Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Third half of the same Flaming June Open Thread

(H/T Rob Burley/Twitter.) Don't try this at home.

New Open thread for your observations about the BBC and any other relevant business that takes your fancy.  There will only be time for a 'forth half' if this one fills up before the end of the month.

Chris Williamson is back in the fold

So the Labour Party has readmitted Chris Williamson. He’s had a tap on the wrist and a strong warning not to 'do it' again.

It will be interesting to see how the BBC pitches this. So far I’ve only seen the announcement by Carrie Gracie, who also read out some Tweets by Ian Austin and Margaret Hodge.

I wonder whether the BBC will concentrate on the reaction to his reinstatement, implying that the complainants are exaggerating or imagining it, while at the same time subtlely hinting that it’s their (the Jews) fault because of 'what Israel is doing' etc., etc. That’s known as gaslighting these days, isn’t it?

On the other hand, they may set Emily Maitlis or similar onto some hapless Labour Party spokesperson in the hope that she can savage him or her fiercely enough on behalf of the Beeb to entertain the paying audience.

We’ll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Too much Boris-bashing

I didn’t catch all of Laura Kuenssberg’s heavily promoted interview with Boris Johnson - I know that’s nothing to boast about, as a blogger about BBC bias - but I do know that I’m not the only one who’s thoroughly fed up with the media’s obsession with peripheral issues like threatening to ‘not’ rape an MP or using colourful language with dry wit and a droll sense of fun. 

I don’t think our Laura is by any means the worst offender by the way. I’ve even seen a comment online somewhere opining that the BBC seems to be reining in its Boris-Bashing. On the Spectator, Steerpike is getting a drubbing BTL for his Boris-takedown. 

Sure, some of the recent incidents involving Boris (as well as Carl Benjamin and even Jo Brand) have been blown out of all proportion. These gaffes and lapses (if that’s how you see them) do merit a limited amount of media speculation, but they are 'side issues'. When, in an interview (or these days a cross-examination) they completely obliterate the core object of the exercise (in Boris’s case his p-p-p-policies) it renders the whole thing truly boring, repetitious and just about as worthwhile as a bellyful of malicious, trivial tittle-tattle.

Nick Ferrari seems to have gone completely OTT on LBC,  pardon the acronyms.

Okay, Boris has a chaotic personality. He sometimes wears one sock inside-out and he and his…young lady (whatever) had a heated, shouty row with accompanying crashes and bangs. I can just imagine any of the Beeb's flagship anchors or presenters uttering sanctimoniously: “The BBC has learned” and then smirkily recounting the scandalous news about the sock. 

Shouty/screamy arguments don’t deserve to be casually laughed off, but the accounts I’ve heard about this particular altercation don’t sound worryingly extreme or excessively prolonged. But, who am I to judge.

Sending a recording to the Guardian belies any claim that the main concern was for the lady’s welfare. Sending anything to the Guardian is probably malicious and very likely to be politically motivated. I wouldn’t, would you?

I could tell you a tale now if you like. Shall I? Are you sitting comfortably? 

There is an anti-social family nearby whose shouting matches are intense and foul. Social services were contacted. The ‘problem family’ is not a couple, but a single mum and two or three different dads’ offspring including at least one toddler and a teenage boy, a few waifs and strays and some hangers-on. 

The residents in the vicinity were asked to download a dedicated app, which records such disturbances and sends them direct to the social services. I’m not quite sure what for (probably for the purpose of procrastination.)

Recording loud disturbances might sound like a good idea, but one's device never seems to be at hand at the exact moment - the outbursts are unpredictable, and no-one in their right mind would take their phone or tablet close enough to get a decent recording, and then be forced to hang around for hours waiting for something nasty to kick off. So it looks as if it ain’t going to happen. 

This is not something to be trivialised though. A couple of years ago a really horrible ‘domestic incident’ did occur nearby - involving extreme, life-changing violence. I don’t even like to think about it. The police arrived too late, but I very much doubt if an intervention by anyone would have stopped it, let alone making a recording and sending it to the press. 
It’s a horrible thing to say, but it does take two to tango. Subsequent events indicated that the (severely injured) surviving party hadn’t been completely blameless. 

I think I have strayed OT. 

Monday, 24 June 2019

Second Half of Flaming June Open Thread

Away with the daisies!

Our snapdragons (Antirrhinum) are reaching new heights this year, nearing three foot, despite Brexit.

Our comments threads are reaching new heights too, also despite Brexit.

So thank you so much for your comments.

Truly Baffled

Liam Gallagher: Knife crime fears for his children.

It's doubtful that the Gallaghers are ‘forced’ into a drugs-gang ‘by poverty’, but can anyone tell me why this is headline news? Truly baffled. Y’na wa’ah mean?

The video has subtitles, which is considerate, and a little Jo Brand-ish incitement “Crack round the ‘ead.” 

Not sure if the BBC taking the proverbial - i.e., laughing “at” rather than “with”, like the hilarious documentary about the Goss Bros? 

I don’t get it. Nah w’ah mean?

Dishonest reporting

Look at this piece by Douglas Murray in “Unherd”.

I nearly skipped it because of the illustration they’ve chosen, which made me think “Oh no! Not another one!” in my best Bristolian accent. Of course, considering that the author is who he is, it wasn’t just the same old same old, although there was a tangential relevance to Bristol. Yes, I mean that not very moderate-looking imam, or mufti or whatever handle these wispy-beardies like to call themselves.

