Saturday, 24 March 2018

Who's in the dock?

In happier days....

Further to yesterday's post speculating that the one thing that might provoke the BBC into giving Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party a really terrible press would probably be something Brexit-related rather than anything antisemitism-related, well, Jeremy Corbyn's sacking of the pro-EU Owen Smith for backing a second EU referendum looks to be just the sort of thing. 

The BBC News website had a main report about it last night that was initially heavily stacked with defenders of Owen Smith and critics of Jeremy Corbyn. The last of the article's five versions, published some two-and-a-half hours after the first, toned the bias down considerably by adding Diane Abbott's comments near the top of the article. 

This morning the story is still a main story on the BBC News website and a new report has been posted about it, first under the headline Labour MPs attack sacking of Owen Smith over Brexit and now under the headline Labour's Owen Smith 'stood by principles' on Brexit:

This reverts to the heavy bias of the first four versions of yesterday's article giving Mr. Smith and the Corbyn critics (Chuka, Lord Hain, Anna Turley, Ben Bradshaw) the first 13 paragraphs of the article and demoting poor old Diane Abbott to its 14th paragraph.

P.S. I think it's only right to lift this comment from the Open Thread and add it to this post, as it's highly relevant - and I agree with it:

Surrey teenager


As noted by Guest Who at Biased BBC, the comments most certainly could be going better in response to this 'Breaking News' tweet from BBC South East:

Here's just a brief sample of some of those comments:

  • Seriously @BBCSouthEast what do you think you are doing? He is not a Surrey teenager. Not in any serious manner of speaking. He is an Iraqi, and a terrorist, an Islamist terrorist at that.
  • @BBCNews doesn't do facts anymore, it does spin &propaganda, you know it, I know it, even BBC knows it. It's utterly corrupted &cannot be relied upon to report news honestly. A few more ppl will understand this today when they see #ParsonsGreen bomber described as Surrey teenager.
  • Surrey teenager my arse. He was an Iraqi asylum seeker who committed a terrorist attack in the name of Islam.
  • Iraqi migrant from Calais suddenly becomes a “Surrey teenager” @bbcsoutheast pushing fake news.
  • Surrey Teenager. Must update his Wikipedia page.
  • This is appalling. I wonder why people don’t trust the BBC anymore.....
  • You know that fake news advert that you have running on the TV at the moment. Show this to the kids. Then they’ll understand what fake news is.
  • I have two Surrey teenagers. That terrorist is not a Surrey teenager.
  • Why do the BBC write this misleading nonsense.  Every news outlet prints the truth.  They come up with this devious nonsense.
  • BBC = #fakenews.

Open Thread

Please find attached a brand new Open Thread (with a link back to the last one here if you're still catching up).

This week's Open Thread features a map of the rivers of Wales. 

Many thanks for your continued support, and (as my Google Translate says) cael penwythnos da!

Inflammatory language...from the BBC?

Vladimir Putin (from Panorama's website image of him, looking crafty)

Samira Ahmed: Well, one aspect of the ratcheting up of tension between the UK and Russia this week was reported on Wednesday's News at Ten. It began like this: 
Huw Edwards: Tonight at 10, another plunge in relations between Britain and Russia as Boris Johnson compares President Putin to Adolf Hitler. During the day as inspectors continued their investigation in the Salisbury area, the Foreign Secretary suggested that Russia would use the forthcoming World Cup like Adolf Hitler had used the Olympics in 1936. 
Boris Johnson: What is going to happen in Moscow in the World Cup and all of the venues, yes, I think that the comparison with 1936 is certainly right. 
What was not spelled out, though it was made clear later in the programme, was that Boris Johnson had not suggested that analogy of his own accord, but merely agreed with the comparison proposed to him by the Labour MP, Ian Austin. Given that Russia responded with outrage, the distinction seemed an important one to several viewers, including Graham Rains who wrote:
Boris Johnson was not the instigator of the remark. The Foreign Secretary made the comment after hearing the views of Ian Austin, and stated that he was inclined to agree. The BBC's failure to report this accurately has made the relations between the government and Russia even worse.

Where John Sweeney rushes in...

Oh no! Has Newsnight's notorious Graphics department got at this Steve Rosenberg photo too?

There was an interesting interview on this morning's Newswatch between Samira Ahmed and the BBC's Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg. 

In recounting his experiences of reporting in Vladimir Putin's Russia, it struck me how different his experiences were to that of his colleague John Sweeney as reported on Panorama

John Sweeney managed to get himself tailed repeatedly and even got arrested and never got to speak to the Kremlin. Steve Rosenberg has had none of that and even got to ask President Putin a question. 

What did Newsnight's star reporter do that the BBC's Moscow correspondent hasn't yet done to get himself into such trouble?

