Saturday 31 August 2013

Workaday answers


This week's Newswatch saw Samira Ahmed interviewing Mary Hockaday, head of the BBC Newsroom. They discussed charges of liberal bias against the corporation, particularly in the light of their coverage of the David Miranda story and the CPS report into BBC bias. 

The quoted viewer complaints which preceded the interview (and which echoed my own feelings) were:
"68,999 people detained and, as far as I can tell, the media don't give a stuff. The 69,000th is the partner of a prominent journalist, and the news industry goes ballistic."
"Had Mr. Miranda been the partner of a Telegraph or Mail journalist, would you still have led on this story for two consecutive days? Of course not. I recognise that the BBC has for many years regarded itself as the broadcasting arm of The Guardian, but these last two days have been egregious in their display of bias."
"Viewers are not interested in your editors trying to get over their Guardianista viewpoints". 

The interview ran as follows. I'll transcribe it in full and add my own reactions in red:

Samira Ahmed: Mary, let's start with the David Miranda story. It dominated all the main bulletins for two full days. People know there's a news story but they feel there's a sense that the coverage was over the top and perhaps showed a bias. [Yep.]

Mary Hockaday: We make our decisions about what we lead our news on and what we cover in the news based on our own judgements, not because we're following anyone's agenda. [Perhaps. But that doesn't mean that you don't share the same agenda due to a shared way of thinking - a way others (such as most of the rest of the media) may not share.] That story seems to us new, important and significant. [It didn't strike most other media outlets as being anywhere near as important/significant]. Various reasons. As you said, although many people have been detained under Schedule 7, very few - I think about 3% of them - are held for more than an hour and very, very few are held for the full nine hours. So that in itself was unusual and came to our attention. [...'and come to our attention', courtesy of The Guardian]. When you then put David Miranda into the context of the coverage of the leaks from the fugitive Edward Snowden, a story that of course we and others have been covering in various stages for weeks and months [you can say that again!!!], it seemed again significant. The other thing that made the story prominent, not just for one day but for two, was the reaction, and there was a lot of reaction. [Didn't the BBC's OTT pursuit of the story provoke some part of that reaction?] 

Samira Ahmed: People's concern was that The Guardian came out very outraged and it seemed to many viewers that the BBC sort of swallowed that agenda, let them tell their version of events, which was subsequently actually not quite as it seemed. You know, the whole tone of 'outrageous infringement of human rights' when, you know, many documents were found...

Mary Hockaday (interrupting): We didn't have a tone of outrageous indignation. [Not even on PM? They even invited in someone to recreate the smashing of the Guardian's hard drive - someone who the day before his appearance on the programme had tweeted his disgust at the authorities' behaviour and declared his intent to stick it to them - which PM duly allowed him to do (whilst not giving the game away.)] We had a story that we wanted to uncover and then report, and one of the things that we were doing was to probe very carefully The Guardian's account. [I listened to all the coverage on Radio 4 on the first day and watched the BBC News at Six and Newsnight. There was very little challenging of the Guardian's version of events.] We were really trying to understand David Miranda's role [not on Day One you weren't], find the facts of the story, air the issues and challenge the people at the heart of it. 

Samira Ahmed: What's interesting, however the BBC kind of explains that coverage, is that many viewers felt that there was a sense of liberal bias and I wonder, you know, why it is that viewers feel that and, indeed, how you address the accusation that there is an endemic liberal bias, particularly towards The Guardian.

Mary Hockaday: Well, I really, really [laughing], you know, challenge that. People have all sorts of views about what we do. [The old 'we get criticism from both sides - pace Cardiff University - so we must be getting it about right' line.] The most important thing is to understand how, ultimately, we are accountable for the impartiality of everything we do. We're accountable to the BBC Trust. We're accountable in many ways to Ofcom. We are part of a highly regulated - and properly so - public service broadcasting sector where regulation around impartiality is really fundamental and we, you know, test ourselves hard on it but we're held to account for it in these various public and scrutiny ways as well, and overall all the evidence shows that actually BBC, BBC News coverage is some of the most...well, is the most trusted in the country. [Though surveys show that trust is falling, falling, falling...]

Samira Ahmed: It is very hard to prove bias of course but you'll be aware of this report by the Centre for Policy Studies think tank analysing the news website and says the BBC quotes more left-wing than right-wing think tanks. Is that true?

Mary Hockaday: Well, again a lot of interesting questions about this. It's worth just saying in passing [yeah, 'in passing' eh?!] that the CPS, of course, campaigns against the BBC and against the licence fee but, you know, let's set that aside [having said it]. It was a piece of research that made various claims, that was picked up quite widely, but when you actually look at it in detail there's actually not a lot of hard evidence there [oh really?]. The CPS itself doesn't give its own definitions or explanations for why it's judging some think tanks to be left-wing or right-wing. [Well, that's wrong for starters. It most certainly does. The snag is that its explanations don't entirely hold water - but that's a different point to the one Mary H. was making]. Fundamentally, what we're doing is making judgements about whether a story or a piece of research or a report that emanates from a think tank is new, interesting, important. [Couldn't unconscious biases be guiding your view of what's interesting and important, as the CPS are saying?] We're not looking at it in a way that the CPS research indicated and, as I say [indeed you do!], if you look at it closely there wasn't really much evidence to back up the claim.

Samira Ahmed can be excellent but I don't think she put in a particularly robust performance here, unfortunately. There was a lot to challenge Mary H. on, but few of those challenges were made. Still, at least some issues were raised that needed to be raised - and credit is due to Newswatch for that (and to the BBC for giving the complainants such a forum). I can't say that I found the answers particularly convincing though - as you may have guessed!

"We're accountable in many ways to Ofcom"

Update: It gets worse.

H/T to TigerOC at Biased BBC for pointing out in reference to Mary H.'s "We're accountable in many ways to Ofcom" that Ofcom state on their own website that all complaints about BBC impartiality should be referred directly to the BBC.

