Monday, 6 December 2021

December Open Thread

I name this ship "December Open Thread". I wish success to her and all who sail in her. Thank you for your comments.

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Who can reply? We can

It begins as a Twitter trail, but goes much further...

Mike Wendling, 'Editor of BBC Trending and the BBC News team investigating disinformation', took to Twitter this morning to promote a perfectly-balanced-sounding BBC News website piece headlined Mandatory vaccinations: Three reasons for and against.

That's one heck of an impartial-sounding title.

A chap called Robin Lee, 'writer and journalist - based in London', duly replied, ''This article is a disgrace''. 

To which Mike [after first popping on his Who can reply? People Mike Wendling follows or mentioned can reply message to limit the conversation] replied:
I guess if someone was completely ideologically opposed to covid vaccines for some reason, they might have that opinion about an interesting and balanced story on a matter of public debate.'
Robin replied, ''There was nothing balanced about that article''.

I will lay my cards on the table before continuing...

I had my booster jab today, and was perfectly happy to do so, and hope that I'm helping by doing so. And I'm not where many people hereabouts are on the issue of lockdowns. I'm one of those cautious types. And I'm as far from being an 'anti-vaxxer' as it's humanly possible to be. But I don't want people forced into having vaccines and I'm seriously alarmed by the draconian actions of some governments abroad, as cited in the BBC article, to cajole and punish refusers. 

So, knowing that, here's my take on this BBC article: 

Despite its promising title and Mike Wendling's protestations, it is far from balanced. 

In fact, it's almost a template parody of BBC impartiality. 

It begins by framing the argument and casting the actions of those many foreign governments enforcing vaccinations in a positive light, as if they're behaving reasonably and proportionately, thus implying that if so many reasonable governments from France to New Zealand to Canada are moving in the direction of compelling vaccines why shouldn't we?  

Then come three FOR points, alternating with three AGAINST points. 

Read them for yourselves and you will see straightaway that FOR Point No.1, Vaccines save lives, is straightforwardly a FOR case.

Then comes AGAINST Point No.1, There will be resistance. And this, in contrast, is also a FOR case scantily dressed up as an AGAINST case. It says, ''The point is, whatever a government does, it will face opposition'' and then piles on two experts, one presenting the 'resistors' as being emotional, the other neutrally summarising both the FOR and AGAINST cases in a single sentence. A photo of a 'gammon' with a placard saying THIS IS WAR comes midway.

So far, so unbalanced. 

It goes on. 

FOR Point No.2, We've exhausted other options..., even has a graph to support its point. It's another pure FOR section.

AGAINST Point No.2, ...or maybe not just yet, is the best yet. It begins with a classic bit of BBC 'impartiality', pretending to be an AGAINST point but starting by basically ruling the argument over in favour of FOR:
While there is a strong health argument in favour of mandatory vaccinations, it is not the only way to boost levels.
Do you see what I mean about this being ''almost a template parody of BBC impartiality''?

FOR Point No.3, End the cycle of lockdowns, is one obviously designed in a rather blatantly propagandist way to appeal to those opposed to lockdowns whilst being a FOR argument. An expert is on hand to agree with the BBC line. Midway comes a video when a passionate case is made for people to get their vaccines. 

And the final AGAINST Point No.3, It could prove counterproductive, is simply weird - and very BBC. It's the only AGAINST case this BBC piece presents as if it's a genuine concern. It features a couple of experts worrying that mandatory schemes might embolden conspiracy theorists and nasty right-wing political parties. 

Seriously, if Mike Wendling believes this piece is genuinely ''balanced'' then Marianna ought to be be pursuing him down the rabbit hole armed with Elmer Fudd's shotgun accusing him of 'FAKE NEWS'. 

The BBC reporter here, Thom Poole, is new to me, He's another BBC 'senior journalist'

Introducing the BBC's Harry Farley - an update

Harry Farley, 'senior journalist at BBC News' and the BBC chap in the eye of the storm over the BBC's Oxford Street antisemitism coverage, has 'protected his tweets'

Whether that's because of 'feedback' over his reporting or because we reviewed his tweets a few days ago - such as the one where he heard a Nigel Farage programme on LBC and found it ''absolutely extraordinary. No pretence. He’s given hours of airtime to openly whip up hatred'' [I bet he's not a GB News fan] - and found them somewhat wanting on the impartiality front I simply cannot say.

Probably the former, but you never know. 

If it's the latter: Hi Harry. Please 'correct' your article again and ask the BBC to issue a prominent apology across all relevant platforms and also recommend that your bosses commission an outside-the-BBC person to review everything that went wrong here. Thanks.

