Sunday, 31 October 2021
October Open Thread
The Serota Review...featuring Go Jetters
Having had a very busy week or so away from the internet on a family holiday [in Morecambe] I missed all the fun of the publication of the Serota Review.
With help, I've been catching up this weekend.
Just in case anyone else missed it, the BBC-commissioned Serota Review came about following the Dyson Report into the Martin Bashir scandal.
Its remit was to rule on the BBC's editorial processes, governance and culture.
Impartiality and, therefore, bias was part of its remit.
Now obviously, if you're a broadcaster that is frequently accused of speaking for a London-centred metropolitan liberal elite, what better man could there possibly be to head a review into, among other things, claims of London-centred metropolitan liberal elite groupthink than that living embodiment of the London-centred metropolitan liberal elite, Sir Nick Serota?
Anyhow, the great man is on the BBC Board.
And he was aided by two other members of the BBC Board from different but centre-leaning sides of the traditional political spectrum, plus a media consultant with a broadcasting past at Sky and Channel 4, and an FT journalist...which is as fantastically wide a range of likeminded people as you could possibly imagine if you're a BBC senior figure commissioning a major review of BBC editorial processes for the BBC.
Now, it's tricky trying to catch up quickly, especially when the media takes on it have differed so wildly from what I've taken away from skimming the report myself, but I'd say that I think that quite a bit of the media has cherry-picked and overstated how critical the review was of the BBC.
I read it as, typically, largely locating the BBC's problems - from the Bashir scandal onwards - in the rather distant past and mostly claiming that the BBC is presently pretty wonderful and getting things largely about right, though there's always room for improvement.
And I don't see its 'sweeping' recommendations as much of an advance on what Tim Davie and Richard Sharp have already been talking about.
They are talking about monitoring and metrics though, my old kind of thing - which is intriguing - but when they list the areas the metrics will be quantifying [''editorial complaints; training; audience perception and demographic data''] they don't look like the kind of areas I want metrics applied to when it comes to monitoring BBC bias.
And the broader monitoring looks to be a rehash of the 'landmark' impartiality reviews of ten years ago - the ones Cardiff University's left-leaning, activist-stuffed, pro-BBC media department -were so heavily involved in - that led barely anywhere, except to pretty much reinforce the BBC in its present tendencies.
The first one, apparently, is going to about 'tax and spend'.
First test: If the research behind it mainly comes from Cardiff University's media department it's likely to be just another BBC 'Potemkin village' whitewash.
I may be wrong, but if it's just that again I smell the whiff of multiple whitewashes wendling their way towards our nostrils.
I'm assuming they'll keep on ignoring the likes of News-watch, who have so many ready-made reports for the BBC to consider.
And - typically, given past experience - these reviews might well conclude that the BBC isn't 'progressive' enough.
This present report, curiously, never mentions the word 'bias'.
It bangs on about 'transparency' though. If they're so 'transparent', maybe they should prove they've changed their ways and publish the Balen Report, which they've spent hundreds of thousands of pounds of licence-fee payers' money keeping something potentially massively damaging secret over the years?
Also, apparently some 100 people were involved in the compilation of the report, but Sir Nick didn't see fit to let the outside world know who they were. So much for transparency?
This also made me guffaw, especially given how dire the BBC Complaints process is. Compare and contrast these two self-contradicting paragraphs from the Review, the first praising the BBC Complaints process, the second a mildly critical comment about BBC groupthink [which the report calls 'group think' - in inverted commas]:
We have taken evidence from a number of internal and external stakeholders. The consensus is that the complaints system, in general, works extremely well and the decisions of the Executive Complaints Unit are well respected.
This is essential if the BBC is to avoid a ‘group think’ mentality, whereby an unwillingness to dissent from a group consensus or disagree with the opinions of more senior staff, can lead to flawed judgements.
You couldn't make it up.
The Serota report also self-congratulates the BBC on its Reality Check, not even considering that that might be prone to BBC groupthink too.
It is interesting that the BBC is prepared to monitor documentaries and CBeebies too to make sure they fall within BBC impartiality rules too. I approve of that.
