Monday 28 September 2020

Most trusted


BBC News Website headline tonight

From Lewis Goodall's tweet his afternoon -  which, most unusually, he didn't expand upon or develop into a damning thread - I guessed that Claudia Webbe was a Labour MP simply because he didn't mention her party (Labour):

Meanwhile, Tom Harwood of Guido Fawkes has been reality-checking the BBC's reporting of the story:
Significant error in this ⁦ BBC News story. It says “She was a councillor in Islington, north London, between 2010 and 2018. Not true. She is /still/ a sitting councillor in Islington today.

Yes, despite being a Leicester MP, a cursory glance at Google tells you that she remains a Labour councillor in Bunhill, Islington

An hour on from Tom's tweet, the BBC report remains uncorrected. 

As with Radio 4's Sunday yesterday, BBC fact-checking seems to be fast hurtling down the pan.


Actually, to confess, I already knew who Claudia Webbe was and that was just a shameless rhetorical flourish from me above. She's a Corbynista who should never have been elected to Parliament with a heavy track record of being on the wrong side of the Labour antisemitism scandal

Have They Got Jokes for Aaron Bastani?


Simon Evans, funny and sartorially sharp

For fans of Twitter chats, here's an interesting one this afternoon featuring Simon Evans - one of the few right-leaning comedians (along with Geoff Norcott) to retain a toehold in BBC comedy.

It was sparked by an impartiality-free non-joke from the HIGNFY Twitter feed.

The thread also features arch-Corbynista Aaron Bastani telling it straight!

And if you're wondering, Marcus is also a comedian:


Have I Got News For You: So that’s 30 years then, but if Paul Dacre and Charles Moore take those jobs we’re unlikely to see another five, and nor is the BBC.

Aaron Bastani: As some of my favourite left wing comedians appear on your show I really hope it isn’t cut, as some argue it should have been 15 years ago. It’s a very left wing show, and I’m worried that’s why the Tories want it gone!

Zulu_Alpha: You don't think there's an issue with the BBC only producing left wing comedy?

Marcus James: No. This is a tired manufactured dichotomy.  Most comedy is anti-Establishment.  The Venn diagram between AE and left-wing is a big overlap, but they have a number of AE figures from the Right too (JHB, Henning When {sic}, Simon Evans, etc). Trump is AE - but he is definitely not left.

Simon Evans: Forgive my untagged intrusion, but as a matter of friendly interest, how often do you think I might have been on HIGNFY? Just a rough guess, over the last 25 years that I've been a professional comedian.

Marcus James: No apology needed, I did namecheck you after all. Guessing by this intervention, the answer is going to be not many / none; although to be fair I watch / listen to both HIGNFY and The News Quiz regularly, so there might be a bit of mental cross-pollination on my part. To be fair to the wider argument being made though, the accusation is being levelled at the BBC generally, of which The News Quiz is part, and you have to concede you are a regular on that show. incidentally, I think it would be helpful if people were more specific by what they mean as a "right wing comedian".  Do they want right-of-centre such as yourself and Henning, or do they just mean you can't tell jokes about mother-in-laws and minorities? Because I would hope we can all agree that certain types of humour associated with the "right" are probably never coming back to mainstream TV / radio; and, to be fair, with probable good reason!

Simon Evans: I think it's fair to distinguish between a high profile TV show and a popular radio comedy. You have of course guessed correctly - I have never been on the show. I don't know how often Henning has but if he is the representative of half the British electorate, that's a bit odd? As a conceded regular on The News Quiz, btw, how often do you think I have been on this year, so far?

Marcus James: Not many?  Genuine questions back though, in good faith, Do you feel you are invited on less because of your political position? Do you not think this is largely self-selecting? (simply more people who get into stand-up / comedy, are left leaning / liberal generally?) 

Simon Evans: I think in the last few years, and it being a topical show, they mean comedians who find the likes of Corbyn, Joe Biden and indeed AC Grayling, Change UK and Femi Sorry as at least as deserving of mockery as anyone on the right.

Marcus James: No argument from me there.

Simon Evans: Anyway, it would be unseemly to over do it, good chat, and I hope to see you from the other side of the screen one of these days!

Simon Evans: Sorry, missed this... [reacting to Marcus's "genuine questions" reply] ...I have been on once. But it will be twice, soon! I don't resent or complain about frequency, only occasionally take issue when I am presented as proof that the few RW comedians there are, like me, get invited on all the time.

Sunday 27 September 2020

Or are we being wound up?

Transcript time:

This was how The Andrew Marr Show's paper review discussed the Charles Moore/Paul Dacre story this morning. 

What stood out for me was Camilla Tominey's delivery of a delicious jab against Andrew and the BBC. 

It brought a smile to my face:

Andrew Marr: Let's talk about the front-page of the Sunday Times. Lots of papers, in fact virtually every paper, carries the same story: that Paul Dacre of the Daily Mail, one of the most famous and controversial newspaper editors of his time, is being lined up to head Ofcom, overseeing broadcasting, and Charles Moore, now Lord Moore, who was an editor of your papers and the Spectator and is a Conservative commentator and biographer of Margaret Thatcher - no great fan of the BBC it has to be said - is being lined up as chair of the BBC. Very straightforward question Camilla: Is this true, do you think? Or [laughing] are we being wound up? 

Camilla Tominey: I like the fact that the BBC reaction is to consider it a wind-up, simply because both of these figures are right of centre, representing right of centre newspapers in their time. It does seem a little bit tricksy. But, at the same time, perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps the fact that if Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of the Guardian had been put up for either of these roles, no-one would have paid a blind bit of notice. Perhaps that, therefore, does... 

Andrew MarrThey would have been purring across north London [laughing]  

Camilla TomineyWell, exactly! So maybe that does suggest...maybe the reaction to this does suggest there is a problem Andrew!

Andrew MarrAlright. Of course, we have to say, that there is a proper process for this kind of thing, and there is is a tweet from Peter Riddell, who heads the body that looks over public appointments. He says, "Public competitions for the new chairs of the BBC and Ofcom, both regulated by the Public Appointments Commission, have not yet been launched. Each would involve a Senior Independent Panel Member to provide assurance of a fair and open process as in the Government's Governance Code." Now, we should say, Faisal, both of these characters are very, very eminent journalists and they are serious contenders for anything. 

