Sunday 16 June 2013


Some of my recent posts have rather slipped away from my original intention to avoid cherry-picking, but the cherries were ripe and hanging low, so I picked them. Time then to rummage through a whole supermarket shelf of flavoursome fruits instead, and do so without a pre-prepared shopping list. (OK, I'll stop that metaphor now!) 

How about listening to a whole week's worth of editions of Radio 4's PM? Any bias? Individual segments may seem unbalanced, but what about the entirety of the programme's output over all its available episodes? If PM is strongly biased, some evidence of that should emerge like juice from a batch of freshly-cut oranges (£0.67 from Asda).

So, working backwards (chronologically), here's a diary of my responses to each edition of PM. Please feel free to pick a cherry yourself, or eat the whole fruit salad. Can you see mouth-watering evidence of BBC bias? 

Saturday 15/6

1. David Cameron announces new plans for British firms on tax evasion

Yep, it was tax evasion as the top story. Like on Today that morning. Paddy O'Connell, for yes it was he, talked to Roger Barker of the Institute of Directors who is "cautious" about David Cameron's latest plans. Without extra enforcement, amassing extra data on business wouldn't be enough, Mr Barker argued. So, he doesn't think it's practical. Then came a chat with James Oliver of the BBC's Panorama programme who has stung a few tax avoider types. Dorothea Hodge from Anguilla may agree with the new plan but Paddy gave her a right grilling (with a lot of interruptions) nonetheless, even quoting the disapproval of Ed Miliband at her. Paddy's righteous tone rang out throughout much of what had gone so far - and continued to ring out.  He really does sound like a campaigner at times whenever this kind of issue comes up. He didn't seem to reckon much to Dorothea's dragging of Delaware into the equation. You can tell that from his disbelieving reaction. When the next guest appeared - for, yes, on this subject dragged, all the way into a fourth interview - Paddy sprang in straight away, "Do you agree Delaware's got questions to answer?" Reading it on the page that may not look sarcastic, but it what meant sarcastically (as the expense of a previous guest). He posed it to Richard Brooks of Private Eye, a campaigning journalist in the Paul Foot mould. Mr Brooks said Delaware did indeed have questions to answer. That was the last we heard of Delaware from Paddy! Mr Brooks was far more concerned with attacking Britain's businesses though. He was the last guest on the subject, with little more than ten minutes left for any other subjects. This was clearly a subject PM felt like lingering over.

2. Hassan Rouhani wins the Iranian election

Paddy O'Connell interviews former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw, who has pleasant memories of nice Mr Rouhani and is pleased that he's won the Iranian presidential election and will teach the world to sing (in perfect harmony). Paddy interviewed him pleasantly, as if he were an expert. Paddy and Jack go back a long way.

3. Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning: The rise of the idealist geek?

Paul Adams reports from the US. We hear from Cyrus Nemati of the left-leaning New America Foundation, who argues that Edward Snowden is the archetypal modern nerd who feels a sense of entitlement, who believes that information has been free all his life and wonders 'Why is it not free now?' Not perhaps the type the National Security Agency probably wanted working for them then, said Paul. Mike Rogers (Republican) from the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives is aware that something has gone wrong - a low-level individual working with new technology in a sensitive area. They are a new subset of "Insider threats" - a broadly idealistic millennial with technical skills. There must be lots of them out there. Cyrus Nemati says he's no spy. Nor is he a nationalist. No, he's an idealist.

4. A plane is diverted

A BBC journalist, Nada Tawfik, finds a note on a plane saying "I'll set this plane on fire", tells the plane crew and, as a result, the plane is diverted. She's feeling stressful as whoever wrote the note much still be on the plane, she says. It's complete chaos, she says.

Friday 14/6

Friday night turned out to be Carolyn Quinn night. In my previous blogging incarnation I was no fan of Carolyn. I'd frequently accuse her (in lurid terms) of spinning against the (then-in-opposition) Right in the UK. Would she spin anything here? The obvious lead story this evening was Syria, following President Obama's decision to give military support to some of the Syrian Surely Carolyn couldn't spin this against the Tory-led coalition government here, could she, by, say, presenting them as squealing in protest against an Obama administration acting on credible evidence of Assad regime wickedness? Could she?

Try this for an introduction then:
"Before talks on the Syrian crisis this evening with President Obama, David Cameron insists the UK is not yet ready to give weapons to President Assad's opponents, despite credible evidence of chemical weapons attacks by government forces."
I can't see Eddie Mair introducing this story in such a way, nor adopting Carolyn's incredulous-sounding tone whilst reading the last clause of that sentence. Still, I could be reading too much into this. I may be biased against Carolyn Quinn, even after all this time. (I wouldn't put it past me).

