Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Reflections


Reflecting on his guest editorship of the Today programme, Charles Moore says that though he enjoyed it and found the staff "who do the basic work" charming and helpful, he can't help feeling "a little envious of the reverential treatment accorded to Greta Thunberg when she filled the same spot".

He continues to find the BBC bureaucracy "astonishing". 

He tried to get Roger Harrabin to interview two 'climate sceptics', and he tried to get Lord Hall to come on to account for "how they had got Brexit so wrong, and why they have becomes preachers for wokery", and he tried to get John Hales from BBC TVL to come on "to defend his methods of exacting the licence fee from the poor"......but, he says, "there were no takers". 

It seems as if Roger Harrabin and the BBC bosses were frit. 

Coming to a Boyle


If you missed Frankie Boyle's New World Order: 2019 here's a selection of the jokes:
  • Donald Trump will be running in 2020, sadly not from a pack of dogs.
  • Boris Johnson: a man who looks like Hitler's DNA had been injected into a panna cotta.
  • [On Prince Andrew]: The rapist formerly known as Prince. 
Twitter has divided between those who say Frankie's no longer funny and those who say that those saying Frankie's no longer funny are a bunch of right-wing snowflakes. 

I'm sure the BBC will be commissioning another series from him in 2020. Happy New Year!

Monday, 30 December 2019

Strange Fruit cake

While Craig is busy with non-blogging issues you’ll have to endure another niche post. I make no further apology - not that ‘endure’ and ‘niche post’ amount to an actual apology. 

While our backs were turned - while my back was turned - ex-BBC employee and more recently ex UNRWA chief / honorary member of Hamas, Chris Gunness, has been busy ranting on Twitter!




Israel Hayom has also reported this bizarre poetic outburst. 
Former UNRWA rep attacks Netanyahu in bizarre Christmas-themed Twitter rant
Chris Gunness, who left the UN's Palestinian refugee agency earlier this year, spent his Christmas eve writing holiday-themed parodies mocking Israel. 
To the tune of ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’(?)  
To Mr. Netanyahu 
You better watch out, you better not cry
You better not pout, I’m telling you why,
The ICC is coming to town.
They know you’ve done some war crimes
They know you you’ve been corrupt,
They know you’ve sanctioned settlements
You are absolutely f*****.”
Next: a weird parody of Twas the night before Christmas apparently revelling in the gruesome punishments meted out by Hamas to collaborators-with-the-enemy.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all across The Strip
Not a Qasam Rocket crackled, under Israel’s tight grip.
Collaborators twitched as they hung in the air
On the lamp posts that glistened in Palestine Square
— Chris Gunness (@ChrisGunness) December 23, 2019
I wouldn’t normally bother to reiterate gossip about this person, but I couldn't resist when I saw that he went to the same school as Ian Hislop - at the same time!
“Gunness was born in 1959 in what was then the Crown Colony of Trinidad, part of the British West Indies. He was educated in England, initially at Ardingly College, before gaining a scholarship in 1979, to Oxford University. He was a contemporary of Ian Hislop at both institutions”
"He joined the BBC as a graduate trainee in 1982. During his 23-year career in broadcasting, he covered all the following roles: producer, studio manager, reporter, correspondent and anchor. 
Here at ITBB we have written about him more than once. He treachery was particularly visible during one (or more) of Israel’s incursions into Gaza when he turned a blind eye to Hamas’s human shield type strategy of hiding weapons in UNRWA schools.
The most bonkers example of his erratic behaviour is his notorious emotional meltdown that can be seen in this post.
 He really is one of the strangest individuals ever to have been on the BBC’s payroll. 

"Something monstrous"



On the Today Programme, some of which I listened to ‘despite Greta’, two brief slots addressed the rise in antisemitism. The first item, at 12:56, introduced the phrase ‘the mainstreaming of hate-speech.’ It popped up during a conversation between Aleem Maqbool and Sarah Smith.

(I noticed that Sarah Smith got the 'antisemitism' gig this time rather than Mishal Husain)

Later, at about 1:09, Sarah spoke to the  President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews about the graffiti in London. Marie van der Zyl had the figures to hand (pretty alarming) - but she insisted it’s rare to see this kind of thing in London. 


“Why do you think it is that we’re seeing an increase?” asked Sarah, “…a rise in hate crime against different groups?”

Okay, we can see where this is going.

“In society, we need to be clear that anti-Jewish racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia and prejudice of any kind is not acceptable in our society” waffled Ms van der Zyl. “Simon Shama said ‘something monstrous is rising out of the slime’ and this really has to be addressed by society,” she went on. “This (Global problem) coincides with the rise in populism and world leaders must ….” she continued limply. 

Last summer this particular lady was exchanging tetchy letters with Jeremy Corbyn. Now she’s actually turned into Jeremy Corbyn. 


 Simon Maier tweeted: 
“Just listened to this. She’s not a good or sufficiently strong mouthpiece for Board of Deputies or the community. Each question was answered vaguely and with lack of spirit. This is a time for best mouthpieces and irrefutable argument.”

I quite agree. If this weak mouthpiece is really representative of British Jews, we might as well give in now.

Wild speculation

The British girl’s case (initial accusation, retraction and trial) about being gang-raped by 12 youthful  Israeli holidaymakers while she was working in Cyprus has taken a turn for the worse. 

On the upside, as far as the BBC is concerned, it gives the news channel an excuse to move on from the spate of antisemitic incidents it has been obliged to dwell on in recent days, even if it couldn’t bring itself to engage with some of the inconvenient facts involved until it had no other choice. 

After all, other media outlets had already published the images of the perpetrator being arrested, revealing something it was hard to miss. How can one put this? Let’s try ‘he had a bit of a funny tinge’. Several other reports ventured so far as to speculate about a possible motivation while the BBC refrained from making a disagreeable value judgement till they were absolutely positive that it wasn’t an unfortunate accident, for example, that multiple people tripped and fell into the arms of a Happy Hanukah-wisher who happened to be holding a sharpened machete.


Anyway, I feel like speculating. Would the BBC have gone to the trouble of putting the case for the girl’s defence quite so enthusiastically, had the alleged rapists been from another religion?

I do realise that this sounds harsh and unsympathetic, but it’s not the reliability or character of the girl herself I’m addressing. How would I know anything about that? It’s just that I think the BBC with the assistance of Kevin Connolly is making one helluva bigger deal about this because of the nationality of the alleged rapists. That’s it. 

Annual occurrence

There are so many things I would have blogged in the last few days /weeks. But I couldn’t.  

The worst thing (for me) was the BBC’s oh so predictable Christmastide anti-Israel emoting based on the BBC’s (and Sky’s) saccharine and weirdly sentimentalised portrayal of the Plight of the Palestinians - and at this time of year, of Palestinian Christians. If Palestinian Christians are beleaguered, it’s due to the ongoing persecution of Christians that the mainstream media persistently ignores, (because it’s) perpetrated by their favourite peaceful religion.

