The BBC has learnt…

A whistleblower alerted the government to failings around child protection in Haringey six months before Baby P died, according to this BBC report, which swiftly moves on after the opening paragraph to a government press release responding to the claims. Readers are left to guess the details.

It is understood a lawyer acting for a former social worker sent the letter to the then health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, says the BBC.

It might be understood, but it’s all a bit vague, principallly because the BBC seems to be entirely reliant on the government’s press office. Readers anywhere else, be it, the left-leaning Independent or right-wing Telegraph, not only understand; they know exactly what actually happened:

It [the letter] read: “Our client whistle-blew the fact that the sexual abuse had been ongoing for months and the new management brought in post-Climbie had not acted… We write to ask for a public inquiry into these matters.”, records the Independent.

And later in the BBC report we have this:

It is understood the social worker no longer works for Haringey council.

Again, it’s writing that really sounds like it’s coming from the ministerial department rather than a journalist.

At the Telegraph, on the other hand, they not only understand the social worker doesn’t work there, they know that Miss Kemal was later suspended and left her £34,000-a-year job with the council. An employment tribunal found that she had been singled out because she was a whistle-blower.

In fact, overall the BBC report does once again make me wonder: if it doesn’t actually tell you anything about what happened, does it still qualify as journalism?

General BBC-related comment thread!

Please use this thread for comments about the BBC’s current programming and activities. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog – scroll down for new topic-specific posts. N.B. This is not an invitation for general off-topic comments, rants or chit-chat. Thoughtful comments are encouraged. Comments may also be moderated. Any suggestions for stories that you might like covered would be appreciated! It’s your space, use it wisely.

No faults allowed

Following the recent criticism of the BBC’s coverage of the US election, it’s worth mentioning this piece from yesterday’s Independent. It’s an interview with Peter Horrocks, head of news, and it’s classic Beebish. For anyone discomforted by the recent humility the Beeb’s been forced into over the Sach’s affair, Horrocks it the perfect tonic: he simply admits no criticism.

So, the cringe inducing interview with Gore Vidal: a highlight of the evening, says Horrocks. Political editor looking tipsy on screen? A very human moment. Dimleby past his prime? A very respected and experienced person, he says (somewhat dodging the question). Appalling graphics? Not at all.

So the Beeb’s perfect? Well, not quite: The BBC news executive admits that he was concerned by the lack of black faces in the BBC’s coverage on such a moment in history.

Further fallout

It’s been hard to avoid comment about the Beeb’s bias in the national press lately, but this article by novelist DJ Taylor on the Beeb’s US election coverage is worth flagging up:

While everybody in the room – party cheerleaders excepted – clearly wanted Obama to win, those in charge were doing a very good impression of studied neutrality. It was all a far cry from recent British general elections, where the anti-Conservative bias of certain BBC pundits… has been so flagrant as to make you wonder exactly how they got away with it… There is no great mystery, of course, behind this sudden excess of timidity. In the wake of the Brand/Ross disaster the corporation is simply terrified of offending anybody.

Worth mentioning, too, that Taylor’s a member of the Labour party, and this is from the left-leaning Independent.

And, sticking with leftist newspapers sticking it to the Beeb over the last couple of days, here’s Sue Carroll in the Mirror on Ed Stourton’s description of the Queen mother as a “ghastly old bigot”:

When the Queen Mother died, Ed Stourton condemned a tabloid newspaper for publishing details of her last moments, claiming the publication was “quite comfortable in the gutter”… Would his book about political correctness have made news without him shopping the nation’s favourite gran? In a word No.

Welcome to the gutter, Ed.

General BBC-related comment thread!

Please use this thread for comments about the BBC’s current programming and activities. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog – scroll down for new topic-specific posts. N.B. This is not an invitation for general off-topic comments, rants or chit-chat. Thoughtful comments are encouraged. Comments may also be moderated. Any suggestions for stories that you might like covered would be appreciated! It’s your space, use it wisely.

An alternative view

The great thing about guest columns on the Beeb’s website is that they allow different voices to give their take on the big events of the moment – voices we might not normally hear, such as this piece by [democrat, arch-Obama supporter and] “social commentator” Nancy Giles. So, instead of the usual left-leaning commentary on the significance of Obama’s win on race relations in the US that we’re used to, the Beeb treats us to some full on left-wing commentary on the significance of Obama’s win on race relations in the US. What a fantastic idea!

General BBC-related comment thread!

Please use this thread for comments about the BBC’s current programming and activities. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog – scroll down for new topic-specific posts. N.B. This is not an invitation for general off-topic comments, rants or chit-chat. Thoughtful comments are encouraged. Comments may also be moderated. Any suggestions for stories that you might like covered would be appreciated! It’s your space, use it wisely.

Best placed?


The IMF is not optimistic: it’s cut its 2009 growth forecast for the global economy to 2.2% from the previous estimate of 3%, as this report from the Beeb just about manages to mention at the end. And, more relevantly, in this piece yesterday about the rate cut. But can you guess what nugget of information readers of the Beeb’s reports miss out on?

  • The Independent: Britain, in particular, is heading for trouble, the IMF said, predicting that the UK would suffer a more serious recession than any other developed country in the world during 2009.
  • The Times: Britain is now forecast to bear the brunt of the global slump, with its GDP plunging by 1.3 per cent in what would be the worst year for the UK since the economy shrank by 1.4 per cent in 1991.
  • The Telegraph: Britain’s economy will suffer and will see the steepest decline in G7 club of leading powers, shrinking 1.3pc as the crunch in the City of London leads to more job losses.

Regular readers won’t be surprised, though, because unfortunately this is becoming a bit of a habit at the Beeb.

Question Time Watch

It’s that time of the week again. Fresh from victory in the US, Dimbleby and co. return to see if the power of positive thinking can sway the count following that even more important election, up in Fife. This week, someone accidentally invited UKIP’s Nigel Farage, so they’ve had to draft in two lefty commentators in the shape of Brian Eno and Bonnie Greer to ensure the requisite liberal majority. As ever, your views are important to us, so please leave your message in thread provided.

General BBC-related comment thread!

Please use this thread for comments about the BBC’s current programming and activities. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog – scroll down for new topic-specific posts. N.B. This is not an invitation for general off-topic comments, rants or chit-chat. Thoughtful comments are encouraged. Comments may also be moderated. Any suggestions for stories that you might like covered would be appreciated! It’s your space, use it wisely.

Post match analysis

With the election finally over, let’s take a moment to review the Beeb’s coverage before we move on. This is possibly one for the train spotters, but it’s important not least because of the Beeb’s claim that individual examples of bias aren’t persuasive as they are trying to achieve balance over time. How the Beeb does so is anyone’s guess, as there’s no evidence they monitor it. However, let’s be radical: let’s assume they’re not lying. So let’s look at the coverage of the election (okay, from the moment Palin was selected) on Justin Webb’s blog. And let’s take with the treatment of Palin. To anticipate a few preliminary objections:

  • Why Webb? Well, he’s the North American Editor, so it seems reasonable.
  • Why the blog? I don’t think the Beeb’s going to let me have all the tapes of Webb’s broadcast coverage. And, frankly, I don’t want them. But not to worry: we know that the same rules regarding impartiality apply, so the blog entries should, if Webb’s doing his job, present a balanced and impartial view.
  • Why Palin? Webb’s blogged on her a lot, which means there’s a decent sample. And she’s someone on which there are significantly differing views, which we should therefore expect to see reflected in the coverage. As Webb puts it, she is immensely grating on those who do not like her, but immensely pleasing to those who do.

So let’s look at the balance:

As for Sarah Palin! Her creationist views are bound to become an issue (can you really have a president who denies basic truths about the world?)

So Webb’s coverage of Palin begins, and with characteristic style – ignoring the fact that, as the Beeb’s admitted, she’s not a creationist, and that she’s not running for president. I’m going to chalk that one up as a negative comment.

However, I’m going to exclude those comments that are neutral – and I’m using the term loosely. Comments such as these:

As well as these posts: on the pregnancy; agreeing she is not the new Eagleton; and his entry about lipstickgate.

So what’s that leave us with? Well, here are the postive comments, such as they are:

  • Palins Punches: I liked the parliamentary-style jabs at Obama and they have peppered the news coverage, though I still think she is skating on thin ice.
  • America’s Answer to Thatcher: with that quote about being grating or pleasing (I’m trying to be generous)
  • Two posts about Palin getting more cheers than McCain: Disappointment? and Regan, Clinton, W and Obama. These really seem like digs at McCain, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.
  • And an admission that She is not the harbinger of some dark witch-burning retreat into superstition and irrationality.

And on the negative side:

So, on balance, and over time, do you reckon that Webb thinks Palin would have: made a brilliant VP; been an awful one; or do those rules on impartiality and his professionalism make it just impossible to tell?

They did it!

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the result is historic. As for the BBC’s coverage, well thanks for your comments. Iain Dale was also unimpressed, and as evidence of the Beeb’s standing at home and abroad, here’s an American perspective:

The real fun network of the night was BBC America, which picked up the BBC feed being aired back in England. The coverage played like a good-natured “Idiot’s Guide to the American Election,” with references to such states as “North Hampshire.”

After all the hard work, though, it’s only right that the last word goes to the Beeb. And who better than John Simpson (a troll challenge here: can anyone make a convincing case Simpson might have voted Republican?) :

The United States has seen the biggest transformation in its standing in the world since the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in November 1960.

This is a country which has habitually, sometimes irritatingly, regarded itself as young and vibrant, the envy of the world. Often this is merely hype. But there are times when it is entirely true.

With Barack Obama’s victory, one of these moments has arrived

UPDATE: Iain Dale fleshes out his criticism of the Beeb’s coverage here: references to John Bolton’s outburst, “car crash TV”, and a note that this should be David Dimbleby’s last election make it well worth reading.

The Beeb goes to the polls

So this is it. We’ll soon know whether all the work; all the campaigning; all the speeches; all the infomercials have paid off: Have Webb, Frei and the rest of the Beeb done enough to get their man elected? It’s a big night for students of BBC bias, too. If Obama wins as expected will they be able to hide their glee? If there’s an upset and he loses, will there be tears? There’s 175 BBC staff over there, so too much to cover. Over to you, then…

General BBC-related comment thread!

Please use this thread for comments about the BBC’s current programming and activities. This post will remain at or near the top of the blog – scroll down for new topic-specific posts. N.B. This is not an invitation for general off-topic comments, rants or chit-chat. Thoughtful comments are encouraged. Comments may also be moderated. Any suggestions for stories that you might like covered would be appreciated! It’s your space, use it wisely.