It isn’t just the BBC that’s biased.

In the US, at least, the media swings left as well, according to a new academic survey on coverage of the current presidential contest. Investor’s Business Daily reports that:

a joint survey by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy — hardly a bastion of conservative orthodoxy — found that in covering the current presidential race, the media are sympathetic to Democrats and hostile to Republicans.

Democrats are not only favored in the tone of the coverage. They get more coverage period. This is particularly evident on morning news shows, which “produced almost twice as many stories (51% to 27%) focused on Democratic candidates than on Republicans.”

The most flagrant bias, however, was found in newspapers. In reviewing front-page coverage in 11 newspapers, the study found the tone positive in nearly six times as many stories about Democrats as it was negative.

Breaking it down by candidates, the survey found that Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the favorites. “Obama’s front page coverage was 70% positive and 9% negative, and Clinton’s was similarly 61% positive and 13% negative.”

In stories about Republicans, on the other hand, the tone was positive in only a quarter of the stories; in four in 10 it was negative.

I have tracked down the survey, which can be found here

(Anyone who wants to explain away these findings will find plenty of excuses offered in here — for example, ‘Oh, but the front-runners got coverage that was equal in tone”. The silliest must be that if you take away the most-praised Democrat candidate (Obama) and the most-criticized Republican candidate (McCain) then the coverage is more equal in tone! Yes, and although 15 and 9 are unequal numbers, if you take some numbers away from 15, and add some numbers to 9, you’ll find they come closer to being equal).

Thanks to a commentator (who I can’t now find) who posted this link a while back.

Congratulations must be given to BBC’s Panorama for their show tonight on Scientology

Congratulations must be given to BBC’s Panorama for their show tonight on Scientology. Not that I would hold it up as a great example of unbiased journalism, and Ed Thomas makes an important point below below about the BBC’s double standards when it comes to dangerous religions, but nevertheless it was a brave program, as various critics of Scientology’s tactics can attest. Scientology came across very badly, not because of anything reporter John Sweeney said, but because of they way they treated him. Their chances of being taken seriously as a religion in the UK have decreased even further now.

(I think the releasing on YouTube of Sweeney losing it and screaming at themmay have backfired, because of the interest it has created in the show. The Church had apparently launched a new campaign to get the Charity Commission to grant them charitable status in the UK — this show is hardly going to help them).

It was telling, though, that Sweeney said of Scientology’s apparent bully-boy tactics that “you can’t imagine the Chuch of England acting this way” (or words to that effect). No, but there is one well-established recognized religion in the UK you can imagine acting that way, which Sweeney conveniently did not mention.

BBC mounts court fight to keep ‘critical’ report secret

A critical and secret internal BBC report on its perceived anti-Israel bias is the subject of a Freedom of Information court battle, according to The Telegraph:

BBC mounts court fight to keep ‘critical’ report secretBy Chris Hastings and Beth Jones
(Filed: 15/10/2006)

The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of licence payers’ money trying to block the release of a report which is believed to be highly critical of its Middle East coverage.

The corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism.

The action will increase suspicions that the report, which is believed to run to 20,000 words, includes evidence of anti-Israeli bias in news programming.

Read the rest of the story at The Telegraph.

Throw them into a room and hope it works

Note: updates below. (I also added a few more comments to the P.S.)

Throw them into a room and hope it works: I’ve just been watching one of the most superficial-ever episodes of Newsnight. A whole load of “experts” — although Paxman admitted to one transport “expert”, a completely obscure local Labour figure, that they had asked 48 other people before alighting on him — were collected together in a studio to discuss various pressing issues such as health, education and transport.

They were put together in groups of 5 or 6, and after watching a short film made by one of them, they banged on drunken dinner-party style for about 5 or so minutes. Not surprisingly they constantly interrupted each other, granstanded, defended their own patches, made sweeping, vague statements and predictable partisan comments. We learned absolutely nothing at all. The BBC think an intellectual discussion consists of people disagreeing with each other every few seconds.

