Monday, 4 July 2022

July Open Thread


July by Edward Thomas

Naught moves but clouds, and in the glassy lake
Their doubles and the shadow of my boat.
The boat itself stirs only when I break
This drowse of heat and solitude afloat
To prove if what I see be bird or mote,
Or learn if yet the shore woods be awake.
Long hours since dawn grew, - spread, - and passed on high
And deep below, - I have watched the cool reeds hung
Over images more cool in imaged sky:
Nothing there was worth thinking of so long;
All that the ring-doves say, far leaves among,
Brims my mind with content thus still to lie.

Thank you for your support and comments.

The BBC wriggles again

A Tale of Two Tims, for the DJ Tim business has firmly dropped DG Tim in it.

The whole business is fascinating, recalling the past Bashir and Savile scandals, with one part of the BBC working with The Guardian [naturally] and firing Freedom of Information requests at another part of the BBC to find out about previous complaints about former Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood, while that other part of the BBC was behaving in classic BBC fashion by initially stalling and refusing to confirm or deny any past complaints, and then shifting tack and saying it didn't hold information "helpful for this investigation".

And that's when Tim Davie put his foot in it, insisting:
I've asked and we've looked at our records and we've seen no evidence. If something like this were raised or anything comes up, we investigate it fully.
...which turns out to have been less than accurate. For now, seven months on from the start of it all, the BBC has admitted there have been six complaints after Tim Westwood [who worked for the BBC up until 2013].

What is wrong with them? You'd think, after Bashir and Savile - and Cliff - that they'd stop being so defensive, so obstructive, so incompetent, so shifty when faced with investigations that might damage their reputation. The impression of constant knee-jerk 'covering up' is the thing that's most damaging to their reputation, but they don't seem to be able to help themselves. 

Gender politics and BBC Sport

The Spectator has a piece this afternoon on the BBC's promotion of women's football and how it's gender politics rather than the sport that 'energises' the BBC. 

Its author, Philip Patrick, asks:
But does the BBC know its place anymore? Its purpose is surely to report the news, which means covering sport (a form of news) on the basis of the level of interest in it, not using it as a vehicle to drive societal change.
Well, we're already well into extra time on that one, Patrick. The BBC might as well update its mission statement to “inform, educate, entertain and drive societal change”.

He also argues that the BBC's coverage of women's football harms women's football by “overhyping” it and that it's  “patronising” too, in that its commentators don't do what commentators on men's football do and speak their minds and say someone played badly if they played badly. It's more a case of a continual “upbeat” patting on the head by BBC commentators on women's football matches.

Audiences will watch it, as has been shown previously. So the BBC would be better letting it speak for itself and winning what audience it wins without being so endlessly 'BBC' about it. But they won't, will they?

On which theme, it's time to quote author of The Tribe Ben Cobley again:
Nice that we're going to have some football to watch this summer: the Women's Euros kicks off on Wednesday, it's being played in England and it's all live on the BBC. 

A shame that BBC Sport's fixture list doesn't show the venues where the games are being played. 

In details like this I think you can see the decline of the Beeb: a certain slackness and lack of rigour; not doing the basics. 

They're trying to change the world instead.


The BBC's home affairs editor Mark Easton took to Twitter earlier to announce:

Nick Robinson and the dogs on the street

That drew this response from someone who's normally pretty pro-BBC:
Mike Love: Did he? Why is he expressing an opinion like that as a BBC employee? Fine quoting someone else, but not saying it himself.

There's a lot of that going on.  

Sunday, 3 July 2022

More insisting

I had to chuckle at the closing headlines on today's The World This Weekend

The opening portion began with the usual calls for Boris to go, including an interview with Lord [Kenneth] Baker where presenter Jonny Dymond [not to be confused with either Johnny Cash or Neil Diamond] gave Lord Baker the full Mrs Doyle from Father Ted treatment.

To paraphrase Jonny today: Should Boris Johnson go? Should he go, Lord Baker? Ah, go on, go on, go on, go on, say Boris Johnson should go!”

Lord Baker finally obliged.

My chuckle came later though, at the sheer insistence - via very heavy emphasis of the word - of the BBC's favourite past participle to describe what people they usually don't like say:
A cabinet minister has insisted Boris Johnson wasn't aware of specific complaints of inappropriate behaviour against the former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher when he was appointed.

The BBC are very insistent, even persistent, in their use of 'insisted' at the moment. A directive surely must have gone out, given how frequently it's used across multiple BBC platforms - from the News Channel to Radio 4.

Sunday's favourite Deadly Sin

This morning's Sunday on Radio 4 ended its month-long celebration of Pride Month. A tweet advertising Part 5 yesterday...
Watching the riot of colour and celebration in London for the 50th anniversary of Pride In London? Join us on @BBCR4Sunday tomorrow for the last in our series featuring LGBTQ people of faith! This week we're covering the topic of celibacy and same-sex attraction.
Geoff Burke: Does it ever occur to you that millions of good people do not buy into this nonsense? I suppose not.
To be charitable to the BBC, that probably does occur to them...which will only make them push it even harder. Meanwhile, the splendid Jane Kelly added a response too that struck a chord with me, especially after all these years of monitoring the programme:
Jane Kelly: What sort of programme is #BBCR4Sunday? You just accept everything said & never challenge or even question anything. Makes it rather dull I'm afraid.