Mr Marr's Antepenultimate Sunday Morning Sermon

There aren't many shopping days left till Andrew Marr Day, so I hope you're ready for 19th December, the date of Andrew Marr's final Sunday show on BBC One. 

Order your supply of tissues now! 

And if you just can't bear the thought of no more Andrew Marr on a Sunday morning, here's today's sermon to savour and return to and linger over as the nights draw in and we are all left feeling bereft when we wake up on a Sunday morning only to find that Mr Marr has mounted his reindeers and sleigh and flown off to the Left Pole at the New Statesman - and LBC and Classic FM.

Now I know that some of you on reading the bit in the transcript below about ''to snog, or not to snog'' and talks of ''hugs'' might start thinking of inventive ways to substitute ''snog'' and ''hugs'' with ''grope'', but I couldn't possibly comment.

Anyhow, here's today's scary and opinionated Andrew Marr Sunday Sermon - his intro to today's show:
Hello. More information coming in this morning on the Omicron variant. And it isn't, I'm afraid, hugely cheering. 160 cases officially identified here, maybe many more. Both England and Scotland are affected, we know this spreads very quickly. And, yes, vaccinated people are being infected. So, this leaves all of us with immediate Christmas dilemmas. To party or not to party. To snog, or not to snog. See older relatives for a mince pie and a hug, or pass on that this year. In normal times, we would look to the government for clear direction, but during this week, the messages from those in charge have been so confused, and so contradictory, it's really very hard to know what they think at all. Perhaps, at least for the moment, it's up to us to make up our own minds about how to behave this Christmas.

Like shooting fish in a barrel

A piece in The Mail on Sunday today is going to make me use a contemporary phrase I've never used before: The absolute state of...Jon Sopel! 

How the BBC has fallen since the days of sober reporters like Charles Wheeler. Here instead is the BBC's outgoing North America editor openly admitting to have been ''almost hyperventilating'' every day in the early days of the Trump presidency. [Yes, Jon, we noticed].

And, to be fair, from this piece he's still ''almost hyperventilating'' about it:
It was 1930s Berlin rolled up with the decadent end of the Roman Empire. Every day was a Bacchanalian orgy of stories, backbiting, sackings, leaks, fury and indignation. And chaos.
To save you having to read it all, his whole MoS piece can be boiled down to this: Trump was so exciting! Biden's boring! 

The opening sentence of the top-rated comment below the article sums up my reaction to a tee:
You only find Biden dull because you're a lazy journalist.

Indeed, the Biden-Harris administration should be an absolute gift for inquiring journalists. I'm finding it fascinating, like watching a building collapse.

Antisemitism on Oxford Street - Another Update

So it wasn't just Harry Farley on the BBC News website. I've found via TVEyes Thursday's BBC London report on the incident on Oxford Street [18:40, BBC One]. BBC reporter Guy Lynn said:
The Metropolitan Police are treating this as an alleged hate crime and I should say though that we at BBC London did watch this footage and you can hear some racial slurs about Muslim people which does come from the bus. It is not clear at the moment from the person that said that what role that may have played in this incident.

So from that, it's evidently far from being just a couple of BBC reporters who got this so badly wrong, It's ''we at BBC London'' who watched the footage, misheard and misinterpreted the footage, and then used it in the BBC's television and online coverage. 

You can imagine the scene: They watch the footage in a BBC London studio. Someone thinks they heard a particular phrase that casts a bad light on the Jewish people on the bus and others are persuaded that they can hear it too. They don't double-check and triple-check with experts before broadcasting it and others just take their word for it, and it spreads from BBC tv to the BBC News website. Then, for some reason, BBC reporters use the plural ''slurs'' both online and on tv - something they later have to row back on, at least online, given that it was palpably untrue. 

So what now? A lot of people are absolutely furious at the BBC, and I'm sure they won't let the BBC off the hook over this.

P.S. Someone on Twitter made a point that struck me too, writing ''The inclusion of the Jewish witness is worse as the unqualified BBC's assertion next to her denial makes it seem like she is being dishonest.''

This was that passage:
Guy Lynn, BBC: We spoke to someone who was on the bus. 
Tamara Cohen: Pretty scared for myself. The way that it was escalating, I didn't want there to be any violence but obviously we weren't in that mindset which is why we got on the bus and we were starting to leave and then the people that were mocking us, they got close to the bus and started hitting the bus, they starting shouting out rude slurs. It was escalating pretty quickly. 
Guy Lynn, BBC: The Metropolitan Police are treating this as an alleged hate crime and I should say though that we at BBC London did watch this footage and you can hear some racial slurs about Muslim people which does come from the bus.