1. The Obama administration decides to give military support (in some way) to parts of the Syrian opposition

Paul Woods talked to Carolyn about where the Syrian conflict stands at the moment, before Carolyn moved on to talk to two experts - BBC favourite Shoshank Joshi of RUSI and Rim Turkmani, a disheartened member of the Syrian opposition (based, inevitably, in London). Shoshank predicted that the US and Europe will be cautious, with the US sending only anti-armour weapons. Rim, as might be expected, slagged off the Assad regime for its "huge atrocities", but favours diplomacy as she thinks the Assad regime will remain stronger than any section of the fragmented opposition. She thinks military aid to the rebels will be unhelpful and fears al-Qaeda. Shoshank thinks a no-fly zone is unrealistic and reckons David Cameron will find it hard to get military support past parliament. Rim wants civil society to support a home-grown solution. I remain confused as to the best course of action. These guests didn't help unravel my confusion.

2. Sir Hugh Orde of ACPO questions the government over the new Police and Crime Commissioners

The BBC's Danny Shaw reports on ACPO's concerns. Danny speaks to one of the police commissioners, who defends his position against ACPO's accusations, before speaking to a second police commissioner who is much more attuned with ACPO's concerns. Sir Hugh Orde, inevitably, is listening and Carolyn interviews him. She coaxes him repeatedly, relentlessly even, to complain about police and crime commissioners and the government. He does become a little more outspoken as a result of her cajoling. As for playing devil's advocate and putting the government and the PCCs' side to him, Carolyn is not for playing.

3. UK's biggest arable event in Lincolnshire

Charlotte Smith of Farming Today reports on the event - a county show without the animals. The weather and politicians (specifically EU politicians) are to blame, say farmers, for this year's hardships. David Heath, the minister, doesn't feel strangled by the EU, albeit he is a bit frustrated on this issue. (He's a Lib Dem after all). There aren't many women there, Charlotte notes.

4. Iranian presidential elections: How much choice have voters there got?

Former UK ambassador to Iran, Sir Richard Dalton of Chatham House, makes his predictions - namely that of the four candidates who have a chance to make it beyond the first round, it seems that "none of them will have the edge, is going to get more than 50% of the vote in the first round." [Er, as I'm writing this on Saturday night after it became clear that Mr Moderate,  Hojatoleslam Hassan Rouhani (Iran's answer to John Major it seems), has indeed won outright with over 50% of the vote on the first round, can I say "Thank goodness for the insights of the British Civil Service".] Whoever wins, says Sir Richard, the West won't seem much foreign policy change to begin with as that's the domain of the Supreme Dalek, Ayatollah Khamenei. Still, he clearly has his fingers crossed for Mr Rouhani.

5. Home care

BBC reporter Michael Buchanan had an update on his report from yesterday (see yesterday!) Today, the UK Home Care Association have suspended the membership of the company in that report. The head of the Association explains why. The CQC (Care Quality Commission) are also on the company's case, as are Blackpool Council. The company in question haven't responded to our questions today, said Michael.

6. David Cameron challenges innovators to discover something important, with a prize behind it

Lord Rees, the Astronomer Royal, explains this modern equivalent of the Longitude Prize (remember John Harrison, the clockmaker?) PM asked some BBC editors for their ideas. The first two were concerned pretty much about the same thing: David Shukman, BBC Science editor, worried about the harm to the environment caused by economic growth, while John Simpson, World Affairs editor, wonders how mankind (yes, the word "mankind" being used by the BBC!) can end poverty and spread the benefits of wealth evenly without devastating our planets resources. Two ways of putting the same environmentally-friendly question. Robert Peston, on the other hand, wanted the big structural causes of the 2007-8 financial crisis solved.

7. Previously on PM...

The usual weekly round-up - and comments: Home care neglect; a listener comment attacking the government for supporting "capitalism red in tooth and claw; another wanting the minimum wage for home carers; mortuary technicians; a comment defending electronic fags; a comment dissing Black Sabbath; voice mail of departed loved-ones; appreciation for Alan Power's descriptions of gardens.

8. Elderly sex

An interview with an elderly listener who recounts, to Eddie Mair, his feelings about sex and sexual liberation. He is in favour of both, and recounts his experiences, including of paying for sex quite a few times in recent years. I've never heard an interview like this one before.

Thursday 13/6

1. Sentencing of Dale Cregan for murdering four people, including two policewomen

BBC reporter Judith Moritz reported on Cregan's crimes and the court case, then Eddie Mair talked to Tony Lloyd, the former Labour MP who is now the Police and Crime Commissioner in Manchester.

2. Lib Dem minister Norman Lamb warns that the next abuse scandal could be in the home care sector

A family had given video footage to the BBC to back up their charge that their elderly mother had been given poor home care by a Preston-based company. The family had installed CCTV cameras in their mother's house. From this report, and from the accompanying online article, there does appear to have been a measure of ongoing neglect and a lack of professional behaviour on the part of several of the carers (though the online report adds that "some carers were professional".) The sound of the elderly lady becoming distressed was upsetting to listen to. "The BBC has obtained footage...", said Eddie, perhaps overplaying the BBC's largely passive role in this piece of investigative journalism by the family. After reading a short statement from the company involved (denying wrongdoing), reporter Michael Buchanan introduced an interview he had conducted earlier with Mr Lamb. Michael had shown him the family's footage, which he understandably found shocking.