Just for fun yesterday afternoon [before going out] - immediately after reading that - I remembered my blogging duties and decided to do a bit of monitoring myself, so I clicked on the CBeebies schedule and saw the programme that was being broadcast at the time, Go Jetters, and clicked on their programme page and watched a couple of episodes. The BBC's own blurb sums it up perfectly:
The Go Jetters are adventure-seeking explorers who soar around the planet fixing environmental problems caused by Grandmaster Glitch!
Grandmaster Glitch is a Dick Dastardly-like middle-aged white guy. He's always causing environmental problems and always being defeated by the diverse Go Jetters and their 'black rapper' unicorn guru.
I kid you not. That was the very first programme I clicked on. It's all very BBC. Gawd knows what the rest of the CBeebies output it like.
I've previously seen CBeebies through the eyes of other adults writing about the BBC, like Ed West contrasting the conservative values enshrined in Thomas the Tank Engine with the liberal messages enshrined in Mike the Knight on CBeebies. Or Henry Jeffreys in The Spectator describing ''agitprop for toddlers: the oddly strident politics of CBeebies'' on Green Balloon Club, ''which is ostensibly a wildlife programme, but the song had more in common with one of those Dear Leader dirges you see in North Korea'', saying it ''wasn’t education, it was propaganda.''
The visiting pair of lively, delightful seven year olds in my family didn't watch a BBC programme all week [and that was nothing to do with me].
Am I too jaded? Does this BBC review/'impartiality drive' strike you as badly as it strikes me?
Thursday, 21 October 2021
'Fails on every count'
'So Knife Crime is so prevalent it’s not worth a mention?'
Well folks, this morning in London a Stabbing on a Bus left a man fighting for life & two others stabbed but satisfactory! Tonight’s London BBC news? Not a Murmur; headlines? it's Covid through to a Dennis the Menace story; So Knife Crime is so prevalent it’s not worth a mention?
Tuesday, 19 October 2021
Newsbeat disrespects Birmingham, Sopes exits the US, the BBC calls someone 'far-right', actual antisemitism rages, Big Ted and Little Ted criticise the Government and 'Genetically Impartial' former BBC bigwig Helen Boaden resurfaces - Various subjects
Boaden received criticism following the July 7 terror attacks in London when she issued a memo instructing BBC staff not to refer to the perpetrators as terrorists, arguing that the term "can be a barrier rather than aid to understanding". Former BBC reporter Martin Bell was one of those who condemned the memo, accusing the BBC of being "overcautious" and noting that the attackers seemed to meet the definition of terrorists. Writing in The Spectator, Michael Vestey suggested "it's almost as if the BBC is afraid of offending suicide bombers in the Muslim world".
Despite being explicitly criticised in the Pollard Report for handling the Jimmy Savile affair so casually, she continued to thrive at the BBC before leaving and moving on to the likes of the aforementioned scheme and - for some reason - the board of the UK Statistics Authority. You obviously can't keep an ex-BBC high-up down. There are clearly no barriers to her advancement.
As predicted, the Amess story has all but disappeared from the BBC News website - there is a thread of archived stories under the banner of:
'Killing of Sir David Amess MP'
If we compare Amess's archive with Jo Cox's, the overwhelming coverage of the earlier story, which has its own BBC pages:
'Jo Cox Murder'
Monday, 18 October 2021
Op-ed: To be clear...
Sunday, 17 October 2021
Random Thoughts for a Sunday Evening
Lib Dems, lib Dems and Facebook
It's been a while since I've made myself listen to The World This Weekend but I learned something quite interesting from it today - albeit only after a bit of Googling as they didn't disclose it themselves.
The programme's main focus was on demands to regulate Facebook, particularly in light of the murder of Sir David Amess.
I avoid Facebook like the plague.
Being politically-minded I now associate Facebook with Sir Nick Clegg, as he's become their Vice President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook since 2018.
The World This Weekend's sole defender of Facebook today was one Lord Allan, Facebook's Director of Policy in Europe until 2019.
Like former Lib Dem leader/Deputy PM Sir Nick, Lord Allan is a former Lib Dem MP. So Facebook seems to like UK Liberal Democrats.
And it gets spookier.