Faisal Islam: They are. Certainly in the case of the Ofcom chair, that has traditionally being filled in the past by kind of PhD or professors of economics because the role isn't mainly about content regulation, though there is an important role in online [indecipherable] coming forward for Ofcom. It is about broadband, and telephones, and mobiles, and all that sort of stuff, so it tends to have been a technical appointment. But it is a new Government. They may have a change of direction on who they think should run these things. 

Andrew MarrIt will be very, very interesting to see what happens next. 



Making Charles Moore the next Chairman of the BBC and Paul Dacre the next head of Ofcom would be a bold act by the Government. But are they still just floating it? Iain Dale is confidently predicting that neither will be put in place. 

Same old, same old


It's been a while since I mounted my hobby-horse about Radio 4's Sunday programme

Nothing's changed though. 

This morning, for example, it marked the Catholic Church's World Day for Migrants and Refugees - very much its kind of thing.

Preceding William Crawley's interview with Cardinal Nichols, they played us a clip of an asylum seeker from Nigeria (who also happens to be a member of the campaign group Refugees for Change). He condemned the UK's asylum system for being too harsh. 

So that was the starting point for what followed. 

And then came William's questions to the liberal Cardinal Nichols, nearly all of which came from a very particular angle:

  • That's the experience of Ben, Cardinal. Do you agree with him that the UK's asylum and refugee system is harsh, is broken?
  • Well, if you do think the system is broken, how is it broken? What's gone wrong with it in your judgement?
  • And that hostile rhetoric, from where?
  • No, I mean who is voicing that? Who is voicing that rhetoric?
  • What about the rhetoric of the Government? What about the rhetoric of the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, for example, in progressing the Immigration Bill?

It was almost funny. From the third leading question there, William was clearly angling after getting the Cardinal to condemn Priti Patel, but - as is his way - the waffling Cardinal wasn't getting there fast enough, so William had to spell it out to him in the fifth question. 

William did 'balance' things by then reading a short statement from the Home Office before changing the subject:

  • Can I just finally and briefly ask you about...the Church of England archbishops, who've also expressed their concerns about a second wave of coronavirus, the implications of all of that, some of us of course in the public wondering about Christmas and whether it will essentially be cancelled this year. Very briefly, your thoughts?

There were so many questions that Sunday could have put to Cardinal Nichols, challenging him on some of his highly questionable statements, putting alternative points of view, but that's not what Sunday does on issues like this. 

It is indelibly set in its ways, doubtless because everyone on the programme thinks pretty much the same way about immigration.


We also got some ridiculous story about an American priest who got into a spot of difficulty because of the use of pronouns, and an item about how wonderful it is that madrassas are re-opening in Preston (with the usual obfuscations about why Muslim communities seem to be being disproportionately impacted by coronavirus).


It began however, pace Charlie on the Open Thread, with an item on the Trump administrations "socially conservative Catholic" nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the US Supreme Court. William talked to one of the programme's regular US commentators, Mark I. Pinsky (the one who calls Donald Trump an "asshole"). William's approach was classic Sunday:

  • First to the United States. where last night Donald Trump named his pick to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a US Supreme Court justice. As expected, he chose Amy Coney Barrett, a socially conservative Catholic and former law professor who has served for the past 3 years as a federal judge. Republican senators have previously argued that Supreme Court nominations should not be made during an election year and with less than 40 days until the 2020 presidential election Democrats have condemned this nomination as an abuse of power and called on senators not to confirm the appointment. To assess the significance of this presidential pick for America's top court I've been talking to the religion journalist and author Mark Pinsky.
  • There's already a flurry of concerns that Amy Coney Barrett is a member of a small charismatic Catholic group called People  of Praise. What do we know about that group and what it stands for?
  • And some concern about the connection between this group and Margaret Atwood it would appear?
  • Potentially, this could be the most consequential Supreme Court appointment in living memory, couldn't it? 
  • And she, I understand, has already made some comments in 2016 about the inappropriateness of appointing a Supreme Court justice so close to an election. That was an issue of course in 2016. Could that come back to haunt her?
  • It seems very strange to people on this side of the Atlantic that there is so much concentration and focus in the media and in politics in the United States around the appointment of a judge because it is such a political thing, whereas in the United Kingdom it is a much more independent process in terms of the judiciary. Amy Coney Barrett, if she's appointed, could very well change America, couldn't she?

Again, all the talking points come from the same angle. They are liberal, pro-Democrat talking points.

The accusations of hypocrisy against both Amy Coney Barrett and the Republicans which William pursued more than once, for example, are only half-fair because they omit to mention that the Democrats are being just as hypocritical. Indeed, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg wanted her kind of judge appointed before the 2016 election but in 2020, as her dying wish, wanted any new judge appointed after the election, so even she was being hypocritical. 

Fran Unsworth really has her work cut out broadening the range of thinking on this programme.

Update: As Julian notes in the comments,
The group Ms Barrett belongs to is not the one that is supposedly the one the Handmaid's Tale is based upon. The video of Ms Barrett that purports to show her arguing against this course of action has been edited to omit the fact that she was arguing the exact opposite. Both these details were available yesterday so basically the BBC is repeating lies at worst or regurgitating old news at best. 

Even setting aside the bias, this is terrible BBC journalism.

Saturday 26 September 2020

One minute to midnight

'Francesca' is a fine Italian name. Fans of Dante will recall poor Francesca da Rimini, blown about the first circle of Hell like a leaf in a never-ending whirlwind alongside her no less ill-fated lover Paolo. 

Most readers over the centuries have felt nothing but sympathy for her. 

Will they sympathise with Francesca della BBC though? 

Here's her story. (Please try not to faint with pity.)

Fran Unsworth, the BBC's Director of News and Current Affairs, jetted off to Italy this week to speak at the Prix Italia conference - it's a hard life, but I suppose someone has to do it - and reading her speech makes it sound as if she feels she's in the first circle of Hell at the moment being blown about like a leaf in a never-ending wind too. She even begins by saying:

We live in stormy times and are all trying to navigate through them with intelligence and with good hearts and good intentions.

