Sunday 19 October 2014

The pro-immigration BBC

From former BBC director of News Helen Boaden to John Humphrys and Nick Robinson, prominent BBC figures have recently been keen to 'fess up to the BBC having had a pro-immigration bias in the past.

For the present day BBC, of course, the words "in the past" give them the chance to put the issue behind them and move on, but what if the BBC is still pushing a pro-immigration message because of having (as Helen Boaden put it) a "deep liberal bias"?  

This morning's Sunday Morning Live asked the question, "Is the UK too hostile to immigration?"....which is a very particular way of framing the issue for starters. They could have asked, "Should the UK be tougher on immigration?", but they didn't. If you were marking the programme for impartiality, that would be a tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

Then came the opening report showing two immigrant footballers playing for a local football club, making their case for why immigration is a good thing, recounting stories of racism and condemning the media for spreading negative messages about immigrants. If you were marking the programme for impartiality, that would be a second tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column.

Still, at least you can rely on SML to feature a lively discussion between its four studio guests, some speaking for the question, some speaking against it, can't you?

...except, astonishingly, all four guests - yes, all four guests (Dr Lez Henry, Charlie Wolf, Michelle Dewberry and my old hero Bill Oddie) - agreed with each other that we are too hostile to immigration and criticised politicians and the media for stirring up anti-immigration feelings. 

Lez Henry blamed "politicking" for creating a moral panic. Charlie Wolf said that immigration is economically beneficial and that immigrants blossom in their new countries (to that country's benefit). Michelle Dewberry blamed "punchy headlines" and "catchy stories" (about things like benefit tourism) for infuriating people, stories she didn't believe were entirely true. Bill Oddie said that people who think immigration should be reduced are "not terribly well-informed" and that Britain's culture has "burgeoned" because of immigration.  He also [in an extraordinary outburst of anti-British self-loathing that seemed to take even Sian Williams by surprise] expressed his complete and utter loathing for Britain and British "chauvinism". ("I'm not proud to be British. In fact I'm often ashamed to be British. We're a terrible race"). Lez Henry then talked about slavery, and his parents being "enticed" to Britain. 

Both Charlie and Michelle did (eventually) express reservations about uncontrolled immigration though and the need for a little more tightening-up, but none demurred from the programme's central thrust - that we're too hostile to immigration.

If you were marking the programme for impartiality, all of this would be a third obvious tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

The debate paused at that point to go across to a second presenter, Amy Garcia, at the Leeds Museum for Black History Month. 

In the programme's introduction, Amy said this "fits in really well with one of today's debates. My Leeds, My Culture celebrates the positive contribution that people of African descent have brought to the city" which, if you were marking the programme for impartiality, would be a fourth tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

Amy talked to a population geographer and an ethnic minority immigration officer. The professor said that immigrants make "an enormous contribution" to the NHS and in building industry, and that we'd be a lot worse off without them. He criticised, at Amy's invitation, the government's controls on student visas. The immigration officer said immigrants face "a very harsh" life in the UK. "Life is very hard for them", she said. If you were marking the programme for impartiality, would be a fifth tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

The discussion then continued in the studio, much as before. [Lez wanted the "indigenous people" to be "educated" into seeing the benefits of immigration.] 

Now, if all of this isn't damning enough of BBC bias, then please read the list below of all the questions put by main presenter Sian Williams during this discussion. If they don't amount to absolute cast-iron proof of BBC pro-immigration bias here then I'm a Dutchman. (And I'm not a Dutchman, en ik vertel de waarheid over dat!).
- Lez, if I could start with you. We heard Reginald, who's from Zimbabwe there, saying he's got racist messages, his car tyres have been slashed. Is this something that you are hearing yourself? Do you think the rhetoric around immigration has become more hostile? 
- So, Charlie, it's the idea of 'the other' that people are suspicious of and that's why perhaps there's a more hostile reception...?
- That being said, and you both have parents who came here, why then do twice as many people in the UK say there are too many immigrants compared to places like Germany and the Netherlands, who have a lot more? Is it the case, do you think, Michelle that we are a less welcoming country and, if so, why?
- So it's the media's fault, is it?
- Is there a danger, Bill, that as soon as you start talking about immigration - and two-thirds of the public want immigration reduced, according to the British Social Attitudes survey - as soon as you start having an open discussion about it those who want to see immigration reduced are deemed racist?