Lord Allan, it turns out from searching for him on the internet, was the MP for Sheffield Hallam from 1997-2005 before giving way to the one Nick Clegg, who remained MP for Sheffield Hallam from 2005-2017.
What are the chances of that happening?
My random thought here is that maybe the American liberal Democrats at Facebook chose the UK's Liberal Democrats because of their party name, assuming because they call themselves 'Liberal Democrats' they must think like liberal Democrats in the US...and, if so, they should be careful when hiring from Russia and Japan or they might end up with Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Shinzo Abe, and they might un-ban former US president/possible future US president Donald Trump while Mark Zuckerberg isn't looking.
The BBC and the word 'terrorist'
The estimable Scottish blogger Effie Deans has a thoughtful piece on her Lily of St. Leonard's blog about the murder of Sir David. It made me re-think a few things. and is well worth a read.
If Sue's not seen it yet, it begins:
Whenever there is a terrorist attack in somewhere like Israel, we are told by the BBC that it carried out by militants. It gives the impression that the far left from the 1980s stopped handing out newspapers to blow himself up. Only when a terrorist attack happens here in Britain will the BBC allow itself to describe it as such. IRA militants after all did not try to blow up Margaret Thatcher. If a word is useful then we must use it consistently. If something is terrorism call it terrorism, otherwise you are lying in which case how can you be trusted on anything.
It then moves on.
It's certainly true that the BBC will use the word 'terrorist' more about terrorist attacks in the UK than anywhere else and that it goes out of its way to avoid applying it to the like of Hamas or Islamic Jihad or Hezbollah.
But the BBC has used it in connection to radical Islamic terrorism in the UK through the most gritted of gritted teeth over the last couple of decades.
They were very reluctant to begin with post 9/11, and particularly post 7/7 in London.
All of us hereabouts observed that at the time.
It made the BBC look terrible and absurd.
I'm guessing they finally realised that they were dangerously adrift from the public mood, so they eventually eased the prohibition.
And that's where we are now - with a word that should never had been banned being grudgingly allowed in the UK context - albeit still through gritted teeth on certain BBC reporters' parts - but still being banned [except in heavy inverted commas] when it comes to terrorism against, say, Israel.
Sunday, Flipping Sunday
The one Radio 4 programme I've tried to keep up with during my blogging slumbers is Radio 4's Sunday, what with it being the starting point of this very blog.
It never really changes.
Todays programme featured:
[a] Takes on the murder of Sir David Amess which avoided the thorny issue of Islamic terrorism.
[b] An entirely one-sided 'woke' segment on Ethiopian demands for the return of some sacred plaques held by the British Museum where neither context nor the other other side of the argument was given. Presenter Emily Buchanan simply announced that the Ethiopians were demanding them back, said that we [the UK] ''looted'' it, and stated that ''lawyers'' said it was legally right to return them, and then interviewed an Ethiopian Orthodox priest who told listeners how precious these plaques were to the Ethiopians. When it's that one-sided it reeks of abetting a campaign.
[c] A strange piece about how cuddly toy deities might be ''the best way to help children understand faith and culture'', reporting on how a range of cuddly toys of deities like the Hindu god Ganesha is ''expanding to include all major faiths'', including Jesus and Buddha. I googled the company and checked their range of cuddly toys and found that the phrase Sunday kept using - ''all major faiths'' - wasn't quite true. You won't be surprised to hear that Islam was the exception and that the BBC skirted around the point like a cat trying to avoid its fated date with a cage during a trip to the vets.
[d] A piece on a Jewish comedy Fringe event featuring...and here's the BBC angle...''the only Orthodox Jewish woman on the British comedy circuit''. There's always got to be a bit of identity politics and marking of identity politics milestones.
[e] The inevitable book-plug for a friend of the programme, here Catholic author Peter Stanford.
[f] A somewhat campaigning closing segment about aggrieved Muslim women being refused entry to pray within some mosques and how ''conservative'' attitudes in mosques need changing, followed by an interview with Sunday's favourite Muslim, the silky Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, who positioned himself somewhat vaguely on the matter, as is his way. At least Sunday raised the question of Deobandi influence.
