Sunday 31 March 2013

Cut to the (not so) quick

The BBC News website has been leading all day with:

Their main report goes on to say:
The Easter criticism has come from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, and the Church of Scotland.
"Easter criticism" by the churches? Well, not according to the Spectator:
COFFEE HOUSE UPDATE It appears that the timing of this – Easter – may have been chosen by the BBC rather than the four church groups. The report that the BBC report refers to was published four weeks ago (pdf) but appears to have been reheated for a slow news day. The Guardian’s version of the story is more honest about the timing, admitting this halfway down. 
The Guardian's "honesty" amounts to confirming that the churches' report "was published earlier this year". (The timestamp - and a quick check on Google News - exonerates the Guardian itself from the Spectator's accusation, as its version of the story followed the BBC's by some hours).

The BBC has often been accused by Conservative-inclined politicians, journalists, bloggers and their readers of going well beyond merely reporting opposition to "the cuts". Some accuse the corporation of actively campaigning against the cuts. So has the corporation really been holding back on reporting this criticism until a suitable slow news day came up - or, even, a more high-profile news day (Easter Sunday, for example)?

A further surf of the net searching under the report's title ("The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty") reveals that the report has been picking up mentions since it was published on 1 March - from Tax Research UK to Mumsnet.

Why has it taken so long for the BBC to report it and why - on Easter Sunday - has it now made it the corporation's main news story of the day? Moreover, why call it "Easter criticism" when it was published a month ago?

Hmm. The "they've only just noticed it" explanation is one possibility, I suppose. Closely related to that - and what must be assumed to be the 'official answer' - is the "the churches only brought it to our attention today" explanation (i.e. it was wholly the churches' choice of timing). The "slow news day" theory is certainly another possibility. Entering far more dangerous territory for the BBC, however, the "save it for Easter Sunday when it will have a bigger impact" or, even worse perhaps, the "save it for nearer the time when the benefit cuts begin (tomorrow!)" explanation is another, albeit highly inflammatory explanation. If that's really the case heads would need to roll at the BBC.

I remain puzzled.

Something else is puzzling me.

The BBC's report is also notable for failing to mention something else that the Guardian mentions:
[Paul] Morrison [public issues policy adviser at the Methodist church] spoke out as Grant Shapps, the Conservative party chairman, used an interview with the Sunday Telegraph to highlight figures apparently showing 878,300 people who were on incapacity benefit dropped their claims rather than complete a medical assessment.
That was a third of the total, he said, and included people on benefits because of blisters, acne, and strains and sprains. Of the 1.44m who have been reassessed, 55% were found fit to work immediately and another 23.9% able to do some level of work, leaving just 232,000 declared not fit to work.
This striking figure of 878,300 people dropping their claims for incapacity benefit rather than complete a medical assessment is obviously newsworthy. Like the Guardian and the [paywall-bound] Telegraph, Sky News certainly thinks so. So does the Daily Mail and the Huffington Post.

Look for that figure on the BBC News website though and you won't (as yet) find it. Why? Because they haven't reported it online.

Why ever not? It's an important riposte from the government which directly challenges and contradicts the contentions of the four churches. It quite clearly should have been reported by the licence-fee funded BBC, shouldn't it? (If that doesn't appear obvious to you, I'd be interested to hear why).

David Cameron famously nicknamed the BBC "the BBBC - British Broadcasting Cuts Corporation". Sometimes it's not hard to understand why.


Many of you will remember last year's high-profile child sexual abuse scandal trial in Rochdale. As the abuse was perpetrated by eight men of Pakistani origin and one Afghan asylum seeker and all the victims were white under-aged girls, the case provoked a nationwide debate on whether the crimes had a racial/religious/cultural motivation. Concerns were raised that the police, CPS, local council and social services had failed to investigate the abuse properly out of fear of being accused of being racist/anti-Muslim. 

The debate raged across blogs, newspapers, radio and television. Even the BBC, which has been (justly) accused on treading over-cautiously in such matters over the years, aired the debate over the racial/religious aspects (albeit in their own, somewhat circumscribed way). Question Time and all the major Radio 4 programmes debated the issue. 

Though there was some resistance to admit the racial/religious elements to the crime from parts of the police, the Children's Commission, the CPS (etc), plenty of people, including Trevor Phillips of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation and local Labour MP Simon Danczuk, claimed that attempts to deny the racial element in the crimes were "fatuous" or "daft". 

There were critics of the BBC who thought that the BBC was also trying to downplay the racial/religious element. I (like some other commenters at Biased BBC) found good things and bad things in BBC's reporting at the time to be and felt that, with some stand-out exceptions, the BBC wasn't whitewashing the issue. You can read the relevant Biased BBC threads on this here and here

The BBC returned to the story this week in an edition of File on 4, presented by Jane Deith (a freelance reporter for the BBC and Channel 4 News):  
Rochdale Abuse: Failed Victims?
The high profile child sex abuse case in Rochdale last summer - in which nine men were jailed for more than 70 years for grooming underage girls - has been defined as a watershed moment in how the authorities deal with this kind of abuse.

But were there crucial failings?
In an exclusive interview for File on 4, one of the police officers involved in the case claims that flaws in the way it was handled meant important witness evidence was dropped and some abusers were never prosecuted - leaving a new generation of girls potentially at risk and victims seriously let down.
Jane Deith also hears complaints that witnesses were left without adequate support to help them re-build their lives.
Earlier this month the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, published new guidelines for police and prosecutors in such cases. But have they come too late for many victims?
It was a powerful piece of investigative reporting, tenaciously pursuing many serious questions for the police, the CPS, the council and social services. 

Remarkably, however, it completely avoided the racial/religious element to the story - and I do mean 'completely'. Not once was the racial or religious background of either the perpetrators - or their victims - mentioned. Not once were the words 'Pakistani', 'Afghan' or 'Muslim' used. The abusers were simply 'men'.(Nor, incidentally, was the word 'Labour' used to describe the local council).

I didn't quite believe my ears first time round, so I re-listened to make sure I hadn't missed something. I hadn't. Just as many critics of the BBC would assume, this BBC documentary about the Rochdale Abuse chose to ignore the charged racial/religious element to the story. Completely. 

It was all about process and judgemental attitudes towards the victims. Nothing to do with the race, culture or religion of the attackers.