What's bothering her especially is the impact of the 'culture wars' on the BBC and the fact that "many actors wish to co-opt us into their side of the culture war". She strongly hints that some BBC staff have already been co-opted:

Online warriors...can encourage staff with a particular interest in an aspect of the news, for example from their lived experience, to seek to persuade editors that their view of the world needs to be reflected in our coverage. Or that we should adopt the particular vocabulary they endorse.

She says this is "increasingly hard this is to resist" (we've noticed, as per Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter!), but says if the BBC don’t resist it they will "undermine their future as a universal public service media organisation, taking money from everyone". 

What can be done? She says that newsrooms should

(1) "Decide on the right editorial way forward and the right language to deploy, in a clear, calm, considered fashion. And which when challenged can explain their decisions quickly and responsively to both the outside world and to our own staff".

(2) "Shrug off social media pressure and the cancel culture, and parry the unfair attacks on our honesty and intentions".

And, she adds:

(3) "More than anything, we need newsroom leaders who are ready to reflect a broad range of thinking, who don’t always go down the same narrow, well-trodden path because it is the one they have always followed". 

Shrugging off social media pressure and the cancel culture is a good idea, and of course the BBC should parry unfair attacks on their honesty intentions. And it's good that she acknowledges the narrowness of the range of thinking among BBC 'newsroom leaders'. 

But (1) is surely dependent on (3) already being in place, and the problem is that (3) is very far from being in place. 

BBC groupthink rules, and it will take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to change - if her and Tim Davie seriously want to change it. 

It is precisely because (3) isn't remotely in place that so many wrong editorial ways forward have been chosen in the past few years (and decades) - and it's getting worse. (Just look at Newsnight).

'A broader range of thinking' is surely the horse, 'deciding the right editorial way forward' the cart?

Anyhow, Miss Unsworth ended her speech with a rhetorical flourish:

If we don’t analyse the dangers these cultural issues pose to public service broadcasters and think them through, we may look up and see to our surprise that the hands of that clock we watch all day are pointing at one minute to midnight.

Many, of course, think it's past midnight already.

The BBC's "ongoing propaganda war against the Jewish state"


On the subject of Sue's Tuesday post, David Collier has now posted a coruscating attack on the BBC over this week's Panorama and BBC Arabic's heavy involvement with it. 

It's too powerful a piece to be read in paraphrase, so you really ought to read the whole thing.

He looks at why the BBC targeted Roman Abramovich ("a wealthy, proud, Zionist Jew who fights antisemitism – what is not for the hate?"); argues that the BBC has "amplified beyond recognition" certain fringe Jewish voices through "editorial choices"; and says the BBC is "obsessed with Israel".

He further argues that BBC Arabic's story about Mr Abramovich's funding of an NGO (Elad) that invests in Jerusalem isn't news ("Shock horror – A Jew invests in Jerusalem"):

Jews investing in Jerusalem is like Muslims investing in Mecca or Catholics in the Vatican. It is a non-story.

He then outlines the "usual smears", the loaded language, the "nonsensical propaganda stories" and "the standard deceptive tactics"  used by the BBC - eg:

BBC Arabic [found] a fringe Israeli left-wing politician to claim he was ‘shocked’ on camera. That politician left the scene 14 years ago after his party failed to gain enough votes to see him re-elected. This is truly desperate stuff.

He sets out the historical background to the story behind the BBC "hit piece" in detail before describing how "as always" the BBC tried to make it personal" and then proceeded to "hide most of the story" of the family presented as a victim of Mr Abramovich’s funding and Elad’s activity. David lays out what the BBC "hid" - the exposed forgeries, the wealth of the "poor" family, the legal rulings against them - and the funding for them from "Jewish American billionaire George Soros":

You may not know this, as some backing of Jewish billionaires the BBC don’t want people to know about.

He then describes BBC Arabic as "a propaganda network":

Anyone who doesn’t realise this doesn’t understand the way news is produced and isn’t paying attention. Using mainly locals to create its news, it is entirely subservient to local pressure and norms. When they do get to tell a story about life in Gaza, they spend it talking about fishermen and ancient coins rather than the brutal rule of Hamas. And inside every human interest story like that, they never miss an opportunity to talk about Israeli ‘oppression’.

David has seen the full interview between Doron Spielman of Elad and Rosie Garthwaite of the BBC (the main journalist and producer behind this piece) and describes how the 55-minute exchange was reduced to "just a few seconds for her piece" after "careful snipping":

Anyone who ever wants to see how bad BBC journalism is – should seek out evidence such as this. It exposes an exercise in creating propaganda, ignoring what you are being told and writing the piece they were always going to write anyway.

What points made by Mr Spielman did Rosie Garthwaite omit?  

  • This is Jerusalem, the City of David and what we do benefits everyone
  • This is an archaeological site of world importance
  • Many Arab voices are with us, why are the BBC only using those against us
  • Some well-funded NGOs are dissuading Jewish/Arab cooperation
  • Suleiman forged documents and has no real claim
  • Israel abides by the law
  • The EU and some governments fund those dissuading Jewish / Arab cooperation

He adds, "Each of these is a story in itself. None of them made it into the piece." 

He then writes about the BBC's use of an activist from Peace Now "to help with their case during the documentary", noting:

They had all the information necessary to remind viewers Peace Now is financed by foreign governments. If funding on one side is important, then surely it is on both. This isn’t neglect or an accident. The BBC have completely aligned themselves with only one side of the argument. This isn’t telling the truth, it is spreading disinformation. If the BBC knows there are problems with Sumarin’s claim – wasn’t it the duty of a proper journalist to remind viewers his evidence was proven to be forged?

We've already written about Rosie Garthwaite's history of "hard-core" anti-Israel activity on social media (and yet the BBC still went ahead with involving her here), and David adds to that the name of Uri Blau, who he calls "an anti-Israel activist". Mr Blau is 'friends' with numerous anti-Israel activists on Facebook. David concludes:

It is impossible for the BBC to claim impartiality when he is one of the producers of the piece. Uri Blau sits firmly on one side of the argument. He is in the enemy camp. How on earth can the BBC let him produce a news piece and then claim their investigations are impartial? It was a set-up from the start.

