Monday, 27 February 2017

Mutual grooming

Tonight's 100 Days featured a classic, cosy interview between two BBC reporters and a CNN reporter about how badly Donald Trump is behaving towards the media - with mutual reinforcing laughter at each other's digs at the US President. 

Plus, echoing Nick Robinson yesterday, Christian Fraser invited further criticism for Amber Rudd over her use of language.

Quite how the BBC think their viewers perceive this level of smugness I can only guess.

Here's a transcript:

KATTY KAY: The feud between Mr Trump and the media keeps growing. On Friday several news organisations, including the BBC, were excluded from a White House press briefing. 
CHRISTIAN FRASER: Then on Saturday the President announced he wouldn't be attending the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. 
KATTY KAY: The media received support from an unlikely source today - the former President George W Bush. 
CHRISTIAN FRASER: Not only did he say that "we all need answers'' on the extent of contact between Donald Trump's team and the Russian government, he also had this warning for the President over his criticism of journalists. 
GEORGE W. BUSH: I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy. We need an independent media to hold people like me to account. I mean, power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive. And it's important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power. Whether it be here or elsewhere. One of the things I spent a lot of time doing was trying to convince a person like Vladimir Putin, for example, to accept the notion of an independent press. It's kind of hard, you know, to tell others to have an independent free press when we're not willing to have one ourselves. 
KATTY KAY: George W. Bush speaking earlier. And, by the way, Christian, some people here are suggesting that George Bush has been more critical of Donald Trump in one interview so far than he was of Barack Obama over the course of eight years. Let's get more on this relationship with the press with Frank Sesno - who spent more than two decades at CNN, where he served as White House correspondent, anchor, and Washington Bureau Chief. He's now the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Frank, why is the President ratcheting up this war of words - and actions, indeed - with the American press now? And will it work? 
FRANK SESNO: Well, why is the ratcheting it up? It plays to his base. There is a tremendous traction for blaming the media in this country among conservatives and others who really do believe that there is a very liberal press that is hostile to this president and hostile to conservative values generally. Secondly, it deflect attention from some of the stories that would otherwise be gaining traction about the disarray and disorganisation in his White House, despite the fact that they say it's running like a well-oiled machine. It is not - and people who have been through transitions in the White House before will freely say so. Republicans and Democrats alike. Finally, it is a message that allows, I think, the President to try to inoculate himself from setbacks and criticism to come. The more you demonise or marginalise the media, the less, in this way of thinking, the media may factor in down the line. That being said, huge criticism is proper for the media. That's out there. It's the way he's going about it, the personal vindictiveness, and going as the former president said, in an institutional way against a fundamental pillar of the democracy.
KATTY KAY: Frank, as we were suggesting earlier, the American press's reputation is not particularly strong. You have alluded to it. But I did see one poll that showed that actually the media is more popular at the moment than President Trump. That's quite a feat for the President Trump (sic) to have achieved that! [Frank Sesno laughs]. Is there a sense, do you think, that this might be producing a bit of a backlash? 
FRANK SESNO: Yeah. I mean, it is phenomenally ironic. Donald Trump is the ultimate media irony. [Katty Kay laughs]. He is a media creation who ran against the media to be elected. He has been railing against the media since it's been elected, and now the media are showing signs of rebirth and real mission. And it was a Quinnipiac poll that you cited, and more Americans said they trusted for credibility the media than the President of the United States. It's a dangerous game the President is playing. 

CHRISTIAN FRASER: Sorry Frank, I was just going to say, there's obviously a lot of concern a swell within the White House, not just about the press but about the leaks to the press, that was particularly taken by one quote today in the New York Times from Sean Spicer, the communications director, who says if this fight against leaks is leaked, then there's going to be big trouble. [Katty Kay laughs]. And of course, it was leaked. But they clearly have big problems with leaks. Does that say a little bit about how the administration is being run? 
FRANK SESNOYes. Having covered other White Houses, the more competition there is in the White House, the more power centres, the more leaks there are. And so I think that is what they are experiencing now. They also rail against anonymous sources. And yet the budget briefing that the Office of Management and Budge did today, they insisted on being anonymous, their names were not attached with it. Welcome to Washington! Washington is a town that leaks, there are a lot of people here who know a lot of people. It's easy to leak without getting caught. In fact, we have whistle-blowing protection in this country that protects people leaking information about wrongdoing. So this just goes with the territory. They will have to get used to it. 
CHRISTIAN FRASER: One of the stories in the British press today is that Amber Rudd, our Home Secretary, has been using the term 'fake news' to describe criticism that she doesn't like. How corrosive, do you think, that term is? 
FRANK SESNO: Very corrosive. Very, very corrosive. This is one of my biggest concerns as a journalist, former journalist and an educator now, because we're confusing the public with this. Fake news is deliberately, maliciously, completely fictitious creation of information to mislead and misdirect. News you don't like, including unfair or sensational reporting, may be irresponsible news. But it's not fake news. Fake news is exploding around the world, and eople need to be informed about it. And people in public life should be joining with news organisations to figure out what fake news is and how the public needs to distinguish from it. We should be wanting a public here, on all sides, that is informed with real facts. 
KATTY KAY: Frank Sesno, thanks very much for joining us.


