Friday 31 January 2020

In conclusion

Just to sum up the last two posts, here's something I've just written to a friend of the blog:

It only gets worse (though it helps us).

CBBC (a BBC children's channel) gets leftie political 'comedian' Nish Kumar to present an anti-Brexit children's programme called Horrible Histories. He sneers at Britain and Brexit. It's broadcast by the BBC on today of all days, Brexit Day, to a target audience of 6-12 years olds.

What is the BBC thinking of?

Hordes of people are now, rightly, up in arms about it and complaining. The BBC will, as ever, flannel but the programme was outrageously biased. 
It also got its facts wrong [over British history and tea, and Mozart] - and it's meant to be an educational programme.

And now Andrew Neil has piled in on it calling it "anti-British drivel of a high order" and asking "Was any of the licence fee used to produce something purely designed to demean us?"

It's another bad day for the BBC.

Andrew Neil damns "anti-British drivel of a high order" from the BBC's children's channel (and Nish Kumar)

Thanks to Charlie for spotting this especially feisty tweet tonight from Andrew Neil concerning Nish Kumar and CBBC's Brexit special:
This is anti-British drivel of a high order. Was any of the licence fee used to produce something purely designed to demean us?
Well said, Andrew. 

So just what is the BBC broadcasting to children?

As discussed both here and elsewhere...

CBBC, the BBC channel aimed at children aged 6-12, has put out a programme today called Horrible Histories: BREXIT consisting of a series of clips from the long-running children's history programme, newly 'curated' by 'comedian' Nish Kumar. 

It may be aimed at kids, but Nish doesn't hold back on the politically-charged, anti-Brexit sarcasm.

A time and a place, Nish? Children's TV?

In fairness, he has a habit of doing the same routine, whatever the audience. It famously got him booed and breadrolled off stage at the Lord's Taverners' Christmas lunch. And again - minus the British bread rolls - in Brighton (of all places). And, actually, a better question would be: A time and a place, BBC? Children's TV?

Here's a clip, courtesy of a BBC tweet:

Our old friend Alex Deane is surely right when he tweeted, "I can’t help but feel that the timing of this isn’t a coincidence."

Naturally, comments could be going better and, obviously, most of the complaints understandably concern BBC bias. 

But others are objecting to the 'onesty of 'Orrible 'Istories too, and to the programme's failings over the basic facts of the matter. 

Of the latter, here's the most widely-cited example:

When the BBC programme tells its young audience, for example, that "Tea is not from Britain, ma'am. From India it was brought", well, no, that isn't so. Tea is from China and was brought to India by the British.

The programme captions in capital letters TEA IS FROM INDIA as a fact for 6-12 year olds to take away, even though it's not true. 

(I can't wait to read the replies from BBC Complaints and Ofcom to this, as - apparently - plenty are going in). 


You probably knew all this already, but here's where ITBB gives added value...Pedantry about classical music is very much My Thing. 

In the full programme Hilarious Nish (as he's widely known by nobody) recalls Great Europeans of the past, and asks:
Where would we be without Mozart? He composed Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, among other things. 
No, no, no, no, no, no, Nish, you're misinforming the young.

Mozart did not compose Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. The melody is an anonymous 18th Century French tune and Herr Mozart simply wrote a fine set of piano variations on it. And his variations were on Ah vous dirai-je, Maman not Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Poor Wolfgang was in his pauper's grave by the time a British woman, Jane Taylor, wrote Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to the tune. 

To channel CBBC:
British things, British things. I knew that there were many. (Even the words the BBC ascribes to Mozart.) 
British things, British things, afraid the BBC's wrong when they say there's hardly any.
The BBC needs a kick up its sagging Reithian posterior for this kind of thing. 

New Open Thread

The old Open Thread, like Lord Hall himself, must now make way for a new, more diverse thread. 

Thank you for all your comments. They are much appreciated. 

Can your red herrings

Here's a short Andrew Neil interview, conducted via Twitter
George Osborne: An army of people here at Euston are already working on HS2. It would have been nuts to cancel it.
Andrew Neil: All that work at Euston must be doing the North a power of good!
George Osborne: Well, it will - because better connecting the north to the midlands and south will change our economic geography. It’s just like the opposition to the M25, the Channel Tunnel, HS1 and the original railways in c19 - people love infrastructure in theory and oppose it in practice.
Andrew Neil: I didn’t oppose any of these so can your red herrings. Answer this: what adds more to UK productivity: a fast train London to Brum or a Leeds-Manchester-Liverpool fast train that creates a labour market bigger than Greater London.
Hopefully, George Osborne will continue this today and answer Andrew's question. I'm with Andrew on this one. A Leeds-Morecambe- Manchester-Liverpool fast train is much the better idea.  


Thursday 30 January 2020

'Leaving Europe'

Andrew Neil reality checks the BBC

Andrew Neil is really going for it tonight. 

On reading the latest Times headline PM wants Canada-style trade really with Brusselshe immediately replied: "Understood. But the problem is that Canada is not embedded in EU supply chains. The UK is". 

He then added, "To continue impartial reality, mantra, oft repeated by the BBC, that the EU holds all the cards, is not true either. The Eurozone is teetering on recession, it depends hugely on massive balance of payments surplus with UK. No deal would tip it into recession. Cards. But not all."

He's reality-checking his own BBC colleagues there. 

Is he thinking of Katya?


Referring to a pro-Brexit piece by Matt Ridley in The Spectator Northern Irish SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole sent out a tweet tonight saying, "The man who chaired Northern Rock when it collapsed, a Brexiter and Viscount who lives in a castle, feels no compunction writing an article saying Brexit is about rediscovering 'failure'. And it gets published. Normal country." Guess which new BBC star reporter 'liked' it? Yes, Newsnight's controversial new policy editor Lewis Goodall

Twas the night before Brexit

Wow! Andrew Neil read this tweet from Have I Got News For You's Twitter feed mocking The Brexit Party...

