The Today programme can always be relied on to enrage those of us who demand impartial reporting. A Biased BBC reader was listening on Monday 16th July and what he heard provoked this response;

“Firstly there was a piece from a WPC who has conducted a survey into allegedly low morale of women police officers for the ‘Independent Police Commission’. Then an interview with the Commission’s Chairman, Lord Stephens. Not a mention of the fact that this ‘Commission’ is in fact a Labour Party front. Any innocent listener would have assumed it was a pukka Government enquiry.

Secondly, a discussion between two dudes at the Hyde Park Concert on how unreasonable it was for the organisers to have switched off Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen when they went over time. No recognition of the fact that a lot of people live around Hyde Park.  Also, using a clip from Boris condemning the switch off when the Mayor had nothing to do with it, it was a requirement of the licensing authority which was the City of Westminster. Such ignorance by Today researchers”

What The papers Say

Today: R4. Monday 23rd January 2012.
Yesterday, at about 7:45. Evan Davis read out the newspaper review. An item from the Guardian was singled out, which he articulated with passion and a distinct air of disapproval. What was it? A new scandal about Hackgate? Big Ben toppled over? Breaking news about another atrocity in Syria? No, it was Harriet Sherwood’s article about the ill-treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons. The way Evan spat the words out, you’d have thought he’d been imprisoned there himself.
There’s something in internet parlance, or maybe in general parlance, called ‘whataboutery’. I take it to refer to a rebuttal that solely consists of examples of something worse than the original criticism.
You write about the bloody awful conditions endured by stone-throwing children held in Israeli prisons, and I counter with ‘what about conditions for children who have been tortured to death in Syria?” That’s what-about-ery.

That has nothing to do with Evan Davis, it concerns a CiFWatch article about another of Harriet Sherwood’s stories about Israel’s wrongdoings, real or imagined. These she obsessively researches to assuage the insatiable appetite for such things over at the Guardian.

The CiFWatch piece, cross-posted at Honest Reporting, begins with a graphic and gruesome description of the body of a 13 year old boy who had evidently been tortured to death by the Assad regime. It’s there purely to contrast its stark brutality with the allegations in the Guardian’s special report that Evan spat out with such venom yesterday.

Someone suggested this was ‘whataboutery’. But it wasn’t really, because Honest Reporting didn’t stop there. They went on to include the Israeli response, which, needless to say, was not published in the Guardian.
The Guardian’s video stars two Palestinian youths, one of whom looks like a chubby young Mr. Bean. Shall we call them ‘mature children’.
We are expected to take their testimony at face value. Their interrogations sounded tough, though not horrifyingly brutal, and if there is any truth in their allegations it’s nothing for Israel to be proud of.

It would be naive to believe that there have never been any Israeli violations of those laws specifically meant to protect the rights of minors in detention. If these cases exist, there are authorities tasked with investigating and dealing with such deviations. This is not, however, the norm.”

Not touched upon at all is the matter of why they were in this situation, leaving the impression that they were completely innocent victims of some random act of vengeance by Israel.

Honest Reporting says that Israel maintains that these allegations are completely baseless.
The mechanisms of accountability and rule of law actually exist in Israel” So before anyone says ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they’ it does seem pathetic that the lefty Guardianistas and their BBC bretheren are willing to leave aside their critical faculties, and take the words of all accusers, however implausible, as gospel. Film of stone-throwing Palestinian youths is abundant. We know they do it, and we know that slingshot catapults are lethal weapons. We know that exaggeration and faux news is par for the course. Yet people lap up unverified allegations by agenda-driven reporters. They can’t get enough of it.

The Israel Security Agency and its employees work solely within the law and are subject to oversight and internal and external examination, including by the State Controller, the State Prosecutor, the Attorney General’s Office, the Israeli Knesset and Israel’s courts at all levels, including the Supreme Court.”

