Sunday, 27 September 2009
The report by Gillian Hargreaves discussed several of the criticisms contained in the study, some of which are aimed at the government itself, and even Ed Balls (with his many initiatives). So a balanced report, not betraying any pro-Left sympathies? Well, we can perhaps forgive Gillian for beginning the piece with a paean to Labour's 'largesse' and the 'good times', with spending having 'almost doubled under this government' and her saying that schools had 'never had it so good'. And for presenting a school and a headteacher who were grateful for this 'generosity'. Less easy to condone is the use of a single 'talking head' - and that talking head being Christine Blower of the N.U.T. (She had several bites of the cherry). Why, when the BBC presents these sort of education reports, are comments largely directed from the Left?
Jon Sopel then interviewed the Labour education minister Vernon Coaker for over 8 minutes (I.C. of 2) and the Conservative treasury spokesman Philip Hammond for 4 minutes (I.C. of 1.5) - both on this subject. Both were tough interviews, the one with Coaker being slightly tougher - though he did get more than twice as long to speak than Mr Hammond, which shifted the balance back towards him.
The next segment discussed the Conservatives and the Lisbon Treaty, in light of next week's second Irish referendum. It took the form of a short debate between my favourite Conservative MEP, Dan Hannan, and the BBC's favourite ex-Conservative MEP, Edward McMillan Scott. E.M.S. is becoming a bit of a regular on the Beeb at the moment - leading up to and following his expulsion from the Conservative Party after his slurs against Michel Kaminski and other European allies of the party (see throughout this blog!). The BBC remains over-keen on this story, and has done plenty of slurring itself. It also loves to paint the Tories as split on Europe. So the ensuing ding-dong gave them just what they wanted, in spades. Note though how Dan Hannan was interrupted four times by Jon Sopel, but E.M.S. only once. The BBC's agenda was plain for all to see, and confirmed by Sopel's question: "Just how damaging is it for the Conservative Party to have this rearing its head just as you go to your party conference a few months ahead of a general election?"
David Thompson's latest piece from the Stourbridge constituency featured the incumbent Labour MP, the very unimpressive-seeming Lynda Waltho, talking mostly to former Labour supporters in a men's barber's shop. It ended on a positive note for her, with one such voter saying if she held more such meetings, he'd vote for her again. An easily pleased man, that one! We'll see if next week, when it should be the Tory candidate's turn, he gets to talk to former Tory voters.
Max Cotton's closing piece featured John Prescott, special representative for the Council of Europe on Climate Change (what!!??!!). This showed Two Jags propagandising for his views on the subject (and showing Franny Armstrong's The Age of Stupid) in schools and enjoying himself on this 'genuine crusade' of his (as Cotton put it. Is the word 'crusade' allowed at the BBC?). All Cotton's questions to the man he calls 'John' came from an environmentalist's stance. "Are you fighting the good fight? Does that feel good?" was his first question, before Cotton questioned Heathrow expansion, and then asked three questions calling for the 'stick' of further legislation. It was a good-natured, friendly piece, featuring no other voices than his and Prescott's.
All in another Sunday's biased work at the Politics Show.
Andrew Marr's 32-minute interview with Gordon Brown dominated today's edition of the programme. It was less tough than last week's interview with Nick Clegg, scoring a round Interruption Coefficient of 1.0 (one for every minute of the interview), compared to 1.3 for the Clegg interview.
Marr did not shy away for asking some difficult questions, though he hardly banged away at them in the way we have often seen him do with David Cameron in the past - and, indeed, with Cleggy last week over his party's position on education spending.
David Cameron is coming up next week. How will he fare?
For more on this story please click on these links:
Sunday, 20 September 2009
The main interview on today's The Politics Show was a far-from-tough interview with Labour's Ed Balls. Conducted by a more-hands-off-than-usual Jon Sopel, the interview allowed Brown's most black-hearted henchman bags of opportunities to attack the Tories - something Balls is always keen to do (so keen it often makes him seem more like an over-excited 9 year old boy than a grown-up politician).
Sopel's other interviewee, receiving an even gentler stroking from his interviewer, was another Labour Party politician, former Defence secretary Des Browne. He was on to talk about nuclear disarmament (in the wake of more rhetoric from the heaven-sent Barack Obama).
The Politics Show shows other BBC current affairs programmes just how to do it, when it comes to being biased. Do it loud and do it proud!
Charles Kennedy was on the paper review (with Amanda Platell), Baroness Shirley Williams was interviewed at length about her life and the state of politics now, and the big interview was with Nick Clegg. Together, they got a few seconds under 30 minutes of interview time on the show.
Fair enough, of course. I only mention all this as a marker, because next week it will the Labour and Gordon Brown then, in a fortnight's time, the Conservatives and David Cameron. We will see if Labour and the Conservatives get about 30 minutes too, if and if they also get three guests.
The interview with Nick Clegg scored a fairly high I.C. of 1.3, with 18 interruptions (many of them a repeated question about whether the education budget would be cut by the Lib Dems, which Clegg was not willing to answer). Again, we'll see if a similar score is achieved when Mr Marr interviews Brown and Cameron.
What intrigued me about the Marr/Clegg interview was the ideological stance from which the questions came, which would be a left-of-centre one. We had questions about how close the Lib Dems are to the Tories (bad thing), whether tuition fees will be maintained after all (bad thing), whether the rich pay should pay more tax (good thing), whether there will be a redistributive element to taxation (good thing) and whether education budgets be spared the axe (good thing). Marr even lapsed into a little Labour-love with his comment that Ed Balls was being "clear and candid". Ed Balls is, surely, never clear and candid - especially both at the same time! Still, at least he challenged Nick Clegg, which is something.
Saturday, 19 September 2009
The BBC's high regard for Vince Cable, as shown in interview after interview, has led the great man to be thought of by all-and-sundry as a very wise man. He is, as Tim Wilcox of News 24 told us, Britain's most trusted politician. He predicted the credit crunch, you know.
Well, if no-one challenges the idea that Dr Cable predicted the credit crunch, it's no wonder we all believe he did. Did he really?
If you are very rarely challenged - but your opponents (in the Labour and Conservative parties) are regularly challenged - then you might well gain the reputation for being a sage, consulted for his insights. Indeed, on too many occasions BBC interviewers have treated Vince more like an independent economist than a party politician. If, whenever you appear on the BBC, you are asked for your thoughts on the economy in general, or about Conservative or Labour policy, and only very occasionally about your actual responsibility - Liberal Democrat economic policy! - then you will seem like an independent expert. His virtues have been praised by several interviewers in their introductions. Who, therefore, can blame us, the politician-distrusting general public, for trusting such a well-respected man more than a mere politician?
Well, has the rug been pulled out from under the pirouetting Lib Dem by the Beeb itself, in the person of Andrew Neil, whose Straight Talk was a masterclass in reputation shredding? I, for one, will never see the sainted Vince in the same light again. Here is the link:
The interview starts with one of those very general questions that Dr Cable is so used to being asked and so comfortable at answering, but within a couple of minutes Andrew Neil starts asking the tough questions.
He nails Vince's u-turn on Quantitative Easing (Q.E.) for starters. Initially against (calling it 'the Robert Mugabe school'), he's now for, and admits he may have given us the wrong impression.
Then the big question: Did Vince Cable predict the financial crisis? "You have built a reputation for having predicted the financial crisis and giving wise commentary through it", said Andrew. Economists agree (he continues) that it was largely caused by the collapse of the US sub-prime market but he can't find any evidence on the record of Dr Vince actually making any reference to it prior to the implosion. Had he? Vince agreed he hadn't. Then, under further pressure, he conceded that he hadn't predicted the "totality" of the crisis, only a "corner" of it. Andrew Neil was not about to take even that at face value - and on and on went his questions for another twenty minutes, the usual Buddha-like serenity of Dr Cable growing ever more strained as the interview went on.
For all his alleged concerns about easy credit, Vince had dismissed early warnings from the IMF in 2003 about UK borrowing and asset prices being too high. Neil pressed him on that before moving onto 'contradictory things' Vince appeared to have said about fiscal stimulus. The exchange showed he had indeed made such statements. Andrew Neil had chapter and verse to quote, and Vince squirmed, variously claiming that he couldn't remember having said that or that the context for the quote must have been 'totally different'.
"When you look at his record, perhaps rather than being a far-sighted guru that people see, that you've flip-flopped on a number of the big issues", said Neil. Vince said 'not really' and 'read my book'. Neil went on and demonstrated another such 'flip-flop' over the Lloyds-HBOS merger. As Cable had to say, "I think it's fair to say I did change my position on that issue, I did change that. ..Yes, you're right I did take a different view." Another flip-flop over the independence of the Bank of England and interest rate cuts was nailed. Within a month Vince had gone from saying it was wrong for the government to demand that the Bank slash interest rates to demanding it himself! Oh, dear.
