Tuesday 30 January 2018

The BBC just asked the BBC for an interview but the BBC said that nobody from the BBC is available yet

Having been at work today I appear to have quite a bit of fun over the report from auditors PwC into BBC pay, which found "no evidence of gender bias" and, hilariously, actually found a 23% pay gap in favour of women among senior BBC correspondents - i.e. the Carrie Gracies of this world! 

Adding to the entertainment, poor Jane Garvey of Woman's Hour said, "The report would say that, wouldn't it? This is a PwC report commissioned by the BBC and, without being overly cynical, I might venture to suggest that the PwC has delivered the report the BBC has asked for". Many might say the same about the BBC's landmark impartiality reviews over the years!

And Guido Fawkes picked up on an amusing slip this morning, tweeting "On Radio 4 Today discussing pay Mishal Husain asked if as a public service broadcaster the BBC had a duty to protect “the taxpayers”. Officially it is a “licence fee”. In reality...". Quite!

Sunday 28 January 2018

The Open Thread With The Gigantic Hare

Yes, I know it's a rabbit, but if it was good enough for the creators of Bugs Bunny...

Thank you all so much for your comments. Please keep them coming. Hop, hopaway!

I don't know what to call this post

Following Craig’s post, I wonder, did Andrew Marr leave an open door for Dan Hodges to deploy the ‘handing over editorial control to your interviewee’ manoeuvre?
Can I read you what Amnesty International has said?” asked Marr, whereby Corbyn’s counter-attack (you've been reading too much Daily Mail) was effectively: “No, please don’t read something out that makes me look foolish and / or hypocritical”, which is the equivalent of McDonnell’s “no need’ remark (albeit from the opposite direction.)
Of course, Amnesty International is hardly a suitable body for Andrew Marr to bring in as a beacon of moral righteousness or whatever it was he was trying to imply, even if all he meant was:  ‘if an alt-Left outfit like Amnesty International even thinks Iran’s HR record is beyond the pale, shouldn’t you, too?’
Following Craig’s post (again) see Harry’s Place for Habibi’s forensic, fully fleshed-out exposé of Jeremy Corbyn’s deviation from the actualité on the Marr show.
It’s all there, including a lovely video of his speech ‘marking the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran'.

I’m afraid Rob Burley is looking a little bit like someone who ain’t totally au fait with the actualité. Think  those interested in JC position on Iran will have more to go on as a result of Habibi's article.


Never mind. I also want to mention that I was mistaken when I said that the BBC hadn’t noticed the HoC debate on proscribing Hezbollah. At the time I said it, I hadn’t seen Friday’s Daily Politics. Well, they brought it up, though in a somewhat perfunctory way.  
Claire Fox from the Academy of Silly Ideas explained that she was against proscription because “Banning people because of their politics is unhelpful and illiberal”. 
Had she not absorbed the case for proscribing Hezbollah, which, in its own words, is explicitly and unequivocally that there is no distinction between imaginary ‘wings’ of this overtly terrorist organisation? It's a unified entity. Terrorist through and through.
This makes one wonder if half the people we hear on the BBC opining on issues like this are totally au fait with the actualité.

I’d hate to think they’re really not.


Now for The Big Questions. The biggest question of all is what did the programme makers hope to achieve by bringing in one of the most offensive “asaJew” Israel-hating, pro-Palestine campaigners to discuss the problem of antisemitism in the left?  I contend that the programme makers were completely uninterested in achieving any form of civilised conversation. All they wanted was the TV equivalent of click bait. “Let’s have some fun with this”.

Well, the discussion certainly wasn’t fun. To give the benefit of the doubt to those responsible for commissioning or inviting the ‘front row”, perhaps they were inspired by Idrissi’s LBC interview with Nick Ferrari but didn’t listen hard enough to predict she would steer the discussion in the direction of a tirade of highly dubious pro-Palestinian propaganda from the ill-informed antisemites  in the room.

Perhaps they didn’t anticipate that the audience would be whooping and cheering at the sweet sound of cries like “apartheid state” and  “Jew-only roads”. 

Geordies for Palestine
The only contributor who was allowed to speak without being interrupted was Anna Turley MP, and her little bit showed what a balanced, civilised discussion on this topic might have been like.  

As for the rapt, adoring nodding from the pro-pornography advocate sitting next to Naomi Idrissi, the twisted, Israel-bashing, sheer nastiness of Chris Mullin “They’re in the process of setting up an apartheid state”[…] “They’re starting to ethnically cleanse east Jerusalem” and the nonsensical bile from the lady lawyer with  the PSC  brooch: “I witnessed —— I spoke to mothers who were forced to give birth at Israeli checkpoints” […] “I’m not denying that there’s a problem with antisemet — antisemitism, however the majority of antisemitism is coming from far right groups” and the clapping and nodding from the baying mob of an audience, the whole thing was sub standard. Even by TBQ's normal standards.

Nicky Campbell, perhaps bruised by his highly publicised reduction in salary, seemed subdued. He pleaded for the discussion not to turn into a shout-fest. But what else did he expect? Yes, I’m doubting the integrity of the programme makers. It’s Jeremy Kyle territory, and Nicky Campbell knows it. He even had to (effectively) apologise at the end, by promising they’d be back to this subject at a later date. 

"I was able to use bias in my reports"

Just bumping this 'scoop' from this morning back up the blog, as it poses very serious questions for the BBC...

