Friday 13 March 2015

Dog Whistles, UKIP, and the BBC

It's hard to keep a clear head sometimes when trying to write about party politics. After all, few people are disinterested observers.

(Declaration: I'm very sympathetic to UKIP but will almost certainly be voting Conservative to keep out an Israel-hating, Charlie Hebdo-disrespecting (Muslim) Labour candidate imposed from afar. The bookies are tipping her to win in Morecambe.)

BBC presenters/reporters, however, are meant to pull off the conjuring trick of appearing disinterested. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don't.

I don't think Carolyn Quinn and Norman Smith pulled it off on last night's The World Tonight on Radio 4. (However, as I'm not a disinterested party, you'll probably have to listen for yourselves and form your own judgements.) They were discussing the Nigel Farage/Equality Legislation furore. 

I'd say that the sneering tone of Carolyn's introduction (at Nigel's expense) was undeniable. Plus, I'd say that Carolyn's commentary and use of clips clearly set Nigel up for a fall (in her listeners' ears). And that Carolyn and Norman jointly and vigorously pushed the theme of UKIP "back-pedalling" and that Carolyn raised the "dog-whistle" point and Norman (reacting to Carolyn's own dog-whistle) leaped and said (in paraphrase) that Nigel Farage would deny it's "dog whistle politics", "BUT"....oh, it's only appealing to the core UKIP vote...and we all know that "dog whistle politics" implies, don't we?

Was this biased reporting or accurate reporting? Or a mixture of both? (I suspect the latter).

However, this discussion was then followed by a couple of further features which made the overall bias seem much stronger: (a) a sequence of vox pops from Brixton (courtesy of ITBB favourite Beth McLeod) who strongly rejected Nigel's point that Britain is now largely colour-blind and (b) an academic, Rob Ford (whose Twitter feed tells you where he's coming from), who was no less in disagreement with Mr Farage.

Impartial? I don't think so. 


  1. Did the BBC clearly label their vox pops and Ford, or was Rule #1 in effect as usual?

    1. No, they didn't. I had to Google Rob Ford to remind myself who he was.


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