‘The BBC is the last bastion of intelligent speech and therefore mass intelligence’

says Nick. Denis Boyles gets a few licks in at the America-hating European press. Among several examples of media bias he refers to a Harper’s magazine article penned by the BBC’s Nicholas Fraser.

That leaves the rest of the magazine to annoy and pester — including, in the current issue, a piece by Nicholas Fraser. Fraser, who works for the BBC, defends the BBC. The article isn’t online — they’re practically giving the magazine away by mail, for crying out loud — but Harper’s + BBC = you know the story: We get a lede so over-upholstered in digressions that you could jump out of a fifth-story window, land on it, and walk away unharmed, and a side order of big-huge stats (BBC annual income: $6.5 billion, 28,000 employees, 82 years old, etc.). But then the predictable spiral: a novel dig at Lord Hutton’s report (“whitewash”), slams at Fox (“moronically celebratory”) and at CNN (“not…immune to the spirit of jingo”), with the amiable old Beeb shambling “along in the middle ground.” This leads to an anecdote using al Jazeera as a model of journalistic integrity, followed by an interesting question: “Who would…believe that a tax, the non-payment of which is punishable by a jail sentence, is the best way of subsidizing public liberties?” The answer: Guys who work for the BBC and write really long articles about it for Harper’s — that’s my guess. “The BBC is the last bastion of intelligent speech and therefore of mass intelligence,” writes Fraser.

Example of said intelligent speech: “The growing contempt or indifference with which most media are regarded is the truest symptom of the growing malaise of democracy in our time.” Exercise: Which word should be replaced by the word “journalism” in the preceding sentence?

Ummm, let me guess.

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BBBC Reader Andrew has been scrutinising

BBBC Reader Andrew has been scrutinising some BBC coverage, and via E-mail it’s here for your interest:

BBC News Online published an article on Friday 23rd headlined US concern over war dead photos about the controversy in the US over the publication of photos of flag-draped coffins on the web – the photos were obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, contrary to the wishes of the US Government.

There are two troubling aspects to the BBC’s coverage of this story:

1) The publication of the photos on the web has aroused further controversy – it turns out that a good number of the images on the site the BBC links to are actually those of the remains of NASA astronauts killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia accident – the reason for this is that the FoI Act request was for all such photos from 01FEB2003 to the present – the Columbia accident occurred on 01FEB2003. More than four days after this significant additional information has appeared across the web and wire services, the BBC story has still not been updated to record this fact. (Link)

2) More troublingly, the bottom third of the story, under the heading ‘War President’, covers the publication of a ‘mosaic’ of President Bush “composed from photos of US service men and women killed in Iraq”. The BBC states that the image is by “an anti-war activist” and that it is published on his web site American Leftist.

What the BBC doesn’t tell us, its compulsory customers, is that the image was first published on April 4th (scroll up one line). It’s not news – it’s more than three weeks old. It’s a satirical political image that some lefty BBC hack has tacked on to the end of a vaguely related news item, under the guise of news, because it looks good and is in line with their Guardianista sympathies (i.e. anti-Bush, anti-Iraq war). Moreover, reading the website of the image author and the comments of others, it seems that the photos are of coalition dead, not just US dead, that a number of the photos are repeated several times over and that there is even doubt over whether or not they are all actually dead.

All of this dodginess aside, making an image like this is not difficult with modern software – it’s basically an image imposed over a montage of smaller images, changing the colour tones of the smaller images to reflect the larger image – so it doesn’t even qualify as news on the grounds of artistic merit. And if anyone from the BBC cares to suggest it does, can we respectfully request the inclusion of similar ‘satirical montages’ to complement other news items – here are a few suggestions for starters:

– Moqtada Sadr – composed of dead coalition soldiers;

– Sheik Yassin – composed of victims of suicide bombings;

– Martin McGuinness – composed of victims of the IRA;

– George Galloway – composed of victims of Saddam’s reqime;

– Tony Blair – composed of victims of NHS waiting lists;

and so on, depending on one’s political whim. It’s not difficult to come up with these wheezes. And it’s not news, except on the BBC, paid for through a compulsory television tax. Remember, it’s not your BBC, it’s their BBC!

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You’d never know it

from this headline

Kerry queries Bush on Vietnam

that the story is really about John Kerry’s truth-twisting, charmless weakness as a candidate that’s putting his campaign in the ditch. It was the ABC network which dug up the 30 year tape giving Mr Kerry problems, not Karl Rove. But, I’m sure the BBC is above being partisan. There must be a reasonable explanation.


UPDATE: There are left-leaning news outlets reporting John Kerry’s flip-flops (BBC excepted). C’mon, even the Village Voice is criticising Kerry.

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You and Yours, and racism in the countryside of England

Of all the BBC programmes on a poor (cheap) Radio 4 daytime schedule, You and Yours is the most openly and regularly biased. It expresses its BBC soft left bias in a number of ways – in the way it approaches subjects, and the subjects that it chooses to cover. Here is You and Yours in a nutshell:

- People are never responsible for their own actions, people are various types of victim

- Companies are bad

- Government intervention is always good

- ‘Something must be done’

Today’s programme was a classic.

