Monday 11 May 2015

Yes, the BBC is biased

Elections may throw up surprises, but BBC Radio 4's Sunday will always remain a surprise-free zone...

Now, I suspect many of you aren't overly interested in Sunday (with Ed Stourton) - this quiet, understated (boring?) Radio 4 staple. But I am, and the programme seems to me to reflect (unexcitingly) many of the BBC's biases at their most flagrant...

[...even though, being a quiet, understated (boring?) person myself, I actually rather enjoy listening to it, and, yes, I do like Ed...]

So, please read on (and please don't fall asleep if you can help it). Here there be plenty of BBC bias (if not any dragons)...


Many a right-wing critic of the BBC regards the corporation as being the broadcast wing of The Guardian. I regard Radio 4's Sunday as being the broadcast wing of The Tablet - the Guardian of British Catholicism.

After years of almost weekly carping at the previous (non-Tablet-approved) pope, Benedict, presenter Edward Stourton and BBC Rome correspondent David Willey suddenly went into almost entirely uncritical mode when Pope Francis appeared on the scene...

...and it's been "Pope Francis this" and "Pope Francis that" ever since.

At time they've sounded like a pair of elderly Pope Francis groupies. At other times they sounded like an extension of the Pope Francis Press Office.

So, unsurprisingly, this week's Sunday began with yet more "Pope Francis this" and "Pope Francis" that from Ed and David. Pope Francis invited that nice Raul Castro of Cuba to the Vatican for a chat. Pope Francis is an expert on Cuba, apparently. And as for the warming of Cuban-Vatican relations, "he's something to be quite proud about", said David, approvingly.

[Incidentally, I have a memory I've not shared before. As this is a blog, sharing is considered a jolly good thing, so here goes...

I remember watching Cardinal Ratzinger becoming pope. I remember snorting at the BBC's 'experts' snorting at his election as Benedict XVI. I knew they didn't like him. I remember watching him on the Vatican balcony and thinking, 'What kind, intelligent eyes he has!', only to watch Paul Merton on the subsequent edition of 'Have I Got News For You' repeatedly (as if it was a new catchphrase) saying "Evil eyes! Evil eyes!" every time a picture of the new pope came up, and thinking - doubtless to the new pope's disapproval - "WTF?". It was another of those classic BBC bias moments].


From a Sunday hero to a Sunday zero...

...a TV programme Ed Stourton probably dislikes even more than he disliked Pope Benedict (and that's saying something)...

...yes, Channel 4's Benefits Street - the programme the BBC nearly had a collective heart-attack about when it first appeared - is back, and Sunday duly leaped into anti-Benefits Street action in a section of the programme its website page pointedly entitled "Real Benefits Street".

Trusting his instincts, Ed Stourton sniffed:
But anyone who saw the first series would probably agree its portrayal of people on benefits wasn't always flattering and Church Action on Poverty have marked the arrival of the second series on our screens by launching a YouTube channel called 'Real Benefits Street'.
A clip from that Church Action on Poverty video duly followed featuring the voices of several benefits claimants in distress - a clip that went on for quite some time.

And then came what? A discussion between someone from Church Action on Poverty and someone who's willing to stick up for the original Benefits Street or to criticise the CAP's standpoint? 

You must be joking. This is Radio 4's drippingly left-liberal Sunday after all, so there was next to no chance of that. All we got was an interview with a spokeswoman from Church Action on Poverty, slagging off Benefits Street and Iain Duncan Smith. 

Ed Stourton fed her helpful questions with barely the faintest sop to impartiality (one question attempted to 'defend' Benefits Street whilst at the same time describing it as "distasteful"!!) and the slagging-off of Channel 4 (and the plugging for the CAP videos) continued pretty much unabated. 

(One for John Whittingdale, that one).

One of my earlier posts, about this blog's long-term study of Sunday, gathered together what I consider to be clinching evidence of Sunday's left-liberal bias on the subject of the last (coalition) government's welfare reforms (i.e. an endless parade of critics and next to no defenders). 

Evidently, despite the results of the election, Sunday is prepared to carry on regardless. 


Is it all bad though? Well, after that came an excellent report from the BBC's Turkey correspondent Dorian Jones on the exodus of Yazidis fleeing (the Islam-inspired) Islamic State to camps in Turkey. 

