BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Monday, 31 August 2009

LEFT ALONE

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Here are some of the highlights of this morning's 'Today' programme:

In the first hour of Today (6.00-7.00), Adam Shaw's Business News reported on increases in petrol duty. He discussed it with Richard George, described as a 'road and climate campaigner' for the charity Campaign for Better Transport. He supported the rises. In the last hour this was balanced by a spokesman for the A.A.

Later came a report from the BBC's Ross Hawkins on a study of the social backgrounds of the likely new parliamentary intake (across all political parties) of 2010. This was prompted by a report from the think-tank New Local Government Network, and featured as one of its talking heads the organisation's director Chris Leslie, who was the Labour MP for Shipley from 1997-2005 (though this wasn't mentioned in young Ross's report). The other talking heads were the Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson and the prospective Labour candidate for the new constituency of Outer York James Alexander. The only talking head from outside the Labour Family was BBC regular, Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University. The report was, let me stress, not about Labour!

To round of this hour came an interview with Sonny Hundal, the blogger for the 'progressive' blog-sites Picked Politics and Liberal Conspiracy. He has written complaining to the Equality and Human Rights Commission about the Metropolitan Police.

In the second hour (c. 7.40) the death of the 100-watt bulb for environmental reasons was discussed in an interview between Justin Webb and Matt Prescott, director of the green campaign group Ban the Bulb.
(For a counter-balancing argument (not provided by any other interviewee on Today) here's a useful link:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1210150/MICHAEL-HANLON-Making-illegal-sell-100-watt-light-bulbs-simply-dimwitted.html)

I was prompted to look a little more closely at all this by the following thought-provoking comment:
Anonymous said...
If we took a period of time and counted the number of times that the Guardian was mentioned on bbc radio 4 then it would be 10+ times that of any other newspaper.
They hardly ever mention The Economist since it is objective and if they do they omit to mention the full picture.
The same goes for the LSE and left wing think tanks, most of which are not mentioned as such.
I will be keeping my eye on this from now on.

HOOKING A STURGEON

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Following on from my post yesterday, I note that this morning's Today took up the Sunday Times story about Labour and the release of al-Megrahi and put strong questions about it to...Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP.
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Jim Naughtie's interview scored a lowish I.C. of 0.4, but it was not friendly in tone.

The only other interviewee on the subject was Oliver Miles , chairman of the Libyan British Business Council, who didn't think there was a business deal between Britain and the Libyan government, but suspected a political deal. He got less than 2 minutes.

NO PRIDE BUT SOME PREJUDICE

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Mark D'Arcy was standing in for Carolyn Quinn on last night's Westminster Hour. Given how well Laura Kuenssberg did with the programme's Politics Panel (for the two previous weeks), it's disappointing to report that the modest Mr D'Arcy (who's such a thoughtful presenter on the Parliament Channel's Booktalk) was not in the same league.

The panel consisted of three MEPs: the Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas, Nigel Farrage, leader of the UK Independence Party, and the Conservative Charles Tannock.

Mr Tannock has, like Dan Hannan, fallen foul of Conservative HQ for making some interesting, off-message remarks about the NHS. (Was that, by any chance, why he was asked to be the Conservative representative on the programme? What a cynical thought - though it's likely to be true!!)

By inviting Caroline Lucas and Nigel Farage onto the show, Westminster Hour became the first to speak to the Greens and to UKIP since 14th July!!! So hopefully it would let both parties make up for lost time.

The figures speak for themselves, whichever way you look at them:

Length of time granted to each speaker:
Charles Tannock 7 minutes 34 seconds
Caroline Lucas 7 minutes 11 seconds
Nigel Farage 3 minutes 33 seconds
Mr Farage got (as you can see) less than half the time that either Ms Lucas or Mr Tannock were allowed. Quite extraordinary!

Number of questions asked to each speaker:
Caroline Lucas 3
Nigel Farage 5
Charles Tannock 8
Over seven minutes to speak, yet only three questions to answer. Another easy ride for a Green
on the BBC!

Number of interruptions:
Charles Tannock 3
Nigel Farage 2
Caroline Lucas 1

Interruption Coefficients:
Nigel Farage 0.6
Charles Tannock 0.4
Caroline Lucas 0.1

I shall, of course, be e-mailing these figures to UKIP. Their first interview since 14th July and yet this sort of treatment! That's unfair in anyone's books.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

HOOKING A SALMOND


The soft ride Jack Straw got on The World This Weekend contrasts starkly with the rough ride Alex Salmond got from Stephen Evans on Broadcasting House this morning.

Whereas Straw was not interrupted at all by Shaun Ley, Salmond was interrupted five times - and Evans heckled and tried to interrupt on several more occasions too.

Here are some of Evans's questions/comments to Mr Salmond:

"Perceptions don't look good, do they? The cat's out of the bag!"

"You were discussing Mr Megrahi with Westminster". (Salmond said, yes & I made an emergency statement about it in the Scottish parliament in 2007).

"But it's that phrase 'carve up' from it, it's that phrase 'carve up'. You were negotiating with Westminster to exclude Mr Megrahi specifically from it. The perceptions now don't look very good, do they?"

All well and good, but shouldn't these questions (or ones of similar force) be being asked of the Labour government too? Today's Sunday Times story was more about Labour than the SNP after all. And with similar sarcasm? Instead we get Shaun Ley, and his lovey-dovey interview with Jack Straw.

All this might lead us to think that the Beeb is trying to disguise Labour's major role in the Megrahi release & trying to stick all the mud onto the SNP instead.

A FIRST NIBBLE ON CRICK'S BLOG

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Deliciously, my sarcastic post on Michael Crick's vile blog has elicited a response:

13. At 7:53pm on 29 Aug 2009, A_View_From_France wrote:
CraigMorecambe, the joke is on you, especially when the Conservatives trounce Labour at the next election (Super Great!).

So yes, let Mr Crick continue with his pointless blog, all he is doing is ensuring that he will be looking for a new job sometime in the next 8 months.....

In his absence, sorry to A View From France. I like where he's coming from, even though I regret that he can't spot irony! In fact, I'm feeling a bit abashed that my sort of chap might be misled by this prank. That said, my mischief is working! Ha, ha, ha!!

LEYING OFF GORDON BROWN


The final part of Shaun Ley's The World This Weekend was a report from Canada, considering what lessons the crushing of Kim Campbell's Progressive Conservatives in the 1993 election might have for our Labour government.
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This extraordinary piece, though interesting in letting us hear what the ill-fated Kim Campbell herself had to say about that fascinating moment in history, pushed the idea that a change of leader close to an election would not be a good thing.
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The British angle came from BBC mainstay Professor Anthony King, who said that it would be nearly impossible for Labour to suffer anywhere near the crushing defeat the Canadian Prog Cons received all those years ago (good news for Gordon), and from the programme's third Labour MP, Rob Marris. Marris is a loyalist and agreed with the piece's central thesis - that it's not time for a change at the top of the Labour Party (good news for Gordon). Ley kept referring to David Miliband and Alan Johnson, and suggested that the Canadian example should be a warning to them. (I can imagine Gordon Brown liking that too!). Marris also got a chance to slag off David Cameron: "If there (is a lesson from 1993) I think it's that in economically uncertain times, the electorate have a tendency to go for an experienced centre-left government , not for a right, centre-right government led by a novice." How on-message can you get!! (Good news for Gordon.) Despite 1970, 1979, 1983, 1992 (when the Conservatives won here "in economically uncertain times") and despite the popularity, in these uncertain economic times, of the centre-right in France, Germany and Italy!!!
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If all this wasn't bad enough, Ley ended the segment with these ominous words: "And next week I'll be examining what the Conservatives are hoping to learn from Canada's..."

...can you guess what? Election-winning Conservative Party? No,...

"from Canada's spending cuts."

Aha, Tory spending cuts! Versus, you might say, Labour investment! Gordon will doubtless be tuning in, grinning.

LEYING OFF ALAN CAMPBELL

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The package on binge-drinking legislation, alluded to in my previous post, featured another soft Shaun Ley interview with a Labour politician, this time Home Office minister Alan Campbell. Ley again achieved an I.C. of 0.
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To which I say, 'Bottoms up!'

LEYING OFF JACK STRAW


Jack Straw has just been on 'The World This Weekend'. I can guess why he chose to appear on that programme in particular.