The BBC must know is going on, but they just ain’t interested. Only when they believe that Israel can be blamed by insinuation do the Beeb’s ears prick up and its eyes light up. The BBC must feel that the current climate offers a safe space for unsubstantiated innuendo and their special brand of passive-aggressive reporting.

BBC Watch has been on the case - does the BBC even bother to look at these painstakingly researched articles?

https://bbcwatch.org/tag/barbara-plett-usher/

https://bbcwatch.org/2019/12/26/the-bbcs-biased-bethlehem-binge-continues/

https://bbcwatch.org/2019/12/25/bbc-politicisation-of-christmas-continues-on-ws-radio/

https://bbcwatch.org/2019/12/22/bbc-news-again-self-conscripts-to-banksys-israel-delegitimisation/

https://bbcwatch.org/2019/12/23/bbc-ws-radio-airs-anti-terrorist-fence-falsehoods/

https://bbcwatch.org/2016/12/22/documenting-five-years-of-bbc-politicisation-of-christmas/ 

........and here’s a comprehensive summary of the Banksy nonsense by Camera. 
The way the BBC magnified Banksy’s tiny wee nativity scene is beyond (even my own) belief. I mean they’ve surpassed themselves. 
“Has the opening of any other art exhibit – never mind a single small installation – ever garnered so much interest before in Israel or the West Bank, warranting headlines in numerous leading news organizations? None of the aforementioned media outlets which covered the opening of “Scar of Bethlehem” gave any coverage to the graffiti murals painted on Israeli bomb shelters by visiting international artists.” […] 
“By giving the small installation such disproportionate coverage, journalists have provided an unfortunate platform to propagate the falsehoods.
Moreover, the suggestion that the Israeli military is firing on Jesus evokes ancient antisemitic charges of deicide. The widely-accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism includes the following:
Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
Instead of exploring and exposing the antisemitic canard behind the installation, or choosing not to give the vitriolic message a platform, media outlets uniformly provided warm, approving coverage. 


The BBC sticks to its agenda, year in, year out. Surely they must know what’s going on. If they don’t, they must at least know there’s another side to the story. 


Who is ‘they’? I don’t know if it’s the on-the-ground personnel, from Jeremy Bowen and downwards and onwards through the ranks, or maybe it's in accord with a directive from on high. It’s relentless. Wherever it comes from, it plays a significant part in the current outbreak of overt racism. It all adds up.

Don't look at the comments!

Just before Craig and I can lay down our keyboards and say “Our work here is done!” I have to draw your attention to the thing poor Andrew Marr has written on the Spectator. 


In fact, I’m surprised Craig hasn’t mentioned it already because it’s been up since at least yesterday or was it the day before.. Remember this



 Of course you do!
But it seems that Andrew Marr has been traumatised by the outcry that erupted pretty soon after the marathon interruptathon hit the fan.

Who can blame him? Well, I may as well answer my own question. In fact, anyone/everyone who has a mind to can blame him, and accordingly, anyone has. Now poor Andrew has dug himself into a deeper hole than ever. He’s behaving like a Jeremy Corbyn. A limpet who won't let go despite a rejection on a scale that he and his cronies truly didn’t see coming (and can neither understand nor accept) who has just been smacked in the face by a wet Star of David symbol alongside the numbers “9 11” 

Just as Jeremy Corbyn refuses to believe he might bear some responsibility for the rise in antisemitic incidents, Andrew Marr fears he might be blamed for contributing to the public’s loathing of the BBC. Well, don't worry, Andrew, if you believe you’re innocent, that’s all that matters. Just don’t look at the comments! 

"They take us as fools. We are not"


Here's an interesting Twitter chat between veteran ITN newsreader Alastair Steward and Dame Helena Morrissey:
Alastair Stewart: "We do not tell you want to think. We show you how the world is and leave you to decide". A quote used to head-line a Giles Coren restaurant review in The Times magazine of 22/12/19.It also happens to sums-up pretty well everything I believe in about broadcast journalism.
Helena Morrissey: I’d prefer a quote saying “we show you how WE THINK the world is and leave you to decide”. Showing “us” what (you think) (not you Alastair!) the world is THE problem. It is exactly why those doing the showing us are losing. And will continue to fail.
Alastair Stewart: Interesting. The failures, in my book, are those who pretend to report facts, as they see them, then sprinkle them with their own partisan political observations. They are the 'losers' and they are 'losing' audiences to TV news.
Helena Morrissey: The key is “as they see them”. Because how they see is also a “sprinkling”. We all have biases & filters but too often media can’t imagine they have them too! They don’t realise they are not reporting facts. And “facts” are not always real or true. Accepting this is a good start!
Alastair Stewart: The ones I abhor are those who know, all too well, they have their biases and think they can camouflage them as 'reportage', with the addition of just a little 'quelque chose' of their own spin. They take us as fools. We are not.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Emily speaks (again)


The Observer reports that Emily Maitlis is blaming "the populist playbook" for "exploiting the frenetic news cycle" over the past four years. She says:
It starts with denigrating experts so people don’t trust facts, then it destabilises institutions, then it works to get its message out in the media, so that’s what people cling to. And what can you do about any of that but know you are constantly pushing against that narrative?
So that's the narrative she's pushing, is it?

She'll also doubtless delight Lord Hall by burying her airhead in the sand (or in a peroxide-filled sink) over recent evidence that the public is losing trust in the BBC:
I’m not sure I buy the argument that the public is more mistrustful – the debate will always garner that kind of traction because anything the BBC does is always in the spotlight. So often people read conspiracy into a thing when it’s really a confluence of cock-ups and the wrong button being pressed at the wrong time, or the guest you wanted gets into the wrong taxi and doesn’t show up.

With a little help from his friends


I see that Roger Harrabin has taken to Twitter to retweet other people's criticism of Matt Ridley and Charles Moore in the wake of yesterday's Today programme. I count nine such posts from Roger (so far). One is from the head of the Green Alliance UK.

A Christmas BBC tradition continues


I meant to point this out yesterday, but life intervened - and, anyway, BBC Watch in on the case

Yes, yesterday's From Our Own Correspondent featured a little bit of festive Israel-bashing and a complementary article has appeared on the BBC News website too.

BBC Watch has been forensic about it. I'll confine myself to summing it up like this: There are shepherds abiding in the fields and a pregnant Mary-like villager, and they're unhappy, and it's all (Herod's) Israel's fault.