Rather like the police, CPS and local council at the time, I feel a bit ginger about discussing this. Clearly not as ginger as the BBC though, it seems. 

Something misunderstood

Happy Easter!

Radio 4's Sunday celebrated the Christian world's holiest day by talking to a Christian pastor in the Bekaa Valley about the Syrian refugee crisis, following this with a report on Rowan Williams's involvement with a Cambridge Food Bank in these times of austerity and benefit cuts, an interview with a Cypriot journalist about the Orthodox Church's role in the present crisis (he wasn't enthusiastic), a piece on a female saint (Egeria) and an interview with a Labour peer, Lord Touhig, who has added his name to a letter to Pope Francis calling for reform to the Catholic Church's stance on clerical celibacy. There was also a report on the power of prayer before the programme ended with a ding-dong scrap between two Anglican bishops (yes, really!) over whether George Carey was right to say that Christians feel persecuted in this country. 

The report on the power of prayer intrigued me because I'd only been reading about the poll behind it the day before: 
The Church of England have released a poll they claim shows the vast majority of people believe in the power of prayer, when it does no such thing. There is nothing at all wrong with ICM’s actual polling, which asks people “Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, What would it be for?” (emphasis is mine). A perfectly reasonable question, asking people what they would pray for, if they were the sort of person who did pray.

However, the Church of England have gone rather rogue in interpreting the results, deciding that everyone who gave an answer to ICM’s hypothetical question of what people would pray for if they prayed must therefore believe in prayer – putting out a press release claiming that “Four out of five British adults believe in the power of prayer”. The Telegraph has gone on a similar flight of fancy, declaring “Six out of seven people still believe that prayers can be answered despite a dramatic drop in formal religious observance, a study has found.”
In a population where only around half of people believe in a god at all, any claim that 80% of people believe prayer works should ring alarm bells anyway. For the record the last poll I can find that actually asked whether people believed that prayer worked was by YouGov for the Sun in 2012. That found 31% of people believed that prayer worked in some way (that is they thought prayers were heard by God, or were physically answered in some other way), compared to 45% who did not and 25% who weren’t sure. (UK Polling Report).
The Telegraph isn't the only media outlet to have reported this survey - or, more precisely, the C of E's  interpretation of it - uncritically. 

Here's Trevor Barnes's introduction to the report on this morning's Sunday
If a new Church of England poll is anything to go by most of us routinely resort to prayer in the face of personal difficulty. What's more a sizeable majority of those surveyed said it believes those prayers are answered. Of those taking part a third said they prayed for world peace, for example - well, we can skip over that one! - while others included health, relationships, prosperity and work among their personal prayer requests. 
Well, no actually. To see what's wrong here, simply compare the question in the ICM poll, which asks what people would pray for (hypothetically-speaking) if they were to pray:
"Q.1 Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, What would it be for?" 
with Trevor's re-write of it, which mistakenly assumes that those 31% of peace-lovers have already prayed for world peace:
"Of those taking part a third said they prayed for world peace, for example."
Still, he gives me the chance to post a favourite poem by one of my favourite poets, George Herbert, on the same subject - just for the sake of it!:

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age, 
        Gods breath in man returning to his birth, 
        The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage, 
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ; 

Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre, 
        Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear, 
        The six daies world-transposing in an houre, 
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ; 

Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse, 
        Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best, 
        Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest, 
The milkie way, the bird of Paradise, 

        Church-bels beyond the stars heard, the souls bloud, 
        The land of spices, something understood. 

Saturday 30 March 2013

The UK's future in Europe

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As a fairly regular listener (for over a quarter of a century) to Radio 4's The World Tonight I often find myself viewing its homepage. For several weeks now, prominently positioned just beneath its 'Latest episode' link, the homepage has been showcasing one particular edition of the programme, from last December:

I presume the reason for featuring this special edition so prominently and for so long must be because they are especially proud of it and think it represents The World Tonight at its best, dealing as it does with a charged political issue. 

The charge that the BBC is biased in favour of the European Union is an often-made one. (I've been known to make it myself from time to time!) The corporation's admission that it received nearly £3 million of funding from the EU has only served to fuel such concerns. Does this edition of The World Tonight supply any evidence for such a bias? Did it provide a range and balance of views - some arguing that the UK can prosper outside Europe, with others disagreeing?

John Jungclaussen's report

The programme began with a 'point of view'-style report from John Jungclaussen, London Correspondent of Die Zeit - a "a self-confessed Anglophile and Europhile".  Dr Jungclaussen is "very worried" about Britain's possible divorce from the EU.

He talked first to the joky Eurosceptic Quentin Letts of The Daily Mail, getting in the charge that the British media is "highly emotive" in its misleading of the British people and, after Quentin had finished, mentioning the "Little Englander" charge made against people like Mr Letts (whilst personally distancing himself from it).

Dr Jungclaussen continued that Britain leaving the EU would be "catastrophic". The EU is the UK's biggest customer. What about the "special relationship" with the US? Won't that "save" us? Not according to an American "business analyst who had lived in London for a long time" (Glenda Geeves?). Dr Jungclaussen ask her a splendidly leading question: "So for American business how important is it for Britain to be in the UK (sic - he meant EU!) and offer a gateway into the European Union. I mean, after all, one of the largest markets in the world?" "It is extremely important," she replied, agreeing with the thrust of Dr Jungclaussen's question and said that the UK would be as "attractive as before" for the US if it were no longer in the EU.

He then argued that the UK's departure "would be terrible for Europe as well" as Britain has long been "the voice of reason in the EU". The "Europhile" cross-bench peer Lord Haskins was summoned to back up this point. Lord Haskins praised Britain's role in building the single market and said he would be "sad and shocked" if the UK left the EU. He remembers why the EU was formed, after the most devastating war in human history.

To the strains of "Silent Night", Dr Jungclaussen expresses his own fears that the UK will leave the EU. "A disaster for Britain and a disaster for Europe" he calls it.

'Interview' with Radosław Sikorski

OK, so that's one side of the argument put. What's next? A European voice which shares Britain's Euroscepticism perhaps? No, rather remarkably, it was an interview with Radosław Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister - another European who believes precisely what John Jungclaussen believes, that Britain should stay in the EU. Mr Sikorski talked to presenter Ritula Shah. "He explained why he felt so strongly about the need for the UK to remain within the European Union," said Ritula. And so he did. This section took the form of an interview, though Mr Sikorski's answer was more like a speech. It went on, uninterrupted and unchallenged for  2 minutes and 42 seconds.

