Friday 15 November 2013

Another introspective post

In a recent post, I mentioned the occasional famines that afflict Is the BBC biased?, due to our many (delightful) non-blogging commitments. 

Well, the last few days might well have got poor Sir Bob Geldof all agitated again. Blog Aid might be imminent and I Don't Like Mondays could be due another outing.

I've not really got much to say beyond that. So goodnight, sweet ladies, goodnight...

...except to say that (and, thus, keeping the sweet ladies waiting by the door) there have been some telling posts and comments at Biased BBC in the last few days.

This, again, proves the value of having so many eyes (and ears) attending to the BBC's doings. 

More introspection follows though. (Sorry, sweet ladies. I'll have to buy you another bottle of Sauvie, so please resume your seats and hold up your glasses.)

The BBC is so huge an octopus - its tentacles so all-encompassing - that, as a news provider, it crushes Sky, ITV and much of the rest of the national and local media in the UK. 

It also crushes the BBC-bias-based blogger, in that it is literally impossible for a small number of people (especially two busy people) to effectively pin it down on the question of bias. 

Still, a fool may seriously try. (And, yes, I mean me.)

I went down the statistical route with a vengeance (from 2009-10) and, if I may say so, offered some useful evidence (dare I say 'proof'?) of BBC bias. 

But so what? What actually came of it? 

Well, the result (after frantic e-mailing) was an awful lot of head-nodding from Conservative MPs (some now in the cabinet) and a measure of enthusiasm from some Conservative MEPs. 

Senior UKIP figures showed even more enthusiasm though.

I was told, by someone who would know, that Nigel Farage took some of my stats into a meeting with top BBC executives and that Lord Pearson (then conducting an inquiry onto BBC bias) also made use of them.

I kept rather quiet about that at the time. Lord knows why.

Actually, the Lord probably does know why: Private e-mails - and their contents - are private, and shouldn't be shared. It's a principle of mine, and I try not to betray it. (Not exactly good for a 'scoop' though, is it, that sort of attitude?)

Looking back, I suppose I should have drawn comfort from their interest. But I didn't. 

I ended up feeling deflated. 

The BBC Complaints department dismissed my nine months of relentless, interesting, obsessive, rewarding, exhausting, possibly ridiculous effort with a frown, a wrinkled lip, and a sneer of cold command. 

I retried, but the hand of the BBC mocked again. 

I then retired (anagram of 'retried'), and then (essentially) gave up. 

I've felt semi-retired ever since, despite my efforts at Biased BBC and, yes, even at Is...?.

I still think that statistical attempts to grab hold of a few of the BBC's eight tentacles remains a valid way to go...

...and others have tried the same route. 

You may recall our posts on the Centre for Policy Studies's survey of the BBC News website's coverage of right-leaning and left-leaning think tanks (examining how they label those think tanks). That survey, however, has been widely panned - especially, you won't be surprised to hear, by left-leaning blogs. And, to be honest, I can see why. It has flaws - some of them big ones. 

Still, the CPS had the right idea. You need to prove the bias, nail it, pin it like some unfortunate butterfly in a Victorian naturalist's collection. 

But, but, but...even if the stats seem - and, maybe, are - objectively compelling, what's to stop the BBC Complaints department, the Twitterati, Cardiff-based academics, Grauniad bloggers, etc, etc, from either ignoring them, or dismissing them as the sort of biased stats people like us (if I may presume to include you here) are likely to trot out as proof of BBC bias, or presenting their own counter-stats (with academic trappings, however far-Left those Cardiff-based academics may be, politically-speaking)? 

Well, obviously, there's absolutely nothing to stop them. Nothing at all. 

However justified you may be in placing a QED after your apparently watertight statistics, someone can always simply say 'Meh!' or 'Bah!' to them. People very easily fireproof themselves against things they don't want to hear (and I'm sure I'm just as guilty of that as anyone else).

So that's that then, it seems, isn't it?

So where, sweet ladies (and gentlemen), do we go from here?

We keep on keeping on - outlining our case, trying to persuade, not assuming (as some people do) that everyone agrees with us (as most people don't) that the BBC is biased in the way we say it is, being as honest and fair-minded as we possibly can be (even if that means being nice to the BBC), trying not to alienate those who aren't natural sympathizers of ours too much (because we almost certainly need them too), etc, etc. 

We should try to play our small part in backing those who are more widely heard - the 'right-wing press' and certain politicians. They are clearly having an impact on the BBC's self-confidence at the moment.

More and more people (even if they are still in the minority, according to polls) now think the BBC is biased in some way (though not always in the same way) and, as a result, the more blogs like Is the BBC biased?, Biased BBC, BBC Watch, etc, lay out the evidence for all to see (if they come by it honestly) the better. Surely.

Make of all that what you will.

And now it is goodnight. 

Goodnight. Sleep tight. And don't let the bed bugs bite.


  1. I think you perform a valuable public service. You enabled me to see that they were indeed interrupting interviewees more frequently the further on the right of the political spectrum they were (and that I was not just becoming a reactionary old buffer); and in fact this has noticeably diminished although it's more difficult to quantify the complimentary tick which is treating interviewees with exponentially increasing icey disdain along the same continuum - Eddie Maire being the best exemplar of the style; although the chronically awful Kirsty Young managed a whole episode of DID with the evil Tory Eric Pickles in which she treated him as if she was interviewing a war criminal as a spoof.

  2. This is such an interesting blog.,extremely thoughful and with a degree of analysis I can only admire.Having once sat on a jury at a serious criminal trial and it was explained to the jury that first you have information,further investigation becomes evidence and when you have a sufficent body of evidence you have proof. It is a long process.
    The next round of the Royal Charter negotiations must do something about the dominancer, bordering on monopoly, that the BBC has in the disemmination of news.
    Christopher Scopes

  3. Yes, blogging in the wilderness was our conscious choice. Since neither of us are self publicists - wrong genes - we’ll have to hope word of mouth makes it worth beating a path to this blog.
    I was going to say that despite what Emerson said it’s all about marketing these days, but someone beat me to it.

    1. "...boundless and bare/The lone and level sands stretch far away."

    2. Oi Craig!..and even Sue for that matter.
      You two have had a tremendous influence over me-and dare I say an increasing number of people only now getting on your rolling bandwagon.
      Your statistical analysis of the BBC in 2009/10 was my first ever introduction to quantitative bias...doesn`t matter a damn if a few MPs like it or opened some very big doors for the rest of us.
      Sues continuing Israel-watch has borne tremendous results...the many blogs I get from Jewish sites etc is testament to her4 influence on so many people you`ll barely know of.
      Scriptures abound my friends...but basically stay encouraged and keep `em quote Morrissey(God knows why) ush and a push and the land will be ours.
      You will see vindication-maybe the CS Lewis week on the BBC is in some day due to you-who knows?
      Stay encouraged eh?(Rom 1.11/12). Thanks and "don`t stop"( no Clinton saxophone though eh?)

  4. Turn the tables on them. Why should it be up to us to prove BBC bias? They have a duty to be impartial and we should be pressing them to provide statistics. If they can't provide them how can they demonstrate impartiality?


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