Sunday 12 June 2022

A Look Back

As you've been recording on the open thread, it's been quite a few weeks for the BBC.


The one that puzzled me was the Antony Gormley story. Reeta Chakrabarti, with earnestness all over her face and eyebrows raised, read out this 'news' last Saturday evening:
One of Britain's most acclaimed artists, the sculptor Sir Antony Gormley, who created The Angel of the North, is to become a German citizen. Sir Antony said he was giving up his British passport because of the UK's decision leave the European Union. He described the move as "embarrassing" and says he has plans for new sculptures that reflect this view.
Three days later the BBC posted the following on its Corrections and Clarifications page:
BBC One, 4 June 2022, 10.30pm

We reported that the acclaimed British sculptor Sir Antony Gormley is to become a German citizen. We said he was giving up his British passport because of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and that he had described the move as embarrassing and had plans for new sculptures that would reflect his view.

In fact Sir Antony Gormley is not giving up his British nationality and has asked us to make clear the circumstances behind his application for a German passport.

Sir Antony holds dual nationality as a result of having a German mother and has decided to apply for a German passport, which he will hold alongside his British one.

In a statement he says he remains a proud British citizen and is grateful for the extraordinary support he has received from so many people and institutions across the UK but he is also keen to retain his links with and continue to show his work in Europe.

We apologise for the mistake.


How did this happen? As far as I can see, the BBC simply picked the story up from their Sunday house journal The Observer and misread it.  

Nowhere in the Observer article did Sir Antony say he was giving up his British passport [and I've checked the Wayback Machine to see if the Observer did say it but then changed it].

So were the BBC 'projecting', seeing what they wanted to see in the story rather than what it actually said?

It certainly looks like it.


Meanwhile, following a number of apologies for 'errors' made by the BBC's climate editor Justin Rowlatt - who's far clumsier than the departing Roger Harrabin - there's a new report out by Paul Homewood detailing a dozen corrections/apologies the BBC's had to make in recent years for false claims. 

Justin, who first rose to fame as Newsnight's 'Ethical Man', is now up to three strikes [BBC ECU rulings against him], though naturally he's not 'out' at the BBC:

In 2021 he falsely claimed that the offshore wind industry was now 'virtually subsidy free'.

In 2022 he falsely claimed that the death toll from climate change is rising.

In 2022 he falsely claimed that the recent drought in Madagascar was 'the world's first climate-induced famine'.

I was particularly intrigued by the passages about the BBC's complaints process, including this concerning the false claim about the death toll rising:

A complaint to the BBC was fobbed off with the risible excuse that Panorama was referring to the cumulative death toll, which will obviously rise every year.

I wish I could say that was 'a nice try' by the BBC, but it's so disingenuous as to be anything but. 

As the press release accompanying the report notes, the BBC has a team of reality checkers, including a 'Climate Misinformation' section.  

Yet none of these teams of fact checkers noticed or addressed the long list of false news stories that were only corrected by the BBC after lengthy and protracted complaint procedures.

Those BBC reality checkers are very selective in the 'facts' they choose to 'check'. 


Worst of all was the BBC's editing of an online report to change a rape victim's words - replacing 'he' and 'him' with 'they' and 'them' in order not to offend the trans person accused of raping the woman - a truly staggering editorial intervention.

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