I've been going on about the programme for over a decade now, but there's now a small legion of people criticising Sunday every single week on Twitter and on blogs hereabouts. It's a growth industry that growing fast. The programme remains the ripest of ripe targets as far as BBC bias is concerned.
Nancy wonders if it's just her
Following today's Sunday was - as ever - Sunday Worship. I was in the mood for hymns and heard it live.
It provoked a murmur on Twitter when Annunziata Rees-Mogg [sister of Jacob] complained about it being about gender equality today when it should have been a Catholic service in honour of Sir David Amess.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if Sunday Worship on BBC Radio4 had been from a Catholic Church in memory of Sir David Amess? And perhaps a sermon about the value of public service rather than gender equality? Or maybe that’s just me.
Now, I have to say that - much as I can see where she's coming from - I agreed with those of her critics who pointed out that these things are prepared weeks and months in advance. The BBC publishes the text and running order of the service in full before it's even broadcast. And this was coming live from Ely Cathedral. So this was a juggernaut that's being rolling for weeks ready for this morning, and the BBC couldn't just drop it and swap it with a different service. And, in the event, a pray for Sir David was said at the start before the feminist-influenced, all-women service about women in the Bible began.....though, amusingly, the male dean popped up at the end to read the blessing.
So Annunziata might have been better saying that, yes, the BBC couldn't reasonably have replaced this service at the last minute, but that it's still 'very BBC' that the identity-politics-obsessed BBC Radio 4 prepared yet another service with an 'identity politics' focus today, because Sunday Worship is doing that ever more often as the channel increasingly sinks into a smelly slough of 'woke'.
John Simpson says 'this can't go on'
Fantasies, born of childhood/adulthood reading of brave British men rescuing women in peril, have occasionally led me to dream that we British would somehow spring Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from jail in Iran, literally leaving behind a Carry-On-style black fingernail card of 'two digits rampant' for old 'Smiler' Khamenei to splutter at as his beard caught on fire humorously.
Five years younger than the Supreme Leader of Iran, the BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson is unimpressed:
The rejection of @FreeNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's appeal in Tehran is predictable but disgraceful. She is being held hostage for the repayment of a £400m debt the UK owes to Iran. Handing money to Iran is a big problem, given its support for terrorism; but this can't go on.
I do believe that the BBC's Mr Impartiality is demanding, ever so impartially, that the British Government cough up to the terroristic, hostage-holding Ayatollah.
Further to the previous post...
Sam Freedman, New Statesman: Does seem odd that the focus in so much of the papers [Craig - and on the BBC] around David Amess's murder is around political discourse. I'm all in favour of less shouty/angry hyperbole in politics but it wasn't why he was killed. It's almost like everyone's rehearsing the arguments made when Jo Cox was killed (after which discourse did not, of course, improve in any way) even though this murder was for very different reasons (as far as we can tell at the moment). Also - while clearly a lot of aggression aimed at MPs is OTT and unfair - there has to be space in a democracy for very robust, angry, even personal criticism of elected officials. We need to be careful about "solutions" that drift towards censorship while abhorring violence. Clearly a small minority of MPs do sometimes do awful things (one was convinced of threatening an acid attack this week!) and are corrupt or nasty. They still shouldn't face the risk of being physically attacked. Which is why for me the issue is mainly about security. Also just pragmatically earnest newspaper editorials about civility in politics aren't going to stop the Bob19384735s from sending abusive messages to MPs. Whereas improving security is something that can actually happen (and apparently is going to be offered for surgeries now).
Sunder Katwala, British Future: Agree with the thread. A rising tide of anger could legitimise violence & important to address safety of MPs on all fronts. But political civility & tone vs terror threats from extreme Islamist terrorism (or far right networks, or Republican terrorism) are distinct issues.
Stefan Schubert, LSE: Agree. Maybe some of that focus was from before they knew the motive of the killer? [Craig - No, it's continuing Stefan, as this morning's Andrew Marr shows.] But no doubt many are also just pushing whatever narrative they want heedless of the facts (especially in the context of something emotionally stirring, like an assassination).
And this from writer Ben Sixsmith expresses it well too:
Ben Sixsmith: What is the likelihood that Ali Harbi Ali was radicalised by people arguing about Brexit and COVID on Twitter? Being abusive is bad, of course, but this whole debate seems to be being conducted in a parallel universe.
