Monday 31 August 2015

The Great European Disaster Movie IV

Mark Wallace at ConservativeHome has now taken up the story: The BBC denied ‘The Great European Disaster Movie’ was EU-funded: that was untrue (though as we now know, they actually partially covered themselves by means of a canny 'form of words').

Mark seems determined to pursue the parties involved (including the BBC) in search of some answers. He's also concerned about the Richard Sambrook angle. 

The Great European Disaster Movie III

News-watch's David Keighley has posted an article today which casts a good deal of extra light on the subject of the previous post [Update: Er, actually he posted it in March when the programme originally sent out. So much for my ability to read a date!]. 

He says that when the BBC said that no EU money was used "in the making of the programme being aired on the BBC" they were technically correct but were choosing their words very carefully - or, as David puts it, using "weasel words":
The reality is that post-production, the film-makers Bill Emmott and Annalisa Piras – both of whom are pro-EU fanatics – have told the outside world they are receiving EU money for the transmission of the film in other languages. So put another way, it is an EU propaganda project. 
And the BBC were co-producers of that film.
So it's not quite as simple as I first thought.

(Darn it! Those BBC spokesmen make Sir Humphrey Appleby seem like a rank amateur at times). 

And it gets even less simple as the question still remains: Who did fund the making of the film? 

Given that the funding of the small company behind it (owned by Ms Piras) remains a mystery and that such a glossy documentary wouldn't come cheap, David says:
Someone with deep pockets and a deep desire to spread massively pro-EU propaganda was behind it. The BBC should tell us who this was so we can make up our own minds about the decision to show it.
(As per the comments on the previous thread), he then says that more questions arise due to former BBC top executive-turned Cardiff University professor Richard Sambrook's involvement with the Wake Up Foundation, of which Professor Sambrook, Ms Piras and Mr Emmott are all trustees.

Professor Sambrook was the co-author of a much-cited, BBC-backed Cardiff University report which 'found' - to general astonishment - that the BBC didn't just not have a pro-EU bias but 'actually' has a pronounced anti-EU bias!...

...and this report fed into the BBC's widely-reported Prebble Review:
So, put another way, the BBC commissioned a rabidly pro-EU programme from a programme making duo who have close professional and organisational links with a former Director of BBC News who, in turn, has been appointed by the Corporation to tell the outside world – on a supposedly ‘objective’ basis – how balanced and impartial the BBC’s output in relation to the EU is. 
The linkage raises several awkward questions.  Was Sambrook directly involved in the making of the European Disaster Movie? Was he involved in any way in persuading the BBC to show it and to become co-producers? To what extent is he involved in the dissemination of the pro-EU propaganda of the Wake Up Foundation? Were the BBC aware of his links with Emmott when they commissioned his department to do the Prebble survey? 
Something in the state of Denmark, if not rotten, smells very fishy indeed.
Doesn't it just!

The Great European Disaster Movie Part II

It looks as if the BBC has got some serious questions to answer today.

You will doubtless recall BBC Four's controversial pro-EU 'The Great European Disaster Movie':

The incendiary claim that the BBC had received EU money to finance this pro-EU 'mockumentary' was strongly denied by the BBC at the time:
A BBC spokesman responded to the accusations over EU funding and bias saying:
"No EU money was used in the making of the programme being aired on the BBC. Impartiality is of paramount importance for the BBC. 
This fictional programme reflects the author's vision. BBC editorial guidelines do not prevent the acquisition of independent programmes which approach subjects from a particular perspective."
And then, as is the way with such things, almost everyone forgot about it. Until now.

According to research into EU spending by the TaxPayers' Alliance, however, it now seems as if that BBC spokesman was talking out of his lying posterior and that the pro-EU 'mockumentary' was funded by the EU after all.

Here's the relevant bit from the TPA's press release:
Europe: Who Do You Think You Are?, a mockumentary set in 2060 originally planned to star Eddie Izzard as an archaeologist, given £71,000 (€96,991). Izzard was to narrate a "dystopian future" in which "the EU has disintegrated." The feature film - described as a "documentary" in the official description - was designed to argue "that despite the many flaws of the European Project, the case for togetherness remains overwhelming." This was shown in the UK on March 1st 2015 on BBC4 as The Great European Disaster Movie, starring Angus Deayton rather than Izzard. 
How will the BBC try to wriggle out of this one? 

BBC Bitesize on 'UK migration'

BBC Bitesize, "the BBC's free online study support resource for school-age students in the United Kingdom", has a section on UK migration

This is what the BBC is presently teaching on the subject:

Sunday 30 August 2015

"Not living up to EU ideals"

Radio 4's Midweek presenter Libby Purves has a piece in The Times called I can’t be proud of a barbed-wired Europe. Below the headline lies this summary of the piece:
Bickering about migrant quotas as women and children die in lay-bys or freeze in forests is not living up to EU ideals
"Europe should man its borders with kindness as well as wire", says Libby, living up to BBC ideals.

Of Profs, Putin, pro-EU MPs and Prokofiev


An investigation of the BBC News website reveals that the most recent of their 'Viewpoint' features (where voices beyond the BBC are giving space on the BBC website) is: Viewpoint: Treat refugees as a development issue, by Prof Alexander Betts (Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University).