One of Our Episodes of The Moral Maze is Missing

I just saw a tweet from the redoubtable Jane Kelly: 
The Moral Maze on Wednesday not available. About immigration, replaced with an anodyne repeat from a previous series & taken down from BBC Sounds. Perhaps Michael Buerk was right about a growing intolerance of free speech at the BBC?

Update: Ah, it was 'technical issues' on the night apparently.

Yanny or Laurel?

There are, perhaps, shades of that 'blue/back or gold/white dress?' phenomenon from a few years back, or - even more relevantly - the 'Yanny or Laurel?' phenomenon that followed where people saw and heard different things and couldn't unsee or unhear them without a huge effort, even after the science behind each phenomenon was explained. 

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has, with the help of Gnasher Jew, analysed that ''racial slur about Muslims'' that the BBC claims came from Jewish people inside the Oxford Street bus and proved it was no such thing.
The BBC thinks the phrase ''dirty Muslims'' was used, and I on listening and listening to the video and audio versions of the incident began to hear that too - and I was, frankly, astonished that some people couldn't hear it at all, only a male voice speaking Hebrew.

Mea culpa.  

So GnasherJew has found, as so many people had said already, that the male voice alleged by the BBC to have making that ''racial slur about Muslims'' really was actually talking in Hebrew and saying ''Call someone, it's urgent'' - ''tathakshar lmishu, ze dahof''. 

So I've re-listened and re-listened and quickly began to clearly hear the quieter ''ze dahof'' bit. So I could now hear ''dirty Muslims, ze dafof'' - which, of course, didn't make sense. 

So I used the pause button to stop it and play it again in fractions of a second and, yes, gradually began hearing various syllables one at a time from ''tathakshar lmishu''. 

Now I've no doubt whatsoever that the male voice on the bus was indeed saying ''Call someone, it's urgent'' [''tathakshar lmishu, ze dahof''] and not ''dirty Muslims'', and that the BBC's allegation is false...

...but it took a lot of use of the pause and re-wind functions to prove it to myself. It's very hard to unhear something sometimes. Then again I never saw that blue/black dress as anything other than gold/white, or heard Laurel as anything other than Yanny, even after seeing/hearing them explained.

There's now a chorus of people calling on the BBC to correct this too, and apologise.

Saturday, 4 December 2021

The Bishop and the BBC


This - courtesy of the Church Times - from the go-ahead Bishop of Liverpool really does speak volumes. In fact, it pretty much says it all:
THE Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, has praised the BBC for its “impartial” reporting of the Remembrance Sunday bombing in his city when other media attacked the refugee and asylum system and faith groups that had supported Emad al Swealmeen, who was killed when his bomb exploded in a taxi.
Bishop Bayes was speaking during his maiden speech in the House of Lords, on Thursday, in a debate on the value of the BBC. He said: “The journey of the young man concerned provided a fine opportunity for the naïvety of people of faith to be exposed, or for the systems by which people seek refuge to be deplored. These words had little purchase in Liverpool, where a number of organs of commercial media have been deeply and permanently distrusted for 40 years.”

The Bishop appears regularly on Radio 4's Sunday programme, which provides virtually a second pulpit for him. 

Update on a wayward BBC tweeter

We noted on Wednesday that the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit ruled against Megha Mohan, the BBC World Service’s first gender and identity correspondent, for a tweet on the transgender issue. They ruled against her for failing to comply with BBC guidance saying “Staff should also not post offensive or derogatory comments or content on social media and avoid abusing their position as a BBC employee in personal interactions”. And now this highly prolific BBC tweeter has deleted her Twitter account. If you click on @meghamohan now you'll get the message This account doesn’t exist. I'm wondering if she's still the BBC World Service’s gender and identity correspondent.

A new BBC video about antisemitism


The most-watched video on the BBC News website this morning is a thoughtful piece by Jewish BBC reporter Tom Brada headlined Anti-Semitism: 2021 likely to be 'the worst year on record'. Oddly, the BBC is promoting it on Twitter under a different headline  - one with a question mark, British, Jewish: Is Anti-Semitism on the Rise? The report is interesting and timely, though it doesn't tackle the question of who is behind the rise in antisemitism and, curiously, tackles the subject of 'Israel and antisemitism in the UK' through a single voice: a Jewish critic of Israel. 

Taking the Micheál


It's not going well for Amol Rajan. Another day, another apology. On this morning's Today at 7:12am he said, “Here's Michael Martin, the Taoiseach, speaking last night”. I'm guessing someone had a quick word in his ear because a minute later came a correction and apology, “Micheál Martin not Michael Martin. Forgive me.” 'Micheál' is pronounced 'Mee-hal'. And on that trivial bombshell...

