Former Radio Four ‘Today’ editor

Rod Liddle lays into his former employers for their left-wing bias in this Sunday Times piece, which was inspired by the BBC’s affectionate look at what their senior people used to get up to thirty years ago. Read the whole thing.

In fairness it must be said that Liddle himself was a paragon of political correctness during his time at the BBC.

An example of the sort of thing Liddle means is this 2002 edition of the Radio Four series ‘Crossing Continents’, about Italy. Although the website features Mussolini, the first half of the programme (RealAudio) is taken up with a discussion of “how the radical left is responding to the Berlusconi government“, in which a succession of far-lefties are given an incredibly easy, even supportive ride by reporter Rosie Goldsmith.

Two things stand out about this section. The obvious one is that it’s almost impossible to imagine a BBC programme on how, say, the “radical right” in the UK were responding to the Blair administration. Any such programme on the “right” could only be couched in terms of “threat” or “the ominous rise of …”.

The second is an almost unbelievable omission. One of the responses of the “radical left” to the Berlusconi government was the murder of a government adviser, Marco Biagi, by the Red Brigades. Incredibly, the murder does not get a mention.

Just say that a couple of years into the Blair administration, some neo-Nazi group like Combat 18 had shot a Blair adviser. Can you imagine the BBC running a programme on the response of the “radical right” which passed the killing by? I can’t either.

Now, they’re getting it!

Up here in Scotland the BBC is concerned about possible bias:

Wark was subjected to long-term behind-the-scenes scrutiny by her own managers, a team of broadcast executives, who checked out her performance on air for anything which might give rise to accusations of bias.

Let’s think about this. Is the Beeb concerned that Ms Wark could be a secret admirer of David Cameron? Was she seen campaigning for the LibDems in Dunfermline? Is she thought to be a closet Nat?

None of the above, I’m afraid:

Concerned corporation governors put Wark under “review” amid fears that her relationship with the First Minister, together with her closeness to former Labour leader Donald Dewar and her role in the Holyrood parliament building, could be damaging to the image of the BBC as an impartial broadcaster.

Labour! Who’d have thought it?

The BBC report

on the “United against Incitement and Islamophobia” rally planned for Trafalgar Square today.

“The rally … has been organised by the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain and a number of Christian organisations.”

Well, yes. Two minor inaccuracies and a curious omission. According to main organisers the Muslim Association of Britain and the Islamic Forum of Europe, the MCB are ‘supporters’, not organisers.

Secondly the ‘number of Christian organisations’ appears to be one – Pax Christi, a ‘peace group’ wholly focused on Palestine and the Middle East.

(UPDATE – I’m sure their presence is nothing to do with the fact that a trustee of their educational arm, Norman Kember, is currently an enforced guest of the Swords of Truth Brigade in Iraq. Hat-tip to Rick in the comments).

The curious omission? The appearance of the Socialist Workers Party front the Stop the War Coalition, or the state-funded Operation Black Vote is not unexpected. But surely the fact that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament considers the suppression of cartoons of Mohammmed a part of its campaigning work is newsworthy? I’d have asked them for an interview.

UPDATE – just a thought. Has the BBC website not realised yet that the cartoons were published in Egypt last October? I can’t see the story anywhere.

The ‘Getting It’ Continues

Well I know Natalie has a substantial post below, and I do recommend you read it and follow the links (and comment), but I notice that we have a little watershed moment to mark: The BBC recognises the work of Biased-BBC. It’ll be interesting for those visiting from the BBC site (a site we don’t yet link to, for reasons I’ve never quite fathomed) to find their arrival anticipated by this post, but that’s the responsiveness of the web for you. Welcome, BBC readers! Yes indeed.

Regular readers here won’t be totally surprised as we’ve had a number of visits from Paul Reynolds where he’s volunteered his thoughts in the comments sections- and I recently recognised his progressive approach in a post here. The article linked above is his, and it is essentially a mix of praise and openmindedness concerning the benefits, current and potential, of blogs like this one. He also recognises the work of some of our friends, like USS Neverdock and the American Expat.