Essentially, we had the same case put twice in the opening twenty minutes of the programme.

Paul Moss's report

Instead of allowing a third voice to put the counter-argument (either as a report by that person or as an uninterrupted talk/interview), the programme then proceeded straight to a report by the BBC's Paul Moss.

Paul went to Cornwall to investigate British Euroscepticism. Ritula Shah's introduction to his report framed the argument thus:
"Are the critics right in their concerns or is it simply a misunderstanding about the purpose of Europe?" 
As far as I'm concerned, Paul Moss made no attempt to show that the sceptics could be "right in their concerns" and every attempt to show that there is indeed a lot of "misunderstanding about the purpose of Europe". It was an argument - and, in my opinion, a pro-EU argument being advanced by the impartial BBC reporter.

Amazingly, this report was the only section of the programme where voices were heard expressing arguments in favour of the UK exiting the European Union. Why "amazing"? Because in a programme whose stated aim was the air this very issue, the relegation of this particular side of the argument to a few fleeting vox pops in a report is highly questionable.

Paul Moss went to meet some UKIP supporters in a pub. We heard from two of them, very briefly. We then heard from the local UKIP candidate Stephanie McWilliam, who Paul mis-introduced as "Steph McWilliams". She said UKIP is now on a roll. In less than one and a half minutes, UKIP disappeared, and were not heard from again. That was it - in a three-quarters-on-an-hour-long programme on the subject of Britain's membership of the European Union.

Paul then went off "in search of someone who might put the other side of the argument" and found John Teagle, a local company director who "is a big fan of the European Single Market" because it makes exporting to Europe (his biggest market) easier. "Case closed, you might think", said Paul, after choosing not to challenge Mr Teagle over this aspect of his comments. Paul Moss continued
"But not quite, because it turned out that John Teagle is not actually a fan of the European Union itself. He cited one thing he particularly disliked about the power of Brussels. What he said wasn't actually true, but represents perhaps a commonly held belief." 
This attempted to fatally undermine Mr Teagle's point even before he'd made it. Mr Teagle's "untrue" point was this:
"Brussels is imposing on us under the Human Rights legislation. There's debate now on whether prisoners in the UK should be able to vote at general elections."
Paul Moss pounced, firmly:
"What's that got to do with the EU? It's actually to do with the Council of Europe, nothing at all to do with the EU."
Poor Mr Teagle was taken aback and sounded embarrassed, laughing nervously:
"Ah, OK, er..but, no, but it is difficult for Joe Public to tell the difference between one aspect of Europe and another."
He stood corrected.

Or did he? Well, not according to Mary Ellen Synon at the Daily Mail:
Yet the fact is that Teagle had it exactly right, and Moss had it exactly wrong. The Lisbon Treaty incorporated the European Council's Court of Human Rights into the EU.
I won't go into the full trainspotting details, but for a start the preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, one part of the Lisbon Treaty, states: 'The Charter reaffirms...the Social Charters adopted by the Union and the Council of Europe and the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights.'
The EU has made it legally impossible for any member state to operate outside the demands of the European Court of Human Rights. The EU has nailed Britain and every other EU member state to it.
So for a BBC reporter such as Moss to tell Joe Public that the ECHR is 'nothing at all to do with the EU' is, and this is the best gloss I can put on it, deeply ignorant.
As I say, I hope Teagle demands a correction and an apology from the BBC. 
Having made his point about Mr Teagle's misunderstanding of the EU (if such it was), Paul Moss went to talk to the Cornish band Road Runners who "were also not exactly sure about what the European Union does."

Before we heard from them, Paul told us that the community centre in Redruth where they record their music (the Elms Centre) was "set up with the help of an EU grant". Paul ask the band's singers what the words "European Union" meant to them. They were pretty positive to begin with - "Community. Community trying to be together. All working for the same goal, trying to make a better place for the whole of Europe" - but went on to say that different countries want different things. Paul was ready for them:
"And yet no more here seems to be aware that this whole thing was funded by the European Union". 
The band members took the bait:
"Maybe it's a marketing problem for themselves."
"Maybe it's something they need to start letting know that they're funding it, if you know what I mean, so that people like us will know where it's coming from and then we can give...."
"Yeah. They'll get thanks for it, if you know what I mean."
"That is exactly what the European Union is trying to do", continued Paul as he assumed his commentary. He helped the EU along even more by then detailing other grants the EU is giving to help Cornwall before speaking to Nigel Ashcroft,  the man who runs the superfast broadband project in Cornwall and who says the EU should do even more to "blow its funding trumpet":
"We should really be making sure that everybody in Cornwall knows that the money that's coming from Europe is really going to accelerate our economy." 
You can, I hope, see how Paul Moss's report has gone so far. After letting us hear very briefly from some UKIP supporters, none of whom was giving time to make the case against the EU- never mind the case for withdrawal from the EU - we heard from a businessman who was used to show how (supposedly) ignorant people are about the EU and then from three beneficiaries of EU largesse who are used to amplify this point about how we don't understand the EU and then used once more to blow the EU's trumpet.

Finally, what about the Common Fisheries Policy? Paul then talked to some fishermen, all anti-EU. We heard from some of them, voicing their concerns. Paul countered their concerns in his introduction and in his questions to them - pointing out that Brits can fish in French and Spanish waters and reminding them of all those project being funded by the EU ("an awful lot" of them), for example. He didn't get very far though in convincing them!

Closing discussion

We still hadn't heard a sustained argument against Britain's continued membership of the European Union. We'd heard two sustained argument for though. Would the closing discussion with three members of parliament change that?

No. None of Ritula Shah's three guests were in favour of Britain leaving the EU. Given that the programme was specifically about the question of whether the UK should leave the EU - an issue challenged by Dr Jungclaussen and Mr Sikorski - I would have though that it would have been only right and proper to have at least one guest in this final discussion willing to make the case for the UK's exit. I would have said that was obvious. Evidently the producers of The World Tonight thought otherwise. If they thought about it at all.

We did have a Eurosceptic though, given that the first guest was Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom. She wants us to stay inside the EU but favours renegotiating a looser relationship with Europe.

