Saturday, 17 February 2018

Bull


Raging Bull

Someone has been making waves this week, and it would be remiss of a blog like this not to crack open the popcorn and chronicle it. So here goes...


Continuing his Ovid-like metamorphosis into a rampaging bull (or maybe even the Minotaur), Baron Adonis, of Camden Town in the London Borough of Camden has been charging at the BBC all week.

He began it by agreeing with a tweet which said that Today is "under Tory management" and "shamelessly pro-Brexit".

Then he continued with statements like, "The BBC largely created Farage" and "The BBC is substantially responsible for debasing political debate and analysis, which led to Brexit. And it is getting worse".

This led him into a Twitter confrontation with Nick Robinson and Gary Lineker:
Andrew Adonis: The BBC is now performing so badly at impartial and fearless news, & the quality of Netflix etc now so much better at drama, I am wondering for the first time in my life whether we couldn’t do better. Sky can keep sport! BBC on ropes. Sport largely gone to Sky. Quality drama gone to Netflix. BBC news increasingly Brexit, weak & simply Govt press releases. If Netflix set up a sharp, balanced News service, what would be left besides local radio, a desert island & a few good foreign correspondents?
Gary Lineker: What a load of complete and utter tosh.
Andrew Adonis: The BBC’s most highly paid presenter?
Nick Robinson: Well there’s the fact we’re the most trusted source of news & the world’s best nature programmes (Attenborough) & most popular entertainment (Strictly & Sherlock) & culture (Proms & Glasto) & sport (Wimbledon & the Olympics). Other than that what has the BBC ever done for us?!
Andrew Adonis: Huge complacency Nick. The country is in crisis, dangerously poor, polarised, fractured and populist, & you want us to throw garlands! This is not where things are at, I’m afraid. And in the view of many of us, you (the BBC) are the midwife of Farageism. And btw, your news website, after a string of complaints today, still hasn’t corrected a disgraceful headline describing the EU as a ‘corpse.’ Is this what you mean by ‘most trusted source of news’?
Nick Robinson: I don't want garlands. I want perspective & an acceptance that in a fractured society the BBC will hear from (& challenge) people you may dislike and/or fear.
Andrew Adonis: Well, I haven’t noticed the challenge, tbh. @BBCr4today now just a noticeboard for government and Farage press releases. Vast uncritical coverage of Boris speech, & total failure to get into the Northern Ireland crisis,just the latest instances.
At the same time, his Lordship was also charging, horns lowered, at Kamal Ahmed and the BBC News website (Kamal entered the maze too). He complained to Ofcom and got nowhere, and isn't happy about it:
Andrew Adonis: Apart from the disgraceful headline - when was the EU a ‘corpse’? - the BBC’s economics editor declares the EU will be ‘without, in the future, Britain.’ But we haven’t left & Parliament is a long way from agreeing Brexit. Yet more Brexit bias! https://twitter.com/bbckamal/status/963765351484882945 … Sorry to keep on about the BBC debasing public debate, but when was the European Union a ‘corpse’? Germany: I wish I was that lifeless! A disgraceful standard of analysis.
Kamal Ahmed: As you know Andrew, it is a reference to a quote by Douglas Carswell made in 2012. The point is it is not true (if it ever were, economically). I cannot see how a sensible analysis of that economic fact is debasing the public discourse.
Andrew Adonis: Kamal, instead of defending the indefensible, would you please correct this disgraceful ‘EU corpse’ headline immediately & remove the reference to Britain ‘of course’ leaving the EU.