Camilla's nightmares

I do hope next week's Radio 4 Appeal will be on behalf of a charity that helps newspaper critics recover from watching BBC TV programmes. I for one would donate, especially after reading Camilla Long's deeply moving column in today's The Sunday Times:
There’s no shortage of programmes about race on television — turn on any channel and you will see Samuel L Jackson flying to Gabon or someone in a slavery drama having their skin flayed off. This month alone there has been Lenny Henry on the Caribbean [BBC Two] and a decent new iteration of the reality show Back in Time for Birmingham, about Asians [also BBC Two]. Our televisions are host to a dizzying range of what producers believe are provocative takes on race and diversity, except none of them is surprising, curious or even new.
None of these programmes says anything different; none of them deviates from the blunt narrative that, for a minority, life is appalling and must be turned into a fetishised form of entertainment. No one white is ever seen as anything except cynical or ill-educated, even though the vast majority of these programmes are produced by concerned white people for concerned white people. Frankly, it’s a nightmare to review them.

I'm so glad I'm not a newspaper critic.  

Will Holly take the top spot from Gary?

Sources at the BBC have told The Mail on Sunday that the corporation is offering ITV star Holly Willoughby “a seven-figure pay packet” to present a reality show, plus other Saturday night programmes “of a Generation Game nature”, for the BBC.

The public will doubtless be all agog - if this comes to pass - to see if her “seven-figure pay packet” is bigger than Gary Lineker's “seven-figure pay packet”. For if there's one thing the British public loves it's BBC profligacy with their money.

Anyhow, were I a tabloid journalist I'd already have my headline 'Didn't she do well?' squirreled away for future use, just in case.

Saturday, 2 July 2022

“This debate feels as old as the hills”

I don't thnk this week's discussion of BBC impartiality on Newswatch did the programme great credit. Former BBC boss Mark Damazar almost entirely defended the BBC, while Samira Ahmed largely fed him questions which helped him defend the BBC. Both put the blame on 'wrong-thinking' by the BBC's critics. That's not what Newswatch should be doing. Very disappointing.

Here, for what it's worth, is a transcript:
Samira Ahmed: Hello, and welcome to Newswatch with me, Samira Ahmed. Coming up: Ofcom says the BBC has a problem with impartiality. Does it? 

Samira Ahmed: Those in charge of the BBC often speak about impartiality being one of the corporation's chief qualities. But the perception has grown recently that it's not fulfilling its remit in this regard. When he took up his post in 2020, Director-General Tim Davie spoke of the need to restore trust in the BBC's impartiality. Last month, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries launched a review into the subject, and last week, the regulator Ofcom published its own review, which found that audiences rate the BBC less favourably for impartiality than they do for truth and accuracy. On Friday, the Director-General told staff it was making progress on its impartiality plan, but Newswatch viewers have expressed their own concerns with John Huw Jones writing: 
John Huw Jones: Since the 2016 referendum I have been totally dismayed by the BBC bias against supporters of Brexit. The BBC was once renowned for its impartiality, but alas no more.
Samira Ahmed: And last weekend, Janet Fillingham objected to coverage of the decision on abortion in the United States: 
Janet Fillingham: I didn't keep a stopwatch record of balance but wish I had done. Perhaps you felt the shock value of the Supreme Court ruling was self-evident and that balance wasn't needed?
Samira Ahmed: Ofcom also said too many people lacked confidence in the BBC's complaints process and that it needed improvement, and again, that's something we've also heard from members of the audience such as James Mayes: 
James Mayes: The BBC complaints system is dysfunctional, and over-bureaucratic, to discourage complaints. The BBC marks its own homework.
Samira Ahmed: We were told no-one from the BBC was available to discuss those issues this week, but I am joined by the former BBC executive, Mark Damazer, whose roles included deputy director of BBC News and controller of Radio 4. Mark, thank you so much for coming on Newswatch. This debate feels as old as the hills. Does the BBC really have a problem with impartiality? 
Mark Damazer: Well, there is if you want perfection, because I don't think the BBC, given the volume of its output on any given day, can claim to be 100% successful on impartiality even on a given date, never mind across a year. But if you take a more practical view of it, which is measure the BBC's impartiality record or the accuracy and trustworthiness of its journalism against the sheer volume of its output and then look at the size of the mistakes it makes, and the number of mistakes it makes, I would contend that, overall, the BBC does an extremely good and effective job at being a trustworthy and impartial broadcaster, and in doing that, serves British democracy extraordinarily well. 
Samira Ahmed: It's fair to say we are living in a much more polarised - politically polarised time, and the news media landscape has changed with much more commentator-led coverage on talk radio and TV, and I wonder, aren't people just wanting the BBC to represent their points of view on issues? 
Mark Damazer: So, I think that is acute and is the key point, which is the extent to which people recognise that the BBC is not there to make their own personal world view feel reinforced or better, and the BBC is not there to attack, deride or belittle your opponent, and the BBC does something completely different, which is to present a big range of views and to have them effectively both reflected and challenged by qualified journalists and presenters who know their business. And you don't end up - you're not supposed to end up with a warm, cuddly feeling inside that the BBC has endorsed your view. 
Samira Ahmed: Many people think impartiality means equal time, and we heard a viewer there complaining about needing a stopwatch to measure abortion coverage. Is that the right way to measure it? 
Mark Damazer: No, and it's an important point. The technical term for this, both through the BBC and Ofcom and other public service broadcasters in the UK, is 'due impartiality', and what due impartiality means is precisely is not equal time, and the BBC should not be giving equal time to people who believe that there is no such thing as global warming as opposed to people who believe that there is such a thing called global warming, and the reason for that is because there is a body of factual evidence which makes it clear that giving somebody equal time on that is giving equal time to a nonsense. 
Samira Ahmed: And do you think that social media has changed both the way people think about impartiality and also the way BBC polices it? 
Mark Damazer: That's absolutely right in each of the respects that you mention. And, first of all, the pressure on all broadcasters - I mean, the BBC is the biggest, and so feels the most pressure, but I don't exempt others others from feeling this pressure too. If you make a mistake or even if you don't make a mistake and you broadcast something that a social media group doesn't like, the multiplier effect of spreading that around can be corrosive. I mean, sometimes I dare say can be helpful because it corrects an error made on screen, but very often, what's generating the social media outcry is simple disagreement with something that you've heard or seen because it just doesn't correspond with your view and take on the issue. 
Samira Ahmed: Ofcom also criticised the BBC's system of handling complaints. What can be done to improve that? 
Mark Damazer: Yeah, so, I mean, I think Ofcom has a point, and some of this is going to be administrative and institutional, and it's just about the resources that you put in and the number of people you have and the training that you give them to make sure that they can handle better, more quickly and more deftly the volume of complaints - and there are a lot that come in - there are a lot because the BBC is a big beast. But some of it is psychological and anthropological. The extent to which the BBC feels inhibited, I think, too often from thinking out aloud about how it's made particular judgements, and very often - and I say this both as somebody who made these decisions and then somebody who had to judge them when I was on the governing body - there are a whole number of factors and you try to weigh up what the right answer is, and I don't think it's an embarrassment to say it's a finely balanced decision, and this is what we've decided in the way that gives the complainant and the wider public some assurance that the BBC has considered all the factors, even if you don't In agree with the conclusion. 
Samira Ahmed: Mark Damazer, thank you. 
Mark Damazer: It's a pleasure.

