Sunday 17 November 2013

Bowdlerising 'A Banker's Tale'

There was a curious moment on this morning's Andrew Marr Show when Andrew Marr, reviewing the newspaper front pages, raised the front page of the Mail on Sunday, mentioned its leader story about a former Co-op Bank chairman whose been caught in what Andrew called "a terrible sting operation", and then said "We won't be talking about that, I suspect".

And, indeed, they didn't. 

[The 'they' on his paper review panel, incidentally, consisted of Labour MP Tessa Jowell, Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Justin Forsyth (now head of Save The Children) and Conservative.Home's Tim Montgomerie.]

The BBC News website hasn't been quite so coy about the Co-op sting story. Ex-bank boss 'filmed buying drugs' is the fourth story on its website, so they are certainly shining a spotlight on it. 

The article tells us that the gentleman in a question, who is also a Methodist minister, handed over £300, apparently to purchase cocaine, after appearing before a committee of MPs. The article leads with his apology.

I have to say that it doesn't sound much of a story does it?

Ah, but that's because the BBC News website has been coy after all, and used black redactive ink (metaphorically-speaking) over much of the Mail's story. 

Gone are his texts about wanting "a two day, drug fuelled gay orgy!!!" 

Gone are the allegations he "took great delight" in telling people that he's "put one over" on the “Tory c****” in parliament.

Gone are all the references to his - and his bank's - links to the Labour Party. [The Co-Op Bank is a large Labour donor].

Some editor at the BBC News website, presumably, said to whoever wrote this report, "We won't be talking about any of that". 

Why would that be? Well, let's speculate wildly!

Is it because he's an ex-bank boss, having retired several months ago? Well, that hasn't stopped them from making it a main story on their website, so it can't be that.

Is it because they he's a 'nice' banker - an ex-boss of the 'ethical' Co-Op Bank - towards which they feel ideologically sympathetic? Would they have been anywhere near so coy if he'd been a 'bad' ex-banker, from one of the nasty capitalist multinational banks?

Is it because they are 'spinning for Labour', because of their 'ingrained pro-Labour bias'? If he and his bank had been large donors to the Tory Party, would they have refrained from mentioning that fact?

Is it because he's gay?

Is it because they think it's a nasty sting (as Andrew Marr seems to do), and that he's more sinned against than sinning (by the Mail, and the man who grassed him up)?

Is it because they think the details of those texts he sent are private, and that they ought not to report them on ethical grounds? That didn't stop them going crazy about people behaving badly on Twitter a few months ago though, and highlighting lots of 'private' tweets in the process, so it can't be that.

Is it because, as good social liberals, they believe it right to take a less harsh and judgmental line than the Daily Mail, especially as regards drug use and sexual activity?

Well, I understand why BBC journalists might choose, on ethical grounds, to remove the more prurient aspects of the story, and the nature of the sting does leave a bit of a bad taste in my mouth too, but the angle about a former Co-Op boss telling people that he'd got one over on those Tory c***s on a parliamentary select committee is an important angle and one that the BBC shouldn't have censored from their reporting of the story, should they? Surely?

Update: With thanks to Alan at Biased BBC, there's a development in this story.

The BBC has now updated their report and mentioned that the ex-banker in question "served as a Labour councillor for Bradford Council for 10".

That's progreess, but they must have rushed their update so much that they forgot to add "years" after "10"! Careless!

You can see the revisions to the BBC article here, at the invaluable News Sniffer site.

Further update: Ah but, in my old counting spirit, Span Ows at Biased BBC observes:
As of 17:27 the BBC report mentions Methodist 5 times, Church 3 times, minister 7 times…and Labour 1 time…in the 20th paragraph, well below the ‘scroll line’.
Further further update: The paper review on Paddy O'Connell's Broadcasting House dealt with this story in a rather surprising way - surprising, yet wholly in keeping with the way the story had been treated elsewhere on the BBC. The panel consisted of Labour's Diane Abbott, ex-Dragons Den entrepreneur Doug Richard, and former researcher for both Harriet Harman and Gordon Brown, now editor of Heat magazine, Sam Delaney.

No mention of Labour, but some peculiar and determined steering of the conversation from Paddy - steering away from anything controversial.

"Step carefully," Paddy advised at the start of the conversation, later inviting Sam Delaney to critique the style of the Mail report. He kept referring to the man in question as "Paul" (his first name, you won't be surprised to hear). After reading out a short statement from "Paul", Paddy said "So we'll leave it there as well", and moved on.

The question struck me, does Paddy, by any chance, know Paul Flowers? Was he handling the story so thoughtfully because Paul is a gay man, like himself? Or was he just being kind?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention Craig! I tried to get you a hat-tip at BBBC recently but never mind! I note from your further post that the BBC have upped the mention of 'Labour' to 5, a reasonable average, I wonder if they do read these sites ;-)


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