This is indeed - and very precisely - the case:
If your complaint relates to matters of due impartiality, due accuracy, bias or commercial references (with the exception of the relevant product placement rules: see Section Nine of Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code) in BBC programming, please make a complaint directly to the BBC.
The BBC Trust regulates these areas rather than Ofcom.
The Ofcom Broadcasting Code contains rules relating to such matters on commercial services, but under the terms of the Communications Act the BBC is not licensed by Ofcom in the same way as the commercial broadcasters, and to reflect this situation a Memorandum of Understanding exists between Ofcom and the BBC Trust. So the BBC is ultimately accountable to the BBC Trust with regard to these areas.
The BBC has a formal complaints process and complaints should be escalated with them in the first instance, as outlined in the BBC’s complaints handling procedures on its website.
So when Mary Hockaday says, "The most important thing is to understand how, ultimately, we are accountable for the impartiality of everything we do...We're accountable in many ways to Ofcom," in what ways does she mean, given that Ofcom say BBC impartiality is nothing to do with them?

Not everything is political

Seamus Heaney - famous, and rightly so

I've long found that the BBC's political concerns have a tendency to intrude into places where you wouldn't expect them to intrude. You can be minding your own business, enjoying some history, arts, science or drama programme, when up crops some jarring political point. Then sometimes when there is a political aspect to something, thought it's not of prime importance - such as a sub-theme in a novel, or some incident in a composer's life -, that political theme comes to dominate the discussion on a BBC programme far more than it ought to. 

Reading the BBC's online obituary of one of my favourite poets, Seamus Heaney, who died this week, brought these thoughts back to me again. 

Though the issue of the poet's political stance towards the Troubles in Northern Ireland is something that any obituary is likely to spend some time on, given that a number of his most-taught poems (in schools and universities) attempt to grapple with his own complicated feelings about that issue, there's much, much more to the poetry of Seamus Heaney - and the man himself - than the Troubles. Much more.

Over half of the BBC's obituary concentrates on the Troubles, and other political aspects. 

That's too much. 

It may be what primarily interests BBC types, but it's not what particularly interests me - or most poetry lovers I suspect - about Seamus Heaney. For us, it's a secondary concern. 

For comparison, his obituary in the Daily Telegraph strikes a better balance and there's also a beautiful obituary in the Independent from Patricia Craig.

A Kite for Aibhín

Air from another life and time and place,
Pale blue heavenly air is supporting
A white wing beating high against the breeze,

And yes, it is a kite! As when one afternoon
All of us there trooped out
Among the briar hedges and stripped thorn,

I take my stand again, halt opposite
Anahorish Hill to scan the blue,
Back in that field to launch our long-tailed comet.

And now it hovers, tugs, veers, dives askew,
Lifts itself, goes with the wind until
It rises to loud cheers from us below.

Rises, and my hand is like a spindle
Unspooling, the kite a thin-stemmed flower
Climbing and carrying, carrying farther, higher

The longing in the breast and planted feet
And gazing face and heart of the kite flier
Until string breaks and—separate, elate—

The kite takes off, itself alone, a windfall.

The Unseen Guest

Not present

Today's Dateline London was wholly devoted to the issue of Syria and made for interesting viewing. 

This may be accounted for by the fact that the panel was atypical in not being tilted towards what might be described as 'the Guardian worldview'. It consisted of Henry Chu of the Los Angeles Times, Mina al-Oraibi of Asharq Al-Awsat, Alex Deane of ConservativeHome and Bozorgmehr Sharafedi of the BBC Persian Service. Their contributions helped me to think about a few things I've never thought about before - which is a good thing. 

That said, there was a tilt - and it was a tilt towards Western intervention against Assad. I wouldn't describe any of them as being gung-ho about it, but three out of the four panellists sent plenty of signals in that direction throughout the programme. 

I was also struck by one of Gavin Esler's 'angles' throughout the programme:
"Does this require soul-searching about Britain's role in the world?"
"Maybe it's just a wake-up call to Britain, with a declining military, with no aircraft carrier that's in service, that our post-imperial role has gone."
"Do you think there will be considerable soul-searching about what Britain is, now in the 21st century, and what our role should be? Are we a kind of medium-sized European power that's sometime might intervene? Do we still have this colonial hangover, or not?"
As Alex Deane observed during the programme itself, this was the very angle Dateline regular Polly Toynbee took in her Guardian column, No 10 curses, but Britain's illusion of empire is over, this week.

Generating hot air

Bacon on a bike

BBC Radio 5 Live proudly announces:
A day of output dedicated to the energy debate with a studio powered by renewable energy.
The BBC Media Centre provides all the details of the day here.

The Daily Telegraph's Damian Thompson is not impressed:
If you’re a fan of BBC Radio 5 Live, you should steer clear of it on September 5. Unless you’re a raging eco-bore, in which case you’re in for a treat. To mark Energy Day, whatever that is, “Richard Bacon will be powered by the pedal as exercise bikes are set up for guests and Richard himself to 'hop-on’.” Ed Davey and Caroline Flint will debate global warming (no sceptics allowed!). A “human hamster wheel” will generate kinetic energy. Plus loads of other fatuous green stunts. The Beeb is inviting the public to turn up and watch. No thanks: it would make me feel like an 18th-century visitor to Bedlam, whiling away a Sunday afternoon by gawping at the loonies.
That said, the first Radio 5 link above features two videos - one about nuclear power, one about wind energy. Both provide us with voices for and against. 

So if the channel gives pro-nuclear and pro-fracking voices as fair a hearing as anti-nuclear and anti-fracking voices, and gives wind energy sceptics as fair a hearing as wind energy proponents maybe it won't be quite as excruciating as Damian makes it sound. 

That said (again), the tilt does seem to be towards renewables, with the station planning to generate energy for twelve hours of radio from wind, solar, biofuel, cycling and hydropower. 

BBC Radio 5 Live will have to be very careful about being seen to endorse such technologies at the expense of others and must not give the impression of siding with environmentalist campaigners.

What will be the balance between environmental activists/pro-green politicians and their critics? Will any man-made global warming sceptics invited into the BBC studios? 

Ozzie impartiality rules

"Pale, male and stale" - Phil Mercer, BBC

Despite what they say at a certain university in Cardiff...

One of the BBC's Australia correspondents seemed to be engaged in something of a campaign against the tough immigration policies of that country's politicians. 

Phil Mercer's piece on Radio 4's Sunday a couple of weeks ago, described here, was one of the most loaded pieces I've heard on the BBC for a long time, with a stream of pro-immigration 'talking heads' denouncing tough immigration policies and the reporter himself offering just two explanations for the irrationality ("deep fears") of the Australians' response to asylum seekers  - (a) "fear of invasion from Asia" or (b) "simply xenophobia". 

