Saturday 23 September 2017

Despite Brexit

Alan at Biased BBC poses me an interesting question: Was Charles Moore correct to claim, during his spat over BBC Brexit bias with Jonathan Dimbleby (and the usual booing AQ audience) on Any Questions today, that the BBC uses the phrase 'despite Brexit' "whenever there’s a business story on the BBC"? Or was Jonathan Dimbleby right to cast doubt on his assertion and demand proof?

Well, I have been half-keeping my eye on this ever since the referendum - and ever since people I like began claiming that the BBC was using the phrase 'despite Brexit' a lot - and I've found very few BBC News website cases where the BBC uses the specific form of words 'despite Brexit'. 

To the three headlines Alan quotes in his post (Obama: Special relationship remains despite Brexit; UK construction rises despite Brexit vote; and Siemens promises UK investment despite Brexit warning). I've only found one more: Ryanair raises passenger growth forecast despite Brexit

The fact is that there's been a heck of a lot of 'despite Brexit' reporting from the BBC but very little use of the actual phrase itself. 

As Alan notes though, that form of words isn't the only form of words used. He's spotted examples of that, and I've also heard many a turn of phrase that means or suggests 'despite Brexit' but never specifically uses the precise words 'despite Brexit', plus many a report that implies as much without ever using equivalent turns of phrases.

I've harboured the suspicion for a while (a sensible suspicion I believe) that the BBC spotted all the complaints about the BBC's 'despite Brexit' reporting in the weeks immediately after the referendum result - specifically the multitude of claims that the BBC was actually using that very phrase - and warned their staff against ever using that form of words again, knowing that people would be monitoring them closely for their use of that phrase and would make hay with any such evidence that they were using it a lot. (And if I'd found it, yes, I would have made hay with it!) The BBC is constantly doing things like that, with their endless style guides, memos and meetings about language.

Of course, there have been examples of the BBC using it on air and on official BBC Twitter feeds but the BBC is very good at enforcing language rules and their reporters/presenters are very good at following 'suggestions' when it comes to such matters.

So despite the vast amount of 'despite Brexit' reporting that the BBC has put out in the light of recent decent economic news (etc), Jonathan Dimbleby doubtless felt completely confident in making that challenge to Charles Moore, knowing that Mr Moore wouldn't be able to provide enough examples to back up his point if the challenge was confined to finding specific uses of the exact phrase 'despite Brexit'. 

Despite that, Mr Moore was correct in the broad point he was making.

Give the BBC any flotsam or jetsam to cling onto though - such as by claiming that the BBC uses the phrase 'despite Brexit' "whenever there’s a business story on the BBC" - and they will grab onto it and whack you over the head with it without mercy.

If that deflects attention away from the real essence of the point you are making, all the better for them.

P.S. For proof that Charles Moore is correct in the broad point he was making you only need to read News-watch's Today business news report which showed that pretty much everything they said amounted to things being 'despite' or 'because of' Brexit. 


  1. You don't need to say "despite Brexit". You set it all up with an innocent question "Given all the concern about the future prospects for X now we are set to leave the EU, what now?" Then introduce your guest (who just happens to be a Remainiac) and ask them an innocent question along the lines of "Do you think fears about the post-Brexit economic situation have been overplayed?" knowing they will assure you they haven't been overplayed and are very real...

  2. I heard that part of AQ. Beyond the point about "despite Brexit", what struck me was how quickly Dimbleby snapped back and how loudly the audience howled when Moore dared to criticise, ever so mildly and in his polite, reserved manner, the sacred BBC.

    Brought to mind the saying of Voltaire that if you want to know who rules you, think about who you are not allowed to criticise.

    And by the way, according to the recently published BBC salaries, Dimbleby doesn't work for the BBC. He sprang to their defence very quickly though.

    1. Excellent Voltaire quote - one to remember.

  3. Lots of fevered waffle about bias that you all fail to identify with any convincing examples. Pathetic. Rees-Mogg did it again this week. The whole issue of perceived BBC anti Brexit bias is a contrived distraction from the growing realisation that our blessed nation is facing a painful and humiliating calamity. The Beeb actually tries to be even handed, but it is difficult to do so without delving into desperate and embarrassing fantasy.


  4. Thank the lord we are LEAVING the ghastly unelected undemocratic shit hole that is the EU. Hip hip hooray..hip hip hooray hip hip hooray


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