Friday 17 July 2015

Watching the Guardians

Yes, it went through the motions of 'BBC impartiality', but the whole thing was so heavily skewed in one direction (the direction of those who oppose the present 'attack' on the BBC) as to send 'BBC impartiality' flying out of the window and right up into Lala Land. 

My evidence? Well, where to begin!

Perhaps at the beginning, with Roger Bolton's introduction:
Hello. "A much diminished, less popular BBC". That is what the corporation says is suggested by the government green paper on the BBC's future. The opposition says Radio 1 and Radio 2 in particular are in the firing line. What do you think?
(Maybe he should have begun, "Woe, woe and thrice woe!" instead of "Hello" there.) 

You will have noticed two negatives, no positives, and then a question there. That's the kind of thing that's often styled 'a leading question', isn't it?

Shouldn't he have begun instead with something along the lines of: "The government says this, the BBC says that and the opposition says a third thing. What do you think?"?

And on it went. 

Yes, BBC decorum was maintained, but that same editorialising tone (albeit less blatant this week) and the same editorial message continued throughout. 

Just listen, for example, to Roger's interviewing of Jake Kanter from Broadcast magazine.

Jake, far from unsympathetic to the BBC in his comments, received questions from Roger from his (Jakes') own perspective (indeed more strongly-expressed versions of his own perspective). Shouldn't Roger's questions have come from the other (BBC-critical) side, in true devil's advocate fashion?

It made things worse here that Jake was introduced as if he were a disinterested observer - a media expert from a magazine about broadcasting...
Jake Kanter is news editor of Broadcast magazine, and he's been observing the twists and turns of this story...
 ...which is how I took him until, listening to the interview and getting a strong sense of where he was coming from, I thought I'd better just Google around and check...

And, lo and behold, it turns out that Broadcast magazine hasn't just been standing, disinterestedly, on the sidelines observing the twists and turns of this story (as Roger implied); it's actually been very actively campaigning on the BBC's behalf for a couple of months. 

This is what its Twitter feed looks like;

Yes, Broadcast magazine has been at the forefront of the 'Backing the BBC' campaign since just after the May general election. 

And Jake himself has been vigorously tweeting to that effect ever since (as Feedback must have been aware)...

...and yet at no point in today's Feedback was that pointed out. 

You would have thought, wouldn't you, that Roger Bolton might, during the course of his interview with Jake Kanter, had said something along the lines of, "Now, Jake, you at Broadcast magazine have been sticking up for the BBC with your 'Backing the BBC' campaign,  but do you think...?" but, no, no such question came out of Roger's lips.

That, frankly, is exactly the kind of thing that gets the BBC a bad name. 

Their own editorial guidelines advise that, for impartiality's sake, an unfamiliar guest's 'starting point' should be made clear to listeners in advance (to help them understand where each speaker is coming from) - if it's relevant, as it was here. Presenting them as 'impartial' observers (if they aren't) is supposed to be an absolute no-no,,.

...and yet here was Feedback presenting Jake Kanter of Broadcast magazine as just such a person. 

Do you find that as troubling as I do? (And if not, I'd love to here why).

Now, yes, the programme was peppered with listeners' opinions...the voice of the (Radio 4) people.

The majority took what I take to be Roger Bolton's line, complaining about the government's proposals and defending their precious BBC. 

[They all sounded very much like my idea of Radio 4 listeners (which may have endeared them to other Radio 4 listeners, if not to me)].

That said, two contrary views were heard during the closing three minutes of the programme, allowing Roger Bolton to end by saying, "We've tried to air a range of views about the future of the BBC". 

One said the BBC should be reduced to just one TV channel, one radio station and one news outlet (an extreme position guaranteed to appal most BBC viewers and listeners - and me [I'd like Radio 3 and Radio 4, at least, to survive]); the other ended up comparing the BBC to Greece and the Soviet Union (the kind of thing which often goes down well with 'people like us' but possibly not the rest of the population - and certainly a good proportion of the Radio 4 audience, I suspect). 

[Roger thanked him, rather too smugly to my ears]. 

We'll never know who contacted Feedback, or the proportions from each side, or whether Feedback chose their sample of opinion fairly or not, or whether any other 'people like us' made their case more strongly (and persuasively) and were simply ignored, or whether Feedback deliberately chose the most Radio 4 listener-unfriendly 'vox pops' to represent the 'antis'...

Feedback, the 'guardians' of Radio 4, clearly need watching. The past couple of episodes have been seriously unsatisfactory. I've complained directly to the programme.

(If you wish to do the same the email address is:


  1. If only the BBC knew about Walter/Marget Keane, they could have used one of those paintings to accompany their tale of suffering.

    1. That story was new to me, so I've been reading up on it. No wonder Tim Burton made a film out of it.

    2. The paintings were more or less ubiquitous when I was growing up, but I honestly didn't know about this story until it showed up when I did a search for the paintings with children with big eyes. The two images accompanying the article were perfect for the point I was making, so I went with that rather than a larger collection.

      The sob stories from the BBC are starting to get ridiculous. Perhaps one of the most aggravating aspects of all this is that we know Cameron wouldn't dream of shutting it down, but apparently the Beeboids really do live in fear of having The Precious taken away from them.

    3. It really does seem that they do - and, yes, it's becoming truly bizarre. As a result, I'm actually really intrigued to see how Roger Bolton will conduct himself next week. He's starting to show signs of panicky partisanship at an alarming rate.

  2. Feedback has been useless since the BBC sacked Chris Dunkley.

    1. I agree.

      'Feedback' in Chris Dunkley's day was worth listening to - and, up until the point that they sacked him, it reflected well on the BBC that they hired him.

      There was none of the fluffy, pro-BBC puff-stuff we get these days.

  3. BBC News website has changed the "no links to terrorism" headline on the Muslim Marine killer. Even they must have been embarrassed by that one.

    But in "what we know about the killer" they have yet to report what is now common knowledge in the USA - that he work as an engineer at a nuclear power plant!!!

    1. It's been a major problem with BBC reporting for a while now that you really do need to Google around on pretty much every such story to get a true sense of what's actually happening. Relevant details like that 'go astray' far too often.

    2. But he chose to take out his totally-not-inspired-by-his-religion-that-he-posted-about aggression on people in US military uniform. It's hard to think that he was ever a danger to the nuclear power plant. Seems like a rather narrow-minded approach to war on the Crusaders, I know. But surely he could have done a lot more damage to the infidels at less personal risk by doing something at the power plant. Why didn't he choose that route? He was going for the ideologically symbolic target all along.


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