By Dr John Sydenham
It will be seen from the many clips below, from coverage of Ukraine to the Falklands, that serious bias is normal in BBC productions. It happens every day. Bias occurs using four techniques. The first is to omit a fair summary description of events, the second is to select interviewees as "glove puppets" for the views of BBC staff, the third is to suppress coverage of items that offend the views of staff and the last is the presentation of opposing extremes as "fair coverage".The excerpts below show BBC bias in action and draw attention to the way that the BBC is now ignoring 6(1) of the BBC Charter and has ceased to be impartial. Impartiality is achieved by proportionately including the events that created a news item, without suppressing those events that distract from the narrative preferred by BBC staff. Unfortunately there is little evidence that BBC staff are performing their duty of impartiality.
The reason that bias has become rife is that Journalists have been trained in the creation of narratives rather than providing accurate descriptions. The narrative writers and their apologists may believe there is no such thing as truth and so nothing can be done about bias but BBC management should tell them that there is such a thing as an accurate description that accounts for events, whatever their "personal truth". Something can, and must, be done to ensure that full and accurate descriptions are provided by the BBC rather than semi-fictional narratives. If you have been convinced that fairly accurate descriptions are impossible you might notice that this screen itself was specified by an accurate description, a plan of events.
Each episode of bias shown below is accompanied by a fair context that highlights the missing data and hence the bias. Although much of the bias is pro-EU there seems to be little attempt to implement impartiality in general. The staff are given free rein to favour their own views and ideology provided they follow the four rules of bias outlined above.
At the end of this log there is a proposal for how to fix the problem.
Radio 4 Today 22/06/2022
Today we were spoilt for choice on biased reporting. Nick Robinson is still fighting the Referendum of 6 years ago.
The presenter and interviewee colluded in presenting the UK labour shortages as being due to Brexit. There are serious labour shortages throughout the EU (See: Germany France etc.) so the assumption that EU workers would be flooding into the UK were it not for Brexit is false. Furthermore, there are as many EU workers in the UK now as before COVID.
From an article in "The Conversation", May 18
2022, by Donald Houston, Professor of Economic Geography, University of
Portsmouth and Paul Sissons, Professor of Work and Employment,
University of Wolverhampton
Perhaps the biased BBC coverage of the lorry driver shortages being due to Brexit (see BBC Bias and lorry driver shortages) has convinced Robinson that Brexit is to blame. Previous bias may indeed be providing a false platform for Robinson's opinions.
Amol Rajan presented a report on the death of a man in Scotland where race may have been involved:
The bias here is not about the BBC treatment of racism but the
highlighting of the claim that the death was "Scotland's George
Floyd". The USA has about 1000 deaths per year due to arrest and
police custody and black Americans have more than twice the risk of
white Americans (See Lancet article). In England and Wales there are very
few deaths of this type. The IPCC figures for 2020-2021
(Table A4) suggest that BAME citizens are at the same risk from death as
would be expected from the frequency of Black and Asian people in the
population (10.8%). According to the IPCC
there were 7 BAME deaths in 45 total deaths (11%) where the police were
implicated (other than simply being present) and in most of these cases
the police were not responsible for the death. The figures for
Scotland are harder to obtain and, being small numbers, will be very
hard to interpret truthfully. Rajan was undoubtedly hoping to polarise
debate. Is polarisation a valid objective for a BBC presenter?
BBC One Six O'Clock News 20/06/2022
Danny Savage delivered a remarkable summary of the latest report on the Oldham child abuse scandal that was commissioned by Andy Burnam to report on the behaviour of the Labour Oldham Council.
Transcript: "The investigation into child abuse in this town was
triggered by claims of a coverup but today's report says that that was
not the case. The authorities may have failed but they did try to
warn children of the dangers. Another litany of child exploitation
and many people believe this town still has a problem with it. Danny
Savage BBC News Oldham".
The summary by the BBC was in two parts: that there was not a coverup and the authorities may have failed but they did try to warn children of the dangers.
Did the Report say there was no cover up?
The Report is clear that the various agencies failed the children and knew what was happening. The evidence that the authorities did NOT subsequently cover up these failings is extremely weak and relies on denials by those involved.
Danny Savage's rather emphatic assertion that the Report showed there was no cover up is not supported by the content of the Report. All that is shown by the Report is that the authors believed there was no cover up on the basis of denials from those involved.
