Tuesday 30 November 2021

November Open Thread

''Tonight at Ten...President Macron issues a blunt warning against ITBB opening a new open thread''. We'll be ignoring him though. 

Thank you for your comments. 

''Fact check please?''

Robert Poll of the Save Our Statues campaign noted another BBC headline:
One line in it reads: 
Roads such as Canning Street, Cannon Hall Road, Dundas Road and Havelock Street were named after people who were heavily involved in slavery.

Robert tweeted: 

BBC says historic street names are racist. Despite most people disagreeing, it's reported without quotation marks, so clearly represents BBC News's own view. They also say Havelock was "heavily involved with slavery" despite zero connection. Fact check please? 

Indeed, Major General Sir Henry Havelock (1795-1857) wasn't involved in slavery in any way, shape or form.   

Robert has now asked the BBC to change the headline and correct the article: 

Could you please add quotation marks around that very much non-factual and highly contentious description? Could you also please correct the sentence on Havelock, who had no connection with slavery. This is precisely how fake history spreads.

Update: The Times uses this headline, with appropriate use of quotations marks (and doesn't get Sir Henry wrong]:

It's also notable that The Times mentions the public's anti-change take on the matter in its opening paragraph. The BBC only mentions that in the third paragraph from the end of their piece. 

It's as if what the ordinary people of Sheffield think isn't something the BBC considers particularly relevant or important. 

The BBC, Sky and grooming gangs

A week ago today Sky News at Ten led on new evidence about grooming gangs preying on young girls in Hull, with one girl telling them that she was raped by 150 men. The men involved are reported to have 'Asian or Middle Eastern' backgrounds. A series of reports followed for nearly a week, featuring the evidence and testimony of the alleged victims, and it was given round-the-clock coverage by the broadcaster.
Meanwhile, the BBC has today posted a video about the Rochdale grooming gang: ‘My life just started crumbling’: Is British media Islamophobic? on how a Muslim man was wrongly accused by the Mail of Sunday of being a ''fixer'' linked to the Rochdale grooming gang. 

That striking contrast led me to do a spot of research...

A search on TVEyes for the words 'grooming' AND 'gang' during the past six months [1 June-30 November] brought up just one mention on the BBC News Channel - that was on Friday 10 September 2021 at 1.55pm. 

A search for words 'grooming' AND 'gangs' brought up another single mention  - on the BBC News Channel on Tuesday 5 October 2021 at 12.00pm - and that was only because the BBC was broadcasting Priti Patel's Conservative Party Conference speech live and she used the term 'grooming gangs'. 

Contrast that to Sky News over the same six month period. The term 'grooming gangs' was used on 20 separate occasions and the term 'grooming gang' 44 other times.

So though it may feel as if Sky are as bad as the BBC sometimes, they aren't in this case.

BBC navel-gazing and metropolitan elitism

Here's a little Tuesday morning reading from the newspapers, starting with Anita Singh in the Daily Telegraph:

There is navel-gazing, and then there is the sight in The Princes and the Press (BBC Two) of BBC presenter Amol Rajan reporting on media editor Amol Rajan reporting on the Royal family criticising the BBC. Absurd doesn’t cover it.

After the second and final episode of a series that has caused so much controversy, what have we learned? That there was rivalry between the Royal households. That Harry hates the press, and Meghan got terrible headlines. That Palace sources, whose job it is to secure favourable press coverage for their royals, may have briefed certain journalists in the hope of doing exactly that. Any and all of this information has been available to read in the newspapers for several years. Recycling it for television has achieved nothing, except to sour relations between the BBC and the Royal family.

And David Blunkett is back on the subject of 'woke' BBC Radio 4, this time writing a piece for the Daily Mail. He says:

Radio 4 has become so determined to address multicultural diversity, gender issues and identity politics that it forgets about all-embracing inclusion. People who live outside a narrow class of well-off professionals with rigidly right-on opinions, almost all of them in London, no longer feel included by the station. If you’re not part of the self-proclaimed metropolitan elite, you are unlikely to hear your views reflected. The BBC seems to ignore the obvious fact that ‘B’ stands for British — and its remit is to broadcast to the whole country, not just a few fashionable streets around Islington.

Meanwhile, The Times has a piece by Jawad Iqbal headlined The BBC has a blind spot over the bias of its Covid expert Susan Michie. It begins...and ends:

The BBC is guilty of a grave disservice to its audiences in continuing to give prominent airtime to a communist-supporting scientist as one of its go-to experts on pandemic restrictions, without any real attempt to contextualise or counterbalance her criticisms. Professor Susan Michie, of University College London, a super-rich longstanding member of the Communist Party of Britain, was lined up as a main expert to pass judgment on the prime minister’s announcement of measures to tackle the new Omicron variant....Michie’s revolutionary views — she is said to be dedicated to establishing a socialist order in the UK — are surely relevant when evaluating her critique of pandemic policies. The BBC, which prattles on endlessly about the importance of impartiality and objectivity, seems to have a blind spot when it comes to Michie. Its first duty must be to its audiences, who have a right to be told much more about the experts given valuable airtime.  

On which theme, by the way, I noted down the names of the first four interviewees on the BBC News Channel immediately following Boris's press conference the other day. All were what might be called 'lockdown hawks'. In order of appearance they were: Professor Susan Michie, University College London; Alex Norris MP, Shadow Health Minister; Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh; and Dr Sarah Pitt, University of Brighton.

Monday 29 November 2021

Words and phrases

Manchester Arena Inquiry: Bomb response shameful, says victim's dad, by Judith Moritz, BBC North of England correspondent is a lead headline on the BBC News website this evening.
As ever, the piece reports everything except the main point: the radical Islamic terrorism-related nature of the atrocity. 

That doesn't merit a single mention, even in passing.
The language is, as ever, carefully chosen. It's a 'Manchester Arena Inquiry' and a 'Bomb response' and and 'attack' and a '2017 bombing', and the Islamist terrorist Salman Abedi is merely a 'bomber'.

''This is the way you should do it''

Trying to do my blogger's duty and following up on David Blunkett's claims about Radio 4's The Food Programme, where His Lordship said that the programme had “lost its connection with the ordinary cook” by focusing on the “interests of those making the programme, rather than those of the wider public,” I listened to last week's edition...