A LABOUR frontbencher has admitted broadcasting biased news reports while working as a BBC journalist. 
And last night the revelation by shadow treasury minister Clive Lewis plunged the corporation into a damaging storm. 
Mr Lewis told left-wing Momentum members: “I was able to use bias in my reports by giving less time to one than the other. 
I reported on both but the angle and words and the language I used — I know the pictures I used — I was able to project my own particular political positions on things in a very subtle way.” 
Mr Lewis made his damning comments last September at a Momentum rally in Brighton.
They were discovered in a secret recording and will be a huge embarrassment to BBC bosses. 
Tory MP Damian Collins said: “He’s boasting about undermining one of our great institutions.” 
A spokesman for Mr Lewis declined to comment.
And the BBC's response?: 
A BBC spokesperson said: “Our editorial guidelines ensure impartiality.
Clive Lewis was a senior BBC broadcast journalist and the main reporter on the BBC's Politics Show East.

Update: (intervention by Sue to protect Craig's modesty)
You saw it here first! (note to Biased BBC and Notasheep)

A bit of cheer in advance of another week

For those who are really disappointed not to have any Rob Burley action today, here's one of his few exchanges. It does both participants credit. 

It all started with this image from Robert Peston tweeted in advance of today's Peston on Sunday on ITV: 

Then it all kicked off (as Paul Mason would say). Alexander Gardiner, managing director of ITV studios until last year, took Rob up on his cheeky tweet:
Rob Burley: So many staff!
Alexander Gardiner: Err, just look at the team photos you keep tweeting with your Hollywood film promo interviews. Pot/kettle/Black.
Rob Burley: Meryl isn't on the payroll. And most of them were camerapeople!
Alexander Gardiner: And you don’t know who is in that photo. Don’t troll the opposition when you have the organisational might of the BBC behind you.  I know you’re bigger than that.
Rob Burley: And you know I love ITV having a political programme back, god knows it was a thankless task back in the day so it's good it's supported.
Alexander Gardiner: That’s the Rob Burley I know and love.
Do you know what that calls for? Yes, a heartwarming dog video!

Like-minded minds think alike

A jolly Mona

This morning's Sunday on Radio 4 asked the question, 'Are we becoming more racist and intolerant?' and interviewed a leftist lecturer and a Guardian journalist, both from ethnic minorities. 

They didn't disagree, and I bet you can guess what they said. 

Trump and European "ethno-nationalism" (as presenter William Crawley put it) weren't seen as helping. 

The Guardian journalist sounded nice and jolly, especially when saying that non-white people can say that they want to date and marry within their own ethnic group but that white people can't. The leftist professor was much more strait-laced and ideological. 

I'm so glad I gave over seven minutes of my life to listening to that.

At least it can be said that they tried to balance personality types there (jolly v serious).

Andrew Marr and Jeremy Corbyn on Iran

There's no post-The Andrew Marr Show bun fight today on Twitter. Maybe Rob Burley is tiring of the fray. I wouldn't blame him if we was. He recently tweeted:

I'd hazard a guess that he had someone very specific in mind as Dan Hodges has been vigorously pursuing their very heated quarrel from last week again with a barrage of less-than-amicable tweets attacking this morning The Andrew Marr Show
  • Did Andrew Marr just accuse another interviewer of giving a controversial politician an easy time?
  • 'Mr Corbyn, do you agree with the Oxfam report that agrees with you'. Marr on fire...
  • Is it too late to get Piers Morgan in to do this interview of Corbyn.
  • Does the NHS need a new plan to fund it. Marr really turning up the heat on Corbyn now...
  • Why doesn't Marr show the video of Corbyn praising Iran's human right's record. Oh...
  • Here's the video of Corbyn praising Iran's human right's record. 1:56. It's from February 2014.
  • It's not just that the Marr program has a terrible interview strategy. They just don't do the research. There is no preparation that enables them to challenge the interviewer on what they've actually done/said.

The relevant section of the Jeremy Corbyn interview began like this:
AM: Let me move on to a big foreign issue. You've been very reluctant to condemn the Government of Iran. Can I read you what Amnesty international has said about Iran? 
JC: I think, if I may say so, you are spending too much time reading The Daily Mail, do you know that?  
AM: I promise I'm not! I was reading a poster about an event celebrating the Iranian revolution at which you spoke. 
JC: What? 
AM: You spoke at a demonstration, or you're on the poster... 
JC: I was on a delegation to Iran in the company of a number of other MPs, including Jack Straw. I spent the whole of that time, that delegation, discussing two things: the nuclear issue and human rights. I raised human rights at every conceivable opportunity during that. I think that Iran and the nuclear deal is good and welcome but the issues of human rights abuse in Iran - of executions, of imprisonment... 
AM: Floggings, beheadings, torture...  
JC...Flogging, beheading, is totally wrong. Therefore there has to be human rights demands made on the Iranian Government, which I make. 
AM: You took money from Iran. You took money from Press TV events.  
JC: A very long time ago I did some programmes for Press TV. I ceased to do any programmes when they treated the Green Movement the way they did and I also, on all of those occasions, made my voice clear about human rights abuses because I want to lead a government that puts human rights at the centre of its foreign policy, no matter how uncomfortable it is, with any government around the world and I have consistently raised those issues with every world leader I've met, including President Xi. 
Jeremy Corbyn was certainly bending the truth when he said his work for Press TV happened "a very long time ago". He did it from 2009 to 2012, so it's only 5-6 years ago. 

Plus the Iranian Green Movement protests and brutal crackdowns went on throughout the time (2009-12) he worked for Iranian TV. 

And as for suggesting that "on all of those occasions" he made his voice "clear" about Iranian human rights abuses, well, apparently not (according to Victoria Freeman): 
Corbyn also appeared to claimed he raised Iranian human rights abuses in these appearances. He certainly did not on the one I watched in its entirety. In fact, the Press TV appearance I watched in full (where Corbyn was filling in for George Galloway) was focused 100% on Israeli abuses. No mention of Iranian abuses.
And he praised Iran and glossed over its human rights record as recently as 2014. He talked of "the inclusivity, the tolerance and the acceptance of other faiths, other traditions, and other ethnic groupings within Iran". (Human Rights Watch doesn't agree, particularly over the treatment of Baha'is and Baluchis in Iran).

