Tuesday 5 March 2019

Sloppy and loaded

The Two Brexiters

I don't think Kate Hoey MP (above, with someone else) would mind us lifting this from inews (though inews possibly might!), so here goes:

‘Hardline Brexiteers’: The way the BBC describes pro-Brexit MPs is not impartial. The term is never applied to figures who are 'hardline' in wanting to remain in the EU. 
The word “hardline” has been creeping into descriptions of MPs who are pro-Brexit for a year or so now. After hearing it in a BBC news bulletin this week, I wrote in to complain.  
Jonathan Munro, head of newsgathering for the BBC, replied: 
We do take great care in our language on Brexit. I’m sorry you were unhappy with the scripting of our early evening bulletin on Sunday. The term ‘hardliner’ is in use across the media, including most newspapers, generally to distinguish the views of members of the European Research Group from their Conservative colleagues who support Brexit, but have indicated they are more flexible about the terms the Prime Minister is negotiating. 
Our headline referred to ‘Tory hardliners’ and the introduction to the report made clear the term was being used in the context of the debate over the Northern Ireland backstop. 
I hope this answers your concerns. 
No, Jonathan, it doesn’t. The BBC received £3.8bn from licence fee payers last year. Unlike other media, it has a special duty, as defined in its charter, to be scrupulously impartial. Munro’s argument that it is following where other media lead is therefore not an excuse. It’s an abrogation of the BBC’s duty to the British public. 
The Corporation was warned about its biased use of language about the EU in 2005, when the referendum was first mooted. Lord Wilson of Dinton conducted an independent inquiry into bias claims, which concluded that the BBC was “not succeeding” in being impartial in its coverage of Europe. 
The BBC promised to do better but the sloppy and loaded approach has become worse since the referendum. First came the phrases “hard” and “soft” Brexit. This painted those who wanted a clean break with Brussels as hard and unyielding, and those who did not as cuddly and reasonable. 
Another term picked up by BBC journalists to describe leaving the EU was “divorce”.  Jean-Claude Juncker frequently refers to the EU as a “family”, and in 2016 began referring to Brexit as a “divorce”. By autumn 2017 a survey by News-Watch, which searches for BBC bias in coverage of the EU, showed BBC presenters and correspondents using “divorce” as the core definition of what Leavers wanted. 
Not only were Leavers xenophobes – they were now home-wreckers, too.  
The term “hardline” has been used by BBC journalists to describe President Trump’s immigration policies and a vicious wartime Japanese governor. It is clearly not intended as a compliment. 
News-Watch surveyed the coverage on Radio 4’s Today programme of Parliament’s defeat of the Withdrawal Deal. Only a handful of the 111 contributors were firm supporters of implementing the referendum result. And the main one – Steve Baker, spokesman for the ERG group – was introduced as – surprise! – “hardline”, a term never applied to figures such as David Lammy or Dominic Grieve, who are “hardline” in trying to thwart leaving the EU. 
The word “Brexiteer” – with its echoes of “mutineer” – is another biased description used routinely by the BBC. The Financial Times manages to use the more neutral “Brexiters” – you’d think a supposedly impartial news organisation would do the same.

'Brexiteers'? I've used that myself, perhaps because I spend far too much time monitoring the BBC. 

Who first used it though? Who amplified it? And did they mean it as a compliment (dashing, noble-hearted heroes?) or as an insult ("with its echoes of 'mutineer'")? And have I been brainwashed by the BBC, despite myself? 

Whatever the case of that, Kate Hoey definitely has a point about the use of "hardline" and "divorce", don't you think? 

(I do).


  1. I commented on a previous thread that I thought the "hardline" designation was imported from the Northern Ireland civil war - with people committed to violent solutions being described as "hardline" as in this article from 2011:


    Prior to that I think it was used in industrial relations and can likely be traced back to discussion of Communist movements where some factions took a hard "line".

    All pretty insulting, but just in a day's work for BBC, ITV and Sky.

  2. From that headline I thought it was another about Sweeney.

    Mr. Munro is a stranger to the truth, BTW. His day will come.

  3. Going to give Stew's template a go here. Wish me luck:
    <a href="https://twitter.com/KateHoeyMP/status/1103018611415961601”>link</a>

  4. link
    maybe Your last quotation mark is of the wrong kind

    1. Yep I changed it to the one above 2 on my keyboard and it worked

  5. "Wrong quotation mark on the line". Cheers.

    I do recall accidentally deleting and having to put it back. Clearly there lurks a cache of wonder behind my keyboard.

    1. Ask anyone who has programmed in Unix , if they have ever experienced agony cos of a missing comma or semi-colon.

  6. When I was at Uni it was, IIRC, Fortran.

    Agony was tapping out a bazillion envelope-sized cards you handed in to Beryl in Computing, and after a day or two's wait you picked it up.

    One mistake... one... and you got handed two telephone directories of punched paper with an error data dump.


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