It certainly felt like glimpsing a parallel universe watching today's Andrew Marr.
''We need to be clear what happened here''
Two vital issues are being confused in debate after David Amess killing. Discussion is needed over the tone of politics and social media etc. It is dangerous and toxic. But from what we know, that is a separate issue to what led to the killing of David Amess. Amess was, it seems, killed as a result of Islamist terror. We could have the most civil politics ever and it would not change the motivations behind Islamist terror. We need to be clear what happened here.
Good morning. For a long time, certainly all my lifetime, we have enjoyed a peaceful and largely consensual system of politics. We may have disagreed vehemently about many big things - peace and war, poverty, leaving the European Union. But in every row we've - mostly - left violence at the door [Craig - except, of course for the four MPs murdered by Irish republicans]. Now, following the death of Jo Cox MP, the hideous killing of another parliamentarian, Sir David Amess, going about his civic and political duty, helping ordinary constituents, not political players, makes us rethink. There are few phrases more often and glibly used than "it's an attack on democracy" but this week, that's exactly what it was. So, how can we balance the conflicting needs for MPs to freely meet their constituents and their physical safety? I'm joined live in the studio by Priti Patel, the Home Secretary - a neighbouring MP to David Amess and a close personal friend. Talking about that and the rising Covid numbers, one of Jo Cox's friends, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy.
He continued during the paper review:
And as I said earlier on, we had at that time [of the murder of Jo Cox] lots of talk about how we must have a new attitude in politics, less hate, less abuse online and in-person, and Brendan Cox has devoted his life since then to combating hatred in politics. And yet here we are again.
Update: The paper review remained firmly focussed on that issue, avoiding discussing Islamist terror - as did the following interviews with the acting US ambassador and Labour's Lisa Nandy.
[Intriguingly, while focussing on the abuse against politicians and ''the heat and aggression'' within politics with Lisa Nandy, Andrew Marr opted not to raise the Angela Rayner ''Tory scum'' issue.]
And Andrew Marr even avoided discussing Islamist terrorism with Home Secretary Priti Patel - which, if you think about it, is frankly extraordinary. It was very briefly hinted at without being specifically mentioned [except once by Priti Patel in tandem with the far-right] and then skirted around.
It's as if the programme deliberately chose to focus on the circumstances surrounding the last assassination of an MP, Jo Cox, rather than the circumstances surrounding this assassination.
Wonder what Stephen Pollard would have made of it?
Further Update: Tied in with that peculiar refusal to focus on the circumstance of Mr Amess's murder but to shift the focus instead back to the circumstances surrounding Jo Cox's murder was the repeated focus throughout the programme on the abuse targeted at female MPs and the safety of women MPs even though the murdered MP in this attack was a man.
''The Somali element – erm, no''
Lots of speculation about the identity of the suspect in the dreadful killing of Sir David Amess. We have learnt from official sources that detectives have established the individual is a UK national, seemingly of Somali heritage. We report this in the interests of accuracy.
Nick Robinson: The suspect is a British citizen, but he's also of Somali origin. Is that regarded as significant?Dominic Casciani: The Somali element – erm, no. The reason why some reporters have established this fact is that there has been some misreporting. Yesterday, during the day, there were some news outlets, and also on social media, some suggestions as to the identity of the individual. So I think the police are at pains to clarify in a statement last night that the individual is British. They haven't said anything about the heritage. But my understanding is that there was initially, potentially, some confusion over the individual's background and identity.
Friday, 15 October 2021
R.I.P. Sir David Amess
The BBC at war
Stephen Nolan: We went back to the BBC to ask them about the 'style guide', We asked, 'Were Stonewall consulted by any part of the BBC about the language used in this 'style guide'? Were Stonewall definitions used elsewhere in the BBC considered when drafting this 'style guide'? How does the BBC explain its definitions being close to those used by Stonewall than the dictionary definition? We also asked them about the Allies training and about the use of 'The Genderbread Person'. What did they do? They just referred us to their previous statement. An organisation that asks many, many people, every second of every day, to appear on its outlets across the world couldn't find a human being to speak to its own organisation on this podcast and to you, the audience. Not one living, breathing human being could speak. All we got was a reference to the previous statement.