To compound the clear imbalance in the programme so far, she was put up against two more European  pro-Europeans who would stick up for the EU and criticise British Euroscepticism. At least they differed, however, on the question of the UK's continued membership of the EU. Otto Fricke of the German liberal FDP wanted us to stay but the French socialist Axelle Lemaire was prepared to shrug her shoulders if we left.

Still, at least Andrea Leadsom challenged some of their arguments - and Paul Moss's argument about the generosity of EU funding - and put across plenty of Eurosceptic points and Ritula Shah conducted the discussion fairly enough.


By featuring this edition of the programme (from just before Christmas last year) so prominently on its homepage - even more prominently that the latest edition! -, Radio 4's The World Tonight is clearly wanting as many of its listeners as possible to hear it - and re-hear it. Why? Is it simply because they think it's a 'gold standard' edition of the programme, something that it can proudly recommend to its audience, or is it because they want the pro-European message I believe it seeks to project to be heard, again and again? My trusting side says the former; my sceptical side (in more senses than one) says the latter. You must make up your own minds on that, of course.

I've dipped into this territory before as far as The World Tonight is concerned, but dipping really doesn't cut it with the BBC.  Is this edition typical (if you agree that it's as biased as I'm saying it is), or merely a blip? You can't judge a single edition of a BBC programme - as the BBC is the first to tell complainants. You have to take the programme's output as a whole into account. That being the case, this may need a more systematic examination. Does it keep happening? Are there enough counter-examples to neutralise it if it does?

Coda: Book of the Week

The pushing of this edition of the programme puts me in mind of another quirk of Radio 4's 'Listen again' facility.

If you fancy trawling the Book of the Week archive and listening to some of the past editions (this past week's book has been a biography of Hugo Chavez by the Guardian's Rory Carroll), you can trawl through the whole of 2012 and find not one Book of the Week you can re-listen to. Same for 2011...with two exceptions: a biography of Charles Dickens from November 2011 and a collection of essays of the state of the European Union from the same month. This latter book (if book if is), State of the Union, was serialised  (if serialised it was) in five daily essays.

Rather like a standard Dateline London panel, it gathered five writers (journalists, historians, novelists) from five different countries - Italy, Germany, France, Ireland and Greece. Unfortunately, also like on Dateline London, it gathered together five like-minded people. All are strong pro-Europeans: journalist Beppe Severgnini, Chancellor Kohl's former advisor Michael Stürmer, French commentator Agnes Poirier, Irish writer Fintan O'Toole and (less obviously) Greek novelist Ersi Sotiropoulos.

Is it not intriguing that they should choose to keep this particular pro-European Book of the Week available for listeners to listen again for getting on for one and a half years now whilst making no other book - except that biography of Dickens - available for the same purpose? I'd call that odd, at the very least. Wouldn't you?


After last week's highly unusual edition, Dateline London reverted to type again today. 

The panel consisted of a British left-winger (Owen Jones of The Independent), a Syrian-born left-winger (the freelance journalist Mustapha Karkouti), an American liberal (Michael Goldfarb of GlobalPost) and a left-leaning Catholic commentator (inevitably, Catherine Pepinster of The Tablet, above). The much-used term "left-liberal" sums up that panel to perfection!

Where were the right-of-centre voices? They were where they so often are with Dateline - absolutely nowhere to be seen. 

Maybe right-wingers wash their hair at lunchtime. Almost every Saturday.

As for today's Dateline London there was general agreement that austerity is a bad thing and that Pope Francis is far better than Pope Benedict XVI (especially as regards his warmth towards Muslims). 

Friday 29 March 2013

Lett the People Speak

A (convoluted?) thought experiment: 

Imagine yourself to be a pro-EU, pro-euro commentator here in the UK. You are crafting a daily series of articles about the eurozone which are being published over the course of a week. Your intention is to accentuate the positive about the EU and the euro and to persuade your largely skeptical readers that things aren't as bad as they think they are in the eurozone, even given recent events in Cyprus. You would obviously want to get the trickier stuff out of the way early on and then end your series on an optimistic note.  

Given that optimistic notes seem hard to come by, where should you end your series? Not in Cyprus, obviously. Not in one of the other economically fraught eurozone nations of South Europe either. Nor in precarious Slovenia, whose economy has fallen back since joining the euro in 2007. Nor should you go to France, what with its increasingly dodgy economy. Even Germany wouldn't be the place to finish, as people outside Germany have concerns about Germany's behaviour in recent years with regards to the eurozone. No, you would have to find some country that is (a) thriving in the eurozone (which is a bit tricky at the moment) or (b) find an EU country presently not in the eurozone that wants to join the eurozone. That latter course of action is clearly the better one, as it shows that there are people who still put their faith in the euro and are deeply optimistic about it. As Latvia is the country that wants to be next to join the euro, that's probably your safest best. You could even go there and talk to its highly enthusiastic prime minister. 

Funnily enough, that's precisely what Today's business reporter Simon Jack has just done (15 minutes into the link, for the next 7 days). His week-long excursion around the capitals of certain eurozone nations ended today with a trip to Latvia and an interview with its highly enthusiastic prime minister, Valdis Dombrovskis. 

As I've been following the Latvian story since looking into Latvian attitudes to the EU in an earlier post for Is?, something leapt out at me from Simon's report. 

Though he certainly didn't hide the fact that Latvia is split over the issue - featuring a couple of "anti" students and a prominent politician calling for a referendum, for example - he did make the surprising statement that
"Public opinion is thought to be fairly evenly split." 
My understanding, however, is that the Latvian public is not fairly evenly split at all. There is in fact a clear majority against adopting the euro. The percentage of "antis" (who want to stick with the lats) is usually quoted as two-thirds, as against a mere one-third of Latvian in favour of the euro. A re-checking of recent media reports confirms that most Latvians are indeed against becoming eurozone members. (Examples can be read herehereherehere, here, herehere and here.) So why did Simon say that the Latvian public is "fairly evenly split"?

Similarly, Simon (pictured above) also said 
"Business leaders are convinced it makes sense."
before interviewing the pro-euro president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce. 

Well, that depends on what you mean by "business leaders". Again, the opinion polls tell a somewhat different and far less decisive story. Though more business leaders are "pro" rather than "anti", the "pro" camp is not a majority:
41.2% for
35% against
21.6% neutral 

Simon Jack's report did feature a range of voices. It was not pure propaganda. Still, Simon does appear to have overplayed the support of Latvian business for the move and to have drastically underplayed the extent of public opposition to joining the euro. I'm puzzled as to the reason why. 