If my Twitter timeline (which deliberately contains a variety of viewpoints) is anything to go by it's been a topsy-turvy day, politically.

Many of the left-wingers I follow have been full of praise for Sir John Major and George W. Bush (yes, George W. Bush!), while many of the right-wingers I follow have been pouring nothing but opprobrium on Sir John and President Bush.

My favourite 'topsy-turvy' moment of the day was seeing this headline for the latest Guardian editorial:

(That isn't a spoof, by the way.)

Watching tonight's 100 Days on the BBC News Channel also gave me a bit of a 'topsy-turvy' feeling as the BBC's Nick Bryant began sounding as if he though the Tea Party might have had a point after all!

It's a reasonable-sounding analysis, albeit a very unexpected one from a BBC reporter like Nick Bryant.

(Cynics might think he's cynically advancing such an un-BBC argument only to undermine President Trump).

The following transcript, incidentally, highlights a lovely use of the "But to many people..." (degrees of separation) formulation that, as the interview goes on, quickly reveals itself to actually mean "But to me, Nick Bryant..."

KATTY KAY: What does Donald Trump want his first budget? 
NICK BRYANT: Well, it's clear he wants...what he's called an historic rise in defence spending. 9% - that's an absolutely massive amount. He wants, along with that splurge on military spending, to have this binge on infrastructure as well. One of his key campaign promises was to rebuild America's roads, its creaking bridges, its rundown airports that often, in places, look like they're from the Third World. And he's also said he can make these savings by cutting things like spending on the Environmental Protection Agency, and also the State Department, the foreign aid budget for instance. But to many people, these sums just won't add up, because he says he wants to have tax cuts, he says he wants to have all this big spending, big-ticket items like the wall, etc. But one thing they've signalled they're not prepared to touch is so-called entitlement spending, which accounts for about 80% of the federal budget, on things like social security, medicare, paying down the federal debt. It's what we call 'autopilot spending'. It's spent already, as it were. So the sums just don't seem to add up with this budget
KATTY KAY: So Nick, I'm young enough to remember, as are you, the days when Republicans were deficit hawks, when what they really wanted to do above anything else - it was almost an issue of values and patriotism - was balance the US budget, cut that deficit down from its existing $20 trillion. It doesn't sound like President Trump is remotely concerned about deficit spending. 
NICK BRYANT: You've got historic problem here, Katty. The national debt right now is 77% of gross domestic product. I mean, that is huge. That is unmanageable. And although this huge increase in defence spending might sound like music to the ears of the kind of a foreign policy hawks on Capitol Hill, the people with the louder voices in recent years, especially in the Republican party, have not been the defence hawks, they've been the deficit hawks. And you can see here the problem, a political problem, for the White House. Up until now, the Congressional leadership, Mitch McConnell in the Senate, Paul Ryan in the House, the House Speaker, the Republican House Speaker, they've gone along with what the White House has done. They've been very acquiescent. But here, there might not. It's setting up this sort of battle somewhere down the road between the White House and figures like Paul Ryan on Capitol Hill, who for years have been saying, "We've got to take control of the national debt and that means tackling entitlement like social security". 
CHRISTIAN FRASER: And Nick, with that in mind, would they have to blow the spending cap that was put in place in 2011? 
NICK BRYANT: Well, it looks like it at the moment because, as I said, the sums just don't seem to add up. If Trump gets his way and gets his budget through Congress...To give you an example, Christian: If you zero down foreign's just 1% of the puts a small dent in bringing down what is a ballooning national debt. At the moment, there's a discrepancy of $600 billion each year between the amount of money the federal government spends and the amount of money it raises through taxation, and that figure is going to balloon out over the next few years because of the increased costs of social security and medicare. So again, you know, this just seems like fuzzy maths and voodoo economics, to use a phrase from the past.

Is Newsnight doomed?