Here's a flavour of it: 
Europe is facing a mass influx of refugees from outside the region for the first time in its history, as people flee persecution and conflict in countries such as Syria and Iraq. And its politicians are struggling to find a coherent response. 
At the European level, the EU's supposed common asylum and immigration policy has been stretched to breaking point. While politicians and the media have inappropriately characterised this as a "migrant crisis", the overwhelming majority of people are coming from refugee-producing countries. 
Europe has a proud history of protecting refugees - it created the modern refugee regime after the Holocaust. This tradition is under threat. 
Europe needs to provide asylum, but it also needs to take a global perspective. Only a tiny proportion of the world's 20 million refugees come to Europe...
Although not a substitute for sanctuary in Europe, the EU needs a comprehensive global refugee policy. The response must include better cooperation within the EU among the 28 states on sharing responsibility within Europe. 
It has to include articulating to the public why we should take refugees ourselves - in terms of ethics, law, economic and cultural benefits, and the symbolic importance of reciprocity. 
But it also requires a plan for how to sustainably support refugees in other parts of the world.
Well, that's exactly the kind of piece I'd expect the BBC to be promoting at the moment if I believed the corporation to be biased on the issue (which I do).


Professor Betts was also on today's The World This Weekend, making some of the same points in a discussion about Europe and the UK's response to the illegal immigrant crisis (as he most definitely wouldn't put it).

Alongside him was migration expert Elizabeth Collett, whose Twitter feed reveals that she comes from a similar standpoint to Professor Betts (and a firmly pro-EU one to boot).

And alongside both of them was a Conservative MP (one of the most liberal and pro-EU), Damian Green, who made somewhat liberal-sounding comments on the issue today.

That followed yet another long interview with a migrant, where the migrant's story of suffering was aired at length but barely questioned.

His story could, of course, very well be true, but how was Shaun Ley to be sure? How were we as listeners to be sure either?

None of which exactly assuages our qualms about the BBC's coverage of the migrant crisis, does it?


Barbie and Ken

And for the sake of completeness...

...then came a segment on the exploitation of the Arctic in the wake of climate change (a very BBC subject) - especially Russia's planned exploitation of the Arctic.

An indigenous type from Canada denounced governments and corporations for exploiting the effects of global warming. A non-Putin-supporting Russian reporter (based in Norway) then teed up the section specifically focusing on Russia by saying that Russia didn't rank 'climate change' as very important in connection with the Arctic. And then someone from the Obama administration added his five-cents-worth about Putin's intended expansion into the region (in a strikingly non-committal [one might almost say appeasing] fashion, despite Shaun Ley's questions tempting him to say something critical of Russia).

If The World This Weekend had been broadcast on the internet a million Krembots would have instantly descended on it, like wolves on Peter's ill-fated duck (a reference for any Prokofiev fans out there).

The BBC's "cutting-edge religion flagship"

Well, I say 'much-loved' but the Spectator's Damian Thompson was (like me) being highly sarcastic about it on Twitter overnight:

That bit about religion at the Edinburgh Fringe featured a Muslim comic whose show was, he told Edward Stourton, designed to counter "Islamophobia". 

He told some jokes about fatwas, including one about bananas, which were (as far as I can see) merely lists of genuine fatwas. Quite where his creativity came into listing a few such mad fatwas I really can't say. 

And he didn't make me laugh either (no offence). So much so that I now realise why this less-than-side-splitting effort was awarded the 'Best Joke' prize this year:
I just deleted all the German names off my phone. It's Hans free.
The other Edinburgh Fringe comic interviewed by Ed this morning was a transgender comedian who performs as a transgender (Muhammad) Christ, saying that his/her show is about showing the world that transgender people are human beings (like we don't already know that).

This was preceded by a clip of another comedian saying that jokes from Muslim comics at the Fringe prove that Islam is a nice religion and that Islamic State has nothing, she repeats, nothing to do with real Islam....

....which I'm placing in Sunday's regular 'It's nothing to do with Islam' folder.

That said, despite Damian's very low expectations about the interview with the Lancaster University lecturer on the Chinese Communist Party's use of Confucianism to try to win over the Chinese population, it actually proved very interesting. (Lancaster University is my local university, not that I'm biased).

And call me 'not cutting edge', but I was genuinely pleased to listen to the bit about the man, Reg Portman, who is near to completing his project to draw every church in Hertfordshire. Here's a sample of his work:

Doubting Tommy

Sticking like an obsessive-compulsive limpet to this morning's Sunday Morning Live...

I really don't trust BBC programmes when they select a range of comments from viewers or listeners to represent a debate.

Tommy Sandhu's selection of Twitter/Facebook comments during the immigration section this morning saw two comments making anti-mass immigration points and three comments making pro-mass immigration points.

Now, we know that's not where the public are.

And given the days when SML used to dare to conduct view polls, which almost invariably would produced outcomes like 90% against mass immigration and 10% for mass immigration, I'm taking the Victor Meldrew line on this: I don't believe it!