The issue of whether or not there was a coverup because of sensitivities about race relations is separate from the issue of whether or not individuals operated a coverup to hide their own incompetence. Coverups are almost the rule when the public sector makes huge blunders and it would be surprising if this did not happen in Oldham. The Report does not come to any meaningful conclusion on this matter. The BBC reporter, Danny Savage, was either naive or wanton in his summary that the report showed no coverup.
Did the Report stress that the authorities tried to
warn children of the dangers?
The Report does mention a Theatre production in Oldham about risks for girls but it does not use the excuse "but they did try to warn children of the dangers" given by Savage. Indeed, in Note 25 and 4.91 the Report mentions that warnings were not given about Shisha Bars. Savage also neglected to mention that all other reports on the paedophilia say that "warning" 12 year olds is not an appropriate action.The BBC failed to describe this as a case of organised paedophilia. In this it colluded with the Report which uses the term "CSE" (child sexual abuse) to divert from the true enormity of what happened.
The bias here is that the BBC staff do not seem to have read the Report
and summarised it as proving that the Authorities did not cover up
their incompetence and, worse, the BBC went beyond the Report with the
implication that 12 year girls only need warning about predators, not
protection from paedophiles. The bias favoured the Agencies.
BBC Radio 4 Today 17/06/2022
The coverage of the foreign contributions to the Ukrainian war effort included the visit to Kyiv by EU ministers and a description of the need for military aid to Ukraine.
The BBC introduction to the visit by EU ministers mentioned that membership of the EU can take a long time after being accepted as a candidate. It did not note that "a long time" can be a really long time. Turkey has been waiting 17 years, Serbia 10 years and Montenegro 14 years and they are likely to be waiting for years to come, this means that being a candidate is irrelevant to the current conflict. The BBC introduction also failed to mention that the combined contributions in military aid of the four visiting EU states (Germany, Italy, France, Romania) were less than that of the UK. All four countries added together had provided less support than the UK:
The report ignored the fact that the EU is responsible for 61% of imports of oil and gas from Russia. A fact that is freely available to Today editors on the BBC website. However, the website does not note that the 60 billion Euros of EU imports in 4 months is almost the same as the entire annual Russian defence budget (about 70 billion euros). France has recently increased its imports (see BBC website.)
A proper context would have turned coverage of the visit of the EU ministers from being "support for Ukraine" to a publicity stunt to divert the world from what amounts to EU financial support for Russia.
The introduction to the later article on Ukraine in the programme completely overlooked British visits and support:
This must have been a deliberate oversight. It is interesting to compare the treatment of British visits to Ukraine with the wild enthusiasm for these EU visitors who offered nothing concrete (yes, wild enthusiasm, listen to the clip). British visits are framed as Johnson attempting to distract public opinion. However Britain gave immediate, concrete military aid that saved Ukraine: "Ukrainian soldiers have taken to shouting “God save the Queen” when firing anti-tank weapons provided by the UK that have proven pivotal in the defence of their country." (The Week)
The failure to give a true account of EU involvement in the Ukraine war and to treat empty promises by the EU as real support is pro-EU bias, and the silence about British support is clearly anti-British.
The People Vs J Edgar Hoover Radio 4 1.45pm 16/06/2022
Emily Maitlis has produced a left wing account of J Edgar Hoover (available here ). This production would be fine on Netflix or ITV. It is a diatribe against Hoover (the title announces it is the case for the prosecution) and contains little balanced content. It is pointless to rehearse all the points that should have been included such as the subversion of democratic states being a key objective of the Soviet Union, the spies who gave the Soviets the bomb being largely communist etc etc. The issue here is whether a nakedly political, deliberately biased production is within the terms of the Charter. This programme should never have been produced by the BBC, they should have given Maitlis an introduction to some other broadcaster.
The reporting of the railway strike did not include a context and relied solely on the input from a Network Rail spokesperson.
Surely the BBC News editorial and research teams could have cobbled together a background to the industrial dispute as an introduction rather than allowing a depressed presenter to inflict her malaise on the population? Factors such as it being a general rail strike that also involves trams and the London Underground, median driver's pay being £59,000 a year when median pay nationally is about £32,000, ASLEF (the driver's union) having only partially joined the strike, the pay demand being a "cost of living" increase - perhaps 7-10%, Network Rail having offered 2.5%, the scale of general pay rises nationally, excluding bonuses, being 4% etc. This data would have introduced the listener to what was happening. The Network Rail spokesperson did not abuse his position as sole interviewee but the way the article was structured showed that the BBC staff had no intention to produce an impartial article.
BBC News Generally, Radio 4 Today News 15/06/2022
The account of the ECHR decision on the transfer to Rwanda of illegal entrants to the UK failed to actually report the court ruling.