According to Andrew Pierce in the Daily Mail, James Harding has asked for ideas for an alternative to Newsnight, suggesting that the show might be scrapped - or at least moved or given a different main presenter. 
This is hardly a surprise — the bells have been tolling for the now-dreary programme for some time. These days, many Cabinet ministers refuse invitations to appear, leading to tension between the production team and Downing Street.
Getting rid of James O'Brien would be my suggestion for a good first move.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Mark Mardell on Trump's 'petulance' and 'moral equivalence'

Mark Mardell was on the BBC News Channel this afternoon, repeating - at times almost word-for-word - his take on the White House Correspondents dinner affair, as conveyed to Jane Garvey on this morning's Broadcasting House

A transcript of the whole of it would prove overly repetitive, so here are bits where he said something different:
ANNITA McVEIGHTalking about the motive, is this the Trump administration basically trying to reinforce its fake news agenda, saying to people, look, the President doesn't think it's worth his time to be going along and attending this dinner? 
MARK MARDELL: I think so. I mean, you could say he's being slightly petulant - I mean, that's, certainly from what we've seen of his personality, relatively likely...that he genuinely doesn't like these people, he genuinely wants nothing to do with them. 
ANNITA McVEIGHWhat is the media response going to be to this, because this is a new low in relations, isn't it, between the US president and the media? So what's the response going to be? 
MARK MARDELLI think there's an air of anxiety generally about how this develops. We saw that with the briefing that excluded some people, including the BBC. Do the others not take part and say 'no, we've got to make a stand here', or is that cutting off their nose to spite their face, and not serving their audience properly? So this will be just seen as another development in what a lot of people are really worried about, that there seemed to be... Remember, the term "fake news" was coined to describe completely false, utterly false, stories peddled by some people with an agenda. There was no truth in them whatsoever. Now Donald Trump is using it to describe stories he simply doesn't like. He's not even disputing certain facts, but just saying 'I don't like it, so it's fake news'. So he's established a moral equivalence between sheer lies and the press that he doesn't like. 

Another nit well and truly picked

I might be nit-picking, or it could just be that standards of accuracy at the BBC are slipping, but there was another election-based blunder from the BBC today. 

The offender this time was Mark Mardell on The World This Weekend

He was visiting the constituency of Thurrock in Essex and 'informed' us:
This area in the Thames Estuary was won by the Conservatives in the last two elections but was once safe Labour territory. Now it's fought over by three parties. In 2015 the Conservatives got 34% of the vote, Labour 33%, UKIP 23%. 
Well, in fact, the result for 2015 was:

Yes, UKIP got 32% of the vote in 2015, not 23% as Mark claimed.

I only spotted that because I had the Wikipedia page for Thurrock (UK Parliamentary constituency) open at the time and was looking at that very result just as Mark Mardell said what he said.



BBC Watch has a fascinating statistical analysis of the BBC News website's coverage of Israel PM Netanyahu's official visit to Australia, revealing what interests the BBC - and what doesn't interest the BBC: 


Here are a couple of screengrabs that our old Biased BBC colleague DB took before the BBC's incoming head of religious programming, Fatima Salaria, blocked him on Twitter a few years back:

Her tweets (and retweets) are now protected.

"Language matters"

Nick Robinson is unhappy again, this time with the Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

What got her into trouble with Nick today was saying the following on Peston:
Unfortunately, fake news is settling out there. The fact is, we took 8,000 children last year in to this country and settled them. Three thousand arrived unaccompanied and illegally and have been settled here. These numbers are large.

"Do we misrepresent Islam?"

Nicky Campbell popped up towards the end of the Marr show, as always, to tease us with the upcoming delights of The Big Questions
Join us from Birmingham at Ten when we'll be debating Islam - do we misrepresent it? - then reincarnation - have some of you been here before? - and marriage - one of the last bastions of patriarchy or is marriage what you make it? See you at Ten on BBC One. 
Here's how Nicky framed the first debate:
The activities of Islamist extremism across the globe have killed many more Muslims than people from other faiths, as we saw yet again earlier this month when 80 worshippers were killed and 250 injured by an Islamist suicide bomber at the Sufi Muslim shrine, Sehwan Sharif, in Pakistan. Last week Pope Francis declared that Muslim terrorism does not exist. Just as no-one puts the blame on Christianity when Christians engage in violent or criminal activities, so neither should Islam be blamed for the crimes of Islamists. Do we misrepresent Islam? 
The front row contributors were former Respect leader Salma Yaqoob, imam Ajmal Masroor, author of 'The Islamic Enlightenment' Christopher de Bellagiue, Peter Tatchell, Dr Afshin Shahi from the University of Bradford, Sadia Hameed of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, and humanist Alison Rawlinson. 

