The main topic on this week's The Record Europe was the EU's response to the crisis in Greece. Presenter Shirin Wheeler's various biases were to the fore.
Her introductory report (which, in passing, dismissed Nigel Farage's star turn as a mere "sideshow") talked of the wave of strikes hitting Greece, complete with the obligatory images of police beating demonstrators (anarchists actually), saying "Cutting pensions, raising taxes and the retirement age, the plans aren't going down at all". This ignores the fact that opinion polls in Greece show strong public support - a significant majority - for austerity measures. Shirin is not alone at the BBC in slanting the story in this way. Is it because the Left instinctively thinks all strikes just must be good? Or maybe because the BBC is 'institutionally biased' against public spending cuts and cannot but share the sentiments of the Greek protesters? Or is it because strong 'austerity' measures (as in their coverage of Ireland) are associated in their mind with the British Conservatives?
She continued, "As well as this, Greece is being investigated over reports that at the time of the launch of the euro back in 1999 those in charge cooked the books to make the grade for membership. The Greek prime minister George Papandreou and his socialist ministers, who only won power in the autumn, are already feeling beleaguered and unsupported". Here's the second layer of bias. Shirin's sympathy for the new socialist government (and she stressed the word 'socialist') also showed up in her later questioning. The previous conservative government is getting all the blame at the BBC. But who exactly was "in charge" when Greece "cooked the books to make the grade for membership" in 1999? It was the Socialists (in power from 1993-2004)! Did she not know that (surely unthinkable in a 'widely respected' BBC reporter!)? Or does the careful phrasing of 'those in charge' reveal that she did know that but just wasn't letting her viewers in on the fact (in the interests of socialist solidarity maybe?)? This inconvenient detail is a truth few at the BBC seem interested in pointing out, so Shirin is not alone in this.
And, of course, it's now all the speculators' fault: "The real drama lies in how the EU might help to stop speculators gambling on the fortunes of Greece and the rest of the Eurozone. The jobs and livelihoods of millions could depend on this." That the EU, including the UK, should be helping Greece out in this regard was the motivating principle of all Shirin's questions throughout the following studio discussion.
That studio discussion involved four guests:
- Vicky Ford, British Conservative
- Peter Skinner, British Labour
- Stavros Lambrinidis, Greek Socialist
- Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, German Liberal
Can you guess which one was interrupted the most? The answer to this fiendishly difficult question will follow this fine picture of Toledo by the Greek:
Yes, it was Vicky Ford, the British Tory. She was interrupted four times, resulting in an I.C. of 1.6. The British Labour MP, Mr Skinner, was not interrupted once (I.C. of 0). Vicky's first answer was interrupted after 19 seconds, then again after 19 more seconds, then after 27 more seconds and finally after just 6 more seconds. Mr Skinner's first answer lasted 52 seconds, without interruption. As they say in Brussels, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.
Shirin's final interruption of Vicky Ford was the most heartfelt: "But I mean you can't just stand...This is what the British politicians have been doing a little bit, which is sort-of standing on the sidelines saying 'it's nothing to do with me'". She also put that point about British politicians 'standing on the sidelines' to the Labour MEP and, for some reason, also to the German Liberal. Well Shirin, let the Greeks go to the IMF, was Vicky's answer (when she got a chance), which sounds like the right answer to me. Not to Shirin Wheeler though.
Now, in fairness to Shirin here was another discussion later in the show, out in the halls of the European parliament, with Timothy Kirkhope (Con) and Sarah Ludford (Lib Dem), where - in a turn up for the books - it was the Lib Dem who was interrupted rather than the Tory (I.C. of 0 for Mr Kirkhope, I.C. of 0.4 for Ms. Ludford).