The reason is Shaun Ley. He's one of the Beeb's most biased interviewers, as regulars of this blog (???) will know! (Please click on the label Shaun Ley if you're a newbie.). He gave Jack a very easy time, never interrupting him and letting his answers go on at length (one lasted almost 2 minutes). His interruption coefficient, I hardly need to tell you, was a big, fat 0.

Ley even prefaced one of his questions by quoting the Baron of Foy and Hartlepool rubbishing the Sunday Times story: "Well, Lord Mandelson used the words 'implausible' and 'offensive'". You'd expect Mandy to defend Mr Straw, but you wouldn't normally expect an interviewer to include that defence in a question to the person being defended (if that makes sense!).

The whole segment began with the words, "It was the Scottish government which decided to free the Lockerbie bomber..." - just to make that absolutely clear.

Yes, it was a wise move by Jack Straw to get himself interviewed by Shaun Ley.


*****

Ley then moved swiftly on to a long section on binge-drinking legislation. No opposition politicians, nor any newspaper columnists, were allowed a look-in on the Straw story. It was a classic case of job-done, move-along-now, nothing-to-see-here.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

GO ON MICHAEL, KEEP CRICKING IT TO THEM!

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Political bloggers should (I feel) be passionate but not unpleasant, generally-speaking. Hopefully not unpleasantly, if not without a certain mischief, I've just registered my feelings about Michael Crick's overpowering bias against the Right by managing to get a highly sarcastic comment past the BBC moderators and onto Michael Crick's blog. This is, I feel, a minor triumph of sorts - if only that the state-sponsored BBC website receives rather more hits than this one, and more people might read it!! (No, it's true!!)

"12. At 4:04pm on 29 Aug 2009, CraigMorecambe wrote:
Well done Michael, a funny story that shows just what the Tories are like! This makes it your 6th post (out of 8) this month about the Tory Party. I've loved them all. Three have been firmly anti-Tory (well done again!), and the others merely slanted against the Tories (great!). None have been specifically about the Labour government (and why should they have been?). I know some people think you hate the Tories, but I hate them too and I don't see anything wrong in that. I think you're doing a great job. Go on Michael, keep socking it to them!"
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/michaelcrick/2009/08/the_key_to_tackling_unwanted_a.html#comments *
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This man offends against all notions of BBC impartiality month-in and month-out. I think a little mischief is justified in the circumstances! Don't you?
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Click on the label for Crick for the background to all this or, for the precise post:
http://beebbiascraig.blogspot.com/2009/08/craigs-blog-bangs-on-about-cricks-blog.html

RADIO 4 LABOUR

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If you enjoyed hearing George Galloway and David Miliband on 'Great Lives' recently, here are some highlights for the coming week on BBC Radio 4.

'Archive on 4: Meeting Myself Coming Back' (tonight, 8.00 pm). Clare Short looks back on her career.

'Britain's White House' (tomorrow, 10.45 pm), when Labour minister (and expense trougher)"Sadiq Khan recalls the careers of Britain's first Asian MPs"

'Jeopardising Justice' (Monday, 9.30 am), where Labour peer Helena Kennedy argues that defendants' rights are losing out to victims' rights.

'Where Did It All Go Right?' (Monday, 8.00 pm), which "re-examines policies that were once highly controversial but later became widely accepted." This week it's Labour's national minimum wage that 'went right'.

Of course, despite all this, the BBC is not biased towards the Left because, as the 'New Statesman' would be the first to point out, Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe is on at 11.00 pm on Monday with 'From Jean Brodie to Carrie Bradshaw: Spinsters in Popular Culture'. So that's all right then!


P.S. 'Chain reaction' (Wednesdays at 6.30 pm), the comedy show where one comic interviews another comic whom he admires, will - later in the series, according to the 'Radio Times - feature a "conversation between Eddie Izzard and Alistair Campbell".
Unless the 'Radio Times' IS making this up, you couldn't make it up!!!!

Friday, 28 August 2009

EDUCATION, EDUCATOIN, ECUDATION




Newsnight (27th August) was an Education special, and leading it off was a report by Sophie Hutchinson which, even by the biased standards of the BBC, was a remarkably biased piece.
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At times it had the feel (and the look) of a Labour party political broadcast and, except for a moment (and I do mean a moment, as it amounted to less than five seconds in total) of skepticism from the avowedly non-partisan Professor Alan Smithers, all criticism of Labour's record (and there wasn't that much) came from the a left-of-centre perspective. The sympathetic ex-Schools secretary Estelle Morris was the report's main 'talking head', and she expressed her cautious reservations more in sorrow than in anger. The other voice was Professor Mel Ainscow from Manchester University who said the choice agenda might eventually lead to 'sink schools'. Both were expressing doubts about the one bit of the New Labour project right-of-centre people actually rather like - the 'choice agenda'!!

The first part of Sophie's report began like this: "Under New Labour there's been huge investment in the very building blocks of our education system. Thousands of leaking roofs have been stopped up, classrooms refurbished and sleek new schools, like this - the Manchester Academy - built, but do improvements in structures actually lead to improvements in standards? Teachers, parents and pupils here are convinced it does." This could have been written by Labour's Ed Balls himself!

On she went: "Since 1997 in England there've been around 3000 new, rebuilt or significantly refurbished schools, funding of pupils has risen in real terms by 82%, and the teacher-pupil ratio's improved with an additional 41,000 teachers, according to government figures. It's the kind of funding many teachers believe they will never see again during their careers." Again, can you imagine Ed Balls not loving every single word of this!!

Estelle Morris's first 'turn' simply echoed the lovely Sophie's list by praising Labour's overall achievement and damning the previous Tory government's record.

Sophie Hutchinson then moved on to the 'Choice Agenda': "New Labour promised all parents real choice through good quality schools with their own ethos, like this successful faith school in Manchester, but what kind of choice are parents actually getting and is it really fair? Trinity Church of England School is a multi-faith school, which selects pupils who have a religion. Parents here are very pleased they had the choice of a faith-based school, which they believe are often better performers."
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So, Labour's promise has been fulfilled here, though Sophie is worried about one thing (as any self-respecting Guardian-reader would be): "The school prides itself on having pupils with a diverse range of religions, but is it right to shut the door on those without faith?" A certain Dr Dawkins of Oxford would have been shaking his head enthusiastically at that!

Next for our biased Beebette: "New Labour has built up a reputation for being strict on teachers and heads who don't make the grade." (Has it, Sophie? I must admit it's the first I've heard of it.) "Schools have been forced to publish more data on their results than ever before, so that poor performers have nowhere to hide. So has it created a better, more transparent system or is it simply obsessed with targets at the expense of a broader education? During New Labour's time in power results have been rising. In England throughout 1997 over a third of the children taking exams got 5 good GCSE results, including maths and English. The latest figures show that's now increased to almost half."
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After all this load of Balls came a question, "So are pupils doing better?" Cue Professor Alan Smithers of Buckingham University and his five seconds of skepticism. He was immediately countered by another onslaught of praise for Labour's glorious achievements by our heroine: "The number of English schools cast as poor performers is almost a quarter of what it was when New Labour came to power." Ed Balls must have been thinking of divorcing Yvette Cooper and proposing to Sophie at this point (and I, for one, really would not blame him!)


"Walley Range High has been transformed from a failing school and the head teacher says measuring their improvement isn't just about results." At which the school's headteacher appears, asking for things other than results to be taken into account - the sort of things you hear regularly from left-wing teaching unions. More criticism only from the Left.

Sophie then turned to outcomes: "But just how much does it actually matter what happens in the classroom? Statistics show that it's harder than ever for pupils from deprived homes to get the best paid, most prestigious jobs and that it's our backgrounds, where we've come from, that determines where we're going." Here Sophie was drawing on the 'social mobility' agenda of Labour's Alan Milburn (and its surrounding data): "A recent review has warned that those entering careers such as medicine, law and journalism are increasingly likely to be from more affluent families." Again, more criticism from a wholly left-of-centre perspective.

"So," Sophie asks, "is this actually New Labour's biggest failure?" Cue Estelle, one last time, to say sort-of yes.