This forms part of a pattern though, as you can see if you watch the following video report: Australia crackdown on refugees raises concerns

This begins with Phil Mercer talking of "increasing severe measures" being promised by the politicians, then features an interview with an Afghan Muslim refugee who came "seeking Australia's protection" and went on to set up what seems to be a successful business in Australia (like others "going quietly about their business").  He's "dismayed" about the current debate about immigration. After a brief outline of the current government's policy, Phil says "the authorities remain extremely sensitive" to the coverage of the immigration debate. Cue a clip from one of his earlier reports (from outside a Sydney detention centre) where he's in the middle of making a pro-immigration point saying "The drive and determination of successive waves of refugees have had a significant impact on Australian society and have often been been forgotten amid a hardline policy..." when a security guard interrupts and tells him to stop filming. Next comes another refugee "forced" to come to Australia by the "unimaginable brutality" of "militants" in Afghanistan. He's very happy at the peacefulness and security afforded by "multicultural" Australia which has, Phil says, "welcomed" more than 800,000 refugees since independence from Britain in 1901. The report ended with the following point: "Modern Australia has been built by mass migration. A quarter of the population was born overseas and despite an often toxic political discourse their is a broad appreciation of the nation-building contribution made by refugees."

Now, whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue at hand, that is certainly not an impartial report. Not by any stretch of the imagination. From the subjective choice of adjective, the use of the 'talking heads' and the one-sidedness of the views they express, and the whole framing of the story, it's very clear where this BBC reporter stands on this issue. 

And he keeps standing there.

Asylum seeker?

Here's another Phil Mercer report from this month: Australia's refugees show their business sense

The headline really does tell you all you need to know here. Phil's making the 'immigration is good for the economy' argument we're all so familiar with here in Britain. This report is an expansion of the above video report and emphasises how past refugees have become a "vital cog in the economy". 

As well as the refugees, Phil also calls in the support of Paul Power, the head of the Refugee Council of Australia who appears in his Sunday report too. ("While there is no data on the precise contribution this vast displaced group has made to the Australian economy over the decades, Mr Power insists that the impact has been profound.") 

There's a brief sop to balance - ("Not everyone agrees"), as Phil described "right-wing groups" as arguing against immigration and multiculturalism and sections of the public being "anxious" about the issue and we hear of entrepreneur Dick Smith, who Phil's seen on TV, offering a reward to anyone who can solve the problem of Australia's "population and consumption growth-obsessed economy" - but this perfunctory nod to impartiality is swiftly swept aside by Phil's own talk of the "rejuvenating force" given by the "humanitarian waves" of refugees. A town that has (apparently) thrived because of mass immigration is held up as proof, with the approving words of its mayor left ringing in our ears - "It really is something that we treasure."

And there's more. 

Last Saturday's PM may have had Syria and the Shetland helicopter disaster to report but the programme still had time for a report from Phil Mercer predicated on this problem posed by the failure of the Australian cricket team: "Could Australia's problem be that the cricket team is too white?" Can you guess what answer Phil gave to that question? 

Yes, and all his 'talking heads' (former refugees, a Muslim politician) were on board with the same message. (Not a whiff of dissent anywhere). The problem: "Cricket here hasn't mirrored the country's multicultural make-up". The solution: "Multiculturalism."

[No one thought to point out at any stage that 'pale' and 'male' Australian cricket teams have made Australia the most successful Test nation in history, and that a lack of multiculturalism in the team didn't stop them winning three consecutive world cups during the last 20 years - the only nation to have done so.]

Pale, male and...'All Hail!'

Where will campaigning pro-immigration BBC reporter Phil Mercer pop up next? 

Well, he's back on Sunday tomorrow morning apparently, and two weeks after reporting about the criticisms of Australia's politicians by pro-immigration Australians, what is Sunday promising for tomorrow? More of the same:
Australia's election next week pits Kevin Rudd against Tony Abbott. The leaders' faith has helped to define their political outlook, but they have been criticised for their uncompromising stance on asylum seekers. Phil Mercer reports.
Why two reports just two week's apart on exactly the same subject, and what's the betting this second report will be just as one-sided as the first? 

Friday 30 August 2013

Wyre Davies reprimanded by the BBC Trust

The BBC Trust has censured their Middle East correspondent Wyre Davies for a tweet he made last November, during Operation Pillar of Defence. They found that he breached accuracy guidelines in this tweet:
 "In this 'limited operation' at least 13 Palestinians and 3 Israelis have been killed - nearly all civilians. #Gaza". 
As a report in the Independent puts it, "Four of the 13 Palestinians were later identified as civilians, with the others being militants."

The BBC Trust has now called on the BBC to have a good, hard look at the use of Twitter by BBC staff and, among other recommendations, to think about deleting past inaccurate tweets. (What about tweets that seem to breach impartiality though?)

The BBC's reporting on Twitter during Operation Pillar of Defence left much to be desired, and several other tweets by senior BBC reporters struck BBC Watch and others as having breached the BBC's accuracy guidelines too. Only this one got censured by the BBC Trust though. 

Still, it's a step forward. 


Last night's historic parliamentary vote against the UK's military involvement in the impending attacks on the Syrian regime broke just as Newsnight was going on air. 

The sense of the importance - and the sheer drama - of the moment certainly came across, as Jeremy Paxman, Mark Urban and Allegra Stratton reacted as they reported, seeming almost as stunned as anyone else to begin with (well, perhaps not Mark Urban, who's a cool customer at all times.)

Allegra floundered rather badly, it has to be said, reporting in an increasingly breathless manner and fixing too narrowly on her special area of concern (what it all means for David Cameron), but both Mark and Jeremy put in creditable performances, with informative commentaries from the ever-adept Mark Urban and well-judged interviews with the robotic Douglas Alexander and the clearly-deflated-but-keeping-his-chin-up Philip Hammond.

There remains a puzzle. The opening of the programme promised Senator John McCain (leading proponent of military action in Syria) but Sen McCain never appeared, and no explanation was given for that. Surely he wasn't bumped, as his reaction (doubtless an angry one), would have been a scoop for the programme. So did he storm off, on hearing the breaking news? 

