Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Mid-November Open Thread




Hello. Here's a new open thread to warm yourselves in front throughout this dark mid-November. Thank you for your continued backing and comments. 

Is Peter telling porkies?


Peter Oborne, writing an opinion column for the Guardian (and now running a new website called The lies, falsehoods and misrepresentations of Boris Johnson and his government), has gone down a storm today (with the usual types) for saying this:
I have talked to senior BBC executives, and they tell me they personally think it’s wrong to expose lies told by a British prime minister because it undermines trust in British politics. 
Really?

It looks as if the BBC's Rob Burley might want to set up his own new website called The lies, falsehoods and misrepresentations of Peter Oborne in response, given that Rob has tweeted this today: 
Just because you read something in an opinion column doesn’t mean it’s true. Often quite the opposite.
It may have riled Rob in particular because The Big O 'named and shamed' his main man, Andrew Marr:
Recently the hugely experienced broadcaster Andrew Marr allowed Johnson to go unchallenged in saying the Tories “don’t do deals with other political parties”. What about the coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in 2010? Or the £1bn “confidence and supply” deal struck with the Democratic Unionist party just two years ago? Marr let Johnson get away with it. So do many others. 
Meanwhile, here comes Huw Edwards:
I have great admiration for Peter, but he should name these ‘senior BBC executives’. I have never come across any such suggestion in my 35 years here. As for ‘undermining trust’...
So who to believe?

AN AVOWED SILENCE? Part 2


A guest post by Arthur T...

Split Images of the Queen’s Window in Westminster Abbey

In Craig’s recent posting ‘Mark Easton does it again’ and comments contained in the Open Thread, it is clear that the Westminster Abbey Institute of which BBC’s Home Editor Mark Easton is a member, is set up with its location within SW1 to be at the fulcrum of Monarchy, Church and Parliament. The BBC through Easton have the ear of this elite lobby group. Its function seems to be designed to put forward a range of opinions to MPs as they they go about their everyday business in the Palace of Westminster. 

I am intrigued by the dynamic of Monarchy, Church and Parliament within the Westminster village. The output of conflicting messages cannot be any more telling than in their commissioning and completion of the Queen’s Window in Westminster Abbey last year. 

There is the following story in the BBC News website archive dated 26th September 2018:


‘Westminster Abbey Queen's Window by David Hockney revealed' 

Assuming there is no time-barring on ITBBCB?, this story plays out in support of the earlier article AN AVOWED SILENCE? What qualities made David Hockney a suitable artist to produce stained glass windows to celebrate the Queen’s reign, when he had never worked in glass before? Secondly, what was the brief that led to his choice of subject? 

The BBC News website and News channels made much of the installation of these windows showing photos of Hockney viewing his designs. However, nowhere in the write-up is there a mention of Christianity, or the esteemed place held by Westminster Abbey in the Anglican Church, or of the new windows’ place and relationship with the existing stained glass within Westminster Abbey, and the context which led to the commission. There are no religious symbols, no texts, and importantly, no figurative imagery to celebrate the Christian message. There is nothing to relate these incongruous windows to anything other than the fame of David Hockney, and a window in the north transept where a window had clear glass - which suggested itself as a suitable position for the Queen’s Window. 

The BBC article reads: 
Hockney, who created the design on his iPad, said the hawthorn blossom scene is set in Yorkshire. Westminster Abbey said the result "reflects the Queen as a countrywoman and her widespread delight in, and yearning for, the countryside”. Hockney said: "The iPad is back-lit like a window, it's a natural thing to use.” ”I learnt something about glass. It was a challenge." The Queen has not seen the finished window, but an optimistic Hockney said: "I hope she'll like it. I'm sure she will.”
What an incredibly shallow remark this is: ”reflects the Queen as a countrywoman and her widespread delight in, and yearning for, the countryside”. Is there a hint here that Westminster Abbey through Hockney, an influential voice in the world of art, might be distancing the Queen from the population of London with its open borders? This is where cracks in the dynamic between Monarch, Church and Parliament start to show. The Church have over recent years become much more circumspect in portrayal of the Christian message for fear of alienating other faiths. They have learnt tread so carefully that the image of Christ and other symbols of Christianity have been effectively banned in London especially. 

Parliament, we know, toes the line on every PC ideological nicety. The so-called Westminster bubble which includes the BBC and MSM also conform energetically. 