...at least for as long as I could stand it. 

It marked the moment when the winners of the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2021 were announced at a ceremony at London's Broadcasting House.

I made notes, but soon realised it was pointless. The agenda was openly stated. The programme was selecting winners who would be ''models for others'' [their words]. 

Social responsibility, BBC-style, was one key factor. The other was helping radically transform the means of food production in favour of things like farming cooperatives, organic farming, sustainability, local-sourcing - and lowering the amount of meat-eating.

For a 'food' programme it was strikingly 'political'.

A classic line from presenter Sheila Dillon came when one prize went to a small-scale, local-focused butcher who wants us all to each smaller amounts of meat:  ''We [the judges] concluded that meat is such a controversial thing right now, but if you're going to eat meat this is the way you should do it''. 

There's quite a lot of agenda in that one sentence.

UPDATE,  29/11: And here's Lord Blunkett again, expanding on his criticism of the programme in the Daily Mail:
Every aspect of the station now seems obsessed with preaching at me. Even The Food Programme devotes most of its slot to criticising British tastebuds for being too staid and monocultural. If Radio 4 thinks that the very food on my plate must be co-opted into the culture wars, I almost wonder why I bother switching on at all. Increasingly, when I do, the station gives me another reason to grumble.

Sopes's Farewell

As well as marking the start of both Hanukkah and Advent this year, yesterday marked the momentous moment when the BBC's North America Editor Jon Sopel finished his job in the United States and flew off to BBC pastures newish...

He tweeted, ''And that’s a wrap. Farewell USA. Have had a ball''.

It's a good-natured thing to wish people well, but I really don't think he covered himself in any glory whatsoever. 

He played to a very particular gallery throughout. 

And he returned the role to its ultra-sneering, unthinkingly partisan past under Matt Frei. 

[In between came Justin Webb and Mark Mardell, who at least tried to be serious reporters].

I'm afraid my heart is with this comment in reaction to JS's tweet: 
News Addict: Thank God this guy has gone. He was one of the main reasons I stopped watching the BBC during the US election. One of the most biased, unprofessional, emotionally unstable political correspondents they have ever had. Good riddance.

So where is he off to next? To present Today? To replace Laura K as BBC political editor? To take over Andy Marr's sofa? To host a new BBC News Channel programme in the evening called Talking Pints...with [hic] Jon Sopel?

Afternoon tea, and a chat about the BBC

Here's a Twitter chat that might be of interest to you:

Emily Kate: The politicisation of R4's output is quite mind-boggling. There seems to be no programme left without some political issue being dragged in (eg, today - migrants). I listen in quite rarely these days, but even when I do, just for an hour, it is very noticeable. Is this what media was like under communism? How does one of the greatest radio stations in the world, loved at home, envied around the world, descend to this level of patronising student agitprop in such a short space of time?
Ben Cobley: On Radio 4. I used to listen almost religiously. Now: I never listen.
Graeme Archer: I stopped listening years ago (an early de-adopter). The R4 of my entire life was suddenly consumed by a sickness of preaching that rendered it unbearable. First they came for the 6.30pm comedy, then they took everything else. Switch it off. They can’t ruin music.
Graham Applin: I’m afraid it’s getting like that with Radio 3.
Graeme Archer: Agree. I’ve also (very sadly) deleted it. Sometimes I look up ‘soundz’ and pick a concert (and do the same with plays, those made pre-2010). But - this applies to every radio station actually - you’ve still got to sit through the news bulletins. The ones who use Sky are the worst.
Graham Applin: It’s their promotion of obscure 19th century female composers purely on the basis of forced diversity which particularly irritates.
Ben Cobley: The way the BBC has voluntarily butchered itself is a national tragedy.
Amanda: I’m sensing some recognition from within the BBC. Some attempt to redress. Such as The Nolan Podcast on Stonewall, Woman’s Hour trying to regain its voice for female listeners. I agree much of the once great parts are unrecoverable.
Emily Kate: I think the trans issue is a bit of an outlier, which is why the BBC (eventually) felt brave enough to represent the other side. So many people 'on their own side' felt very angry about this. I don't think the balance will be replicated on other issues, I'm afraid. It was incredible how Woman's Hour, for eg, ignored or danced around this issue for years until other people had done all the hard work and made it 'OK' to talk about.
Ben Cobley: Yes, we have similar thoughts. I think this is down to the relative weakness of the trans lobby (whose political successes have been remarkably swift but largely built on sand). On racial and other forms of identity ideology, it's full steam ahead within the BBC.
Jacqueline Benson: I stopped watching TV about 3 years ago as the social re-engineering agenda was very clear. The only BBC radio programme I listen to is 'In our Time'. Sadly, even Radio 3 has fallen victim to their agenda-driven programming.
Amanda: Yes. I find it ironic that BBC Sounds - which was developed at enormous expense to target the “podcast” digital generations (millennials/Zoomers) - is what enables me to pick at the bones of the BBC for decent content.
Pirate Prentice: On Radio 4. I couldn't agree more, I've turned it into a game, where I turn it on randomly during the day and then see how long until they squeeze an agenda in. It's sometimes literally seconds before you hear it. I think my record is 1 second.
Emily Kate: My experience is very similar. It's a shame. R4 in particular was the soundtrack to my life. I had it on all day long, and much of the evening too. Not anymore,

Sunday 28 November 2021

The BBC spins a story [Part 919]


Just before 6.20pm I checked the Sky News website and saw this lead headline: 

The Sky report quoted Gerald Darmanin, the megaphone-mouthed French interior minister, sounding off tonight and saying that those crossing the Channel are:

...attracted by England, especially the labour market which means you can work in England without any identification
Britain must take its responsibility and limit its economic attractiveness. Britain left Europe, but not the world. 
We need to work seriously on these questions, without being held hostage by domestic British politics.

M. Darmanin is very 'off-message' there, BBC-wise - at least in the first two paragraphs of the quote above.

He's saying [a] that the people in the boats are mainly economic migrants, and [b] that the UK's economically attractiveness is acting as a magnet for such people, and [c] that we in the UK need to make our country less of an easy touch to deter them from coming. And I think he's right on all three counts.

