BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Sunday, 19 July 2009


Saturday's 'Today' programme passed on strong rumours (now known to be true) that the new defence secretary Bob Ainsworth had called for Labour colleagues to stop briefing against General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff. Sir Richard has been calling for extra resources for our troops fighting in Afghanistan. That there's been a campaign against the General by elements within the Labour Party would not be surprising. That's the new 'nasty party' all over. But do they have a helper at the BBC?

On Friday night's 'Newsnight', Gavin Esler and Michael Crick teamed up to tell their viewers about the tensions between General Dannatt and Downing Street.

This is how Esler began the segment: "There is some quite clear tension tonight between the government and senior military commanders over what some see as the army playing politics. It centres on the growing military campaign, not in Afghanistan but in Whitehall, for more resources to be used against the Taleban. Our political editor Michael Crick has some new insights tonight."

This use of the unhelpfully-vague word 'some' implies that other people outside the Labour government share its view that the army is "playing politics". Not specifying who these people are leaves open the question of their number and their political standpoint &, therefore, gives the impression that they could be 'many' and that they may be 'independent'. The obvious implication for unsuspecting 'Newsnight' viewers is that, if lots of independent people outside the government agree with the government's grouse against the army, then the Labour government must have grounds for that grouse - in other words, that the government is right. If Esler merely meant "some inside the Labour Party" he should have said so.

In such tiny but telling details lies bias.

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