David Thompson; Just one thing to point out why this is important and why this language is important to us as journalists. You know how tricky it is when we're doing these debates. We've debated the very issue of whether or not it's transphobic for a gay person not to want to date a trans person, for example. Well, if you go by the BBC's Style Guide that's closed off, that's decided. Homosexuality, according to the BBC, is about people who are attracted to people of the same gender. So that controversial debate is now summed up in the BBC Style Guide and they've made their position really clear.Stephen Nolan; I get it now. I see. You're smarter than me, so I get it now. So, basically, the BBC is stating as fact, because it's changed its language, if a male, if a gay male...in the BBC's wording now, that means they're attracted not to someone with male genitalia but to someone also who says 'I'm a man' whether they have a vagina and breasts or not.David Thompson; Yeah. It's obviously not just about the genitalia, A lot of people will say that, but it's about the sex of the person, the natal sex, how they were born - the entire package, if you want. So people are same-sex-attracted not according to the BBC anymore. 'Homosexual' means 'people of either sex who are attracted to their own gender'.Stephen Nolan; And the other big question here is, who signed off on his? Cos if this is effecting the language throughout the organisation then someone very, very senior must be signing off on this.David Thompson; These decisions are signed off by BBC News. Now this is an area of contention as well; Many bisexual people would say it's about being attracted to both sexes. The BBC now define 'bisexual' ''an adjective to describe someone who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to more than one gender''.Stephen Nolan; So the BBC has now redefined the definition of 'bisexuality'?David Thompson; And 'homosexuality'. So they've redefined 'sexuality' to make it more about gender than sex, right at the heart of this whole debate.
A Biologist in the Lion's/Lioness's Den
Fiona Bruce: So Robert, I am interested in your view given that you were Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam for some time...Robert Winston: I'm sorry?Fiona Bruce: I am interested in your view given that you were Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam, weren't you, for some time? You have mentioned Kathleen Stock and the trans issue but obviously, academic freedom has been talked about in any number of areas in recent years.Robert Winston: I was rather hoping you would be interested in my opinion as a biologist which seems rather more important, because I could have said something...Fiona Bruce: Well, I am just saying it because the issue of academic freedom isn't solely limited to trans...Robert Winston: I am about to say something that will probably mean you will want to edit the programme when we have finished but basically...Fiona Bruce: OK, all right, we are all braced for it.Robert Winston: I will say this categorically that you cannot change your sex. Your sex is actually there in every single cell in the body. You have a chromosomal sex, you have genetic sex, you have hormonal sex, you have all sorts of different aspects, psychological, brain sex. They are all different and we are very confused about this, unfortunately, and regrettably, it has got into this argument that people will now accuse me of being transphobic...Fiona Bruce: Well, obviously, there are trans people who say you absolutely can do that.Robert Winston: Well. unfortunately, you can't say this publicly. This is one of the big problems. Even saying this on this programme undoubtedly will result in my getting a huge amount of hate mail, it always does. But I do think it is a big issue about the attitudes. There are of course issues which are important about young people who are confused about their sex but we won't go down that route here. But it does affect a whole lot of issues in schools and elsewhere in our society. Of course, we should accept people as they are. Overall, I think it is a very sad thing that we can't discuss biological science without actually getting completely caught up emotionally with something which is really completely wrong.Fiona Bruce: Well, as I say, there are people who would vehemently disagree with you...
Robert Winston: Yes, I know.Fiona Bruce:...so I am just going to make that clear.
 "I'm about to say something that will mean you will probably want to edit the programme...you cannot change your sex" This basic scientific fact has now become so taboo that the BBC think it's necessary to provide 'balance'. They wouldn't do this for flat-earthers.
 Imagine it.Brian Cox: "I'm about to say something that will mean you will probably want to edit the programme... the earth is round."Fiona Bruce: “Well, flat-earthers will say it’s flat.”
 Fiona Bruce at the end of that clip, adding that some people will vehemently disagree with the fact that you can't change sex, is not to providing balance or a counter argument as she might see it. It's simply misinformation and wrong. Why did she feel the need to add that?