I didn't get very far with it. When Imam Masroor stated being unpleasant to ex-Muslim Sadia (almost from his first word), I switched off. 

Political joke

A political joke from a columnist at the Liverpool Echo:

Massaging the facts

It also included reflections on antisemitism in Europe. 

One remarkable thing about the report was that it failed, at any point, to mention that the "lone gunman"/"lone attacker" was an Islamist terrorist. 

Another even more remarkable thing was that Muslim antisemitism - the root cause of the attack - was not mentioned either.

Instead, Kevin Connolly's report concentrated on antisemitism in general, and Western European antisemitism  in particular (Nazi-occupied France especially) - even though that kind of antisemitism had nothing to do with this Brussels attack. 

The takeaway message, incidentally, was the one quoted at the very start of the programme - It's not only Jews that need to be worried. Muslims and Christians too are hiding from terror in Europe today:
Today, not only the Jew are afraid. Everybody is afraid. Terrorism can attack everybody, and today we have to help everybody to protect our society.
Incidentally, this isn't the first time that Kevin Connolly has airbrushed Islamism and Muslim antisemitism out of his coverage of the terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum. A World Service programme late last year, hosted by James Harding, followed much the same construction.

The massaging of the facts here remains absolutely extraordinary. 

Mark Mardell Goes to Dinner

A bit of anti-Trump sarcasm from Broadcasting House guest presenter Jane Garvey was only to be expected, but her interview with Mark Mardell about the White House Correspondents' Association dinner was quite revealing about that annual event and, I thought, worth posting. 

Look out for Mark Mardell admitting to behaving "slimily" towards a senior Democrat. How unlike him! (And that's sarcasm too, Jane!)


JANE GARVEY: This is Jane Garvey for Paddy O'Connell on Broadcasting House this week. And we'll pick up on the news that Donald Trump has announced that he's not going to go to the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in April. He wrote on Twitter - where else? - "Please wish everyone well and have a great evening". According to the New York Times, every sitting president since 1924 has been to the event at least once. President Obama went 8 times and in 2011 he made a string of jokes at Donald Trump's expense, and Mr Trump was in the audience.
BARACK OBAMA: No one is happier, no one is prouder to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald. And that's because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter, like 'Did we fake the moon landing?', 'What really happened in Roswell?' and 'Where are Biggie & Tupac?' 
JANE GARVEY: President Obama in 2011. Well, Ronald Reagan was the last president in office not to go to the shindig. That was in 1981, but then he had just been shot - and he still phoned in to the event. Mark Mardell was the BBC's North America editor - and, coincidentally, is presenting The World This Weekend today, so Mark, good morning to you.
MARK MARDELL: Good morning.


It's been a while since I've counted interruptions and done timings, but today's The Andrew Marr Show tempted me to give it a go again. 
  • Despite being the shortest interview (7 minutes), UKIP's Peter Whittle was interrupted most often (14 times). 
  • Though getting a longer interview than Mr Whittle, the Conservatives' Patrick McLoughlin (10 minutes) was interrupted less often (11 times). 
  • And Shami Chakrabarti, though getting the longest interview of all (over 12 minutes), was interrupted no more often in total than Mr McLoughlin (11 times), thus enjoying a lower frequency of interruptions.
So, on the interruptions front, Mr Whittle got the worst of it this morning.

Biting the hand that fed you

Amusingly for someone who's been on the Andrew Marr show 11 times in the past five years alone (18 times in total since the programme began), Baroness Chakrabarti even complained about the Andrew Marr show's choice of guests:
SHAMI CHAKRABARTI: I think sometimes we haven't had the fairest or the most balanced treatment in the media, including in the broadcast media...
ANDREW MARR (interrupting): As you know, the left has always said it's the media...
ANDREW MARR: ...for hundreds of years.
SHAMI CHAKRABARTI: I'm not blaming the media. I'm just saying that the disunity has been the focus...I mean, even on your programme last week, a few days before a by-election in two Brexit seats, there wasn't a single person on the programme speaking for the leadership...
ANDREW MARR (interrupting): There was a well-represented Labour MP on the paper review, who was...
SHAMI CHAKRABARTI: And you had Lord Mandelson...
ANDREW MARR (interrupting): Yeah, we're allowed to have Lord Mandelson, aren't we?
SHAMI CHAKRABARTI: You are allowed to have whoever you like, but  it wasn't, if I may say so, you know, the fairest balance a few days before a by-election in two Labour Brexit seats.
The other Labour LP in question, by the way, was Caroline Flint - a second Blairite - so Shami did have a point - if also a lot of cheek! 

