Friday 29 June 2018

Fully-grown Open Thread


Nada Tawfik

Browsing the internet this morning, I spotted a comment somewhere else saying:
On Radio 4 about 6:40am they were talking about the [Annapolis] shooting, “…Trump has criticised the media in the past so should take responsibility for the killings….”. BBC are a total joke these days. They are not even subtle in the bias anymore.
Ah, if only it were that easy! 

Checking it out for myself, it turns out not to be an actual quote. Neither Justin Webb nor BBC North America reporter Nada Tawfik said anything quite so direct or unsubtle this morning. 

What they did do, however, was to imply the possibility of a link between the killings and the Trump administration's hostile attitude to journalists and to imply that President Trump has got questions to answer:
Justin Webb: Does highlight, doesn't it, how dangerous and unpleasant it is to be a journalist at the moment in the United States? I mean, has the White House...has anyone kind of said anything about what happened?
Nada Tawfik: Yeah, I mean it absolutely does. And, you know, across the United States and in New York, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, here in Maryland, police departments have been stepping up security at major media outlets in light of this incident. And, you know, they've said that they have been concerned for some time about the safety of journalists. Now, President Trump was questioned about this. He offered his thoughts and prayers to the victims. But he was asked if his...his Press Secretary, his Deputy Press Secretary specifically was asked...if, you know, the comments that President Trump has made about the press has made it more dangerous in this day and age. And all she would really say was that they condemn any kind of violence and obviously don't condone that. But certainly, you know, an event like this does just underscore the very charged nature which journalists are increasingly working in in this country, in America.
According to NBC, however, the suspect's grudge against the newspaper dates back long before Donald Trump's election (back into the era of Barack Obama's first presidential term):
Jarrod W. Ramos, the man identified as the suspect in the shooting that killed five people at the Annapolis, Maryland, Capital Gazette, appears to have had a longstanding grudge against the newspaper over a 2011 column that reported his guilty plea to criminal harassment, according to court records. 
So maybe this has absolutely nothing to do with Donald Trump and that by even raising and implicitly giving credence to the possibility that it does the BBC is betraying heavy symptoms of media hyper-partisanship here.

BBC spin

Mid-afternoon yesterday news broke here that UK defence giant BAE Systems has won a £20bn contract to build frigates for the Australian navy and many people immediately began looking to the BBC to report this good news

But the BBC didn't report it for several hours. As Sisypus noted on the open thread, "6pm News: does the BBC lead with Guido's story that Australia is ordering nine anti-submarine warships from BAE Systems? Of course not - they bury it!"

The BBC News website began reporting it at 7.20 pm last night, as per Newssniffer

Newsniffer also reveals, in fascinating detail, how that BBC website report changed - and always in the direction of 'dampening' the good news for the UK.

Defence analysts said the deal represented a significant success for British naval exports.
In Version 1 this changes to:
As the frigates will be built in Australia, BAE's shipyards on the Clyde in Glasgow are unlikely to see a significant boost to jobs. 
Nevertheless, defence analysts said the deal represented a significant success for British naval exports.
Version 2 corrects an error in the previous two versions. For over five hours since the first report, the BBC report had begun: 
British defence giant BAE Systems has won a multi-million pound contract from the Australian government to build nine new warships, marking a significant victory for British military exports.
In Version 2, at 0.35 am this morning, they finally got it right:
British defence giant BAE Systems has won a multi-billion pound contract from the Australian government to build nine new warships, marking a significant victory for British military exports.
(Isn't it extraordinary that such a basic error in the opening paragraph of such an important story remained unnoticed and uncorrected for over five hours?)

Version 3 reverts to the 'dampening' process. Paragraphs 2-4 in the second version read:
BAE beat Italian and Spanish rivals to win a large slice of the £19.6bn ($25.7bn; A$35bn) spending programme. 
The ships will be built in Australia, but are based on the Type 26 design BAE is building for the Royal Navy.

Theresa May said the deal was "an enormous boost" for the UK economy..
In the third version this changes to:
BAE beat Italian and Spanish rivals to win a large slice of the £19.6bn ($25.7bn; A$35bn) spending programme. 
The ships will be based on anti-submarine frigates that BAE is building for the UK's Royal Navy. 
However, the new warships will be built in Australia by a local workforce.
(Mrs May gets dropped down several paragraphs).

 It's as if the BBC is trying to make a point here....

....a point they also seemed to be making on last night's BBC1 News at Ten, where they gave the story just 17 seconds (though at least they got the billions/millions point correct, unlike their online colleagues!):
The defence giant BAE Systems has secured a £20 billion contract from the Australian Navy. It's ordered nine of a new type of ship designed to detect submarines. The Prime Minister has welcomed the deal although the ships will be built in Australia where the work will secure 4,000 jobs there.
(Note how News at Ten didn't say "the UK defence giant" there.)

In fact, as I watched that live last night it struck me that the word "there" was a very conscious addition as it was surplus to requirement. The sentence, "The Prime Minister has welcomed the deal although the ships will be built in Australia where the work will secure 4,000 jobs", is grammatically correct and complete by itself. Adding "there" to the end of it is grammatically redundant, serving no purpose, as it merely repeats what has already been said - "the ships will be built in Australia where the work will secure 4,000 jobs". It's an example of tautology:

Nevertheless, the adding of "there" to the end there did serve a purpose: to make the point even harder for BBC viewers to miss that the UK isn't going to gain job-wise out of this great deal, only Australia - an added emphasis made even more emphatic as Fiona Bruce paused slightly after "jobs" and, thus, emphasised it even more. 

