BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Thursday, 27 August 2009


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".
Where were the counterbalancing voices? Where were the conservative voices? Nowhere, that's where.

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