Sunday 28 February 2021

Late February Open Thread


Flowers from Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Photo not taken by either Mr Salmond or Ms Sturgeon.

Thank you for your comments and support. Please keep them coming, if you wish...

John Simpson Strikes Again


I'm not entirely sure that the BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson always realises quite how unhelpful he's being to the BBC as far as its 'reputation for impartiality' goes. 

I think that's because he lives in bubbles, and his bubbles - the BBC, Twitter and his social circle - overlap far too much, like overly intimate Venn diagrams. 

Here he is today dropping a BBC Two documentary in it:

I’ve just finished watching the BBC’s excellent series ‘Trump Takes On The World‘, and am reminded of what a very senior British diplomat said to me in 2016: ‘This man is a total buffoon. If he gets elected, we’re all going to regret it.’ 

A helpful suggestion?

It happens every year. It's as traditional as cheese-rolling in Gloucestershire. Andrew Marr invites on the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Chief Secretary to the Treasury BEFORE the Budget, asks him lots of specific questions about things that might be in the Budget and receives response after response along the lines of 'Sorry, I can't answer that. You'll have to wait for the Budget on Wednesday', leading to Andrew getting frustrated. Crazy thought: Why not interview the Chancellor of the Exchequer AFTER the Budget?


I wasn't looking at the TV during Andrew Marr's introduction this morning, just listening, but when he described one of his guests as "redoubtable" - "Georgia's redoubtable Stacey Abrams" - I guessed she'd be a female politician of color.

Someone else tweeted, "We’re in the middle of a pandemic. The economy is trashed. But here’s a black female senator from Georgia to polish our virtue signalling. Aren’t we great?"

Andrew asked Ms Abrams such tough questions as this:
  • You've been called the woman who brought down Donald Trump, and because of what happened in Georgia, you have been a hero to many Democrats ever since. Let me ask you, has Joe Biden actually spoken to you since then?
  • So, how did it feel for you personally when you saw Kamala Harris take the oath of office as vice-president?
  • Finally, how long before we see a female American president, and do you see yourself in the White House one day? 

"It's a simple law of nature"


Andrew Marr's public sector instincts leaked out this morning during the paper review. BBC reporter Nick Eardley was reading from a Sir John Redwood piece in the Mail on Sunday that argues that low taxes stimulate growth and Andrew read out the headline - It's a simple law of nature - and laughed derisively. 

In which Anthony Zurcher gets carried away and then repents


(h/t JunkkMale)

"Tweet in haste, delete soon after" is becoming quite the BBC thing. 

Senior BBC reporter Anthony Zurcher is the latest to embarrass himself - though unlike, say, Emily Maitlis or Lewis Goodall, at least he, The Zurch (as 'Sopes & Maitlis' call him), had the decency to acknowledge that he'd deleted them after an error on his part. 

In summary, the BBC man thought he'd doggone gone and gotten himself a mighty fine anti-Trump 'gotcha'. 

He thought he spotted a modified, Trump-supporting Confederate flag at a Republican rally in Orlando and posted a string of tweets about the flag's history as "the white man's banner", with all that applies for the Trump supporters at that rally, only for others to go and spoil it all by pointing out that it was actually a Christian flag "that had gotten partially wrapped around its poll". 

If this kind of thing continues, "Tweet in haste, delete soon after" might soon replace "Nation shall speak peace unto Nation" on the BBC's coat of arms before too long.

How to take issue with the BBC?

Clicking into Twitter this morning the first thing I saw was Jeremy Bowen riding to the defence of a BBC sports journalist, Sonja McLaughlan. 

Toxic, embarrassing, disgraceful, appalling. Just some of the feedback I’ve had.
Thanks for using @ sign so it’s all hit home. 
Now imagine getting inundated with abuse for doing your job. 
In my car crying. Hope you’re happy.
I thought it was a good interview. Sonja McLaughlan asked the right questions, the ones on everyone’s minds. Sometimes sports interviewing is way too deferential. This wasn’t.
Many others rode to her support, though lots also continued to take issue with her interview

Here's one of those taking issue in a constructive way
  1. thedeadballarea: The Sonja McLaughlin incident: a thread (a Long one I'm afraid). So I've been giving a lot of thought to this (I’m analytical can’t help it), going to split it into two things: the abuse & the interview.
  2. I would hope we can all agree that abuse of anyone online is abhorrent. The fact people like Sonja, Gabby Logan, Maggie Alphonsi and the many others who do such a great job delivering content in the sport get such abuse online is terrible.
  3. It shouldn’t happen and @’ing anyone in to tell them what you think of them is pathetic. Nothing can justify it. Now that’s out of the way let’s actually talk about the post match interviews, and more importantly what we the viewers got out of them? 
  4. We need to be able to criticise TV punditry/analysis/panels in a respectful and considerate manner. The many journalists and fans, rightly, rallying around in support have said it’s right to ask “The hard questions” and I think they are wrong (in that aspect).
  5. I don’t think these actually are the hard questions, pretty much everyone who has watched sport will understand they are the questions that can’t actually be answered. Owen Farrell or Jones criticise the ref they are potentially on disrepute. 
  6. Anyone remember Brenden Venter and his "three cheers for Sireli Bobo" interview? Well as funny as it is, that was entirely because he was up on disrepute for criticising the ref when his team lost.
  7. So knowing that Farrell and Jones CAN’T answer those questions doesn't make them hard, it just places the player and coach in a position where they can’t answer questions and makes the whole thing awkward and ultimately worthless. A wasted interview. 
  8. We the viewer got nothing out of that, the player looks difficult and we end up with an awful interview used as click bait by the BBC. He gets criticised for not answering and Sonja gets a ton of abuse for asking. 
  9. They were asked of, Alun Wyn Jones, Owen Farrell, Pivac and Jones. So both the winning and losing side had the same questions asked four times, or at least four similar interviews all opened with a question that simply cannot be answered. What's the point?
  10. There were 101 other stories in that game. Of Owen Farrell we got two ref questions (and understandably) and a question on Penalties. All valid only one could be answered openly and honestly. 
  11. What about, England’s performance? Heading in the right direction (there attack was excellent yesterday)? What do the team do to get back to Number 1? What was going wrong out there? What was better? What do they do now? What will next week look like? Who knows? 
  12. All, I think are questions the average viewer would have enjoyed and benefited from, they aren't super fan, analytical questions. 
  13. Similarly when Alun Wyn Jones who won the game was asked his thoughts on the Ref’s decision he answered and was then asked to justify why he didn’t say something to the ref in England's favour? 
  14. This is the Welsh, winning captain being asked why he didn't stick up for a losing England after his side have just turned in the best performance in two years. Again there were 101 brilliant stories in that Welsh team and we got almost the same questions as England. 
  15. That's simply not good enough imo (and it is just my opinion). 
  16. It’s important to remember pitch side asks the questions but a whole team in the background say press that point or move on, so understand they are only doing their job and that’s why the abuse is absolutely uncalled for. We should criticise the BBC team not the individual. 
  17. Ultimately, the BBC, and ITV, need to do better, they need to ask better questions. There was a golden opportunity to generate something informative, insightful and peek behind the eyes of a struggling team.  
  18. Instead we’ve now got a 1:30 clip of Owen Farrell being asked the same question over and over, him reacting badly, Sonja McLaughlin getting a ton of abuse and nothing of worth, nothing to discuss about the game. 
  19. But hey the BBC social media account is up in clicks, the interview is the main point of discussion for many people and there is a huge fire to fight. Sonja, and other TV pundits deserve better protection, both online and from their employers putting them in those positions. 
  20. We, the viewer, deserve a better product. That may not sit well with many journos but there is a lot of outrage because people are unhappy about it. Regardless of how they aired that view, respectfully or wrongly, read the room. Perhaps they weren’t the greatest questions. 
  21. You can both be disgusted with the abuse someone like Sonja has received and still think yesterday wasn’t a great example of a post match. For me Sonja is an excellent journalist, I just didn't think yesterday was the right tone and questions. C'est la vie. 
  22. Fans need to be able to criticise and say what they want the BBC need to look at what they produce and ask does it actually add anything to the game because outside of the broadcast what does it actually contribute? 
Update: The BBC website has published a report about support for Sonja McLaughlan from the BBC and others. It's a 100%, back-her-to-the-hilt, wagon-circling piece - essential a glorified press release - that provides readers new to the story with very little context.

