BBC Bias takes many forms

. 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).

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8 Responses to BBC Bias takes many forms

  1. ray says:

    From Paxman’s daily e-mail on the upcoming Newsnight (6/11/03) –

    “President Bush is using a speech in Washington to call for increased
    democracy in the Middle East. He’ll be saying how absolutely vital it is
    for liberty and happiness. I don’t imagine there’ll be many references
    to the importance of hanging chads and having a brother who’s governor
    of the state which determines the outcome of elections.”

    Paxman ignores the Supreme Court ruling & the apparent acceptance by US voters of the election outcome.

    Why does he feel compelled to continue to sneer about this old matter?


  2. Alene Berk says:

    Doesn’t matter. Any matter–Paxman=sneer.


  3. ed thomas says:

    I suppose trashing the Greek justice system is easier after the British Planespotters were told they wouldn’t be getting their bail money back from the Greeks, however, I don’t agree with it on the News, and I think that’s another instance of the Beeb showing their contempt for authority, especially the police or judiciary.

    On another subject, relating to a previous post about comedy on the Beeb, this from Jeremy Hardy on QI last night:

    ‘Thatcher’s grave is going to be a premanent urinal to all decent people’.



  4. Anonymous says:

    Damn my eyes- that should be ‘permanent’, though I hesitate to correct such a foul comment.



  5. Mark Holland says:

    Can I just interject for a moment to plug an excellent BBC Radio program I’ve only recently discovered due to being stuck in the car around 8:30 every Thursday.

    In Business ( is straight down the middle and is a shining example of how programmes ought to be made. The supermarket radio tags episode had contributions from Liberty and the German economy one, if I remember correctly, had a fellow from Deutsche Bank in effect calling for the end to the welfare state.

    How refreshing. You can listen to some of the recent programmes online. I may have to do just that later on just to catch up.


  6. john b says:

    Confused by this post.

    Well, amazed that there are serious people out there who believe that the Greek justice system isn’t absurdly flawed, and that the main driver for the Thessaloniki violence was police brutality.

    It was pretty stupid of Simon Chapman to go to Greece and exercise what would, in a civilised country, be his rights to public protest: he should have been aware of Greece’s corrupt politicial system, police and judiciary (and that there’s little or no distinction between the three).

    This doens’t mean that the BBC should ignore his plight.

    The point is often made on this site that the BBC is right to sometimes take a moral position (on murder, rape, etc), and is wrong to not do so on terrorism. This is another case where there IS no “balanced” view. The Greek justice system is an affront to civilisation; protesting against its corruption and brutality is the only thing for decent people to do.


  7. ed thomas says:

    Not confused by this post.

    I am sure though that we all bow to the well known expert on Greek Jurisprudence, John b. Would (did) the BBC use the same dismissive tone to describe the Saudi justice system over the Britons accused of planting bombs in Saudi Arabia, to name just one instance? This instance of xenophobic mistrust of another (EU) country’s system is most perplexing. Still, at least Ed Stourton focussed on a temporarily politically correct option. I imagine I am supposed to be reassured that the BBC is capable of standing up for a British citizen and speaking for a common sense of injustice? I am not, precisely because this is just a token, and a distorted token at that, of the kind of judgement which we do in fact have a right to make on the actions and the habits of other nations, since we are certainly fond of critiquing our own system.

    Incidentally, if Greek society is so awful, why don’t the BBC advocate, or at least headline the advocates, that we secure reform of the EU or withhold any contributions to it? Or would that be politicising? If it would, then why don’t the BBC shut up and do some serious analysis of the EU and its workings, including individual members like Greece, so that we can all see just what we’re letting ourselves in for.


  8. john b says:

    While my knowledge of Greek jurispridence isn’t the world’s greatest, it’s more than zero – I’ve spoken to some Greek lawyers, who are less than complimentary about their country’s legal system. I’ve also followed individual cases of both foreign and Greek nationals being treated outrageously, although I accept this doesn’t necessarily reflect failings in the system overall.

    The BBC certainly should have used the same terms to describe the Saudi bombing “legal process”. Don’t have time right now to check whether it did.