Another question

Here are some of the answers he's received so far:
  • "I'm calling for..." said 4 times in a 2 minute slot, tells you all. She should not be discussing the papers, BBC. 
  • Very easily. The BBC. Always available to self-publicists wishing to overturn democratic ballots. This is what we do.
  • Anyone might suspect that the BBC has an agenda.
  • To be fair, paper review segments often do this. I agree it's bad practice.
  • I think you find it's called "bias" You weren't expecting impartiality were you?

Update: Talking of Dan Hodges, his running Twitter commentary on Baroness Chakrabarti's performances on this morning's Andrew Marr show was worth the Twitter fee in its own right:
  • Shami Chakrabarti. Just the person to reach out to the lost working-class voters of Copeland.
  • At what point is Shami Chakrabarti going to mention the responsibility of the Labour leader for the performance of the Labour party?
  • "Time to unite", says Shami Chakrabarti. Two minutes after attacking Peter Mandelson.
  • Now Shami Chakrabarti is saying Storm Doris was a factor.
  • Remember folks, this is the woman who produced the "independent" report on labour anti-semitism...
  • There is no single-individual - not even Corbyn - who is a better symbol of what is wrong with the Labour party than Shami Chakrabarti.
  • Shami Chakrabarti literally blamed everyone in the Labour party for the Copeland defeat except the leader of the Labour Party.
Watching her performance did make me wonder how on earth she ever managed to win a case as a lawyer.


After the storm - the calm and the clearing up. Not so much Doris, but those by-elections which have battered and scattered some recent accepted truths about British politics. This week, we're going to be rootling through the debris. Can Labour keep calm and carry on? Shami Chakrabati, one of Jeremy Corbyn's key allies, is with us. But the party that looks in deeper trouble this weekend isn't Labour, it's the would-be insurgents. Has UKIP run out of puff? I'll be asking its deputy leader Peter Whittle. Finally, what of the Tories? Cockahoop after Copeland they claim to be the new party of the working class. Really? I'll be discussing the hard facts with the Conservative chairman Sir Patrick McLoughlin. Also on Oscars day, the Hollywood star Hugh Jackman has been telling me about his swansong as the darkest superhero of them all. And later on I'm joined live by one of the biggest stars of Britain's post punk music scene, Marc Almond. Reviewing the news today - on the left of the sofa in every sense, the commentator Paul Mason; on the right the Tory thinker Tim Montgomerie; and she's back in the middle, and she'll hold her own - the Brexit-confronting campaigner Gina Miller. All that coming up.
When he says, "But the party that looks in deeper trouble this weekend isn't Labour, it's the would-be insurgents. Has UKIP run out of puff?", is that bias or merely fair comment? 

And finally...

The closing feature on this morning's Sunday was:

One tweet said that "The Dean of Bristol Cathedral was not ready for Professor Robert Beckford this morning" and that he'd been "#schooled", and it sounded that way to me too.

"Transatlantic Islam"

Soon after the feature on the growth of sanctuary churches under Trump, Radio 4's Sunday moved onto this:

Again, here's someone on Twitter with an instant reaction:

That guy, Dr Mandaville, made the familiar complaint that:
Muslim communities in the United States and and Britain are perceived by both the the publics in their respective societies as well as the government in both countries primarily as communities that are to be thought about and engaged with of are in reference almost exclusively to issues relating to security and terrorism rather than - as both of them actually - citizens of their respective nations.
He argued that in the US Muslims "now suddenly feel themselves singled out, scrutinised, viewed with suspicion and really regarded only in relation to the fact that they happen to be Muslim" - later suggesting that they now find themselves in a similar position to UK Muslims.

"And presumably you see that trend continuing with things like the Trump travel ban?", asked Ed Stourton.

"It continues under Trump but it it begins to take on very odd and very worrying forms", replied Dr Mandaville. saying that:
...he's brought into the White House some figures who hold views that until fairly recently would be regarded in my country as extremely fringe views. This is the idea that Islam and Muslims are somehow fundamentally incompatible with the American way of life, that there's some sort of broader civilisational conflict looming between Islam and the West - and that kind of thinking, I think, is very disturbing to American Muslims.
Ed then asked him about his "comparison between what's happening to Muslims under Trump and what's happening here since Brexit". He replied that the connection is the "wedge" issue of "immigrants" but sounded optimistic that a "transatlantic Islam", based on shared concerns about how they are being viewed, is growing, allowing for "collective action and advocacy".  