Why should the BBC censor the public? asks Douglas Murray. Firstly, he alludes to the awkward BBC leadership contest set design, particularly those bar stools, which were clearly chosen for spite. The clue is in the comedy seating that features so prominently in W1A, the parody of the BBC that isn’t as far-fetched as it was meant to be. The in-jokes in that programme nudge us towards the truth about the BBC in that it pays tribute to the psychology of choosing woke, whacky and impractical seating design and so on. I can picture the non-fictitious Siobhan and her co-creatives at the Beeb dreaming up those spindly bar-stools, motivated, partly by mischief, partly by venom. 

“Here’s the thing.” Remind you of anyone?

Secondly, Douglas Murray does describe Emily Maitlis as too interrupty, but refers to her as “usually excellent”. He obviously doesn’t read sites like this. Personally, I see her as usually professional and sometimes forensic, but certainly not impartial. But then, who at the Beeb is?

He also addresses the question of the ‘Mufti Patel and the Labour apparatchik’ fiasco. How did these two unrepresentative individuals ever get past the screening? Who actually did the screening? I know, ‘Will’, the intern. He was only trying to please. 

“Hugh Skinner: I like playing people who are crap at things”  There you go.

Stay tuned, we’re about to get to the nub.  “Two things have begun to disturb me,” says Douglas Murray.  Me too. The disgrace was that all these leadership contenders were bumped into instantly and irrevocably committing their Party to an inquiry into Islamophobia. Not just any old Islamophobia, but the Islamophobia within their own party - you know, tit for tat. The Labour Party had one, therefore so must we. (Never mind that theirs was a sham, and ‘ours’ will be one too; for different reasons.)

The second thing is one that has been disturbing me for ages. It’s the way that the media is hellbent on manipulating language until the chrysalis of a soundbite metamorphoses into a fully-fledged myth.  One that flutters around annoyingly and is fatally attracted to the light.

The most popular example is Boris Johnson's letterbox/bank robber analogy. A metaphor! Cavalier perhaps, and a tad disparaging, but not a straightforward ‘literal’ description, you idiots.

The BBC is guilty of allowing Boris-bashers of all shapes and sizes to state that “Boris calls Muslim women letterboxes and bank-robbers”. No! Wrong on several counts. He didn’t ‘call them” that, and he wasn’t even talking about (all) “Muslim women” he was talking about people who go about their daily business wearing the all-enveloping burka. 

Defending the burka is utterly, utterly bizarre, especially when it comes from secular, progressive types who, one minute, will say that there’s no such thing as ‘provocative’ clothing because men have no business even looking lustfully at women, and next minute condoning women’s decision to wear the black sack, which Abdullah and his mates say is the only way to prevent misogynistic Muslim men from having lustful thoughts, then, understandably, raping them. 

Assuming that the over-arching principle of the progressive argument is ‘the way one dresses is a matter of freedom of choice’, one must also ask how much ‘freedom’ is there in any society that accepts that those poor, helplessly sexually incontinent Muslim men have ‘no agency’.

This isn’t the only example of language being manipulated and grossly distorted to sway opinion in one’s own direction.  We are all guilty of doing it to varying degrees. Let’s look at another example from the opposite side of the coin.

Jeremy Corbyn and his ‘friends’. Is that a disingenuous, too literal interpretation of one singular,  injudicious soundbite? Couldn’t he too have meant it metaphorically, like Boris? Maybe Corbyn was being sardonic, as, for example, you might refer to, say, the clothes-moth that chomped up your favourite cashmere jumper. “Our little friends are back, put your woollens in the freezer!” 

Yes, it’s possible that we did him an injustice by saying he calls Hamas and Hezbollah his friends.  But look at the evidence. He does see them as friends. All of Corbyn’s actions speak loudly and clearly. We all know which side he sees as friends.

And remember! People seem happy enough to ignore the fact that Boris was arguing ‘for’ freedom of choice. His article stated clearly and simply that he was arguing against banning the burka. 

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Apples and oranges

Liz Bates, 'Yorkshire Post'

Oh dear. I think Our Rob (Rob Burley) won't be overly happy with senior ex-Huff Post now City A.M. journalist (and Michael Gove biographer) Owen Bennett being very unhelpful over the Piers Morgan ladies v gentlemen on the Andrew Marr Show sofa question. 

As we left it earlier, munching our disgusting popcorn, Rob - the BBC's editor of live political programmes - had told Piers Morgan, "Breaking: there are other people apart from newspaper reviewers on the Andrew Marr Show, if you want to count up numbers of men and women on the show best to include all the guests in your total otherwise it looks like you’re twisting statistics".

Owen butted in and replied, "I totally get this but isn’t this mixing apples and oranges? Journalists/commentators v politicians?"

Wonder what Rob will say to that?

Meanwhile, from the other direction, help has ridden in courtesy of Allison Pearson. That splendid lady tweeted, "Often the female paper reviewer(s) are the only women on the show. It’s a way of getting women into a v[ery] male arena."

(Not that I massively care. I'm far more interested in the balance of views on BBC programmes. Today's balance was fine, and today's ladies were - except for over-exposed, one-track, 'literally a communist' Ash Sarkar - splendid).