Michael Crick vs Emily Maitlis

I'm guessing that former Newsnight colleagues Michael Crick and Emily Maitlis won't be sending each other Christmas cards this year. On watching Emily delivering one of her usual introductions on Wednesday's Newsnight, this time introducing a story about abortion rights in the United States, former Newsnight political editor Michael tweeted
“Tonight the world’s eyes are on Washington,” says Emily Maitlis in her Newsnight intro. What total rubbish.

 The four most 'liked' replies say

  • Well said. Mine aren't.
  • Seemed to more about Jackson, Mississippi. By the end there were probably more people participating than watching. I certainly turned off. Shows how much money the BBC has to throw away.
  • BBC eyes, Michael. They live on different planet to the public.
  • Always considered myself a right-minded person, and generally well updated on news and current affairs....but my eyes are certainly not on Washington and tbh I've no idea what's happening there.

Dame Jenni Murray on Amol Rajan

Dame Jenni Murray, writing in in The Daily Mail, finds herself troubled by “the BBC’s new golden boy Amol Rajan”, who she says “has already broken the number one rule for journalists: ‘Don’t become the story’” over his controversial The Princes And The Press.

And she troubled by the behaviour of BBC bosses too, asking “Where is the impartiality in a journalist who is a self-confessed republican being asked to make programmes about the Royal Family’s nightmare of recent years?” 

She obviously feels hard done by, and that a double standard is operating on how the BBC applies its guidelines on impartiality. After all, she says, the BBC banned her from doing anything related to transgender matters after she made some cautious comments on the matter from a traditional feminist standpoint away from the BBC, and they also took her off Woman's Hour for six whole weeks in the run-up to the 2019 general election after she made some pro-EU membership remarks in the wake of the vote for Brexit, again away from the BBC.

As for Amol, her piece begins: 
A year ago, many people would have struggled to place Amol Rajan. As the BBC’s media editor, he was a solid middle-ranker rather than broadcasting A-List.  
Now it’s hard to miss him.

You can say that again!

Amol Rajan - ''Rude and immature''

I've written so many quizzes over the years for friends and family, but I've never asked this bog-standard quiz question before: ''Rita Coolidge's All Time High was the theme to which Bond film?''
The title of the song rather than the song itself was in my head because I was thinking of the phrase 'all time low' in connection to the Royal Family's present relations with the BBC - or at least that part of the Royal Family not associated by title with the county of Sussex.

What surprises me about all this is [a] is how quickly the BBC has been allowed to move on from the Martin Bashir scandal and [b] how many missteps - or deliberate provocations - the BBC has made towards the Royal Family since the Dyson report into that scandal.

And I wonder how is this going down with the public, especially in the light of Amol Rajan's The Princes and the Press? Is it stoking more anger than usual towards the BBC?

Meanwhile, and talking of Amol Rajan...

His anti-monarchist Independent articles and rude tweets repeating chucking bricks at particular members of the Royal Family and the institution in general resulted in the usual apology this week:
1/ In reference to very reasonable questions about some foolish commentary from a former life, I want to say I deeply regret it. I wrote things that were rude and immature and I look back on them now with real embarrassment, and ask myself what I was thinking, frankly… (cont’d) 
2/ … I would like to say sorry for any offence they caused then or now. I’m completely committed to impartiality and hope our recent programmes can be judged on their merits.

That “former life” is just 9 years ago and Amol was nearly 30 at the time. Doesn't that make him a bit too old to play the 'immaturity' card?

Anyhow, someone responded, “Has Amol Rajan been cancelled yet? Isn't that what the Wokies do when distasteful, hateful old tweets emerge?”, but I'm guessing that as Amol isn't just some easily disposable white cricketer like Ollie Robinson that he's safe and will sail on, full speed ahead, onwards and upwards, at the BBC.

Stop the presses

When I looked at the BBC News website yesterday the above was the third-most important story on their homepage. It was based on comments made by Chris Bryant on Nick Robinson's Political Thinking podcast, so whether the BBC really did think it was the third-most important story in the world or whether they were advertising Nick's podcast I cannot say.

Friday, 3 December 2021

Antisemitism on Oxford Street - a further update [featuring BBC edits]

And there's more today on the story of the BBC's reporting of the antisemitic incident on Oxford Street - especially that claim from the BBC's Harry Farley that “some racial slurs about Muslims can be heard from inside the bus” ...

The indomitable GnasherJew has questioned the BBC's Harry Farley about this and posted this about what happened next: 

GnasherJew, as you can see, attached the audio the BBC is using as proof. 

Please listen to it. What do you hear? 

I can't hear any such slurs either. Can you? 

