Tuesday 30 October 2018

Open Thread

Sorry. Not sure what's wrong with the comments. Everything looks normal behind the scenes.

Here's a new Open Thread though for when things start working again! In the meantime I may have to pray a lot...

The (Actually) Big Questions

Well, I'm blogging about it rather than RT-ing it, but nonetheless the following trio of questions remain vitally important ones:

There's so much to say about such things but Mike is, I think, right in what he's implying in all three of his questions. The BBC's language in terms of right-left-whatever labelling is deeply biased. And those documentaries about Leninist, Stalinist, Communist, Trotskyist, Maoist, Marxist mass murder (many, many tens of millions of victims at the very least) are rare beasts indeed.

Paul Mason gets something wrong again (shocker)

One of the minor pleasures of blogging about BBC bias is that, from time to time, you get to debunk Paul Mason....

The former Newsnight economic economic was, in his usual Wolfie Smith fashion, raising the red flag of revolution last night against the reactionary licksplittles and running dogs at the BBC:

His point? 

Well, Kamal Ahmed's News at Ten report featured one Rupert Harrison as a 'talking head', and the caption introducing Mr Harrison simply read 'BlackRock Asset Management'. And he said complimentary things about the Budget. 

So yes, just as Paul said, Rupert Harrison was presented as if he was some kind of impartial expert......with no mention whatsoever that he'd been George Osborne's former chief of staff. 

So "Pro-Tory BBC bias!", according to Paul.


What Wolfie neglected to mention was that just a few moments later in the same Kamal Ahmed report there came a second 'taking head': one Professor Mariana Mazzucato. And the caption introducing her simply read 'University College London'. And she said uncomplimentary things about the Budget.

So she too was presented as if she was some kind of impartial expert......with no mention whatsoever that John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn appointed her to be a Labour Party economic advisor. 

So what's that then, Paul? "Pro-Corbyn BBC bias!"?

This isn't really a 'complaints from both sides' thing. It's much more a 'Paul Mason got it wrong again' thing!

Now I say 'got it wrong again', but given that it's very unlikely that he didn't know that Prof. Mazzucato has close ties to the Corbyn leadership, maybe he 'got it wrong' deliberately?

(I know...shocking thought!)

Dinner Party

Just imagine that you're at a dinner hosted by the director of the ResPublica think tank, Phillip Blond ('the Red Tory'), and his guests include Leavers and Remainers. What would happen if they got round to talking about Radio 4's Today and the question of BBC bias? Well, thanks to his Twitter feed today, we're in a much better position to guess. As I found it a very interesting Twitter discussion, I'll share it with you here.

Look out along the way for a frostly intervention by a prominent BBC reporter (a dinner party pooper!):