Sunday 25 August 2013

'Broadcasting House' this morning

This morning's Broadcasting House began with a short discussion between Paddy O'Connell and BBC political reporter Louise Stewart about the latest UK and US statements on Syria. Somehow, it managed to transform into a 'government splits' story:
P O'C: This is a very divided [sic] issue, and in the government backbenches as well?
LS: Absolutely. 
Then it was onto the real main story - the David Miranda/Glenn Greenwald/Guardian story. (What still!?)

Paddy began by reading out a representative [/sarc] sample of comments from the papers - Simon Jenkins in the left-leaning Guardian attacking state surveillance in Britain ; Paul Routledge in the left-leaning Daily Mirror denouncing the "emerging police state" in Britain; and Nick Cohen in the left-leaning New Statesman warning against police and government's calls for more powers to protect us from terrorism.

Well done, Paddy, you couldn't have been more one-sided there!

Still, there was a discussion to follow. Left-wing lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman (a less-well-known version of Michael Mansfield QC), who is representing David Miranda, was the first guest. Next came solicitor Hamid Sabi, who fled Iran after the Islamic revolution. Finally, we heard from Lord Ian Blair, the former commissioner of the Met once labelled 'Labour's favourite police chief'.

Both Sir Ian and Mr Sabi denied that Britain is becoming a police state, in opposition to Sir Geoffrey Bindman, but Sir Ian was largely in agreement with Sir Geoffrey on most other things - as you might expect - and Paddy O'Connell's questioning tended strongly towards the perspective represented by Sir Geoffrey Bindman.

Next came a plug for Pink Floyd (like the one on Newsnight the other day). This didn't come at a good time for me as I'm personally boycotting Pink Floyd over Roger Waters's anti-Israel boycott calls last week. The BBC are obviously not with me on that and are plugging his band with some fervour at the moment (as here). Photographer Jill Furmanovsky expressed her love for Dark Side of the Moon in a personal report. (I'd link to the album on YouTube for you were I not boycotting Pink Floyd). The pretext here was a radio play by Sir Tom Stoppard to be broadcast tomorrow on BBC Radio 2, centred on the album. (I might have listened to that, but as I'm boycotting Roger Waters...!)

I note in passing that the news bulletin referred to Lord Sacks's interview with Edward Stourton on Sunday but said that the soon-to-ex-chief rabbi was saying that the increase in child poverty was due to "the breakdown of institutions" caused by "individualism". Yes, up to a point but Lord Sacks was very explicit that it was the breakdown on one particular institution - the institution of marriage - which was causing that rise in child poverty. Why was the BBC being so coy about that?

Ah, here's Shaun Ley to preview The World This Weekend! 

Instead of previewing it, Paddy, Shaun and newsreader Zeb answered some GSCE questions instead. 

Both Shaun and Zeb got the science question wrong [What is the mass number of an atom? 1. The number of particles it contains, 2. The number of protons it contains or 3. The number of protons and neutrons it contains] , with Paddy admitting he didn't know the answer either. Both, however, got the history question right [The 1833 Factory Act banned children under nine in the UK from working. What did it also state employers had to provide for young workers each day? 1. Two hours of schooling, 2. Hot meals for children working nights or 3. Safety clothes for children working machines.] Proof, if proof were needed, of the heavy humanities bias of the BBC! 

An interesting tribute to American novelist Elmore Leonard from his son Peter came next. Elmore Leonard, who died last week, was the man behind the ten rules for novelists described in Sue's Back to the Drawing Board post. 

Suddenly all hell broke loose.

Actually, no, it was only the paper review with Ann Pettifor of the left-leaning New Economics Foundation, Sheila Gunn, former press advisor to John Major, and the poptabulous Tony Blackburn. The topics? Fergie and Prince Andrew, the weakness of the UK economy, Syria, Andrew Marr and Jackie Ashley demanding rights for carers, the tripling of the number of over-65s in work (according to the TUC), Cheryl Cole's bottom and tattoos, and a footballer being sold to a Spanish club for a high price. 

Finally came a fascinating segment on the important of the psalms to various people - namely writer and former convict Charles Hills (aka C A R Hills) and Sophie Lambrechtsen, daughter of the 'Angel of Arnhem' Kate ter Horst. This is the sort of thing I wish Sunday would do more often.

Do you regret not listening to this edition of Broadcasting House now?

'Sunday' - Syria, Witches, Humanists, MLK, charities and Lord Sacks

Here's this week's review of Radio 4's Sunday.

7.10 Introduction, by Edward Stourton

7.11 Syria. Edward talked to Fr. Nadim Nassar of the Awareness Foundation, the only Syrian priest in the Anglican church. He was critical of Obama, Cameron and Hague, saying that the West are "paper tigers" and that the debate within the West is mere "empty words". "Where are the actions?", he asked. He didn't want us to attack militarily, only to have worked much harder to achieve a negotiated peace. Edward asked him about sectarianism. He said it's "severe" because of the influx of Islamists, placing minorities - especially Christians and Alawites - "under enormous pressure". Many Christians have been "savagely" killed in the last two weeks, he said.

[Sunday is certainly not ignoring the grave plight of Christians in the Middle East at the moment, which is something to be warmly welcomed].

7.16 Witchcraft. An interview with Tracy Borman about her new book on witches in the 17th century. She told the tale of the three "flower" women found guilty of witchcraft over the deaths of the sons of the Earl of Rutland. She thinks it was a plot by the Duke of Buckingham though, suspecting him of poisoning the boys. He wanted to marry their sister, thus being able to inherit the estate when the Earl of Rutland died. The women were, thus, framed (she thinks).  She then related this to the general movement against witches at the time and King James I's "passion for witch-hunting", which she allied to the rise in puritanism and anti-Catholicism - people associating the magical rituals of the Catholic Church with those of witchcraft.

[Edward Stourton felt the need to justify this segment on the grounds that a lot of people put 'Wicca' on the 2011 census, so it had a measure of topicality. Sunday doesn't ignore Wicca anyhow. They've done two further features on it since 2011 - more than they've done for the Sikh religion!] 

7.20 The New Humanist. An interview with Daniel Trilling, the magazine's new editor. He's wary of the 'new atheists' (those Edward Stourton called "Dawkins & Co."), especially their stridently anti-religious, "superior" tone and their attacks on Islam since 9/11. He wants a gentler tone and a greater concentration on the mix of power, politics and organised religion and says he will be campaigning against intolerance against minorities and non-believers and challenging the role religious leaders play in society.

