Saturday 20 February 2016

The tussle in Brussels

As that last post shows, the BBC isn't always a monolith,

Indeed, Newsnight and The World Tonight also differed in the general tone of their reporting of David Cameron's deal with the EU: Newsnight added a little cynicism to the mix while The World Tonight eschewed cynicism entirely.

In fact, if I were given to hyperbole, I'd say that last night's The World Tonight sounded for all the world as if it had been written by the Number Ten press office (please listen from 8.01 onwards). 

Reporter Gavin Lee described "the tussle in Brussels" in terms that made it sound as if David Cameron has pulled up his shirt sleeves and prevailed against all opposition, and presenter Razia Iqbal kept talking up his achievements throughout.

It was all a little odd.

Razia Iqbal also interviewed people from both sides, live: the pro-Brexit Arron Banks and the anti-Brexit Dominic Grieve (who she subsequently had to apologise to for wrongly introducing as a former justice secretary).

The BBC doesn't want us to count, but: Mr Banks got about a minute and a quarter while Mr Grieve got nigh on five minutes (and was allowed to answer at length). That is some difference!

(Mr Banks was also swiftly dismissed with the words, "OK, Arron Banks, you've made your position very clear. Thank you very much indeed for joining us".)

Here are two of the questions the BBC presenter put to Arron Banks: 
The Prime Minister has quite clearly said that people should be suspicious...he said this tonight...of those who say that leaving Europe is the track to the land of milk and honey. Given what the Prime Minister has [the emphasis was Razia Iqbal's] achieved this evening, why are you still so keen to be out of Europe? 
One of the things we just heard from the people is the meeting this evening saying, you know, that we wanted control over our borders - there's all sorts of restrictions, significant restrictions on benefits going to migrants that David Cameron has won this evening. Surely that's welcome?
If the programme hadn't presented the PM's achievement in so uncritical a way earlier, this might just have been taken for proper devil's advocate interviewing.

And worse, she then put questions to Dominic Grieve which also contained within then the idea that the PM has achieved "concessions" and "significant progress":
Are you happy with what Mr Cameron has walked away with? 
But isn't that going to happen? Isn't that inevitable that in the end it doesn't really matter what concessions, what significant progress David Cameron has made, the bottom line will be a question of viscerally voting 'In' or 'Out'? And you heard Arron Banks and you heard those activists in the Grassroots Out report. These are people who are already thinking nothing he comes back with is going to be enough.
The second half of her interview with Mr Grieve was wasted trying to get him to speculate on what Michael Gove and Boris Johnson are thinking. He kept saying he didn't know and advising her to ask them but that didn't stop her from asking more questions in the same vein.

1 comment:

  1. Is it bias or just inability to do her job?

    The proper way to put a devil's advocate question is to make it clear it is not necessarily your view e.g. "But the Prime Minister says he has won a significant deal - what's your response to that claim?"


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