Sunday, 1 January 2017

Carry On Being Biased

My expression before listening to this morning's 'Sunday'

The first of Radio 4's current affairs staples to hit the airwaves in 2017 was the station's reliably left-liberal Sunday.

Would it show that the overnight flip from 2016 to 2017, marked by fireworks and new calendars, had wrought an immediate and miraculous Ebenezer Scrooge-like change in the BBC from biased to unbiased? Would we all be be able to cry, "God bless us, every one!"?

Well, besides the stuff to mark Hull becoming UK City of Culture and the former Bishop of Liverpool on Hillsborough and Lyse Doucet on her experiences of reporting in Syria and a liberal American journalist on the new Trump administration and religion, there was also a big, wide-ranging discussion between three British journalists from three different faiths, and it was this very wide-ranging discussion which (twice) dominated the programme.

Here's how that discussion was framed (and please brace yourselves!):
The US presidential campaign trail and the EU referendum were marred by what many described as racist and divisive language as well as in increase in reports of verbal and physical attacks on religious and ethnic minorities. The post-Brexit atmosphere in the UK caused alarm at the United Nations with its Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination blaming the apparent rise in hate crimes in part on the anti-immigrant rhetoric of politicians. 
So what can we say about 2017? How realistic is it to suggest that as a society we might begin the reverse the trend of the last year or so and prevent further division on grounds of race or religion?
The day when programmes like Sunday begin to dwell on the positives of the EU referendum and the potential positives of Brexit still looks distant. 

The dicussion was between (1) Yasmin Alibhai Brown of the i newspaper, (2) Sarah Ebner of the Jewish Chronicle, and (3) Joanna Moorhead of the Tablet/Guardian

My expression after listening to this morning's 'Sunday'

All three of them opposed Brexit in the EU referendum, so I'm sure you can guess what happened next. 

We got lots of heavy post-Brexit/post-Trump gloom and doom from Yasmin, Sarah and Joanne, with both Brexit and social media (which YAB wants regulated) fingered for the 'rise in hate'. Multiculturalism was praised, as was the Pope for bringing some refugees into Europe. 

As for what they want for 2017: Sarah wants tolerance; Yasmin wants more help for young Muslims; and Joanna wants a world where faiths would be interpreted by women not men.

This was the "liberal consensus" personified threefold. 

Would it have harmed the makers of Sunday to have included a pro-Brexit guest on the programme? Why didn't they think that they had to have at least one pro-Brexit guest on the programme, given that they are meant to be impartial when it comes to such issues? 

It's struck many people, at least in this neck of the woods, that the BBC is almost (or actually) flaunting its bias these days. This programme suggests that they intend to carry on in 2017 in the same way that they carried on in 2016, flaunting it like crazy.

How disappointing! Poor Tiny Tim won't be getting his turkey after all. 


  1. I've had a glorious two weeks off work and hence not driving and therefore not listening to Radio 4.

    We embraced the streaming companies early last year - Netflix, Amazon, Now TV etc and as a result watch very little live TV. In my opinion they've got a max of 10 years before that is how we will all watch TV and the license fee not being optional becomes indefensible.

  2. BBC selection choices, from interviewees to topics to 'story' edits, always intrigue.

    And they seem to have carte blanche to simply wave away any questions on what guides often very 'unique' choices:

    This seems remarkable in a public body of such power.

    1. It's the ultimate "Computer says 'no'". Whatever question you ask it's always the same answer:

      Q (from member of the public): What objective, impartial measuring systems are used to select what BBC Trending then features across its various broadcast and online outlets, such as Twitter, Facebook, etc?”

      A (from the BBC): While, if, and to the extent that the BBC holds the information you have requested for, it is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purposes of journalism, art or literature.’