Wednesday 27 December 2017

"BBC News itself is impartial and does not offer opinions"

As noted both here and at Biased-BBC (and, probably like you, I've also been spotting examples of it all over the BBC website in the past couple of weeks or so), the BBC is now attaching to numerous BBC News website articles a link to a piece called Why you can trust BBC News.

Please read it for yourselves. Hamlet's famous phrase 'The lady doth protest too much, methinks' springs to mind.

As Monkey Brains points out in the latest Open Thread, this linked-to piece includes the following: 

That worthy claim, as MB writes, "could be shown to be false by any number of examples".

And indeed it could, from innumerable pieces from Katty Kay to Anthony Zurcher, from Mark Mardell to Mark Easton, etc...

....but Exhibit A against the BBC here might just as well be BBC News North America Correspondent James Cook's BBC much-tweeted website piece Giving succour to the far right, Trump breaks with American ideals (about which we've written before) - an out-and-out opinion piece by a so-called impartial BBC reporter which made no bones whatsoever about not being impartial as far as Donald Trump is concerned; indeed instead raises its lack of impartiality proudly like a banner of truth: 
But it falls to reporters to describe in plain language what we see, and promotion of fascism and racism is all too easy to observe in the United States of 2017.
....and, yes, James Cook was explicit in that piece about blaming President Trump for that 'promotion of fascism and racism'. 

Now, however much you might (or might not) think that James's piece is bang on the mark and right on, if you read that piece in full and are being honest you surely can't deny that James - a fairly high-profile BBC reporter - is forcefully expressing his opinion on the matter. (He even says so himself!)

Thus, the claim that BBC News "is impartial" and "does not offer opinions" - at least in this case - is baloney. That piece certainly offered a 'personal view' - and a very passionate one too. 

The reason why blogs like this exist is that this is so far from being an isolated example that it makes the BBC's claim laughable (or worse). 


  1. For a full, brilliant de-bunking of the 'Trump is a fascist' meme, a post on The Conservative Woman website by the Rev Jules Gomes takes some beating: The book to which he links - The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left - shows who the real 'fascists' in America are. Step forward Hillary Roddam Clinton. Donald Trump is not among them.

  2. Tx for the timely reminder.

    This is the post-Trust first (I doubt my last) complaint I sent in, and had forgotten it was dragging out. Found their reply in my spam filter.

    Bet get my skates on as yet another BBC unique is that they can procrastinate for years and all drags on, but fail to get back within their set deadline (via their risible 'start all over agin' system) and all bets are off.

    Here's what they replied:

    "Thank you for contacting us regarding the BBC News website.

    I understand you were unhappy with the headline ‘Embracing the far right, Trump stains a history of democratic ideals’ and note you felt it was biased against President Trump.

    Firstly, let me assure you that impartiality is central to all of our news and current affairs reporting and we ensure all our journalists are aware of this to help us deliver fair and balanced coverage for all the stories we report.

    James Cook’s analysis in this article was in keeping with his remit as our North America correspondent, part of which is to provide his insight into stories taking place there. It is not unusual for correspondents to offer their own take on developments that relate to their specific area and it was made clear that this was his analysis.

    BBC News does not have an opinion on Donald Trump’s presidency. When reporting on his actions, we have tried to explain his position in detail and to incorporate a range of views about his policies. We have featured Mr Trump’s supporters as well as his critics and reflected his own response to criticism.

    We do not aim to denigrate any view or to promote any view. Our goal has simply been to report and analyse events in order that our audiences can make up their own minds.

    The headline for this report has also been revised since the article first appeared on our site. You can view the updated version by following the link below:

    Finally, I would like to assure you that we value your feedback. Please know all complaints are sent to senior management and news teams every morning and we have included your points in our overnight reports. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensure that your complaint has been seen quickly, by the right people. This helps inform their decisions about current and future reporting.

    Thank you once again for getting in touch."

    I think my next attempt to move things along will fit in the character limit.

    They are not on great ground here, and clearly know it.

    And I really must get the Complaint Archive site going sooner rather than later. This blow off is shameless and depends on any exchanges being lost between them and the complainant.

    1. Well clearly they are relying on the kind of argument deployed by desperate Medieval theologians wishing to maintain a point of dogma. The BBC's position appears to be (one has to say "appears" because they are not being explicit) that (a) BBC News does not have opinions (it cannot have opinions as it doesn't write the articles or utter the reports) but (b) BBC News staff can give "their take" in developments.

      This is absurd sophistry. If all BBC News reporters are allowed to inject high levels of opinion into their reports, as they are, and there is a high degree of consensus among those opinions, as there is, then we clearly have a situation where BBC News has opinions.

    2. In fact this "BBC Defence" should be taken up more widely by defence lawyers in murder trials.

      "M'lord I submit that my defendant cannot be guilty of this crime of murder...Why? Because in common with most human beings, 55% of the cells of his body are made up of non-human bacteria. If the charge is to be directed somewhere then surely it must be directed to those who have the ultimate say - the 55% of non-human bacteria!"