David Hockney is popular with the BBC. As a pop-artist, it is questionable whether his work is anything other than transitory. Remember Richard Hamilton’s tenets of Pop-art - including gimmicky, In fact, Hockney did not contribute directly to the manufacture of the window in any hands-on practical sense. As might an architect, he sent his digital images of his designs for others to interpret - no doubt with an oversight as work progressed. We learn several of the factors leading up to the commissioning of this work from The Independent: ‘A bright window into David Hockney’s own faith’: 
‘Standing beneath Hockney’s window in Westminster Abbey days later, the Very Rev Dr John R Hall, dean of the church, says he approached Hockney because he was “the most celebrated living artist” and one whose fame coincided with the queen’s reign. He calls the work “absolutely vibrant”, and adds, “It’s very legible, so in that sense it’s very accessible, and I think people will be very excited by it.” He contrasts it with the 19th-century window next to it, representing the miracles of Christ, “so dark it’s almost illegible.”’
Here we have a negative message: ‘the 19th-century window next to it, representing the miracles of Christ, “so dark it’s almost illegible”’. The story-telling of stained glass goes back centuries. “so dark it’s almost illegible” does not cut ice. Spend some money on refurbishing and cleaning!
‘Hockney is not much of a churchgoer. Though his mother was a “keen Christian” and he grew up attending a Methodist chapel, he says, he stopped at age 16 because, “I realised all the people who went to church weren’t really that good; they were hypocrites. That put me off.” Today, he has his own form of faith, he says. “I used to think I was heading for oblivion, and I still really think that,” he says.’ 
‘The onetime bad boy of British art has spent the better part of the past five decades in Los Angeles.’
There are two layers of contradiction about this work. Firstly, Q. why would Westminster Abbey commission a work that has no religious meaning (‘vibrant’ is the description from the Very Rev Dr John R Hall)? A. Could it really be because religious symbols of Christ of this scale are not now acceptable to Westminster Abbey? 

And Q. Why commission Hockney who has neither worked in glass before and has no genuine Christian faith? 

Why does the BBC treat this as an important piece of work and yet fail to define its place within the Christian context of Westminster Abbey? I believe the answer to the latter question is that they will not promote the Christian message, and will not give succour to figurative depiction of Christian themes - particularly not of Christ. 

It’s becoming increasingly evident that the dynamic of Monarchy, Church and Parliament is becoming strained, and that inevitably, the Monarchy will be squeezed - that is what I read into the carefully constructed justification for the Queen’s Window from Hockney: ”reflects the Queen as a countrywoman and her widespread delight in, and yearning for, the countryside”. 

As for the window itself - I think it is dreadful. It is a crudely upscaled image which had been generated by i-Pad software, hardly from the hand of a great artist. John Betjeman would have called it “Ghastly”.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Not another one! (Bumped again!)

Bumped again! (Hope that’s ok with you Craig) because Ms Carroll’s behaviour has "attracted" the BBC, if not necessarily their scrutiny.


Being scrupulously impartial,  the BBC is keen to put her side of the story. Oh, wait, it seems to have forgotten to include the rest of it.  

(From Private Eye)

Oh well, not to worry. You can get it here: 


Bumped, from first thing this morning, back to the top of the blog for those who like a  debate (see the thread below)...


The Mail on Sunday reports that Maria Carroll, Labour's Corbynite candidate in Carmarthen East, ran a secret Facebook group (the 'Labour Party Compliance: Suspensions, Expulsions, Rejections Co-Op’) advising members accused of antisemitism how to escape expulsion, including members who cast doubt on the Holocaust and promoted antisemitic tropes. There's lot of damning detail in the piece. 

Lord John Mann, until the election MP for Bassetlaw, has tweeted, "Labour candidate ran secret group advising party 'Holocaust deniers'. This is on a deferent level. All those involved need suspending and none are fit to be candidates and need to have Labour endorsement removed today."

Will Ms Carroll's behaviour attract the BBC's scrutiny?

Wales again

Talking of Wales, I see our old friend Sahar Al-Faifi……
……..has been suspended “over anti-Semitism claims”  How sad. Never mind.

The BBC is scrupulously impartial and puts in some essential ‘whataboutery’ (re Islamophobia) for balance.
On Thursday, Plaid Cymru posted a picture on Twitter of Ms Al-Faifi, who wears a face-veil or niqab, to promote the party election broadcast later that evening. 
Plaid Cymru sent a tweet saying the post received "abusive Islamophobic responses" that are "unacceptable and will not be tolerated." 
The party's tweet continued: "We stand with Sahar and all Muslim people in Wales and beyond.
Al Faifa, a member of MEND is a well-known antisemite, which I only mention just in case the BBC hasn’t quite realised it yet.

Poll


According to Mark Littlewood in The Times, "Nearly seven in ten support scrapping the BBC licence fee".

That's the way to do it


So it turns out that if - unlike Andrew Marr yesterday - you do ask Jeremy Corbyn about his "friends" Hamas and Hizbollah, he becomes noticeably less relaxed during interviews:


Crikey, indeed!

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Listening to Bagpipes


Yes, I have long loved BBC Radio 3. 

Call it a weakness, if you will.