It’s a great read and I fully recommend it as it outlines many of the highpoints of blogging over the last year or two. It illustrates the manifold strengths of blogging, and I might take this chance to point out another case, with current relevance: the October publication of the original Jyllands-Posten cartoons in an Egyptian newspaper, as revealed by this blog here. The cartoons were published in full in the Egyptian newspaper Al Fagr- and guess what, no outcry! During Ramadan too, when religious sensibilities might be enhanced. So, er, when the BBC or another media organisation try to pin the current kerfuffle and violence on the intrinsic offensiveness to Muslims of the real Jyllands-Posten cartoons (as indeed they have- in an article quietly updated from the originalto acknowledge the fakes which have done the rounds too), they need to explain that- and I don’t think they could.


First off, please note I’m off on my hols. So don’t write to me for the next two weeks. I hope my colleagues will keep posting; but if they, too, are busy on other aspects of their lives I expect the world will carry on somehow.

  • Matt comments:

    All of the way through the US Lobbyist scandal BBC Online have been presenting the matter as if it were only Republicans who had been in receipt of questionable largesse and laregly ignored the, admittedly lesser numbers, of Democrats also tainted. Their choice of headlines for these stories has been particularly biased and misleading.

    Now today they are reporting a story regarding the changing of Wikipedia entries which solely implicates Democrats on Capitol Hill without even vaguely making it clear that it was only the Democrats who have been doing this indeed the only Republican mentioned has had his entry changed in a perjorative manner by Democrats. This is a perfect example of the constant subtle anti conservative bias that dominates BBC Online: “Congress ‘made Wikipedia changes'”

  • Context, context, context says the Pedant-General regarding the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. Jyllands-Posten originally wanted to make a point about a climate of fear. BBC reporting is not doing its job when it leaves this context out.
  • Mike Jericho compares the headlines on the beating of two Chinese activists, one an activist against corruption, the other against abortion.
  • Disillusioned German writes: “Not sure if you were aware of that but the BBC are actually running banner ads for their News Website. I’ve taken the attached Flash Banner from the International Herald Tribune Europe website. I’ve also come across it on the Yahoo News Germany website.” He included a download, but I’m too ignorant to know how to post it. Personally, I’m not particularly bothered by this advertising, but in the old days the BBC used to boast of being above crude commercialism.
  • Every now and then we like to include links to websites taking a different view to our own about BBC bias. I was asked, very politely, to link to this one. I must state frankly to the author that I would not usually link to a website with these views:

    How fair has the media been really to the Palestinian cause? I mean, you had a man by the name of Bob Elkins who was a Zionist, in the very least a strong Zionist sympathizer, and he was hired by the BBC to report during the crucial 67 and October wars, as well as just the everyday situation, and he was very very misleading
    The BBC is labeled as one of the more just TV stations, but always at some point they have had and they do have, Zionists controlling the programmes and the different points of views

    – But during the present controversy, it seemed appropriate, somehow, to make an exception. BTW, looking at the following and previous few posts on that blog I can’t quite figure out where it’s coming from. They do not all seem of a piece with the above.

  • Susan comments on this BBC story:

    “Shooting kills priest in Turkey

    Yes, that’s right – a “shooting” killed the priest, according to al-Beeb. Said shooting just got up and done that poor man in all by its little self.

So goodbye for the next two weeks. One thing I won’t miss is the obligation to delete mindlessly anti-Islamic comments. I have typed approximately these words many times: this site tolerates debate about religion, including the religion of Islam. Tolerates, but does not encourage. We would prefer you discussed, critically or favourably, the British Broadcasting Corporation, since that it what this site is about. For now we choose not to operate a strict policy of restricting the subject to the BBC, a decision that may change. Sober criticism or defence of any religion or atheism is acceptable. Inflammatory comments are not.

The Honest Update

I thought I’d create a special post to recognise something from the BBC website which is very interesting. Paul Reynolds has taken, in his opinion articles, to updating by means of clearly bracketed insertions into the main text. Further from stealth editing it would not be possible to get. This latest piece is currently featuring alongside the BBC’s top story, the cartoon controversy. I’m interested to know what people think of this, and no doubt Paul would be too. In principle I think it would be a massive step forward for BBConline if it became the norm and not the exception. The current article includes among its updates some of the things the internet has uncovered about the Danish Imams delegation, including the origin of the ‘Muhammed with a pig’s face’ cartoon- sourced back to one of France’s quainter traditions: the pig squealing competition.