      In this analogy BBC News is the human structure and the BBC News staff are the non-human bacteria who just happen to be found living symbiotically in this human structure.

      Yes, I know it's a stretch but so is the BBC Defence.

    3. The guys at the top may have changed, if in name only, but the process of getting to some form of actually accountable consideration remains as protracted and slippery as ever.

      The bare-faced nature of this ‘fellow employee I have never met got it about right’ template is wearily familiar.

      One just has to brush past all that and focus on the simple facts, as you have ably assisted me in doing.

      Then, presuming they don’t throw their toys out of the pram and go the ‘not a good use of time’ route, one has to endure some overpaid ‘Director’ in ECU trotting out ‘belief’ several times as this addresses facts any better.

      Clear that hurdle and maybe, just maybe, one gets to the new Ofcom steaming pile topper, likely sometime in June.

    4. Speaking of Ofcom, independence, and belief, from the link opposite:

    5. By happy coincidence, my FB feed has popped up an apt reminder:

    6. When first I read the headline ‘Embracing the far right, Trump stains a history of democratic ideals’ it struck me as a deliberate attempt at a personal insult and therefore an attempt on behalf of the UK to alienate Donald Trump. After all, the BBC is our national broadcaster, and its loyalty to and promotion of the UK's national interest has always been taken for granted throughout the world - not here any longer though. Donald Trump already has a very low opinion of the BBC, and this article can only have confirmed his belief that this was 'another beauty' from them. The whole episode can only cause damage to relations between the UK and US at a time when we seek to establish wider global trade connections.

      For the BBC Complaints Dept to say ... let me assure you that impartiality is central to all of our news and current affairs reporting and we ensure all our journalists are aware of this to help us deliver fair and balanced coverage for all the stories we report... is laughable. They are simply repeating a tired worn-out message that nobody believes any lomger.

    7. Yes, the BBC must be aware that is seen as more than just a private media organisation. Because of its unique funding, its close relationship with the Royal Family, its public functions such as broadcasting Parliament and delivering the World Service etc etc it is seen, rightly, as to some extent an official voice of Britain.

      To damage our ties with our closest and most powerful ally is to show they have a reckless disregard for our welfare, as they put their ideology above everything. It was the same during the 2015 illegal migrant invasion of Europe when the BBC deliberately did not tell the truth but rather conveyed a soft focus narrative to its mostly naive audience.

      Likewise with Brexit - putting across a relentlessly yet needlessly negative view of Brexit when you are such a powerful broadcaster has negative real world effects that adversely affect our prosperity.

    8. 'Sophistry' is the right word for that BBC response.

      Thanks for posting it Peter. It's what fans of McGonagall ('the world's worst poet') would call 'a gem'.

      I'm sure you're right that they know they're walking on quicksand with this one.

      Besides, the other points made above, their bit about the headline being changed - which they imply you SHOULD admire them for - made me laugh (in a grim way). They've changed it from ‘Embracing the far right, Trump stains a history of democratic ideals’ to 'Giving succour to the far right, Trump breaks with American ideals'. How much of an improvement is THAT impartiality-wise?!?

    9. No problem.

      Sophistry at its most grotesque, but so clunky and blatant it will with luck backfire.

      I know that, no matter what, pursuing this will be a long haul process, and risks a banning if they feel cornered.

      But eyes are on, so who knows?

      Will share progress... maybe using it as a test bed for my planned complaint exchange blog.

      But only the BBC could try to claim a high ground for trying to cover up their tracks. Shame page captures and archive sites exist.

  3. We know that the BBC is a modest, self-effacing organisation always willing to engage in a spot of self-improvement.

    So given the difficulties they have experienced in this area perhaps they could learn from the Fox News website and (albeit this is a highly complex solution that would require a BBC Management Committee to consider over probably 100 hours of meetings) have a page heading titled OPINIONS in which you put those articles that contain a preponderance of "opinion". Difficult perhaps but surely a £5billion organisation should be able to cope.

  4. Interesting to note how quickly todays "despite Brexit" story about the FTSE record high was quickly replaced by "Another top government adviser resigns over Brexit" story.
    In fact a Labour peer furious about missing out on a top EU job has gone before he was sacked.

    1. The original story with headline: "Another top government adviser resigns over Brexit" contained the following - in the first version. It has since been removed: He said:

      ..."A responsible government would be leading the British people to stay in Europe while also tackling, with massive vigour, the social and economic problems within Britain which contributed to the Brexit vote."...

    2. BBC call it ‘evolving the story’.

      Unless you know different ;)

    3. This is the first time that I have seen the majority of the electorate whose votes determined the outcome of the 2016 UK referendum, described as having some sort of social malaise!

  5. When talk of fake news swirled all around, someone in a BBC thinkpod said with a straight face 'We're a trusted source, we should be fact checking this stuff.' And lo, BBC Reality Check was born.

    They invite readers to submit questions. I will be submitting the reality of the statement "BBC News itself is impartial and does not offer opinions" for their consideration. I suggest others follow suit.

    1. Lol- I did think of that myself! Go for it!!!


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