That thought experiment was, of course, a way of lulling you into seeing Simon Jack as behaving like a pro-EU, pro-euro reporter. That could either be because he is a pro-EU, pro-euro reporter or because I've fallen victim to confirmation bias again. Those two factual 'glitches', however, do make me suspect the former this time. 

Thursday 28 March 2013

Compare the Meerkat

Back by...ahem...popular demand, it's time for another snapshot of what The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and the BBC News website are reporting tonight - at 23.00, 28 March 2013 precisely:

The Daily Telegraph

Block immigration to save British jobs, influential MPs say
Britain should be able to block immigration during the current period of high unemployment, according to influential MPs.

BBC unions silent over the Maggie Question
BBC staff on strike say they are prepared to return to desks if Nelson Mandela dies, however their generosity stops there.

Pope washes feet of young Muslim prisoner
Pope Francis continued his gleeful abandonment of tradition by washing the feet of a young Muslim woman prisoner.

Right-winger to appease Tory MPs
Cameron has moved to shore up his strained relations with Tory MPs by appointing John Hayes as a close aide.

MI5 name birdwatcher as new head
The man who led MI5's battle against al-Qaeda in the wake of the 7/7 atrocity was yesterday appointed head of the spy agency.

Cyber activist is 'victim of conspiracy'
Internet activist accused of masterminding one of the biggest global cyber attacks in years says he was victim of conspiracy.

Universal credit 'teetering'
Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reform faces fresh questions after its first pilot project was scaled down.

Criminal taunts critics from beach
Violent criminal who had curfew lifted so he could go on month-long holiday taunts victims by posting a picture of himself on Thai beach.

Boris 'would wipe out Labour lead'
Boris Johnson would wipe out Labour’s lead in the polls if he took over from David Cameron as Conservative leader, a new survey has revealed.

Cyprus banks reopen amid simmering tension
Cypriots formed orderly queues outside the country’s banks after they reopened for the first time in nearly two weeks on Thursday.

Slovenia faces contagion from Cyprus
Slovenia’s borrowing costs have rocketed over recent days as it grapples with a festering financial crisis.

UK 'has returned to growth'
Triple-dip recession fears ease as the OECD says the UK has already returned to growth and the service sector expands.

Why are so many retailers gloomy about the bad weather?
The scepticism of the City has grown because too many retailers talk about the negative impact of the weather, but not the positive impact.

The Guardian

Fury at Amazon fee hike for third-party traders
'Marketplace' traders in UK and major European markets to be hit by fee hikes of up to 70% after Easter

Cyprus cash controls to last a month
Just 24 hours ago Cypriots were told curbs to prevent money from leaving the country would only be in place for a week

Pistorius faces athletics snub
IAAF believed to be planning talks with members to dissuade them from inviting murder accused to compete

Bersani fails to form government
Italian president Giorgio Napolitano takes back task of ending political paralysis as lack of firm result unsettles financial markets

No claims police lied in plebgate file
Investigation of alleged media leak about affair does not show conspiracy to frame chief whip

Energy minister switches to No 10
PM brings coalition windfarm war to an end by appointing Michael Fallon to replace his controversial Tory colleague John Hayes

Britons sexually assaulted in Libya
Three women in aid convoy passing through on way to Gaza kidnapped and attacked in Benghazi

Tower block fire deaths 'preventable'
Deaths of six people in UK's worst tower block fire could have been prevented by proper fire safety checks, inquest concludes

Romanian gangs warned off UK
Old Bailey judge says 10 men came to UK to steal and have not done honest day's work since arriving

Obama pleads for gun control action
President says US should be ashamed if Newtown was being forgotten already and rejects criticism he has delayed on reform

UK's CO2 emissions up 4.5% in 2012
Huge jump in coal use in power stations prompts rise, while Scotland renewables production reaches record levels

Jobcentre 'scorecard' emerges
'Scorecard' appears after ministers deny existence of league tables and targets for sanctioning of benefit claimants

UK 'welfare magnet' idea challenged
Research finds immigrants to EU countries less likely to live on benefits and says language and skills are bigger pull

OECD: UK should avoid triple dip
Economy remains fragile but improvements are beginning to be seen, says OECD chief economist

UK set for coldest March since 1962
Met Office says average temperature has been 2.5C this month – three degrees below long-term average

Mandela responding to treatment
Former South African president remains under observation after suffering recurrence of lung infection

163 die in South Sudan battle
Government captures airstrip it claims rebels led by David Yau Yau were using to import military supplies

Panorama accused of bribery attempt
BBC reportedly suspends producer after claims security consultant was offered bribe for information

New foot and mouth vaccine
'Synthetic' vaccine can be produced and transported in poor countries, where foot and mouth is endemic, without refrigeration

Lindt loses Easter bunny battle
Swiss chocolatier loses legal fight to stop German rival Riegelein Confiserie selling similar gold foil-wrapped bunny

BBC News

Zuma reassures S Africa over Mandela
President Jacob Zuma says South Africans "must not panic" as ex-leader Nelson Mandela undergoes treatment for the recurrence of a lung infection. 

Mitchell to sue Sun over 'plebgate'
Former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell says he is suing the Sun over claims he swore and called police officers plebs in a row in Downing Street.

NHS Trust stops child heart surgery
Children's congenital heart surgery has been suspended at a Leeds hospital amid concerns about data on death rates. 

Universal Credit pilots scaled back
The government is to scale back some of its plans to test a radical new reform to the welfare system.

Man arrested in NZ over Ryder attack NEW
New Zealand police arrest a man in connection with an assault on cricketer Jesse Ryder, who is in a medically induced coma in Christchurch.

