Saturday 9 March 2019

Hardline hornets in hats (featuring Kate Hoey and BBC Complaints)


Regular readers will know that I've had a hornet in my Homburg hat for months about the BBC's use of the word 'hardline'. 

I closely tracked the BBC's use of the word and found it was nearly always used about certain kinds of people.

To recap, the VAST majority of the BBC's recent use of the word 'hardline' - and its beloved sibling 'hardliners' - have been connected to Brexit-supporters, especially those in favour of leaving the EU on WTO terms (i.e. supporters of a 'no-deal', crash-out-and-apocalypse Brexit). 

But 'the others' in my surveys have been equally predictable to anyone who's watched the BBC over the years: Trump's immigration policies, tax-cutters in the US, the right-wing Austrian government (over immigration), the Italian populist government (over immigration) the national-populist Hungarian government (over immigration and everything else), European governments in general that oppose mass immigration, the conservative CSU in Germany (over immigration), a Turkish right-winger not part of Erdogan's party, Hindus in India, France's yellow vests clerics in Saudi Arabia who oppose women drivers. 

To bring things up to date, and tracking the word's use by BBC folk since the start of February this year on BBC One, BBC Two and the BBC News Channel...

Yes, the term 'hardline' is still mostly used - again and again and again and again and again - in connection with 'Brexiteers', and all the variants thereon.

Seriously, using TV Eyes to monitor 'hardline' brings up masses of BBC reporters/presenters endlessly spouting the term in connection to Brexiteers, the ERG, Conservatives, Eurosceptics, etc. 

I've not found a single counter-example, so pro-EU, hardline Remain types who want to overturn the 2016 referendum remain once again untainted by the loaded term in the BBC's output.

The exceptions this time are, again, mostly familiar - Hindu nationalists (repeatedly) and parties in Italy opposed to mass immigration - but there's also a one-off criticism of anti-China US politicians and (more predictably) Australia's immigration policies.

To sum up, the BBC uses the term 'hardline' almost invariably against right-wingers, opponents of mass immigration, Hindu nationalists, and strong supporters of Brexit.

It's a trend that's so overwhelming that it should speak for itself and dispel any doubts about the BBC's biased use of language here.

Specifically tracking the use of 'hardliners', however - besides the many, many incarnations of 'Tory hardliners' - also brings up something that might seem less predictable at a first glance but has long been a BBC 'thing' - multiple mentions of Iranian 'hardliners' (who the BBC often also label 'conservatives'). That's nothing new though. It's long been a thing hereabouts to complain about the BBC using the term 'conservative' to describe the most hardline Islamists in the Iranian revolutionary regime. 

Given the John Simpson transcript I posted earlier, this latest finding in the Iranian context is particularly intriguing. 


Anyhow, all of this leads back to Kate Hoey MP's potent complaint to the BBC about their perpetual use of 'hardline' in reference to people who think like her (whether left-wing or right-wing or whatever) on the subject of Brexit.

If you've not read it already, please read it.


And that in turns leads on, as knights follow daze, to News-watch's David Keighley and his powerful new article at TCWHardline’ Hoey and the BBC at its slippery worst - which is a 'must-read'. (So please read it!)

David crystallises the argument and details Ms Hoey's exchanges with the BBC - and the BBC's (oh-so-familiar) "blinkered", "self-righteous" replies. 

The whole first section of David's piece, however, needs quoting in full as it might be new to you. And even if it isn't new to you it remains, frankly, quite staggering:
ONE of the huge frustrations about the BBC is that they have a defence for every complaint, made up according to their own ever-shifting rules, and adjudicated mainly by their own staff. 
When David Cameron formally announced that he would hold an EU Referendum, Newsnight reported the development with a programme which included 18 Remainers (one who was said to be a businessman but actually was a Liberal Democrat politician) and just one who wanted Leave. 
News-watch complained. The BBC’s response? Months earlier, Newsnight had presented an edition which contained someone who put the case for withdrawal. The programme with blatant 18-1 stacking was thus fine because this was ‘due impartiality’. Of course.
Ah yes, good old BBC 'due impartiality'! - about as flexible as term as you could imagine. 

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