Friday 11 September 2015

James O'Brien gets shirty (again)

There's been quite a lively Twitter spat today between Newsnight's Ian Katz and Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski over the programme's coverage of the Saudi-led strikes against Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in Yemen.

A report by Gabriel Gatehouse on last night's Newsnight assaulted the Saudis for their actions in Yemen, especially as regards civilian casualties.

I saw that, and then saw Conservative MP Crispin Blunt lavishing praise for GG's report in the interview which immediately followed it.

Mr Blunt's colleague, the pro-Saudi Mr Kawczynski, took a very different point of view though. 

The Spectator's Steerpike reported Mr K's criticisms of Newsnight for being biased and amateurish, a Twitter spat having (as I say) previously ensued between Tory Daniel and the BBC's Ian ...

...the outcome of which, as far as I could see, was that Mr Kawczynski would be appearing tonight (after the second instalment of Gabriel Gatehouse's report) to put 'the other side of the argument' and also, I presumed, his criticisms of Newsnight.

Now, I have to say that, having read the Steerpike piece and having watched last night's programme, I wasn't sympathetic to either Steerpike or Daniel Kawczynski. I thought Mr K was wrong and that Mr S was just slinging mud at the BBC - and I was also pleased that the BBC appeared to be going after Saudi Arabia so strongly.

However, I could have been wrong about that and Newsnight absolutely disgraced itself tonight when Mr Kawczynski duly appeared to put 'the other side'...

Whether Ian Katz put him up to it or not (and I wouldn't be surprised if he did), presenter James O'Brien went at the Tory MP like a bull terrier with rabies (and a bad headache, and a sore tooth, and, very possibly, an ingrowing toenail too). 

What a spectacle! 

JO'B talked loudly over Mr Kawczynski. Mr Kawczynski tried to talk over him back but, not being in the studio and being at a lower level of volume throughout, failed to bluster anywhere near as loudly as the BBC man. 

And on and on it went, JO'B's loud voice running amok.

Yes, Daniel Kawczynski may have been wrong in this case (if probably right about the BBC having an agenda, especially over its determined framing of the British government) and Newsnight may have been right to challenge him in this case (on the Saudi issue)...

...but was it really right for James O'Brien to constantly yell down his interviewee like a pub drunk with a loud microphone?

And it certainly didn't seem at all professional to me that JO'B responded to Mr Kawczynski's criticisms of Newsnight by delivering a long, doubtless pre-prepared rant in defence of the programme.....before immediately switching away from that back to the Saudi question and refusing - yes refusing - to allow the Tory MP to respond in any way to that rant, and then repeating talking over Mr K's determined attempts to keep doing so. 

The interview rampaged on until it ended in mutually-agreed (or disagreed) acrimony. (Mutually Assured Destruction, in interview form).


Incidentally, the whole shebang (or 'ambush', as it was probably meant to be) got off to a cracking start with James O'Brien getting his facts wrong. 

He introduced Daniel Kawczynski as the "chair of the all-party group on Saudi Arabia". Mr K's first response was to say:
Well, first of all let me correct you. I'm not the chairman of the all-party group on Saudi Arabia. That's a Labour MP called Yasmin Qureshi.

P.S. Ian Katz, after midnight, has continued his spat with his Tory opponent. This, it seems, is what football pundits like to call "afters" (and philosophers "the ad hominem fallacy)" :

My goodness, Newsnight aren't happy about Mr K!

As football pundits also like to say: Handbags at dawn!

Should the BBC be behaving in this way?

P.P.S. Of course, James O'Brien and the Twitter-obsessed Ian Katz will be checking out the Twitter response (as if that's representative of anything) and dismissing any of this kind of criticism. The left-wing Twitterers absolutely loved this interview: A Tory was being bashed. JO'B is a legend. Apparently.


  1. Just wanted to say the "BBC Biased" brand is really redundant. A few minutes ago I watched a Sky News pro-migration propaganda report following Muslim migrants defying the Greek coastguard to find land in Europe. Constant cries of "Allah Akhbar" but not analysis from Sky about what this means.

    There really isn't any difference between BBC, ITV and Sky on this issue.

    1. You may very well be right about that.

      (Just as Cif Watch changed its name to UK Media Watch, maybe we might have to do the same: "Is the BBC, Sky and ITV biased?").

      There's a write-up of that report, I believe, here - complete with image after image of sad children:

      The key difference, of course, is that the BBC is uniquely funded by a licence fee and prosecutes those who don't pay it.

    2. It is a key difference, but as Keynes said it "In the long run we are all dead..." and in the long run whether it's BBC Sky or ITV facilitating the advance of Sharia into our country, they are each of them facilitating that deplorable end.

    3. The difference is that the BBC is funded by us, the license payer and therfore has a legal responsibility to present balanced analysis of news. Since 1990 the BBC news team have become increasingly indistinguishable with that of the Guardian. A positive of Twitter, on e of the rare positives, is that their personal views are on display for all of us to see.

  2. As for JO'B - the bloke has NO QUALIFICATIONS to present the BBC's premier news analysis programme. He looks daft, can't enunciate properly, is of obviously low intelligence and - yes - he talks over people in a really crass way.

    In a nation of 60 plus million I find it difficult to believe he's the best they can come up with. I think he was chosen on the basis they could present him as "not left wing". He's not anything.

  3. I haven't seen Friday's Newsnight, but watch the report on Thursday - whilst, yes, it provided some focus on a region / conflict which has received little coverage, there was virtually no explanation of why the conflict was taking place. Fair enough, the report was (legitimately) focusing on the situation on the ground, however, the impression left was that Saudi had just randomly decided to start bombing, Britain are supplying the arms and the people of Yemen are suffering. Now, I'm not saying the Saudi bombing campaign is justified, I don't know, having not read up on the conflict, but I do think some kind of analysis of why the conflict started would've been useful, especially given that the audience in large part won't have been up to speed with the day-to-day political situation in Yemen

  4. I don't watch Newsnight but is this O'brien the one that does a phone-in on LBC? If so, that would explain why some months ago he got really uptight when a caller said that the BBC was biased left. BTW his phone-in programme reveals him to lean well to the left.

    LBC is another station I turn on less and less!

    ...And Sky has been as bad as the BBC for a long time.

    1. Yes, same guy. But because he was on LBC, BBC/Guardian types viewed him as being right of centre. It's all relative!

  5. How many times do BBC staff retreat to twitter groupie comfort zones to bleat once challenging debaters have gone?

    Must be nice to control a £4Bpa edit suite with near zero accountability

  6. "Is something being made up?", O'Brien asks Kawczynski at one point. I would suggest the death toll at the water bottling plant was made up. The first report was to Reuters like this:

    "The process of recovering the bodies is finished now. The corpses of 36 workers, many of them burnt or in pieces, were pulled out after an air strike hit the plant this morning," resident Issa Ahmed told Reuters by phone from the site in Hajjah.

    Curriously, the BBC quote the same text but edit out '36' because it disagrees with their headline 'Yemen air strike kills 31 in Hajjah province'.

    And now we have Gabriel Gatehouse's report giving the death toll as 13, with no explanation for the previous figures.

    It was a small plant. They are highly automated. It was hit at 3.40am when the night shift, if there was such a thing, was on. I think the casualty list might still be too large. Will you investigate, BBC?

  7. Kawczynski has been bought and paid for by the country that funded 9/11.


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