The audacity of distraction

On the day when the unemployment figures surpass those of any time since “things could only get better”, the BBC have found the perfect story to fill the space and relegate jobs to a lower position on their UK news webpage: racism in Belfast. Normally this would be somewhere tucked into the N. Ireland backwater pages, but somehow this time it’s really critical.

What was fascinating, as I took a glance at the ONS June update on employment was a rather startling figure concerning employment of “British borns” versus overseas workers. I don’t pretend to be able to contextualise this thoroughly, but it does bring perspective on the Romanians in Belfast story. Here goes:

“The number of UK born people in employment (not seasonally adjusted) was 25.28 million in the three months to March 2009, down 451,000 from the three months to March 2008. The number of non-UK born people in employment (not seasonally adjusted) was 3.81 million, up 129,000 fromthe three months to March 2008.”

Needless to say, this was not in the BBC report on the jobs news, which was stuffed with “not as bad as expected” voices.

BBC guest selectivity

: it’s not just David.

“I should point out that Labour’s tax trap soon brought me a phone call from the BBC. Would I like to go on to condemn the 45p? If I said yes, that would make the story “Tory tax wars”, which they would love. Meanwhile yesterday an offer to appear on Newsnight to discuss the debt petered out without any explanation before I had the details of time and place, and an accepted offer to do the Today programme this morning on the same subject was cancelled. Was it something I said, or something I would not say?”

John Redwood reports on the Left’s agenda

It’s always there.

The bias I mean. I’ve just watched Andrew Marr’s interview with David Cameron for his regular Sunday mornng show. The first minute or two of Cameron’s performance were used in correcting Marr’s premise that the Conservative position was just to let the recession “take its course”. Isn’t this so typical? The Conservative always placed on the defensive by the casual distrust of the BBC man? If you listen or watch carefully (painful I know) it’s always there.

Earlier on I heard the news report say that Icelanders were rioting over the handling af the credit crisis. This is an interpretation that the BBC prefers. Surely demonstrators are protesting at the occurrence of the crisis itself, and the economic management which brought it about? Cameron was under fire from Marr for not ‘getting the scale’ of things. No mention of Gordon’s not getting the entire economic management “thing” which could have mitigated or averted it. I would say that- given British banking’s swollen role compared with the British economy- Gordon’s management of gold, regulation, taxation and interest rates should very much be on the table as a cause of the world’s crisis. Instead we have Marr lamenting the lack of a positive Conservative response. Where’s the room for positive responses? It’s only damage limitation thanks to Gordon.

The last part of the interview, patiently fielded by Cameron, was Marr’s questioning of Osborne’s position. Prior to that we had “Business Secretary” Peter Mandelson spinning the economy for Gordon. No questioning of his suspicious reintroduction into UK politics, or his ability to take the flak that Darling or Brown should be facing.

It makes me sick listening to the skewed BBC coverage. But whether I listen or not, it’s always there.

Who Controls The Present Controls The Past

“Who controls the present controls the past ….”

Dominic Casciani has been briefed by the Home Office, or Justice Ministry, or whatever they’re called this week, on the underreporting of violent crime. Decent of him to pass the briefing on to us verbatim.

But does this serious error in one particularly crime affect all the figures? No, insist the statisticians and ministers.

What’s more, police chiefs say it’s purely a technical problem with how some forces have recorded violence, rather than how they have investigated incidents and pursued attackers.

They say that all recorded crime is still going down and overall violence in April to June 2008 was down 7% on the same period of last year.

The British Crime Survey, the authoritative rolling study of experiences rather than police records, says your chance of being a victim is at a historically low level.

You’d never know that there were any serious criticisms of the BCS, but let that pass.

It’s the regurgitation of the government spin that’s so misleading. Strange, but “history” doesn’t go back very far when it comes to BBC crime reporting. Not so for all crimes committed in the past, eh ?

For New Labour, statistics tend to start in 1997, when they gained power. A longer time perspective is rare, especially regarding crime. The claim that ‘the risk of being a victim of crime remains historically low’ relates specifically to a comparison of the British Crime Survey of 1981 with the figures for 2003 – as if the nation enjoyed a low crime rate in 1981.

I think this graph, taken from this parliamentary report, may give us more perspective than Dominic Casciani can as to whether crime is “historically low“.

Italian Job

A lot of people, including the (generally more junior) BBC journalists who sometimes visit this blog and take part in discussion, admire what one could call the “big beasts” of BBC journalism- people like Marr, Humphries, Simpson, and Mark Mardell. Urbane and intelligent, they are seen as figures of substance. That’s troublous to an outsider to this circle of admiration as they’re biased too.

Well, take a look at Mardell’s reaction to the Italian election [correction- have a look here. Thanks Max]. His first comments “With Italy’s elections complete, does the domination of the media by the political elite distort the debate, and will the internet change things?”

Coming from a “big beast” from within the unquestionable behemoth of British media, the hubris is comic.

