Saturday, 18 November 2017

Open Thread (now even plainer)

Thank you.

The less moderate candidate

Ee bah gum, Scottish Labour has a new leader! Yorkshireman Richard Leonard beat Anas Sarwar to win the post today. 

The BBC's Scottish Editor Sarah Smith informed BBC One viewers this evening that Mr Sarwar "was the more moderate candidate in what was a fractious race". 

I guess that makes Mr Leonard 'the less moderate candidate' - or, to put it another way, 'the more extreme candidate'. 

A nice example of 'bias by labelling' there (even if it's true).

BBC transparency (or the lack of it)

Here's an interesting take on BBC transparency from the estimable Bill Rogers of Trading as WDR (h/t Peter): 

It's a fair comment to make

This week's Newswatch saw Samira interviewing Katya Adler. It began with Katya saying that the sense viewers have that "BBC reporting is constantly knocking British negotiators, looking for failure" is "a fair comment to make." Aha, I thought! But, guess what? It's turns out that it's not the BBC's fault. (It never is on Newswatch). Here's a transcript:

Samira Ahmed: Well, the BBC's Europe Editor Katya Adler spends much of her life living and breathing the Brexit process and she joins me now from Brussels. Welcome to Newswatch Katya. The biggest complaint we get is about perceived bias, a sense that BBC reporting is constantly knocking British negotiators, looking for failure. 
Katya Adler: It's a fair comment to make. It's a comment you would expect to make. As Europe Editor it's my job to put across the European perspective. Now that might come across as anti-UK but actually it's just putting across the other point of view. And as we see these Brexit negotiations become pretty bad-tempered, obviously there's very, very, very differing points of view. 
Samira Ahmed: Taking all that on board, viewers still feel that we don't seem to get the same scrutiny of EU negotiators and their strategy. 
Katya Adler: Since the Brexit negotiations started...I don't know if you're familiar with the Sicilian word - the Sicilian or Italian word - omerta. It means 'silence'. And we're sort of seeing a kind of omerta inside the European Commission building, amongst the many commissioners and amongst EU leaders themselves. They've been told to zip it and only let Michel Barnier, the lead Brexit negotiator, speak about Brexit. At this point in the proceedings, we just don't have that same possibility, the same access, to talk to the main players on the European side, as we do on the British side, to really put those difficult questions to them on camera, or on the record in a radio interview, and I understand that for our viewers and listeners, for the readers on the website, that is extremely frustrating, and it feels like we're not doing our job. But believe me, because that's largely mine as Europe Editor, I am doing that job and I am asking those questions, but the players are not allowing me to do that on the record and that's why I have to quote sources and contacts and EU diplomats. 
Samira Ahmed: A lot of complaints say, actually, there's acres of coverage but very little fact. Why do you spend so much airtime speculating? 
Katya Adler: Many in the UK feel we voted for Brexit, basically it's a done deal, it's happened,  like let's move on with it, let's see some action, and there isn't very much action. And I feel your pain on that one, because we have to deal with that too. So Brexit remains one of the top stories of importance for us in the United Kingdom. So it's going to remain, you know, right up there, and we will have to keep coming back to it as the negotiating rounds proceed - even though, actually, for example, the last Brexit negotiating round, pretty much nothing happened in terms of news, but we had to cover it and we had to say that very little had happened. And that leads you to speculate - and this is where the speculation comes in - will there will be a deal in the end or will we be in a no deal scenario?
Samira Ahmed: How do you feel about the fact that a number of viewers say that the coverage is just too complicated? 
Katya Adler: Then I would say that Brexit is a very complicated issue. Just to name the obvious: What about our financial services industry? What about agriculture, and other goods? And what happens to the label on those goods that say, 'Made in the UK', but actually, between the jar and the labels and the content, it crosses over between the UK and the rest of Europe several times before a product is finished? These are all fiendishly complicated, and that is why, as well as Brexit negotiations, Brexit negotiators, you have lawyers on both sides working on it. So this is dry and detailed stuff, but that is what goes into untangling the UK from the EU, and in the end will go into making a trade agreement between the two sides. 
Samira Ahmed: Repetitive coverage is a big charge. We see a lot of men in grey suit walking in and out of buildings. Is making this coverage different an interesting challenge?
Katya Adler: Well, on a day to day, hour to hour, even week to week level, it can seem really quite dreary, boring, without very much progress. And certainly I can tell you that, yes, here in Brussels I'm surrounded by the EU institutions around the BBC office. They are grey and they are full of people in grey and navy blue suits...I've got my navy blue suit on today just to fit in with all of that...and that can be a little bit difficult sometimes. The way we can lift it is in a different kind of coverage that we have, whether it's my blog where I can get a little bit of colour into it. We have something called Brexitcast - the podcast that goes out every week....
Samira Ahmed: Yes, tell us about Brexitcast. What's the thinking behind it? 
Katya Adler: Well, the thinking behind Brexitcast is twofold really, I think, on the one hand, because, for example, if I have to do 'a live' - like, you know, a Q&A on the Ten O'Clock News, I'm often told, You've got 50 seconds - five zero seconds - in which to get so much nuance in. That's pretty much impossible, never mind trying to get fact and a bit of colour into it. It's very hard. You go on Brexitcast and you've got ages of time to chat with, you know, Adam, who's the host here in Brussels, or Chris, who's the host in London, and there's Laura Kuenssberg, the political editor of the BBC. There's a lot of knowledge in there, and there's lot of humour as well, and we are able to get some humour and banter into it. But, yes, as I admit, Brexit is not something where events happen in a fast and furious manner, but it is, nonetheless, a hugely dramatic moment in EU and UK history. 
Samira Ahmed: Katya Adler, thanks for coming on Newswatch. 

