Tuesday 28 December 2021

2021 in a nutshell

It's been a funny old year here at Is the BBC biased?  We closed and then re-opened.

Here's a far from exhaustive review of some of the things we caught - and some we didn't catch. 

So Memory Lane, here we come!

If we've missed anything major please let us know:


The BBC began the year by broadcasting fireworks from London in tandem with Mayor Sadiq Khan. Their broadcast - featuring NHS worship, praise of multiculturalism and Sir David Attenborough lecturing us on climate change - was described as “soulless propaganda”. BBC One ended their New Years Day Doctor Who with a two-minute message from Sir David Attenborough about the need for urgent action on climate change. Radio 4 marked New Years Day with a BLM-inspired poem calling for “a true history, true democracy and true racial equality” which Jonny Dymond called a “message of hope for racial equality going forward”. Mark Easton popped down to Dover to report post-Brexit problems at the border posing in front of a sign saying "No access to the docks". Dad's Army was given a 'trigger warning' on BBC Two. Emily Maitlis's first Newsnight of 2021 saw her use her 'monologues' to advocate for tougher lockdown restrictions and criticise Donald Trump's “embarrassing” behaviour. Everyone clearly started as they meant to go on. Radio 5 mishandled the Laura Duffel's scaremongering about children hospitalised through Covid. Nick Byrant compared Donald Trump to Mussolini and James Landale compared him to the Nazis after the trouble on Capitol Hill. After YouTube [temporarily] 'terminated' talkRadio's YouTube channel a Marianna Spring 'analysis' that justified the removal by Big Tech was replaced by a far less sympathetic analysis by James Clayton. BBC Two's Bitesize programmes for secondary school children began with a Big Read - a book called The Extraordinary Life of Greta Thunberg. The BBC got a new Executive Sponsor Safeguarding Impartiality, paying him £325,000 a year. Jon Sopel was talking about "a socially distanced inauguration for a nation tearing itself apart" just as viewers were watching Kamala Harris hug both Barack and Michelle Obama, another couple (at some length),another man and then two more women. Roger Harrabin's campaign to prevent a new coal mine in Cumbria fully swung into action and Jon Sopel described the likes of GB News as a greater potential threat to democracy than Britain’s already openly biased newspapers. The BBC gracelessly withdrew its '100-plus genders' BBC Teach video blaming others.


The Jewish Chronicle laid a charge list again BBC Arabic for a "fawning" portrait of a Hamas terrorist, describing Jerusalem as “the occupied city”, calling the Israeli army the “Israeli Occupation Forces”, describing the PLO as “the Palestinian Resistance” and referring to nine victims of a terrorist attack as “nine Jewish settlers”, though four weren't Jewish and none was a settler. Roger Harrabin continued his campaign against the new coal mine in Cumbria. Outgoing BBC chairman Sir David Clementi said, “We are one of the very few British institutions to be seen as world class... it would be a colossal act of national self-harm if regulators or governments were to take steps which diminished the role of the BBC”. ignoring the fact that there are many British institutions seen as world class. Jeremy Bowen said during the Iraq War that he'd “wondered what might have happened to an Iraqi news team if Saddam's men had somehow managed to kill 400 civilians in London or New York. I thought they'd be strung up.” Lewis Goodall tweeted that cancel culture isn't a real problem at universities and then deleted his tweets. Emily Maitlis 'liked' a tweet condemning the government and then deleted that 'like'. Radio 4 broadcast a 3-part programme on "the unbroken thread of fascism in Britain," originally describing fascism as "a central and on-going part of the British story" before editing that out. Nick Bryant did a long From Our Own Correspondent piece on New York's experience of Covid, having a pop at Donald Trump along the way but failed to mention Democrat governor Andrew Cuomo or the nursing home scandal. BBC TV news failed to report President Biden's bombing of Syria. Ski Sunday did a feature where its white presenters gave viewers a lecture on white privilege.


Naga Munchetty presented a Panorama called Let’s Talk about Race. On Breakfast Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty mocked Robert Jenrick's use of union flags, with Naga having to issue a half-apology after liking a tweet that said “The flag shaggers will be up in arms.” Radio 4's Today misreported Meghan's racism claims against a member of the Royal Family and Emily Maitlis misreported an “attempted suicide” by Meghan on Newsnight. A landmark report into racism in the UK by ethnic minority thinkers that found that we're by and large a tolerant country was assailed by the BBC with Mark Easton saying the report “risks deepening distrust and division”. Roger Harrabin's campaign to prevent a new coal mine in Cumbria was won.