According to Reuters: 'The court had decided "that the applicant should not be removed until the expiry of a period of three weeks following the delivery of the final domestic decision in the ongoing judicial review proceedings", its ruling said.'
The omission of this essential fact leads to the implication in the news broadcast that the ECHR had ruled that the transfers were illegal when it had actually ruled that the domestic legal procedures must be completed before the transfers. This is a classic case of bias by failing to provide an accurate context. Indeed the BBC simply suppressed the truth about the judgement, failing to even summarise it. Sources responding to the BBC version of events asked "why should foreign judges get to decide who should be able to stay in the UK?". Of course, the foreign judges had only ruled that the legal processes in the UK should be exhausted before transfers were enacted. The sources were reacting to BBC bias, not to the ECHR.
BBC One Six O'Clock News 14/06/2022
The article on employment rates by Faisal Islam, the BBC economics editor, relied heavily on two assumptions: that migrant labour would fix the "problem" of staff shortages and that Brexit had prevented the provision of EU staff. No justification was given for either of these points.
His initial analysis of staff shortages were that the workforce had shrunk post COVID (which is widely agreed to be accurate) and there were "Fewer European workers post Brexit under new immigration rules". This second claim is not widely accepted. There are labour shortages throughout the EU so the assumption that people will migrate to a foreign country to find work when there are plenty of vacancies at home is improbable.
From an article in "The Conversation", May 18
2022, by Donald Houston, Professor of Economic Geography, University of
Portsmouth and Paul Sissons, Professor of Work and Employment,
University of Wolverhampton
In truth the EU workforce in the UK has only failed to grow, it has not declined due to immigration rules. The rules resulting from Brexit happened in Jan 2021 and there are now 2 or 3 % more workers from the EU than a year ago, not "Fewer European workers" as claimed by Islam. The number of foreign workers from all sources has increased by about 7% over the past 3 years.
The article then turned to a "glove puppet" presentation where the specific problems of a cleaning company boss were used to reinforce Faisal's false statements about worker migration in general.
There is clear evidence of three out of four of BBC bias techniques in Faisal Islam's article. He failed to give an accurate description of migrant labour supply and the EU jobs market, he suppressed relevant data and he used a glove puppet to confirm his own opinions to the audience.
The next part of this review of labour shortages by Katy Austin, BBC Transport correspondent, then used Faisal Islam's analysis as if it were fact ie: she said there are "fewer European workers around post-Brexit" when the number has actually risen. She noted that "problems are occurring elsewhere in Europe too" so why EU workers would migrate thousands of miles for work in the UK in preference to working near home needed some explanation. Without this explanation the presentation was biased.
Mishal Husain introduced an interview with Liz Truss with the following diatribe:
This is the transcript:
"But what has happened with the NI Protocol and Boris Johnson's Government and the NI protocol is very different. This is and was their agreement, Boris Johnson walked with Leo Varadcar and negotiated with the EU, Theresa May had said no uk prime minister could agree to undermining the UK Common Market and agreeing a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea. Boris Johnson agreed that there could be some checks between Great Britain and NI. The Protocol was drafted, finalised in 2019, it came into force last year. Now we want out of part of it. The bill that would do that and override aspects of it was published last night."
How far was this a fair description of the events that led to the current difficulties with the NI Protocol?Husain's summary is apparently a description of the history of the NI Protocol but is not a description that accounts for events. A suitable description might have been as follows.
'The NI protocol was part of the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May. It is documented on pages 302 to 475 of the Draft Withdrawal Agreement of 14th November 2018. It has the same title: "PROTOCOL ON IRELAND/NORTHERN IRELAND" as the NI Protocol in the current Withdrawal Agreement (Jan 2020) agreed by Boris Johnson. Only Articles 6, 9 and 10 are seriously different in Boris Johnson's NI Protocol from Theresa May's Protocol. These Articles cover the fact that the UK left the EU Customs Union as part of leaving the EU whereas Theresa May intended to stay in the EU Customs Union. Theresa May's Protocol includes "Article 18" which allows the UK to take unilateral action and the 2019-20 version of the Protocol also contains this same Article but renumbered as "Article 16". It is the use of Article 16 that is the basis of the current action by the UK government.'
Husain's introduction says: "But what has happened with the NI Protocol and Boris Johnson's Government and the NI protocol is very different. This is and was their agreement, Boris Johnson walked with Leo Varadcar and negotiated with the EU..". As can be seen above, this bears little relation to how the Agreement was actually negotiated.