I've often admired Dorian's reports on Sunday and this report was grim but compelling. He reported that the Islamist ruling party in Turkey is highly wary of such camps (the Yazidis being ethnically Kurdish and emphatically not Muslim) and that the Yazidis, given their experiences in Iraq, are very distrustful of Arabs, even fearing the sight of mosques. 

Being a BBC reporter though, even Dorian felt the need to spotlight an example of  how Muslims in Turkey have gained the trust of the Yazidis and how, as a result, the Yazidis are finding "freedom" in the camps in Turkey.

His report ended with the calls from desperate Yazidis to be allowed to flee to the West. Instinctively, I thought 'yes, let's save the Yazidis' ...

...but then it dawned on me that the BBC might have been encouraging me here to think: 'Yes, let's save the Yazidis and let them settle in the UK, but what about other such desperate people? Those fleeing Assad in Syria? Those heading to Europe's shores from North Africa? Why not save them too? Indeed, why not save as may as we can by letting as many as we can settle in the UK?' (Damn that Farage! Damn those Tories and their immigration cap!)

Wasn't that implied in Dorian's report?


Then, being Sunday, it was then straight back to Pope Francis, and the decision of Germany's [largely liberal] Roman Catholic Church to allow lay Catholic employees who divorce and remarry or form gay civil unions to keep their their jobs. This was a very Catholic section of the programme. Not being a Catholic I rather struggled to get to grips with all the (Catholic) theological divergences here, but even I sensed that Ed and his interview, Daniel Deckers of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, were strongly siding with the German "progressives" and 'disrespecting' the wretched German Catholic conservatives. ("Ratzinger" was duly mentioned). Ed described those progressive German Catholic leaders as being "out ahead".


Next up came something a little different though - a very rare Sunday interview with a "conservative evangelical" bishop - someone who led the campaign against women bishops in the Church of England, namely the Reverend Prebendary Roderick Thomas. 

Ed Stourton gave him a respectful hearing, rather as a kindly but cautious doctor might handle a leper. He then expressed a surprised "Goodness!" about the Rev's position, talked about "those who think in the way that you you do", and then talked about people pursuing a "conservative evangelical agenda". (I rather doubt - and, in fact, I know for a fact - that Edward would ever talk about a "liberal Catholic agenda" in that way [for obvious reasons]). He then probed his interviewee's links with certain organisations.

No, this definitely wasn't an Ed Stourton interview with someone 'on his side'. 


Next, Trevor Barnes talked to two veterans of Bomber Command about V.E. Day - a fascinating feature. Trevor encouraged them to tell their stories and reflect on their faith. Being a cynic about the BBC, I expected Trevor to inevitably fixate on the usual moral concerns about Bomber Command's bombing of Nazi German cities. Did he do so? Well, yes, but incidentally, and gently, gently. No complaints here then. Trevor is a very nice man.


Finally, however, it was onto Sunday's post-election debate:
What will the outcome of the General Election mean for religious people in Britain? Edward Stourton explores the issues from a cross-party and multi-faith perspective.
This, frankly, was a flipping travesty of BBC impartiality.

There was a two-against-one situation, guest-wise (two left, one right). And the 'one' veered staggering close to the left-leaning 'two' on far too many occasions. And the presenter (Ed Stourtion) also took the side of the 'two'.

Proof? Well, please listen for yourselves. But if you can't be bothered....

We heard from Conservative-supporting Tim Montgomerie; avowedly "left-leaning" Paul Bickley on the Theos think tank; and Nazir Afzal, "until recently the Crown Prosecution Service of the North West" (whose political starting point wasn't specified). 

Ed began by playing them a clip of a C of E bishops' letter saying there was a racist undertone to the election debate about immigration.

Nazir agreed with Ed that the issue was "the dog that didn't bark" during the election, but denounced the "xenophobia" over the Med migrants issue, and then tied that "xenophobia" to UKIP. "Hate" is his concern over the immigration discussion. Tim talked of our inability to control our borders - and the volume - due to the EU. Ed, stuttering somewhat, wondered, " you think that the..the..more benign tone [loaded language there, Ed] that we've been talking about that survived during this campaign will survive that sharper debate?" Tim replied that UKIP didn't do that well and their tone was "unattractive". Ed asked Paul about divisions in the Labour Party over immigration. Paul (fairly enough) said that Labour lost votes to UKIP in the North because people didn't believe them over immigration, and that their white working-class based is alienated. Ed, in response, asked Nazir about "alienation" in his community (oh, yes!). Nazir said the fear of being "stigmatised" was a concern, and there's also concern about  a rise in "xenophobia" over the EU referendum 

Ed then moved onto welfare. As per the earlier part of this post, he then played a clip of the C of E bishops denouncing the government's welfare reforms. 

Ed asked Tim about "human faces" being attached to the "numbers" affected by welfare reforms. Tim, nicely (and perhaps dimly) agreed, but said the Church underplays the issue of wealth creation and its creation of new jobs, which is something to be said against the negatives of "the cuts" . Ed, undeterred, immediately countered Tim and asked Nazir, "Well, presumably they're still going to be huge and does this worry you? Is it alarming?" [a biased, leading question if ever I heard one]. Nazir complained about food banks, set up by mosques, to deal with those cuts, expecting them to do "a great deal more" in the coming years. Ed asked Paul about the criticisms leveled at the Church for being "lefty" [his sniff was merely implied here]. Paul said there was a problem of "tone" in the last parliament and there's likely to me more of that talk about "the undeserving poor" in this parliament. "It's going to hurt", he said. Ed asked Tim is "a more compassionate caring Conservatism" could "be squared with the cuts". Tim said yes, but the Tories won only 35-37% of the vote and that there need to be "a generous acknowledgement" of the good ideas in other parties' manifestos, such as the taxing of non-doms and higher tax bands on higher value properties [WTF has got into Tim? Jeez, no wonder 'Sunday' invited him on!]. 

Finally, it was onto living standards. Cue a clip of the bishops' denouncing in-work poverty and denouncing the vagaries of the market. 

Ed asked Paul why Labour hadn't "made the progress that might have been expected [by people like him] over this issue. Paul said England was pragmatic, but didn't back the Conservatives' agenda and that people "want common decency". Cue this following oh-so-telling exchange:
Ed Stourton: But you could, Nazir Afzal, interpret the result as a reflection of the fact that people don't seem to care that much about inequality.
Nazir Afzal: That's very sad if it's true.
Nazir said that minority groups are concerned that the welfare cuts will hit them most, and that access to justice will hit them most, and that they won't feel part of the society they've "immigrated" to. So "everybody's concern" if that if the those "at the lowest end" are losing out. Tim, in response, praised the living wage [?!?] but said the bishops are still too keen on the power of the state.

The discussion ended.

Even by the BBC's standards, that was an unbalanced political debate, wasn't it? Naturally, there was no one from the UKIP-supporting 13% of the population - and no reflection that the Right (UKIP and the Tories) made up half of the voting population. The unjustified imbalance in the guest selection was compounded by Ed's deeply unbalanced (anti-Right) questions. 

The whole programme, however interesting and engaging, was unbalanced - i.e. biased - pretty much from start to finish, wasn't it?

I genuinely would love to hear from anyone who has 45 minutes to spare to listen to this edition of Sunday and who then feels justified in disagreeing with me about the programme. Why do you think I've gone wrong? Because, to be blunt, I don't think I've gone wrong at all. I think this programme sums up much of what's wrong with the BBC - the choice of subjects, the choice of guests, the questions posed, the attitudes adopted. Almost everything exemplified the BBC's left-liberal worldview here. (And I think I'm being charitable in my use of the word "almost" there.)

As Alan at Biased BBC has sometimes been known to say: "Is the BBC biased? Yes it is."


  1. Craig mentioned in dispatches.

  2. Heard only the last bit of crap about what the Anglican Churches letter had said in the run up to the election-as if this was an Ed Stone we should all revere if we`re about to go to church after his show.
    Funny-the Church is a bunch of paedos offering only pie in the sky for 90% of the BBCs time...then for this 10%(when it shafts the Tories or the conservative in generis) gets its hearing with mucho respecto.
    Like Pope Francis junk on migrants or global warming-which ALWAYS gets purring approval from the BBC, since the hopeless Pope is "on message" and "useful to the Cause".
    The Church has a mortal-and a venal enemy in Saviles BBC...they need to avoid the greasepaint and fairy dust of media whorings-and get some Bible study in, before IS deal with them.


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