Insensitivity Training

is what I sometimes think the BBC needs but there are limits. On today’s six-o-clock news, a BBC reporter spoke of the ‘insensitivity’ of the school teacher in Sudan who allowed her class to name their teddy bear ‘Mohamed’.

The reporter’s words contrast with the carefully neutral tone in which he (like all other BBC coverage I’ve seen) described Sudanese actions. They could, of course, say that comment is needless. And I could say the same about their calling the teacher’s action ‘insensitive’.

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 be moderated.

Return of the Yazzmonster

The disturbing right-wing drift of our beloved BBC continues apace, and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ( aka “The Yazzmonster” ) files her latest report from the front line:

“Unlike me, my husband is not given to hissy fits or surges of flaming outrage”.

She begins. Hey, I can believe that. But she’s setting a pretty low bar, isn’t she?

“But last week he threw down his towel (literally) and finally gave up on the BBC. He thinks it has turned dilettante, is contemptuous of facts, of progressive politics and of its own responsibility to uphold decent values – its raison d’etre surely”.

Poor Mr. Brown. I wonder what he was doing. Had he just come out of the shower? Or maybe he was doing the dishes. I like to think the latter. If Mr. Brown was striding round his living room stark naked bellyaching about the BBC it could put me off my breakfast. Not in front of the children.

“I can completely understand my Englishman’s disillusionment, but I cling still to the noble idea of the BBC, to the breaking branch of a dying tree, though winds shake my faith every day.

As an act of back-dated contrition, the BBC gave Alastair Campbell hours of free promotion for his diaries. Now Tony Blair confides in a trusted, hand-picked journalist,”

that’s David “Aaro” Aaronovitch, another running dog of capitalism, apparently.

“confessing his greatness and his closeness to the Almighty. Then came news that the unique Dateline London (News 24 and BBC World), on which highly respected international journalists discuss world events, a programme watched by 78 million people, is to be axed”.

And about time too. On the very few occasions I have ever seen it it invariably contains the blessed Yazza, babbling on about something or other, some French bird from Le Monde, the ageing ex-Observer hack Adam Raphael, and an Arab gentleman who talks more sense than the rest of them.

“This act of vandalism was followed by an announcement of a season of programmes on the “besieged” white working classes. Nick Griffin of the BNP could well be their consultant. Are migrants going to get their series titled “Scapegoats”? Sometimes I wonder if these bigoted attitudes chime with BBC producers in the way that Families Need Fathers do. Perhaps their daughters are bringing home unsuitable “ethnic” boys too often.

Public-service broadcasters must make uncomfortable programmes on any group or on immigration – and there are excellent examples of responsible, critical journalism. But a whole series propagandising against multiracial Briton? To validate the race hate that sloshes all over our isles, from playgrounds to football pitches? Some researcher rang to discuss one programme “re-appraising” Enoch Powell. What’s to reappraise? My money is being used to reassure people who hate people like me”.

But of course the old girl hasn’t even seen the programmes. She doesn’t know what the series contains. Ignorance is bliss, eh? Still, it’s a long rant, which ends on a tearful, some might say lyrical tone.

“But yet, but yet, there is the wonder of the BBC too, as I was reminded last week when attending an event to mark the birth of the BBC World Service, the best of Britain exemplified – as reliable and authentic today as ever. Its director, Nigel Chapman should be proud that he keeps the promise made in December 1932, to tell the stories and uphold the good and free society. We watched a video of the key moments in history when the world had no other voice to tell them what was happening. Many of us were tearful as memories were brought back of the Idi Amin coup, Vietnam, the trial of Nelson Mandela.

In the gorgeous Art Deco theatre, Gavin Esler (who also presents Dateline) introduced and interrogated three previous Reith lecturers – the writer Wole Soyinka, the US economist Jeffrey Sachs, and the philosopher Onora O’Neill – on free speech and journalistic ethics. Once upon a time the corporation understood these concepts”.

Ah yes. Freedom of speech. What a quaint idea.

“Today the corruption of populism and relativism seeps under the imposing doors, fouls up a once venerated institution. The BBC we knew and trusted is no more. It is a player in the marketplace of nastiness, and I can no longer argue with any conviction for a licence fee”.

Fine by me, love. Privatise it. If Yazza thinks the Beeb is right-wing, wait till it’s privatised. Bring back Dixon of Dock Green! Bring back the Black and White Minstrel Show!

And Strictly Come Hanging. One day, folks, one day.

Dumber BBC! On Thursday, BBC Newsnight reported

that the “Dow Jones was substantially down amidst more credit crunch fears”, with a market fall of 210 points – all nonsense of course: the financial markets in the US were closed on Thursday for Thanksgiving Day, with the figure reported being Wednesday’s close.

On Friday afternoon, Peter Barron, Editor of Newsnight, wrote a rather contrite apology on the BBC Editors Blog, concluding:

I’m sorry and I’m determined this won’t happen again.

A couple of years ago we thought one way of avoiding problems with the markets was to abolish the spot altogether, but the outrage then means we won’t try that again. Instead, we have inserted a note in the markets page which will read for ever more:


Fast forward to Friday night’s programme, presented by Emily Weightless, sorry, Maitlis, and here, complete and unabridged, was Newsnight’s markets report for Friday:

Take you to a quick look at the markets, at the end of the week, the FTSE 100 share index closed up, sadly we can’t show the exact figures, um, holiday season as you know in the US, so the Dow Jones remains unchanged. Against the Euro, the currencies here, the pound up, against the dollar the pound was down. You’ll just have to take my word for it. We’ll get you some figures by Monday.

Evidently Peter’s determination wasn’t sufficient to keep Mr. (or Ms.) Cockup from making a second appearance! Leaving aside the generally slapdash and indifferent nature of the summary (“You’ll just have to take my word for it. We’ll get you some figures by Monday.”), Wall Street was trading on Friday, following the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday. Doh!

Still, at least Peter has had the courtesy to apologise to tellytaxpayers for the first of these visits from Mr. Cockup, which is more than can be said for BBC Radio News, guilty of the same mistake on Thursday night.

Update (2.50pm): Peter Barron has spoken again on the BBC Editors Blog:

I despair! We are having a complete revision of the way we collect and check the markets information.

Much mirth being had by Guido and co. too!

Thank you to Biased BBC reader David S. and others for the tip.

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 be moderated.

Following hard on the heels of the post below

, Nigel Reynolds of the Telegraph reports that Andrew Marr’s BBC warning angers Sky:

“Our main competitor, Sky News, always trumpets that it is first with this, first with that.

“Well, we are the BBC and we have to be sure that we are right. We must not, therefore, get into the culture of first with this, first with everything – first and frequently right.”

Sky News reacted angrily to the attack. A spokesman said later: “Sky News takes accuracy just as seriously as the BBC.

“We come from the same broadcasting culture. It just so happens that we are faster at bringing that accurate information to the viewer.”

The channel may judge itself particularly hard done by Mr Marr’s criticism because it was named News Channel of the Year at the Royal Television Society Awards in February. In their commendation, the RTS judges said that Sky News was” vibrant and innovative and frequently first with the news”

“The jury was impressed by its immediacy, impact and the variety of its coverage.”

The BBC rival was also named best news channel at the Broadcast Digital Awards in June. Then, the judges said: “Sky is generally about two minutes ahead of BBC News 24. It is an excellent channel – first to the spot every time a story breaks… it engages a wider audience than the BBC.”

Sky usually is faster with the latest news on big stories, and not just faster, but very often better too, with excellent correspondents such as Adam Boulton and Martin Brunt ferreting out the facts. The downsides to Sky are vacous presenters such as Emma Crosbie and Julie Botchingham (though the BBC certainly has plenty of those too) and brash intrusive adverts for Sky this and Sky that – though unlike the BBC, basking in a jacuzzi of spare public cash, as Mark Thompson put it before his assimilation into the BBC Borg, Sky does have to pay its own bills.

Marr’s criticism of Sky News is of course entirely unrelated to Adam Boulton’s description of Marr in October as a “sympathetic interviewer” after Marr was summoned to act as the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman when the great clucking fist bottled out of taking advantage of favourable polls to hold an early general election. Unfortunately for Marr, this latest spat has given the mischievous Guido an opportunity to run that cartoon of Marr again.


Gordon Brown’s favourite: ‘Sympathetic interviewer’ Andy

Marr does his bit as the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman.

Just for good measure, Nigels Reynolds piece in the Telegraph concludes:

Mr Marr himself is no stranger to the perennial questions raised over political bias at the corporation.

Though his career has moved on to embrace programmes about culture and literature, when he became the corporation’s political editor, many wondered whether the opinionated former editor of The Independent, who had made no secret of his enthusiasm for Tony Blair and New Labour and most of its works, could become a completely impartial voice.

He was once likened to being “a loyal junior minister” and Lord Tebbit pulled no punches when he declared: “The BBC is already owned by, run by, and takes its orders from the Labour Party. Mr Marr will make no difference at all.”


In related news, Press Gazette reports that BBC banned Andrew Marr’s Charles Kennedy drink story:

Marr told the House of Lords Communication Committee that he could give them “one example where a story was killed”.

He said the story had been about the “nature of the problem” for which Kennedy, then the Liberal Democrat Leader, had been seeking help.

But he said: “The decision was taken at that point that we wouldn’t run it. We had an unequivocal denial and we were the BBC and we had to be very careful about these things.”

P.S. When choosing which 24 hour news channel to watch, don’t forget that Mark Thompson is tired of turning up in newsrooms and studios to find Sky News on the monitors rather than News 24 and that during the Iraq War, the crew of HMS Ark Royal chose Sky News over BBC News because The BBC always takes the Iraqis’ side. It reports what they say as gospel but when it comes to us it questions and doubts everything the British and Americans are reporting.

Dumb BBC:

Biased BBC reader John Gentle comments:

Thursday’s BBC Newsnight has just informed its viewers that the FTSE was up 80 odd points, but the Dow was down 210 points. That’s funny, it was down 210 points on Wednesday as well. And closed Thursday for the start of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Oh dear. I can imagine a Beeboid flunky checking the stats and not noticing this, but for it to get all the way to being on air is surprising (or at least would be, if we didn’t know the BBC so well).

Update: Will reports that Radio 4’s midnight news was the same. Doh!

Update: Bryan points out that Peter Barron, Editor of Newsnight, has apologised for this mistake, writing:

Our economics editor Stephanie Flanders was mortified – “unforgivable and embarrassing” was her verdict. This is, I am ashamed to say, not the first time we have made such a mistake. The markets information is almost always the last thing we do on Newsnight and in the scramble of a particularly lively programme last night we neglected to notice that the US markets were shut and blithely reported the day before’s figure. I’m sorry and I’m determined this won’t happen again.

Kudos to Peter for fessing up and taking steps to avoid a repeat, though I can’t help thinking that it’d be more reliable to look up American public holidays a year or two ahead and then annotate the Newsnight diary accordingly, rather than expect a flunky to check daily for something that only happens once in a while.

No news yet from Radio 4 re. their boo-boo over the market data.

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 be moderated.

Back in August, Wednesday August the 8th, at 12:50pm to be precise

, the third biggest story in the world for UK tellytaxpayers, according to BBC Views Online, was Channel 4 accused of ‘distortion’.


The third most important story in the world on 08AUG2007?

The story first appeared, according to Newssniffer, at 10.50am, with the headline No charges over mosque programme, becoming Channel 4 accused of ‘distortion and C4 ‘distorted’ mosque programme as it went through the BBC Views Online spin cycle, making it to the third most important story position at lunchtime, remaining on the Views Online front page in one form or another until after 7am the next morning.

What is strange is the enthusiasm and high priority BBC Views Online gave this story – they didn’t, for instance, report on the high-profile Undercover Mosque programme at all when it was first broadcasttoo busy, not enough space, not important enough: all the usual BBC flannel for avoiding covering news that Beeboids don’t want to report.

And yet, when a politically correct bunch of West Midlands plods, abetted by the Can’t Prosecute Service, stick their oar in, without, it should be noted, any complaints from the public, BBC Views Online rushed to tell the world all about it with great fanfare and import, complete with lengthy quotes of shock, innocence and hurt feelings from those who were condemned out of their own mouths on the undercover film.

In the meantime, Private Eye (see Biased BBC here) and BBC Newsnight have amply demonstrated just what a crock of the proverbial the criticism of Undercover Mosque was.

Yesterday, BBC Views Online did a reasonable job of reporting Mosque programme claims rejected, but here’s another strange thing, this news wasn’t important enough to merit the BBC Views Online front page treatment. No, it was reported for a while on the Entertainment page, way down at the bottom, in the More from Entertainment, TV and Radio section – not exactly setting the record straight after Views Online’s silence of January and the front page fanfare of August!

Kevin Sutcliffe, Channel 4’s deputy head of news and current affairs said that the actions of West Midlands Police:

gave legitimacy to people preaching a message of hate to British citizens… and damaged the reputations of those involved in producing and broadcasting the programme

Given BBC Views Online’s slanted coverage of the Undercover Mosque story from the beginning I suspect that WMP aren’t alone in giving “legitimacy to people preaching a message of hate to British citizens”.

P.S.: An anonymous wag drew attention yesterday to what one Beeboid, a certain ‘John Reith’, said back in August:

Given the ringing endorsement ‘Undercover Mosques’ received on this blog and how many contributors chided the BBC for not having made the programme themselves, I’d be interested to know what you’ve got to say now that it has emerged that parts of the film are said by the authorities to be about as reliable as an RDF showreel.

Presumably this isn’t one of those cases then where those involved in the real business of broadcast journalism (making TV and radio) get a bit narked about being judged on the basis of small but significant shortcomings of the News Website then!

Addendum: David Henshaw, executive producer of Undercover Mosque asks Why did police want to censor me?:

Context? No one from the West Midlands Police, the CPS or Green Lane Mosque has yet given us the correct context for the notion that women are born deficient, that homosexuals should be thrown off a mountain or that young girls who refuse to wear the hijab should be hit.

So what was the police’s intervention about? Why did the police and the CPS feel entitled to act as television critics and, in effect, as potential censors of what we could watch? Clues to the motive, I think, lie in the slightly sinister phrase “community cohesion”.

Anil Patani, the Assistant Chief Constable who reported the programme to Ofcom, is in charge of “cohesion” in the West Midlands force. He said he was worried that those featured in the programme “had been misrepresented”.

His chief was worried that our alleged “distorted editing” would create an unfair perception of sections of the Muslim community in the West Midlands. Feelings of public reassurance and safety would be undermined. (The feelings of gays and women, apparently, were not so high on the agenda.)

Thank you to Biased BBC reader Lurker in a Burqua for the link.

Writing for irreverent techie news site The Register

, James Woudhuysen, Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montfort University, asks What’s Auntie for, exactly?

Getting into his stride on the second page, the Prof. writes:


  • Science ran a piece on how changes to the stratosphere will affect surface climate. It concluded [PDF] that predicting the dynamics was “a substantial task”, and one not yet undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Nature had an essay on the dynamics of ocean mixing, which in the long term could offset slowing of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation brought about by more rain and more melting at the North Pole. It argued that “much remains to be discovered” [PDF – subscription required].
  • The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published on the “irreducible” imprecision of computer models of atmosphere and oceans.

Each of these uncertainties has a texture as chocolatey as the BBC Trust’s beloved Wagon Wheel. Yet the BBC insists on the old dry Seesaw approach. It repeatedly puts reporters in front of fast-dripping glaciers or spreading deserts and gets them to express their personal shock, awe, loss, and disgust. Then, back in the studio, a gnarled “sceptic” may occasionally be wheeled on to show that the Beeb still gives a voice to Creatures from Another Planet.

What we need from the BBC is leadership, and – as far as is possible – dispassionate enquiry, objective facts, and dispassionate presentation of those facts. Instead, we get dumbed-down moral absolutes, far-out footage, and a sprinkling of “balance”. Nobody at the BBC says this is the strategy; but BBC News, in particular, applies it with the utmost vigour.

Do read the rest, and the comments too. As Biased BBC reader 1327, who spotted the Reg article says, it is “interesting (and heartening) that the bread and butter topics of this blog now seem to becoming mainstream”. Beeboids take note.