Patrick O'Flynn: R4 Today headlines say that in elections in the German state of Hesse "the Greens did well". No mention that so did AfD. Not referring to them won't make them go away you know!
Phillip Blond: Really, @BBCr4today is progressively less illuminating. It must be editorial. Their journalists are clever. The really striking news is that recent migrants to Germany are voting for AfD but its probably too complex for them to cover.
Tim Montgomerie: I’m now been a ex-Today listener for five days and, on reflection, it’s the lack of illumination on almost any topic (as much as the bias) that makes me glad to have finally broken free.
Phillip Blond: I don’t think the BBC is biased, I just think in too many news programmes it’s merely mediocre, conventional and unilluminating. @BBCr4today is a tragedy though, it fell from a high place into essentially the relentless broadcast of confused and poorly educated cosmopolitanism. I think the perception of bias is real though, but I suspect that stems less from intention and more from never ever seriously charting the evolution of points of view which differ from the conventional liberal middle class take in the wealthier parts of London.
Tim Montgomerie: The biases are to ‘the State must do something about X’ rather than ‘how can X best be solved?’; to short-term gloom rather than to long-term context; to politics; to supranationalism; to liberalism over conservatism...and any bad news from Trump’s America over bad news from within Brussels’ empire (esp from Italy).
Phillip Blond: All cogent points to which I think broadly - yes I concur.
Neil Marshall #FBPE: It is strange how members of the alt right don't ever own up to the alt right bias of the BBC. It is at its most overt in the output of the pro-Government, pro-Brexit, @BBCr4today programme. That it is not operating within the remit of its Charter is a national scandal...
Phillip Blond: Ardent Remainers and Brexiters both think @BBCr4today is heavily biased against them - but I hear no evidence of such,  but what I have never heard is a good segment explaining polarisation, nationalism, the challenge to liberalism etc hence folk never feel spoken too, hence bias.
John Carins: The BBC tries to hide its bias. The BBC has an agenda. I base this on two things: I'm retired and I watch/listen/read a lot of the BBC's output and the body language and demeanour of the host/journo gives them away.
Phillip Blond: I think it’s more that they are overwhelmingly staffed by people of the same value set rather than any explicit bias, but I do know what you mean.
Katie: Agree about #bbcr4today. A flagship programme that’s sunk into terminal decline.
Phillip Blond: Very few things are terminal, and good counter-revolutions happen.
Tim Montgomerie: There has to be an awareness and understanding of the decline though. One particular response from within the programme to me terminating my listening was so truculent that I’m not sure there’s much appreciation of their problem at all.
Phillip Blond: It’s hard for any institution to respond to attacks in the middle of a national crisis which it feels impelled to try and speak to. You can only really change what you love, & I do love the BBC. Alternatives to it are heinous, but it is very poor in too many ways and it needs help.
Stanley Budge: You haven’t seen how they (don’t) report Pakistani Muslim grooming gangs then.
Phillip Blond: A difficult subject that hasn’t been tackled in any serious way by the BBC.
Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC: I suppose I am poorly educated or confused but the phrase “confused and poorly educated cosmopolitanism” strikes me as a tiny bit sinister.
Phillip Blond: It’s not intended to Rory, I just think we have an elite group with a narrow and overwhelmingly liberal value set struggling to report on changes and people that lie beyond their own understanding - which in a national broadcaster is a problem. To speak seriously to this, the injunction for balance in debate and neutrality on facts doesn’t really work in a very value fragmented polity, instead I think we need in-depth accounts from such positions rather than shallow accounts of them from liberals. 
Bridey: Absolutely. I have experience in the BBC and it’s the sort of place people openly talk to colleagues about the ‘horrors’ of Brexit absolutely confident that their views are reciprocated. No needed to be guarded there in case you meet a different opinion.
Phillip Blond: Again I don’t mind people having strong views, we just need national broadcasters to have a genuine mix of values and to allow this plurality to express itself on air but to raise the tone and deepen the debate and keep us together even in our disagreements.
Bridey: What makes it worse, they bang in endlessly about diversity in their workforce but it’s so arse-clenchingly obvious there is no diversity in their world outlook.
Phillip Blond: This is the point - we need an evident diversity of values in a plural national broadcaster which currently is probably not there.
John Carins: I agree about the staffing. Recruiting from a similar value set is going to create a "bubble" of like minded people who reinforce their values and potential bias. Is it not time that we the public know the political leanings of BBC journos. I suspect the majority voted remain?
Phillip Blond: I voted remain but I understand and want to engage further with those who did not - again I support and love the BBC but it needs a new method to speak to and defend plurality.


It's not the BBC, it's not new, and you've probably seen it before, but it still makes me laugh. And if you haven't seen it before, enjoy!

It's Peter Lloyd, author of Stand By Your Manhood, versus comedienne Kate Smurthwaite on Sky News:

Monday 29 October 2018


Oh dear!

Sunday 28 October 2018


The Doctor v The Donald

Tonight's Doctor Who kept me entertained for 50 minutes.

With its giant spiders and eco-concerns it was almost back to the John Pertwee era ('The Green Death' and 'Planet of the Spiders'), but it was overlain with modern (BBC drama) concerns too, targeting US gun laws and neo-liberalism among other things, and featuring as its real villain of the piece a US businessman who wants to be President in 2020 and who own lots of hotels in Britain and around the world and who just happens to share some of the mannerisms of Donald J. Trump. 

So, yep, giant spiders (who, naturally, turn out to be hard-done-by) and an evil Donald Trump-like billionaire baddie. 

The taster for next week's episode, The Tsuranga Conundrum, runs as follows: "Injured and stranded in the wilds of a far-flung galaxy, the Doctor, Yaz, Graham and Ryan must band together with a group of strangers to survive against one of the universe's most deadly - and unusual - creatures". At this rate I'm guessing that the creature will be a thinly-disguised version of Tommy Robinson.

Chips and Shoulders

Tina D, reading the news this morning

Tina Daheley, the co-presenter of the youth-aimed Today spin-off to be launched tomorrow, has been talking to The Observer. Here are some quotes from the piece:
Anyone who has been paying attention knows podcasts are hugely popular with under-35s, and if you’re serious about reaching that audience, it’s the logical thing to do. For me, a big thing is class and social background. We’re supposed to be holding a mirror to society and be representing them, but when was the last time someone who didn’t go to public school or Oxbridge presented the Ten O’Clock News?  
The BBC gets a lot out of me. I should be thinking: ‘this is brilliant, I’ve got this whole area locked off, I tick all of those boxes in terms of strategy – young women, brown people, so-called C2DE demographics – but I wish there were more of me. I had to work twice as hard and be damn good at my job to develop my career. I was doing 19 jobs and working for months without a day off [to get noticed] but there should be more people who look like me. 
"There should be more people who look like me"? Hmm, you have to wonder, don't you, does she actually watch the BBC these days?