Sophie Hutchinson concluded with these words: "So what are the lessons for the future? One study suggests the key lies abroad. The common factor uniting the world's best education systems is that their teachers come from the top third of those leaving university. It insists that making teaching a more prestigious career may be the answer to raising standards and aspirations." That last point could have come straight out of the mouth of the general secretary of the NUT!!
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How the makers of Newsnight can put out a report that was at times little more than pro-Labour propaganda? I can hardly believe it myself. The mindset of the liberal educational establishment, which Sophie seems to have imbibed with her mother's milk, must seem so natural to their way of thinking as not so seem peculiar or even pro-Labour. To someone (like me) who does not share it, it will just seem very, very biased.
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UPDATE
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Thanks to Professor Smithers for his comments. This makes the brevity of his appearance on Newsnight even more remarkable:

Alan Smithers said...

I did record about half an hour of comment recognising that Labour had over 11 years doubled the funding for state school pupils and had spent some of this wisely on making teaching more attractive and refurbishing the fabric of schools. But I also said there were three basic flaws: believing that diversity of secondary schools could be an end in itself; confusing rising externally driven test scores with improving education; and spinning to the point that even the good things were not quite believed. As you say, only the second of these got a very brief airing. Alan Smithers, Centre for Education and Employment Research, University of Buckingham.

EMILY STICKS A LEG OUT TO TRIP UP THE TORY

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Newsnight's panel discussion on education, education and education, hosted by Emily Maitlis, featured Labour's Vernon Coaker, the Lib Dem's David Laws and the Conservatives' David Willetts. The statistics tell the story:

Interruption Coefficients
Coaker - 0.3
Laws - 0.5
Willetts - 1

Number of interruptions
Coaker - 1
Laws - 1
Willetts - 4

Number of questions
Coaker - 5
Laws - 1
Willetts - 5

If this anti-Conservative assault from Emily wasn't bad enough for David Willetts, he also faced a joint anti-Tory assault from Coaker and Laws. Not a fair debate.*

In fairness, however, to Emily Maitlis, Willetts returned towards the end of the programme for a second panel discussion with Fiona Millar (Alistair Campbell's no-less-charming partner) and a teacher. This time he was not interrupted at all.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

LIBERALS AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE

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The analysis of the career and character of Senator Edward Kennedy has been ongoing since his death was announced yesterday morning during the 'Today' programme. What's been interesting is that the 'dark side' of Kennedy - the alcoholism, the womanizing and, above all, Chappaquiddick - has not been neglected by the BBC. Their coverage of these aspects has been characterised by a certain, appropriate discretion and no-one could (reasonably) accuse the Beeb of whitewashing them.

The 'light' side of Ted Kennedy - his long Senate career and his considerable success in pushing through major liberal reforms - has also been covered at length. Here, however, the BBC's hard-wired liberal bias has taken over and a balanced debate on the pros and cons of his liberal politics has not taken place. On programme after programme only one-side of the argument has been heard.

'Today' itself (26th July) featured those admiring words from John Humphrys featured in my last post. Kevin Connolly agreed with Humphrys that "Had (Mary Jo Kopechne) not died I think it's very likely he would have been president." Other warm words came from Justin Webb who said, "Ted Kennedy became the dean of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and America's leading advocate for the poor, the aged and the less privileged". The first of the guests was Rob Carolina of Democrats Abroad (interviewed by Humphrys) who was enthuastic about the man and his politics. Later came Lord Owen, who was Labour foreign secretary when Kennedy unsuccessful challenged the encumbant president, Jimmy Carter, in 1980. Owen did add a more dispassionate note (as is his way). Evan Davis finally interviewed the man Obama has just made ambassador to London, Louis Susman, who added more warm words.

On 'The World at One' Martha Kearney glancingly mentioned that he was a "demon figure for the Republican Right," but no-one from the Republican Party (its Right or otherwise) was invited to explain why. Nor have any since (as of the evening of the 27th July). Glenn Campbell's biased report about Kennedy's involvement with Northern Ireland was discussed in my last post. Former Blair chief of staff Jonathan Powell concurred in this matter (and added plenty more warm words) in an interview with Martha & he was followed by a Democrat Congressman, Jim Cooper from Tennessee (who had plenty of warm words of his own).

'PM' featured a long, unchallenging interview (by Eddie Mair) with Lester Hyman (friend of Ted Kennedy).

'Newsnight' featured a report by Peter Marshall, who's 'talking head' was Professor Allan Litchman of the American University, a 'progressive' Democrat (though not labeled as such). This was followed by an interview with John Podesta, Democrat and chief of staff to Bill Clinton.

'The World Tonight' featured a Roger Hearing interview with one-time press secretary to Robert Kennedy and campaign director for another liberal George McGovern, Frank Mankiewicz, which was followed by a discussion with liberal historian Robert Dallek, author of 'An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy' and Vincent Bzdek of the liberal 'Washington Post', author of 'The Kennedy Legacy'. Both were warm in their words for Senator Kennedy.

This morning's 'Today' featured a report from Kevin Connolly, who had gone to a Methodist Church to talk to African-Africans who loved Ted Kennedy. Justin Webb's introduction ran as follows: "One segment of America which remains ferociously loyal to his memory, is the African-American community" and Connolly spoke approvingly of the man too: "He believed the government should tax and spend to help the weak and poor and, often, that meant helping black America out of poverty".
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Where were the counterbalancing voices? Where were the conservative voices? Nowhere, that's where.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

THEIR EYES MET ACROSS A CROWDED SENATE...


Today's main story on the BBC was the death of the last great prince of the Kennedy clan, Senator Edward Kennedy. Of the BBC's coverage I merely wish to highlight a couple of telling vignettes.
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Firstly, here's a short sample of quotes from John Humphrys on this morning's 'Today', all about Ted Kennedy:

(approx 6.45am) "A lot of people say he would - and indeed should - have been president."

(approx 6.53am) "..and could have been president - some people say should - himself."

(approx 6.55am) "He was a big figure in every respect, wasn't he? I mean, when you saw him on the floor of the Senate, when you looked at the floor of the Senate and saw Ted Kennedy was there, your eyes automatically went to him."

(approx 7.09am) "A staunch liberal, and a man who himself could - some said should - have become American president."

(approx 8.10am) "It's a dangerous thing to say, but he probably would have become president had it not been for Chappaquiddick, wouldn't he?"

I think John Humphrys was, all in all, a fan of the 'dean' of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party (in Justin Webb's phrase), don't you? And I have a suspicion that he thinks Senator Kennedy could - maybe should - have been president too!


Secondly, Glenn Campbell on 'The World at One' reported sympathetically on Ted Kennedy's involvement with Northern Ireland, where (as Martha Kearney's introduction made clear) some Unionists and Conservative politicianS felt he was far too close to the Republican movement.

Campbell's first 'talking (invisible, this being radio!) head' was John Hume. Then came Norman Tebbitt, followed again by John Hume (who criticised what Lord Tebbitt had said, without - of course - any subsequent right to reply for Big Norm) and, last and by all means least, Martin MacGuinness. No Northern Irish Unionist voices? Surprisingly not. So not, perhaps, the most balanced of reports from Glenn.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

DOCTOR GROSSMAN 'S DIAGNOSIS

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David Grossman's report into the day's goings-on at Holyrood (Newsnight) is worth a comment or two.

Who did Grossman interview to make his report? Scottish Labour, that's who! Was the report about Scottish Labour's response to Megrahi's release? No, it was about the Kenny MacAskill and the SNP. So why interview Labour MSPs only? Odd, isn't it?

We heard from Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray (briefly), then (at greater length) Dr Richard Simpson MSP, Labour, deputy justice minister 2001-2002, and finally (and briefly) Lord George Foulkes MSP (Labour). Now, Lord George was asked about Big Broon's silence over Megrahi's release (though not, of course, about England's victory in the Ashes!), but this topic took up all of 52 seconds of Grossman's report. The rest fixed squarely on the SNP and Labour's Dr Simpson was Grossman's trump-card in the report's central thrust - to challenge the 'under-three-months-to-live' prognosis that underlay MacAskill's grounds for 'compassion'. The Labour doc was "well qualified to comment", in Grossman's words, being "a GP who studied prostate cancer and ran a hospice". (He is, indeed, well-qualified to comment!). He cast doubt on the 'less-than-three-months-to-live' judgement - as did the report itself. This could only be harmful to the SNP.

Grossman's report was followed by an interview between Kirsty Wark and Alex Salmond which, surprisingly given the fireworks that went off during their most famous (or notorious) previous encounter, was a very modest affair with an I.C. of only 0.2. Kirsty was slagged off something rotten following that previous encounter, & was treading very carefully here. In question after question she kept calling Big Al 'first minister', in a way that made me laugh. It was as if she was trying too hard to be on her best behaviour!!