Again, it's hard not to see this as the BBC very deliberately making a point about a major deal that a lot of Brexit supporters had been enthusing about as a wonderful example of the UK forging ahead, 'despite Brexit'. 

It's as if the BBC was doggedly trying to downplay it and to neutralise its 'good news' potential - especially for people here in the UK, 'despite Brexit'.

Thursday 28 June 2018

"and in some ways its conscience"

That tweet was in reference to Jon Sopel's report on this morning's Today, and I agree with Jane that it betrays a social liberal bias on the part of the BBC reporter:
BBC Newsreader: President Trump has been handed the opportunity to shift America's highest court further to the right with the retirement of one of its judges. Justice Anthony Kennedy is stepping down from the Supreme Court after three decades in the role. Viewed as a moderate conservative he has advanced gay rights and opposed attempts to restrict abortions. Here's our North America editor Jon Sopel. 
Jon Sopel: For over a decade Justice Anthony Kennedy has been the key swing vote on the Supreme Court and in some ways its conscience. He came down in favour of same-sex marriage, allowing that measure to pass 5 to 4, and was decisive in resisting efforts to tighten abortion laws. But with his departure Donald Trump is presented with an opportunity to appoint another conservative to the bench, something he's committed to do. With mid-term elections in November, which theoretically could lead to Democrats taking charge of any confirmation hearing, there is an impetus to get this done as quickly as possible. Presidents may only be able to serve eight years; a Supreme Court justice is for life. And conservatives are eyeing an opportunity to change US social policy for a generation.
Of course, the use of the word "moderate" in the introduction there is also something of a value judgment. 

Wednesday 27 June 2018

Camel Corps

The BBC doesn’t get it, but Roger Boyes does. He has an excellent piece in the Times (£) today. Prince William’s visit is a snub to the camel corps.
I strongly recommend it. What? you don’t subscribe to the Times? I’m not cheeky enough to paste all of it into this blog, but perhaps this excerpt will tempt you.
William of Arabia, aka the Duke of Cambridge, heads out to dusty Ramallah today to meet the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. It’s a remarkable encounter for the second-in-line to the throne and not just because the Palestinian is a nasty piece of work (doctoral dissertation: “The secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism”). The sheer political sensitivity of an official trip to modern Israel and to the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank is such that no member of the royal family had ever undertaken one. 
A shift in geopolitics has made the visit possible — and a cultural change in the Foreign Office, which has for many decades advised the royal household that it is better to don the appropriate headgear and butter up Arab autocrats than engage with the gritty detail of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. The fear of giving offence to princelings has been the defining trait of the so-called camel corps of Britain’s Arab enthusiasts within the Foreign Office. It has, with flanking assistance from oil men and aerospace executives, become an almost institutional lobby that sees Israel as the troublemaker of the region and Arab leaders as deeply misunderstood.

By the way, although I first read it in the newspaper, I looked online to see which way the comments were swingin’ At the time of writing they’re mostly supportive. Good.
As far as I’m concerned, it puts a certain gentleman in his place. (Link: see latter part of 3rd paragraph)

Almost four years ago I wrote this: (link: see section above the crocodile)
“This brings to mind the advice that a former British Ambassador to Amman gave to Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s.  
"It is presumably in the national interest to do what we can to counter Arab fears and suspicions that the leader of HM opposition is already a prisoner of the Zionists.” 

The gentleman in question is charming enough. I met him at a friend’s house. He has a great deal of admiration for Yassir Arafat and holds the kind of Arabist views that Oxbridge-FCO types imbibe from birth. With the exemplary manners of his ilk,  he held forth on the topic, undeterred by not being particularly au fait with the facts. (at least not of the ‘other’ side of the story) Self confidence carried him through.
Our hostess had mischievously seated him next to me at dinner. All I can add is that his adulation for Arafat remained undiminished despite having slight reservations about being expected to kiss the corrupt, malodorous old rogue. Anyway, I imagine he would have his own views about the Royals visiting the region. The BBC of course remains impartial.

"Diane Abbott doing your counting?"

This tweet from William Crawley's BBC Talkback programme didn't go down too well:

The long thread beneath the tweet illustrates the 'complaints from both sides' fallacy brilliantly:

One side points out that 'half a million people' is a fake figure, as even the organisers claimed around 100,000 people attended; the other side (many with #FBPE after their Twitter names) rails against the programme for using the phrase "the biggest moan-fest in history".

The point, as so often, is that those condemning the BBC for anti-Brexit bias here by asserting a massively inflated turnout for an anti-Brexit march have a genuine point (it is almost certainly utterly fake - probably out by a factor of five) while those condemning the BBC for pro-Brexit bias by moaning about the "moan-fest" phrase don't have a genuine point. 

Here are some examples from both sides:

  • Well that escalated quickly. At the weekend the BBC reported this as no more than 100,000, now by the miracle of BBC journalism it's gone up to half a million??
  • Factually incorrect and embarrassing tweet for the BBC. Even the organisers only claimed 100,000 (more like 20,000 max) so why say half a million.? Appalling reporting.
  • Get your facts straight wasn't half a million....
  • Suddenly it's half a million? The British Bullsh*t Corporation strikes again...
  • Half a million? When I read this I nearly spat out half of the 60,000 sausages I was having for my tea.
  • Diane Abbott doing your counting?