But also clearly unfair when one thinks about it, however one may object to Silvio Berlusconi and his media empire. The first point is that this “empire” didn’t prevent Berlusconi losing power to Prodi two years ago. The second is that Berlusconi turned his narrow defeat into a victory by a 9% margin- quite a feat. The third is that Italians apparently made an historic sea change in their politics this election- they gave their communist party (a long-time political player) precisely no seat in either chamber. Wow. Oh, and the greens went too- analysis here.

So of course Mardell is at the front of the queue undermining the legitimacy of the Italian public’s choices by implying their thought processes were skewed. After more than ten years of Labour government, one might start to consider whether the status quo in the UK might have anything to do with the Labour-dominated BBC.

“An Independent Commission”

Where would the BBC be without it’s regular diet of “surveys”, “reports” and “enquiries” ? On Radio Four’s seven o’clock news this morning, the first three of four stories were all supplied to the BBC. While I’m not a great fan of the journalist Nick Davies’ analytical capabilities, his observational skills are first class – and in his book Flat Earth news he charges that too many news organisations are content to regurgitate the press releases without enquiring into the motives behind them.

Today’s top story featured an organisation new to me, the “Independent Asylum Commission“, which has produced a report lambasting Britain for its appalling treatment of asylum seekers. Said report is getting top billing on BBC news.

The morning is young, and I have work to do. But given that the Commission is sponsored by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, what are the odds that it will turn out to consist of pro-asylum, pro-immigration activists ? If any commenters have time to dig I’d be grateful.

Let’s look at another “independent” organisation.

From BBC News a while back :

Reforms of the criminal justice system are largely ineffective in cutting crime, an independent think-tank says.

The Crime and Society Foundation, at King’s College, London, says ministers should focus instead on tackling root causes such as poverty and sexism.

This ‘independent think-tank‘ is staffed by :

A former communications director for the anti-prison, pro-criminal National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders.

A former researcher for the anti-prison ‘children’s liberation’ National Children’s Bureau and the Child Poverty Action Group.

A former Communications Officer at Action for Prisoners’ Families.

A former employee of the Howard League for Penal Reform, aka the Howard League For The Abolition of Punishment.

On its advisory board sits the anti-prison campaigner Una Padel and one Nick Page. Could it be this Nick Page ? Alas I think it’s this one.

There’s “independent”. And there’s BBC “independent”.

UPDATE – I see David and I have taken the same story this morning. Let a hundred flowers blossom, let a hundred schools of thought contend, as Chairman Mao once said.


Mr Blair’s visit to Iraq coincided with an interview in which former US President Jimmy Carter criticised the UK prime minister for his “blind” support of the war in Iraq.” report

Making the News

I’m not talking about the BBC reporting big events which “make the news”, but actually manufacturing it.

It’s one of the curses of our time that the big media, with none bigger than the Beeb, get to summon politicians almost at will. They do so especially to suit their own agendas, and their agendas are often quite extensive.

Recently two politicians interviewed separately by the Beeb were John Bolton and Jimmy Carter. The contrast in interviews was stark [and I notice that Richard North has noticed this too]. On the one hand, John Humphries on the Today programme gave Bolton the hardest time imaginable (superbly documented by Richard North at EURef blog). Fortunately Bolton in the end made Humphries look precisely what he is- an emotional, empty-headed leftist wind-bag. His attempt to force Bolton to backtrack in his support for the Iraq invasion (yes, still hearking back!) floundered amusingly as Humphries’ intent and line of questioning was exposed.

So that left the BBC with Jimmy. Needless to say, there was an eery calm as the BBC journalist waited to receive Jimmy’s words of wisdom, however contentious they might appear to someone who doesn’t see Iraq as the innate disaster it appeared through the lens of Bush House. They then created a webpage so that everyone visiting BBCOnline would get to read and hear too. A commenter to ATW (which drew my attention to it), pointed out that the article was more than slightly charitable to Carter’s record:

“In 1976, Mr Carter unseated the incumbent Gerald Ford to become the 39th US president, serving until 1981.”

Yeah, no mention of that nasty acting fellow who beat Carter soundly, or, I would add, Carter’s crowning accomplishment, the Iran hostage crisis.

One point about Carter’s comments: is a man really a friend of this country who would attempt to make Britain co-equal in responsibility for a supposed cause of terrorism, the Iraq war. Does Carter care about the relative vulnerability of the UK to terrorist attack, when he makes Osama’s talking points up for him? Does the BBC? Or do they just always see the cheap political points sitting temptingly in front of them, and to hell with the ordinary people?

It does seem quite likely that there is a cause the BBC has in mind in raising these tired points at this political moment- Blair is leaving, and the BBC would very much like Uncle Gordon to give them the gift of an ultimate moral victory for transnational correctness by admitting in proper fashion that they were right all the long by getting our soldiers well and truly out of there.