And far be it from me to suggest that chippy-sounding Tina wasn't being entirely fair about the BBC's attitude towards diversity on 'The Ten O’Clock News', but, as we know, the Corporation is actually completely obsessed with such things:

The programme's six presenters are Huw Edwards, Fiona Bruce, Sophie Raworth, Reeta Chakrabarti, Clive Myrie and Jane Hill. 

That's four women and two men. And there are two ethnic minority presenters. Plus there's a mix of English, Scots and Welsh. And of straight and gay. 

Plus its main presenter, Huw Edwards, didn't go to public school or to Oxbridge. Nor did Clive Myrie. (The BBC ladies are much posher though!)

Anyhow, reading that Observer interview suggests to me that the young have got such a treat in store when SJW Tina and gloomy Matthew Price launch their Today-based podcast tomorrow.

O to be young again!

And now Pittsburgh

The BBC accuses Lord Adonis of lying

I wish I liked popcorn more than I do because I think a bucketful of the stuff is needed today....

Andrew Adonis: 6 months ago the BBC’s editorial committee banned a documentary team from working with me on the campaign for a people’s vote, tho filming was commissioned & underway. They didn’t want to offend No 10 & claimed the people’s vote had no support. That doesn’t look such a good call.  
BBC Press Team: There is no truth in the allegation that a documentary was ‘banned’ by BBC managers. We consider many proposals, some we commission and many we don’t. After initial development work we decided not to commission it.

Very unpopular

Sticking with Mr Marr, here he was at the start of the paper review, running though the headlines:
The Observer, back on the Budget, it's got an investigation revealing how Universal Credit, very unpopular, is fuelling the UK's homelessness crisis it says. 
Is Universal Credit "very unpopular"? Well, according to YouGov 38% oppose it, but 27% support it and 37% don't know. That's not "very unpopular", is it?

One side only

Hmm. Yet again this morning Andrew Marr introduced his paper reviewers like this:
Reviewing the news today, Michelle Dewberry, the Brexit-supporting businesswoman and a former winner of The Apprentice, the BBC's economics editor Kamal Ahmed, and Helen Lewis, deputy editor of The New Statesman.
Others spotted that too:

"...especially when one side is credited and the other not" is the key phrase there. And it happens a lot.

Dissent in the ranks

I was actually thinking the exact opposite - i.e. that I'd have preferred the entire Shostakovich Cello Sonata to that Philip Hammond interview! (I'm having a strong coffee at the moment to wake myself up again).

Ah, someone's wide awake I see and poised for action!...

Caravan of hope

The home page of the BBC News website has a 'Must See' recommendation for a slideshow-style piece headlined Caravan of hope. Click through it and you'll see that loaded headline frames a loaded article, with Donald Trump entering like a pantomime baddie midway to the caption "Donald Trump is accused of using the caravan to rouse Republican voters ahead of November's mid-term elections". 

No health warning for MEND

Today's Sunday opened with the following statement:
Welcome to Sunday. A new poll suggests Islamophobia is a real problem in the UK today. We'll be discussing the findings.
The discussion between Dr Shazad Amin of MEND and Professor Mona Siddiqui began with presenter Emily Buchanan saying:
A new ComRes poll out today has revealed that 58% of the British public agree that Islamophobia is a real problem in society. The survey also showed that nearly half the population felt that Britain's becoming less tolerant towards Muslims and that Muslims were more discriminated against than people of other faiths.
Worryingly, it turned out that the poll had been commissioned by MEND (Muslim Engagement and Development), with no mention being made that MEND is a highly controversial organisation, frequently accused of hosting extremist Islamist speakers. Tell MAMA's Fiyaz Mughal, for example, has accused them of “conspiracy, antisemitism, hatred of other communities and a unipolar view of life”.

P.S. I see Jane's been listening too:

And there's more about MEND here.

BBC Thinking

Co-host Tina Daheley

The Sunday Times reports that BBC Radio 4 is launching a "bite-size Today podcast" to attract a young audience. Naturally, in the usual way of BBC thinking, the key to doing so appears to be to make the team involved as 'diverse' as possible:

And guess whose brainchild it is? Yes, James Purnell, the BBC's middle-aged, white, male director of radio and education.

P.S. Former Labour minister James Purnell had this to say about the thinking behind the new podcast:
Fake news spreads like a virus across social media and the trust audiences have in radio is a potent weapons against it. 


Of the Synagogue shooting suspect Robert Bowers, Sky News reports that:
In another post, President Donald Trump was criticised for allowing Jewish people to enter the US.
Bowers was not an admirer of President Donald Trump and wrote in one post: “I did not vote for him nor have I owned, worn or even touched a Maga [Make American Great Again] hat.”
And even the Guardian details several of his posts criticising President Donald Trump. 

The BBC News website's report, however, makes no mention of his views about Donald Trump, ending instead with a paragraph that could easily mislead readers to assume he was actually an admirer of the President:
The BBC's Dan Johnson in Washington says the shootings come at a tense time in the US, after a week in which mail bombs were sent to critics of Mr Trump, ahead of crucial mid-term elections next month.

A thing of wonder

Katty Kay's Twitter feed remains a thing of wonder - the wonder being that she's allowed to get away with it. Anyone completely new to her would never guess that she was meant to be an impartial BBC journalist.

P.S. I agree with Roland:

...and any other matters that take our fancy

We forgot to mark Black Cat Appreciation Day yesterday, so to make up for it here's a photo of a crow:

Saturday 27 October 2018


Prof. Alan Sked, the founder of UKIP who later fell out with Nigel Farage, has been watching BBC comedy

I've never watched The Mash Report before, but do I really have to watch it to believe Prof. Sked here? 

After all, for the sake of Sue and my own blog, I've already put myself through the almost-entirely-laugh-free ordeal of The Now Show today after reading similar comments and found that the programme was guilty as charged over anti-Brexit bias.

How should the Now Show crowd be sentenced for their flagrant breaches of BBC impartiality? To twenty years slaving in Jean-Claude Juncker's wine cellar, serving up drinks but never being allowed to sample the wine?

(Should I set up a charity to recompense me for such traumatic experiences? Should I sue the BBC?)

So I'm trusting Prof. Sked here. I bet he's right. 

Meanwhile, here's England's most influential composer, John Dunstable (c.1390-1453), who played a major part in transforming European Medieval music into European Renaissance music in a time when England wasn't part of the European Union, with one of his most epoch-changing gems:

Good night.

Breaking news

The vile antisemitic atrocity at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has got my Twitter feed reacting in depressingly familiar ways. 

Anti-Trump people are busy blaming President Trump, saying that his bullying, hateful language helped incite this latest act of political violence, while pro-Trump people are busy tweeting (subsequently deleted) social media messages, apparently from the suspect, showing him to be a Nazi who said he didn't vote for Donald Trump and who regarded the President as a puppet of the Jews and who was anti-Israel. 

The 'unifying' thing, if we can call it that, is that such people, from either side, are making it mostly about Trump and politics rather than about antisemitism.

I'm seeing lots of tweets saying that it was a baby-naming ceremony that was attacked.

As you'd expect Anthony Zurcher's Twitter feed is making it all about Trump too, and he's not held back, even so early after this atrocity, from taking political potshots at the President:

And Katty Kay hasn't specifically mentioned the atrocity but is retweeting attacks on Donald Trump instead:

And here's Jonny, having a snark:

And I, as you'll have noticed, am now taking political potshots at partisan BBC hacks like Anthony Zurcher and Katty Kay and Jon Sopel.

Quite a few things are definitely wrong here.

Not mocking the afflicted

As a great man used to say, oooh noo, please, it's wicked to mock the afflicted! 

And he's right of course, missus. Those #FBPE sufferers who gather on Twitter, for example, shouldn't be tittered at, for they are truly afflicted. 

So when I shine ITBB's mighty spotlight (a £1.99 torch from ASDA) on the following #FBPE tweet I'm only doing it for the poor man's good and not for reasons of mockery:

That said, I'm chortling at him praising The Now Show's "coverage" of Brexit. 

That suggests to me that this week's The Now Show was very biased against Brexit. Shall I (probably) waste half an hour and find out? 

Yes, I will. And, yes, it was. Very.

Poor "remarkably resilient" Mrs May! 

Darn her "public school boy bullies" critics on the Conservative pro-Brexit Right! 

Darn Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell for not joining the People's Vote March! 

And here's something about the alarm at the horrible prospect of No-Deal from all those reasonable people being so reasonable about the horrors of No-Deal (reasonable voice from Hugh, or Steve, whichever)

Ah yes, and an entire routine slagging off "proud Brexiteer" and "creep" and "dirtbag" James Dyson over Brexit! (Nice!).

No wonder Nick #FBPE thought it fair and reasonable "coverage" of Brexit!

Radio 4 comedy at its most Radio 4 I think.


On the same theme as the previous post, David Keighley's latest piece at TCW takes stock of where we are as far as the BBC being held to official account goes.

He puts the jigsaw together and lets us see the scale of the problem.