To account for the current state of the NI Protocol Husain's introduction might also have mentioned Parliamentary events around the development of the NI Protocol. The description might have continued with: 'In 2018 it was felt by some MPs that NI was being used by Theresa May to keep the UK strongly attached to the EU. This was why the NI Protocol became so important in Parliament, with many of those wishing to leave the EU regarding Theresa May's NI Protocol with Articles 6, 9 and 10 as a way of derailing the Referendum.'
Instead Husain said: "Theresa May had said no uk prime minister could agree to undermining the UK Common Market and agreeing a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea.". This statement was revisiting the strife of 2018, implicitly siding with Theresa May, rather than giving an accurate account of what happened. The statement is biased.
Husain's summary gives no indication of the nature of the current difficulties such as the DUP refusing to allow the NI Assembly (Stormont) to function and the social unrest that is occurring as a result. It also failed to mention that some sectors of NI Business were adversely affected and others less affected. The absence of a simple clause or sentence describing the nature of the problem is bias because it makes it appear as if the government is wantonly causing trouble with the EU.
A fair summary of the current difficulties surrounding the NI Protocol would have brought the description up to date with the fact that in the Government's legal basis for action on the Northern Ireland Protocol the government was invoking Article 18 of Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement (Article 16 of Boris Johnson's Agreement). The Legal Basis for action says that the current operation of the Protocol is causing societal tensions that violate the Belfast Agreement (AKA The Good Friday Agreement) and that the Government will act under Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The objective of the government action is that the Protocol will be amended using the tools within the Protocol itself to achieve this end (Article 16, Article 13(8) and Article 164(5)(d)).
Husain summarised the Legal Basis with: "Boris Johnson agreed that there could be some checks between Great Britain and NI. The Protocol was drafted, finalised in 2019, it came into force last year. Now we want out of part of it." Notice that an accurate description would say that the government wishes to change the Protocol as permitted under Articles 16, 13(8) and 164(5)(d) of the Protocol itself. Husain's summary was clearly biased.
It can be seen from the above that Husain's principle bias was to fail to provide an accurate description of events. Instead she substituted a carefully crafted diatribe against the government and against leaving the EU.
Husain's summary was a thinly veiled argument to the effect that without "Johnson's Protocol" there would be no trouble in NI.
Husain's argument is weak and biased because, as experience has taught us, Northern Ireland is capable of sectarian division and terrorism whether or not it is in the EU:
Terrorist Deaths in Northern Ireland Since Good Friday Agreement.
According to the Irish Times there were 156 security related deaths between the date of the GFA and 2017. Furthermore, the Northern Ireland Assembly refused to sit from 2002-2007 when NI was part of the EU.
There can be little doubt that the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement would have been exploited by those interested in creating sectarian division whether it was drafted by Theresa May or amended by Boris Johnson. Most importantly both the 2018 and 2020 Withdrawal Agreements contained identical Articles that deal with sectarian division. These Articles (18 and 16 respectively) empower the UK government to take unilateral action to preserve the Good Friday Agreement (ie: to ensure power sharing in Stormont). The creation of Article 18 in Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement puts the UK government in the difficult position where mollifying one side or the other in Northern Ireland puts the UK into opposition with the EU. It provides perfect leverage for sectarian groups to grab attention.Husain, in common with the Irish Foreign minister, who was interviewed before Mishal Husain's diatribe, does not seem to have read the Belfast Agreement, the Withdrawal Agreements or the Government's legal basis for action. The net result was a highly biased, imbalanced introduction to the interview with Liz Truss that was little more than pro-EU bias.
The BBC committment to the narrative that the government's actions over the Northern Ireland Protocol are a breach of International Law has been adopted globally. If the BBC, an organisation seen by people outside the UK as the British state broadcaster, condemns the government then outsiders reason that it must be telling the truth. The international damage being done by the BBC to the UK is enormous.
Radio 4 World at One 13/06/2022
The EU referendum was six years ago. There is no current high profile debate about whether to rejoin the European Union. The introduction of Theresa Villiers, ex Northern Ireland minister ,with a concescending: "We'll get reaction from one of the most Brexity of Conservative MPs." showed severe problems with bias.
The word "Brexity" explains nothing but labels Villiers as someone the BBC does not like. A proper introduction might be "We'll get reaction from Theresa Villiers, Conservative ex Northern Ireland minister". There was no need to warn the audience that she might have something wrong with her, such as having favoured leaving the EU, a course of action taken by the whole country and now the current constitutional state of the UK. Only those still campaigning to be in the EU would use the diminutive term "Brexity". The BBC is not supposed to mount political campaigns.