Doesn't Dan have a point then (however rudely he expressed it)? Shouldn't Andrew Marr have been able to take Jeremy Corbyn to task over this?

P.S. Others are on the case too, including Guido Fawkes and Steerpike. Guido says, "Marr really should have pinned him down on this, Jezza is straight up telling porkies…".

Update: Here's Rob Burley's response to Guido Fawkes:

Brian Rix returns...

If you remember a post from a couple of nights ago concerning the BBC News website's farcical misreporting of the 'BBC pay cut for male stars' story - a single report that:
  • first reported four names (Jeremy Vine, John Humphrys, Huw Edwards and Jon Sopel); then added another name (Nicky Campbell); then dropped the first four names (Jeremy Vine, John Humphrys, Huw Edwards and Jon Sopel) leaving the added name (Nicky Campbell) as the sole patsy; then reinstated the dropped names after the patsy's name; then put the dropped names back before the patsy; and then added a sixth name (Nick Robinson).
  • described Jeremy Vine inaccurately as a "news presenter".
  • wrongly attributed to John Humphrys a quote that was actually from Jeremy Vine.  
Well the comedy of errors gets even worse! (h/t Thoughtful at Biased BBC). 

Later versions of the report began like this:

Unfortunately, as the Times (and other newspapers) pointed out yesterday. Jon Sopel had not agreed to a pay cut:

You'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh!

Good Mattinata

Today's The Andrew Marr Show ended with "the Maltese tenor" Joseph Calleja - a man with a distinct touch of Pavarotti about him, in more ways than one! 

He was singing Leoncavallo's Mattinata ('Morning').

Here's Pavarotti's version:

Sunday Morning Reading

A little bit of Rod Liddle from the Sunday Times to start the day...

Oh, and also from the Sunday Times, it looks as if Mr. Marr has agreed to take a pay-cut when his contract is renegotiated in the summer. He's presently in the 400,000-449,000 band. 

Meanwhile, according to the Mail on Sunday, Fiona Bruce, 350,000-399,000, apparently wants her salary put up!

Saturday 27 January 2018

The Liberator of Kabul speaks

Fans of the BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson will doubtless have been waiting with bated breath for a transcript of his talk on this morning's Today programme, and (rejoice!) this small, obscure, ultra-left-wing website is the very place to find it:
I have to say I detest the annual blatherfest at Davos - too many groupies, too few decent hotel rooms, too much ice on the disturbingly steep streets - but each January it does provide a useful selfie of our world. 
Last year's Davos was moderately upbeat. Speakers talked about the way the world was being lifted out of poverty and pointed out that wars were fewer, and even terrorism was far less dangerous than it was back in the 1970s. 
This year? Well, the mood could scarcely have been more different. At one of the key Davos sessions the billionaire George Soros told an audience that open societies like the US and Western Europe were in crisis and the survival of our entire civilisation was at stake. 
What's changed? 
Well, it's been the year of Donald Trump of course. And American think tanks, often instinctively liberal and with a genuine world view, have been especially gloomy. Freedom House, for instance - a non-partisan outfit in Washington. For the 12th consecutive year, it intoned, countries that suffered democratic setbacks outnumbered those that registered gains. And it went on, states that a decade ago seemed like promising success stories - Turkey and Hungary, for example - are sliding into authoritarian rule. 
Human Rights Watch - another Washington-based organisation - and the European Council on Foreign Relations were just as depressive. 
These and other groups agree that political rights and civil liberties in the world deteriorated last year to their lowest point in over a decade. 
It's certainly true that China under Xi Jinping has become even more autocratic. Just think of the Swedish-Chinese publisher grabbed a few days ago by the police near Beijing when he was travelling with a group of Swedish MPs. President Xi must feel that China is so rich and has so many clients state in its pocket it doesn't have to worry too much what it does. 
Vladimir Putin is approaching yet another presidential election, and he knows it's sewn up already. Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader, who had been hoping to stand against him, has repeatedly been arrested for leading protests against autocracy and corruption. If President Putin wins it will make him the longest-serving leader in Russia since, yes, you've guessed it,  Joseph Stalin.  
Two Harvard professors, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, appearing on this programme today, argue that nowadays democratic societies can be killed by the ballot box. No need for the old-fashioned coup, the assault on the presidential palace and the radio station. Once an anti-democratic leader gets elected he - and it always does seem to be a 'he' - is in for good, because every four or five years, he'll be re-elected. 
All true, but the common thread running through this gloom and doom is the decline of American influence since Donald Trump became President. 
Of course, Xi Zinping and Vladimir Putin were getting more and more autocratic while Barack Obama was President, but large numbers of Western politicians at Davos and elsewhere clearly feel that the counterbalancing strength of the US is fading because of Donald Trump. 
Freedom House says 88 countries - including, of course, the Western democracies - are free, while 49 - Thailand, Egypt and Turkey, as well as Russia and China - are not free. 
Of course that's disturbing. But when I became a journalist, back in 1965, the balance was very different. Only 34 democracies compared with 60 dictatorship. So 88 free countries versus 49 unfree ones nowadays isn't too bad. 
The big difference is that in the past the United States dominated the world, and now it doesn't. 
We could be in for another worrying year till Davos 2019.
John Simpson always feels (to me) like the authentic voice of the BBC. 

From this, therefore, it might be said (if we're taking John as truly representing the BBC) that the BBC isn't keen on: Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Viktor Orban, Xi Jinping, the governments of Thailand and Egypt, and, again, Donald Trump.