He goes on to say, "The truth is that the BBC and the Guardian are at war with the Jews" and then makes a point Sue has often made:

They don’t mind Jews when they are victims of a terror attack or Holocaust, but cannot stand them when they call for Jewish rights to be protected.

 He ends by writing:

It is an old-school British supremacist antisemitic mindset. A Jew investing in an archaeological site in the City of David – the historical biblical Jewish capital is enough to set them off. No longer interested in telling the truth, they sit firmly in the Arab camp, pushing out anti-Israel propaganda at every opportunity. Which makes pieces like the recent BBC piece on Panorama just par for the course. Just another shot in their ongoing propaganda war against the Jewish state.

Please give the whole piece a careful read. It deserves a proper response from the BBC.

The grass isn't always greener


Andrew Neil is a big fish. The BBC is a big pond. Will he find GB News a small pond? 

I do hope not. He deserves to succeed, and GB News deserves to succeed. They are both very much needed.

But sometimes people who are considered - and especially who consider themselves - 'BBC stars' have sunk rather than swum after leaving Auntie's protectively ample bosom.

Take the case of former 'BBC Breakfast star' Steph McGovern - the one who boasted to Boris Johnson about being in her job longer than he would be in his job. 

She's now at Channel 4 with a new show, Steph's Packed Lunch. 

This new 'star vehicle', the Daily Mirror reported this week, "failed to record a single viewer earlier this week":

Exclusive: Channel 4's Steph's Packed Lunch registered zero viewers at one point during the show on Tuesday

That's one heck of an achievement. It doesn't even sound possible. I'm assuming the ratings went so low they couldn't be detected by BARB (the Broadcasters Audience Research Board). 

Reading the Mirror piece it's hard not to feel sorry for her. She's up against ITV's Loose Women and appears to be receiving a cruel wake-up call. 

Maybe, in a few months, she'll be asking Andrew Neil to "gizza job"?



The BBC's statement on Andrew Neil's departure from the BBC was pleasingly warm:

I did chuckle at the bit about This Week being "much-loved". 

It begs two obvious questions: So why did the BBC cancel it? And will the BBC now admit they made a mistake?

Friday 25 September 2020

BBC’s Reporting All at sea (over Banksy’s Mediterranean Sojourn)

A Guest Post by Arthur T 

After the recent posts - The Brand Banksy Connivance, picked up by News-Watch under ‘TheBBC’s Love Affair with Banksy’ - and further reading, I was astounded to find out just how selective the BBC had been with their coverage of the ‘Banksy goes to sea’ story. 


Sea-watch 3 Captain Pia Klemp, Heroes of our Times (courtesy available as a snip at $8,600.

The name of Pia Klemp should by now be known by all. Along with fellow captain Carola Rakete, she has been responsible for saving a thousand or so lives - migrants who were adrift in the Mediterranean mainly off the coast of Libya. Together, the two are principals of the Sea-watch programme, who in recent months have been at odds with the Italian authorities over the landing of migrants in Italian ports. website has this banner: 

Europe has gotten used to pictures of drowning people and sinking boats. We won’t. That’s why we keep on rescuing. With your support we will send another ship and aircraft to rescue. 

The first story from the BBC was on the 28th August 2020 on the Banksy pages of the BBC News website: 

‘Banksy funds boat to rescue refugees at sea’ … 

‘The Louise Michel has been funded by the street artist and is operating in the Mediterranean.’ … 

However, a day earlier on 27th August this article appeared in the Guardian:

‘Banksy funds refugee rescue boat operating in Mediterranean.’ 

This article covers the story in a depth that the BBC chose to avoid:

Banksy’s involvement in the rescue mission goes back to September 2019 when he sent an email to Pia Klemp, the former captain of several NGO boats that have rescued thousands of people over recent years.

"Hello Pia, I’ve read about your story in the papers. You sound like a badass,” he wrote. “I am an artist from the UK and I’ve made some work about the migrant crisis, obviously I can’t keep the money. Could you use it to buy a new boat or something? Please let me know. Well done. Banksy.”

Klemp, who initially thought it was a joke, believes she was chosen by Banksy due to her political stance. “I don’t see sea rescue as a humanitarian action, but as part of an anti-fascist fight,” she told the Guardian.

She has made clear that Banksy’s involvement in the operations is limited to providing financial support. “Banksy won’t pretend that he knows better than us how to run a ship, and we won’t pretend to be artists.”

Who does Pia Klemp seek to engage with in her ‘anti-fascist fight’? Surely, not the EU. 

It’s clear that despite the BBC giving Banksy his own pages on their News website, they were kept well out of the loop over this story, and were required to play catch-up - and then only choosing to cherry the pick parts of the story which were in accord with their promotion of the Banksy brand. Were they unable to report that ‘the operations is limited to providing financial support’ and thus Banksy’s artwork was valueless in this instance? We have noted that the continued support by the BBC of Banksy, in particular the ‘mystery’ of his identity, can have been of significant commercial benefit to his wealth, now sufficient to fund the purchase of MV Louise Michel. 

What I find troubling is that a images Google search ‘Pia Klemp BBC’ produces no matches, though there are plenty of photos of Pia Klemp from other media sources. There is just one, indirectly drawing attention to The Guardian article via the newspaper reviews. I have been looking for the reasons that Klemp is ‘non-existent’ in this way according to the BBC. It appears that Banksy’s boat MV Louise Michel is a German flagged vessel, and that the Sea-watch programme, referred to by the BBC as an ‘NGO Charity’, is backed partly or largely by the Evangelical Church EKD of Protestant Germany. 

Another possible reason might be that Pia Klemp has associations with Forensic Architecture, headed by British Israeli Eyal Weizman at Goldsmiths College. Readers of ITBBCB? will know this group from their shortlisting for the Turner Prize in 2018. 