Pride comes before a fall

3 of the 22

Did you know there are currently 22 stories about Pride featured on the CBBC Newsround homepage?

I just learned that from reading a piece at The Spectator by their regular anonymous BBC whistleblower headlined How the BBC was captured by trans ideology. The Corporation has forgotten about its duty to be impartial.

It's a long piece, and this is how it begins:
During Pride month this year a banner has been emblazoned across the BBC’s internal staff website used by every single employee. It features the following text: ‘BBC Pride 2022: Bringing together LGBTQ+ people of all genders, sexualities and identities at the BBC. 
Most people who work at the BBC aren’t concerned about this. But the slogan really should ring alarm bells, because behind its seemingly benign message of inclusivity is a latent political message about trans rights that is undermining the corporation’s impartiality.
As a BBC employee I am proud and delighted that the corporation is striving to be a welcoming employer for people from all walks of life, whatever their colour, creed or whoever they choose to sleep with. But the problem is that ‘Pride’ is no longer a movement that is simply fighting for the rights and liberties of people who have faced prejudice and discrimination because they don’t happen to be straight. It has morphed into something altogether more controversial and political – it is promoting a trans agenda that undermines longstanding concepts of sex and gender. Rather than treading carefully, however, the BBC is once again becoming an unthinking conduit for the dominant ‘progressive’ theology bouncing around the social media echo chambers of its Guardian reading bosses.

One man truly can make a difference

I wasn't listening, but yesterday's Today programme marked the final appearance by the BBC's environment (activist) analyst Roger Harrabin. Here's his tweet about it:
Cripes - only a month to go now before I leave BBC after 35 years. I did my last turn on Today Prog earlier. Felt very upset walking home. Not for me, but for the fate of the planet. Most people still have no idea how bad it's likely to be.
How come the Supreme Court makes a ruling that will compromise still further the efforts made to rescue this fragile planet? You can trace it back to the fossil fuel firms who funded so-called think tanks to turn climate change into a partisan issue. Good job, guys.
The story he's referring to received equally impartial handling by the BBC's News at Ten on Thursday. The opening headline made the BBC's position crystal clear:
Tonight at Ten. A serious blow to tackling global climate change from the US Supreme Court. It's curbed the US Government's power to limit greenhouse emissions from coal fired power stations.
There was a time when the BBC would have at least made an effort to fake impartiality on the issue by saying something like, “Tonight at Ten. The US Supreme Court has curbed the US Government's power to limit greenhouse emissions from coal fired power stations. Environmental campaigners are calling this 'a serious blow to tackling global climate change'”, but now the BBC just comes out and asserts that it's “a serious blow to tackling global climate change” off its own bat. 