...and replied:
Wow. You’re even less funny than my This Week monologues. And you have scriptwriters. Maybe time to pack it in? 
It's all go as far as the BBC falling apart goes at the moment!


A guest post by Arthur T

BBC’s New Broadcasting House, London - An Imperious, Impervious Façade

On the 7th June 2013 Her Majesty The Queen opened the new extensions to Broadcasting House in Portland Place, London. She was shown around the new building by the then recently appointed Director General Tony Hall. This extension was designed as the HQ of a new structure to the BBC which includes other centres at Salford, and Glasgow. Changes were already in progress at the start of Lord Hall’s tenure, but over the last seven years or so, the corporate identity of the BBC has been consolidated in the form of its key buildings and their locations.

The London-Manchester-Glasgow axis was first introduced into the newspaper industry by Lord Beaverbrook in the 1930s. The Daily Express building in Manchester was the second of three similar regional buildings for Beaverbrook Associated Newspapers Ltd, with others in London and Glasgow. The building design allowed for awareness of the printing operations carried out there to be projected by a: ’glass box’ concept. The Manchester design is considered to be the best example of the three Beaverbrook buildings. The printing hall floor was raised to loading deck level, allowing partial views of the printing hall as well. This arrangement made a spectacular sight particularly at night when the presses were in full flow producing the next day’s papers, and the hall was brightly illuminated. Partly by the design of the buildings, the Daily Express sought to engage with the public as they were able to witness the production process - and not simply see the product. The glass façade here provided transparency.

This new BBC corporate structure was established in order to cut down the autonomy of the Centres in Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol, by making them more easily controlled from the London hub.

The former New Broadcasting House, on Oxford Road, Manchester housed BBC North West, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC Religion and Ethics Department. It was known as a Network Production Centre, along with Birmingham (at the now demolished Pebble Mill), and Broadcasting House, Bristol. Under the restructuring plans, operations from Oxford Road were transferred to Media City UK in Salford and to Glasgow.

The effect of the restructuring, particularly in the choice of buildings was to distance the BBC from its audience in a physical sense as well as operationally. The clue is in the name BBC, but in judging the BBC against other ‘Corporates’, they exhibit nearly all of the negative attributes of that group. The glass façades are indeed impervious - to wind and rain, yes, but also to criticism, complaints, exchange of views, freedom of information, number of staff, size of payroll, direction of their investments and many other details of information that big companies, also ‘Corporates’, are obliged to disclose.

As a result of restructuring, much loved buildings faced the axe:

The BBC Television Centre at White City in west London 

BBC Television Centre was the first such building of its kind in the UK. It was designed by Graham Dawbarn from 1949 and constructed between 1953 and 1960. Its design famously began life on the ‘back of an envelope’, when Dawbarn of architects Norman & Dawbarn scribbled the questionmark shape. This shape evolved into the building itself. The BBC’s own civil engineer, Marmaduke Tudsbery, who had been responsible for engineering at Broadcasting House, was also involved in the design and construction of the Television Centre.

The Television Centre was occupied by the BBC from 1960. Most of the TV output came from here. The building featured the well-known central circular block around which the studios, offices and News Centre were located.

John Piper produced a mural which dominated the Reception area, a squarish area fitted out in a 1960s style of bright colours with contemporary light fittings and furniture. Just as Broadcasting House had been a symbol of all that was modern in the early days of radio broadcasts, the BBC TV Centre sought to convey similar sentiments from the new home of television. Many of the longrunning shows broadcast by the BBC had their home here.

At the centre of the block, in a hard-paved courtyard, was a sculpture of Helios made by Thomas Bayliss Huxley-Jones, intended to represent the Greek god of the sun, which symbolised the broadcast of tv waves around the world. At Helios’ feet are two reclining figures representing sound and vision - to convey the spirit of excitement and optimism of the broadcasting medium of TV. Huxley-Jones produced another work along similar optimistic lines in 1963, the Joy of Life Fountain, not far away in London’s Hyde Park.

BBC Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London 

Not the axe exactly, but extended to the extent that its original character was lost. Lt. Col. George Val Myer (1883-1959) was appointed as the architect. It was agreed that Val Myer would continue to work on the project for the BBC, but in conjunction with the BBC’s own civil engineer, Marmaduke Tudsbery.

At the time, sound recording and broadcast was the principal purpose of the BBC. Television was in its very early stages of development, and any work associated with TV was handled at Alexandra Palace, a few miles away in North London. The overarching requirement for Val Myer and Tudsbery’s design was the elimination of extraneous sound from the recording studios, either mechanically transmitted or airborne, both from inside the building and from the adjacent streets, or from neighbouring buildings, or from underground. Without windows which would let in sound from outside, the studios therefore needed to be served with ducted air, but the ductwork itself could carry sound from one studio to another.

The solution was to position the sound studios within a central tower built massively out of brickwork without any steel framing, which may have caused mechanical transmission of sound. Owing to the weight of this central tower and the studios it supported, Staffordshire blue ‘metallic’ bricks were used due to their high firing temperature and their increased density when compared to stock bricks. The outer walls of the tower are 1.4 m thick at the base level. The Concert Hall the largest of the recording studios was designed to project beyond the tower limits, and its structure was carried on twin fabricated steel plate girders 3m deep.

Conventional steel framing clad with Portland stone was used for the outside walls of the building. Over the front entrance of Broadcasting House stand the statues of Prospero and Ariel (from Shakespeare's last play The Tempest), by Modernist sculptor Eric Gill. Ariel is a spirit of the air who, because he refused to serve the witch, Sycorax, was imprisoned in a tree until rescued by Prospero.

Prospero is interpreted as a draped and bearded figure, symbolic of wisdom and benevolence. Ariel is conceived as a young child holding in his right hand a pipe on which he plays unearthly music. Perhaps, though, Gill had a larger theme. Prospero is a very Biblical figure and the hands and feet of Ariel carry the marks of the stigmata.