Apparently, the BBC is claiming to hear the phrase ''dirty Muslims''.

This is something that the Jewish Chronicle is also reporting, and it's clear that the BBC appears to be rather 'unique' in hearing that.

Some people think they might hear the word ''dirty' though - a word which if said would surely be entirely understandable and appropriate given that the young Muslim 'gentlemen' attacking the bus were literally spitting at the bus and its young Jewish occupants.

So the question is: Is the BBC right that the phrase ''dirty Muslims'' was used?

The Jewish Chronicle is just as sceptical as GnasherJew about the BBC's version of events, so the JC contacted a sound and audio professional who told them he couldn't distinguish the alleged slur either, saying  “I think even a audio forensic specialist would struggle to get something useful [from the clip] ”.

Moreover, neither the Board of Deputies nor the Campaign Against Antisemitism can hear what the BBC claims to have heard either. The former says:
It appears that the BBC has a very serious case to answer here. Incorrectly accusing those experiencing antisemitism of being guilty of bigotry themselves is adding insult to injury.
The latter says:
The audio from the footage is completely indistinct. If someone was shouting abuse from inside the bus then of course it should be investigated, but we cannot discern any voice in the video saying what the BBC claim was said.
This is getting very serious. 

And, in a remarkable twist,  the BBC has already had to water down BBC Harry Farley's original BBC News website piece:

The original piece talked of ''some racial slurs''. As Newssniffer shows, this then got changed to ''a racial slur'' and then got changed again to ''a slur''. 

That says a lot already. The BBC is backtracking.

The BBC, however, is still claiming that ''a slur about Muslims'' happened though. 

A lot hangs on whether they're right or whether they're wrong. 

So why are they sticking so tenaciously with claiming to hear what others can't hear? 

And why are they fixating on asserting and insisting on this when the story ought to be what this story is actually about - the story of a grim antisemitic incident in the very heart of London?

Almost immediate Update, 18:50: Well, after posting this and then re-listening to the audio for a sixth time I do now think I hear a male voice using the phrase ''dirty Muslims''. And now, on re-listening several more times like an obsessive-compulsive, I can't stop hearing the phrase.

If I'm right, this complicates matters. 

So here's how things stand now, in my mind [so far]: 

The Jewish youngsters out celebrating a Jewish religious festival were being abused in the heart of London by aggressive Muslim men giving Nazi salutes and chucking shoes and abuse and - very vigorously - spitting at the bus's windows, while one male voice on the bus was caught by the BBC saying ''Dirty Muslims''. 

The BBC, after holding off reporting the story and then squirreling it away, then went with an online report that went with ''allegedly'' caveats about the antisemitic nature of the attack but then asserted, without caveats, claims of ''racial slurs about Muslims'' and was then forced to backtrack and drop first the plural element of the charge and then the racial element of the charge. 

Depressing and complicated as this story is, it's still a classic example of how BBC reporting's agenda-pushing works and how divisive it can be - and how hard it can be to capture it it all its slipperiness. 

Further Update, 4/12: The BBC has now added a correction to the bottom of the piece:
Correction 3rd December: During the editing process a line was added to this article reporting that racial slurs about Muslims could be heard inside the bus. This line has been amended to make clear that "a slur about Muslims" could be heard.

They added that at 21:56 last night.

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Introducing the BBC's Harry Farley

The reporter behind the BBC's write-up about the Oxford Street antisemitic incident, Harry Farley, Senior Broadcast Journalist at BBC News, is a familiar name to me because he's part of the team on Radio 4's Sunday. He was also the reporter behind the 'Islamophobia' story in connection to Rochdale grooming gangs put out the other day across the BBC, 'Is British media Islamophobic?'

Here's a small, mostly pre-BBC selection of his past tweets [as noting such things is all the rage these days]:

Harry Farley: So there's some good news and bad news. Good news is EUref will be over in 24 hours. Bad news is Donald Trump arrives in UK on Friday.
10:59 PM · Jun 22, 2016

Stewart Green: What is ‘Palestinian land’? What even is a Palestinian? Shame to see Christian media jumping on this bandwagon.
Harry Farley [replying to Stewart Green]: It's an independent state next to Israel and recognised as such as by around 70% of countries.
4:12 PM · Jan 23, 2017

Harry Farley: My Uber man is listening to Nigel Farage on LBC. First time I’ve heard it and absolutely extraordinary. No pretence. He’s given hours of airtime to openly whip up hatred.
7:47 PM · Dec 14, 2017

Harry Farley: A minor personal observation: I’ve heard quite a few comparisons to the “commercial sector” in the last few days of Brexit debate. “This would never happen in the commercial world” ... “if this was the business world x would happen” as if that shows us the way forward. Putting aside the vast differences between the two and the limits of useful comparisons, just a reminder that it was the “commercial sector” who gave us a global crisis that we are still reeling from a decade later. Maybe we can draw inspiration from somewhere else?
5:55 PM · Dec 10, 2018

Very 'BBC'.

UPDATE 5/12 - Here's a surprise...

Antisemitism on Oxford Street - continued

I see that the disturbing antisemitic attack in Oxford Street is being covered widely - by the Daily Telegraph, ITV News, LBC, i News, Metro, the London Evening Standard, the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror. I cannot find anything about it, however, on the BBC News website, not even on its London page, nor on any of its national or local TV news programmes. 

Meanwhile, actress Tracy-Ann Oberman has tweeted, ''I know I’m not only one affected by this. I know thousands of you are furious hurt & upset. Jews are NOT victims. But we need allies. We need citizens & media & the Met police and the Mayor of London and political commentators to call this out. DONT NORMALISE JEW HATE. All evil follows,'' which drew this response from former London MEP Lance Forman:
Decades of anti-Israel bias at the BBC has not helped. It has encouraged journalists from all MSM. Tracy - please help campaign for the BBC to release the Balen Report into its anti-Israel bias and has spent half a million to keep the report from public exposure.

Update: 3:17pm  After posting this at 5.15am before heading off to work, I see that Boris Johnson tweeted at 9:36am, ''This is disturbing footage. Racism of any kind will never be tolerated in our society and we will continue to do all we can to root it out.'' 

That made it almost impossible for the BBC not to report this, but  even so - as far as I can see - it still took till 2:45pm for the BBC News website to post a report about it, and as of now it's nowhere on their homepage or their UK page, though it presently leads their England page. 

Unless I'm missing something, the BBC News website appears very reluctant to give this story any prominence whatsoever.  

And the report itself by the BBC's Harry Farley is wholly evasive about what kind of ''men'' were attacking the bus in what it calls an ''alleged anti-Semitic incident'' but is perfectly clear in saying that ''some racial slurs about Muslims'' can be heard from inside the bus. 

There's a lot going on here. 

Even Michael Buerk is slamming Radio 4

After Lord Blunkett and Libby Purves, now BBC veteran and Moral Maze host Michael Buerk is joining the chorus of concern about Radio 4's turn towards 'woke'. The Times quotes comments he makes in the Radio Times:
“It survives, even prospers, despite the temper of the times,” Buerk, 75, said of The Moral Maze. “In the wider world — and in some parts of the BBC — more and more is being put off limits, things that cannot be said. Freedom of speech is seriously under threat.” 
However, the presenter said that show does feel this strain and he admitted that the programme was a “bit less abrasive” than it used to be. 
Buerk praised the BBC for sticking with the programme, however, even if he sometimes worries about “how long that will last”. 
He claimed that Radio 4’s “yearning to connect with yoof” and “increasingly woke” editorial choices put it at odds with listeners. 
He said: “Half the audience may feel like drowning themselves in their cornflakes after a typical Today programme, but touch one hair of Nick Robinson’s head (yes, all right, but you know what I mean) and the world would fall in.”
The BBC gives a typical 'BBC' response: 
We’re proud of the huge range of quality programming, which is as rigorous and curious as it has ever been, that caters for and represents a wider range of listeners.
I think there will be many who think, 'No it isn't, and no it doesn't'.

Update:  The Daily Telegraph is also reporting this and adds Michael Buerk's word “voguish” to his description of Radio 4's “increasingly woke-sounding board”.

More from Andrew Marr

More from Andrew Marr on leaving the BBC and joining the left-wing New Statesman as it's chief political commentator:
It’s a huge privilege to be joining one of the great titles of British political journalism, the paper of Orwell, Priestley and Ali Smith — I grew up learning how to think by reading Christopher Hitchens and other NS writers — and I’m thrilled to be there as part of my new life which includes daily political broadcasting for LBC and Global. I have been looking for partners who won’t be leaning on my shoulder as I write — and it seems I have found them.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Even Libby Purves is slamming Radio 4

Even former Radio 4 stalwart, ex-Midweek presenter and self-declared ''life-long loyalist and listener'' Libby Purves - though in many ways as 'BBC as can be' in her outlook - sees that David Blunkett has a point about her favourite channel BBC Radio 4. 

In her latest Times column she says that the BBC shouldn't ignore him, and although she thinks it's ''not all the way there yet'' she obviously thinks it's a lot of way there when she agrees with him that ''if [Radio 4] starts thinking that its mission to educate is largely moral and progressive, that information should be skewed towards this and entertainment come a poor third, it is in trouble.''