I'd credit Roger Harrabin with playing quite a large part in making that kind of open opinion-pushing happen.

“Jesus, these letters! A loan shark would be more polite”

Charlotte Gill, a producer at GB News, isn't happy with the BBC:

  • I’m not anti-Beeb. But why do I need to call them before their investigation escalates? (For a flat I moved out of). I don’t have a TV. Why do I have to waste 20 minutes telling them that? And getting written warnings. The default should be leave people alone.
  • Jesus, these letters! A loan shark would be more polite.
  • The tone is just utterly inappropriate. Someone who doesn’t even watch tv will be threatened every time they open post! I will collect them to sell to future historians.

Friday, 1 July 2022

“BBC delivers progress on Impartiality Plan” - a review

BBC delivers progress on Impartiality Plan, the BBC Media Centre boldly asserted today.

The BBC says it has updated its whistleblowing policy and how it handles fast-tracked complaints. Given past horrors over the treatment of whistleblowers [e.g. Mark Killick and Liz MacKean] the former needed close attention, and Ofcom has expressed dissatisfaction with the BBC about the latter. 

The BBC has appointed two External Editorial Experts. That's a step forward, given that the BBC has long been reluctant to having outsiders looking at bias, with a Tubbs and Edward-like resistance to 'non-locals' at the corporation. The two appointees in question - Caroline Daniel and Michael Prescott -  held senior rolls at the FT and Sunday Times respectively. 

The first thematic review, into BBC taxation and public spending output, led by Sir Andrew Dilnot and Michael Blastland, is still going on and due to be published this year. Will it show that the BBC thinks public spending is the solution to most of life's problems?

The content reviews remain internal and will look at editorial standards and culture including impartiality, freedom of expression, diversity of voices, accuracy, fairness and trust. The first ones will look at BBC Breakfast, Countryfile and the English language morning radio news programmes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. “These selections have not been made because of particular impartiality concerns,” the BBC insists. The Daily Telegraph, however, cites sources “acknowledging that Countryfile was a show which regularly prompted complaints,” so I'm not convinced that either that programme or BBC Breakfast [with its co-presenters who mock our country's flag] was innocently chosen.

Over 24,000 BBC people have received impartiality training, and all newcomers will complete impartiality training. I must admit I'd have thought impartiality training would have been standard at the BBC for years rather than just up-and-running since last year.

BBC staff surveys looked at impartiality for the first time. 94% of staff from across the BBC who took part said they understood why impartiality is important. You do wonder about the remaining 6% though who don't think impartiality is important. What BBC jobs are they in?

Looking back

WARNING: This is one of those posts that got more confusing the more I wrote. And you may feel the same by the end of it. Apologies in advance...

The Defund The BBC campaign group tweeted the following this afternoon:
Surprise, surprise, the BBC’s ‘impartiality guru’ has locked his Twitter account after being found to be completely biased against both Boris and Brexit calling Brexit result ‘utterly stupid’. It’s no wonder the BBC is so shamelessly partisan!
They are a bit out-of-date over two years. 

They linked to a 15 June 2020 Guido Fawkes article BBC IMPARTIALITY ADVISER’S ULTRA PARTISAN ANTI-BORIS, ANTI-BREXIT TWEETS where Guido did a spot of 'Twitter archaeology' on Richard Sambrook, the former BBC executive turned Cardiff University media professor turned BBC official reviewer tasked with assessing whether the BBC's social media accounts are going against the BBC's impartiality policy

Guido found a string of partisan tweets, all in the usual direction, from the man appointed to assess BBC impartiality on Twitter and other social media.

An update that day on Guido Fawkes said:
Following our story this morning about his clearly partisan public tweeting, [Richard Sambrook] has now locked his Twitter account making his tweets private.
...which was an absolute joke and should have led to the BBC dropping him instantly.

Prof. Sambrook was appointed to review the BBC's social media on 29 May 2020. Guido was on it just over two weeks later on 15 June 2020.

I remember all this because - not to blow our own trumpets, while actually blowing them like Dizzy Gillespie  - looking back, we were actually well ahead of Guido there. On the 29 May 2020 itself I posted a piece where I wrote:
Salford, we have a problem.  The Times reports today that the BBC is so concerned about their journalists discrediting them by expressing their views on Twitter that they've now hired their former head of news, Richard Sambrook, to look into the problem. Mr Sambrook was, you may recall, the co-author of a much-cited, BBC-backed Cardiff University report which 'found' that the BBC didn't just not have a pro-EU bias but 'actually' has a pronounced anti-EU bias. His own Twitter feed reveals him to be anti-Brexit. Wonder what he'll find and recommend?

And Sue, that very same day, wrote

Hiring Richard Sambrook to review how the BBC “maintains impartiality on social media, amid concerns that journalists are discrediting the corporation by revealing their opinions” is a bit like getting the Supreme Court of Injustice to adjudicate on the lawfulness of something Lady Hale isn’t keen on.