George Soros and the liberal Washington think tanks, in contrast, are treated as voices worth listening to. 

The big, bad difference here, from John's account, does seem to be Big Bad Donald Trump.

The two Harvard professors cited - Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt- turn out to have recently written a strongly anti-Trump piece at (of course) the Guardian

("America failed the first test in November 2016, when we elected a president with a dubious allegiance to democratic norms", they said). 

We've noted before John Simpson's traditional 'BBC' gravitation towards the Guardian for his news, and this is just another instance of that 'BBC' orientation. I'm assuming he cited them after reading their Grauniad piece. 

And as for John - the BBC high-up reporter who notoriously said that the BBC let its viewers down by not giving them "clear enough guidance" during the EU referendum and that, if they had, the result "would have been a bit different" - what's more natural for him than to cite two Harvard professors who argue that "nowadays democratic societies can be killed by the ballot box"?

Change the electorate, eh, John?

Bias? What bias?

Notes from a small, obscure, far-right, website (this one)

Following Daniel Sandford's bizarre comments on that video, particularly his references to the al-Quds march, I’d like to bring more Hezbollah related material to your attention.

According to Sandford, the al-Quds march was ‘obscure’ therefore did not merit being reported, specifically for fear of inciting people like Darren Osborne. 

What an odd concept, particularly as it seems it was the BBC’s own dramatisation “Three Girls” that was, at least according to this, Osborne’s major inspiration; that and being unhinged. 

I’ve already posted a brief article on the recent Hezbollah debate in the House of Commons. There was an implied thread running through the piece, which is that the desire to proscribe Hezbollah in its entirety was a joint-party matter. My intention was to highlight the fact that the divide was not between Labour and Conservative, but between people who knew what Hezbollah was all about, and ignoramuses and cowards who buried their heads in the sand for fear of triggering the “Islamists” among us, as well as a coalition of deluded and weak Conservative MPs and the current Labour leadership.

There is a worthwhile opinion piece from CUFI (Christians United For Israel) which I urge you to read, as it sets out the arguments for proscribing Hezbollah with clarity. 

The Times has also published some interesting commentary about this topic. One erudite article is by Col. Richard Kemp, who has forgotten more about Hezbollah than Daniel Sandford will ever know about informative reporting, and interestingly, this piece, which sets out the idiotic attitude of both front benches which led to the kibosh being firmly put on common sense. It’s a short piece, and I advise you to have a look. 

If you’re interested in Trump’s misgivings about the Iran deal, and you’re wondering if you have been getting the full story, you haven’t. (without sounding like Michael Fish) You might have seen reports about this on ’obscure” “far-right’ websites,  but now your actual mainstream press in the form of The Times, brings you this. 

I don’t have enough time to blog as fully and as frequently as I’d like, so sometimes I rely on links to flesh out my arguments. I know it can be a bit of a fag to click, but if it weren’t for hyperlinks I’d be stuffed.

How "careful" is Daniel Sandford's own language?

Daniel Sandford

Further to Sue's comment on the previous post, Daniel Sandford's own "careful" choice of language was actually very "careless" on Monday's News at One. He said:
The prosecution say that Darren Osborne had become obsessed also with events in Rochdale, where Muslim men were accused of abusing young women.
As Sue notes, these nine Muslim men were actually convicted of abusing young women.

And actually, the victims weren't "young women" either. They were children, including girls as young as 13. 

Language Tommy!

Here's a fascinating video of a BBC interview with a difference. It shows the informal interview leading up to the actual BBC interview. 

And a very intense informal interview it is too, with the BBC reporter answering as well as asking the questions!

It stars the BBC's Daniel Sandford and Tommy Robinson, and whether you strongly approve or strong disapprove of either or both of them (or neither), it's gripping stuff.

I'll quote a few bits from it but the full 50 minutes is well worth watching...

TR: Do you know, I stood in Manchester after the Manchester attack. I stood there and I found in the point that I was standing there, in the two-mile radius, there were 19 terrorists who had come from that point. That's what you need to be reporting. You're leaving it to me to report it. And that's why...
DS: I suppose we would argue that we do report this stuff but we try and do it in a measured way so that it doesn't...
TR: A politically-correct way? 

TR: I you were to sit here and say, 'You said this, which was a lie', then I'd hold my hands up. But I've not said one lie. I've reported the truth and the reality of the situation our country's in. 
DS: Well that's an honest answer. I think there'll be lots of people who would say, 'Yeah, but it's all about how you say it, and you have to be careful.
TR: You don't have to be careful. As I said, when 22 children get blow up in Manchester the time for being careful in our words has gone.

TR: So do you think in future then I should just shut my mouth and not tell anyone what's going on? No honestly, I'm just asking you as a journalist, just in case one person out of 200 million people who view it is...
DS: Because that's plainly not right because my profession is exactly that, to tell people what's going on.  
TR: But you don't tell people what's going on.
DS: But we don't tell it in the same way. 
TR: No, no, you just don't tell them. OK, when did you...
DS: You know, the things that I've reported on Islamist extremism. I was the first person to report the existence of Al-Muhajiroun. I reported on Abu Hamza from long before anyone else had heard of him. I reported on international terrorism from 9/11 and through to 2010. The only reason I stopped reporting on it from 2010 to 2014 was because I was reporting out of Russia. And since I've been here the main theme of what we do is reporting into Islamist extremism. I reported...

TR: Forget 'all Muslims'. Islam. What you should be saying is 'Islam'. But what is coming into the frame...
DS: You see I think that's exactly where people would say that you're not careful enough...

TR: I have a frustration...you're probably bearing the brunt of it sitting here as a journalist.
DS: Listen, I completely understand it. I do. I completely understand where you are. I actually think that you ought to be more...personally I do actually believe you ought to be more thoughtful because, you know, stuff that seems like a great idea to say can make some nut do stuff.

TR: Do you think it's my fault he done this?
DS: Er. I don't know whether he would have got as fired up as he did if it wasn't for some stuff he was reading. I've no idea if...
TR: One more question: Do you think it's Islam's fault he did it?
DS: Er. I don't particular think that.
TR: So you're not sure about me but the fact that Islam's encouraged all these terrorist attacks!!

DS: Let's do it. OK? You ready?
TR: Yeah, go on. 
DS: Be careful! Don't make things worse!
TR: 'Don't use dangerous words!'
DS: No, no, no...
TR: Say 'Islamist' rather than 'Islam!'. 'Don't upset anyone!'

Check the labels!

The final day of the second round of voting in the Czech presidential election is well underway.. A snapshot of how the BBC is reporting it is provided by the following transcript of BBC Prague correspondent Rob Cameron talking to Tim Wilcox:
Milos Zeman is an outspoken pro-Russian, pro-Chinese Islamophobe. He's very politically incorrect. He's dallied with the far-right, even though he is ostensibly a left-wing politician, in recent years. And he's someone whom his opponents say has really cheapened the political and public discourse in this country with his frequent vulgar comments, vulgar language, his heavy drinking (which he doesn't deny) and and so on. He's also rather old, and he's rather ailing as well. He suffers from diabetes and has problems walking. So he does to many of his opponents represent the past of Czech politics and they said that Professor Drahos, who is just 5 years younger but seems much fitter than Mr. Zeman, is the man of the future. Of course the voters will have to decide that and Mr. Zeman still has many supporters in this country. It's going to be extremely tight election.
Do you get the impression that Rob doesn't reckon much to Milos Zeman?

Update: The nasty old, ailing Islamophobe "populist" beat the nice pro-EU professor.

A.C. Railing Against the BBC

I like reading books about the origins of words and phrases (especially those by Mark Forsyth) and and greatly enjoy Radio 4's Word of Mouth. I was wondering this morning about the phrase "mad as a box of frogs", which seems like a recent invention. When and how did it come about, and why has it taken off over the last few years? Well, the answer seems to be that no one knows its origins. Newspapers began using it in headlines around 2010, but it must have been current before then. As for why it's taken off, it's presumably simply because it's such a colourful phrase. It also fits in nicely with a long line of other such phrases possibly dating back to as far as "as mad as a March hare" (in common use since the 16th century).

Of Charles I, Will Gompertz, this fella, and Andrew Marr

Top part of a Titian

A BBC programme I particularly enjoyed this week was Monday's Start the Week

It looked at King Charles I and his art collection, plus the contemporary art scene.

It was pleasingly rude about contemporary conceptual art and all the "really bad artists" who have made millions over the past few decades. Andrew Marr joined in, though I laughed when Prof. Don Thompson condemned the "dreadful sculptures" of Anish Kapoor and Andrew replied ruefully that he likes Anish Kapoor, only to be told "You're wrong!" by Andrew Graham-Dixon. 

I was particularly struck by Andrew Graham-Dixon's depiction of England over the near century from Henry VII and Edward VI's initial waves of iconoclasm to the beginning of Charles's fascination with art as being pretty much 'a land without art'. He compared their supporters' iconoclasm to that of Maoist China, saying that nearly all art in Britain was destroyed, with estimates ranging from 90% to nigh on 100%. Some 100,000 wooden sculptures alone, he said, were taken to Smithfield and destroyed. Now, it did strike me that the absence of art couldn't have been total given there were portraits, such as those of Elizabeth I and many another Elizabethan notable, but still...Thank goodness we're beyond that way of thinking these days and that no-one but no-one is thinking of tearing down and destroying works of art like statues or stained glass windows

Self-effacing Will Gompertz 

Later in the week shy, retiring BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz did a piece on the News at Six and News at Ten about a new exhibition on Charles's art collection at the Royal Academy, London. Where there's a Will there's bound to be a bit of Gompertzery. Here we had Charles I's wife Henrietta Maria called "his missus" and Anthony van Dyck called "this fella", plus a reference to "this wonderwall of Hans Holbein portraits".

There's an image of a lovely-looking Titian that appeared in his report on his blog - The Supper at Emmaus (which the BBC caption writers managed to misspell). For anyone who likes dogs, it features a dog underneath Christ's table.

A bit from the bottom of the same Titian

Degrees of separation

Regular readers will know that Samira Ahmed holds the opinion that UKIP (especially Nigel Farage) shouldn't be given prominence by the BBC. She's repeatedly talked, tweeted and written about her view on that matter over the past couple of years or so. Therefore, it always feels a bit uncomfortable when she reads out identical points of view from BBC viewers on Newswatch

This week's edition featured two complainants in the wake of Henry Bolton's travails as UKIP leader and a News at One report about it on Monday. Samira noted that "plenty of attention was given to UKIP" over the story, with its leader  being "under pressure since news broke of his relationship with ex-model Jo Marney and the racist messages she had sent":
Sheila Grant was watching that and wondered, "Why on earth is UKIP the lead story on the News at One, reporting live from Westminster? This party has no MPs and following the referendum no longer has any relevance in this country as can be seen by the haemorrhaging of their support and constantly changing leaders". 
And Dave Noble agreed: "Given the current farce that is the UKIP leadership wrangling, I am at a loss as to why it is getting such prominence. Can the BBC please now stop giving UKIP such a platform - unless of course the Corporation sees it purely as a vehicle for public entertainment, in which case please put UKIP on BBC3 in a comedy slot, thanks".
Maybe Fran Unsworth could send her a "reminder" that she shouldn't report on the story if she has “expressed a view”? Or, as when Jane Garvey was replaced by a non-BBC interviewer on Woman's Hour when the programme interviewed Carrie Gracie, maybe Samira could mysteriously disappear for a minute during Newswatch any time a complaint about UKIP being given a platform is aired and, say, hand over to Paddy O'Connell (poor Paddy being permanently kept in the Newswatch cupboard for all such emergencies) and then resume her role immediately after that UKIP item has finished? That sounds sensible and practical, doesn't it?