Maybe Gill's intention was to represent God the Father presenting God the Son to the world. The same depiction of God the Son being presented to the world can be seen in works by other Modernist sculptors for example, Henry Moore’s Madonna and Child at St Matthew’s Northampton or Sir Jacob Epstein’s Madonna and Child in Cavendish Square, London. The decoration on the balcony and the carving of the BBC coat of arms above it were executed by E. Aumonier to the designs of the architect Val Myer. The coat of arms incorporates the BBC's motto ‘Nation shall speak peace unto Nation’.

In addition to the sculpture above the main entrance Eric Gill produced three further carvings featuring Shakespeare's Ariel, who, as the invisible spirit of the air, could serve as a personification of radio broadcasting.

Internally, the all-important sound studios were designed by leading architects of the day, including Serge Chermayeff, Wells Coates, Edward Maufe, who designed The Chapel Studio, and went on to design Guildford Cathedral, and Val Myer himself who designed the Concert Hall.


Nicholas Pevsner described the post WWII rebuilding of The Bank of Building as an act of vandalism. By keeping just the perimeter colonnade of the original John Soane design, the current Herbert Baker design was an imposition. The same can be said of the recent extensions to Broadcasting House. The quintessentially British or English Val Myer design is dwarfed by an addition which is some three times the size of the original. We might have expected the BBC to have commissioned an up-and-coming visionary young architect, but no, after MacCormac Jamieson Prichard were replaced as architects, they instead elected to appoint what must be the epitome of corporate firms, Sheppard Robson, already well-known to the BBC for their design of Media City UK, Salford.

Lost is the individuality of Auntie’s quirky home with its modernist design, and memorable features. In its place is a fortress of stale, uninspired cityscape that could find a place in any global city. The unwelcoming building with its insipid sea-green colouring symbolises the barriers that the BBC have established between the licence-paying public and their own skewed view of their place in the world.

Stability in the UK has nearly always depended upon three pillars - Church, Monarchy and Parliamentary Democracy. From their secure fortress, the BBC through deliberate choices seek to destabilise and destroy all that, one would assume, their history would make them hold dear. Christianity is high on the list requiring as requiring to be picked apart. Val Myer’s designs respected Christian traditions, whilst responding to the exciting challenges of the then new broadcasting technologies. The new beast requires diversity and positive discrimination which would deny traditional values. The corporate identity with its own form of brand management has taken over.

The trend is set to continue. London, Salford, Glasgow. Why Salford and not the already established Pebble Mill? Could it be as simple as political hue? Rebecca Long-Bailey is the MP for Salford and Eccles. At the end of HS2, with the possible Labour Leader close by, Salford must feel much more comfortable than they would have in the traditionally Conservative Edgbaston area of Birmingham. The same could be said for the choice of Glasgow ahead of Edinburgh. We need to start talking about BBC Heartlands. A new BBC Wales HQ is fast becoming operational. The decision to locate in Cardiff and not Bangor or Aberystwyth when by the Scottish example the Capital is not necessarily the only choice might have to do with the proximity to the research facilities of nearby Cardiff University. Maybe it’s a general trend because Channel 4 are opening a ‘Northern’ base in Leeds.

BBC Heartlands - including Channel 4’s are most-likely anti Brexit Labour voting areas - but not near the Red Wall of traditional northern Labour seats, more likely close to the metro-liberal Corbyn/Momentum identifiers. It might be cynical to believe that within the BBC Heartlands, support and protest groups are readily available at the drop of a hat, and that as in London protests comprising ‘hundreds of thousands’ can be called upon to perform.

From The Guardian, 24th January 2019: ‘BBC consider setting up international base in Belgium after Brexit’:

… ‘BBC spokesperson said: “BBC Studios, a commercial arm of the BBC, operates a number of bespoke TV channels outside of [sic] the UK, including some that are broadcast in the EU. We will be keeping the situation under close review to ensure that we can continue to best serve our audiences in any changed regulatory environment”.

… It’s an old story now, but probably about to return to the fore.

Evidently, the BBC Heartlands extend to the EU. Why Brussels and not Milan or Barcelona? The BBC’s corporate identity fits very snugly within the façades of other internationally styled EU centres of bureaucratic excess. The Corporate Collectives scream ‘Keep Out’. The impervious glass buildings of Sheppard Robson design, whilst suggesting transparency as might have been the case in the 1930s, now form an impenetrable barrier designed to keep all but the ‘BubbleDwellers’ at bay.

Wednesday 29 January 2020

The Only Way is Ethics

Times chief reporter Sean O'Neill has just tweeted, "Listening to another breathless report about Thwaites Glacier and wondering if anyone has ever calculated the carbon footprint of environment correspondents...". Given that the BBC's chief environment correspondent Justin Rowlatt was just on  Radio 4's PM ten minutes earlier reporting from Thwaites Gracier, I'm guessing Sean had the BBC guy in mind. Maybe the BBC needs an Ethical Man to rule on such matters. 

The biter bit

I wonder if young Lewis Goodall will be experiencing schadenfreude today. He didn't take kindly to veteran ITV newsreader Alastair Stewart making repeated calls during the election for journalists like him to stop venting their opinions on Twitter. Guess what? Alastair Stewart has had to step down as an ITV newsreader today after "errors of judgement" in his own use of social media. (As far as I can see it's because he called someone/some people "a pr*ck"/"pr*cks".) It's a funny old world.

Update: Or was it this?

