BBC Complaints: The link you need!

Sunday, 21 March 2010


So Channel 4's Dispatches (the sort of programme the BBC's Panorama should be) and The Sunday Times have caught a number of former Labour cabinets ministers in a sting over cash for influence. Big news. Even Andrew Marr discussed it in his paper review.
The Sunday Times headline reads Revealed: Labour’s cash for influence scandal

The Daily Mail has 'Pay £5,000 a day and you can meet Tony': Four top Labour MPs trapped in TV sting by fake lobby firm

The Observer/Guardian drops the word 'Labour' but knows where the heart of the story lies: MPs targeted in undercover sting over cash for influence.

But what of the BBC News website? How does it splash the story on its home page?
*********Labour pledges lobbying crackdown

I nearly missed the story, even though it's the second item on the home page, because of this remarkably mundane headline. Only because I immediately recognised the face of Stephen Byers (which puts me in a tiny minority of the population!) did it click with me that this was the very story I was after. It's not a headline that's going to grab many browsers of the BBC site by the lapels and say 'Read me!', is it? Which, I suspect, is the point. They may not want it to be too widely read.

This pro-Labour gloss is pretty standard stuff. It was almost inevitable than the BBC News website would produce a headline like this.
Click into the article itself and you'll see that it pursues the same gloss from the very start: Labour has promised to introduce stricter rules for lobbyists following claims three former cabinet ministers had offered their services for money.

They then move straight on to the BBC's standard practice whenever Labour MPs get caught out over anything, to frame it as them 'denying' any wrongdoing. (The same slant is not so often applied to Conservatives, who are usually 'accused' of wrongdoing with the denials coming much later in the story). Here we get: "Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon have denied any wrongdoing after they were secretly recorded for a Channel 4 documentary."

It came out during Andrew Marr's paper review that the Conservatives who were approached by the 'stingers' turned them down. That casts the Conservatives in a better light than Labour. The BBC News website ignores this aspect of the story.

To complete this spin-job, the only 'blockquote' put in a box at the side of the article is from a 'Labour spokesman', blandly reading What this case shows is that we need moretransparency in the entire lobbying system.


  1. It will be interesting to see if it is mentioned at all on the Toady Programme tomorrow.
    If James Naughty is on the programme then if mentioned then it will be made into a nothing issue. They certainly did not cover Baroness Udin or the Purcell saga.

  2. You would think with 3 hours of space to fill that they would cover it, but I'm not holding my breath.

    Maybe we'll get Norman Smith at about 6.35, doing his usual pro-Labour-doctoring of the story, and then Nick Robinson and, perhaps, Peter Kellner of YouGov at about 8.30 - if we're lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it).


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