Deans

We pay top BBC journalists hundreds of thousands of pounds to find out things. Not one of them has contributed to the revelations about Salmond and Sturgeon.

The view from the US embassy

  


The BBC's Dan Johnson (best known as 'the Cliff guy') was on droll form on Radio 4 this morning, making light of the whole Biden/Churchill bust business that the BBC's so absurdly bothered about. 

I think he may have enjoyed writing his Winston Churchill puns:

Never in the field of human sculpture was so much diplomatic significance imagined by so many yet acknowledged by so few. That's the tone of the US embassy's video, that trade links, military co-operation and the working partnership of presidents and prime ministers define the special relationship much more than a bust of Sir Winston Churchill and his proximity to power in the White House. "It's about people, values and trust", the video proclaims. Boris Johnson came to the sculpture's defense in 2016 after it was forced to surrender the sideboard in Barack Obama's Oval Office. It was Donald Trump who restored Winnie to the West Wing, but under Joe Biden those unmistakable features have been banished once more. But where? Shall we find them in the library? Shall we find them in the treaty room, or on the Hill? "An important question", the new White House press secretary conceded, though she couldn't immediately answer. Downing Street isn't making an issue of it, so bust out but no bust-up. The special relationship can grow. Its finest hour, quite possibly, still ahead.

And almost finally...

  


Yesterday brought us the news that Nissan has committed itself to a long term future in Sunderland, with 6,000 jobs now seeming secure and the future for 70,000 ancillary workers looking bright. 

Nissan's boss Ashwani Gupta said:

Brexit for Nissan is positive, and being the largest automaker in the UK, we will take this opportunity to redefine the industry here. 

Brexit gives us the competitive advantage, not only in the UK, but outside the UK also. Because in how many [manufacturing] locations in Europe are the batteries localised? Very few." 

The sort of problems that we are seeing in the ports is peanuts, frankly. For a global manufacturer that is running 150 markets and 40 plants around the world, to have additional documentation and to fill out a form at the border, it's nothing. 

We were prepared for it, we had upgraded our software and our processes, it's okay. Of course when you bring a change you need to have agility, to adapt to the new change - that's the beauty of the organisation.

BBC One's News at Ten did report the story, but it was the final one before the sport and given just 22 seconds: 

The future of Nissan's car plant in Sunderland has been secured, with the company saying the Brexit trade deal will allow it to continue manufacturing in the North East - and give it a competitive advantage. Nissan will begin making the batteries for its electric cars at the plant so that it can take advantage of zero trade tariffs, helping to secure 75,000 jobs here and across the EU.

It got 25 seconds on BBC One's News at Six (where it was the next to last story before the sport). 

I'd have expected a report at the very least, especially given the sheer scale of the previous coverage given to Nissan's future in Sunderland vis a vis Brexit. But now it's a positive story about Brexit it suddenly doesn't seem anywhere near so important to the BBC.

*******

Incidentally, the BBC's website article by Simon Jack underwent a few headline changes. It began around midnight with Nissan says Brexit deal 'positive' and commits to UK but by 7am had become Brexit: Nissan commits to keep manufacturing in Sunderland, reaching its final form Brexit: Nissan commits to keep making cars in Sunderland by 9am - the latter a definite toning-down of the first headline's Brexit positivity. Wonder if Simon changed it, or a BBC website editor?

Punchline

 

Good comic timing here...and not from HIGNFY:

A mass revolt against the BBC licence fee?


It was always going to be interesting to see how many over-75s would willingly pay for the BBC licence fee after the corporation welched on its deal with the Government to maintain the universal exception, and it turns out that more than a million people aged over 75 still haven't done so, “indicating a mass revolt against the compulsory charge" according to Matthew Moore of The Times

Though 2.7 million licences have been bought, on top of the 'more than a million people' who haven't take it up a further 750,000 on lower incomes have applied to continue receiving it free. 

Though the BBC must have breathed a sigh of relief this week at the Government's sharp pulling-back over decriminalising the licence fee, people are clearly taking matters into their own hands, and it's still not looking good for the BBC. 

Nitty-gritty

 

Matthew Moore, Media Correspondent of The Times, reports today that the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit has chucked out a complaint against Laura Kuenssberg for using the phrase “nitty-gritty” during an episode of Brexitcast

He (perhaps optimistically) describes the ruling as “the latest sign of the corporation’s shift away from so-called wokery”. 

At least one person (the BBC isn't saying exactly how many) complained when Laura K using the term while talking about Lee Cain leaving No 10. She said, “Before we get into the nitty-gritty for the saddo nerds like us who are fascinated by all this soap opera”. 

The background to this is the claim by some anti-racism campaigners that “nitty-gritty” originally referred to the detritus found in the bottom of transatlantic slave ships and, therefore, shouldn't be used. Etymologists rubbish that claim though, saying there is no convincing evidence for it, that the phrase was first printed in the 1930s and that none of its early uses has any connection to slavery whatsoever. Indeed, back in 2002 the BBC itself debunked the claim

The interesting thing, however, is how influential the forces of 'wokery' can be:
“Nitty-gritty” was included on a list of phrases to be avoided by sports commentators last summer, at a diversity briefing attended by hundreds of BBC, Sky, BT Sport and ITV staff. They were told to use alternatives such as “the basic facts”...

P.S. I see you can buy a Nitty Gritty Comb if you want to quickly and easily get rid of all head lice, nits and 'live' eggs in your children's hair - as recommended by Mumsnet, Jonathan Ross ("Have you got the Nitty Gritty Comb, with the long bits, with the twiddly bits? That's the best comb. You've got to get the Nitty Gritty comb. I'll draw it for you and you can get it on the way home. It's fantastic") and Jason Donovan ("I just can't get by without Nitty Gritty... it's a natural headlice treatment which Angela and I use on the kids. Nits are a big problem these days.") Get yours now while stocks last - or before the company is forced to change its name.

P.P.S. Here's Andrew Neil's take on the matter: "BBC rightly rejects complaint against Laura Kuenssberg for using phrase “nitty gritty”. Licence fees of numpties who complained should be tripled to contribute to cost of complaints procedure."

[As Guest Who notes at Biased BBCAndrew Neil here is engaging with "a BBC 100 lady of entitlement" on the matter, and it's really not going well for her]. 

The size of Wales

 

The news that the BBC spent over £1m of licence fee payers' money on external lawyers to fight the likes of Samira Ahmed over equal pay got me thinking. 

You know how geographical areas in the world are often compared to the size of Belgium (11,850 sq miles) or Wales (8,016 sq miles), well, how should BBC expenditure be described? 

How about these: The BBC has spent 'three times the salary of Emily Maitlis' on external lawyers here? Or the BBC has spent 'over twice the salary of Huw Edwards' on external lawyers here? Or the BBC has spent 'over half the salary of Gary Lineker' on external lawyers here?

Not for long...


 

As has been discussed here earlier in the week, blog favourite Daniel Sandford, Home Affairs Correspondent for BBC News, became a news story himself this week after taking a pasting on Twitter for saying "At £13.99 a month Netflix is now more than the BBC licence and there is no radio, no live TV, no news online etc etc". 

He later called it "a simple, observational statement" even after hordes of people had pointed out that it was actually spin. £13.99 a month is for Netflix Premium for up to 4 screens. The basic package remains £5.99 a month. 

My favourite part of this is where Daniel changed the subject when he got caught out:

Daniel Sandford: At £13.99 a month Netflix is now more than the BBC licence and there is no radio, no live TV, no news online etc etc

Paul W: I’m only paying £5.99 for Netflix.

Daniel Sandford: Not for long....

Darren Grimes: The basic plan will stay at £5.99/mth.

Daniel Sandford: But the BBC licence fee is for unlimited screens, radios, devices etc for a whole household so most similar to Netflix Premium. 

Another Pause for Art

 


It's not the first time that we've featured a painting by Simon Palmer, the master of moss of lichen. This one is called Pennine Railway

This time there's even a BBC-related excuse as Andrew Marr rightly described it as "stunning" the other day. 

Friday, 22 January 2021

Robert Peston is driving Newsnight's Deb Cohen insane!


As Charlie spotted...

If there's one thing ITV's political editor Robert Peston is known for - other than his unique manner of delivery and his legendary activities as a Punch & Judy man - it's for his famously loose lips. 

Last time those lips of his caused the collapse of Northern Rock and the entire world financial system. (Allegedly). 

And he's distinguished himself over the past near-year of Covid-related Downing Street press conferences by asking the most ill-judged questions at the greatest length. (No 'allegedly' needed).

Today, his loose lips - in the form of overeager fingers - have taken to Twitter and provoked Newsnight's Deb Cohen to pop the cosy media bubble and denounce him for being irresponsible:

Robert Peston, ITV: The government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (or Nervtag) has concluded that the new Covid-19 strain may be a bit more lethal than the existing strain. I've spoken to the influential Nervtag member, Prof Neil Ferguson about this. He has given me this statement: "It is a realistic possibility that the new UK variant increases the risk of death, but there is considerable remaining uncertainty". Four groups - Imperial, LSHTM, PHE and Exeter - have looked at the relationship between people testing positive for the variant vs old strains and the risk of death. That suggests a 1.3-fold increased risk of death. So for 60 year-olds, 13 in 1000 might die compared with 10 in 1000 for old strains. The big caveat is that we only know which strain people were infected with for about 8% of deaths. Only about 25% of people who eventually die from COVID get a pillar 2 test before they are hospitalised (at which point they get a pillar 1 test, but pillar 1 tests don’t tell us which strain they were infected with). And we can only distinguish the new variant from the old variant for about 1/3 of pillar 2 tests. All that said, the signal is there and is consistent across different age groups, regions and ethnicities." The worrying news is that although treatments for Covid-19 have improved, the new strain does seem to be more lethal. I understand Sir Patrick Vallance will address this issue at the press conference with Boris Johnson later today. The original work on the lethality of the new strain was done by Nick Davies of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and has been checked and rechecked by assorted other experts (including, obviously, Prof Ferguson).

Robert Peston's tweets are like his TV contributions. They flow on, without regard to form, like the poorest early 20th Century modernist poetry, from tweet to tweet...

...unlike Deb Cohen's. She's straight to the point, reacting to Robert's outpourings:

Deborah Cohen, BBC Newsnight: I don't often do this...but this is irresponsible. We should be able to see the evidence and the analyses so we fully understand any potential limitations or confounders. Science by briefing has become an unfortunate part of this pandemic and it's not helpful. It's really not good for public trust and probably not good for science in the long run. So many preliminary studies based on limited analyses or tiny samples are being reported with scant attention paid to limitations. It's driving me insane!

Deb Cohen has struck me for a while as being the exception that proves the rule at Newsnight (along with Mark Urban). 

Robert hasn't replied. (Very him.)

He does love parroting things as 'scoops' though.

"A gaggle of blubbing, gushing, babbling groupies"


This is well-put by Gerard Baker in The Times re the inauguration of Joe Biden and the media: 
Those solemnly self-important purveyors of facts in a post-truth world were a gaggle of blubbing, gushing, babbling groupies. The BBC’s journalists, whose presence in Washington must have rivalled that of the National Guard, seem to have been given yet another holiday from their supposed obligation to impartiality as they waxed at length about the “historic” scene and its “healing” power.