Further Update: The schadenfreude is already underway:
Mark Di Stefano (FT): The errr irony of Alastair Stewart "stepping down" for social media "errors of judgement" was he spent a lot of time on this website lashing (often young) broadcast journalists about impartiality with awful lecturing quote-tweets. Comes for us all, I guess...which is to say.... journalists who hyperventilate about how twitter does reputational damage to the profession shouldn't just be focusing on the genz-millennials on here.
Luke Jones (BBC): When the R4 programme I used to do was cancelled he kindly told me how shite it/I was.
Aasmah Mir (BBC): He was not a fan of me on Saturday Live and used to tweet about it. That was fun. Hey ho.

Pink shirt alert

I wrote about Jeremy Bowen’s embryonic “I didn’t develop the full condition” PTSD.  “Things in life leave a mark”, he ruminated.  Things certainly left their mark on Jeremy Bowen. And the BBC still saw fit to appoint him as their chief Middle East editor.

Over on BBC Watch Hadar Sela clarifies the situation further.  Anyone who believes Jeremy Bowen is a suitable character to represent the contractually impartial BBC where Israel is concerned should consider the context of the situation that caused his ‘symptomless’ condition and led him to interpret it as ‘Israelis trying to kill him’.
“At no point during that four minute and 22 second-long item were listeners provided with any explanation of the context to that event and Bowen referred to “the Israelis” as a group as having “tried to kill me” without clarifying the actual situation.  
As we have documented here in the past, early on the morning of Tuesday May 23rd 2000 – the day before the completion of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon – a tank crew stationed on the border fence near Kibbutz Menara received an intelligence alert concerning the likelihood of terrorists firing anti-tank missiles at IDF tanks and armoured vehicles. Later in the day, the crew spotted a Lebanese vehicle transporting men in civilian clothing and suspected that these were Hizballah terrorists carrying equipment for firing an anti-tank missile. The tank crew was given permission to fire at the suspected terrorists.  
Later it emerged that the men were actually a BBC film crew headed by Jeremy Bowen and that driver Abed Takkoush had been killed. The IDF investigated the incident and issued an apology. Understandably, that tragic incident appears to be still very much at the forefront of Bowen’s mind, although he does not appear to accept that it was possible to mistake three men travelling in a war zone in a car with Lebanese plates, and carrying camera equipment, for Hizballah terrorists dressed – as was very often the case – in civilian clothing. 

Weird gossip

This morning a three-way conversation took place in The Rovers Return between a trio of Trumpophobic Judeophobes. For some reason, it was broadcast on the Today Programme. 2:49

Ena Sharples, Minnie Caldwell and the other one were heard gossiping about a dreadful deal that has been cooked up by two corrupt criminals in order to inflict hardship upon some helpless unfortunates.

One of them sounded like Jeremy Bowen, and the one with acute TDS reminded me of Jon Sopel. The third one was either Gillian Duffy ‘that bigoted woman’ or Mishal Husain. Weird.


If the BBC wants to be taken seriously, then their superficial analysis and knee-jerk rejection of the ‘Deal of the Century’ should at least be counterbalanced with points raised in this article by Elder of Ziyon. In the interest of balance, someone from the BBC should give it the time of day, even if its pragmatic, objective perspective sticks in their craw.
“The most striking thing about the Trump plan is that its goal is completely different than the goal of every previous plan. 
Every other "peace" plan had a goal of two states, as if that would magically produce peace. Once two states was achieved, then the job was done. Terrorism, the Palestinian economy, overcrowding in Gaza - none of those were addressed. Day Two after the plan would be implemented was always essentially ignored. 
Every other plan was written with the myth that two states is the solution itself, not a component. Because every other plan was written from the perspective that Palestinian leadership wants an independent state above all. 
But they don't. History has shown that their desire has always been the ultimate destruction of Israel, which is why they rejected every previous plan that was an obstacle to that goal.”

Horses have bolted

BBC to slash 250 jobs across news division   The Times (£)
The scale of the redundancy programme will horrify staff at a time of unprecedented uncertainty for the national broadcaster. However, bosses need to save £80 million and believe that the corporation cannot win back public support on issues such as revoking free TV licences for over-75s without demonstrating a commitment to delivering value for the public. “The BBC has got to show that it is doing some tough stuff,” one source said.

Call off the rottweilers, Lord Hall tells BBC interviewers  The Times (£)
Lord Hall’s remarks, at the launch of the Edelman Trust Barometer, indicate that the BBC is reassessing the value of traditional “gotcha” interviews, in which presenters seek to trap ministers into gaffes or U-turns.
(John Humphrys) lamented that the success of the 8.10am Today interview was wrongly judged on whether it had unsettled a politician and trapped them into saying something they did not intend. “I’m delighted he [Lord Hall] agrees with me”, Humphrys said yesterday. 
Jeremy Paxman, who questioned politicians on Newsnight for 25 years , expressed his approval less diplomatically. Asked for his response to the director-general’s comments, he replied: “I like Tony Hall. But he really must stop spouting the bleeding obvious.”

Hmm. Quite a few pots and kettles calling each other 'persons of colour.'

Tuesday 28 January 2020

The BBC rejects Trump's peace plan

BBC One's News at Six's coverage of the Trump administration's plan to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was as relentlessly downbeat as you'd expect from Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin.

For Jeremy Bowen, Donald Trump "has absorbed the Israeli agenda". His plan "does not go anywhere near what the Palestinians want" and is "hedged with conditions no Palestinian leader could accept". The Palestinians aren't happy and "their internationally recognised leaders" aren't part of any talks. Why? Because the Trump administration has "adopted so much of Israel's agenda" and Palestinians' "hope" over Jerusalem has been dashed.

I heard that after deliberately seeking out a non-UK/non-US perspective and settled on Deutsche Welle - the first EU media outlet I could think of that has an English language website - and found them saying something far less black-and-white about the plan:
The deal makes more concessions to Palestinians than anticipated but asks that they accept West Bank settlements. 
Although the outline makes several concessions to the Palestinians, including doubling their currently controlled territory, it does ask them to cross what has previously been described as a red line by accepting the previously constructed West Bank settlements as Israeli territory.
Jeremy Bowen went straight on with his agenda,  talking of the "more than 50 Palestinian protesters" who were "shot dead" by the Israeli Army on the day the US accepted Jerusalem as Israel's indivisible capital before dwelling on "families" who "fled" or were "driven out" by Israel in 1948 and who "and the right of return"."Israel does not want to grant it", said Jeremy Bowen.