  • When was the last time BBC described a 500,000 protest march as a “Moanfest”? 
  • Usual biased BBC commentary, you really couldn't make it up. The once respected BBC now just an alt-right mouthpiece. #bbcbias
  • Moan-fest? You wish...!
  • Moanfest? Jesus thank god for an unbiased BBC...
  • 'Moanfest' (what a patronising term!)
  • This is appallingly. Under what authority do you feel enabled to smear it as a 'moan-fest'? At best this is lazy, pandering journalism seeking easy cliches. At worst this looks like craven prejudice. 100k to 500k passionately protested, you wouldn't smear other marches would you?

Of course, the latter crowd are missing the balancing part of the programme's question: "Is that the start of a great awakening?" That's where they're falling down, taking the validity of their point with them. Other might just as (unreasonably) moan about the BBC for daring to use the ridiculous phrase "the start of a great awakening" here.

Quite how such people missed that and managed only to notice the "moan-fest" bit is a question perhaps best left to psychologists (or psychiatrists).

Sunday 24 June 2018

Sugar and Spice

Frankie McCamley failing to get to Lord Sugar's doorstep

Have you ever been on holiday to a certain resort in Spain and seen those late-night club comedians who tell jokes they assure us we'll never hear on the BBC? These men swear blind that they "haven't got a racist bone in their body" whilst telling jokes that would get any comedian who managed to slip through the net and tell them on, say, The One Show or Question Time instantly hung, drawn and quartered and then tarred-and-feathered and shot. And the audience in Spain, thrilling to the 'taboo' nature of these jokes, then lets rip with their forbidden laughter and applauds enthusiastically before staggering merrily back to their hotels 

I only ask because poor, foolhardy Lord Sugar's recent quip about the Senegal team would probably only get a titter there (being very tame in comparison) but it was still enough to get to cause countless blood vessels to explode with outrage (across Twitter at least) and to get at least one MP to call for the BBC to sack him. The usual forced apology followed. 

Strikingly, for one of their top stars, the story was given extensive coverage by the BBC - of the Jeremy Clarkson kind. It got full-length reports on all of the main BBC One news bulletins. And the BBC's coverage audibly and visibly dripped with disapproval. And they even sent a reporter (Frankie McCamley) to his Lordship's house to try and doorstep him. (Unfortunately for Frankie, there was some distance between the bell as his gate and the doorstep and he wasn't going to oblige her by traipsing the distance between the two.)

And it's not over yet. The Sunday Mirror reports that the BBC is (sending him to be re-educated by the Red Guards) sending him to attend an "unconscious bias" course, and that his BBC career is still not assured. 

Rod Liddle, in The Sunday Times, is typically caustic - and doubtless correct - about the "endlessly self-flagellating" BBC and what will happen next here: 
Back to Sugar and the BBC. He will surely not last there much longer; my suspicion is that the dwarfs of death who run the place ache to get rid of him, much as they relievedly got rid of Jeremy Clarkson. The vast audiences these two middle-aged white men command are the result of a recidivist humour that does not commend itself to the flaccid PC bores who run the place, even if it is enjoyed by a huge proportion of the British people — that is, the licence-fee payers....
....including those who holiday in Spain.

Not just a pretty face

Chloe Westley

It's certainly true that Chloe Westley of the Tax Payers Alliance has caught the BBC's attention. 

Certain people do from time to time (from both sides of the old political spectrum - think of Afua Hirsch, for example, from 'the other side'.) 

Of course, right-wingers are far less censorious than left-wing ones and would never complain about someone whose views they disagree with being on the BBC too much....

😉 know, this kind of thing - from an old BBC regular too: 

That told you!

The i-word

Yes, it's that time again!...

Today's The World This Weekend discussed the migrant crisis in light of the EU summit about it and the "hard" policy of what Mark Mardell called the "newly militant" Italian government. 

It wasn't too biased (and Mark even used the i-word ['illegal'] once), but:

(a) The main report featured two pro-migration 'experts' (including Leonard Doyle) and a pro-migration Spanish socialist MEP 'balanced' by an anti-migrant figure from Italy's Lega, and the main interview was with a UN official.

(b) It was striking that the idea of placing migrants in camps around the Mediterranean, including across North Africa, was rubbished by successive speakers and that the BBC's Kevin Connelly said there were "ethical" issues as far as placing them in North Africa is concerned. 

(c) Mark Mardell twice made a point of stating that the number of migrants has fallen drastically since the height of the crisis, making it sound as if there's no longer a numbers problem. Each time he asserted that it's no longer a migration crisis but a political crisis:
  • "Illegal migration into the European Union has, in fact, fallen dramatically by 95% since its height in 2015. So it's not so much a migration crisis as a political crisis about migration."
  • "Again, it's an interesting point. The problem is going down in terms of numbers but up in terms of political salience." 
(d) It was also striking the difference in tone and content between one interview and the rest of the interviews. If you want to hear this for yourselves just listen to how Mark Mardell interviewed the man from the UN and compare that with how he interviewed the man from the League. I think it's undeniable that the tone was significantly softer with the man from the UN. 

As I say, it could have been worse.

