Sunday 25 January 2015

Two sides to every story

In assessing whether the BBC is especially biased it's often a useful exercise to compare its coverage of stories with those of other broadcasters.

Taking the latest UKIP story then, do we see any substantial difference between the way the BBC News website is reporting the story and the way Sky News is covering it?

You can judge for yourselves by reading the two articles (copied and pasted below  the 'Read more' fold).

My take is that the Sky article is a remarkably balanced piece, giving almost equal numbers of paragraphs to UKIP and the Conservatives' side of the row. The BBC article, in contrast, gives three times as many paragraphs to the Conservative side than to UKIP side in the section dealing with the defection of Amjad Bashir (before moving onto a separate Labour-UKIP spat). 

The BBC article is dominated by the attacks on UKIP by Mr Bashir (and Labour's Jon Trickett). The Sky article is far more even-handed, giving the charges and counter-charges roughly equal space and alternating them, so as to reinforce the two-sided nature of the story.

Sky also reminds its readers about Mr Bashir's previous controversies (over the arrest of seven people for immigration offences in a raid on his restaurant (something the BBC News website reported in detail at the time, when Mr Bashir was the UKIP candidate in the last European elections) and his apparent "continued affiliation" with Mujeeb Bhutto, who resigned from the party in 2014 after it emerged he had been jailed for leading a gang of kidnappers in Pakistan). The BBC omits any mention of those. 

It's hard to escape the conclusion, isn't it, therefore, that the BBC article is significantly less impartial than the Sky one? 

Sky News

UKIP MEP Defects To Conservative Party
Nigel Farage is facing up to a defection by one of his top Euro MPs - and controversy over claims made by UKIP's secretary.
05:44, UK,
Sunday 25 January 2015

UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir has defected to the Conservative Party, with David Cameron saying he was "absolutely delighted" with the decision.

But Nigel Farage's party said it had suspended him over allegations of a "grave nature", and would be forwarding its evidence to the police.

A senior Tory source has dismissed the move as a "desperate attempt" to divert attention from his decision to quit UKIP.

As news of his defection emerged, UKIP announced it was suspending the MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber - pending an investigation into "extremely serious" claims of interfering in the candidate selection process, as well as unanswered financial and employment questions.

"UKIP will not tolerate anyone abusing their positions in the party, as we have a firm commitment to differing ourselves from the existing political classes," said a party statement.

Mr Bashir, who was formerly UKIP's small business spokesman, was accused of hypocrisy last May after it emerged that seven people were arrested for immigration offences in a raid on his restaurant.

At the time, the party leader had refused to "prejudge" the case, as Mr Bashir's family had launched an appeal.

In addition, Mr Bashir reportedly held a "continued affiliation" with Mujeeb Bhutto - who resigned from the party in 2014 after it emerged he had been jailed for leading a gang of kidnappers in Pakistan.

Explaining his reasons for quitting the party, Mr Bashir told the Telegraph that UKIP had become a "party of ruthless self-interest" and was "pretty amateur".

He claimed it was "delusional" about its chances of winning Parliamentary seats in the general election in May, adding: "After almost three years as a party member, I realise that UKIP is more concerned with furthering its own interests as a political party than delivering for the British people.

In a statement, he continued: "On Friday, I met David Cameron and applied to join the Conservative Party. It is clear UKIP's action today is a desperate attempt to spoil this and it without any foundation.

"The issues raised in my notice of suspension are historic and well known to the party. Indeed, on one of them, Nigel Farage has publicly defended me over it."

The defection is a boost for the Prime Minister, who saw two of his own MPs defect to UKIP last year.

He said: "I'm absolutely delighted that Amjad has decided to leave UKIP and join the Conservative Party."

Meanwhile, one of Mr Farage's most senior aides has sparked controversy in claiming Britain has "hundreds of thousands of bigots" and said UKIP is proud to stand up for them.

Matthew Richardson, the party's secretary, has dismissed his comments as "lighthearted harmless banter in the pub".

A UKIP spokesperson said Mr Bashir promised in his resignation letter that his decision was "not intended to cause any embarrassment for UKIP", and that his defection was "a principled decision".


25 January 2015 Last updated at 06:04 

An MEP who defected from UKIP to the Conservatives has branded his old party a "vanity project" for its leader Nigel Farage, who runs it "like a dictator".

Amjad Bashir said Mr Farage was using UKIP "as a means for getting power".

Shortly before Mr Bashir announced his defection on Saturday, his former party said he had been suspended over various allegations - all of which he denies.

Meanwhile, Labour has released footage of a UKIP official calling the NHS the "biggest waste of money" in the UK.

Mr Bashir was elected as a UKIP MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber last year, and was also the party's communities spokesman.

'Crude attempt'

Formerly a Tory, he became involved with UKIP three years ago, but met David Cameron on Friday to discuss his defection. Mr Cameron said he was "delighted" Mr Bashir was rejoining the Tories.

But before the defection was announced, UKIP suspended Mr Bashir and said he was being investigated for matters including "unanswered financial and employment questions" and "interference" with candidate selection processes.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Bashir said his suspension was a "crude attempt" to discredit him.

"There is not a shred of truth in any of the claims but it has made me more convinced than ever that I made the right decision," he said.

He said he had joined UKIP because he wanted a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union, and better controls on immigration.

But he said he now had "no doubt" that Mr Cameron would deliver this, so UKIP "has outlived its usefulness".

On Mr Farage, he said: "He runs the party like a dictator, employs people who are totally inappropriate for party positions and gets rid of anybody who stands in his way."

Mr Bashir also said he had experienced racism within UKIP, and criticised the "appalling" behaviour of its MEPs, who "make childish remarks during debates and are abusive towards MEPs from other countries".

'Reichstag bunker'

In a separate development, Labour has published footage of UKIP's party secretary Matthew Richardson describing the NHS as the "Reichstag bunker of socialism".

In various clips, which Labour says were filmed at a 2010 conference in the US, Mr Richardson described "socialised healthcare" as "dangerous" and "very, very hard to get rid of".

"The biggest waste of money in the whole United Kingdom is of course the NHS," he added.

At that time Mr Richardson was executive director of the Young Britons' Foundation, which "promotes conservatism" and trains activists, then "places philosophically sound conservatives in full-time jobs and work experience in the City, the professions, business, the media, academia and politics".

Speaking about the Mr Richardson's comments, Labour's Jon Trickett said: "Either Nigel Farage supports this or Mr Richardson cannot stay in post.

"Nigel Farage cannot simultaneously defend these comments and claim that his party stands for the NHS free at the point of use."

Mr Trickett said the comments revealed "UKIP's real agenda on the NHS", which he said was to "dismantle its foundations".

A UKIP spokesman said Mr Richardson was being critical of NHS management rather than the institution.

Last week Mr Farage said his desire to replace the NHS with an insurance-based system, like that used in many other countries, had been rejected by his party - so UKIP policy remains in favour of a tax-funded NHS, free at the point of use.

But Mr Farage told the BBC "this is a debate that we're all going to have to return to" as demand for healthcare increased because of Britain's ageing population.

1 comment:

  1. To my surprise, the 3 journalists on "Sunday Politics" agreed that UKIP had won the presentation battle and Cameron had got it wrong.


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