Monday, 3 October 2016

Complaints from both sides (again)

The BBC must be happy today.

Yesterday came Boris at the Conservative Party conference saying (accurately) that the BBC is sometimes "shamelessly anti-Brexit" before adding (doubtless to the BBC's delight), "I think the Beeb is the single greatest and most effective ambassador for our culture and our values".

Today in strode (Sir) Craig Oliver in The Times saying that David Cameron had pressured the BBC in the other direction for “mistaking balance for being impartial", demanding that "BBC editors should have been stamping their own independent authority and analysis on the output" (thus echoing the BBC's very own John Simpson).

Inevitably, in response, in rides the BBC - bugles blaring, banners raised high - crying out its favourite mantra: "We're getting complaints from both sides; ergo, we must be getting it about right!"...

...and Politics Home quotes a BBC source as saying that very thing:
There’s nothing new in people having strong views about our coverage, but the public will notice a distinct irony in the BBC being accused of failing to do enough to stop Brexit on the one hand while being criticised for being anti-Brexit on the other. As we’ve said before, our job is to challenge politicians from all sides and interrogate the arguments. That’s what we’ve been doing and what we’ll continue to do.
Of course, the two complaints are different in kind. The first is saying that the BBC is biased; the second is saying that the BBC is impartial, but too impartial and ought to be taking sides - i.e. its side. Neither is saying the BBC is pro-Brexit (of course, as that would be ridiculous).

Where the BBC's 'complaints from both sides' argument falls down (as so often) is that anyone claiming that the BBC has been either balanced or impartial over Brexit since the referendum result is arguing from a very sticky wicket. (To put it poetically, in the manner of Sir Andrew Motion, "The evidence is strong/That they are wrong".) The BBC has had a heavy anti-Brexit bias since June 23 (as demonstrated by Radio 4's Brexit Collection, for example).

And, despite the bias being not as severe before the referendum result, the bias even then still ran overwhelmingly against one side (the same side) - as (hopefully) both Is the BBC biased? and News-watch demonstrated (in considerable detail, and despite honourable exceptions).

Boris was right. The BBC is sometimes shamelessly anti-Brexit.

The campaign from the likes of John Simpson, Mark Thompson, Chris Patten, Paul Johnson of the IFS, Roy Greenslade, Timothy Garton Ash, (Sir) Craig Oliver and David Cameron, etc, however, for the BBC to become even more biased in their direction goes on and is evidently gathering pace. And they are probably knocking at an open door.


  1. I think it's unfair to condemn the BBC for not trying hard enough to stop Brexit. The only thing more they could have done would be to follow Simpson's advice and simply not allow and Brexiters on air, or just call them liars and racists even more often than they did.

    The BBC had a clear anti-Brexit groupthink, still manifesting itself today. I'm happy to defend the BBC against this particular complaint.

    They were so blind, in fact, that they didn't notice the evidence displayed before their eyes every Thursday evening for two months. I'd bet there was plenty more evidence in vox pops that somehow didn't make it to air, and emails and tweets somehow not read out on air. Which the Beeboids then put out of mind.

    1. I agree. It's a bit like saying the Panzer Divisions could have fought a bit harder in Normandy...well, maybe...

      About the only thing the BBC could have donek, that it didn't try, was drop the polite form of questioning: "Don't you think in the light of this tragic death of an MP you have a duty to ensure you aren't stirring up hatred and division?" and substituted direct accusation: "Come on admit it, you caused her death didn't you, and you are determined to whip up hate and division in order to win?" before ordering BBC Security staff to beat the interviewee severely until they admit the charge and their involvement in a general fascist conspiracy to undermine the people's unity in the Great British Workers and Peasants State. :)