From successive post-John Whittingdale Culture Secretaries, through the present Damian Collins-headed Commons Culture & Media Select Committee, to Mrs May's (ex-BBC) Press Secretary Robbie Gibb, and the BBC's new Management Board (headed by the barely-visible Sir David Clementi), onto Ofcom itself, David sees allies of the BBC and enemies of Brexit as far as the eye can see. 

It's deeply dispiriting, and I think I may have been too optimistic in my previous post.

The BBC is, as least as far as the powers-that-be go, as unfettered and unchallenged as it's been for a long while. 

Tools and techniques

Panel show?

According to the UK Press Gazette, Ofcom is to review the depth of analysis and the impartiality of the BBC's news and current affairs output. 

Especially interesting for me is their intent to look at "the “tools and techniques” the corporation uses to deliver impartiality". I'll like the BBC pinned down on that, given their constant equivocation over the matter. They deny the value of measuring ('counting') from sources they don't like yet measure like mad themselves over things like diversity, and they count party politicians on programmes like The Andrew Marr Show, Question Time and the like, and they cite 'counting'-style studies in their impartiality reviews (usually ones from Cardiff University, so they can't have it both ways - despite having been allowed to have it both ways for years. 

Given the concerns many of us have about the composition of Ofcom's Contents Board, I'm not holding my breath just yet, but where there's life there's hope!

Incidentally, I'm not sure Rob Burley will appreciate Ofcom's voicing of concern that there's been an increase in the proportion of panel-style current affairs programmes shown on BBC TV. It said they “do not tend to reflect in-depth investigative journalism”. Are they thinking of his baby Politics Live?

Scoop! (not)


On the latest Open Thread, Sir Topham poses some interesting questions about Chris Cook's latest piece:

Sir Topham Hatt27 October 2018 at 12:39  
Chris Cook from BBC Newsnight has written a very odd article about a painting hanging in a obscure junior minister's office from 2012-15.
What are his motives? Why raise something of little interest about an art choice 6 years ago? 
Is he trying to make a political point or a #MeToo point? Or just virtue signalling his solidarity with women who feel uncomfortable? 
Is he trying to mischief make or entertain?  
It’s liberal claptrap. Why am I paying my licence fee for such rubbish? 

Newsnight had put in a FoI request and obtained documents showing that Conservative ex-minister Dr Dan Poulter chose six government paintings for his private office including a block print called "Bios" by Tadek Beutlich, which some people think resembles female genitalia. 

Chris Cook reports that "Women working in the Department of Health have said it was unsettling, but they elected not to complain about the art; that might bring them into conflict with a relatively powerful man within the department". 

Late on in his piece, he adds:
Dr Poulter's representatives said that a tabloid newspaper inquired about his picture choice, but also said that the story "was not pursued because it was so patently absurd". They added: "The artwork was selected for our client by his private office".
...which alerted me to the strange fact that The Mail on Sunday had preempted Newsnight's investigation by actually publishing a report on exactly the same story last November headlined Ex-Health Minister accused of sexual harassment is embroiled in row over 'rude' art on his old office wall that resembled a woman's genitalia.

In other words, the tabloid newspaper did pursue the story, as Chris Cook would have known if he'd have done a spot of Googling before starting work on his investigation.

Indeed, I myself actually remember the Mail story from last year. As soon as I saw the painting I knew I'd seen it somewhere before. (And, yes, obviously I clicked on it at the time because of the headline!)

So quality BBC reporting strikes again: Regurgitating a Mail on Sunday scoop from almost a year ago without realising it!

Super, smashing, great!

Inflaming the situation

Inflaming the situation is a hot issue at the moment. 

In a comment today Pugnazious at Biased BBC recalls a previous example of the BBC doing just that - and, in the process, reminds me of how stories often become much clearer after the mainstream media bandwagon moves on...

Do you recall the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014? He was a black man shot by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Riots ensued, and BBC journalists (along with much of the media) went into overdrive, heavily pushing the racism angle. 

But go to the Wikipedia page on the Shooting of Michael Brown and you'll see that, four years on, the view is now that Officer Wilson killed Mr Brown in self-defence. Forensic evidence and credible witnesses backed his story. Unreliable witnesses had spread false rumours. It wasn't a racist police killing. 