P.S. The other piece was a report by the mighty Hugh Sykes from Turkey. As with other BBC reports I've seen in recent days it focused on the growing strength of the opposition to President Erdogan there. These reports have raised the possibility than an upset is possible. The thought has kept crossing my mind though that, despite all of this, that President Erdogan will probably win again - and by a far larger margin than these reports suggest.

That was only based on a gut instinct and the fact that these things hardly ever seem to go the way BBC reporters seem to think they'll go. The early results of the count are suggesting a landslide for Erdogan. So much for Hugh Sykes, it seems....though the gap is tightening. (Will I be cracking open a bottle of Turkish wine - not that I have one - and toasting Hugh after all?) 


Well, I couldn't resist (sorry)....

Panama playing so badly England must think all their Isthmuses have come at once.

(And within a minute of me posting that Panama scored!)

Andrew Marr judged by the BBC to have "risked misleading audiences" over Israel

Loyal readers with exceptional memories may recall this post from a couple of months ago:

Well, the BBC agrees with that and has ruled against Andrew Marr over this. 

According to the Mail on Sunday, Fraser Steel, head of executive complaints at the BBC, has written to Jonathan Sacerdoti (in response to a complaint from him) saying:
The BBC’s guidelines require that output is “well sourced” and “based on sound evidence”. 
In the absence of any evidence to support the reference to “lots” of children being killed at the time of transmission, it seems to us to have risked misleading audiences on a material point. 
We therefore propose to uphold this part of your complaint.

A little video

Please see below a couple of comments - one at Biased BBC, on here at Is the BBC biased? - about a video posted on the BBC News website (which the BBC has now also placed on YouTube).

I don't need to add anything to the comments myself...

Roland Deschain
This little video is nothing more than outright propaganda, something the BBC is increasingly indulging in. What are these “truths” the BBC reveals?
1. The West is not being swamped by refugees, because the vast majority are fleeing terrorism and conflict, not bringing it.
2. Cities will drown because climate change.
3. Satellite images of fire show forest clearance and gas flares from fracking, showing human-led climate change.
4. Light pollution is a problem but where it’s falling it’s because old people, boo hiss, are dying and not so much nasty energy is used.
In short, it’s propaganda dressed up as science. The BBC is quite shameless.

Monkey Brains24 June 2018 at 10:34
Roland Deschain over at bBBC references this propaganda video that the BBC present as impartial, objective news.

When I looked up the Instituto Igarape, which appears to have produced the maps referenced in the video, I found - surprise, surprise - that Soros's Open Society Foundations were supporting the "think tank" (aka propaganda unit).

This is pure Fake News that the BBC is foisting on the public. To take one example, the video referenced parts of Florida going under the water due to global warming.

I looked into this Florida myth previously. The key problem in Florida is that they have been building and continue to build huge urban settlements on not v. stable ground (bascially marshes). That exerts downward pressure on the land (ie the land sinks) and because the underlying rock is very porous limestone which is soaked with sea water, the inevitable result is increased flooding. That has nothing to do with global warming, although global warming could of course exacerbate the problem. But if you were genuinely interested in the science of global warming the last place you would start is Florida, not the first as in this video.

Putting videos like this up is pure lying propaganda with no right of even the usual cursory response allowed in other parts of the BBC.


Meanwhile over at the Observer, Carole Cadwalladr is continuing her dogged (some say obsessive) pursuit of Arron Banks and Leave.EU. 

As ever, she's receiving a lot of fervent support and plenty of derisive flak on Twitter.

This week she's got some emails showing that Mr Banks and Andy Wigmore of Leave.EU wanted to behave like investigative journalists and dig up lots of dirt on certain people - in this case their journalistic  opponents - and, worse, they actually intended to use it (if they actually found any) to discredit them. And one of their targets was a (then) high-profile BBC editor. 

"How low can you go?", she asks.

To summarise the main part of her story today, here's one of her tweets about it
As John Sweeney of BBC Newsnight prepared a report on Arron Banks mystery £££ & how he funded Brexit, the leaders of the LeaveEU campaign agreed to hire a private investigator to dig up ‘personal stuff’ about Ian Katz, the programme’s editor.
Shocking! Arron and Andy were even thinking of digging into Ian Katz's personal life and finances.

(Private citizens obviously shouldn't do that kind of thing. Such things should be left to proper people, like BBC reporters and Observer journalists).

Ironically, she's absolutely fuming this morning at the BBC for not going big with her 'scoops' every week, and her supporters and hopping mad at the Beeb too, piling accusations and demands on the corporation. She's accusing them of letting 'the bullies' win:
No news organisation in Britain followed up our reports from last weekend. The BBC stands silent. The bullies are winning.
Her Observer colleague Nick Cohen, an ally, must have spotted the irony in her attacking the BBC too, tweeting a 'covering' point:
Critics of the BBC, who I admit have a point, should note that however cravenly Marr, the Today programme and Panorama have behaved, at least Newsnight is a home for decent journalism.
In fairness to the BBC, some of them probably think that there's something in Carole's investigations; others probably think there's very little in it. If so, which is right? On the strength of this week's 'scoop', and despite a lot of sound and fury about it, I'd say the latter.