[I'm sure he'll become something of a regular on Sunday then].

7.26 The anniversary of the March on Washington. Kati Whitaker reported from Washington on what the 1963 march meant for the black church. She spoke to Congressmen John Lewis (youngest of the six speakers at the march), who described the racism of the period, then to Prof. David Garrow who said it was controversial to be so explicitly political in the black church at the time. MLK, however, took a stand as in the black church black ministers couldn't be fired by whites. There were detractors within the black church too though, including a "conservative" baptist leader in Chicago. George B. Mitchell, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, discussed that aspect of the story before Rev Jesse Jackson appeared to say that a new gospel was needed at the time. Ripple effects galvanised the black church for the march and also awakened white Catholics, Protestants and Jews, many of whom also joined the march. Congressman John Lewis [Democrat] said Obama's election is almost a staging post but there's still a long distance to go till we reach the promised land.

7.33 Lobby Bill. "The government's been accused on putting the frighteners on charities," said Edward Stourton. He discussed the concerns of charities with reporter Kevin Bocquet. Kevin chose an example of the sort of political issue that is at the heart of the row - "welfare" and "benefits". At the moment a charity can argue for a political cause before an election, but not during an election; however, it must not support a political party at any time. The proposed change in the Lobby Bill intends to tighten that up. If the electoral commission decides that the effect of a charity's campaign helps a specific political party in the run-up to the election, that charity could be penalised - as it will have broken the law. The charities say they may have to stop campaigning in the twelve months leading up to a general election. Kevin told us about the specific concerns of Islamic Relief, Cafod and Tearfund [coincidentally the charities Sunday most often interviews]. Is it a deliberate attack by the government? Or just sloppy drafting? Legal affairs writer Joshua Rosenberg says the charities want clarification. Finally, Edward asked about what are the government are saying. They refused to be interviewed, replied Kevin, before reading out a very short statement from them.

[No other defenders of the proposed changes were sought, surprisingly, in the interests of balance. There much be others, outside of the government, who support such changes and who could have argued for them here. As a result, this was a one-sided package.] 

7.38 Lord Sacks steps down as Chief Rabbi. An extended interview with Edward Stourton. I'll paraphrase all of his questions, plus some of Lord Sacks's replies.

What have your high points been? [The trebling of day school places in Jewish schools, so that children are becoming more aware of their faith; that the community is becoming "much more culturally exuberant". and that they've become a real voice in the nation's discourse.] 

What about your attack on Hugo Gryn? [He regrets it now.]

Hasn't the fracturing of the Jewish community during your time become greater? [He says that's "absolutely not the case".]

Nevertheless, people do question your role. Does it still make sense? 

You'd accept there are "a lot of Jews" who don't feel represented by the chief rabbi? 

Your book 'The Politics of Hope' criticised libertarianism, didn't it? 

Do you think we've moved closer or further away from what you were describing? 

Is society less fractured or more so nowadays?

What's your greatest worry? [Individualism. It's no way to built society. He's full of hope though, as so many people now see the problem and want their children to have a strong moral sense.]

You criticise the government over marriage? Do you think this government "specifically" or politicians "in general" are to blame? [He says the breakdown of marriage has led to more child poverty.]

If you think that's such an important issue, what should the government do? [He wants a cross-party engagement with faith communicates to educate people on enduring relationships.]

Sounds to me if you're saying the state of marriage is the most serious issue facing Britain today?

How does that "square with" your view on gay marriage? [I've kept my voice very, very low on this issue because of how gays were treated by the Nazis].

Have you ever had to bite your tongue over Israel? [I leave politics to the politicians.]

Israel. There was optimism at Oslo Accords, Madrid Summit, Camp David. Yoday people say that the possibility "is real" that the state of Israel might not continue to exist if things carry on as they are? [Israel is the country of hope.]

Anti-Semitism, what's your audit? [Britain one of the most tolerant countries in the world, but internet hatred is a new phenomenon. The internet "is a carrier of hate speech of various kinds"]

It's people not the mechanism that's responsible, isn't it?

Any regrets? [I never look back, only forward.]

Saturday 24 August 2013

"Getting it about right"

So, as might be expected, left-wingers on Twitter are reacting with glee to the report from Cardiff University 'proving' BBC bias in favour of right-wing perspectives. (For my take on it, please see below and for DB's take on it at Biased BBC please click here). 

This report, part-funded by the BBC Trust and part-written by the BBC's former head of news Richard Sambrook, will doubtless be used by the BBC to say that they are criticised from the Right and the the Left - and, thus, they must be getting it about right. 

That's as inevitable as the punchline of a Marcus Brigstocke joke. 

O brave new 'PM' that has such people in't

My first encounter with the David Miranda story came when I drove home from work listening to PM on Monday night. The programme led with the story and how it reported it is worth describing in some detail.

What struck me at the time of hearing was the initial sketching-in of the background to the story from Eddie Mair, which came across (to me) as presenting Glenn Greenwald (star Guardian journalist, David Miranda's especial friend) in a flattering light, recounting all his recent scoops and their earth-shaking impact without even so much as a hint that their accuracy has been hotly disputed. As someone who follows CiF Watch I've got a less-than-flattering opinion of Mr Greenwald's journalism (or 'journalism'), so I am undoubtedly biased against him; still, Eddie's presentation here left something be desired I think. It sounded too much like the reading-out of a list of a hero's acknowledged triumphs.

This segment was followed by Eddie's presentation of the Guardian's version of what had happened to David Miranda the previous day, complete with quotes from the newspaper and clips of Glenn Greenwald.

After a very brief mention of what the government was saying in response (and by "very brief" I do mean "very brief" - just seven seconds), we heard from Labour's Tom Watson denouncing the intelligence services for trying to intimidate Glenn Greenwald as well as (ironically, given his own role in the bringing down of The News of the World and in advancing the cause of the Hacked Off campaign) for their "attack on journalism".

Then came Widney Brown of Amnesty International, who joined the chorus of disapproval and said "there was no probable cause whatsoever" to justify David Miranda's detention and that it was an attempt to intimidate Glenn Greenwald and "an attack on the media" - much as Tom Watson had said.

Then came Labour's Keith Vaz, saying that he wanted answers from the police, as Mr Miranda wasn't "directly involved", merely the "partner" of someone directly involved [though we now know there was more to it than that].