The most disgraceful thing about the whole show, though, was the first film which involved a rock journalist and regular Guardian writer called John Harris (who even the BBC admitted was “a left-wing writer”) going to Cuba to wax rhapsodically about their health-care system. Moreover, when Paxman challenged him, saying that perhaps this was a rose-tinted view, he said that he had been TOLD — not by a Fidel flunkey, but by the Newsnight people – to do a “positive, proselytizing” story. (Oops!)

To be fair, they had another film on transport made by a Conservative big-wig, so perhaps the producers generally wanted everyone to make opinionated films for the sake of it being good TV. So it may not have been because the producers particularly wanted to portray Cuba in a positive light — although, equally, it may have been. They certainly wanted to draw attention to this one supposed good thing about Cuba.

Either way, it was disturbing to see that almost everyone on the show believed the myth that Cuba has a good health care system, and were concerned that we should learn from them. If you want to see the reality, rather than what a bunch of posers have assumed after reading a Guardian column on health — one particularly loud-mouthed panellist’s claim-to-fame was that she was “The Designer of the Year 2005”, for God’s sake — go to The Real Cuba website:

One of the greatest fallacies about the so called ‘Cuban Revolution’ has to do with healthcare. Foreigners who visit Cuba, are fed the official line from Castro’s propaganda machine: “All Cubans are now able to receive excellent healthcare, which is also free.” But the truth is very different. Castro has built excellent health facilities for the use of foreigners, who pay with hard currency for those services. Argentinean soccer star Maradona, for example, has traveled several times to Cuba to receive treatment to combat his drug addiction.

But Cubans are not even allowed to visit those facilities. Cubans who require medical attention must go to other hospitals, that lack the most minimum requirements needed to take care of their patients. In addition, most of these facilities are filthy and patients have to bring their own towels, bed sheets, pillows, or they would have to lay down on dirty bare mattresses stained with blood and other body fluids.


No wonder the Cubans that the left-wing writer interviewed stressed that the Cuban medical system placed great emphasis on prevention, rather than cure. The best way to stay alive in Cuba is not to need to go to hospital in the first place, because you won’t get much help there.

If you think this is all mere assertion, check out the numerous photos on this Real Cuba page, some of which were originally published in a major Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter.

And another thing: some of the people on the panel had an easy-going attitude towards Cuba’s practise of — as one panelist ever so cutely put it — knocking on the door late at night. Oh those incorrigible Red Stars! They play a little rough sometimes, but who minds when they’re so funky and in such rude health? (Somehow I can’t imagine these people having the same attitude towards Guantanamo Bay.)

P.S. The only good things about this show were that Paxman was actually using the term “left-wing” in relation to journalists and think-tanks, a term the BBC often manages to omit in these contexts, and that they at least had some right-wingers on in slightly more than token numbers. Having said that, it was depressing to see how many of the people involved just took it for granted that the state has the right to interfere in people’s lives at any level and run their lives for them. Yet many of these people are the same people who, when it comes to someone who’s committed a “traditional” crime, or a drug crime, get all anti-state and start talking about individual rights. (It doesn’t seem to occur to them that the only way you can enforce, for example, a state health compulsion, or yet another increase in taxes, is to criminalize those who disobey).

P.P.S. Speaking of crime, Paxman seemed astonished — his jaw genuinely dropped — that anyone could seriously suggest that we should put more people in jail, as though there’s some fixed amount of people who should be in jail, regardless of how many people are actually committing crimes, and we’ve now reached that level.

Some young twit then jumped in saying “We could put every male between 13 and 30 in jail and that would reduce crime, but I don’t want to live in a society like that”. Well, no doubt you wouldn’t, son, and neither would anybody else, but then this is straight from the Germaine Greer school of argument. Greer recently wrote a sour and much-mocked piece about Steve Irwin after he died in which she said:

What seems to have happened on Batt Reef is that Irwin and a cameraman went off in a little dinghy to see what they could find. What they found were stingrays. You can just imagine Irwin yelling: “Just look at these beauties! Crikey! With those barbs a stingray can kill a horse!” (Yes, Steve, but a stingray doesn’t want to kill a horse. It eats crustaceans, for God’s sake.)