The conversation then moved on to public spending and cuts. After a general question on the timing of cuts (the sort of question the Beeb is always asking Vince), Andrew Neil (unlike most of his BBC colleagues) moved on and focused on Liberal Democrat plans, specifically his plans. Question after question probed the tensions within the party over policies and potential cuts, highlighted the differences between Dr Cable and Nick Clegg, and spotted more flip-flops, particularly over whether the savings from £6.7 billion's worth of cuts would still be spent on childcare and education, or not. Vince squirmed again.
Tax rises, particularly in VAT, were discussed next and some weaseling over whether he'd support such moves was challenged.
Andrew Neil went where few of his BBC colleagues have gone. He treated Vince Cable as a politician who has to be held to account for his many changes of position. He did not treat him as a far-seeing sage (which, in transpires, he wasn't after all). If Vince was treated more like this by BBC interviewers as a whole - which is, after all, the way Osborne and, to some extent, Darling are regularly treated - a fairer, more accurate perspective on the whole political scene might emerge. That's not too much to ask, is it?
The South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire edition presented a short report discussing the Greens and UKIP.
It gave 'talking head' status to 1 Green candidate (Shan Oakes) and 2 UKIP candidates (Jane Collins & Jonathan Arnott) and said that UKIP now starts from a platform of electoral success whereas the Greens disappointed themselves at the Euro elections.
This apparent anti-Green/pro-UKIP bias was countered a little by the reporter saying of UKIP, "This tiny conference in Southport showed just how small the party is". (How big was it compared to the Greens though? How tiny is 'tiny'?) Yet it was the video clip's "Play this again?" option that showed where the BBC's heart really lies, containing what almost amounted to a health-warning: "UKIP: Controversial claims that man is not the cause of global warming".
A clip was played of MEP Godfrey Bloom dismissing AGW as nonsense. This was followed by the reporter saying, "He's even co-authored a pamphlet on the subject". That word 'even' suggests that this (for some reason) is an odd thing to have done.
Checking out the website, its political editor Len Tingle's language revealed a similar bias:
'At their conference in Hove the Greens were passionate in their support of the battle against global warming.
On the same day in Southport, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire MEP Godfrey Bloom delighted his party by explaining how global warning was a "myth" - and the scientific truth was being suppressed by the media.'
Imagine how this could be re-written by some-one with a different bias and you'll see what I mean. A tiny change in punctuation makes all the difference:
'At their conference in Hove the Greens were passionate in their support of the "battle" against "global warming".
'On the same day in Southport, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire MEP Godfrey Bloom delighted his party by explaining how global warning was a myth - and the scientific truth was being suppressed by the media.'
Len's piece was not wholly unkind to UKIP, but he does say of Jonathan Arnott, "At just 27 he is one of a new breed of senior officials of a party desperate to throw off an image as a bunch of right wing grumpy old men from the shire counties."
Is UKIP really "desperate" to throw of its "image as a bunch of right wing grumpy old men from the shire counties"? Was that it's image? And what wrong with being "right wing" or "grumpy" or "old" or "men" or "from the shire counties" anyway?
There were, of course, no comparable references to the Greens as having an image "as a bunch of well-off-but-badly-dressed, asparagus-nibbling, sour-faced, left wing forty-somethings from the Brighton area" (or some such nonsense!)!!
Friday, 18 September 2009
Steel yourselves please, it's time for some more statistics!!! Yes, they are not perfect - but if combined I think their imperfections should cancel each other out.
PLEASE SEE MY LAST POST FOR THE REASONS BEHIND ALL THIS TOMFOOLERY!!!
Here are the measures that go into each Today programme newspaper review index.
Each newspaper scores:
1 point for every mention in a paper review
3 bonus points for being the first newspaper mentioned in each paper review
2 bonus points for being the second newspaper mentioned in each paper review
1 bonus point for being the third newspaper mentioned in each paper review
1 Bonus point for being the first-discussed source for each story subsequent to the main one (usually marked by a change of presenter)
1 bonus point for any review of a paper's story that lasts longer than 30 seconds
-1 point every time the story is a frivolous one ( i.e. humorous or non-political)
The daily index is simply the total of each newspaper scores at the end of each programme (which has 3 paper reviews on weekdays & 2 on Saturday).
Obviously the higher the overall score the more attention the paper has been given by the Today programme.*If particular newspapers receive high scores on a regular basis a pattern of bias in favour of those newspapers will have been strongly suggested, maybe even proven.
This will show if any particular newspaper(s) receive preferential treatment - or not!
Here's the first case and an example (in full) of how it works:
Friday 18th September
1. JUSTIN WEBB - Story: Barack Obama's scrapping of 'Star Wars' (significant story)
Times (13.17-13.45) Scores 1 point for mention, 3 bonus points for leading the review
Guardian (13.46-13.58) Scores 1 point for mention, 2 bonus points for being mentioned second
2. SARAH MONTAGUE - Story: Baroness Scotland's illegal immigrant home-help (significant story)
Daily Mail (14.10-14.43) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for being mentioned third, 1 bonus point for leading a new story, 1 bonus point for its mention lasting longer than 30 seconds
(Telegraph mentioned in passing) Scores 1 point for mention
JUSTIN WEBB - Story: How you can tell if someone is telling you the truth by their handwriting (fluff)
Daily Mail (14.44-14.59) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story, but loses 1 point for the story being frivolous
Times - 4 points
Guardian - 3 points
Daily Mail - 5 points
Telegraph - 1 point
1. SARAH MONTAGUE - Story: Baroness Scotland's illegal immigrant home-help (significant story)
Daily Mail (43.08-43.16) Scores 1 point for mention, 3 bonus points for leading the review
Telegraph (43.17-43.22) Scores 1 point for mention, 2 bonus points for being mentioned second
The Sun (43.23-43.27) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for being mentioned third
JUSTIN WEBB - Story: Baroness Scotland's illegal immigrant home-help, continued
Mail (43.22-43.36) Scores 1 point for mention
The Sun (43.37-43.48) Scores 1 point for mention
2. SARAH MONTAGUE - Story: Barack Obama's scrapping of 'Star Wars' (significant story)
Guardian (43.57-44.05) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story
Financial Times (44.05-44.13 Scores 1 point for mention
The Times (44.13-44.17) Scores 1 point for mention
3. JUSTIN WEBB - Story: Kenyan drought (significant story)
Guardian (44.17-44.34) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story
4. SARAH MONTAGUE - Story: A boy who's having a sex change (fluff)
The Sun (44.34-44.07 Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story, 1 point for its mention lasting longer than 30 seconds, but loses 1 point for the story being frivolous
5. JUSTIN WEBB - Story: A road where learner-drivers like to learn to drive (fluff)
Daily Express (45.14-45.31) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story, but loses 1 point for the story being frivolous
The Sun (45.33-45.37) Scores 1 point for mention, but loses 1 point for the story being frivolous
Daily Mail - 5
Telegraph - 3
The Sun - 5
Guardian - 4
Financial Times - 1
The Times -1
Daily Express - 1
1. SARAH MONTAGUE - Story: Barack Obama's scrapping of 'Star Wars' (significant story)
Independent (1.42.50-1.42.53) Scores 1 point for mention, 3 bonus points for leading review
Daily Mirror (1.42.53-1.42.57) Scores 1 point for mention, 2 bonus points for being mentioned second
Guardian (1.42.57-1.43.03) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for being mentioned third
Telegraph (1.43.03-1.43.07) Scores 1 point for mention
2. JUSTIN WEBB - Story: Nick Clegg's statement that the Lib Dems will replace Labour (significant story)
Telegraph (1.43.07-1.43.29) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story
3. SARAH MONTAGUE - Story: Interview with the Iraqi who threw a shoe at Bush (significant story)
Guardian (1.43.29-1.43.55) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story
4. JUSTIN WEBB - Story: River Thames back on Tube map (fluff)
Independent (1.43.55-1.44.15) Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story, but loses 1 point for the story being frivolous
5. SARAH MONTAGUE - Story: winding up a clock v. health & safety (fluff)
Telegraph (1.44.21-1.44.29)Scores 1 point for mention, 1 bonus point for leading a new story, but loses 1 point for the story being frivolous
Daily Mail (1.44.30-1.44.38) Scores 1 point for mention, but loses 1 point for the story being frivolous
The Sun (1.44.38-1.44.45) Scores 1 point for mention, but loses 1 point for the story being frivolous
Independent - 5
Daily Mirror - 3
Guardian - 4
Telegraph - 4
Daily Mail - 0
The Sun - 0
Daily Index Totals -
Telegraph - 8
Guardian - 11
Independent - 5
The Times - 5
The Financial Times - 1
Daily Mail - 10
Daily Express - 1
The Sun - 5
Daily Mirror - 3
So there you go! A narrow victory over the Daily Mail for the Guardian. I duly crown the Guardian as the first winner of the Today Newspaper Review Index.