Friday, 17 November 2017

On Radio 4 Comedy

Sioned Wiliam

Sioned Wiliam, Radio 4's Commissioning Editor for Comedy, is no mean comedienne herself - at least if her Feedback interview with Roger Bolton today is anything to go by. 

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

She played the part of a parody version of a BBC editor responding to charges of bias and denying everything, but so badly that she ended up making a complete dunderhead of 'herself'. 

She was absolutely brilliant. It's the best satire I've heard on Radio 4 in a long while and her performance couldn't be bettered. I almost believed she was 'for real'. 

Seriously, Sioned should be given her own Radio 4 series. (And, being Radio 4's Commissioning Editor for Comedy, if she can't commission herself, who can?). She has a great catchphrase too - "I don't think I agree". 

Roger Bolton made for a wonderful straight man here too. [And a genuine 'all credit to him' for his probing today].

Here's part of the script:

Roger Bolton: Well, let's turn to a political issue. It couldn't be more controversial at the moment. Sue Cooper wrote to us about Brexit.

Sue Cooper: I have to say that I am deeply disappointed by the way News Quiz has taken a very left wing and anti-Brexit stance. It used to be funny but it is now very biased. And when they start off arrogantly treating those who voted Leave as though they are completely stupid I reach for the 'Off' switch'.

Roger BoltonDo you think Sue has a point?

Sioned Wiliam: Well, I don't agree that it's coming from one position. We have a range of political voices on...

Roger Bolton: [interrupting] Oh no. If you listen to it consistently....I am not taking sides, but it is clear that the majority of jokes are broadly anti-Brexit.
Sioned WiliamI don't think I agree. I mean, actually, if you look at the last series. There were three episodes in which Brexit didn't feature at all....
Roger Bolton[interrupting] No, but when Brexit is raised, on the whole, most people's view would be that the majority of jokes are, if you, like opposed, as it were, against Brexiteers.
Sioned WiliamI don't think I do agree....

And on it went, and....

....News just just just in...

I've been informed by sources close to the BBC that this was not satire. 

It was a real interview. Sioned Wiliam was actually being serious and not - repeat not - engaging in comedy gold after all. 

I'm in shock, and will need to take a break to recover.

That girl, and that former BBC sports reporter who became head of the F.A.

After getting over my disappointment I decided, being a blogger about BBC bias, to put Sioned's Panglossian statements to the test by listening to tonight's The Now Show (which Roger and Sioned moved onto later). 

And, guess what? There were plenty of anti-Brexit jokes from Steve 'n' Hugh but not a single pro-Brexit joke/anti-EU joke. 

Not one. 

Listen for yourselves. Not one pro-Brexit joke and lots of anti-Brexit jokes. (The first five minutes will suffice if you're pressed for time).

And except for one mild dig at Jeremy Corbyn - later 'balanced' by a segment seriously citing his views on austerity and then running with a series of vaguely-anti-austerity gags - the targets were utterly predictable: Trump, Mrs May, Boris, the DUP, Nigel Farage, Brexit, Greggs. (Even Mugabe and Kim Jong-un got off lightly in comparison, Yes, really, they did!). 

Now that I know that Sioned wasn't just pretending to be a completely idiotic BBC high-up, I'm becoming seriously worried about her. 

If she genuinely believes that programmes like The Now Show and The News Quiz are 'balanced' because they invite on people like Hugo Rifkind and Danny Finkelstein, who she went on to name in her defence - despite both of them having voted for us to remain in the EU - then she is seriously delusional. 

