Less than I week ago, we posted a piece here at ITBB outlining why we thought Duncan Weldon's Newsnight report on immigration was blatantly biased in favour of immigration.
David Keighley, writing at Conservative Woman, also found that report to be a shocker:
The BBC’s blizzard of election-related stories that spin immigration as a topic that doesn’t matter is impossible to track. Lift almost any stone and there’s another example.
A Newsnight feature last Thursday was billed by presenter Emily Maitlis as ‘a long hard look at the subject’. The full transcript can be read here.
This, it transpired, was a special piece of BBCspeak. It meant that Newsnight – led, of course, by former Guardian executive Ian Katz- was about to deploy its own form of spin to show in yet another way that those British plebs who support tougher immigration controls are deluded bigots and xenophobes.
David make a lot of good points, but the passage that really stood out for me was this one:
Next, Weldon turned to that old BBC device, the vox pop, a range of voices from members of the public. Many years ago, when I did my basic training as a BBC reporter in what is now the Langham Hotel, I was warned that these can never be – and should never be projected as – a balanced or objective view of public opinion. They are only ever a subjective snapshot.
Weldon apparently now works according to very different rules.
The sequence of three voices was gathered, selected and edited by him with all the subtlety of a jackhammer to show that those with views against immigration are bigoted xenophobes for no other reason that they hate foreign languages and shops selling foreign goods. On the other hand, his pro-immigration contributor made a reasoned response, making the point that immigrants are ‘different brains from different parts of the world’, who set up new businesses and who have a wide range of skills.
Weldon then said that if this selection of ‘public opinion’ (which this most certainly was not) was ‘nuanced’, the view of business was ‘fairly’ clear’...
Following my own post last week - and making use of every character of the BBC Complaints procedure's 1,500-character limit - I dispatched the following complaint to the BBC:
I want to complain about Duncan Weldon's pro-immigration Newsnight report.
He claimed that "public opinion is nuanced". No, it's overwhelmingly against mass immigration.
He then said that the view of business is "fairly clear", featuring the CBI saying immigration is a big help and really important for us (pro-immigration).
He then said, "It's often said that immigrants are coming over here and taking our jobs, but that isn't necessarily the case" (pro-immigration) and suggested that immigrants not only take jobs Brits don't want but that, by doing so, they create jobs British people do want to take up (pro-immigration).
Then he said, "Most academic surveys have concluded that there isn't actually a link between British unemployment and immigration" (pro-immigration).
He then said on wages that things are "more nuanced" and there's "academic disagreement" but, despite that, "there's broad agreement that the impact on the average is marginal" (pro-immigration).
And as for those surveys claiming that lower earners are adversely hit while higher earners are least adversely hit by mass immigration, well, he said, "the effects are small, and those most likely to be hit are those most-recent migrants" (pro-immigration).
He then said it's "a sign of success" that people want to move here (pro-immigration).
He then concluded that "despite what the academic work suggests" (pro-immigration) some people still feel "uncomfortable" about immigration.
Please account for this bias during a general election campaign.
The BBC Complaints department's response was surprisingly quick...though it becomes less 'surprising' after you've read it, given that it obviously took very little time and effort to write!
It runs as follows:
It runs as follows:
Thank you for taking the time to get in touch with regards to Newsnight on 22 April.
I understand you felt the programme was biased towards the opinion of pro-immigration.
All BBC editors should follow our election guidelines, which say:
"There is no area of broadcasting where the BBC's commitment to due impartiality is more closely scrutinised than in reporting election campaigns."
The guidance says journalists must "deliver to audiences impartial and independent reporting of the campaign, giving them fair coverage and rigorous scrutiny of the policies and campaigns of all parties".
It’s not always possible or practical to reflect all the different opinions on a subject during an individual programme or report. Instead, our editors are expected to cover the range of relevant and significant views on an issue over a reasonable period of time, usually a week during an election period. We don’t take a position on any view of any political party. We aim to make sure they are heard and to test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of the audience.
I will, nonetheless, include your feedback on our daily report which is made available to all senior management and programme editors. Your opinion is important to us, and is essential to the performance of our service. Please let me assure you that you are crucial in current and future decisions made within the BBC.
Again, thanks for bringing this to my attention.
Yes, she sounds really grateful for me bringing this to her attention, doesn't she?
What can really be said about this? It's nothing more than a perfunctory, cookie-cutter response that must have taken the lady from the BBC Complaints department all of 15 minutes to copy-and-paste from elsewhere. It doesn't even begin to be an adequate response, does it?
Merely parroting official policy and asserting that BBC editors carry it out doesn't in any way answer the point that this particular report was a heavily pro-immigration-biased piece for a senior Newsnight reporter. All the balancing out over time in the world won't change that fact or make up for it...
...unless Duncan Weldon (or another of his BBC Newsnight colleagues) does another report this week which just as heavily biased in the opposite direction.
And that ain't going to happen.