Saturday 15 February 2014

To boldly go...into the 'Independent' comments section

You don't have to be Captain Kirk or Mr Spock to experience what it's like to visit a parallel universe. I visited one only this morning.

I was reading an article on the Independent website by the paper's media editor Ian Burrell, outlining the complaints of Prof. Justin Lewis of Cardiff University. Prof. Lewis is unhappy that a report from this university claiming to have proven that the BBC is biased towards the right has been ignored by the BBC. The report 'found' that the BBC is pro-Conservative, pro-Eurosceptic and pro-business

You can read my own sniffy take on that report here

Partly I played the slightly less-than-reputable ploy of playing the man rather than the ball, noting that the lead author also writes for the far-left Red Pepper and that the report's public face has long been involved with a hard-left media campaign. Other members of the research team were left-wing activists too.

Now, just because several of the Cardiff research team hold very left-wing opinions and are politically active doesn't necessarily mean that their findings aren't correct or that they can't attempt to be as objective as possible whilst doing their academic research. 

Still, their findings, taken as a whole, have the feel of a rogue poll, a statistical outlier - and bias (however unconscious) could be a factor. 

The findings certainly fly against expectation - and not just mine. Polls show that over four times as many people believe that the BBC has a pro-left bias than believe it has a pro-right bias. 

I also questioned the limited nature of the study though, especially its small sample and surprisingly short duration - just five days of one BBC news bulletin, for example, which seems absurdly short, and prone to producing very skewed results. I contrasted that, oh-so-modestly, with my own massive 9-month survey into interruptions back in 2009-10

Still, back to that parallel universe - the world of that 4% of people who told YouGov they think the BBC is pro-right in its bias. 

The way to enter it is to read the comments beneath Ian Burrell's report. Here's a selection of them. Enjoy.
The BBC does seem to give Europhobes, Climate Change deniers and other whacky right wingers almost unchallenged platforms for their views. How often is Farage wheeled out on almost any topic? He's on QT more than anyone else and repeats his myths and nonsense and no-one is there to state that facts. Same with Lawson, Delingpole, Philips and other climate change deniers.
At last the truth is out - something that has been obvious since 2010, the BBC has turned right. The frequency with which UKIP and Tory representatives are used on interviews, quiz shows and magazine type programmes, compared to representatives of broader interests, has become so blatant that it is surprising that it has taken this long to be officially noticed.
The BBC has been right leaning for years. Just look at any episode of Question Time. There are usually five guests and at least three are right wing leaning. The Tory, The Lib Dem and usually someone like the right wingers Starkey or Hislop. I have seen episodes where four of the five are right leaning. However I have never seen an episode when more than two are left leaning. A totally biased based program chaired by a mate of HRH Charles. Then there's Nick, our Chief Political Editor, and ex chair of the University Student Conservative group. And doesn't if show in his reports.
"BBC accused of political bias – on the right, not the left". Ain't that the truth I wrote this elsewhere just today: I've been amused by the BBC, who've gone out of their way to play down the Labour win. "UKIP swing was greater than Labour's", they got 18% of the vote
So how awful was the Labour vote? 55% of the vote.. More people voted Labour than all the rest put together, but UKIP had a bigger swing - that's the good news for, apparently, the BBC.
BBC News has actually been "captured" by the British Bankers Asssociation. "Having deduced that Robert Peston is a liar and shill, in a cascade you are then forced to the realisation that he cannot continuously disseminate BBA propaganda so liberally in BBC broadcast News without the collusion and corruption of the BBC News Group."
The BBC has been on egg-shells with this Govt since the Savile debacle and all dodgy pay-offs of recent times. Then you have a spiv like Grant Shapps issuing not so veiled threats to the Beeb from Conservative HQ. The bias to the right has been apparent for some time. Last year 55 000 people marched on the Tory Conference and through Manchester on a pro NHS anti Austerity march and the BBC tried to pretend it wasn't happening. It barely made the local news. Then the "Million Mask March", an anti-capitalist protest in 400 cities across the world including London and, again, the BBC were "LALALALA it's not happening". And yet, the merest micro-hint of anything that might be construed as a bit on the Left, and the Beeb is pounced upon by the Colonel Blimps on the Right as being practically "Marxist". See the foam-mouthed reaction to PJ Harvey's guest editing of "Today" on Radio 4. It seems the Govt is bullying the Beeb into being it's mouthpiece and using the License Fee as leverage to ignore many stories that show up the myriad defects in the Coalition, and the Tories in particular. It's a sad state of affairs that you have to go to RT and even Al Jazeera to see some of the stories the BBC shy away from these days! Will, they take notice of this, I wonder? Maybe after the next election!
The right wing bias has been obvious for years. This is apparent not only in the selective use of news items but in any political discussion programme. Andrew Neil regular has journalist from the right wing press as guests on his politics today. Question Time always loads its panel with those from the right and the worst example of this bias is the Andrew Marr Show.
Some of those comments really do read like mirror images of comments you read at, say, Biased BBC on on Daily Telegraph comments threads. It's quite uncanny in that respect - and very interesting to read. Getting the 'alternative reality' view from time to time on the subject you're interested in is no bad thing, of course.