It's truly remarkable how Jeremy Bowen can make every so very black-and-white (against Israel).

Cue his final fling:
The timing of this announcement looks tailored to the short-term needs of the two leaders. They're both facing elections - and serious charges. High crimes and misdemeanours for Trump, bribery and corruption for Netanyahu. The stakes are high, the chances of success are low.  
That's editorialising, of course.

Then that eternal ray of sunshine Orla Guerin repeated the same point that the Palestinian president "was not invited....unlike his Israeli counterpart", and said the feeling thereabouts is that "this is one more time where the Israelis will make gains and the Palestinians suffer losses".

At least Jeremy and Orla were both singing from the same hymn sheet - or, to put it another way, pushing the same narrative.

Crossing the line

What an excellent video Sue posted (below). Lara Logan's "a press corps that's working hand-in-hand with propaganda organisations with a political agenda" reminds me that the BBC's Newsnight recently worked hand-in-hand with Greenpeace - on which very theme please read David Keighley's latest post at The Conservative Woman headlined Greenpeace and the annexing of BBC news. It still astonishes me that the BBC has now crossed this line. 

Familiar tale

Saw this and thought of you 'ITBB?'

Is the BBC licence fee a sinking ship?

Blimey! Old Twinkle Toes himself, John Sergeant, has come out against the BBC licence fee:
The case for the licence fee, a form of poll tax, has been steadily eroded by the arrival of a multitude of competitors. It’s hard to see how the BBC can last in its present form for much longer. It is time to think of different ways of paying for BBC programmes, whether it be some form of payment by subscription, as well as programme sponsorship, if not a move towards advertising in general.
Even more astonishingly, so has Gary Lineker
The licence fee is our fundamental problem. You’re forced to pay it if you want a TV, and therefore it’s a tax. The public pay our salaries, so everyone is a target. I would make the licence fee voluntary. I’ve always said for a long time, I would make it voluntary. I don’t know the logistics of how it would work. You would lose some people, but at the same time you’d up the price a bit. It’s the price of a cup of coffee a week at the moment. If you put it up you could help older people, or those that can’t afford it.

Bill Brandt

Monday 27 January 2020

Get real

Think of all those misguided causes that once seemed as cool as they now seem wrong. In retrospect we ask ourselves - how could we ever have gone along with that?

Anyway, we did go along with, for example, smoking. We bought into it. We were fooled by the combined efforts of the tobacco industry’s advertising campaigns and our own wishful thinking. Not only did we think smoking was cool, but we allowed ourselves to believe it was harmless. Now we know better. The one consolation is that the more we know about smoking - it causes cancer, folks - the less cool it looks. 

A regular defender of the BBC once humorously referred to me as “Biased-BBC’s correspondent for Tel Aviv.” It was supposed to be a joke. Yeah, it wasn’t exactly hilarious; just slightly amusing and at the same time, disparaging. 

However, today I make no apology for taking advantage of this relatively obscure platform to highlight the issue that is more important (to me) than the relatively transient and trivial Twitter in-fighting and gossip that sparks more interest below the line on ITBB than my ‘special subject’.

I’m aware that a website I often refer to isn’t everyone’s cup tea. Harry’s Place used to be a rather staunchly left-wing, Labour-supporting site with an equally staunch pro-Israel agenda. The recent turmoil in the Labour Party means holding those two principles at once does-not-compute. HP now takes more of a centrist and even a ‘right-leaning’ position. Well, it would, wouldn’t it, now that supporting Israel automatically makes one ‘right-wing’.

I’m going to be mean and admit that many of HP’s above-the-line pieces are of less interest to me than its below-the-line content. I’m jealous of the high level of engagement it engenders.  (The comments here are heroic and much appreciated - but to coin a phrase - never mind the quality, feel the width. That means I want more, more and more. 

Why am I talking about other websites when I could be sticking to the subject - what was it again? Oh yes, wrong-headed causes.  Sarah AB, formerly a major contributor to Harry’s Place, has commented about Lisa Nandy
“One thing I find very intriguing is how little the fact Lisa Nandy is Chair of Friends of Palestine and the Middle East seems a factor. It doesn't prevent her from being called a 'Zionist stooge', on the one hand, and it doesn't prevent several of the people who have deep concerns about and/or who left Labour over antisemitism thinking she'd be a good leader
I’ve been worried about Nandy ever since I saw that she was chair of Labour Friends Of Palestine and the Middle East.
We know that the pro-Palestinian lobby expends a huge amount of energy on promoting its cause and enticing political groups with its dishonest and fictitious propaganda. Lisa Nandy has been sucked in and hoodwinked by it.  
“I visited Palestine as a new MP and I was struck by the threats facing the next generation, the ferocity of the attacks they endure and the systematic denial of their rights. I met a three-year-old child whose house was surrounded by the Separation Wall and was growing up without daylight. I saw a 15-year-old shackled by the ankles, who had been held in administrative detention for months without any contact with his family, access to school or a lawyer. I saw families humiliated at checkpoints on a daily basis and the denial of basic medical care as a result.”

Sorry, but when an MP starts with “I visited Palestine” she is virtually bragging about having been duped by antisemitic propaganda.  (Don’t forget the reason why Islam rejects the fundamental concept of accepting any Jewish State in the Middle East)  

A few months ago, Nandy Tweeted:
“As someone who has fought for Palestinian rights, opposed settlements and wants a two-state solution I say Israel has an unequivocal right to exist. Why, on earth, is this so hard?”
It is hard because the stuff you’ve just stated you believe in is largely propagandistic baloney.  Palestinian ‘rights’? Settlements? Two-State Solution? Based on gullibility, fantasy and the wishful thinking of the ill-informed. 