Then Eddie read out an extract from an article by Simon Jenkins of the Guardian strongly denouncing the detention as "obscene" and an act of "state terrorism".

As a sample of opinions that certainly does seem considerably more partial than impartial, doesn't it?

Next came an extract from an interview with The World at One from David Anderson QC, the government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

This was one of two interviews on that day's The World at One. The other was not sampled by PM - an interview with Dr David Lowe of Liverpool John Moores University. Dr Lowe is a law expert and, during the course of his fairly short interview, gave the police the green light over their use of the anti-terrorist legislation here. Why didn't PM play a clip from this interview?

Back to Dr Anderson...

We heard the bit where he was questioning the current legislation. We didn't , however, get to re-hear the bit where he said, "I think you've also got to acknowledge this is a useful power. It does catch terrorists. It does disrupt terrorists and it's very important that in some form it should continue to exist."  That would have made an excellent counter-balancing clip, but it never came.

Eddie introduced the clip of Mr Anderson with the words, "He says he wants the Home Office and Scotland Yard to explain why terrorism laws were being used to detain the partner of a journalist", which appears to be a case of Eddie putting words into Mr Anderson's mouth. The somewhat loaded phrase "the partner of a journalist" (echoing the complaints being made above about Mr Miranda being something of an innocent abroad, suffering merely for being a family member of a journalist) was not said by David Anderson during that interview. It was Eddie's own form of words apparently, seeming to echo the opening paragraph of a report in the Guardian based on the WATO interview:
"Britain's anti-terrorist legislation watchdog has called on the Home Office and Metropolitan police to explain why anti-terror laws were used to detain the partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for nine hours at Heathrow airport."
Next up was Danny Shaw, the BBC's home affairs correspondent, discussing Section 7 -  the law in question, who described the relevant legislation. Most of Eddie's questions followed the Guardian's line with remarkable fidelity:
"Danny, is it correct to say that police have more powers to question people at an airport or a port that at, say, your local police station?"
"So, just to be clear, they don't have to even suspect that this person has links to terrorism. The law allows them, if they want to, to just pull someone in, hold them for nine hours, not give them a lawyer and make it clear if they don't cooperate it's a criminal offence. They have....that's what's enshrined in law?"
"And is it possible to say - it's a very difficult area - how effective the law has been? What would its supporters say this section has done for us?"
Next came an interview with, of all people, the British-taxpayer-funded Ecuadorian Embassy-dwelling Wikihacker-in-Chief, St Julian of Assange. The interview was conducted by the BBC's Chris Vallance. St Julian attacked the detention of David Miranda as "a disgrace", "an attack on journalism" and "a breach of the rule of law". 

Finally came an interview with former government independent reviewer of terrorism legislation (David Anderson's predecessor) Lib Dem Lord Carlile, who said much the same as Mr Anderson. Eddie asked him about Section 7, including this leading-sounding question:
"We don't know, you can't say and I certainly can't say what happened in this case and what the motivations were, and those investigations will go on as you suggest, but given that we've established that the authorities don't even need to suspect someone of being involved in terrorism before they can use this law, I mean if..if the authorities wanted to intimidate or harass journalists Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act is the perfect vehicle, isn't it?"
This edition of PM was clearly one-sided, approaching the Miranda story almost entirely from the pro-Guardian side of the argument. The other side was not to be heard - which is not how it should be, according to BBC guidelines. 

Guardian London

Oh lovely! Dateline London is talking Syria, Egypt and the arrest of David Miranda.

Gavin Esler's guests are the inevitable Abdel Bari Atwan, Thomas Kielinger of Die Welt and, in an absolutely classic Dateline move, Michael White...of the Guardian and Rachel Shabi [above]... of the Guardian

I can hardly wait for their discussion of the arrest of David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian.

(Please imagine music playing while you're on hold on the phone)

Well, how did that particular discussion go? 

The opening couple of minutes went surprisingly well, with Michael White and Gavin Esler being quite fair-minded in their initial discussion of the story, but the programme then reverted to type as Michael White of the Guardian concluded his opening pitch with "We're [i.e. the Guardian] winning this argument". 

Thomas Kielinger agreed, though he preferred to phrase it as the government having lost the argument. 

Abdel Bari Atwan expressed his satisfaction that middle-class Glaswegians distrust our intelligence forces [though maybe the fact that someone like that wants us to dislike our intelligence forces should raise a few alarm bells for us?].

Rachel Shabi of the Guardian thought the Guardian has behaved in completely the right way and rejoiced in what Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning have done. 

Who would have expected such a positive outcome to the discussion - from the Guardian's perspective - would come about from inviting two Guardian writers to appear on the panel of Dateline? [Not that they mentioned that Rachel Shabi is a Guardian writer though, and she didn't think it worthwhile to declare an interest either].

Miranda rights - and wrongs

The nine-hour detention at a British airport of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda under police anti-terrorism powers certainly sharply divided opinion - at least among the people who were interested in the story. (I've not personally heard anyone talk about it or show the slightest interest in it though, at work or outside of work - though that may say more about more about me, who I know and where I live than it does about the matter at hand!).  

There are those who support the Guardian's position, such as Nick Cohen who thinks Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian are engaged in the right kind of investigative reporting, uncovering stories which might well embarrass the British and US governments but which are absolutely vital as they help to shed light on the surveillance state. For them the detention of David Miranda shows how sinister the British state has become, using an obscure piece of anti-terrorist legislation to get at an inconvenient journalist through his partner - a piece of legislation the state could use against any one of us at any time. Action is needed to reform Britain's counter-terror laws to prevent such unwarranted harassment, they argue. 

Others, such as Douglas Murray, think the reaction to his detention has been hysterical. They don't think this could happen to any of us because David Miranda was detained with good reason. They don't particularly regard Glenn Greenwald's journalism, nor do they admire the Guardian for its own lack of honesty when breaking the story on Monday. For the likes of Douglas Murray, David Miranda was no innocent but a 'mule' acting on Mr Greenwald's behalf and being paid by the Guardian to smuggle sensitive, stolen intelligence information through a British airport - information which could be used to sabotage the British state. Britain is engaged in a fight against terrorism and has hostile foreign powers ranged against it. Secrets are necessary. They ask: Why should someone acting on behalf of an anti-Western activist-journalist (‘I will be far more aggressive in my reporting from now. I am going to publish many more documents. I am going to publish things on England too. I have many documents on England’s spy system. I think they will be sorry for what they did’) be allowed to get away with helping to undermine those secrets?