As Tim Blair pointed out:

That’s an innovative way to criticise someone; imagine them saying something stupid, then correct that imagined statement. The whole game of opinion writing just became a great deal easier.


This young man’s argument technique wasn’t much better. The fact that no-one would want to live in a society where every young male was put in jail even if completely innocent of any crime has nothing to do with the proposal that we put more of the people who are commiting actual crimes into jail, rather than not put them into jail even though we know this will result in a large percentage of them going on to commit other crimes.

Such a ridiculous argument is effective in the right circles, however, because even educated people — all right, mainly educated people — then come to believe that the idea that we should put more criminals in jail is somehow tantamount to (or is in the same political ballpark as) putting millions of innocent people in jail.

Update, 14-9-06: It was also disturbing that so many people on this show, including Paxman, thought we should hand more power back to local government. This is of course something that even the right has been banging on about for some time now, as though it’s a way to hand power back to the people. It isn’t. Local government isn’t much better than central government (that why there was so much demand to take powers away from local government in the past).

A good case can be made to show that the best way to empower people is not to hand over more powers to some government body (whether local or central or European) but to open up the market more, let a multitude of firms compete for custom, and let people make up their own minds about who they think is best at delivering them services. But “the market” is only ever mentioned on these shows in an airy, abstract way, to be readily dismissed by a wave of the hand. Designer of the Year 2005 Hilary Cottam’s criticism of the market amounted merely to saying that private institutions treat people as “customers”, as though that were a knock-down argument. (Unsurprisingly she turns out to actually be yet another Demos-linked sociologist).

The argument for handing more power to local government on this show seemed to be nothing more than “Here’s one place, namely Portand, Oregon, whose local government seems to have done a decent job of providing public transport. So let’s give more power to our local governments as well, because that will provide the same results”. Talk about cherry-picking. That’s like saying “Isaac Newton was an alchemist who was appointed a Cambridge Professor, and he produced fantastic scientific results. So let’s give all Cambridge Professorships to alchemists”.

Update 2, 14-9-06: Marian Tupy slammed John Harris’s Cuba report — apparently it was originally shown on Newsnight last month — in this article:

The report starts with the sounds of jolly Cuban music and happy children playing football in the street. There is no sign or, for that matter, mention of the political prisoners who fill Fidel Castro’s prisons. Yes, there is a mention of food shortages and lack of consumer goods, but those are, Harris tells us, America’s fault. In reality, the U.S. trade embargo is almost totally meaningless, since Cuba can trade with the rest of the world. All it needs to do to prosper is to produce goods and services that other people want to buy — not an easy task for a socialist economy.

Moreover, we are told in typically Orwellian fashion, shortages are really a blessing in disguise. After all, are the Cubans not lucky to be spared the scourge of fast food and passenger cars? Walking and a “balanced” diet, Harris informs us, are the ingredients for a long and healthy life…

The “Cuban miracle,” as Harris puts it, rests on the prevention, rather than treatment of disease. And for good reason! Treatment of disease requires advanced prescription drugs and expensive medical equipment that have to be purchased in the capitalist West. And how can an inefficient socialist economy produce enough foreign currency to afford such purchases? It cannot.

Not surprisingly, Harris does not mention the availability of drugs. Therefore, a viewer who is otherwise ignorant of Cuba might simply conclude that they are readily available. After all, to get drugs in the West, all you have to do is to walk into the nearest pharmacy. Yes, many Westerners grumble because drugs can be expensive and the insurance companies will not pay the full cost. It is also true that some Americans don’t have health insurance. But life without access to prescription drugs at all? Try living on the paradise island.

As Matus Posvanc, an economist who works for the Hayek Foundation in Slovakia, wrote to me after his recent trip to Cuba, “The people have no access to prescription drugs. The pharmacies are empty of even the most basic medicine. In fact, I had to help a Cuban lady buy drugs at a special clinic that has wonderful facilities and is well stocked with drugs. That clinic, however, only caters to tourists and prominent members of the Cuban Communist Party.” Other acquaintances, who have been to Cuba, found that the locals had to supply their own medicines and linen, because hospitals simply did not have them.