I recommend two excellent pieces that have appeared in The Conservative Woman.
As well as succinctly setting out the value of these anniversaries, Paul T Horgan’s article answers those resentful folk who claim that “We fought WWll to save the Jews” with particular clarity: 
“The British and French Empires declared war on the Third Reich not because of the persecution of the Jews by Nazi Germany. Instead, war was declared in response to Germany’s invasion of Poland. The prevention of the Holocaust was never a strategic objective of any Allied power, as any effort used in such a manner would detract from the effort to defeat Nazi Germany militarily and thus prolong the war.
This is a ‘must-read’.  On the subject of Lisa Nandy, though, another Paul has also written on that site. Paul Hurt ends with: 
“The failures of LFPME reflect badly on Lisa Nandy and have relevance, I think, to the election of the next leader of the Labour Party.”
Even so, it’s conceivable that Nandy is the ''least worst' of the remaining four candidates. At least she gives the appearance of someone who looks and sounds relatively normal. Sorry, but the other three are plain odd.

The only consolation is that the more we know about the part that gullible but earnest pro-Palestinian activism plays in the rising, worldwide tide of antisemitism, the less cool it looks. Give it up.

Sunday 26 January 2020

To wendle or not to wendle?

The BBC editor in the not-so-hot seat on this week's Newswatch was blog favourite Mike Wendling of BBC Trending. 

I thought it worth transcribing the whole segment as I found it interesting. The subject under discussion was: Is the BBC News website (including BBC Trending) dumbing down?

One thing I noted, in passing, was Samira Ahmed seeming to signal her view of one critic's complaint by introducing him as "fulminating". At least she didn't say "frothing at the mouth". 

As for Mike Wendling, well, I think he put up a pretty good defence of himself and of the need for light as well as shade in the BBC's news output. I was even won over by his stout defence of the "My boyfriend dumped me but how do I tell my cat?" story.

I also spotted that the BBC journalist who wrote the cat story, Dhruti Shah, thanked her boss on Twitter for sticking up for her. I do admire a boss who sticks up for his underlings, however much I'd like BBC editors to go off message:
Thanks Mike Wendling for defending my journalism. I still remain proud of my BBC Trending cats piece. It was always about taking a different look at relationships and it succeeded.
In an unrelated point, however, the BBC's Dhruti isn't a happy bunny today. Here's another of her tweets:
All this talk of diversity - people want you because they want you to tick their boxes and make them look good; but what they don't want is what your "diversity" represents - difference. When your difference starts spilling out the box... you are squashed. It's an awful feeling.
Wonder what brought that on?

Going back to Newswatch...

Naturally, I'd have preferred the focus on Newswatch to be on matters of bias - Is the BBC News website too 'woke'? Does it push various agendas? Does it pursue the youth audience too much? Is BBC Trending far too like an offshoot of The Guardian? Does it pander to certain obsessions, like the far-right and Russian interference in UK/US elections? What does it miss? 

Anyhow, here's the transcript, prefaced by a screengrab of a particularly fine 'look to camera' from Mike Wendling....


Samira Ahmed: Now, last week, an article appeared on the home page of the BBC website which sparked something of a debate about the value of the Corporation's online output. "My boyfriend dumped me but how do I tell my cat?", read the headline, and the story that followed prompted fresh allegations that BBC News online was dumbing down. Neville Mind wondered:
"Anyone else bored by the lazy journalism? BBC describing what someone said on Twitter about their cat is not news".
Nigel Cummings agreed, fulminating:
"More rubbish from the national disgrace that is the BBC. Australia on fire, Iran poised for more action, Syria in uproar and they publish rubbish about a woman wondering how to tell a cat that her boyfriend has left her. It's hard to believe the UK public pay a licence for this dross!" 
And Bryn Harris widened out that criticism: 
"The sheer triviality of the BBC News website these days: 'My boyfriend dumped me but how to tell my cat?' 'Beauty YouTuber reveals she's transgender', 'Girl's lemonade stand for bushfire relief a hit'. What the hell is going on?" 
Well, the feature about the boyfriend and the cat came from BBC Trending, a strand devoted, as it says, to in-depth reporting on the world of social media. Their stories appear across a number of BBC social media outlets. On Facebook and Twitter, as you would expect, but also via podcasts, on World Service radio and on television. Recent examples of the work range from women equate being trafficked online to the rise of the Brazilian butt lift. With me to explain more is Mike Wendling, the editor of BBC Trending. Thank you for coming on Newswatch. The story did strike a bit of a nerve, I think it's fair to say, is 'How to tell my cat my boyfriend dumped me?' really what qualifies as a new story for BBC News? 
Mike Wendling: Yes. Let me explain it like this. News, all news, our website, newspapers, any news outlet, usually has light and shade, right? Feature stories that might be a little bit ighter and stories that might be a little bit heavier. The bit that I'm responsible for, the very small part of the BBC News website, BBC Trending, has also recently reported on Russian interference in the UK election. We had a viewer, a reader who mentioned Australian bushfires, well, we published a story that was very popular about misinformation online about the Australian bushfires, about a discussion on social media in Iran about the downing of the Ukrainian airliner. So, you know, there is a whole range of material. Now, I want to actually address what's actually in the story, because I feel like a lot of the reaction came, not necessarily about the story itself, but about the headline. You can say, oh, it's a silly thing about a post about a woman and her relationship with her cat. But if you frame it in a different way, if you say that it's actually about grief, relationships, break-up, and mental health, which essentially is what the story was about, and it got into these issues and we spoke to experts about those issues, than it looks a little bit less like fluff or light or clickbait. 
Samira Ahmed: OK. And suppose people might say, yes, BBC Trending overwhelmingly covers quite seriously stories, but isn't it important that anything should tell you about wider social issues and global concerns. You ate saying it does, just the headline was misleading, because there are stories which people feel don't have that defence. 
Mike Wendling: Well, that may be the case, but I don't think that this story qualifies, to be completely honest with you. I think that it was a perfectly legitimate thing to take a look at this issue. It started a wider conversation on social media, and we look at those. Now, all of the conversations that we look at on social media are going to be about say, Russian misinformation in the UK election, this is simply a different topic and a simply different way of looking at social media. 
Samira Ahmed: It's interesting you say 'starting a conversation'. People are saying 'is that BBC News's job to be starting a conversation which might seem trivial, and which other outlets can do, that BBC News should be focused on clear news'. 
Mike Wendling: So, what we do, what we aim to do with every piece, right, is to take a look at what people are interested in, which is actually one of the fundamental definitions of news, things that people are interested in, and crucially, not just sort of repeat, you know, it's not like we just sort of put up that woman's post, We add value. We look at the issues behind it. We talk to the people who originally may have produced the post. Sometimes, we go to the sources of disinformation or misinformation online. That's where we add value. That's our purpose. 
Samira Ahmed: Is the real controversy underneath all this that there is a generational divide among BBC consumers about what counts as news? 
Mike Wendling: Well, I have no idea how old the people who are writing in are. But I suspect that, and the numbers bear this out, that a lot of the people who are reading this particular story were younger. It was younger in general than the people who read BBC Online. So, that could be a part of it. Look, I mean, we run a general service here at the BBC, right? So, you know, if you do not want or are not interested in our coverage in this particular area about relationships or pets or whatever, you may be interested in our political coverage. You may be interested in hard news, the day to day news that appears on BBC Online, which of course is the mainstay of the website. It's a general service, and we provide part of that service to, quite frankly, an audience that has been ignored by a lot of the BBC for a long time. 
Samira Ahmed: Mike Wendling, thank you so much. 