It's a problem, she says, when ''fine issues...overwhelm the casual, accidentally met joys and surprises of the schedule, drag guilt into comedy and make drama predictable and drear''...which sums up the problem pretty well.

''Radio 4’s screechingly left comedy grates often'', she adds, and new Radio 4 dramas are usually ''dismal''. 

She concludes, ''David Blunkett, I feel your pain.''

It's bad enough for the BBC when a serious Labour 'big-hitter' like Lord Blunkett expresses the concerns we've been expressing over the years, but when Libby Purves - of all people - comes out in support of him then the BBC ought to take heed.

Dropping 'below the line', the highest-rated comment below Libby's piece says, ''I used to say Radio 4 was worth the licence fee on its own. No more. I have switched it off. I am fed up with having propaganda rammed in my ears''. And this is at The Times.

The second-highest-rated comment said, ''I can't help myself, and I know it's silly, but whenever I switch on radio 4 I listen to the first 10 words I hear. Invariably they are about race, gender or climate. Try it.'' 

It's the kind of experiment I like, so I tried it around 9.06pm tonight and didn't hear anything about those three things in the first 10 words, though in the first 20 words I heard ''ash dieback'', which is similarly depressing. But the phrase ''climate change'' duly arrived just over a minute later, so I'm giving that to the Times's second-highest-rated commenter as being near enough to be considered a bullseye.

Will the BBC's John Simpson be watching Nigel and Donald on GB News tonight?

I've a free evening tonight, so I might watch GB News at 7pm when Nigel Farage interviews Donald Trump for a whole two hours. 

As you'd expect, certain BBC types aren't feeling particularly unemotional or impartial about it.
Within the last hour, the BBC's impartial World Affairs Editor John Simpson - someone who will never in a millennium of Mondays wish GB News well, or ever think a single pleasant thought about either Nigel Farage or Donald Trump - has taken to Twitter to sneer:
Before the hype that will no doubt follow Nigel Farage's interview with Donald Trump on GB News in some sections of the press, a quick reminder of the latest BARB viewing figures: BBC News 149,200. Sky 72,500. GBN 17,500.

Will he be watching though? 

Antisemitism on Oxford Street

The growing problem of aggressive Muslim antisemitism on our streets appears to have manifested itself again in a shocking incident on Oxford Street:

It was a good deal more than just spitting. It was abuse and abusive gestures [including Nazi salutes] and what appear to be attempts to smash the bus's window. 

It's only to be hoped that the media, especially the BBC, will report this disgusting outpouring of racial / religious hatred and lead to it being prioritised and firmly stamped on by the authorities. Shining a light on it will disinfect it better than hiding it away.

Update: In reaction, the unflagging David Collier has just tweeted:  

Meanwhile the Muslim Council of Britain are having panel events with the BBC, the Times and the Daily Mirror about how they all have to post less negative stuff about Islamist activity. There will be no place for Jews in the UK in the society that is developing here. 

If anyone can find footage of these panel events [and I'll be hunting for it too], I'd be grateful. I'd like to check the BBC attendees' responses.

A taste of Christmas Day on Radio 4

As Christmas is about bringing joy to the world I was happy to see a tweet from an author the BBC has commissioned to write a short story for BBC Radio 4 on Christmas Day. He's genuinely cock-a-hoop about it. My inner Scrooge does make me wonder, however, if his invitation is connected in any way with the channel's absolute obsession with woke identity politics?

'"Debate"? Not a thing we do.'

Mike Wendling, head of  BBC Trending and the BBC's Disinformation Unit, takes note:

We Are Freedom: I have a great idea for a debate on BBC News. Mike Wendling and Marianna Spring vs Dr Anthony Hinton and Prof Carl Heneghan. Let’s settle “the science” once and for all. Come on BBC “disinformation” journalists. You can make this happen… #BBCMassDebate

Mike Wendling: Weird idea that impartial journalists should go around "debating" people with clear partisan views. Interview perhaps but "debate"? Not a thing we do. But I get it, lots of people screaming for blood. Noted.

The BBC rules against their Gender and Identity Reporter

This is a rather cryptically-written ruling by the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit but it involves Megha Mohan, the BBC World Service Gender and Identity Reporter, and says she didn't comply with the BBC guidance that says, “Staff should also not post offensive or derogatory comments or content on social media and avoid abusing their position as a BBC employee in personal interactions”.

Obviously, the original tweet has gone but a quick scan of Twitter for Ms Wolstencroft's name shows that she was on the receiving end of an intensely aggressive Twitter pile-on by hardline trans activists. It looks as if Megha Mohan couldn't help but join in.