Both of my parents are medical doctors and I grew up in communist Czechoslovakia. As such, I find the problems of the Cuban healthcare system very familiar. As in Cuba, so in Czechoslovakia and throughout the supposedly egalitarian Soviet bloc, the prominent members of the Communist Party enjoyed superior healthcare in special hospitals or hospital wards. As in Cuba, the lack of hard currency resulted in the shortage of medicines, which had to be bought on the black market. As in Cuba, the availability of advanced medical technology was low. Socialism, it turns out, does not work no matter where you go — Central Europe or the Caribbean.

In an article in the British daily The Guardian, Harris recently opined, “Cuba may look forlorn, all peeling buildings and pockmarked roads. Its economy may have long since tumbled into creaking anarchy. But unlike the old states of Eastern Europe, the revolution has a few genuine jewels to defend: chiefly, its education system, and globally acclaimed healthcare.”

Strange, the superiority of communist healthcare was exactly what the Western socialists, like Harris, raved about during the Cold War. When the Berlin Wall fell and with it the veil of ignorance that shrouded the life behind the Iron Curtain, communist healthcare came to be seen for what it really was: far from equal and far from excellent. The same, I suspect, will become obvious in Cuba once the Castro brothers finally depart.


Update 3, 14-9-06: I found this bit of virtual-proselytizing on the Newsnight website (it’s dated Aug 1):

The best health service in the world?

Which country do you think has the best health service in the world? Some Scandinavian shangri-la? The wealthy United States? ? Or how about Cuba? Tonight we launch a series of films looking at what Britain can learn from the the best public services around the world. Tonight we launch a series of films on “the best public services in the world”.

It will look at what may well be the best run schools, hospitals and transport systems anywhere on earth. Tonight we look at the Cuban health service – and why it may be the best in the world – just as the Cuban President proves he trusts the system by undergoing surgery.


Here’s my challenge to either Paxman or Harris or any of Newsnight producers. If you need major surgery, then go to Cuba to have it done. And have it done in the way ordinary Cubans have it done, not in the way Castro is having it done. (For God’s sake, do they really think that Castro is going to get the same treatment as most other Cubans? How can they say with a straight face that this proves that he trusts his own system?)

Hurricane Katrina into another Bush-bashing exercise

BBC News 24 this morning managed to turn their headline report on Hurricane Katrina into another Bush-bashing exercise. Much of the focus was on the criticism of Bush and the slow response of the White House to the disaster.

Of course, we know that big government is often slow to act when it counts, but you’ll never hear the BBC admitting that that is true in general. You’ll never hear them admit that if big government is bad at disaster relief, which is the sort of thing that government should be there for (and should be good at) then maybe it’s not such a good idea to let the government run so much else in our lives. You’ll never hear them praise the swiftness of the private sector (such as insurance companies) in contrast.

Nor will you ever hear the BBC have any economist or insurance expert on to point out the harsh-sounding but elementary fact that the government’s continued handing out of compensation to the people who live near the coast and who have suffered from flooding undermines their incentives to take the proper precautions, get decent insurance, or even move somewhere less prone to flooding.

Nor was there the slightest bit of reporting on what is actually happening with the relief effort, just claims repeated over and over (from people who are unlikely to know what is happening) that Bush was to blame. For all we knew the relief effort was focused where it should be focused, on those thousands of people in dire need of medical care, rather than the healthy people sitting on the streets who are a bit hungry (which was clearly the case with the BBC footage, whatever the situation elsewhere).

But BBC reporters are remarkably good at finding disaffected poor black people and even more disaffected middle-class white lefties who can be relied upon to say the right things. We did get a tantalizingly brief shot of dozens and dozens and dozens of trucks driving somewhere in the distance, but wherever they were going, the BBC reporter wouldn’t be there.

No, he was focused on the fact that these people were living in filth, and they panned to a shot of some food containers in the gutter. It was pretty lame stuff — the street looked no different to the average London street. And why don’t they pick their rubbish up, you wondered? Even if the bins are full, put it in a pile, don’t just strew it everywhere. But this too was Bush’s fault.

(I don’t doubt that there were filthy scenes to be found in the city, but wherever the real filth was, the BBC reporter and the BBC cameramen weren’t there).

Another thing the BBC was doing was pushing the “These people were too poor to get away from the city”, the obvious insinuation being that being poor killed thousands of people and that this never would have happened had we affluent middle-class whites not given more money in taxes to the poor (even though I bet a lot of these people were on welfare anyway).

This sounds dubious to me. The warnings to the citizens could scarcely have been plainer: you must leave, the whole city will be ruined, you and your family will die if you stay, your house is going to be destroyed. That was literally what they were saying. The BBC is trying to convince us that all these people couldn’t afford even a bus ticket to get out of the city? (I bet there were free buses laid on anyway). How little resourcefulness do you possess if you can’t even get you and your little children away from what you know will be a flood zone when you have plenty of warning? If most of these people were on welfare, then doesn’t say much for welfare culture. I would have walked if nothing else was possible.

But of course there was another possibility that the BBC didn’t consider: maybe these people just decided to take their chances, not believing that the flooding would be that bad. The goverment always trying to scare you, they might have figured, this won’t be that bad. Why spend my money on a beat-up? It won’t affect me, anyway. I’d rather stay here and protect my house, etc. It is a wrench to walk away from your home knowing there’s a chance that it will be ruined and you won’t be there to try to protect it.

It was also noticeable that all the criticism of the government the BBC aired was directed at the federal government. But in US (like Australia) the state goverment is very important. So is the city government, although less so than the state government. Yet there was no criticism of the Louisiana state government anywhere in the report.

However, the BBC did air criticism of the levee situation – these were apparently inadequate. Yet somehow the BBC failed to inform us of the body that is responsible for the levees. Now, I’m no expert on the situation, but I suspect it’s the state government rather than the federal government who is responsible. But there’s little milage for the BBC in airing criticism of an obscure female Democrat governor rather than W.

And what about the Mayor? Isn’t it part of his job to try to make sure his city is adequately defended? But the only bit of news in this story involving the Mayor— a black man who defected from the Republicans to the Democrats — was the reporting of his criticism of Bush. There was no criticism of him reported.

(I’m not blaming the mayor or the state government, though. I don’t know the situation, I don’t know whether the levees were adequate, I don’t know what the expert assessment was beforehand. I don’t know what the costs would have been and how much money they had. Let the MSM speculate wildly and get it all wrong).

On top of all this, the BBC then outdid itself for chutzpah. They then reported in hushed tones that the UN was offering its help to the US! And they interviewed Jan Egeland, the UN emergency relief coordinator, in a most reverential manner!

You’ll remember how unbelievably hopeless the UN was when it came to the tsunami disaster in South-East Asia, and how brilliant the US and the Australians were. You’ll also remember how the BBC managed to minimize any reporting of the criticism of the UN at the time, and actually create the impression that the UN was playing a major role in the relief effort, even when this mostly consisted of relief efforts meetings in Geneva a month after the tsunami hit. And how they managed to downplay the role of the American and Australian governments. There’s one BBC rule for US Republican governments and another for the UN, it seems.

(Cross-posted at Blithering Bunny).

More jobs for ‘paper shufflers’ at the BBC

The Daily Telegraph reports:

More jobs for ‘paper shufflers’ at the BBC

By Amy Iggulden

(Filed: 29/08/2005)

The BBC is continuing to advertise for more than three times as many administrators and managers as programme-makers despite promising that job losses of almost 4,000 would lead to a new focus on creativity.

Of the 44 jobs available at the corporation, as of August 25, at least 40 per cent are in business support and management while 11 per cent are in programme-making.

Mark Thompson, the director-general of the BBC, has said that savings of £355 million, to be achieved through outsourcing and the biggest job cuts in its history, are to be spent on programmes.

But union representatives and politicians raised fears that the continued recruitment of “paper shufflers” and managers indicated that cuts would unfairly affect programme-makers and leave an overstaffed bureaucracy.

Among other jobs currently advertised is that of “occupational risk adviser”, at a salary of up to £41,000.

Reporting to a “principle risk manager”, and through him to yet another tier of management, the “head of occupational risk”, the adviser is asked to provide advice on “systems of work, objectives and plans for the management of security and safety risk”.

The Daily Express gets with the Biased BBC program

The Daily Express gets with the Biased BBC program, only much later than the rest of the blogosphere — this was their main front-page headline today:


They pack TV terror debate with anti-British audience

by Martin Evans

BBC bosses faced a furious backlash last night after they were forced to admit that they packed a TV terror debate with Muslims.

Angry viewers complained that the programme was anti-British and failed to offer a a balanced view of the danger posed by Islamic extremists.

They were incensed that the opinions and feelings of the victims of the London bombings, which claimed 52 innocent lives and left 700 injured, were not given enough airtime in BBC1’s Questions of Security.

Instead, the “news special” which was watched by millions, was dominated by militant factions in the audience who were heavily critical of the police and security services.

BBC bosses admitted they deliberately set out to give Muslims a louder voice in the debate hosted by Huw Edwards.

One irate viewer told the BBC “I felt that the audience for this programme was not reprasentative of the British public.

“What methodology was used to recruit the audience? And why were the views and concerns of the victims of the bombings, as well as the public and commuters, so down-played?”

Another added: “I did not pay my license fee to watch an unrepresentative Muslim audience like this.”

Despite Muslims making up only 2.7 per cent of Britain’s population, 15 per cent of the audience were from the Islamic community…

(No link, I’m afraid).

Dr Who has suffered from the most appalling sound mixing

This is not really the place for this complaint, but maybe some BBC-ites are reading.

The whole series of Dr Who has suffered from the most appalling sound mixing. The music is way too loud compared to the dialogue. The last episode was particularly bad — at times the dialogue was almost inaudible under the music. I had to constantly adjust the volume — down when the loud music comes on in the action scenes, up when the dialogue (without music) comes back. For God’s sake re-mix the thing.

I have to respectfully disagree with my colleague Kerry Buttram over his last post

I have to respectfully disagree with my colleague Kerry Buttram over his last post. The BBC does some very good work on Zimbabwe, that does it proud. As I wrote last February on this blog

Plaudits to the BBC, though, for continuing to do good work on Zimbabwe. Another investigation is on News 24 at the moment.

I think some more focus on the latest developments in Zimbabwe would be in order, but as commentator Mark has pointed out in comments, BBC correspondents have done numerous reports at considerable risk to themselves to show what is happening in Zimbabwe. For that, I say (as before) well done.

The BBC’s mysterious graphs.

Last night on Newsnight, reader D. Burbage noticed that in a segment on the Euro (called “Shaking the Currency”), the presenter Paul Mason (subtitle: “Business correspondent”) was explaining some economics to us — which was presented as fact, not as opinion:

This graph shows the contribution public spending has made to GDP. While Gordon Brown has been able to use public money to help sustain economic growth, his counterparts in the Euro zone have been under pressure to cut public spending, hence the gap.

Thus creating the impression that the large amount of public spending in Britain in recent years has been a good thing for the economy, and also creating the bizarre impression that Europe doesn’t spend that much, that the supposed cutbacks in public spending are what has been harming its economy, and that it needs more public spending in order to do good by its economy. (Why not just spend everything we’ve got and make us all rich beyond our wildest dreams?)

(Video link here — Mason’s comments 27m 30secs in.)

P.S. The graph was titled “Boost to GDP from Public Spending”. I’d like to know where they get these figures from. (There’s nothing on the website about it – c’mon Beeb, it’s not the twentieth century any more, put up a few links). Any economists care to comment?