Would you like to work for the BBC?

What on earth is going on at the BBC?

Victoria Derbyshire heard that her programme was being cancelled after reading it in The Times.

And now, live on Twitter, one of the Today programme's longest-serving reporters, Sanchia Berg, is (understandably) spitting feathers after learning that her job is going via MailOnline:
I learn through @MailOnline that the job I’ve done for more than 20 years is to be closed. Thanks!
Here are some of the replies:
  • Gaetan Portal: Look after yourself Sanchia. The leaking of plans for cuts to staff and services is awful. Whoever is behind it should be ashamed of themselves. All best to you. 
  • June Kelly (BBC Home Affairs Correspondent): Gaetan is speaking for many of us. 
  • Jim Reed (BBC reporter): This whole process has been an absolute car crash. Know how you feel Sanchia and thoughts with you and Today team this week. Hoping it's not as bad as Mail makes out.

Lewis Goodall: "Moreover, surely the very fact of our withdrawal shows we were really an independent country all along?"

Andrea Leadsom has written a piece for The Sunday Times headlined Let’s build on the stability that business needs. It begins:
When we wake up on the morning of February 1, we will do so in a UK that is truly independent for the first time in nearly half a century. We will have got Brexit done — finally delivering on the promise made to the British people back in 2016.
The BBC's Lewis Goodall has read it and written the following:
1) Businesses definitely want stability, eg:
  - what our trading relationship will be with our biggest market.
  - what regulatory regime we’ll have.
  - from where/how they’ll get labour.
All open questions as of 1st January 2021. Not much stability in sight.
2) Hmm. From 1st Feb-31st December, Britain will arguably be less independent than at any time in its history, still being part of a legal and regulatory regime with no say at all in how it works. The PM once used the word “vassalage” over much less.
3) Moreover, surely the very fact of our withdrawal shows we were really an independent country all along?


Here's something you don't see every day, a BBC journalist apologising:
Newsnight: “You can see some really significant increases… the vast majority of MPs and CLP Chairmen did think that many were joining to vote specifically for Keir Starmer.” Policy editor Lewis Goodall reveals an influx of new members joining the Labour Party.
Laura Parker: Lewis Goodall, were none of the ppl you contacted running CLPs women?! 
Lewis Goodall: Hello, there were, of course. Many apologies, I meant to say chairmen and women, however, live TV and all that, made a mistake. Should have saved myself the bother and said “chairs” instead.
Laura Parker: Thank you.
Yes, he's apologising for using the word 'chairmen'!

Laura Parker is the top 'woman' in Momentum.

Too much information?

Things you learn on a Sunday morning:
So then she said...: Idea for The Andrew Marr Show wardrobe stylist: For politicians to be respected & responded to favourably by everyday folk, they could start with mirroring tactics (basic science). Sunday is all about staying in jammies til lunch so how about we lose the suit & tie? #pjparty
Andrew Marr: But I don’t wear pyjamas. So it is probably a bad idea…

Who's this?

Anna's back:
Jonathan Bullock MEP (Brexit Party): I’m on BBC Politics East Midlands at 10am today (Sunday) alongside Anna Soubry to discuss Brexit finally happening. I will be magnanimous!
A Libertarian Rebel: Shocking - but not surprising - that despite the defeat of her cause & her own emphatic ejection as their MP by her former Broxtowe voters, the biased BBC is still trotting out the anti-democratic pro-Remain rent-a-gob Soubry. Give her hell, Jonathan.

Male privilege

Jo Hugh: Marr's really knocking himself out to reverse the underrepresentation of Brexiters that's typified BBC bias, I don't think. Two paper reviewers who won't celebrate Brexit (plus Andrew Marr himself) & only one, the stellar Madeline Grant, who will.