‘Why don’t black and ethnic minority people visit rural places like the Peak District?’

First of all, let me tell you about visiting the Peak District – I did this on a weekly basis not so long ago.

1. Get up at 6:00 am

2. Buy train ticket to Matlock, Derbyshire

3. Take train to Matlock

4. Exit station

5. Start walking, ideally in a north or north-west direction

6. Avoid fields with bulls in them

7. Return when tired, wet or sunburnt (or all three together on some days)

8. Er, that’s it

Now, back to racism in the countryside.

Cue a lunatic from the ‘Black Environment Network’. Non-whites don’t access the countryside due to ‘blatant racism’. Apparently some lunatics are holding a conference somewhere on this subject.

Cue black BBC reporter sent to Hathersage. Hathersage is a pretty little village by the Derwent on the Manchester/Sheffield train line. Our reporter laments a ‘lack of black faces’, but admires the view and buys a cake from a cheerful young woman. I’ve obviously missed this, but I didn’t think that black people were now compulsory in every location – but evidently they are.

To be fair to the hapless reporter, I think he was rather embarrassed about this assignment. Even he said the reason he was not a regular rural visitor was because he preferred cities – ‘I prefer cinemas’.

Cue more lunatics, explaining it’s all about racism. The You and Yours presenter laps this up.

I’ve got news for You and Yours. Just because some nutters are holding a conference, it doesn’t mean you need to take them seriously, or devote 15 minutes of airtime. So long as people are free, and not impeded from spending their time as they choose, what is the problem? Although the BBC indoctrinates its staff to believe that race is the root of all evil, sometimes it just might not be true.

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Hi there

This is actually quite a funny BBCOnline article; intentionally so. I could vividly put myself into James Reynolds’ shoes as he described being asked by a University tutor to write his own reference for a summer job. First of all he was hesitant, and then he settled down and got on with it enthusiastically, making his case apparently invincible.
So far, so nostalgic for oddball academics; but that’s what Reynolds chooses to compare to George Bush’s statement supporting Ariel Sharon’s plans to withdraw Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

By now, of course, you’re thinking ‘come off it’, but then comes a punchline-
‘I have done a bit of checking. (ooh, scary…)

Ariel Sharon’s men … did help to write the president’s statement.

They are words which will now become the prime minister’s most useful reference.’
Uh oh. Reynolds has just said that the Sharon’s ‘men’ did ‘help to write’ Bush’s reference, er, statement. Unfortunately for the comparison, Reynolds wrote his own reference in its entirety, minus the approbation of his tutor and his tutor’s signature. Reynolds does not say to what degree the Israelis ‘helped’ Bush’s men craft that statement; we the readers do not know, and the suspicion is that neither does Reynolds. The er, BBC journalist, has gone and confessed his own dishonesty without proving Bush’s, or Bush’s men’s dishonesty, and he can’t know to what degree Bush and Sharon had on prior occasions agreed a common strategy (minus extra-judicial killings, naturally), let alone their staff members. Moreover, by his own account, Reynolds was completely unknown to his tutor when he fraudulently wrote his own reference.
It’s a humorous article, and when we discover that Reynolds didn’t get the job obviously he has taken a joke on himself, somewhat. But the deeper point is that Sharon is trying to pull a fast one via his puppet Bush, and that it is as unlikely to work as Reynolds’ own gambit (presumably because of the superior wisdom of the BBC in rumbling those evil Jewish conspirators in their champagne-filled private jets). Unfortunately the cap that Reynold’s wears himself- that of sneaky, unsuccessful conman- will not fit Sharon except by appealing to prejudice and unsupported hearsay, and, possibly, the merely circumstantial evidence of the controversy surrounding Sharon’s financial relationship with his son. How typical of the BBC to attack in this fashion.

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Apologies

– due to family events over Easter I’m behind on the mail at the moment. At the moment the comments boxes will get you on this page quicker.

Yet another reason to take a look at the comments lies in the fact that, over the last few weeks, some indefatigable defenders of the BBC have engaged in debate with the equally indefatigable anti-beebniks that make up our regular audience.

UPDATE: I have a very busy period coming up. So don’t expect to hear much from me either as posts or as replies to email until around the end of April.

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Major post from Scott Burgess

comparing the grilling of the acting Israeli ambassador to the UK to the slight warming of the Palestinian chief negotiator when both appeared on Today this morning.

Also, check out the two posts below about the methodology of the BBC poll that put “the power of the US and large corporations” as the biggest threat to the world.

In particular, I questioned the methodology – which wasn’t revealed in the web article – and the fact that ” the power of the US and large corporations” were concatenated as a single issue. The latter would obviously skew the results, combining as it does the response of someone concerned with, say, US military power with that of a respondent worried about globalised agriculture.

In my view, this virtually guaranteed the result – and the leap from that to the headline seems immoderate, to say the least.

UPDATE: more on this story from Scott Burgess here. PJF, whose regular comments here anyone who follows this blog will have seen, spotted some changes to the wording of the headline.

