How The Establishment Closes Ranks Around the BBC

This is a cross post from Autonomous Mind

“Regular readers may recall a couple of posts back in January where we told the story of an Autonomous Mind reader who complained to the BBC about an edition of Hardtalk.

This is the one in December 2010 where President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives was allowed to state, without challenge, that due to human induced climate change sea levels around the Maldives are rising. The lack of journalistic rigour and blind acceptance of such a controversial viewpoint as fact led to the complaint being made and the BBC’s two fingered resp0nse in January which included the immortal words:

We’re committed to honest, unbiased reporting and are determined to remain free from influence by outside parties.

Following the response, our reader then filed a Freedom of Information request to the BBC asking for details of:

  • how many complaints/ accusations of bias the BBC received from the public about the BBC’s coverage of climate change
  • how many of the complaints received about climate change were upheld by the BBC, i.e. were accepted
  • brief details / a list of all the complaints upheld, i.e. the details of the upheld complaint and the BBC’s response (excluding details of the person complaining)

In publishing the story in a follow up post we shared the unsurprising news that the response from the BBC to our reader’s request was a refusal to provide the information sought. Once again the BBC was hiding behind its establishment-given provision to withhold any information the BBC considers to be held for the ‘purposes of journalism, art or literature’.

Read the rest:

The Protection of Information Act

Everybody who frequents this site will know that the BBC has spent lashings of our telly tax on legal fees to safeguard the secrecy of a report they themselves commissioned. The subject was their coverage of the Middle East, and the question was: is the BBC biased against Israel?
The legal battle took many twists and turns, and Steven Sugar, who steadfastly fought for the release of the Balen report, very sadly and inopportunely died at the age of 60, shortly before another stage of the unfolding court case was due to be heard.
No-one knows whether Malcolm Balen’s findings confirmed the BBC’s anti Israel bias, but one thing’s for sure, the battle to keep them secret certainly gives the impression that they did. So, in some ways, the BBC’s intransigent refusal to let us take a peek works against them almost as much as the revelation of its contents might have done.

One slightly ironic bonus of this ongoing legal tussle is that the public gets to discover a bit of extra information for free, namely that the BBC is virtually exempt from the obligations of the FOI act, because of a cunning exclusion clause concerning ‘journalism art or literature,’ for the purpose of, yer honour m’lud.
Anything in that category is ‘out with’ the FOI act. In other words the entire BBC output can, if it likes, shelter under the same get-out umbrella.
So are we up in arms at the arrogance of the BBC for wallowing in a unique all-embracing exemption from scrutiny, which flies in the face of the ultra desirable, most-wanted virtue du jour – *transparency* – the essential quality that all organisations long for, and the one thing that makes everything come good? (WikiLeaks, anyone?)
Bear with me.
As well as (and to a large extent because of) the media – the dinner-party set, socialists, trade unions, celebrities and the Muslim community – all currently bask in a toxic climate of pro Palestinian advocacy and anti Israel activism. It’s a kind of global man-made antisemitic climate-change, and it is alive and well, flourishing even, in our universities. You can virtually get a doctorate in hating Jews.

The Arab sourced funding that some of our universities currently rely on has led to the alarming ascendancy of Islamic studies departments set up by Saudi Princes at places like Exeter, where anti Israel polemicists Ilan Pappé and Ghada Karmi prevail, and the LSE, Oxbridge and various other renowned academic institutions. I vividly recall reading with dismay this 2008 article about Aberystwyth University. It implies that if a student won’t toe the line they will probably fail their degree.
So here’s my point.
I found a FOI request that I am glad the BBC refused to deliver. It’s in the public domain, and there’s no super injunction preventing me from knowing about it. I found it on Google, by accident, as I was looking for something else.

I have no idea what this Palestinian gentleman from Strathclyde University intended to do with the information he requested. Ideas that ran through my head ranged from: *write a learned dissertation on Hasbara, *organise a troll blitzkrieg on B-BBC, and sadly, but inevitably, *kill infidels.

Why would I be grateful that the BBC refused to give details of the complainants and complaints about anti-Israel reports to a post graduate student who might be doing some important academic research? Because the student is a Palestinian activist with links to some very hostile people. Because we live in a culture of intimidation. Because B-BBC is number 12 on the list. Because because because.

I hesitated before posting this. I sought advice. They said “publish!” which I hereby do, sincerely hoping that B-BBC and I won’t be damned. What a sorry state I’m in to have such worries. It’s regrettable that some of us, because of our particular circumstances, are conscious of the need to take limited steps to preserve our anonymity, just because we dare to defend Israel.

Just an Act

Here’s another bit from the (tree) Telegraph, reminiscent of a similar postI took from the Telegraph about the Balen Report.
Tim Walker of Mandrake has this:

“While it is always a joy to see Polly Toynbee and her chums on the BBC, (funny haha) I was still minded to put in a request under the Freedom of Information Act, to ascertain how often – if at all- newspaper journalists who feel more positively about the Coalition are invited on to the BBC News Channel.
One month on, I have a response of sorts. “The information you have requested is excluded from the Act because it is held for the purpose of ‘journalism, art or literature’ and it would, in any case, be an enormous amount of work to try to find the information” says Stephanie Harris of the corporation. “the BBC is not required to supply information held for the purposes of creating the BBC’s output of information that supports- and is closely associated with – these creative activities.”
If anything has ever highlighted the nonsense of the FOI legislation then this, surely has to be it.”

Hmm. Anyone would think that he’d read this blog. Craig, if you ever do the enormous amount of work required to find out the information, I’d send your bill in to the Telegraph.