Still whining, eh?

James Harding points to four examples of how the BBC challenged politicians to justify his claim that the broadcaster did a good job during the referendum campaign (“A truly balanced view from the BBC: don’t blame us for Brexit”, Comment). There were, indeed, some cases in its thousands of hours of coverage when journalists grilled their interviewees effectively, but there were many times when they didn’t.

I paid special attention to its agenda-setting Today programme in the early period of the campaign and noted many cases of inadequate challenge. For example, it let Andrea Leadsom say falsely that we send £350m a week to the European Union on 8 March and Gisela Stuart say the same on 15 April. During that interview, the Vote Leave chair also promised to use the money for the NHS. As late as 11 May, Today allowed Boris Johnson to say we are sending the EU £20bn a year.

Other failures included letting interviewees spread the myth that the European Union needs us more than we need them. Chris Grayling said this on 10 March, without being adequately challenged, as did John Redwood on 22 March. Meanwhile, on 24 March, David Davis was allowed to get away with saying we can’t stop killers with EU passports coming to the UK when we can.

These examples could be dismissed as anecdotal. Given how the BBC dominates our news coverage, there should be an independent audit of how it fared during the referendum, backed up by recommendations of how to do better in future.
Hugo Dixon
Chairman and editor-in-chief, InFacts
London

It’s not actually the duty of the BBC, or any other broadcaster, to tell us what is “true”. This bloke says this, this other bloke says this other, fair enough. But to announce the one true truth is a little bit too far towards telling people what they ought to believe, don’t you think?

Oh, and why isn’t Hugo complaining about Osborne running around shouting “immediate recession”? That turned out not to be true too, didn’t it?

17 thoughts on “Still whining, eh?”

  1. I came to the conclusion a while ago that anyone working for the BBC has to be a cnut. Like the EU, it needs to be torn limb from limb.

  2. backed up by recommendations of how to do better in future.

    Perhaps not having a state owned broadcaster would be a good way to resolve these issues?

    (He says, from Australia, where we have a very similar problem with Aust Broadcasting Commission. A constant fight over balance vs implicit endorsement of particular viewpoints)

  3. The BBC is just as much a problem as the EU.

    I think more people recognise this since the referendum campaign. The BBC may well have shot itself in the foot.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    Other failures included letting interviewees spread the myth that the European Union needs us more than we need them. Chris Grayling said this on 10 March, without being adequately challenged, as did John Redwood on 22 March.

    How would one, I wonder, prove this is a myth? At least, without actually leaving.

    Meanwhile, on 24 March, David Davis was allowed to get away with saying we can’t stop killers with EU passports coming to the UK when we can.

    We can’t stop African war criminals coming. I am not inclined to see that as an untruth. And even if it was, as long as he owns a poodle, we can’t deport him afterwards.

  5. His facts seem very, well, opinion to me.

    Other failures included letting interviewees spread the myth that the European Union needs us more than we need them.

    Try finding a factual basis, accepted by rational people on both sides, for that one. The criminals thing is a bit more sneaky. We have big problems stopping them getting in and kicking them out when we find them here.. Okay, it’s ECHR (and HRA98), rather than the EU, but it doesn’t make it any less of a problem.

  6. The BBC needs immediate and rapid shutdown as in ” gone in a week” with the boss class and known leftist stooges sacked without compensation and their pensions confiscated.

    It is also high time that Remainiac mouthpieces started to get treason charges. Advocating the suppression of free speech, setting aside a democratic, parliament-sanctioned vote and submission to foreign tyranny is more than sufficient to warrant a treason charge.

    A new penalty of loss of UK citizenship and expulsion from the UK should do nicely.

  7. The remain camp had every opportunity to challenge the £350m/week, but didn’t. And the reason was that it was a genius trap. If Remain had argued it, they’d have come up with a figure of £260m/week coming from their own mouths.

    And this is the rough and tumble of politics. Sorry, babies, but politicians make all sorts of bullshit promises all the time. I’ve had plenty of “we will aim to…” promises in manifestos that were swept under the carpet to know better. Biggest thing to find out is a politician’s political hero and then read up on them. That will tell you all about what they aim to achieve.

  8. Thomas Fuller,

    Haha. Brilliant. Yes, The Now Show is so obviously stuffed full of Islington Labour types who think that saying “the Daily Mail” counts as comedy.

    The BBC has been eating itself for a while. Chasing “diversity” is a long-term disaster for them. This isn’t to say that black/gay/women aren’t funny, but as someone who has worked in target-led bureaucracies, the result is nearly always that people take the path of least resistance to hit the target.

    And the problem with the BBC is that in reality, it’s run by an upper-class clique of people linked up with Footlights, Edinburgh Fringe festival and so forth. That’s why you get unfunny cunts like Marcus Brigstocke. There’s talented black comedians in London, but they’re playing clubs where these people aren’t going. So, when it comes to diversity, they pick from a tiny number of non-white people or women they know, regardless of how shit they are, like Shappi Khorsandi and her one line about being from Iran and not a terrorist.

  9. Hugo Dixon of course used to be at the FT, the ground zero of Remainiac delusion. As noted before on these pages, the ‘big Lie’ that we don’t send 350m a week to the EU because they send some back ( to be spent on their priorities) is like saying you don’t give half your salary in tax and NI to the government because they spend some of it on “skools n ‘ospitals’, so you should net it out. I once went to a small dinner of city economists and strategists where he was guest speaker. He turned up, unprepared and tried to bluff his way through, totally insulting the intelligence of his audience. He was literally booed off.

  10. BiW

    Indeedy, and the best bit is that they thought none of it applied to them. The reported response of the sacked “comic” (i.e. that we should be colour-blind and promote purely on merit) is what he himself would once have called “right-wing” or, rather, “far-right”, since “far-right” is now a BBC/MSM synonym for “anything that does not promote globalism”.

    🙂

  11. So we have a biased man who thinks ‘the truth’ the BBC should report should be his truth and his truth alone. Yeah, we’ve been here many times.

    So his own bias prevents him from being able to find any example at all where BBC journalists failed adequately to challenge the Remain side. Again, been here so many times.

    For me it is that he is so lacking in self awareness he cannot even consider for a second the idea that he an unbiased broadcaster should also subject his side of the debate to rigorous analysis as well, that there is any reason to do so.

    What a numpty.

  12. “Other failures included letting interviewees spread the myth that the European Union needs us more than we need them”

    The UK is the second largest net contributor to the EU budget, represents 15% of the EU’s gdp, 40% of its military capacity, 12% of its population, has the world’s financial services centre as well as vast ‘soft’ power, and is a major export market for other EU countries. In view of all that, it seems reasonable to say that the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU.

  13. Undoubtedly lies were told by both sides (or we could be charitable and say: politicians select those statistics that support their own argument) – shock horror. ‘Twas ever thus, Bismarck nailed it:
    Nie wird soviel gelogen wie nach einer Jagd, im Krieg und vor Wahlen.
    (People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.)

    The “£350 million was a lie” trope really pisses me of. It was (is) a gross figure. If I’m asked to provide my annual salary and I quote a number before tax, does that make me a liar?

  14. “myth that the European Union needs us more than we need them”

    Please, please, please let the UK government do its job properly and go through with the full-scale experiment to determine the truth!

    In the interests of science!

  15. The “£350 million was a lie” trope really pisses me of. It was (is) a gross figure. If I’m asked to provide my annual salary and I quote a number before tax, does that make me a liar?

    As the ONS said, the “use of a gross figure in contexts that imply it is a net figure is misleading”.

    But apparently the truth doesn’t matter any more and there are no objective truths / facts.

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