Cyprus cash curbs 'may last a month'

'Failings' in tower block fire deaths

Andrew Parker named MI5 chief

Pope washes prisoners' feet in Rome

England fans reported for abuse

BBC staff go on strike over cuts


The lead stories in both the Telegraph and the Guardian are the kind of stories you might expect each of them to lead with. I'll let you make up your own mind about whether the BBC's choice of lead story is (or isn't) an odd one, but it does rather tie in with the Telegraph's second story, doesn't it?:
After news that the 94-year-old [Nelson Mandela] was in hospital broke, union leaders declared that in “the sad event of his death, and for BBC news coverage of that story only” the staff would postpone the strike.
However when the strikers were asked whether the ailing Lady Thatcher, scourge of the unions in the 1980s, would be treated in the same manner, there was a marked change of approach.
Both Bectu and the National Union of Journalists said simply that they had not considered what they would do in the event of the 87-year-old former prime minister’s untimely death.
An NUJ spokeswoman said: “Mandela, with his background in the trade unions, is an important figure for everybody.”
The corporation said that the decision to return was “a tribute to the character of BBC staff.”
(The Daily Telegraph)

A Strange Omission

News of positive or negative predictions for the UK economy from international bodies such as the IMF and the OECD often attract the attention of the British media. Today's prognosis from the Paris-based OECD has been no exception.

This morning's Financial Times reflected on the organisation's gloomy forecasts for the eurozone. The  OECD locates the gloom in France and Italy, predicting that their economies will continue to shrink. They say that Germany, however - like Japan and the U.S. - will have modest growth. The FT, naturally, also reports the bit that will be of most interest to its British readers:
The UK should avoid a triple-dip recession, growing by 0.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2013 and by 1.4 per cent in the following three months.
At around the same time America's Bloomberg was noting much the same as the FT, though it laid the emphasis on the OECD's call for the European Central Bank to consider more quantitative easing (QE). It also added, however, the mildly hopeful news for us Brits:
Expansions in the U.K. and Canada will be 0.5 percent and 1.4 percent and 1.1 percent and 1.9 percent in the two quarters, respectively, according to OECD estimates.
Russia Today focused on how the OECD is predicting that Japanese and  US growth will dwarf the eurozone, but it too didn't fail to include the 'good news' for us Brits:
The UK is expected to avoid a triple-dip recession, growing by 0.5 percent in the first quarter of 2013 and by 1.4 percent in the following three months.
The OECD's prediction that the UK will after all avoid that much-feared triple-dip recession has, understandably, been taken up with gusto right across the British media.

The Daily Telegraph was quick off the mark with:
UK has already returned to growth, says OECD

Hopes that Britain will avoid a triple-dip recession were bolstered after a leading forecaster said the country had already returned to growth and official figures showed the key services sector expanding at its strongest pace in five months.
The Daily Mail soon joined in:
British economy is now GROWING and will avoid a triple-dip recession, global experts claim

OECD says that the worst of the economic gloom has passed

Predicts growth of 0.5% in the first quarter of 2013, avoiding triple dip
And the Guardian too (albeit rather later in the day) gave its readers the 'good news':
UK economy should avoid triple-dip recession, OECD forecasts

Britain's economy remains fragile but 'improvements are beginning to be seen' says OECD chief economist
All very natural, you might say. 

Things, however, take a strange turn when you come to the BBC's online take on the story.

Here it is in full. I'm sure you'll spot a truly remarkable omission on the BBC's part:
OECD predicts stronger global growth
The world's major economies will see stronger growth this year, but Europe's recovery will continue to be slow, an international organisation has said.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted stronger growth in the US, Japan and Germany.

But it said concerns remained over the recovery of the wider eurozone.

It said governments would need to keep special measures in place to boost economic growth.
Overall, the OECD forecast an average annualised growth of 2.4% among the seven biggest economies in the first quarter of this year.
That suggests a marked recovery from the last three months of 2012, when leading economies shrank at an annualised rate of 0.5%.
"The bottom line is that we are moderately more optimistic," the OECD's chief economist Pier Carlo Padoan told the Reuters news agency.
But the organisation paints a picture of contrasting fortunes in Europe, where German growth is expected to be relatively strong, while France and Italy are expected to stay in recession until at least the second quarter of the year.
Italy is expected to perform the worst among the seven economies covered, which do not include China.
The OECD said it was still too soon for governments to consider ending economic stimulus measures that are aimed at encouraging growth.
It welcomed recent policy changes by Japanese authorities aimed at tackling deflation and boosting growth.
Yes, astonishingly, the BBC chooses to completely omit the OECD's prediction that the UK will grow by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2013 and by 1.4% by the third quarter.

It covers most of the predictions for other countries (U.S., Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and even China get mentions) but the OECD's predictions for British growth are nowhere to be found in this BBC article (which has remained unchanged since it was first published around lunchtime today).

That is very odd, isn't it?

Why on earth has the BBC News website's only article on this OECD report failed to mention what most British readers and UK newspapers - and even many worldwide media organisations  - consider to be highly newsworthy (especially given that it's about their own country)? 

Is it because the BBC is biased against the government, and in favour of Labour? That's the accusation some will certainly make. 

The Telegraph reports the 'good news' for the government in this story:
“The UK is doing fairly well I would say ... this avoids a triple-dip in that country,” said Pier Carlo Padoan, the OECD’s chief economist. “We see a global outlook improving after a weak 2012.”
The Guardian follows suit, noting the change in the OECD's position  :

Pier Carlo Padoan, the OECD's chief economist, said: "The situation [in the UK] is still fragile. I think the policy course, both in terms of monetary and fiscal policy, is going in the right direction and improvements are beginning to be seen."
This support for George Osborne's strategy is something you might also have expected the BBC to add to its report. Why didn't they?

Instead the BBC article gives us this photo and caption:

Austerity measures in Europe are continuing to hamper growth

I'm struggling to find that assertion in any of the other articles listed above. 

From this photo and caption the reader of the BBC article might well assume that the austerity measures in Britain have been criticised by the OECD today - that "Austerity measures in Europe are continuing to hamper growth" is the OECD's assertion - but (so far as my research tonight can tell) this does not  appear to the the case at all. 

So why has the BBC so prominently featured that photo and caption?

Is the BBC biased?

Tuesday 26 March 2013

The winner is

I’ve never quite forgiven Eddie Mair for championing a mature student who was trapped in Gaza by a defensive tightening of the blockade during an abrupt escalation of violence in the region, which I think was during Operation Cast Lead. It was undoubtedly very unfortunate for everybody who was caught up in the situation, but the way radio 4‘s PM kept on and on about it was.... was... I know.... *disproportionate*.  After all, he was only doing business studies, not a Fulbright scholar or anything, just halfway through a course at some redbrick or other in the north of England, and he’d gone home for the hols, apparently to collect his wifey, and bring her over here. But they didn’t mention that. Instead they treated it as if missing the start of term was one of the greatest hardships ever endured by man or beast, and the PM team breathlessly updated us on the evildoings of Israel, daily.  (I wonder if he eventually sought asylum?)