Further Update: As often, that modern Montaigne, Bruce Lawson, puts it well:
It’s not fair that Sonja received all that abuse, but before condemning it out of hand, the BBC, her employer, might want to have a look at themselves. What an earth were they doing furnishing her with a series of idiotic and provocative questions?

How would the BBC have reported the US airstrikes on Iran-backed targets if Donald Trump had launched them so early in his presidency?

Did you know that President Joe Biden has already bombed Syria? 

It's something that could easily have been missed if you simply relied on BBC TV/radio news. 

Here's Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times this morning: 
Joe Biden’s kinder, gentler America fired a number of missiles into Syria last week, killing an estimated 22 people. I assume it was some kind of goodwill gesture towards foreigners. Certainly that’s how it was reported by the BBC. Whenever Trump did anything similar it was presented as “fascist madman murders civilians and starts Third World War”.
That sounds like the sort of thing the BBC would do, but did they? I've searched via TV Eyes and I can only find one reference to the US airstrikes on Syria on BBC One or BBC Two or the BBC News Channel, at around 5am on Friday morning - which is quite some feat of under-reporting. 
I see Radio 4 reported the US strikes though, intermittently, throughout Friday and Saturday. Except for a brief mention during a news bulletin, Today ignored the story, as did The World at One and The World Tonight. However, Friday's P.M. asked one question about it. Rod must have heard it somewhere on Radio 4.

How did they report it then? 
  • 2am, Friday: The Pentagon says the US military have hit facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran-backed militias in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on US troop locations in Iraq. A defence spokesman said the air strikes were carried out following a directive from President Biden.
  • 6.35am, Friday: Joe Biden has authorised his first known air strike since becoming US President. It targeted facilities in eastern Syria used by militias backed by Iran and was in retaliation for recent rocket attacks on American targets in Iraq.
  • 11.02am, Friday: The US says its air strikes on targets in eastern Syria have destroyed 9 facilities controlled by Shia militia. It's the first US military operation since Joe Biden became president. The attacks were ordered after a civilian contractor was killed by rockets fired at US positions in Iraq.
  • 5.50pm, Friday: Evan Davis: Now, the first military action of the Biden administration was carried out last night - an air strike targeting Iran-backed militias in Syria. That came 10 days after Americans were targeted. A civilian contractor was killed in a rocket attack on US targets in Irbil. Syria has condemned the attack as "a bad sign" from the new US administration. But are we able to say much about American foreign policy under Joe Biden? As we speak in fact, lines are coming out of the White House. It has just said "strikes were necessary to reduce the threat of further attacks" and the Americans have also said they will be releasing later today their evidence, their intelligence, on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, that killing. We can talk to Karin von Hippel, who's Director General of the Royal United Services Institute for defence and security studies. This strike last night, Karin, some might say it shows a a willingness to get dragged back in. I don't know. What did you make of it? Karin von Hippel: I actually think it was a targeted and limited strike and, in a sense, a response to say 'you can't attack American bases or American personnel or troops' and also a message to Iran, that's getting involved in a lot of proxy conflicts, or has been, for a very long time in the region and Biden is very desperate to get back into an Iran deal, the JCPOA plus whatever the new version will be, and there's a big debate going on about whether or not Iran's involvement in the region should be brought into the deal or not. So this is sending a message to the Iranians essentially. Evan Davis: Great.
  • 4.04am, Saturday: President Biden has said that Iran cannot act with impunity, and he warned the country's leaders to be careful. He was speaking after US warplanes attacked facilities in eastern Syria controlled by Iran backed Shia militias. At least 17 people were reported killed. With more detail, here's Gary O'Donoghue. Gary O'Donoghue: The Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said two F15 aircraft dropped a total of 7 precision-guided munitions totally destroying 9 facilities and partially destroying two others. Battle damage assessment, he said, was still being carried out and he would not confirm reports that 17 people have been killed on the ground. The strikes, he said, were justified under both US law and United Nations statutes and were directed at Iran-backed Shia militia groups.
As well as a few other short summaries overnight on Friday night and Saturday morning, that seems to have been it. 

Even the likes of Jeremy Bowen have kept quiet on this story.

It's as if, without Donald Trump, the urge to report - and denounce - certain actions holds less appeal.

Mind Your Language!

It's intriguing watching the changes to the BBC News website report Anas Sarwar wins Scottish Labour leadership race (via Newssniffer).

The BBC is getting itself in its usual tangle over race and language.

Version 7 saw two paragraphs change. One changed from:

Mr Sarwar, who is the first minority ethnic leader of a major political party in the UK, got 57.6% of the vote, while Ms Lennon got 42.4%.


Mr Sarwar, who is the first non-white leader of a major political party in the UK, got 57.6% of the vote, while Ms Lennon got 42.4%.

The other changed from:

On becoming the first minority ethnic leader of a major political party in the UK, Mr Sarwar said: "That doesn't say something about me. That says something great about Scotland and its people."


On becoming the first non-white leader of a major political party in the UK, Mr Sarwar said: "That doesn't say something about me. That says something great about Scotland and its people."

And then in Version 8, one paragraph changed from:

Never before has any major political party chosen a leader from a minority ethnic background.


Never before has any major political party chosen a leader from a non-white minority ethnic group.

I'm assuming part of this though came in reaction to a tweeted version of the report from BBC Scotland's political editor Glenn Campbell: 

Stewart Cotterill, among many others, tweeted in response, "Glenn, re your BBC article about the new Scottish Labour leader. He is not the first minority ethnic leader of a major UK political party. Disraeli, Howard, Miliband predate him. Just thought you might want to change the piece."

Yes, the BBC had forgotten all three Jewish leaders of major UK political parties (four if you include Herbert Samuel, as you should).

Glenn hasn't acknowledged the change on Twitter, but the change has happened nonetheless. 

Saturday 27 February 2021

Nish v Nigel - An Update


This comment from Jeremy Vine's nemesis LunchTimeLoather on the Open Thread needs a post of its own (especially for readers new to the blog and just passing by and merely glancing at posts):

LunchTimeLoather: New Year's Eve seems a distant memory now, but some will remember Nish Kumar's remarks about Nigel Farage on the Graham Norton show.

Jeremy Hayes, BBC Complaints Director, told me this week: "I think there is little doubt that it would be regarded as offensive by Mr Farage but the test here is, I think, whether it could be said to breach generally accepted standards, taking into account that the programme was broadcast very late in the evening to an audience of adults. Not everyone appreciates Mr Kumar’s sense of humour, which is often targeted at politicians and can be quite brutal. Having reviewed the programme I do not think his jibe can be regarded as so extreme as to breach generally accepted standards and I am therefore not upholding your complaint. There is no provision for further appeal against this decision within the BBC.". 

JunkkMale: In a sane world, what this oaf ‘thinks’ is worth zippy.  

Vrager: Usual weasley response when the BBC doesn't think it will be sued for libel/slander.

Nish Kumar "brutally" called Nigel Farage "not technically a man, just a sack of meat brought to life by a witch’s curse" on late evening New Year's Eve BBC One.

His comments were clearly neither hate-free nor hilarious. 

And it came from a man who's widely regarded as being 'not technically a comedian', merely a very lucky, shameless, agitprop, bread roll magnet who's never been a hit with the general public but has been privileged and brought to public prominence - and claque applause - by the BBC overwhelmingly because he ticks a number of key BBC boxes. 

He is, perhaps, the ultimate barely-talented beneficiary of positive discrimination promoted beyond his abilities purely for reasons of BBC virtue-signalling (no offence). 

As they used to say on exam papers: Discuss.

Will Andrew Neil's new channel bring us Nigel Farage and Nish Kumar sharing a bottle of champagne and agreeing to disagree on New Year's Eve 2021? 

I suspect Nigel at least would be up for it. Would Nish though, lacking his BBC claque?

True to form


How well we know some BBC reporters! 

I read a prediction this morning that the BBC's Nick Bryant, reporting from New York for From Our Own Correspondent, would... doing his best to avoid the Cuomo scandal and other similar ‘stuff em in nursing homes to make hospital stats look good’ scandals in other states...

...even though he'd be reporting on Covid's impact on New York City.

Kate Adie's introduction led to me into thinking this might prove incorrect as she said, in passing, "Could it have been handled better, with the governor Andrew Cuomo coming in for criticism?"

But no, though he did talk about the impact of the disease and the lockdown on the city, Nick Bryant never mentioned Governor Cuomo or the nursing home scandal. 

He didn't even allude to them. 

The only politician he had a pop at was...guess who?...yes, Donald Trump. 

Very Nick Bryant!

Aye Right, Sarah


I see a dark Twitter storm gathered around BBC News's Scotland Editor Sarah Smith overnight with the usual calls for her sacking. 

(The inevitable hashtags like #resignsarahsmith and #SackSarahSmith are trending).

In fairness, the complainants had something substantial to complain about. She made a horrendous mistake at the start of yesterday's BBC One News at Six, saying:

Alex Salmond said he believes Nicola Sturgeon has misled Parliament and broken the ministerial code, which he thinks means she should resign

I actually spent the start of my weekend last night watching, on catch-up, the whole of Alex Salmond's appearance at the Scottish Parliament select committee. The last few hours of it were particularly gripping. So I know for a fact that Mr Salmond went out of his way throughout not to say that Ms Sturgeon should resign but to say that that's a matter for others to judge. Therefore, it simply beggars belief that a BBC journalist of the standing and seniority of Sarah Smith should say otherwise - and get it so wrong - during the BBC One News at Six headlines. It leads me to wonder: Hadn't she been paying attention?

She later issued a 'clarification' (though not an apology) on Twitter:

1. On the 6 o’clock news headline tonight I said that Alex Salmond had claimed the First Minister had ‘broken the ministerial code and that he thinks she should resign’. I would like to clarify that Mr Salmond did not say that the First Minister should resign.  
2. He said “I've got no doubt that Nicola has broken the ministerial code but it’s not for me to suggest what the consequences should be”.

I don't think there's been an on-air correction/apology yet, though the BBC Press Office put out a Twitter statement saying pretty much word-for-word what Sarah said there.

Nothing New


An interesting little exchange here between Conservative former Scotland minister Lord (Michael) Forsyth and the BBC's Scotland political editor Glenn Campbell:

Lord Forsyth: How can Glen Campbell (BBC) say we learned nothing new. We listened for nearly 6 hours to a measured  account backed with documentary evidence of how Alex Salmond came to make his devastating charges against the Scottish Government and the committee struggled to challenge him.

Glenn Campbell: Because I have followed closely all the written evidence submitted in advance. That is not to say that Alex Salmond did not articulate his case well - he certainly did.

Levi Stubbs: I learned loads. This isn't about Glenn Campbell learning something new. It's about the public learning something new.

A Modest Proposal


Champagne may be being readied at the BBC with the news that Ofcom wants to give the corporation much greater freedom to set their own programming targets free from the 148 quotas which presently require them to provide certain amounts of public service programmes - i.e. arts, religion, documentaries, etc. 

This would allow the BBC to to set it own targets and mark its own homework, and to use its £3.5 billion a year in licence fee funding to become even more like its commercial rivals and even less like a public service broadcaster.

Last Saturday, BBC One viewers saw Celebrity Mastermind followed by Celebrity Catchpoint followed by Celebrity The Wall followed by Pointless Celebrities. With any luck, thanks to Ofcom, they could soon be enjoying Celebrity BBC Weekend News read by Michael McIntyre. The news department could select ten stories to cover and 'spin the wheel' to decide which ones are covered and the order they're covered. BBC reporters like Mark Easton and Orla Guerin could then emerge through dry ice and talk about how awful things are and then wave goodbye to the audience at the end of their reports to lift viewers' spirits again.

Jon Sopel and the Case of the 'WTF' Eyebrow


In The Times this week Patrick Kidd risked making readers' eyebrows "do ‘WTF’" by writing:

In four years of covering Donald Trump, Jon Sopel had to try to maintain impartiality in the face of absurdity. “My eyebrow has learnt to do ‘WTF’, ” the BBC’s man in Washington told an Intelligence Squared event.

Well, he didn't try very hard, did he?

Patrick continued: 

Now, he is almost missing the orange peril. “I feel like I’ve had four years of a daily fix of crack cocaine and I’m now moving over to a half of shandy,” he said. “There’s a degree of cold turkey in the transition.”

We predicted that 'yes man' journalism under the Biden administration wouldn't be as much fun for Sopes. What a shame! Still, he's always got his books to flog. 

Where's the roast beef?


This takes me back to my youth, when you'd often hear people railing at the Americanisation of British children's TV - indeed, the Americanisation of everything. 

Those were the days of Scooby-Doo, The Huckleberry Hound ShowThe Yogi Bear ShowWacky RacesCaptain Caveman & many others. 

