. It can be expressed in the approach and assumptions made about a subject. It can also be much more subtle, such as in the choice of subjects it gives airtime to, or those that receive no airtime at all. One of the more subtle forms of bias is the ‘wrongly imprisoned’ articles which crop up frequently on BBC radio networks. The ‘wrongly imprisoned’ are always concerning subjects close to the BBC’s heart, and are usually treated with undue respect.
So it was on Radio 4’s Today programme on 6th November. Ed Stourton introduced an item about an ‘anti-capitalist protestor’ arrested in Greece called Simon Chapman. I do not know (and neither does Stourton) if he was going to commit or committed acts of violence – what I do know is that this man travelled to protest at Thessaloniki where the usual groups of violent hooligans were congregating to destroy other peoples property and fight running battles with the police. Chapman has been on hunger strike for four weeks.
The Greeks allege he was arrested with a bag containing molotov cocktails, an axe and a hammer, and is now charged with ‘rebellion’ and G.B.H. Liberal MEP Sarah Ludford has taken up Chapman’s case.
Stourtons first question was real hardball – ‘So you think these charges are dodgy then?’
Ludford is then allowed to complain that Chapman has not been given bail, and that ‘it does seem that he has been fitted up’. Stourton does not interject anything here, or point out that anyone likely to abscond bail like a foreign national (especially on such serious charges) has a poor likelihood of bail. The assertion of ‘fitting up’ is not challenged either. I’d rather like to see the evidence for this myself.
The Greek justice system is then trashed by Ludford, and the Greek police accused of ‘beatings’. The item then ends abruptly.
It’s hard to imagine a more one sided account, and I am at a loss to see why this was included at all on a news programme, but I would contrast this with how a far-right thug in the same situation would be treated by the BBC. I’d have like to known for instance if Chapman travelled alone, or as part of a group. Has he any previous convictions for violent protest? I don’t know – I simply was not informed. It was really a soapbox piece presented as news, with one leftie (Stourton) chatting to another (Ludford).