But the rapid promotion of The Guardian's Tom Service to the rank of the station's Main Mage initially irritated me more than any other change in recent BBC Radio 3 history. 

He spoke too fast, almost to the point of incoherent gabbling, and seemed to me to babble, like, you know, like, you know, in a typical Guardian-writer's right-on way, about stuff I felt he hadn't thought about anywhere near enough. 

I felt he was bluffing it.

Over time, he's grown hugely on me as a Radio 3 presenter (like a Jeremy vine). And he's slowed down massively, and learnt a lot more. And I now rather look forward to his often excellent programmes - such as The Listening Service and Music Matters...

...and that despite the fact that he's still given to setting up straw men and banalities and then, with a swish of his right-on wand, magically covering them in the gold dust of his right-on insightfulness. 

Today's The Listening Service was on a theme that very much appeals to me: The Great Highland Bagpipe. But, while enjoying it, I did note than Tom - in breach of BBC guidelines, though very much in the spirit of his old rag The Guardian - used 'Palestine' to describe the non-existent country of the Palestinians. 

As for 'Scotland the Brave', Tom called that tune 'godawful'.

Anecdote time:

One of my strongest recent memories was going on a family coach trip to Loch Lomond and being, on the way, left stranded for two very long hours with my family at the main tourist spot/coach interchange at Gretna Green - tourist shops, cafes, the inevitable Edinburgh Woollen Mill - waiting for the next coach to arrive and to carry us on, up the motorway, to the land of clans, haggis-on-the-breakfast menu and, of course, umpteen hundred mentions of the ubiquitous Rob Roy. The piper at Gretna Green played 'Scotland the Brave', and three other tunes, and a dog, unrestrained by its owner, stood in front of him and howled and howled and howled. And everyone laughed. And I felt sorry for the poor piper and gave a daftly healthy tip to allow him to do as Gretna Green pipers are supposed to do - retreat and sit bousing at the nappy, and get fou and unco happy. 

Ah, yes, and now here's the BBC Tam O'Service and his guests talking about 'stereotypes' and 'cliches' and about 'touristified Scotchness', and emphasing the 'diversity' of bagpipe traditions across Europe and the Middle East, as if they are Polly Toynbee's ghost.

I don't think Tom will be voting SNP on 12 December. (I'll guess Labour or the Lib Dems).

But how interesting so much of his programme was. And how much spark and thought he put into his presentation. So I'll forgive him. After all, he's a Guardian man turned BBC man. He can do no other, and will be allowed to do no other.

Cue Pipe Major Groundsman Willie again...

Eavesdropping on a Twitter spat featuring Mark Mardell


For fans of bewildering Twitter exchanges, here's one dragging in the BBC's Mark Mardell in the wake of today's The World This Weekendwhich began with the Prince Andrew/Virginia Roberts story:

Father DidymusHi Mark Mardell. She's a 17 year old girl not a 17 year old woman. Language is important here.  
Mark Mardell: Isn’t that rather patronising? 
Father Didymus: Am I missing something here? Who exactly am I patronising? You? The child involved? 
Mark Mardell: The 17 year old- language is important but fluid - when boy/girl stop ? 16, 18, 21,48 ? 
Father Didymus: In a case of allegations of sex trafficking of minors by middle aged men? I would say probably when they aren’t minors any more. 
Mark Mardell: Reasonable point. But go out of your way to call 17 year olds girls or boys and see how long it is before you are called out. But then you are trying to make a political point, and I'm trying to be clear 
Father Didymus: A political point? In what way is calling you out for describing a child who has been a victim of a convicted sex offender a woman a political point? You know nothing about my politics!

At which point Mark backed away...

They SHOULD be Sorry




It's a programme I've enjoyed since the days of Willie Rushton, and praised several times on this very blog as being, by and large, an oasis of old-fashioned, funny, BBC comedy - rather than the usual humour-deficient, over-politicised stuff the BBC now churns out.

(I've even transcribed some of Jack Dee's funnier introductions for your delectation (assuming he wrote them)). 

So what's happened?

Well, yes, ISIHAC has always dropped in the odd political joke, but this week's programme began with what can only be described as a string of bog-standard, predictable, left-wing, Radio 4-style political jokes. 

I'll quote a tweet about it that is absolutely spot-on in describing what you missed, if you didn't hear it:
Mike YardleyJust listening to BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue in the car. Switched it off. Ridiculous anti Brexit and anti Tory bias. No balance whatsoever. No jokes about Corbyn and McDonnell. Just spite about Farage & Boris & public schools and an effort to link Mosley to Tories.
Replies say:
Peter CharlesYes I am afraid that the BBC's social engineering agenda has even infected ISIHAC. The changes in panel members is all part of that. 
Mark LeesI am a huge fan of the BBC but unfortunately this is correct, a lot BBC produced humour is the same. Remain-centric jokes, written by Remainers for Remainers at the expense of Leavers.

