Monday 29 February 2016

The good, the bad and the ugly

I think BBC Four is definitely the best TV channel around, but having steered clear of the bulk of BBC1’s dramas, soaps and other flim-flam, I surprised myself by accidentally enjoying Happy Valley. It was so realistically acted that one could almost suspend disbelief at the plot(s) with multiple misery and mayhem, blood and guts and alcoholism.
 I understand that I’m not the only one who couldn’t grasp every single syllable. It’s that ubiquitous breathy, sigh-speak that’s so incomprehensible, specially when delivered at  breakneck speed in an accent to which one’s ears are not attuned.


No problem with dialogue in Trapped, BBC Four’s 12-part drama, in which the weather plays the starring role.  It’s the subtitles, stupid.
Great fun discussing the story with one’s nearest and dearest, apres ski, so to speak. “What do you think he meant? Who could have known that? Why didn’t she go home”?
The biggest challenge is the characters’ names as the spelling and pronunciation bear no apparent relation to each other and the letters look like random Scrabble tiles.
With all these dark Scandi thrillers one thing you do know. The villain is never the black or immigrant guy. You can rule them out. They always include one or two as a suspect, so you can beat yourself up later for having had those racist suspicions. Nevertheless, it’s quality escapism.


I enjoyed the programme about the CPS, also on BBC Four. Having been peripherally involved in a comparatively trivial but complex court case (fraud) which involved an interminable amount of preparatory research, I thought this film was informative and well constructed. It tackled each case fairly, and managed to convey sincere sympathy with the bereaved mother, while avoiding the mawkish “how does that make you feel” line of questioning.


It was interesting to hear William Shawcross of the charities commission talking to Humph this morning. For a second there I almost thought they were going to discuss this:

A British charity that raises money for a Dubai-based Muslim missionary TV channel faces a fine as high as £250,000 ($347,000) over broadcasts According to The Times of London, the Islamic Research Foundation International, based in Birmingham and indirectly funded by UK tax breaks, has given most of its charitable income in the past two years to Peace TV.
But no. It wasn’t even about charities pestering vulnerable previous benefactors with phone calls. It was only about ageUK, which has been in trouble for misleading oldies with some dodgy dealings with energy suppliers. Not very ethical, I know, but doesn’t ‘buyer beware’ apply to people over a certain age or what? It’s just that if you’re going to flag up one charity-related transgression, why not go the whole hog and bring in the rest of them?


At the moment the complaints about the BBC’s pro-EU tendency seem to have touched a raw nerve. I don’t know if the fact that Julia Hartley-Brewer, (the author of a pithy piece in the Telegraph about BBC bias) was on the QT panel, but David Dimbleby made a point of mentioning being seen to be even-handed and unbiased in his introduction to that strange edition of the programme last week. 

The precocious 16 year old seems to have made such an internet hit - (went viral, she did) that everyone overlooked Julia H-B’s robust defence of Brexit, Diane Abbott’s ridiculous eye-rolling and absurd hairstyle, not to mention Giles Fraser. 


A more long-term issue surrounds the BBC’s anti-Israel stance. I say stance, but it increasingly verges on outright activism. The repercussions are everywhere, not least within the actual PM. 
So David Cameron was lured into making a throwaway, almost casually pejorative remark about Israel, by one of the Muslim MPs whose antisemitic tendencies are being constantly reinforced by the BBC’s increasingly overt anti-Israel activism.  “Does the Prime Minister agree with me..” goes the question.... 
I daresay David Cameron hasn’t read any of it, (smiley face) but I’ve written quite a lot about CAABU’s Zionist-bashing propagandistic intent, but I do wish he would apply some essential ‘buyer beware’ to the unreliably sourced issues the new  batch of Muslim MPs invite him to agree with them about. Or is David Cameron getting too confused to make up his own mind?


A whole cluster of really ill-informed Israel-bashing stuff has been getting through recently. Ken Loach managed to slip a barrage of unverified anti-Israel slander past Ritula Shah the other evening on The World Tonight. Ritula Shah was ill-equipped to challenge any of it, and what’s more, she probably had neither the will nor the way.


If the BBC is really so sensitive about those accusations of bias, why is it so thick-skinned and insensitive about accusations of bias concerning the one area in which its bias is the most blatant, egregious and cruel  - even dare I say racist - of all? Yes, they probably do get complaints from both sides. But it’s quality, not quantity that counts 

After all anyone can submit a complaint. “Does the BBC agree with me” for example,  “that filthy, brutal, Islamophobic, apartheid entities should never be given the oxygen of publicity” and, if one were minded to, one could count that as a valid antidote to the actual truth. 

Sunday 28 February 2016


Ah, those who complain that the BBC is obsessing about Westminster Bubble gossip about personalities and party splits - rather than focusing on the important issues surrounding our membership (or otherwise) of the EU - will doubtless have groaned loudly at Andrew Marr's opening words today, promising an even-handed focus on Tory splits and Labour splits:
The knives are out and flashing. Leading Tories who want us out of the European Union are now in no doubt about the Prime Minister's anger. He thumped Boris in the Commons and Michael Gove has been warned off. Are the Outers up for the fight? I'm joined today by Iain Duncan Smith. On the EU he's one of David Cameron's sternest cabinet critics. But we mustn't think of this as purely a Tory story. Angela Eagle, one of Jeremy Corbyn's big hitters, is strongly pro-EU. Can she really claim, however, the same for her leader?
And those who think the BBC is Trumpophobic might also have groaned at what came next - a clip from the forthcoming interview with American actress Uzo Aduba (of the 'hip' Orange Is the New Black fame) where Andrew Marr asks her what she thinks of Donald Trump and she laughs uproariously. 

The full question turned out to be: 
You're an American. We're very, very pleased to have you here in London. When you go back home are you going to be happy with Donald Trump as your next president?
After her laughter subsided she said she's "in deep support for" Hillary Clinton. (Surprise, surprise!)

Update: In fairness though, the interviews with Iain Duncan Smith and Angela Eagle did focus heavily on substance instead of Westminster Bubble-related goings-on. They were much more interesting as a result.

"It's all Europe all the time"

"It's all Europe all the time. We'll find some other things to talk about", said Gavin Esler at the start of the mid-morning paper review on the BBC News Channel.

And he did....eventually....with Nigel Nelson, political columnist at the Sunday People, and Vincent Moss, former political editor of the Sunday Mirror (so a Trinity Mirror Group re-union!). 

Mr Nelson, during the EU bit, mentioned the "obsession, almost an illness" of Tory Eurosceptics regarding the EU while Mr Moss suggested that wisdom and the Conservative Party "don't necessarily go hand in hand".

It was an enjoyable paper review. They didn't reckon much to Jeremy Corbyn wasting time at the tiny anti-Trident protest, and don't reckon much to chuggers either.

Following pro-EU Edwina Currie on the earlier paper review, did these guests bring some anti-EU balance? Well, no. Nigel Nelson is publicly pro-EU and all the Googling in the world (and browsing his Twitter feed) hasn't provided a clue as to where Vincent Moss stands - and neither did his appearance this morning, so he's not going in the anti-EU box either.

"What's your Christian case for staying in Europe?"

Before leaving Sunday, the programme closed with a discussion about the EU referendum with Michael Sadgrove, emeritus dean of Durham, representing Christians for the EU and Adrian Hilton (of Archbishop Cranmer fame) representing Christians for Britain. 

Obviously, that's an even-handed selection of guests and, to do him justice, Edward Stourton handled their political-theological discussion fairly.

My one criticism here is that Ed did that thing that pro-Leave people find so infuriating - and he did it in a question to his pro-Remain guest:
Michael Sadgrove, what's your Christian case for staying in Europe?
As Adrian Hilton later pointed out, no one wants to leave "Europe"; they simply want to leave the European Union. 

Modest fashion

The third item on this week's Sunday was the inevitable upbeat, 'normalising Islam' feature. 

Here's how Ed Stourton introduced it:
Here's a new phrase to conjure with: Modest fashion. It's a trend among Muslim consumers who want to look fashionable but within the framework of their faith. And it's been much in evidence in London Fashion Week these past few days. Trevor Barnes reports.  
We heard from Trevor's report how "smart young Muslim bloggers" have been driving the trend for "Islamic branding" (of the marketing kind, not the punishing kind). After "Sharia-compliant mortgages and Halal-certification for food", now comes "modest fashion" for Muslims...

...and it's spreading and becoming "mainstream".

Hillary v the 'nones'

Also on Sunday Ed Stourton interviewed Mark Silk, professor of religion in public life at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, about religion and the U.S. election. 

After inevitably starting with Southern evangelicals and the Republicans (Ted Cruz, Donald Trump), the interview eventually turned to the Democrats and brought out something I've very rarely heard discussed on the BBC. (In fact, I don't think I've ever heard it discussed on the BBC before - and, from Ed Stourton's question about it, I'm guessing he'd never heard it before either): 

Ed Stourton: What about the Democrat side? Fair to say that religion is less of a factor there?

Mark Silk: Well, religion is less of a factor if you mean by that that people don't divide up on sectarian grounds. But in one respect it's a very important factor, and that is that a larger and larger proportion of the Democratic vote have been people who identify as having no religion. Sociologists and now journalists call these people 'nones' because when you ask them 'What is your religion, if any?' they say 'none'. I would say this election will represent as much as 30% of the Democratic coalition. So it makes them something like the evangelicals on the Republican side. I hypothesize that actually Bernie Sanders is doing extremely well with these 'nones' and that one of the reasons for Hillary Clinton's strength with the African-American vote is that they like the fact that she's pretty religious. So in the sort of religious-secular divide I think religion does matter on the Democrat side - or may well if we could just get pollsters to ask the right questions, And certainly when it comes to the general election what has become dubbed 'the God gap' between Republicans and Democrats is going to persist and maybe get even more pronounced than before.

What about the Muslims?

The splendidly-named John Pontifex from the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need was on this morning's Sunday backing the cross-party campaign to get the UN to declare the attacks on Christians in Syria and Iraq a genocide. 

He laid out in stark terms the sheer scale of the assault on Christians and Yazidis there. 

Here's a flavour of how it went, with Ed Stourton taking a familiar BBC line:

Ed Stourton: You have described, quite properly, what's happening to Christians and indeed Yazidis in Iraq and Syria but it nevertheless remains a fact, does it not, that the vast majority of people who have been killed in both those places in the violence and the fighting are Muslims.  
John Pontifex: That is indeed true. But if you look at the levels of emigration - migration from the region - you'll see that Christians actually are proportionally leaving in greater numbers. For example, I went to Homs and we heard from the bishops there that 95% of Christians have left Homs. And this is a city where Christianity goes right back to 50AD and before. And it's true that everyone has suffered but when you see as I saw churches being completely devastated and shrines smashed to pieces and icons with bullet holes in them you can see that the individual attacks are cruel... 
Ed Stourton (interrupting): But, but, but, but... 
John Pontifex: ...and have a specific persecution in mind. 
Ed Stourton: But that's true of many attacks on Muslims too, isn't it? 
John Pontifex: It is, but we're not trying to make a case to show that persecution of Christians stands alone, above and beyond the others.... 
Ed Stourton (interrupting): Ah but, if you single it out as genocide then doesn't it diminish the suffering of other people? 
John Pontifex: Not necessarily. And in his letter Lord Alton has specifically highlighted other minorities as worthy of particular focus. But it needs to be said that in our politically correct world, standing up for our own - namely Christians in this case - is something that we're sometimes reluctant to do. So what this does is to redress the balance and indicate that we are willing to stand up for our co-religionists.

Gratuitous (II)

In the second BBC Breakfast paper review, the BBC did make it clear where Edwina Currie stands before she made it rather clear herself:
Christian Fraser: We're going to start with Europe, and we should remind people that you are firmly in the Remain camp.
Edwina Currie: I'm 'In' and I always have been an 'In'. I think the European Union is the greatest association of free nations that the world has ever seen...
Christian Fraser (laughing): There's the slogan!
Edwina Currie:...and it's been very, very successful and it will be for many years to come I hope. 
Edwina then made the pro-EU case at some length (for the second time this morning). 

As I'm monitoring all the weekend BBC Breakfast paper reviews between the start of this year and the EU referendum, it will be easy to count how many equivalent voices from the pro-Leave side get to sound off on the Breakfast sofa. (There haven't been any so far),


BBC Breakfast, unusually for them, has a former Conservative MP reviewing the papers this morning - namely Edwina Currie. 

Now, Edwina was very up front about the fact that she's strongly pro-In vis-à-vis the EU referendum. She made that clear from her opening words (which was especially helpful as neither of the BBC presenters had previously seen fit to mention the fact). 

This was presenter Christian Fraser's first question to her this morning, straight after the run-through of the front pages:
I spoke to someone from the Czech government last week. He was very worried about Brexit. They think it's going to unleash all sorts of problems across Europe - largely the rise of the far-right in Europe. Iain Duncan Smith's wrote a piece in the Telegraph today and you picked this out.
Now, on reading IDS's piece, I'm still none the wiser as to why Christian Fraser chucked in that anti-Brexit point at the start of the paper review with pro-Remain Mrs Currie. It seemed particularly gratuitous to me. Did he just want to get it off his chest?

The same old story

There's been a development overnight in the story of the murder of the imam from Rochdale. The BBC's first report on the story (19/2) left the impression that there could have been a racist motive for the murder - an impression encouraged by Greater Manchester Police.

A week and a half later, however, it looks as if it wasn't racially-motivated after all, following the arrest of one Mohammed Hussain Syeedy.

This breaking story, oddly, wasn't on either the BBC home page or its UK page when I got up first thing this morning. It was only to be found on the BBC's England page. 

I remember, however, reading a much more prominently-placed story (on 21/2) on the BBC website headlined GMP chief constable demands apology over Times headline reporting that the GMP chief was "appalled" at the Times headline "Imam beaten to death in sex grooming town".

Why did that aspect of the story get more prominent coverage on the BBC website than this latest development?

Shooting the messenger?

The difference between BBC TV's Newswatch (with Samira Ahmed) and BBC Radio's Feedback (with Roger Bolton) continues to be striking. The former does the BBC some credit, the latter less so. 

This week's Newswatch saw a senior BBC News editor (Hilary O'Neill, deputy editor at BBC News at Ten) go head to head with a disgruntled BBC viewer over BBC One's coverage of David Cameron's post-deal press conference. Samira Ahmed took the viewer's side, made the BBC editor sweat a bit and forced her to concede that a mistake probably had been made over not mentioning that viewers could watch a live feed of what Mr Cameron was saying elsewhere.  

The previous week's Newswatch gave us an interview with Ric Bailey, the BBC's chief advisor on politics, on covering the EU referendum. Samira gave us a couple of contrasting viewer complaints about BBC bias before the interview ('complaints from both sides') but made it clear that that those complaining that the BBC was biased in favour of the EU were "the majority".

Contrast that with this week's Feedback on Radio 4. This also featured 'complaints from both sides', but presenter Roger Bolton didn't give any indication of which side was in the majority. And it also featured Ric Bailey, the BBC's chief advisor on politics. He wasn't really made to sweat though. 

Indeed, Roger Bolton - the supposed voice of the Radio 4 viewer - once again acted as the BBC's voice here. (The contrast with Samira Ahmed could hardly have been stronger.)

 He began by saying:
Hello. A former chairman of the BBC said that. 'The nation divided always has the BBC on the rack.' Well, the country is certainly divided about this. So in Feedback this week, I'll ask the corporation's chief political advisor Ric Bailey what it's like being on the rack as agitated listeners and In and Out campaigners tighten the screws.
And then gave us a clip from the coming interview of Mr Bailey saying:
If we're not doing it in exactly the way they want they will complain loud and clear.
And the close of the interview brought more of the same:
Our thanks to the man on the bed of nails - the BBC's chief political advisor, Ric Bailey.
Poor Ric Bailey! Poor BBC!

Worst of all though was this: 
We begin with the much-anticipated announcement of a referendum on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union. And some listeners are already lining up to shoot the messenger.
How dismissive of listeners' concerns about bias is that!

Roger Bolton is far more opinionated that Samira Ahmed on their respective 'news watch' programmes. That's par for the course for him. He used his Radio 4 programme to make his own views on the government's pre-Charter Renewal deal with the BBC very plain last year, and something of that seemed to resurface in this question to Ric Bailey:
What's also going on is that politicians from both sides are pressurising you. I mean, I noticed earlier that the Secretary of State, Culture Secretary John Whittingdale, who happens to be in favour of Brexit, did said that he and others would be watching the BBC very closely. We've heard those sort of remarks before.
Poor BBC!

Alas, the days of Chris Dunkley - when Feedback had more bite - have long gone. It's Roger Bolton pushing his views on 'Our Beeb' now and forever more.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Back to normal

One swallow really does not make a summer. 

After last week's Dateline London, which caused general astonishment by featuring two strong Outers as guests, today it was back to business as usual with all four guests - yes, all four of them! - making the anti-Brexit case. It was astonishingly one-sided.

That's bad, isn't it?

Then Polly Toynbee, Abdel Bari Atwan, Brian O'Connell and Nazenin Ansari turned their attentions to...guess who?...Yes, Donald Trump.

At least here the consensus broke down a bit. Bari ranted that Mr Trump promotes hatred, violence and war and later compared him to Islamic State's caliph al-Baghdadi. Nazenin Ansari said that was going too far. Bari, as is his way, started talking over her, thumbs a-jabbing, repeating "This is hatred. This is racism" over and over again.

As Sue noted the other day, Bari has recently been complaining about being sidelined by the media because of "the powerful machinations of the Zionist lobby".

Well, "the Zionist lobby" clearly hasn't been doing its job properly because this is Abdel Bari Atwan's third appearance on Dateline London in the past six weeks (23 Jan, 13 Feb and 27 Feb) - a distinction none of the other Dateline regulars has been granted.

Dateline will never let him down.

Bias, bias everywhere!

I may be wrong but, alongside my belief that the BBC has serious issues of bias regarding the EU, Israel, immigration, Islam, social conservatism (and so on), I strongly suspect it of also betraying a number of other biases - though I may be on shakier ground with them

Today's From Our Own Correspondent consisted of five items.

The first (which was quite interesting) discussed caste tensions in India and the dilemma this is now posing for Mr Modi.

The second looked at the growing unpopularity of President Sisi in Egypt, with Orla Guerin grimly sounding his death-knell.

The third described an encounter between a Trump supporter and a Muslim refugee from Iraq, in which the latter's description of his experiences transformed the perspective of the former (in the BBC reporter's description). 

The fourth described a far less friendly encounter between the BBC's Moscow correspondent and a pro-Kremlin journalist, which - in the BBC man's telling - made the pro-Kremlin media sound very dishonest and propagandist. 

And the fifth - the 'and finally' piece - looked at how people welcome each other at Cuban airports.

All in all, this felt like pretty standard BBC stuff to me and reeked somewhat of bias.

Why? Well, rightly or wrongly, I think that the BBC has anti-Modi, anti-Sisi, anti-Trump and anti-Putin biases too. 

And I suspect that many at the BBC aren't unsympathetic towards Cuba (and, thus, more inclined to give it the 'and finally' treatment rather than the 'evil human rights abusers' treatment). 

And I think that all of the above can easily be fitted into a general (soggy left-liberal) world-view which I believe the BBC to hold, institutionally-speaking.

What I haven't got is lots of killer evidence to back up any of these beliefs, and there could be some confirmation bias on my part at play here, couldn't there?

It's just that I listen to a lot of BBC reporting and I think I know what I've heard. And certain trends appear to be real. (The anti-Trump trend is almost certainly real!)

Maybe I need to do more research.

Here endeth the ramble.

Friday 26 February 2016

Holding off

Remembering something else....

I watched Wednesday night's News at Ten and saw its coverage of the conviction of the Hussain brothers in Rotherham for raping and assaulting (non-Muslim) teenage girls. 

The story righly led the bulletin and dominated its first quarter of an hour.

The two featured BBC reporters mentioned, in passing, the criticisms that political correctness had stymied the investigations into the grooming of thousands of girls there but, astonishingly, didn't initially develop that point.

And it was a full 12 minutes into the bulletin before the BBC's own political correctness allowed even a hint of the story's racial/religious angle - i.e the first (brief) mention of the word 'Pakistani'.

(The word 'Muslim', of course, never featured once. Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, who invariably appears at this point in the BBC's reporting of such stories, then duly appeared.) 

Frankly, the BBC is the last organisation to accuse others of political correctness when it comes to this kind of story and the irony of this particular bulletin doing that was beyond a joke.

Don't they see it?

They spin me right round, baby, right round

I suppose if this blog were to adopt an MP as our patron saint it would have to be Andrew Bridgen. 

He's by far the most prolific, high-profile complainer about BBC bias in parliament. 

If there's an article in the Telegraph or the Mail featuring MPs complaining about BBC bias Mr Bridgen is bound to be among them.

And I salute him for that.

The Telegraph reports today that Andrew Bridgen has now written to the BBC complaining that Newsnight and Today are "biassed (sic) towards the EU":
In the run up to the EU council, pro-EU voices heavily outweighed sceptical voices on Newsnight (which on two out of five nights in the week of the council was Nigel Farage). 
Meanwhile Today continues to give greater prominence to pro-EU guests. The 6.15[am] business slot in particular has become an opportunity for a business leader to quickly claim that we must remain in the EU with little to no scrutiny behind the arguments for this. 
Eurosceptic business leaders meanwhile are impugned for wanting to leave for either reducing workers’ rights or dodging the bonus cap.
You may have heard more of the BBC than me this week. Is this true about Today

I will obviously have to investigate.

As for Newsnight, I will admit to being puzzled. I get the bet about...
In the run up to the EU council, pro-EU voices heavily outweighed sceptical voices on Newsnight 
but I don't understand how the following bit in parentheses is meant to reinforce that point: 
(which on two out of five nights in the week of the council was Nigel Farage).
...especially as my own survey of that week's Newsnight shows only one interview with Nigel Farage (though there may have been a brief clip of him in one of the week's reports).

How does Nigel Farage (allegedly) being on twice 'prove' that the BBC has a pro-EU bias?

My survey also shows (in the four days prior to the deal) a (roughly-speaking) 7:5 pro-Remain ratio. 

That's a slight pro-Remain bias, but does it justify the words "heavily outweighed sceptical voices"?

I don't like being spun to by any side. Am I being spun to here?

Hope springs eternal

I have to say that I'm becoming absolutely fascinated by the social media reaction to BBC One's Question Time.

I watched the build-up in advance and saw confident predictions from lefties on Twitter that the programme would be 'Tory-biased' yet again and, in contrast, saw equally confident assertions from righties that the programme would be biased either 4-1 (or 3-1, with one left dangling) against 'Leave' in the EU referendum.

(The latter, doubtless because he's such a bogeyman for 'people like us', wrongly assumed that Giles Fraser would be pro-Remain.)

This time the lefties 'won' the 'BBC bias' argument. The panel eventually split 3-2 against the EU. And rightwards. 

The panel consisted of: Elizabeth Truss, Diane Abbott, Julia Hartley-Brewer, Rev. Giles Fraser and Julian Fellowes.

In the past few weeks things have swung both ways, unpredictably...

...which seems new to me. Usually the bias has tilted towards the left and, even more clearly, towards the pro-EU.

Call me 'overly trusting', but I'm taking this as a hopeful sign.

Breaking news

Fans of far-left, Syriza-obsessed former Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason will be pleased to hear that he's now leaving left-leaning Channel 4 News.

Why? Because even its demands for him to pretend to be impartial are proving far too onerous. 

According to the Graurdiannhe's going freelance - in order to be as biased as he likes.

And good on him I say...

...though I bet he didn't see it coming.

My own favourite post of mine here at ITBB (oh, how modest!) was my review of one of his appearances on Radio 4's annual BBC Correspondents Look Ahead. I think I proved that Paul is even less of a successful prophet than Karl Marx.

Occupy, occupy, occupy!

Mr Sykes Goes to Ahmedabad

Hat tips to those of our readers who have been listening to Hugh Sykes's reports from India this week on The World at One and PM. You compelled me to listen to them too. (I would have missed them otherwise).

Listening to all of them confirms me in my feeling that Hugh has a wonderful way with words and sounds. He is the consummate BBC reporter when it comes to evoking a place.

I was somewhat surprised at how positively Hugh reported the Modi-inspired modernisation of Ahmedabad.

I wasn't remotely surprised, however, at how negatively Hugh reported the Modi government's attitude towards Muslims and how much he promoted Muslim grievances here. (That's par for the course at the BBC).

Nor was I surprised at how positively Hugh reported the Hindu halal shop. (That's par for the course at the BBC too). This is Hugh's kind of thing. The word "harmony" was used here. It's a word Hugh likes. (Remember his 'multicultural choir' in Turkey?)

The piece on the aborting of female foetuses wasn't surprising either. For different reasons.

Having never been to Ahmedabad, I don't know much about the city. But our friends on the internet say that only around 18% of its population are Muslim, and yet 50% of Hugh's pieces focused on the concerns of Muslims.

Isn't that disproportionate?

Things I've read (and can remember)

Having (it appears) become merely a weekend blogger, Friday night now seems to mean catching up with all sorts of things - and trying to remember all the other things about the BBC which have flitted across my mind in the past five days. 

(I wish the world would slow down. There's been far too much going on and my brain isn't what it used to be.)

Among the things I've read this week have been the following:

1THE CONSERVATIVE WOMAN: Biased BBC will load the dice against Brexit and Cameron’s claim he has banished “ever closer union” is a legal fiction - both by former BBC producer David Keighley.

The first piece looks at the BBC Trust's slippery behaviour - first, in slipping out the BBC's editorial guidelines on the corporation's EU referendum coverage and, second, regarding the Trust's offhand rejection of MPs' concerns about monitoring BBC bias.

The second piece includes a striking example of pro-EU bias from the BBC News website, awarding "a win" to David Cameron for 'exempting us from ever-closer union'. Whether the PM has actually done so (legally-speaking) is disputed, so the BBC awarding him "a win" might be premature (and biased).

2. THE NEW STATESMAN: The BBC has never been a natural home for Eurosceptics – just ask the young Michael Gove - a piece by former BBC head of television news/former Today editor Roger Mosey.

Mr Mosey, as might be expected, puts a generally pro-BBC case, but admits:
(1) that he "came across vanishingly few EU withdrawalists in [his]broadcasting life". 
(2) that BBC colleagues would 'hear' "the flapping of white coats" when "Tory Euro-bashers" and UKIP's Lord Pearson denounced the EU and BBC pro-EU bias. 
(3) that he thinks the BBC is too London-centric and, thus, thinks too much like pro-EU London than the rest of the country. 
(4) that like the rest of the Westminster Bubble, the BBC tends to concentrate more on "process" than "policy" (hence, presumably, all the 'splits' stuff).
(5) that BBC staff are "much more In than Out".

3. THE SPECTATORWho will watch for BBC bias in the EU referendum campaign?  - by Charles Moore... which Mr Moore hopes that pro-Leave campaigners will be monitoring the BBC for bias (I think his wish will come true!) and where he recalls a couple of hours of biased (pro-EU) BBC broadcasting on Today (a classic example of what I've recently been calling a 'snapshot').

An incidental moment in Charles Moore's piece recalls another Speccie piece by Rod Liddle (prior to Nick Robinson's arrival). Rod strongly suspected that John Humphrys was the rumoured "Tory" on the Today team. Charles suspects that John Humphrys might be the one non-Remain member of the Today team.

(That might explain the otherwise baffling series of features slagging him off over the past year or so on Roger Bolton's Feedback - a series of attacks that has always felt oddly personal to my ears.

Well, if the BBC can fill its airwaves with endless speculation, so can I!)

4. THE JEWISH CHRONICLEIsrael must stop making it easy for the boycotters - by John Ware.

The headline doesn't tell the full story here. The veteran BBC Panorama reporter lands a few solid punches on the strange and frequently antisemitic BDS brigade.

5. THE DAILY TELEGRAPHThe media is twisting the knife into Israel over the 'lone wolf intifada' - by Eylon Aslan-Levy.

Those notorious BBC headlines make their appearance here, and Eylon makes a strong case against the media in general. 

Robert and Mary

Though this blog is mostly about (politely) slagging off the BBC, we do like to praise the BBC from time to time.

And In Our Time continues to excel. 

Last week Robert Hooke. This week Mary Magdalene.

It seems that Pope Gregory the Great did a bit of 'reading between the lines' and 'joining the dots' and linked the myrrh-bearing Mary of the Resurrection to the long-haired, tearful, penitent Mary of  the early chapters of the gospels - and Lazarus's sister Mary. And the painters followed.

Melvyn's experts were quite contrary about this version of Mary though.

And as for Dan Brown, well, don't get them started, sistah!

Robert Hooke, that stout Balboa, of course, with eagle eyes (assisted by a microscope), is famed for staring at the the world beyond the naked eye - a world of hitherto wild surmise/Silent, upon a floor in Oxford.

Thursday 25 February 2016

Cultures of fear; one exposed / one pending

It seems like an ominous coincidence that today’s blanket coverage of Dame Janet Smith’s review  of the BBC’s Savile scandal comes on the same day as reports on the Rotherham abuse trial:
Both cases involve people in authority turning a blind eye to the terrible abuse that was going on virtually before their very eyes.

Both cases involved  ‘cultures of fear’, and we’re now seeing remorse, regret and attempts to apologise to the victims, or ‘survivors’.

At the BBC potential whistleblowers were afraid to act in case doing so would damage their job prospects; in Rotherham everyone was afraid to speak out for fear of being found guilty of a crime more heinous than any other.... racism.     Yet several truly vile individuals were left, unhindered and unchallenged,  to carry out unimaginable crimes - in Rotherham with the collusion of corrupt members of the Police and Rotherham council ad in the BBC, where there undoubtedly was collusion, but by individuals as yet unnamed.

Rotherham - from the BBC website:
“This is the first trial to come to court since the revelation that 1,400 children in Rotherham were groomed and abused. Even more stunning was that the authorities had ignored repeated warnings.
They preferred instead to protect the reputation of the town, or to avoid rocking race relations in Rotherham but in doing so police officers and social workers missed many opportunities to investigate abuse on a huge scale. 

“A youth worker in the town, who wrote an unpublished report for the Home Office in 2002 on child sexual exploitation, said the men had considered themselves above the law.Adele Gladman said: "They were being allowed to do it completely unchallenged and I think that did definitely give them a feeling of invincibility."I don't think I have ever encountered the levels of sadism and torture and sheer cruelty that we were encountering against children."

At the BBC, back then, Savile and Hall, (and now perhaps assorted other “talent”)  were also considered beyond criticism. Their status bestowed infallibility upon them.

Tony Hall’s apology seems futile, like governments apologising to the descendants of victims of historic abuses by cultures gone by. All his promises not to let it happen again and his proposals about how to go about ensuring that it won’t, don’t seem enough, somehow. 

I’m sure others will have a lot more to say about this, but I would like to highlight a parallel problem, which I hope will one day be resolved.
It concerns the BBC’s arrogance, its overbearing certainty that it is right and you are wrong.  In the Q & A session following the prepared speeches, a question addressed to Tony Hall stressed that contemporaneous complaints about Savile and Hall had been dismissed and batted away by the BBC. Tony Hall duly batted it away; I don’t think the irony was missed.

The missing question most urgently begged concerns the BBC’s bias. What would Tony Hall have to say about that? 
The BBC’s political and cultural biases are well documented, as is the reflexive batting away of complaints and complainants.
Just as the levels of corruption and collusion in the cases of Rotherham and the BBC are finally coming to light, I hope one day the extent of the BBC’s antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism will be seem for what it is.

Many viewers have noticed the BBC’s systematic downplaying of the Islam factor in sex abuse and other cultural practices that contravene British cultural norms, and the insidious normalisation of Islamic religious rituals and superstitions that are superimposed on all genres of broadcasting.
No doubt the message surrounding the new mosque in Albert Square will eventually be one of good Islam triumphing over evil Islam. 
“There is a great opportunity here to dispel misconceptions about Muslims and their faith, and we know that EastEnders has done this in the past through its Muslim characters.  
“However, there is a worry if this set is built to pursue a particular storyline along the lines of extremism, which would in fact further denigrate the Islamic faith and play into the hands of negative stereotypes that are unrepresentative of the majority of Muslims living in Britain.”
I haven’t watched Eastenders since the Vic was run by Den and Angie, so I don’t know if the plot-lines have reflected the Rotherham issue. 
I have already mentioned the frequent guest appearances of well-known antisemites as panellists and experts on the BBC’s political, religious and ethical programmes. Abdel Bari Atwan, George Galloway, umpteen pro-Palestinian activists - nearly always without the health warning that accompanies individuals or bodies considered right-wing.

Then there’s the unexplored territory of antisemitism in the new left. Jeremy Corbyn has never been truly challenged by any of the BBC’s rottweiler-like attack dogs over his association with antisemites and supporters of terrorism. 

“Of course the Labour party has responded in the usual way -- split between expressions of concern and those of outright denial. But the real question is: when did this type of behaviour break out into the open and become acceptable? The answer is obvious to me. From the accounts of those in the OULC and elsewhere, it is clear that anti-Semitism surfaced in the Labour party at exactly the moment the party started to be led by a man who, throughout his political life, had demonstrated extreme comfort with anti-Semites.”

and Tom Harris in the Telegraph:
“........ the onslaught against Israel from the broader Left of British politics is real, aggressive and worrying.
Michael Dugher, the former Shadow Culture Secretary who was recently sacked by Jeremy Corbyn, made a speech to a Labour Friends of Israel meeting last year in which he declared: “I am proud to call myself a friend of Israel. I am proud to call myself a Zionist.” 
“ Not only do we have a leader who can’t even bring himself to utter the word “Israel” when he’s attending a reception organised by Labour Friends of You Know Where. But we also have a leader who calls the terrorist, anti-semitic fanatics of Hamas his “friends”.”

At present the BBC overlooks antisemitism. Many of its employees are Islamophiles and Israelophobes.  Accusations of bias are there to be batted away. Antisemitism has become mainstream. 

As a whole the BBC supports Labour, is tolerant of the religion and culture of Islam, and hostile towards Israel accordingly. Its Middle East reporters and journalists are ignorant about Israel’s history and in denial about the similarities between Israel’s situation and our own, vis a vis Islamic terrorism. They tend to see ‘all Jews’ as capitalists; greedy, manipulative and self serving. This is the opposite of the truth, frightening and quite scandalous. 

So. One cover-up exposed, at least one more to go.  

Wednesday 24 February 2016

Another own goal for the BBC

Guido Fawkes adds another one to the collection...

Go back to Prime Minister's Questions on February 10th. Jeremy Corbyn's opening question went as follows: 
I have a question on housing. I've got an email from Rosie. She's in her 20s and she says: "I work incredibly hard at my job yet I'm still having to live at home with my parents." The lack of housing options, Mr Speaker, are forcing her to consider moving, even leaving the country. She asks the Prime Minister what action he's going to take to help young people and families suffering from unrealistic house prices and uncapped rents to get somewhere safe and secure to live.
In response to Mr Cameron's reply, Mr Corbyn continued:
Mr Speaker, I'm very pleased that the Prime Minister wants to help deliver decent housing for Rosie. She lives and works in London and, as the Prime Minister knows, London is very, very expensive.
'Rosie' herself later took to Facebook to give her response:

Where I work staff are regularly warned that what we put on Facebook must not bring any discredit to our company. We can be disciplined, even dismissed, for serious breaches. 

The place where Rosie works - the BBC -

1. Personal social media use
(d) You shouldn't state your political preferences or say anything that compromises your
impartiality. Don't sound off about things in an openly partisan way. Don't be seduced by the informality of social media into bringing the BBC into disrepute.
...and yet, having emailed Mr Corbyn, she then went onto Facebook and sounded off.

If you go public on Facebook, having already engaged in a high-profile partisan political gesture, you run the risk of being exposed by the myriad eyes of zealous partisans across the internet...

...and it's doubly risky for you to do if you're supposed to be an impartial BBC editorial assistant but are behaving like a zealous partisan yourself!


The highest-rated comment at Order Order noticed something else too: 

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Silencing “the truth”

A few days ago I read this online article by one of the BBC’s favourite ‘experts’ on the Middle East, Abdel Bari Atwan. Or 'Barry', as Gavin Esler likes to call him.

It’s entitled “A culture of Silencing”, and it begins as a self-pitying response to the cancellation of an event he was to chair at the British Houses of Parliament, no less, and continues as (the usual) diatribe of anti Israel hate-speak.

(Labour groups seem to be experiencing a spot of trouble recently, though I have no idea if Atwan's particular cancellation had anything to do with this particular row over antisemitism.) 
“The session was cancelled at the last minute under extreme pressure from the Labour Friends of Israel parliamentary group and a campaign waged against me in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle. This is not the first, and I am certain it will not be the last, time I have been prevented from offering the Palestinian point of view by the powerful machinations of the Zionist lobby and the propaganda department of the state of Israel known as Hasbara (‘explaining’).”

As Bari acknowledges, he is a frequent guest on TV, but he attributes the times when bookings have been cancelled at the last minute “for no apparent reason”, to the “powerful machinations of Jewish Zionist lobby and the propaganda department of the state of Israel.”

If Bari can’t see the irony in this, he’s even more blinded to reality that he at first appears. Do I need to spell it out? 
Whose propaganda department? Your propaganda department is bigger and more pernicious than my propaganda department? 

And, for what it's worth, any fule kno that last moment cancellations are par for the course where the BBC is concerned. They’re notorious for dumping speakers mercilessly if they’ve secured someone more interesting on the guest list.  Actually, I lie. I once read a piece by someone (other than Abdel Bari Atwan) who was furious because he’d wasted a whole precious day on stand-by, and was eventually unceremoniously dropped.

In any case I’d have thought Bari's ubiquitous appearances on Dateline would have more than compensated for the occasional cancellation. As far as some of us are concerned even one appearance is one too many.  That’s how powerful we are.

As far as the Palestinian point of view is concerned, well, does Bari not think it is offered sufficiently? Or is Bari one of the pro-Palestinian activists who think it is perfectly reasonable to expect the BBC to BDS all references to Israel? 

Yes. Apparently so.
“Readers may recall that during the invasion of Gaza in 2009 – in which 1600 Palestinians were slaughtered whereas Israel suffered nine casualties – broadcast commentary on the atrocity (in Britain at least) came mostly from Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, rather than Palestinians.”
Apart from the cheap casualty-toll reference, this is absolute tosh. And deluded and irrational. Yes, the Israeli PM’s spokesman Mark Regev was indeed seen and heard at that time, and although the BBC is supposed to be impartial (someone should tell Bari) he (Regev) was constantly subjected to (almost exclusively) utterly hostile interrogation by anchors from all British TV channels.

Bari complains that he was disadvantaged by Regev’s dastardly ability to lie and smile, whereas poor Bari’s powers of persuasion are hampered by his uncontrollable passion and volatility. Confusingly, he then seamlessly brags about the size of his following including the millions on Twitter.
“I am only one of hundreds, if not thousands, of media figures the Israelis seek to contain. Sites such as BBCwatch and CiFwatch (referring to the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ pages) routinely blacklist people who criticise Israel.” 

What? What on earth?   He proceeds to cite an assortment of Israel-haters, antisemites and BDS advocates to back up his claim that he is being victimised and that the anti-Israel, antisemitic views of his own and of the persons he lists are somehow being silenced by the Israel lobby. 
If only.

He goes on to discuss “terror” as if he doesn’t advocate it himself. Oh, oh! pants are on fire!

“Following an October 2003 article in which Atwan claimed that the U.S. is to blame for the Arab world's hatred of it, a Yemenite journalist and columnist for the London Arabic-language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Munir Al-Mawari, stated: "The Abd Al Bari Atwan [appearing] on CNN is completely different from the Abdel Bari Atwan on the Al Jazeera network or in his Al Quds Al Arabi daily. On CNN, Atwan speaks solemnly and with total composure, presenting rational and balanced views. This is in complete contrast with his fuming appearances on Al Jazeera and in Al Quds Al Arabi, in which he whips up the emotions of multitudes of viewers and readers."[22] 
In response to Atwan's legitimization of the Mercaz HaRav shooting in March 2008, Lior Ben-Dor, a spokesman at the Israeli Embassy in London, said: "The problem is that when addressing the British public, he tends to hide his true opinions and ideology - his support for terror and the murder of civilians. This article reveals Atwan's real colors, a supporter of fundamentalism and terror, and hence he should be treated accordingly."[1]

I know, I know. We don’t much trust Wiki. But...who you gonna trust? Wiki or Bari? 

It’s interesting to look at the comments below this piece though. One or two Harry’s Place regulars have contributed, which helps to take the nasty taste away from having read the wretched thing.

The enduring question remains. Why does the BBC see this duplicitous person as worthy of a platform they have in it their gift to bestow or withdraw at will?

Without a paddle

A number of people have flagged up this piece by Julia Hartley-Brewer.
The BBC thinks all Eurosceptics are frothing extremists. How can we trust it to be neutral?
Ms H-B contends that the BBC is so inherently pro EU that it can’t see that it is inherently pro EU, therefore its pro EU bias is nothing more than doin’ a-what comes natur’ly.

There’s a creepy parallel in there somewhere... but I won’t digress just for the minute.

 Of course Ms H-B has personal experience; as we know, she is no stranger to our screens. And, what’s more, she is a great fan of the BBC.
I say this more in sorrow than in anger, as a staunch admirer and supporter of the BBC as a world-class British institution, but the truth is that many BBC employees, like those of the Guardian newspaper, move in a world where they rarely come across people with different views from their own.”

That’s a bit like me and Craig. No, really. We do accept that the BBC was once, and in some ways still is, a world class British institution. And we are quite sure that The BBC and the Guardian do move, hand and hand, through their own world, which causes us much sorrow as well as a certain amount of anger.

One of the things she cites, which may sound trivial, but then so do most examples of bias when isolated from the whole - is the habit of referring to ‘Europe’ rather than the EU. As if literally leaving Europe (in the geographical sense) would entail the British Isles casting off into seas unknown, rudderless. Up shit creek without a paddle so to speak. But:
“Europe is a physical continent, the EU is a political entity.”
She is also concerned about the unequal focus on the splits in the out camp - which of course, since Boris ‘came out’  - is no longer so apparent. Or not apparent at all.

When she wrote this piece, though, there was a certain amount of glee on the BBC's part over the Farage Galloway catastrophe. 

(By the way, I did think Nigel Farage put the final nail in his credibility the other day when he announced that although political differences must be cast aside in cases of monumental importance like this, he would definitely ‘draw the line’ at embracing the BNP or the EDL. 
Now I don’t know about you, but the views of the "demographic" Galloway might bring on board are as toxic as Galloway’s own views, and although something similar might be said of the BNP or the EDL, in my opinion Nigel Farage has definitely drawn his line in the wrong place.)

So, for the time being at least, the BBC will be as interested in the split in the In campaign as they have been in the split in the Out campaign, though perhaps for different reasons.

Another piece in the Telegraph of interest to BBC watchers is:

by Patrick Foster Media Correspondent.

The BBC has admitted taking more than £2 million in European Union funding over the past three years, in a move that critics said called into doubt the corporation’s impartiality over the forthcoming European referendum.The broadcaster said it had taken the cash under the European Union framework programme, to fund its research and development arm, which is working on projects such as 3D broadcasting, and ultra-high definition filming. [...]Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP and a stern critic of the corporation, said: “Everyone knows that the BBC has an inbuilt pro-EU bias, but it should be above reproach during this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to vote on the future of our relationship with Europe. It already receives £3.7 billion from the licence fee, and taking EU funding unavoidably creates the impression that it is being paid to do the EU’s bidding.”

“James Harding, the director of BBC News, told MPs in October that every one of the corporation’s journalists will be sent on a compulsory training course about the EU, in a bid to ensure impartial coverage of the referendum.”

At the foot of this article there’s a link to another piece from last August:
It’s by Ben Riley-Smith, political correspondent, concerning a letter to the BBC trust from John Whittingdale, another Tory “Outer” who also happens to be the Culture secretary. 
...“John is absolute right,” said Liam Fox, the former defence secretary. “The BBC is in its very DNA now pro-European. I think its default position is Brussels right and everyone else wrong.”He added: “It is very important that as a public-funded broadcaster they remain highly impartial.”
Yet another link in this piece takes you to something called “Tories go to war with the BBC”
Haven’t seen much evidence of that though, have we? Must’ve been a phoney war.

So there is some sort of consensus that the BBC is inherently pro EU, but are under strict orders not to let it influence their broadcasting. Can they really do this? Will the pretence of impartiality be as farcical as their Twitter feeds? It’s early days. 3 more months to go.