Maybe she needs a few months off. May I suggest that she use her presumably huge BBC salary to book into Morecambe's magnificent Midland Hotel and partake of the sea air and the spectacular Lakeland views for several weeks.

She's clearly in need of it. (And I'll buy her a large glass of wine).

The very picture of smug Radio 4 comedy?

And as for The Now Show itself, good grief! Please hire a vet to put me to sleep before I ever listen to it again. 

The new 'talent' really needs to try harder. The old 'talent' is tired. 

And Jake - Mr Jake Yapp - please stop lowering yourself. 

...and then you 'self-censored' that bit of your famous Radio 4 satire when Radio 4 granted you your own one-off...

...and now, garlic and stake readied, you've become a The Now Show regular, simply pandering to the Radio 4 studio audience types . (Sell out!)

I don't blame you actually. Why not? Grab the loot from the BBC licence fee payer and get the BBC Pension Fund lawyers to help you stash most of it in a Caribbean tax haven.

That's my advice, and you'd be wise to take it.

P.S. The Daily Mail has a write-up about this today

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Boom Bang a Bang

Has this ever happened to you? You're enjoying a nice nap at work when someone in your office suddenly shouts 'Boom!' and wakes you from your happy slumbers?

Well, it must be like that many a night at the BBC - at least according to The Sun who splashed today with the 'TV scandal' that BBC News Channel staff are snoozing the night away at BBC licence fee payers' expense. 

A BBC snitch told The Sun that "during a 12-hour night shift some staff do around an hour of work" and sent them a dozen or so photos of BBC staff 'sending exclusive reports from the Land of Nod', so to speak. 

Sir Peter Bone MP (and, one presumes, Mrs Bone too) is aghast.

The BBC hasn't taken this lying down - or slumped over their desks fast asleep either. BBC staff have taken to Twitter en masse to mock The Sun and the BBC Press Office has re-tweeted that poll graphic about trust again, with a Sun-baiting tweak: 

Alas, not one person (not even a BBC editor) ever bothered to shout 'Boom!' when I wrote a truly sleep-shattering piece recently about this very poll, but the fact remains that this BBC-commissioned IPSOS Mori poll is old - and some might say [see what I did there?] ' fake' - news. 

We've had an election in between then and now. Peoples views of the BBC might have changed over the last nine or more months. The BBC's stock could have plummeted. Who knows? 

Yet the BBC Press Office tried to pass the results off as a new poll with new findings earlier this month - like some dodgy restaurateur passing off last week's leftovers as 'a Chef's special'.

Right, you can all go back to sleep and watch the BBC News Channel now........


Some say she ‘resigned’, but never mind. It’s ‘good’ that the BBC reported it, even if they had to cast doubt on it even as they said it. 

Presumably the timorous use of ‘scare quotes’ is to indicate that it was ‘reported speech’ rather than an accidental ‘value-judgement’ on the part of the 'reporter'.
A potential Labour councillor has been removed from the candidate list after being accused of being anti-Semitic.
Nasreen Khan was hoping to stand in next year's Bradford council elections.
The party removed Ms Khan after investigating claims reported on the Jewish News website about comments it said she posted on Facebook in 2012.
The BBC has contacted Ms Khan for comment. Labour said it "condemns all anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms”.

I can’t help noticing that the BBC is careful to tell us that the claims (of antisemitism) were reported on the Jewish News website, using the “distancing” framework:   
“about comments it said she posted on Facebook in 2012.”

Well, ‘it’, being the “Jewish News”,  ‘would say that, wouldn’t they?’ - as would the Labour Party when it said:
"it condemns all anti-Semitism in the strongest possible terms”.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

And there's more...

Another lead story on the BBC News website this evening - though nowhere else - is this:

The musician in question will be apologising for Brexit (which he associates with "hate") across the continent of Europe.

Is this really one of the main stories in the world (or the UK) today?

Compare and contrast

I've given this one a few hours as I wanted to see if the BBC would change its angle or not, but as it hasn't...

It's as if the BBC isn't prepared to yield any positive ground to Boris Johnson.

Indeed, if you click into the respective reports, you'll see that this continues and that the contrast becomes even sharper.

From Sky News:

From ITV News:

From BBC News:

That's quite something, isn't it? Only the Foreign Office saying that the meeting has been 'positive' eh?

Why is the BBC News website refusing to report that Mr Ratcliffe said something positive and constructive about the UK's Foreign Secretary today? 

