Saturday 5 October 2013

Ed's mouthpiece?

I've been largely well away from the world of current affairs this week, but on the rare occasions when I've switched on the BBC News - or seen the BBC News Channel while passing the TV at work - there seems to have been something on about Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail

It could just have been a coincidence that every time I've come across BBC News this week it's been discussing 'Ed v the Mail', or it could have been because the BBC has been engaging in one of its periodic frenzies. 

Being out of the loop for a few days, it's hard to tell.

A piece in the Telegraph, however, suggests it was a classic BBC feeding frenzy:
The BBC is facing calls for an inquiry into the extensive coverage it has given to Ed Miliband’s dispute with a newspaper.
The article reports that a (Conservative) MP has asked the BBC Trust to investigate whether the BBC has breached its editorial guidelines with the amount and the tone of its coverage of this story. 

The Telegraph then makes its own case that the BBC has behaved in a biased way:
Mr Miliband has been given extensive personal coverage — including interviews on 5 Live and BBC Breakfast on Friday morning — over his continuing row with a newspaper that described his father, Ralph, the late Marxist academic, as “the man who hated Britain” in a headline.
Labour figures also featured prominently on the BBC, giving the party huge amounts of publicity throughout last week. analysis by The Telegraph found the story took up almost 49 minutes of the 12 hours of broadcasting by Today, BBC Radio 4’s flagship current affairs programme, over the four editions between Wednesday and Saturday, while there were 30 articles published on its website — including one in Farsi — by yesterday afternoon.
Ken Livingstone and Lord Glasman, both Labour figures, secured two of the week’s highest-profile slots on the Today programme at 7.10am on Wednesday and 8.10am on Friday, while Left-wing figures including Tony Benn were able to speak without opposing views being presented.
The story of the row with the Daily Mail first became prominent on Tuesday, then gained even more coverage when the Mail on Sunday apologised on Thursday for sending a reporter to a memorial for Mr Miliband’s uncle.
But the story continued to dominate the BBC on Friday, with the two interviews with Mr Miliband and, on Saturday, with two prominent slots on Saturday’s Today programme devoted to it. 
As you may have witnessed much more of the BBC's coverage than me, you are probably better placed to say whether the Telegraph is bang on the nail here. [A read of Alan's posts at Biased BBC suggests it may very well be.]

Another Telegraph article, incidentally, makes much the same charge:
BBC encourages Tony Benn to enter Ralph Miliband row with Daily Mail.
Producers of the Radio 4 'Today' programme searched out Tony Benn for comment on the Ed Miliband row with the 'Daily Mail'.
The BBC’s desperation to stoke the row between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail led producers of the Radio 4 Today programme to search out Tony Benn, who now lives in a warden-controlled retirement flat.
The Telegraph had better watch out, or the BBC will be after them next!


While we're at it, I see former BBC Today editor Rod Liddle has a Spectator piece about this. He's been getting call after call from the BBC (and Channel 4 News), having partially endorsed the Mail's criticism of Ralph Miliband:
Their sense of excitement, these youngish callers from a multiplicity of BBC news stations and, of course, Channel 4 News, is palpable; it fizzes and crackles down the line, their outrage and their delight at possibly finding someone who might add to their outrage, perhaps cube their outrage. 
The phone only ever rings like that when I’ve made a transgression against the sensibilities of these relentlessly busy people by saying something with which they disagree. 
The odd thing is, it never, ever happens when I have a go at the right, no matter how recklessly, personally or unpleasantly. Sometimes when I’ve been spiteful about the crop of smug and inept public-school boys who currently run this country, I sort of hope that the phone will start its incessant ringing, because it would make a nice change. But it never does. I could write an article insisting that David Cameron was created from the frozen semen of Adolf Hitler by Soviet scientists and that he enjoyed nightly intercourse with feral goats — and the Beeb and Channel 4 wouldn’t give a monkey’s. ‘He’s probably right,’ they’d all be saying to themselves, ‘for once.’ There would be no calls for sackings, or prosecutions. 
I repeat the charge. If George Osborne’s dad was as far to the right as Ralph Miliband was to the left, and this fact was reported (having read interviews with Osborne’s father, this might not be far from the truth), nobody would howl in anger that this was a smear, would they? The BBC and Channel 4 News would, instead, leap in and kick the living daylights out of Osborne Sr and think themselves entirely justified in so doing. 


  1. I now avoid BBC news coverage on well-being grounds, but the most egregious example was the Naughtie led Today coverage on the day of Cameron's conference speech. Jim was audibly excited as he inserted the "evil right wing press" angle into every news item about the forthcoming big event and chortled with glee as he announced that the Prime Minister had been "over shadowed" by "the row". Pure black propaganda.

    On a similar note Today (again led by Jim - why not just let Bad Al present Today?) has reconstituted one its "Listener Panels" this time to big up the "voter appeal" of Miliband's "successful" speech and slyly to rubbish Cameron.

    The panel consisted of such transparent stooges self described as "A graduate who volunteers" or "A retired charity worker". Once again I switched over to the sadly drive timey Radio 3 because I could guess what they were likely to say.

    The BBC deployed the "Listeners Panel" to considerable effect during the 2010 election. Here the "Stay at home Mum's" "Unemployed Graduates" "Volunteer Workers" and a frankly unappealing free market "Estate Agent" were allowed to advocate a "balanced" parliament as a wholly good thing; I know it sounds paranoid but one might think it had been concluded that even the Venezuelan electorate might not be persuadable to vote for a Labour Party led by an obvious psychopath, and that promoting a hung parliament was the only way of keeping the hated Tories out.

    It certainly worked. My naieve undergraduate children voted liberal ("never again") on the basis of this kind of propaganda.

    Anyway the Tories deserve all they get. With a few notable exceptions Gove, Pickles, Boris they are entirely submissive in the face of obvious politically motivated hostility, and play into their enemies hands.

    What is sad about all this is the debauching of what used to be an excellent journalistic culture, and the collapse of trust in a once great institution the likes of which our civilisation used to excel at producing. I am far from a sub-urban Daily Mail reader BBC hating aunt sally of the type described by Osborne in his excellent article in todays Telegraph - but I and my wide circle of friends mostly regard the BBC as a joke. Not because its biased and has a predictable line on everything - but because its rubbish.

    1. Jim Naughtie is the worst offender on 'Today' for that sort of thing.

      The composition of that listener panel doesn't surprise me in the least either. I posted about another such 'Today' panel recently, composed even more heavily of the unemployed, stay at home mums, and even a Labour activist.

    2. The next most biased part of the output is the online news - the editorial choices of which make Today look like the Daily Express.

      Having consistently led with completely unbalanced coverage of the Ralph Miliband saga - there is no coverage at all today of the allegations by MPs (and former employees) of bias and demands for an enquiry.

      Instead they are prominently covering some treacherous Tory troublemaker over the EU referendum - a cant lose story seen from inside the BBCs prejudices.

    3. Don't watch the BBC, watch Sky.Then, I'm sure you'll be extremely happy it is a very pro Tory and right wing leaning broadcaster...which is the sort od person you clearly are...

    4. I would be more impressed by your remarkable ability wrongly to analyse my political orientation in sophomoric terms (which I think you might believe to be insulting) if you could manage a grammatical sentence.....or actually had anything to say.


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