The rest of this edition of World at One continued in the same vein, it did not summarise the fact that the absence of an active NI Assembly is a violation of the Belfast Agreement (AKA Good Friday Agreement) or that Article 16 of the NI Protocol (in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement) permits the UK to make unilateral adjustments to restore the Good Friday Agreement. Instead it had speakers declaring that invoking Article 16, an Article put in the NI Protocol for precisely these circumstances, would be a violation of International Law. Had the BBC set the context the speakers would have either avoided the "Violation of International Law" declaration or looked petty and confrontational. But the BBC did not set the context and hence allowed the speakers to portray the UK as a pariah.
Radio 4 Today 13/06/2022
Having largely ignored the personal achievements of Baroness Amos in favour of discussing how she is Black, the presenter Mishal Husain then ambushed her on the issue of alleged comments by the Prince of Wales on flights to Rwanda. These comments have not been confirmed by the Prince but the discussion inevitably led to the implied confirmation that they had occurred. It was then possible for Husain to ask Amos her own views and these were opposed to the flights.
Without any fair summary of the issue of the flights beforehand the interview with Amos was equivalent to using a "glove puppet" to express the views of BBC staff and hence biased. The BBC coverage of flying migrants to Rwanda who have crossed the Channel illegally has always failed to provide context. Simple facts such as the UNHCR having established routine flights for refugees from Libya to Rwanda or that Denmark is also pursuing the Rwanda Route or that Mediterranean migration has fallen dramatically since the introduction of tough measures by the EU have been suppressed by the BBC.As has coverage of how the EU has forcibly employed the EU Return Directive 2008, Article 2.2, to allow EU states to avoid any formal legal framework at their borders.
The introduction to an article on food had the following extraordinary injection of: "does this mean abandoning the wild life preservation which we were told was a benefit of Brexit?".
The article was not about Brexit. The article did not address in any way comparisons between EU and UK wild life policies. Nowhere did the article say who said that Brexit would save our wildlife. Even the fact that it was UK politicians and the people of the UK who were now responsible for wildlife was not noted. There can be no doubt that the intention of the introduction was a general smear against Brexit ie: food policy going wrong = brexit was bad.
Radio 4 Extra Radiolab 12/6/2022
The BBC gave a US programme considerable publicity for a one-sided, biased view of the Mau Mau rebellion. The Mau Mau rebellion was a Kikyu nationalist movement. Rightly or wrongly the Mau Mau have already been compensated for British actions during the Mau Mau rebellion in the 1950s. The BBC gave huge prominence to this American radio article and offered no context.
The following analysis of the Mau Mau rebellion shows how a fair
context could have been rapidly assembled and presented before the
The case of the Mau Mau is interesting because it deals with the legal possibility of holding racial, tribal or national groups responsible for events that are over 50 years old - like holding Jews responsible for the death of Jesus. Another interesting aspect of this case, apart from mining history for compensation, is that the people involved have changed in status from being Kikyu insurgents who murdered their own people for tribal advantage to National Heroes who may have contributed to the impetus towards independence (even though Kenyan independence was a peaceful affair in the end and part of voluntary decolonisation by the British).
There can be little doubt that changes in fashions in historical analysis and national myth building, are a driving force in these claims: in 1963 the Kenyan Administration would have demanded that the Mau Mau compensate them for the damage they caused, in 1969 the independent Kenyan Government would have been very wary of giving the Mau Mau any recognition at all because of the communist insurgencies in the Cold War but in 2011 they are National Heroes.
A Kikuyu Chief assassinated by the Mau Mau History Today
The Mau Mau have gone from being banned by the Kenyan Government until 2003 to heroes in 2011. So who is "blameworthy" varies over the decades. The UK is a "bogeyman" for most Americans so the BBC presenting an American article without a health warning is simply anti-British and biased. Why the BBC has raked up the Mau Mau rebellion again when the legal case was settled is a mystery.
Today 10th June 2022
The interview about Argentine claims to the Falklands Islands had no fair context. There had been a Referendum in 2013 in which 98% of the population agreed that the Falklands should remain a semi-independent British Overseas Territory (not a colony). However, the BBC provided the Argentine view without any context for the British audience.
The context of the Falklands Islands dispute is clear and should have been explained as a summary of The Legal Position of the Falkland Islands.