Should I transcribe the 'offending' jokes? Yes!:

  • Shropshire is famous for its rich folklore. A favourite story is that of the Magic Princess who found a toad in her garden that was very sad because he was very ugly. So she granted him a wish. The toad's wish was to have a human body. So the Princess kissed the toad and, sure enough, his body turned into human form. But not his head. So the Princess offered him a second wish and he said he wanted to be leader of The Brexit Party.
  • Shrewsbury School is one of those public schools targeted for abolition under a Labour government as they are deemed elitist. But Shrewsbury protests the school is open to any pupil who can pass the entrance exam. Question 1: how many offshore investment funds does Father have? Question 2: List them, using both sides of the paper.
  • Sir Oswald Mosley was brought up near Market Drayton, became a Conservative MP and in 1920 married Lady Cynthia Curzon. And during the marriage Mosley conducted affairs with his wife's younger sister Lady Alexandra and with her mother Marchioness Curzon. As an MP back then this would have made Mosley the object of severe party disapproval. Today it'll make him Prime Minister.

Couldn't they have left us ISIHAC? Is that too much to ask?

Paddy's Choice


Paddy's Broadcasting House has, quite rightly, stood down its long-serving election generals, Lord Peter Hennessy and John Sargeant. Their openly-expressed strong contempt for Boris Johnson would have made them difficult to justify, impartiality-wise. 

So a new trio of election generals have been promoted: One's a former advisor to Boris Johnson, the second a fotmer advisor to Jeremy Corbyn and the third a former advisor to Nick Clegg - i.e. a Conservative, a Labour supporter and a Liberal Democrat supporter. 

And they'll be reappearing each week throughout the election. 

Now, the question - as per the broadcasters' difficulties over the leadership debates shows - is: how impartial is this

Should the Lib Dems be on every week? Why give them such a priveleged platform? How about a Green, or an SNP, or a Brexit Party major every so often instead? 

I bet they've closely debated that behind the scenes. They've certainly reached a decision. 

Amol exults!


Amol Rajan, ready for Emily and Esme's big awards moments

As MB notes on the Open Thread, Amol Rajan - the BBC's Media Editor - is joining in the BBC-on-BBC backslapping - and then some - over the Prince Andrew Newsnightie scoop:
Maximum respect. Clearly Emily Maitlis was magnificent and deserves every award coming her way. But this moment of television and British history would not have happened without exceptional producers - heroic public servants the public know virtually nothing of. Nice one Esme Wren.
Isn't that lovely! 

I hope he gets an award too for being so simply super in support of his marvellous , marvellous BBC colleagues. 

And I hope MB and I get awards too for passing on his effusions.

And you, dear readers, too shouldn't be left out.

And above all Sue, for just being Sue.


*******


Meanwhile, MB has also spotted something I wasn't aware of:
Looking at Amol's Twitter Feed I see he proudly proclaims his association with a Liberal Democrat Peer's charity (the Rumi Foundation). 
I think senior BBC people should be more careful about proclaiming such associations with party political figures.
Indeed, his 'Pinned Tweet' reads
Am so immensely proud of what our charity, KEY Sessions, has already done. KEY = Knowledge Elevates Youth. We’ve transformed a lot of inner-city kids’ lives - and we’re just getting started.
KEY Sessions is a Rumi Foundation project that the BBC's Amol co-founded.

Is this problematic?

It was horrible



The BBC's Royal Correspondent Jonny Dymond is probably not going to get a Christmas card from Prince Andrew and his family after his Broadcasting House review of that Newsnight perfomance:

Jonny Dymond: Well, he got the message out. You know, he got the denial, the acknowledgement of having made a mistake vis a vis seeing Epstein, he sowed a bit of doubt about the photo. But, I thought, at nearly every turn that was undercut by the tone. It was a sort of mix of 'Je ne regrette rien' and 'Do you know who I am?'. The lack of regret over the friendship was breathtaking, I think, for most people. The question of whether he'd testify if he was asked to, he said, 'Well, I'd take legal advice and if they told me I would have to, if push came to shove, I would'. And then there was this horrible tone-deaf description of how this predator, Jeffrey Epstein, behaved:
Prince Andrew: Do I regret the fact that he has quite obviously conducted himself in a manner unbecoming? Yes. 
Emily Maitlis: 'Unbecoming'? He was a sex offender.
Prince Andrew: Yep. I'm sorry. I'm being polite. In the sense that he was a sex offender.
I mean, who's he being polite to? The dead friend? I mean, 'manner unbecoming'! It was horrible. So much of it felt as if he simply could not apologise, and I think if he had gone in with a different tone the messages that he got out would have been that much more successful. But it was, as I say...it was undercut, I thought, by this tone of having nothing to apologise for.