Regarding the Reynolds analysis, I think that the BBC are still underplaying the role of the Danish Imams in conjunction with the diplomats of various Middle Eastern countries. It is, for Reynolds, only ‘one aspect’, and very much the fag end of his analysis. I was interested in this Winds of Change analysis, which went further even than I have in alleging conspiracy. One other thought: Reynolds says, regarding the fake cartoons, that ‘Western diplomats appear to have missed this entirely’. It is hard to apportion blame, but somewhere along the line governments depend on the media to pick up news and publicise it. The BBC should have been questioning their sources for a story that they’ve been covering on and off for five months. The BBC should have been looking in detail at the Danish cartoons: this was not a matter for intelligence, but media diligence and scepticism.

There’s a great letter in The Times today from Will Wyatt,

Chief Executive of BBC Broadcast from 1996 to 1999:

Double standards in dealing with Islam

Sir, I applaud the BBC’s news treatment of the Danish cartoons (report, Feb 4). On its website, however, the cultural cringe is evident and double standards obtain. In its history of Islam we read: “One night in 610 he (Muhammad) was meditating in a cave on the mountain when he was visited by the angel Jibreel who ordered him to “recite” . . . words which he came to understand were the words of God.” This is written as fact, no “it is said” or “Muhammad reported”. Whenever Muhammad’s name is mentioned the BBC adds “Peace be upon him”, as if the corporation itself were Muslim.

How different, and how much more accurate, when we turn to Christianity. Here, Jesus’ birth “is believed by Christians to be the fulfilment of prophesies in the Jewish Old Testament”; Jesus “claimed that he spoke with the authority of God”; accounts of his resurrection appearances were “put about by his believers”.

Chief Executive, BBC
Broadcast, 1996-99
Middle Barton, Oxon

– take a look at the two following letters as well. As my colleague Laban asks on his blog:

…for how long has it been mandatory in the Met and on the BBC to call Mohammed ‘the Prophet Mohammed’? [note capital ‘P’] I haven’t noticed Jesus being referred to as ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ lately.

Indeed. I shall now return to my current B-BBC sabbatical. TTFN.

Beeb Still Missing the Delegation point

John Simpson is asking the question that needs to be asked: how did the cartoon controversy develop into the cartoon war?

Simpson asks the question of how the Danish cartoons published on 30th Sept. 05 came to be so inflammatory in Feb 06. He claims to have the answer when he says that Egypt’s Foreign Minister was leading a campaign ‘As early as November’.

Well, that is so, but as so often with the BBC, it’s a fragment of the story which they care to admit, and think they’re blessing us with. It might be more accurate to say that the Egyptian came to head the campaign at that time.

Simpson ignores the fact that Islamic diplomats in Denmark were naturally much quicker off the mark than the ‘mild, distinctly moderate’ one in Cairo, following hot on the heels of popular demonstrations in Copenhagen. What’s clear is that this was a team effort. Do delegations set off to Cairo without an invite? Are their meetings with all the high-ranking people who count set up just like that? I don’t think so. By the time that the Egyptian foreign minister ‘spoke his mind’ the delegation was clearly poised to visit Cairo, with all its meetings arranged at the highest level. That is remarkable, and to some extent explains the gap of 5-6 weeks, which was no doubt filled with frenzied email networking. Even George Galloway would admit that getting access to Egypt isn’t all that easy(I think I even get the joke on this one- they’re not totally without a sense of humour out there).

It would further be ridiculous to suggest that the delegation itself emerged out of nowhere, and was not the fruit of much domestic Danish Islamic work. If you read the links to Islam online, a network blessed by Yusuf Al-Qaradawi himself, you will see that the aims of the Danish Imams and the actions of the diplomats are quite clearly in a kind of synchronicity. This is the Ummah they talk about, in action.

My point? The BBC is obscuring a vital element of how the cartoon story (fakes which demonstrated ‘the truth of Islamic misery in Denmark’, and all) came about- while they know full well the mechanics of the story. Even one of the headlines at Islam Online screams the truth: ‘Danish Muslims “Internationalize” Anti-Prophet Cartoons’- just at the time in November when Simpson claims that the mild mannered Egyptian Foreign Minister was apparently pioneering the cartoon cause. The bottom line is that Simpson accepts the Islamic thesis: ‘we must understand that many Muslims around the world feel increasingly beleaguered’. This, for the Beeb and its World Affairs Editor, trumps all. What a patsy.

Update 7/2: BBC begin to get the point- and guess who? It’s Paul Reynolds, friend of this blog, who gets it for them. However, although his account is accurate, he merely talks of ‘The finger of suspicion’ pointing at the delegation, and says ‘It might not have made much difference’ . Well, maybe, but there are many indications that they were pretty central to events. He also admits that the BBC showed the false cartoons in their reports, but fails to point out they actually reported them verbally as though they were real.

Meanwhile, the source of the photograph the BBC showed in their clips is revealed here.

Analysis Whitewash

Someone could try telling Magdi Abdelhadi of the BBC.

Abdelhadi has an opinion piece in which he attributes the cartoon situation to three factors:

‘1)the rise of violent political Islam
2)America’s war on terror
3)modern transnational media.’

So it’s one part bad muslims, one part bad America, and one part neutral (I suppose).

Well, curious. I thought that ‘America’s’ war on terror was contingent on a certain act of Islamic violence. (maybe it shouldn’t have waited that long, but it did). I mean 9/11, of course.

Setting that aside though, the BBC’s analysis overall is really short on a factor they know very well to have been at play: that is the agitation of muslim clerics. Abdelhadi should know a lot about this because he did the BBC’s profile on one of authorities which received a delegation which publicised the cartoons in the Islamic world: Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. For an expert on Islam and the Sheikh, it’s curious the BBC’s man thought this irrelevant. He mentions ‘diligent’ internet activism, but not the actual delegation, which was received by ‘Arab League Secretary Amr Moussa, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Mohammad Sayyed Tantawi, and Sunni Islam’s most influential scholar, Yusuf al Qaradawi’ (The Counterterrorism blog) .

The interesting part about the BBC’s role in all of this is that, in the reports that initially heralded the cartoon controversy as it re-emerged over that last week or so, they included the three ‘extra’ cartoons that the delegation used to arouse anger- cartoons which had nothing to do with Jyllands-Posten. (see The Counter-terrorism blog for more detail, as linked above) The cartoons were presented in a booklet, according to this account, which brought to mind DFH’s excellent screen grab from a BBC report. I wonder if the BBC didn’t in fact have the inside track on this delegation, either directly or more likely though their link-up with Al Jazeera. (for those wondering about the BBC’s recent decision to launch an Arabic channel in competition, I would say that this doesn’t mean the BBC is any less involved with Al-Jazeera, but that it is trying to diversify its role in the region)

I’d argue that this link up is actually deeply undermining any sense of the BBC’s objectivity. In order to have the opportunity to interview the likes of Al-Qaradawi they have to accept that what they get from their Islamic sources is reliable, when it isn’t. This was a major gaffe, not least because the defusal of the situation could have been achieved by pouring scorn on the whole train of propaganda which was clearly at work, of which the BBC’s faked cartoons were the best evidence. So far as I am aware the BBC have not apologised or even recognised their mistake, if it can be called that, or analysed the part the fakes have had to play in the events that have transpired. No doubt they’ve merely been basking in the pathetic Jack Straw’s approval of their peep-show approach. Oh, and no doubt Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi’s.

Update: I’ve just discovered this post from Michelle Malkin which includes a partial transcript of an Fox interview with the leader of the delegation mentioned above. Reading this, I find Abu Laban- no relation to the B-BBC blogger that I’m aware of :-)-, who was the leader of the Danish Imam delegation that the BBC seems keen to avoid mentioning, concluding a dialogue thus:

‘Jonathon Hunt: So, you want a new set of rules for the way Western Europe lives?

Imam Ahmad Abu Laban: Yes.’

And this is interesting, because see how Magdi Abdelhadi finishes his report:

‘part of the Western consensus is that poking fun at religious figures is acceptable.

It seems that some Muslim activists living in Europe are determined to redefine the boundaries of that consensus.’

Seems as though the BBC know all about it. Mmmm. They’re just telling us in their own ‘balanced’ way.