Here in 2021 the BBC's director of BBC Children's & Education Patricia Hidalgo says she wants this Americanisation sharply reversed

She aims to make BBC children's TV, especially cartoons, more British "or, at least, European" and dreams of creating an "amazing" version of The Simpsons for children and families in the UK:

What I think we can do is set our characters in a British setting, or at least European. When I’m talking now [in meetings], I’m saying, what about roast beef instead of turkey? We should be thinking about these things. Children grow up with these cultures. Why not infuse more of our culture?

All the newspaper cite JoJo & Gran Gran, the first BBC TV cartoon to centre on a black British family, as the prime example of the kind of programme she wants. 

For Peat's Sake


The BBC is forever campaigning about something. I noticed this in passing in The Times:

The amateur gardening sector is also under pressure to stop using peat. Gardeners' World, the influential BBC show, consistently encourages people to switch to alternatives, with presenter Monty Don campaigning on the issue.

Cultural “keep out” signs at Broadcasting House


Trevor Phillips hit the nail firmly on the head this week, writing in The Times

Outrage at the BBC‘s Emma Barnett for the crime of asking a self-styled Muslim leader how many female imams there are in Britain — a query similar to that addressed to Catholic leaders for decades — displays the same exaggerated regard for cultural “keep out” signs. The apparent capitulation by her bosses to social media clamour betrays a lack of self-confidence in an elite that genuflects (these days, often literally) to diversity. They will do almost anything to avoid calling attention to their own uniformity of social class, ethnicity and political outlook. I don’t think it is true of the BBC’s new boss, Tim Davie, but often the mask of compassion hides simple cowardice.

Is he being too charitable to Tim Davie there though?  

Bloodbath Reviews


I much preferring reading reviews of TV dramas these days to watching those dramas. My loss maybe, or maybe not. Anyhow, here are two Times reviews of BBC One's latest moody drama, first from Carol Midgley:

I watched the first half of Bloodlands, possibly like you, with a sense of “been here, done this” ennui. James Nesbitt was a brooding, sad-faced detective with a tragic backstory (tick). He was put on a case that he thought was connected to another (highly sensitive) one, but was told to “just leave it. It’s in the past” (tick). That case involved his murdered wife (“She’s gone. Nothing’s gonna bring her back”) and now he was on an angry mission to solve it (tick). Pass the déjà vu tablets, I think we’re going to need them.

The second came from Camilla Long and was slightly less charitable:

What is even more embarrassing than having produced Bloodlands, the most lumpen, graceless, cheapest cop drama in living memory? The answer is: scheduling it in the same week as [ITV's] Unforgotten, one of the best and most elegant, complete with its subtle script, understated acting, and, of course, Nicola Walker. 

There is no comparison, for example, between spending an hour with James Nesbitt, grinding his awful gears as some detective in a shockingly basic, bothy-strewn, Nor’n Irish crime drama, and giving yourself over to the finely tuned Walker, who returns to Unforgotten for a fourth series and one last unsolved murder. 

It felt loved and cared for, unlike the incomparably ugly Bloodlands, which felt as if the BBC only ran it because they’d lost a drunken bet. The script, we’re told, was nurtured by Jed Mercurio, the creator of Line of Duty, which suggested a tight, fraught drama with backstabbing and bent coppers, not a vanilla cop-style product that felt as if it had been written by a 15-year-old Jed Mercurio fan, which the BBC then showed out of pity and guilt. 

I think I'd stick with reading the reviews. 

Tuesday 23 February 2021

"Bunked off early"

A slice of diplomatic history at lunchtime when Boris Johnson chairs UN security council. Last UK PM to do so was John Major in 1992. That was the first time the UNSC had sat at head of state level. Also round the table were Presidents Bush, Mitterrand & Yeltsin. 

And here he is again, a little later, trying to shame his own country's PM:

So, after all that, Boris Johnson bunked off early, having chaired the council for less than an hour & listened to only 5 speakers, handing over to Dominic Raab. I wonder what the other contributors - including heads of government & John Kerry - thought about that? #diplomacy

My questions:

Is the BBC's diplomatic correspondent saying that the UK PM is lazy here? (It certainly sounds like it. And may be true. But...)

Why is he stirring the pot against his own country's PM? Why even raise such questions (off his own bat)? 

Isn't he also, indirectly perhaps, also stirring the pot against his own country's interests? #undiplomatic?

And why is he worrying about the possible offence to other world leaders - and John Kerry? And was Joe Biden there? Or didn't he bother to attend? Maybe, being a world leader, Joe's as busy as Boris, and vice versa? 

Finally: Why do BBC journalists do this?

Jeremy Vine and Andrew Marr's discussion "misled listeners and did not meet the BBC’s standards of due accuracy"

Those who enjoy reading BBC Executive Complaints Unit findings that go against the BBC are in for a treat here

This one concerns an edition of BBC Radio 2's The Jeremy Vine Show on 6 October 2020 and an interview between the host and Andrew Marr.

Here's how the BBC summarises the complaint: 
The programme included an interview with Andrew Marr about his book “Elizabethans: How Modern Britain Was Forged” in which he referred to one of its subjects, Jayaben Desai, who was involved in the prolonged strike at Grunwick in 1976. The son of the late George Ward, the owner of Grunwick, complained that the discussion repeated statement about Mr Ward’s treatment of his workforce which were in conflict with the findings of the inquiry conducted by Lord Scarman, and for which the BBC had apologised when they were broadcast on previous occasions. The ECU considered the complaint in the light of the BBC’s editorial standards of due accuracy.
What's so striking there is that the BBC "had apologised" before "on previous occasions" for making such statements, and now thanks to Mr Vine and Mr Marr they've had to do it again! 

So what happened? Well, the BBC ruled against Jeremy Vine and Andrew Marr:
As the ECU was presented with no evidence which would have allowed it to discount Lord Scarman’s conclusions, it accepted that the statements in question would have misled listeners and did not meet the BBC’s standards of due accuracy.
And what happened as a result? Well, pretty much the usual:
Further action
The finding was reported to the board of BBC Radio and discussed with the programme-makers concerned. The inaccurate material will not be re-broadcast.
It doesn't sound as if the verdict had to be read out on The Jeremy Vine Show or a public apology given.

Saturday 20 February 2021

Mid-February Open Thread


Apologies for the lack of recent posts. 

Thanks for keeping us afloat with your comments. Please keep telling the BBC what they don't want to hear.

BBC - "Fascism is not an alien import but a central and on-going part of the British story"


Thanks to Stew for helping to update an earlier post with something even more remarkable. 

BBC - "The unbroken thread of fascism in Britain" looked at a new Radio 4 series which claims that this country has had "an unbroken thread of fascism", despite us being about far more resistant to fascism than most European countries. 

The remarkable thing is that the BBC actually toned this down. 

They did it via a stealth edit. 

Here's what it was:

And here's what it became:

That first version, stating that fascism is "central" to this country's history rather than an "alien import" may be the biggest lie the BBC has told yet in their attempt to denigrate their own country. Fascism has always been marginal.

Blog Matters

I'm seeking your advice please.

Which would you prefer as a comments system for the blog? 

Should we revert to Blogger? Should we stick with Disqus?

It's a tricky matter. We lost people when we moved to Disqus but might regain them now. But we also gained people when we moved to Disqus but might lose them now.

(How's that for impartial questioning?)

Thoughts (without links) on the Emma Barnett/Woman's Hour/Muslim Council of Britain affair

One of the major BBC-related stories of the week has been the furore over Emma Barnett's Woman's Hour interview with the new female head of the Muslim Council of Britain Zara Mohammed - something you've already discussed in the comments.

It's a remarkable story. 

Emma has really hit the ground running when it comes to hitting the newspaper headlines since taking over at main host of Woman's Hour from Jane and Dame Jenni. 

She's become 'controversial'.

But here Emma Barnett only did what feminist BBC presenters have been doing for decades, albeit not towards Muslims.

She asked and pushed exactly the same kind of questions, in much the same kind of persistent way, that BBC Radio 4 presenters (among myriad BBC others) have pushed with no small amount of vigour for at least a couple of decades about the lack of Catholic women priests and senior Anglican women bishops: 'How many are they? Shouldn't there be more? Shouldn't you be doing more?'

It may or may not be silly to ask how many female imams there are (not-so-shock answer: zero), but it's basic BBC Radio 4 feminist questioning. 

Even Ed Stourton has been forever asking this very kind of question in this very kind of way, albeit more quietly-spoken, on Radio 4's Sunday programme year in and year out of Catholics and Anglicans for many, many years.

It is absolutely archetypical 'liberal' BBC Radio 4 questioning (towards non-Muslims). Even John Humphrys, in his Today days, was prone to taking this approach, in a knee-jerk drop of a hat fashion, whenever Anglicans and Catholics appeared to discuss certain topics.

This very rare venture into challenging Islam from a BBC feminist angle - and it wasn't even aggressive - looks as if it will be something of a flash-in-the-pan though given that the BBC panicked in the face of a furious backlash, and Tim Davie himself grovelled out a sort of apology about their being not enough Muslims at the diversity-focused BBC.

That disappointing response from Mr Davie came in response to an absurd hundred-strong letter of protest from the worst, densest and/or most disingenuous, Islamist-soft grievance-mongering Labour MPs and (of course, and inevitably) Conservative Baroness Warsi - plus all manner of like-minded fellow travellers.

The BBC should have defended Emma Barnett here. They let her down. The interview wasn't "strikingly hostile". (Should I invite her to join me and Sue here?)

The BBC are terrified of appearing 'Islamophobic' (despite that being the very last thing they are).

I wonder if Emma being Jewish might have seriously inflamed the Islamist-soft Corbynista mob, plus Islamic apologist grievance-mongerers like Tory Baroness Warsi, even more? The onslaught appears to have been peculiarly fierce and targeted.

Something rotten in the state of BBC Scotland

I'd seriously urge you to read two outstanding pieces before considering Andrew Neil's questions, as they provide all the necessary background and are much more about the BBC's role in the story than you might guess merely from their headlines:

Effie DeansIt's absurd to imagine there was a conspiracy

The ScotsmanDon't blame MSPs who try to get at the Sturgeon-Salmond truth - Brian Wilson

What happened this week is that BBC Scotland interviewed one of the women who accused Alex Salmond. 

This has caused some consternation, given that Mr Salmond was cleared by a jury.

And critics say that the BBC interviewer, Glenn Campbell, basically let her have a free run at Mr Salmond.

Effie Deans puts The Big Question in a nutshell: "The BBC acts as if Salmond were guilty even though he was acquitted. Why else interview someone the jury did not believe?"

She writes: 

The BBC are supposed to be impartial, but it is quite clear not merely from this interview but also because of the Kirsty Wark documentary that BBC journalists have taken sides. They think that Salmond ought to have been convicted for which reason they disbelieve the alternative explanation that there was a Scottish Government conspiracy against him. This is partly because of the liberal bias in the BBC that treats all accusations of sexual assault as true, because women don’t lie, but more importantly since 2016 the BBC has lost all objectivity about Scottish politics because Sturgeon campaigned for Remain.

But there are lots of other questions for the BBC to answer, which both Effie and Brian outline and which I think will prove a lot trickier for the BBC to answer. They are nitty-gritty questions that go to the heart of BBC Scotland's actions and motivations. 

These are the very ones Andrew Neil's encapsulates so well here:

  1. With a major h/t to Brian Wilson I put the following questions to BBC Scotland News.
  2. First, what was the provenance of your recent interview with one of the complainants in the Salmond affair? Did you approach the individual? Did she volunteer? Or was she offered up by the spinners surrounding the First Minister?
  3. Second, is she independent of the current political ructions within the SNP? If so, fine. If not, why were viewers not told. And if that was not possible on grounds of self-identification, then why was it still OK to broadcast the interview? Some disturbing things are happening in Scotland and BBC Scotland is clearly in the thick of them. 
Various other thoughts:

I wonder if the BBC will reply to Andrew Neil? I suspect they'll have to, as he's a tenacious journalist and will follow it through.  

And these are serious questions that could genuinely damage the BBC's reputation as an independent, impartial broadcaster if the BBC fails to account for themselves. This could spiral out of control for them.

Some are calling for Tim Davie himself to look into what's going on at BBC Scotland as a matter of urgency. 

He should, of course, be doing that already. This has been brewing for a while. And if he's not doing that already then he might be in for a rude awakening shortly.

"BBC diversity of opinion in action"


If this blog becomes nothing but sponsored ads then maybe we'll need Andrew Neil to launch Andrew Neil's Is the BBC biased? 

He seems to be limbering up already. This was him on Thursday:

Should the state play a bigger role post-pandemic?
Good question.
BBC R4 Today just devoted its prime post-0800 slot to it. 
Three guests - all in favour of bigger, more active government. The consensus was never challenged.
BBC diversity of opinion in action.

Friday 19 February 2021

BBC - "The unbroken thread of fascism in Britain"


William Clouston, leader of the SDP, was looking at a new three-part Radio 4 series earlier called Britain's Fascist Thread.

The one-line summary on the BBC website says, "Camilla Schofield explores the unbroken thread of fascism in Britain." 

William then tweeted:
Only the BBC could commission a programme promulgating the 'Britishness of Fascism'. 
Lacking a sense of proportion, it's an insult to fellow citizens who at first mocked Fascism, then rejected it and finally fought and died to defeat it.

Fascism has never escaped the fringes in the UK, unlike in most European countries. 

We can be immensely proud of that, whatever the BBC says.

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Lewis has un-spoken


Lewis Goodall has done  it again. He's deleted his controversial tweets about how how cancel culture doesn't really exist on university campuses, plus his impartiality-free "reminder" of what the real education problems are. He's making quite a habit of deleting tweets.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

"And who can forget that breathtaking finish when Lionel Blair came from behind and had Dirty Harry licked in under two minutes?"


I've been led down a happy path tonight by news of someone whose name I didn't know but whose humour has punctuated my life in the nicest possible way.