However, what I'm failing to remember (until this very moment) is that Twitter - the main source of SML's viewer responses - has a (deserved) reputation for being absolutely swamped (on political matters) by self-echoing left-wingers, It's a completely unbalanced echo chamber (rather like the BBC some unkind souls might say!)

Any response on Twitter, therefore, has to be treated as unrepresentative of anybody other than that particular body of deeply unrepresentative, 'groupthinking' Twitterers.

And such people tend to be strongly pro-immigration and wildly anti-British. (Hence the comments on SML).

In my opinion.

Not in SML's obviously.

Still, I thought I'd waste about twenty minutes of my life skimming all the #BBCSML comments on Twitter from the time of that debate (from 10.00 to 10.25).

Yes, many are the usual Britain-hating left-wing stuff but I was surprised at how many people made anti-mass-immigration points.

I'd put it, from a rough count, at about 50/50 (very unusual for Twitter). 

I've ended up at a different place from where I started here, to my slight surprise. And now I'm confused.

There's some obvious skewing going-on here, but it might be unintended. Or it might not be.

Afterthought: I've finally reached the point tonight where I think it's safe to say that the hashtag #bbcbias on Twitter is now largely the preserve of cybernats.

Rather proving the point of this post I think, a narrow echo-chamber (with at best 5% support across the UK) has pretty much entirely seized control of a key part of Twitterspace (well, key for 'people like us' who complain about BBC bias).

Their ruthless annexation of the idea of 'BBC bias' on Twitter puts us traditional 'BBC bias' bloggers and commenters to shame. We could have got their first and planted our flag but simply didn't even try. Or even think of trying.

"That carnival, of course, is a celebration of multicultural Britain. And the UK is set to become even more diverse now..."

Going back to the start of today's Sunday Morning Live...

We were greeting by some lively performers before Sian Williams appeared applauding them and saying, enthusiastically: 
Oh, a bit of Brazil to brighten Sunday Morning Live! Good morning, I'm Sian Williams with the Paradiso School of Samba practising for the Notting Hill Carnival tomorrow. We'll have more from them later on in the programme. 
That carnival, of course, is a celebration of multicultural Britain. And the UK is set to become even more diverse now became immigration has hit record levels, Now there are more than eight million people in the UK who are foreign-born.
So has immigration made us the nation we are or eroded British values?
Show and then enthuse about something that's bright and fun, assert it's "a celebration of multicultural Britain", link it to the UK becoming "even more diverse" because of mass immigration and then pose the 'big question'. All rather 'leading', I'd say (as in 'a leading question').

Sian's first question to her panel was:
Some politicians have suggested we should be celebrating record immigration figures. What are your thoughts?
Thus it began.

Fortunately the panel was a genuinely varied one, comprising the ubiquitous Bonnie Greer, The Moral Maze's Claire Fox, Alp Mehmet of Migration Watch and David Goodhart, director of the left-leaning think tank Demos. Bonnie and Claire are relaxed about mass immigration; David and Alp aren't - all in different ways. 

(Having David Goodhart and Alp Mehmet on the programme lifted it well above the usual standard for SML. The programme's penchant for loud-mouthed flame-throwers - rather than quietly-spoken, fair-minded types - is well known. Well to me anyhow).

Sian's questions weren't wholly lacking in attempts at impartiality. She took up some points and passed them on, and interrupted both sides. 

However, she definitely interrupted the anti-mass immigration side much more vigorously and sharply. David Goodhart had barely begun listing some of the downsides of mass immigration when she interrupted to say, "Although they pay more in taxes than they take in benefits." (Unfortunately for her, David Goodhart then convincingly showed her contention to be dubious at best). And Mr Mehmet of Migration Watch's first contribution received five interruptions (some of them expressed with surprising warmth by the BBC's Sian)....

....and she pursued the "or eroded British values?" part of the 'big question' by trying to steer the discussion towards dismissing the idea of British values.

Still, mustn't carp too much. This was a very decent discussion by a well-chosen panel. If only the lead-in hadn't have been quite so heavily loaded.

"When you read the Koran did that give you a greater understanding of the tenets of Islam and how peace-loving a religion it truly is?"

Sunday Morning Live featured an interview with Terry Waite, in the wake of his writing of a comic novel (yes, a comic novel called The Voyage of the Golden Handshake).

I found what he had to say fascinating and found him personally charming, so it's well worth watching.

Of course, this was a SML interview so there had to be some typical BBC agenda-pushing along the way. 

Amusingly however, one particularly blatant leading question didn't go according to plan. It came courtesy of BBC London, Loose Ends and BBC World Service presenter Nikki Bedi:
Nikki Bedi: You said when you were in captivity you were given the Bible and the Koran. When you read the Koran did that give you a greater understanding of the tenets of Islam and how peace-loving a religion it truly is? 
Terry Waite: No. No it didn't.
I would have loved to have seen Nikki's face at that point. I bet it was a picture of surprise and disappointment. Unfortunately (and most unusually) the camera stayed off her face at that point.

Fortunately for her, however, he then added, "Neither did the Bible", which she repeated and then laughed (perhaps with relief).