Turbo-charged Marr

Andrew Marr must have either devoured a couple of extra shredded wheat or gulped down a tin of spinach before this morning's The Andrew Marr ShowHe fired ace after ace at Boris Becker (who put in a terrible performance), hunted Jeremy Hunt like a pack of James Naughtie-impersonators, fired a few potshots at that nice Nia Griffith's defences, and even put author Robert Harris into the dock over the morality of his dealings with Roman Polanski. His audience must now be feeling shell-shocked. (I'm off for a lie-down in a darkened room). We've not seen anything like this since Emma Barnett stood in for him. 

More on Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell: Hope this helps persuades  BBC News the case we have been making that Brexit is not a done deal and the huge strand of public opinion of that view must be given a proper share of debate. Someone tell Rob Burley cos I don’t think he’s listening to me today!!
Alastair Campbell: Suspect if there had been a big pro-Brexit march yesterday one of the main march voices would have been on #Marr Thoughts Rob Burley?
Rob Burley: My main thought is that you should give it a rest.
Rob Burley: Checked what was on Frost the morning after the 2003 Iraq war march. The pro-march voice was Mark Seddon (in papers) and you yourself put up Defence Secretary John Reid explaining why you would be pressing on irrespective of the size of the march the previous day.
Rob Burley: Correction. John Reid was actually party chairman at that point.
Alastair Campbell: Good rebuttal and research there Rob!
Rob Burley: No problem.

Guess who admired the BBC's coverage of the People's Vote March yesterday?

Praise for the BBC from the People's Vote campaign for their coverage yesterday:

Mr. Marr's Sunday Morning Service

Good morning to you. In politics, this is quite a weekend. A massive march in London against Brexit - and a smaller one in favour. Two huge companies, Airbus and BMW, threatening to up sticks. Because of that, growing fears among Brexiteers that we are now heading for a half-in, half-out, fudged and unconvincing exit. Exactly two years ago, just after that referendum result had come in, the country seemed bitterly divided. It still is. 

"Bye-bye, Dimbleby. Take that panto horse called Question Time with you"

BBC One's Question Time receives a full-scale hatchet job from Sky's Adam Boulton in today's Sunday Times, and David Dimbleby isn't spared either. He calls the programme a "pantomime horse" and wants it put down. It's a bracing read.

He's particularly opposed to "the bear pit element of the programme" which prioritises "heat over light" and involves "the ritual confrontation and humiliation of its guests" by a "self-selecting, juiced-up audience" - an audience that, "for all the BBC’s pretensions", is frequently "in no way 'representative' of British public opinion". He says:
Question Time is a lazy format. Its ugliness has contributed to the coarsening of public discourse.
He doesn't think the would-be ratings-grabbing "celeb add-ons" do the programme (or themselves) any favours either. 

There's a lot of truth in what Adam Boulton writes, but the BBC aren't going to drop Question Time (even though I agree they should - or at least drastically refresh its format). The BBC's "veneration" for it is too strong. With a new woman at its helm - and even the Tory culture secretary Matt Hancock is calling for David Dimbleby's replacement to be a woman-  it will doubtless sail on smugly for quite a few more years yet. 

As for David Dimbleby, the piece begins with an anecdote that's too good not to share: 

Saturday 23 June 2018

Mobilisation on a big scale

Well, today's People's Vote March in London certainly didn't reach or surpass the required 17.4 million mark. Nor did it equal the 2003 anti-Iraq war demonstration which saw between 750,000 and 2 million people take to the capital's street (to achieve nothing), nor the pro-fox hunting Countryside Alliance march of 2002 which saw some 400,000 people marching in London (also achieving nothing). Still, Ben Wright's report on tonight's early evening news bulletin on BBC One (which led with the story) began like this:
This was a mobilisation on a big scale, by people who had come to the capital from across the country, many of them hoping Brexit can be stopped. Two years on from the referendum to leave the EU, the march organisers said more than 100,000 people turned up to demand another vote on the final Brexit deal. 
We heard from several protestors, plus David Lammy and Anna Soubry. A less-than-impressed member of the public viewing the march was also included and Dr Liam Fox was quoted later. 

If you're wondering, the other march did get a brief mention right at the end:
In another part of Westminster there was a smaller demonstration in support of Brexit, clashing protests that proved again how divisive the decision to leave the EU remains.


Charlotte Gallagher, Radio 4's correspondent for PM at the anti-Brexit rally in central London, made quite a statement on the programme about the respective numbers attending today's two marches. She said:
Now, there was also a pro-Brexit march taking place in central London at the same time as this one today but on a much smaller scale. We are thinking a few hundreds people were at that even compared to obviously the 100,000 people at the main event at Parliament Square.
How does she know there are 100,000 people at the anti-Brexit rally (as its organisers claimed before and during the event)? Shouldn't she have added some distancing caveats to that, saying that it's only a claim?  

"I'm one of them"

Interesting tweet from the official Radio 4 Woman's Hour Twitter feed just now:

Comments (so far) could definitely be going better:

  • If you are there in a personal capacity, why use the BBC to propagate your personal views @BBCWomansHour? If on BBC duty should you not be impartial?
  • BBC impartiality? I've no problem with your opinion as a named person; I've a huge one with expressing it on a blue tick BBC account.
  • You're supposed to be impartial, you vile bunch of  w******s !
  • Gosh, never saw that coming. It's almost as if you are just a bunch of entitled, self-satisfied, middle-class flibbetygibbets who like nothing more than getting together to sniff each other's artisanal farts of moral superiority. 
  • And I’m one of 17.4 million sat at home watching the football.