The BBC had to apologise to Sir James Dyson after “twisting the truth” about his ties to the Tories. Samira Ahmed said she was 'haunted' by a fear that the BBC's coverage boosted Nigel Farage and Ukip. The BBC's coverage of the Duke of Edinburgh's death provoked some 100K complaints after being across all channels. The BBC went after Boris over Wallpapergate. Clive Myrie presented a Panorama on racism in the Church of England. The National Beef Association wrote to Tim Davie accusing the BBC off anti-meat bias after Blue Peter launched a “one-sided” green initiative. The BBC dropped the anti-meat message in response. Anti-lockdown protests in London saw the BBC's Disinformation Unit emphasize the cranks in the crowd rather than the concerns of ordinary protestors. BBC diversity chief Miranda Wayland complained that Idris Elba’s Luther “isn’t black enough to be real”.


The Dyson Report into the Martin Bashir scandal was published, a day after Mr Bashir resigned from the BBC. The BBC somehow survived the scandal and moved on. Relations with the Royal Family chilled and got worse as the year went on as the BBC antagonised them further. Huw Edwards was forced to delete a tweet after laying into other media outlets for criticising the BBC over Bashirgate. The BBC provoked criticism by delaying a Panorama about the affair, apparently because they were looking out for Mr Bashir's mental health. Aleem Maqbool, a Muslim later to be appointed BBC religion editor, presented a misleading and inaccurate report on events in Jerusalem. Mark Easton informed BBC One viewers that “the role of BBC News is to hold the powerful to account”. The BBC issued a video on how to hug safely.


Gary Lineker tweeted, “If you boo England players for taking the knee, you’re part of the reason why players are taking the knee.” James Naughtie was banned after admitting drink-driving. The BBC accentuated the negative when the UK-Australia trade deal was announced. The BBC adopted a 'no whites' policy when advertising an £18,000 trainee job on Springwatch and The One Show.


The BBC revealed that their diversity tsar June Sarpong is being paid £267,000-a-year for a three-day week. more than the PM. Mark Easton returns to the south coast to look at the crisis in the English Channel and asks us to please think of the children. Emily Maitlis told the BBC off in the Press Gazette for criticising her over impartiality and got told off again for doing so. It was announced that Gary Lineker is to boost his huge BBC salary by hosting a new quiz show at ITV called Sitting on a Fortune. The sausage wars and the NI protocol saw the BBC's John Campbell and Chris Morris doing their usual thing, the former attacking “the juvenile British banger rhetoric [that] seems to play well in English newspapers”, the latter fuming that the UK action would make for poisonous politics. The BBC News website saw the BBC report Ben and Jerry's decision to not sell ice cream in the Palestinian territories and give 11 paragraphs to pro-Ben and Jerry's/Unilever/pro-BDS points and just 3 paragraphs to anti-Ben and Jerry's/pro-Israel points. The BBC heavily reported “racist graffiti” on a mural of Marcus Rashford and then heavily underreported the news when it turned out that it wasn't racist at all. Tala Halawa, the BBC journalist who tweeted ‘Hitler was right’ about Israel, left the corporation. The BBC ran an advert on BBC One at 7.55pm Hate won’t win, a public information message about racism. An Emily Maitlis 'monologue' said, “The Home Secretary called taking the knee a show of 'gesture politics'. Now England's footballers have shown her why it wasn't. How far can those in power be held responsible for what happens on the ground?” The BBC News website ran a piece headlined 'Rural racism in Dorset: Why is our countryside 98% white?'. Naga Munchetty got a 30% pay rise.


BBC Sport tweeted that it would report to the police those who expressed hateful comments on its threads across eleven subject areas, but seems to have been particularly targeted at women critical of male-to-female trans militancy. Tim Davie ruled out releasing the Balen report into the BBC's coverage of Israel, having discussed it with other BBC people who'd previously resisted its release. Martine Croxall said that what Extinction Rebellion are saying “isn't exactly controversial.” The BBC, without mentioning her by name, issued a correction clarifying a mistake by Emily Maitlis that smeared Israel over vaccines and Palestinians. Jon Sopel, having largely withdrawn from covering the Biden administration, returned to briefly condemn them over Afghanistan before going quiet again. John Simpson also railed against the withdrawal but blamed Donald Trump for it. Listen very carefully, 'Allo 'Allo! got a trigger warning from the BBC for jokes about French and German stereotypes and the high number of sexual innuendos. 'Woke' arrived at Woman's Hour with a tweet that talked about “people who struggle with heavy periods” rather than 'women'. BBC Three launched a programme called Transitioning Teens said to have skewed the stats and presented a one-sided 'woke' case. A BBC briefing on how to target climate change messages to particular segments of society was revealed, proving activist/propagandist intent on the BBC's part.


