with the “British Bias Corporation” about their pathetic slant against President Bush’s linking of Iraq to the worldwide “war on terror”.
It was notable, too, that Mr Bush chose the “war on terror” as a major theme of his visit, linking Iraq to that worldwide war.
His advice to the Beeb: “read your own service” to discover that there really is a war out there, even in Britain.
. Reading Greg Dyke’s speech in New York recently (see below posts), it seemed that I was hearing about a magical Kingdom, let us call it ‘Beebland’, where the journalists have such integrity that balanced coverage in the public interest, er, magically prevails. I wonder, do the people of Scotland agree, after the ‘coverage’ of the ‘building’ of their monumental folly, the new Scottish Parliament building? Many, many questions arise from this story that the Boss of Beebland is clearly too complacent to answer. Update. I thought it would be civil to link from here to the Boss of Beebland’s recent speech. Also, for anyone who doesn’t know, the Scottish Parliament building has proved to be a bit more costly that predicted and is a tad controversial in those parts.
This needs remarking on, even just for the sound byte we’ve all thought but rarely heard spoken by a public figure:
“Getting the BBC to admit it is wrong is like squeezing blood from a stone.” – Ben Bradshaw, former Beeb journalist and [current UK Government] Fisheries Minister.
I wonder whether the Government will let the BBC off the hook when the Charter renewal discussions begin? Maybe they are just enjoying making the Beeb squirm for a change, or Greg Dyke (Boss Hogg to his friends) do some work.
Many thanks to Nigel Holland who brought this to light in the thread below.
The poet Benjamin Zephaniah Says NO to OBEs- especially in the light of the Iraq war. Yes, that’s right- but he also took the air-time on Channel Four News last night to praise the BBC World Service because they had changed their name from the BBC Empire Service. So, apparently the leopard can change its spots. It’s all in a name.
I would never seek to defend a certain old British hegemony, whereby dirty deals were done with local dignitaries to gain soldiery or to nullify opposition. There is an area though where the British do retain a degree of hegemony, as do the French: that is in World News provision. In my last post I criticised the uncritical approach taken to the story of Internet fraud in Nigeria. In my view each story should stand reasonably well on its own legs. We’ve made similar comments about coverage of another legatee of colonialism: Mahathir Mohammed former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Cosying up to strong men seems to be a habit that BBC (Empire) World service and its relations at BBConline have not shaken. They would appear to prefer to tear strips off limited-term western politicians- you know, the ones who will risk their lives for a photo shoot. Honestly Benjamin, are you still a sucker for the real Empire punch? When the BBC extends the olive branch of ‘impartiality’ to these countries, who gets the warm rosy glow? And who gets the scoops?
in some respects, and incredibly nuanced (ie. sophisticated) in others. Yet another example here of where essentially the Beeb are harrying the US over operations in Iraq. They recently reported the fall in attacks on US troops, masked carefully by a headline about increased attacks on Iraqis (see Tues ‘Different Tactics’). Now they report a denial by the US that extra troops are needed for a worsening security situation in Iraq- but who asked the question? Who said attacks ON US TROOPS were ‘unabating’? Surely not the Beeb, because they knew very well from their own findings that US troops in themselves were finding life easier in recent times. If that doesn’t trip the reader into assuming the worst for the US, there’s always the ‘isolated US’ argument which follows it.
Now cut to a different story, about Internet fraud (no less) in Nigeria. There are so many interesting angles on this that the Beeb misses- not least the comical one that the 419 fraud is so unbelievably simple yet apparently catches so many Westerners (you’ve probably received one of these- I know I have- and binned it). The serious one is that apparently Nigeria is so poor (despite oil earnings) that this fraud is a significant national earner. Another would be the irony of Nigeria’s ruling class cracking down on fraud in the light off the above fact. All goes sailing by, and we’re as ignorant about real Nigeria as ever- and misled over goings on in Iraq. Looking round for alternative sources of African News, I was not overwhelmed with the choice. Is this an argument in favour of the Beeb? The best of a bad lot? Or is it an argument for reform to create more competitive British news providers? Here’s one place anyway (not that I give it my blessing). Update– Having explored my own link I do bless it, kind of. Update2.Readers of the Beeb article will notice links to Nigerian corruption stories (good)- these are just simply too understated to be taken seriously in my opinion (bad). Update3.Maybe my ‘dullness’, maybe slippery language (suit yourself), but the ‘unabating onslaught’ referred to in the Beeb report is reportedly on ‘coalition targets’ rather than US Soldiers as I implied.