Update (16:58) : And it's gone!! Woman's Hour has deleted it.

Further (Sunday): Coming late to it, a commenter at Biased BBC has just written, "So incredible I thought it must be a photoshop, but no no one called it fake, so it does seem it is genuine."

It was indeed genuine. I went to the Woman's Hour Twitter feed myself, as I wondered something similar, and found it there, large as life - hence my own screengrab directly from that feed yesterday afternoon. Wonder if the mystery BBC staffer who tweeted it got a telling-off?

Jon Donnison is back

BBC news correspondent Jon Donnison was interviewing a couple of anti-Brexit marchers at the People's Vote March in London a few minutes ago (just after 2 o'clock) and, doing his 'BBC impartiality' bit, asked one of them: 
Again, people would say: There was a referendum. People voted. It was close - 48 to 51 -- but the 48 lost. 
He could have said, "Again, people would say: There was a referendum. People voted. The 48 lost", but he didn't. He had to add, "It was close". (Was it? There was a 4% difference.)

Also, the result wasn't "48 to 51". It was 48 to 52 (48.11% to 51.89%).

Checking back, he also called Leave voters "the 51%" earlier too (just after 1 o'clock), so it wasn't a random slip.

Was this evidence of bias or just factual inaccuracy on Jon Donnison's part?


Interestingly the BBC News Channel is showing aerial images of both Brexit marches in London - the anti-Brexit People's Vote March and the pro-Brexit UK Unity and Freedom March. 

It's estimating the former to be attracting "tens of thousands" though not "hundreds of thousands" and the latter to be attracting around "a couple of thousand" people.

BBC reporter Jon Donnison is at the anti-Brexit march, and all the interviews so far have been with those attending that march.  

John Sweeney is uneasy

John Sweeney pronounced himself "uneasy" about the rise of Matteo Salvini in Italy on today's edition of From Our Own Correspondent.

Here's a transcript:

In the green hills above the Tyrrhenian Sea the air hangs heavy and low. In the distance lightning crackles, thunder rumbles and the wind lifts flaps of corrugated iron. The racket brings a false sense of life back to the old abandoned brick kiln. From the look of things the factory went bust a decade ago, maybe more. 

Calabria is the poorest province of Italy, poorer than Sicily just across the Strait. It's under the thumb of local mafia known here as the 'Ndrangheta. After the factory was abandoned it was used to dump chemical waste but no-one has been convicted. Perhaps the mafia had a hand in the dumping, perhaps not, but it's the man that some believe bears the ultimate responsibility for another crime in the old brick factory who's making the news. Earlier this month Soumaila Sacko, an African from Mali, came here to loot some corrugated iron to make roof for his home in a nearby shanty town. An Italian opened fire and Sacko was dead. A man has been arrested but denies killing him. 

Sacko's  murder is fast becoming a cause célèbre because many, especially on the Italian left, blame a politician for creating a new mood of hostility to African migrants. His name is Matteo Salvini and he is the coming man of Italian politics. Dark-haired, deep-voiced, bearded, Salvini is the country's new interior minister - a populist firebrand for the hard right League and, it just so happens, a senator for Calabria. 

We went to the unofficial migrant camp where Sacko lived. It's a glum place, huge puddles on the ground. One man told us, "It's not easy. We hear many things from Salvini. Some people say we're going to be sent back. We don't know what to expect." "Does that make you afraid?", I asked him. "Yes it does", he said. 

The local mayor is a former Communist. He wrestled with honouring Italy's tradition of hospitality with how his voters feel about the migrant shanty town. He blew hot about Salvini's denial of human rights but seemed well aware that the interior minister has been shooting up in the polls. "Has the shanty town been a recruiting sergeant for Salvini?", I asked. "Yes", he said. 

In Villa San Giovanni, the port immediately across the Strait from Messina in Sicily, I met Francesca Porpiglia, a councillor for the League and a devoted follower of Salvini. She took me for a drive around town and told me that groups of young people of colour hung around in bars making other people, especially women, feel unsafe. African migrants, it turned out, are like London buses. There's never one around when you want one. Eventually, after two laps of the town centre, we found three. They seemed to me to be doing no harm. I put it to Francesca that some say that Salvini is a bit of a fascist. She laughed and replied, "No, no. I believe that the concept of right and left as it was understood in the old days doesn't exist any more. It's an obsolete concept". Maybe. 

This week Salvini called for a national census of the Roma in Italy adding that the country would "unfortunately" have to keep its Italian Roma. On the migrant crisis he uses language like "Stop the invasion" and "our people come first". You get the drift. He's been photographed with our own Nigel Farage and on the continent he's made friends in all the hard right places, going on a platform with France's Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders from the Netherlands. When Salvini went to Moscow he wore a Vladimir Putin T-shirt. Doesn't everyone? Salvini is against Russian sanctions. He's anti-euro, anti-Brussels and anti Europe's post 1945 settlement. 

His success means that he's knocked to the grand old man of the Italian right into the shade. Spare a thought for Silvio Berlusconi. Say what you like about the old cruise ship crooner - he's a slimy crook in bed with the Mafia for example - but Berlusconi liked to be loved. Salvini gives the impression that he likes to be feared. 