Andrew Adonis: Kamal, your ‘EU corpse’ headline is disgraceful, & justifying it by quoting Douglas Carswell only makes it worse. Since when was Carswell the point of reference for the BBC?! The BBC has got to the stage it doesn’t even realise its pro-Brexit bias.
Andrew Adonis: Dear BBC, I have asked your economics editor to change this disgraceful ‘EU corpse’ headline & correct other bias, but nothing has been done. Can you please do it now before I start formal complaints?
Andrew Adonis: Astonishingly, the BBC is digging in. Kamal Ahmed told me ‘EU corpse’ was fine as a headline because it echoed a Douglas Carswell anti-EU rant of 2012! The Brexit bias is now so deep the BBC doesn’t even realise it.
Andrew Adonis: BBC BIAS: yesterday the BBC ran big story on website with headline describing the EU as a ‘corpse’. I and others complained. The BBC’s economics editor told us to chill because his point of reference was Douglas Carswell quote from 2012. We asked for it to be changed. It wasn’t.
Andrew Adonis: After 24 hours, the BBC has changed the headline on the website story but Kamal has not deleted these tweets on the ‘corpse’ of the EU. Too little, too late, too typical of today’s Brexit BBC I’m afraid.
Kamal Ahmed: Thanks Molly. Headline has been changed. It was not meant to be taken as literal, but as an historic reference that was out of date.
Andrew Adonis: But describing the EU as a ‘corpse’ wasn’t true historically either, Kemal. You shouldn’t take Douglas Carswell as a source of wisdom on the European economy, past or present. This sums up why the BBC has done such a bad job of reporting the EU & Brexit!
Andrew Adonis: I have referred to @Ofcom this disgraceful headline & tweet likening the European Union to a corpse, as a breach of the BBC’s duty of impartiality.
Andrew Adonis: BBC & EU ‘CORPSE.’ Weak Ofcom decline to review BBC calling EU a ‘corpse’ this week, saying BBC complaints process has to be ‘exhausted.’ But when I complained to BBC they did nothing for 24 hrs & didn’t retract. And that was before Farage’s 32nd BBC Question Time was announced!
Kamal AhmedIt’s been pretty torrid on here since @Andrew_Adonis raised the issue. The headline has been changed and I have deleted the original tweet. Journalism has to be read in context - headline and article. I felt meaning was clear. I hope we can keep the debate civil. 
Oh, yes - as you can see from the last one there - he's not happy with Question Time either and has written to Lord Hall of the BBC to complain about it:
Andrew Adonis: BBC largely created Farage. They continue to promote him because it makes ‘good telly’ & they don’t want him criticising BBC on LBC! Pushing politics to the Hard Right out of fear & cynicism. @bbcquestiontime
Andrew Adonis: UKIP have no seats in Parliament but a permanent seat on Question Time and the Today programme’ @bbcquestiontime @BBCr4today
Andrew Adonis: I haven’t been invited on @bbcquestiontime for 8 years. They don’t have space with the reserved slots for Farage & other Brexiters.
Andrew Adonis: Farage’s 32nd appearance on BBC Question Time next Thursday is final straw in the BBC’s degeneration into a Brexit propaganda station. Time for weak @Ofcom to do its job & uphold impartiality.
Andrew Adonis#heshoudbeleftinthepubnotputonBBCquestiontimefor32ndtime!
Andrew AdonisJust written to Lord Hall, DG of BBC, asking if he thinks Mr Farage’s 32nd appearance on BBC Question Time, as ex leader of party on 2% in the polls, is consistent with his duty to uphold impartiality. I’m also seeking retraction of BBC claim this week that the EU is a ‘corpse’.
What's the betting Lord Adonis's 8-year dry spell at Question Time will come to an end very soon?