I am trying to work out a way to measure the bias (if there is any) in the Today programme's newspaper reviews. Do the left-leaning newspapers, especially the Guardian and the Independent, tend to be mentioned first? Or more often? Are serious stories in the right-leaning papers neglected in favour of fluffier ones?
Anecdotally presented, the 17th September edition of the programme, hosted by John Humphrys and Sarah Montague contained the following.
The 6.12am paper review, leading off with the Guardian and following with the Independent (both on the Trafigura story), and only then moving on to the Telegraph (for Andy Burnham's announcement about patients choosing GPs and a story about the Queen Mum!)
At 6.39am came the second paper review, again led by serious stories from the Guardian (a story about China and carbon emissions) and the Independent (a story about a sugar tax in the U.S.). Third again came the Telegraph, but this time it was only the Queen Mum story!
At least the paper review at 7.38am was not led by the Guardian but by the Telegraph (talking about the Obama race row), though the Independent again came second (with the same story).
Of the other papers mentioned, the Times was quoted for a story about Nick Clegg wanting the Lib Dems to replace Labour (yeah, like that‘s gonna happen), the Mail about Mrs Thatcher being unnamed on a list of women's achievements (a story shared with the 'Independent') & whether 'Royal' might be prefixed to Wootton Bassett, and the Express for a story about the world's tallest man.
Is this typical? Only time and a bit of measurement will tell.
By coincidence (?), I notice that Newnight's closing paper review (with Gavin Esler) also led off with as story from the Guardian.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
And on it goes (as predicted yesterday)...
The Today programme website has this blurb: "US President Barack Obama does not believe current criticism of his policies is based on the colour of his skin, the White House has said. North America editor Mark Mardell visits South Carolina to gauge reaction to the outburst in Congress against Mr Obama that led to the rebuke of Republican lawmaker Joe Wilson."
Mardell's report can be found here:
What a surprise that Mardell rushed down to South Carolina! What a shame Obama pulled the rug out from under him! Still, as Mardell had taken all that trouble to get down there, why not run with the story anyhow?!
Even handed? Well, he gave both sides a voice - two black supporters of Obama, two white opponents of Obama (though the former got longer to speak) - but see how he undermines one of the 'conservatives':
"There's no doubt some conservatives feel personally affronted. This man, eating his lunch in a diner surrounded by Confederate memorabia, says no past president knows what's in his heart."
How convenient that this man was eating in a diner surrounded by Confederate memorabia. A 'good old boy', I think Mardell wants us to safely assume.
Expect much, much, much more of this from Mark Mardell and co.
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Instead of one of my usual long-winded posts (I love long-winded posts!), here's a link that you must click on:
Not a Sheep nails John Humphrys over his odd line of questioning to George Osborne.
Not a Sheep's other posts on this story are a must-read.
I don't watch BBC News 24 often these days, but I thought I'd see what it was like between 12.00 and 1.00 today.
As well as the boss of the Health Protection Agency (talking about the e-coli story) and a leader of the GMB union (slagging off 'chameleon' Cameron), we had interviews with Corinne Ferguson of 'Liberty' (where was Shami?), Vince Cable, Ed Miliband, and Keith Vaz.
Whenever I used to watch BBC News 24 I would be forever seeing Cable, Vaz and someone from 'Liberty'. (Where was John McFall? If he'd have been there it would have been a full house.)
Nice to see nothing changes.
Vince Cable was on News 24 again today.
Ben Brown introduced him with the words "voted, according to an opinion poll I see in the newspapers, voted Britain's most trusted politician".
As Brown then asked him no difficult questions and nothing about Liberal Democrat policy (only about the government and the Tories), which is par for the course at the BBC, I can well see why Cable's so trusted. George Osborne and Alistair Darling would be trusted much more than they are if no-one ever asked them tricky questions!
Vince was again agreeing with the Labour government and attacking the Tories. This happens so often now that I'm becoming convinced that the twinkle-toed Lib Dem is hoping to dance himself into the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer should there be a hung parliament and a resultant Lib-Lab coalition. Am I right, Michael Crick?
Here's a report that you'll find 00.47.27 into the full 3-hour version of Today on the BBC i-Player (Wednesday 16 September).
Ex-US President Jimmy Carter has accused some of Barack Obama’s opponents on healthcare reform of running a “dastardly” racist campaign against him. His specific target was South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson, who yelled ‘You lie!’ at the president during his address to both houses of Congress.
Jim Naughtie discussed the significance of Carter’s intervention with the Beeb’s new North America editor, Mark Mardell. Now Mardell's reporting is not without merit (and he's a likable chap) and he does make concessions to balance but still I have reservations. (Surprise, surprise!!)
I'll transcribe the bulk of what he said (marking out the bits I think suggest bias) & comment along the way.
“What he said is that he thinks an overwhelming proportion of what he calls ‘the intensely demonstrated animosity’ towards President Obama is based on the fact he’s a black man. Obviously President Carter comes from the South. He’s seen this. He’s seen it bubbling up for a long while. And there’s a belief among many white people, he says, not just in the South, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this country, America, and he calls it ‘abominable’."
Has Mardell "seen it" too? For himself? Did Mardell not think to ask whether Carter really has "seen it"? Does "it" really exist? If the intense racism of the past has been 'bubbling up' again in the South recently, Mardell should investigate. It would be an interesting story. Until then he should reserve judgement.
Moreover, how widespread is this this "belief among many white people...that African-Americans are not qualified to lead...America"? Shocking, if true - but how true is it? How many is "many"?
"Now, what’s been happening over the summer, and even more recently in Washington at a big demonstration, is people attacking President Obama with a level of vitriol that I think people have been thrashing around trying to discover what’s behind it."
Who are these 'people' who 'have been thrashing around trying to discover what’s behind it'? Does he mean liberals? Or Democrats? Or BBC journalists? A sign of bias if not to label those of whose opinions you approve whilst labeling those of whose opinions you don't approve (as Mark does later when he talks of 'conservatives'.)
On a separate point, plenty of 'vitriol' was aimed at George W. Bush without racism being the cause.
Mardell's phrase 'thrashing about' is a good one, however, to describe the predicament many of the Left must feel about Obama's fall in popularity. How tempting for them to put it down to racism!
"It’s nominally about tax and about health care - and it may for many people but exactly and only about those issues - but, listening to the demonstration at the weekend, people were talking about fighting his tyranny, taking back America from this un-American president. Now it’s perfectly possible there are other reasons about the nature of the debate about the role of the state and governance in America that are behind this level of anger but some people are saying it is plainly about race. Some people think it’s illegitimate for a black person to be a president.”
Again, who are these "some people"?
Jim Naughtie then asked Mardell about the censuring of Joe Wilson.
“This is one of places of the debate where this has bubbled up. Over the weekend we saw people pointing out that he was once a rather junior aide to a segregationist politician and that he was one of the few politicians to vote for the confederate flag to fly over the state congress in his own state. And then one commentator said that what he meant was not “You lie!” but “You lie boy!” and that really brought everything to a head."
Which 'commentator' said that? Shouldn't we have been told? If we knew who it was we could judge for ourselves whether the source of this comment - which smacks of 'mind-reading', not to mention 'mud-slinging'! - is one of whom we, the listeners, can either trust or approve of.
"Now Mr Wilson hasn’t made any comments about his motivation, beyond saying that he thought the president was telling an untruth and that’s all there was behind it. He hasn’t answered these allegations."
I don't know about you but that sounds like all the comment 'about his motivation' that Mr Wilson - if he isn't a racist - needs to make. Why does Mark Mardell assume that more is needed?
"But another Democratic member from Georgia, Henry Johnson, has said that if this was allowed to go unpunished then people would soon be riding through the streets in hoods and sheets. Now that shows the sort of level of debate that is going on, the level of fear and anger, and of course the conservatives on the other side are furious, that they regard their opponents of playing the race card. They say it’s a cheap shot and that because it’s the worst insult you can hurl at some one in America in some ways is that they’re a racist and they feel that President Obama’s friends are really just playing dirty tricks on them.”
Here Mardell partially redeems himself. Johnson's extreme remark is on a par with the extreme remarks made by some of Obama's opponents and he reports the opposing side's point of view succinctly.
Yet note the labeling of the president's healthcare opponents as 'conservatives'. Are they all 'conservatives' in the sense Americans mean when they use the word (and when reporters about America use the word)? Might not some be libertarians? Or centrists?
Carter's comments obviously needed reporting & Mark Mardell has certainly done his job in doing that. He has, however, treated them as pearls of wisdom rather than as assertions.
LATER IN THE DAY....
The race-card was played again on PM, where Kevin Connelly played a now-familiar clip and then said, "That was Representative Joe Wilson, white, Southern and Republican, shouting 'You lie!' to the president. To most Americans that is a shocking breach of protocol, like heckling the Queen's Speech."
"But to many Americans there was much more to Mr Wilson's two-word tour-de-force. African-Americans saw it as straightforwardly racist."