I love Italy, and in particular I love its easy-going anarchy - the idea that whoever is in power will find it hard to do much. But it's difficult to watch the passionate intensity of the Salvini devotees like Francesca and listen to the familiar pieties of the people who oppose him without shall I put this?...uneasy.

Later that day...

Leading the BBC website this afternoon:

And the BBC News Channel is leading with the march.

And, of course, on goes the pandemonium:

Rob Burley: Thing about muting is that you don’t KNOW but you feel certain they are still shouting at you but into the abyss. I only mute when there’s literally no point in doing anything else, for anyone involved.
Jo Maugham QC: Enjoy your sneer. Meanwhile your disingenuity does huge disservice both to the BBC and our country.
Simon Maginn: Rob that's just factually wrong. I'm waiting for an apology for you describing me as 'paranoid'. Apologise for your grossly offensive language.
Rob Burley: So - I can’t believe we still need to explain this but professionally disingenuous commentary requires it - at 5am the BBC led on a march that hadn’t started, then when new quotes from Cab Min/PM came out they lead the story (which still made much of the march) and now this. So all in all, today’s march, which we were preemptively shrieked at for not covering enough, has been all over the BBC since 5.30 (when I first looked) and stays or goes from the lead on merit.
Michael: My, my... someone sounds very bitter today. Is that the sound of words being forced through gritted teeth I hear?
Rob Burley: At this point I’m almost laughing at some of the silliness.
Pete Myers: As long as both marches get equal coverage, everyone will be happy!
Ed Morrish: Has Andrew Marr ever told you his “pro-European body language” story?
Rob Burley: No. 
Ed Morrish: Complaint letter after he’d outlined the reasons the UK shouldn’t join the Euro: “Although your piece was ostensibly anti-Euro, I could tell from your body language that you are pro...”
James Kirkup: I’ve never met Rob Burley but there are few people on Twitter I admire more. Industrial-strength forbearance in the face of chronic muppetry from all sides.  The BBC gets some things wrong (who doesn’t?) but it also employs some first-class journalists.
Rob Burley: Thanks James, that’s ever so generous. And thanks for advocating for the imperfect but very important BBC and our staff.
Jo Maugham QC: A better defence would consist of answering fair questions without sneers or accusations of mental illness.
William Wright (to Jo Maugham QC): A better way to make your argument may have been not to start with the accusation that the BBC had cynically changed the headline and the story for when people got up?
Alladin Noons #FBPE: Go on yourself  BBC News showing aerial images of #PeoplesVoteMarch all down The Mall 👏.
Simon Maginn: Sick of being insulted by over-paid BBC stooges. Rob Burley, if you think I'm 'paranoid' - mentally ill - for calling out BBC bias, I would suggest you're in the wrong job entirely. I won't be libelled and insulted by arrogant BBC goons. Apologise or resign.
Ed Stradling: To be honest, what I half-expect now, is for the conspiracy theorists to complain that the Eid festival down the road at Trafalgar Square isn't getting enough coverage, showing up the BBC for its obvious pro-Brexit, anti-immigrant bias.
Mike: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Rob Burley: Damned basically.

Follow–through and Focus

Talking of the Spectator, the BBC's Paul Wood writes occasional articles about Donald Trump for it. His latest piece, What does the British government know about Trump and Russia?, hasn't gone down with the magazine's below-the-line online commentariat. They think it stinks of BBC bias. 

It's certainly a strikingly-written piece where every claim of wrongdoing (whether by Trump, or Arron Banks, or Russia, or the British government) is made to sound credible (sometimes with Paul Wood himself explicitly pronouncing it credible) but carefully caveated with 'some people say'-style get-out clauses. In the end, however, when you stand back from it a bit, it strikes you that not a single actual piece of the described wrongdoing has yet been proven. It's still all smoke and no fire.

And he's also quite capable of misreporting the President. One thing even some critics have conceded is that Donald Trump is following through on his election pledges and getting lots of them up and running. He recognised Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US embassy there. He pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal. He withdrew the US from the Paris climate accord. He moved to renegotiate NAFTA. He pulled out of the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership deal. He introduced a travel bans for residents of several Muslim countries. He got tough with China on trade. He talked to Kim Jong-un. He got his tax cuts passed. He got his Supreme Court nominee accepted. He bombed Islamic State into oblivion.  Paul Wood, however, is sticking with the old line:
And Theresa May was the first world leader through the door of the Oval Office to see the new president. But whatever promises she wrung from Trump will depend on a follow–through and focus he has not shown. This is a president who could not get his own healthcare bill past a Republican Congress.
For a President with no follow-though and focus, his actions seem to show a lot of follow-through and focus.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the 'Question Time' Studio (Updated)

