Sunday 7 October 2018

BBC Brexit report based on dubious maths

Catching up with things...

Newsnight's policy editor Chris Cook took on one of those right-wing think tanks so hated by left-leaning, pro-EU #FBPE types on Twitter - namely, the Institute of Economic Affairs.

The article's original headline was IEA Brexit report based on dubious maths. It began:
Much has been written in the past few months about the Institute of Economic Affairs, the right-wing think tank. But there is one element of its work that could do with more scrutiny: its maths. 
Unfortunately for Chris, he also got his maths wrong!

I'm guessing he was attempting to play to the #FBPE gallery but he got some figures mixed up and his fingers burnt. 

So what happened next? 

Well, I read his original would-be hatchet job on the BBC News website. 

And then I saw him insert a very short correction grudgingly admitting to mathematical mistakes on his part, but doing so in two throwaway sentences in the middle of the piece [placed in square parentheses]. The headline by this time had changed to IEA Brexit report pulls up a few questions about methodology

Then he got the BBC to delete the whole post [and they've done such a thorough job that even the Wayback Machine can't retrieve it]...

Now you see it. Now you don't.

... and published a fresh piece headed 'Mea Culpa' (beginning "I am not, it transpires, infallible....") which reads as a considerably-less-than-entirely-apologetic mixture of admission and defiance.

Surprisingly, unlike in that short correction to the original piece, he didn't make it clear what his mistake had been - i.e. that he'd messed up the maths. 

And in a short piece of just 126 words I count four (possibly five) fresh digs at the IEA. 

So it's a very 'BBC' apology. 

I've got some things spectacularly wrong myself over the years. I think the thing to do when that happens is to properly apologise and give yourself a good Medieval-style self-scourging. Don't keep lashing out. 

And I learn from a loyal reader that Chris Cook has actually been blocking people on Twitter who have taken him to task over his half-apology. 

Also very 'BBC'...(well, for the time being anyhow). 


  1. The issue of bbc complaints handling is seriously messed up now. I have not complained for a while now, not least because all the time and logistical obstacles they deliberately have installed to discourage it. Transparently so. It is why they can be trusted. Apparently. Says so at the bottom of their pages.

    Specifically their rendering the more egregious efforts unavailable to cite once nailed.

    I have several instances of this logged. Twitter being easy meat.

    They even once ‘vanished’ a whole story I was in process of complaining about, citing ‘copyright issues’, and then moved to another department who claimed that it could not be commented upon as it did not exist.

    Catch-W1A. I might make this the name of my bbc complaints logging site once I eventually set it up.

    1. Great points and hope you do create a site for people to publish their complaints about the BBC. I spent weeks going through their calculatedly onerous complaints process about the nurse they interviewed to highlight Tory austerity cuts. They used her twice, the 2nd time after Paul Staines had already outed her as a hard left activist and Labour mouthpiece.

      They accepted my complaint and said producers should be more careful.

      More careful not to get caught probably.

      Somewhere to log all these legitimate criticisms would be very helpful to all of us motivated to close down the BBC

    2. Maybe you should have volunteer "Independent Adjudicators" who assess the claims according to objective criteria rather than the BBC's moveable feast/moving goal posts approach.

    3. Claims = complaints.

      That way after your site has dealt with the complaint, the complainant would be free to submit the complaint to the BBC with the "Independent Adjudicator" commentary attached.

    4. Tx, Unknown & MB - I dabbled a bit a while ago and acquired a whole new appreciation for what Craig, Sue and such as BBBC folks face. Not just with set up and admin but consequences.

      Luckily I made it so complicated it was unworkable and things have moved on in terms of tech (mostly good) and legalities (mostly getting worse). So thinking of starting again from scratch.

      Blogger and WordPress remain the main platform choices but both have plusses and minuses.

      My main concern is to create something that provides useful sharing opportunity with minimal to no need to censor in case of ‘over passionate’ or false flag contributions dragging the site down.

      May have an idea on that, ironically based on BBC Teflon weasels.

    5. Blogger rapidly receding as I can only get it to allow me to post here on my mobile devices. My Mac mini... not a chance. There are many factors to weigh, but the ability to post hyperlinks and comment freely are high on the list. I do need to look into the situation regarding being held to account for what others share, be they libellous, untrue or simply contrary to a whole raft of new ism crime definitions. Oddly, the BBC on Facebook seems imumune. Some intra-necine spats from the Asian subcontinent and Africa are pretty dire.

  2. Yes, it's designed to obstruct and is very onerous which is offputting to me and I imagine to many others who might want to register and pursue a complaint without fuss or bother.

    I don't use twitter but this has got me thinking about it. Twitter does provide one alternative route which is quick and easy to do; it is also direct to the BBC person responsible and it is public, so other people can see their issue being raised and dealt with, if it is. Rob Burley, we know, engages with viewers on twitter and does explain his thinking and decisions on balance and bias, which is a good thing. How far the twitter comments or complaints influence or affect how he does things is far from clear, though. But twitter as a medium for dealing with complaints could be developed across the BBC.

    Direct engagement with individual editors, producers, correspondents could be a first step and it could include the option to ask for the matter to be referred up to a further editorial or management person or unit for consideration and response. And / or a summary of complaints or comments and the issues identified could be submitted by the individual BBC staff member for further consideration and public response.

    Direct engagement would involve making it a duty of the BBC staff to engage and explain, paying proper serious attention, rather than the dismissive and personal responses of some correspondents who then decide to block people. Of course there are drawbacks too and twitter is not the whole audience so could skew things towards them; other avenues would have to remain for people who don't do twitter or use computers.

  3. @Craig "Then he got the BBC to delete the whole post [and they've done such a thorough job that even the Wayback Machine can't retrieve it]"
    Not true, I've caught some libmob sites using robots.txt to hide from wayback
    BUT I can see this BBC page captured 3 times (none show the correction note)

  4. What is strange is that there is a long Reddit thread which doesn't even mention that the BBC article was retracted.



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