Getting weary of it


Andrew Marr to Dominic Raab this morning:
Let's move to the biggest single slogan from your party throughout this election - we're already getting weary of it - 'Get Brexit Done!', 'We're Going to Get Brexit Done'. 
Who's 'we', Andrew?

Contrasting fortunes



Jeremy Corbyn undoubtedly fared better than Dominic Raab on this morning's The Andrew Marr Show.

Part of that is that the Labour leader put in much the better performance. He was so relaxed by the end that it's a wonder he didn't start purring.

That said, Mr Raab, slipping and sliding away from giving straight answers, got the rougher end of the deal when it came to Andrew's questioning - and the intensity of the interruptions.

(Only Jeremy Corbyn got an apology for being interrupted today.)

Will Dominic Raab blame himself or his interviewer?

Andrew Marr asked questions about a Corbyn government's arms sales to Saudi Arabia and Israel. I noted that Mr Corbyn sounded a good deal clearer as to his courses of action when it came to Israel. He gave a very precise answer, so he's obviously thought a lot about it. Andrew didn't ask him about antisemitism.

Feeling the love


Actor Jason Watkins, presently playing Harold Wilson in The Crown (and looking, at times, surprisingly like Peter Hitchens of The Mail on Sunday), began his interview with Andrew Marr this morning by giving an effusive defence of the BBC:
Jason Watkins: I'm very affectionate towards the BBC, warts and all. It's very important part of our society and...
Andrew Marr: Yes...
Jason Watkins: ...our fabric of our society for and because you don't have to subscribe [no, but you do have the pay the BBC licence fee, Jason!] then I feel that's very important and as a national institution I think it needs to be cherished and there are all sorts of new contenders, Netflix, of course one of them. And I think it's very important that for the nation that we are able to keep a little bit like the NHS, that I think the BBC, occupies a similar territory. 
Andrew then told him that the new series of The Crown is "absolutely sensational".

Isn't that nice!

Clever segue


On the Marr paper review this morning, the reviewers discussed how Labour wants to keep the election conversation away from Brexit but, if Brexit comes up, how Labour will then keep on trying to bring it back to 'Trump wanting to buy the NHS'. Andrew Marr described Labour's manoeuvre as a "clever segue". Others might call it a "dishonest segue". 

Praise



If not praise from Caesar, at least praise from a fellow BBC interviewer. 

Yes, it BBC-on-BBC backslapping time again, courtesy of Andrew Marr during this morning's paper review

"Very, very good interviewing, I thought, by Emily Maitlis", he said, talking of her Newsnight interview with The Other Andrew (the one who likes pizza).

Nina's not so great?


Poor Nina Warhurst. She read the news very nicely for Andrew Marr today, only slightly slipping over the name 'Nicholas Witchell' (it began to come out as 'Nichola'), but Andrew didn't call her "the great Nina Warhurst". It seems that, for Andrew, only Chris Mason is "the great".

Great, wet dollops of foul-smelling mud


Good morning. This a strange campaign so far. It's been thin, almost tawdry. Lots of verbal abuse. Great, wet dollops of foul-smelling mud being thrown in every direction. Slip-ups and pratfalls and silly photo ops with increasingly irritated voters. But where are the big arguments to get our pulses racing? The breakthrough policies? Well, now at last, that's changing. The Tories want to reverse the Beeching rail cuts. Labour's offering free broadband and after their manifesto meeting yesterday, promising a transformational plan for the UK. So this morning perhaps real promises, real choices, a real election at last.

Equivalence


Radio 4's Sunday programme again demonstrated the BBC's increasingly dogged equivalence between actual antisemitism in the Labour Party and supposed Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, despite the two being very different beasts. Here's how Ed Stourton began the segment on the influence of religion on the election:
The allegations of antisemitism against Labour and of Islamophobia against the Tories seem destined to haunt both the big parties during this election campaign. It was reported this week that the Conservative party had suspended some members over claims of Islamophobic social media posts. 

Noises off



It's not news these days that the BBC Natural History Unit's mighty landmark series - usually with voiceovers by Sir David Attenborough - sometimes contain little editing tricks: a bit of helpful noise added from elsewhere, borrowed footage spliced in to make the story flow better, things that are meant to be happening in the wild being filmed in studios, etc. 

It's not a particularly big thing and it doesn't necessarily do any harm, but it used to be surprising to hear about it.

And then there are the mistakes that accompany such practises... 

The Sunday Times, prompted by two eagle-eared experts, has compelled the BBC to temporarily remove an episode of the latest BBC one blockbuster - Seven Worlds, One Planet - from the BBC iPlayer for further editing. 

(1) The BBC, showing rare Andean bears (the ones who eat avacados) climbing trees, dubbed on some atmospheric bird noises. Unfortunately, they dubbed on the calls of "one of the continent's most recognisable birds" - red-legged seriemas - who don't live where the bears live but over a thousand miles away.