The Anita Anand Show

Is it time to change the name of Radio 4's Any Answers? Shouldn't it be renamed 'Anita Anand' and promptly shipped off to BBC Radio 5 Live as a phone-in show?

Yesterday's Any Answers? was given over to the migrant crisis and, as ever, the voice (and reactions) of Anita Anand completely dominated proceedings. 

Just to recycle something I wrote earlier:
I find Any Answers a weird programme to listen to because most of my focus is unstoppably drawn to Anita Anand - and specifically to how she is reacting to each caller. 
I actually find Any Answers quite a tense listen at times as a result, especially if Anita strongly disapproves of something the caller is saying. 
And it's never hard to tell if she strongly disapproves of what the caller is saying.  
The first sign is usually an uneasy noise of some description (a seemingly infinite variety of sceptical single words, long or short intakes of breath, 'ers', 'ohs' and 'ooohs', etc, delivered with all the insistence of a panicky blackbird, usually followed by a swift interruption (often the first of many)... 
...and, oh yes, that doubting and somewhat moralistic tone of voice she effortlessly slips into when someone makes too 'controversial' a statement (for her tastes)... 
...and then the challenges (putting the 'correct' BBC Radio 4 line of thinking), and - occasionally - the closing-off comments that distance her yet further from what the caller said...
Well, this week's edition was an especially tense listen and saw "the full 'Anita Anand Disapproval Treatment'" being meted out to several callers who didn't want the migrants brought en masse into the UK and the EU. 

Those who did want them all to be allowed it got considerably less intense grillings - which I'd say is evidence of bias on Anita's part. 

(The only time she sharply turned on one of them was when she thought she heard the lady say that only Christians should be brought in. When the lady clarified that to Anita's satisfaction, Anita let her proceed).

Lord knows why some of these people put themselves through it! 

The first caller, Michael, didn't just have Anita moralistically yapping at him throughout his entire contribution, trying to undercut everything he was saying. He then had to face her setting subsequent callers against him - the first of them instantly denounced him as "xenophobic". 

Some later callers (expressing similar views to Michael) fared little better - especially the man I know think of as 'the Russian steppes guy', thanks to Anita Anand trying to trip him up (and embarrass him) over his mention of 'the Russian steppes'.

Instead of being a space in the Radio 4 schedule where listeners get to hear the public answering the same questions as the Any Questions panel, we now get Anita Anand conducting something of a show trial against those who express views inimical to hers/the BBC's line. 

Yes, I know the term "show trial" is somewhat hyperbolic, but it really wasn't a pleasant listen. Or an impartial piece of broadcasting for that matter.

P.S. The programme's intended angle can be read on its website - though Anita Anand didn't actually pursue it, concentrating instead on the suffering of the migrants and what we ought to be doing to help them:

One caller with a Muslim name did bring UK foreign policy up and Anita closed his call by echoing his point ("So foreign intervention has earned you the obligation to help. Mohammed, thank you".)

Incidentally, a second chap with a Muslim name then came on to say, from personal experience, that large numbers of young man from a very peaceful area of Pakistan he knows are coming over here for an easier life and to send money back home, and that most they certainly aren't refugees. Even though I could hear most of what he said pretty clearly, the line wasn't perfect and Anita pretty swiftly said, "Arshad, I'm sorry, your line is breaking up but I think we got the gist of what you say". 

Steph returns!

Regular readers of this blog may be losing sleep wondering what's happening with 'Our Steph' (namely BBC's News's Steph Hegarty) on Twitter...given that we've not mentioned her for a while.

Well, here are some of the BBC reporter's recent tweets, dripping (as ever) with BBC impartiality. Enjoy!:

Saturday 29 August 2015

Four Thought

One of the clearest demonstrations of where BBC Radio 4 is coming from came from that remarkable three-and-a-half-year run of  episodes of Friday night's A Point of Viewwhere (despite lots and lots of passing political opinions - quite a lot of them strongly left-wing ones) not one speaker spoke from a right-of-centre perspective until Roger Scruton came along. 

My quip at the time was that A Point of View graphically demonstrated BBC Radio's own point of view - not that it was really a quip, more a statement of fact.

The other BBC Radio 4 regular that invites such quips is Four Thought - the 13-minute weekly Wednesday night spot (that, very occasionally, spills out into other spots on the network). 

Listen to it regularly or look back through its extensive archive and you'll find, beyond even the slightest glimmer of a doubt, that Radio 4's Four Thought is overwhelmingly (nay, almost exclusively) dominated by left-of-centre voices and left-of-centre preoccupations. The 'BBC bias' is palpable and somewhat outrageous.

That's not to say that all episodes of Four Thought are left-of-centre politically, because quite a lot of them aren't political. 

But, nonetheless, a heck of a lot of them are - and a review of the 187 episodes currently available shows that, in contrast to many clearly expressing left-of-centre views, next to none express obviously right-of-centre views (especially the recent ones). 

Please just review the Four Thought archive for yourselves though. 

On, say, the public's hot topic of the moment - immigration - you'll see that all the programmes dealing with the subject have featured strongly pro-immigration voices or positive stories about immigration. The views of the vast bulk of the public, as shown by opinion poll after opinion poll who express reservations about mass immigration, are entirely excluded.