We'd even done a piece in November 2019 on one of Richard Sambrook's impartiality-free 'chats' on Twitter, when he was a mere Cardiff University professor overseeing monitoring of BBC impartiality, which ended with the line:  

The people traditionally presented by the BBC as those worthy of holding them to account aren't exactly reassuring me here about their own impartiality.

It's still worth returning to all of this though because the 15 June 2020 Guido Fawkes piece ended with this:

There will now be no confidence in his review, as a former journalist he should know that cover-ups always backfire and transparency would have been better. He will surely have to step aside from the impartiality review…

What happened next? Well, as per various BBC reports from later that year that mentioned his review in passing, he didn't step aside, and he and the BBC seem to have carried on regardless. New guidance on social media use by BBC staff was issued on 29 October 2020, though that apparently came before the Sambrook review itself was finished. 

And that's where things get cloudy. Was the Sambrook review ever published? If I ever knew, I've forgotten. 

[That's what comes of closing the book and losing your page].

If anyone knows please let me know below. 

BBC Sport News

So, according to the Mail, Michael Vaughan was forced out of his BBC cricket commentating role by six disgruntled members of staff who work on the BBC's football and digital outputs. They sent their email anonymously and didn't seek a meeting with him. Charming!

The three top-rated comments below the article are:

  • BBC are 'WOKE' and employ 'Woke' staff. General public do not agree with their views! They are not neutral.
  • Hopefully the BBC lose the cricket commentary contact as this sets a dangerous precedent.
  • Oh look the minority dictating to the majority again......the new normal.

Meanwhile, it was inevitable that culture secretary Nadine Dorries getting rugby league and rugby union confused would be headline news on the BBC News home page. Some people's every 'gaffe' gets the full BBC treatment. Others can 'gaffe' away to their hearts content and the BBC will cover for them by not reporting it. It seems very selective who gets each kind of treatment.

And, as discussed on the outgoing open thread, the BBC is giving an uncritical ear to Lewis Hamilton's call to stop giving 'older voices' a platform. The BBC News website piece by Andrew Benson, the BBC's chief F1 writer, is full of language that backs up Lewis. That said, would Mr Benson dare do anything other at at the BBC these days?

Taking away democracy

Rather like the CCP in Hong Kong, the BBC has taken away democracy. The BBC News website article Xi Jinping defends China's rule of Hong Kong , written by By Tessa Wong, BBC Asia Digital Reporter, previously said:
But Hong Kong has seen huge pro-democracy protests over the years and many, including Western countries, have criticised Beijing's growing interference in the city.
But over the years Hong Kong has seen huge protests and many, including Western countries, have criticised Beijing's growing interference in the city.

Why have they toned it down? 

June Open Thread

As celebrations for The Queen's Platinum Jubilee began, I think Her Majesty would be the first to welcome the cutting of a ribbon for the launch of a new June open thread. 

May God bless it and all who comment in it.

Best wishes and thank you so much for your continuing comments. We value them greatly.

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Sack and smear

The BBC sacked Mark Killick, a senior journalist and reporter on Panorama, for raising concerns about Martin Bashir's interview with Princess Diana, and then smeared him. Now, 25 or so years later, they are paying compensation to him, doubtless out of the licence fee.

What Mr Killick says bears quoting in full:

The BBC's attempt to try and destroy my reputation rather than investigate my concerns shows just how desperate the BBC was to hide what had happened.

It was an extraordinary attempt to cover up wrongdoing and the climate of fear it created may well have stopped other BBC whistleblowers from speaking out for a generation.

I still find it staggering that the BBC was so determined to conceal the truth that it launched a smear campaign against me to protect its tainted scoop.

I am grateful to Tim Davie and his team for finally setting the record straight. But the damage to the BBC's reputation is immense and you can understand if BBC employees no longer have the courage to speak truth to power.


Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr has been sworn in as the president of the Philippines, taking over from Rodrigo Duterte.

The three links in the BBC's main report about this suggest that the BBC isn't overly impressed:

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Not another one?

They say the internet never forgets, making 'offense archaeology' possible.

Digging deeply, Guido Fawkes is really going to town on the newly appointed editor of BBC Radio Wales and Sport, Carolyn Hitt.

She's clearly one of life's perpetual Twitterers. 

In recent years, she's keenly declared her dislike of Brexit and Tories, and declared that, though a life-long Labour voter, she'd voted Plaid Cymru as that was the party that 'reflects unambiguously about how I feel about Brexit'.

She's also - within the last five or so years - written articles slamming the Welsh for voting for Brexit, backed Welsh independence, expressed admiration for Jeremy Corbyn and slammed The Sun, The Daily Mail and the Daily Express as “far-right rags”.

So her views are clear.

I've just done five minutes of digging myself on Twitter using the terms 'UKIP' and 'Farage' - which are so fruitful because they tap into how certain people reacted to the rise of UKIP, Nigel Farage and Brexit and, ultimately, the 2019 collapse of the Red Wall. So here are some further tweets from Ms Hitt:

She's landed quite a bold claim there in saying that she'll 'never understand' the appeal of wide swathes of Welsh opinion. Hopefully, that's not true, given that she's now in charge of the BBC's Welsh radio output and is Charter-bound to understand all shades of public opinion, whatever she thinks of them, and then to treat them fairly. 