 “Good evening and welcome to Question Time from Nottingham.......of course we should recognise those that disagree that it is the evening, that the programme is Question Time and that there is such a place as Nottingham...so full respect to them too.”
Wednesday, 13 October 2021
Secrets of 'Secrets of the Museum’
The last episode in the series sees Josiah Wedgwood’s masterpiece, the Portland Vase, one of over 100,000 objects from the Wedgwood collection, being prepared for display in the museum for the first time. As one of the final ceramics that Josiah Wedgwood undertook it represents the cumulation of a lifetime’s work refining his inventive pottery techniques and aesthetic sensibility. In Tristram Hunt’s new book The Radical Potter, Hunt aims to present Wedgwood as the radical that he was, not just for his designs but in his mind and politics. This hugely enjoyable new biography, strongly based on Wedgwood’s notebooks, letters and the words of his contemporaries, brilliantly captures the energy and originality of Wedgwood and his extraordinary contribution to the transformation of eighteenth-century Britain.
At the V&A, a Buddhist painting is a mystery, children’s art goes on show, and Josiah Wedgwood’s masterpiece - the Portland Vase - is brought into the 21st century.
Sunday, 10 October 2021
BBC, why ignore this piece of history?
A spectacular new biography of the great designer, entrepreneur, abolitionist and beacon of the Industrial Revolution, from acclaimed historian and Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tristram Hunt
Rob Chisholm [BBC viewer]: Glad that BBC Breakfast doesn't have Naga Munchetty on the sofa again. It's a far more pleasant and professional programme without her snide & irritating comments. Long may the lack of Naga Munchetty on our screens continue.Naga Munchetty [BBC presenter]: Ah Rob. Thank goodness there's someone else who is also 'snide & irritating' out there. Phew! Long may your own lack of pleasantness continue. X
I see from his Twitter profile that Rob is, among other things, a Royal British Legion Rider and a an RAF Veteran and that his 'pinned tweet' recommends a 'Coffee and Cake To Go For Paramedic Heroes', plus he has a union flag in his profile. No wonder they don't like each other!
The Mail on Sunday also reports that Match of the Day ''WILL continue to show Premier League teams take the knee each week - despite a growing amount of players choosing not to perform the gesture''. A BBC spokesperson said: ‘Match Of The Day’s editorial brief is to provide coverage of all aspects of the Premier League. The ongoing anti-racism statements made by all teams is an important part of the current football narrative.’ Ah, the BBC and their narratives!
Saturday, 9 October 2021
Wait, so a hashtag calling for the sacking of a journalist is trending today over a suggestion in a 2 day old tweet from another journalist that wasn't true, uncorroborated by anybody, deleted, withdrawn, apologised for...BS. Sheesh this place is an utter tribal madhouse at times. Said hashtag has had 7000 tweets associated. Seven thousands calls to sack someone for something that never happened. Bonkers.
Dominic Penna, you ok with all this? I wouldn’t have been.
If you missed it all, Mr Penna tweeted that Laura Kuenssberg had a 'dance battle' and 'rap-off' at the Conservative Party conference. And the far-left and the pro-EU #FBPE then piled in, assuming it was real, and #SackLauraK went wild. The BBC Press Office put out a statement saying there was no truth in it, as did the Telegraph.
The other part of his tweet, however, was that Lewis Goodall did 'a Theresa May' and performed Dancing Queen after asking if there were any 'Tory scum' in the audience - which I assumed was a joke, except that he most definitely did sing Dancing Queen at the Conservative Party conference [badly]:
I note, in passing, that #SackLewisG didn't trend, even despite that performance.
Meanwhile, BBC DG Tim Davie has been talking again, this time telling a leadership conference that he feels 'exhausted' by the 'pathetic' flapping of some who 'surround' him, and he doesn't want them around him. [Are they among those who have recently departed, or will be soon departing?]
Daily, we are on the front pages of the papers. You have to judge where something is serious, and it’s not necessarily what’s the biggest press headline. I might get an email now that’s genuinely a problem that hasn’t got any press.