- Why do you live here then? [to Bill Oddie]
- Well, you can leave Bill!
- But it's true, if you don't like where we are then go to somewhere where...
- So integration has worked?
- Integration has worked as far as you're concerned. Why then is...?
- It's a better life, Charlie?
- I heard, though, Michael Heseltine, the ex-Tory minister, saying on a programme yesterday that it feels like the same sort of febrile atmosphere around immigration as during Enoch Powell's day, when he was talking about the rivers of blood. Is that something you're feeling as well?
- There is a points system at the moment that works, isn't there? A points system...Therefore, if you're more skilled you're more likely to be able to find a place here. Michelle, do you think it should go further than that?
- [interrupting] Is there a drain on the NHS because of immigration? 
- So we should pick and choose who comes here is your view?
- Interesting, Charlie, it's not a soft and easy ride for immigrants was the theme that was coming out there [during Amy Garcia's segment]. There is talk as well about restricting their benefits. This isn't an easy place for them to live. So why is there this level of...Well, we're saying 'hostility', which is what some of you...
- So it's a lack of integration? Bill was saying earlier that there is quite a lot of integration. 
- Well, let's ask Charlie and Michelle. Why do you think...(two thirds of people think there's too much immigration)?
- Lez, there is a story in the papers today that there is one council - I think it's Newham - which is being offered some money to have street parties so that immigrants can feel like they are welcomed and part of the community. It sounds such a small thing - a couple of hundred quid. Is that something that might help? What do you think might change people's minds?
- Michelle, do you see anything changing in the next few years? I mean, if all the facts and figures are out there - and recent government social trends suggest that over the past decade immigration has actually given more to Britain than taken away - even when you have all those facts and figures do you think it's going to change people's minds?
- While we're still in the European Union, that's the free movement of people and it's a legal right for people to...
If you were marking the programme for impartiality, would be a clear sixth tick in the 'Pro-immigration' column. 

Except for her joky exchanges with Bill Oddie, those questions clearly bring out a strong pro-immigration bias on Sian's part (which many might well generalise to the BBC as a whole). She barely bothered to try to make even the most token effort to put the opposing point of view, did she?

Blatant bias. 

This being Sunday Morning Live though, the online vote came down heavily against the programme's (loaded) question: 73% said 'No, the UK isn't too hostile to immigration' while a mere 27% agreed with everyone who appeared on Sunday Morning Live that, yes, we are too hostile to immigration - despite all the overwhelming efforts of the 'Yes' campaign run by the SML team. 

Sian asked if Charlie was surprised. Charlie said UKIP ares being tactically astute in spotting this trend. "Well, they're all talking about immigration politically now...", began Sian. 

"We're friendlier than people give us credit for, Lucy?", asked Sian (in a forlorn tone of voice - and, no, I don't think I'm imagining that. Watch and see for yourselves) - the Lucy in question being Lucy Siegle of the Observer, who had joined the panel later on (along with George Moonbat of the Grauniad). Observerista Lucy felt that the public aren't  as "anti as they suggest". Add a seventh and final tick.

And that was that. 

Now, I do think I've become something of a 'BBC bias wet' over the past couple of years - a BBC bias Hezza! - but this Sunday Morning Live was about as shamelessly biased as anything I've seen on the BBC for a long time. I hesitate to use the words, but 'pure propaganda' springs to mind.

Maybe all BBC bias-related sites and campaigners should focus on this one programme and use it to prove that Helen, John and Nick are completely wrong in consigning this sort of pro-immigration BBC bias to the past. It remains alive and kicking very, very hard.


  1. There was a huge elephant in that studio. As far as I could see they only cited European immigration and the pros and cons that were examined revolved solely around economic concerns.

    Nobody mentioned the influx of Muslims from Pakistan with their clamourous cultural baggage, which is at the heart of a great deal of people’s opposition to mass immigration.

    Seeing as how I’ve probably given the impression that all the contestants on the Apprentice are two sandwiches short of a lunchbox, I thought I’d better say a word for former winner, Michelle Dewberry. She was an eloquent speaker, and she did bring up the point that we are an island with a finite number of resources. At least she expressed some reservations about immigration, unlike the others.

    Bill Oddie was outrageous of course and I agree with you Craig, the way the question was framed was bizarre.

    1. What a shock that this episode took the exact same dishonest approach as Nick Robinson's special program and, well, every other BBC discussion of the issue. Concerned about how the rapid, mass immigration of third-world, fundamentalist Muslims and the cover-up of their crimes? You're a BNP whacko dreaming of a race war.

      The worst part is that the Beeboids think this way themselves. They're institutionally incapable of having an honest discussion.

  2. "This being Sunday Morning Live though, the online vote came down heavily against the programme's (loaded) question: 73% said 'No, the UK isn't too hostile to immigration' while a mere 27% agreed"

    That vote seems to be something the producers do not feel the website is best suited to carry.

    If the results of this vote are not available to the public at this time, one might wonder when it will be, if ever?

    Especially as the last time the subject was broached, with the poll 'Is multiculturalism working?', the results came as an equally discomfiting revelation to hosts and again curiously unidirectional guests, some of whom decided that the realities of life did not bear out BBC polls, before the shutters came down.

    Once may be a technical glitch; twice looks like out and out censorship. On top of blatant propaganda that does not present a healthy mix.

    It would be interesting to get a BBC explanation for what propels their polls often to pan-BBC headline status, and what sees them quietly ceasing to exist.

    Given the internet, it seems a bit silly to do this as the actual results and videos are easily found (if Youtubes do seem ruthlessly pursued by their lawyers).


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