When the focus switched to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger's revelation that the British cabinet secretary had visited him to warn against further disclosure of those secrets and that two officers from GCHQ oversaw the destruction of two hard-drives held by the Guardian, a similar divide emerged between those who saw this as an outrage - the abusive actions of a shadowy authoritarian state seeking to undermine valid investigative journalism, posing a threat to freedom of expression - and those who saw it as a reasonable act to secure insecurely-held secrets from falling into the hands of terrorists and other enemies of Britain. Some rushed to the defence of the Guardian, others denounced the Guardian for hypocrisy given the paper's lack of concern for fellow journalists employed by the Murdoch press.

The range of views found across the online media - both above the line and below the line - had been striking, especially the way they cut across traditional left-right lines. Many commenters from the libertarian Right have been at least as vociferous as those from the radical anti-Western Left in arguing against the critics of the Guardian and the defenders of the British authorities. Posters at the Daily Telegraph over the last week will be well aware of that!

The BBC certainly gave the story its due. As described in earlier posts, it gave it extensive coverage - with only the Guardian itself outdoing the corporation in terms of the amount of coverage given to the story.  

As the primary focus of this blog though is the issue of BBC bias, the questions to be answered in the following posts (if they can be answered) are 'Did the BBC's coverage of this story provide its viewers and listeners with the full range of opinions?' and 'Did the BBC take sides?' 

Friday 23 August 2013

The BBC: Conservative, Eurosceptic and pro-business. Apparently.

Oh, I do like statistically-based reports about BBC bias.

There's a new report out from Cardiff University that's making a few waves, claiming as it does that the BBC is indeed biased - albeit not in the way right-wingers think. 

The study comes bearing the intriguing statement that
"The funding for some of the research discussed in this article was provided directly by the BBC Trust." 
Just as intriguing is the fact that one of its listed authors is none other than Richard Sambrook, former director of BBC News, the BBC World Service and BBC Global News. (Wonder which bits he wrote?)

The report claims to have shown that the BBC is pro-Tory, pro-Eurosceptic and pro-business - a set of conclusions which flies in the face of...well, if not reality then at least my (and many other peoples') sense of reality.

I come with my own biases, of course - but then so does the report author tasked with promoting the report to the world - Dr Mike Berry

He's associated with the Glasgow Media Group - a  40-year old left-wing campaign which, according to Wikipedia, "claimed that television news was biased in favour of powerful forces and actors in society and against less powerful groups such as the organised working class". He's co-authored several books with hardcore anti-Israel activist Greg Philo, head of the Glasgow Media Group, alleging pro-Israel bias on the part of the BBC.

Someone who co-writes book after book attacking Israel and the "pro-Israel" BBC seems to come from a not dissimilar mindset to that of the leftist Media Lens website (which naturally approves of Dr Berry's work).

Does that campaigning left-wing standpoint necessarily mean that Mike Berry can't be objective in his academic research? Obviously not, if he chooses to set that aside and see where the evidence takes him in a disinterested fashion. However, that disinterested starting point doesn't seem to be the Glasgow Media Group's guiding principle and I choose to remain sceptical.

Besides Mike Berry and Richard Sambrook, the report's other authors are Karin Wahl-Jorgensen (who has previously written for far-left Red Pepper), Kerry Moore (who has written about the British media's ill-treatment of Muslims), Lucy Bennett, Jonathan Cable, Inaki Garcia-Blanco, Jenny Kidd, Lina Dencik (who describes herself as an 'activist') and Arne Hintz (who describes himself as an 'activist') other words, as fine a collection of disinterested academics as you could possibly hope to find - as I'm sure you'll agree! 

As regards matters of party political coverage, the Cardiff report examined a mere five days-worth of coverage and considered only the BBC News at Six (for national TV) and only a part (7.00-8.30 each day) of five episodes of the Today programme (for national radio), plus a handful each of local and national bulletins (ie. one each day from, say, the Midlands and Scotland). That seems to me to be a very small sample, the exhaustive concentration on which could lead to some very skewed results. 

My own intensive period of research from June 2009-April 2010 covered some of the topics in the Cardiff report and examined every interview with a party politician (some 2,200 of them) on all of the main BBC current affairs programmes over this period (including Today, Newsnight, The World at One, PM, Today, The Daily Politics, The Andrew Marr Show, Broadcasting House, The World This Weekend, Westminster Hour, among others!) - all the results of which can be seen at my old blog.

It showed that the incumbent Labour Party got the lion's share of the airtime (not unreasonably - being the government of the day). But how much of the lion's share? From June 09 to January 10 (inclusive) Labour got 53.81% of the total airtime, while the Conservatives got 26.52% - i.e. almost precisely double the airtime. 

As well as interview airtime, I also tried to measure the character (the quality) of those interviews by the simple act of counting the number of times a politician was interrupted by his or her BBC interviewer - on the not unreasonable grounds that (all things being equal, generally-speaking, blah blah) the more times a politician gets interrupted the harder the interview is likely to have been. 

The results were clear. Going from the most-interrupted to the least-interrupted, the final results came out as (with the number of interviews and my 'interruption coefficient' included):

UKIP (30) - 1.01
Conservatives (619) - 0.85
English Democrats (1) - 0.80
SNP (70) - 0.76
Sinn Fein (9) - 0.71
BNP (4) - 0.65
Plaid Cymru (11) - 0.65
DUP (10) - 0.62
Labour (1054) - 0.59
Liberal Democrats (333) - 0.44
Greens (16) - 0.26
TUV (2) 0.25
SDLP (3) - 0.20
UUP (2) - 0.15
Alliance (6) - 0.03
Respect (1) - 0 

Yes, despite being in opposition, a Conservative politician was significantly more likely to be interrupted than a Labour politician - albeit not as likely to be interrupted as someone from UKIP! (UKIP really did get a rough ride back then). 

A massive sample such as this is surely preferable to a small sample, such as that used by the Cardiff team. Small samples are more prone to lead to statistical errors. They leave the researcher open to questions such as: Which five days did you choose? Why did you choose them? How did you choose them? What happened on those five days, news-wise, and did that bias your results?

Still, a report is a report and should be read with an open mind (within reason). Take a read of it for yourselves and see what you make of it. From what I've read so far, my scepticism is growing ever deeper.