. Well, some of them have been coming here, so maybe some of us should go there. I don’t normally say a lot to anyone about the NHS. They were good to my Grandma and bad to my Grandpa, and family members tend to end up dying there. I think though that in BBC coverage of the NHS it’s worth bearing in mind that they are kindred spirits, both formed in the expansionist phase of statist Britain (BBC circa 1928, NHS 1945), after people had turned back on expanding the British Empire to spend time building up the State instead. Many people today take pride in that enterprise (the building up the State part- strangely unfashionable during the Thatcher years, where the earlier bit had a flurry of interest). Actually, ‘Boss Hogg’ (see below) in particular has some bold things to say about a publicly owned company, which might help explain the Beeb’s benign attitude towards rocketing public spending on the NHS, much of which goes into salaries (- see discussion above). By the way, the license fee increased above the level of inflation this year too. I wonder what the ‘Boss’ gets paid?
. Yes, it would seem that Greg Dyke, or ‘Boss Hogg’ as I like to think of him, considered his award in New York a chance to make attack his best form of defence against editorials like this.
Update. I can’t deprive anyone of access to Melanie Phillips’ reflections on this. I am also interested in the comments posted subsequently- as often seems to be the case there are interesting anecdotal snippets. For instance, I barely remember any Falklands coverage, but Mr Williamson does, and can make comparisons. [Some visitors will be delighted to hear a range of views expressed- including some they agree with!]
if you would just level with us, folks like Jeff Jarvis would have a lot more respect for you and the Beeb than at present.
Greg Dyke, chief chutzpah officer of the BBC, lashes out at U.S. TV news war coverage as he accepts a dubious award in New York:
“News organisations should be in the business of balancing their coverage, not banging the drum for one side or the other. This is something which seemed to get lost in American reporting of the war,” said Mr Dyke.
He said only four out of 840 experts interviewed on US news outlets during the conflict opposed the war and the situation would not have been tolerated at the BBC.
“Telling people what they want to hear is not doing them any favours. It may not be comfortable to challenge governments or even popular opinion but it’s what we are here to do,” he said.
Yo, Doc, cure thyself!
What an incredibly blind/deaf/dumb comment to come from Baghdad Broadcasting, of all places. Balance? The BBC exhibits as much balance as Christopher Reeve on a tightrope. Telling people what they want to hear? That’s exactly what the BBC did and quite cynically, I might add. Experts? What experts? Name two. That is the kind of ridiculous faux stat I’d expect to hear from, oh, American talk radio, not the head of the vaunted BBC. And Greg, I have two words to remind you of: Andrew Gilligan.
Read it all.
if this will burn Paul Krugman’s bridges as a Beeb ‘expert’ or just burnish his credentials?
? All too often slow to report the changes in tactics on the ground, the BBC has a curious way of headlining a reduction in the number of attacks on US soldiers -attacks often given a headline place over the recent weeks. It’s not that I think the picture should be rosy-tinted- the reality is still ugly. I just wish for a little rationale in their reporting that isn’t weirdly skewed and mistrustful of both reader and military sources. CNN has not been gung-ho, but at least this represents a fair hearing for the US Army news, within the context that suits it, of tragic continuing military deaths. To contextualise it within a story about a rise in Iraqi deaths is to elide two stories to the detriment of both- in fact, despite statements (often quotes) which appear intended to lead you there, it’s to miss the twist that the story of post-Saddam Iraq is taking. Bad news (higher casualties) is bad news. Good news (lower casualties) is good news. After reporting them both separately because to do otherwise does justice to neither, comment. Simple, right? Maybe if they hadn’t elided Iraqi deaths with a US attack reduction, they could have referred to this (via Healing Iraq)
Of course, while very relevant to the Beeb headline, the Talabani article could be quizzed and I would have no objection- but I do want to hear it.
I relished hearing from CNN the direct comments of the Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt. I can judge them for what they are- upbeat military remarks by a man eager to do a job yet who cannot ignore reality for long and get away with it. With the BBC what we get are the comments of the more obviously political figures like Bremer, and one of those typically troublous soundbytes from Abizaid that, while ok to hear, probably requires setting in a context that he would acknowledge as a necessary one given the chance. (via Instapundit)
. After this feel-good article by Jonny Dymond comes this cluster of incidents. What to say?
In the first place I was very sceptical about Dymond’s report. It was ‘too good to be true’ journalism of the sort the BBC tells us it always tries to avoid. Its intent was just to act as a more palatable variant of the theme that ‘The British in Basra are better at hearts and minds blah blah’. When the Beeb responds to the inevitable complaints at their output of gloomy, opinionated ‘realism’, their journalism, then scarcely honourable, is sickly-sweet and insincere. Then Dymond plays fall-guy for us as his analysis is seen to be terribly shallow- a victim trapped under the rubble of editorial policy.
has a lot to say about BBC coverage of the protests and some kind words for B-BBC.
The Beeb showed this JFK documentary today on BBC World (satellite TV). For the most part it revisits the events of that day which many of us vividly remember. [For the record: I was in Miss Pruitt’s third grade class in Cooperative Elementary School, Spartanburg, SC, USA when the school PA system broke in with a frantic radio announcer delivering the tragic news.]