The UN Charter supersedes all previous treaties and both Argentina and the UK are signatories. According to the Charter the wishes of the people are of paramount importance, however, the BBC failed to give the interview any context and most listeners would have believed that the Falkland Islands was a case of "evil British colonialism". The BBC coverage would have given huge encouragement to anyone who believed that the Falkland Islanders should submit to Argentine colonisation. Again, the BBC coverage was simply anti-British.
The item on the Falklands Islands was followed by an article advertising cultured protein instead of eating meat. This should have been prefaced with the predicted effect on climate change of such a move rather than bland statements about it being necessary in the fight against climate change. The data on this can be assessed from Quantifying the potential for climate change mitigation of consumption options. The figure below is from this paper:
Note: This table is incomplete because it does not include the positive effect of having one less child which greatly exceeds all other options (climate change is largely due to population growth: one less person gives all of the benefits of the table above and more). Vegetarianism is roughly equivalent to eating cultured meat. Although vegetarianism is positive it is not even in the top 10 of consumer options to combat climate change. It has less effect than foregoing one long haul flight a year and is similar in effect to swapping to local food sources. The article might have noted that such a huge change in diet as reliance on cultured meat should only be permitted after clinical trials showed it was safe. The assumption in the article that cultured meat would be effective and safe as a solution to climate change was biased and misleading.
World at One 9th June 2022
The new Bill to deal with the Northern Ireland Protocol was discussed. The "expert" speakers on this issue were Tony Connelly, an RTE journalist (supporter of a united Ireland) and Jonathan Jones, who had resigned because he disagreed with attempts to change the NI Protocol.
Any assessment of bias should really stop here because the two main speakers were against the Bill. The coverage was biased. There was no intention to host a fair discussion.
However, it is interesting to see BBC bias in action. Tony Connelly is on record as describing the proposed Bill as a "bill to dismantle the Northern Ireland Protocol". In the interview he stressed that the government would be producing a bill to mollify the DUP and ERG. This was a political opinion, it was not even dressed up as a factual account.
Furthermore, satisfying both the DUP and Sinn Fein is a requirement of the Good Friday Agreement.
The World at One then interviewed, Jonathan Jones, who had resigned because he disagreed with attempts to change the Protocol. The presenter introduced his item by asking about the "legality of overriding the NI Protocol" despite the government having said that it wanted to "amend" the protocol. Jones noted that the UK government had said "The Protocol was deliberately designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement".
But he failed to spot that the trading terms in the Protocol had led to events such as the suspension of Stormont that were now violating the Good Friday agreement. He also failed to notice that the Protocol contained clauses to deal with this eventuality. Jones did not appear to be an expert at all and was not corrected by the BBC presenter.
The BBC did not introduce the item with the problems that are occurring in Northern Ireland. The Irish Times gives a fair summary. The basis of the actual Bill is described on the Government web site. The Government says it wishes to amend, not replace or terminate the Protocol and is defending the Good Friday Agreement.
The Belfast Agreement (AKA Good Friday Agreement) is a document that states clearly (Annex B, Art 3) that it is seen by Ireland as an interim agreement prior to Irish unification. The Agreement also states the terms under which secession of NI from the UK will occur (Section on Constitutional Issues and Annex A). Until that time NI must have an Assembly (Strand 1) which has a commitment to decisions being made on a cross community basis (5d). This important part of the Belfast Agreement, the Northern Ireland Assembly, is in abeyance as the DUP refuse to participate because of the NI Protocol. The BBC made no mention of this.
Jonathan Jones was correct when he said that the NI Protocol was designed to protect the Good Friday Agreement. The Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement states that the Good Friday Agreement "should be protected in all its parts". It also contains Article 16 which states that "If the application of this Protocol leads to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist, or to diversion of trade, the Union or the United Kingdom may unilaterally take appropriate safeguard measures." The deadlock in the NI Assembly would appear to need addressing to fulfil the Belfast Agreement and Article 16 was deliberately included in the Protocol to permit the UK to do this. None of this was fairly discussed in the BBC R4 World at One programme. This is no surprise because, as noted above, there was no intention to host a fair discussion.
Notice that the bias arises by using "glove puppets" who express the views of BBC staff and by omitting a fair context to the presentation.
World at One 8th June 2022.
Sarah Montague states openly that the "Steele Dossier" detailed
compromising information on Donald Trump's Russian connections:
It is now known conclusively that the "Steele Dossier" was financed by the Democrats in a "dirty tricks" campaign. Steele received $168,000 for the fake dossier. See the CNN report: The Steele Dossier: A Reckoning which summarises how the fake dossier was produced. How could the BBC use such a disgraced individual as a commentator? How could a BBC presenter endorse faked news?