3. OFSTED warns that many bright children are being 'systematically failed' by England's non-selective secondary schools

Those who charge the BBC with having a pro-state,-anti-selective-education bias would have found this choice of story unexpected. After a short clip of OFSTEDs' Sir Michael Wilshaw saying that bright children are being made to tread water after they reach secondary school, re-doing things they've already learned, facing low expectations and not being sufficiently challenged, Eddie talked to "one of the country's leading experts" in the field of nurturing gifted children, Professor Joan Freeman. She was very interesting, outlining a number of ways that bright kids can be encouraged to flourish and calling for a flexible approach based on the aptitudes of the child, giving them extra opportunities without completely separating them off from other children of their age group with different abilities. The professor is no trendy egalitarian lefty, and I can imagine Fiona Millar (Alastair Campbell's significant other) choking on her evening muesli during this segment: "They are pushed aside by some schools and some teachers who feel that they've got enough already, having all these extra abilities, so they don't need any more; but I see it in terms of social justice. There's no reason why, just because you're bright and clever and full of potential, you should be diminished while others of average ability get all they need."

4. Gardens

Eddie caught up with the programme's favourite gardener Alan Power, enthusiastic head gardener for the National Trust at Stourhead. Alan's off on a trip around other gardens. Aha, it's partly in order to film a series for BBC Four, about the great gardens of England, going out next year! So television is beckoning for Eddie's favourite gardener. Is he about to lose Alan to TV?
"Well, Eddie, I'll never be too big or too smelly on telly to come on your show."
"Well," replied Eddie, "You're not the first person to say that!"
Alan then painted a picture (in words) of Spring at Stourhead - and what a way with words he has!
I enjoyed this feature a lot.

5. Portrait of HM the Queen in Westminster Abbey defaced by a Fathers For Justice campaigner

Royal correspondent Peter Hunt told Eddie what had happened. Briefly.

6. Mobile phone users confusing real birds with apps of bird calls (especially night jars at Birdsea)

CBBC's Steve Backshall pleads guilty to doing much the same when filming, albeit sparingly - and not during the breeding season. Steve waxed enthusiastic about apps though, as befits a CBBC presenter. Eddie tested him on various animal calls. I got the frog and the mallard (you'll be delighted to learn). So did Steve. Neither of us got the bat (Eddie tried whispering the answer to him!) and then Steve embarrassingly (but amusingly) confused a big cat with a walrus. In fairness to him, it sounded like a lion to me too. Then he confused a lapwing with the sound of a killer whale. Thankfully, thinks took a turn for the easier next, as what sounded very much like a hyena turned out to be a hyena and what sounded like Robert Peston mid-sentence turned out to be Robert Peston mid-sentence. Eddie kindly told him he'd done "very well" (which he hadn't). I suspect the audience enjoyed that segment more than Steve Backshall.

(Eddie then introduced a plug for that night's Horizon - the one about cats - with the words, "If only Mrs Slocombe were still alive.")

7. Breaking news: Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Deng are getting divorced

A clip of Wendi's "muscular" intervention during the pie-ing of Rupert in parliament was, inevitably, played. Almost as inevitably the programme was straight on the phone to the Guardian's Roy Greenslade, who (inevitably) talked phone-hacking and Mr Murdoch's credibility. The BBC and the Guardian talking phone hacking and Rupert Murdoch again - ah, brings back so many happy memories!

8. Is 3d TV in trouble?

Eddie pondered the question with Mark Harrison of BBC North and Andy Clough of What Hi-Fi? Mark sounded decidedly down on the technology. Andy Clough was even more down on it. 4K is the future, apparently. A clear case of anti-3d TV bias here. (I'm a 2j man myself).

9. Black Sabbath could be about to have their first No.1 album since Paranoid in 1970

The Beeb's Stuart Maconie gave Radio 4 listeners a guide to the music of Black Sabbath "for the benefit of listeners," Eddie said, "who might be as bewildered as Ozzy in his heyday". He says Black Sabbath have been almost as influential as the Beatles and that Ozzy's voice has something of the car horn about it. (He meant that as a compliment, I think). Stuart made them out to be working class heroes.

Wednesday 12/6

1. MPs call for the head of the NHS in England to go after allegations over his role in gagging clauses for NHS whistleblowers

Readers of right-leaning, BBC-critical blogs will be aware of the charge that the BBC has a strong pro-NHS bias - the sort of pro-NHS bias also found in the (non-BBC) Olympics opening ceremony. The decision to lead this edition with this particular story provides a little counter-evidence to this charge - as does the fact that the programme's first interviewee was Gary Walker, the Lincolnshire NHS Trust whistle-blower who broke his gagging clause to speak to the Today programme earlier this year over his concerns about patient safety. The reporter he spoke to at the time, the BBC's Andrew Hosken, reviewed the day's events in parliament and then interviewed Mr Walker again about what he thought of Sir David. Mr Walker was critical of Sir David's performance and called again for him to go. The third piece of counter-evidence against the charge of pro-NHS bias on the BBC's part comes from the fact that the next interviewee was Conservative MP Steve Barclay, whose FOI requests cast so much light on the NHS gagging deals. Mr Barclay is another strong critic of the NHS boss and also believes he should resign. Eddie didn't conduct a tough interview with him, only really challenging him to get him to say what he really thinks (after a moment of wavering). Sir David Nicholson had no defenders on this edition of PM. No one accusing the BBC of pro-NHS bias would find any evidence of that here. 

2. The Greek government's pulling of the plug on the Greek equivalent of the BBC

There has been something approaching giddiness among the BBC's online enemies over the fate of the Greek public broadcaster ERT. It was abruptly shut down this week. The Greek government accused it of wastefulness. The publicly-funded state broadcaster will return, albeit much slimmed down and as an independent broadcaster. Ah, how some dream of that happening to the 'bloated' BBC too!

Employees at the BBC must have some fellow feeling for their Greek counterparts, though - being impartial - it's their duty not to reflect that in their news coverage. How did PM do? 

Eddie began by interviewing a journalist at ERT called Marina. Understandably, she was deeply unhappy about the Greek government's decision. She called it "irrational", denounced the "irrationality" of many of the austerity measures taken and described the move as a Gezi park moment. Eddie, though not wholly unsympathetic, kept his distance - such as asking a sceptical question about the Gezi Park comparison. He behaved in a thoroughly proper manner here.

Then came a more general discussion about public broadcasting in an age of austerity. Kevin Marsh, former BBC Today editor and leading figure in Hacked Off, argued that publicly-funded broadcasting is now even more important that ever, while William Shughart of Utah University (a U.S. libertarian right-winger) argued that such broadcasters should be paid for by the individuals who want them, rather than by an all-encompassing publicly-levied fee or tax. Eddie kept a fairly low profile, allowing each guest plenty of time to make their point. For those expecting Eddie to be on Kevin Marsh's side (which, privately, he obviously must be) his questions showed him to be the fully professional devil's advocate interviewer. His questions challenged former colleague Kevin Marsh rather than Mr Shughart. 

3. Access to Californian beaches

This was one of those somewhat-off-the-beaten-track reports, amusing introduced by Eddie with the words "I should warn you, this report contains reporter gloating". (He wasn't wrong).

Lucky BBC reporter Alastair Leithead was investigating the beaches of California. To put my own 'righty' gloss on things, some lefty campaigners are whining about access to private-looking beaches behind "swanky" houses. We heard from campaigners who want access to promote access to these beaches (despite their being lots of other beaches). Alistair, to quote his report, "eventually found someone living in one of the mansions to give the opposite view". Alistair challenged that "someone" (though he challenged no one else). Still, a new 'app' designed by those lefty campaigners will annoy such swanky, mansion-dwelling types even more by alerting lots more people to these particular beaches. Eddie's "gloating" joke was obviously made because of Alistair saying "That was a fantastic afternoon on the beach", but it might just as well have applied to Alistair's almost-as-evident glee about that 'app' and the lots of people who might soon be tramping past those swanky mansions, leaving their litter and dig dirt in front of the private property owners!

Shameless pro-left-wing, pro-enjoying-yourself-on-a-beach bias!

4. Stephen Hester stepping down as the boss of the RBS

Breaking news. Eddie talked to the BBC's Jonty Bloom. Eddie kept it joky, given that neither of them had much of a clue about the trajectory of the story at that time. Jonty did speculate, however, that the story implied that RBS isn't ready to be privatised "any time soon". Well, we'll see about that. The 2014 target discussed later that night on the BBC obviously didn't appear to have impinged on Jonty's radar. Instead, off the cuff, he touted that the probable pay of those who might be appointed could be "a lot more than is going to be acceptable to a lot of people to do this job, and that's one of the big issues involved." Thus speaks a BBC journalist.

5. Electronic cigarettes

BBC reporter Andrew Bomford pronounced himself "glad" that his report the previous night on PM regarding new restrictions on those oh-so-apparently-dodgy products ("please think of the children") proved to be correct. Restrictions are coming. As a lifelong non-smoker with not the slightest interest in smoking or e-smoking, this took a while for me to get my head around. Andrew talked to a regulator from the MRHA who was "very concerned" that people weren't thinking of the children. (I will admit to having to google "MRHA" to find out that this means the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.) Jonty asked him to please think of the children again. After thinking of the children, the regulator expressed concerns about the risks but said, "at the moment", "they are theoretical" and that "we haven't seen any evidence" to back them up. Still, no more bubble gum, no more bubblegum. Andrew then briefly interviewed an e-cigarette producer, interrupting and challenging him at every stage as if he were a rogue trader. "Let us know what you think", said Eddie afterwards. Well, Eddie, personally-speaking, I'm very concerned about the children and I think that something should be done (about whatever).

6. Robert Peston learns landscape painting

Eddie's introduction keeps calling the BBC's economics editor "Robin Preston" and "Robert Presto". (Oh, Eddie, you rascal!) Wikipedia wrongly claims that Robin likes landscape painting. A PM listener offered to teach Ronald have to paint the Kent Downs (thus, proving Wikipedia to be omniscient. Even the future cannot escape its all-knowingness). Bob himself reports, flamboyantly, on how he got on. Will he be the new Samuel Palmer? I'm guessing not. Alas Dobbin, indeed, proved no Degas. Still, the nice BBC reader pronounced Bobbie's work "experimental". I think we can all guess what she really meant by that. Roberta can see himself painting for pleasure now, which is good. If you want to know what his painting looked like click here. (The video, being BBC TV, felt the need to add background music. A favourite piece of light music maybe, but with people chatting over it it remains annoying background music. Damn you. TV!)

7. How many openly gay FTSE 100 company directors? None

I think I'm right in saying (and a spot of googling suggests I am) that openly gay people account for somewhere around 2% of the UK population. That none of the FTSE 100 company directors is gay is hardly too far away, statistically-speaking, from that lowly figure. Hence the obvious question from me: So what? And, behind that, another question, given that what people feel sexually is absolutely none of my business (unless they act on those thoughts criminally): Who cares? Well, a new campaign group cares, that's who. OUTstanding in Business they are called, which (the UPPER CASE lettering informs me) employs a telling pun. Eddie talked to Suki Sandhu, the founder of this new campaign group. Suki talked of "internalised homophobia" and that sort of thing. Eddie gave him a very sympathetic hearing. He didn't put the point I put at the start of this section, which (I'd say) was an obvious question to put. Following the interview, Eddie put in a request for PM listeners to share their experiences regarding this issue. A terrible old cynic might think that Eddie had a personal stake in this.

8. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall appear in The Beano

...and guess who doesn't approve of the result? The popular left-wing creator of Horrible Histories, Terry Deary, that's who! (He's sometimes accused of having an anti-royal bias). He denounced the strip's "very simplistic...morality". It's far too old-fashioned for him. A 'comics historian' called Paul responded and stuck up for it a little, though he agreed that it was bland (which isn't really sticking up for it that much!) He later adding that The Beano is now stuck in a rut. Paul extolled the comic's radical side in the 60s, but regretted that it's become more and more PC (something that might well endear it to Mr Deary!) Dennis isn't much of a menace these days, said Paul.

9. The death of BBC newsreader Rory Morrison

The death of their colleague at the age of 48 from a rare form of cancer prompted an intimate and nostalgic retrospective selection of lost Radio 4 voices.

Tuesday 11/6

1. The trial of teacher who absconded to France with a school girl

BBC reporter Duncan Kennedy brought Eddie up to date.

2. G8 Protesters - riot police raid a building in Soho

Fiona Hamilton, crime correspondent of The Times, talked to Eddie. She's spoken to a police monitoring group who are questioning police tactics and the timing of the raid, as are the protesters. The police perspective was then provided by ex-Met DCI Peter Kirkham. Though no protesters were interviewed, this seems a balanced treatment of the story.

3. Planned reforms to GCSEs

BBC education reporter Luke Walton outlined the government's plans. He gave a flavour of the government's case and a somewhat bigger flavour of what Michael Gove's opponents are saying. We also got the "mixed feelings" of some school children.

4. Riot police move into Taksim Square, Istanbul, to disperse anti-government protesters there

The BBC's Mark Lowen reports live from the square. He gets into the thick of it and describes what he's seen (and felt, physically - given all the tear gas). He recounts the achievements of the thrice-democratically-elected PM Erdogan (to provide balance) and then talks to a female protester. It's about the trees, the park for her, mainly, though she's worried about liberty and about the arrest of lawyers. Eddie makes a mistake in describing Istanbul as "the Turkish capital" then admits his mistake. "I will be dealt with before the end of the programme", he says. Indeed, everyone knows it's Constantinople not Istanbul, it's Constantinople not Istanbul.

5. Just what powers does the UK government have, now, to listen to our phone calls and monitor our e-mails and internet use?

For an answer to these questions, Eddie turned to James Welsh, legal director at (Shami's) Liberty, who stated what the law allows at the moment. The one that slightly stumped him was the question of how the police could check letters you send through the post. James wasn't sure if that happened but presumed it would be governed by the same rules that apply to the monitoring of our e-mails. He expressed a concern  - and he is a campaigner as well as a legal expert, of course - that the laxer rules which apply to the way organisations can monitor our website activity (and lots of organisations do, of course, and it's easy to do apparently - far easier than reading the content of our e-mails, for example) could lead to the intelligence services inferring more than might be justified from your viewing history, something that may not have been envisioned under current legislation. A concise overview, all in all.

6. A largely-intact German WWII bomber has been raised from the English Channel

Eddie talked to Professor Mary Ryan, who has been working on the restoration. What does it look like? "It looks terrible", she said. The barnacles and sea-life covering it have helped preserve the aluminium in its frame from the seawater. The poor old barnacles are going to be removed now by means of citric acid and sodium hydroxide. (There's gratitude for you!) It will be a tricky process, which Professor Mary outlined very comprehensibly. "Obviously we did ask to speak to a representative for the barnacles, but no one was available", Eddie added. Fascinating.

7. Body taken to mortuary "was alive"

A BBC News website article that achieved a particularly high number of hits prompted this feature. It told of a man who had fallen from a bridge, failed to be resuscitated, was pronounced dead at the scene, driven to a mortuary, showed "potential signs of life", was treated to resuscitation attempts again, didn't respond and was pronounced dead again. Eddie talked to John Pitchers from the Association of Anatomical Pathology Technology - an organisation whose name he read out very carefully and which represents mortuary staff. Eddie wondered how Mr Pitchers had originally got into this line of work, and what is the appeal of the job -an off-centre approach, but a very revealing one. Reassuringly, John said that such cases are "very rare" and he can't recall ever having heard of such an incidence before in this country. He also said that the notion that dead bodies spasm and move quite frequently is something of a misconception, at least on a large scale. He's never come across such a thing himself, despite what you see on TV. Generalised twitching of muscles is about as far as it goes. Eddie asked him what he thought of those TV dramas that portray his profession. John said they've improved, though he laughed as he said it - suggesting they had been pretty bad before - and eye-rolling at what they're watching sounds pretty common! Eddie then asked him what his job told him about human nature. (I think I'll put another "fascinating" in here.) Fascinating, and frankly exemplary interviewing from not-everybody's-cup-of-tea Eddie Mair - an interview that really needs preserving by the BBC for posterity. Thank you John, and thank you Eddie.

8. Apple muscling into music streaming

Ah yes, music streaming (whatever that is!) Eddie talked to Charles Arthur, technology editor of...(you guessed it)...The Guardian. ("Charles in San Francisco, the Turkish capital", joked Eddie, dryly, self-mockingly). Eddie got him to explain how Spotify works. (Ah, that's what music streaming is! That's what Spotify is!) He didn't give traditional music radio good news though. I can see that myself. BBC Radio 3 was one of the wonders of the BBC that kept me on board with it even when my gut was screaming at me to ditch the BBC altogether. Now YouTube helps the classical music lover reach all manner of unexpected delights. Radio 3 becomes severely restricted in comparison, wonder of the world as it still remains.

9. Electronic cigarettes

Ah, here's Andrew Bomford's report of that unlikely success story of the recession - those electronic cigarettes. He visits a school that has banned them. All the pupils think they're a bad thing. None have smoked real ciggies before, all were attracted to e-ciggies by the flavours. Andrew challenges an e-cig manufacturer. She defends herself, Andrew repeatedly interrupts her and contradicts her (making her sound as if she represents the sort of business that need challenging and interrupting.) The headteacher at Andrew's school explains why they've banned them (without interruption). Clear bias?...well, Andrew then says "But there's no evidence that e-cigarettes encourage children to smoke real children. Only 1% of children use e-cigarettes regularly and only 1% of non-smokers had tried e-cigarettes. Hmm. Andrew then related his understanding  that the regulator would impose restrictions on e-cigs the following day. He understood correctly. Back to the main message though next as a lady from the BMA says they "need to be controlled".

10. The death of Sir Henry Cecil, horse-trainer

A tribute, with Eddie's help, from Jenny Pitman.

Monday 10/6

1. Edward Snowden, the US intelligence leaker: Hero or traitor?

Eddie gave a detailed summary of 'how we got here', following the Guardian's 'big scoops' about PRISM in the US and, in the UK, GCHQ's possible use of the PRISM surveillance programme, then spoke to the BBC's Gordon Corera, who expanded on some of the controversies raging at the moment. I couldn't hear any bias in any of this. Eddie then chatted to the Graudian's Ewen MacAskill in Hong Kong, who had been talking to Mr Snowden. He gave listeners an account of what the leaker has been up to and what the Grauniad had been up to too. Of course, Ewen gave him a good write-up - the case for the defence, so to speak. What was needed was the case for the prosecution. That came next. Eddie spoke to Stewart Baker, an attorney who used to work in the Homeland Security department (under George W. Bush). Mr Baker called Edward Snowden "irresponsible", sharply criticised his actions and wants to see him prosecuted to the full extent of the law - though he hesitated in calling him a traitor. I'd call that segment balanced.

2. The sentencing of "six men from the West Midlands" for attempting to kill EDL supporters

The BBC's Dominic Casciani talked to Eddie about the case and the verdict before interviewing the famous Dr Matthew Goodwin of Nottingham University, the BBC's favourite expert on extremism - though it's mainly far-right extremism that he's interested in - an unusual choice then, perhaps, to talk about an intended act of violent Islamic extremism. As an example of how Dr Goodwin prefers talking about far-right extremism instead Islamic extremism - especially noticeable given what this case was about, namely an intended massacre of the EDL - just sample the opening of this interview:

Eddie: Incidents more and more in the news, aren't there? Extremist incidents? I wonder whether there are more of them or whether, perhaps for obvious reasons, they're simply being reported more now?
Matthew: Good afternoon. Firstly, it's very difficult to track whether we're seeing an increase, for example, in anti-Muslim attacks or incidents of far-right violence, not only in the UK but actually in Western Europe more generally...

I think that's an example of what Charles Moore might call 'changing the subject'.

3. What do you get if you cross a croissant with a doughnut?

A bit of light relief, but it's not a joke. The craze for the 'cronut' was BBC reporter Matt Wells's theme here. New Yorkers can't get enough of the cronut apparently. As no one attempted to turn it into a joke in Matt's report, allow me to do so instead:
Q. What do you get if you cross a croissant with a doughnut?
A. A heart attack.
No, apparently it tastes very agreeable. (Has Homer Simpson heard?)

4. What British politicians are saying about the leaking of US secrets & our intelligence services 

The BBC's Chris Mason reported from Westminster. We heard the views of William Hague (Con), Douglas Alexander (Lab), David Winnick (Lab), Paul Flynn (Lab), Julian Huppert (Lib Dem) and Jack Straw (Lab).

5. How good building design can help fight crime

The BBC's Chris Vallance reported on how designers are working hard not to repeat the mistakes of the past - i.e. bad planning (council estates that now look like "science fiction dystopias", for example) which encouraged crime to flourish in ill-lit, unsafe alleys and walkways. ACPO and the Design Council, among others, have learned the lessons from this "bitter experience" and are designing buildings that would make crimes harder to commit. There was a dig at the government from ACPO, criticising their decision to reduce red tape which, the chap from ACPO alleged, could send crime spiralling back up again but a statement from the government, disagreeing, was read out, thus balancing it out.  An informative report.

6. "Bring back polytechnics!", says the IPPR think tank

The IPPR think tank (not described as "left-leaning" by Eddie) wants to see polytechnics (abolished in 1992) brought back as symbols of vocational excellence. So does former Conservative minister (from the pre-Major era) Lord (Kenneth) Baker. He was against their scrapping in the first place and has been campaigning for vocational education ever since. His case includes some arguments that I suspect probably aren't part of the left-leaning IPPR's report - including the point that upping the emphasis on vocational education would reduce the need for skilled migrants (aka immigrants). Eddie snuck in a question about Michael Gove, saying that he "doesn't seem to be afraid of doing things which many people think are radical, sometimes they're unpopular". I wonder just how "unpopular" Michael Gove's reforms are - beyond the intimate circle of teaching unions, educationalists and BBC education reporters that is. Ken is a fan of Michael Gove.

7. Simon Cowell gets hit by eggs. Did the violinists actions speak for many?

This was unquestionably the most biased debate of the day. I'll be writing to my MP about it (whoever he is. I know he usually wears a suit.) Pete Waterman and Sinitta were Eddie's guests and they wouldn't hear a word against the great man. For them, Simon Cowell is The Man. It would have been more fun to have a SC-naysayer I think, and frankly the producer of this edition of PM should be sacked for not providing one. In fact, sacking is too good for that person. Exile at Is the BBC biased? would be a more fitting punishment.

Saturday 8/6

1. Labour calls on the government to explain the activities of GCHQ in the wake of the Guardian's snooping story

The 'Labour calls on the government' angle was the one chosen. Those who accuse the BBC of placing the 'Labour says' angle on top of too many stories might raise their eyes to heaven again here. Still, the programme took other paths too. First, cyber expert Professor Peter Sommer of Montfort University gave Ritula his explanation of America's PRISM programme. He gave a cautious and interesting account of what we know and what we don't know. I couldn't hear the sound of any axes being ground by the professor here. Labour's Yvette Cooper came next, being asked to clarify her concerns and what she wants from the government. She usually has an axe to grind (against the government) but didn't grind it much in this instance. Finally in this section, we heard from Professor Anthony Glees of Buckingham University, discussing why GCHQ's would want to use this kind of surveillance. Mainly to track Islamist terrorists, but also to track organised crime, Prof Glees replied. Anthony Glees is a conservative-minded, tough-on-terror kind of guy  - and not the type of lily-livered lefty (so to speak!) that conservative-minded, tough-on-terror kinds of BBC critic would expect to be a BBC go-to expert on this issue. Here he adopted a more speculative approach than Prof Sommer and had a definitive point of view too: "We should not be hysterical about this. We want our money back if our intelligence agencies do not go after people who want to do us serious harm." "There is no privacy on the internet", he said. (Try telling that to me and Sue. Yes, there is - if no one reads your blog!)

2. Nelson Mandela is back in hospital

The BBC's Andrew Harding gave us an update on the state of the great man's health. Everybody loves him, though younger South Africans are viewing him less emotionally than the older generation, already seeing him as being part of history, he told us. Those who complain that the BBC gives too much coverage to Nelson Mandela and his health (and, yes, some do complain about that!) may have groaned but the item was short and it strikes me as being a story many people (lots of whom deeply admire Mr Mandela) would appreciate, not to mention consider newsworthy.

3. Hunger summit in London

The BBC's Ben Geoghegan went to Hyde Park to hear what campaigners want from the G8. We heard clips from the speeches of Danny Boyle and Bill Gates calling for action. Helen Thomas of Christian Aid and member of the public John White also voiced their concerns and there was a clip of a speech (away from Hyde Park) from David Cameron on the same subject. They all wanted us to tackle "the silent scandal of our generation". Bias in favour of this campaign? Well, as the prime minister was holding a 'summit' on the issue it was certainly news.

4. Stocks on cod in the North Sea are recovering, according to the Marine Stewardship Council

Good news for people who like eating cod. We heard from Claire Pescod of the MSC. (It falls on me to point out that her name has the word 'cod' in it, which is nice!) Claire said we're not quite there yet re sustainability, but we're getting closer. Everyone pulling together, including the efforts of fishermen, has led to this improvement. You can eat cod from the Arctic and the Baltic with a clear conscience, and North Sea cod should soon be there too, she said. What should we eat, and what shouldn't we eat?, wondered Ritula. Claire told her, and advised her to look for the MSC standard label on products. Pro-environmentalist bias? Pro-cod bias more like!

5. The 80th anniversary of the opening of the first drive-in cinema in America in New Jersey

The BBC's Tom Brook wallows in nostalgia. There were more than 4,000 across America at one stage. They began to decline in the 1970s and '80s. A few (350) still survive, "but in very challenging circumstances". There is hope though.

Friday 7/6

1. Syria and the fall of Qusayr

Lyse Doucet talked to Eddie (from Damascus) about her recent visit to Assad-re-conquered Qusayr. She  talked of a "deadly race" of victims and of aid money not keeping up. As BBC reporters tend to do, she interviewed someone from the U.N. about the humanitarian crisis there who complained about underfunding. Lyse thought of the children and invited the U.N. guy to do so too. Eddie asked her to say how much aid money is needed. Lyse was aghast at the "prison"-like condition of Syrian refugees in Jordan, and how Jordan is being overwhelmed by the sheer numbers.

2. Prince Philip in hospital

BBC reporter Peter Hunt doesn't know how ill the prince is. HM the Queen has been visiting BBC New Broadcasting House. A lady doctor then tells Eddie what sort of things the Duke's doctors will be looking out for. Pro-monarchy bias (of which I entirely approve)?

3. U.K. Snooping

In the wake of the U.S. snooping story, Robert Peston tells Eddie about a UK case of snooping - BT buying kit from a Chinese company with links (it's said) to the Chinese government and military. Is BT open to abuse by the Chinese state? UK MPs can't be sure about anything, but they'd have expected the government to have looked into it; instead they found (Robert said) a catalogue of bungling by the UK government. Eddie asks him to tie this into the U.S. story. Robert says "it's all a bit of a mess". Robert wonders about "this apparently serious threat" (what threat he was referring to wasn't made clear. I've re-listened and it still isn't clear. Presumably government snooping?), and suspects it might be another scare/scam like the Millennium Bug, and one that suits "the private sector" (who can "make a fortune" from the scare). That sounded like a BBC reporter giving us his personal opinion.

4. Refurbishing the Old Bailey

BBC reporter Andrew Bomford is guided around Old Bailey. Sounds spooky and fun. The refurbishment is largely being paid for by the City of London Corporation. Oh, but those 'orrible old boilers!

5. Looking ahead to Any Questions 

Here's Jonathan Dimbleby heading to Wales. Should be "lively", he says.

It was. The environmentally-friendly audience that night were about as "lively" as Any Questions audiences get, getting themselves into a frenzy of heckling and other forms of protest against the wicked Tory minister  (Owen Paterson) and the evil right-wing guest (James Delingpole) on the panel.

Jonathan previewed the panel. His sarcasm was reserved for only one of the panellists - "the very retiring Spectator columnist" James Delingpole, who thinks the BBC "is responsible for most of our ailments" and has a book coming about with an "understated title".

6. William Roach (Ken Barlow) appearing in court on abuse allegations

A BBC reporter updates Eddie.

7. Culture Secretary Maria Miller (Conservative) is criticised by The Daily Telegraph

David Elstein, former Channel 5 boss and Conservative advisor (as pointed out by Eddie), and Labour's Dame Tessa Jowell discuss Maria Miller and the likely future of her government department. Mr Elstein finds himself "a bit disappointed" by Mrs Miller. Ms Jowell defends Mrs Miller's permanent secretary (but not Mrs Miller). A pro-Tory speaker (even if he doesn't reckon much to the Tory minister in question) and a pro-Labour speaker. Fair enough. The choice of story, however, is perhaps more questionable in respect of bias.

8. Chinese-friendly Hollywood films

Lucky BBC reporter Alastair Leithead goes to Hollywood and discusses films designed to appeal to Chinese audiences with various Hollywood high-ups. Success in China is the goal. We even hear from Jackie Chan.

9. Previously on PM...

The usual weekly round-up - and comments: Dodgy diesel at garages; "unsustainable" levels of meat consumption; the lack of women on bank notes; memories of the Queen's coronation sixty years ago; should the coronation be a civil ceremony rather than a religious one?; a disabled man who's travelling to Spain to lose his virginity; what new parliamentary group should there be?; hedgehogs.

So, did you spot any patterns of bias there?

I wasn't at all sure where this blogger's exercise in bias hunting would lead me when I began it. What this close listening experience taught me, however, is that (a) I like listening to PM (a programme I've not really listened to for over three years now) and might become a regular from now on; (b) that the programme offers a remarkably broad range of subjects for its listeners to enjoy - or not enjoy; and (c) - and please forgive me Sue! - that I still like Eddie Mair as a presenter.

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