And the last two there are particularly interesting in the context of BBC impartiality. The partisan Ms Hitt was slapping the BBC for inviting on Nigel Farage. 

The question, of course, is whether she'll be able to hang her leftist, anti-Brexit, pro-Welsh independence coat up at the door now she's been appointed to a senior editorship at the BBC. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Good sense from the heart of Lancashire

Dr Amy Binns and Sophie Arnold of the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) have produced guidance for journalists to help them report court cases that involve a transgender defendant. Their work strikes me as being very sensible and useful, and clearly written too. It's well worth reading:

1. Avoid using definitive words without caveat especially in headlines and introductions.
Headlines which use the word “woman” to describe a transwoman implies that the writer, and publication, agrees with the proposition “Transwomen are women”. This is an opinion, not a fact, and so should not be used in the headline of a news report. Similarly, describing a person who has recently changed their name as a “transwoman” implies to the general reader that the person has made a sincere, permanent commitment to a gender change, probably with medical treatment. This may not be the case. In headlines, the words woman or transwoman are better avoided. In body copy, phrases can be used such as “The prosecuting lawyer said Smith now identifies as a woman” or “Smith claimed to be transgender and asked court officials to use female pronouns”.

2. Report all quotes accurately even if this results in different pronouns being used by different speakers.
In court reporting, as elsewhere, quotes should never be changed. If necessary, a brief explanation is best: “Although Smith was referred to as a woman by court officials, the witness referred to Smith as a man”.

3. Seek to provide your reader with the most accurate information, where possible, regarding the person’s status such as an official name change, medical treatment, time of transition or GRC.
Public understanding of trans terms is low, and even official definitions are so vague and all-encompassing as to be almost meaningless. In the majority of news reports, details of a person’s transition will be irrelevant, but is relevant where biological sex is a factor if the reader is to understand the facts, particularly where a defendant has transitioned, or claimed to transition, after arrest.

4. Refrain from using pronouns, except in quotes, even if this results in awkward sentence construction or repetition of a name.
To refer to a biological male with female pronouns is to tacitly agree with their claim that they are a woman or transwoman. Owing to the incentives of the justice system, this may not be the case. Using their chosen pronouns is to collude in their possible deception.

5. Make clear the biological sex of the defendant high up in the story.
Types of crime strongly correlate with biological sex. These differences remain even after transition. Public understanding of crime, particularly violent and sexual offences, will be corroded if a defendant’s sex is cloaked in euphemisms, or buried in a final paragraph, or if gender is conflated with sex.

6. Use both birth and trans names where available, particularly for sex offences.
Journalists have a duty to the public, as well as obligations to the subjects of stories. This can create a conflict when a person has changed their name. Many trans people greatly dislike being referred to by their original name, sometimes known as “deadnaming”, and in most news stories there is no need to use it. However, there is clearly a public interest case for reporting a defendant’s original name as well as their new name. Reports of sex offences are one of the most valuable methods of encouraging victims of earlier crimes to come forward. Complying with a sex offender’s demands to only use their new name in public reports may allow them to escape justice for other crimes. The existence of a GRC does not prohibit the publication of a previous name when used to investigate or prevent crime, as described in the societal benefits of court reporting above. An analogy would be with press treatment of far-right activist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, AKA Tommy Robinson. The media, across the political spectrum, routinely refer to him by both names, regardless of his preference.

Their report includes a spreadsheet that links to many relevant cases, including to several BBC reports. What's striking is that the BBC has been far from consistent in how it reports such stories. They range from the one about child rapist Patrick McCann, which simply calls him 'Patrick McCann' and uses 'he' and 'his' throughout, to the one about John Marshall, which uses the headline Blackpool woman accessed child abuse images in hospital bed, immediately follows that with the opening line 'A woman who accessed her "vast" library of child sexual abuse images from her hospital bed has been jailed', and only uses the name 'Julie Marshall' and the pronoun 'she'. 

All About Trans

Here's a story I missed...until now. 

The Times reported last Friday that back in 2011 the BBC and Channel 4 funded a transgender campaign group called All About Trans to the tune of £20,000. 

“Some BBC insiders believe its influence is still felt in the corporation’s reporting on gender identity”, the paper says, adding “The BBC and Channel 4’s investment went unnoticed and they have not provided funding since. It is unlikely the broadcasters would back a similar project today.” 

The organisation held “several discussions” with BBC executives, including one in 2013 with editorial policy executives, “the gatekeepers of the broadcaster’s impartiality.” 

The report quotes “a BBC insider” saying:
It might look like ancient history but All About Trans has informed our approach in news and all content. It was embedded nearly a decade ago and it’s not gone away.
The organisation promotes preferred terminology “like assigned male/female at birth” as against “born a man/woman” and advocates “inclusive language”, eg. the use of pronouns, “which are echoed in BBC News’s rules on the use of language in reporting.”

The top-rated comments below the article suggest people are unimpressed:
  • And they think it acceptable to waste my license fee on this???? I would NEVER intentionally fund such a cause!! The BBC has totally forgotten its purpose....and is increasingly (and sadly) showing itself to be not fit for purpose.
  • I am dismayed to learn that this is within the terms of the BBC charter. I am dismayed that they would fund any organisation pushing a particular point of view with public money - it conflicts at least with their ability to claim objectivity and lack of bias.
  • Another reason not to pay my licence fee. Many of these public bodies seem to forget that ordinary people are slogging their guts out doing actual ‘work’ to finance these completely self-indulgent and erroneous “initiatives”.

Monday, 27 June 2022

Back to the 1640s at the Beeb

Who are the Roundheads and who are the Cavaliers in the latest BBC civil war over former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, after he was invited back to commentate for the BBC on the third Test against New Zealand at Headingley?

Last year, if you recall, Michael Vaughan was accused of racism over an alleged comment in 2009 and immediately dropped by the BBC. The Muslim man accusing him had made antisemitic comments but was quickly forgiven by all.

But Michael's now back at the Beeb and what The Guardian calls “an in-house diversity group at the BBC” aren't happy.

To put it mildly.

This diversity group of impartial BBC types have a name, namely The BBC Sport BAME Advisory Group & 5 Live Diversity Group [I kid ye not], and they've impartially written to their BBC colleagues talking of “Azeem Rafiq’s gut wrenching and triggering testimony”...

[...and I kid ye not again, these BBC people really did use the ultimate woke word 'triggering' seriously there!...]

...and they've demanded that Michael Vaughan be removed because, although they “appreciate that there are elements of detail that can’t be shared about his reinstatement and that he is innocent until proven guilty”, it's “damaging, embarrassing and many colleagues across BBC Sport, BBC Radio 5 Live, and the wider BBC as a whole”.

Time, perhaps, to call to the witness stand the famous former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie with a tweet in response to this:
The BBC's diversity group sent an email to ALL staff complaining at the "excruciating and unbearable" decision to continue using Michael Vaughan on TMS. Vaughan denies a racism charge by Azeem Rafiq. Who gave permission to the BAME group to send out the email? Just bullying.

Nevertheless, The Times says that MV's position at the BBC is “under review” as a result.

The top comments below the Times piece aren't in the BBC diversity agitators' favour though:

  • Seems they believe in the guilty until proven innocent cancel culture?
  • The BBC "in-house diversity group" - All diversity is welcome, apart from diversity of thinking.
  • He has been found guilty on two counts, of being a) white and b) a man.

The BBC spinning away like a hyperactive spider

The Times writes:
The BBC has rewritten an article about abortion that suggested the US Supreme Court referred to “pregnant people” rather than “women” in its Roe v Wade ruling in 1973. The term was also used by Sophie Long on The World Tonight on Radio 4. 

To quote Vrager 1 in full:

Somebody changed the word "women" in the first place for it to be changed back from "people" to "women" again. Fire that woke ignoramus for changing a cut and paste 1973 quote from Wade v Roe.

As for Sophie Long on The World Tonight on Radio 4, as mentioned earlier by Charlie, here things get even more interesting...

I initially read a few defences of her saying “pregnant people” that she was only indirectly quoting someone else - i.e. these weren't her own words. She was just reporting.

The Daily Mail's report on this only reinforced that and confused me even more. It directly quoted her bit on The World Tonight where she said:

The clinical director and chair of the National Abortion Federation, Lori Williams, said knowing how many women and pregnant people would now not be able to get care was “devastating”.

And the Daily Mail then quoted the BBC's response, defending Ms Long: 

Sophie Long was quoting the language used by the chair of the National Abortion Federation. 

Now, Sophie's The World Tonight bit, as quoted there, can be heard both ways. 

It's possible to hear her as using her own choice of language or - as the BBC insists - simply paraphrasing what the National Abortion Federation said and, thus, just reporting.

And I must admit I was inclined to believe the BBC's explanation that Sophie was only paraphrasing the chair of the National Abortion Federation...

...until I checked out 'pregnant' AND 'people' on TVEyes this afternoon, and up popped Sophie Long unquestionably using the phrase off her own bat elsewhere on the BBC. 

This comes from a BBC TV report from Sophie from the Mississippi Delta, broadcast repeatedly on 15 June on the BBC News Channel: 

She had no choice but to have the baby, in the poorest region of the poorest state with the lowest number of doctors per capita anywhere in America, and where a basic lack of transportation and nutrition put many pregnant people in the highest risk categories. At the Delta Health Centre in Mount Bayou, its only obstetrician tells me banning abortion will exacerbate an already desperate situation.

Oh dear, BBC, you rascals! Your defence is hanging by a far less secure thread after that, isn't it? 

Sophie Long wasn't quoting anyone else's language there. It was entirely her own woke-pleasing language. 

When caught in a tangled web of deceit you spin your 'unspun world' to us and hope we'll fall for it like careless flies. 

And why wouldn't we? You can sound so plausible, tempting us into your parlour.

I'm so glad I've access to tools like TVEyes and Newsniffer to help me glimpse you in action, spinning away like hyperactive, licence-fee-gobbling spiders.

More fake history from the BBC

History Debunked's Simon Webb has a new video out about how history is being faked for woke reasons and how the BBC sometimes simply swallows and regurgitates such fake history.