This is nothing new. Here's me in 2015:
Some Christmas traditions - decking the halls with boughs of holly; singing old carols; eating, drinking and being merry; complaining that Christmas has become too commercialised; watching The Queen and Morecambe and Wise, etc - have been around for many a long year now. Others are more recent, such as BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell's pre-Christmas piece from Bethlehem where she uses the Christmas story to paint Israel as the modern-day Herod.
And here's me in 2017:
One of the BBC's hallowed Christmas Eve traditions is their now yearly piece from Bethlehem about how hard-done-by those poor Palestinian shepherds abiding in the fields (or in concrete buildings) are thanks to those horrible Herod-like Israelis.
The BBC chap responsible year is one Jeremy Bristow. In recent years, as noted above, it's largely been Yolande Knell's job to do the 'Shepherds abiding/Israel's to blame' story, but she's away on maternity leave thus Christmas (h/t Hadar at BBC Watch). So that's why Barbara Plett Usher did the Bethlehem gig this year

Matt Ridley v Nick Robinson ('Today', 28 December - Transcript)


(With gratitude here and here for making finishing this transcription so much quicker)


Nick Robinson: Climate change should not be presented as an emergency and, indeed, it - like all alarmist claims - should be open to debate. That's the view of our guest editor today, Charles Moore, the Telegraph columnist and biographer of Margaret Thatcher. He sits on the board of trustees of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which describes itself as, quotes, "open-minded on the contested science of global warming". One of those who've written for the Foundation is the science writer and Conservative peer Matt Ridley. Lord Ridley joins us in the studio. Good morning to you.
Matt Ridley: Good to you.
Nick Robinson: The risks you've argued in the past have been greatly exaggerated but, I imagine, the simple question for many people is 'why listen to you rather than the climate change global, international, scientific consensus?
Matt Ridley: Well, the consensus says that there's going to be a range of outcomes, anything from 1 to 4 degrees. 1 is harmless. 4 is very harmful. So, actually, the consensus says there's going to be a range. Now the problem is the BBC, for example, and a lot of other media have decided to let themselves be bullied by climate activists into dividing this into goodies who believe in climate change and baddies who don't, which is actually very inaccurate because of all these people at the Lukewarmer end of the spectrum where I sit, and where proper climate scientist, like Judith Curry, also sit...
Nick Robinson: (interrupting) To be clear though that one and half degrees is described by governments, not by climate change activists. by governments, including the UK Conservative government. as very serious for the globe. So that's not a question of bullying, it's international policy.
Matt Ridley: Well, that's a policy question. But at the other end of the spectrum you've got people who are effectively doomsday cultists now who say that we're gonna have 6 billion people dead in a few short decades. That's Roger Hallam of Extinction Rebellion. Or Kevin Anderson, the scientist on whom Greta Thunberg, your next guest editor, heavily relies, and he says we are going to see 4 degrees by 2050. No responsible scientist agrees with that and yet those people are given a hearing on the BBC whereas the Lukewarmers are denied a place on the BBC. People like me are not allowed on...
Nick Robinson(interrupting) 'Lukewarmers' in your description of yourself.
Matt Ridley:  Exactly. We're not allowed on the BBC... 
Nick Robinson(interrupting) Well, here you are, being allowed on the BBC!
Matt Ridley: But only because Charles Moore is the guest editor....
Nick Robinson(interrupting) Well, not only because Charles Moore. In fact...because you've been on the programme before. In fact, I know I've interviewed you before. Just to focus, though, on the scientific debate, one and a half degrees - not 4 - is the international consensus for very serious global harm...
Matt Ridley(interrupting) No, no, that's not true, Nick.
Nick Robinson: ... adopted, forgive me, just finish finish the thought, and therefore why shouldn't that be taken seriously, on what is often referred to as the Precautionary Principle? We can't be certain, it could be very bad, so we act, with care.
Matt Ridley: Well, one of the reasons for being careful about not overreacting to climate change - and I'm not saying we shouldn't...we should do nothing, I'm saying we should do things...but I think we should be careful not to overreact and not to shut down civilisation. One of the reasons for that is because some of the measures we're taking are doing real harm already. We're denying fossil fuels to Africa, so as a result they're burning wood to feed themselves. That's killing their children. It's also destroying forests. And another example is the diesel scandal, which came directly out of climate change policy - and I know you've got Sir David King on later, and he was Chief Scientific Advisor at the time, when they pushed for switching to diesel because it had lower carbon dioxide emissions, even though it had other huge air pollution problems.
Nick Robinson: Now, I know the focus of your argument is largely about policies that you think are counter-productive at best and maybe positively bad at worst...isn't your thinking, though, underlain by the fact that you're a Conservative, like many of the people on this Foundation, you're a free-marketer, and your real fear is that socialists have grabbed hold of the green agenda and they are managing to get support for things that you are fundamentally opposed to, on a new basis? That's your worry, that's your..
Matt Ridley: (interrupting) That's not true about the Foundation. The Chairman is Lord Donoughue. He's a Labour peer. So this...there are LibDems on the Foundation, there are bishops on the Foundation, this is not a Conservative thing. I think - quite the reverse, actually, that most of the people who are worried about what we're doing in the name of climate change are worried about the effect it's having on poor people. It's costing nearly 9 or 10 billion pounds a year to the British consumer and most of that is going from poor people to rich people. Conservatives love this stuff, because they get to build wind farms.
Nick Robinson(interrupting) I say Conservatives, of course, because there's you, there's Charles Moore, there's Nigel Lawson, who are prominent, in terms of having a voice on this subject. Just briefly, if you would, you say you're concerned about hitting the poor, and you say you do want to do something. Briefly - we'll have you back and then you can tell us more - what "something" would you do?
Matt Ridley: Well, first of all, open up the debate more. And I think it's a problem that the BBC and people like Roger Harrabin, your Environment Editor, talks much more closely and takes his instructions from the environment lobbies...
Nick Robinson(interrupting) He doesn't take his instructions from anybody. I know Roger Harrabin. He's a journalist. You're a journalist, he's a journalist, he reports what he thinks is true.
Matt Ridley: Well, his Twitter account very strongly reflects that.
Nick RobinsonFine, you disagree with it. Doesn't mean he takes instructions.
Matt Ridley: But the other thing is that a lot of what the BBC and other media tell us to do, like stopping eating meat, wouldn't make a blind bit of difference...
Nick Robinson (interrupting) He's never told anybody to stop eating meat, Matt Ridley, I mean this is preposterous!
Matt Ridley: No, it's not preposterous...
Nick Robinson: We report people who say that you shouldn't eat meat and we interview people who say you should. We're not telling people to do anything!
Matt Ridley: What we need is an insurance policy against this problem, and we shouldn't pay more in a premium than the risk we're running.
Nick Robinson: A more open debate, that's what we've had, and thank you for helping us have it. Matt Ridley, Lord Ridley, thank you for coming on.

Half a ton of carbon dioxide emissions per member of the 'Today' team which flew to see Greta


photo op

The Sunday Times tells us that Mishal Husain and a team from Today went to Sweden to interview Greta Thunberg. Naturally, they flew there - and not by magic carpet or low-cost reindeer.

Today editor Sarah Sands told the paper:
We did discuss that among ourselves. It felt awkward but we did not have the time for trains or boats. Greta is not actually judgmental towards individuals, accepting that other people will not all conform to her high standards and asking only for people to do what they can. Change has to be collective.
The Sunday Times also tells us that, as part of her guest editorship, Greta had a conversation with one of her heroes - Sir David Attenborough. This was done via her laptop in Sweden and a studio in Broadcasting House. 

So the question arises: Why didn't Mishal Husain & Co. do the same? What was the actual need to fly out there? Is it just because Today wanted a photo op with the famous Greta? 

What's in a name?


