Monday, 18 April 2016

Some 'curate's egg' BBC coverage

So having established 1) a means of dressing up an increase as a decrease and 2) a bogus conflation of GDP with household income he comes up with his grand deception:- 
‘Britain would be permanently poorer if we left the European Union, to the tune of £4,300 for every household in the county. That’s a fact everyone should think about as they consider how to vote.’ 
It’s not a fact: it’s an invention. 
He's not impressed with the Chancellor at all, to put it mildly:
As a Europhile, these are the kinds of tactics that make me want to vote ‘out’ – the appalling level of dishonesty with which the government is making the case. And as a journalist, it’s a red rag: we enter this profession to try to stop people being misled by politicians. 
The relevant bit for this blog is what he writes next:  
And while Nick Robinson did a brilliant job on Today, the BBC’s website is now Britain’s most-read news source (four times as popular as any newspaper) and it repeated Osborne’s bogus £4,300 line uncritically.
There are two parts to that, of course: his praise for Nick Robinson's 8.10 interview with George Osborne and his criticism of the BBC News website. 

I completely agree with him about that interview.

Credit where credit's due, I think that Nick R skilfully exposed the Chancellor's slipperiness. He questioned the assumptions underlying the Treasury's assertions and, I think, made George Osborne sounds like he was bullshitting (which he was!).

Punch cartoon, 1895, by George du Maurier

I presume the BBC website piece Fraser was criticising there is the main article on the story - the one that's been leading the website all morning and which hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people, will have either read or glanced at. 

I've checked the NewsSniffer versions too, and Fraser Nelson does have a point. That bogus £4,300 figure is quoted uncritically there, with no 'analysis' questioning it. 

For the main BBC online news report on the government's 'killer' argument - the big one! - it's not acceptable for them to have simply reported the Treasury claim, is it?

Still, at least that article now contains a link to the latest Reality Check post from Anthony Reuben. Hopefully at least a good number of website readers will have clicked on it. 

Mr. Reuben's opening words are unambiguous. The £4,300 is bogus:
Reality Check: Would Brexit cost your family £4,300?

The poster at George Osborne's event this morning was very clear - that there would be a £4,300-a-year cost to families by 2030 if Britain leaves the EU.
It's not true. The government is confusing GDP per household with household income.


  1. But the Reality Checker doesn't come out and call it for what it is, like Fraser does. The BBC article just concludes that it's not helpful, which is avoiding the reality. That's not good enough if it's supposed to be an honest broker of EU campaign statements.

    One of your Anonymous commenters pointed out on a recent thread that one of the latest Reality Check pieces basically treats speculation as fact (pro-EU, of course), so they are possibly slipping now that the campaign has begun in earnest and Cameron's team comes out with lie after lie.

    1. I am suspicious about this "Reality Checker" on the following grounds:

      A. The Checker itself will be biased towards matters of arithmetic and economics whereas the "Reality" we are engaging with through the Referendum is as much more about value judgements, democracy and identity.

      B. I am not convinced the BBC should set itself up as an allegedly neutral arbiter. In politics and economics figures only take you so far. Our Civil Servants are a clever bunch and can produce defensible figures to reach an indefensible conclusion.

      C. I think the BBC will use it as cover to counter complaints that they were just repeating government pro-Remain claims day after day in their news headlines. The Reality Checker will not affect the result. The news headlines will, to some extent.