When I heard that I thought, how many is "many" and who are the "many"? And to the second point I thought, "What, all of them?"
Connolly went on, "Now the former president Jimmy Carter has raised the stakes in the whole debate, telling an interviewer from N.B.C. that most people who oppose Barack Obama do so just because he's black."
Have the Democrats started trying to shut down the debate and are their media friends following close on? If so, and if Connolly's closing words are anything to go by, the BBC will be joining them:
"Expect this angry, bubbling sub-current to rise closer to the surface as next year's mid-term elections loom ever closer."
In other words, if the Democrats do badly in 2010 it's the racists wot did it! If they do well of course, the healing hands of the sainted Obama will be seen still to have their magic touch. Either way, it's a win-win for Barack Obama.
Esler interviewed a former Clinton aide, Jennifer Palmiera, who criticised her fellow Democrats for this 'dangerous' playing of the race card and said that the White House didn't accept what Jimmy Carter had said, adding that he was out of touch ("a generational thing"). She said Hillary Clinton would have received similar hostile treatment. The other guest, Armstrong Williams, described by Esler - in a typical case of bias by labeling - as a "conservative broadcaster", didn't believe it either. He jokingly put Carter's comments down to senility. He's black, which shows that Connolly's bold statement that all African-Americans saw Wilson's comments as "straightforwardly racist" was not strictly true!
Jennifer Palmiera's comments were a welcome breath of reasonableness. Inadvertently, she dropped the BBC in it by telling Esler that his introduction had neglected to mention the White House's rejection of President Carter's slurs. It had indeed!
Ritula Shah on the World Tonight (which did mention the White House's rejection of the slurs) talked to only one side of the argument, Paul Waldman of the liberal American Prospect magazine, who (ignoring the point) kept the accusations coming.
In summary, the above-mentioned BBC reporters had, I feel, got overly excited about a story that they so wanted to believe and ran with it beyond reason. Call me a pessimist, but I suspect that the words of the guests on Newsnight will be ignored & the 'Obama's-opponents-are-racists' angle will continue to run and run at the biased BBC.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Not a particularly balanced edition of Newsnight last night, though it opened promisingly. Peter Mandelson was heard slamming the Tories over spending cuts. Cue the snearing voice of Jeremy Paxman, saying "And there'd be no cuts under Labour? Come off it!", followed by the programme's opening credits.
This promise of a fair look at both Conservative and Labour was partly delivered in the opening report by David Grossman.
The promise was completely betrayed, however, by the studio discussion that followed between Jeremy and Newsnight's business editor Paul Mason, which concentrated almost exclusively on Tory spending/cutting plans - complete with graphs and all. Why?
What followed was even worse. An interview with ex-BBC Labour minister Ben Bradshaw, lasting 4 minutes 23 seconds, was quite soft - especially as it went on - for Jeremy Paxman (I.C. of 1.2). Bradshaw repeatedly attacked the Tories throughout.
To balance that a Conservative was needed, and provided in the shape of Norman Lamont. But, oddly, this sop to fairness was cancelled out by having Labour's Frank Dobson join him in the discussion. Dobson dominated proceedings (being a bit of a bully) - though Lord Lamont got the last laugh! (Watch and see!). The extent of that domination can be seen if we compare the timings for the double-interview:
Lamont - 1 minute 42 seconds
Dobson - 3 minutes 11 seconds
If we tot these figures up, that (obviously) means that Labour got 7 minutes 34 seconds of interview time to make its case, whereas the Conservatives only got 1 minute 42 seconds. Hardly fair, is it?
The Interruption Coefficients add insults to injury, as not only did Lamont get least time he was also interrupted most often:
Lamont - 1.4
Bradshaw - 1.2
Dobson - 1
Monday, 14 September 2009
Norway holds its general election today.
The Financial Times covers the contest admirably:
The Beeb's take is not a patch on the F.T.s:
In the BBC's world Labour prime minister Jens Stoltenberg has been a successful steward of the nation's economy during the current crisis:
"Jens Stoltenberg, in power since 2005, has emphasised his success in guiding Norway through the economic crisis."
Note how the word 'success' is not in quotation marks.
This may very well be true, as Norway is clearly in far ruder economic health than its Nordic neighbours and Mr. Stoltenberg's actions can only have helped that happen. What the Beeb fails to make clear, however, is that Mr. Stoltenberg had an ace up his sleeve - an ace anyone else could have played. For the context we need to return to the Financial Times:
****"Mr Stoltenberg is hoping his government's response to the global downturn will help him become the first Norwegian prime minister to be re-elected in 16 years, as the country's oil wealth helps insulate the country from the sharp recessions suffered by its Nordic neighbours.
****"Rules limiting how much of the country's $400bn oil fund can be spent each year were temporarily cast aside to stimulate the economy, keeping unemployment at about 3 per cent, compared with nearly 8 per cent in Sweden and Finland.
****"Gross domestic product, excluding oil, returned to growth in the second quarter after a mild recession - the country's first in two decades."
The BBC mentions the oil but makes no connections between it and the Labour government's 'success'. Success? Or the good fortune of having a massive cushion of oil to rip open if needs be?
As for the main opposition Progress Party of Siv Jensen, a woman who (in the F.T.'s words) "casts herself as the Margaret Thatcher of Norwegian politics", this campaigns for lower taxes and more free enterprise and has (also in the F.T.'s words) "a tough stance on immigration" in "a traditionally homogeneous country where immigrants now make up more than 10 per cent of the population." Many details are given of her - and Mr Stoltenberg's - policies on a range of issues.
As you would perhaps expect, Siv Jensen and her party are not given so rounded a portrait by the BBC:
****"His main challenger is Siv Jensen, who leads the right-wing Progress Party.
****"She has campaigned on a platform of lower taxes and tightening immigration. She has stoked controversy by claiming Norway is being "Islamified".
****"Currently, more than 10% of Norway's population is of foreign origin with the largest groups of asylum seekers coming from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Eritrea".
Note the bogey-phrase 'right-wing' for starters but, above and well beyond that, you ought not to be surprised by now that the Beeb's focuses above all on Progress's views on immigration nor that its report uses a highly pejorative phrase when it asserts that "she has stoked controversy". ***
In other words, Siv Jensen is bad whereas Jens Stoltenberg is good. How easy it is to see everything through the BBC's Manichaean eyes!
Update 1: Mr Stoltenberg has it seems, with most votes counted, won a narrow victory in the Norwegian elections.
Update 2: The story on the BBC website has been amended, but not just to reflect the changing news. Bizarrely, now the election is over, the former emphasis on the immigration policies of Siv Jensen's Progress has been diluted by a picture of the lady and a new caption beneath it, reading "Siv Jensen's party wants to broaden privatisation in health and education". At the risk of sounding either paranoid or foolishly big-headed, has someone at the BBC been reading this site and taken on-board its criticism?! (Or, at the risk of sounding overly cynical, do the BBC want us to associate 'broadening privatisation in health and education' with losing elections?!!)
As the link provided above takes you to the latest version on the BBC website, here's a new link to the ever-helpful Revisionista site, which tracks how articles change over the days.
This shows the addition of the words (but cannot show pictures).
This morning's Today featured, among other things, interviews with two Conservatives. Daniel Kawczynski was given the forensic treatment by Jim Naughtie (I.C. of 0.9) over his criticisms of the government's recent handing of the issue of WPC Yvonne Fletcher (murdered by a Libyan in 1984), whereas a clearly amused Ken Clarke was badgered by Justin Webb (I.C. of 1.3) over Lord Mandelson's comments about the Conservatives "salivating at the prospect of cuts in spending". Lord Mandelson himself was given an equally strong grilling (I.C. of 1.3) by Jim Naughtie, in one of Naughtie's strongest performances (though a couple of Naughtie's interruptions concerned scrapping Trident, which seems to be close to his heart). Between them the Conservatives amassed 9 minutes 28 second's worth of interview time, to Mandy's 10 minutes 23 seconds), which is fair enough. Was this balance reflected in the programme as a whole?
Well, at 7.16 Declan Ganley's return to the fray in Ireland's 'NO' campaign for the latest referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was discussed by Deaglan de Breadun of the liberal-left Irish Times. The TUC general secretary Brendan Barber (attacking the Tories and opposing all public spending cuts) was back at 7.32. The issue of trade unions and the Labour Party was discussed (at 8.40) by the former Industrial Editor of the left-wing Daily Mirror Geoffrey Goodman (who now writes for the liberal-left Guardian) and the ubiquitous Chief Executive of the Work Foundation, Will Hutton - another left-winger. The programme ended with a discussion about 'What is progress?' by the liberal-Left's favourite living economist Joseph Stiglitz (who worked for Clinton and now works for Obama) and "economist Lord Layard, author of Happiness - Lessons from a New Science" - as the Today website describes him. The Today website forgets to mention that he's also a Labour peer. At least a Conservative was discussed (at 8.48), as Alan Clark was recalled by the editor of his diaries Ion Trewin (a publisher of no discernible political position, who has also edited the Hugo Young diaries) and that ubiquitous doyen of the liberal-left, Anthony Howard.
All in a morning's work at the biased Beeb.
Maybe Carolyn Quinn has read my paeans to Laura Kuennsberg's impartial presentation style during her absence from Westminster Hour, because she did a good job on the programme's 13 September edition. (Don't worry, I'm not daft enough to think she really has!) Besides the usual 'politics panel' segment, featuring Ed Vaizey (Conservative) and Emily Thornberry (Labour), there was an interview with a left-wing professor on Labour and the trades unions, which was balanced by a double-interview (of similar length) with two members of Conservative think-tanks.
The only package that raised a little concern over bias was the final report from Mandy Baker (pictured here with unfunny, late thirty-something snowboarder Marcus Brigstocke), which looked at the life experiences of prospective MPs at the next general election i.e. have they any beyond politics?
Here's a list of the talking heads. Can you spot an imbalance?
Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP
Lorely Burt, Lib Dem MP
Meg Munn, Labour MP
Professor Byron Criddle
George Eustace, prospective Conservative candidate
Emma Reynolds, prospective Labour candidate
(I'm sure Brigstocke would have approved!)
Because Northern Ireland's political parties are so different to those of the rest of the United Kingdom - and because I want to keep my Air-Time Percentages index free from such obscuring complications - I won't be including the programme in my monthly I.C. spreadsheets - but it can have a spreadsheet of its own instead.
For starters, here are the figures for the first programme of the new season:
Arlene Foster, DUP - 1.6 (with 7 interruptions)
David McNarry, UUP - 1.2 (with 3 interruptions)
Alex Attwood, SDLP - 0.6 (with 2 interruptions)
John O'Dowd, Sinn Fein - 0.3 (with 1 interruption)
Stephen Farry, Alliance - 0 (with 0 interruptions)
Sunday, 13 September 2009
The Politics Show was back today, with Jon Sopel as puppet-like as ever. It was like it had never been away!
It opened with two complementary interviews, one with David Frost of the British Chamber of Commerce (calling for public spending cuts) and the other with Brendan Barber of the T.U.C. (calling for increased taxes on high earners). Mr Frost got 3 minutes 36 seconds, whereas Mr Barber got 5 minutes 32 seconds. The socialist got two minutes more. That's BBC bias for you!
Then came a soft interview with Labour's Alan Johnson. The Home Secretary's interview lasted 9 minutes 43 seconds, and but only contained 2 interruptions. Johnson's long and repeated attacks on the Tories were allowed to flow on, undammed. The Interruption Coefficient was a tiny o.2.
Max Cotton's report on MPs' lack of a contract of employment somewhat redressed the pro-left tendency of the programme by using Labour's Margaret Moran (Luton South) as its example of bad behaviour - though it did not label her as a Labour MP (which was a little bit naughty) - and gave Esther Rantzen and the seat's prospective Conservative candidate, Nigel Huddleston, a soundbite each. This redressing of the balance was somewhat undermined though by having two Labour MPs commenting on what MPs should do next, with Max having a friendly chat with the ubiquitous Stephen Pound and getting an earnest soundbite from the almost-as-ubiquitous John Mann.
Biased business as usual at The Politics Show.
CODA: A SPOT OF TIFFIN WITH UKIP'S PAUL NUTTALL
I won't be including the local bit of The Politics Show in my ongoing study, but it is worth noting that the North West edition with the delectable Annabel Tiffin featured an interview with UKIP's Paul Nuttall which, in typical Beeb style, lasted less than three minutes but contained no less than 6 interruptions, giving it a whopping I.C. of 2.4. It concentrated on "a couple of resignations"!
The BBC is at one with American liberals in trying to associate those opposing Barack Obama's health-care reforms with dangerous far-right nutters on the fringe - in other words implying guilt by association. Nancy Pelosi's 'Nazi' gibes were only the most high-profile example of this liberal Democrat strategy but Stephen Evans's report for From Our Own Correspondent (Saturday 12 September) was still singing from the same hymn-sheet: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/8250803.stm
Evans meets Glen Parshall, a Santa Claus lookalike "with an armoury of hundreds of guns with which he is surrounded and which he fondles with gentle care." The gun-fondling Mr Parshall is a libertarian "out-rider" who is keen on Thomas Jefferson's "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" and who says of the Obama administration, "If they don't start conforming to our constitution, we may have to rise up in arms and take our country back," which Evans qualifies by adding "though he says that would be a last resort if elections did not do the job first."
Having presented this extreme figure Evans goes on, "Nobody argues that Mr Parshall represents great numbers of Americans, but that does not mean he is insignificant. Liberals say there is a dangerous atmosphere on the fringe. They point to the numbers of armed men who now turn up at healthcare meetings asserting their right to bear arms, sometimes wearing badges with the quote about "refreshing the Tree of Liberty" with blood." Liberals say this, and Stephen Evans says this - an uncanny co-incidence of interests!
An unfortunate illegal immigrant's plight is then described (to draw in sympathy for the Obama position) before Evan's coup-de-grace: "By the way, the sentence "The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" may have been written first by one of the great founding fathers of American liberty, but it was made famous, too, by one Timothy McVeigh. He, you remember, murdered 168 people when he attacked what he saw as a tyrannical federal government in Oklahoma City in 1995. It was the slogan on his T-shirt." And that's how the report ends. More guilt by association!
All of this is worth reporting & doubtless true - and, as I've said before, on this issue I'm much closer in sympathy to Obama than to his opponents. Unbiased reporting, however, means that the reporter's personal feelings ought to be irrelevant. That is where Evans falls down. Whether he and his liberal friends are exaggerating the danger, it's hard to say from here in sunny Morecambe. It's clear though that such stories can do nothing but harm to President Obama's legions of opponents and nothing but good for President Obama's supporters. This is evidence of bias.
Saturday, 12 September 2009
Though still on holiday, I have heard a few of the reports carried by the Beeb on Obama's healthcare speech to both houses of Congress. When normal business resumes (in just over a week's time) I will pursue this sort of story (and many others) with gusto.
On Wednesday 9th September, I caught an interview with Michael Goldfarb of globalpost.com (a regular on Gavin Esler's Dateline: London) on Martha Kearney's The World At One. This Michael Goldfarb (not to be confused with others) was the topic's only voice on the programme, and he described the two-pronged opposition to Obama in interestingly different ways:
"It's contentious on the far-right". So that's all Obama's critics from the Republican/conservative side of America branded in one simple, provocative, inaccurate statement. How does he fare with his labeling of the Democrat/liberal opposition? Here, in contrast, he says "It's contentious to a degree on what passes for the Left in America" and goes on to describe such people as "perhaps representing the more social democratic spectrum of American political thought". In the spirit of his first statement, couldn't he have instead said, "It's contentious on the far-left"?
On PM that evening, Carolyn Quinn talked to the Beeb's North America correspondent Paul Adams, who put the case for healthcare reform better than Obama himself (unless you like the president's style of rhetoric). I say that, but he wasn't paraphrasing the president at all. He was merely 'stating the facts to put the story in context':
"America spends 2.5 trillion dollars a year and rising on healthcare."
"46 million Americans, by the most conservative estimate, have no health insurance cover at all and another 25 million are underinsured."
"A recent study found that the majority of all bankruptcies in 2007 were linked in one way or another to medical expenses."
As soon as I heard this last one my ears pricked up. This study, unascribed by Adams, turns out - after a little foray into the internet - to be one researched by leading advocates for radical health care reform!
A semblance of balance was achieved by Carolyn Quinn, who interviewed a Republican congressman, Paul Brown, and a Democrat senator, Lynn Woolsey. Both got similar times to speak. As they should! Still, Mr Brown was interrupted - unlike Ms Woolsey - and Carolyn's questions to the Republican was noticably less respectful that those to the Democrat.
"He told me why he calls the healthcare bill 'a stinking rotten fish'."
"You say that but over the past month we've seen the debate descend to pretty low levels, for example seeing posters of President Obama portrayed as Hitler and the accusations that Obama is a fascist. What did you think of those sort of campaigns? Did you condone them?"
This last question was especially rich given the BBC's own record with Bush-as-Hitler posters!!!
This mockery of one side of the two-sided debate continued on that night's The World Tonight, where Paul Adams returned to say, "The Americans have spent the summer in an angry, frankly often idiotic, debate", and - after saying that both sides got angry - played snippets of four angry, idiotic people, all from the anti-Obama side!! Adams went on to sing Obama's praises on the harp and with the psaltery: "High hopes and the loftiest of ambitions, Barack Obama taking office...promising to tackle the nation's ills. This president, already transformational in the eyes of many, offering the tantalising prospect of change across the board." His subsequent report, however, did balance the skeptical Professor Peter Morici of Maryland University with the wholly supportive Democrat congressman, Chris van Hollen - though it almost goes without saying that van Hollen got both the first and the last word!
Robin Lustig's own interviews with the liberal editor of The Nation magazine Katrina vanden Heuvel and David Kuhn of the conservative-leaning RealClearPolitics were, in contrast, wholly fair.
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Even Jeremy Paxman eases off on the Liberal Democrats.
Tonight's Newsnight discussion about spending cuts was a gladatorial contest between Labour's Liam Byrne, the Conservative's Philip Hammond and Vince Cable of the Lib Dems.
Compare the Interruption Coefficients:
Byrne - 2.3
Hammond - 2.3
Cable - 0.9
Then again the Great Sage was at least answering Paxo's questions, whereas Philip Hammond answered only some of them and Liam Byrne answered none of them!!
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
I've been forwarded an excellent letter by Steven Morson, UKIP's prospective parliamentary candidate for Bromsgrove - currently home (or one of them) to Julie Kirkbride MP - written in complaint to the chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons. It chimes in with a good deal of what this blog has been saying and merits reading in full. It contains many fresh examples of BBC bias and is wonderfully readable. The wider its circulation the better. Steven's frustration is palpable and wholly understandable, as you will see. Even if you're not a UKIP supporter, please give it a read. A great deal of it applies to the BBC's treatment of the centre-right as a whole.
Sir Michael Lyons
W1A 1AA 29th August 2009
Dear Sir Michael,
With immediate effect, I am withholding my television licence fee, and as I intend to encourage many more people to do the same, I think it is rather important that you know why.
I realise that a single licence fee of £142.50 is a ‘drop in the ocean’ compared to the £3.36 billion annual income from this state-enforced licence tax, and a fraction of a percentage point of the obscene £141 million in loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB), but I feel that it will become a story in it’s own right. I have joined the Facebook group “10 Million for No TV Licence”, which at the time of writing, has 537,400 members.
I doubt that you will be surprised to learn that I am a member and prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) of the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). I intend to campaign within my party to introduce the proposition that our party adopts the abolition of the TV licence tax as policy in its Culture, Media and Sport portfolio.
My letters of complaint through the BBC’s normal channels, plus those of my friends and colleagues, have become an object lesson in futility, which is why several of us have taken this step. In many cases, the responses of the BBC are shared amongst the wider membership - more for ridicule than illumination - and are held as examples of anfractuous reasoning and needless digressions. Please note that I do not expect a point-by-point refutation of this letter, as some or all of the points will already have been inadequately answered by your Complaints Department. The request I am making is for a fundamental shift in the practice of political broadcasting, including conformity with legislation, guidelines and commissioned reports, and the basic concept of fairness.
In my opinion, the BBC has, throughout both election periods stipulated below:
Broken its covenant to “educate, inform and entertain” its audience. Virtually all of the output of all television channels has been aptly described by Peter Hitchens as “mental slurry”, and the BBC is as guilty as anyone of producing it
Failed to provide adequate coverage or at least reflect the political views of people and interested parties in anything other than the three main political parties, i.e. Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat
Treated the United Kingdom Independence Party as a single-issue, extremist party and never once asked them to explain or discuss their range of policies that have been in place for more than a year in the context of a serious discussion (I exclude the bromidic BBC 1 “Question Time” programme)
Failed to take the concerns of many UKIP supporters over the accusations of unfair coverage in these election periods seriously
Failed to follow its own “Editorial Guidelines (Politics and Public Policy) – Broadcasting during elections”, viz: “…news judgements at election time are made within a framework of democratic debate [your bold emphasis] which ensures that due weight is given to hearing the views and examining and challenging the policies of all parties. Significant minor parties should also receive some network coverage during the campaign.”
By dint of points 2), 3) and 5), potentially and possibly interfered with, or at least attempted to affect, the outcome of two elections in contravention of its charter and UK laws
Wilfully failed to observe Bridcut Principles 1 to 5 (listed in Appendix A), failed to provide Principle 8, and seemingly couldn’t care about 11 or 12.
Underestimated the public need for radical change at the very heart of our political institutions, especially the House of Commons, by stifling all but mainstream opinion, and failed to reflect this view in a cross-party consensus
Committed a breach of section 5.5. (and possibly others) of The Ofcom Broadcasting Code (Oct. 2008), viz:
“Due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved on the part of any person providing a service (listed above). This may be achieved within a programme or over a series of programmes taken as a whole.”
Continued it’s trashing of the image and reputation of our Royal family and its place in the affections of many British people and our state’s constitution, by persistent and unchallenged trivialisation, negative reporting and imagery, and denigration through BBC radio and TV “comedy” output. As a case in point, a ‘brand new comedy series’ on BBC Radio 4 on 21st August at 6:30 pm aimed at mocking the weeks headlines started in the first episode with a non-story from the Times turned into a ‘joke’ at the expense of Prince Edward, within two minutes of starting.
The straw that ‘broke the camels back’ for me was the by-election in Norwich North on 23rd July. I drove to Norwich to volunteer in Glenn Tingle’s campaign, and saw first hand the disgraceful media bias our candidate had to tolerate. This was only part of a profound and unsubtle anti-UKIP broadcasting policy by television and radio programming to deny a voice to a legitimate and respectable party - the fourth largest in UK politics, and second largest in European politics. The BBC actively promoted the Green Party as an alternative to the two main parties, without even mentioning UKIP on several occasions in its reportage.
4th June elections
In the approaching weeks to the June 4th County Council and European Parliament elections, I noticed the following transgressions:-
Watching repeats of “Have I Got News For You” reminded me how, whenever UKIP is mentioned, it is merely for cheap ridicule and unfailingly we are represented by Robert Kilroy-Silk. The fact that he left the party in January 2005 doesn’t seem to trouble the programme makers or the BBC commissioning / editorial staff.
On 8th May this year on Radio 4’s Today programme, after listening, I felt compelled to e-mail this complaint:-
This morning, Nigel Farage MEP was interviewed by James Naughtie. Throughout the interview, he constantly shuffled papers, and on my stereo, it sounded so close to the microphone that it almost drowned Mr. Farage out.
This is not the first time; far from it. He seems to make a habit of doing this when his vocal intonation betrays the fact that he feels dislike / derision for the subject of his interview.
Please ask him to desist.
The reply (typical of its kind) included this utter irrelevance:
James is an extremely experienced and well respected presenter…
A view not shared by me or the blogosphere apparently.
In the 10:00 pm news on BBC 1 on or around 11th May, Nick Robinson –the BBC’s so-called Political Editor, was delivering a live piece to Huw Edwards in the studio from Westminster, about the MPs expenses scandal and its possible effects on the coming 4th June poll. He included this:-
…and when people are asked about how they might vote in the European elections, Labour is neck-and-neck at 19% with the U.K. Independence Party. A huge surge of support for them, that despite the fact that one of the MEPs they elected last time is currently in prison for being on benefit fraud [sic]. He was, I ought to say, expelled from the party.
This was clearly a reference to Ashley Mote, MEP. As many UKIP officials were tired of explaining even by then, Mote withheld vital information (a pending civil court case for housing benefit fraud) from the Party when he applied to us for candidature. This would have precluded him standing for any office in the party, much less a parliamentary seat. Ashley Mote was released from jail in November 2007 from his subsequent conviction, eighteen months before Mr. Robinson’s report. Nick Robinson was either wilfully and artfully propagandist, or woefully incompetent and outdated with his ‘facts’. In either case, is he a suitable journalist to hold the BBC’s most senior political reporting post, or was he merely ensuring that facts didn’t get in the way of a “good story”? Or obeying orders?
In BBC1’s Question Time in May, a woman asked if the MP expenses scandal would give a boost to “….extremist parties like the BNP?” David Dimbleby asked her “By extremist, do you also mean UKIP?” Why? By whose criteria (apart from Dimbleby’s) is UKIP considered “extremist”?
On 21st May edition of the same programme (from Salisbury), the normal complement of five ‘talking heads’ was bizarrely increased by the presence of Yasmin Alibi-Brown, the BBC’s favourite and ubiquitous rent-a-Leftie (and habitual interrupter), ensuring that Marta Andreasen’s contribution – as UKIP Treasurer – was kept to an absolute minimum.
In Michael Ball’s Radio 2 programme on a Sunday morning before 4th June, Peter Riddell of The Times was the guest reviewer of the Sunday newspapers. I have admired Peter’s insights, analysis and writing for many years until, when discussing MPs expenses and the 4th June, he stated that ‘this will give a boost to “….extremist parties like the BNP and UKIP”…’
On 3rd June, UKIP Leader Nigel Farage was interviewed by Emily Maitlis for BBC 2 Newsnight. It was shameful; hostile questioning is expected, but constant interruptions are not.
On polling day – 4th June - there was virtually no coverage of the story behind multiple cases of an attempt at electoral fraud by councils up and down the country who issued ballot papers folded to obscure the UKIP box at the bottom of the paper. Nigel Farage threatened to demand a rerun of the European elections and demanded the resignation of Elections Minister Michael Wills because of fears that our party had lost votes as its name fell below the crease – machine formed in many cases - of the folded ballot paper. The Electoral Commission had to issue urgent advice to polling stations and returning officers to hand out unfolded ballot papers to voters. I heard nothing in the BBC news of this. The BNP claim that they picked up many votes this way that would otherwise have gone to us.
After 4th June elections, I noticed the following:
In the BBC 1 Question Time programme on 11th June, UKIP was not mentioned once; not by the panel or the audience. For a programme that seeks to explore and discuss the week’s politics and current events, this is far more than extraordinary or coincidental. Presumably, this programme is recorded and then edited for broadcast, so only one of two scenarios is possible in this case; either a) no-one in that studio mentioned UKIP even once, or b) it was mentioned and then edited out. In the case of (a), this would be remarkable, as not only did UKIP poll second place in the European parliament elections, but were the only political party to increase their vote share on 2004 results. Surely someone would have raised this point? In addition, UKIP won several County Council seats, Labour no longer controlled a single county council in England and the Liberal Democrats reduced to one. Labour lost three quarters of their councillors in England and resulted with less than the Lib Dems. How could UKIP not have been mentioned?
However, if point 1) seems odd, what is absolutely peculiar is that Question Time was followed - as usual – by “This Week”, but we fared no better. If there was a place for discussion and deep political analysis, it was here (I was a regular viewer). The only time UKIP was mentioned was by Diane Abbott MP, but it was dismissive and in passing. That Andrew Neil did not mention UKIP is just unfathomable!
In the early hours of Monday 8th June as European ballot results were declared, Mike Nattrass MEP stated in his speech that he asked the BBC for a debate on the Lisbon Treaty with the Conservatives and other party representatives. Why was this cut from the edited highlights of his speech in the news?
Nikki Sinclaire, who was elected as an MEP for the West Midlands, was invited on to BBC1’s The Politics Show of 14th June for the West Midlands and an interview by Sarah Falkland. Before this, on the national segment, Ken Clarke, Conservative MP was interviewed live about public spending, debt, the NHS and Royal Mail. Ms. Sinclaire was prevented from seeing any monitors in her time in the studio, so it is perhaps just as well that she wasn’t questioned on his responses to Jon Sopel’s questions.
In an appallingly biased West Midlands segment on this programme, Susana Mendonça preceded an interview with “one of our regular commentators” - Prof. Mick Temple of Stafford University - with the fact that in the West Midlands, UKIP’s increase in vote share was the highest in the country. He said:
“I think UKIP have been very [his emphasis] lucky. Their performance has not been brilliant, they are themselves plagued by expenses scandals, and yet they picked up and extra seat in the West Midlands which quite frankly I don’t think they deserved! I think those Conservative voters who voted UKIP are going to come back to the Conservatives in a general election, but this is not a clear indication that the Conservatives will win the next general election; on the votes cast in the European and local elections, they’ll be lucky to scrape a working majority. That’s not good enough a year before an election.”
It is a political tenet of our age that many habitual voters of the three main parties vote UKIP in a European election because they trust us - almost more - than anyone else. This was mentioned to me, unprompted, by Conservatives at the county and European vote counts, even by Ms. Julie Kirkbride – my MP. It seems to be a revelation to Prof. Temple, who seems to be a professor of food science judging by these sour grapes and rotten tomatoes!
‘Deserved’? Why was no-one invited to offer a response to counter this ignorant nonsense, especially as Nikki Sinclaire MEP was sitting in the studio? If Mr. Temple had been on the campaign trail with UKIP activists in the region, he would have seen first-hand the enormous amount of hard work and personal investment made by ordinary people committed to bringing decent, honest change to British and European politics. It was rewarded in the vote share.
“A working majority”? Since the end of last year, polls have put the Conservatives at a minimum of 9%, and mostly this year in the 13 – 19% range, ahead of Labour. This by any measure would ensure a very healthy majority for the governing party.
Moreover, to which “expenses scandals” was he referring? Ashley Mote, as explained, was effectively nothing to do with UKIP, and Tom Wise is awaiting trial on such charges. Unless, like everyone else at the BBC and everyone they interview, he is presciently convinced of Mr. Wise’ guilt. Perhaps I’m alone in thinking it strange that I have never once heard mention on the BBC that the Conservative’s Chief Whip in the European parliament, Den Dover, was required to pay back £445,000 in “unaccountable expenditure”.
This same segment then went on to interview Michael Cashman, now the lone Labour MEP in the West Midlands. He said:
“UKIP as I said earlier, it’s a protest vote. They stand for one thing - pulling out. They were given an easy ride….the denunciation of all of the mainstream parties lifted UKIP and sadly, in other regions, gave oxygen and breath and support to the British National Party.”
More bilge. As I have pointed out in previous correspondence with your Complaints Department and on many weblog pages, if you starve UKIP of the oxygen of publicity, you may end up with some curious and undesirable election results. We were positively asphyxiated by the BBC, and lo and behold, Nick Griffin – BNP Leader - won an MEP seat in the North West.
(Every member of UKIP I have met detests the BNP as much as I, a fact of which I am immensely proud.) If UKIP had polled 17,000 more votes in that region, we would have taken that seat. I have heard people espouse the theory that effectively, the BBC actively campaigned for this BNP victory. Whatever anyone thinks of UKIP – propagandising and prejudices aside, we are nothing like the BNP; I speak as a three-year member. I also never tire of pointing out that in the 1980’s, the voices of Sinn Fein’s political leaders were dubbed by actors to - in theory – deny the IRA the ‘oxygen of publicity’. But at least their words got out.
Just as I thought this programme had cornered the market in ill-thought out nonsense and anti-UKIP propaganda with the previous two contributions, Susana Mendonça introduces an interview with Liz Lynne, Liberal Democrat MEP with this line:
“ …the fourth placed Liberal Democrats, who keep their one MEP in the region, warn that UKIP’s success is bad news for the Midlands.”
Liz Lynne MEP said:
“If you don’t get MEPs going in there to work, then they can’t stand up for their constituents so I hope they will change their mind. I hope they will engage with the whole process to make sure we have more jobs coming into this region, more funding coming into this region. That is what the job of an MEP is.
I don’t think Mike Nattrass MEP needs to be reminded of that, as he is the only person – anywhere - to tell us that in October last year, the EU parliament approved a €97 million subsidy for bullfighting (after we banned foxhunting), and a €305 million subsidy for growing some of the most carcinogenic tobacco known to man (after we banned smoking in public places). He also tells us of lost contracts due to EU Legislation (e.g. for British trucks that went to Austria instead of LDV in his constituency – sealing their fate) and exorbitant conformity on-costs, the chicanery of the EU Budget, the obscenity of the Common Agricultural Policy, a collapsing parliament roof (Strasbourg – which could have killed 300 people if the EU parliament was sitting), and police assaults on legitimate protestors. He also warned us that the British and French were attempting to set up an EU Navy – to the alarm of British admirals. UKIP’s MEPs carry out sterling work, making sure that the unsustainable lunacy of the European Project is exposed, while MEPs of other parties slavishly toe the line and spuriously defend our membership.
How exactly was Liz Lynne describing “bad news” for ‘the Midlands’? East and West? Why does she think that they will do no work? Judging by results, Mike Nattrass works far harder at being an MEP than the others from whom I‘ve heard nothing. Whatsoever. (By the way, in a recent survey of the most effective MEPs in the European Parliament conducted by the Taxpayers Alliance, a UKIP MEP was rated 7th of 783 in a league table of effectiveness, with seven Labour MEPs – including Michael Cashman – in the bottom ten. And yet here he was berating UKIP.
Later in the national segment, Ken Clarke was again interviewed, this time on the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Again, this was unchallenged, even though Mr. Clarke is a passionate Europhile who is utterly opposed to any referendum by any government on any issue. This despite a poll on ConservativeHome weblog showing that 84% of Conservative party members want a British referendum on the Lisbon Treaty even if it is ratified by all member states.
In all, an utterly disgraceful programme.
In the campaign up to the Norwich North by-election of 23rd July, I noticed the following:
Throughout BBC news coverage on TV and radio, several activists including myself, who had arrived from various parts of the country to help Glenn Tingle’s campaign, noticed that the only party mentioned other than the three main parties was the Green Party.
On BBC 2 Newsnight on Wednesday 15th July in a segment centred in Norwich, interviews were conducted with the three main party candidates. This was followed by an interview with someone from Pitman Training in Norwich. Then, UKIP candidate Glenn Tingle was
given a few seconds, but in a resulting montage graphic of four squares, what was shown? Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat candidates… and a classroom at Pitman Training! We assumed they also had a candidate in the election!