I wondered how the BBC News website would report that and saw that they got round to it late, at 6.54pm, under this headline:

I wanted to know if the BBC would downplay the 'off-message' bits, and sure enough those bits  - the ones Sky led on - weren't featured prominently in the opening paragraphs of the BBC report.

Moreover, it was the BBC-palatable bits that led the BBC report. 

[The BBC evidently wants to keep the focus on French anger at the non-'serious' UK.]

You have to go to the 15th paragraph of the whole BBC report, close to the end, to get a short mention of M. Darmanin's 'off-message' bits. 

Now, I don't think there's any way that this isn't deliberately deceptive on the BBC's part.

They omitted the bit about how the migrants crossing the Channel are ''attracted by England, especially the labour market which means you can work in England without any identification''. 

And - even more of a giveaway - that short 15th paragraph [''But he also argued that the UK had to assume responsibility by making itself less economically attractive for illegal migrants''] is immediately followed by a longer one that re-asserts the BBC's preferred take:

In the few studies that exist, family ties have been identified as the main reason migrants wish to travel from France to the UK. Immigration expert Marley Morris told the BBC the UK had introduced policies that make it much harder to work illegally.

Note in passing here that this is cannily, preemptively caveated with the words ''in the few studies that exist'' - yet those studies are the ones the BBC have been citing again and again in recent days -  and that the BBC then adds a touch of 'bias by authority' by calling Marley Morris an ''immigration expert''. I'd never heard of him, but he's a think-tanker from the centre-left IPPR with views to match. [I see that back in 2019 the BBC weren't averse to properly introducing him as ''Marley Morris, of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a centre-left think tank". Here they were keeping schtum and just going for ''immigration expert''.]

For me, this is an example of the BBC 'controlling the narrative' at its clearest. I don't see any other explanation for it.

To summarise:

The mouthy French interior minister said some things at a high-profile meeting that the UK was excluded from - some of which fitted the BBC's ongoing narrative, and some of which went completely against it. And, after waiting to report it for a while, the BBC crafted a report to;

[1] put all the emphasis on the criticism of the UK they approve of, and 

[2] both [a] downplay and [b] try to counteract the criticism of the UK that flatly contradicts their ongoing narrative. 

And [3] there was a spot of 'bias by omission' too.

It's agenda-spinning, biased, dishonest reporting, plain and simple.

Please feel free to read it for yourselves and disagree if you think I'm wrong.

And is if to prove David Blunkett right...

Lord Blunkett's claim that BBC Radio 4 is “playing into the hands of its critics by becoming almost the caricature its opponents think it is” certainly rings true with regards to Radio 4's Sunday

Today's programme (a) discussed the West's culpability regarding vaccine inequality in Africa [sample question from presenter Emily Buchanan to a South African bishop:  “Do you have any message for leaders here about the fact that there is this inequality in availability and people here in Europe are having their third jab?”], (b) dealt with the migrant crisis by avoiding the word 'migrant', (c)  told “a refugee story with a happy ending”' about Afghan girl footballers arriving in the UK [from Pakistan], (d) talked about domestic abuse in connection to faith whilst being vague about specifics, (e) looked at the problems faced by deaf people in churches, and (f) returned to the migrant crisis by talking of “Britain's obligations” towards unattended children and the shortage of Muslim foster parents, before ending by (g) interviewing the former Archbishop of York John Sentamu in the context of him being “the first person of African descent to head Christian Aid” [i.e. the 'identity' angle]. 

P.S. Here are two social media reactions to one moment in the closing interview: 
(1) There seemed to be note of alarm or panic in voice of Emily Buchanan as Archbishop Sentamu threatened to go off script suggesting asylum seekers might actually be grateful for receiving sanctuary.  
(2) I note the presenter moved rapidly on when he suggested Muslim asylum seekers should not prioritise maintaining their Islamic faith but should instead be first concerned about just being safe in whatever foster home, Christian or otherwise, they found themselves placed in.

“Friendly fire” from David Blunkett


‘Right-on’ Radio 4 is a turn-off, complains Blunkett runs a headline in today's Sunday Times.
Though as a BBC supporter, the former Labour home secretary David Blunkett wants BBC Radio 4 to “stop taking its core audience for granted”.

He also argues that it's “playing into the hands of its critics by becoming almost the caricature its opponents think it is”. He says it's “not adapting and becoming less metropolitan” but “playing up to that perception.” 

He also claims “there’s too much focus on what its contributors and presenters are doing, rather than on being informative” and asks that the station should “think about what matters in the wider sphere” - eg. that Today should cover a wider range of subjects.

As for Radio 4’s dramas he says, “I fear that good, easy-listening drama that doesn’t have to lecture us or ensure we are ‘right-on’ has gone for some time. Misery and a constant reference to identity politics are not what people want.” 

And The Food Programme, he says, has “lost its connection with the ordinary cook” by focusing on the “interests of those making the programme, rather than those of the wider public.” 

He blames complacency, saying of Radio 4's producers. “They think they have a captive audience”.

I agree with Lord Blunkett.

Saturday 27 November 2021

"Why aren't we going harder?" / "Plan B now!"


Madeline Grant of the Telegraph has, I think, the driest take on today's Boris-led Downing Street Omicron Press Conference where the journalists from the BBC, Sky and ITV all asked basically the same question - the same question they've all been asking for well over a year now:
One can't help but admire the persistence of these lobby journos, who plug on with their "Why aren't we going harder?" / "Plan B now!" questions, even after they've already been posed by about 15 other people at the same press conference. True grit and determination. Reminds me of turning up at uni tutorials having not read the book, and someone else in the class has used your one talking-point, so you have to make it again but using a slightly different form of words.

The world is changing fast

While watching yesterday's BBC One News at Six, Patrick O'Flynn took to Twitter to make a point that from the response clearly echoed with a lot of people:
Have we become so desensitised to knife crime that the murder of a 12-year-old girl by other children doesn't even lead the news?
The story of the murder of Ava White in Liverpool and the arrest of four boys - one aged 13, two aged 14 and one aged 15 - on suspicion of murder was reported 12 minutes into the bulletin.

