Sunday 23 July 2017

More Random Thoughts

It's proving very difficult to focus on BBC bias at the moment. The time for posting is proving harder and harder to find, and without the time to do proper research it feels as if I'm dipping in - and I really don't like just dipping in. I like nailing things down, with hundreds and hundreds of nails and twenty varieties of hammer. I feel that only when you listen to every edition of a BBC programmes (like Mark Mardell's The World This Weekend or Dateline London) do you get to appreciate that it is possible to work out how BBC bias actually functions and, with enough time and energy, to prove it.

I've proved it (beyond doubt) to my own satisfaction and, maybe, to yours but why don't I feel that I've proved it beyond anyone's reasonable satisfaction. Why? Because I haven't systematised it enough probably. Timings for every Brexit-related segment showing the massive disparity I know there's been (on both The World This Weekend and Dateline London) between the time given for pro-Brexit voices and anti-Brexit voices would help. Listing every question put would also help. And, yes, counting interruptions would help too. As would focusing analytically on the words used. Anything else? 

Is nailing things down as tightly as possible actually necessary though? Why shouldn't just 'dipping in', saying it how you see it, be enough? Doing so might make more of an impact than timing and counting?

Answer (after blinding flash!): There's room for both. If only there were time for both. Or time for anything really.


Yolande Knell

There have been some horrible events in and around Israel in recent days. I've seen some of the BBC reports. One from Alan Johnston - back (to my surprise) as a BBC Middle East editor a decade after his kidnapping by Palestinian terrorists (prompting claims of Stockholm syndrome after his release) - showed violence from Palestinian rioters in Jerusalem and the Israeli response. It contrasted sharply with Yolande Knell's much-broadcast and very gimmicky report which used only images of the Israeli authorities responding (to something) with skunk water, stun grenades, etc, and Yolande (twice, because of the gimmicky repetition) fleeing from their tear gas. No violence was shown from the Palestinians. It was as if Israeli was just using force for no good reason.

The most gruesome event there in recent days has been the murder of members of the Salomon family eating a Sabbath meal in celebration of their newborn grandson in the Israeli settlement of Halamish. The teenage terrorist knocked on their door, they opened it, he began stabbing them, murdering the grandfather, his daughter and son, and injuring the grandmother. The grandchildren were rescued. Not untypically, the human details of the Israeli family and their story, including their names, haven't been included in the BBC's online report of the attack.

This sort of thing raises serious questions about BBC reporting, doesn't it?


Meanwhile, down the road in Tel Aviv, Radiohead - ignoring Ken Loach and all manner of other BDS campaigners - performed their longest concert for years this past week. Thom Yorke was typically gnomic but (just as typically) left no doubts about where he stood. "A lot was said about this, but in the end we played some music", he said. (And Radiohead will be back in Israel next year). The BBC's write-up, Radiohead defy critics to play Israel, began like this:

The rest of the article wasn't so bad though.

As Israelis say to all those terrorists who keep trying to slaughter them, "This is what you'll get/This is what you'll get/This is what you'll get/When you mess with us"...


And talking of musicians, Daniel Barenboim's anti-Brexit speech at the Proms has drawn a lot of flak, most incisively from Douglas Murray at The Spectator. We know that the BBC were aware in advance of an earlier pro-EU bit of point-scoring by pianist Igor Levit and allowed it to go ahead, so what did they know about Mr. Barenboim's pro-EU speech in advance? What did they say to him about it? And what's coming next? And who's doing the Last Night this years? Maestro Guy Verhofstadt? 

Mr B's two concerts - Sibelius, Birtwistle and Elgar (both symphonies) - were excellent though. I even ended up re-listening to the Birtwistle three times. 


Radio 4's Dead Ringers is provoking some comment this series. There's no doubt, from Twitter, as to which new 'character' has been its main talking point. It's chirpy "Brexit Bulldog" David Davis, whose negotiations skills usually end up in his death. (He even ended up in Hell last week). The cartoonish nature of the Brexit Bulldog's self-delusions and self-induced disasters are hard not to laugh at. It's proving popular because it's essentially an old-fashioned comedy routine (despite being put to an anti-Brexit purpose). Is it effective satire? Well, it may be 'fake news' but it might still make Mr Davis a laughing stock with Radio 4 listeners, however representative (or unrepresentative) they are - though I (with hope in my heart) credit many of them with the ability to differentiate Mr Davis from his Dead Ringer caricature. 

That said, Dead Ringers is also presenting us with an impersonation of John McDonnell - another of its new regular characters - and making him out to be a mentally unhinged Marxist who is trying (and failing) to appear cuddly. His every attempt to talk about his allotment turns into a murderous Maoist diatribe against the bourgeoisie. 


I'm still, of course, keeping up with Dateline London. I noted the way centre-right commentator Alex Deane (quite superb as ever) was introduced as a "Conservative commentator" while far-left commentator (and Corbyn fan) Rachel Shabi was introduced as a "Middle East expert". That was very flattering to Rachel. If she's really a Middle East expert then I'm hoping to be called 'an expert in loop quantum gravity' some time soon. "Middle East expert" my posterior!


  1. Dead Ringers is about as close as the BBC get to impartial and balanced.

    I think we all appreciate your hard work Craig in terms of detailed analysis but we are probably beyond that now. Battle has to be joined. Someone with the politicial will has to take on the BBC. Clearly May and her Cabinet have no appetite for the fight.

  2. Barenboim said explicitly that Elgar was a European composer, the best argument against Brexit. Of course the producers knew what was going on the moment he turned to the audience. Their timidity and sympathy for his message prevented them from acting. Notice there hasn't even been a statement from the Proms bosses disavowing Barenboim's stunt. No, "The Proms does not condone, etc."

    And magically, the entire story of BBC anti-Brexit bias is blown away by the pay scale noise.

  3. As for Radiohead bravely performing for Jews, Roger Waters hardest it.

  4. "Barenboim said explicitly that Elgar was a European composer, the best argument against Brexit."

    Barenboim is so clever that he can't tell the difference between Europe and the EU the way that we thickos can.

    I love the cultures of Italy, Spain, Germany, France etc, etc, which is exactly why I don't want them to become an undifferentiated mass under oppressive undemocratic rule - and I have no reason to believe Elgar would either.

  5. It would take a whole research department working full time to monitor and analyse BBC bias, or its absence, in a comprehensive and systematic way - and a working party to identify all the other aspects besides things you can count. It's not enough to say it's biased, as the exchanges with Rob Burley show - very enjoyable by the way. Thanks for posting them. Dead Ringers is the only comedy I now listen to or watch on the BBC. (Given the Davis British Bulldog, I should add "Despite anti Brexit") It reminds me of the good old days of radio comedy with the Men from the Ministry and more. It has the spirit of fun and silliness.


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