That response is dismissed out of hand, deemed not worth listening to.
Mark Regev was allowed just enough time on the video to say that representatives of minors who feel they have been ill-treated should ‘come forward’ as Israel knows it is important to treat young people with extra consideration, but this was nullified by what came immediately after. A reiteration of the original allegations, which was allowed the final word.

This unverified report was singled out by some BBC producer as though it was of particular interest to Today listeners, and maybe they’re right.


If, unlike me, you missed the first half-hour of this morning’s Today programme on Radio 4 here’s a summary of the main points. You may detect a theme.


That was as much as I could take on a frosty morning. On the plus side – shouting expletives at the radio wakes you up, so there is that at least.


The Today programme is now producing its own anti-government protest songs. It was only a matter of time, I suppose.

Business presenter Adam Shaw sat down with Robbie Williams’ songwriter Guy Chambers to come up with a tune about government pension proposals. Listen to the result here.


We make two big journeys in our story it’s often said,
One when we are married, one when we are dead.
I thought we were protected by a golden trust,
Now I’ve been abandoned, your words have turned to rust.
I’m betrayed
This bed we made
Went off the rails
We lie on nails
I’m betrayed
Our dreams they fade
We had a deal
And still you steal

Tomorrow, Sarah Montague and Bernie Taupin bring us their jaunty ditty Let’s Raise Taxes On Carbon Emissions.

Incidentally, is anybody else getting more than a little sick of BBC journalists doing these “look at me” reports which serve little purpose other than to raise their own profiles and create a bit of ego-soothing Twitter buzz?

Making Allowances

Often you have to make allowances for things you see or hear, especially when the topic is you-know-what. For example, when you suspect that English isn’t someone’s first language, or in certain cases, that human isn’t their first state of being.

When evaluating their choice of Richard Ingrams as guest editor of today’s Today, you have to take into consideration that the BBC is institutionally antisemitic, but even after making such allowances, his particular edition merits a thumbs down.
Even if we were all obsessed with proving James Hanratty’s innocence, the handling of this item, by any standards, was shoddy.
The DNA evidence was flawed because it was kept in a folder with hairs, fluff, toenail clippings and other detritus?
What sort of a folder was this? Cardboard? Even in the days of Dixon of Dock Green it seems odd that evidence collected with surgical gloves and white suits would then be shoved into a hairy old folder and shaken up. Later, someone called it a container. What sort of container?
But most of all, we heard a sound clip in which the rape victim swore the rapist was Hanratty. Why did no-one subsequently refer to that?

Whenever I hear the name Richard (I have developed a habit, when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government, to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it) Ingrams I automatically assume it’s crap. In fact I have developed a habit, when confronted by the voice of Richard Ingrams, of finding it pompous, high-pitched and repressed. The poor chap is stuck in the Britain of schoolboys with short trousers.

Talking of voices, another peculiar item that avoided the nub in the way they often do on Today, was the discussion about the pitch and tone of voices we find annoying, which avoided analysing the real reason, which is of course the delivery and idiosyncratic pronunciation as per Robert Peston and Neil Nunes. So never mind that Peston draws out random words like a bleating lamb, and pronounces others with a strange explosive stutter, it’s merely the pitch we find unattractive.
So Sarah Montague and Corrie Corfield get letters telling them to just shut up? Oh hilarity, they frame them and put them in the bog.

And another thing. The man who saw ghosts. He himself was obviously the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Ingrams didn’t spot it because he was too busy going hahahahahahah in an annoying high pitched manner.
Then we had that great orator George Galloway, who has made so many wonderful speeches, who’s to say which was his finest? Could it have been the one he made to the indefatigable Sadaam, or when presenting his generous cash donation to Ismail Haniyeh, or at a rally where he said something like “If anyone dares to touch a hair on the head of a Moslem burka I’ll personally ….something or other blah blah.”

You have to make allowances for the BBC. What variety of racist other than a hate-filled antisemite would they deem a worthy guest editor?