Talking of identity (were we?), The Sunday Times, covering that interview with Charles Moore's transgender nephew Felix, failed to identify Justin Webb, who actually conducted the interview:
After being read the quote by Nick Robinson, the Today presenter, Felix Moore, an actor who has appeared in BBC Radio 3’s Olivier award-winning drama Rotterdam about gender identity, paused for a few seconds.
Amusingly (is it?), that Sunday Times piece has a two-woman byline - "Alice Hutton and Lucy Marley" - so that's two journalists who can't tell their Justin Webb from their Nick Robinson. 

(Unless, of course, Justin Webb now self-identifies as 'Nick Robinson' - which would be very confusing for all concerned).

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Deck Lord Hall with Boughs of Holly



Merry Christmas to you all!

Charles Moore v Nick Robinson ('Today', 28 December: Transcript)


Nick Robinson: Now, your focus of this guest editorship, in many ways, seems to have been things you think the BBC either doesn't cover properly or doesn't cover at all because of what you described earlier in a conversation of the BBC acting as a sort of nationaliser of the culture?
Charles Moore: Yes. When I came into the building this morning, you have a statue of George Orwell just outside, and he speaks about the importance of the liberty to tell people what they don't want to hear, and I feel that the BBC doesn't want to hear a lot of things which the wider population keeps telling them. And I feel that, in particular, the whole Brexit story is a test which the BBC has utterly failed and with, I think, permanent damage to its reputation, and I don't think it deserves to stand as it did before.
Nick Robinson: Isn't part of your objection, in part, not so much to the British Broadcasting Corporation but to Britain and the way Britain has changed? You're a climate change sceptic. You've talked about it on the programme. You're anti-women priests. You're pro-hunting. You have a series of views which are not the conventional wisdom of the day, and it upsets you that the country has changed in ways you don't like.
Charles Moore: Well, I think the country has changed in a way that I do like, which is that it's supported Brexit and this was...
Nick Robinson: (interrupting) That's one example. I gave you a whole series of others.
Charles Moore: Well, that's a very overwhelming example because it's a popular decision. It's the biggest vote for anything in our history, and the BBC refused to cover that fairly and tried to disparage it and to prevent the execution of Brexit, so...
Nick Robinson: (interrupting) During the referendum many Leavers praised the coverage. They were critical afterwards. But, you know, they're were people on both sides. But just engage with my point, if you will, which is that you've made your point on Brexit but, it seems to me, in a series of areas you're highlighting and represent your views, you objection isn't to the BBC at all. You just don't like the fact that the Church of England's embraced women priests, hunting has been banned by law and your own party isn't going to change the law it says, and that you're a climate change sceptic even though you're own party is in favour of climate change policy.
Charles Moore: I don't really know who you're bringing up women priests - a subject which closed in the Church of England 25 years ago, but the...No, what I am objecting to is preaching. The BBC has decided to be a secular church. And it preachers, and it tells us what we ought to think about things. So it tells us we shouldn't support Brexit and we should accept...
Nick Robinson: (interrupting) No, no, no, no...
Charles Moore: Please let me answer the question...and we should accept climate change alarmism, and we have all to kowtow to the doctrines of diversity. And this is not right...that the BBC... All these issues should be aired, of course. Of course, they're very important, but they should not be preached. The difficulty I've had trying to get all this stuff about climate change onto this programme, even though I'm the guest editor, is very, very marked - obstacles coming every single time because of rulings and bureaucracy and the fact that Roger Harrabin, the environment analyst, is so biased...
Nick Robinson: (interrupting) Just to be clear, that's because of Ofcom regulations and the law. which applies to Sky and ITV News.
Charles Moore: No, it's not. It's because of the BBC's interpretation of, I think, a foolish ruling...
Nick Robinson: (interrupting)  Let me raise a last point with you. We're running out of time, and I want to give you the chance to address it if you would. You talk about that. Isn't the danger of what you advocate though is that we all end up listening to news that reflects our politics and reflect our prejudice? In other words, the price of what you want may be too high?
Charles Moore: Well, I think that the BBC News coverage does reflect the politics and prejudices of the people who run it, and this is wrong. And this is what I'm objecting to.
Nick Robinson: But do you want a news, like in the United States, where, as it were, most Republican activist watch Fox News, most liberal people watch MSNB or CNN? Do you want a divided country in terms of its news consumption? Isn't that what you'll get?
Charles Moore: This is a divided country in terms of our news consumption because the BBC has an artificial privilege which it abuses to put forward particular views.

Charles Moore "guest edits" 'Today'


Going back to a post from 23 November, here are our comments reacting to the news that Charles Moore was going to be one of the five guest editors on Today this Christmas alongside Lady Hale,  Greta Thunberg, George the Poet and Grayson Perry:
Anonymous: I also thought it was a joke when I read it on Guido. I am forced to think the BBC is deliberately taking the mickey and has done this just to hear all the complaints and generally wind up the "normal people" out here. Charles Moore should say "thanks, but no thanks" and not dignify this charade with his presence. 
Craig: To be cynical, I did wonder myself if choosing Charles Moore - a regular critic of BBC bias - was the cherry on the icing on the cake of a deliberate BBC act of provocation, and that he'd do himself and his cause no favours by playing along with them. However flattering he might find the invitation, it would do him huge credit to turn it down. 
Monkey Brains: I agree entirely that Moore should have refused this dubious "honour". I've read plenty of stuff from him to suggest that he knows how the BBC work...why didn't he realise he was being set up? Just because you're a "guest editor" doesn't mean you get to choose to select the narrative. Thunberg's BS will go unchallenged but the presenters will do everything in their power to undermine whatever it is Moore is trying to get across.
Yes, we saw it coming. 

Charles Moore tried his best to dodge the trap today and carry the fight to the BBC: He made the programme discuss BBC bias and the BBC licence fee. He made them interview someone from the Global Warming Policy Foundation and Matt Ridley (in anticipation of Greta Thunberg on Monday). He made them talk about whether judges are too involved in political decisions with Lord Howard (in response to Lady Hale). He asked them to interview a transgender relative of his own (in reflection of the BBC's obsession with the subject). He even got them to give today's Thought For The Day spot to a conservative Catholic bishop (Philip Egan) - something that may be unprecedented.

But, as MB said, though "guest editor", the BBC remained in control throughout, and Nick Robinson in particular seemed to be doing everything in his power to undermine whatever it was that Charles Moore was trying to get across.