And now look back, as Pugnazious has done, at Clive Myrie's BBC reporting of the story at the time and just marvel at its dangerous wrongheadedness:

The BBC and Left-wing media tried to stir up a race war, and were partially successful, by falsely claiming white police officers were killing unarmed black men because they were ‘black’….here’s the BBC’s Clive Myrie [black] adding to the angry rhetoric...
‘Well, slavery may have long gone, but apprehending someone because they could be up to no good, simply because they’re black is still police policy in much of the land….'
Myrie sites ‘Ferguson’ as proof that Blacks are being targeted… 
‘It is through the prism of racism that many black Americans see the deaths of countless black men at the hands of white police officers, and a look at the facts suggests this might be appropriate. 
Ferguson, in St Louis in Missouri, is the place where an unarmed black teenager called Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer. 
In the midst of the Obama era, oh, what a rude awakening the events of Ferguson have been.’ 
Except that’s just not true…the police officer was being attacked, he was punched, the man tried to take his weapon and then ran at the officer the result of which he was then shot. 
Many of the shootings so dramatically and sensationally hyped by the BBC as race killings have in fact been by non-white officers…so race is not an issue…and studies have shown that it is Whites who are more likely to be shot whilst Blacks are more likely to be stopped. 
The result of all this was that Blacks then launched lethal attacks on police officers killing many due to the perception, driven by the Media, that police were targeting Blacks. 
Police officers died because of reporting from the likes of the BBC’s Clive Myrie….and yet it is Trump and his criticism of that feral Media who is to blame for the angry, violent divisions in America?

Re-reading Clive Myrie's report in late 2018 it's hard not to use the term 'fake news' in connection with it. 

It was doubtless very heartfelt and he surely thought it was true that the death of Michael Brown was connected to racism, despite official denials, but he allowed himself to take sides and fell foul of the actual truth of the situation. 

That he was very far from alone in doing this doesn't really excuse him.

Has the BBC fact-checked this?

Someone - namely Manchester Uni's Prof. Louis Appleby - has been fact-checking the BBC again and found it wanting.

  1. Tragedy of young life lost but BBC London News ran it under headline that teenage suicide rate in London is 4x higher than rest of country, repeated in story. In fact, rate in London is lower. Astounding piece of misinformation.
  2. How did this alarming claim, which must have been seen by countless people inc teenagers themselves (there is concern that stories like this can be self-fulfilling) come about? Answer shows how media can misuse stats & feed off each other.
  3. First it's worth stressing that suicide in <20s has been going up in last few years, a tragic situation. But that's all the more reason to have accurate figures & responsible reporting. Press sometimes seem to be competing for latest "mental health epidemic" headline.
  4. Story started in May when ONS published response to an FOI request about number of teenage suicides in borough of Brent, whole of London & nationally. Request was for 3 financial years (that's unusual), starting with 2013-14 . …
  5. As a result The Independent ran story of London suicides up from 14 to 29, calling it a "107% rise", >4x higher than 24% nationally. Figs for Brent were too small to mention but local charity that made FOI request was quoted, calling findings "shocking".
  6. But what's wrong with that? It is a 107% rise. Here are 3 tips on making most of stats: 1. Choose low baseline that makes any subsequent rise look far bigger 2. Go for short time periods or risk ruining a dramatic trend 3. Don't worry about small nos, they give you big %s.
  7. In their story BBC London News added a twist, misquoting The Independent's claim that the *rise* in London was 4x higher than nationally, a dubious distortion in itself, saying that the *rate* in London was 4x higher, which would have been astonishing if true.
  8. Then there were 2 other things that anyone in the field could have told them: 1 quote rates, not numbers - rates are adjusted for population size. 2 ONS suicide figs are based on date of registration, not date of death, & when nos are small, that can matter.
  9. So what is happening to teenage suicide in London? 1. Far from being 4x higher than nationally, rate is not higher at all, in fact slightly lower. 2. But in common with teenage suicide across Eng & despite fluctuations, it has gone up. That's the story.
  10. And the moral? 1. Dramatic claims based on population data like suicide stats are likely to be wrong. 2. Media stories feed off each other - bogus figs keep coming back - so worth getting it right 1st time. 3. And even if the country is tired of experts, they can be helpful.
But this just in from Prof. Appleby:
Credit to reporter on this who contacted me yesterday & has removed “4x higher” line from online story. So often these errors go uncorrected.
Unfortunately, I'm re-watching the BBC video report at the very moment and though the headline no longer mentions the offending statistic the report itself still does, saying "Teenage suicides are four times higher in London than the rest of the country". The error, it appears, has only been partially corrected.

Another beauty

Donald and Steph

Good grief! This was one of the main stories on the front page of the BBC News website last night and it's still one of the BBC's Top 4 news stories this morning (some twelve hours later):

So Donald Trump, the multi-millionaire with the model wife, called Steph McGovern orfa BBC Breakfast "so beautiful", and she says she replied, "Aye love, I've heard better lines down Club Bongo". 

And, my, how the  Have I Got News For You panel and audience larfed when she told them about her encounter with "creepy" Donald and her comeback line! 