My first thought was to remember the murder of Jamie Bulger and how that haunted our memories for many years. Events of this kind were so rare they shocked the nation and the media dwelt on them at length. Now, with rare exceptions, they just seem to pass by.
Indeed, by the time BBC One's News at Ten was broadcast yesterday the story had fallen even further away from being a main story, being reported 24 minutes into the bulletin.

Update 14:20: The murder of Ava White is still a top story on the Sky News, ITV News and GB News websites. It's nowhere to be seen though on the BBC News website home page. 

Update 15:50: The story is back on the BBC News website home page. A new article appeared an hour ago headlined Ava White: Police release image of van after girl stabbed to death'The occupants are in no way suspected of being involved in Ava's death'', according to the police. 

Were the BBC shamed into making it headline news again?

BBC - Why Iraqi Kurds risk their lives to reach the West

A 24-year-old Kurdish woman from northern Iraq, Maryam Nuri Mohamed Amin, has been named as the first victim of Wednesday's tragedy in the English Channel. The poor lady was hoping to join her fiancé, who is already here in the UK.

One oddity about the BBC report about her is the links added to the piece: 
  • What's being done to stop Channel crossings?
  • Why do migrants leave France for the UK?
  • The migrant debate can't escape European politics
  • Channel deaths: What do we know so far?
It misses, a highly relevant BBC report that was published overnight headlined Why Iraqi Kurds risk their lives to reach the West

The piece isn't even on the BBC News homepage either.

What's so striking about this buried-away piece is that it makes it plain that Iraqi Kurds come from a relatively secure, stable and prosperous area of the world and are essentially risking their lives to reach the West for economic reasons, to build better lives. 

In other words, they are economic migrants.

This runs counter to much of what the BBC has been telling us in recent days. You remember Lewis Goodall saying, “There's much discussion in Britain about whether these people are genuine asylum seekers. It's a fair question. But also fair to consider whether many or most would credibly take these sort of risks if they weren't”? Clearly they would, alas.

''Amol The Righteous''

I think it's safe to say that the Daily Mail's Amanda Platell isn't pleased with the BBC. Her Saturday column this week is headlined How the BBC's golden boy Amol Rajan conned me into royal hatchet job.

As well as calling the first part of his documentary The Princes and the Press “a hatchet job on the Palace and the Press...and a hagiography of Harry and Meghan”, she says she “submitted” herself to “at least two hours of filmed conversation with Rajan” but found it “reduced to less than two minutes of selective quotes”. She says she “felt utterly conned”, and feels even more sorry for the Royal Family.
It has to be said that The New Statesman's Rachel Cooke isn't overly sympathetic towards Amanda's plight, writing:
These [royal] correspondents have all walked straight into Rajan’s trap. He was the editor of the Independent, they must have thought, he’ll understand, he’ll listen, he’ll take me seriously.

She suspects him of laughing at them inwardly [e.g. at Amanda Platell of the Daily Mail trying to sound cute rather than just plain bitchy”].

But she continues, pondering...:
...how on Earth to explain Rajan’s own, no less comical mode? 
He seems to doubt anyone watching could have even the vaguest grasp not only of the basics of journalism, but of the English language itself. “She is a COLUMNIST,” he says, of Platell. “Which means she provides OPINION.” Hammy pauses, disappointed sighs, patronising explanations: he is very good on Today on BBC Radio 4, but here he sounds ridiculous, half-Hercule Poirot and half-Richard Madeley.

Former BBC presenter Libby Purves enjoyed Rachel's piece, tweeting:

Hilarious. And has Amol The Righteous bang to rights as well!!!

Migration Watch and the BBC

Alp Mehmet on GB News

There were a brief few years when the BBC slightly thawed on the issue of immigration and began interviewing Migration Watch, who they'd previously help at arm's length [to put it mildly]. 

Migration Watch, after all, had begun to establish a strong track record of predicting where trends would lead with an accuracy far exceeding other experts, not to mention governments. 

The thaw didn't last and Migration Watch began to be frozen out again. 

A scan of TVEyes shows just one appearance on either BBC1, BBC2 or the BBC News Channel over the past 6 months - namely September 9, 2021, when Alp Mehmet, Chairman of Migration Watch UK, appeared on the BBC News Channel for  three minutes. [Not now available].

In contrast, in the wake of the tragedy in the Channel, Mr Mehmet has been on ITV's Good Morning Britain, Sky News and GB News.  

Indeed, Alp has been on GB News many, many times in recent months. 

Checking BBC radio [rather harder with TVEyes] I've found just one interview, and it's a recent one - 24 November, Radio 5 Live, Alp Mehmet. [Presenter Nuala McGovern did plenty of interrupting and contradicting of course. It was a very BBC interview on the subject.] I can find nothing on Radio 4, Radio 2 or Radio 1. 

Has anyone else seen or heard anything else from Migration Watch on the BBC during the past 6 months?

A rare BBC apology on 'Newswatch'. Guess what for?

Newswatch this week continued to focus on language, also discussing whether BBC News should ever call Belarus's Alexander Lukashenko 'President Lukashenko', given that our government - among many others - refuses to recognise his 're-election' last year, before moving onto the main issue of our times [it seems]: yes, inappropriate language about gender identity. 

Samira Ahmed: Closer to home, on Monday, the News at Six reported that The Brits, the biggest award ceremony in British music, was scrapping separate categories for men and women. Here's Sophie Rayworth:
Sophie Rayworth: It will no longer give out prizes for Best Male or Best Female but instead choose one Artist of the Year. The Brit Award-winning singer Sam Smith who identifies as non- binary has campaigned for the change. He says he felt unable to enter last year because of the gender-based nature of the categories.
Samira Ahmed: That use of the pronoun "he" in relation to Sam Smith who has asked to be referred to as 'they' or 'them' rather than 'he' or 'him' infuriated some members of the audience, including Grace Davies:
Grace Davies: BBC News referring to Sam Smith using he/him pronouns in the SAME SENTENCE as talking about him being non-binary has got to be the biggest eye roll of the year.
Samira Ahmed: And George Aylett wrote:.
George Aylett: It's not faux outrage, misgendering does a lot of damage o people. The BBC knew Sam Smith's pronoun and still misgendered them. 
Samira Ahmed: Well, BBC News told us:
BBC News: In a report about the BRIT award's removal of male and female categoroes, we regret that we inadvertently referred to Sam Smith using the incorrect pronouns, and will ensure we address them properly in future reports.