BBC "More or Less" 8th June 2022
Chris Giles, economics editor of the Financial Times, was asked to explain why the UK had low unemployment. He stated that importing foreign workers from the EU was a "safety valve" in times of low unemployment.
The obvious question was "a safety valve for whom?". In a country where, since 2008, productivity growth is half of previous levels and real wage growth has faltered, importing hundreds of thousands of EU workers cannot be any sort of solution to our economic woes. "More or Less" presented Giles as an expert but his blaming of Brexit for not allowing large influxes of migrant labour was facile and politically motivated.
Source: ONS Productivity
The period from 2008-2016 was one of high migration. If migration does not increase UK real wage rates or productivity who does it benefit? Low wage employers.
BBC Omissions for the current week (5/6-11/6)
The BBC implements bias largely through omitting news.
Remainers were over-represented in the "no-confidence" vote (55% of no-confidence declarations but only 40% of Tories are remainers. (Source)
The BBC broadcasts omitted Zelensky's response to Johnson's victory in the confidence vote. President Volodomir Zelensky of Ukraine congratulated Johnson: “Boris is supporting us. Boris is very concrete in supporting Ukraine. I do not know who was responsible for this decision yesterday but I’m glad we have not lost a very important ally. This is great news. That is all I can say.” (The Mail)
Zelensky's statement shows how Britain has had a major effect on global events after Brexit. EU countries are shackled to a common foreign and trade policy whereas the UK can act freely to support Ukraine.
The BBC has failed to mention that Russia spends about 70 billion euros on defence a year and the EU has supplied Russia with over 60 billion euros since the current invasion of Ukraine. Even the BBC Website failed to compare the scale of EU imports of fuel from Russia with the scale of Russian defence spending. This is strange when the purpose of sanctions is largely to cripple Russian defence spending.
BBC Radio 4 Today 31/05/2022
Flight cancellations occur because airlines sell tickets for flights that are subsequently unable to run for foreseeable or unforseeable reasons. The staffing problems that led to the cancellations were largely due to adjustments after COVID and were widely predicted in March and April. Simon Calder, who hosts BBC travel programmes, was invited on the Today programme to cover flight cancellations. He blamed Brexit:
Notice how Mishal Husain primes the interview with "its not like people are off with COVID".
This was astonishing when other channels such as Sky News were correctly blaming the delays on the adjustments after COVID. Given these were foreseeable cancellations the true culprits were the airlines who knowingly sold flights that almost certainly could not fly. What is particularly unforgiveable for a travel correspondent such as Calder is that flight cancellations due to adjustments after COVID and the avarice of airlines were a global phenomenon (Germany USA). This meant that there was no pool of available EU staff that might, according to Calder, have fixed the problem. Given Calder must have known about these problems his outburst about Brexit was clearly political.
Radio 4 Midnight News (24/09/2021)
Perhaps one of the worst examples of BBC Bias over the past year was the BBC coverage of the lorry driver shortages last September. This was a case of extremely serious bias because it was presented as impartial by Chris Morris under the aegis of the BBC's Reality Check group. It demonstrated all the tools of BBC bias from suppressing opposing data to the use of "glove puppets" (interviews with allegedly independent speakers to confirm the views of the presenter). Morris roundly condemned Brexit for lorry driver shortages when the evidence clearly demonstrated that COVID was the problem. There is a full review of the report at: BBC Bias and lorry driver shortages.
The government should act with the utmost urgency to create an impartial division of the BBC that is carried on one TV and one Radio channel (BBC Four/Radio 4). This new division would take pride in placing news in a fair context according to the Charter. A monitoring system should be introduced that ensures items are introduced with a fair summary, that glove puppets are never used and that polarised debate is avoided. Polarised debate is not impartiality because usually neither extreme expresses the truth. This new division, dedicated to impartiality and fairness, could be kept as a public service broadcaster even if the rest of the BBC is privatised. The Charter demands impartiality and this is inconsistent with infotainment or entertainment. Impartiality will never create a widely popular news program but it could set a gold standard for the UK news media. Such a goal is the only real justification for a State financed news broadcaster.
The problem of the "Fair Summary Description"
Journalists are trained to produce entertaining or eye-catching "narratives" to sell programming and newspapers. Narratives are always biased because they start with the intention of excluding the boring bits.
These narratives are different from an accurate description of events. If all of the news media contains narratives then there will be no reference point, no accurate source, from which these narratives can be judged. Supplying such a source would be a Public Service because narratives sell media whereas accurate descriptions of events are not as attractive.