One of the jokesmiths behind Radio 4's most consistently funny comedy show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, Iain Pattinson, has died, aged 68. 

And if, like me, during the show's Golden Age, you would eagerly await Humphrey Lyttelton's deadpan reading of filthy jokes about Lionel Blair, then here's a selection of my favourites, transcribed from a YouTube tribute (hopefully for your delight). 

And they were, apparently, Iain Pattinson's doing. 

RIP sir.


The show's still going on in various guises, but connoisseurs agree that the original line-up was best. No one who witnessed the event will ever forget the sparkle in Lionel Blair's eye as he received Free Willy from Michael Aspel. For two minutes.

The undisputed master on the show was Lionel Blair, but even he needed two whole minutes on Harold Pinter's Caretaker

The experts' expert was, of course, Lionel Blair. Who can ever forget opposing team captain Una Stubbs sitting open-mouthed as he tried to pull off Twelve Angry Men in under two minutes.

The undisputed mime-meister was of course Lionel Blair. And who can forget the look of relish in his face when he was given two minutes on The African Queen?

And who can forget that breathtaking finish when Lionel Blair came from behind and had Dirty Harry licked in under two minutes? 

And who will ever forget the relish in Lionel Blair's eye as he got stuck into Howard's End for two minutes?

And who can fail to remember he scored double points by skillfully using both hands in different actions to finish off One Man and his Dog in under 30 seconds?

We all recall how film titles were demonstrated by mime against the clock by the grand master of the game, Lionel Blair, who'd use just his hands to delight his team's members.

The most highly-skilled of all was Lionel Blair. How the tears of frustration welled up in his eyes during their Italian tour at not being allowed the use of his mouth to finish off Two Gentlemen of Verona!

Sadly, however, Give Us A Clue hasn't been made recently, so we'll never see what team captain Lionel Blair would have done with modern films. Lionel used to get quite emotional and, no doubt, after two minutes against the clock The Talented Mr Ripley would have put a lump in his throat.

The undisputed master of the genre was Lionel Blair, who would use every ounce of his mime-acting skills. None of us will ever forget the gasps of amazement when he spent a frustrating two minutes trying to fit in the whole of The Man on the Flying Trapeze.

Possibly the most versatile performer was Lionel Blair, and no one will ever forget the occasion he was given A Town Like Alice when he chose to do a silent impression of the author. Such was the performance Una Stubbs gasped in amazement when she saw 'Neville Shute' in Lionel's face.

The undisputed experts' expert was Lionel Blair. who was particularly good at Mickey Mouse cartoons. However, he occasionally had to save the day when he was let down by his team. Una Stubbs still recalls how amazed she was when Christopher Biggins failed miserably with Fantasia and Lionel was straight in behind him with his Steamboat Willie. 

So expert was the grand master Lionel Blair that he even managed to score points on an obscure TV documentary called Tales of Thuggery by indicating 'Third word sounds like' and calling for assistance from Christopher Biggins.

The most accomplished player was, without doubt, Lionel Blair. But on one fateful visit to entertain the troops even he was caught out. Lionel was quite happy on the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy but he was hard pressed to finish off the rest of Company B in under 3 minutes.

Sadly the show is no longer aired, but regulars Lionel Blair and Christopher Biggins recently appeared on Stars In Their Eyes where Lionel, singing Maggie May, came second to his old teammate. Biggins said Lionel's Rod was outstanding but he easily had it licked.

The past-master of the game was Lionel Blair, who regularly amazed and delighted his teammates with his mime portrayals of the songs and movies of the so-called 'blaxploitation' genre. Una Stubbs's eyes were out on stalks as she witnessed Lionel using his hands on Isaac Hayes's Shaft for two minutes.

The undoubted master was Lionel Blair, who used to work himself to a frazzle leaping up to be given his film titles on cards. Even while Lionel collapsed over the Chairman's desk receiving The Dirty Dozen he could still cope with The Sting afterwards.

The undoubted master of the genre was Lionel Blair. Hopeful team members used to constantly badger Lionel with pleas to get a place on the show. Lionel relates how he once had Christopher Biggins on his back every night for a month before he finally got the part he wanted. 

The undoubted master of the game was Lionel Blair. His live performances were always loudly praised by his teammates. Una Stubbs recalls listening through the dressing room wall as Christopher Biggins and Melvin Hayes were still gushing ten minutes after Lionel blew them away on tour.

The original show is no longer aired but the undisputed mime-master of Give Us a Clue is still Lionel Blair. He now tours the country doing exhibition performances in bars and restaurants, but sadly last week's show had to be cancelled. Lionel's van broke down on the M6 and he had to pay £50 to be pulled off into a Little Chef. 

The undisputed master of Give Us a Clue was Lionel Blair, who could mime virtually any TV or radio programme. Lionel still does demonstration events and recently guested at the Multi-Faith Conference, improvising his mime of Thought For The Day. Eyes were out on stalks as he started his impressions of the lesser-known presenters before Lionel Blue, the Bishop of Bath and Wells and the Chief Rabbi. 

The undoubted master of the genre was Lionel Blair, whose unique skills were legendary. Sadly, the show is no longer aired here, but there are plans in Los Angeles to revive the show for American TV. So Lionel's to be put on a plane to see how he goes down on the pilot.

The grand mime-master of Give Us a Clue was Lionel Blair, but since the show ended he's confined to the occasional pantomime appearance, and they says he's becoming difficult to work with due to his mood swings. In this year's Snow White they said one minute one minute Lionel could be feeling happy and the next he'd come all over grumpy.

The undisputed mime-master of Give Us a Clue was team captain Lionel Blair. When the show was scrapped his team was devastated to the point of tears. But, ever the trooper, Lionel took a video round to Christopher Biggins and they pulled themselves together over The Fabulous Baker Boys. 

The undisputed master of the game was Lionel Blair, who was particularly good at the Rocky series of movies. Christopher Biggins relates how Lionel would visit his dressing room to hone his impression of Sylvester Stallone beating his opponents, often going down several times before knocking one out.

Lewis has spoken


Spiked has very recently tweeted a link to a new article, introducing it with these words:

Critics say campus censorship is a myth. Well tell that to Selina Todd, Tim Hunt, Felix Ngole, Rosa Freedman, Jo Phoenix, Noah Carl, Kathleen Stock, Jenni Murray and many more academics, journalists and speakers hounded off campus for their views. 

I saw that tweet - and read that article - after reading a take on the matter from Newsnight's Lewis Goodall, who's very much in the 'critics' camp:  

Rachel Schraer from BBC Reality Check very good on University freedom of speech on World at One just now. Makes clear there’s very little elimination of freedom of speech or censorship taking place institutionally. A few examples of student groups no platform but even there often the examples “taken out of context” or exaggerated.

"Former" Labour activist Lewis has spoken: Stop talking about campus cancellation culture. Nothing to see here. It barely exists

And Lewis (as ever) has more. He then tells us what we SHOULD be talking about:

Reminder of education problems for which there is incontrovertible evidence:

- no plan yet for exams this summer 

- no comprehensive plan yet to deal with attainment gap caused by lockdown 

- still hundreds of thousands of tablets short for remote learning

In other words: Focus, people, on my agenda - attacking the Tory government from every conceivable angle!

Reminder: It's far from just Emily Maitlis.

P.S. Some estimable people don't agree with Lewis, including Prof. Vernon Bogdanor, Prof. Kathleen Stock, Sir Anthony Seldon and Prof. Matthew Goodwin. 

Now, who to believe, Newsnight's Lewis Goodall or that eminence of many decades of BBC election nights, Prof. Vernon Bogdanor? I think I'll go with the Argument from Authority after all.

"But let me bring up something else"


Here' a comment from Cue Bono on the Open Thread earlier:

I caught the ten past eight interview on Radio 4 this morning and the interviewee was a voice I didn't recognise. The tone however was very recognisable indeed. It was with the Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, a gentleman most would recognise has done an outstanding job in pushing the UK ahead of Europe in terms of vaccine distribution.

It began "Let's start with the good news" and indeed there was some very brief recognition that things were going well. Then began a list of people that the BBC feels should be at the top of the queue for vaccination and demands to know why they weren't. Anyone listening from another planet would conclude that the roll out has been something of a shambles.

Relentless negativity and pathetic attempts at "gotcha". So if indeed it was a new presenter it was still very much the old BBC.

If you missed it, here's a flavour of that very interview:

Simon Jack, BBC: There are some interesting questions to be asked about how you prioritise people. Now, the Daily Telegraph is reporting the rollout for under 50 will be done by age and ethnicity, rather than profession. Is that right, and what are the benefits of doing that?

Nadhim Zahawi: You're absolutely right. So the top 4 cohorts, to which we've just given the first dose, are 88% of mortality. The top 9 cohorts of Phase 1 are 99% or mortality. We are now going back to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation asking the question as to what should Phase 2 look like. Should we be looking at those in professions like police officers or teachers or shop workers who may come into contact with much greater volumes of the virus? Should they be prioritised, or what do they recommend to be the prioritisation to make sure that we continue to bear down on serious infection, hospitalisation, of course, and death and...

Simon Jack: (interrupting) But if you're having schools go back on March 8, which is the target, surely putting teachers near the top of this is a no-brainer, isn't it?

Nadhim Zahawi: So here's the interesting thing. In terms of teachers, Category 6 is 16 -64 year-olds who may have an underlying health condition. That would capture any teachers who have an underlying health condition and therefore would be at higher risk of serious infection, hospitalisation and death. And of course any teacher over the age of 50 would be in Phase 1 as well because that's Category 9. The JCVI will look at the evidence for prioritisation in Phase 2, but I think it's right to ask them the question to say 'clinically do you think we should prioritise a profession because they come in much greater contact or should we be looking at other evidence, because we want to make sure that those who are in greatest need receive the vaccines first?'

Simon Jack: OK. It will surprise some I think that you haven't had the sort...haven't made those decisions already. But let me bring up something else. We had Mencap on earlier saying that adults with a learning disability... 

And on Simon Jack went, working his way through his list.

The last paragraph quoted there illustrates one of my pet hates as far as interviewing goes - i.e. when the interviewer gives himself the 'last word', pops in an editorial comment (and/or criticises the person being interviewed), and then, instead of inviting the interviewee to respond, immediately changes the subject and 'moves on'. 

Monday 15 February 2021

"Emily Maitlis retweet of Piers Morgan lands BBC in new impartiality row"

Though it's fast becoming a 'dog bites man' kind of story, rather than a 'man bites dog' one, The Times reports today that Emily Maitlis has "landed the BBC in a new impartiality row".

The article begins:
Emily Maitlis has been criticised for lacking impartiality after sharing a message by the broadcaster Piers Morgan that was critical of the government. 

Maitlis, lead presenter of the BBC programme Newsnight, retweeted to her 425,000 followers on Twitter a message by Morgan that stated: “If failing to quarantine properly is punishable by 10yrs in prison, what is the punishment for failing to properly protect the country from a pandemic?” 

She was one of 12,200 people to do so but later deleted the message from her Twitter timeline.
As regular readers will know, it's not the first time she's had to delete a non-impartial tweet (or a retweet) and send it swiftly down the memory hole.

One of the key tests of Tim Davie's director generalship was his ability to rein in the likes of Emily Maitlis. 

So far she's sailed on, even despite ruling after ruling against her by the BBC itself for lapses on the impartiality front. 

Will no one at the BBC ever dare to clip her wings?

Sunday 14 February 2021

Camila Batmanghelidjh Returns


A real bolt out of the blue this past week was a High Court's ruling clearing the founder and trustees of Kids Company of wrongdoing

That means Camila Batmanghelidjh and - of especial interest to this blog - BBC high-up Alan Yentob.

The judge said that, were it not for "unfounded allegations", Kids Company might have survived.

It's one heck of a turn of events.

Oddly, I noticed the story after someone re-tweeted the main Newsnight reporter on the original story, Christopher Cook, maintaining that "they've never managed to knock a chip of paint off" his reporting.

(Xtopher is now working for former BBC New boss James Harding's Tortoise Media.)

Newsnight's reporting at the time surprised many of us hereabouts by painting a damning picture of Camila B & Alan Y's activities, and did real damage to CB & AY's reputation. 

The Mail on Sunday reports that the Royal Television Society, which gave Newsnight an award for their coverage of the story back in 2016, is now "looking into" that award. 

If so, and despite Chris Cook's protestations, is this yet another Newsnight investigation that got it badly wrong?

I'm intrigued...

Christopher Cook is a heavy tweeter and tweeted heavily on the day of the ruling itself, defending himself. And then came the silence. Total silence. 

Unless he's just taking the weekend off (which he usually doesn't as far as Twitter is concerned. He'd previously tweeted heavily every day, including New Year's Day and Christmas Day).

Where is this story going next? Will this week's Newsnight return to the story?



So, we in the UK banned the Chinese state broadcaster CGTN and, in traditional Cold War tit-for-tat fashion, the Chinese then banned the BBC from mainland China and Hong Kong, provoking the BBC's DG Tim Davie into a strong defence of media freedom:

Media freedom matters. The latest developments in China, including the banning of the World Service in Hong Kong, are deeply worrying developments. The BBC should be able to do its reporting without fear or favour. 

It is of deep concern when our journalists are restricted and their work curtailed. Importantly, in these difficult times when misinformation is rife, we have seen growing audiences for trusted news sources -  including hundreds of millions coming to the BBC.

This is not just about stopping the BBC from broadcasting news in China, there are significant and growing global threats to the free media as some seek to increase their control of information.  Now, more than ever, it is important that we speak out to defend free and fair journalism.

Here's a possibly controversial thought, and one I hesitate to state because I have no desire whatsoever to in any way aid the cause of the communist dictatorship in the People's Tyranny of China in spreading their increasingly malign influence (lest they and their agents of influence are massive readers of this blog!):

There's a heck of a lot of banning and censoring and cancelling going on at the moment - by governments, national regulators and previously libertarian-seeming social media giants (often egged on by overly-influential political partisans of certain stripes with ever-switched-on Twitter feeds and Facebook pages). 

Some of it is by 'the good guys' and some of it by 'the bad guys'. 

As with the social media giants permanently banning  people they disapprove of politically (including elected politicians - orange-coloured presidents included - with massive support), banning 'deplorable people' might be all the rage and might feel morally right, but it can rebound on the banners, or on others the righteous banners approve of...

Here Ofcom banning the Chinese, and the BBC paying the price as a result.

Things are seriously spiralling out of control on the banning, censoring, cancelling front, even in the world's great democracies, and when things spiral out of control they can lead to all manner of unexpected consequences and aid the darkest enemies of democracy, such as the present PRC ruler-for-life. 

The triumphant tech giants, for example, may think they've played a blinder over the US election, but who's to say they won't be sent reeling and brought down in a very few years by people even more censorious than they are?

I'd never heard of CGTN until yesterday. By banning it, even if pretty much no one in the UK watches it, didn't Ofcom hand the ruthless, ultra-censorious Chinese regime a justification (however dubious) to censor the BBC in China and Hong Kong? 

'One act of censorship against one 'fake news provider' deserves another act of censorship against another 'fake news provider''?

If they'd just left it alone and let the Chinese propaganda channel wilt on the vine here in the UK, because next to no one was watching it or even knew of its existence, surely Xi the Pooh's mob wouldn't have had a leg to stand on when they banned the UK's main publicly-financed broadcaster?

To sum up: Stop banning, censoring, cancelling things. Trust to free speech, disagreement, argument, persuasion, reasoning, and, yes, intense fact-checking and refuting. Even against Chinese propaganda channels. 

It's the polite and decent (h/t Jeremy Bowen) and, I believe, the most beneficial thing to do. It's what democracies are meant to do (in times of peace).

It's even what we Brits do against the BBC, despite BBC journalists (like John Simpson) fulminating against us for so doing. 

It's part of what democracy is all about. 

If large swathes of a democratic nation think their main, publicly-funded broadcaster doesn't represent their values then we say so, including on blogs like this. 

The BBC are no CGTN-style state propaganda outfit (as Dominic Cummings would testify), but they're flawed and far from impartial. 

It's us telling the BBC what they don't want to hear in the cause of liberty

I could, of course, be wrong and naïve here - and please say if I am (after all, I'm better I think at writing about examples of bias than editorialising on general subjects) - but censorship is massively on the rise again. 

It's becoming quite the 'in' thing. 

Even the BBC's Disinformation Unit, headed by Mike Wendling, seem to be gleeful in support of it, if it hits the right targets.

It's a very dangerous thing though and we must stop indulging it, even when it peacefully harms those we disapprove of and who threaten our freedoms. We all must (with BBC-style Dads Army 'woke' apologies for metaphorical language, especially if Ms Pelosi & Co are passing by and faint after a hissy fit) fight, fight and fight again with words, argument and reason against people who we think are wrong, whilst not banning them from having their say.

"I do get to correct when you make either misstatements or a statement that needs clarification. That's how it works when you come onto the BBC. I ask a question. You answer it. If you make a misstatement I jump in anytime I want."

There's been discussion over at Biased BBC about a feisty BBC News Channel interview this morning. It took place at 12.07am and featured James Reynolds. I can't supply a video, but here's a transcript:


James Reynolds, BBC: We can now speak to Republican strategist Seth Weathers who joins us from Atlanta. Hey Seth, good to see you. It was an acquittal, but was it really an exoneration? 
Seth Weathers, Republican strategist: Clearly. The reality was it wasn't even a real impeachment, which is why the head of the Supreme Court refused to sit over the trial. It...
James Reynolds: (interrupting) No, that's, no, no. He refused to sit over the trial because he only presides when a sitting president is there. That is not...That is a very separate issue from whether impeachment goes ahead or not. 
Seth Weathers: No.
James Reynolds: You know that. The Senate voted 56 to 34 to let the trial continue. You can carry on, but when you make a statement like that I jump in. Seth, all yours.
Seth Weathers: I'd love for you to jump in. The reality is the Constitution makes it very clear that you cannot impeach someone who is not a sitting president. You can impeach...
James Reynolds(interrupting) No, come on Seth! We are not going to keep talking about this because...
Seth Weathers: Do I get to finish? Do I get anything to say?
James Reynolds: You can talk.
Seth Weathers: You're just going to talk over me?
James Reynolds: Well, I do get to correct when you make either misstatements or a statement that needs clarification. That's how it works when you come onto the BBC. I ask a question. You answer it. If you make a misstatement I jump in anytime I want. So, Seth, can we carry on and not keep talking about the unconstitutionality? Can we talk about what Donald Trump will do now? Seth, can you talk about what Donald Trump will do now?
Seth Weathers: Do you want to discuss what happened or do you want to talk over me when I make statements?  So you're the decider of what is fact? You're the constitutional scholar of the Constitution of the United States of America? You know all, and you get to correct me and shut me up on air if I say something you disagree with? The reality is you cannot impeach someone who is not a sitting president. The Constitution makes that clear, which is why they say the purpose is to remove a president from office. That's the only point I'm trying to make. I don't know why that sets you off...
James Reynolds: (interrupting) I get that, and I think you also know...just let me speak...and you also know that the Senate voted the other way, to let that trial continue. 
Seth Weathers: Right.
James Reynolds: Now, we know you disagree with that, but they did vote. Let's just talk about today. OK. 57 to 43. That included seven Republican senators. Does it sting to have them vote against President...former President Trump? 
Seth Weathers: No, it doesn't sting at all. I mean the kind of people that voted against him are little weasels like Ben Sasse and others, Mitt Romney etc. These are people that if there were an election anytime soon in their states, specifically someone like Ben Sasse, they're very likely going to lose that reelection. And these are people who have just...they've had it out for Donald Trump from before he became president, from the time he first ran. They've hated him. They are establishment hacks. The Republican Party, the people on the base, they don't...we don't like these people. DC likes them. The media likes them. That's pretty much it. And so, again, these are the people that are not going to be in sound situations when it comes to reelection. And again, everything about this was a farce. There is no legitimacy to this. It's a joke...
James Reynolds: (interrupting) Hey, we've just said...You've said all that. Let's...You've said all that.
Seth Weathers: Both sides of the aisle are [indecipherable because of talking over] in discredit. 
James Reynolds: I did hear you. You did say that. Let me move on...Donald Trump talked about moving on with Making America Great Again. Does he want to get back into active politics? 
Seth Weathers: I think he's going to be very active when it comes to 2022 and supporting people that were opposed to him, whether it is in this impeachment or in other areas, and that is specifically speaking as to Republicans. And so I do think...I don't personally really believe he is going to run in 2024. I think he would rather in essence use the fear of him potentially running for other Republicans to keep that position open and eventually to be a kingmaker on whoever that individual ultimately is. And I do think he will have a kingmaker role in that. 
James Reynolds: Seth, we did get there in the end. 
Seth Weathers: (laughing) I hope next time we can have more of a back-and-forth conversation. 
James Reynolds: OK, we'll try again next time. Seth Weathers, thank you so much for speaking to us. 
Seth Weathers: Any time.