Comments on Twitter haven't been going quite as well for Our Steph. Here's one of the kinder ones:
I think the BBC must be giving out vouchers to all the people who have a go at DT. One snide remark = a free meal, two snide remarks = a chance to be on another programme, three = regular employment.
I do like this passage from the BBC report though:
In the interview McGovern grilled Mr Trump about his status as a business tycoon, his previous bid for the US presidency in 2012, and whether his wealth made him happy.
If you watch it for yourselves, I don't think the word "grilled" will spring to mind! It was a lightweight interview. She even asked him about his hair!


What an absolutely gripping series the BBC's A Dangerous Dynasty: House of Assad turned out to be.

And watching it was (I felt) three hours well spent. 

It was, of course, an absolute hatchet job on the Assads, with talking head after talking head after talking head after talking head disrespecting The Family. 

That said, there were no horses' heads on pillows on beds featured in the programme, thank goodness.

Bad, bad, bad, bad Assads. Very, very bad Assads. 

That - spoilers, if you haven't seen it - was the main message.

Big, bad Assads.

Big and bad. Especially bad.



Demonstrating impartiality?

This week's Newswatch began with Samira Ahmed noting that the so-called People's Vote march last Saturday had led BBC News that day. Some had complained that the extent of the coverage was not warranted, she said, but "many more complaints" came from those who thought the demonstration should have been given greater prominence and who objected to the inclusion of Nigel Farage in a Chris Mason report. A senior BBC editor was duly invited into the studio....

I'm still not really buying the 700,000 figure he obligingly parroted for that march or his assertion that the issue motivating the WASPI women's pension protests "affects many, many millions" because the latter simply isn't borne out by the facts. You might therefore ask: Has the BBC Controller fact-checked this?

Anyhow, here's the usual Saturday transcript:

Samira Ahmed: Well, to discuss how BBC News assesses the news value of protest and demonstrations, I'm joined by Jon Zilkha, controller of BBC News Channel. Thank you for coming on. Let's start with the People's Vote last weekend. The vote march. What made that one deserving of coverage? 
Jon Zilkha: I think in the first instance, its sheer scale. 700,000 people, probably the largest march since the protest against the Iraq war 15 years ago, is something that is clearly noteworthy. The second is this is clearly the greatest issue facing the country at the moment, the future of the Brexit negotiations and what kind of future relationship we're going to have with the European Union. On both of those criteria, this was clearly going to be a major news story and one that would have a considerable amount of coverage that day. 
Samira Ahmed: So numbers - the turnout - is significant in the BBC's assessment? 
Jon Zilkha: Numbers clearly is going to be one of the key factors, but not necessarily the only one. It is fair to say that not all demonstrations by any means are going to be covered as a network news story or a national news story. But on this occasion, the national significance, the fact that this is considerably still one of the most debated matters in national discourse means that inevitably it was going to be higher on news running orders that day. 
Samira Ahmed: Some viewers are wondering why did Nigel Farage's very small event in comparison in Harrogate, get coverage? 
Jon Zilkha: The Farage event was included as a way of giving extra context to what was not just the scale of the march but the argument the march was seeking to raise. Clearly those people who were marching that they were campaigning for a second vote or a further referendum on the final Brexit deal. There are many people who disagree that such a vote is necessary. And low down Chris Mason's report in a clip of six seconds duration we gave voice to that by simply saying through Nigel Farage's words that there are those that think such a further referendum is not needed. That does not mean to say that the two events were given editorial equivalence by any means. Clearly, the vote in London (sic) was far larger but there was no equivalence given to those two things. 
Samira Ahmed: Interesting you use the word 'equivalence' because to those viewers who complained, they thought it looked like the BBC was trying to balance something that did not need balancing and that there was a false equivalence putting Farage in there at all. 
Jon Zilkha: It is not about false equivalence, it's about saying 'Is there another argument?' The other argument is there are many people who don't believe a further referendum is necessary, and a 6-second clip is simply a way of amplifying that, especially given that, as I say, campaigners on that side of the argument continue to make their argument and all it really demonstrates is just how polarising and divisive this issue remains 2.5 years after the referendum. 
Samira Ahmed: Newswatch gets a lot of complaints that the BBC too often ignores demonstrations. And the WASPI women's pension protest was a recent example. Viewers say there's a significant news story, they have a public turnout and the BBC is consistently ignoring them. 
Jon Zilkha: So there are a number of factors that will come to bear on how we decide or not to cover a particular march. The fact of a march or a demonstration is not necessarily news in its own terms. With regards to the WASPI demonstration, it had to take place alongside other news stories that day. No-one is saying that the issue of the campaign that is being led that affects many, many millions of people is not worthy of coverage. In fact, we have covered it in some depth. On that day, Radio 4's World at One covered it for at least ten minutes. The day before, the Politics Live programme also covered that particular issue, as they had six months earlier on The Daily Politics.  So not covering a demonstration does not mean that you don't think a story is worthy of coverage. Actually, covering a demonstration is not always the most effective way to cover an issue. And that particular issue is one we have covered before, and I'm sure we will cover again. 
Samira Ahmed: I must say in the past, as a BBC news correspondent myself, in the 1990s, I regularly got sent out to report on marches, to explain what the issues were and to interview participants, and the WASPI protests are exactly the type of event I think I would have been sent on. It seems that rarely happens these days, and too often, viewers say, you get a few pictures of the march and a line to say it's happened and you don't get analysis. Is that fair? 
Jon Zilkha: As I said, I think there are a number of factors about how you would decide whether or not to cover a march or a protest or a demonstration. Scale is one, is it a matter of national significance is another, is it a live issue is another. Could there be an outcome as a result of the demonstration, will it change anything is another. But in the end what is going to be the decisive factor is how does it figure in our running orders on any given day. There may be any number of stories that are competing for attention and we have to weigh the significance of them nationally, internationally as to whether they should be included in the bulletin. The fact that a demonstration is taking place or the fact that it's managed to disrupt the traffic is not necessarily going to be something that will bring it air time. 
Samira Ahmed: Jon Zilkha, thank you.


