Sunday 20 September 2015

"...might have been better phrased..."

Some of you may already be aware of this, but for those who aren't...

Breitbart London reports that they've "seen" a statement by the BBC about Stephen Nolan's now notorious exchanges with various callers to his Radio 5 Live show over the migrant crisis.

(I could be mistaken, but it looks as if someone's shared a reply from the BBC Complaints department with them.)

Breitbart quotes the BBC as saying the following:
As he would with any caller, particularly one putting forward strong views that some listeners are likely to find upsetting, the presenter challenged Jonathan and asked some searching questions about his opinions and beliefs. At each stage, Jonathan was given the opportunity to answer in full. We believe this was reasonable and expected in the context, while accepting that a couple of the questions might have been better phrased…
So an admission that Stephen Nolan didn't get it quite right, countered by lots of reasons why he essentially really did get it right. (That sounds like the BBC Complaints department to me).

So Jonathan from Swansea had "strong views that some listeners are likely to find upsetting", eh? Well, it didn't upset me, as what he said what quite reasonable. 

What this BBC response doesn't answer is the charge that Stephen Nolan then misrepresented what earlier callers said when people began challenging him about it (although maybe that wasn't the bit complained about). 


Incidentally, although I said I wouldn't mention Any Answers again, I did spot Anita Anand putting in a milder version of the 'Are you sitting comfortably in your armchair?' question at one point during yesterday's programme. (I can't face listening to it again to find the exact quote though. If you can bear it, please add it to the comments below).


  1. Definitely a response from the Complaints Dept. The language is so boilerplate you or I could have written it simply by copying and pasting from other replies. The other giveaway is that Breitbart London disingenuously calls it a 'BBC statement' that they 'have seen' instead of saying it's a published statement or one given to them from the BBC about it. Pretty lame, but that doesn't change the pathetically dishonest response from the complaints drone.

  2. This is on their complaints page:


    We received complaints from listeners who were unhappy with the handling of calls relating to the migrant crisis. 
    BBC Response

    Over the weekend in question, Stephen Nolan’s programme had more than 600 calls on the migration crisis. It is clearly an issue of huge significance and one that divides our listeners, and as such we spoke to a range of people with different backgrounds and opinions.

The nature of the Nolan programme is that it allows listeners to debate the big issues facing the UK and gives them a platform to share their views and argue their case. Stephen’s role is to question, challenge and probe all of the different viewpoints being expressed, as he did on this occasion.
On this particular day, Stephen challenged a caller who put forward strong views that other listeners may have found upsetting.  These views were robustly challenged by Stephen with a series of questions about the callers opinions and beliefs. At every stage the caller was given an opportunity to answer in full.  We accept that a couple of the questions should have been better phrased, however Stephen was careful not to express his own views during this debate.  

    1. Ha, so you've "seen" the same statement as Breitbart, on the BBC's own website...though (unlike them) you didn't truncate it!

    2. So it was something the BBC published, and Breitbart London was dishonest. I've always seen it as a pale imitation of the US version, and this kind of thing is why.

      Aside from that, BS, BBC. Nolan was giving an opinion on top of challenging his guest. The pretense of not understanding what one caller meant about emotional blackmail was brazen, and he got away with it. There's a difference between playing devil's advocate and actually advocating, and when Nolan's doing the former, it's different than what he did here.

      But is he really out without notice for two weeks? Coincidence? "Retraining"?

    3. Breitbart have definitely been caught out here. The BBC published that on 18 September and Raheem Kassam posted that at Breitbart today (20 September).


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