You don’t want to surround yourself with people who flap and generate all this, ‘Oh it’s really serious.’ It’s not. I’m exhausted by all of that and I find it slightly pathetic. Sorry if that sounds nasty.
In public-eye jobs we’re in the middle of the so-called culture wars and navigating that in my life is huge, in terms of what’s progressive versus what’s woke. We’re constantly being dragged around on this.
I feel some sad violin music is needed for poor Tim, whilst we wonder what he means by 'navigating' in terms of 'what's progressive versus what's woke'.
Talking of which, according to The Daily Mail the BBC is running its own in-house training about 'unconscious bias', warning against 'micro-incivilities', and that kind of rubbish.
What struck me here is that the Mail says it has been pursuing the BBC over this through FOI requests and the BBC has refused to answer them twice before being forced to reveal the information by the Information Commissioner's Office.
Woke or otherwise, that's very BBC.
Friday, 8 October 2021
Views his own, beyond the BBC door
My conference interviews with 'Sir Keir' and 'Johnson'/'Mr Johnson' were rightly tough. My team and I worked hard on them. Both leaders' aides felt aggrieved, so - therefore - we got it about right. As as for Nadine Dorries saying she doesn't think I'm impartial, well, we at the BBC 'do our level best' to leave our views at the door, but we've all got opinions and they make us better interviewers. Plus BBC-bashing is 'the safest sport in the country fairground' and the BBC is too timid in responding to it. Meanwhile I've been watching Jeremy Clarkson and, by being a 'big, pink, fallible wazzock' and not minding been seen as such, he's 'a lesson in self-importance to the rest of us'.
- Evidence if it was needed that BBC people are simply not like us normal people. The breathtaking lack of self awareness is extraordinary.
- "Jeremy Clarkson is....a lesson against self-importance for the rest of us." A lesson you have no intention of learning.
- "Cognitive dissonance: inconsistency between what people believe and how they behave motivates people to engage in actions that help minimize feelings of discomfort", which explains why this article is so dishonest.
- The true enemy of any interview is Andrew Marr, the Joe Biden of the prepared script and the search for the "Gotcha" moment.
Thursday, 7 October 2021
'Super scared' at the BBC
Exclusive: The BBC is expected to quit Stonewall’s LGBTQ diversity programme. LGBTQ staff at the BBC told me they are “super scared” by the implications of the decision, and they hope managers will change their minds…
Now, if true, this is interesting. Is this a sign that you can be too 'woke' even for the BBC?
Update: Ah, and now 'soon leaving BBC, ex-Editor BBC Political Programmes' and blog favourite Rob Burley is chipping in, saying: “Without getting into the rights and wrongs of BBC being part of Stonewall Diversity Programme, the suggestion that LGBTQ BBC staff are “super-scared” of leaving seems to infantilise LGBTQ staff at the BBC. Some will agree and some disagree, but are they “super-scared” really?”
Further Update: Douglas Murray isn't overly impressed either, tweeting 'Oh no! The BBC is quitting Stonewall’s gay extortion racket. What exactly do your “super scared” sources think will happen to gay BBC employees now, Ben Hunte? Firings? Firing squads? Or sweet FA? What a racket. And what a hack.
Wednesday, 6 October 2021
Nick v Boris
Nick Robinson: No, no, no, Prime Minister. You've made that point. You've made it at length in a series of interviews in the run-up to this conference.Boris Johnson: [jovially] Hang on, I haven't had the chance to make this point on your show for two years, by your own account.Nick Robinson: [sourly] That was your choice not ours.
Nick and Boris then squabbled for a while, interruptions flying, before Boris got a while to speak for about half a minute before Nick made his famous intervention:
Nick Robinson: You have made that point very clearly and I'm going to make...Prime Minister, you are going to pause. Prime Minister...Stop talking! We are going to have questions and answers, not where you merely talk if you wouldn't mind.
Remember that Nick Robinson had been talking for getting on for half of the interview by that stage.
And that shows [I think] what I strongly suspect, that Nick Robinson had his 'Stop talking!' interruption prepared in advance. My suspicion is that BBC editors encouraged him to deploy it.
After two years of avoiding the programme, Boris might now remember why he avoided appearing on the programme and might well begin avoiding it again.