Here's Andrew (and he's much funnier than the Now Show crowd)... 
Evenin' all. Welcome to This Week - and what a week it's been. You're probably still exhilarated by Saturday's big march - you know, the one Alastair Campbell told us about last Thursday. I couldn't make it myself - I had a previous appointment with a box set of The Daily Politics - but I'm sure you were there. I sent along my Greek gardener, my Polish plumber and the Norwegian nanny. So nobody can be in any doubt about my commitment, or should I say self-interest, in a People's Vote. Mind you, the Brexit negotiations are going so well that I'm not sure we'll need one. We now have a backstop to the backstop, a transition period, an extended transition period and even the possibility of an indefinite transition period, plus close regulatory alignment. Mmm, close regulatory alignment - something most of us only ever dreamed of, until the Maybot's negotiating skills made it a reality. I'm told Donald Trump has even offered to build a wall down the Irish Sea with all the spare bricks he has accumulated from not building a wall along the Mexican border. It's such a generous gesture that nobody has the heart to tell him bricks don't float. I'm not surprised though the Maybot got such an ecstatic welcome when she walked into a room full of Tory MPs last night, greeting her with synchronised banging of their heads against their desks. It must have lifted the spirits of her software no end. 

Friday 26 October 2018

For Old Time's Sake

Jonty Dimbles

It's been a long while since I've listened to Any Questions (at least without switching off within minutes)

I first listened to it in the days of gentle John Timpson, but have got ever less inclined to listen to it during the eternity, boundless and bare, that Jonathan Dimbleby has been presenting it. 

Tonight, for the first time in years, I decided to listen to it in its entirety.

Why? Well, I wanted to test a hunch.... 

I'd seen that UKIP leader Gerard Batten was on and wanted to see if Jonathan treated him considerably worse than he treated his three other guests (Labour's Caroline Flint, Conservative Anna Soubry and the GMB's Tim Roache).

And, just as I expected, yes, he did. 

Much worse.

I counted 'unhelpful', 'helpful' and 'neutral/undecidable' interventions from Jonathan, and found: 
2 'helpful', 1 'unhelpful' for Anna Soubry
1 'neutral' and two 'unhelpful' for Tim Roache
1 'helpful', 1 'neutral' and 1 'unhelpful' for Caroline Flint
1 'neutral' and 4 'unhelpful' for Gerard Batten 
And the 'unhelpful' interventions from the Any Questions host to UKIP's Mr Batten were several degrees of 'unhelpfulness' more 'unhelpful' than the 'unhelpful' interventions to the other three guests. 

Indeed, I'd re-label them 'hostile' rather than 'unhelpful'.

BBC presenter bias proved. QED. Onwards and upwards. 

And the Middlesbrough audience was fascinating too. With the Brexit vote going 65.5% to 34.5% in favour of Leave the audience would be expected to be heavily pro-Brexit, and Anna Soubry was duly heckled. But the applause she then got for her anti-Brexit rhetoric, despite that heckling, was strikingly loud - and much louder than that given to any of the three less-anti-Brexit panellists. Peculiar.

And the anti-Gerard Batten, anti-Tommy Robinson contingent in the audience was extremely vocal. With a highly hostile contingent in the audience against him, his three fellow panellists reviling him and BBC presenter Jonathan Dimbleby bating him with considerably more 'hostile' interventions than he put to the others, UKIP's Mr Batten is highly unlikely to have come away from tonight's proceedings with an improved view of the BBC or a changed view on the question of BBC bias.

Please listen for yourselves here (if you can bear it) and see if you want to persuade Gerard to think otherwise.