Thursday 25 August 2016

Did Mark Easton make a beeline today towards Leave voters who come across as uneducated and/or racist?

The first post-Brexit edition of the BBC's Newswatch (1 July) featured a complaint that BBC reporters, post-vote, had been "making a beeline" to film Leave voters "who come across as uneducated and/or racist". The complainant called that "unhelpful".

The BBC's Head of Newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, dismissed this charge and implied that it was in fact the complainant who was actually engaging in unhelpful stereotyping:
On the 'uneducated' point, we need to talk to the whole of our audience, whatever their level of education might be, and the gentleman who made that point there is making a judgement about them that we're not making.
Exhibit A in the case against the BBC was an Ed Thomas report for BBC One's News at Ten which focused on the fears of Eastern European migrants in Leeds juxtaposed with the views of various anti-immigration voters, including a self-declared fascist with 'England' tattooed on his neck and a swastika tattooed on his eagerly-displayed biceps. The latter provoked most controversy with Newswatch viewers, but Jonathan Munro protested the BBC's innocence over it and implicitly criticised Newswatch for even raising it:
In the clip you showed at the beginning of the compilation you showed one interview with a gentleman with a swastika tattoo. That was filmed in Canvey Island for an edition of the Ten O'Clock News a couple of nights ago. We ran two reports on that programme talking to ordinary people in ordinary walks of life - one from the north-east of England and the other from Canvey. I think in those reports we must have interviewed 10, 11, 12 different people. One of them was a tattoo...You chose to show that. I don't think that was a representative sample at all of what we did, and if you look back at the programme the vast majority of people in those two reports were would you might call, to be honest, normal, everyday, ordinary people with perfectly valid and honourable intentions, whichever way they voted.
Mr Munro was so confident-sounding that I initially missed the fact that he was factually incorrect.

Yes, there was a report from Canvey Island that night but "the gentleman with a swastika tattoo" didn't appear in it. He was in the other report - the one from Leeds.

And watching that report again suggests that Mr Munro was being somewhat disingenuous.

Besides Swastika-Guy, the two other "everyday, ordinary people" who voted Leave and were selected as 'vox pops' in that Leeds report were (a) "a second-generation immigrant...frustrated at Europeans arriving in a place he calls 'home'", and (b) a chap called Wayne who wants migrants to "go soon as possible" and who was led by Ed's leading questions and narrative build-up into sounding like a racist empowered "by the Brexit vote".

(Click on the link above to see for yourselves). 


I remembered this Newswatch exchange after watching tonight's News at Six.

It was Mark Easton's strikingly biased report on the risks posed by a post-Brexit reduction in EU immigration that brought it back to mind.

Mark 'reported' that agriculture, the hospitality sector, the care sector, construction and the NHS faced serious risks from a post-Brexit reduction in EU immigration. "Shortages" and "collapse" could result, said Mark. (It was a typical Mark Easton report).

He then stopped off in Leave-voting Rochester to canvass the views of three 'vox pops'. 

Did Mark Easton "make a beeline" to film Leave voters "who come across as uneducated and/or racist" here? 

Well, here's the first pro-Leave/anti immigration 'vox pop' in Mark Easton's report tonight: 

And here's what he said:
I think they should all go back to where they belong really, cos our country's ruined now, innit? There's no houses for us. There's no jobs.
Next came a lady who said:
I'd like them to do what we voted for really, which is to make it much lower, much fairer, a points-based system. 
A perfectly reasonable point - though I suspect, like many a viewer, I didn't immediately catch what she'd said as I was too busy gawping at her remarkably unhealthy-looking teeth - quite the worst-looking set of teeth I've seen on TV for many a year.  

(I'm sure she's an absolutely lovely person and I feel awful for writing that, but I really don't think I would have been in the minority among News at Six viewers in thinking in such a shallow, unkind way about her teeth).

Then came a pro-immigration voter....

....who made a longer, more impassioned and much more eloquent case for mass EU migration, echoing many of the points Mark Easton himself was making earlier - though without the veneer of BBC impartiality, of course.