Oh, and Today got it in the neck too for not asking Theresa Villiers 'the right questions':
Rainy day in Bristol: Brexiter Theresa Villers on @bbc4today talking Northern Ireland. Will they ask her HOW the border issue can be solved? No, course not.
Andrew Adonis: These points are spot on (& thread). There are deep problems of journalistic confidence & bias at @BBCr4today & @BBCNews. They have been captured by Brexit & fear of the Brexiters.
Rainy day in Bristol: Case study this morning, Nick. 1. Theresa Villiers, ex-Northern Ireland Sec and ardent Brexiter was on. 2. She was interviewed at length about the problems of the N. Ire executive and discussed them in detail 3. However at NO POINT was she challenged about the DUP & May
Andrew Adonis: Case study of the deep problems of bias and lack of journalistic confidence at @BBCr4today & @BBCNews. They are terrified of the Brexiters & getting offside with the Govt.

And this very morning, Lord Adonis is facing down the BBC's very own sword-brandishing Perseus, Andrew Neil:
Andrew Neil: German journalist wrong to say at #MSC18 — Munich Security conference — to Mrs May that French people voted against Lisbon treaty then changed minds, calling it ‘prudent’. When treaty downgraded to ‘reform’ there was no 2nd French referendum. Parliament ratified.
Charles Tannock MEP: So are you suggesting if a fresh deal came from the EU27 with an improved offer to the UK as @HansOlafHenkel is campaigning for UK Parliament could stop A50 & override 2016 Referendum & reverse Brexit?
Andrew Neil: Errrr no. Not slightest suggestion of any of that in my tweet, which was pure;y factual. Are you hallucinating? Bit early for the cooking sherry.
Charles Tannock MEP: I'm just making a more general point that continental countries like France, Denmark and Ireland are more pragmatic than UK in their relations with EU and noone threatened mass insurgency unlike Brexiteers when small majority referenda were reversed. But thanks for responding,
Andrew Neil: Perhaps because, in the end, France, Denmark and Ireland did as they were told, after initial revolts.
Andrew Adonis: View from the BBC: freely expressed will of the French, Danish & Irish people & parliaments is ‘doing what they are told [by Brussels], after initial revolts.’ Pure Farageism from ‘impartial’ BBC political interviewer. @Ofcom
Andrew Neil: Change “told” to “politely but firmly asked to think again” if it makes you feel better. What bit of the narrative is factually wrong? Remember all our hopes of a British Macron now rest with you.
Andrew Adonis: You are brilliant commentator Andrew. But this is obviously unacceptable from ‘impartial’ BBC political interviewer. U only get away with it because BBC News now annexed by Brexiters. It’s why people like me are having to get back into politics, to stop you wrecking the country.
Andrew Neil: Idea BBC News ‘annexed’ by Brexiteers is bonkers of a very high order. Very, very high. Stratospheric, in fact. I notice no factual corrections to my tweet. But I’m delighted you’re back in politics (when did you leave?). You are our Macron. Can I be your campaign manager?
Andrew Adonis: It is factually incorrect to say that the  French, Danish & Irish people & parliaments ‘did as they were told, after initial revolts.’ Farageism of a very, very high order. Stratospheric, in fact. As my campaign manager, would you like to retract this?
Andrew Neil: I changed told to firmly asked to think again. Do I have the job?
Andrew Adonis: I couldn’t possibly afford you on your inflated BBC salary! But please carry on highlighting that the BBC is no longer an impartial state broadcaster - so we can resolve this before the now inevitable referendum on Mrs May’s Brexit terms!
Andrew Neil: I'll do it for free. As public service. Purge of BBC Brexiteers can't wait. From DG down ... to Head of News ... total cull at Newsnight ... don't get me started on Today ... or Sky News ... and these pro-Brexit fanatics at Economist, FT and Guardian - and Times! Heads must roll!
Such thinking about the BBC is obviously spreading. A close friend of mine is just as convinced as Lord Adonis that the BBC is a rabid pro-Brexit poodle of the Tories and keeps telling me to 'open my eyes' to the truth of that fact!

Of course, as Andrew Neil says, that is "bonkers of a very high order". 

As for Lord Adonis's various points, the idea that the BBC "largely created Farage" is "bonkers" of an even higher order. The BBC marginalised and belittled UKIP for years. It was Nigel Farage and his party's electoral successes particularly in the Euro elections of 2009 and 2013 that gave UKIP their great leap forward. The BBC had to start giving Mr. Farage a higher profile from that time. For concrete evidence of how wrong Lord Adonis is here, just look at how UKIP were being marginalised back in 2009-10, even after they came second in the 2009 elections. This was my count (at the time) of the airtime given to the various political parties as far as interviews on all the main BBC TV and radio current affairs programmes:  


July 2009
Labour - 60.92%
Conservatives - 24.08%
Lib Dems - 10.82%
SNP - 2.08%
Greens - 0.82%
BNP - 0.76%
UKIP - 0.32%
Plaid Cymru - 0.22%

August 2009
Labour - 6 hours 5 minutes 33 seconds, 52.3%
Conservatives - 2 hours 37 minutes 57 seconds, 22.6%
Liberal Democrats - 1 hour 32 minutes 15 seconds, 13.2%
SNP - 1 hour 7 minutes 6 seconds, 9.6%
Greens - 7 minutes 11 seconds, 1%
Independents - 3 minutes 47 seconds, 0.5%
UKIP - 3 minutes 33 seconds, 0.5%
Plaid Cymru - 2 minutes 42 seconds, 0.3%