Isn't that remarkable for a publicly-funded broadcaster that's meant to represent the broadest range of British public opinion?

Now, none of this is to say that many of these programmes aren't interesting and rewarding. Many of them are. Some, indeed, have been fascinating and wonderful. It's just to say that the programme, as a whole, has a massive leftwards bias.

For example, just working back through recent episodes,...

...this week's edition featured someone complaining that black women are still under-represented on British TV. 

Last week's edition had a Labour-advising economist criticising 'the whirlpool economy'.

The previous week had a pro-immigration academic talking about how we need to think differently about citizenship. 

The week before that had an anti-big business type denouncing 'big charity' for being too like big business. 

The previous two episodes were apolitical. The week before those, however, had a Quaker speaker questioning the value of success, ...

...preceded by a Muslim speaker 're-interpreting' British responses to terrorism,..

...preceded by a left-leaning commentator making the "progressive case for authority",..

...preceded by pieces calling for reform of animal welfare, describing how feminism can be reconciled with Islamic faith, telling of how a Yemeni got stranded in London, complaining that there's a "prejudice" against East European migrants, arguing that drugs should be legalised...

...etc, etc, etc.....

You can check all of this out for yourselves. I'm not in any way exaggerating. (If you think I am, please show me why).

Yet another QED regarding BBC bias, I'd say. Wouldn't you?

A Saturday night smorgasbord (Part 2)

And on we go...


I have to say that James O'Brien isn't growing on me as a Newsnight presenter. 

I don't appear to be alone. In recent days I've seen his interview style described (on Twitter) as varying between "patronizing questions and leading questions" and his "modus operandi" in general being characterised as "abuse, smearing and pretending he is some kind of genius". Others have been less kind. 

An example of JO'B's use of leading questions could be seen with his interview on Thursday's Newsnight with John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International on the migrant crisis - or "refugee" crisis as Mr Dalhuisen terms it. ("So the only way that this could be assuaged is for them to be, for want of a better word, welcomed?"). 

Contrast that with his later interview with UKIP's Douglas Carswell, where he pounded away, repeatedly interrupting, trying to make the point that people in low-immigrant-dense constituencies tend to be (unreasonably) anti-mass immigration. Or with his relentless interrupting of Corbynite Labour MP Cat Smith on Friday's edition.

[Vis-à-vis our Cat, our next-door-neighbour MP for Lancaster...she sounded surprisingly cocky for someone who squeaked in as a Labour MP, just defeating the sitting Tory MP (despite polls predicting she'd win by an absolute landslide)...and she only managed that thanks to the total collapse of the Lib Dems, the sharp rise of UKIP and most Lancaster voters not having the slightest clue what she actually stands for.]

Now, maybe Cat and Douglas deserved to be relentlessly interrupted by James O'Brien (they weren't admitting what he wanted them to admit), but I always think it's very bad form for a BBC interviewer to do what JO'B did to Mr Carswell on Thursday - namely contradicting him and not allowing him to respond, moving onto the other guest and changing the subject:
Douglas Carswell: We often argue in UKIP that we need an Australian type system of immigration. That is to allow us to choose people with the skills we need to come and work here and contribute. If you look at the detail of some of these figures it shows that for every one non-EU job created over the past year there have been 35 EU jobs created. That clearly suggests - unless anyone's going to suggest that Europeans are 35 times more able - it clearly suggests that actually the system we have at the moment is preventing us from recruiting the brightest and the best from around the world.  
James O'Brien: And, of course, if you look at the detail of the Australian points system you'll see that in per capita terms the rate of immigration is about twice as high as it is into Britain at the moment.... 
Douglas Carswell: It, it... 
James O'Brien [pointing at Fraser Nelson]: I just want to put to Fraser Nelson...
That's a BBC interviewer forcing his views on his audience, isn't it?


Anyhow, at least we can take some satisfaction in seeing 'hard man' James O'Brien's obvious discomfort later in that same edition on having to eat a dead squirrel live on TV.

That was when Newsnight well and truly jumped the squirrel. 

And it did so courtesy of Newsnight editor Ian Katz's old chum at the Guardian, George Monbiot

It's not the first time Ian has invited George onto the show to air his latest moonbattery. His plans to expunge the Lake District of sheep and 're-wild' the fells got him an invite soon after Mr Katz took over. And here he was again, following on from his latest piece in the Graun extolling the thrill of eating a recently-deceased grey squirrel and his parallel dislike of conventional animal farming. 

So there was the Moonbat himself, wielding an axe and butchering a squirrel live on BBC Two, with James O'Brien looking on and then trying to eat 'one we prepared earlier'. 

James introduced George Monbiot, at the start of the show, as "the nation's favourite environmentalist".

All very odd.


As this is a smorgasbord, I really ought to include something about Sweden

Sweden has been much in the news recently, with BBC reporter/commentator after BBC reporter/commentator noting that Sweden has taken in far more migrants per head of population than we have (a point always made at our expense).