A few points:

(1) Charles Moore got the two-hour Saturday edition  (one of the two short ones). Lady Hale and Greta are getting three hours.
(2) Unlike Grayson Perry on Boxing Day and Lady Hale yesterday, who were heard from several times throughout  the programme, getting involved in several interviews and features, Charles Moore made only two short appearances. 
(3) His first appearance, where the BBC was discussed, wasn't a one-on-one interview but a joint interview with a BBC defender conducted by Justin Webb.
(4) The man from the GWPF was given a tough time and Nick Robinson treated him as if he were holding him at a considerable distance with tongs. 
(5) The discussion of transgenderism and autism with his relative Felix Moore became very uncomfortable when Justin quoted something Charles had previously said critical of aspects of transgenderism and invited Felix to respond, and an emotional-sounding Felix said it was"an appalling thing to say" - putting Charles Moore 'in the dock'. (He didn't get a chance to defend himself afterwards.)
(6) Nick Robinson's Lord Ridley interview was short and feisty. There were interruptions galore, and it turned into something of a scrap.
(7) Justin Webb's interview with Professor David King was decent but noticeably gentler. 
(8) The closing five-minute interview with Charles Moore began with a clip of Mrs Thatcher being pro-EEC, and then the interruptions and hostile questions from Nick Robinson flowed. The guest editor was 'in the dock' again. It was another scrap.
(9) Nick Robinson, often a target for Charles Moore's criticisms of the BBC, became hyperactive when any criticism of the BBC was made. Why not let critics of the BBC say what they want to say while pushing back gently and then let the audience judge, Nick, instead of rampaging around like an aggrieved rhinoceros with a hosepipe?

It wasn't like that with Grayson Perry or Lady Hale, and I'm betting it won't be like that with Greta tomorrow on George the Poet on New Year's Eve.

Now, however, the BBC can say: Well, we invited ex-Telegraph editor Charles Moore on. We aired his criticism of the BBC. We talked to the GWPF and Matt Ridley. We allowed criticism of the Supreme Court judges.....

....and the BBC's left-wing/pro-EU critics will moan and moan about the BBC letting "far-right" Charles Moore "guest edit" the programme....

....and Lord Hall can then say that this proves that the BBC is getting it about right. 

Omnipresence


Ed Potton in The Times records "the next stage in the anointing of Saint Stormzy": Yes,, Stormzy will be playing Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny, "that staple of Middle England’s New Year’s Eve". As Ed says, Stormzy's "stock is so high that he’ll probably be rapping the Big Ben bongs".

Very BBC!


Thursday, 26 December 2019

Sue and Craig's Festive Christmas End of 2019 Quiz


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The BBC's Mark Easton has a quiz prepared, and was tweeting about it yesterday:
When you emerge on Thursday, please check out my Boxing Day Family Puzzler - an antidote to festive quizzes. No-one is expected to know any of the answers. Points for the least wrong. Available on the BBC News website with a picture of me in a Christmas hat.
He always does a quiz at this time of year, and I admire him for that. I myself love preparing quizzes, so Sue and myself have been preparing one for you too - and, going one better than Mark, you won't have to wait till Boxing Day.

So, today, on Christmas Day (when we've timed it to pop up), if everything you're seeing on TV is over-familiar and over-predictable and you've eaten too much and are fed up of board games and people texting you and are starting to get bored, then why not try this fun-filled, festive, full-length flibbertigibbet of a quiz instead?

The answers will be posted below. (No cheating!)

And, again, Merry Christmas!


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Sue and Craig's Festive Christmas End of 2019 Quiz

Questions

January 2019

1. Which BBC football programme presenter was shamed into deleting a tweet (without admitting as much) after embarrassingly falling for a 'scaremongering' hoax about post-Brexit medicine shortages?

2. Which BBC programme appointed as its economics editor someone who'd previously, whilst in a similar position at The Independent, attacked Brexiteers as “xenophobes” and called politicians like Michael Gove and Jacob Rees-Mogg “intellectual and moral pygmies”?

3. Which BBC Breakfast presenter, talking to an EU-sympathetic think-tanker, opined "I don't understand, or lots of people don't understand, why we spend so much time talking about Nigel Farage"?

4. Which Today presenter was dispatched to Gaza, with predictable results?

5. Who was new Question Time host Fiona Bruce accused by Corbynistas of joking about in the pre-programme audience warm-up, especially over her sexual relationship with Jeremy Corbyn?

February 2019

6. Which BBC Panorama reporter was recorded (via undercover filming) saying "Here I am on expenses in the boozer, with a dog and a fire...I think we should have one more bottle of wine. F*ck it. No expense spared! Two brandies, two lemoncellos. Urm. this is Creme de Cassis. Er, urm, the Kir royale. Even better is another version which is, urm, er, blackberry. Blackberrent...liqueur and Champagne. Kir royale. How you got any flaming Sambuca? And then two Kir royale. And then the bill"?

7. Which BBC flagship news programme had to apologise to Richard Tice, formerly of Leave.EU, for "unintentionally" suggesting he was subject to an Electoral Commission investigation when he wasn't?

8. The team behind a long-running BBC Radio 4 programme was 'given impartiality training' in the wake of one of its main presenters "showing bias against US Supreme Court judge Brett Kavanaugh". Which presenter? And which programme?

March 2019

9. Which BBC documentary presenter was accused of being a "white saviour" by David Lammy MP?

10. Which controversial item of clothing was chosen and shown in a positive light as part of the BBC's "Wardrobe of Rebellion" feature for International Women's Day?

11. On From Our Own Correspondent, which European leader did Stephen Sackur call 'vain' and 'shameless' and accuse of 'dog-whistling' over George Soros?

12. Parliament's Public Accounts Committee accused the BBC of "complacency" after a £87 million project to rebuild the set of which BBC TV programme ran £27 million over budget and five years behind schedule?

13. Which senior BBC figure said we should stop using the phrase 'mainstream media' because it's "a term of abuse" and "an assault on freedom of expression"?

14. After seven months of going through the BBC's complaints process, a viewer's complaint that a senior BBC reporter’s statement “210 million containers a year will be potentially added to those requiring customs checks” was misleading was upheld. The senior BBC reporter was reminded to be more "careful" with statistics. Which senior BBC reporter?

15. The BBC agreed to pay substantial libel damages to the president of which country after wrongly claiming he had been involved in making a secret $400,000 payment to Donald Trump’s lawyer in return for access to the US president?

April 2019

16. Which "literally a communist" 'journalist' made her first but far from final appearance on Question Time?

17. Which BBC fact-checker got his figures wrong over US food safety while berating the US ambassador for doing the same on the Today programme, forcing a BBC retraction?

18. Which BBC Breakfast presenter provoked Fran Unsworth into another plea for BBC journalists to stop sounding off in non-impartial ways on Twitter after he objected to an audience member on Question Time being allowed to ask, "Is it morally right that five-year-old children learn about LGBT issues in school"?

19. Which 'Maze-guarding' former BBC foreign correspondent/newsreader accused he BBC of excluding working-class talent in favour of "gilded youth", and said that the BBC is dominated by "a metropolitan middle class" and that it has a "world view" that's "bound to reflect the collective set of assumptions of those who work for it"?

20. Which Radio 4 journalist/presenter declared that his holiday reading would be Fully Automated Luxury Communism by Corbynista Aaron Bastani?

May 2019

21. From John Simpson to John Sweeney, from Danny Shaw to Quentin Somerville and Emily Maitlis, which then minister and future Conservative leadership contender received accolades galore from admiring BBC journalists? 

22. Who was sacked by the BBC after posting an image on Twitter of a couple holding hands with a chimpanzee dressed in clothes, adding the caption: "Royal Baby leaves hospital"?

