Meanwhile, back at the batcave …

… Peter Rippon, editor of Newsnight, has responded to the complaints about how an audio clip of President Obama’s inaugural speech was spliced, had its order altered, and then was rejoined to make a new sentence never actually spoken by Obama.

The original post in Harmless Sky can be read here. My B-BBC post on the subject is here.

Mr Rippon writes,

We did edit sections of the speech to reflect the elements in it that referred to Science. The aim was to give people an impression or montage of what Obama said about science in his inauguration speech. This was signposted to audiences with fades between each point. It in no way altered the meaning or misrepresented what the President was saying.

I don’t think Mr Rippon’s response answers the objections raised.

Point one: fades, what fades? Listening to the audio clip there is a change in the quality of the background sound at the first splice point, which I initially heard as a faint sound but now think is just a discontinuity. No one who was not listening specifically for the break point would ever think it was anything other than a continuous flow of speech. Fades are meant to, you know, fade.

Point two: there is not even that at the second break point – it runs smoothly on.

Point three: what about the alteration of the order? Someone just offering up a montage of phrases doesn’t mess with the order such that a new, coherent (but never actually spoken) sentence is created.

Point four: the meaning was altered and TonyN’s original post in Harmless Sky explained very clearly why. He wrote, “Paragraph 16 does not refer to climate change in any way, but to economic and infrastructure problems. The reference to harnessing the sun, wind and soil could as easily refer to energy security as global warming.” But in the BBC version it does appear to refer to global warming.

I would add that in the original sentence as spoken by Obama, “We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost”, the fact that science being restored to its rightful place is immediately followed by a reference to healthcare gives me the strong impression that it was meant to refer to lifting restrictions on the federal funding of research into embryonic stem cells. The BBC version, “We will restore science to its rightful place – roll back the spectre of a warming planet”, makes it sound as if the restoration of science to its rightful place refers to President Bush’s alleged scepticism over global warming. This interpretation is reinforced by the whole tone of Susan Watts’ blog post and video essay: “But in climate change and other key challenges of science, Bush wouldn’t listen to the scientists. He didn’t like their view of the world, and he didn’t like what they were saying.”

Blimey, that sounds like something aimed at ten-year olds. I am not Obama’s biggest fan, but at least when speaking in his own words he sounds like he is addressing adults.

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72 Responses to Meanwhile, back at the batcave …

  1. David Preiser (USA) says:

    Holy dead giveaways, Batman!

    “The aim was to give people an impression…”

    Well, exactly.

    Chuffer, if you’re letting your offspring read the blog these days, point out Rippon’s statement as a primary example of what’s wrong at the BBC.

    John Reith wept.


  2. Martin says:

    Yet again the BBC have been caught with their hand in the sweetie jar and no matter what they say they can’t deny it.

    What they should have done is used a voice over from presenter to make it clear what each link was about.

    however, as we know the BBC has long given up on the idea of FACTUAL reporting and now just acts as a mouthpiece for the UN, the Labour party and other left wing organisations.


  3. Martin says:

    Can I suggest that David Vance or someone puts this up on the permanent part of this blog? It’s as infamous now as that dopey cow off Radio5 and the Champagne bottles.


  4. Libertarian says:

    Obama is going to disappoint the Greenies and the Anti-Capitalists and the Friends of Gaza which is all good news.

    The BBC will then have to revert to their default Neo-Marxist position as will all of the oh-so-funny Radio 4 ‘comedy’ shows.

    …………The BBC…….Desparate to be right about something.


  5. GCooper says:

    Somehow the pressure needs to be kept up on Rippon. Newsnight and Watts have form in this area and it’s high time they were stopped from using what purports to be a news programme for such naked propaganda.


  6. Jon says:

    OT – but worth watching

    Labour Party Political Broadcast 2009


  7. Tom FD says:

    Also on the subject of Obama. How many BBC reporters does it take to cover the changing of a light bulb? At least seven, it seems:

    And that’s not including whoever Newsnight has put on the case. Why does the BBC need to waste so much of our money on so many of these mouthpieces? Surely they could get by with just one or two?


  8. John Bosworth says:

    OK Here’s the truth: the BBC’s hidden weapon has always been editing.

    If the producer has no sympathy with a subject (Bush, Thatcher, Reagan) the worst version of their words is chosen. A little snip here, snip there. But if its Obama (as evidence) or Gordon Brown, then the best spin is given.

