Sunday 13 March 2016

In brief

A quick run through of some of my usual subjects...

I didn't get very far with this week's From Our Own CorrespondentKate Adie's introduction to the first report, talking of "The desperate and dispossessed...attempting to make the journey from Turkey to Europe", saw me off.


The Now Show probably doesn't use canned laughter, but I do wonder sometimes. I barely raised a titter this week. The audience sounded as if it was about to collectively wet itself with laughter. It didn't help that Jon Holmes did a bit on the Queen, Brexit and the Sun which relied on jokes about the Queen being German and Prince Philip being Greek. How lazy is that? 


I forget to round off our survey of political bias on the latest series of Radio 4's From Fact to Fiction (aka From Fact to Propaganda). We left our running tally at 6 episodes for the Left, 1 with no obvious agenda (disputed), and a big fat (undisputed) 0 for the Right. The final episode - a piece about José Mourinho by Mark Lawson - was unpolitical, so the final tally remains as above - except, of course, for the 'with no obvious agenda' category going up to 2. Clear bias.


One of the things I've spotted before about BBC Breakfast paper reviewers is that they tend to be drawn from an uncontroversial, vaguely centrist pool. The rare strongly-opinionated ones. however, tend to come from the centre-left wing of the political spectrum. Simon Fanshawe - by my reckoning the most regular Breakfast reviewer, is one example, and this morning's reviewer, writer and social justice campaigner Paul Vallely, also falls into that category. He denounced the government over social justice issues and joined the presenters in the latest BBC 'two minute hate' against Donald Trump. Labour's John McDonnell, however, was also held up for criticism. (It's that 'soggy BBC centre-left' again).


Ted Cruz was the subject of this week's Profile on Radio 4. It was presented by intermittent John Peel-sound-alike Mark Coles. The blurb on the programme's website begins, "Senator Ted Cruz is a hardliner, even by the standards of his native Texas..." The reaction on Twitter was unanimous: Mr Cruz is "even worse than Trump", "totally terrifying", "deeply unpleasant", a "political horror" and "basically the total nutter version of TheDonald". Having listened myself, it's not hard to work out why they reacted like that. Mark Coles will be pleased.


Talking about the BBC's US election coverage: Charges of overkill and bias (against Trump) were featured on both this week's Newswatch and Feedback, and Jon Sopel was on both defending himself and his colleagues. Oddly both programmes steered clear of the 'Curious Incident of the Candidate in the BBC's coverage', as per Conan Doyle - the candidate being Hillary Clinton, plus all the scandals surrounding her and the startling fact that her candidacy might be at risk because of them:
Inspector Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the candidate in the BBC's coverage."
Inspector Gregory: "The candidate did nothing in the BBC's coverage."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

It wouldn't be Feedback if Roger Bolton wasn't doing his pro-BBC spin job on the charter renewal. This week saw Radio 4's 'champion of the listener' (beginning at 15:39) cited Tony Hall's response to a government report about the BBC's governance. He then went on to say, "Tony Hall pointed out that if this happened" the corporation's independence could be at threat. The words "pointed out" were Roger Bolton's. He could have said "said", or "argued" or "claimed". But, no, he went for "pointed out", as if something true was being "pointed out".


To end on a more positive note though: Dateline London was good this week, especially on Obama's criticism of the UK and France and the EU-Turkish deal over the migrants. The range of contrasting views was to its credit. The programme's resident Eurofanatic, Marc Roche, unsurprisingly grabbed the opportunity to try and persuade us to stay in his beloved EU. Gavin congratulated him on being awarded the Légion d'honneur by the French government. "What on earth have you done to deserve that?", he joked. "Exactly what I will say next", replied the deadpan Marc before launching into a defence of France and the UK against Obama's criticisms. Unlike The Now Show, that made me laugh. 


  1. Can I add "Saturday Review" to the suckfest of Beeb output that managed to "grind my gears".
    If only Peter Griffin DID front this awful show.
    Some old boilerbird called Rowan Pelling didn`t even bother to give the "Scandinavian Art" upcoming series a review-she "couldn`t get past the fact that it was another white middle aged man" that was presenting it.
    Had a bloke said they`d not do their job and review something because they "couldn`t get past the fact that it was a gay Asian" or "disabled black woman"-then all hell would break loose.
    But Pelling got away with this slur-and I can only guess that Andrew Graham Dixon might actually know or care about Scandinavian art...and all those artists might also be white and male..does Pelling have a problem with THAT as well?
    Still-Saturday evening...who listens to that show?
    But this slurry is a constant these days...

    1. Yes, I heard that - and read your comment about it at B-BBC.
      It's only reinforced my intention to watch Andrew Graham Dixon's programme (though I probably would have done so anyhow).
      I probably know as much about Scandinavian art as Rowan Pelling does (ie. bugger all backwards) but I hope to learn something from it.
      At least the other 'Saturday Review' types (including Tom Sutcliffe) - despite shamelessly indulging the erotic Rowan in her misandristic slur - said they enjoyed it too.

  2. Is any faction of the British media talking about Hillary Clinton's email scandal at all? The BBC has an easy 'lemming journalism' defense as far as I can tell.

  3. Typical unbalanced Marr show today. After a soft, friendly interview with Frederick Forsyth, which will be counted by the BBC as pro-Remain because Marr essentially let his guest state various reasons for leaving the EU or countering a couple of fearmongering points, it was time for a party political platform for John McDonnell to make up lost ground from the poor reception of his recent budget announcement.

    "...a fairer society, a more equal distribution of wealth, and as a result of that, a more democratic society as well."

    Marr then rephrased that in a more substantive manner. Helping his leftie guest as usual. Typical left-wing definition of democracy. I heard this from Occupiers, from BBC journalists, and politicians. Democracy = getting what the person speaking wants.

    This was followed by McDonnell expanding on how it would be fairer, resurrecting Gordon Brown's definition of borrowing and spending as 'investment', and assurances that he was there to fight for the workers on the shop floor.

    Marr was left to help him clarify a couple of details. Not a single challenge, just helpful, leading questions, occasionally nudging his guest in the right direction. He did gently ask if spending on public sector wages might come from borrowing. McDonnell simply repeated the 'borrowing to invest for growth' mantra, and Marr left it at that.

    Marr and his producers essentially came up with questions geared toward helping McDonnell both clarify his message and formulate good answers to criticisms. He even prompted McDonnell to stand up for the EU at the end, so I guess balancing Forsyth's pro-Leave segment.

    And so to Osborne. He did let Osborne ramble on a little too long, but it seemed like Marr didn't have much to ask or say other than variations on 'nasty Tory budget cuts'. Then he saw his moment and pounced:

    "You are taking money out of the pockets of the most vulnerable"

    The same old binary debate on disability benefits. Marr didn't accept anything Osborne said, and Osborne couldn't explain himself properly, even though the reality of waste and abuse probably backs him up. A very poor showing, but that's Osborne. Not sure why Marr didn't continue to press him because he clearly was not in command of his figures. Maybe he was conserving his powder for the end, where he attacked the u-turns and failure to reduce debt. Osborne repeated his usual talking points, but Marr really had nothing more to say. He probably doesn't have any command of the figures, either, just the talking points.

  4. There was a surreal moment where Marr stated good reasons to get out of the EU. The Eurozone is going south, a rise in political extremism, barbed wire going up everywhere, and "that seems to a lot of people completely barking, frankly."

    This was meant to segue into getting Osborne to explain reasons for staying In. Marr sounded so sincere I almost forgot Osborne was a Remainiac zealot. It was pathetic. Osborne was so bad Marr was in pain after a while. I can sum up this segment thus:

    MARR: "Please, please, please, give us a good reason to stay In."

    OSBORNE: "It would be a leap in the dark. Be very afraid."

    MARR: "Please, please, please dismiss what Boris Johnson said."

    OSBORNE: "Be very afraid. We won't be able to control anything. The future of British workers depends on Remaining."

    MARR: "Please, please please, rebut the fearmongering about Turkey joining the EU."

    OSBORNE: "I will now tell a lie about what will happen with free movement."

    MARR: "Are you kidding me? OMG this is not going in the right direction."

    OSBORNE: "Waffle, half-truths, variations on a theme."

    MARR: "Please, please, please, rebut what Gove said about ministers being told the EU rules over them."

    OSBORNE: "Freedom means being part of the EU and controlling our destiny. Oh, and I will now dishonestly conflate NATO with the EU."

    MARR: "Oy. Let's move on to criticize Boris for supporting Leave for purely selfish reasons because he wants Cameron's job."

    OSBORNE: "I am not touching that with a ten foot pole."

    MARR: "And now for the news."

    What a difference, though, between this and McDonnell's segment. Yes, the party in government should get more scrutiny, but I don't think that means you just give a free platform for the opposition.


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