Watching it, I felt just like that initial complainant to Newswatch. It did seem to me as if Mark Easton had very carefully selected which three 'vox pops' he put into his report here. But I could also hear my own inner Jonathan Munro saying:
On the 'uneducated' point, we need to talk to the whole of our audience, whatever their level of education might be, and the gentleman who made that point there is making a judgement about them that we're not making.
Am I the one in the wrong here for thinking really bad things about the uneducated-sounding topless guy and the woman with the disjointed, yellow teeth (the two anti-immigration 'vox pops')?

Did no such wicked thoughts cross Mark Easton's mind, even for a single second, when he selected them for his report and then juxtaposed them with an eloquent, 'normal-looking' pro-immigration guy? 


Given Mark Easton's past record, I'm not willing to give him the benefit of the doubt about that. He can be a highly manipulative reporter, and this felt highly manipulative to me. 


And, moreover, what is Emma Jane Kirby's Brexit Street series for PM if not the initial complainer to Newswatch's point writ large?

That entire series so far has been"making a beeline" towards Leave voters "who come across as uneducated and/or racist". 


  1. Craig,

    The BBC's strategy is clear. Portray Leave voters as uneducated, racists. So that when the 2nd referendum comes, then Leavers will be too ashamed to speak up. It's the same strategy that has been used successfully for years to silence those worried about mass immigration.

    All bar three (NI, Scotland and London) of the UK regions voted Leave. Selecting run down areas of the North East or North Kent as representative of Leave is in itself bias.

    1. I'm sure you're right about that. In fact, there's been far too much of this kind of thing to leave much doubt about it.

  2. Of course the whole range of voices on this subject would have to include some thick-sounding Remain voters (of which I know many) but somehow we don't get to see those.

  3. Good catch. Easton wasn't the only one who rushed to create a narrative. Anyone who watched the BBC's referendum night coverage would know it was inevitable after listening to every single field correspondent (and some in the studio) state uncategorically that all Brexit voters were 'the Left Behind', angry at the elite, just wanting to kick someone. It was only ever going to be downhill from there.

    The next day I saw Huw Edwards rile up some young people about how shocked they were that nobody they knew or heard of was voting Brexit, and that their future had been stolen from them. I saw Labour Remainiac after Labour Remainiac saying that the peasants are revolting and "we need to start listening". You have that warning from an ex-Beeboid about how they need to be aware that not everyone celebrates diversity the way the bubble-dwellers do. (

    And then there's the BBC CoJ video (taken down from Youtube, but which I downloaded and still have) of Easton himself stating the BBC has a duty to educate the public, and that they do it in a direction away from the line taken by Dacre and Murdoch.

  4. Mark Easton is the equivalent of the hardline ideologue in the Politburo who isn't prepared to concede one millimetre of dogma, no matter how many peasants might actually be starving out on the collective farms.

    According to Easton-Leninism:

    1. All migration is good but mass immigration is particularly good, and absolutely necessary for a modern economy to function (if you mentioned South Korea by way of counter-example to him, he'd probably raise a sceptical but well groomed eyebrow, ignore you and continue with his sermon).

    2. Anyone who thinks that having to provide the infrastructure and revenue services for an additional 500,000 plus people each year (5 million per decade) might be beyond our economic and fiscal capacity is simply unable to come to terms with the modern world - they are the old, bitter, racist and uneducated who don't understand economics or how a modern society works.

    3. Globalisation is inevitable and good. Ideally, the UK will become completely de-industrialised and will comprise only three classes: Financial and media workers; migrants brought into provide services to the financial and media workers; and a diminishing rump of indigenous welfare dependents.

    1. For a good example of this mindset, take the following from Isabel Hardman on The Westminster Hour from 21/08:
      "The fact is that actually, it's a good thing that net migration is high, because it means that people want to come to this country and work, and to reduce the numbers means that the economy won't be doing as well, and no government wants a poor economy, but Theresa May seems committed [emphasis] to reducing the numbers."
      IH is not a BBC journalist herself, but appears very frequently on the BBC. This speech was allowed to go unchallenged due to her 'neutral journalist' position on the programme.


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