Trouble at t'mill

According to The Mail on Sunday, BBC bosses have told "professional Northerner" Nick Robinson to move to Manchester as part of their a bid to make the BBC less London-centric. Mishal, Justin and Martha are to stay in London. Nick, however, is said to be against moving to Manchester but "a BBC source" tells the MoS that "the BBC are determined that this will happen". The change may be announced next week and, the paper speculates, if Nick refuses to obey his BBC bosses he might get the boot from Today and be replaced by Victoria Derbyshire (who will shortly be at a loose end).

The top-rated comment below the MoS piece strikes a chord with me:
StevieMac, Birmingham: How the BBC sees Britain. There is London and there is the rest of the UK, which they call the north. The north to them is basically Manchester.

Meeting expectations

Radio 4's Sunday programme staged a discussion this morning about the Church of England's position on civil partnerships between a liberal Anglican bishop (Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham) and a tradionalist Anglican blogger on the General Synod (Dr Ian Paul). Presenter William Crawley did exactly what I expected him to do: He took the liberal bishop's side and grilled the traditionalist blogger who was upholding traditional Christian teaching on marriage. Dr Paul was interrupted 7 times by William. Such are the way's of Radio 4's Sunday.

"The plot to stop James Purnell becoming director-general of the BBC"

It looks as if Dominic Cummings is out to stop James Purnell from becoming the BBC's next DG. A "well placed Downing Street source" has told Robert Peston that if the BBC’s board and Sir David Clementi “try to put someone like Purnell in we will put in a chairman whose first job is to fire him…The likes of Purnell [would be] 'dead on arrival'”.

Times Radio, "designed to threaten Radio 4"

According to The Sunday Telegraph, Rupert Murdoch is launching an ad-free, opinion-led rival to BBC Radio 4 in the coming months, a DAB channel called Times Radio. 

The paper calls it "an attack on the vulnerable BBC" and says the new radio station is "designed to threaten Radio 4". 

Sounds good to me. An alternative to the "endless fugue of misery and victimhood" that is today's Radio 4 is sorely needed.

Will Rod Liddle host a rival breakfast show to Today? Will Libby Purves's Midweek be reborn? Will the Times's excellent media correspondent Matthew Moore present a counterpart to Amol Rajan's Media Show

Saturday 25 January 2020

Old Open Thread

As posting will be a bit quiet for a few days here and the previous open thread is filling up fast, here's a new open thread. Thanks for all your comments. 

Cold feet, deleted tweets, opportunities lost, and opportunities regained

Drat it! 

I spotted a pair of Lewis Goodall tweets this afternoon which, even by his standards, were outrageously opinionated - Boris-bashing tweets in response to the Spectator's Fraser Nelson saying that Boris Johnson is a centrist Tory who has shown the way for well-mannered conservatives (who think like Fraser) to overcome right-wing populism. 

Former Labour activist Lewis (now Newnight's policy editor) attacked both Spectator Fraser and PM Boris 'from the Left', tweeting something to the effect that Boris was a law-breaking right-winger who'd done nasty populist things last year. 

It was another very bad batch of Lewis Goodall tweets, bias-wise, and I intended to transcribe them as another gob-smacking Gotcha.

But, alas, while on the verge of doing so, I got drawn away by family and friends for a few hours and on getting back to the internet found that Lewis had deleted the jaw-dropping tweets I'd seen. And then the wine flowed and my memory became befuddled.

And he'd also deleted a follow-up tweet. (Goodness knows what it said).

What to do?

The moral of this story: As a blogger you should always screengrab biased tweets while you can, lest they get deleted...

...Ah but, seriously, just as I was about to post this (live blogging!), and after trying everything to re-find that original tweets in recent hours, I've just spotted a left-wing Twitterer saying that Lewis was "100000% right!!!" and, praise be!, he's screengrabbed the original Lewis Goodall tweets.


The third deleted tweet is still missing, but the first two can now be transcribed:

  • For a good proportion of last year, the government pretended it would break the law if it had to. Think its fair to say, it's not a conventional centrism.
  • Moreover a key part of the government's susccess [sic] in the election was centred on running against Britain's political institutions. Whether that's right or wrong, good or bad, that is a key tenet of populism.

So that's what Newsnight's Lewis Goodall tried to vanish down the memory hole by deleting his tweets.

Did he realise that he'd gone too far, bias-wise? Or did someone at the BBC instruct him to delete these tweets?

Burns Night (Nothing to do with A&E)

A few years back, as a joke, I tasked a dear friend of mine who was about to holiday in the Scottish Isles to bring me back a (dead) haggis. 

To my huge surprise the braw lassie did, also as a joke. 

I'm assuming she didn't catch it herself though. As the BBC's Autumnwatch has repeatedly proven, wild haggis are notoriously tricky to catch and, as skilled a skinner as she is, I really can't see my friend ever managing to lasso one - the critters are, famously, furiuosly fast on their furry, Rob Roy MacGregor tartan-coloured feet. 

Not that I'm any better. I love scampi but, whatever fishing gear I use, I've never yet managed to net a scampi. Not even in Morecambe Bay, which teems with scampi.

I then boiled my (dead) haggis for the family and, after some fifty minutes, dished it out - in true part-Scottish fashion - with neeps and tatties.

All I can say is that my family were very polite and encouraging and made a valiant effort to assure me that I hadn't poisoned them. I, however, started gagging at the smell of the thing as soon as I scissored opened the casing, even before eating it. And I felt like vomiting for hours after. 

Give me black pudding any day.

True story (mostly). 

OK. Bagpipes at the ready. It's Burns Night, and I do love a bit of Rabbie...


I couldn't make sense of this at all, but I think I might have solved it. I think Kirkup has confused Jon Caldara with our own John Sweeney.

They do look a bit alike. But not very. Talking of which, there's a weird thing going on at Facebook. Following that free speech award, apparently, if a Danish MP mentions Tommy Robinson on Facebook it's OK, but if anyone else does, their FB account is zapped.