A very 'Radio 4' feature.

Sanctuary from Trump

If you slept through this morning's Sunday on Radio 4, you missed a report from Maryland by Jane O'Brien:

For a flavour of what you missed, here are two tweets from very different perspectives, sent a minute apart. Both, in their different ways, will tell you precisely where this piece's bias lay:

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Medley of non-events

Complaining about things the BBC doesn’t mention may seem like a hiding to nothing; to prove a negative is to embark on a mystery tour; destination bottomless pit. 

Since the BBC is supposed to be a primary source of information, for many viewers and listeners at any rate, constantly omitting a particular type of story begins to look deliberately misleading.

Recent news that antisemitism is on the increase has been reported on the BBC - but usually twinned with “Islamophobia”.  The definition is left "vague".  Swastikas painted on buildings or vandalised Jewish cemeteries qualify as antisemitic, but what about the anti-Israel tsunami currently engulfing British universities? 

Tap “Israeli Apartheid Week," or assorted variations into the BBC’s search engine and all you get is a piece about Jewish students denying the problem.  Maybe simply a flaw in the BBC’s search engine?
Israel Apartheid Week has become so embedded in university culture (an annual event, now) that perhaps it’s not considered newsworthy. However, the fact that a handful of universities have cancelled some of the events should be on the BBC’s radar, surely. 

You’d think the BBC might have noticed it, wouldn't you?

A glaring error an alleged “Prevent” crib sheet, posted on this Harry’s Place thread stood out like a sore thumb. 
 Number 5 on a bullet-pointed list of supposed warning-signs of extremism’  states: “Opposition to Israeli settlements in Gaza.” 
Anyone paying attention will be aware that all Israeli settlements in Gaza were dismantled in 2005. If that is really the standard of prevent’s research, I despair.

Exeter University has cancelled a checkpoint stunt, which surprised me, as Exeter is known for its Saudi-funded Islamic studies department, and it’s where Illan Pappé and Ghada Karmi, both virulent anti-Zionist campaigners, are based.

 King’s College London and University of Central Lancs have also cancelled events. 
Someone tell the BBC.


Rod Liddle has written a few words on Nikki Haley’s speech at the UN.  
To many of us she was stating the bleeding obvious. The UN is biased. The below the line comments have been colonised by antisemitic trolls.


The other day the BBC aired the edition of the Hairy Bikers foodie trip to Israel. It was nice to see a non-political and upbeat story about Israel on prime time BBC. It kept away from politics, save for one indirectly political item about a Palestinian/Israeli youth project, sport bringing people together kind of thing. Wouldn’t you know it - certain people objected. And someone tweeted “Shame on you” 


I thought Ken Livingston was suspended from the  Labour Party? Shouldn’t someone tell the BBC? Or has he been quietly reinstated? Why are they still using him as spokesperson for the current Labour party leadership question?


Rory Bremner has been dusted off. He’s been doing the rounds with a Trump impersonation (who hasn’t?) and a rather feeble Farage. 

I wonder if he’s got a Corbyn one? Those little sniffs and intakes of breath, the repetition and the scratchy, irritable tone should be a doddle for a mimic. I don’t think John McDonnell would be a problem either - smooth, patronising and slightly nasal. How hard can it be? I presume mocking socialists is a step too far.


German translation

Loyal readers may recall a post we published last month about BBC Berlin correspondent Damien McGuinness. 

His strikingly biased Twitter feed ("one of the most blatantly biased of all the BBC Twitter feeds I'd ever read") had already revealed his strongly pro-EU and just-as-strongly anti-Brexit views...

...and then came a particularly biased BBC website article from the aforementioned Damien. which spread an unrelievedly downbeat message about the risks to the UK economy of Brexit. 

"Reading Damien McGuinness's BBC-branded anti-Brexit Twitter feed it's impossible not to put this down to bias", I concluded, (unusually) firmly. 

So, I've just spotted that Damien McGuinness had a piece on today's From Our Own Correspondent and am wondering if, after listening to it, I'll have to eat my words and offer Damien an apology. 

I really am trying this one blind, so here goes....

Well, I've only got to the programme's website so far and it already says:
British citizens living and working in Germany are worried about what might happen to them once the UK leaves the EU; Damien McGuinness hears how many of them are rushing to town halls to become German. 
Ah, so it's about Brexit and, yes, it's obviously not going to be positive about it. Should I even bother listening to it? It's obvious what it's going to be like. I'm guessing: 'Woe, woe and thrice woe!' 

