Saturday 24 November 2018

More on Chris Morris

Chris Morris, 'The Day Today'

David at News-watch's take on the Peter Lilley/Chris Morris transcript he so kindly provided me with the other day has been cross-posted at The Conservative Woman. He sums up the problem with the BBC's chief 'Reality Checker' Chris Morris:
The BBC’s so-called ‘reality check’ unit is, of course, nothing of the sort. Why? Exhibit A is that back in February, Morris presented a five-part series called Brexit: a Guide for the Perplexed. His lens was so distorted that 18 out his 24 main interviewees were anti-Brexit and only seven per cent of the words spoken were from the withdrawal perspective. That report by News-watch is currently under investigation by Ofcom following a formal complaint, and the outcome of the appeal is expected imminently. 
Meanwhile, Morris has ploughed on regardless with his opinionated perspective, to the extent that, judging by the frequency of his appearances, the Today programme now regards his input as an essential part of the editorial process.
Other takes on the Chris Morris/Peter Lilley debacle include:
Lord Lilley: "...all [Chris Morris] did was oppose my facts with the opinions of people with whom he agreed." 
Rod Liddle: "...its absurd ‘reality check’, correspondent Chris Morris, whose job it is to offer spurious statistical support for the BBC’s liberal prejudices." 
Charles Moore: "The BBC’s ‘Reality Check’ device is a piece of hubris, which this week met its nemesis. It effectively says: ‘We report untrustworthy politicians who disagree with one another. You, the stupid viewer/listener, obviously cannot be expected to work out where the truth lies. Our expert correspondents will tell you.’ The main man who does this on Brexit is called Chris Morris. His version of ‘reality’ is strongly pro-Remain. If you read his online summary of the withdrawal agreement, for example, he says that ‘the Brexit process has caused an enormous amount of anxiety and uncertainty’ in relation to immigration. That is a defensible proposition, but one depending on a point of view. A Leave supporter would blame most of the anxiety and uncertainty on deliberate obstruction by the European Commission. When he explains the Irish backstop, Morris manages not to mention the constitutional issue which is the key to the whole thing — that the EU would acquire special powers over Northern Ireland, thus fragmenting the United Kingdom."


  1. We have often gutted the stinky-fish BBC Reality Check "reports" (aka "opinion pieces") here in your esteemed comments sections.

    Leaving aside the gross political bias per se, it seems to me there are a number of structural problems.

    Firstly about half the "Reality Check" reports refer to the future. By definition the future is not "reality" because it hasn't happened yet (unless you are going get all Stephen Hawking on me). So the BBC is prognosticating, predicting or, frankly, guessing...or it's just listing possible outcomes...and what good is that to anyone? Surely that's what the dayjob journos will be doing in any case.

    A second structural problem, or perhaps a philosophical one, is that it assumes there is one, single absolute "Reality" - a kind of Universal Om that it, the BBC, by dint of its special powers, has access to. But does it? Isn't it far more likely that on any given issue there are at least 100 identifiable, unique perspectives and that therefore it is absurd for the BBC to claim that one (nearly always one that coincides with the Guardian's editorial) is the "correct" and "objective" perspective.

    Lastly, given that this is supposed to be a "Reality" check, the BBC has thereby introduced immediate bias through what it chooses to investigate. If it chooses to investigate Central American migration to the USA, Trump's false statements and Russia's election meddling rather than say crimes by undocumented migrants to Europe, Clinton's false statements and US election meddling then it is undoubtedly making subjective choices.

    Had the BBC decided to introduce a more modest Fact Checking service that also corrected its own errors, it might have been defensible, in the unlikely event it was deployed without bias. However, "Reality Check" is just beyond absurd.

    1. There's an interesting piece in the Spectator this week by Rory Sutherland, headlined 'Trump may have a point about fake news', which ties in with this. "The relative prominence given to news stories matters a lot" and this is where media bias is strongest, he says.

      And it's not just "the relative emphasis given to different stories" but also "news which has been artificially manufactured or inflated". Rory S calls this "synthetic news" - lazy stuff such as "X is facing calls for his resignation, following revelations that...', when it's just a few crazy "employees of the outrage industry" mouthing off.

  2. Aren't all those BBC News website 'stories' that have a question as the headline 'synthetic news'?
    Speculation, Hype and Irritating Trivia - which just happens to be the BBC's favourite noun, adjective and verb.

    1. "Could by hamster be trans? Why we all need to know..."

  3. On twitter #hasthebbcfactcheckedthisyet gets deployed a lot. Not in a good way.

    I am also intrigued they have what is fact being checked, but also reality. Presumably different things.

    Interesting about the lads and lasses of OFCOM pretending to investigate their old mukkas back at the ranch, so I will be fascinated by the next expensive incarnation of 'broadly bang correct'.


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