    The temptation to commit this basic sin is made easier when a producer knows their version of events will not be questioned by a more senior person who shares their “inclinations”.

    The doctoring – or “editing” – of audio and video is excused for many reasons. The clip is “too long” or “confusing” and needs to be “tidied up”. I’m sure Caroline Kennedy had she still been in the race of NY governor would have been “de-um-ed” as the phrase is, removing her awful “you knows” and making her sound more eloquent. However no such care was ever taken over George Bush. Every chance was taken to demean him. Evidence of this was the curtailing of his comments about shaking the “hand” of the man who had lost his hands to a bomb blast a few days ago. (If you remember, Bush went on to say that the man had been given a new hand by US doctors.) The object of the exercise was to make Bush look stupid – to “get Bush”.

    By the way, (off topic) did anyone notice Lis Douset’s BBC world news headline yesterday when she announced a report about the consequences of the “ASSAULT” of Israel on Gaza? Interesting use of the word. And also, in the filmed report which followed, a teddy bear was shown. Beware the ubiquitous teddy bear – especially one in pristine condition as this one appeared to be. These are often carried around by cameramen and placed on the burned out ruins of houses. It adds pathos.


  9. Atlas shrugged says:

    Obama is going to disappoint the Greenies and the Anti-Capitalists and the Friends of Gaza which is all good news.

    Obama will disappoint Greenies, only because Greenies are conditioned to not ever be satisfied, even if we either all froze to death or ended up living in mud huts.

    He will not disappoint Anti-Capitalists, because there is effectively no such thing. There is only Anti Free market capitalists, which is of course ALL OF THEM.

    The powers that run this planet, create monopolies, for reasons of control and power, one way or another.

    History is your guide in understanding how this has been achieved. This even in services that are very much more efficiently provided by private individuals, and very small companies.

    However in a world of Ruling elite power, large corporations are possibly inevitable and certainly could be very helpful to the consumer. However the people who control large corporations only care about the consumer when there is true and honest competition at play. Once the system started lending to governments instead of developing small private business, a long time ago, government and the big money became one. Since they have become so, they may have had the odd lovers tiff or two, but they have never so much as separated, never mind become divorced from each other.

    Monopolies and constant attacks on small business. By among other things increased regulation, inflation and other forms of taxation, finally putting the knife in with there periodically created booms and busts. Have got us where we are today. Which is forever bankrupt and property rights less on the land our forefathers risked or laid down their lives for.

    The left will always blame the right and the right will always blame the left.

    The truth is they are both right and wrong at the same time, the establishment makes sure they are. The bits they are both wrong about are the bits the establishment cruelly inflict without mercy on us. The bits that they are both right about are the bits that the establishment always intended to ignore.

    And of course not forgetting that it is The BBC itself which the primary establishment tool for effecting this confidence trick on the public.


  10. mark adams says:

    I want to record here the comment I made on the BBC blog lest it’s moderated away:

    “1. There is no fade audible.
    2. The splice rearranged sentences to distort the meaning to suit a global warming agenda. That’s fakery, pure and simple.
    3. The report without the fakery is pure propaganda, eg by distorting Bush’s policy on stem cell research to which Bush has no objection. He objects to new embryos being used for stem cell research. So do and I’m agnostic.

    Propaganda and distortion – now what?”


  11. Jonathan says:

    I realise that this is off-topic but folow the link below to really explosive story in the Sunday Times

    The headline- ‘Revealed: Labour lords change laws for cash’- sums up the content of the article and the Times has hard evidence (in the form of tapped conversations).

    Now remember how the BBC went OTT in the ‘Cash for Questions’ scandal. Surely, this is worse – but guess what – no mention on the BBC about the Times story. What’s the betting that they’ll let it drop after 1 day.


  12. James P says:

    “fades, what fades?”

    The ones they’re busy splicing in right now…


  13. InterestedParty says:

    Good article. They really dont need to resort to this clear manipulation but I suspect it could be a future pattern when reporting Obama related stuff.
    Personally I am timinig it to see it develop from adoration to human (I.e real) understanding.

    It took 7 years for Blair.


  14. Gaz says:

    Jonathon, and all the reporting will be done in inverted commas just so people are reminded how unimportant it is.


  15. Libertarian says:

    Rod Liddle in The Times

    “The nightmare is over,” said Jon Snow on Channel 4 News, referring not to colleague Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s desperate attempts to read the news without being swallowed whole by his own smugness, but to the occasion of George W Bush leaving office.

    I suppose Jon thought that he was speaking for all of us; this is the way with our liberal media elite • they do not think that they are remotely biased, merely that they are the sole guardians of the unvarnished truth. Bush was a nightmare • everyone agrees, from that nice Armenian chap who works in our local delicatessen to the BBC and The Guardian. That is everyone, isn’t it?


  16. John Bosworth says:

    Cash for Honours? It was ever thus. Years ago when the Canadian peer “Lord Thompson of Fleet” was asked how he obtained his honour, he replied with characteristic frankness: “I bought it.”


  17. Pete says:

    If Mr Rippon’s opinions on anything at all were worthy of consideration he’d be able to sell them to people willing to buy them on a vouluntary basis.

    Why do I have to pay for them just because I want to watch football on Sky TV without getting a fine and a criminal record?


  18. Grimly Squeamish says:

    Beeb website not even mentioning this snouts in the trough story. If this had been a tory scandal they’d be crawling all over it by now.

    “The three Conservative peers did not return our calls and a Liberal Democrat and an Ulster Unionist both declined to help after meeting the undercover reporters.

    However, four of the five Labour peers were willing to help to amend the bill in return for retainers.”

    – Sunday Times


  19. Jim Miller says:

    I hope Natalie will forgive me for bringing up a related but important point (and for plugging my own site).

    But I would bet that you will never learn these facts from the BBC.

    Under Bill Clinton, federal support for R&D stagnated; under George W. Bush, federal support for R&D rose 40 percent. Incidentally, those numbers come, not from the Bush administration, but from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    (By the way, everyone in the world is likely to benefit, in time, from those increases. Even BBC employees.)

    Back to the topic: A sharp and honest reporter would have known those budget numbers and would have expressed some skepticism about Obama’s claims. But the BBC editors were too busy constructing a propaganda piece.


  20. adam says:



  21. Jason says:

    Here’s a simply sickening AP article about Obama, almost cartoonish in its fawning admiration and blind, unquestioning devotion to the man. The mainstream media’s adopted role as Obama’s propaganda wing just heightens the BBC’s responsibility as a tax-funded charter-driven broadcaster to provide an unbiased, balanced view of the world. Which of course they’re not doing. If the BBC refuse to offer an alternative to the propaganda of the mainstream media, then what exactly is its point? It’s whole existence is pointless, not to mention immoral.


  22. Ryan says:

    No apology from Rippon, except for not replying sooner. Pathetic.


  23. Jason says:

    Ryan | 25.01.09 – 5:54 am | #

    The BBC are addicted to bias and like alcoholics, they have a long road to recovery. Admitting their bias would be step 1 of course….apologizing for it doesn’t come until step 9 if I’m not mistaken. I believe they’ll be required to make a list of all the license payers and send them all a written apology (no photocopies mind).

    Of course I won’t be expecting a letter because I’ve never paid my license fee.


  24. Cassandra says:

    Notice the rise of the politically convenient story and notice the correlation between this new tactic and the BBC.
    The AGW/MMCC believers require a sound bite for the propagation of their beliefs and like magic stories appear in the media, the BBC gives uncritical coverage, the BBC needs to cover its arse against well founded accusations of partisan Gaza coverage and hey presto up comes a convenient story whipped up out of nothing to show BBC impartiality.
    Story after story seems tailor made to fit a narrative and agenda, its not just the BBC that indulges in this scam but they are a leading player.
    The BBC is a news filter, notice how anything that doesnt come within the BBC comfort zone is supressed, notice how the BBC protects its friends and attacks its enemies, the BBC is corrupted fully, its oversight structure sabotaged and its internal critics displaced, all positions within the structure have a common purpose and belief system, the BBC is a lesson in the corruption of the MSM and yet there is good news, people are starting to see the corruption and they are starting to see thru the lies, time will tell if its too late!


  25. Preposteroso says:

    Reading through all these valid comments makes me wonder what this blog is all about. Are valid comments just an end in themselves? We all know what we think of the BBC but are only sharing it with eachother, and that neither bothers nor affects the BBC one iota. There’s a need for actual action to bring about actual change. Anyone have any idea how, together, we might have actual impact?


  26. The Beebinator says:

    Al Beeb fabricating the news……oh my…..who would have thought such a thing


  27. Peter says:

    Preposteroso | Homepage | 25.01.09 – 8:06 am | #

    I feel your frustration. And I wish I could answer more optimistically, and also do hope for more ways to address these issues more tangibly.

    For now, just as I read about things here and post upon them, so might one hope that others, perhaps in positions of more power and influence, will at least read an act… media, pols… maybe even the odd BBC person who can see when their employer is off course.

    Plus, of course, the links here can lead one to go off and post in other, equally influential areas.
    I don’t imagine the Newsnight blog is comfortable reading to Ms. Watts and Mr. Rippon , especially if read by others ‘in the bubble’ who they do care about, if not the likes of us mere licence fee payers.


  28. Jason says:

    Preposteroso | Homepage | 25.01.09 – 8:06 am | #

    The first thing you can do is stop paying your license fee. The BBC are like a giant tapeworm, it’s time to stop feeding them.


  29. mikewineliberal says:

    Lords story is lead item on the news website


  30. mark adams says:

    Complaint sent as follows:

    “Restoring science to its rightful place” – report by Susan Watts

    The report and the issues are found on her blog at:

    1.Obama’s words are spliced and re-ordered to suita global warming agenda.

    2. Even without the fakery the whole report is propaganda, misrepresenting both the scientific controversy on global warming and Bush’s position on stem cell research.

    3. Peter Rippon’s response on the Watts’ blog is demonstrated to be untrue both by listening to the faked section and reading the comments to it. He’s simply dug a bigger hole. Both the journalist and the editor should be fired for fundamental breaches of journalistic ethics.

    Fakery and propaganda – now what?


  31. The point of this blog is to show that the worrying suspicions that some people may have about the BBC’s agenda is shared by many others. The cases of bias are colloated here and then told to friends and colleagues. Believe me, I have taken the wool from the eyes of many people about the BBC.


  32. Gareth says:

    If I wanted an impression I’d watch Rory Bremner.

    It’s quite an achievement to misrepresent both the former and the current Presdient in one piece.


  33. GCooper says:

    I have just read the BBC’s version of the corrupt peers story.

    Guess which word doesn’t appear in it?

    Clue (for mwl) it begins with an L.


  34. Preposteroso says:

    [email protected]

    I like that. But BBC bias is getting worse, not better, by the day.


    This approach is hopeless unless millions refuse to pay.


    When I click on the link to your homepage, why does Google tell me your site is a danger to children? Is this a taste of censorship to come, or just some sort of mistake?


  35. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    the BBC has long given up on the idea of FACTUAL reporting and now just acts as a mouthpiece for the UN, the Labour party and other left wing organisations

    And Hamas.


  36. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Cash for Honours? It was ever thus

    Try reading carefully. This is not cash for honours: this is chash for changing the low.
    At this point, Britain could only aspire to become a banana republic.


  37. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    sorry, law.


  38. Martin says:

    NO: Yes I forgot Hamas.


  39. Martin says:

    GCooper: When the story of the dodgy Peers was FIRST read out on Radio 5, Labour was mentioned in the headline.

    However this morning, it’s gone from the headlines. It’s just ‘4 Peers’. Perhaps the BBC hope people assume they are Tories?


  40. Martin says:

    Does Gordon Brown read this blog? Apparently he’s upset at being shown as a big fat tub of lard in the newspaper cartoons.

    Well here’s a tip McFatty One eye. STOP EATING SO MUCH


  41. mikewineliberal says:

    gcooper – third para of story on website”

    “Lady Royall told the BBC she had spoken to the four Labour peers concerned and would be “pursuing the matter with utmost vigour”.”


  42. GCooper says:

    MWL – Big deal. Now go and read the original story in The Times.


  43. David A says:

    Jim Miller:

    Your comment about the increase of federal funding for research and development in the USA is very much “on post” in my opinion. Have a look at the following linked article which shows a Mann-like “hockey stick” graph of increasing research funding once ex-President Bush assumed office.


    Assuming that you are not Jonathan Boyd Hunt – who is one of a very rare breed; a REAL journalist – then I suggest that you visit Jonathan Boyd Hunt’s website at

    There are few things in this life that I am absolutely 100% certain about, but one of them is the certainty that Neil Hamilton is an honourable man and did not take “cash for questions” and was not guilty of “Tory sleaze”.

    However, I am not holding my breath awaiting the time when the British Brainwashing Corporation will talk about “New Labour” sleaze.


  44. John Reith spins in his grave says:

    Slightly OT, but here’s an Obama satire you’ll never hear on the beeb – from Ranting Penguin on Labourist blog – I had to wipe the coffee of my keyboard anyway:-

    THE LARK PROGRAMME – Obama’s answer to Guantanamo Bay.

    A Lady wrote a lot of letters to the White House complaining about the
    treatment of captive insurgents being held in Guantanamo Bay.

    She received the following reply:

    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
    Washington , D.C. 20016

    Dear Concerned Citizen,

    Thank you for your recent letter roundly criticizing our treatment of the Taliban and Al Quaida detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

    Our administration takes these matters seriously and your opinion was heard loud and clear here in Washington

    You’ll be pleased to learn that, thanks to the concerns of citizens like yourself, we are creating a new division of the Terrorist Retraining Program, to be called the Liberals Accept Responsibility for Killers’ program, or LARK for short.

    In accordance with the guidelines of this new program, we have decided to place one terrorist under your personal care.

    Your personal detainee has been selected and scheduled for transportation under heavily armed guard to your residence next Monday.

    Ali Mohammed Ahmed bin Mahmud (you can just call him Ahmed) is to be cared for pursuant to the standards you personally demanded in your letter of complaint. It will likely be necessary for you to hire some assistant caretakers.

    We will conduct weekly inspections to ensure that your standards of care for Ahmed are commensurate with those you so strongly recommended in your letter.

    Although Ahmed is a sociopath and extremely violent, we hope that your sensitivity to what you described as his ‘attitudinal problem’ will help him overcome these character flaws.

    Perhaps you are correct in describing these problems as mere cultural differences. We understand that you plan to offer counseling and home schooling.

    Your adopted terrorist is extremely proficient in hand-to-hand combat and can extinguish human life with such simple items as a pencil or nail clippers. We advise that you do not ask him to demonstrate these skills at your next yoga group. He is also expert at making a wide variety of explosive devices from common household products, so you may wish to keep those items locked up, unless (in your opinion) this might offend him.

    Ahmed will not wish to interact with you or your daughters (except sexually), since he views females as a subhuman form of property. This is a particularly sensitive subject for him and he has been known to show violent tendencies around women who fail to comply with the new dress code that he will recommend as more appropriate attire.

    I’m sure you will come to enjoy the anonymity offered by the burka — over time.

    Just remember that it is all part of ‘respecting his culture and his religious beliefs’ — wasn’t that how you put it?

    Thanks again for your letter. We truly appreciate it when folks like you keep us informed of the proper way to do our job. You take good care of Ahmed – and remember, we’ll be watching.

    Good luck!

    Barack Obama and your friends at the White House


  45. mikewineliberal says:

    GCooper | 25.01.09 – 12:38 pm

    I have. grim stuff if true. my point is you said “Guess which word doesn’t appear in it? Clue (for mwl) it begins with an L.” And I was able to show you were wrong.


  46. Peter says:

    When I click on the link to your homepage, why does Google tell me your site is a danger to children? Is this a taste of censorship to come, or just some sort of mistake?
    Preposteroso | Homepage | 25.01.09 – 11:16 am | #

    Nothing too sinister. Blogger has this option which is not censorship, but backside covering, I guess for them too but mainly the author.

    I decided to opt in, not so much for what might be on my site (I try to avoid extremes, from language to ad hominems to wild claims without links, etc), but what I link to, such as this site, which can get…fruity:)


  47. Ryan says:

    I think for the purpose of discussion it would be a good idea to “forget” the implied bias of the BBC spin regarding ‘climate change’. Even putting this aside, it is unacceptable editing because it changes and distorts what Obama said.

    Perhaps we could suggest some other faux quotes to illustrate how wrong-headed this practise is and how it distorts.


  48. Martin says:

    Actually now that Gitmo is to be closed we will simply see no prisoners being taken. Works for me 🙂


  49. John M says:

    Fades indeed.

    The silence after the comma in this sentence:

    We will restore science to its rightful place, roll back the specter of a warming planet

    is indeed shorter than the silence after the comma in the original:

    With old friends and former foes, we’ll work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet.

    Sure there is fade but the ramp is very steep. Without being told you would never know – never – that this was a montage.

    The BBC needs to be sanctioned over this.


  50. Tom says:


    Here, with a few modifications of a BBCish sort is Gordon Brown’s New Year Message:

    The scale and speed of the global financial crisis was at times, almost overwhelming.

    That is why the response had to be to embrace debt, a longer, deeper downturn, and a weaker economy in the future.

    When the history books come to be written – 2009 will largely be remembered for failure. A year in which an old era of progressive dogma was finally ushered out.

    Original here: