Sunday 3 July 2016

Bias Hour

Ms. Apolitical herself

I've been blogging, on and off, about BBC bias for some seven years now and I've increasingly tried to be temperate in my tone and judgements. 

In all that time, however, I don't remember ever having heard anything quite so flagrantly biased as Tuesday's Woman's Hour Brexit special. I'm almost inclined to rant and rage about it. 

It really is the worst thing I think I've ever heard on the BBC in terms of naked, overwhelming bias.

Not to be hyperbolic, but the bias wasn't just off the scale it was beyond any previously imagined scale and fast closing in on infinity. Mathematicians will struggle to solve the mystery of the severity of its 'bias curve' for decades, maybe millennia. It was that bad. 

I'm being light-hearted here but the bias truly was so bad that I kept having to press the pause button on the iPlayer in order to calm down (which isn't like me at all). 

If you can bear it, please listen for yourselves


Really all I probably need to do is to say that the guests were 4:1 in favour of Remain. 

The Remain side consisted of Labour MP Seema Malhotra, Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, the New Statesman's Helen Lewis and the Times's Alice Thomson.

The Leave side consisted solely of Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom.

Despite failing to announce that at the start (i.e. by failing to call Helen Lewis and Alice Thomson as being for Remain), even Jane Garvey had to eventually admit that "you are the only Leave person on the panel" - though we were most of the way through the programme before that actually was admitted (despite it already having become more than blindingly obvious by that stage anyhow!). 

In what possible way is that justifiable, especially given the Leave victory in the referendum?

That by itself is surely proof of shocking pro-EU bias here.


Our next Prime Minister?

It got worse though. Much worse.

Predictably, the four Remain supporters didn't hold back from ganging up on and repeatedly interrupting Andrea Leadsom. 

So, therefore, I - as a BBC listener - might have assumed (if I didn't know better) that BBC presenter Jane Garvey would do the decent thing and take the side of the 1 against the 4, if only for the sake of 'BBC impartiality'.

This, however, is Jane Garvey and Woman's Hour and Jane Garvey did absolutely no such thing. 

She relentlessly, blatantly, joined the 4 (Remainers) in attacking the 1 (Leaver), making it 5:1.


Never was BBC bias so blatant as Jane Garvey's behaviour here. 

You really only need to listen to the first seven minutes to know what's about to come - but if you only listen to those first seven minutes you'll miss the fact that it got much, much worse. Jane gently brought in her three Remain guests - Seema, Alice and Helen. It was all very nice and friendly. She then brought in her Leave guest, Andrea. In less than half a minute came a frosty interruption, "Just answer the question though", at around the 6.23 mark.


That really was only the beginning. 

Jane did interrupt other guests, but (a) rarely, and either (b) to press them on some leadership-related issue or, much more often, (c) to support their point. 


The next major bout of hostile interruptions from BBC presenter came around the 13.53 mark. They were directed at Andrea Leadsom ("We've just heard the 10 O' Clock news bulletin. George Osborne has already said...", swiftly followed by: "The people have spoken, and we've got spending cuts and tax rises" and "What about our deficit?")

Contrast that with how pro-Remain Tory Sarah Wollaston was then treated when the famous '£350 million for the NHS' figure came up: "As the chair of the Health Committee, how are you feeling right now?" 

At around 16:15 Jane was pressing Mrs. Leadsom on that £350 million figure. "It will absolutely haunt you", Jane told her, ever so impartially.

A pair of pinko, liberal media types (dressed for a pantomime)

Mrs. Leadsom kept her cool. She didn't complain about it being 5 against 1. The only time she protested was when everyone piled in on her (at around 18:52) and she said, "You're basically shouting me down". And she was right. They were shouting her down.

I'll pass over Jane Garvey's bizarre stuff about Oliver Letwin, "public schools", "Old Etonians" and "men" (at 21:22) and move on to Jane's even more bizarre intervention (at 22:10). It was, naturally, directed at Andrea Leadsom: 
And what're obviously...Boris Johnson was the leader of the campaign you supported, Andrea. I mean, it was, to me...and I'm apolitical...the listeners may or may not believe that but I truly believe I am...but even to play cricket on Sunday. You know, Theresa May didn't go and buy shoes, did she, on Sunday? It's a very masculine mindset. Nor did he turn up in the House of Commons yesterday.
Andrea began by replying, "He was definitely in the House of Commons yesterday". Then everyone piled in on her. And Jane Garvey interrupted her and got into another  scrap with her and then "moved" the conversation on, by talking over her and passing it onto to Seema Malholtra.

I'll pass over Jane calling Conservative MP Heidi Allen a "Labour MP" ("I apologise," said Jane, when everyone corrected her), and move on to her next spat...with...guess who?...Andrea Leadsom (at around 25:53). Andrea, protesting at Jane & Co's treatment of Boris and Michael Gove (then, if you can think back that far, in partnership!), accused them of "dismissing" them. Feathers were ruffled and Jane Garvey duly took the hump:
This is Woman's Hour where we look at things from a woman's point of view. I was merely suggesting when I mentioned cricket....(after Andrea protested again)....and you're very welcome here....It would be something...the cricket thing would be something a female politician just wouldn't do. 
And on it went in the same vein, always the sole Leave supporter getting a hard time from the BBC presenter (and the other guests). 

In passing, I'll just note a classic 'fake impartial' question about immigration from Jane Garvey to Helen Lewis (about 31:45): 
Helen, is there a reluctance - let's face it - on the part of a lot of the pinko, liberal media to actually embrace this topic of immigration? 
The "pinko, liberal media" bit is a sneering caricature of the kind of language no right-winger now uses (and probably hasn't used for decades) but 'pinko, liberal media' types like Jane seem to imagine that people who criticise the media for pro-immigration bias still do use such silly, 1950s language (Jane & Co. being so far removed from mindsets other than their own that such language sounds exactly like the sort of thing 'people like us' say about her).

Me (as Jane Garvey probably imagines me)?

Anyhow, Jane was soon back on the attack against Leave, and Andrea Leadsom. Moving to 33:36, we get this from Jane of the BBC:
I appreciate, Andrea, that it's difficult for you because you are the only Leave person on the panel. I appreciate that, but how can you explain what does appear to be an increase in obvious, conspicuous racism in some morons now feeling that it is, in some way, it is acceptable to behave in this way?
You will, of course, note that the phrasing of this question implies that a Leave supporter like Mrs. Leadson is naturally in the spotlight regarding such questions. That, some might say (including me), verges on a smear. Three further hostile interruptions followed from Jane against Andrea Leadsom, the first two in quick succession:
  • I wonder whether in the Leave campaign you had ever had a conversation about the possibility that a Leave victory might result in increased racism, in conspicuous racism?
  • So you haven't really had a conversation? 
And then it was onto the final topic: Jo Cox.


I know this is a long post but it (hopefully) lays out the reasons why this programme was such an aggressively biased affair.

Can you think of any defence for such a loaded panel? Or a defence for Jane Garvey's utterly outrageous taking of sides against Andrea Leadsom and Leave? 

If this isn't a cut-and-dried example of BBC bias at its worst then I'm Diane Abbott. (And for the record, I'm not Diane Abbott. And I've never dated Jeremy Corbyn either).


  1. I really don't want to listen to this, because I'd only be doing it to get upset, and what's the point? We used to get criticized all the time for tuning in to the BBC just to get riled up about something. But that thought brings up another: if people like you didn't listen to this crap just, as defenders of the indefensible would say, to find something to complain about it, who would notice the bias and hold the BBC to account? Not the regular audience.

    That's what they want: they want only the easily manipulated or an echo chamber reflecting back their approved thoughts. Jane "Champagne Bottles" Garvey has no right to editorialize without complaints. Keep listening, keep getting riled up, keep complaining. It's the only way.

  2. Excellent post. I heard this programme live and listened to it again last night with a view to 'doing a Craig' on it but managed only the first ten minutes. It was heavy going even to listen to, never mind anything else. To begin, Malhotra spoke (dreary tale of Labour woe) uninterrupted from 1.31 till 2 21 when JG interrupted with a prompt about Labour tears, Malhotra then resuming from 2 40 till 3 36, followed by Thomson 3 46 till 4 30; Lewis 4 35 till 5 21 (when JG reads tweets, then invites Lewis to comment re vote not legally binding) and 5 39 till 5 49; 5.50 JG addresses Leadsom; Leadsom speaks 6 09 till 6 25 when rudely interrupted by JG: "Just answer the question, though." After 16 seconds! Leadsom resumes 6 27 till 7 23. Wollaston from 7 38 till 8 05; (JG interjects 'Andrea says...'Leadsom confirms...)Wollaston (doom and gloom) 8 11 till 8 40 (JG interjects 'to explain'); Wollaston 8 57 till 9 38 (JG interjects to invite Wollaston's view re election); Wollaston 9 41 till 9 45 when JG + other voice(s) interject; talk election; around 9 58 Leadsom tries to interject (obstacle of fixed term Parliament); JG: 'Just one moment, Andrea; I'll come back to you in a second; I know Seema wants to say something.' Malhotra 10 04 uninterrupted till 11 05 when JG interjects to support and assist (about Mackenzie in The Sun), and Malhotra resumes...that's when I gave up.

    My general impression when I heard it live was that Malhotra was given a free run (and boy did she drone on and on) on about four occasions throughout the programme and that JG was acting as a facilitator for her and to an extent for Wollaston and Lewis(she deferred to those two), and generally polite to the four, whereas for Leadsom she was more of a blocker and even downright rude on a couple of occasions and not interested in her exposition but only in whether she was standing for leader, and in any counter arguments or negative points. Leadsom did manage to cut through and say her piece a few times on substantive issues such as the money. And when she took on JG's absurd objection to Boris Johnson playing cricket and dining on a Sunday and was instructed that the programme was from a woman's point of view, she only had to say 'I'm a woman' to show up the stupidity of JG's position and attempt at justification.

    Another moment when JG struck me as absurd was when someone took issue on a point (I forget what) and JG said words to the effect But we heard it on the Ten O'clock News! It's a combination of stupidity and naivety, compounded by a pervasive agenda within the cocoon of the BBC.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.