(2) The BBC, then showing those rare Andean bears brawling, dubbed on some extra bear roars to make it sound more dramatic. Unfortunately, they dubbed on the roaring of a much more common bear species. 

(Also, the same episode confused a type of falcon called a caracara with a snail kite). 

As per The Sunday Times:
The BBC conceded the mistakes, and said it was “occasionally . . . necessary to add supplementary audio” to cover “background noise or when filming a significant distance from the animal. We apologise for these errors and they will be corrected for future versions.”

"‘No-nonsense Naga’! Go get ‘im!"


"Why are you relatable to families up and down the country? How can they relate to you and your family?"

That's a question Naga Munchetty put to Boris Johnson on Friday's BBC Breakfast - and one of her BBC colleagues was very impressed:



Boris appeared flummoxed and struggled for an answer, and this absolutely delighted his critics. They felt that he'd been exposed as the priveleged charlatan he is, and took to Twitter en masse to extol Naga's virtues as an interviewer.

They positively love-bombed her.

Others, however, thought that this was a ghastly attempt at a 'gotcha', and that she'd asked him a question most people would struggle to answer.  

Here's a not-so-typical sample of the Twitter discussion about it:
JJ Techilovsky I'm a Corbyn supporter but I thought it a stupid question. It's not his fault which family he was born into. But challenge him on the things he is responsible for.
Trish: It's not about the type of family he was born into it's about his values and principles, ....to me it was a simple and honest question but obviously he was stumped for an answer. God help us all.
JJ Techilovsky: She literally said "how can they relate to you and your family?" I'm not a fan of Boris but if it was about his principles she could have just said "What are your values and principles?"
Matt Byrne: Nothing to do with the family he was brought up in, that isn't his fault. More to do with his current families and children, she was basically very cleverly calling him a bollox.
And here's the Daily Telegraph's Benedict Spence, agreeing that "she was basically very cleverly calling him a bollox", albeit throughout the interview, and most definitely not admiring her for it:
Take Friday's interview between Naga Munchetty and the PM on BBC Breakfast. What was billed as cosy sofa chat — to allow the audience to get to know the candidate better — quickly became an aggressive interrogation, full of prickliness, with an air of dismissiveness from Munchetty, and punctuated by interruptions, digs, and plenty of over-laboured efforts at a ‘gotcha’ moment.  
It’s one of the things that has come to mark broadcast interviewing strategies in this country, and it isn’t edifying or constructive — not to delve into the crux of policies, say, or actually get a straight answer, but instead to try where possible to harangue the interviewee, and make them out to be beyond contempt. 
Perhaps Jeremy Paxman is responsible for this — he of the famous Michael Howard interview — but it now seems to be more important to render people immobile before verbally goring them than to actually interview them. 
It has been one of the great complaints made against Today, of late, that presenters talk and snipe too much. It ends up telling the public very little about the person, or policies, they were ostensibly tuning in to discover more of.

The BBC's Scamble for Africa (and India)


The BBC is gearing up to extend into Africa and India as it fights against the global domination of the American streaming giants.  
The publicly funded broadcaster wants to start partnerships with overseas rivals on shows and audio services to expand its reach across two of the most populous and rapidly growing regions. That could push the catch-up service BBC iPlayer and the radio and podcast app BBC Sounds into new territories. 
And guess what?
It wants the next government to support further expansion.

Not yellow


I see that Andrew Neil is continuing to be 'the exception that proves the rule' as far as the claim that the BBC are almost entirely ignoring the ongoing gilets jaunes protests in Paris (and the accompanying French police violence) - at least according to some BBC critics on Twitter. He's tweeted about them again this weekend:


...except that the BBC's Paris correspondent Lucy Williamson has made herself another 'exception to the rule' today by penning a piece for the BBC News website headlined Gilets Jaunes: Anger of yellow vests still grips France a year on. It strikes me as a fair-mined piece. 

Saturday, 16 November 2019

The end of after-school 'Newsround'



After 47 years (the first 17 of them as John Craven's Newsround), the BBC is bringing its teatime edition of Newsround to an end

The BBC says that children are getting their news online these days, so there's no great demand for it anymore.  

And so it seems....


Some people are describing it as a "short-sighted" decision (if that isn't offensive to myopic people).

Others are feeling wistful. "This is so sad", says Claire Cohen of the Daily Telegraph. "Without Newsround, I wouldn't remember the fall of the Berlin wall, the famine in Somalia and so much more. It gave me a sense of the world and the importance of news as a child."

I wish I could contribute a moving memory, but I really only remember John Craven's jumpers and stuff about saving the whales that made me want to save the whales when I was 9-10 years old. Will that do?

Wonder what causes Newsround has been promoting recently?

Freedom for fools


It's not often that BBC Trending's Mike Wendling veers away from his pet subject - the far-right on the internet - but #wreathgate has tempted him to do so. Linking to the BBC's Newswatch, he's tweeted:
The real story of the PM, the wreath and the footage on Breakfast is actually very dull and will not go viral, because it’s not nearly as sexy as a half baked #wreathgate conspiracy theory.
And I agree with him. He's right about that. It won't. (Despite my post about it!).

Where I part company with him is that I favour argument and mockery in dealing with such conspiracy-mongering folly. He - as his following tweet shows - inclines towards censorship: i.e. the tech companies 'doing something' to stop it:
This is a major problem with our information ecosystem, and atm its {sic} very difficult to see what anybody (other than a few dudes in Silicon Valley) can do about it.
Fools will always be among us. Getting the dudes in Silicon Valley to prevent them from being able to use social media to accuse the BBC of deliberately inserting the wrong footage of Boris Johnson at the wreath-laying service at the Cenotaph in order to cover up for his wreath-laying ineptness (because of their 'pro-Tory bias') isn't the right way to go, at least according to my way of thinking. And I find it rather worrying that a senior BBC journalist seems to think it is. 

Come the revolution



Meanwhile in a galaxy far, far away...

I suppose I ought to mention #wreathgate

In a thrice-shown segment on Monday morning's BBC Breakfast, the BBC mistakenly ran a 2016 clip of Boris Johnson laying a wreath at the Cenotaph, rather than video from this year. The BBC has subsequently apologised. The programme's editor said that a producer used archive video in error, which had been restored to preview Remembrance Sunday.

So it was just a cock-up.

Or was it? Well, not according to the BBC's Corbynista critics2,000 of them have already complained about it, accusing the corporation of "misrepresenting, distorting and lying" by deliberately inserting that three-year old footage into the package "to make Johnson look good".

Why would the BBC do that? Because Boris apparently laid the wreath the wrong way up this year and looked scruffier this year, whereas three years ago laid it the right way up and looked less scruffy, so the BBC were covering for him because of their pro-Tory bias.

The fuss became the usual Twitter tornado and Richard Frediani, the editor of BBC Breakfast, was even hauled onto Newswatch this week to go over it all over again, and apologise all over again.

I don't doubt that Mr Frediani's very detailed explanation was correct, but the Corbynistas are refusing to accept it.

The anger of the Corbynistas seems genuine and has, at times, taken a turn towards the downright sinister. Many a 'come a Corbyn government and you'll pay for this' tweet has been sent forth this week.

And it didn't stop there. The same crowd then got angry at the BBC for using a caption on Friday's Politics Live quoting BT's managing director Neil McRae, who'd branded Labour's broadband plans "broadband communism". The caption had a question mark at the end of those two words and quotation marks around the second word, and it was discussed with Labour's eyebrow-raising Rebecca Long-Bailey. And it alternated with a section caption that read 'Labour promise free broadband', which no Corbynista could surely object to.

Ash Sarkar's best buddy at Norovirus Media, Aaron Bastani, led the charge, accusing the BBC of smearing Labour, and one subsequent reply to their exchange - cited below - sums up a fairly widespread sentiment among the angrier Corbynista outriders:



If we do get a Corbyn government on 13 December this threat is more than likely to be realised.


P.S. ITV's Alistair Stewart paid this warm tribute to the BBC's Mr Frediani:
Honourable & characteristic of the man. I worked for Richard Frediani for many years at ITV News: he is a man of total honesty, integrity and candour. Innocent mistakes happen. Good folk say sorry and redouble their efforts to avoid such mistakes in future. That is all.

Mark Easton does it again



Bias on the rocks


There's a discussion on the Open Thread about a Mark Easton report on Thursday evening's BBC One News at Ten, launched by this comment:

Anonymous14 November 2019 at 22:15 
A new angle from Mark Easton tonight. There is not enough immigration. Lowestoft's most vulnerable residents are at risk because they can’t get enough migrants to do jobs in public services. In the middle of the report they hastily inserted a clip intended to embarrass Priti Patel. It ended with a sympathetic Jeremy Corbyn asking for a decent and fair system where public services can be properly resourced (with immigrants?). Blatant bias, editing and manipulation on this report and very clear where the BBC sit with immigration and which party they support

Mark Easton's track record of bias, especially on the subject of immigration, has been highlighted so many times on this blog, and this week's report is just another in a long line of such biased, manipulative reports. 

As noted in the above comment, many of Mark's favourite tricks were there: 

First, Mark builds his pro-immigration argument with detailed 'facts and figures'. Then he reinforces it with an articulate, sympathetic 'talking head'. And then he goes back to building his pro-immigration argument. 