I found most of this programme informative if predictable. To its credit, mention is made of Kennedy’s weak civil rights record–yes, the Kennedys were a pretty segregated, class-concious bunch. Did it surprise me to have the final segment become a Bush-bashing exercise? Not really. (It’s the last segment called “How Is JFK Remembered?”) These students having learned of JFK (this legend of Camelot) at the knee of their baby-boomer parents have been force-fed the same formula the Beeb has been passing on to us. It was just too tempting for the Beeb producers to not let this wonderful backhanded comparison of Bush and JFK fly. What a gift. Unfortunately, one of the students did not realise how close Bush and JFK were in the tax-cutting department. (Do BBC producers know that Kennedy cut taxes and that Reagan and Bush have followed a similar policy?) Americans, a simple majority at least, are ever grateful that Bush has not said “now hand me your wallets.” What wisdom our student discussion group displays. What rich historical perspective they bring. If only the producer could have found a few favorable Bush-JFK comparisons, a little balance would have lent it credibility. Unfortunately, it is steeply slanted. Interviews of key players like McNamara, Sorenson (gratuitous anti-Bush comments aside) and Cronkite are a dime a dozen, so great is interest in all things Kennedy. After watching “Kennedy: Legend and Leader”, you might wish to read up on some of those less than legendary bits of the JFK story the Beeb left out. Here’s one by Christopher Hitchens. Maybe Hitchens is too harsh, but it’s ok to take in more than one perspective, even when one is dealing in legend, some of which are of greater importance than others.
on the lack of substantial British press coverage of President Bush’s visit (especially the BBC!).
It was fascinating, and frustrating, to see this story from the other side. What was most striking to me was the utter lack of substance in most coverage of the visit. The focus was almost exclusively on the security precautions attending the trip, which were pretty universally frowned upon, and the demonstrations against President Bush, which were hoped-for, salivated over, and covered with gusto. No one spoiled the mood by reminding readers that these were the same tired demonstrations (and largely the same tired demonstrators) who have greeted past American presidents. The BBC, for the most part, disdained to cover the visit at all. Few news outlets showed any interest in what President Bush had to say; few showed any interest in the great issues that framed the President’s visit. The attitude of the British press is, for the most part, similar to that of the Democratic Party: the war with the terrorists is a minor inconvenience that shouldn’t be allowed to stand in the way of character assassination.
Observations by John ‘Hindrocket’ Hinderaker of Powerline.
UPDATE: Clive Davis explains why America is so misunderstood in Britain.
One of the great, unacknowledged lessons of the months since September 11, 2001, is that the British actually know next to nothing about the United States, its history and its institutions. Nor are they particularly knowledgeable when it comes to world affairs in general. They prefer to believe what Michael Moore tells them.
Read it all. Though Davis does not mention the role of the state sponsored broadcaster in this, is there any doubt that the Beeb is a major factor in this knowledge vacuum?
The Oil-For-Food scheme is now under Coalition control and if you’re Judy Swallow, that is not such a happy prospect. On tonight’s broadcast of “Newshour” she hectored the poor UN official who is now out of a job (so to speak) about how bad things are going to get now that the UN is not around to look after the Iraqis who’ve been receiving aid. The official makes very clear that nothing will really change, for the same staff will administer the programme as before. Judy isn’t sure the Coalition can manage it. I must say that she takes the prize as one of the most consistently anti-Bush Beebazoids on the World Service. Later on in the programme the topic was AIDS prevention and the terrible things George Bush was doing by urging sexual abstinence “just like Reagan did with his ‘just say no’ campaign against drugs.” While her assumption seems to be that Bush II is more philosophically informed by Reagan than by his father (about the only thing on which we agree), she takes a major speculative leap to conclude that “Reagan’s anti-drug programme encouraged more young people to take drugs because they became curious about what they were saying ‘no’ to.” I would like to see where she gets her data.
Next up are two experts to discuss the war against terror as “the new cold war”. Neither of these guys could be accused being even close to the center-left of the political spectrum. One lets fly a screed about the West using proxy wars to keep Islamic nations under western domination. This seems to be where she wants the discussion to head. The second expert (of the liberal Brookings Institution) notes that since the war in Iraq, more than half of the counter-terror resources were diverted to Iraq (and we all know that no terrorists are involved there, don’t we), leaving Afghanistan and other places around the world to languish. Judy seems to be happy with this assessment. Consistently you can expect negative slanting against the Bush administration. Judy Swallow then asserts that President Bush, by funding AIDS prevention programmes which promote sexual abstinence as an important way to avoid contracting the disease, is doing great harm to the world!
Finally, she interviews (interrogates?) an AIDS prevention expert from the USA. It is clear that Ms Swallow will settle for nothing less than to hear this expert admit that President Bush, as usual, is the source of all that is wrong in the world. Judy is not able to put words in her expert’s mouth. Strange, isn’t it, that she can remember a ‘failed’ anti-drug message touted by the Reagan administration but could not manage to mention that Mr Bush is the driving force behind the 15bn in AIDS-related funding for Africa. Ah well, Judy’s not into that kind of music.