Tweet by Megha Mohan


Megha Mohan, the BBC World Service Gender and Identity Reporter, posted a tweet sharing an online story from the BBC’s Washington Bureau about a transgender teenager, commenting on how well it had been edited but not soliciting ideas.  Edwina Wolstencroft, a former BBC Radio 3 Editor, responded with a different but related story idea, to which Ms Mohan replied in terms which implied criticism of Ms Wolstencroft’s relations with minority groups while at the BBC.  Ms Wolstencroft complained about what she considered a defamatory statement, and called attention to her award-winning record of promoting work by under-represented composers, including women and minority groups. 


The ECU cannot offer a view on legal questions such as defamation, which are for the courts to decide, but is tasked with making a judgement on whether the BBC’s editorial standards and the Guidelines and Guidance which express them have been complied with.  Accordingly, it considered the complaint in the light of the Guidance on Social Media, which says: “Staff should also not post offensive or derogatory comments or content on social media and avoid abusing their position as a BBC employee in personal interactions”.  In the ECU’s judgement, the tweet’s reference to Ms Wolstencroft’s alleged record at BBC did not comply with this Guidance.  Though the tweet was deleted within five days of being posted, the ECU considered that, in the absence of a further posting to explain why the original tweet had been deleted, this did not suffice to resolve the issue of complaint.


Further action

The finding was reported to the management of BBC World Service and discussed with Ms Mohan

Guess where Andrew Marr's off to?


Silly leftists on Twitter who have stormed at former Independent editor Andrew Marr every week in recent years for being 'a BBC Tory' will probably keep quiet about him now that he's becoming the New Statesman's chief political commentator - a move that may surprise them but surely won't surprise anyone sensible. 

As it's editor Jason Cowley puts it, the NS is 'a publication "of the left, for the left", so Andrew Marr is evidently returning home.

UpdateHe tweeteth:

Samuel LloydThe Left, for years: “Marr is a Tory Party stooge!” Marr, upon leaving the BBC: joins the well known Tory publication… ummm… The New Statesman

Yet more proof that the 'claims from both sides' argument that some at the BBC still use to defend themselves remains a fallacious argument. 

'Today' thinks it got it about right

As discussed at 'the other place', here's an Advent treat from this morning's Today programme - a lovely moment where the BBC says it got something about right, never mind what you think:

6.01 Mishal Husain: It's the first of December, so we will open the Today Advent calendar.

7.25 Simon Jack: It's December 1st, and the start of Advent.

7.42 Simon Jack: I've just got to say about our Advent calendar, which we started today on the first of December, we're getting quite a bit of pushback from people saying Advent actually started on Sunday, not today, it's got nothing to do with the first of December. Now that may well be true in terms of the religious holiday or the religious period, although I've never seen an Advent calendar, which is what we're doing, start on the 29th of November. So we're going to defend ourselves there.

Update: As JimS at Biased BBC notes, Simon Jack actually got the date wrong here. Advent started on Sunday, which was the 28th of November. No correction came for that.

[I re-checked to make sure the transcript was correct].

''Since when is this their remit?''

This might be of interest from British-American blogger Sam Hooper. It begins with the BBC's US partner CBS News:
I feel like for every 100 words published by news outlets, at least 20 are now unnecessarily wasted trying to shape public sentiment to whatever is being reported (even when I happen to agree with it). It's in this sense of constant manipulation that distrust of media is born. 
Here, it's clear that CBS News was so eager to head off any notion that the Omicron variant originated in South Africa that they published a triumphant "Ha! See, it was in Europe first!" article, as if it matters. No real harm done here, but we see it in many contexts. Fox News deciding to use the less-informative term "homicide bomber" a decade ago. The BBC at pains to say "so-called Islamic State". And most recently the selective, inconsistent & sometimes downright misleading use of "fact-checking" articles. 
This paternalistic behavior shows a media elite who look down on their fellow citizens, viewing them as impressionable halfwits lacking agency, at constant risk of adopting "wrong" opinions unless continually medicated with ideological additives to their news consumption. 
However, many media elites are pompous, deeply mediocre individuals, and their clumsy, transparent efforts to shape or "correct" public opinion through skewed reporting only drives audiences elsewhere - some to independent journalists, others towards sensationalist fake news. 
The decline and collapse of corrupted news institutions like the NY Times, WaPo, CNN et al might be welcomed but for the fact that the primary information gathering power of a big newsroom seems hard to replicate - though remote working seems ripe with possibilities there. 
I’ll close with this: it is particularly galling that many of the media elites destroying trust in journalism as they clumsily try to prevent us from falling into wrongthink are themselves so deeply under the spell of the successor ideology that they don’t even realize it.