Mobeen goes home to Huddersfield

BBC journalist Mobeen Azhar has featured here at Is the BBC biased? quite a few times before

His first appearance came after the 2015 general election where he used his BBC-branded Twitter feed to say of the Conservative victory over Ed Miliband's Labour, "Great result unless you're poor / old / vulnerable / a single parent / not obsessed with money. Well done #selfishBritain #GE15", which I didn't feel was entirely within either the letter or the spirit of BBC impartiality. (He subsequently deleted it).

Sue (also in 2015) caught him being rather too enthusiastic about 'Jeremy Corbyn mania' for Radio 4 and the BBC News website

He then (once more in 2015) appalled both me and Sue with his contribution to one of the worst BBC programmes I've ever heard, an edition of BBC Trending that turned into a hatchet job on Maryam Namazie from the Council of Ex-Muslims. Maryam, who'd already received death threats from Muslim extremists, found herself - in absentia - being traduced by a couple of BBC reporters. Mobeen found her language about Islamists "quite problematic" and mocked her for winning the 'Secularist of the Year' award. (In fairness, the BBC host was much worse). 

We then rather lost sight of him until March this year when he presented The Satanic Verses: 30 years on for BBC TV. This was the programme where he said he himself religiously made sure his own copy of the Koran remains in an elevated position (on a high shelf) in compliance with Islamic rules but ended up stunned and appalled after Muslims in Bradford aggressively took against him and his copy of The Satanic Verses. One very angry Muslim man snatched the book, ran off and tried to burn it. It was certainly dramatic TV. Tommy Robinson got slated by Mobeen, and Hope Not Hate were on to worry about the far-right, but it also - unusually for the BBC - showed Muslims in a bad light. Sue commented:
The most significant moments for me, however, were conversations with some elderly British Muslims who had no intention of conforming in any way shape or form to British values and customs, and frankly didn’t see why anyone might expect them to.
I mention all of this because "award-winning" (hipster-looking, quiff-sporting, Chemsex-reporting BBC Muslim) Mobeen has again been put centre stage by the BBC with a new six-part BBC TV series called Hometown: A Killing:
Award-winning journalist Mobeen Azhar moves back to his hometown of Huddersfield to cover the death of Mohammed Yassar Yaqub but realises that there is a much bigger story in town.
This morning's Sunday programme on Radio 4 discussed Hometown: A Killing because members of the Pakistani Muslim community have complained about it being soooo unfair for showing their community to be heavily and disproportionately involved in violent drug-related crime in the town.

Sunday debated it with Mobeen himself and an aggrieved Muslim leader from Huddersfield who argued, in the usual way of things, that all communities do nasty things, so why single out Muslims?

(The aggrieved Muslim leader from Huddersfield was oddly gentle about it though and prepared to concede points. On listening back I wasn't surprised to hear that he's Ahmadiyya.)

One theme discussed was that putting such a focus on Muslim community criminality could be exploited by the anti-Muslim far-right.

(Very BBC!)

Mobeen said it's not just anecdotes but facts and that there is a massive problem with Pakistani Muslims in Huddersfield and violent drug-related crime.

And he said that numerous Muslims involved in the crime have told him that it's not a problem because the hadiths says that it's OK to sell/do bad things to unbelievers...

Now, I will admit that I was truly taken aback by him saying that, especially on Radio 4's highly PC Sunday.

Alas he then went and spoiled it all by immediately saying and repeating and then re-repeating the point that these Muslim men aren't "pious Muslims", and that he himself doesn't even consider them "real Muslims".

(One step forward, at least one step back then).

Still, the lad is obviously trying to do some right things and say it as he sees it, and his being at the highly PC BBC is probably hindering his ability to grasp the doublethink in his thinking and his reporting, given that I doubt anyone there would ever think of pointing out such things to him. 

Mobeen's BBC reporting makes for a fascinating case study in BBC bias. 

Not forgotten

I was searching for something on the www. last night when I stumbled upon the Biased-BBC archive. I forget what I was looking for now, but I found something interesting from June 26, 2008, instead.

Well, you may not think it was interesting, but I do because it shows that I’ve been saying the same old thing for over eleven years. It’s quite concerning because nothing has changed. In fact, come to think of it, things seem to be getting worse, which I suppose amounts to eleven years’ worth of wasting my time. 

However, I just thought it would be a good idea to post a video of Prof. Irwin Cotler speaking about the forgotten refugees, which I must have just linked to originally - in those days the magenta-themed Biased-BBC site had a comments system that was about as user-friendly as ours, i.e., not very. The big surprise (to me) was that one of the site upgrades must have propelled the video into appearing in its full glory, ‘automagically’, perhaps by some technological miracle; or perhaps manually by a loyal and dedicated techie.

As it’s tucked away behind the archive tab, all forlorn and covered in dust, I am re-posting it eleven years on because it’s still relevant. Firstly because it’s about the Forgotten Refugees (debated in the HoC on 19th use 2019) and secondly because it concludes that the very same Islam-rooted hatred of Jews lies behind the predicament of both Israeli and Palestinian refugees. Which is what I said in my previous. It’s a matter of a shared root cause, not opposite sides of a coin as many people like to believe.

The Arabs who were later to be anointed “Palestinians” by Yassir Arafat, fled or were forced to flee because of their determined opposition to the creation of the Jewish State and their decision to launch an all-out attack against Israel immediately on its declaration of independence.  A disaster based on the hatred of Jews, and the very same hatred that caused hundreds of thousands of Jewish residents of Islam-dominated countries to be turfed out of their homes and robbed of their livelihoods. 

As we all know, the Palestinian refugees were (and still are) being kept stateless and cynically used as pawns and perpetual victims for a brand of political leverage specially designed to appeal to the wider world. The aim is to ‘Free, free, Palestine from the river to the sea”. 

Not so widely known is the story of  850,000 exiled and penniless Jews who were unconditionally welcomed and absorbed by Israel. This is why the parliamentary debate is so late in the day. Victimhood and pathos are powerful emotional tools. If a fraction of the attention had been paid to this issue over the last seven decades as that devoted to the Palestinians, today's politics might have been less polarised and less toxic. 

Now for the passive aggressive remarks from that disingenuous negotiator Dr Saeb Erekat as recounted in the debate by Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour)
“As it happens, just before I came to this debate, I had a meeting with Dr Saeb Erekat from the Palestine Liberation Organisation. I told him about this debate and that we would be discussing Jewish refugees in the middle east, and asked him what he would do about that. He asked me to say quite openly that the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Palestinian Authority believe that just as Palestinians should have their rights to return with full compensation, so should all Jewish refugees. I thought that was very interesting.”
No, Palestinians cannot have that, as it would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, and no, it is most unlikely that Jewish refugees (who are no longer refugees) would prefer to exercise their rights to return to the Jew-hostile countries that expelled them in the first place.

And as for the Minister for the Middle East, Dr Andrew Murrison, who should know better, opining that Saeb Erekat “is a very wise man with a great deal of experience in these matters, and the remarks that he made to the hon. Gentleman do not surprise me in the least.” 

All I can say is that Mr Erekat may indeed have a great deal of experience in these matters, but the ‘wisdom’ Dr Murrison refers to is confined to screwing the Israelis into the ground, and the disingenuous, faux generosity within the remarks he made to the hon. Gentleman should not surprise anyone in the least.

Boris, Mark Mardell, and Julian and his friend Sandy


If my memory isn't failing me, I'm sure it was last Sunday that MB described that week's The World This Weekend as a 'Get Boris!' edition.

Well, if so, this week's The World This Weekend was its even grittier sequel, 'Get Boris With a Vengeance!'

Still heavily focusing on the domestic row and Boris's refusal to answers journalist's questions about it, Mark Mardell's narration was nothing if not loaded against Mr Johnson.

And that first bit was followed by a 'reality check' piece from the BBC's James Lansdale which targeted the claims of Boris and his supporters that he scored a success as Foreign Secretary by achieving a united diplomatic front against Russia after the Salisbury poisonings, and found those claims wanting.

And then came an interview with a former ambassador Peter Westmacott, who also - very politely and discreetly - trashed Mr Johnson.  (Naturally, I checked his Twitter feed and found - to my no great surprise - that he's the kind of former ambassador who regularly retweets Lord Adonis and Anna Soubry, liked Change UK-The Independent Tiggers, and was rooting for Rory.)

Hit after hit after hit against Boris.

Jeremy Hunt got off scot free.

It's almost as if the BBC was campaigning against Boris.

Please give it a listen for yourselves and see if you agree. 


If you do you might also catch the closing item on Polari - the slang-filled language invented and used by gay men from the 1940s to the 1960s that is now making a bit of a comeback.

The expert being interviewed, Paul Baker, was very bona.

I learned that its heavily-simplified use by Julian and his friend Sandy on the BBC's Round the Horne probably resulted in its going out of fashion. Its original appeal was that gay men could use the language and non-gay people wouldn't recognise it or understand it or realise that those using it were gay. After the BBC made it known to the general public non-gay people became much more likely to realise that the men using it - if, say, they overheard it on a bus - were gay.

I liked Round the Horne
HORNE: I'm interested in booking a holiday.
JULIAN: Would you like us to do something exciting for you in a cheap package?
HORNE: Yes. What would you recommend?
SANDY: Well, how about Juan in the S of F? That's Les Pins. Bona, ennit Jules?
JULIAN: Divine. Sitting, sipping a tiny drinkette, vada·ing the great butch omis and dolly little palones trolling by, or disporting yourself on the sable plage getting your lallies all bronzed - your riah getting bleached by the soleil.

Piers Morgan annoys Rob Burley

Camilla, Liz and (of course) Ash

Piers Morgan always has a calming influence on people, doesn't he? Here he is not getting on the nerves of both the editor and the executive editor of The Andrew Marr Show:

Liz Bates from the Yorkshire Post was particularly good today. She should be on again. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Which UK political party's membership is over 95% white?

For our many collectors of examples of the BBC repeatedly pushing the 'maleness, paleness and staleness' of those 160,000 Conservative Party members who are eligible to choose Our Next Prime Minister, tonight's PM on Radio 4 gave us another gem:
Jeremy Hunt is still taking questions from the audience while we're on air and they are some of the 160,000 or so Conservative Party members who will decide which of the two men becomes the next Prime Minister. According to research by Queen Mary University London last year that membership is three-quarters men, while 9 out of 10 are middle-class, 97% are white, and just over half live in London and the South of England. 
That 97% figure, much quoted by the BBC, prompted me to actually find the source of it - and PM's citing of Queen Mary University of London helped me find it

And what an eye-opener it is!:

Yes, it does find that Conservative Party members are 97% white, but it also finds that the SNP is similarly 97% white and that the Labour Party is 96% white and the Lib Dems are 96% white.

The Lib Dems turn out to be even more middle-class than the Conservatives, with Labour over three-quarters middle-class too. 

Every party has a majority male membership too, though the Conservatives do stand out a little there.

So why are we getting BBC news bulletins (like yesterday's BBC One News at Six) and BBC reporters like Matthew Price and PM hosts like Caroline Wyatt (etc) making so much of the 'whiteness' and 'wealthiness' of the Tory Party membership when all the other big parties'  memberships are just as white and roughly as wealthy? 

And, not to be self-promoting (something it's usually hard to accuse us of being!), but why is this tiny, unfunded two-person blog able to find this out - and point this out - while the massively-funded BBC simply just parrots it about the Tories without mentioning the figures for the other parties?

I'm so glad I listened to PM tonight. I feel as if I've busted an endlessly-parroted Big Lie. 

Saturday Night Is Music Night

One thing the BBC covers to its credit, albeit now tucked away on BBC Four, is the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition.

It's a highly prestigious international prize, historically not always linked to the BBC. Yet the BBC sticks with it and now places itself first-ranked in its title. 

Tonight's grand final featured five singers, all of whom I'd be more than happy to listen to again and again.

And the best singer (the Ukrainian chap, Andrei Kymach) won. 

Yet were we just another race-obsessed website I'd now doubtless point out, despite that, that the three main presenters were pure 'BBC tick box', identity-politics-wise.

One was a traditional older white man - BBC Radio 3 mainstay Squire Petroc Trelawany - but the two others were a young, attractive black woman with only the barest tangential links to classical music but bags of enthusiasm (Josie d'Arby) and a young, attractive Sri-Lankan-American-Australian woman (Danielle de Niese) who at least sings in operas but who bubbled along almost as brightly and largely as light-wittedly as Josie. And the two guest critics were one man and another woman - the man the magnificent Samoan-New Zealander (bass baritone Jonathan Lemalu) and, that rarest rose of rarest roses, a white, older female BBC mainstay Mary King (always good value, as - unlike the rest - she actually says what she thinks).

As we're not a race-obsessed site though I'll say none of that and bid you good night and leave you with a favourite bit of Wagner of mine, part of which the losing American contender sang tonight:

Robert Peston is bemused by the BBC

Ex-BBC now-ITV political editor Robert Peston has been getting up quite a few people's nostrils (including mine) this past week or so with his opinionated tweets.

He's taken strong stances on quite a few things - for example taking firmly against Mark Field MP in the culture war over the Tory MP's forceful ejection of a female Greenpeace protestor from an event where Chancellor Hammond was spouting forth, and, above all, for seeming to be absolutely besotted with Rory Stewart MP. 

But a couple of his tweets today made me smile - especially after having just re-watched Toy Story II tonight with a family young 'un:
I am a bemused by why R4 Saturday Review would choose four reviewers for Toy Story 4 who have no emotional attachment to the Toy Story series, including two who had never seen any of them, and review it on the basis of whether the characters were ethnically diverse enough, whether it was feminist in the right way and why it did not have a powerful ecological message. For those of us for whom Toy Story were wonderful milestones as our children grew up, this is to miss the point completely. This is the BBC as self parody.
Oh Robert, for goodness sake, why be bemused? You're talking about BBC Radio 4, one of the most 'woke' channels on the planet. But, having just listened to it myself, you've still managed to be spot-on and to skewer the BBC here.

That's the way to do it!

The Forgotten Refugees

I’ve avoided bombarding this site with too much material about parliamentary debates, but since Harry’s Place has flagged it up, I will do my worst. This is about a very, very, very belated debate about Jewish refugees. “the forgotten refugees”
If this story were as well known as the plight of the world’s favourite refugees, it might give all those staunch anti-Zionists a little pause for thought.

Hansard transcription is here.
Theresa Villiers gave a particularly brilliant speech. So did Ivan Lewis, and Jim Shannon (DUP) whose reference to the BBC was particularly apposite.
“First, the media bias against Israel and her people is exactly that: bias. For example, when the BBC attempts to set a narrative that does not equate to what is actually taking place on the ground—such as reporting retaliatory missiles launched by Israel in such a way that it seems like an offensive attack—we must investigate and seek the truth, but not from those who seek to write the narrative that suits them.”
It’s a pity that this debate came and went with no interest from the media, but that’s normal. Had there been the publicity or the media exposure the topic deserved, it might have helped dispel some of the current misconceptions about Israel and its so-called ‘right to exist’.

When I mentioned the other debate - the one in the House of Lords about antisemitism, I mentioned Baroness Tonge's assurance that the reason for her pro-Palestinian activism wasn’t antisemitism (she is another one without those elusive racist bones) but a heartfelt plea for an end to ‘injustice’.

Well, I do wonder if she watched this debate. She might have learned something about the meaning of injustice.

The one thing that troubled this viewer was the conspicuous absence of any recognition that the root cause of displacement, injustice and misery is shared by both sets of refugees. It is one and the same, namely hatred of Jews. The hatred that emanates from the religion of Islam. 

This debate left the impression that the refugee problem was a kind of yin and yang scenario. Tit for tat - Muslims and Jews, Sharks and Jets. But no. The current plight of the Palestinians came about as a result of their religious prejudice against the Jews, as did the expulsion of the Jews from the Middle East and North African countries. So, not two sides of the same coin. Not at all.

Getting the last word

Charles Moore's latest Spectator Notes focus on the BBC's Our Next Prime Minister TV debate. He thinks Boris Johnson should have refused to appear:
Behind Boris’s decision to appear was a mistaken cringe to the ‘mainstream media’ (MSM). The success of Donald Trump shows that the insurgent, anti-establishment candidate (which Boris is) must not defer in any way to the MSM. He must appear on their programmes only if he can ensure clear advantage, and he must never accept the agenda behind their programmes. He must communicate by other means, building sympathy with the ever-growing electorate which dislikes the MSM. By deploying silence, he seems bigger and deeper than if he talks too much. If he does speak, he flatters his electorate by addressing them narrowcast rather than broadcast.
As Boris’s team should have predicted, the BBC, via Emily Maitlis, attacked Boris throughout. So did its coverage the following morning. ‘Words are actions,’ said Nick Robinson on Today, sententiously editorialising. ‘Again and again Boris Johnson gets his words wrong.’ Up duly pop Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Heathrow airport expansion and the precise wording of the promise to leave on 31 October — all licensed to do so by the weak decision to let Boris go on.
I was intrigued there by the bit about Nick Robinson "sententiously editorialising" on Today. Did he? Well, looking it up, this is the relevant bit:
Nadhim Zahawi: Judge a man by his actions, not just by his...a sentence taken out of context in an article in the Daily Telegraph.
Nick Robinson: Mr Zahawi, words are actions when you're the leader of a nation, and again and again Boris Johnson gets his words wrong. Now let's go to the issue that you're saying is why you switched to him...
So, yes, Nick did that annoying thing of popping in his own opinion and getting the last word on the point and then changing the subject so that his interviewee cannot respond to it.

Balance deficit

Further to Craig’s piece about the fab regularity of Ash Sarkar’s TV appearances, I was thinking the very same thing only yesterday. 

Not only in respect of our favourite literal commie - but what about the plethora of other glottal-stopping far-left political pundits, several (but not all) of whom are funny-tinged. (As I’m neither Angela Smith nor pale and interesting myself, I claim my privilege to use the phrase.)

The thing is, has the political median shifted so far to the left that the BBC believes it already includes a sufficient ration of ‘right-wing’ contributors to provide its charter’s obligatory balance? 

If that’s what they think, then which individuals do they see as the alt-right equivalent to the Novara Media brigade?

Unavailable for comment

We don’t see much of Nick Griffin these days, thankfully, and when Michal Szewczuk and Oskar Dunn-Koczorowski appeared on our screens in wasn’t in the capacity of political punditry. Anyway, they’re currently unavailable.  But neither can we see, say, Tommy Robinson, unless he’s in the news for some other reason. 

I’m not at all anxious to have a tidal wave of right-wing faces beamed into my living area, but we rarely even see Douglas Murray, and I can’t say that Toby Young is literally a fascist or even an alt-right reactionary. Nor is JR-M. 
We do see Melanie Phillips occasionally, but she’s not on every single edition of Politics Live, now is she?

So who do you think balances out the left-leaning overload, or if you think ‘no-one’ who do you think we should see more of? 

Tribal loyalties

How tribal we all are. All the people who like Boris argue that a politician’s domestic volatility and volubility is none of our business and bears no relevance to anything else and on the other hand all those who don’t like him deflect by accusing the neighbours of being curtain-twitching busybodies and troublemakers. 

Same with almost any other of the issues that ‘divide us’.  We ignore what we don’t like and can’t understand why others do likewise, in reverse.

I suppose it all boils down to the way we approach life’s fundamentals. How informed we are. Traditional loyalties. Prejudices and biases. Maybe the peripherals are mere distractions; fodder for mainstream and social media whose main business is drumming up clicks.

Personally, I’d be annoyed if my nearest-and-dearest spilt red wine on my nice soft furnishings (if I had any) but I’ve put up with worse for the greater good.

Now, before anyone says pot-kettle-black I will defend my own biases to the hilt, and I’m buggered if I can get the police to do anything about our own antisocial near-neighbour.

Give Boris an ASBO.   We’ve had an MP with a tag on, so why not?

Where was Rob?

This week's Newswatch aired several of the main concerns about the BBC's Conservative leadership debate - (1) everyone talking at the same time, (2) the dodgy imam, (3) the Labour-affiliated questioner, (4) the stools, (5) Emily Maitlis's interruptions, (6) Emily Maitlis's interruptions of Boris specifically and (7) whether the whole thing provided more heat than light. I was rather expecting Rob Burley to come on to answer such points, but guest presenter Rebecca Jones informed viewers, "We asked BBC News for someone to come on the programme to discuss those questions but our request was declined." Maybe they should have 'empty-chaired' him!

A point of view

The sub-headline in my hard copy of this week's Spectator only makes it worse. Underneath the headline The brutality of the Beatles and above the byline naming the author - Paul Wood (of the BBC) - comes the sub-headline Why the Isis torture gang must return to Britain to stand trial.

That gives the game away. This is an opinion piece, an argument, as much as a report - though the reporting part of it is excellent, informative and grim.

Comments could be going better though. The general response can be summarised as 'Wrong. Let the Iraqis try them and hang them. They committed their crimes there. And it will save us the expense'. 

"Grow up. Couples row"

So, Boris and Carrie's neighbours called the police, made a recording of a private domestic row, contacted the Guardian and then handed the recording to the paper. And now it's the nation's top news story.

As ex-BBC reporter Giles Dilnot tweeted, "The idea Tony and Cherie, Norma and John, Dennis and Margaret, Samantha and David, Sarah and Gordon, Philip and “Trixy” didn’t ever have a row, yes a proper bust up, is so ridiculous that if you think it, you should go back to bed until you wake up normal".

Andrew Marr is 'mugged by reality'

Two of TV's top broadcasters, Channel 4's Jon Snow and the BBC's Andrew Marr, live in the North London enclave of Primrose Hill. Only one of them, however, is quoted in the Daily Mail this weekend saying:
In Primrose Hill we have some of the richest people living in their nice houses and going to their lovely cafes, and in the other direction there are young kids in gangs who are killing each other.  
The drugs trade is incredibly violent, lethal and destroying lives in big numbers, and the people doing it are the middle-class, wealthy people taking drugs in the privacy of their own homes.  
We should be much more judgmental about middle-class drug taking.  
If you are white and middle class, you don’t see what is going on...
Yes, it's Andrew Marr who said that.

The article then reports his praise for a local vicar, Marjorie Brown, for opening his eyes to the situation. "Otherwise I would be blundering around Primrose Hill like everyone else."

Wonder if Peter Hitchens has read what Andrew said? I think he might even approve.

All of the top-rated comments below the Mail piece, however, disapprove. They all make the same criticism: "What does them being white have to do with anything?"

The BBC's in charge

Emily tries to take back control 

Here's Sky's Adam Boulton on that Rob Burley-edited BBC Conservative leadership debate:
As it has demonstrated since 2010, the BBC isn't really comfortable losing control to debates in which the exchanges between the candidates are all that matters. The corporation has an institutional bias towards making programmes which its off-screen producers and editors can shape. So, for example, it shoves its presenters on stage, giving them equal or better prominence than the debaters. 
Further the BBC likes "to paint the lily" by the intrusion of the audience and questioners. The BBC would be happy if it could reduce debates to its shouty Question Time format. A debate between political leaders is about the public - but it is about what politicians will do to the public not what a random member of the public's views are.


Yolande Knell, BBC News, Tel Aviv

My favourite BBC Watch piece this past week featured BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell.

It looked at a BBC World Service report  (6th June) which she then recycled for an edition of Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent (13th June).

And, by the looks of it, that wasn't the only bit of recycling she engaged in!

BBC Watch notes its remarkable similarity to an earlier Associated Press report (4th June).

Here's that AP report in full:
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Hundreds of Israelis have participated in a mass wedding in Tel Aviv to demand the right to same-sex marriage ahead of the country’s Gay Pride week. 
Tuesday’s event involved an unofficial wedding ceremony for 23 gay couples, who walked down the aisle, took vows and danced at a banquet, cheered by friends, family and supporters. 
The annual pride parade, set for June 14, draws flocks of foreign visitors to Israel, which flaunts itself as one of the world’s most gay-friendly tourist destinations. 
Yet political rights for Israel’s gay community lag behind increasingly widespread cultural acceptance
Jewish ultra-Orthodox parties, which wield significant influence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government and have a monopoly over matters of religion and state, have rejected legislation that condones homosexuality, which they see as defying Jewish law
And here's Yolande's BBC report, via the BBC Watch transcript:
Beaming, Nikita stomps on a glass wrapped in foil to cries of muzl tov – congratulations. But this isn’t a traditional Jewish wedding: it’s a symbolic one. Nikita and his long-time partner Roy are in a row of 23 gay couples hugging and kissing. All walked down the aisle and took vows at an open-air mass ceremony in Tel Aviv.

But while same-sex marriages are increasingly recognised around the world, here in Israel they’re still not legal. The state doesn’t permit any civil marriages – only religious ones – and there’s no religious gay marriage option. ‘We participated so everyone would see us and know we exist’ Nikita says. ‘We love each other, we want to be married and have a normal life’.

Tel Aviv’s gay-friendly reputation – which it recently flaunted while hosting the Eurovision Song Contest – draws many same-sex Israeli couples to live here as well as lots of foreign visitors. Every year its pride parade along the beach has a carnival atmosphere. Young and old, gay and straight join the huge party, many dressed in flamboyant outfits or skimpy swimming costumes.

But in Israel rights for the gay community fall behind rising cultural acceptance in society.

In the Right-wing coalition governments of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish ultra-orthodox parties have had an influential role. They reject any proposed legislation which they see as condoning homosexuality, saying it defies Jewish law.

So here's a summary of the overlap:
  1. "walked down the aisle"
  2. "gay-friendly"
  3. "flaunted"
  4. "foreign visitors"
  5. "fall behind rising cultural acceptance in society"
  6. "reject any proposed legislation which they see as condoning homosexuality, saying it defies Jewish law"
So is the BBC's Yolande Knell a journalist or a churnalist

"His grubby organisation"

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published its findings this week on allegations linked to the Archdiocese of Birmingham when the present leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, served archbishop there. The IICSA found that the then Archbishop of Birmingham defended the reputation of the church rather than protecting children in the face of allegations of sexual abuse.

The BBC has some involvement in the story. According to The Guardian:
In 2003 the BBC broadcast a documentary that traced [serial child abuser and priest James] Robinson to a caravan park in the US. Nichols issued a press release complaining that the programme was “hostile” to the Catholic church. This response was “misplaced and missed the point”, the IICSA report said."
Veteran BBC reporter Hugh Sykes's take on this is quite startling:

Putting 'cardinal' in inverted commas and describing the whole Catholic Church as a "grubby organisation" suggests real anger from Hugh.

Ash on the BBC's sleeve

Literally a BBC regular

Ash on an old man's sleeve,
Is all the ash the burnt roses leave.
Dust in the air suspended
Marks the place where a story ended,
Dust inbreathed was a house -
The wall, the wainscot and the mouse.
The death of hope and despair,
This is the death of air.”

Rob Burley, the BBC's head of live political programmes, is known for his entirely reasonable-sounding catchphrase, "So, here's the thing, people you don't agree with will sometimes be on TV."

Ah but, Rob, surely sometimes people I don't agree with will be on TV to a degree that perhaps merits questioning?

Take (self-professed 'literally a communist') Ash Sarkar of the tiny extreme-left website Novara Media, who we here at ITBB keep joking about because of her fabulous regularity on the BBC. 

So - and once more to re-channel my inner Samira Ahmed - let's ask the question again: What on earth is the BBC doing normalising and making a star of Ash Sarkar, a far-left figure from an extreme, controversial website with a very small readership?

Now, I'm very pro-free speech and am far from unhappy to see Our Ash yet again on the BBC. I like watching her. But...

...Questions surely remain about why certain extremist people are plucked from semi-obscurity and 'platformed' while others from the supposed other end of the political spectrum (often far less extreme than Ash) aren't given licence-fee-funded licence to be an 'uncontroversial BBC regular'.

There are strong implications of soggy-left BBC double standards here, of course.

Let me be bold and hazard a guess as to why Ash is a BBC favourite: She's a young, good-looking female Corbynista who mostly manages to appear much more moderate when she's appearing on TV than she does when she's on social media. And she's non-hideously BAME ('black, Asian and minority ethnic'). Bingo for the BBC's tick boxes?

Friday, 21 June 2019


Probably meaning today's BBC One's News at One, Allison Pearson tweeted the following early this afternoon:
Police today arrest 44 men - 44! - in Yorkshire over child sex abuse. And BBC News leads with one minister manhandling a woman?
News of that mass arrest (in Kirklees, Bradford and Leeds) didn't appear on either tonight's BBC One News at Six or BBC News at Ten.

In contrast, Sky have been reporting it tonight and it featured as a main story on ITV's early evening news bulletin. 

There is something unique about the BBC. And not necessarily in a good way.

A week is a long time in BBC politics

The famous Abdullah

It's been a funny old week for the BBC, hasn't it?

Firstly, their Conservative leadership debate programme was widely panned. My 87-year-old dad described it as 'higgledy-piggledy' and said that the woman presenting it - one Emily Maitlis - wouldn't shut up and let people speak. I think my dad spoke for a lot of people. I noted a few of the barbs at the time:
Sarah Baxter: Format a disaster, big mistake not to have audience, answers too earnest because of use of real people to ask questions whom no one dares offend. Chairs silly.
Tim Marshall: Dire format, uninspiring dialogue. Sigh.
Adrian Hilton: Sorry, I've had enough. I'm just appalled that we seem content to reduce the selection of the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the level of the BBC's 'Apprentice'.
Jason Cowley: The biggest loser from the debate was the format and the BBC. A shambles. The Channel 4 event was much better.
Tim Shipman: TORY DEBATE - If the ghost of Keith Chegwin came on stage naked it would raise the tone of things.
Stephen Pollard: This is the BBC at its worst. Trying to be 'inclusive' but actually just a giant mess. It's really not difficult to stage a 5 way debate. Just look at race to the US primaries.
Harry Cole: ITV will be watching this and relishing their head to head format.
Secondly, that same debate programme resulted in not one but two of the eight members of the public chosen to question and critique the five Tory candidates on Tuesday night getting suspended from the jobs. That's surely unprecedented. Despite the BBC's (including Rob Burley's) bullishness, that surely proves that something went deeply, deeply wrong, doesn't it? 

Thirdly, the invite to the 'Islamophobia'-claiming Islamist imam from Gloucester/Bristol, with all his casually anti-Semitic tweets, led to claim and counter-claim about when the imam's tweets were visible to members of the public and the BBC. Others (I  think rightly) were more interested in working out why this Islamist was invited to appear and put the very question he put in the first place - though the answer was obvious: to try to put the heat on Boris Johnson over his quip about burqa-wearing Muslim women looking like letterboxes (which they do). 

Fourthly, today the BBC has found itself in the same position as Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has put in an official complaint to the BBC about something we here at ITBB noted too: that across various platforms (ranging from BBC One to BBC Two to the BBC News website), the BBC sanitised the imam's social media activity as "anti-Israel" rather than "anti-Semitic". It will be very interesting to see how this well-grounded complaint gets on. 

Fifthly, Sir David Amess MP, is doing something (albeit talking about more talking about it): "Following the BBC's decision to take away free TV licences for the over-75s and the dreadful leadership debate on Monday evening, I have called for a debate in the House of Commons on the future of public broadcasting."