I may be missing something but what none of those BBC reporters/commentators ever points out is that Sweden has a population of 9.5 million and an area of 449,964 km². We have a population of 64.1 million and an area of just 243,610 km². 


Anyhow, matters Swedish came to the attention of other commenters about BBC bias through a recent BBC TV report from BBC Breakfast's Graham Satchell

It was another of those reports, featuring attractive migrants cast amid glowing Swedish scenery and various pro-immigration voices, including a Swedish mayor. It also (very briefly) featured an opposing voice, introduced as being "hard-right". 

Well, the Sweden Democrats (the party of the "hard-right" lady featured) are pretty hard-right (though much less than they used to be). However, it struck me that Graham didn't give us any political label for the featured mayor. I had to Google her to find which party she represents (the centre-left Social Democrats).

'Bias by labelling' is a common bugbear of those concerned about media bias. This was surely a case of it, wasn't it?

You may also remember Graham Satchell from his reporting of the Rotherham abuse scandal. I certainly remember one report (which I've just found again) where the Muslim angle was only mentioned in connection with fears of a backlash - an absolute BBC classic of its kind. 


So far, so typical of the BBC in this smorgasbord. However, sometimes something unexpected happens....

....such as a BBC reporter expressing the view that it's a very good thing that the UK isn't part of the EU's Schengen Agreement on the free movement of people. 

That shocker came on Monday's The World at One and emerged from the mouth of the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner (about 27:35 in): 
I think that one of the problems here is that in the Schengen Area - which, thank God, Britain is not a member of - but in Schengen you can pass across border with no checks in theory...
Thank God indeed, Frank!

And if you think that's weird, please try getting your head around Jon Donnison posting a piece from a libertarian perspective, denouncing the nanny state in Australia. Yes he grounds his piece in the opinions of the only Ozzie libertarian MP, but (as is his way) JD doesn't disguise where his own sympathies lie - and they aren't where I expected them to lie:
And for me personally, I have to say Australia is without doubt one of the most rule obsessed and bureaucratic places I have ever lived.
We all know he's not a great fan of Australia but, still, criticising the country from a 'Classical liberal' position is just about the last thing I'd ever have expected from JonDon (though obviously not the last thing I'd ever have expected - which is him reporting it from a pro-Israeli position!)

A Saturday night smorgasbord (Part 1)

Having spent much of the past fortnight away from the world of blogging, it's time for a post (or two) that randomly gathers together most of the stuff I would have posted if I'd had the time - or at least as much of it as I can remember.

So here goes....

I read a comment somewhere alleging that the BBC's reporting of the 'living wage' had undergone a 180 degree turnaround since George Osborne made it government policy in his summer Budget. 

Before then (and over many years), the complaint went, reports on the BBC about the 'living wage' were very strongly skewed towards the idea, incessantly highlighting calls for it to be introduced. After the Budget, however, the complaint continued, the BBC suddenly began promoting anti-'living wage' stories. 

Such things are hard to check, but I've tried to do so. Using a combination of the 'search' function on the BBC website and Google, it's possible to see if the BBC News website has done as the complainant claimed it has. 

I've found plenty of pieces spotlighting calls for the introduction of a 'living wage' before July this year but no pieces spotlighting calls for it not to be introduced. (If you find any, please let me know). However, since the July Budget, there have been several reports spotlighting calls for it not to be introduced: 

National Living Wage will 'damage care homes' (one month after the last one)

As far as I can see (and I've checked and re-checked this to see if I'm missing something), the complainant was correct. The BBC appears to have abruptly taken against the 'living wage'. 


Simply putting it down to 'left-wing bias' won't work, giving that these articles are promoting the arguments of those opposed to a popular left-wing idea. 

Putting it down to knee-jerk 'anti-Tory bias' would work much better, if you believe that many at the BBC are shamelessly opportunistic enough to do such a party political thing (presumably from a Labour/Lib Dem perspective).

Or, as some say, maybe it's just the BBC doing it's 'anti-government' thing ('anti-any-government'), and acting as a self-appointed opposition? 

Or, as others (usually on the Left) say, maybe it's the BBC doing its 'anti-change' thing, always opposing something new?

Whatever, it's a real shift of focus from the BBC and an interesting phenomenon. Something must account for it. But what?


As I was driving to work on Monday morning, listening to Today, I heard another of those BBC reports about the migrant crisis, this time reporting from Hungary.

The BBC reporter, Nick Thorpe, presented us with the work of Migration Aid in Budapest - a group helping incoming illegal immigrants there. We heard from an activist with the organisation (denouncing the Hungarian government's new fence with Serbia). We also heard from various migrants (who Nick Thorpe called "refugees"), including one from Afghanistan passionately demanding to be treated as a human being.

We also got an opinion (yes, an opinion!) from the BBC reporter, echoing Migration Aid's feelings about the Hungarian authorities:
In these Hungarian stations you can witness the best and the worst sides of the Hungarian reaction to this crisis. Many stories of the indifference or even the hostility of the authorities, but also a remarkable outpouring of generosity from the Hungarian public. 
Nick Thorpe is the BBC's Central Europe correspondent. According to Wikipedia,
Thorpe joined the BBC in 1986 as Budapest Correspondent, and was the first Western correspondent to be based there, and has continued to report on Eastern Europe ever since. In 1989, he joined The Observer newspaper as its Eastern Europe Correspondent, returning to the BBC in 1996. He has also written for The Guardian and The Independent newspapers. 
It figures.


I'm not the only one to have spotted this, it appears, but...

The BBC has a very peculiar attitude to race stories in the U.S.

When a fatal incident involves a white person killing a black person (or black people), the BBC is straight onto the race angle like an albino ferret up a jet-black drainpipe (if ferrets ever go up drainpipes. We know they go up trousers, of course, but drainpipes? I might email David Attenborough to find out).

On the evening of the murder of the white U.S. TV reporter and her cameraman by a black former colleague, I read reports on Sky News and other places showing the murderer's calls for a race war. Now the killer may be a mental case, but that hasn't stopped the BBC before if there's a race angle involved, yet - as others also noted - the BBC News website that evening merely reported (in one paragraph) that their was a racial grievance on the killer's part. Nothing else. Sky quoted (with appropriate redactions) the killer's expletive-filled social media comments mentioning the Charleston killer and the 'bringing on' of a race war.

The BBC was holding back.

That night's Newsnight also merely mentioned the race angle in a sentence before passing on to debate how the media should report stories where the killer films his own atrocity. That night's The World Tonight on Radio 4 also debated how the media should report stories where the killer films his own atrocity but its segment on the story went even further than Newsnight and ignored the race angle completely.

All very odd. But also, all very BBC. It's as if some kinds of racism are too 'hot' to condemn (cf Yasmin Alibhai Brown).

Why Mo Farah pulled off the triple-double

This week's Dead Ringers was a bit of a dud (no offence), but this bit made me laugh:
Gabby Logan: Mo, a win in your next race could make you the first athlete in history to achieve a triple-double. What's your secret?  
Mo Farah: Well, I've always kept it under my hat but as you asked nicely, miss, I'm happy to reveal my secret to success: I move my legs really fast. 
Gabby Logan: Right, but surely it can't just be that?  
Mo Farah: Well, of course, obviously I don't just move my legs really fast. That would be silly. I also make sure my feet are really fast as well. 
Gabby Logan: Genius. And how do you recover from falling over, like you did in the semi-final?
Mo Farah: You know, it was tough but I always remember what my coach taught me. He said: If you almost fall, just don't and then run really fast to the end.  


Even by the usual biased standards of Dateline London today's discussion of the migrant crisis was extraordinarily one-sided. 

If you want to watch four people mounting their high horses, saying exactly the same thing and then vigorously nodding in agreement with each other, then this edition is definitely for you. 

Part of the problem was the usual Dateline problem - that the chosen panellists all came from a particular political position. There was Yasmin Alibhai Brown of The Independent (who, famously, never dismounts from her high horse), Rachel Shabi of The Guardian (who's proving quite a keen rider of high horses too), Chinese writer Xue Xinran (who, according to Wikipedia, "frequently contributes to The Guardian and the BBC") and mild-mannered Henry Chu of the Los Angeles Times (who got surprisingly hot under the collar today). 

There wasn't a single note of disagreement between any of this on this issue. Not one. In fact, they ended up repeating each other on several occasions. 

For those who can't bear to watch it, here's a brief flavour of what each of them said:

Rachel Shabi - "People don't risk life, they don't risk death, unless they're desparate for life. And the only possible reaction to this should be, "Hello. Welcome! How can we help?" That shouldn't even be a debate. It's baseline". 
"Not recognise the benefits of an influx of different kinds of people into your country seems horribly short-sighted and narrow." 
"I completely agree with this idea. You don't follow public opinion. You lead it. You create it. You inspire it." 
"You don't hear Lebanon going on about net migration and being "swamped" by migrants, do you? So." 
Henry Chu - "I think in terms of migration and immigration, just look round this table." 
"Now what you're seeing are people who are risking their lives in incredibly dangerous situations in order to do so - and you only do that when you're being pushed. And it's not simply because you want to have a better salary. It's because you want to live". 
Yasmin Alibhai Brown - "Even now white Europeans and those with white ancestries in Europe feel they have the right, the entitlement to go where they wish - often for frivolous reasons even - and yet we are denying that basic human right to those who have no other option." 
"You don't follow public opinion. You actually try to challenge it and change it".  
"Babies are dying here!!"
Xue Xinran - "It's not just that we should treat them as humans. There's no question. It doesn't matter what the political view." 
"And the other thing which is very important: We should think about our foreign policy". 

And what of presenter Gavin Esler? Did he provide any counterbalance to this overwhelming diet of righteous indignation and political consensus-building? 

The short answer to that is, no. 

Here are his contributions to this section of the programme in full:

The horror of some 70 people suffocating in the back of a locked truck, their decomposing bodies found in Austria, brings home the desparation of hundreds of thousands seeking a better life in Europe. That human tragedy comes as the British government is forced to concede its plans to reduce net inward migration to fewer than a hundred thousand a year have failed, with the highest number of immigrants ever recorded. Can governments ever get a grip on immigration or is it an uncontrollable natural human impulse to pursue a better life, or save your life in the case of some people? I mean, admittedly that's conflating refugees, migrants and other terms, but it does seem that Europe - for all its riches, all its wealth - does have a clue how to handle this. 
There's been a lot of talk here and elsewhere about 'pull factors' - why people come - but actually the 'push factors' are the ones that seem to be in the case of the horrible case in Austria and those coming from Syria. That's what's moving people. They're being pushed.
But from all you've said and Rachel's said, if you look at the opinion polls in Britain immigration is seen as one of the top concerns that people have, so if you're right that we should just say, you know, "Who are we as a people?", people are saying "We don't want these people coming here". That's what they're telling the opinion polls. 
"I know YOU'VE had comments about..." [to YAB, after Henry Chu said he's hasn't had comments about coming over here as an immigrant] 
"Tired, poor, huddled masses." 
What do you make of the comments from the White House on Friday that this is destabilis...that this is not just the product of the destabilisation of the Arab world but it risks destabilising Europe itself? I wasn't quite clear what the White House meant by that, but it's...certainly they do, both in terms of political backlash, because Angela Merkel did say those things this week and she was booed.
And Lebanon...and Jordan. 

"Get Corbyn!"

Last night's Newsnight was yet another Labour leadership special. 

This one was based around a couple of focus groups, gathered by one of the BBC's pollsters-of-choice - Ipsos MORI's Ben Page. 

Both groups consisted of former Labour voters from a couple of marginal constituencies (both of which went to the Conservatives in the general election). Some hadn't voted Labour since the Blair years, and most expressed warm views about Tony Blair. 

Neither group seemed overly impressed by any of the candidates to begin with, though Yvette Cooper eventually won them round. Alongside Andy Burnham, she was judged the best of a bad bunch. Liz Kendall, in contrast, was universally trashed and Jeremy Corbyn dismissed or mocked. None of them could see Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister and none would vote Labour because of him.

If you know anything about Twitter, you will probably be able to guess what happened next: Hordes of self-reinforcing left-wingers leapt onto Twitter's echo chamber to (a) insult the people in the focus groups and (b) denounce 'BBC bias'. 

Some of the wilder ones accused the BBC (including presenter James O'Brien!) of being Tories pushing a Tory agenda. Others said the BBC was intentionally pushing 'the establishment candidate' Yvette Cooper. The conspiratorially-minded even asserted that the BBC was actively conspiring with the Labour Party establishment to trash Jeremy Corbyn.

One popular gripe was that the Newsnight focus groups were unrepresentative (ironically, given that Twitter's self-generated "focus groups" are surely about the most unrepresentative 'selectorate' imaginable), consisting of "stupid" former Labour voters, "Tories" and Blair fans.

What these leftist Twitterers surely missed was that these people were deliberately chosen to represent the sort of people who voted in large numbers for Tony Blair but then turned away from the Labour Party over the course of the 2000s, many swinging back to the Conservatives (thus allowing the Conservatives to win those two seats back). (The question was: Would any of the present Labour leadership candidates win then back? The answer was: Probably not - and certainly not Corbyn.)

A related gripe was that some of the focus group members didn't know the names of the Labour candidates and, thus, were unrepresentative "morons". 

As anyone who watches Politics rounds on BBC One's Pointless will know, however, most people wouldn't know their Jeremy Hunt from their Tristram Hunt. Most voters aren't party political animals. Any self-respecting pollster would have to ensure that such voters were represented in such focus groups.

What did seem puzzling to me though was the clips of the candidates shown to give the focus groups a sense of where each of the candidates was coming from. 

The clips of Liz Kendall could hardly have been less helpful to her. Those selected for Jeremy Corbyn also seemed unhelpful, showing him as being nothing but negative. The Andy Burnham clips were reasonably OK (from his point of view), while the selection of Yvette Cooper clips could hardly have been more helpful to her, making her seem passionate and compassionate. (If a golden aura had suddenly appeared on screen around her I wouldn't have been surprised!)

Was this strange selection of clips a sign of BBC pro-establishment/pro-Labour establishment bias (backing Yvette Cooper)? Or pro-establishment/pro-Labour establishment bias (backing Yvette Cooper) on the part of Ipsos MORI? Or just a mirage, with no bias whatsoever? 

The strange thing is though that when you step away from the detail and look at the whole picture, the whole thing could very easily seem like an establishment stitch-up - Jeremy Corbyn getting the full Nigel Farage treatment, as it were. 

If the BBC could do it to the 'populist Right' before the general election, they could certainly do it to the 'populist Left' before this Labour leadership election, couldn't they?

What story will be heading the news agenda today?

The contrasting news priorities of the UK's three main broadcaster websites are interesting this morning.

Sky News leads with the latest family seemingly heading out to Syria... does ITV News (wonder if their choice of the phrase "be heading" was an intentional pun on some ITN wag's part? Unlikely!).

The BBC, surprisingly, isn't leading with the departing family, relegating that story into fourth place. 

Less surprisingly, the BBC thinks a News Corp story about Rebekah Brooks's possible return is the second most important story in the world. (Memo to BBC: It isn't).