Monday, 24 August 2009

LOW BEHAVIOUR FROM THE BBC

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My praise for the impartial manner of Laura Kuenssberg does not extend to last night's Westminster Hour as a whole. Following the 'politics panel' came a report by Stephen Low that was far more typical of the BBC.

Low was looking at how the massive budget deficit facing the UK will be tackled and, on the face of it, gathered a representative selections of talking heads - one from the right-of-centre, another from the left-of-centre and an independent professor. The latter was quoted five times, framing the others, who each appeared three times. That sounds fair, doesn't it?

Who were these talking heads? First, the independent professor. He was introduced by Low as "Professor Colin Talbot of Manchester University". Then, from the centre-right, came "Elizabeth Truss of right-leaning think-tank 'Reform'" (note the label). Finally, from the centre-left, appeared "Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA and former Downing Street advisor to Tony Blair."

I let the 'right-leaning' tag wash by me when I first heard it (as not being important), but pricked up my bias-hunter's ears when one of Matthew Taylor's 'bits' directly contradicted Elizabeth Truss's previous comments, and was led into by Low in such a way as to emphasize the fact. This was the only time one commentator was used (by the reporter) to undermine another. Unsurprisingly, the speaker from the left was being used to contradict the speaker from the right. This striking moment established my unease & led me to re-listen and check whether another hunch was correct i.e. that the 'right-leaning' contributor was being 'sampled' far less generously than the left-leaning one, Matthew Taylor. My hunch proved correct.

Here are the speaking time durations for each contributor:

Colin Talbot (independent) - 2 minutes 54 seconds
Elizabeth Truss (right) - 1 minute 18 seconds
Matthew Taylor (left) - 2 minutes 40 seconds

As you can clearly see, Matthew Taylor spoke for twice as long as Elizabeth Truss. In such details lies the evidence of bias.

HOW TO INTERVIEW WITHOUT BIAS


After a day spent trawling through the stinking undergrowth of Beeb bias, it's good to be able to offer praise for a BBC presenter. Yes, Laura Kuenssberg was standing in for Carolyn Quinn again on 'Westminster Hour', and she put in another exemplary performance.

Her 'politics panel' consisted of three Scots - Tom Harris for Labour, Pete Wishart for the SNP and David Mundell for the Conservatives. Laura's handling of the discussion could not have been better. She asked each speaker a similar number of questions, allowed them time to answer and didn't interrupt any of them - even once. She listened to their answers and asked her next question on the basis of that. Her questions were perfect illustrations of the art of unbiased interviewing, being true devil's advocate questions tailored to the relevant interviewee, coming from a range of possible perspectives - so much so that you would never guess what Laura Kuenssberg's own opinions were. The debate flowed, with passion (and at the end humour) - thanks to Laura's light-touch style.

This was a breath of fresh air - and so unusual for the BBC.
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Maybe this 'triple interview' could form the basis of a new in-house training package for the BBC! Or the basis for some new rules for impartial interviewing:

1. Only interrupt an interviewee if they are taking an excessive amount of time to answer, or if they are not answering the question you put to them (though give them enough time before jumping to that conclusion)

2. Treat all your interviewees in the same way. Never allow your viewers/listeners to suspect favouritism. Ask each a similar proportion of questions (appropriate to the length of the interview), share out the time in multiple interviews fairly, and interrupt each interviewee the same number of times (if at all) wherever possible. Go out of your way to be scrupulous in this regard.

3. Ask your questions from a range of standpoints. Be a devil's advocate that can come to an issue from many angles. Never allow your viewers/listeners to know what your opinion is. Do not always ask questions from a single ideological/ethical position regardless of who you are interviewing, especially over a number of interviews - and don't put on a silly voice when you are playing devil's advocate to show that you don't believe what you're saying! At all times, try to think outside your own beliefs.

4. Remember that the interview is not about you. It's about the issue/story of the moment, and the views of your interviewees. Maintain a firm but low-key hand on the tiller of the interview. Allow it to flow. Never be a prima dona.


These guidelines should be common practise at an impartial broadcaster like the BBC.
I think you'll agree that they are breached by most of the Beeb's big (and not-so-big) hitters on a regular basis.

Well done Laura.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

HERE WE GO GATHERING CRICKS IN MAY

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May was the month of the Great Expenses Scandal, so you would expect daily updates from Crick on his blog, chronicling the many heaves in this seismic shift in our nation's history. How many posts are there on his blog? Nine. Nine!!!

If June's blog was mostly froth, what of May's? This too, unbelievably, was mostly pure froth - with one deadly exception.

The first blog we come to, 'Myths about the Speakership - Part Two' (21st May), was a trivial historical quibble.

The second does touch on the Great Expenses Scandal, but very, very lightly. 'Come back Hezza - all forgiven' (2oth May) also touches on history, albeit of the more recent kind: "Still, it does bring a whole new meaning to that snobbish jibe against Michael Heseltine, once made by the former Conservative chief whip Michael Jopling as a sign of Heseltine's lower social status (rather than coming from a long-standing aristocratic background). Jopling, according to Alan Clarke's diary, famously said: "The trouble with Michael is that he had to buy all his furniture."" Oh, those snobbish Tories!

Conservative Douglas Carswell is then mocked (with a backhanded compliment) in 'The power of backbenchers' (19th May): "People say that backbenchers don't have any power any more. Think again. I am reliably told that yesterday's motion of no confidence in the Speaker tabled by the Conservative MP Douglas Carswell was the very first time he had put down any Commons motion. And yesterday afternoon, Mr Carswell made his first ever point of order in the chamber. Within 24 hours Speaker Michael Martin was about to announce his resignation."

'Jacqui Smith 1 - Phil Woolas 0' (18th May) talks football rather than politics. (Typical of a Crick piece about the Labour Party).

This trivial post is followed by 'Debunking some conventions about the Speaker' (18th May), more history. The ties between broadcasters and Westminster is related to the Expenses Scandal, obliquely, in 'Link between broadcasters and Westminster' (18th May) but makes no party political points (or any points of any depth really).

More football-related trivia follows in another non-political Labour-related post, 'United fan Woolas holds key to Tevez transfer' (12th May).

So far, so astonishingly frivolous. You would never have guessed that MPs were facing public lynchings in the world beyond Crick's blog!!

We finally get some political analysis in 'How Labour might get from Gordon to Alan' (12th May), though it might be more accurate to call it Labour leadership gossip.

Only at the beginning of May, though, does Crick's blog turn serious. In a post called 'An apology' (5th May) Michael Crick admits "Last Friday I failed to report a pretty big political story." He then qualifies this confession with " - and so did Newsnight. But then hardly any other media outlets reported it either." What was it?
An ominous rumble of bias is then heard: "...and David Cameron and his colleagues must have been pretty delighted." Oh dear, it looks as if the serious story is going to be a classic piece of Tory-bashing. And it is! No froth here, no frivolity:

"At Reading Crown Court six men were sentenced to a total of nearly 14 years in jail for election fraud in Slough in the May 2007 elections. As I reported for Newsnight they had exploited the weaknesses in the new system of postal-votes-on-demand to register dozens of bogus voters in order to get elected a Conservative candidate Eshaq Khan. And Khan was duly elected to Slough Council, ousting a long-standing Labour mayor. The brains behind the fraud, Mahboob Khan, was jailed for four and a half years, which is thought to be the stiffest ever sentence for a British election fraud case. The candidate Eshaq Khan got three and a half years. Four other men got sentences ranging from four months to three and half years - a total of nearly 14 years. If any other political case on the British mainland has resulted in total jail sentences of more than that in recent times I'd love to hear about it. So why did the sentences get so little coverage? The only national newspaper to report it, so far as I can tell, was The Times on Saturday, though the Mail and the BBC did cover the story online. In part, I think, it's the mood of the times, where the media dwells upon every misdemeanour by Gordon Brown and his Labour colleagues. Twelve years ago, when we were obsessed by C, of course, it would have been the other way round. But then who am I to talk? I didn't report the Slough sentences last Friday either."

You could never, ever accuse Michael Crick of dwelling on "every misdemeanour by Gordon Brown and his Labour colleagues". You would have to hunt very hard for instances of that. These last four Crick-related posts of mine have proved beyond all reasonable doubt that Crick treats Labour as you would treat a friend, occasionally teasing, occasionally gossiping even, but never being unkind. No, all Crick ever wants to talk about (when he's being serious) is "Tory 'sleaze'". "Twelve years ago, when we were obsessed by Tory 'sleaze'..." says Crick! Crick has never ceased to be "obsessed by Tory 'sleaze'"!! What unbelievable gall that man has!! He clearly hates the Conservative Party, and takes few pains to hide the fact. This last post is sanctimonious in the extreme, and deeply hypocritical. Michael Crick is biased, biased, biased. He should be sacked.

Here endeth the lesson.

CRICK IS BUSTIN' OUT ALL OVER

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Crick in June was busier with his blogging - 33 posts - and cover the widest range yet. Some of the entries here were mere twitters. Few touched any depths. There's a fair amount of bias to be found along the way though - and a few more duff predictions. But Crick's Conservative obsession is not much in evidence here.

Working backwards (chronologically-speaking), we first meet one such twitter, 'A new baby of the house?' (30 June).

Next comes 'No independent day for Norwich MP' (29th June), in which Crick admits he called it wrong again: "Further to my story on Friday that the former MP for Norwich North Ian Gibson might stand as in Independent in the forthcoming by-election, he has now come out and endorsed the new Labour candidate Chris Ostrowski, and says he WON'T stand as an indpendent." Ah shucks Michael!!

This followed on from 'Gibson may stand as independent in Norwich by-election'!! (26th June). Here, Crick went on the "Gibson is a popular figure in Norwich" angle, that he kept up throughout his Newsnight appearances. He quotes an ICM poll that "gives the Tories a four per cent lead over Labour - 34 per cent to 30 per cent. The poll suggests the Lib Dems will simply be fighting Greens to avoid coming fourth, with the Lib Dems on 15 per cent and the Greens on 14 per cent." The actual result was rather different!! The Conservatives won 40 per cent, a 22 per cent lead over Labour, who got 18 per cent. And, notoriously, the Lib Dems and the Greens most definitely were NOT fighting it out for fourth place, as fourth place was won by UKIP!! (who Crick, typically, forgot to mention).

Next comes a footnote (or 'footnight', as Crick puts it! Yes, we can all pick up on spelling errors, when it suits us), 'Treasury 'plans for Conservative cuts' (25 June): "A footnight to my report last night on spending cuts: I understand that senior Treasury officials are already trying to work out which items of expenditure they can delay and stall over the next few months, so that if the Conservatives come to power next spring the Treasury will already have a list of possible items which the new Chancellor George Osborne can then announce he will cancel altogether." Oooh, Tory spending cuts. Vote Labour!

A lot of twitters followed about the race for the Speaker (on the day of the election, 22 June).

Gossip about the campaign to replace John Hutton in Barrow (over the sea from Morecambe) and a posting about the leak that gave the 'Telegraph' its expenses scoop follow, then some historical stuff about the Speaker (and talk of Margaret Beckett and Sir George Young, though not John Bercow).

Interestingly, Crick then turns his fire on the Liberal Democrats (22 June). For the first time a party other than the Conservative Party is targeted by Crick. The topic was US donor Michael Brown. "Fourth, questions about Brown's donation will dog Nick Clegg until at least the general election. He needs to find a much more convincing answer to the "moral" question of why he doesn't give the money back. Otherwise it will be hard for him and his party to claim any superiority over the other parties on the various sleaze issues."

We then get more useless 'insights' ("I get the impression from talking to MPs on Thursday that the Speakership may be slipping away from the maverick Conservative MP John Bercow." 18th June), before Crick's most intriguing post so far - and the first that could be considered damaging to the Labour Party (and insightful), 'Don't ask, don't tell over defence secretary thinking?' (18th June): "Perhaps the biggest curiosity of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's reshuffle is how Bob Ainsworth became defence secretary, when he was hardly the most talented minister in the lower ranks of the government. Last night I heard the most plausible explanation so far. It is widely thought that the job had originally been earmarked for Shaun Woodward, but at the last moment defence chiefs objected - something to do with Mr Woodward's very vocal support in the past for gay rights not going down very well in the ranks." Well, that's a decision by Brown that's worked out just great, hasn't it?

After a post on the Lord Chancellor having a book stolen (which contains a rare joke at Labour's expense: "So much for crime falling under New Labour.") and more politically-neutral gossip about the candidates to replace John Hutton in Barrow, we get to 'Kitty's curious resignation' (18th June). This casts shadows over her decision to resign, but is harmful only to her - not to the Brownite Labour Party, who come out OK from Crick's report. Some drivel about ministers' drivers, and a brief, baffling twitter about nothing, brings us to 'Dilemma as MPs expenses are officially published' (17th June) - a preview of one of the scandals of this parliament - the famously 'redacted' publication of MPs expenses (a joke, in very bad taste.) This short, unsatisfactory post is not followed by a post on the publication itself, nor on the reaction to it. Why? Why? Why? How bizarre of Crick not to have posted on the aftermath of this travesty of open government!! Wouldn't do to upset the Labour government, would it Michael? What sort of reporter is he? A poodle?

Another take on the same 'twitter about nothing' takes us to a longer post (with video) on...the Conservatives, 'Bill could flush out tax exile party donors' (16 June). Crick is critical of Labour here. Why? Because they are protecting (indirectly, and for their own interests) one of his main Tory targets, Lord Ashcroft: "If the amendment remains part of the legislation it might finally flush out whether the Conservative Deputy Chairman Lord Ashcroft pays British tax these days, a question which both he and his colleagues steadfastly refuse to answer. What I don't fully understand is why the government won't accept the amendment. I can only assume Labour also hopes for some big contributions from tax exiles." Anti-Labour? Not really. Anti-Tory? Hell yeah!

Another post on the 'twitter about nothing' is followed by a Blair-related dig at Gordon Brown (and his attitude to lawyers) - essentially a joky post - and this, in turn, is followed by 'The prophetic powers of George Osborne' (15th June), a gossipy piece that claims Osborne "does have a very close friend in the editorial high command of The Times." Who? And, your point Michael?

More meat (though of the least flavoursome kind) is found in 'Is historian the best judge of Iraq war history?' (15th June), in which Crick jokes about the appointment of 'the distinguished war historian Sir Lawrence Freedman' to Brown's Iraq inquiry (a good story I've heard much better told elsewhere) before emphatically not joking about the appointment of the conservative Sir Martin Gilbert: "Nor will critics of the war be very happy about the appointment of the other historian Sir Martin Gilbert, the official biographer of Winston Churchill. In 2004, he went so far as to compare US President George W Bush and Mr Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill." No Beeboid could tolerate that!!

A frothy post about Hazel Blear's childhood acting (unrelated to anything political) and a no-less-frothy post about John Denham, the Queen and the seals of office, led to 'Clinging on to Gloucester?' (10th June), which was about the Conservative candidate's predicament were Labour's Panjit Dhanda to have become Speaker (which he didn't!). "And Mr Dhanda must have some chance of winning, since he seems to be one of only two Labour MPs officially in the running so far - Margaret Beckett declared this afternoon - and, in case you have forgotten, Labour still has a good Commons majority." Well Michael, wrong again! No wonder your Newsnight's political editor. You're spot on nevery time!!

Another souffle-style piece on Lord Mandelson's 34-letter title (of equivalent length, vacuousness and self-importance), was followed (on my 40th birthday) by 'Norwich North: an easy gain for the Conservatives?' (5th June). Crick correctly predicts (from simple premises), "Labour's majority in Norwich North is 5,459, or 11.6%, which in the current climate should be a pretty easy gain for the Conservatives." Shame he went wrong later on!!

Finally (or firstly, if you put time the right way round again), on 1st June Crick blogs 'Behind closed doors the Johnson team prepares'. This is political tittle-tattle.

LABOUR FALLS SILENT ON THE BBC

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With no 'Andrew Marr Show' today, the chance to hear Labour ministers being grilled over their stance towards Kenny MacAsklill's extremely controversial decision to release al Megrahi and, especially, over the dealings of senior Labour figures with the Libyan regime - foremost among them Lord Mandelson - in the lead up to that most controversial of releases, went begging at the BBC.

For the questions that need asking please read Not a Sheep's reports, linked to below:
http://notasheepmaybeagoat.blogspot.com/2009/08/does-peter-mandelson-read-telegraph.html
http://notasheepmaybeagoat.blogspot.com/2009/08/release-of-al-megrahi-was-linked-to_22.html

There being no 'Marr' to make Labour's life hell (like he would!!!), I tuned in instead - for the first time ever - to Radio 4's Broadcasting House. (I must add this programme to my cast of regulars.) Did I get to hear a Labour spokesman squirm on BH (as it likes to call itself)? No. Alex Salmond, however, was questioned (quite strongly) & the other interview - with a Conservative-backing QC - also fixed its eye firmly on the SNP's role rather than Labour's.

Oh well, there's always 'The World This Weekend'. It will surely put some Labourite through his paces - after all Shaun Ley is presenting. (Ha!). Again, no. The only interviewee on the subject was an American - and Kenny MacAskill was its focus.

If any of the already-widespread suspicions about the links between Labour and Libya, trade deals and the release of the Lockerbie bomber turn out to be true then the UK government could come seriously unstuck over them. The BBC should be trying to get to the bottom of them, with an objective eye. If they're rubbish, let them be examined and shown to be rubbish. Otherwise, the suspicions that they are true will linger like a bad smell. Come on Mandy, set the record straight! Come on BBC, give him the platform!

I really hope that the BBC is not trying (for partisan reasons) to keep all the fire focussed on the SNP and away from the Labour government. I don't think they are, but my suspicions are going to grow too if the interviews with Labour (on this subject) don't start flowing in soon.

As another rider to this story, I don't have the time (being a full-time worker) to monitor the BBC News Channel (aka News 24), so Labourites may be all over the place there & this post will lose its value. I will watch the channel for a while now & see. (Hope there's an attractive presenter (maybe Martine Croxall?). That's usually the only good thing about that most annoying of networks!)
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Well, News 24 is as annoying as ever (and Maxine Mawhinney is presenting), so I've had enough of that! The Scottish Labour Party are (as they have been for some days) far from silent, by the looks of things, but the UK Labour Party is lying low. Some comments by foreign office minister Ivan Lewis, advising the Scottish justice secretary to go ahead with the release of al Megrahi, are being covered in the Beeb's reporting, but Mr Lewis has not yet been interviewed (it appears).

THE CRICK OF JULY

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Following on from my last post, I thought, given the man's shocking anti-Tory bias so far this month, that a review of Crick's blog in July might also be interesting. This time there are 9 posts. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/michaelcrick/2009/07/
It certainly contains a far wider range of stories, and does not fixate any near so much on the Conservative Party. It even looks closely at the Labour government. Still, it continues to demonstrate that Crick is one of the Beeb's most biased reporters, as this review will show.

The first post is a short bit of gossip ('Order, pizza order' 30th July) favourable to Labour's favourite, Speaker Bercow: "I am glad to learn that becoming Speaker has not gone to John Bercow's head. A friend spotted him on Wednesday night eating in the Victoria Street, Westminster outlet of Pizza Express." Elsewhere in the media, you will find plenty of counter-evidence about the modesty (and frugality) of Mr Bercow.

Next comes Crick's ill-fated post on the Tories' Totnes open primary ('Declaring a personal interest in the Totnes ballot', 28 July). His 'personal interest' was that he'd written a letter as a teenager to the 'Guardian' (naturally!) advocating the use of US-style primaries here. "At huge cost the party has sent out postal ballots to every voter in the south Devon constituency asking them to select, from a shortlist of three, the candidate to represent Totnes Conservatives next time round." He was to retract the "at huge cost" bit later. It was only his first criticism. He went on "The trouble is that the process down here in Devon has been rushed. Candidates haven't had the time to organise big campaigns, and voters haven't been given a varied choice." And yet, as he was to concede, it was to be a success. "So the turnout may not be that high when the result is announced next Tuesday, with the danger that what could be a bold, exciting development in British politics is quickly discredited." The turnout, in fact, was much higher than expected. Not Michael Crick's finest hour - and an anti-Tory piece.

A complete change of tone came with 'Cruddas: 'Leadership doesn't interest me'' (23rd July). This was a post about the Labour Party (about time!), but turned out to largely consist of direct quotes from Mr Cruddas himself. Crick clearly approves of Cruddas, calling him 'untainted' and 'modest'. Crick got his story from Fabian News (naturally!). An anti-Labour story? Certainly not.

Next we come to 'Downing Street's army beef' (17th July), which discussed the 'terrible' relations between Gordon Brown and the head of Army, General Richard Dannatt. Now, you will say, we've finally come to a meaty story that might offer a critical perspective on this Labour government of the kind Crick is ever-ready to direct at the Tories. Well, no. Not only was Brown not criticised, he was actually presented sympathetically: "People in Downing Street are especially angry because Gordon Brown's instinctive reaction last weekend, after all the recent deaths in Afghanistan, was to get on a plane on Sunday, and go to visit British troops in Helmand to show his sympathy and solidarity." What a nice guy! No, the criticism was directed at General Dannatt: "I'm told that what especially infuriated Brown and his colleagues in Number Ten however is that on Wednesday morning Dannatt suddenly popped up on the Today programme, speaking from Afghanistan, voicing his scarcely-veiled criticisms of government policy." So General Dannatt "popped up" did he? Crick doesn't use any such derisive phrase in any of his descriptions of Downing Street's actions. Crick later had to update his story thus: "LATEST 21.30PM: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed to me tonight that Gordon Brown did enquire about making a trip to Afghanistan, but that they advised against him going for "operational sensitivities". The MoD insists the Prime Minister was advised by them not to go, and not by General Sir Richard Dannatt." Crick has to correct himself again. So an anti-Labour story? Again, certainly not. A story slanted against General Dannatt? I think so. Click on the link above and see what you think.

You could say that the next piece was about Labour, being about a decision by Jack Straw, but 'Government concedes 'anti-Ashcroft' law' (10th July) was really about one of Crick's favourite targets, the Conservative Party's best-known donor, Lord Ashcroft. Labour Lords (led by Dale Campbell-Savours) forced Straw to introduce "a new law banning people who do not pay UK income tax - or are not liable to do so - from giving money to political parties." Who could they possibly be getting at there?! Crick enthusiastically spells it out: "The measure is clearly aimed at the Conservative Deputy Chairman and election strategist Lord Ashcroft who has given the Conservative Party millions of pounds in recent years, but who has aroused considerable controversy over whether he pays British tax." This controversy is one Crick himself, as one of its stirrers-in-chief, re-visits with indecent regularity. As Crick does go on to say that Labour will lose money too as a result of the new law, I will not judge this an anti-Tory story - though it comes close.

An anti-Tory story is exactly what I would call 'On Coulson's NOTW resignation' (10th July). I spelled out (in ridiculous detail) the bias demonstrated by the BBC in covering this story (and Crick was one of my targets), so I won't respell it out here (click on the 'Crick' label again and scroll down, down and down again for much, much more!). This is a new coda for that piece (which is worth quoting in full): "An interesting account of the atmosphere at the News of the World during Andy Coulson's editorship can be found in Peter Burden's book "News of the world? Fake Sheiks and Royal Trappings". Mr Burden says that on the day the News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman was jailed for four months for hacking into the voicemails of palace aides, Mr Coulson called a staff meeting to announce his immediate resignation, and told colleagues that he thought Goodman had been treated far too harshly by the judge. According to Mr Burden, Mr Coulson "took the opportunity to vent his anger at the sentence, railing that just that week the Home Secretary, John Reid, had advised judges, in view of current prison overcrowding, that only the most dangerous criminals should be sent to prison". It would be interesting to know if Mr Coulson still takes that view. And still supports John Reid's efforts to reduce prison overcrowding!" And who is Peter Burden? He's a writer for the 'Guardian'. So not exactly a neutral in the story! Crick's post consists of gossip, insinuation and (in the closing sentences) sarcasm. How fitting for a non-story!

Back to Labour for 'Labour waits in Glasgow North East' (8th July)? But, again, it's a sympathetic report (in contrast to his 'Tory' reports), reporting the thinking of "senior Labour sources in Scotland" before having a gentle dig at one of his ex-BBC colleagues who left the BBC to try to become the SNP candidate in the still-far-off by election - but wasn't selected! So no humour at Labour's expense? Surprise, surprise.

The focus remains on Labour(and by-elections) for 'Labour candidate planned degree course in Spain' (2nd July), but even this discussed the personal circumstances of Chris Ostrowski, Labour's candidate, in non-critical terms, without sneers.

Only in the last post, 'A moment of panic' (1st July), is there a joke at Labour's expense: 'There was a moment of panic, I'm told, in the Treasury during Prime Minister's Questions yesterday when David Cameron suddenly brandished an internal Treasury document on government debt. "Luckily," says my source, "it was only one of the tame ones, that doesn't have much more than is in the public domain. Not one of the serious ones which say what a mess we're really in."' Of course, it's also a joke at David Cameron's expense!

What intrigues me here is how (except for the July 2nd post) there are no posts about the Norwich North by-election in Crick's blog archive. This took place in mid-July. Did he write any? Surely he did. If he did, why aren't they here? Are they too embarrassing, given how badly he performed during the by-election, getting most of his predictions wrong and demonstrating bags of bias against UKIP and the Tories. I would have loved to have seen these postings - if they ever existed.

CRAIG'S BLOG BANGS ON ABOUT CRICK'S BLOG!

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Sometimes I can be slow on the uptake. I've just discovered Michael Crick's blog, which has a long archive. Just thought I'd click on August 2008 to see what he's been blogging about so far this month: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/michaelcrick/2009/08/

Is it lots more Tory-bashing (like on Newsnight), or does the blog show Crick's journalism in a more balanced light? (Can you guess the answer in advance?)

There are eight posts.

The latest, 'The key to tackling unwanted admirers' (2oth Aug) tells a funny story about 'drunkenness and debauchery' at party conferences (well worth reading in its own right). Crick says, "It's a good excuse to pass on a wonderful story which I heard a few weeks ago, and which captures some of the atmosphere of our British annual conferences." It tells of "a very attractive young woman" being pestered for sex by guests and getting her revenge. Now, at which party conference did this happen? This is Michael Crick, so - of course - it was last year's Conservative conference. Fancy Michael Crick passing on a story about Tory sex pests! Who'd have thunk it? So, that's one anti-Tory post.







Next comes 'Driving a car I will never be able to afford' (17th Aug), prompted by Compass's campaign against bankers' bonuses (as reviewed previously on this blog). This is a purely personal take: "And I get to drive a car I will never be able to afford, a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead worth around a quarter of a million pounds." Excuse my cynicism, but I bet Crick can afford it!!! No parties were harmed in the making of this post.

Next comes 'A big risk for any Conservative leader' (13th Aug) - ooh, the Tories again!! The 'big risk' in question is Alan Duncan, who despite good qualities "also has flaws" (including being "intensely ambitious"). Crick applies a nice double jab (and a bit of stirring) to the Conservatives: "It will be very hard for him to continue as Shadow Leader of the House when Commons reform is so high on the political agenda. On the other hand, Duncan might prove a formidable backbench critic." A second anti-Tory story.

The fourth post, 'MPs heading for the record books' (12th Aug), is more general in its aim, though no guessing its point of departure ("Yesterday's announcement by the former Conservative deputy leader Michael Ancram that he is standing down at the next election is only the latest example of a highly significant trend") or its final destination ("Which will all be good news, I suspect, for David Cameron.") The report discussed the numbers of MPs (from all parties) standing down and put the figures in a historical context. Even this, though, was not free from bias with another dig at Alan Duncan. So, a cross-party story slanted against the Tories.

Crick's fifth entry was back full-square on the Conservatives, "George Osborne's mischievous smile" (11th Aug): "A revealing comment by George Osborne at Demos this afternoon suggests what we've long suspected, that he and David Cameron don't always see eye-to-eye on foreign affairs." More stirring! He goes on, "It's a division which is likely to become a lot more public if the Conservatives achieve office." A third anti-Tory story.

The final three posts were also all about the Tories, "A Totnes moment in electoral history" (4th Aug), "Thumbs up for the Totnes primary" (4th Aug) and "Big turnout in Totnes primary" (4th Aug). These were follow-ups to Crick's snearing Newsnight report from late July, and - though he won't admit it - pulled the rug from under that snide, negative bit of shoddy journalism. The Totnes experiment was a success, despite all that Crick had (wrongly) predicted. Ha! (Please click on the label Crick for far more!). Follow the three posts from the earliest to the latest, and laugh! Crick was wrong, but cannot not be grudging in defeat: "In the end the Conservative Party primary in Totnes achieved 25 per cent of the vote, way above what anybody hoped for, or predicted. It would seem to be a big thumbs-up for such exercises, though the big drawback is the cost. I wonder if Conservative HQ will ever give us the figure." Later comes, "Conservatives are saying that the process in Totnes only cost them £37,000, which seems remarkably inexpensive. If that figure is accurate then it is a process that, contrary to what I said earlier, they could well afford to repeat. In a way, of course, the £37,000 is also a clever form of election spending, and one which it is hard for anybody to object to." Poor Michael!!

So of the eight posts so far this month, six have been all about the Conservative Party - three firmly anti-Tory and four more slanted against the Conservatives. None has been about the Labour Party, or the Lib Dems.

The Tory Party is the main opposition. It is not the government of this country. Why is Michael Crick allowed to campaign against them? Why is he not ordered by BBC bosses to stop being so obsessed with the opposition and start reporting on the government? Shouldn't the Labour government be his main focus?

If anything Crick's blog seems even worse than his reporting on Newsnight. It would be funny if it wasn't so outrageous. This is BBC bias at its clearest. It is anti-democratic. It must stop.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

SMERING THE HUNGARIANS


The BBC can be very shoddy when it comes to reporting matters European. I've blogged here before about the unsavoury government of Slovakia, which is led by the Robert Fico's left-wing SMER (Social Democrat) party but which also includes the unpleasant HZDS of Vladimir Meciar and the far-right Slovak National Party of Jan Slota. In recent days Fico banned the Hungarian president Laszlo Solyom from visiting Slovakia to unveil a statue of Hungary's first king (picture above, in a stunning bronze by Bernini). This obscene pandering to anti-Hungarian feeling is only the latest disgusting act by this unholy alliance. It has also banned the use of minority languages in the public services - a law which comes into effect on 1 September). Wikipedia is very revealing about Messers Slota, Meciar and Fico - and Slota especially is a real piece of work. (He makes Nick Griffin look like Sir Ming Campbell.) Please look them up.

Last night's 'The World Tonight' covered the story by interviewing the Slovak foreign minister, and the BBC website (briefly) reviews it here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8215220.stm

If you have clicked on the link provided I think you'll agree that it is a bit short on detail - to put it mildly. I'd have expected more, wouldn't you?

Similarly Robin Lustig's interview with Miroslav Lajcak missed a lot of tricks.

I have several beefs with all this.

Firstly, the BBC has failed to set this in context. You have to go beyond the BBC to find out what is going on in Slovakia and why this row is as toxic as it is.

Secondly, the BBC is playing games with labels again. Bias by labelling is much in evidence. You would not know that the xenophobic Slovak government is led by a leftist government from either of these takes on the story. You certainly wouldn't know that it's a member of the European Socialist group & that it sits with Labour in the European parliament. If it had been a centre-right party in coalition with neo-fascists you can bet every pound in your pocket that this would have been mentioned! Moreover, their 'country profile' (linked to in the above story) is all over the place:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1108491.stm
Just read the political labels in this article and spot the crazy internal contradictions, as well as the omissions. Remarkable, aren't they? It's a very shoddy article.

Thirdly, and related to this last point, Mr Lustig did not ask Lajcak (a SMER man, according to the Internet. I certainly wouldn't have known from the BBC!) about his coalition partner's (Slota's) anti-Hungarian, anti-Roma, anti-gay, anti-everything-the-BBC-stands-for policies, which the SMER-led government seems to be being driven by at the moment. Surely this can't be because SMER is a social democratic party? A centre-left party? Surely not. A biased BBC presenter? Perish the thought!

Finally, given the flak directed by the BBC at the European allies of the Conservative Party (and to a lesser extent - if only because the Beeb chooses to ignore them as much as possible - UKIP), as chronicled throughout this blog, wouldn't you have thought that some Labour politician (say Denis MacShane) might have been invited on to discuss the matter? Might then the BBC interviewer not have asked him, "Why don't you press for SMER to be suspended (or expelled) from the Socialist group in the European parliament? How can you sit alongside a party that is happy to be in coalition with neo-fascists? How can you be friends with the party that heads a government that behaves so outrageously towards an EU neighbour? Why is the Labour Party not threatening to withdraw from the Socialist group if SMER is not suspended (or expelled)?" I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of such an interview (or, even more, such interviews). There certainly should be one though - if the BBC is being fair.
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*****
UPDATE
*****
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I've e-mailed Timothy Kirkhope, leader of the Conservative MEPs, with these concerns. Hopefully, he will raise the matter in all the right places.