OK. I should listen, just to see how bad it actually is. So here goes again...

Yep, it's pretty bad. 

There's talk of "worried" young British expats, and British pensioners living in Germany "scraping by...tied to a shrinking pound", plus several digs at the British tabloids. 

There's also the emotional story of a liberal British woman who loves the welcoming of immigrants (like her) in Germany. 

It's all about the liberating effect of "layered identities" rather than ethnic heritage, and the "successful" transformation of Germany into "a country of immigration" - and Mrs Merkel is getting a good press too.

And it ends on a personal note:
As for me, my own citizenship status is a bureaucratic muddle - no doubt my own fault for moving around too much. Growing up in a globalised world I had thought passports, borders and notions of citizenship were losing their importance. Today though, as I scrabble together previously unheard of documents to avoid suddenly becoming an illegal alien, I can see I was wrong.
Ah well, maybe the BBC will help keep you safe and happy in Germany, Damien, for a while yet.

"He's more like the Dutch Draco Malfoy"

More BBC Twitter action from BBC News producer Wietske Burema (above), courtesy of DB...

For those who don't know their Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy is a cunning user of magic but also a cowardly bully who manipulates and hurts people to get what he wants. In the films he looks like this:

Here's DB's response to this ever-so-impartial BBC producer:

Some of the news that's fit to print

One of the stories that has greatly excited the political world today has been London mayor Sadiq Khan apparently tarring the SNP with the charge of 'racism' at the Scottish Labour Party Conference, causing an almighty stooshie as a result, getting condemned by a strongly disapproving Nicola Sturgeon and then, as a result, rowing hastily back and saying, no, he didn't accuse the SNP of racism after all. 

He's had quite a day!

Curiously, the BBC News Channel and tonight's BBC One early evening news bulletin have paid no attention to this story whatsoever (despite covering the Scottish Labour Party Conference). 

The BBC News website did cover the story though. Its present report concentrates almost entirely on giving Mayor Khan's defence, undiluted. 

In fact, reading that report, he could hardly have hoped for kinder coverage from the BBC here. Lucky man!

Rough Dymond

Jonny Dymond's '100 Days' contribution to this Friday's The World at One has provoked quite a bit of comment hereabouts. 

And with good reason. 

It was the kind of report that would, in all likelihood, begin (as it did) like this:
JONNY DYMOND: It's not...
JONNY DYMOND: It's like a...
DONALD TRUMPfine-tuned machine.
JONNY DYMOND: The White House, that is. And, as if to prove it, a whole week went by without any hideous cock-ups, resignations or grotesque embarrassment...Well, almost. 
And it also was the kind of report that might say something like this about Donald Trump's response to recent antisemitic attacks in the US (also as it did):
After a fourth wave of bomb threats to Jewish community centres and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St Louis the President found the words that he had apparently mislaid for so long.
And it was the kind of report that did call Mike Pence "a kindly-sounding man" for being nice about NATO and contrast that with President Trump's view of NATO (reduced, in Jonny's take, to Trump being entirely dismissive of it) and then cap the section by talking about the possibility of Russia invading one of its smaller neighbours before ending:
Let's hope it's nice Mike at the helm when the tanks roll, eh?
And, for good measure, it was most definitely the kind of report that did say:
Remember the voters? The President does. All...The...Time.
...and then quip:
He went to Florida, much of which he owns, to hold a rally with supporters...
...and then talk of Trump's "garbled rhetoric" (not a bad way of putting it actually!)

And then came this:
It was all going rather well for Mr Trump until he decided to continue with his habit of insulting allies for no reason at all.
President Trump's comments about Sweden duly followed, interspersed with sarcastic asides from our Jonny, culminating in the following:
Mr President, nothing happened in Sweden last night. Or the night before. Or the year before. It's Sweden, where nothing ever happens!! But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of a great presidency? And this, folks, have no doubt, is gonna be great presidency! Tremendous even!
For staggering naivety (if such it be) about Sweden, that surely takes some beating!  

Such sarcasm would be fine if we BBC watchers didn't have long memories and remember the drooling '100 days' coverage that greeted the Obama administration - all the simpering over Michelle Obama's dresses (not all from Kim Ghattas), the eagerly uncritical coverage of the new president's every policy decision, the reporting of all the shiny, happy people delighting in the new era. 

The contrast could hardly be sharper. 