So that's a kind of faded, five-year grudge.  Anyway, I viewed the Mair/Johnson affair pre-annoyed with Eddie, especially as we all know everyone likes watching Boris, and despite his indiscretions, surely nobody nice would call him a nasty piece of work. 

Now that I’ve seen the film, seen the interview, read the reviews and heard the gratuitous replay on Today, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. It was a petty approach that the BBC took, mean and small-minded. But what can you expect from our dumbed-down, ratings-chasing BBC?

Boris comes out the winner, especially as he has taken a gracious approach to the debriefing, and praised Eddie Mair for his incisive interviewing.  Whether or not this is a cynical ploy, I know not, but can anyone imagine Boris doing any other? That’s why he gets away with it and Eddie, only doing his job Mair gets nil points.      

Uncle Tom

The BBC must be in a quandary. Their very own (and Gavin Esler’s) favourite ‘Middle East Expert’ Abdel Bari el-Atwan  has come out with another tirade, this time against another of the BBC’s heroes, US President Obama. 

"Palestinian 'journalist' Abdel Bari Atwan describes US President Barack Obama as an "Uncle Tom" - an epithet derived from Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1852 novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin."
 Says 'Media Hawk' in The Commentator.

How will this affect the televisual ubiquity of the former or the obsequiousness shown to the latter on the part of the BBC?

The BBC seems to overlook Atwan’s histrionic expressions of hatred towards Israel and the Jews, but will it overlook his latest condemnation of Obama so easily? Calling him an “Uncle Tom” is objectionable on oh, so many levels. I hope I don’t have to set them out.

Or has the BBC’s unrequited love affair with America’s first black president cooled off since he appeared to have shown an interest in another, the BBC’s nemesis, the dastardly State of Israel.

I think I’ve detected a slight cooling off in Mark Mardell’s tone recently. He is beginning to sound disappointed when reporting Obama’s latest adventures.

Before the visit, several American commentators urged him to learn to speak Israeli - now his fluency is almost frightening.”

Don’t be frightened Mark, it’s a false alarm. He doesn’t “speak Israeli” very well at all.

Mr Obama has already won an apology to the Turkish prime minister from Mr Netanyahu for the 2010 raid on a flotilla of Gaza-bound activists, and there is some hope he might do something to further the possibility of peace talks.”
Obama has won something? The press wishes to elevate that arm-twisted apology into a sort of prize by glossing over the facts. Israel apologised for “what happened and for operational mistakes” -  not quite the contrite abject grovelling that  certain people like to make out, and unlikely to be much of a catalyst to peace talks.

“But Mr Obama's embrace of a word - Zionism - will have other results too.
For some in the region it is not the expression of a dream but a deadly insult to be spat out.”

Yes indeed.

So will the BBC be making use of ‘Ari Batwan’s services on Dateline as before?
Will they be reporting this Uncle Tom shocker?

Here’s what The Commentator has to say :

a)That such a phrase went largely unreported, and as a result uncriticised, shows what could only be described as selective outrage and rank hypocrisy from those that would get up in arms about other racially motivated slurs..”

b)That Mr. Bari Atwan has no place as a legitimate and fair-minded journalist, but rather is simply a racist with an axe to grind against Israel and its allies, and that he will stoop to the most disgusting of racial slurs to try to make a point.


Sunday 24 March 2013

Getting it wrong

Israel has apologised to Turkey in a deal brokered by Obama. Well, he had to come away with something. 
This leaves the BBC in a slightly uncomfortable position. But not to worry. They are reporting the apology as though, apart from one blot on their anti-Israel copybook, they were right all along. They are implying that the apology was an admission of guilt by Israel.

A once-in-a-lifetime piece of unbiased reporting broadcast by the BBC, based largely on IDF footage, came down firmly on the side of reason.  Jane Corbin, who normally conforms to the BBC anti-Israel attitude, did a remarkably fair job on her Mavi Marmara Panorama "Death on the Med."

 She showed that the violence by the activists on board the ship was deliberate and pre-planned, that the Israelis were acting legally in apprehending the ship, that there were sufficient warnings, that the other shipping in the flotilla came to no harm, that the Israeli soldiers had paint-guns and that the real shooting was initiated by the peace activists.  She was heavily criticised for pointing out these unpalatable things at the time too.

Of course the rest of the BBC stuck to their customary approach, continuing to describe  the flotilla as a 'peace convoy' and the Mavi Marmara as an ‘aid ship’ despite the fact that the “aid” was as non-existent as Saddam’s WMDs. 

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s antisemitic ravings were played down, as well as the filmed ‘suicide videos’ of the activists and the rousing ‘into battle’ speeches at the flotilla send-off.

The Israelis had one thing to apologise for, namely that they were woefully unprepared for the hostility and violence that awaited them. That really was a regrettable mistake. Perhaps somehow there might have been fewer deaths if they knew in advance that there was going to be a running battle on board ship. They might not have used a helicopter.  Perhaps they would have disabled the ship or something. Who knows.
Has the BBC disowned the one Panorama that told the truth? It looks that way.


Someone has organised a petition asking the BBC to hold a public enquiry into the BBC’s bias towards Israel. "That’s a laugh," says the Commentator. The thing is, it’s not really very amusing. For one thing, the Balen report was kept away from the public, at great cost to the publicly funded BBC. The secrecy led everyone to assume that it contained damning information which confirmed the BBC’s anti-Israel bias. What else could one think?
If this is indeed the case, it seems probable that a *public* enquiry would only be set before the public if the desired outcome was obtained. Since the BBC allegedly receives as many complaints about pro-Israel bias as anti, the likelihood that this proposition will get the go-ahead is not as ridiculous as it might at first appear. 