Next, he introduces a chronically edited interview with Priti Patel, the severe editing of which makes her look both evasive and stupid. He pre-prepares his viewers by telling them that she "couldn't say whether it should go down or up" and added a rising, incredulous inflection to his tone of voice while doing so. 

(The editing here makes that Conservative video showing Keir Starmer being silent in response to a question when he'd actually answered straight away look honest and agenda-free in comparison). 

Then we get the 'other side' of the argument. Or rather we don't. He just doesn't bother even trying to make it. Where are the detailed 'facts and figures' showing the impact of immigration on schools, housing, the NHS, etc? And instead of an articulate, sympathetic 'talking head', who do we get instead? Yes, three not-so-articulate vox pops speaking their minds. 

Finally, after rubbishing Priti Patel and the Conservatives earlier, Mark gives us a quick, uncritical run-through of the positions of three other UK parties - Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP, before ending with a banal parting observation. 

It really is classic Mark Easton.

Here's a transcript:



Newsreader: The Conservatives say they will seek to control immigration by introducing a points based system that would be firm but fair - if they win the election. But the Home Secretary Priti Patel did not set a specific target for reducing overall numbers. The Prime Minister said immigration could come down in some sectors but he didn't want the UK to be closed to the rest of the world. Here's our Home Editor Mark Easton. 
Mark Easton: People have called Lowestoft home since the Stone Age. Its name from the Old Norse means 'homestead', but not enough people want to come and live here these days. If Lowestoft has an immigration problem, it's not that there are too many migrants coming to the town, but too few. The national immigration figures explain the problem. Since the Brexit referendum in 2016 net migration into the UK has fallen. Still historically high, but down 20%. Within that change is a more dramatic shift. Net migration from outside the EU has gone up 21%. But from inside the European Union it's down by more than two thirds in just three years. That huge fall in overall EU migration to the UK has seen some sectors that have relied on European workers struggling to adapt. In this part of the world, that's led to insurmountable recruitment problems. As chief executive of a community trust in Lowestoft, Emma Ratzer knows how desperate staff shortages can be for the town's most vulnerable citizens. 
Emma Ratzer, Access Community Trust: We don't have much immigration out here, which will be, you know, good news to hear for lots of people, but, actually in terms of finding people to fill social worker posts, GP posts, teaching jobs, it's actually a real problem for us. 
Health is a significant concern. There have been moves to bring in GPs from abroad. Care homes are closing, there aren't enough willing people locally to fill the vacancies. And it's that problem that lies behind confusion today as to what a Conservative government would do about immigration. A statement from party headquarters this morning quoted the Home Secretary saying "We will reduce immigration overall" but by this afternoon she couldn't say whether it should go down or up. 
Priti Patel, Home Secretary: The Conservative Party wants to control immigration. (edit) Interviewer: I'll ask again, do you want immigration to go up or down? Priti Patel: Well, we'll be controlling immigration, and that...Interviewer: (interrupting) Does that mean it goes down? Priti Patel: Well, we'll be able to control immigration numbers... (edit) 
InterviewerDo you want to reduce the numbers of immigrants that come to this country? Priti Patel: We want immigration that is fair... 
(edit) 
InterviewerThe suggestion is you want to lower immigration, is that right? Priti Patel: We will be able to control who comes to our country, and also the reasons as to why people are coming here. 
In Middlesbrough on Teesside, one can find the other side of the argument, that migrants put extra pressure on public services. Local children recently couldn't access school places in the town because of unexpected foreign arrivals. 
Female vox popWell, I think they do need to bring down the population. We haven't got enough spaces. Male vox pop 1: I just think money's concentrated, and stuff like that. I think it becomes an impact on the fabric of the town. Male vox pop 2: All the parties give you all the spiel, what they are going to do, what they are not going to do, and then at the end of the day you don't see any difference with any of them. 
It's the different experiences of places like Middlesbrough and Lowestoft that explain why the parties won't be clear about immigration. Labour's talked of extending free movement, the Liberal Democrats want a system that works for the economy, and the SNP wants more immigration for Scotland. But in truth, Britain still doesn't know what controlling our borders should look like. Mark Easton, BBC News, Lowestoft.

Clara McClaraface


You've all been voting, and we have our winner. CLARA SCHUMANN is your greatest composer of all time! Grab a copy of our latest issue to see which of today's living composers agreed with your choice. #ComposerWorldCup
Of course, Clara - wife of Robert and a great concert pianist - isn't anywhere near being the greatest composer of all time. Her music isn't awful - and I like some of her pieces - but it's second-rate even at its very best. 

Our old friend Damian Thompson places the blame on the BBC
This is so embarrassing, even shameful. Clara was a modestly talented amateur composer and everyone at BBC Music Magazine knows it.
Given the comments, which (despite heavy woke activity) could have gone very much better, Damian later added:
This ludicrous woke stunt has backfired badly on BBC Music Magazine. It’s now a laughing stock.