I've always rather liked Jonny Dymond. This was, therefore, as they say, disappointing.

Half the story

A breaking story that's not on the BBC News website's home page or on its UK page (it broke about 3 hours ago) is the jailing at the Old Bailey this lunchtime of Mohammed Mayow and Mohanned Jasim on terrorist offences. The story can be found, however, on the BBC's England page. Just. 

The BBC's account is lacking in some of the important details you find in, say, the Daily Express's account. (h/t DB). 

The Express, for example, reports that the judge in the case "expressed her surprise at the Home Office giving a terrorist a UK passport just days before he tried to travel to the Middle East".

As well as quoting the judge, the Express says:
Mohanned Jasim, 22, told officials he wanted a one-way travel document to go to war-torn Iraq.  
Instead, he was granted UK citizenship and given a passport.  
Just one week later he was stopped by police at Dover with fellow Jihadist Mohammed Mayow. 
 There's nothing about any of that in the BBC's report.

"We live in a democratic recession"

The BBC's new media editor, Amol Rajan (@amolrajanBBC), has tweeted the following this morning:

(As you can see, he also retweeted himself for good measure!)

The ex-Independent editor seems to be finding this 'BBC impartiality' thing a bit tricky, doesn't he?...

...although given that so many longstanding BBC reporters are no less opinionated on Twitter might suggest that he actually understands 'BBC impartiality' very well. 

Anyhow, you can hear him presenting Any Answers this afternoon. Impartially, no doubt.

Update: And here's Amol, fresh from sulking about the recent outburst of unwanted democracy from the voters, putting his foot down (with an audible stamp) over democracy for impartial BBC reporters (like him):


As for today's Dateline London I can spare you yet another of my posts about it by copying-and-pasting an excellent comment from Biased BBC which accurately sums up today's programme and expresses brilliantly many of the points I keep making about the programme (though, ideally, I'd still prefer it to be radically refreshed rather than scrapped):

Time to scrap Dateline London.
The show today has confirmed my longstanding belief that the show serves no purpose. It’s a good concept, but poorly executed. Instead of interesting debates over political issues, all I saw was a circlejerk. It had fours guests, none of them were British, and they simply agreed on everything. Corbyn is useless, the Blairites should return, UKIP are doomed, Marine Le Pen is bad, Trump is an idiot, Britain was stupid to leave the Euro, etc. It was simply group of people agreeing on a centre-ground liberal consensus, something which people across the world are now rejecting.
To make a debating format work, you have to have guests with strong views who disagree with on-another. Unfortunately the BBC as a broadcaster is unable to deliver on this. It is stuck in an outdated liberal mindset. The guests are recurring, and it seems as the though the BBC for pretty much all of its shows, has a list of “safe people” who will appear on their shows and avoid saying anything remotely interesting or controversial, instead they simply just broadly agree with the BBC and the mainstream media’s take on events.
It serves no purpose other than to create an echo-chamber so that the BBC can feel validated in its views.

Open Thread

If anything else crosses your mind about the BBC's output, please share below.

The only question

A recurring report on the BBC News Channel today (with equivalents on Radio 4, including Today) has been BBC environment (activist) analyst Roger Harrabin's piece on the fears of the UN (and US environmental activists) about the Trump administration's environmental policies. It was typical Roger Harrabin, ending with one of his trademark questions: 
The election of President Trump is a setback for Miss Espinosa and the UN, but she insists the momentum towards cutting emissions is now unstoppable. The only question, is it going fast enough? 

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow

Things to look forward to tomorrow:

Oh, and:

Lord Hattersley's views on Brexit were set out at the New Statesman last August in an article headlined, Why it is the duty of the Labour party to try to stop Brexit. So we can guess where's he's going to be guiding his Brexit-related point-scoring tomorrow.

(Of course, Henry VIII tried to take over swathes of France and wanted to be Holy Roman Emperor. So he was, at least initially, much more like Roy Hattersley).

Aaqil Ahmed's replacement is announced

Fatima Salaria will take over the responsibilities for religious programming on BBC TV previously carried out by Aaqil Ahmed.

Ms Salaria will be the second Muslim in a row to run BBC TV's religious output. 

Her appointment was overseen by James Purnell.

In response to criticism that a Christian wasn't appointed, a BBC spokesman says:
People should be judged by their ability to do the job, not their religious background. Fatima was appointed as she is an extremely talented commissioner. We’ve strengthened our focus on religion and ethics within television and have been clear that we plan to do even more to reflect the role of religion in modern Britain, with Christianity at the heart of our coverage.