I have often wondered what constitutes the substance of any of these ‘pro-Israel bias’ complaints.
There is plenty of substance to the anti-Israel ones, which are set out in considerable detail by the dedicated pro-Israel blog BBC Watch, and in a variety of more generally focused blogs such as the Commentator, Melanie Phillips, Biased-BBC and the redoubtable Harry’s Place which is *down* at present. 
The ‘pro’ complaints seem to consist mainly of indignant outrage at the first sight of any Israeli spokesperson that happens to appear on T.V. The consensus at the BBC is such, that what Mark Mardell calls ‘the centre of gravity’ is set well over to the Palestinian side, and BBCers don’t actually seem aware that they are breeching their impartiality obligations in doing what they do.  Until they get a full handle on the antisemitism that prevails in the Muslim world, they won’t change. Even Mehdi Hasan has noticed, though I can’t find it in my heart to trust a man who openly preaches to other Muslims that we infidels are cattle.


Here’s the BBC Complaints department’s answer to the listener who sent in a complaint during Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense November 2012. It’s the BBC’s attempt to justify what they erroneously assumed was a complaint about pro-Israel bias, but in defending themselves against this accusation they play into the hands of the ‘antis’ by making a sincere attempt to prove their anti-Israel credentials. 
“We understand you feel our coverage has shown bias in favour of Israel’s actions in Gaza. We have received a wide range of feedback about our coverage of this upsurge in violence. Bearing in mind the pressure on resources, the response below strives to address the majority of concerns raised but we apologise in advance if not all of the specific points you have mentioned have been answered in the manner you prefer.”
Obviously in this case whoever looked at the original complaint hadn’t managed to comprehend the contents at all. 

BBC News strives to report in an impartial, accurate and fair manner and we believe this has been the case with our coverage of the recent violence in Gaza and Israel.” Since Israel launched ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’ on November 14 2012, our correspondents on the ground in Gaza – Jon Donnison, Wyre Davies and Chief of the BBC News Jerusalem Bureau Paul Danahar, have detailed the level of destruction caused by Israeli strikes from air and sea on the area. Our main news bulletins on BBC One and Radio 4 have focused on the loss of life in Gaza.”
 This illustrates the BBC’s willful gullibility in relaying the Palestinians’ cynical exploitation of civilian casualties by parading them in front of the cameras. The BBC proudly admit that they *focus* on the loss of life in Gaza. Why should an impartial body do such a thing?  Specially as it replaces serious analysis of this state of affairs, and seems to be a substitute for giving viewers a full explanation of the underlying reasons for it. They proceed to give an elaborate illustration:
 “For example, the first story during the BBC One bulletin at 2200 on 18 November read as follows: “International pressure for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is mounting after the deadliest day of violence in the region so far. Reports say 26 people were killed in Gaza by Israeli airstrikes – and more rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel – including two shot down over Tel Aviv by Israel’s “iron dome” defence system.” Reports from Gaza have also explained the level of Palestinian civilian casualties, in particular the deaths of women and children. Jon Donnison’s report during the News at Ten on 14 November explained that: “For the people of Gaza tonight it looked like war. And as in most wars, civilians, caught up in the violence.”“Gaza’s hospitals are expected to face a busy night, with more casualties this evening, among them children and at least one baby.
This is the BBC, defending themselves against what they believe to be an accusation of pro-Israel bias. Their proud boast is that they show children and at least one baby, to show the viewers, what?  That Israel is brutal and heartless, killing babies a great deal, willy nilly. Is that anti-Israel enough for you dear Mr. Complainant?
 “We have seen reports which looked at Israel’s tactic of deploying strikes in a heavily overpopulated urban setting, Wyre Davies’ report for the News at Six on 19 November said: “This was a clear message from Israel that anything or anyone associated with the militants is a legitimate target. Israel has, though, struggled to explain this huge bombing yesterday. Military sources told an Israeli newspaper the house was hit by mistake. Israel now says the bombing was deliberate, but their target, a senior Hamas commander, may not have been there, but at least ten people, including four children, were there and were killed. Israel justifies these attacks in urban areas because it says the militants hide among civilian populations, and the problem with such a policy is that civilians are always at risk.” 
Wyre Davies has interpreted Israel’s *clear message*. “Anyone or anything associated with the militants is a legitimate target.” he says. But is that really Israel’s message? 
Even if it were, where does the BBC interpret the *clear message* that comes from Gaza in the form of random rockets aimed deliberately at Israelis? Or the even clearer message embedded in the Hamas charter and proclaimed from the rooftops in front of anyone who cares to listen; not, obviously anyone from the BBC.    
 “Our main news bulletins have also heard live accounts from presenters Lyse Doucet, with further analysis from Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen. Such analysis has looked at the wider political context of the conflict, including the impending election in Israel, the relationship with a new Egypt and the effects of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. “
The BBC’s predictions and analyses of the impending elections were way off the mark, and the effects of the blockade have indeed been looked at by the BBC to an extraordinary degree while at the same time the effects of racketeering and corruption by Hamas, and the daily delivery of materials from Israel have been largely unreported.
“We have continued to follow diplomatic efforts to reach a truce, featuring live press conferences on the BBC News Channel from interlocutors such as the Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt and the Arab League. We have also heard from a wide range of Palestinian and Arab commentators on the BBC News Channel and during flagship programmes such as radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme. This has included Jihad Haddad, adviser to President Morsi, Abdel al-Bari Atwan, the editor in chief of Al-Quds Al Arabi, Adel Darwish -commentator on Middle East affairs and Dr Omar Ashour from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, Exeter University. In hearing from these voices and from our own correspondents, we believe we have explored the political, military and humanitarian aspects of this recent conflict. We will continue to strive to report on the story in an impartial manner.” 
What on earth makes the BBC think that any of these people can explore any of the things above in an impartial manner? They’re all polemicists with political axes to grind, and they’re paraded before UK audiences relentlessly, usually without the truthful, contextual introduction that true impartiality would require. If anything they are simply labeled ‘Middle East experts.” 
Do we hear spokespersons from the opposite political position as often? On the rare occasions someone like Mark Regev is given air time, are they treated in the reverential manner that, say, Gavin Esler treats Abdel Bari Atwan, the person who says he would be delighted if a nuclear bomb fell on Tel Aviv? No they are not. They are spoken to with disdain and audible sneers.
 “We’d also like to assure you we’ve registered your complaint on our audience log.  This is an internal report of audience feedback which we compile daily and is available for viewing by all our staff.  This includes all news editors and reporters, along with our staff.  and senior management.  It ensures that your points, along with all other comments we receive, are considered across the BBC.”
Let’s hope they’ve registered this one in the correct pile.