Sunday 11 May 2014

A mid-May 'Sunday'

Well, this morning's Sunday on Radio 4 certainly brought out the BBC bias, as you will see.

{The bits in bold italics under the sub-headlines are direct quotes from the Sunday website}.

1. The Indian elections
The Indian elections are drawing to a close. Monday 12th May is the last voting day. Rahul Tandon reports live from India.
This took the form of a discussion about the role of religion in this election and, inevitably for the BBC, focused on the concern of Muslims over Mr Modi's record during the Gujurat riots in 2002, about the BJP's plans to build a Hindu temple at a site of a historic mosque, and about violence in Assam where several dozen Muslims have lost their lives.

2. Religion and Scottish independence
What role does religion play in attitudes toward Scottish independence? William discusses that question with historian Prof Tom Devine.
Prof Devine said that although religion is "not a major variable" in this year's referendum, there are interesting trends. Surveys show that Roman Catholics are more likely to support independence. Those of no religion are less likely, and Presbyterians are least likely of all. His discussion with William Crawley focused mainly on the sea-change within the Catholic community since the 1960s and 70s when many Catholics feared devolution and independence. He said that the Catholic Church has retained younger people, unlike the Church of Scotland, and that younger people are more pro-independence. In the 60s and 70s, there were Catholic concerns that devolution would help consolidate the power of the Church of Scotland and worries about anti-Catholic discrimination. These have now vanished. 
      Employing that BBC tone of voice when some silly conservative type has said something silly, William 'invited' Tom Devine to criticise the claims made by a conservative Christian that the Scottish Secular Society's pro-independence stance is a sign that independence will lead to an aggressively secular Scotland. Prof Devine duly rubbished that claim.

3. Capital punishment
Days after President Obama said a bungled execution in Oklahoma was "deeply disturbing" a bipartisan panel of legal experts has urged sweeping changes in what it calls the "deeply flawed" administration of capital punishment. Matt Wells explores the morals and ethics of the death penalty in the USA.
32 U.S. states still have the death penalty, though six states have abolished it in recent years. 
      Matt Wells has always struck me as being reliably biased on most issues, and any report from him about the death penalty was never going to be balanced. A majority of his 'talking heads' were against the death penalty, the last word was given to an opponent, and the only supporter (who wants to use firing squads) was challenged with the words, "You're fighting barbarism with barbarism." 
       Still, at least we did get to hear from someone who's in favour of the death penalty, and President Obama's equivocal position on the issue was mentioned. 

4. Apollo 16 & Heckmondwike
From Heckmondwicke [sic] to Houston; the story of the West Yorkshire priest Father Paddy Roche whose illustrated prayer for the Apollo 16 mission is set to go under the auctioneer's hammer.
This segment told the story of how a prayer written by children at the Holy Spirit Catholic school in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, came to be used in the blessing of the Apollo 16 mission in April 1972. William talked to the head of the governors at the school about it. 
     I wish more time had been spent on this than on...

5. Food poverty/inequality
Dr Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, talks to William about the theme of peace and reconciliation which is the focus of this year's Christian Aid Week.
...yet another Sunday discussion about 'food poverty'.
      William trailed this interview at the start of the programme as being about Dr Williams criticising the government and saying that they need to visit food banks. 
      William talked of "vulnerable people", and asked him these kind of questions: 
  • "You point to a need for redistribution of power, and indeed of wealth".
  • Britain? " unequal a society is this?"
  • "What do you think the British govt should do to tackle inequalities of this kind, in Britain?"
  • "And the question of taxing the rich more?"
  • Do you think people in government "get that?"
  • "That seems to suggest you think they're disconnected from those realities?"
  • Are you wanting a more radical, political, ideological approach?
  • Is Christian Aid Week "packing more of a political punch" this year?
Rowan Williams answered in just the way you'd expect him to answer. 
      William Crawley did also ask the former archbishop one question about Boko Haram. 
      He didn't ask him if the abduction of those school girls by the Islamic terrorist group "underscores the role of women in a context of Islam?" but, rather, asked, whether it "underscores the role of women in a context of poverty". [Dr Williams was comfortable answering that.]