BBC DG Tim Davie's salary increased by £75,000 to £525,000, nearly 3 times what the UK's PM earns. The former editor of the Left-wing Huffington Post UK Jess Brammar is confirmed as executive editor of the BBC’s news channels despite the controversy over her anti-Brexit, anti-Boris, pro-woke, pro-BLM political views. The BBC was typically reluctant to report the Albanian background of the man charged with murdering teacher Sabina Nessa. Jeremy Vine described GB News replacing Andrew Neil with Colin Brazier as “like replacing a shark with a goldfish” but then deleted his tweet. The Mail on Sunday reported how Martin Bashir took one of the Babes In The Wood victim's bloodied clothes from her mother and then lost them and then lied about it. The BBC continued to downplay the Biden administration's failings, either not reporting them or not specifically tying them to Joe Biden. The BBC repeatedly forgot Margaret Beckett when describing Liz Truss as the UK's first female foreign secretary. The BBC's reporting of the Aukus deal between the US, UK and Australia was overwhelmingly negative. The BBC used the HGV drivers' shortage to attack Wetherspoon's Tim Martin over Brexit. The BBC shamed the town of Driffield over a mural featuring only white people despite the town being 98.7% white and the mural featuring shopkeepers, restaurant owners and other local personalities. The coverage of a major report on sexual abuse among UK faith groups received the BBC treatment with the BBC avoiding mentioning Islam on its News at Ten, unlike Sky or ITV, with Mark Easton focusing on Jehovah’s Witnesses and Orthodox Jews. The BBC gave many the impression of campaigning hard for 12-15 year olds to be vaccinated. BBC staff were offered an “allyship” test which identifies whether they are more privileged than their colleagues as part of diversity training. Ben Hunte, the BBC's activist-like ‘LBGT Correspondent’, left BBC News for Vice News. Fran Unsworth, head of news, announced her departure.


Sir David Amess MP was murdered and the BBC treated his killing as if it was a re-run of the murder of Jo Cox, keeping the focus firmly on the tone of political discourse and even more firmly off Islamism. Dominic Casciani was accused of downplaying the suspect's Somali background. The BBC-commissioned Serota Review into the BBC's editorial processes, governance and culture was published. It was led by BBC board member Sir Nick Serota and set up following the Dyson Report into the Bashir scandal. It largely located the BBC's problems in the rather distant past and mostly claimed that the BBC is presently getting things largely about right, though there's always room for improvement. Tougher questions about BBC editorial processes came from the BBC's Stephen Nolan whose podcast about the BBC's relationship with the campaign group Stonewall argued that the BBC is too close to Stonewall, prompting the BBC to partially distance itself from them. The BBC accentuated the negative when the UK-New Zealand trade deal was announced. John Simpson advocated for “the repayment of a £400m debt the UK owes to Iran” in order to get Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe freed. Matt Wiessler, the designer scapegoated by the BBC in the Martin Bashir/Princess Diana Panorama scandal, finally received compensation - some £750,000 apparently - 'from the BBC' [i.e. the licence fee payer]. This was on top of the £1.5 million for the Dyson review into the scandal and the £1.5 million paid to a charity chosen by the Royal Family. Full Fact ruled Andrew Marr “wrong” to claim Boris Johnson wasn't telling the truth about wages during another frosty interview. Nick Robinson told Boris Johnson to 'stop talking' during a Today interview where the BBC interviewer himself talked for over 40% of the time. The BBC reported the death of Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who'd spent 14 years under police protection against Islamists intent on murdering him, with an article that went out of its way to respect the founder of Islam [“the Prophet Muhammad... the Prophet Muhammad... the Prophet Muhammad... the Prophet...the Prophet”]. Former BBC controller of daily news programmes Gavin Allen, ousted from the BBC board in February this year, moved on to work as 'executive editor in chief' for the highly controversial Chinese tech giant Huawei. Jonathan Munro, the BBC's Deputy Director of News, put in a slippery performance on News-watch over 'the panic at the petrol pumps'.