'Aha', the BBC will probably say at this point, 'You see. We get complaints from both sides, which shows we must be getting it about right then'.

Well, as I've noted before, there really does seem to be a more criticism of BBC bias from the pro-right side of the argument - as can be seen from the wealth of websites that campaign against the BBC on the issue, as well as from the polling evidence. So the 'to be fair, we have complaints from both sides' argument doesn't necessarily hold water. 

You could have 1,000 complaints from one side, and 30 from the other. Those from one side could be genuine complaints while the ones from the other side could be essentially disingenuous. One side could outline specific, detailed examples of bias, the other could just make unsupported assertions. 

So, there's a quantity and a quality issue with regards to the BBC's habitual 'you're going to get complaints from both sides' defence too. 

Plus, just because both sides say you are biased it doesn't necessarily follow that both sides are wrong. One side could be wrong; the other right. 

Still, none of that will prevent BBC editors from continuing to appear on Newswatch and repeating the mantra that 'We get complaints from both sides, which shows we're getting it about right', over and over and over again. They clearly think it's a knock-down argument.

Update: There's a comment at Biased BBC on David Vance's post about this same story, which reminds me of something I forgot to remind you:
Doublethinker says: February 15, 2014 at 12:00 pm
I can’t help thinking that the BBC paid this chap to produce this barmy finding. No sane person would ever publish such tripe unless they were being well paid to do so.
Well, yes. Part of this Cardiff University research 'proving' that the BBC has a right-wing bias was directly funded by the BBC Trust.

Plus one of its authors was Professor Richard Sambrook, who you may recall was Director of BBC News, then director of the BBC World Service for several years. He left the corporation in 2010. 


  1. I could also believe there was a campaign to skew the comments, where comments often found on bBBC were copied and pasted with left replaced with right and Labour replaced by Tory etc. I find it hard to think that those posting those comments really believed them.

    1. Yes, it would be easy to do: .

      "The left wing bias has been obvious for years. This is apparent not only in the selective use of news items but in any political discussion programme. Gavin Esler regular has journalist from the left wing press as guests on his dateline. Question Time always loads its panel with those from the left and the worst example of this bias is the Andrew Marr Show"


      "The right wing bias has been obvious for years. This is apparent not only in the selective use of news items but in any political discussion programme. Andrew Neil regular has journalist from the right wing press as guests on his politics today. Question Time always loads its panel with those from the right and the worst example of this bias is the Andrew Marr Show."

  2. I have often wondered what constitutes the substance of the ‘BBC is pro-Israel’ complaints. You can look online at the BBC’s complaints site. It details complaints that have been upheld, partially upheld and not upheld, at various levels and stages of the procedure.

    There is plenty of substance to the “anti-Israel” complaints, which are set out in considerable detail by the pro-Israel blog BBC Watch, (solely dedicated to the BBC’s bias against Israel) and in a variety of more widely focused blogs such as the Commentator, Melanie Phillips,Biased-BBC and the redoubtable Harry’s Place. Not forgetting here, at “Is.”
    The ‘pro’ complaints seem to consist mainly of outrage as soon as any pro-Israel spokesperson happens to appear on T.V. or radio.

    This complaint, pages 64 - 70 about an episode of Panorama called ‘Price Tag Wars’ was rejected.
    The complaint was broadly that the programme did not wholly reflect the ‘Palestinian narrative’ - more specifically that it allowed an Israeli to get away with alluding to “giving back” part of East Jerusalem, because that gave the impression that this land wasn’t actually “Palestinian land” (occupied) as the complainant assumed every fule kno.

    “She (the trust’s adviser) noted that the complainant’s view that “Mark Regev is perhaps the most effective propagandist that Israel has; he is very skilful”. “ Which was another thing the complainant obviously thought was out of order. No doubt he would have preferred that Israel employed a crap spokesperson, or no spokesperson at all.

    Another example that immediately comes to mind is the complaint about Jonathan Sacerdoti being dishonestly introduced when he appeared on BBC News 24. As I said once before, in the light of the many appearances of hugely partisan ‘Middle East experts/ analysts‘ such as our old friend Atwan, or ‘ari Batwan as John Humphrys once accidentally spoonerised, I can’t see that this complainant had a leg to stand on. But it was still a complaint, and no doubt one of the ones that made up the numbers that support the BBC’s claims of even-handedness.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.