Sunday 11 January 2015

What happens when Anita Anand doesn't like what she's hearing?

Here's Anita Anand's introduction to yesterday's edition of Any Answers?:
The attacks on the offices of Charlie Hedbo, a kosher supermarket and the cold-blooded murder of a policewoman in Paris have quite rightly caused collective outrage. But I'm asking you this afternoon, what about collective culpability? How are we as a society going to answer this question: How have we come to this? Are you worried about backlashes? Rupert Murdoch has this morning tweeted, "Maybe most Muslims are peaceful but until they recognise and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible". So, has this backlash already begun? And if you were a newspaper editor would you publish the controversial cartoons of Mohammad? Does free speech come with a duty of care or, in your mind, is it one of those absolutes?
Yep, 'backlashes' and an invitation to Any Answers? listeners to 'backlash' against BBC bogeyman Rupert Murdoch. You can't say the BBC don't strive for consistency. 

[Incidentally, that tweet from Rupert Murdoch didn't go down well with Hugh Sykes either. He's been busy re-tweeting attacks on him for the past two days

Anita Anand later read out an email from a listener denouncing "racial hatred" from those criticising Muslims and then, rather gratuitously perhaps, suggested he must be talking about Rupert Murdoch]. 

Most of the callers (and the emails read out on the programme) were strongly against Charlie Hebdo and sang, so to speak, from the BBC's (multifaith) hymnbook. 

Given the conversations I've been hearing at work and at a party I went to yesterday, they could hardly have been less representative. If they truly represent the views of Radio 4 listeners, then Radio 4 listeners are a very unrepresentative bunch indeed (more Guardian than the Guardian). 

Anita Anand listened patiently to them, or put quiet counter-points to them, all very politely.

Even Alex from Brixton, who made a series of 'controversial' comments from the 'aggrieved' BAME 'camp', was treated with great respect and told at the end that his was "an interesting, very interesting call. Thank you". To me, though, he sounded as inflammatory as the 'controversial' gentlemen from the other side of the argument who I'll be coming to shortly.

A lady from Maidstone who called the cartoonists at CH "bully boys", "these men, these so-called men" and said they had "no compassion and sensitivity", was allowed to get away with such outrageous comments. I'd have though that some polite variant on "They've just been fucking murdered. What the hell are you on about? Shouldn't you be insulting the terrorists instead?" would have been in order at that point. No such challenge came.

The contrast between all of that and the way Anita Anand treated the two callers who made 'controversial' comments attacking political correctness, Islam, weak politicians, Muslims, etc - i.e. those who most definitely weren't singing from the BBC's (multifaith) hymnbook - just has to be heard to be believed (if your blood pressure can stand it.) The contrast could hardly have been starker. 

"Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!", cried Anita, crashing in for the first of several hostile challenges to Tom from Wales. And David from Cheshire fared no better, being asked "What are you talking about?", and being given the full 'appalled voice' treatment from the presenter. 

Now, yes, some of their comments - of the kind you regularly read on websites like The Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, Biased BBC, Breitbart, Is the BBC biased?, etc - were 'controversial' and, to my squeamish tastes, went rather too far (especially David's), but it strikes me as noteworthy that they provoked such a hostile reaction from Anita Anand (with interruption flying around wildly) while the no-less-'offensive' remarks from the pro-Muslim, anti-Charlie Hebdo callers aroused no such hostility from the presenter. 

Any Answers? is a forum for hearing robust public views. Not one of these callers should have been excluded. Anita Anand, however, could have tried much, much harder to treat such people in an even-handed fashion, challenging all sides where appropriate and not allowing her own feelings to overpower her. Unbiased broadcasting, it wasn't. 

[Of course, the BBC could always give up its unrealistic demand that broadcasters must hide their own opinions - and the pretence that they always do. It could give them freedom of speech, so that we know where they stand. To do that, of course, it will have to recruit presenters from a whole range of views and ensure an even spread of opinions from its presenters. Let them express those views during those programmes whilst still obliging them to be as fair as possible, and as respectful as possible - unless those speakers are anti-democratic.]

Returning finally though to question of the programme's vetting and the strange imbalance of opinion against Charlie Hebdo that resulted: There does still remain open the option of believing that it's a bit of a conspiracy - that the Any Answers? team weed out most of the voices they judge 'too dangerous' to broadcast, and put forward instead those callers and emails that take a line that agrees with their own. 