23. Which party leader got dropped at the last minute from Have I Got News For You because of the start of the European election campaign, provoking fury from #FBPE types on Twitter?

24. After the appointment of a working-class Yorkshire man, Simon Armitage, to the post of Poet Laureate, which BBC journalist asked him, "Did it cross your mind, even for a moment, when you were offered the post to say, 'you know, actually, I don't think this is right at this stage for a white male. Maybe someone from a different point of view, a different background, would be better for this role at this moment?"

25. During an interview, who did Andrew Marr insist had never said 'No deal is better than a bad deal' before June 2016 ("I've gone back, and if you said it, you said it away from the cameras and the microphones", "Because I can't find examples of you saying this...", "We can't find it"), despite it being very easy to find footage of that politician saying exactly that in front of cameras and microphones?

June 2019

26. Who had to delete a tweet that described Donald Trump as "an embarrassment who lacks any kind of dignity and has interfered outrageously in our national affairs"?

27. Which TV programme had a segment on UK land ownership and tax avoidance which featured campaigners from Friends of the Earth and the Tax Justice Network and ended with the BBC reporter saying "It's clearly very important that the countryside doesn't simply become a tax haven for the super rich"?

28. During her introduction, which BBC Two presenter described Donald Trump as an "angry toddler"?

29, Who did Paul Danahar, BBC News' Americas Bureau chief, get into a Twitter spat with after tweeting "unless you have 30 mins to kill you can skip this one" about the other man's exclusive interview with Donald Trump?

30. Who got into trouble after making a joke about throwing battery acid over politicians she didn't like?

July 2019

31. Which host of the BBC's Dateline London proved herself to be no Gavin Esler by telling her guests "We don't have a firm Brexiteer on this panel today, so I'm not going to let you make any Remoaning speeches"?

32. Which BBC reporter said of Tommy Robinson, “He became obsessed with his belief that Muslims were predisposed to violence because of the Koran. It was his ticket to a new way of making money”?

33. Which six-letter word did the BBC's Nick Bryant repeatedly use to describe Donald Trump's tweets about the four left-wing US congresswoman of colour?

August 2019

34. Which Radio 4 presenter posed this question: "Key question: if we (in the media aspiring to be neutral) call Marine Le Pen "far right", should we not call President Trump the same?"

35. Who is the BBC's "gender and identity correspondent", responsible for for producing what Sue called "a nasty little propaganda film" about Israel.

September 2019

36. Of which Labour MP and former Mastermind contestant was Andrew Neil speaking when he tweeted that "he has an agenda that doesn’t involve facts. Quite Trumpian really"?.

37. Which woman who endorsed the spray painting of anti-Israel slogans on the remaining Warsaw Ghetto wall was invited to appear as an expert in the BBC Two series The Rise of the Nazis, to the horror of many?

38. Who is the President of the European Broadcasting Union?

39. A film by BBC Teach told teachers in charge of pupils aged 9-12 to teach that there are how many gender identities?

40. Speaking at an event just after new PM Boris Johnson, which BBC Breakfast presenter quipped " I am a girly swat and I'm proud of it... Let's see who's in the job the longest!"? (She left her job at the BBC for Channel 4 a month later, while Boris won the election in December!).

41. Who was the subject of the BBC Two documentary Conspiracy Files: The Billionaire Global Mastermind?, a fierce defence of its subject?

42. Which veteran BBC reporter declared on his podcast, "I find myself, against my will really but, thinking and arguing in favour of the old ways where an elite is responsible for putting out the news"?

43. Who, immediately after retiring from the BBC, revealed that the expressions on BBC bosses' faces on the morning after the EU referendum "were as grim as the look on the face of a football supporter when his team’s star player misses the penalty that would have won them the cup...Leave had won — and this was not what the BBC had expected. Nor what it wanted"?

44. What job at the BBC does Ben Hunte hold? And who criticised him for saying that he would be a "mouthpiece" for a certain section of society?

45. The BBC's Executive Complaints Unit ruled against which presenter for "the persistent and personal nature of the criticism" during her interview with Rod Liddle?

46. During a phone-in which BBC presenter said "Yawn" to a member of the public when they raised the subject of BBC bias?

47. Which Radio 4 presenter described Boris's prorogation of Parliament as a "wheeze", a "dodge" and a "trick"?

48. Who personally intervened to overturn a BBC ruling against Naga Munchetty for expressing a critical opinion about Donald Trump?

October 2019

49. Who left the BBC after 17 years, later saying that the BBC's failure to show his Tommy Robinson film led him to seek psychiatric help?

50. Who stopped doing Radio 4's Thought for the Day in protest at the BBC stopping one of his scripts commemorating an executed Sikh guru who had opposed the forced conversion of Hindus to Islam under India's Mughal emperors “because it might offend Muslims”?

51. The BBC ruled against which BBC presenter for misspeaking Jeremy Hunt's surname on Radio 5 Live and not apologising promptly enough?

52. Which ardent Remainer has been appointed the BBC's first Director of Creative Diversity?

53. Which Radio 4 presenter put the following question to Rory Stewart: "You mention you're proud of the diversity of the mayoral race in London. You are a white guy, an old Etonian. It's not very 2020, is it really, to be challenging a black man who is the Conservative candidate and the Muslim mayor?"?

54. Which Radio 4 presenter gave John Humphrys "a hard time" for reading the Daily Mail, according to John Humphrys?

55. Who complained to the BBC when they described him as a "Labour activist" in a report, describing it as "a grotesque level of bias"?

56. Who did Andrew Marr tell off, live on air, for laughing - even though she wasn't laughing?

57. Who did Nick Robinson say shouldn't be a presenter on LBC, saying his two-hour show there is a "great danger"?

58. Of whose use of Facebook to speak directly to voters did Nick Robinson say "And they say that’s democracy. It ain’t democracy. It is a form of propaganda used by dictators down the ages"?

59. A few days before Boris Johnson negotiated a new withdrawal deal with the EU, which BBC editor proclaimed that was "not going to happen", doubling down on her prediction the week before that "the chances of getting a deal now, between now and the EU leader's summit is zero, let's be honest"?

60. Who told his listeners, "Boris Johnson got a deal that many of us thought was impossible. The EU did move, contrary to its own assertions, to those of many experts and to the assumptions of many of us in the media"?

61. Who took the BBC to court because she gets paid around £2,500 less per edition than Jeremy Vine for doing what she considers equivalent programmes?

November 2019

62. Which BBC Breakfast presenter mishandled an interview with Harvey Proctor forcing him to have to fight for an apology, which he eventually won?

63. Who saved the day for the BBC when the Berlin Wall came down, at least according to John Simpson in his documentary The Fall of the Berlin Wall with John Simpson?

64. Which former Labour Party activist turned Sky reporter was announced as Newsnight's new policy editor?

65. What do Greta Thunberg, Lady Hale, Grayson Perry, George the Poet and Charles Moore have in common?

66. Who told Peter Oborne that he sounded "crackers" after he compared the BBC to "state TV in Soviet Russia"?

67. The BBC asked which political party to remove 'BBC content' from their election adverts?

68. Which BBC interviewer wrote "to go for ‘car crash’ moments would be folly and a disgrace. It’s a temptation (just wallow in the Twitter applause) which must be resisted. If I’ve fallen into it, I hereby apologise"?

69. During the election footage emerged of which party leader telling Iranian TV that pressure from Israel was responsible for the BBC having "a bias" in favour of saying that Israel is a democracy and has a right to exist?

December 2019

70. According to this blog, how many times did Andrew Marr interrupt Boris Johnson during that interview? (You're allowed ten out either way!)

71. Who tweeted the following: "Enjoyed Andrew Marr's combative interview with Boris Johnson, but if BJ doesn’t now commit to a grilling from Andrew Neil, he’ll be vulnerable to Thatcher’s old accusation of being ‘frit’"?

72. Which BBC comedian got booed and a bread roll thrown at him while performing his Radio 4 humour in front of a non-BBC audience?

73. Who ended his interview programme by saying, "But the Prime Minister of our nation will at times have to stand up to President Trump, President Putin, President Xi of China, so it was surely not expecting too much that he spent half an hour standing up to me"? And did the Prime Minister spend half an hour with him as a result?

74. Who got into trouble for 'liking' a video bearing the GMB logo which ended with an attack on the Tories over the NHS but excused himself by saying he'd not watched it to the end before adding that he'd never apologise for supporting the NHS?

75. During an interview, Andrew Marr told Brandon Lewis MP that he is Security Minister, Justice Minister and Conservative Party Chairman. How many of those three positions does Mr Lewis actually hold?

76. Towards the end of the election who said, "How long can you justify a system whereby everybody who has a TV has to pay to fund a particular set of TV and radio channels, that is the question"?

77. Which senior BBC reporter was accused of breaking electoral law (something the BBC denies) by passing on 'hints' from people on both sides that postal votes were "looking grim for Labour in lots of parts of the country" and accused of bias and inaccuracy for tweeting fake news about a Conservative advisor being punched?

78. During election night, who tweeted "Another battle verdict: social media - overwhelmingly livelier and funnier on the pro Labour side - thumped in terms of influence by dull, dreary, pro-establishment old media...Who’d ‘a thunk it?"?

79. During election night, which Newsnight stalwart tweeted, "Time for soul searching in political parties - but also for big media. Has quest for 'gotcha' moments become meaningless? Did the boy in Leeds hospital or BoJo blanking Andrew Neil move the dial in any way?" before veering back and adding, "Voters are in their own silos now, social media battleground key"?

80. Who, late on election night, got a real bee in his bonnet over Boris Johnson talking of "the people's government", saying, " We don't like 'the people's' used in that context, in this country. It's a bit French or even possibly Russian. 'The people's' - it's slightly odd...We have a parliamentary democracy and the people are represented by all sorts of other people", then demanding, "Huw, could we just dwell a little bit more on that phrase "the people's government?" and, after being allowed to do so, ending, "It rings slightly oddly in my ears"?

81. Which senior BBC reporter's main initial response to the election result was to retweet the Electoral Reform Society?

82. Which famous funny man [disputed] said of the BBC, "They would rather have a dog do Doctor Who than a black person”?

83. Which BBC flagship programme is Downing Street reported to be avoiding, post-election, over concerns about bias?

84. Newsnight's Kirsty Wark, recalling "shared moments" of the past decade, named which controversial rap singer, who the BBC then chose to crown their Christmas Day programming with?

85. Which senior BBC figure ended the year on a note of supreme BBC complacency by writing, "Around 27m people in the UK came to the BBC website to find out about the election results. It was a reminder of the trust people place in the BBC. Yes of course we faced some criticism for our election coverage. That is to be expected as the national broadcaster. Where we can and need to improve we will. But the fact criticism came from all sides of the political divide shows to me that we were doing our job without fear or favour"?

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Answers 

1. Gary Lineker
2. Newsnight (Ben Chu)
3. Naga Munchetty
4. Mishal Husain
5. Diane Abbott
6. John Sweeney
7. Newsnight
8. Jane Garvey, Woman'Hour
9. Stacey Dooley
10. The niqab
11. Viktor Orban
12. Eastenders
13. Lord Tony Hall
14. Mark Easton
15. Ukraine
16. Ash Sarkar
17. Chris Morris
18. Ben Thompson
19. Michael Buerk
20. Mark Mardell
21. Rory Stewart
22. Danny Baker
23. Change UK/TIG's Heidi Allen
24. Will Gompertz
25. Nigel Farage
26. John Simpson
27. Countryfile
28. Emily Maitlis
29. Piers Morgan
30. Jo Brand
31. Carrie Gracie
32. Dominic Casciani
33. racist
34. Evan Davis
35. Megha Mohan
36. David Lammy
37. Ash Sarkar
38. Lord Tony Hall
39. 100, "if not more".
40. Steph McGovern
41. George Soros
42. John Simpson
43. John Humphrys
44. LGBT correspondent. John Humphrys
45. Emily Maitlis
46. Emma Barnett
47. Evan Davis
48. Lord Tony Hall
49. John Sweeney
50. Lord Indarjit Singh
51. Nicky Campbell
52. June Sarpong
53. Justin Webb
54. Sarah Montague
55. Owen Jones
56. Priti Patel
57. Nigel Farage
58. Boris Johnson
59. Katya Adler
60. Evan Davis
61. Samira Ahmed
62. Naga Munchetty
63. John Simpson
64. Lewis Goodall
65. Guest editors on 'Today' this Christmas
66. Huw Edwards
67. The Conservative Party
68. Andrew Marr
69. Jeremy Corbyn
70. 91
71. John Simpson
72. Nish Kumar
73. Andrew Neil. No.
74. Huw Edwards
75. One (Security Minister only)
76. Boris Johnson
77. Laura Kuenssberg
78. Andrew Marr
79. Mark Urban
80. Andrew Marr
81. Mark Easton
82. Sir Lenny Henry
83. Today
84. Stormzy
85. Sir Tony Hall

"Christmas Day on BBC One brought the nation together"


BBC folk are absolutely cock-a-hoop today that the Gavin & Stacey Christmas special last night got 11.48m viewers, peaking at 12.3m - the biggest Christmas Day audience for a very long time, they say. 

They are so cock-a-hoop about it that it's been the BBC News website's second story tonight - i.e. the second most important news story in the world.

(Really, BBC?)

And the BBC report about it includes an 'Analysis' by BBC entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba, who says "[Gavin and Stacey] and the BBC will be thrilled".

(Breaking news Lizo from the BBC, they already are!)

I don't think anyone could fairly accuse the BBC of ever hiding their successes under a bushel these days.

The Daily Telegraph quotes the BBC's Director of Content Charlotte Moore saying: 
Christmas Day on BBC One brought the nation together and entertained them in their millions, with the much-anticipated return of Gavin And Stacey taking the top spot in 2019, and making it the biggest in a decade. We delivered something for everyone with the seven most-popular programmes that cap off an incredible year for BBC One celebrating British talent and creativity.
Reality Check: 11.48m/12.3m is less than one-fifth of the present UK population (67.53m by the latest UN estimates), so Charlotte is exaggerating by claiming that "BBC One brought the nation together". Well over four-fifths of the population didn't share the BBC moment.