If you recognise the name George Aylett by the way, he/him is a Corbynista who ran for parliament in 2019. [He lost]. 

'Migrants', 'immigrant immigrants', 'people'?

This week's Newswatch discussed the issue of whether it's wrong to call the people crossing the Channel in small boats 'migrants' or whether 'less dehumanising' language, such as 'people', should be used instead. 

This is how the subsequent interview transpired. 

In it, BBC boss Richard Burgess also told us why the BBC believes it ''wouldn't be accurate'' to label such people 'illegal immigrants' [as, say, Migration Watch does]:

Samira Ahmed: And to discuss the use of language on this story I am joined now by Richard Burgess, Executive Editor for UK Content at BBC News. Richard, thank you very much for coming on Newswatch. A lot of viewers are saying why don't you just call them 'people'?
Richard Burgess: Well, I think, first of all, I should say, this was a terrible human, tragedy as you were reflecting there. And I think it's important that our coverage reflects that in a sensitive way and in a respectful way. In terms of the use of 'migrant', I think it's about being as clear and as accurate as we can be for the audience. It's a term that the audience understands, we know that from research. And, ultimately, it actually explains why those people were on the Channel. They were migrating, they were migrants, they were trying to move to another country. So I think it's about being clear and accurate. But at the same time, absolutely going on to try and tell the stories of those people as individuals.
Samira Ahmed: Some people - and including the Home Secretary, it seems - are apparently saying that the BBC's language is dehumanising.
Richard Burgess: I don't think so. And I think we need to be a little careful here. The term "migrant" is about a person on the move - and a person on the move, often, for very good reasons - to avoid war, to avoid persecution, to get a better life for themselves. And we work really hard with our reporting to humanise the story, to speak to people who who are making those perilous journeys, often. I don't know if you saw Nick Beake's report from Dunkirk on the six and ten o'clock news where he spoke to one of the people in the migrant camp there who had actually spoken to two people who were on that boat. And it was so moving. And I think that's really incumbent upon us to really work hard to tell the stories of these individuals, the journeys they've made, the pressures on them.
Samira Ahmed: I should say as well that there are some viewers who contacted us to say that they should all be called 'illegal immigrants'. What is the BBC's position?
Richard Burgess: Again, I think it's about being accurate because I don't think that is accurate. If you look at the UN's description on this, anybody has the right to claim asylum in another country. We don't know what the status of all those people who died on the boat were, but some may well have been seeking asylum, might've had refugee status. So it wouldn't be accurate to describe them as 'illegal'.
Samira Ahmed: How does the BBC decide what each word to use? You know, there's the word 'refugee', there's the term 'asylum-seeker', and then the term 'migrant'. How do you decide when to use which one?
Richard Burgess: We use 'migrants' in this case because often it's not clear the reasons why somebody is travelling. As I say, they could be seeking asylum, they may already have refugee status, they may be somebody who's on the move for a better life for themselves and their families. So I think it's about us being as accurate as we can. And as we get more information on people, we get more accurate. In this case we've talked furtherly about men, women, a pregnant woman on the boat, children. So as you get more information, you get names, you get back stories, and I think that's a really important part of a journalism.
Samira Ahmed: When a tragedy happens like in the past week with the 27 people who drowned in the Channel, it does create a huge emotional response from the public, and I wonder if it's a challenge particularly at those moments for the BBC to get the terminology right in reporting such a story.
Richard Burgess: Absolutely. And, you know, journalists within the BBC feel that emotion as well. I think it's about being accurate, as I say, but I think it's about trying to tell stories, but also trying to get to the issues that obviously relate to this matter. So whether that's political issues, diplomatic issues, issues for local communities, the bigger geopolitical issues around wars around the world. So it's important that we try to put these things into context, it's important we try and tell the human stories, and get our terminology right.
Samira Ahmed: Richard Burgess, thank you.

Friday 26 November 2021

No change there then


I actually listened to a Radio 4 comedy programme today for the first time in many, many months - and quite possibly for the first time in 2021 (if memory serves me right). 

Seeing that it was that vehicle for The Actor Kevin Eldon which I didn't find overly funny four series ago when it started in 2012, I wasn't expecting much, but I did get a few laughs out of it. 

It was pleasantly silly. 

I particularly enjoyed guessing the punchline of one of the main running gags in advance [the one about the couple splitting up].

The biggest laugh I got out of it though was unintended. 

It was just one line, but it brought back happy memories of my old 'it's funny cos it's true (hopefully)' Radio 4 Comedians Bingo card.

The main quirk of that bingo card was that The Daily Mail appeared three times ''because just having it once would be far too easy, given how often Radio 4 comedians have a go at it''. 

Today's The Actor Kevin Eldon vehicle on Radio 4 also recalled that wonderful Harry and Paul sketch from The Story of the Twos, 'Panel Show', where most BBC comedy punchlines (if they weren't about sneering at Ann Widdecombe) ended up as 'Oh My God, the Daily Mail!

The one tart remark on today's The Actor Kevin Eldon Will See You Now on BBC Radio 4 was:


Before we go let's have a look at tomorrow's headlines...The Daily Mail has 'Everything we print is to some extent a lie, apart from this'.


In a rapidly changing world, it's almost reassuring that some things never seem to change.

The very curious incident here is that The Actor Kevin Eldon featured in The Story of the Twos too, as nervous-tic-afflicted General Disaster in Blackadder

He must have missed their satire on BBC comedy punchlines over-relying on attacks on OMG The Daily Mail. 

As Stephen Fry would possibly say, ''You bloody Disaster!!!''


Sopes, Maitlis and The Zurch gathered again for Americast this week to review the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, absolute oozing disapproval of Kyle Rittenhouse and his defence team and his supporters. The Zurch complained about two-tier justice for the rich because of all the funding for Kyle R; while Maitlis asserted that his gun was illegal despite the judge saying it wasn't; and Sopes sneered at him for meeting Tucker Carson and for becoming ''a celebrity'' after killing two ''protestors''; and both Sopes and Maitlis were aghast at him being offered internships, and played clips of some of his ''far-out'' high-profile Republican supporters, mocking and sneering at them; then The Zurch talked of the ''tragedy'' of the men's killing and how the Right was turning Kyle R into Captain America. And then came their guest, and she ruled Kyle R ''morally culpable'' and thinks the case should have been made against him over his handling of the gun. The bias was in plain slight, and this might have been MSNBC.

Anyhow, have you read Stephen Daisley's latest Spectator pieceKyle Rittenhouse and the collapse of media neutrality? Oddly, he doesn't mention the BBC. 

Update: Meanwhile, here's a little Twitter exchange that also, oddly, doesn't mention the BBC:

Spiked: The silence on the Waukesha massacre is shameful. Six people were slaughtered by a man in an SUV and there’s just silence from Hollywood, from influencers, from the woke set. Identity politics has corroded these people’s humanity, says Brendan O’Neill. 
Max Klinger: Brendan O'Neill on the horrendous attack in Waukesha and the predictable response to it in @spikedonline. He's correct. It's possible to predict when we will and won't witness massive displays of selective outrage with almost perfect accuracy.
So...Americast moved on from one episode to another in this past couple of weeks, covering Kyle Rittehouse and the killing of a black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, in Georgia by three white men. 

Lets go Brendon!

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics"


The BBC's home editor Mark Easton has an advocate's way with statistics. 

On Wednesday's News at Ten he made this statement:
There aren't more asylum seekers asking for sanctuary in Britain.
By Thursday's News at Ten - which began with the statement “Boatloads of desperation continue to wash up on Kent's beaches. Only a fraction of asylum seekers in Europe choose the UK” - Mark Easton added this, almost in passing:
Figures released today indicate asylum applications at their highest level for six years, at 37,000.

And there's a canny bit of jiggery-pokery here. The Times reports the same figures and says:

Asylum claims are higher than the number recorded at the peak of the 2015-16 European migration crisis at the height of the Syrian civil war, when applications hit 36,546.

That asylum claims are comparable or even slightly higher than they were in 2015 - at the very height of the European migrant crisis - is quite something.

It's all about how you frame it obviously. The Times's headline couldn't be further from Mark Easton's 'frame'

Asylum claims at highest level for 20 years as Channel crossings surge

I'm intrigued though about what was going on throughout 2001. 🤔 Ah, yes.


Here are a few tweets this morning from Dan Hodges:
  • Macron cancelled a meeting about how to stop people drowning in the English Channel because he didn't like the tone of a letter he was sent. And he then accuses Boris of not acting seriously...
  • It doesn't matter what the issue is. In any argument between the UK and an EU member state the FBPE crowd will always align themselves with the EU. If this was reversed they would be screaming "Boris cancelled a meeting because of a letter!!! For God's sake, lives are at stake!".
  • And have you ever refused a meeting that could save lives because someone sent you a badly worded letter?
Hm, after watching BBC Breakfast this morning and hearing their tone I'm tempted to tweak that to:
It doesn't matter what the issue is. In any argument between the UK and an EU member state the BBC crowd will always align themselves with the EU.

Mind Your Language

This happened in the House of Commons yesterday:
Brendan O'Hara, SNP: Last night I tuned in to the BBC 10 o'clock news to get the latest on this terrible disaster, and I was absolutely appalled when a presenter informed me that around 30 migrants had drowned. Migrants don't drown. People drown. Men, women and children drown. So will the Secretary of State join me in asking the BBC News editorial team and any other news outlet thinking of using that term to reflect on their use of such dehumanising language and afford these poor people the respect that they deserve? 
Priti Patel, Home Secretary: Even during the Afghan operations and Op Pitting I heard a lot of language that quite frankly seemed to be inappropriate around people who were fleeing. So yes, I will.

I refer the honourable lady to Melanie Phillips:  “Pass the smelling salts: the BBC is right. Why is the Home Secretary endorsing an attack on objectivity?”

As Melanie say, Brendan O'Hara's argument is “tendentious” and “absured” - a “manipulative piece of verbal mischief”. Migrants' is “a neutral and objective term” - “the one term that accurately covers all these different categories of people making these unlawful Channel crossings”. He's seeking to “reframe” the mass illegal crossings of the English Channel as “a decontextualised humanitarian challenge which no-one with a heart could possibly resist. And he is requiring the BBC to assist him in doing so.”
As for Priti Patel's reply, Melanie writes:
So because she heard inappropriate language about Afghans, the Home Secretary is going to complain to the BBC for its use of wholly appropriate language to describe a different group of people in a different situation?
She continues:
Why is Priti Patel endorsing this attack on BBC objectivity — the very quality which the BBC is usually rightly accused of lacking? Why is she thus giving implicit succour to those who exploit the accelerating crisis in the English Channel — a crisis which she and Boris Johnson have failed to resolve — to denigrate those who wish to uphold the integrity of their country’s borders and the rule of law?
The BBC is often very wrong, but on this occasion it is absolutely right. When a Conservative Home Secretary takes up a position to the left of the BBC, something has gone very badly awry with British politics.


More from Ofcom

Also as per Charlie's comment, Ofcom reports that audiences “consistently rate the BBC less favourably for impartiality” than they do on any other measure and that many viewers and listeners don't believe that the BBC obeys impartiality rules. 55 per cent of BBC television news viewers rate it very highly  - a figure which strikes me as surprisingly high. 

Ofcom was also critical of the BBC’s lack of transparency over its complaint process. Ofcom wants the BBC to be more transparent, especially over its complaints process, as the corporation doesn't give details of rejected complaints. Ofcom says: “Given the importance of the BBC to many people in the UK, we have consistently called for the BBC to be more transparent. For instance, in how it explains its decision to the public.”

I'd add that they're getting very tardy at adding to their Corrections and Clarifications page. It's well over a month since they last publicly corrected or clarified anything, the last time being about ragworts on 20 October...

In honour of which fact, and though the BBC's Mark Bell might disapprove...
John Clare, The Ragwort (1832)
Ragwort, thou humble flower with tattered leaves
I love to see thee come & litter gold,
What time the summer binds her russet sheaves;
Decking rude spots in beauties manifold,
That without thee were dreary to behold,
Sunburnt and bare - the meadow bank, the baulk
That leads a wagon-way through mellow fields,
Rich with the tints that harvest's plenty yields,
Browns of all hues; and everywhere I walk
Thy waste of shining blossoms richly shields
The sun tanned sward in splendid hues that burn
So bright & glaring that the very light
Of the rich sunshine doth to paleness turn
& seems but very shadows in thy sight.

Whither [or wither] the licence fee?

It was always one of the arguments in favour of the BBC being uniquely funded by the licence fee that only the BBC could produce in quantity the kind of high-quality arts programmes and documentaries that that their crowd-pleasing commercial rivals were reluctant to make. It was called 'public service broadcasting'.
The decision to turn BBC Four into repeats channel was just one sign that this argument has been breaking down, and it was reported a week ago, that Mark Bell, arts commissioning editor for the BBC, has explicitly rejected such esoteric programmes in favour of “TV that people want to watch” and “find things that will play at 8pm and appeal to all sorts of broader audiences”.

Now, as Charlie notes on the open thread, Ofcom is reporting that the BBC has cut its original arts programming by half in the past decade [from 305 hours ten years ago to 154 hours last year], its history programmes by more than a quarter [from 814 hours to 595 hours], its music programmes by three-fifths [from 239 to 93 hours], and its original children's programming by two-fifths [from 705 hours to 437 hours]. 

In other words, the BBC has become dramatically less of a public service broadcaster over the last decade. So what's the justification for the licence fee now - especially when many of their commercial rivals are producing superb arts programmes and documentaries?

Thursday 25 November 2021

It isn't impartial broadcasting


This morning's BBC Breakfast included an interview with the French MP for Calais and a former Chief Immigration Officer for UK Border Force in light of the tragedy in the Channel yesterday.

In a very BBC moment, BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty decided to interrupt when the latter, Kevin Saunders, said something that, however factual, was clearly unpalatable to her. 

She then took umbrage with him when he reacted with bemusement to her interruption. 

And, not letting it go, she then went on to try and shame him by playing the time-honoured 'please think of the children' card. 

It was all rather aggressive from the BBC presenter. 

Here's a transcript of that section:
Kevin Saunders, Former Chief Immigration Officer for the UK Border Force: In the longer term, we have got to have offshore reception centres for these people. The draw to the UK is phenomenal. They want to come here because basically everything is free. And that's the attraction. That's why they wants to come. They are going to get housing, education, money, everything. That's why they are wanting to come...
Naga Munchetty, BBC[interrupting] Because they are seeking asylum.
Kevin Saunders: Ah, er...um...
Naga Munchetty: Sorry, what do you mean by...what does that gesture mean?
Kevin Saunders: I was in France for 16 years pulling people out of the back of lorries and such like. Most of the people that I dealt with were not asylum seekers, they were economic migrants. And I do think it's a little bit disingenuous of some of the people who've never met a migrant in their life to say that they are all asylum seekers. They are not all asylum seekers. A lot of them are just plain economic migrants.
Naga Munchetty: What about those who aren't like the child that died on that boat yesterday?
Kevin Saunders: I mean, I'm not saying that everybody is an economic migrant. But a lot of them are.

And then came a report from the BBC's Lewis Goodall which contradicted the lived testimony of Mr Saunders, former Chief Immigration Officer for the UK Border Force. 

Here are some quotes from that:  

  • Some of those have made that journey two, three, four or five times to try and make it to the UK. Why? Well for some of them at least they feel they have already risked everything coming from countries where they have been persecuted perhaps, or where their family have been imprisoned, and so it's merely the latest in a series of risks. 
  • And of course some people say, well, why don't they just stay in France? There are a few reasons for that. Sometimes it's about family connections, their last family in the world might be in the UK. Sometimes it's about language, they can speak English, they don't speak French. One of the other reasons is they feel they have been treated badly in France and I don't think people necessarily appreciate just how poor conditions are in the camps, and I call them 'camps' charitably. They are basically really just woods and roadsides where people with kids - women, men and children - are living. 
  • To understand that, we spent some time in some camps in Calais and Dunkirk and here is a sense of what we found there. When you think of Dunkirk, this almost certainly is not the escape you think of. But in 2021, this is what Dunkirk is. Thousands of people from around the world, men, women, children too, living in the woods, wondering the motorway, waiting for the call to flee at dawn across the sea from France to Britain.
  • We should remember, too, that in terms of numbers at least, compared to other European countries, or indeed elsewhere, we are not talking about that many people. It's just more visible.   
  • There's much discussion in Britain about whether these people are genuine asylum seekers. It's a fair question. But also fair to consider whether many or most would credibly take these sort of risks if they weren't.
Now, who would you trust to know whether the bulk of the people crossing the Channel are migrants or refugees: the former Chief Immigration Officer for the UK Border Force who has dealt with these people for 16 years or a BBC 'instant expert' Newsnight reporter who has just popped over to France for a couple of days and talked to a few people?

And this isn't just any old BBC journalist. Lewis has a reputation

And, as per an earlier post, both Mark Easton and Newsnight were on a concerted mission to try to defuse this as a story before yesterday's tragedy struck and Lewis Goodall was obviously despatched to help advance that mission. 'Defusing the story' is now impossible, so deflecting it seems to be the new approach. 

Watching a Lewis Goodall report is like watching a university debating society in action. Note, as ever, how Lewis uses the tricks of rhetoric to advance it further - that last quote in particular.

Lewis just can't imagine that people who have travelled so far and are trying so hard can be economic migrants. For him, 'it stands to reason' that they must be asylum seekers. Well, it doesn't for me, and I think that's an absolutely ridiculous thing to say.

Note also his 'we should remember' in the fourth quote. Should we really? Why is a BBC reporter telling us what we should think?

As for the Dunkirk references [and there were images from the war], it crossed my mind that Mark Easton was playing the 'little ships' card. Lewis Goodall, unlike the very canny Mark Easton, was less discreet about using that analogy.

And he really hammers home the 'women and children' angle - despite everything we've seen with our own eyes from video after video over the past couple of year [something the full report heavily reinforces]. 

It's a one-sided argument disguised as a report, loaded in both its content and language.

The whole report also goes out of its way to tug at the heart strings, and - in typical Lewis Goodall style - features talk of what he calls ''this political purgatory''. This gets him into familiar territory, and he negotiates the UK-French angle by putting the emphasis on the French side's criticisms of the UK government. 

Even while he's emphasising his own fears for the lives of the migrants he's spoken to he can't but advance his own position on matters of controversy, and do it with a partisan politician's way of winning an argument. 

Whatever this is, it certainly isn't impartial broadcasting.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

The BBC and the Muslim Council of Britain

And while we're on the subject of the BBC Style Guide, these entries also caught my eye:


(radical British group also known as Islam4UK, banned since January 2010) ie lower case "al", followed by a hyphen and capital "M". Make it clear in news stories that this group and others like it are regarded by the majority of British Muslims as unrepresentative - ideally, through a quote to that effect from a leading mainstream Muslim group such as the Muslim Council of Britain. Preachers associated with these groups should not be described simply as "Muslim clerics", but as radical, fringe or similar.


Supporters of Shariah

(radical Islamic group)) Our policy is to run stories about this group and others like it (eg: al Muhajiroun) only if we can make it clear that they are regarded by the majority of British Muslims as unrepresentative - ideally, through a quote to that effect from a leading mainstream Muslim group, such as the Muslim Council of Britain. Preachers associated with these groups should not be described simply as "Muslim clerics", but should be labelled as radical, fringe, or something similar. Do not confuse the mainstream Muslim Council of Britain with the more radical Islamic Council of Britain - which should be labelled as self-styled.

It intrigues me how the BBC regards the Muslim Council of Britain. 

They  evidently take them as the ''mainstream'' voice of British Muslim opinion, even thought they are no less ''self-styled'' than the Islamic Council of Britain, and hardly free from controversy. 

That the BBC considers these far-from-entirely-moderate people to be their go-to Muslims [''ideally, through a quote...from a leading mainstream Muslim group, such as the Muslim Council of Britain''] doesn't surprise me but is still somewhat alarming nonetheless.


If you've never actually read in full the BBC Style Guide's entry for 'gender/sex' - the controversial one that's alleged to have been wholly informed by Stonewall's 'woke' ideology on transgender matters - then please take a few minutes to read it. 

As 'pure wokery' expressed in BBC terms it really is quite something: 


Using appropriate language is an important part of how we portray people in our stories. Sexuality, race, ethnicity or disability should not be mentioned unless they are relevant to the subject matter. But when we do focus on one aspect of a person's character we should ensure we do not define them by it.

Where possible, use the term/s and pronoun/s preferred by people themselves, when they have made their preferences clear.

Gay/lesbian: Use gay as an adjective rather than a noun (eg: two gay men - but not "two gays"). It can apply to members of both sexes, but current preferred practice is to refer to "gay men and lesbians".

For wider references, talk about LGBT people or the LGBT community (lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender). If this does not suffice, the preferred initialism is “LGBTQ”or“LGBTQ+” - the “Q” means questioning and/or queer, the “+”acknowledges not all people may feel represented by these initials. Where possible, however, initials should be avoided. The issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people can be very different and the more specific we can be with our language, the better.

If using LGBT+ or another formulation - for example in a quote – consider the likely audience of the story and whether the term needs explaining. Instead of “LGB”, for example, consider “lesbian, gay or bisexual”.

Homosexual means people of either sex who are attracted to people of their own gender, but take care how you use it. While it can be fine in historical, judicial or legislative references, it can be considered offensive in other contexts because of past associations with illegal behaviour and mental illness.

Bisexual is an adjective to describe someone who is romantically and/or sexually attracted to more than one gender.

“Gender identity” has come to mean how people feel or present themselves, distinct from their biological sex or sexual orientation. Use sex to refer to a person’s physical development and gender to describe how they identify themselves.

Transgender, or trans, is a good umbrella term for a person whose gender identity differs from their sex at birth. A person born male who lives as a female, would typically be described as a “transgender woman” and would take the pronoun “she”. And vice versa. Use the term and pronoun preferred by the person in question. If that’s unknown – apply that which fits with the way the person lives publicly. If reporting on someone who is making their transition public, it may be appropriate to refer to their previous identity to help audience understanding. It may also be appropriate to refer to a transition to make sense of some stories.

Transsexual refers to someone who has changed, or wishes to change, their body through medical intervention. Use as an adjective - do not say “transsexuals”, in the same way we would not talk about "gays" or "blacks". Transsexual is not an umbrella term. Many transgender people do not identify as transsexual and prefer the word transgender. Try to ask or find out which term a person prefers.

Take care with the term “sex change”, unless referring specifically to the surgical element of a transition. It should not be used as a general description for a transgender person.

Queer is an adjective used by some people who find more specific terms, such as lesbian”, “gay”, “bisexual”, “trans and “LGBT”, too limiting to describe their romantic or sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. Originally a pejorative term, more recently “queer” has been reclaimed by some in the LGBTQ+ community, to describe themselves. However, it is not universally accepted and has the potential to cause offence. Be careful when using the term. We should not apply the term to an individual or group unless they have already adopted it.

Non-binary is an adjective used to describe a person who does not identify as only male or only female, or who may identify as both . It is increasingly common for non-binary people to use the singular pronoun “they”. Obviously, we should not ascribe a gender to someone non-binary. But we may need to explain any use of “they” as a singular pronoun to the audience for clarity. This could be without explicitly mentioning their gender, however (eg: [First name surname] - who uses "they" and "them" as personal pronouns - is…).

“Sexual preference” suggests a person chooses to be gay or bisexual. For the same reason, phrases such as “alternative lifestyle” should also be avoided where possible. Instead of “sexual preference” and “admits being gay”, consider “sexual orientation” and “is gay”.