6. Pacifism
Ahead of International Conscientious Objectors' Day, reporter Trevor Barnes uncovers some of the untold stories of Quakers who refused to fight during the First World War.
Are conscientious objectors "heroes of conscience"? That was the question William posed.
We learned that there was approximately 16,000 on them during WW1.
     We heard from various Quakers, including Ruth Cadbury, a Labour Party election candidate, and from Prof Hugh Straw of Oxford University.
     Trevor Barnes stressed that pacifism at the time was "not an easy option".
     Britain was a pioneer in recognising it, said Prof Straw, legally allowing for exemption, which he called "a sign of progress" and of "civilisation".

7. Boko Haram
As pressure builds on the Nigerian Government to find the school girls kidnapped by Islamic militants Boko Haram, William Crawley speaks to the Archbishop of Abuja Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan about the ongoing crisis there.
Nurudeen Lemu from the Islamic Education Trust in Nigeria explains how a crack down by security forces has driven Boko Haram underground creating difficulties in understanding their structure and ideology.
Please re-read that blurb (from the Sunday website). Notice how it emphasises the culpability of the Nigerian government rather than the Islamic terrorists. This is typical of much of what I've been hearing/seeing on the BBC over the past week (from Kirsky Wark being rude to a Nigerian government minister to Roger Hearing on The World Tonight yelling, yes yelling, at a Nigerian government spokesman.)
      Still, William Crawley, in the programme's introduction, said "we'll ask if moderate Muslims there have done enough to fight extremism", which promised something more.
      He didn't deliver. That line of argument was not strongly pursued, and the emphasis remained mainly on the government.

First up came the interview with Nurudeen Lemu.
      William asked him how "most moderate Muslims reacted to Boro Haram" since its foundation. Mr Lemu said Boko Haram are "not true Muslims." [A variant on the 'No true Scotsman' fallacy if ever I heard one!]
      William then asked him about the call from "many observers in the west" to "destroy them, defeat them". "Is that an appropriate response?", he then asked, leadingly.
      Mr Lemu prefers negotiation to the 'heavy hand'.
      Can you actually negotiate with those who rape and bomb?, asked William.
      Yes, said Mr Lemu. Raping and bombing are "a means of communication" and we need to understand what Boko Haram are saying.
      Even William Crawley of the BBC couldn't just shrug his shoulders at that. "Raping and killing children is a form of communications?", he asked.
      Yes, says Mr Lemu. We mustn't get too carried away with the present situation. We must look at alternatives.
      If I hadn't been preparing this post, I've have looked at an alternative too - reaching for the 'off' switch.

Then came the interview with Cardinal John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan, who described Mr Lemu as "a good friend".
      William asked him for his response to what Mr Lemu had said, specifically the bit about needing to understand the motives behind the attacks rather than using military force. He then asked him if you can negotiate with these people?
       Yes, was the reply from the archbishop.
      "Should the Nigerian government feel ashamed of their role?", asked William, before moving on to ask Cardinal John about whether he'd had a chance to brief Pope Francis about the situation and about whether he's optimistic that these young girls will be found and released.


...all of which rather confirms Damian Thompson's belief that "Radio 4's Sunday programme offers perhaps the most undiluted liberal bias to be found anywhere on the BBC."

1 comment:

  1. I despair of this programme-but am no longer disappointed by it.
    In a week of the halal meat scandal emerging, Christian Aid week upcoming...the Foodbank agenda of the BBC could have had a faith-based airing.
    Christian Aid to me takes on a new meaning-how come the church continues to worry about others when their own flock are not getting priority in getting asylum here, and are so at risk in the so called "Holy Land".
    Is the church mute?
    In the coming rise of UKIP, surely the Christian basis for voting for them needs debating( for and against...a Giles Fraser v a Peter Mullen for example.
    The BBC simply doesn`t care.
    To be honest, there is more theology in Jack Dee in his Desert Island Discs programme today..first one where Kirsty reined in her usual Common Purpose agenda. A good listen-and a joy for some comedian to finally stop playing to the gallery and actually take his Bible with gratitude.
    And maybe the Church should be reflecting on how low our expectations of the BBCs gilded classes are when we`re pathetically pleased that someone still sees the value in our Book.


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