All in all, it remains a mystery as to why the BBC, who follow every move of Banksy’s, were unaware of the story broken by The Guardian ‘Exclusive’ (although we all thought the Beeb and Guardian were joined at the hip), and also why there is so little on the BBC about ‘a hero of our times’ Pia Klemp, who must tick nearly every box for the BBC’s routine diversity exercise. That the EU come out of this very badly might irk the BBC group-thinkers for whom the EU can do no wrong. 

Also missing from BBC News, the story of Sea-watch and their continuing stand-off with the Italian authorities had a newsworthy addition last weekend, when according to Die Welt, 

"Sea-Watch 4" set - Bedford-Strohm criticizes “arbitrariness" Status: 21.09.2020 

Extracts read as follows: 

Italian authorities hold the refugee ship "Sea-Watch 4" in Sicily. Now the council chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany has intervened. He spoke of a pretext that would prevent sea rescue.

The outrage over the detention of the church rescue ship “Sea-Watch 4” is growing. The council chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, called the process on Monday an “irresponsible act of arbitrariness”. “Anyone who hinders sea rescue accepts that people will drown,” he said. Under the pretext of ship safety, the rescue of people from distress at sea should obviously be prevented,

The Sea-Watch 4 was arrested by Italian authorities on Sunday night in the Sicilian port city of Palermo after it had rescued more than 350 people from distress at sea. According to Sea-Watch, this was justified with alleged security deficiencies.

We can deduce from all of this that both the BBC and Banksy are way out of their depth when it comes to virtue-signalling over the rescue of refugees adrift in the Med - once it all turned ugly. The MV Louise Michel is little more than a shuttle service passing rescued refugees on to coastguard or Sea-Watch vessels, the latter of which are clearly at the sharp end of any dealings with the Italian authorities. Sea-Watch have powerful backers in Germany, whereas BBC/Banksy provide little more than a decorative froth. 

The BBC took an interest Carola Rackete of Sea-watch last year: 

Carola Rackete: How a ship captain took on Italy's Salvini

Italy migrants: Pressure builds over Lampedusa rescue ship’ 

The Sea-Watch 3 reached the Italian island of Lampedusa on Wednesday with 42 rescued migrants.

But, to the BBC, a similarly themed story from 21st September 2020 is no longer newsworthy! We should conclude that both Banksy and the BBC are well out of their depth and floundering. The virtue signalling from both have an uncanny, somewhat muted watery ring to them.

The BBC have tied themselves in knots over their reporting of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, by wishing to promote only the sentimental human stories of migrants. From 11th Sept:

Migrants on Lesbos: 'Europe does not exist. This is hell' 

In this emotive piece written from the viewpoint of the refugee, we were told by the BBC: 

The collapse of Moria into a scorched mass of ash and mangled memories has prompted a fresh humanitarian crisis at the edge of Europe. Not only are thousands of migrants and refugees without shelter - but when the fire hit, 35 of them had tested positive for coronavirus and most of those haven't been located.

The Greek government says the flames were lit by migrants protesting at isolation measures by the camp authorities.

The migrants refute that, insisting it was the work of far-right Lesbos residents, for years furious that their island has been on the frontline of Europe's migration crisis.’ 

By 16th September, the NYT and Daily Mail reported that not ’far-right Lesbos residents’, but Afghan Migrants Charged With Arson in Fires that Destroyed Lesbos Camp - The New York So, where is the BBC’s news of this, and their retraction of the far-right slur? I can’t find anything.

New DG/New Open Thread


Out with the old, in with the new. With September comes a new BBC DG, Tim Davie, and a new open thread. Thanks for all your comments.  

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Lazy, dishonest and biased.

I’m very sorry but I hardly watch the BBC these days. It’s not really a question of aligning with the ‘defund’ or ‘defend’ side of the argument or whether I think the BBC should be ‘reformed’ or ‘removed’. It’s partly because of the increasingly desperate pandering to a demographic…. 
“Generation Z, or Gen Z for short, are the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha” 
 …..that has moved on and doesn’t watch TV! And now, neither do I. (Well, I do, but rarely the BBC) The bias looks more and more entrenched. Who is in charge of this ‘unconscious bias’ training they’re talking about? 17 minutes to 9 (2:44) If the bias is unconscious, then how can the trainers know whether they too are suffering from it? It’s those wretched unknown unknowns again.

I didn’t want to watch Panorama last night - I haven’t watched it for years, the exception being the controversial John Ware episode that shed light on the Labour Party’s malevolent racism. However, the programme was on when I walked into the room just in time to see Richard Bilton cycling, W1A style, through deserted city streets. (why?) 

Well, it seems that he had unearthed some dirty dealing, which could be summed up as:

And the reason I’m even bothering to mention this is simply to point out that Bilton’s emotionally loaded language epitomises bias, be it conscious or unconscious, but not only the conscious/unconscious/subliminal repetitious utterance of trigger words like ‘settlers’ and the BBC/ Guardian’s casual scattering of “illegal under international law” and “Palestinian land” etc etc, this emotive background nagging demonstrates how effortlessly ‘unconscious’ or bog-standard ‘conscious bias’ is slipped in, enabling Richard Bilton and his unconscious mates to virtue-signal rather than apply the rigour of genuine curiosity and self-examination to his research.  (Research? What research?)

Sunday 20 September 2020

Knocking Jim


The Sun on Sunday has a striking 'BBC profligacy' story today concerning James Naughtie's £175,000 salary. 

Its "audit" says that "the 69-year-old was on air for just over 23 hours [from April 2019-20] - equal to £7,608 an hour of broadcasting, or £126 a minute". 

The paper quotes "a source":

It’s quite clear it’s been an old boy’s club at the top of the BBC. Naughtie has been a big name for years but I cannot see how the BBC can justify such an enormous salary for that amount of work. 
He’s well respected and brilliant at what he does but that’s a huge sum and a kick in the teeth for those losing jobs. It shows how out of touch the BBC is.

A BBC spokesman responds:

Jim is one of the most recognisable voices on radio but listing his on-air hours does not represent any of the behind-the-scenes work. 

 Wonder how much "behind-the-scenes work" he does?

Charles Moore for BBC chairman?


