Friday 21 October 2016

Fee-(Glover)-fi-fo-fum, I smell the bias of the BBC

Non-editorialising Fi(ona) Glover

Radio 4's The Listening Project is doing a two-week series of 'Referendum Tales'. 

Listening to the first two episodes and hearing the balance of pro-Brexit to anti-Brexit voices go against pro-Brexit voices, I just knew how things were going to go.

And 'go' they most certainly went.

And now, with half of the ten episodes down, the imbalance against Brexit stands thusly:

8 pro-Brexit voices
18 anti-Brexit voices

That's clearly a hefty imbalance (with much wailing and gnashing of teeth about Brexit to be heard, along with some more reasonable voices)...

...but The Listening Project appears to be intensely relaxed about this bias. Thus, presenter Fi Glover has (twice so far) preemptively waved away any potential accusations of bias by simply asserting:  
(On Wednesday's edition) We don't editorialise our conversations in the Project and in these little shows we aren't aiming for total political balance. Many of those motivated to chat are those not entirely pleased by the Brexit outcome. 
(On Thursday's edition) Now, our job here at The Listening Project is to archive your thoughts and feelings. This is not a political polling resource. So when we asked for your referendum tales we thought we'd probably get more people wanting to talk about their pain rather than their satisfaction at the result. We're hear to listen not to editorialise. 
In other words (as the youngsters say these days): It is as it is. 

Never mind how many voices moan about Brexit racism and Little Englanders and wonder what went through the minds of stupid Leave voters (though the TLP Remainers aren't all that bad), it is as it is.

One problem with such an insouciant attitude is that it appears to conflict with the programme's main purpose - a purpose restated at the very start of this week's five editions of The Listening Project:
We talk a lot about the value of The Listening Project to future generations and we are aware there will come a time when 'events of 2016' is just a topic in some Key Stage 4 projects. So we thought it might be helpful if people could find a Brexit section in our archive where they could hear what we feel about this country's seismic shift.
The 'falling-down' here is that this sample doesn't accurately reflect what "we" as a country think (though it may reflect what Radio 4 listeners - and the BBC - think). 

Pupils studying these interviews decades hence for their Key Stage 4 project are, therefore, unlikely to realise that they are listening to a heavily biased sample of opinions (the word 'biased'  being used here in the statistical sense) and mostly hearing from the minority (losing) side of the referendum vote. The BBC, therefore, risks skewing the perceptions of the future. 

The other problem, of course, is that all of this merely adds to the strong impression - an impression now backed by an overwhelming body of evidence - that Radio 4 is betraying a heavy bias (in the statistical and non-statistical sense) against Brexit across vast swathes of its output, despite its charter-bound obligations towards impartiality.

And (in other news), yes, bears are also renowned for giving the strong impression that they favour unburdening their bowels in certain tree-filled areas.


  1. In the last two days I've driven from Nottingham to Chester via Newcastle and then back to Nottingham so I reckon I've been exposed to a good 8 to 9 hours of the utter bias - I suggest you check out today's Feedback for a discussion about the Listening Project it was something else.

    1. I get that impression even when I'm driving the quarter of an hour journey to work.

      I'm listening to that Feedback now...

      "Well, I think it's only now possible to have those discussions", Fi Glover tells Roger Bolton, "because I think what would have happened, if we'd asked people to come into the Project before they'd had the vote, we obviously would have had to maintain exactly the kind of impartiality, and that would have been difficult for our remit. So for asking people to come in after the event..."...

      And there she trailed off.

      Her and her programme are saying that it's perfectly OK to be biased (now) if that heavy bias is reflecting the views of the (self-selecting/BBC-selected) Radio 4 listeners going into BBC studios and being broadcast, however one-sided the result may be.

      Fi Glover also did that 'yawn' thing again that we identified with the BBC and Remain supporters in the run-up to the referendum:

      "I mean, I totally appreciate that some people, you know, they hear the word 'Brexit' on the radio and they just reach for the 'Off' button. You know, I fully understand that..."

    2. Or another (crisper) way of putting it than I managed there, via another reader...

      "Fi Glover didn't want to mount the interviews because she would have had to deal with the tiresome referendum balance rules. Indirect confirmation that now 'impartiality' has been totally abandoned!"

      Very much, indeed!

    3. Craig - thank you for taking the time to publish Fi Glover's excuse for allowing bias AFTER the referendum.

      Nonsense of course.

      We all know that there are enormous pressures to get the referendum overturned, or ignored, so allowing bias NOW is just as despicable.

  2. Hey, 8 anti-Brexit voices isn't bad when you consider that the Beeboids think anyone with a differing opinion is Coco the Clown.

    It's sad that it's come to this, isn't it?

    1. Yes, it is sad.

      It has to be said, listening to the interviews broadcast, that those 8 anti-Brexit voices haven't been (a) the most eloquent or (b) the most serious - and three of them have been explicitly identified as UKIP/Conservative. The chosen Remainers, in contrast, have been both eloquent and serious - and emotional too.

      There's been a 'quality' as well as a 'quantity' issue here too.

    2. There probably needs to be another BBC 'Rule" about the quality of voices on the 'wrong' side of a BBC pet issue. Lord knows it's an established pattern.

      Did any Remainiac have a 'health warning'?

      Still watching. Lame Trump attacks. Even though Hislop bravely dared to mention Hillary Clinton's scummy chumminess with and hypocrisy over Goldman Sachs (who were directly connected to damage to the British economy, and the man responsible for it became DG of the BBC: Gavyn Davies), Trump is still somehow the Beast incarnate and we're weeks away from Gog vs Megog if he's elected. Never mind that Hillary is directly responsible for the current problems in Libya, Syria, with ISIS, etc. He's totally fine with that, as is, apparently every BBC employee and guest since the beginning of the year until now.

  3. No need for the misquote here. 'Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman'. Would this be the male (probably), white middle class, Christian, Northern, Leave-voting, Tory (or disenchanted Labourite) that the BBC have targeted as racist, narrow-minded, uneducated, and not able to think for himself, and was it he who mucked-up the cosy world of the Remain campaign?

  4. If the BBC is correct in its assumption that it has an influence on events - indeed a remit to influence events - is not the BBC’s response to post Brexit entirely irresponsible? Everybody knew, on both sides of the argument that there would be a period of instability, but how much of the economic uncertainty in the markets is the result of the BBC’s biased and doom-laden coverage?


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