Saturday 2 June 2018

Jenny Hill lands in Rome

Jenny Hill, the BBC's Berlin correspondent, has been dispatched to Rome to discuss the formation of the new Five Star Movement/League coalition government there. 

Her reporting for BBC TV and Radio over the past couple of days has been interesting for its language and its consistency. Monitoring ten different reports and interviews (i.e. ignoring all the duplicate reports in hourly news bulletins), certain words and phrases crop again and again. 

For starters, the new government is "controversial", especially its migration policies (which she's called "controversial" six times), and the new government's economic and migration plans are "raising eyebrows" (a phrase she has used nine times). That the voters voted for the parties that espouse such policies and that opinion polls show huge support for such policies is something Jenny glides over without mentioning. 

It's also interesting that when she uses the word "rhetoric" it's always in connection with the language used by 'the populists'. (She repeated talks of their "Eurosceptic rhetoric and anti-euro rhetoric", and once of them being "a little bit heavy on the anti-Europe rhetoric"). She never mentions the "rhetoric" of the pro-EU forces, including the controversial rhetoric of Mr. Juncker, Mr. Oettinger et al, which have landed them in such hot water in recent days and which many other media outlets - and, of course, social media - have reported heavily. And it's not just Jenny Hill here. The downplaying of this angle has been right across the BBC. Even the Guardian has reported such unhelpful-to-the-EU stories, so the BBC has, once again, out-Guardianed the Guardian here - a bit of 'bias by omission' which I think provides another piece of clear evidence of the BBC's biased, pro-EU way of thinking and acting. 

As for the bone of contention between Italy's president and the two parties seeking to form the new government - the president's refusal to appoint as finance ministry a 'Eurosceptic' academic - well, Paulo Savona is repeatedly described by Jenny as "outspoken" in his views about the EU and the euro. She twice described the man who is now set to be finance minister, Giovanni Tria, as "more moderate", and also called the latter "a rather pragmatic chap" and "a rather more cautious fellow than the original candidate". This is classic 'bias by labelling'. 

Not 'moderate', in Jenny's eyes, are the League's migration policies. She called them "very right-wing" on yesterday's The World at One. She said Mr. Salvini's illegal migrant deportation plans "are already raising eyebrows causing huge controversy not just here in Italy but well beyond". 

"There's a lot there which is making this country nervous" she said about the new government's programme. (The two parties that comprise it now have around 60% of the vote in the latest Italian opinion polls, so not all of the country must be feeling nervous. Is she projecting her own fears onto the Italian public?)

And if you take the line... 

...that this was "a fight between on the one hand the EU establishment elite in one corner and Europe's populists in the other corner" then think again. Jenny called that "an oversimplified narrative". 

And as for criticism of the Italian president, well he got off very lightly. She said she suspected he recognised that "he has made a little bit of a mistake" and, therefore, agreed to the changed list of candidates.

You can always trust Jenny Hill to fling labels around right, left and centre (though mainly right!) and to have a simplified narrative on hand. 


  1. Presumably she will be making her way South to Lampedusa so she can jump up and down excitedly on the beach shouting: "Welcome to Italy!" as the boats come in.

    1. If the Liga interior minister Salvini starts deporting illegal immigrants there'll be more BBC reporters down there than at Glastonbury.

  2. The BBC are in attack mode on Italy. Jenny Hill speaking for the "nervous" Italian public is very much in line with Emily Maitlis speaking for Newsnight viewers on the subject of Steve Bannon Trump.

    Contrast that with the BBC glided over and soon left behind the story about the burka ban in Denmark. They know that doesn't fit their narrative. Denmark is a progressive place that is normally taken by the BBC to be a template for social, energy, welfare and industrial policies. So the BBC wouldn't want to suggest that was compatible with a burka ban. Can you imagine the fuss the BBC would make if a similar ban was proposed by any MP for the UK?

    Denmark also has some tough immigration policies e.g. taking all valuables off illegal migrants to help fund their welfare support.

    But when it comes to Italy, as with Brexit here, the BBC knows it's got a fight on its hands. It's important for populism to fail...or it might become - er - popular and that would never do.

    It will be fascinating to see how Italy's populist government fares. In seeking to dismantle austerity when it has a debt amounting to 137% of annual GDP is a bit of mountain to climb...

    1. Yes, it's a very tall order indeed.

      I was reading a tweet and a re-tweet from Matthew Goodwin earlier:

      Matthew Goodwin: Before people lose themselves in the "Mattarella won" narrative it is probably worth remembering that the guy who promised to deport 500,000 refugees, clamp down on migrants, preachers and Islam is now in charge of Italy's Interior Ministry.

      Matteo Cavallaro: I really do not think that having an Anti-German as Tria as Finance Minister and Savona at the Ministry for European Affairs should count as a victory for Mattarella.

      That "Mattarella won" narrative was on full display from James Reynolds on the BBC's News at Ten the other night:

      "Remember, four days ago, the populists walked out in anger, calling for early elections after the president vetoed their choice of a Eurosceptic finance minister. They then followed a political opera in several dozen acts. That is now over. The country knows where it stands - there will be no early election, there will be no unofficial referendum on the euro. The populists decided to back down in order to get into government. They have switched the name of their finance minister - the new minister has not talked about leaving the euro - that is a relief to Italy's pro-Euro president, who has got what he wanted, and it will also be a relief to Brussels, but conflict between the populists who will now be in government and Brussels may not be over."

    2. It's funny how BBC correspondents don't mind using stereotypes about Italians (histrionic, operatic posing by politicians) and Americans (gun toting cowboys riding roughshod over international norms) but would never use them about say Jamaicans or Indians. Welcome to the wonderful world of diversity and double standards.

  3. James Reynolds was on 'From Our Own Correspondent' today being snide about developments in Italy.

    He was particularly snide about the new Italian PM and about the attempts from the country's politicians to appear to be "men of the people". He suggested that the populists' bending to the President's will showed them to be as willing to compromise as the parties they seek to replace - i.e. just as unprincipled. Of course, he wasn't snide about the president or the EU.

    1. Given the fact that nervous globalists were noting how well the populist parties were doing in the polls, you might say the populist parties have shown themselves to be responsible and restrained in not pursuing narrow party interest.


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