Saturday 29 December 2012

BBC Correspondents Look Back Again...In Embarrassment

Just an update on a previous post, BBC Correspondents Look Back...In Embarrassment....

Last night saw the broadcast of this years BBC Correspondents Look Ahead, again presented by Owen Bennett Jones. Mark Mardell, Lyse Doucet and James Robbins returned to face the music over last year's many, many awry predictions and to lay out their predictions for 2012. Sadly Paul Mason, whose prognostications were in a league of awryness all of his own, was a no-show (being replaced by Stephanie Flanders). Was he otherwise engaged, or just too embarrassed?

The programme didn't entirely avoid airbrushing some of the wrong predictions from last time but, all in all, they did an admirable job in 'fessing up. James conceded he'd had a below-average year and Mark was made to squirm over some of his predictions - gales of laughter surrounding his off-target man-to-watch from last year!

I was intrigued to hear Owen say, "A rather unkind blogger put up a comment the other day saying we don't need any wild predictions on this programme because all the predictions are badly off-the-mark so it's not a necessary category" - which, I believe, is a free paraphrase of a crack of mine from that post. 

I was also intrigued to hear Owen say, "I hope you enjoyed listening to that and agreed with some of it and kept notes or digital records so that everyone can be held to account." 

I will be doing precisely that. 

Rather disappointingly, however, this year's predictions seem to have been made in a much greater spirit of caution, with a greater number of safe bets being made. There were few examples of the correspondents really going out on a limb this time. Surely reading my hatchet-job on their last set of predictions hasn't spooked them into playing safe?


  1. Been thinking of a comprehensive "Hall of Shame" to name and shame BBC hacks guilty of grinding, implacable bias. It'll go back quite a few years.

  2. Some examples:

    Steve Herrmann, News Website Editor: Ducking and diving and deleting most of an article proving bias in favour of LibDem against Conservative in Richmond shortly before last election.

    Robert Piggot, Religion reporter: Misleading public and deceiving members of North London parish by claiming they are pro-reform of Catholic Church when they aren't.

    Jeremy Bowen's anti-Israel bias reluctantly acknowledged by the BBC 'Complaints' dept. after nearly two years of ducking and diving.

    Barbara "tears for Arafat" Plett.

    Alan "friend of the Palestinian people" Johnston rushing off "to have breakfast with the Prime Minister" (chief Gaza terrorist Ismael Haniye) on his release from his kidnappers.

  3. Hi True Too,

    Those are good ones for starters.

    Ah yes, the Sarah Bell affair - a BBC reporter (who played a big part in their online election coverage) who was open on Twitter about her support for the Lib Dems and then published an article just before the 2010 election featuring 6/6 vox pops in Richmond Park saying nice things about the local Lib Dem MP Susan Kramer and disparaging things about her Conservative challenger Zac Goldsmith. The BBC then had to 'bury' her article under 50ft of reinforced concrete. If I remember rightly, you kept trying to tackle Steve Herrmann about the issue, but kept getting his 'out of office' message!

    What remains of the offending article is here:
    and the quickly cobbled-together, back-tracking follow-up piece by Brian Wheeler is here:

    For anyone reading who doesn't know about Robert Pigott getting caught out , one of the original complaints from an understandably appalled parishioner can be read here. It's jaw-dropping:

    I'd forgotten that the head of editorial complaints at the BBC had originally clear Barbara Plett over her "When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose from his ruined compound, I started to cry" elegy for Arafat. Only when a listener appealed did the BBC governors admit she'd "breached the requirements of due impartiality".

    1. Hi Craig. Good to see you're on top of those stories. Yes, Herrmann was continually absent. He got one of his staff to respond to me re the Sarah Bell article. I objected to them deleting all the evidence of her pro-LibDem bias from that article and inserting an editorial comment that explained nothing and made no direct reference to the bias, but got the typical BBC denial in response.


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