Thursday 15 November 2018


As you may have noticed, there's been a bit of news day. And it's still going on.

Meanwhile, taking a longer view, and working over months rather than minutes, David and Andrew at News-watch have been very busy surveying another BBC series about Brexit - namely Mark Mardell's  Radio 4 Brexit: A Love Story.

We dipped into it (posting about three of its episodes) and found it severely wanting impartiality-wise. But David and Andrew have gone beyond mere dipping and have devoutly drenched themselves in the entirety of the thing.

The stats speak again. This was a series that, statistically-speaking, was sharply biased against pro-Brexit points of view. And the word count has shown what a simple count of the allegiances of the contributors could only hint at:
Although there was only a slight numeric advantage in favour of ‘pro’ EU/EEC contributors, those speakers delivered 64 per cent (13,392) of the words spoken, against 28 per cent (6,009 words) from the ‘antis’, a ratio of 9:4. In addition, of the top 10 contributors by running length, eight were ‘pros’ and only two were ‘anti’. Strong Europhiles such as Tony Blair, Nick Clegg and Sir Stephen Wall had much more space to advance their ‘pro’ opinions than those who were negative about ‘Europe’. 
And that's only for starters: Only six speakers of the 121 contributors who appeared in the series as a whole "made what could be called substantive points against the EU".

The whole series struck me as being a 'masterclass' from the mighty Mark Mardell in how to appear to be impartial whilst being anything but.

It may therefore, perhaps, be taken as a template for BBC reporting as a whole on certain subjects. 


  1. Thank you for pointing out this forensic analysis! I agree with you wholeheartedly that the series was a 'masterclass' in subtle BBC partiality. The pro-EU/anti-Brexit message, for me, as with so many BBC current affairs programmes, was as much apparent in the tone and vocabulary of the presenter as in the selection of interviewees.

    OT, and I'm afraid I don't have access to Iplayer or BBC Sounds or whatever one would need to review it, but I'm certain I heard Evan Davis refer to MP Andrew Bridgen as an 'old twerp' ('Oh sit down you old twerp') at about 5.10 this evening during the early stages of Radio 4's PM. Was he caught off-mic saying this or was it part of his 'script'?

    1. Thank you Bill.

      Checking out the Evan Davis bit, yes, Evan did say "Sit down you old twerp" about Andrew Bridgen but he was repeating a parliamentary heckle from Sir Nicholas Soames. Evan added, "Is this where we are?". I think he was suggesting that there are bitter Tory splits.

    2. It was 'Sit down you disloyal twerp' by a heckler in the House, as Bridgen was speaking. I wasn't aware it was Nicholas Soames, as Craig says and I don't doubt is correct.

    3. Yes there was always more girth than depth to the self-regarding Soames. And now he has lost the distinction of his girth, virtually nothing remains except a kind of patrician disdain for the plebs.

  2. I am sure that no one here thought Mardell's unprecedented series (allowing a BBC newsbod to insert his own views in 15 min segments into what is supposed to be an "impartial, free and fair" news and current affairs programme) was anything other than obvious bias, covert bias and well disguised bias. Re the 121 contributors: it would be nice to have the first line of Mardell's presenter comment set out in each case. My recollection of the ones I heard was that the Remainer voices would be followed by a plaintive "more in sorrow than in anger" type of comment from Mardell whereas the minority Leaver voices would be treated to a bit of biting satire.


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