Update: This report isn't as new as the surge on Twitter suggests. Alan at Biased BBC was onto this story early last month - as I should have remembered, as I read it at the time!

Thursday 22 August 2013

Posturing Redacted

“A spokeswoman for the BBC said that Kennedy’s remarks would be cut from the television screening because they did not “fall within the editorial remit of the Proms as a classical music festival."She added: “The Proms is not an appropriate place to foster political statements.”

Which seems quite right and proper to me. But the row is being framed to look as if it’s only “Jews” who are making a big fuss about the BBC’s decision to cut the political posturing out of Nigel Kennedy’s prom when it’s re-broadcast on BBC3.
 This is like deja-don’t-view all over again - echoes of the BBC’s other uncharacteristically sensible decision highjacked by the anti-Israel mob  when they chose not to air the DEC Gaza appeal on the BBC.

This one is not just a matter of the BBC’s impartiality. This time it’s the proms, of which the BBC  is rightly proud, and the integrity of which it regards itself custodian. Does the BBC want to turn it into a platform for political or commercial posturing? No.

“Dermot Kehoe, chief executive of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom) said: “The BBC is right to ensure that artists do not use their airwaves as a personal platform, whether for commercial or political purposes.”
Another interested party,” I hear you say. Then there’s the way celebrities abuse their privileged status, which they are well aware automatically confers publicity and undeserved respect upon their random views. They are, after all, people admired for unrelated talents, be their opinions ill-informed and inflammatory or just plain daft.
“The BBC must protect its editorial integrity and impartiality. In this instance Nigel Kennedy's remarks were ill informed, untrue and inappropriate.”“Last night Kennedy’s manager, Terri Robson, signalled that she accepted the BBC’s decision to cut the comments – even though the violinist himself did not agree.She said: “Everyone in the music industry is aware that the proms television broadcast is a politics free zone as far as statements from the podium are concerned.”
So Nigel’s a loose cannon as far as his manager’s concerned. Well whaddya know.

The opinions of all those people who have jumped onto the Kennedy bandwagon - the usual clowns, some of whom seem positively unhinged, also have extra clout, being as ‘ow they’re also “Jews”.

The implication appears to be that it’s only Jews with their wicked lobbying who are objecting to the BBC ‘doing the right thing’, so their opinions can be discounted. In that case non-Jewish supporters of Israel and the testimonies of artists who perform there despite the death threats and vile hostility from haters, should count, in the eyes of the public, for much more.

Lead stories

Continuing to keep an eye on the lead stories of the day to check if the BBC is indeed being led by the nose by the Guardian....

....well, not today.

The lead story of the Guardian, Times, Independent and Daily Mirror is the apparent gas attack in Syria. The Telegraph has 'BBC licence cases make up one in 10 prosecutions'. The Daily Express has 'Millions hit by pension rip-off'. The Daily Mail goes with 'Exposed: Health supplement con'.  Sky News leads with Syria, as does ITV News. 

The BBC's top three stories are very much their own:

1. GCSE pupils receiving exam results ("More than 600,000 teenagers receive the results of their GCSE exams, amid reports that changes mean there will be "turbulence" in grades.")
2. Bo Xilai goes on trial in China. ("Bo Xilai, the disgraced Chinese politician once tipped for the highest levels of power, goes on trial, charged with corruption and abuse of power.")
3. Chief warns over military capacity ("The new chief of the defence staff warns that armed forces cuts mean the UK will have to lower expectations of its military capability in future.")

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Pigs above the parapet

It wouldn’t make any difference if I decided to boycott Roger Waters because I never did like Pink Floyd, but would it make much difference to Roger Waters if he decided to properly boycott Israel, and would that  impinge on his career as an aging rock-star?

Enraged by the BBC’s decision to cut Nigel’s rant from the BBC3 broadcast, Waters hits back.
“I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel,” he wrote.
“Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.”
Oh. I see it’s only a partial boycott, selectively chosen so as not to interfere with all those intel chips and stuff that global civil society needs. 
“Time to stick my head above the parapet again, alongside my brother, Nigel Kennedy, where it belongs. And by the way, Nigel, great respect man.”
Now see what you’ve gone and done brother Nige, you fool. 
Just imagine, Roger and Nige, Annie Lennox, Alexei Sayle, Stephen Hawking and uncle Tom Cobley and all sticking their heads where they belong.

Celebrities will probably continue to advertise their ignorance and bigotry till inflatable pigs cease to fly.

The Salford Guardian (2)

Following on from the previous post and following an interesting suggestion from Span Ows at Biased BBC to test whether the Guardian really does lead the BBC by the nose, here's a list of all the front page stories of the UK's national newspapers this morning: 
Guardian - US and Britain at odds as NSA row deepens
Officials promoted bogus bomb detectors 
Daily Telegraph - The heart disease 'time bomb'
Briton hit by New York taxi loses her leg
Murderer first to challenge whole life term
32: the age we turn into our parents (no matter how hard we try)
The Olympic effect proves a flop as children of all ages opt our of sports
The Times - Fracking will cut energy bills, says poverty chief
Eurozone fears over new bailout for Greece
The Independent - Slavery in the city
Cabinet secretary dragged into Snowden row
Huge rise in the number of adoptions
FT - Treasury brandisheds £73bn bill as HS2 battle escalates
Banks hire traders in sign of upturn
City review urged after intern's death
The Star - Corrie 'sex row' starts set for Celeb B Bro
Daily Mirror - Dave's chillaxing..again. We're hol in this together, eh, PM? 
Daily Express - How a dog can save your life Blooming marvellous! 86 degrees F heatwave..and it's here to stay
Daily Mail - Young lack the grit to get jobs
The Sun - Exclusive: Insurance call centres set up in prisons
Gregg's girl: I got groped
So, which story is the BBC News website leading with this morning? The Telegraph's heart disease story? The Times's fracking story? The Indie's City of London story? The FT's HS2 story? 

No, the BBC News website is leading with...
No 10 contacted paper over secrets
Downing Street was involved in discussions with the Guardian about material it had obtained from US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, it emerges.
...just like the Guardian (for the third day in a row).

For comparison, the ITV News website is leading with 'Peru drug suspects charged' and Sky News with 'Peru drugs: British women formally charged'.

Roy Greenslade will be happy with the BBC again.