The month was dominated by BBC reporting of the Yorkshire Cricket Club with the BBC siding with Azeem Rafiq, even after his antisemitic past was disclosed. It almost rivalled their exhaustive COP26 coverage for intensity. On climate change Justin Rowlatt claimed Boris Johnson looked “a little bit weaselly not answering the coal question” during an interview with the PM while Laura Kuenssberg called Ed Miliband “an expert in this field”. The One Show lectured on eating less meat, having less children, not travelling by air and having better insulation. Andrew Neil said the BBC has becoome “the PR department of Greenpeace” and had colluded in the “conspiracy theory” that the Kremlin helped Donald Trump to win the presidency of the United States, and refused to tell the truth about the origins of Covid-19. Despite weeping on air while reporting on the impending famine in Afghanistan, John Simpson took great care not to mention the B-word [Biden]. The BBC reported the not guilty charges against Kyle Rittenhouse with a pronounced bias against him, including Americast. The attack on the Waukesha Christmas market march by a black racist was downplayed and deracialised by the BBC. Many people took exception to republican Amol Rajan's The Princes and the Press, not least the non-Sussex parts of the Royal Family, further deepening and embittering the split between the BBC and the Royal Family. The BBC obfuscated the Liverpool bombing, placing emphasis on the suspect being a 'Christian convert'. Doctor Who [aka 'Doctor Woke'] featured Mary Seacole and praised her to the skies. Ex-BBC reporter Martin Bell said that parts of the BBC's output “are now so lopsided that they need serious review through the lens of the principles that guided us.” Huw Edwards was “spoken to” by the BBC after tweeting that he felt uncomfortable about a portrait of a Waterloo 'hero' being taken down by an art gallery. The BBC partially distanced itself from Stonewall but their new diversity training scheme was described as Stonewall ‘in all but name’. The BBC's reporting of Claudia Webbe MP's sentencing was very low-key, not making that day's Newsnight or News at Ten. Andrew Marr announced his intention to leave the BBC to be free of BBC rules so he can speak out on climate. On the migrant crisis in the Channel, Mark Easton argued that it's not a big deal, the government's pandering to pro-Brexit sentiment over the issue, and what problems exist are because of Brexit, and there's nothing we can legally do to stop the poor migrants in their dinghies, and don't even mention concerns about terrorism. and please think of the migrant children. Newsnight's Ben Chu dismissed concerns as a “gut reaction”. Following the tragedy in the Channel, the BBC fired on all cylinders to spin the story in particular directions and Mark Easton attempted a statistical sleight-of-hand over asylum seeker numbers. Roger Harrabin announced he was leaving the BBC and Jon Sopel left the USA.


This was the month of Partygate. Andrew Marr presented his final BBC show, leaving to become a chief writer for The New Statesman, among other things. Michael Buerk said that Radio 4 is becoming “increasingly woke”. The BBC was late on parade reporting the antisemitic incident in Oxford Street and then caused a furore when its reporting cast slurs on the victims. The Simon Wiesenthal Center placed the BBC third behind Iran and Hamas on their Global Antisemitism Top Ten List, believing the corporation to be guilty of several instances of antisemitism this year. The BBC ruled against their gender and identity reporter Megha Mohan for disobeying the BBC guideline saying “Staff should also not post offensive or derogatory comments or content on social media and avoid abusing their position as a BBC employee in personal interactions” after she joined in an intense Twitter pile-on by hardline trans activists against a woman. She then deleted and un-deleted her Twitter account. Mike Wendling, editor of BBC Trending and the BBC News team investigating disinformation, got into another Twitter spat defending an indefensibly biased article about mandatory vaccinations. In the wake of research by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity the BBC committed themselves to avoid the BAME acronym “wherever possible”. The 100 Women 2021 featured two trans women [i.e. men]. The BBC upheld a complaint against Justin Rowlatt after he said the UK offshore wind industry is “now virtually subsidy free” and a viewer complained that wasn't true. The BBC reported the outcome of the Jussie Smollett trial by omitting details and deracialising the story. New BBC culture editor Katie Razzall has presented biased reports on a transgender row and cancel culture in comedy this month. The BBC's Ros Atkins found fame with his “assertive impartiality”. Ex-BBC editor Rob Burley objected to a “class of super-managers who have become v powerful” at the corporation. A BBC whistleblower wrote a piece for The Spectator about how the BBC “lost its way” and “failed in its reporting on the pandemic”. Two former senior BBC editors, Roger Mosey and Richard Sambrook, told Parliament that younger BBC journalists do not understand impartiality and confuse it with “social justice”. It emerged that 56% of the BBC’s television output is repeats. Laura Kuenssberg confirmed that she's stepping down as BBC political editor.

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