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Andrew

writes:

One story prominently featured over the Easter holiday weekend was the leftie march to Aldermaston, including various puff-pieces in advance (i.e. advertising for fellow-travellers).

Monday’s ‘News front page’ featured two links to stories about this relative non-event. The same story is highlighted a day later on the UK news page:

Joy as nuclear marchers hit base

Deep joy indeed. The story, by Hannah Bayman, features interviews with various protestors, Giulia Giglioggi, 11-year old Leela Levitt (from Southampton “pleading with parents Malcolm and Latha”, Daniel Franceschini and Reverend Hazel Barkham.

Knowing the BBC’s rigourous and honest approach, I did a little Googling for these people.

Giulia Giglioggi returns nothing. Google helpfully suggests “Giulia Gigliotti”, from Southampton, who it turns out is a major organiser of such protests (inc. a letter in the Grauniad signed ‘Giulia Gigliotti, Nuclear Information Service’) – all omitted (or simply unseen) by our scrupulous BBC inquisitor. (‘Nuclear Information Service’ turns out to be www.nukeinfo.co.uk – also based in Southampton).

Reverend Hazel Barkham (Google alternative ‘Barking’!) is also, unsurprisingly, a prominent anti-nuclear activist, popping up around the web and around the world.

So, how could our rigourous BBC reporter omit to mention the prominence of these anti-nuclear organisers whilst writing such a happy, nay joyous, report of this traditional outing?

Another spot of Googling, this time for ‘Hannah Bayman’, reveals a number of interesting Hannah Bayman coincidences:

- Revolutionary Communists “Rock around the Blockade at Guantanamo” (in April 2000 no less), inc. Hannah Bayman “I am really interested in the Pioneers and the UJC (Union of Young Communists)” (Link);

- “Operation Desert Rescue – 9.6m children in danger” – list of supporters includes “Hannah Bayman, Southampton, BBC journalist” (Link);

- Socialist Worker 26Apr03 letters page – an angry rant about Iraqi freedom, from Hannah Bayman, Southampton (Link);

- Globalise Resistance “free Nicola and Richard” petition – signed by Hannah Bayman, freelance journalist (Link);

- The Observer 21Jul02 letters page – Hannah Bayman of London N1 writes “People across the world have marched against Israel’s war in Palestine, including 80,000 in London in May, largely ignored by the mainstream British press. In September thousands more are expected to rally in London against the threat of a bloody war in Iraq. In November thousands of activists will converge in Florence for the European Social Forum, a weekend of demonstrations and debate on the future of the anti-capitalist movement.” (Link)

It seems I’m not alone in doubting the objectivity of Ms. Bayman – Robert Hinkley has posted details of his dealings with her here and here. Note also the picture here which is remarkably like the BBC picture here.

For those with long memories, I wonder if the Chris Blake in the first picture is the same as the one interviewed by Hannah for the BBC here. If so, Hannah seems to have a remarkably intimate interviewing technique – too intimate one might think to ensure the impartiality and objectivity that a Beeb-taxpayer might expect from the “World’s premier news broadcaster”, as they term themselves.

Just to be clear, BBC reporters, like everyone else, are entitled to their personal opinions. However, in the interests of transparency, when a reporter interviews a personal acquaintance (in this case Chris Blake, a former comrade on a political magazine “Resist”), it is, at best, a discourtesy to his or her readers not to mention it.

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The BBC Missionary Position

– it’s like the normal missionary position, except you approach it from the left.

When the corporation that spent a reported £2M on Popetown (an everyday story about corrupt Catholic cardinals and a mad Pope ) and the presenter Gavin Esler (author and presenter of The New Jerusalem, a hymn to the welfare state in Britain) decide to discuss the subject of Christian missionaries, the outcome is decidedly predictable.

So it was during yesterdays edition of ‘Four Corners’ on Radio 4 (sadly not available online) – one of a large number of cheap ‘talking head’ programmes that typify the Radio 4 schedule. Hosted by Esler, one of the subjects was the decline of Christian belief in Britain contrasting with the strength of Christian belief overseas. This is a subject worthy of discussion.

The focus of discussion was primarily on the work of Christian missionaries overseas, where Christianity is a growing religion. To discuss this with Esler, they had a researcher and a Muslim cleric (I’m sorry I did not get the names – no pen to hand at the time). Needless to say, Christian missionaries are generally a Bad Thing because…

- They sell Christian beliefs on the basis of ‘this religion gets you a better job, and a nicer car’

- You can be as greedy as you want with these Christian beliefs

- They don’t respect local customs

- Christianity is the religion of computers and progress (presumably opposed to Islam)

The researcher and cleric did not bring differing points of view – just the opposite, they kept falling over themselves to say ‘how right you are with that point’.

So, what was wrong with this programme? Simply this – it’s one-sidedness. It would have been nice to hear from some of the recently converted – maybe from Africa or China. Many Africans I’ve met have had a compelling Christian belief. It would have been nice to hear from organisations involved in missionary work, such as the Catholic church. Most importantly, just some other point of view other than the BBC view – this was a good example of an inward-looking BBC talking to itself.

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