I talked about this afterwards to the lady who vets the audiences [on Question Time]. It's an urban myth that before each show the BBC sends a coach to pick their audience up from the Socialist Worker's Party Social Club, Hizb ut Tahrir and the EU Commission. In fact – and I totally believe this – they are rigorously screened and pre-selected to reflect the political spectrum.
I am one of the few people who can’t really complain about the editorial policy of Question Time having been on it 26 times since I was first elected in 1999. In terms of the coverage it gives Ukip I have found it fair and in the past few years the programme has even started accepting Ukip panellists other than me!
But there have been a couple of programmes in which my colleagues and I have faced a hostile audience which in no way represents how Ukip is normally received or which are representative of the opinion polls. I am not pointing the finger of blame at the QT team but the question I want to ask is whether the Question Time audiences are being exploited by the hard left?
This is precisely what Left-wing activists in BBC Question Time audiences do, by the way. Whenever I’ve been on the panel, I have been struck by it. The audience is not, as the folks at home often think, overwhelmingly on the Left: it is just that the Leftist groupies have positioned themselves around the room and are causing enough ruckus to intimidate those who disagree with them. The producers of this hapless programme always claim that they screen out activists with their advance audience questionnaires. So let me tell you something else about committed political agitators: they tell lies. And they do that – I mean this quite charitably – with the most honourable intentions.
I’ve often heard conservatives complain that the BBC packs the audience with lefties so they’ll jeer and hiss whenever the Tory on the panel uses a stock phrase like ‘long-term economic plan’. Not true. The makers of the programme bend over backwards to try to ensure the audience contains a broad cross-section of political views. By definition, a majority of them won’t be Conservative voters, so in all likelihood I’ll be given a hard time. But that’s the country’s anti-Tory bias, not the BBC’s.
And now comes Charles Moore, writing in the Spectator:
In the entire time I have done the programme — more than 30 years, starting under the great Robin Day — the left in the studio has been noisier, and usually more numerous, than the right. The difference between then and now lies in the left’s degree of organisation. Nowadays, you can tell as soon as you go on if there is a coordinated left-wing claque in the room (about 50 per cent of the time, there is). They tend to sit together, have common points ready and make the same sound of righteous shock at anything ‘unacceptable’. It would be interesting to see whether this planned intimidation would still work if the BBC made everyone present give up all mobile devices at the door. A programme called Question Time does need an audience which wants to listen to the answers.
It continues to intrigue me that, though each of them has a somewhat different take on why the audiences on the BBC's Question Time appear so overwhelmingly biased towards the Left, they all seem to agree on one thing: that the people who produce Question Time for the BBC aren't to blame. 

A not-so jolly 'un

Meanwhile on a social media platform elsewhere (now going on), the BBC's head of live political programmes is debating with a leading anti-Brexit QC....

Rob Burley: BBC website must be on the blink: we’re leading with the People’s Vote march, yet also apparently engaged in an effort to suppress said march. What’s going on?
Jo Maugham QC: At least until anyone woke up, eh Rob? How cynical.
Matt Kilcoyne: Is your screen broken Jolyon?
Jo Maugham QC: ‏I think yours must be. Compare Rob's picture with mine.
Rob Burley: I think we reserve the right to change the headline across the day. The fact remains that the Brexit march is being covered. Because we cover the story.
Jo Maugham QC: You're not remotely embarrassed about claiming balance because of leading with the story at 5.37am?
Rob Burley: I’m not remotely embarrassed at all. We will lead with the best story, or its particular iteration, at a given time. At the moment that’s Brexit related, with the march as part of it. Later something else might happen that knocks Brexit and the march off the lead.
Jo Maugham QC: That's not what I am objecting to, as you well know. I am objecting to you claiming, that because you led with a story at a time of day when everyone was asleep, the BBC is unbiased.
Rob Burley: We’re endlessly slandered by you & others for not covering x or y and for “bias”.
I pointed out, yet again, that we were covering the very things you claim we ignore. But headlines change. Yet you build another cathedral of paranoid conspiracy around it. It’s ridiculous.
Jo Maugham QC: No. You claimed neutrality explicitly because it was your "lead". And then you dropped it because "something else happened". But nothing else happened and it was only your lead briefly at Saturday dawn. Those are the facts and your ad hominem attack on me doesn't change them.
Jo Maugham QC: [to audience] Rather than engage fairly and honestly with indisputable facts, the BBC's editor of live political programmes resorts to personal abuse.
Rob Burley: You won’t find any personal abuse. It was your conspiracy theories, illustrated this morning as you dance on the head of a pin around a headline, that I was criticising.
Jo Maugham QC: Accusing me of being paranoia (sic) - mentally ill - is not personal abuse? It certainly is and is quite possibly actionable, Rob. And you still haven't answered my question. You said something had changed to cause you to alter your lead. What changed?
Rob Burley: I am sorry if you took that as a personal attack. I was characterising the conspiracy theories as paranoid rather than the person making them. But as you are at the point of casually threatening legal action, I am no longer engaging with you.
Jo Maugham QC: I'm not casually threatening legal action. I have no intention of suing you. I just want you to answer the question I've posed half a dozen times and which you pointedly refuse to answer. What changed to cause you to alter your lead?
Jo Maugham QC[to audience] He won't answer the perfectly fair question I've posed repeatedly. He's running away.
naectegale hraevn: In the wrong, so resort to threats of legal action. That's a bit like bullying, isn't it? Certainly an effective way to shut someone up if his career might be at risk. Sledgehammer to crack a nut on twitter - not a good look.
Rob Burley: That’s why I’m no longer engaging with the guy.
Jo Maugham QC: There's no threat. I've said so explicitly. You just don't have an answer and won't admit it.
Rob Burley[to audience] So Brexit anniversary - government comments and anticipation of the march - leading BBC website currently (I don’t work on the site but I do know leads and headlines change) Guessing the march will be an even bigger part of it once it, you know, actually happens.


That changed BBC main headline now looks like this. It still mentions the anti-Brexit march under the headline and uses an image of an anti-Brexit campaigner: