Friday 26 January 2018

The BBC Hasn't Got a Leg to Stand On

The Brussels Broadcasting Corporation? is the title of a new Civitas report published today

It's a gathering together of over 18 years worth of work by David and Andrew at News-watch and takes about two hours to read the whole thing - something I'd recommend you do if you can, especially as there are plenty of fascinating details...

...such as that during News-watch's first monitoring exercise - the 1999 European Parliament elections - there was just one interview on the theme of withdrawal from the EU. It was with a 38-year-old UKIP spokesman by the name of Nigel Farage: "In the exchange, John Humphrys bracketed the party with the BNP, and then suggested that leaving the EU was ‘literally unthinkable’ because of all the turmoil that would be created". 

The central theme of the report is that, despite public support for withdrawal from the EU being either a huge minority or a majority throughout that entire time, the BBC pretty much ignored it. 

For starters, the BBC only very rarely interviewed pro-withdrawal speakers over a long period: 

The BBC's choice of guests, therefore, has been consistently and overwhelmingly biased against pro-withdrawal voices to a truly staggering degree - until the referendum of course (though the BBC has subsequently regressed again).

And the agenda-setting BBC behaved even worse when it came to asking questions about withdrawing from the EU. Basically they hardly ever did it:

Yes, the BBC only asked the questions it wanted to ask and only discussed the subjects it wanted to discuss. If it didn't want to talk about something (such as withdrawal from the EU), even if large swathes of the public might want the subject discussed (as also with immigration until fairly recently), it simply didn't ask about it or talk about it.

That's quite astonishing really when you think about it - a public broadcaster that won't talk about things that matter to large sections of the public! 

Here's another telling point: 

That's tied to the remarkable fact that in the same period Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine "made between them 28 appearances, with contributions totalling 11,208 words – over nine times the amount of airtime allocated to all left-wing supporters of Brexit" - an astonishing finding. 

The second part of the report is headlined The BBC complaints procedure – unfit for purpose? The answer to that question turns out to be 'Oh yes!!!". It's a fascinating essay in its own right. Many of you will nod your head in recognition at many points. Here's an extract:
Another measure of the overwhelming negativity involved in the BBC complaints process can be found in the Corporation’s response to a News-watch complaint in 2013. On January 23 of that year, David Cameron announced his pledge to hold, after the next general election, a referendum on the UK’s continued EU membership. That evening, Newsnight on BBC2 broadcast a reactive programme which featured 18 supporters of remaining in the EU and only one who wanted to leave. News-watch, backed by a cross-party group of MPs concerned about BBC bias, submitted a complaint under the BBC’s formal procedure. The matter was eventually considered by the Editorial Standards Committee, but it ruled that the programme was not in breach of impartiality rules. It came to this view on the grounds that it had not been a major news event (which would be governed by special conditions of impartiality), that an edition of Newsnight six weeks previously had contained supporters of withdrawal, and that the aim of the January 23 programme had been simply to explore elements of the reaction to David Cameron’s speech – and most at Westminster supported remain.  
As in 2007, the defence amounted to preposterous stone-walling. For example, the earlier Newsnight edition cited by the BBC did include limited opinion in support of leaving the EU, but the programme as a whole was strongly biased in favour of Remain. There was no way it properly ‘balanced’ the January 23 edition. Further, the ESC’s denial that Mr Cameron’s speech was a major news event flew in the face of basic common sense: newspapers the following day carried dozens of pages of news reports and analysis. No appeal was allowed.

The BBC's initial response was as deeply inadequate a piece of brazen stonewalling as you're ever likely to see. Note how they simply ignore the whole mass of evidence and just go on asserting their own impartiality regardless:
We’re covering the process towards Brexit in a responsible and impartial way independent of political pressure. The job of impartial journalism is to scrutinise the issues and interrogate the relevant voices, not advocate for a position. It’s precisely for this reason that the public trusts the BBC.
They remind me somewhat of The Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This Civitas report has cut off the arms and the legs of the BBC's claims to impartiality over Brexit but the BBC is still there, giving it large, saying "I'm invincible!"

1 comment:

  1. Was Nigel Farage ever 38 - he looks like he's been 59 forever. :)

    A very damning report indeed.

    But of course this is part of a bigger pattern of what you might call news control isn't it?

    How many negative stories about the Clintons, the Clinton Foundation, Obama, and Bernie Saunders have appeared on the BBC compared with all the negative stories about Trump? It's not as though there is a shortage of negative stories to be found on those persons/institutions, it's just the BBC don't want to give those stories "the oxygen of publicity".

    An example from yesterday: a photo has emerged in the US of Obama with Louis Farrakhan when he was first elected to the Senate. Obama was close to the Nation of Islam then. The photo has been suppressed for all these years, Obama knowing what damage it could do to his Presidential prospects as a "healer leader" if this photo were to be circulated showiong him posing with an anti-semitic race separatist and supremacist.

    Will the photo ever appear on the BBC website? I doubt it...unless it becomes a bigger news item and they feel they can't ignore it but then they will frame it more as a "why are people getting so het up about this" sort of thing.


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