Anyhow, here's a transcript (for anyone who's interested):

Samira Ahmed: Well, Steve Rosenberg joins me now on the line from Moscow. Steve, you do give us the Kremlin's side of the story. And as we just heard in those e-mails, some viewers fear that it gives them credibility. How do you answer that?  
Steve Rosenberg: Well, I consider my job as the BBC's Moscow correspondent to tell viewers in Britain and around the world what Moscow is thinking. This is a very confusing story and I think it is important to listen to what the Russians are saying. They have a range of arguments. And I think then I have to use my experience of living and working in Russia - and I have been here for 23 years, not with the BBC all that time - but to use my experience to examine what the Russians are saying and to try to cut through all of that and give my interpretation, my opinion, about what is going on here. As I say, it is a very confused story but I think it is important to present the Russian perspective on it.  
Samira Ahmed: We saw you on the campaign trail asking quite a tough question of Putin. Was that a difficult, even scary, thing to do?  
Steve Rosenberg: I wouldn't say it was a scary decision. It was quite a challenging thing to do because normally question and answer sessions with President Putin are heavily controlled. We were covering him on the campaign trail, we found ourselves in a position physically where we were able to pop a question to him and it was the question that really everyone wanted to ask at the moment. Journalistically, I think it was the right thing to do. And the thing about Vladimir Putin, whether you like him or hate him, whatever you think of him, you know, he has no trouble answering questions.  
Samira Ahmed: As you mentioned, you have been in Russia for 23 years. One wonders how hard it is to report there now, and how it compares to reporting from there in the past.  
Steve Rosenberg: I think one thing that we can't always get into our short two-minute news reports but I think it is important to say is that if you go outside the bureau here, Moscow seems like a normal European city.  We don't get the feeling that we're being followed by people in long raincoats with trilby hats and that we're being watched constantly. So, in that sense, we don't feel greater pressure  now. Having said that, we have been harassed while covering controversial stories, sensitive stories, and this didn't happen, say, ten years ago.  
Samira Ahmed: One does wonder how much real political opposition there is in Russia, including from ordinary citizens.  
Steve Rosenberg: It's an interesting question. Vladimir Putin has just been re-elected with a landslide victory and it's clear that, although this was not a level playing field, this election, and only those candidates who posed no serious challenge to Vladimir Putin were allowed to take part, many Russians do support Vladimir Putin - some because they really like his sort of muscle-flexing, his strong-arm tactics, his anti-Western rhetoric. There are other people who support him because they fear change. Many Russians fear change. They don't want life to get worse than it is now and they fear picking a new president.  
Samira Ahmed: You talked about being on the campaign trail for this election. How did it compare to covering a Western election?  
Steve Rosenberg: Well, it's not like a Western election. As I said before, only those candidates who didn't threaten Vladimir Putin were allowed to take part. Russia's most prominent opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, he was barred from taking part in the election. And then you look at the amount of airtime that was given to President Putin on Russian television ahead of the election - he had far more airtime than all of the other candidates put together, and all of the coverage of Putin was very positive. So, you know, in that sense, no, this is not like a Western election.  
Samira Ahmed: The Russian authorities have been particularly critical of the British media. Do you worry about your safety at all?  
Steve Rosenberg: I have not worried up till this point. As I say, walking around Moscow right now, it feels pretty normal. You go into the coffee shop, you get happy smiley faces serving you. And although there is - I have noticed more anti-British sentiment on Russian television. For example, I saw a report the other day where the reporter claimed that over the last few centuries, Britain has had it in for Russia and they listed all the things over the last few hundred years that Britain has done to Russia. So we have seen that, but from the public, I have not noticed really any rise in anti-British sentiment. And also, Russian government officials are still talking to the BBC. We get comments from the Foreign Ministry, from the Parliament, so - which is important because, as I say, it is important for us to be able to listen to what Russia's argument is and then include that in our pieces.  
Samira Ahmed: Steve Rosenberg, thank you.  
Steve Rosenberg: Thanks. 

And on it goes...

Jeremy Corbyn

Hatgate rumbles on and Newswatch covered it for the second week running:
We mentioned on last week's programme complaints that the graphics used in a report and subsequent studio discussion portrayed the Labour leader as a Kremlin stooge with a Russian-style hat that some thought had been digitally altered. Since then, the BBC has received thousands more complaints from those adding their voices to the objection... 
The programme quoted a BBC statement:
Newsnight has a distinctive style, and the pictures sat firmly within its long-running tradition of arresting graphics, applied to all types of stories. The backdrop was used earlier in the year, when the Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, was similarly superimposed. Mr Corbyn has been photographed wearing this particular hat and coat many times, and they were not in any way altered or 'photoshopped' to appear 'more Russian'.
And - though not noted by Newswatch - Channel 4's own FactChecks has also cleared Newsnight of photoshopping that hat, saying that "Mr Corbyn’s hat only appeared taller because of a perspective distortion caused by Newsnight’s curved background screen."

But, as Samira Ahmed noted, "many people remained unsatisfied by that explanation", and we got a couple of examples of such complaints:

  • This is disgraceful in the first place, but to then try to deny what you had really done is abhorrent. Who sanctioned this photoshop debacle?
  • A moment of chilling Orwellian propaganda from our state broadcaster, if even there were one. 

'Complaint from both sides', you see. 

And these complaints, even after having been debunked, are still being made by "thousands" of people. 

In other words, the 'side' complaining here is talking conspiratorial nonsense. 

Friday, 23 March 2018

Agenda piled upon agenda

A tweet tonight from Guardian columnist (and former political editor of The New Statesman) Rafael Behr...

...crystallises a feeling I've already expressed on this blog about the BBC's reporting (though Rafael himself wasn't specifically talking about the BBC there).

Go back in time to 2015 - and the years before that - and you'll find the BBC pouncing on and making a fuss about pretty much every social media slip made by even the most obscure UKIP council candidate. 

Never mind how obscure those UKIP people were, such stories were generally made 'BBC News website front page headline news'. 

Yet now, when every week brings allegation after allegation after allegation against the Labour Party of social media 'crimes' at least comparable - and often much, much worse, and frequently involving antisemitism -,  next to none of this Labour stuff is being made a fuss about by the BBC, and next to none of it is getting the full 'BBC News website headline news' treatment either. 

I think this is serious. 

In the decade or so leading up the EU referendum the BBC was pretty relentless in pushing stories in support of the idea that UKIP was 'full' of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", and yet now, when the Labour Party demonstrably is 'full' of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", the BBC is holding back. 

And, of course, it's not just UKIP. Think of the BBC's promotion of the mob attack on Toby Young. 

Is this a result of pro-Corbyn bias on the BBC's part? Or old-fashioned general pro-Labour bias? Or is it because they're absolutely terrified of the Corbynistas?

(I suspect the latter). 

And given that so many of the recent Labour Party examples involve antisemitism, is it because the BBC doesn't think antisemitism is a serious problem - unlike 'Islamophobia'?

(I suspect that too).

So what will provoke the BBC into giving Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party the same treatment it used to give UKIP?

Mr Corbyn sacking Owen Smith for backing a second EU referendum maybe?

Well, I'm looking at the BBC News website's new main main story (published within the last hour), Jeremy Corbyn sacks Labour's Owen Smith over referendum call, and its opening paragraphs only quote people supporting pro-EU Mr. Smith (Owen Smith himself, Lord Hain, Anna Turley and Ben Bradshaw).

And the extraordinary story of Jeremy Corbyn and the antisemitic mural is now raging online this evening, with Jeremy Corbyn's responding and even Boris Johnson and the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg getting involved (on Twitter), but the BBC News website is (so far) staying clear.

Well-known Labour MPs - from Luciana Berger to Lisa Nandy to Harriet Harman - are piling in.

It will be very interesting to see if, especially with Laura K involved, BBC One's News at Ten covers the latest intense outburst of antisemitism accusations against Jeremy Corbyn (Labour leader, possible next PM).

Already one of the BBC's finest is registering his alarm (and, note, he's leading with the 'Labour voters' "instincts" on Brexit - meaning those Labour voters who voted Remain):

Agenda piled upon agenda?

Interesting times, alas. What to make of them? What will happen next?

Update (21:42): Oh, a small print article has just popped up on the BBC News website's front page below the main headline. It appears to have been published 15 minutes ago.

It's prominently placed but so small that you'd easily miss it:

Update: 22:22: Yes, BBC One's News at Ten did mention the antisemitic mural row. John Pienaar alluded to it, in passing, in a piece about Owen Smith's sacking. The mention was short, easy to miss and context-free and, thus, so cryptic that I suspect hardly anyone listening to it would have had much of a clue as to what the mural story was about.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The Art of Bias

It seems like less than a week ago I listened to The Art of Now, narrated by the quavery-voiced Errollyn Wallen.  I didn’t think much of it. Well, it was less than a week ago, and BBC Watch has come up with a forensic take-down of the programme. Do read it. We heard
 “A completely context-free account of the second Lebanon war in 2006.” 
 “How that war began and what was happening on the other side of the border have no place in this story – and neither does the all-important context of the Hizballah HQ in a specific neighbourhood of Beirut.”
followed by more decontextualised accounts of Jenin, riddled with omissions and pure anti-Israel rhetoric.
“The second story’s location is Jenin and Ahmed Tobasi sets the scene by telling listeners that “when Israel was created” his grandparents left their village and “came here to Jenin refugee camp”. No context – such as the invasion of Israel by surrounding Arab states – is provided at all.”

Here the bias is blatant, unchallenged and relentless. The BBC cannot now claim to be impartial.

Where's Barry?

Abbas is caught in a catch-22. On the one hand, there is the U.S. peace initiative, which he has good reason to think will come to nothing of value. On the other, there is the failed reconciliation process between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The elderly leader escapes his troubles  by hurling insults at Americans and imposing further sanctions on the Gaza Strip. His declarations and actions could bring closer a military conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Strip, and continue to destabilize already tense relations with Israel in the West Bank. 
“Abbas is delusional. He always has been. The amount of criticism of him in the West is minuscule compared to how insane his words are. And the only explanation for this is because the West is committed to the meme of blaming Israel for everything, first and foremost, in any story.”
I haven’t seen Abdel Bari Atwan on Dateline for a week or so. Wonder if he’s well. Oh look. Here he is!

Not exactly ‘delusional and always has been’ - our Bari (aka 'Arry Batwan' or "Barry) wonders now whether Abbas is all there.
“Why did President Abbas depart from diplomatic norms and describe the American ambassador as "the son of a dog"? Is it reasonable to raise his anger against America and Hamas at the same time? What is the guilt of two million people in Gaza to pay the price of this anger? Has his health deteriorated?

No, our Barry hasn’t switched sides. Instead, our Barry supports another, more physical course of action. He “wishes Abbas had declared a new intifada’  and adds:
There is a secret that we do not know about the health and psychological state of President Abbas, and we do not rule out that the disease lies behind his emotions. He went through tests at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland, specializing in incurable diseases, during his recent visit to America.

So our Barry is in rude health and I’m sure he’ll be on Dateline London again soon, preaching ‘actions, not words’.

Stand up For Racism

The Labour Party! What is it like? 
Did you hear that hilarious debate between a lesbian woman and a transgender wo/man about ‘all women’ shortlists. Well, I say hilarious, but one (wo)man’s hilarious is another (wo)man’s dystopian. If you missed it ….
The first thought that struck me was that, like Sunni and Shia Moslems, they could simply unite by collectively directing their ire against the Zionists.

Forget jokers who train their dogs to impersonate Hitler. Forget stupid remarks about big noses. What we need to worry about is the “new’ antisemitism.
“It is the irrational, deceitful, and insidious vilification of Israel and its supporters under the guise of political commentary. It is just a cleverly repackaged form of hatred against the Jewish people.”

Many people regard Zionism itself as a racist concept, a belief that stems from a mixture of wilful ignorance and disinformation, principally from the BBC. How has the BBC choreographed such a thing?  Simply by regurgitating unadulterated Palestinian grievance-mongering over at least the last half century.  By partial ‘half the story’ reporting, which is effectively counter-factual, one-sided and cynically but subtly anti-Israel, from top to bottom.

Unfortunately a great many people believe that opposing Zionism is righteous and they sincerely see themselves as anti-racist.  They care about this so much that they only look at the speck in their brother’s eye while failing to notice the log in their own that prevents them from acknowledging that whole countries are positively riven with Jew-hate and the beam that blinds them to the racism in their support of a future Palestinian state that proudly and loudly boasts that it will be Jew-free. 

This half-baked anti-Zionist principle seems to satisfy the anti-Zionists enough to convince a group called “Stand up to Racism” that they were acting “against” racism when they went on the march in Glasgow where “balaclava-clad members of the Red Front Republic (RFR) group – which claims to be a community-based organisation fighting far-right bigotry– were involved in a stand-off with pro-Zionist supporters.” 

The same principle lies behind Jeremy Corbyn’s apparently sincere belief that the Labour Party is against all forms of racism. How often do you hear your friends saying sorrowfully, “You’d think the Jews of all people would have learnt their lesson. They are doing to the Palestinians what Hitler did to them.”
Firstly the latter sentence is obvious nonsense, and secondly the pathetic “Jews of all people” meme is a non sequitur. If there is a lesson from the past, the most obvious one is - and should be - never again; that acquiescence is fatal / self-defence is vital. The next obvious lesson is that the world stood idly by while Hitler was prosecuting his deadly work. 

We used to ask ourselves, in sheer bafflement, how the hell did the ordinary German in the street allow Hitler to orchestrate the industrial extermination of millions of European Jews?  
That this happened, not in medieval times, not during the Reformation, not in days of old when knights were bold and ladies weren’t invented, but less than a century ago, when there was Swing, there was Jazz, the Lindy Hop and the Jitterbug

Unbelievably, the storm clouds are gathering again. Throughout Europe and here in the UK, where we queue up in an orderly fashion and apologise if we bump into things, Jeremy Corbyn and his acolytes have hoodwinked Generation Ignorant, and the oldest hatred is back. A tipping point has been reached and we are, evidently, paralysed. 

The BBC is uninterested in reversing this. Jeremy Corbyn’s antisemitic connections have been noted but it makes no difference. The topic has been tentatively broached by the BBC but Corbyn’s followers call it a smear, announce that “Labour is against all forms of racism” and we move on. Nothing to see here at the BBC.

Jeremy Corbyn’s association with the antisemitic group Palestine Live has been casually brushed aside. Stephen Pollard says: 
If that isn’t front page news, what is? 
And yet it’s barely been noticed other than in the Sunday Times, which reported it, and the JC, which picked it up yesterday. 
I don’t criticise anyone for that, because you could argue it’s not even the biggest ‘Labour and the Jews’ news of the past 24 hours. 
This morning it has emerged that Jeremy Corbyn was far more than a mere acquaintance of Elleanne Green, the founder of the Palestine Live Facebook group. The Daily Mail reveals today that they enjoyed a “warm friendship” and that Mr Corbyn organised events with her, that they discussed poetry online and that she referred to having had conversations in person with him.

Several incidents and events have occurred recently, which should be of interest  - if not actually worrying -  to the BBC,  but apparently they aren’t.

The Times reports (£) “Brighton Labour leader Warren Morgan forced out after ‘upsetting abuse’". Does the BBC know? Not a sausage.

Upsetting abuse

It’s not only omitting relevant news. It’s actual bias. BBC Watch has raised countless examples. Here’s one about Mosque loudspeakers. See how the BBC treats the same issue when it arises in Israel and Rwanda with their outrage over Israel’s ‘unnecessarily divisive’ proposed draft “muezzin bill” to limit the use of “Call to Prayer” loudspeakers, compared with their relative acceptance of Rwanda’s ban on loudspeakers from mosques in Kigali.

What about the way the BBC reports the deportation of illegal immigrants? The BBC website has featured several emotive, negatively phrased reports on this topic, with the implication that for some reason Israel  (of all people) should have ‘open borders’  
Israel is far from being the only democracy that sends back illegal immigrants. The United States expels 400,000 illegal immigrants every year. Germany has been sending back illegal immigrants to Afghanistan, and Italy to Sudan. In 2017, Germany expelled 80,000 illegal immigrants. . . .
Israel is a safe haven to all Jews, as well as to non-Jewish asylum seekers who meet the criteria of the Refugee Convention—which most illegal immigrants don’t. Israel’s policy is consistent with international law and with the practice of other democracies, and it should not be judged by higher standards.

While I might have found the debate between Emily Brothers  and Lucy Masoud totally ludicrous, largely because of the former’s impenetrable newspeak, I can at least see the funny side of it. (sorry but I’m still, stuck in the days when Les Dawson in a dress was mildly comical) but I can’t quite raise a smile at a group calling itself ‘Stand Up To Racism’ whose slogan is “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here” and whose members are pro-Palestinian Muslims and......
 Scottish Trades Union Congress, Unison Scotland, Unite the Union Scotland, Educational Institute of Scotland, University and College Union Scotland, Scottish Labour Party, Church of Scotland, Justice and Peace Scotland, Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, Scottish Refugee Council, Scottish Faiths Action For Refugees, Show Racism The Red Card, Positive Action in Housing, City of Edinburgh Unison, Glasgow City Unison, Unison South Lanarkshire, Edinburgh College EIS-Fela, Unite Scottish Housing Associations branch, Unite NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Unite GPM and IT Branch, Unite Glasgow retired members, MEND, Afghan Human Rights Foundation, Social Work Action Network, The People’s Assembly Scotland, Govanhill Baths Community Trust, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, Govanhill Against Racism, Maryhill Integration Network, Perth Against Racism, Women for Independence Glasgow, Scottish Jews For A Just Peace, PCS Scotland, RMT Scotland, FBU Scotland, Interfaith Glasgow, Glasgow Unite Community Branch, Scottish Women’s Convention.
when it objects to a few pro-Israel Zionists marching alongside them.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

A one-way street

This morning's Sunday on Radio 4 closed with a discussion about the Government's Green Paper on integration. 

It featured Professor Ted Cantle of the Community Cohesion Foundation and Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain. 

Mr. Versi broadly welcomed the Green Paper but was concerned about its "inappropriate" focus on the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities (particularly over poor English language skills). 

This (particularly thanks to presenter William Crawley maintaining that focus) became the main talking point of the whole discussion. 

Professor Cantle agreed with Mr. Versi about the inappropriateness of singling out the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, calling the media's focus on 'Muslim communities' "very unfortunate". 

They both agreed that integration should focus on "all communities" and be "a two-way street". 

William Crawley also invited Miqdaad Versi to discuss "Sharia courts", saying there has been "a lot of press coverage of that section of the report this week". 

Mr. Versi liked what the Green Paper says about them. 

A comment I saw elsewhere sums up my view of this discussion: "If only BBC Radio 4 Sunday had asked some more testing questions (ie proper journalistic questions) rather than a series of invitations to be politically correct".

Brace yourselves!

Oh no, not again! đŸ˜‰

How did they manage to put that communist-red top on Jane Moore?

And Brexit-hating lawyer/activist Jolyon Maugham QC - Twitter's loudest legal voice - is upping the pressure on the BBC before jetting off on a plane and going out of communication...:


Rob Burley isn't having it:

Framing the debate

  • Join us at ten from Brighton where with calls from across the political spectrum for a second Brexit vote we ask whether the people should have the final say on the terms of the deal. 
  • Today on The Big Questions, should the people have the final say on the Brexit deal?
  • The debate over who should have the final say over the Brexit deal continues to rumble on. This week the campaign group Best for Britain launched a legal challenge to make the government concede a second vote on Brexit. This comes on top of the private member's bill tabled by the Labour MP Geraint Davies calling for a second referendum on whatever the Brexit deal turns out to be, plus a call from Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Greens, for a people's poll on the final deal because of its possible effect on Northern Ireland. Last year, Gina Miller's private action against the Government secured the right of Parliament to a final vote on the Brexit deal. But given the ever-changing demographics of the UK, where those who were most likely to have voted for Brexit are being steadily replaced by young people, who overwhelmingly favoured staying in the EU, we ask, "Should the people have the final say on the terms of Brexit?" 

Questions, questions!

A Tale of Two Stories

You may have read BBC Technology correspondent Dave Lee's BBC News website report Facebook suspends controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica yesterday, or the Home page report on it yesterday evening headlined Trump campaign data firm accused of harvesting Facebook data, or even the write-up about The Observer's front page story about it on James Stephenson's favourite page of the BBC website, The Papers, this morning. 

Of if you don't bother with the BBC News website and were merely watching the BBC News Channel then you'll have seen the Observer Cambridge Analytica story discussed as one of the chosen items by Professor Jon Tonge on this morning's BBC Breakfast paper review and later by Rachel Shabi and Anne Ashworth on the BBC News Channel's 9.40 am paper review. You'll have seen the report on the story on the channel within the last hour.

Or if you were watching BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show then you'll have seen it discussed by Owen Jones and Jane Moore, and Andrew Marr ask Boris Johnson about it. 

So when the famously honest Alastair Campbell tweets the following this morning - 

- you can see he might not be correct. 

Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror's latest front page headline - Stopping Sex Gangs 'Too Much Trouble' - Telford Police insider's horrifying claim against force - has been "given a miss". Once again, it wasn't even shown on The Andrew Marr Show, never mind mentioned or discussed. 

That said (just like last Sunday), it is, however, mentioned on James Stephenson's favourite page of the BBC website, The Papers, and BBC Breakfast interviewed the National Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, who seemed particularly keen to tell us not to focus on the "Asian descent" grooming gang aspect of the story but to think of child abuse as being a much broader phenomenon and one that mostly takes place in the family home. I'd have hoped that Naga would have put the remarkable claims in today's Sunday Mirror about police attitudes in Telford to Mr. Bailey but, alas, she didn't.  

Licence fee payers to the rescue!

According to The Times, "The BBC is considering footing tax bills for hard-up presenters as it braces itself for disclosures in the Commons that some face crippling demands from HM Revenue & Customs".

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Emily had been looking over his shoulder with some curiosity. `What a funny watch!' she remarked. `It tells the day of the month, and doesn't tell what o'clock it is!'

`Why should it?' muttered the Hatter. `Does your watch tell you what year it is?'

`Of course not,' Emily replied very readily: `but that's because it stays the same year for such a long time together.'

`Which is just the case with mine,' said the Hatter.

Emily felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter's remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. `I don't quite understand you,' she said, as politely as she could.

`The Dormouse is asleep again,' said the Hatter, and he poured a little hot tea upon its nose.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Hatgate (2)

Jess Brammar

The acting co-editor of Newsnight responds to Owen Jones:

Jess Brammar:

  • Ok, it’s Saturday & I’m in the hairdresser but my phone is having a meltdown so I’m going to address this - I’ve been staying out of it because I haven’t been in the office since thurs afternoon, but here we go...Newsnight didn’t photoshop a hat.
  • Our (excellent,hardworking) graphics team explained the image has had the contrast increased & been colour treated, usual treatment for screen graphics as they need more contrast to work through the screens. If you look you can see it’s same hat in silhouette.
  • Apparently (forgive me for passing on tech details I don’t understand firsthand) some detail might also have been lost with it going through the screen and then being filmed back through a camera, again the standard effect on images on that big back panel.
  • And finally, the Russia background was a rehash of one Newsnight used a few weeks ago, for a story about Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary
  • By all means criticise Newsnight. That’s healthy, and we will always welcome people like Owen Jones coming on the show to criticise us from our own studio. But no one photoshopped a hat.

Owen Jones:

  • Hi Jess, firstly lots of respect for you. The photo of Williamson is in a suit and his photo remains clear. There is no shortage of photos of Corbyn in a suit. A photo was selected which was as Leninesque as possible in combination with a red Kremlin background.

Jess Brammar:

  • RTing you in interests of openness! Don’t want to get into a twitter spat, and need to switch off twitter now, but happy to give your views a full airing. And you can say what you like about NN, you certainly will be invited on again.

Owen Jones:

  • In addition, the photo of Corbyn has clearly been touched up, making it look Soviet poster-esque in a way Gavin Williamson did not. You'll be aware, too, of a context of Corbyn being demonised all week as a Russian stooge. Which this background clearly blatantly reinforces.
  • (Finally I thought you'd left already but massive congrats on your new job!!!)


The offending 'Newsnight' graphic

Owen Jones has been complaining in recent days about the lack of left-wing voices on the BBC News Channel. Meanwhile, though he himself may not have been on BBC News Channel either, he was on Radio 4's The World Tonight on Thursday, BBC Two's Newsnight yesterday and will be on the Andrew Marr show tomorrow. so he's not doing that badly out of the BBC.

That says, he reckons he "may not be getting a BBC Newsnight invite ever again" after last night's squabbling and is demanding that they "must apologise in full and unreservedly" for their "outrageous photoshopping of Jeremy Corbyn as a Russian stooge". 

Here's what happened last night:
Evan Davis: Owen, do you think Jeremy Corbyn has paid a political price this week for his position?
Owen Jones: Well, the media framing has been a disgrace, and I have to say that includes your own programme. Yesterday, the background of your programme, you had Jeremy Corbyn dressed up against the Kremlin skyline...
(Evan laughs) 
Owen Jones: No, no, it's good to make this point...
Evan Davis: Yeah, no, make your point.
Owen Jones: Dressed up as a Soviet stooge...
Evan Davis: It was a real picture of Jeremy Corbyn.
Owen Jones: You even photoshopped his hat to look more Russian. I have to say, whether or not.
Evan Davis: No, it wasn't photoshopped.
Owen Jones: It was.
Evan Davis: It was real. It was him in front of the Kremlin. It was a provocation. Yep, yep.
Owen Jones: People should complain to the BBC about that kind of thing, and if it's not your Graphics department responsible, it's whoever signed it off...
Evan Davis: Just a sec. It was a real picture of him and we placed him in the Kremlin, yeah.
Jenni Russell of The Times returned to the theme later:
Jenni Russell: I didn't watch your programme last night, but , clearly, if you take a photograph taken years ago in a different context and you put it up there...
Evan Davis: It was a provocation to a discussion and it was a balanced discussion.
Jenni Russell: Images matter...
Evan Davis: The discussion was balanced.
Jenni Russell: So I agree with him about that. 
On Owen's claim "You even photoshopped his hat to look more Russian" and Evan's denial, well, judge for yourselves:

Update: Here's an example of some of the 'proofs' flying around Twitter that Newsnight photoshopped that hat and which are causing such a Twitterstorm against the BBC (click to play! - and apologies for the sweary language):

And the mockery is well underway:

(You might have spotted that Trumpton missed out the Russian ambassador to the EU there!)

In both directions....

Andrew Neil is a little scamp

James Stephenson, News Editor, BBC News and Current Affairs, on the BBC's Telford coverage (again)

James Stephenson

So, this week's Newswatch with Samira Ahmed carried the BBC's second big interview of the day with James Stephenson, News Editor, BBC News and Current Affairs, about the BBC's coverage/lack of coverage of the Telford Muslim grooming gangs scandal. 

How did this one go?

Well, I think Samira Ahmed did a decent job. I did wonder if she or someone in her Newswatch team has been reading this blog. She was right in there with that "15 second read" point about Tuesday night's fleeting mention on the story on the BBC's News at Ten, momentarily putting Mr. Stephenson off his stride. 

And it was interesting to hear from Samira Ahmed that the BBC has received "hundreds of complaints" about the BBC's Telford coverage - a sign, I think, of the scale of the public's disgust at the BBC over this and why the News Editor of BBC News and Current Affairs felt the need to go on both Feedback and Newswatch on the same day to defend the Corporation's honour. 

In that light I doubt that his complacent "No, I think we are doing the right thing" line will have gone down too well with viewers. 

As an aside, in that complaints response from the BBC to Tabs at Biased BBC, BBC Complaints replied that:
On Monday, our paper reviews again linked to the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror’s analysis of the investigation, followed by detailed articles which were on our News website front page.
Given that so many people insisted that they'd never seen it on the BBC News website's Home page on Monday, I thought that was untrue but couldn't think how to prove it. James Stephenson has now (inadvertently) proved that it was untrue whilst trying to slyly skate over Samira's point: 
Samira Ahmed:  I was wondering, when did the story appear on the front page of the website? 
James Stephenson: So, there was a story on the website on Monday. That was on the England index. 
In other words, it wasn't on "the front page of the website", it was only on the England page - just as the BBC's critics said.

Also, when James Stephenson says "And it was widely covered in our paper review, prominently on the Sunday", he's seriously over-egging the pudding. That was five paragraphs near the bottom of what was originally a long paper review page (they pruned it later in the day to take out all the images of the front pages), and that that was the sum total of the BBC's online coverage of the story that day before burying later articles (on Monday and Tuesday) in 'Shropshire' (or 'England', if we take Mr. Stephenson's word for that). And don't forget, the Andrew Marr show didn't even put the Sunday Mirror on its table of newspapers, never mind mention or discuss it last Sunday. 

Anyhow, here's a transcript of the whole thing:

Samira Ahmed: Now, last weekend, the Sunday Mirror said it had uncovered Britain's worst ever child grooming scandal, with claims that up to 1,000 girls had been abused since the 1980s. Over the next two days, other newspapers followed that up extensively. But there was only limited mentions on BBC News. Scores of people wondered why - with one of them, David, leaving us this phone message on Tuesday morning:
Hi, I woke up this morning to the horrific stories about the child abuse in Telford, so I thought I'd go on to the BBC app, which I use regularly. And lo and behold, there was nothing about it. Your top five stories on the website. There's one about pork pies and one about the danger of Chinese takeaways. Are you going to cover this scandal? 
The BBC was accused in the press of ignoring the story, and Adam Paulson agreed, writing...
I hope the BBC will provide a full account of their decision not to cover the latest Telford revelations. As it is, it looks like an egregious and appalling lack of editorial judgement.
Andrew Vaughton e-mailed... 
It seems the BBC is no different to the local authorities and police in turning a blind eye to an extremely important issue that is clearly in the public interest. Shameful. 
Well, on Tuesday, the Victoria Derbyshire Show interviewed a victim of child exploitation in Telford. But it wasn't until Wednesday that BBC One bulletins ran a report on the subject, from Sima Kotecha. 
Sima KotechaNight-time in Telford. Recent reports say up to 1,000 girls could have been sexually abused in the town over the last four decades. The police here say at the moment they are dealing with less than 50 cases. 
For many though, the BBC's reaction was to little, too late. Trevor Bell thought... 
It is an absolute disgrace how BBC News has suppressed coverage of the events in Telford. If it has been white males who had committed these acts, it would have been lead story for days.
And Robert Leather tweeted this question...
Can you explain the BBC's lack of response?
Well, let's put that to James Stephenson, the BBC's News Editor, who joins me now. Can we start with... The story broke in the Sunday Mirror. When did the BBC national news think it worth reporting? 
James Stephenson: So, immediately we could see that it was a good and strong piece of journalism by the Sunday Mirror. And it was widely covered in our paper review, prominently on the Sunday. And we saw it was a story that we needed to follow up, and we began to do that. So as early as Monday morning, the Victoria Derbyshire Programme was leading its output on this story. And later that day, The World at One interviewed the leader of Telford Council to challenge him about what was going on. 
Samira Ahmed(interrupting) Which is radio. 
James Stephenson: So, we quickly saw it was a story that needed to be covered, and that it needed our original reporting effort to follow up, and that's what we did. 
Samira Ahmed: We heard from a viewer there who said he used the news app. I was wondering, when did the story appear on the front page of the website? 
James Stephenson: So, there was a story on the website on Monday. That was on the England index. There were various developments in the story as the week has gone on. I'm sure you've seen and the viewers have seen how the story has developed. So, the initial suggestion was that possibly 1,000 victims, and that was based not on hard information, but on an extrapolation based on work with an academic. So, we pursued it. And we weighted the story. We looked at it in depth. And it's probably worth saying, to address your point directly, that we're in the middle of this huge spy drama and scandal, the poisoning scandal in Salisbury, and that's consumed a huge amount of our airtime, as has the death of Ken Dodd, and then later in the week Stephen Hawking. So even in a busy news period, this has been an exceptionally busy news week, and we've tried to cover the Telford story in the mix amongst all of the other things that we've been doing. 
Samira Ahmed: I suppose audiences would say, a really busy news week, this is a really important new story. 
James Stephenson: That's certainly true. And I'd like to sort of challenge an idea that I think probably viewers might be left with by the sequence they've just seen. This is a scandal that's been unfolding in Telford over many years, and we have been covering it in great depth and with great prominence during that time. So, the Operation Chalice brought to life the scale of abusing in Telford. There was then the criminal prosecution, which saw seven men being sent to prison a few years ago. So, we have consistently been reporting this story as it's gone along, and we've done so again this week. 
Samira Ahmed: The TV bulletins are where millions of people go expecting to be told what are the big, important stories, and it wasn't until Wednesday, three days later, that there was an actual report about Telford on the national bulletins. Why? 
James Stephenson: So, it was covered in brief on the News at Ten on Tuesday night... 
Samira Ahmed(interrupting) A 15-second read. 
James Stephenson: Well, some stories...We have a relatively... As I've already explained, we've got a very busy news period and there's a limited number of stories we can cover. The reason it became a network TV bulletin story on Wednesday was because of partly our journalism. So, we interviewed the police in Telford, we interviewed a social worker in Telford, it was raised at Prime Minister's Questions, and the Prime Minister reacted to it. So, even, as I say, in this busy period, that obviously deserved the attention that it got on the main TV bulletins that day. 
Samira Ahmed: You will know what BBC viewers are saying, and we've had hundreds of complaints into the BBC. It's that it looked like the BBC felt awkward giving this story prominence because it was about white victims and Pakistani-heritage abuses. 
James Stephenson: I know that's a view that some people hold. I really don't think it's the case. We've done a great deal of coverage of this area of abuse, both in - and this terrible story in Telford, but also elsewhere in the country. The BBC has just won a Royal Television Society Award for the excellent documentary, incredible documentary, about abuse in the north-east of England, based around Newcastle. That was the second story in the TV news three weeks ago. So we've done a great deal of work on Rotherham, where a lot of this stuff initially - this terrible situation came more fully to light. So we've certainly committed to covering what is a harrowing and terrible story, and we've done it consistently over time. 
Samira Ahmed: You will know, because Newswatch has debated it before, that coverage of the previous grooming scandals with this racial element, viewers every time feel the BBC runs shy of reporting these stories prominently. Do you think the BBC needs to have a rethink about how it runs and reports on these stories? 
James Stephenson: No, I think we are doing the right thing, and I think we are very determined to get to these terrible and dark and difficult stories, not just this one, but across the whole range. What I do think is true to say is that before the full nature and scale of what was going on in Rotherham and Rochdale and Oxford and other places came out, there was not as great an understanding of how, you know, profound a problem and how deep this ran. And I think - so if you go back a decade, I think you can definitely say that the story or the issue didn't get the attention it probably deserved at that point, and that is something everyone has had to reflect on. 
Samira Ahmed: James Stephenson, thank you. 

A date for your diaries

Courtesy of the BBC Media Centre:

BBC Radio 4 marks a year out from Brexit 
On 29 March, with one year to go until Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union, Radio 4 will broadcast a number of specialist programmes under the theme Britain at the crossroads. 
This day of programming will go beyond the detail of the negotiations, and the drama of Westminster politics, to explore Britain’s future role and place in the world - and that of our European neighbours. 
Gwyneth Williams, Controller of Radio 4, says: “A year before Britain is due to leave the European Union we want to consider what this moment might mean in the broadest terms. We have reshaped our schedule and, drawing on Radio 4’s flagship news programmes with analysis from our current affairs and documentary teams, we will attempt to assess its significance in terms of culture, politics, history and economics.” 
The Today programme will start the day by co-presenting from a factory in the North East and will feature reporting and interviews from the around the UK. Following this at 9am a lengthened episode of The Long View will consider moments in history when Britons faced a new and uncertain future after a break from the established order. At 9.45am the fourth episode of The Channel - a series of five essays running throughout the week - explores the waterway that both links Britain to, and separates it from, Europe. Contributors to The Channel across the week are Professor Sanjeev Gupta, Professor Dominic Rainsford, writer Alba Arikha, historian Dr Renaud Morieux and journalist Christine Finn. 
An extended edition of World At One, presented by Martha Kearney, will consider Britain’s post-Brexit place in the global order; our role, our values and our alliances. In addition, the programme will be launching a new 12-part series called Brexit: A Love Story? Each episode will look at one event during the UK's membership of the EU, retelling the story of a fascinating and complex relationship - and asking whether the tensions and contradictions which ultimately led the UK to choose to leave the EU were evident from the beginning. 
At 4.30pm is The Brexit Lab, where Iain Martin talks to policy-makers, experts and campaigners about the ideas which could come to fruition after 29 March 2019 - both in the short and long term. From the way we work to the environment, he asks how we could do things differently if the UK is no longer bound by EU rules, and asks how much appetite is there for new ideas across the political spectrum. 
At 8pm is The EU After Brexit, where Radio 4’s Bottom Line and Briefing Room combine in a special hour-long programme to look at the future of an EU without Britain. Evan Davis meets Jean-Claude Trichet - formerly president of the European Central Bank- and is joined by a panel of business leaders from across the EU. David Aaronovitch will look at the EU’s political future - asking what a more deeply integrated bloc on its doorstep means for the UK. 
Ending the day is The World Tonight. Over the next year The World Tonight is following four very different businesses as they prepare for Brexit and the opportunities and problems that it will pose. On 29 March Paul Moss will introduce listeners to the four firms that we’ll be hearing from at regular intervals across this critical year.