In the same programme, a BBC News East reporter went to a home for elderly people in Norwich, and interviewed four ladies. When he asked them who they would vote for, they said “Not the Conservatives or Labour!” (A moment’s silence). “The Greens?” asked the reporter! “Yes, the Greens. We think!” came the reply.
Whose decision was it to exclude Glenn Tingle, UKIP candidate, from a televised hustings programme only days before the election?
On the evening before my departure, I was told of the existence of a memorandum that was sent from senior BBC management in London to news chiefs at BBC East HQ in Norwich, to the effect that ‘the Green party were to be treated as the fourth party in the by-election coverage, and that UKIP was to be treated the same as the BNP’. Does (or did) such a memo exist, if so who originated this policy, who wrote it, to whom was it sent, who oversaw its compliance, and what do you intend to do about this gross breach of the BBC Charter? The bias we had seen in preceding days certainly seems to confirm its existence.
In an web article entitled “Five key lessons from Norwich North” (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8167588.stm), BBC Chief Political Correspondent James Landale writes:
“Third, the anti-politics, anti-politician, expenses-fuelled vote did not coalesce around any particular party or candidate. The Greens, UKIP and the former diplomat Craig Murray picked up some expenses-driven protest votes but not enough to matter.”
Really? At 4,068 votes, this was UKIP’s strongest ever showing in a parliamentary election (which barely did credit to an excellent candidate), but less than 800 votes behind the Liberal Democrats. With fair media coverage, who knows what could have been achieved? The BBC’s much-touted and fancied Green Party came fifth. James Landale appears to reflect – accurately – the BBC view of the British political spectrum.
For the purpose of brevity, I’ve avoided traversing the minefield that is BBC radio “comedy”. It is an odd experience to hear an audience laughing when nothing funny had been said, but I am getting used to Marcus Brigstocke (and the 6:30pm Radio 4 slot) by now. I doubt I’ll ever get used to Sue Perkins who recently said: “UKIP. Tossers!” bizarrely out of context in a programme as unmemorable as it was un-entertaining.
In an article written for the Daily Telegraph on 24th July entitled “Anti-UKIP and pro-Green: the BBC at its most blatantly biased”, Daniel Hannan, a Conservative MEP wrote:
Throughout the campaign, it ran programmes with Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green spokesmen…. But there was no basis to the claim that they were the fourth party, either nationally or locally. The last test of electoral feeling was June’s European election. The United Kingdom Independence Party won 13 seats and came second; the Greens won two seats and came fifth. In local elections on the same day, UKIP beat the Greens in most Norwich North wards.
Newsnight, Look East and Radio 4 all chose to disregard UKIP and treat the Greens as the main story. Three days before the poll, the BBC’s Eastern region TV held a hustings meeting for four candidates: Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green.
What was the result in the event? UKIP won 11.8 per cent of the vote ‐ comfortably ahead of the Greens and remarkably close to the LibDems (or “worryingly close” as I just heard a Radio 5 Live presenter put it).
One of the responses to Mr. Hannan’s blog (by ‘Patrick’) was this: On the Saturday before the Euro elections, Today ran a five minute attack on UKIP written by Mark Mardell, the BBC Europe editor. It was a total hatchet job with Mardell first telling us what the other parties in Brussels thought of UKIP (they did not like it) and then giving us his own opinion ‐ that UKIP were profoundly unserious golf club militants who had not been made prefects when they were at school.
I am not really a UKIP supporter, since I am rather to their left (although I did vote for them in protest after hearing that), but I made a formal complaint which was just brushed off.
The BBC’s Europe Editor should not tell us his negative opinions of any party in the days before an election ‐ so I am very pleased that Daniel Hannan as a conservative is making this post. A complaint from him to the BBC Trust, about the treatment of a party which he opposes, would carry a lot of weight. The BBC can just ignore the ordinary licence payer.
Like many people in UKIP, I constantly wonder if the soft loans from the EIB have had an effect on output. Although the BBC refuted the suggestion that there would be any effect on the editorial process at the time, one of the conditions of EIB loans is that the aims of the E.U. are promoted and furthered. I, for one, am bewildered as to why an organisation such as the BBC that raises £3.36 billion annually, with almost guaranteed supra-inflationary increases by state-mandated taxation, needs to borrow £141 million from such a source that places its editorial integrity under question. Looking at the quality of BBC output, I am mystified as to where it is spent.
Or is the BBC simply taking orders from 10, Downing Street? To expose the European Union for the fraudulent, inept, overweening, corrupt and devious mess that we think it is might set the British people to question why we are a member of such an organisation, its second largest funder, and cause people to actually question what has been done in their name and with their money but without their electoral mandate.
I turn to the Bridcut Report, “From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel”. It contains Twelve Guiding Principles to ensure impartiality, which I have reproduced in Appendix A. The BBC Trust webpage states the following:
The report is the result of a project first commissioned by the BBC Board of Governors in conjunction with BBC management in November 2005 to identify the challenges and risks to impartiality. The report has been fully endorsed by the BBC Trust, the BBC Executive Board and the BBC Journalism Board.
Endorsed it may have been, although this carries little significant meaning. It is a great shame that it was not ‘embraced’, or even adopted.
As much to blame for this situation are spineless and devious politicians. BBC funding appears to be a ‘third rail’ in British politics – ‘touch it and you die’, but this should not prevent the issue from being addressed. An iniquitous system such as the licence tax cannot be maintained, and this has been stated by commissioned reports, astute and intelligent individuals, and even James Murdoch at the recent McTaggart Lecture in the Edinburgh Television Festival.
Now that I have fully realised that I cannot trust BBC output on news and political coverage, I am reduced to watching one hour of television per week. It is a BBC programme - Dragon’s Den – a fascinating programme which is available on BBC iPlayer, obviating the need for a television. My views, in common with millions of people in this country, are not represented, so why should I pay the BBC licence tax? A programme that I always thought I would like to see made would be a ‘PPC’s only’ version of BBC1’s Question Time for the four main parties, with each party HQ providing a parliamentary candidate of their choice, just before the general election. Given the way the BBC currently reports politics, with its policy of deliberate exclusion of UKIP I do not see this happening.
I intend to use every technological means to achieve the objective I have stated. I will change my mind and resume payment when I detect a sea-change in attitudes towards political coverage on the BBC and it becomes fair and balanced in proportion to a range of electoral results and more representative of reasoned public opinion. In the meantime, I believe a full, independent public enquiry should be launched into the BBC coverage on TV and radio of both election periods, to investigate my charge in point 5) in Grievance above; hence the distribution list below.
I personally believe that British politics is changing profoundly. The effects of the internet, blogging, scandals, and a detachment of the political and media classes from the mood and opinions of the public are coming to a head. Between the general elections of 2001 and 2005, the Labour Party lost 64% of its membership. The number of new members joining UKIP increased our total membership by13% ….between April and July this year.
Steven W. Morson
Prospective parliamentary candidate
UKIP – Bromsgrove.
The Twelve Guiding Principles of the Bridcut report.
1. Impartiality is and should remain the hallmark of the BBC as the leading provider of information and entertainment in the United Kingdom, and as a pre-eminent broadcaster internationally. It is a legal requirement, but it should also be a source of pride.
2. Impartiality is an essential part of the BBC's contract with its audience, which owns and funds the BBC. Because of that, the audience itself will often be a factor in determining impartiality.
3. Impartiality must continue to be applied to matters of party political or industrial controversy. But in today's more diverse political, social and cultural landscape, it requires a wider and deeper application.
4. Impartiality involves breadth of view, and can be breached by omission. It is not necessarily to be found on the centre ground.
5. Impartiality is no excuse for insipid programming. It allows room for fair-minded, evidence-based judgments by senior journalists and documentary makers, and for controversial, passionate and polemical arguments by contributors and writers.
6. Impartiality applies across all BBC platforms and all types of programme. No genre is exempt. But the way it is applied and assessed will vary in different genres.
7. Impartiality is most obviously at risk in areas of sharp public controversy. But there is a less visible risk, demanding particular vigilance, when programmes purport to reflect a consensus for "the common good", or become involved with campaigns.
8. Impartiality is often not easy. There is no template of wisdom which will eliminate fierce internal debate over difficult dilemmas. But the BBC's journalistic expertise is an invaluable resource for all departments to draw on.
9. Impartiality can often be affected by the stance and experience of programme makers, who need constantly to examine and challenge their own assumptions.
10. Impartiality requires the BBC to examine its own institutional values, and to assess the effect they have on its audiences.
11. Impartiality is a process, about which the BBC should be honest and transparent with its audience: this should permit greater boldness in its programming decisions. But impartiality can never be fully achieved to everyone's satisfaction: the BBC should not be defensive about this but ready to acknowledge and correct significant breaches as and when they occur.
12. Impartiality is required of everyone involved in output. It applies as much to the most junior researcher as it does to the director general. But editors and executive producers must give a strong lead to their teams. They must ensure that the impartiality process begins at the conception of a programme and lasts throughout production: if left until the approval stage, it is usually too late.