For those paying attention at the back, a post earlier this week presented evidence of strong pro-immigration bias from Today's newly-appointed 'chief correspondent' Matthew Price. Doing my duty as a conscientious blogger, it's only right to follow it up as another report was broadcast later in the week which slightly qualifies my earlier criticism.
The earlier reports focused on heart-tugging personal stories from immigrants, on the downsides of the government's moves to cap benefits for immigrants, and on the pro-immigration views of various influential parties and experts. Friday's report, however, focused on the views of ordinary people in Dudley, many of whom expressed concerns about/opposition to immigration (including a Pakistani gentleman who said that immigration is good but that the government should cut down on immigrants from the EU and outside of the Commonwealth (i.e. keep immigration from countries like Pakistan flowing!))
This is good, and didn't try to hide what people really think.
However, being the BBC, it also had an undercurrent of pro-immigration bias.
Why Dudley? Well, check out how the Today website described the story:
How British is Britain? And is immigration, which has always been a part of life on these isles, making the country less British? Large numbers of people across the country believe the answer to that is 'yes', even if they are living in areas where there are relatively few foreign born residents.
Dudley is one of those areas. Checking out the demographics, it remains predominantly 'white', with a lower than average infusion of immigrants. So, the programme seemed to be asking, why on earth are they moaning about immigration when they have so few immigrants in their area?
Matthew Price restated that point later:
Looking around you can see this is overwhelmingly a white British town. Fewer foreigners are moving here than to other parts of the West Midlands. But that's not how it feels to many of the traders.
This smacks of the old BBC 'feelings over facts' point about immigration, I think - the idea that the public are uninformed and irrational.
Matthew Price began in a boxing club where 'British Asians' and Poles mingle with the natives. He said it's the EU migrants "that are getting people talking". Someone at Biased BBC from the area, however (whose comment I can't find), said that it's actually a planned local mosque that's really getting up people's noses there (and Googling around seems to confirm that), but resentment at the effects of Muslim immigration clearly wasn't on Matthew Price's agenda. [Those demographics show that 'British Asians' are the local ethnic minority (5.6%) and that Muslims form 4.1% of the population there, with Jews having a 0.0% presence there].
Still, at least we got what to hear some of what the locals really think and UKIP will have found some of the comments very encouraging.
Matthew, however, kept challenging his vox pops on their facts (again suggesting that he thinks they're being wrong-headed)...
- Dudley doesn't actually have that many people coming in from outside. Statistically it's lower than a lot of places actually.
- Even here?
- Well, you could go to Eastern Europe.
...and, unlike his other reports from around the country, there were no various influential parties and experts, so no immigration-sceptical influential people/experts have appeared in any of Matthew Price's immigration reports so far.
The following studio interview, however, was with Labour MP Frank Field. Mr Field, always the free-thinker on matters of political controversy, is a rare Labour sceptic on mass immigration. He's no opponent, but at least he provided a little counterbalance to the intense pro-immigration guest (Prof Ian Goldin) from earlier in the week.
Today's edition of Today attempted an end-of-the-week round up - an interview with Professor Paul Ward, author of “Call Yourself British? National identity in the United Kingdom in the Twentieth Century” and Trevor Phillips, former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission - and neither of those are anti-immigration either. Its angle - immigrants' contrasting feelings of Britishness - was at a tangent to the rest of the week's coverage.