WINDING UP THE DEBATE

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Slightly unbalanced article about wind turbines by Simon Cox on the BBC website (related to his Radio 4 programme 'The Report'): "Green energy hit by 'faceless Nimbys'" http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8207802.stm

Of the five people Cox interviewed, four are advocates for wind turbine expansion:

Peter Kruse, vice president of Vestas (ex-manufacturer of wind turbine blades) (3 paragraphs)

Richard Mardon, managing director of Your Energy (wind farm developer) (2 paragraphs)

Ed Miliband, climate change secretary (3 paragraphs)

Chris Goodall, author of 'Ten Technologies To Save The Planet' (6 paragraphs)

Only John Gallimore, chairman of Thwart (a local campaign group on the Isle of Wight) was opposed (3 paragraphs).

So, four against one (14 paragraphs to 3) - not counting the presenter!

Is that fair?

MEGRAHI, THE BBC AND THEIR I.C.s - AND CRICK MAKES AMENDS

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What, if anything, do the I.C.s tell us about how the BBC is conducting its coverage of the release of al Megrahi?
*
Here are the details of all the relevant interviews (this month):
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Newsnight 20.08.09, Gavin Esler, Kenny MacAskill, SNP 1.6
World at One 13.08.09, Martha Kearney, Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative 1.4
PM 20.08.09, Eddie Mair, Kenny MacAskill, SNP 1.1
Today 21.08.09, John Humphrys, Alex Salmond, SNP 1
Today 21.08.09, John Humphrys, David Miliband, Labour 0.9
Newsnight 21.08.09, Gavin Esler, Iain Gray, Labour 0.6
World at One 17.08.09, Martha Kearney, Richard Baker, Labour 0.6
Newsnight 21.08.09, Gavin Esler, George Kerevan, SNP 0.5
PM 17.08.09, Eddie Mair, Christine Graham, SNP 0.4
Newsnight 5.8.09, Kirsty Wark, Christine Graham, SNP 0.4
World at One 19.08.09, Martha Kearney, Christine Graham, SNP 0.2
World at One 21.08.09, Shaun Ley, Lord Trefgarne, Conservative 0
World at One 21.08.09, Shaun Ley, Tam Dalyell, Labour 0
World at One 13.08.09, Martha Kearney, Christine Graham, SNP 0
World Tonight 21.08.09, Robin Lustig, Richard Baker, Labour 0
*

The average number of interruptions per political party being:
Conservatives - 0.7
SNP - 0.7
Labour - 0.4
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If the focus of the story turns to Labour's part (or non-part) in this (as, following Gadaffi's son's comments about a British-Libyan trade angle to the motivation behind the Lockerbie bomber's release, it well might) will these figures change?

The intriguing suggestions of anti-SNP, pro-Labour bias in the Beeb's Scotland coverage match my earlier findings (click on label for SNP), though I've not got sufficient data - yet! - to claim that it's in any way proven (as it certainly isn't) or that it's even a particularly strong trend. Time (and the return of 'The Politics Show: Scotland') will clarify the matter.


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Update
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Michael Crick's Newsnight piece redressed the balance I was complaining about in my last post,
using a Conservative as the only true 'talking head' party politician in his report (besides the Great Chieftain of the Pudding Race himself, Alex Salmond, and Alistair Darling - both of who were not Newsnight's own 'talking heads', merely heads talking!). Credit where credit is due. Oddly, the Conservative spokesman was never labelled as such, only as 'David Mundell MP, Shadow Scottish Secretary', so there's nothing to add to the Crick count!
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And what of Crick's attitude to the SNP? His report was much more sober than usual (how could it have been otherwise?), despite the swirling landscapes and the stirring music (Mendelssohn's glorious Hebrides Overture, naturally. Crick is nothing if not obvious!). No sarcasm, no Tory-bashing. So, the SNP? I think, on balance, that Crick was fair, raising various pro- and various anti- angles on the story and giving a flavour (in his vox-pops) of the conflicting feelings felt by the Scots public.
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Another update
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Back to more familiar territory, John Humphrys interviewed Conservative David Lidington and Lib Dem Ed Davey this morning about the Megrahi case (and Labour's involvement), following Gadaffi's unsettling intervention - thanking his 'good friend' Gordon Brown and the foreign secretary (among others!) for Megrahi's release. Here are the I.C.s:

Today 22.08.09 John Humphrys, David Lidington, Conservative 0.9
Today 22.08.09 John Humphrys, Ed Davey, Lib Dem 0

Welcome back John!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

WHO HAS CRICK (UNCHARACTERISTICALLY) FORGOTTEN?

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Michael Crick tonight reported on the difficult decisions facing Alex Salmond's SNP government over what to do with dying Lockerbie bomber al Megrahi. The first minister himself was the 'talking head' for the SNP, and balance was provided by Richard Baker for the main opposition, Labour. Also 'talking' was the 'head' of Tavish Scott, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and for the Scottish Conservatives there was...er...er...er...

So the first and second largest parties in Scotland got a say, and so did the fourth largest. As for the third largest, the Conservatives, not a word was heard. Why not? Was there no way for Crick to criticise them, so why bother? The inclusion of the Lib Dems's Tavish Scott but the exclusion of the personable Annabel Goldie (Conservative leader) or of Bill Aitken (Conservative justice spokesman) defies logic - except the logic of bias.

****************"He knows each chord, its various tone,
****************Each spring, its various bias:
****************Then at the balance let's be mute,
****************We never can adjust it
."
*********************(((Robert Burns)

Sorry, I'm not prepared to let him off so lightly!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

UKIP (AND CRAIG) TAKE THE FIGHT TO THE BIASED BBC


UKIP are watching the BBC very closely at the moment & are taking action, with help from yours truly.

The Beeb's bias against UKIP, chronicled in this blog (click on the UKIP label for all the details), is nothing short of scandalous - and they are well aware of it. The almost total neglect of a party that came second in the European elections - and not just during the Norwich North by-election - beggars belief. On those rare occasions when UKIP spokesmen have been interviewed, the interviews have never failed to be unfair to them.

Noticing that I hadn't heard a single UKIP interview since 14th July, I decided to e-mail my damning air-time findings to them a week ago last Sunday (showing that the party was granted only 0.32% of BBC interview time throughout the whole of July!). The response was prompt and gratifying. My e-mail had been read and circulated throughout the upper echelons of the party on the morning of the very day that Nigel Farage himself was meeting a senior BBC manager to express his understandable concerns about the BBC's behaviour, which was fortuitous. My data has now been passed to Lord Pearson, who is co-ordinating UKIP's campaign to ensure fair coverage.

UKIP have proved themselves to be wholly accessible, as well as kind and friendly. I have received nothing but encouragement and enthusiasm. I am very impressed with them.

They are saddened and appalled, however, at the sheer extent of the Beeb's bias against them - as well they might be.

I subsequently sent them all my other findings, following requests for further information, and will update them with all new results.

This month, so far, UKIP have not been interviewed by the BBC at all - which is not good for democracy (to say the least)!

I will keep you posted.

UNUSUAL BEHAVIOUR ALL ROUND

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What's going on here?! The second post in a row about atypical behaviour at the BBC - and another compliment!

(I've not just begun a course of Prozac, honestly).

Firstly, Vince Cable of the Lib Dems got a thorough fisking by Kirsty Wark on Newsnight, earning her a 1.6 I.C. against the Great Sage and placing her in second place on my spreadsheet for this month (so far). Well done, Kirsty!

That said, it was, remarkably, the dancing doc's 8th appearance on my BBC list this month alone - 5 more than anyone else - which equates to an invitation to be interviewed by the BBC every other day!! So the Beeb still loves you really Vince!!

Secondly, Michael Crick did a report on bankers' bonuses, prompted (like the Cable interview) by the left-wing pressure group Compass's calls for a 'high-pay commission'. So, not a report about those wicked Tories. Amazing!!!

His report featured a snippet of Alistair Darling for Labour and Mark Hoban for the Conservatives, and was largely about the issue and its implications for politicians in general. Maybe the chance to drive about in a smart car & use lots of phrases like 'excess', 'bonus-laden' ,'bling', 'city slickers' & 'city whizz-kids' was enough fun for him.

That also said, today's Crick Count was:
*****Tory - 2
*****Conservative - 0