And it's well below the 30.15m who watched Eastenders in 1986 or the 26.65m who watched Hilda Ogden leave Coronation Street a year later.

Still, it's a tidy figure for Gavin & Stacey, and even I watched it and rather enjoyed it.

Twitter, however, was characteristically full of 'woke' types raging about how their lives were being ruined by  Nessa and Bryn singing A Fairy Tale of New York and including the line "you cheap lousy faggot", and lefties rode on that and claimed it was symptomatic of Boris's Britain - and the BBC's 'support' for Boris's Britain.

A smattering of isolated social conservatives also accused the programme of normalising cannabis use (which it probably did).

So that's all I've got to say on that...

...except to confess that I did something I've never done before last night: I watched the Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special on BBC One too.

Admittedly, I approached it with a mask and surgical gloves and, just to be on the safe side, garlic and a stake. All I know about it, from everything I've ever read about it on Twitter or on online newspaper/magazine sites, is that it's utter garbage and insulting to the intelligence and inexplicably popular. Nobody on my social media feeds can see why the BBC persists with it, except to appeal to idiots...

...except  that quite a few of my friends in 'the real world', who are far from being idiots, really, really, like it, love it even. It makes them laugh.

And they are far from alone. By present BBC standards, its ratings are high.

You're expecting a review? Well, go on then:

It's not something I'll be watching again, but I did laugh a few times and I can see why people might like it. It's an Are You Being Served?-style, old-fashioned comedy, overlaid with copious use of the f-word and a lack of plot coherence.

I did probably lose 13 IQ points while watching it, but I'll get over that.

In fact, I might now buy a box set of Mrs Brown's Boys in order to lower my IQ to such an extent that I might put in for Mastermind in the hope of getting an even lower score than David Lammy.

I could even make Mrs Brown's Boys my specialist subject and score no points.

I'd use the f-word in every answer and make John Humphrys faint...

...which would make a great anecdote for his second autobiography, A Day After Today.

Back to the Future


Babs is back in town

Poor Lyse Doucet. People have been confusing her with Barbara Plett Usher for nigh on twenty years. And now comes this:
David Collier: Dear BBC News, you managed to run a whole segment on Christians in Bethlehem at Christmas without once telling viewers Christian numbers have fallen because of Islamist persecution. In fact, you even blamed the Jews. Well done (๐Ÿคฎ). A bonus earned for Lyse Doucet. David.

Lyce Doucet: Thanks David. I am not in Bethlehem nor reporting on it. Best wishes of the season to you.
Yes, even the great David Collier mixes them up. And with Barbara Plett Usher back in Israel after a seven-year break covering the UN in New York, poor Lyse is likely to get lots more misdirected flak for some time to come.

For those who don't remember her, Barbara Plett - as she was then - was the one who was eventually rebuked by the BBC for reporting that she wept when Yasser Arafat died. 

Anyhow, here's what David's talking about - a report that appeared (with various tweaks) throughout Christmas Eve...

It's proper early-2000s-style BBC reporting on Israel of the kind that originally provoked the commissioning of the Balen Report (think also Orla Guerin):

She blames Israel for all woes. Hamas and other Islamists don't get a mention.

She uses vox pops in the most lopsided manner imaginable, making one side look like idiots.

She uses dismissive language about Israel's claims about its security barrier and persists herself in calling it "the wall" when talking to the tourists, against post-Balen official BBC advise on the matter.

And she piles on the emotion with that heavily-patterned style of phrasing that was commonplace in BBC Israel reporting a decade or so ago.

Yes, it's like being taken back in time to, say, 2004.

P.S. Where's Yolande Knell gone? She usually does the Bethlehem Christmas Eve gig.

good tourist
bad tourist

Here's a transcript:
BBC newsreaderFew cities are in the spotlight more over Christmas than Bethlehem - the Biblical place revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ. But tourism has been hit hard for the last 20 years. It's a Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and because of restricted movement out of the city by the Israeli government, its Christian community has dwindled - a move that Palestinians say harms their freedom and economic prospects. Barbara Plett Usher reports.  
Barbara Plett Usher: This is Bethlehem's time of year. Dressed up in Christmas finery, it invites the world to celebrate the story of a humble birth that changed history. Tourism here is a bright spot, despite dark times for the Palestinian economy. For Bethlehem's Christians, there is a special gift from the Vatican, a splinter of wood believed to be from Jesus' manger. It's small but a big boost for a community decimated by waves of emigration, and an inspiration to priests like Father Emad, who provide aid to local Christians, trying to anchor them here.
Barbara Plett Usher: This year's different?
Father Emad KamilThis year is different because we remember the manger, so we must think more, our hearts must be the real manger to receive Jesus. 
Barbara Plett UsherYour hearts must be the real manger to receive Jesus? 
Father Emad Kamil: I hope. I am working for that.
Tourists roll in past what Israel calls its security barrier. The wall, as residents call it, is squeezing Bethlehem into an ever shrinking space. That doesn't stop the tide of visitors, but many know more about the past than the present. 
Barbara Plett UsherWhat about the politics, you know, between..? 
Visitor 1: I don't know much about it, all I know is my saviour, Jesus Christ. That's all I know, that's all I care about. I just want to learn more about him. 

Visitor 2: I mean, this is where our Lord and Saviour was born and, oh, my goodness, this is where everything started. 

Barbara Plett UsherWhat about the politics, you know? The Israelis and Palestinians? Did you hear anything about that, think anything about that? 
Visitor 2: Yeah, you know, it's definitely concerning, I guess. 
Barbara Plett UsherWhat did you think of the wall when you came in? 
Visitor 2: Oh, that was substantial, of course, and you can tell that people that lived in old time, how protected they felt by the big wall and how amazing it is today. 
Barbara Plett UsherIt's a new wall, but anyway... 
Visitor 2: It's a new wall? Yeah. Oh OK. 
Barbara Plett UsherThe new wall, then? 
Visitor 2: That too, it's about the future as well. 
You can't avoid politics in the nearby refugee camp of Dehaisha. Quite the reverse. Ahmed wants to show foreigners how Palestinians here live. He's renting a room to adventurous tourists, advertising on the internet. It was just the kind of alternative holiday Klara was looking for. 
Klara Sirovnik, Slovenian tourist: In the end of the day, you see that you really think in the same way, but you come from two different places in the world. 
That's the connection Ahmed is seeking. 
Ahmed Farargam, Dehaisha Refugee Camp: You know, the people here are not... Most of them are not allowed to go outside, and especially to the outside world. And they see the outside world in your eyes. 
Business is booming this year, but who knows? Next year could be a bust. When you don't control your own space, the situation is very fragile. I suppose the only constant thing is faith. The faith of things hoped for...if not yet seen. Barbara Plett Usher, BBC News, Jerusalem.