Incidentally, Samira Ahmed was factually incorrect in describing Jo Marney as an "ex-model". She's still a model

The Face Speaks

The face of the BBC in the U.S.

This Thursday's From Our Own Correspondent began with 'Kate Adee of the Bee Bee Cee' saying:
Today headlines here about sexual harassment but our correspondent fears a backlash against 'Me too' in the United States or a suspicion that old habits die hard.
My first thought on hearing that was to think, "OK Kate, but why is a supposedly impartial BBC correspondent 'fearing' a backlash? Isn't 'fearing' something that an activist should be expressing rather than a supposedly impartial BBC correspondent?"

An 'Aha!' moment came later when 'our correspondent' was named.

Yes, it was Katty Kay, the face of the impartial BBC is the U.S. 

Our Katty's piece didn't even try to disguise the fact that she is an activist on the issue - albeit a somewhat conflicted one. 

She explicitly said "We thought. I thought" and "We hoped" in describing the Me Too campaigners' hopes and anxieties. 

Their campaign - "a revolution long past its due" - was openly expressed as her campaign too.

It's odd, isn't it, what you can get away with, impartiality-wise, if you're the face of the BBC in the U.S.?

Shouldn't Katty have at least tried to maintain a mask of impartiality here?

And as she didn't, another question: Why are BBC journalist-presenters allowed to get away with this kind of thing, despite all the 'BBC impartiality' guff the BBC puts out? 

And further, what do people at the BBC who do try to maintain the BBC's claim to be impartial make of such comments on BBC Radio 4 from a high-profile BBC colleague? Doesn't it embarrass them?

Friday 26 January 2018

Why is the BBC dancing to the Islamists’ tune over Sara Khan?

Sara Khan

Reading a piece by Sarah AB at Harry's Place I was taken, via a link, to another piece, this time from the National Secular Society website, written by Chris Sloggett. 

Its headline reads: Why are journalists dancing to the Islamists’ tune over Sara Khan?

I hope Chris doesn't mind if I quote a huge chunk of his piece here:
'Controversial' is a word that means almost nothing while revealing a great deal. Pretty much anything worth saying is controversial. If something is newsworthy, it's either controversial or very likely to become so. 
But when something means so little, the fact someone has chosen to use it usually tells you something. 
So let us consider the case against Sara Khan, the Government's new Commissioner for Countering Extremism. Today the BBC's headline about her appointment is
'Controversy over new counter-extremism tsar Sara Khan'. 
Many of those who claim to speak for Muslims do not like Khan because she promotes a positive message. She encourages a degree of integration into British society. She says Muslims should obey the same laws as everyone else and cooperate with the British state. She has called for honesty among Muslims about hateful ideologies and intolerant practices which are specific to, or particularly prominent among, those who share their religion. 
Her organisation Inspire encourages girls and women from Muslim backgrounds to be aspirational. It has done important work countering the narrative of grievance and resentment peddled by so many. And Khan wrote a book, The Battle for British Islam, in which she tackled many of those peddlers, as well as their counterparts on the white far right, head-on. 
Is this really work that we should explicitly describe as 'controversial'? Anyone interested in the future of British society should support the general thrust of what Khan has tried to do. 
That doesn't mean there shouldn't be reasonable analysis and criticism of her work. But if such a thing exists it has been drowned out today amid a hurricane of apologism. 
Advocacy groups such as 5PillarsUK, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee have berated Khan. Politicians such as Sayeeda Warsi, Naz Shah and Diane Abbott have cravenly jumped on the bandwagon. 
And meanwhile press reports have danced to the Islamists' tune. The BBC's initial report on Khan's appointment was particularly egregious. It described what had happened, included one sentence from Khan in reported speech, and then handed over the stage to a succession of Islamist apologists. 
In the fourth and fifth paragraphs we were treated to Warsi's view that Khan was "simply a mouthpiece and creation of" the Home Office (you can say 'Uncle Tom' if you like, Sayeeda). Then there was a picture of two of Warsi's tweets – without the one which bridged them, defending Khan, from Amina Lone. 
Next Martin Bashir was reported as saying the appointment would "anger many Muslims". It was unclear how he'd drawn this conclusion. There was a paragraph criticising the Prevent strategy, with no defence of it offered in response. Harun Khan of the Muslim Council of Britain got two paragraphs to say the Government had sent an "alarming" signal to "Muslim communities". Sara Khan's work with Inspire was given a passing mention – in the 14th paragraph. 
The BBC later updated its piece, adding some detail near the bottom about who Khan was and giving her the right of reply. But it also added in criticism from Shah and changed its headline to say the real story was the 'controversy' around the appointment. The criticism was still given far too much weight.
The latest update to the BBC article being condemned there is headlined New counter-extremism tsar Sara Khan faces calls to quit, so the BBC obviously isn't changing tack over this.

And what do we immediately see on clicking on that latest update?: 

So, the BBC chooses to describe MEND (a group I always think of as a mob of unpleasant Islamist rogues) as an "anti-Islamophobia campaign".

Well, I'm sure the unpleasant Islamist rogues at MEND will be absolutely delighted by that! 

Harry's Place, in contrast, calls them "Islamist agitators", and The Henry Jackson Society agrees and (in great detail) contends that they are an extreme, bullying bunch, full of antisemitic, homosexual-hating apologists for Islamism with worryingly ambiguous views about Islamist terrorism. 

So why is the BBC pandering to their self-description and describing them as an "anti-Islamophobia campaign"? 

Seriously, this is weird, disturbing BBC reporting. It isn't impartial, and, worse, it seems to be actually siding with the bad guys.

If only Brian Rix was still with us...

The Gang of Six

We all know, thanks to Frankie Howard especially, that it's wrong to mock the afflicted, but nonetheless...

The Telegraph's account of the BBC's reporting of the latest twist in the 'BBC gender pay scandal' story (headlined BBC confirms pay cut for male stars after it changes story five) made me chuckle tonight.

The Telegraph calls the BBC's reporting of this story a "farce".

And it is a farce.

Check out Newsniffer (particularly versions 3-5) if you also fancy sporting a mean grin at the expense of the BBC hapless 'reporting'! 

The BBC News website, reflecting evident panic at the BBC, first reported four names (Jeremy Vine, John Humphrys, Huw Edwards and Jon Sopel); then added another name (Nicky Campbell); then dropped the first four names (Jeremy Vine, John Humphrys, Huw Edwards and Jon Sopel) leaving the added name (Nicky Campbell) as the sole patsy; then reinstated the dropped names after the patsy's name; then put the dropped names back before the patsy; and then added a sixth name (Nick Robinson). 

Apparently, the first four named presenters "had no idea their names would be published, and some were unhappy that they were singled out by the BBC". 

The Telegraph also gloats that "The original story was also factually incorrect, as the website had failed to note that Vine is not a BBC News presenter":

That's true, though the Telegraph isn't entirely factually correct itself. (Is that an example of what, on the internet, would be called Skitt’s Law? And will there be a similar slip in this post?). Jon Sopel isn't a BBC News presenter either. He's a reporter these days (the BBC's North America Editor).

Of course, that actually means that the Telegraph underestimated just how factually incorrect the original BBC story was!

And on it goes (and I'm going to scoop the Telegraph here)...

The final BBC edit made very recently, is even funnier. Version 14 reads:

Version 15 reads:

Yes, after all the mockery they'd already received today, the poor fools at the BBC website ascribed to John Humphrys a quote that was actually from Jeremy Vine!

Guest Post: A Call to Alms

Here's a guest post from loyal commenter Loondon Calling to lead you interestingly into the weekend...

There is a case to be made for the ITBBCB? being renamed ATBBCAGB? - Are the BBC and Guardian Biased? After all, they seem to share a single brain. That’s my excuse for bringing this recent Observer/Guardian article ‘A blueprint for British housing in 2028’ by Rowan Moore to ITBBCB? readers’ attention.


First of all, the sub-heading …. ‘Imagine this: in two years, riots force the government to transform planning, design and building’… sounds like the output of a warped imagination - even a call to arms, especially from an architecture critic. Aren’t they expected to celebrate the ‘firmness commodity and delight’ of architecture? This would be the sitting Conservative Government he is referring to?

The essence of the article deals with the age-old theme of state-sponsored development of housing stock. Within Moore’s model, eco-friendly, zero carbon dwellings can be built in low rise comfortably-sized clustered arrangements of streets or squares with ample green spaces, in car-free zones with good walking routes or new public transport connections. Families and community life would be at the heart of the concept. Rowan Moore has to his name a book title ‘Slow Burn City: London in the Twenty-First Century’, published in March 2016. Clearly the choice of title ‘Slow Burn City’ is a bad one, but as this book came out fully twelve months before the Grenfell Tower fire, it might have been thought appropriate at the time. Here is the blurb:

…London has become the global city above all others. Money from all over the world flows through it; its land and homes are tradable commodities; it is a nexus for the world's migrant populations, rich and poor. Versions of what is happening in London are happening elsewhere, but London has become the best place to understand the way the world's cities are changing.
Some of the transformations London has undergone were creative, others were destructive; this is not new. London has always been a city of trade, exploitation and opportunity. But London has an equal history of public interventions, including the Clean Air Act, the invention of the green belt and council housing, and the innovation of the sewers and embankments that removed the threat of cholera. In each case the response was creative and unprecedented; they were also huge in scale and often controversial. The city must change, of course, but Moore explains why it should do so with a 'slow burn', through the interplay of private investment, public good and legislative action.
Fiercely intelligent, thought-provoking, lucidly written and often outrageously and uncomfortably funny, Slow Burn City is packed with fascinating stories about the physical fabric of London in the twenty-first century. But by seeing this fabric as the theatre of social and cultural struggles, Moore connects the political and architectural decisions of London's enfeebled and reactive government with the built environment that affects its inhabitants' everyday lives. In this urgent and necessary book, Moore makes a passionate case for London to invent new ways to respond to the pressures of the present, from which other cities could learn….

From Moore, here we have an example of BBC/Guardian groupthink. To harp back to recent posts about Mark Easton’s view that London is the UK and the UK is London, it becomes clear from Moore that London’s identity in his eyes is also an example for the world to copy. How arrogant.

There is no single answer to the housing crisis. At its heart of the problem is the paradox that until corporate house-building firms can see a sure-fire profit in a development, then sites even with PP will remain undeveloped. Making land available and granting PP does not in itself produce more houses. This is the way in which house-building works. Developers wouldn’t flood the market in a way that might drive down house prices. Profit motive and the market dictate whether or not development progresses. This paradox is especially acute in London, where the scarcity of available land leads to houses that are unaffordable to all but the very rich. Equally, in rural areas, villages and market towns throughout the UK, house building fails to address the issue of affordability.

Far from being the beacon of success as Moore would have us suppose, London’s experience should serve as a dire warning to other cities in the UK and elsewhere. By extending the London model to the rest of the UK, Easton “there’s plenty of land available” and Moore are condemning the rest of the country to a dystopian future where only the rich and privileged can survive in comfort. There is a bitter irony here whereby the London leftist elite have themselves become the rich and privileged in direct contradiction of their would-be left wing socialist credentials. Most are attracted to work in the arts, journalism, PR, publishing, broadcasting, political lobbying, charities or the public services. In contrast, others who have made their money in private enterprise or by other means have no such ambitions to overturn the status quo of home ownership, or the buy-to-let market. A precarious balance exists between the two schools of thought ie pro and anti property ownership - of independence or dependence - broadly equivalent to the split between left and right. However, it is the trends which will affect this balance that we all need to address.

The www.london.gov.uk website tells us that the population of London is set to increase over the coming decades rising from 8.2 million in 2011, to: 

9.20 million in 2021, 9.54 million in 2026, 9.84 million in 2031, and 10.11 million in 2036. The greatest increases are anticipated to be in the North Eastern part of London from Tower Hamlets outwards.

Here is a salutary tale, an example of a mass-housing scheme built with socialist-minded good intentions to provide larger scale housing close to a city centre for working people and their families, but which failed spectacularly:

The Hulme Crescents development close to Manchester city centre, which was being constructed during the 1970s was designed as a series of high-rise crescent shaped blocks built from the most uncompromising grey concrete. Many old terraced houses, identified for ‘slum clearance’, but which had housed close-knit communities, had been demolished to make way for this estate. Entire streets with their corner shops and pubs, symbols of a strong community, had been compulsorily purchased and then simply swept away, leaving residents who may have referred to themselves as ‘locals’ without anywhere to call their own. Housing managers reported that in consultations, they found that re-housed families wanted to be located away from their now destroyed community, and people they may have known as neighbours. They didn’t like what was on offer, but they had little choice in the matter. The construction techniques which built them had seemed to promise mass housing on a scale and at a pace which would finally eradicate the scourge of the slums.
These designs were probably the manifestation closest to Le Corbusier’s Modernist dream, Ville Radieuse, to be built in the UK. From my student accommodation I could see these monstrous beasts during their construction. Prevailing opinion, even as the development was taking place, was that the construction techniques were outdated, the model of high-rise concrete towers was discredited.The scheme Architects, Wilson Womersley had an impressive history in this type of building. The Hulme Crescents were conceived the best of modern social housing, designed to house some 19,000 residents.
The Crescents’ system-built engineering was a disaster. The blocks were erected too quickly and their construction inadequately supervised, and corners were cut. Problems of condensation emerged from poor insulation and ventilation. Vermin spread rapidly through the estate’s ducting. The Crescents, named after famous architects, Adam, Nash, Barry and Kent, were intended to recreate the fine proportions and lawned frontages of Bath, Buxton or Harrogate. Womersley said: ‘We feel that the analogy we have made with Georgian London and Bath is entirely valid’.
Found in the end to be totally unsuitable for families to live in after the death of a child falling from a balcony, the Crescents became ‘for adults only’. This in turn led to poor occupancy levels, alienation between the residents and their landlord, and eventually a complete breakdown. In 1984 the Landlords stopped accepting rent from the scheme, in a policy of retreat and abandonment of their asset, thus allowing anyone who wished to live there to occupy the homes rent free, and with utility services still connected. Changes in the power base of the Manchester City Council had labelled the Hulme Crescents concept as ‘too paternalistic’. The Architects Journal described the scheme as: ‘Europe’s worst housing stock’.
The dystopian look of The Hulme Crescents held some sort of attraction though, and acted as a magnet to a counterculture, groups of travellers, drop-outs, punks, photographers, artists, poets, musicians et al. The design with its concrete architecture, interconnecting walkways, with few through routes gave a fortress-like feel to the place.
As post-war modernism at its most brutal, The Crescents represented many of the aspirations that Le Corbusier may have held dear. He said: ‘Space, light and order, those are the things that man needs just as much as bread and a place to sleep’.
During the 1980s an informal vibrant community emerged from the dereliction of the Hulme Crescents. There was The Kitchen, an illegal nightclub which had been made from three knocked-through flats. A space was made that was unplanned in the architectural sense, being of random size and shape. If more space was required, there was no need for seeking permission from anyone, a hammer was all that was required. Graffiti on the walls declared: There ain’t no Government like no Government.
The lack of ownership enlivened this disparate community with their own anarchic lifestyle. The drab appearance of the grey concrete was enriched by graffiti and street art. A second club, the PSV Club, was set up by a group of Afro-Caribbean Public Service Vehicle (PSV) workers. Reputedly, in an atmosphere of lawlessness, the ceilings in the club were bullet-marked.
By the mid 1980s Hulme had its own clubs, arthouse cinema, and its residents had developed their own style of dress. Hulme had its own Carnival. Amongst the artists who passed through are Nico, who, through her association with Warhol’s Velvet Underground, would have a direct link back to the pop-art movement of the 1960s, the Manchester poet Lemn Sissay, Kelzo, whose graffiti coloured the grey walls of Hulme, film critic Mark Kermode, Mick Hucknall, and Alain Delon.
In what once was hailed as the future for local authority housing, this scheme, being the largest single housing development in Europe, had problems that were so bad that the huge scheme was demolished in 1991 - a mere 19 years after it was constructed. 
Is this the multiculturalism that Moore sees for London and the UK - on the edge of lawlessness, anti-capitalist, non-inclusive, but vibrant, self-governing, and capable of nurturing talent in music and art? Moore needs to tell us of his reasons for imagining ‘in two years, riots force the government to transform planning, sign and building’. On the face of it, he seems to be advocating lawlessness as the first steps towards a solution to the housing crisis.