Huw's at Ten

On last night's BBC News at Ten, Huw Edwards could have introduced the Brexit segment like this:
The House of Commons has started to take a detailed look at the legislation designed to take Britain out of the European Union. The EU Withdrawal Bill will end the primacy of European law, but MPs have tabled some 500 amendments, including one which opposes setting a date in law for Britain's departure.
Instead he introduced it like this:
The House of Commons has started to take a detailed look at the controversial legislation designed to take Britain out of the European Union. The EU Withdrawal Bill will end the primacy of European law, but MPs have tabled some 500 amendments, including one which opposes setting a date in law for Britain's departure.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017


The BBC has gone way too far this time, plugging some luxury 'eco hotel' in the Andes and being snobbish about the UK's finest seaside resort in the process (h/t Peter).

Just look at the caption! The cheeky beggars!!

And, no, Radio 4 I won't 'Like' your Page!

At least the fine folk who visit Facebook are blowing richly-deserved raspberries at the BBC for this outrage:

  • Please note - Your guest house in Morecambe has a stunning view of the mountains of the Lake district, across Morecambe Bay. Save yourself the air fare and come here. No humming birds, but a great many overwintering wading birds on this important part of the North Atlantic Flyway.
  • Sorry, I fail to see how that can be 'Eco' anything as the first thing you see is a stack of air conditioning units and a satellite dish on the roof. And I'm sure the forest would have been far better off without that building there. Morecambe for me 😃
  • Great post, but why the nasty bourgeois snipe at Morecambe? Not everyone can afford these luxuriously expensive hols! Show some sensitivity caption writer for r4 posts.
  • Morecambe is home to the stunning Midland Hotel.
  • Why the snobbery about Morecambe? Had some great holidays there. Some people just want a nice view and a relaxing stroll along the promenade and what is wrong with that?
  • Your conspicuous consumption and selfish use of resources to get their means it wont be around for long
  • How does one get there? And back? Few more quick qus: The video... but cheesy... shot by them, or the BBC? The lodge... does the climate warrant a/c? If so, is it provided? Or fans? 5 star ratings tend to require certain features not too Eco. How is that addressed? How is the power generated and hot water? Just ask as there are no obvious panels. Or is it hydro or similar? Tx in anticipation

Indeed! A train to Morecambe will bring you to more delights and far fewer poisonous frogs and venomous snakes than any planet-destroying, exorbitantly-priced flight to and from the other side of the world.

Now please excuse me while I go and publicly burn my licence fee as a propitiatory offering in front of the sacred Eric Morecambe statue. The gods of Morecambe Bay are very angry at the BBC tonight.

(Not) In praise of Quentin Sommerville - an updated post

This post has been updated - as you'll see....

I've left the original wholly intact, so you can watch me falling flat on my face!

One BBC reporter I do admire is Quentin Sommerville. 

Yes, he's typically BBC in his views (as expressed on Twitter), but he strikes me as fundamentally decent and brave.

He's best known, of course, for getting high and laughing uncontrollably while reporting in front of a pile of burning narcotics. (See the attached link!)

His latest 'scoop', however, is a stonking 'exclusive': Dirty Secret, the deal that saved the Islamic State in Raqqa.

All credit to him.

Update: Alan at Biased BBC has a different point of view, and lots of other people have also been responding to Quentin Somerville on Twitter questioning how 'exclusive' this 'scoop' is and just 'secret' this 'dirty secret' was.

If it was such 'a secret' and if such 'great pains were taken to hide it from the world', then why did the BBC itself report it a month ago in its main news report announcing the fall of Raqqa?

And the BBC posted this report on 13 October, just before Raqqa fell, also claiming it as 'an exclusive':

In the report, BBC Arabic’s Feras Killani says:
The BBC has learned that local tribal leaders have made a deal to allow the safe passage of the remaining IS fighters who live in the city. In return the Americans would release all the civilians being held as human shields. Meeting with the Americans the elders from Raqqa say the agreement would stop the destruction of the city and save the lives of countless civilians.
The report shows the SDF, the Americans and the Raqqa elders discussing the deal and making no attempts to hide it from the BBC!

And, as Alan notes, the British newspapers at the time (mid-October) were also reporting the 'dirty' deal, eg, this from the Telegraph on 14 October:

Re-reading Quentin Somerville's report after all of this calls for the complete withdrawal on my part of my 'stonking exclusive' claim. (That will teach me to be so gullible). It appears to be more of a re-hashing of old news for what looks to be sensationalist, self-promoting reasons.

Yes, QS has obtained some exclusive interviews with people involved in the convoy but that's as far as his 'exclusive' really goes, doesn't it?

And that's not what he's claiming for his 'exclusive'. He's claiming something much bigger, that it's about uncovering a 'dirty secret' which lots of people have been desperately covering up.

What is Quentin Somerville playing at? What is the BBC playing at?