After all, we know that it's not always conspiratorial to think like that, because it actually used to happen on Any Answers? We learned from Stuart Prebble's report that the programme did behave like that in the past, if you remember this passage from that BBC-commissioned report back in 2013:
According to a former producer of Any Answers? who worked on the programme ten years ago, people ringing in to the telephonists who act as a first filter for the programme would probably have found that, if they said they wanted to come on air and say immigration was too high or was harming the country, they would not make it through to the next filter and on to air. 
This was said to be partly a fear of having views that were considered unacceptable on the programme, and partly an understandable fear that contributors might go too far and say something which would cause offence – or indeed break the law. Andrew Green [of Migration Watch] would no doubt say that someone who argues against immigration levels should not be presumed to be racist, and he would be right. However, even regular and experienced contributors can say things live on-air that they might not say if given time to consider, and perhaps it is not surprising that hard-pressed producers would err on the side of caution and filter out views which might easily trip over the line of acceptability. The difficult question is always about where that line should be drawn.
Well, at least them allowed Tom and David on. 


  1. I can't stand the woman - her listening skills are appalling, she interrupts and imposes her own opinions constantly in a high-handed and distainful manner. So much for freedom of speech! Often I'm frustrated that a sensible, thoughtful and intelligent caller is cut short by her without having been properly understood, and I often turn the programme off, even though I'm keen to hear what people want to say, because she has annoyed me so much.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with the opinion of 'Anonymous'. I do not need Mrs Arnand to censor other people's opinions for me. Nor am I interested in her opinion, largely because it is tiresomely BBC-predictable. Her job is to facilitate the communication and comprehension of her callers' points, to seek clarification when needed, and to impartially challenge the opinions and assumptions they hold. BUT ..... without favour, and certainly without the large dose of political correctness she use to distort and suppress those opinions. She really should not be entrusted with the delicate job of presenting a cross-section of the nation's views. I found the thinly-veiled, clumbsy censorship Anand employed this evening on 'her' programme deplorable. I have never before been moved to write any response to what I have read or heard in the media, but her behaviour this evening was truly shocking. 'Free speech' is not only for those politically correct employees of the BBC such as Mrs Anand - remember who pays the licence fee, the Public, warts and all.

  3. Very interesting to see that I was not the only one whose blood began to boil when listening to AA's programme today. I was so pxxxed off that immediately after the programme I wrote to the BBC to complain, as below.

    "Anita Anand on today's Any Answers seemed to forget (not for the first time) that her job is to facilitate listeners' responses to news stories not to put her own opinions on air.

    David Shayger from Cheshire (41-44 min) suggested that terrorists and their supporters be shipped off to internment in Scotland, which Anand called a "concentration camp". Even though the caller said he was happy with the emotive term, it isn't for the chair of a discussion to comment like this. She then told the next caller that she was "lost for words" by Shayger's comment. It is thoroughly unprofessional for Anand to take sides in this way.

    Shayger's suggestion was hardly outrageous: the UK used internment during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and kept 'enemy aliens' in secure camps during the First and Second World Wars. IS in its press statement said it had declared war on France and President Hollande also referred to a war. If you accept this is a war (which personally I don't), then using a wartime response is logical.

    I deplore Anand's interference in and manipulation of what should be an open and honest debate by listeners. It makes a nonsense of her declaration that "Freedom of speech is the bedrock of this programme" (55m 55s).

    For the condescending Anand, freedom of speech extends only to those of a similar woolly liberal disposition as herself."

    I'm probably something of a woolly liberal myself, but I urge everyone else who is fed up with her blatant bias to complain. If she can't keep her views to herself, then she should find another outlet for them or leave the airwaves.

    1. I heard the annoying Anand today (8/10/2016). Nothing's changed: same irritating interruptions, same strident, hectoring style. It's time she went.