It's very obvious from Googling around that some 'journalist' at the BBC, back in 2017, simply Googled around too, read some revisionist 'black history' sites, wrote the following and got it published on the BBC website, where it still sits five years later under the headline BBC 100 Women: Nine things you didn't know were invented by women:
2. Caller ID and call waiting - Dr Shirley Ann Jackson 
Dr Shirley Ann Jackson is an American theoretical physicist, whose research from the 1970s is responsible for caller ID and call waiting. 
Her breakthroughs in telecommunications have also enabled others to invent the portable fax, fibre optic cables and solar cells. 
She is the first African-American woman to gain a PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the first African-American woman to lead a top-ranked research university.
If you Google yourself, once you pass over those revisionist sites - which are clearly not interested in factual history - you discover that Caller ID was invented by a Greek-American man called Theodore Paraskevakos back in 1968-1971 and Call Waiting wasn't her invention either. And it's all goes downhill from there.

Hilariously, even Wikipedia debunks those fake historians - and, as a result, exposes the extreme copying-and-pasting of certain 'journalists' at the BBC - saying on its entry on the estimable Dr Jackson:
Although some sources claim that Jackson conducted scientific research while working at Bell Laboratories that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch-tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting, Jackson herself makes no such claim. Moreover, these telecommunications advancements significantly predated her arrival at Bell Labs in 1976, with these six specifically enumerated inventions actually occurring by others in the time frame between 1954 and 1970.

Dr Shirley Ann Jackson is clearly a brilliant scientist, even if she didn't do what the BBC says she did. Goodness knows what she'd make of this BBC 'journalism'.

It's not great that it's still there on the BBC website either. 

BBC fact-checkers really do need to start turning their focus onto the BBC itself. 

One to make Tim Harford gasp


We all mistakes, but the BBC's online report about the Nasa launch of its first rocket from an Australian commercial spaceport went through five versions and four edits - and eight hours! - before someone corrected a rather big numerical blunder.

But the data gathered in that time will help illuminate the secrets of star constellations 430 million light years away, says the chief executive of Equatorial Launch Australia, which runs the space centre. 
"Without getting too deep into the science, it was effectively a large X-ray camera looking at various... phenomenon and trying to capture parts of boulders in the Milky Way and particularly the star cluster of Alpha Centauri," Michael Jones told the local network Nine.
But the data gathered by the mission's X-ray camera in that time will help illuminate the secrets of Alpha Centauri A and B, the closest double-star system to Earth that is located just 4.3 light-years away.

The earlier figure is a mere 100,000,000 times more than the correct figure. 

The title of Radio 4's statistics show More or Less springs to mind. This was definitely 'More'. A LOT 'More'.

That it took eight hours and many editorial revisions to finally realise this and rectify it beggars belief in an organisation so big and so well-funded.

So what happened next?

It only seems like yesterday, but was actually two days ago, that I wondered aloud whether the BBC's capitulation to a complainant's call for the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) to be labelled when introduced (e.g. as 'free-market') would lead to think tanks from other parts of the political spectrum receiving similar treatment. 

I specifically mentioned BBC favourite the Resolution Foundation. 

Well, the BBC is making headline news of another Resolution Foundation report today under the headline Levelling up to cost billions more than government thinks, says think tank and, no, there's not a label in sight in that article. It's simply 'the Resolution Foundation' and 'the think tank'. 

Much as could have been guessed. 

Other media outlets go with 'left-leaning'.

Not to be used

Language over abortion is clearly tricky, especially if you're broadcaster like the BBC with commitments to impartiality on such issues. The BBC News website report Roe v Wade: The world reacts to US abortion ruling, first published on Saturday, really went out of its way to cover all bases. It used 'pro-abortion' and 'pro-choice' and 'reproductive rights' campaigners' and 'gender justice activists' for one side and 'anti-abortion' and 'pro-life' for the other side. Suddenly today one of those phrases was removed and replaced...and I bet you can guess which one [click to enlarge].
And, at much the same time, a newer report Abortion care summit brings clinic buffer zones closer has now seen an identical edit [another enlarging click needed]:
Perhaps the most surprising thing here is that some BBC journalists were using the phrase in the first place.

Update, 12:30 - The latter article has been amended again now and 'pro-choice' added twice. Someone's working hard to 'make amends' on that article!

“And right on cue, here comes Greta Thunberg!”

Julie Burchill is such a good writer. She's written a brilliantly funny piece about Glastonbury for The Spectator. There's even a passage about the BBC:
Though I don’t like festivals in general because of their subterranean standards of hygiene, Glasto is more irritating than all others because of its political pretensions. Its symbiotic relationship with the similarly Palestine-pandering, Brexit-hating BBC is a notable one, to the extent that it appears to be the foremost annual works outing; before Covid they sent a whopping 300 staff there, more than they did to the World Cup. I daresay it’ll have been roughly the same this year, after which these parasites will go back to piously detailing the poverty of those who have to choose between ‘eating and heating’ while blithely ignoring the burden the TV licence puts on the poorest - between ‘looking and cooking’ perhaps.