Well, if the sources in Downing Street cited by the Mail on Sunday's political editor Glen Owen are correctly reflecting a serious, determined intent on the part of Mr Cummings & Co. to replace the departing Sir David Clementi as Chairman of the BBC with Charles Moore of all people then that would probably be the biggest shock to the BBC's system since time immemorial. 

The newly ennobled Lord Moore of Etchingham is definitely the cat the BBC pigeons would least prefer to have put among them. 

Unlike Sir David, Charles Moore wouldn't go native. Under him, the BBC would be shaken up, beginning next February. 

It's quite a tantalising thought. But is the Government brave enough?


Andrew Neil is being characteristically droll about it, even employing the time-honoured "choking on their muesli" crack:

BBC executives were choking on their muesli when it was reported that I was in the running to be next Chairman of the BBC. I have no interest in the job. But now the Daily Mail is reporting Charles Moore is favourite for the post, I expect BBC to be begging me to take it.

Saturday 19 September 2020

Eeyore reacts

As Morecambe goes back into lockdown on Tuesday, I feel my inner Eeyore bursting to get out:

“I might have known,” said Eeyore. “After all, one can’t complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said ‘Bother!’. The Social Round. Always something going on.”

Picking the right horse for the right course

Robert Cuffe

BBC News's head of statistics, Robert Cuffe, was on Newswatch this week. Here's a transcript: 

Samira Ahmed: Well, the man whose job it is to guide and advise the BBC's journalists on questions like these is Robert Cuffe, who is head of statistics for BBC News, and he joins me now from our newsroom camera upstairs here at New Broadcasting House. Thank you for coming on Newswatch. Can we start with all the different numbers being cited in stories about testing? There are the numbers of tests that can be done in theory, the number of tests being done, and the number of tests done actually processed. Which is the most important one to use in new stories, do you think? 
Robert Cuffe: Well, at the moment the story really is about the gap between demand and supply, and we don't really have good stats on demand. We know the supply. We know the number of tests that are reported everyday that come back with results, and we know the capacity that the labs say they have, and those two are pretty much bumping one up against the other. So it suggests that the system is pretty tight. And when not all tests arrive evenly spread through the week or across the country, that is going to lead to some of the problems that we have been seeing. But we can't tell just how bad the problem is. Like a lot of the coronavirus stories we are trying to piece together what feels to be honest like a jigsaw with pieces from many different boxes. 
Samira Ahmed: OK. Now, we have seen a significant rise in the number of positive cases of the virus, and that is partly because of much more testing. But doesn't that mean that the graphs that we have been using for months tracking the rise and fall of infection numbers since March [have] become a bit meaningless? 
Robert Cuffe: They can be if they are not used correctly. It is certainly true to say that we have gone through three phases. If you think back to March or April, where testing was limited to people maybe only in hospital, it was very, very severely constrained, and then we move through the summer and testing was largely available to anyone who asked for it and everyone was encouraged to go for tests, through the situation we have been reporting this week when we are starting to see constraints come through again, albeit not quite as, nowhere near as tight as they were earlier in the year. Those are three different phases, and to say that the number of confirmed cases on a given day means the same thing in those phases is probably not helpful, and that is why in the charts that we use to display those figures we are putting a break down the middle to illustrate those different eras that we have been through. But I still think it is useful to show the full history. 
Samira Ahmed: Another issue that viewers raise, in August the government changed the way that it calculates deaths from Covid-19. So now it is counting all deaths within 28 days of a positive test. But this fails to include those of course who might have died of Covid-19 more than 28 days after a test, and, on the other hand, it does include those who died in unrelated ways, who happen to have had a positive test. So again, it doesn't seem to be a very satisfactory statistic, does it? 
Robert Cuffe: I think every statistic has weaknesses, and we've just got to pick the right horse for the right course. So if you want to have a more nuanced judgement of whether a death was caused by coronavirus you could look at the death certificate and whether the registering doctor thought that was one of the underlying causes, or the direct cause of the death. But that takes up to two weeks before those numbers come out. Now, we do report them, so we are reporting both sets of figures, and there is a big difference between the totals. So there have been about 42,000 of the deaths within 28 days of a positive test, and about 56,000 mentions of coronavirus on death certificates, so those are big gaps. It is clear that the 28 day number, the number we hear every day, is missing a large part of the death toll but it is much more useful for telling us in a timely way what the trends are. So you don't want to wait when we think about an epidemic that can grow very, very quickly, you don't want to wait two weeks before you start to make decisions about the deaths that are helping you to understand what else is going on elsewhere. 
Samira Ahmed: One of the things you have made clear is that you feel BBC journalists need to contextualise, and that often means using different statistics and then explaining why they are different. But, of course, in headlines in particular, and short summaries, it can feel like we're giving a very simple story, things are going up or things are going down. It is not satisfactory, is it? 
Robert Cuffe: It is very difficult to summarise the coronavirus epidemic in a simple number. That is certainly the case. But I'm not sure that should be surprising. I'm not sure anything in life boils down to one question that can be answered very simply. It is really across the news and within the details of a story that we can really tell the whole detail of what is going on and put that picture together. 
Samira Ahmed: What is really interesting, Robert, is that clearly the BBC is coming up with some of its own statistics based on the data out there. Some viewers feel that the BBC has been taking government data too much on trust and we should do less of that and more of coming up with the BBC's own calculations. 
Robert Cuffe: I don't think that you need to build data from scratch in order to analyse, interpret or challenge the use of particular statistics. Certainly where the story justifies it, we will scrape the website, we will do the survey, we will send in the Freedom of Information request, but I don't think it makes sense for the BBC to start trying to calculate GDP or to conduct a census. So when we get in those statistics that come from government, it is our job really to understand what is the strongest thing that can be said with them, what is the correct use to which they could be put. 
Samira Ahmed: Robert Cuffe, thank you so much. 

Friday 18 September 2020

MPs v BBC journalists


Note BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford's reply to Labour MP Barry Sheerman:

Barry Sheerman MP: It would be useful information for licence fee payers if the salaries of BBC journalists were flashed on their screen as they appear in the endlessly repeated advertisements before BBC News. 