Today Editor: Twitter Main Source For Stories

Nicholas Jones, former BBC political correspondent, recounting a Royal Television Society event held in June:

Ceri Thomas said the political blogosphere had a resonance in Westminster but it did not have a great purchase outside Westminster.  But the Today programme now realised the importance of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. ‘I get more story ideas from Twitter than from anywhere else… it has become the single most useful way to get information although that was not the case during the general election’.

Out: if it bleeds, it leads. In: if the luvvies tweet it, Today will repeat it.

Where once BBC editors would have to wait until the next dinner party to hear the bleeding-heart concerns of like-minded media types, now it’s all instant – news determined by the daily fancies of the right-on metropolitan echo chamber. Same as it ever was, only more so.

(Luckily for the Today programme Stephen Fry hasn’t expressed an opinion on the dropping of the New Black Panther voter intimidation case.)


The Today programme claims to set the news agenda for Radio 4 each day. Well, it certainly tries its best, and its own agenda is often plain to hear.

The Sky News website publishes an invaluable daily gallery of the UK newspaper front pages. Which of the lead stories found there today were ignored by the Today programme’s paper reviews?

Well, besides some tabloid gossip about Posh and Becks, two leads were conspicuous by their absence from any of the programme’s three slots (at 6.12, 6.40 & 7.40).

The first was the Times‘s ‘ I won’t be rushed out of Afghanistan – Petraeus’. Above the article is a photo of laughing, open-faced Afghan girls under the banner ‘Exultant: faces of freedom in a war-torn land’. Why would the defeatist, anti-this-war Today programme choose to completely ignore this lead story?

The presenters did have time to mention the Independent and the Guardian‘s take on Bob Woodward’s new book on the Obama administration’s Afghan squabbles, with John Humphrys reading out a paean to Mr Woodward.

It’s even easier to guess why they ignored the other lead – an immigration story from the Express – ‘How migrants snatched our homes’, concerning a group of Lithuanian squatters “terrorising part of east London“.

The angle taken by the Telegraph and Mail regarding the speech on anti-social behaviour by Denis O’Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary – ‘Police give up the fight as yobs take over’ and ‘Police: We have let yobs rule streets’ – was mentioned by the presenters, but how did the Today website, which also made it its lead story, choose to angle the subject?: “The Chief Inspector of Constabulary says that police efforts to tackle anti-social behaviour in England and Wales must not suffer because of spending cuts.” Ah yes, budget cuts!

“Our job is to ensure we remain absolutely impartial and present the facts to our audiences – without following any agendas,” said Helen Boaden, director of BBC news. Really?

Falsehood and Madness

“Reporters are mouthpieces for people in power”

On Today, Guardian writer and one-time journalist of the year Nick Davies tells us that the internet is a mechanism for distributing falsehood and madness.
But not to worry. Although much journalism is necessarily inaccurate, the bastions of truth and good journalism are the BBC and the Guardian.

Green Zone

Further to Robin Horbury’s comments about the BBC’s joy over Caroline Lucas winning her seat – here’s a wishful exchange from Friday morning’s post-election Today programme:


Evan Davis: I love the idea that the first Green MP is possibly going to hold the balance of power in the House of Commons…

John Humphrys: Wonderful thought. Wonderful thought.

Evan Davis: … control the entire operation.


Today again.

“………Immigration is second only to the economy. Difficult to discuss. Here’s Kevin Connolly in Peterborough. Highest concentration of immigrants. Bigots. Bigotgate.”

At last, the discussion that dare not speak its name. At last they’re going to mention what is on everyone’s mind. Say the unsayable. Hoorah! No more taboo. No more intimidatory reminders of the unfortunate consequences awaiting those who mention you know what. Been waiting for this.

“………………Eastern Europeans. Polish shop. No Fox’s biscuits. Urinating in me garden. The American Dream. Nice migrant. Eastern Europeans. Polish. Jobs. Dad’s Army. Honest Debate. Warmington on Sea.”

Oh well.