September 2009
Labour - 12 hours 25 minutes 26 seconds, 61.51%
Liberal Democrats - 4 hours 5 minutes 10 seconds, 19.98%
Conservatives - 2 hours 52 minutes 1 second, 14.03%
SNP - 19 minutes 35 seconds, 1.58%
UKIP - 10 minutes 52 seconds, 0.86%
Plaid Cymru - 7 minutes 34 seconds, 0.62%
Independent - 5 minutes 16 seconds, 0.43%
Greens - 2 minutes 51 seconds, 0.23%
English Democrats - 2 minutes 47 seconds, 0.23%
UUP - 2 minutes 27 seconds, 0.21%
DUP - 2 minutes 15 seconds, 0.19%
SDLP - 1 minute 56 seconds, 0.13%

October 2009
Conservatives - 10 hours 51 minutes 29 seconds, 43.20%
Labour - 10 hours 42 minutes 41 seconds, 42.61%
Liberal Democrats - 1 hour 45 minutes 39 seconds, 6.99%
SNP - 1 hour 0 minutes 22 seconds, 3.99%
UKIP - 11 minutes 17 seconds, 0.74%
DUP - 9 minutes 2 seconds, 0.60%
BNP - 8 minutes 8 seconds, 0.54%
Sinn Fein - 6 minutes 16 seconds, 0.41%
Greens - 5 minutes 20 seconds, 0.34%
Alliance - 3 minutes 26 seconds, 0.22%
Plaid Cymru - 3 minutes 16 seconds, 0.21%
UUP - 2 minutes 27 seconds, 0.15%

November 2009
Labour - 7 hours 44 minutes 21 seconds (41.1%)
Conservatives - 6 hours 25 minutes 11 seconds (34.1%)
Liberal Democrats - 2 hours 16 minutes 19 seconds (12.0%)
SNP- 1 hour 15 minutes 4 seconds (6.7%)
UKIP - 29 minutes 10 seconds (2.6%)
Greens - 16 minutes 34 seconds (1.5%)
Sinn Fein - 9 minutes 35 seconds (0.9%)
Independents - 8 minutes 1 second (0.7%)
Plaid Cymru - 4 minutes 59 seconds (0.4%)

December 2009
Labour - 56.20% (7h 49m 56s)
Conservatives - 29.01% (4h 2m 40s)
Lib Dems - 11.65% (1h 37m 30s)
SNP - 1.21% (10m 13s)
UKIP - 0.99% (8m 25s)
Independents - 0.65% (5m 40s)
Plaid Cymru - 0.29% (2m 46s)

January 2010
Labour - 54.81% (12h 13m 18s)
Conservatives - 22.81% (5h 5m 13s)
Lib Dems - 12.65% (2h 49m 19s)
SNP - 2.25% (30m 10s)
Sinn Fein - 1.68% (22m 49s)
UKIP - 1.44% (19m 28s)
DUP - 1.22% (16m 34s)
Independents - 0.90% (12m 1s)
Greens - 0.60% (8m 4s)
SDLP - 0.48% (6m 46s)
Alliance - 0.46% (6m 18s)
TUV - 0.46% (6m 18s)
Respect - 0.24% (3m 16s)

The idea that the BBC was responsible for the rise of Nigel Farage is beyond ridiculous. Lord Adonis is simply wrong.

As for the idea that Radio 4's Today is now "just a noticeboard for government and Farage press releases", well, the evidence (stats not anecdotes) say the opposite. Today continues to be heavily tilted in favour of those who aren't pro-Brexit, guest-selection-wise. Lord Adonis is simply wrong. 

And, yes, though Question Time does give Nigel Farage a platform - on average about twice a year (31 appearances from 2000 to now) - the stats also show that the programme's panels remain heavily tilted in favour of those who aren't pro-Brexit. Lord Adonis is wrong again.

On the Theresa Villiers grumble, the interview was about the news that day - serious problems with the NI executive. It wasn't about Brexit. So this amounts to nothing more than Lord Adonis and his Brexit-fixated Twitter friend not getting the discussion they wanted. Not every discussion about Northern Ireland with a pro-Brexit politician has to be about Brexit. It was a short interview too. And if Justin Webb had changed the subject and asked her about Brexit, these same people would then probably have complained that he was giving a pro-Brexit politician a platform to push Brexit! Lord Adonis is simply wrong.

Furthermore, that very edition of Todaywhen it did discuss Brexit, repeatedly saw its business reporter Dharshini David (at 6:22, 6:28 and 8:50) asking questions about Brexit from a negative standpoint - the IMF's "warnings" about Brexit, how Brexit could be an "obstacle" to tech companies, and the "challenges" Brexit poses for the UK's fashion industry, and the main Brexit focus was on an Ed Balls-commissioned report that found that small and medium-sized businesses want us to stay in the Single Market (two segments on that). Did Lord Adonis miss these bit? Guest-wise, Polly Toynbee and Ed Balls were balanced by John Mills and Charles Moore. 

On Andrew Neil's tweets, well, yes, Andrew Adonis has a point. AN is very opinionated on Twitter and his views aren't disguised. If others shouldn't be he shouldn't be either (much as I enjoy his tweets). But Andrew Adonis only has a very narrow point specifically related to AN. Andrew Neil remains the exception that proves the rule on that front. The rest of the BBC tends very heavily in the other direction. Read almost any of the other opinionated BBC Tweeters and you'll find next to no links to pro-Brexit commentaries but plenty of links to anti-Brexit commentaries. By singling him out and making him 'represent' the BBC, Lord Adonis is completely inverting the truth about biased BBC tweets. Lord Adonis is still wrong. 

On that 'corpse' headline, which the BBC later changed, however, yes, I did raise an eyebrow or two myself when I saw that headline, but Kamal Ahmed's commentary beneath that headline was certainly not pro-Brexit. Even some pro-EU Tweeters pointed out the falsity of Lord Adonis's characterisation of his actual piece. ("I read your article through twice after reading criticisms of it especially by Lord Adonis. It was pretty clear to me what you were saying and that it wasn't insulting to the EU or those of us who wish to remain in it. Sadly some may have only read the headlines."). Lord Adonis was right about that headline but, otherwise, is simply wrong again.

All of this is, of course, will be both unpleasant for and pleasing to the BBC. They won't like Lord Adonis's repeated claims of bias against them, but they will relish being able to play the 'Complaints from both sides' card: He says the BBC is pro-Brexit; They say the BBC is anti-Brexit; Ergo, the BBC must be getting it about right.

However, nearly all of what Lord Adonis said here is complete and utter baloney. What sites like News-watch (for example) say, claiming the opposite of what Lord Adonis is saying, is not complete and utter baloney because it is backed up by evidence (and lots of it). So if one side is wrong and the other side is right, the contention that 'we must be getting it about right because we're being complained about by both sides' doesn't hold water.

3 comments:

  1. I have a counter to the ‘offending both sides’ claim of rectitude I call CSI:W1A. In it a corpse is discovered in a kitchen lying with feet in an oven and head in a freezer. However, despite being clearly rotten, the liver temp suggested it was healthy.

    As with all other exercised ‘the Bbc is a Tory Brexit front’ types, I suggested to the good Lord as he was not happy and I am not happy, the only sensible option is for it to go subscription.

    No reply, as usual, though I have had a few suggest the only acceptable solution is the BBC makes Paul Mason and James’Obrien Joint God Emperors and Jasmine Lawerence hive Queen.

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  2. I have also seen the Good Lord asked another question, I think pertinent given the bbc seems to run untrustworthy, not transparent tracks...

    https://twitter.com/junkkmale/status/964860770449281024

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  3. Looking at the tweet war with Lord Adonis (why don't we have a seven stone weakling called Lord Hercules as well?) I am reminded of Lewis Caroll's Lobster Quadrille...a slow, stately, incredibly complex dance of uncertain provenance but which seems to give the participants pleasure.

    This is an old dance...I remember when Harold Wilson used to complain of anti-Labour bias at the BBC, despite the overwhelming backing of BBC satirists, dramatists, arts commentators, documentary makers and current affairs commentators for Labour. What he meant was that he wanted 100% backing for Labour from the BBC with 0% dissent.

    Wilson failed to understand the BBC's vanity...like a fat woman who regularly goes on a diet, the BBC want to imagine that they are truly trying to be impartial when they look in the mirror and that does necessitate actually starting a diet every now and then (on the analogy, allowing Farage at least a few minutes to get his viewpoint across every now and then).

    The BBC wants to be virtue signalling but also biased to the Left, while still maintaining (Sopel-style) that they are "impartial"...all the while drawing huge, unjustified salaries. Humans have a talent for ignoring cognitive dissonance. :)

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