Frank Bell: Same true for MPs I think, flash up salary, outside interests & their values & expenses.

Daniel Sandford (BBC): All except a very few BBC journalists earn less than Barry Sheerman’s £81,000 MP’s salary.

"Within audience expectations"


Talking of BBC U-turns and weasel words...

As Charlie noted on the open thread, this was the BBC's official response to criticism of the '(we do) want to Kill Whitey' "joke" on Frankie Boyle's New World Order:

Frankie Boyle's New World Order was shown after 10pm and its content is within audience expectations for a post-watershed, topical, satirical programme from a comedian whose style and tone are well-established.

As Cue Bono added,  "Yeah, as we all know a white comedian talking about killing black people would also be perfectly acceptable after 10pm".

Meanwhile, here's a short conversation on the matter (via Twitter). 

If you recall, I quoted comedian Konstantin Kisin the other day saying, "I am a huge fan of the BBC (or at least what it could be) and I will never criticise a comedian for trying an edgy joke but how is anyone supposed to defend the producer who thought this should go out? Insane." 

This is what happened next:

Daliso Chaponda: Who is this who has taken over Konstantin Kisin's account? Didn't the real Konstantin do a half hour interview about how freedom of speech is a fundamental principle under threat?  Wasn't he on Good Morning Britain saying people shouldn't take jokes literally.

Konstantin Kisin: Hi Daliso, not sure how my tweet can be read as anything other "she has every right to make the joke, I don't think the BBC should have put it out". This was the conclusion that most sensible people came to with Jo Brand, who I defended if you remember.

Wee Nippy Happy Again


Donalda MacKinnon

It was only a week ago that the BBC announced that Nicola Sturgeon's daily coronavirus press briefings were no longer going to be shown live every day on BBC One Scotland and BBC Scotland, only when "editorial merit" demands. 

Opposition parties in Scotland were happy; the SNP government wasn't

I ended my previous post on the subject by asking, "Will Tim Davie's BBC hold its nerve or U-turn under SNP pressure?" 

Well, this appears to be the answer, courtesy of a headline in The Times

Briefings on virus will be screened, says BBC

Yes, the BBC has performed a three-point turn and will now broadcast all of Nicola Sturgeon's daily coronavirus press briefings live, just as before, for the foreseeable future, as (they now say) "there are clearly strong editorial reasons for continuing to do so at the moment".

This is the statement from a BBC spokesman quoted in The Times a week ago...

We will continue to provide extensive coverage of the government press conferences across our news services, including live streaming online. We will of course consider showing press conferences live when any major developments or updates are anticipated.

That certainly sounded as if Ms Sturgeon's live press conferences were going to be only on an 'as and when' basis - which is just what the newspapers reported last week - but now BBC Scotland director Donalda MacKinnon is saying (in an email to BBC staff):

We did not say that we’d stop coverage of the briefings... 
We’ve said now that we’ll look at the briefings in the round — meaning we’ll broadcast them live on TV when we are in a period of the pandemic when there is significant public information being shared.

These seem to me to be weasel-words. It's true they didn't say they'd "stop" coverage of the briefings, but they did say they weren't going to broadcast all of them "live on TV" from now on

I think Ms MacKinnon is trying to pull the wool over people's eyes here. 

September Song


There certainly was a nip in the air this morning...

Tim Davie at the Royal Television Society, yeah?


Here's Tim Davie at the Royal Television Society, talking a good talk again. And saying 'Yeah?' a lot, yeah?

The paper picks out three quotes:

  • “The BBC does not deliver equally to everyone.” 
  • “There are some people who are getting extraordinary value from the BBC...but there are certain bits of the country that don’t necessarily feel the BBC is for them. It’s not as simple as saying under-35s - it’s often about your life circumstances, where you are, where you live.”
  • “I do think there’s something about metropolitan-based organisations, or the way you hire, that can feel a bit different from some of the population. It’s not left and right, it’s more complicated than that. It’s whether you feel it [the BBC] is for me.”

I'd say those quotes make the interview sound more dramatic than it is. Most of it paints a rosy picture of the BBC and there's plenty of BBC management-speak in there, yeah?

Thursday 17 September 2020

BAME BBC (except Newsnight)


Today's Woman's Hour discussed diversity in the media. 

The discussion wasn't, of course, remotely diverse in terms of viewpoint. The guests were Yasmin Alibhai Brown, the Guardian's Jane Martinson and Amal Warsame of Women in Journalism, of which organisation both YAB and JM are also committee members. (Small world!). 

They all sang the same tune about how bad it is that the media isn't diverse enough, and the phrase 'male, pale and posh' was bandied about a lot.

The figures in the Women in Journalism report being discussed (which analysed certain programmes over one week) are fascinating though - especially for TV broadcasting. 

BAME presenters are massively over-represented in most of the studied programmes: BBC News at Ten on 43%, BBC Breakfast on 33%, and both BBC News at One and News at Six on 29%

Newsnight is the exception with 0% BAME presenters. 

In terms of the experts used, all those programmes either meet or exceed the national BAME population: BBC News at Ten on 22% BBC Breakfast on 19%,  BBC News at One on 13% and News at Six on 20%. 

Again, Newsnight is the exception with 0% BAME experts. 

Wonder if Newsnight will be discussing this tonight? I'm guessing they'll give it a miss.

"Radio 4 used to be the home of sober reporting..."