    2. Today (15/10/16) Anita Arnand actually thanked someone for being able to list countries, to dismniss his actual point, like he was a little kid. It was the most patronising thing I've ever heard on radio. Any Answers should be renamed Its All About Arnand

    3. The same can be said for the telephone answering team. I was today patronised and told that questions cannot be asked on points that had not been aired. Except that the Green Party member (12-05-2017) pointed out that unless the public raise issues such as a that of a child wheelchair user, this topic would not occupy a 24hr discussion during a general election period ever again! I am Disabled, housebound, with Autism, with no family or friends to help me. This week has been the 12th week without any shopping. This would be bad enough except that I am also insulin dependent. Without food I am in danger of suffering an insulin overdose. I am also being treated with medicines that have removed all awareness of low blood sugar, I pass out without being able to call for help. The potential here is very serious as I live alone. I wanted to demonstrate how despite the Care Act 2014 making the provision of an advocacy worker an obligation for vulnerable adults during any assessment or decision making activity, my local authority has neglected to train its social workers to involve advocacy services with vulnerable adults as an essential matter of safeguarding. This means that if a vulnerable adult dies as a result of poor care standards, there is no witness to this event other than an advocate. The corporate financial savings stated by any local authority cannot be termed credible if there has been no record of the involvement of advocacy workers in the care of vulnerable adults since the cost of their care is otherwise termed a saving upon their death with no witnesses to provide any challenge to their loss.


  5. Relieved to find I'm not a reactionary middle aged bigot and that other folks recognise the incompetence ignorance and nievety of this woman. How does one help the bbc to recognise same?

  6. Anand seemed to be far less judgemental on today's AA - for once, I didn't feel like throwing something at the radio!

    Could it possibly have been the effect of a critical comment on yesterday's Feedback???!

    1. You could be right. She was much better today.

      And well done for making your point so clearly on 'Feedback'.

    2. I Couldn't agree more than some of the people who can't stand that appalling woman (Anita Anand), even her voice is condescending as is her general tone of voice: so many of you have put it so much better than I can. Indeed I often find myself switching her off which is a shame because I would like to hear what people (licence payers as it has been pointed out) are saying. Like so many other people I am not interested in hearing her predictable BBC opinions.

  7. I have complained about AA two or three times and have not been acknowledged. She will keep her job despite her weak presentation, simpering

    voice and biased responses. Once you are in the club there is no risk of dismissal despite poor performance and general dissatisfaction from your employers the licence fee payers. The BBC may be politically correct but are not democratic.

  8. Daily Mail reading oafs, the lot of you. The BBC is a fantastic national resource - the only source of balanced news we have. Why are you so keen to damage it? Would you really rather have Fox News?

  9. I am pleased to read most of the previous comments about Anita Anand and can only say I agree with all the the criticisms others have made. I have complained to be BBC several times. I get incensed listening to her. I stopped listening to Any Answers? for quite a while after she took over from Jonathan Dimbleby but I like to hear the callers' views on the subjects discussed on Any Questions? Just the thought of her now - my hackles are rising! (And I am not a Daily Mail reader!) Better go and have a cup of tea.

  10. How did she get the job in the first place, what are her credentials? - She is awful. Her use of English is questionable, her inability to listen to people's points and her use of the programme as a platform for her own opinions is dreadful.

  11. I cannot tell you why the BBC employed her. She is a poor listener and a very weak presenter. If only the BBC would cast its nets wider when choosing new presenters. I dare say she has an Oxbridge education but please let us have a good listener and hear more of the callers views than her interruptions.

  12. I too agree with the other comments; her false sickly sweet tone is enough to make me switch off.
    Regarding the biased content of the programme; I noted on one recent programme, there was a question on Any Questions regarding the problem of immigration but when it came to Any Answers, they ran out of time and were unable to include that topic in the programme - I wonder why? Who would have been responsible for this?

  13. Ditto to all the above. Glad to know it is not just me. I used to enjoy the programme but now I can't listen to it. I did give it another try this last weekend but she was worse than ever.
    I do tune in if Julian Worricker presents it however and again realise what a great programme it is.

  14. She was particularly awful on the most recent programme, telling one unfortunate caller to be quiet while she made her point at considerable length. What part of 'feedback' doesn't she understand? I was back to shouting at the radio again...

  15. I agree with most of the previous comments. It is not just A.Anand though
    The BBC have attempted to suppress most "white working class " comments on immigration,ghettoism,inter-racial incidents etc over many years. They are the guardians of the Establishment Status Quo.

  16. Awful grating monotone of voice. The attempts at mediated discussions are really really tiresome. Thankfully it is only 30mins.

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  18. 26th Jan 2019 and shes still interrupting and misdirecting. She greets a caller and asks them what she considers a relevant question. We dont ring to answer Anita Anands query and have an argument. Callers are lead and their intended point lost. Very incompetent and biased woman. Why is she allowed to hijack this programme?


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