Friday 1 November 2013

"Do we not count?"

Blogs about BBC bias tend to focus on the big political issues, but it's the lesser issues that seem to rile up the people I know - the people who don't read blogs about BBC bias.

Take, for example, this week's storms. 

We up in't North, especially here in't North West, barely saw a leaf blown off a single tree, whilst some of you Southerners saw your wheelie bins blown over and four people killed. 

My 80+ dad was fuming at something James Naughtie said on Today - or something someone said to James Naughtie on Today, he's not quite sure which - about how we in't North were getting the same sort of weather as you in't south were getting. My dad said that Jim Naughtie hasn't got a clue, and that he's a Southern-biased bugger. 

Yep, I know - as you know, and as my dad knows - that Jim's Scottish. 

Still, for my dad it's Southern bias on the part of the BBC, obviously. [Ah, maybe they should move to somewhere like, say, Salford].

Tonight's Newswatch aired this very issue. 

The programme had received "scores" of complaints that BBC News had "exaggerated" the impact of the storm.

Here are some of the viewers' comments:
"As an older person I can assure you we've seen storms like this almost every year as long as I can remember. You have to stop overstating events and making the news, and just report it. Stop trying to frighten people".
"Has everyone forgotten the storm in the north west of Scotland in 2005? Winds of 124mph were reported! Five people died, hundreds of trees down, and I was without power for three days. It's not nice to hear this storm has been the worst for over a decade all the time. Do we not count?"
"I do think that the extent of coverage was ridiculous and too long. I guess that it was hyped that it was going to be one of the worst storms since 1987 that everyone was on cue to do a report on the storm. I wonder, actually, if there was a bit of a bias towards the south of the country, getting that extent of news. I wonder if the storm storm had happened in Scotland if it would have been covered in quite so much depth. I do think it was a bit trivial, some of the reporting, particularly when you've got, in areas such as Syria, children drying daily, and you've got a lady telling us she's upset because she couldn't boil her kettle that morning. That to me wasn't news. There's no value in that section of the news".
The BBC issued a statement in response, as read out on Newswatch

They admitted it was a fair cop, and promised BBC licence payers that they'd look closely at what went wrong and strive to do better next time....

...yeah, right!...

The next-but-last paragraph was (as you may have guessed) a fake. 

What the BBC actually said was:
"The storm was a major weather event which resulted in the tragic death of four people, and caused significant disruption and damage across southern Britain. As a public broadcaster, we have a responsibility to inform people about the potential dangers, as well as reporting the impact of such an event."
In other words, they got it about right.

Hmm, to call that an adequate response would be an insult to adequate responses, wouldn't it? 

Classic BBC though. Never wrong - unless someone powerful, once in a blue moon, compels them to admit they're wrong.

A subsequent gripe on Newswatch made me grin though. It concerned the apparent bugging of Chancellor Merkel's phone by U.S. intelligence. 

The viewer wrote:
"The scandal has caused the biggest rift between Germany and the US in living memory, reports the BBC's Damien McGuinness in Berlin. Now, while this is quite a big issue, might I suggest that there are still a few people alive that remember one that was a little bit worse - namely the Second World War?"

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