Here's an interesting comment from Red Handler on the unofficial army forum ARRSE:

I caught the end of The Media Show. It struck me that quite a few opinions were presented as fact. They talked about BAME representation in the media, but two of the four persons on the programme were BAME {judging by their names}: 50% representation is much more than the proportion of BAME by overall population size.  
Then I caught the BBC Radio 4 News at Six, which included a lot of opinion presented as fact and, overall, came over either as (a) a lot of effort being made to spin stories against HMG, or (b) reporters not realising that they are biased.  
Example (a reporter talking about HMG's new internal markets bill) - "...but the provocative move [i.e. HMG's bill] has increased tensions with the EU as the two sides attempt to hammer out a trade deal..."  
'Provocative' is defined as: 'causing anger or another strong reaction, especially deliberately' so the reporter appeared to me to be commenting about the assumed motivation behind the bill. The reporter's sentence could easily have been rendered as '...but the proposed bill has increased tensions...'. This especially after she began the item with:  
'When the Northern Ireland Secretary admitted last week that the government's plan would break international law in a specific and limited way, many MPs could hardly believe what they were hearing! His admission caused outrage; former Prime Ministers; lawyers, the opposition and many conservative MPs said the move threatened the UK's reputation for upholding treaties and international laws...'  
There was no representation of the government's reasons for bringing the bill forward. And I don't want hyped phrases such as '...many MPs could hardly believe what they were hearing! His admission caused outrage...': 
Radio 4 used to be the home of sober reporting...

Fair comment? 

Well, here's the offending report from Vicky Young

When the Northern Ireland Secretary admitted last week that the Government's plan would break international law in a specific and limited way, many MPs could hardly believe what they were hearing! 
His admission caused outrage; former Prime Ministers; lawyers, the opposition and many conservative MPs said the move threatened the UK's reputation for upholding treaties and international laws. 
The growing rebellion ahead of a vote next week has forced the Government to seek a compromise and the BBC understands that it will give Parliament an extra layer of oversight. 
But that has not been enough to assuage the concerns of the Advocate General for Scotland Lord Keen. He's resigned from the Government. Appearing in front of the Liaison Committee the Prime Minister insisted his duty was to protect the country from what he calls "an irrational interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement". 
But the provocative move has increased tensions with the EU as the two sides attempt to hammer out a trade deal. Hilary Benn, the chairman of the Brexit Select Committee asked Mr. Johnson whether he believed the EU was negotiating in good faith. 
[Clip of Mr Johnson and Mr Benn.] 
Mr. Johnson's offer of compromise may persuade enough of his own MPs to fall into line over the Internal Market Bill in a vote next week, but many think Downing Street's approach has done serious damage to the UK's reputation.

A Question of What Exactly?


The Daily Mail reports that former women's footballer Alex Scott is set to meet with BBC bosses next month and "thought to be poised to replace Sue Barker on A Question Of Sport".

The paper quotes a BBC "source" saying that Alex being in consideration for the presenting job had "nothing to do with gender, nor is it a case of the BBC trying to be woke".

We believe them, don't we? 

It looks as if many of the readers of that article don't though. "Yes sure, nothing to do with colour of course...." is the top-rated comment there. 

"Crowdfunding donors give thousands to ‘defund BBC’ lobby group"


The Times reports that the Defund the BBC campaign has already raised £60,000 via crowdfunding, and now wants to escalate its lobbying efforts. According to the woman who runs the campaign's daily activities, Rebecca Ryan, it was the BBC's coverage of Black Lives Matter - in particular that notorious headline on the BBC News website that read, “27 police officers injured during largely peaceful anti-racism protests” - which sparked them into activity. (It was indeed. I remember its launch on Twitter). Ms Ryan continued:

For the last four years the Brexiteers have been portrayed by the BBC as being thick, racist and old. It is difficult to explain to people who didn’t support Brexit how it actually feels to be forced to pay for something on fear of imprisonment only to be repeatedly portrayed in that way. It’s a deep, deep injustice.

Signs of life?

Like the suggestions of surviving organisms that have been reported this past week as possibly living in the sulphuric acid-dominated clouds surrounding our solar system's most hell-like body - the scorching, far-more-barren-than-any-Earth-desert planet Venus - the BBC can still astonish us mere humans by showing itself to be occasionally breathing as far as Lord Reith's 'educate' brief goes.

In a remote corner of the BBC (still to be abolished next year?), The Sky at Night  (introduced even now, musically, by my favourite composer Sibelius's At the Castle Gate), continues to do what it first did over 60 years ago, and does it as brilliantly as ever.

I fear for its future, but I'm glad it's still being allowed to quietly go about its business and that it allows for the late Sir Patrick Moore's designated successor Chris Lintott, Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, to keep on broadcasting for the BBC alongside Maggie Aderin-Pocock. 

Maggie was a brilliant choice because she's uncannily like Sir Patrick in her so-fast-talking-as-to-be-hard-to-always-follow, enthusiastic delivery, so she appealed to Sky at Night fans. But she's also black and female, so that ticked the BBC's boxes beautifully - and, I suspect, remains the programme's key get-out-of-jail-free card, survival wise. 

Chris is a superb science communicator, and knows people, and I'm guessing got the BBC in - behind the scenes - on what could very well be one of the most transformative scientific discoveries of all time (if people forget Twitter and politics and BBC bias for a while). It was a wonderful coup for him:

Well, this is odd. You're watching this on Monday, September 14th, and a few hours ago, a team of astronomers here at Cardiff University announced to the world what could be the most significant astronomical find for decades. I'm filming this a few weeks before that announcement because The Sky At Night has been given exclusive access to the team behind the discovery. We're having to be incredibly secret. So, what is this top secret, ground-breaking discovery? Well, if you haven't heard, the team claim that they've found what could be the signs of life on Venus. I can't believe I get to say that to camera! The team think they've found what could be the signs of life on Venus. 

Here's what we know in a nutshell. The team used radio telescopes here on Earth to detect a gas called phosphine in the high atmosphere of Venus. On Earth that gas is only made in factories or by bacteria in certain conditions. Either way, it's made by life. The team asked whether natural chemical processes could account for what they've seen on Venus and the answer is "No." They could only make about a 10,000th of the amount of phosphine seen. If that's right, then this detection of gas is a sign of life high amongst the clouds of Venus.  

The scientists featured in this programme provided compelling evidence, with proper scientific caveats, for highly improbable extraterrestrial microbial life actually existing viably, right now, on our very own doorstep, floating in the clouds of Venus, armoured against its sulphuric acid and excreting proof of life as they go about their very limited lives. 

For decades Venus has been considered the least likely candidate for providing a haven for life in our solar system.  Not now though.

I seriously urge you to watch this programme.

I only wish the BBC had made more of it. The kind of BBC I want would have made it a half-hour special on primetime BBC One.