It is possible to police impartiality. The government should have a contract with the BBC that specifies the frequency of BBC4/R4 news, that fair summaries and the underlying full reports for these are published online, that there is a committee devoted to enforcing impartiality and a tribunal of three judges for dealing rapidly with challenges to the Committee that can refer cases to the County Courts for breach of contract. The contract should specify that if the courts find bias has occurred then the offending staff and managers are dismissed.
The problem of the seamless combining of news and discussion
The BBC has a policy of eliding the factual News into discussion of the news. This happens on the TV news and the Radio magazine programmes like "Today". It is impossible to offer truly impartial news with this programme design so the factual news should always be clearly separated from discussion of the news on the BBC. A neutral programme of at least 15 minutes in length should follow the News. Of course, if BBC journalists were not keen to influence politics the factual news would be sufficient for programmes like "Today".
The process of creating fair summariesCreating an impartial news source is not without its problems. The BBC attempted to do this with "Reality Check" but, as Chris Morris showed last September, if staff are determined to campaign for a cause it is difficult to prevent them from doing so. Worse still, because Morris was speaking on behalf of an allegedly unimpeachable "Reality Check" service the damage was more severe than it might have been.
Had the procedures in the "Reality Check" department been better the Morris debacle might have been avoided. Impartiality is about including all the significant parts that lead up to an event and noting their relative contributions.
In the case of the lorry driver shortages in September 2021 the immediate parts that led up to the shortages were: drivers not being available for work because of illness, EU origin drivers returning home because of COVID fears and regulations, lack of training of UK drivers, EU origin drivers not continuing in the UK because of work permits and tax changes, poor working conditions, driver shortages in the EU allowing EU drivers to find work near home, a possible fall in the pound, poor pay etc. It is then possible to investigate the proportion of the shortfall of drivers that is due to each cause. If the proportions did not add to 100% a search could be made for the missing parts. It would then be possible to say that 10% of the shortfall was due to this cause and 20% due to that cause and present evidence for these numbers.
Having assessed the contributions of the parts that contributed to an event the veracity and description of the most significant parts would be double checked. Suppose the fall in the pound appeared to be important to driver shortages, this would be checked by examining the movements of the pound using actual data and determining whether these were large by historical standards during the period of interest and determining whether they predicted the loss of staff by comparing the currency movements with the staff shortages over time.
In the case of new policies it is possible to exercise impartiality by describing the history of the policy. As an example there might be a proposal to join the EU Single Market with the claim that this would make us richer. The historical data on the trade and current account balances with the EU and how these have been financed (increased national debt, overseas property sales etc) are the crucial parts of interest to new foreign trade and finance arrangements. The extent to which these balances have affected the whole economy, especially wages and the cost of living, might be estimated. The net capital inflows or outflows from the UK that have happened during past membership of the Single Market and the type of these flows would be included. The team responsible would be sufficiently sophisticated to realize that anyone stating that deficits and surpluses have no effect is biased. The free movement of labour would be examined with the growth in UK real wages since Lisbon and the effect of EU workers on business profits retained in the UK, education, health and infrastructure provision being calculated. The advantages obtained from increasing the population during previous membership of the Single Market would be described. The fair summary would state the amount of benefit proposed by the policy and the scale of benefit obtained in the past with the contributions to the national accounts in the past itemised.
Given that joining the Single Market is a financial, labour and trading policy impartiality can be checked by presenting the flows in the National Accounts due to previous membership of the Single Market. Net changes in the Trading Account, Primary Income and Secondary Income accounts would be visible as changes in the Loan Accounts, Financial Accounts etc. It would be possible to state that, for instance, an £80bn trade deficit with the EU was financed by say, the sale of £60bn of UK property and businesses to overseas investors and £20bn in loans or that an £80bn surplus with the EU led to the acquisition of £50bn of overseas businesses and property and £30bn of overseas portfolio and bond investment.
Impartiality around policies can be judged by isolating the principle claims for the policy and presenting the history of the factors (parts) that could contribute to these claims. The fact that most policies are repeats of historical policies will ease the process. However, the impartial coverage of the history of policies is more prone to error that the impartial coverage of events and this would be made clear in any report.
Economic predictions should be reported as little as possible, especially where they predict events that are more than 2 years in the future (See for instance GDP predictions are reliable only in the short term (Economist Dec 15th 2018) ). Reporting economic predictions for 3 or 10 years hence is bias because it is accepting the validity of such predictions..
It is clear that impartialty is possible. Descriptive journalism may be boring compared with narrative journalism but it is essential that somewhere in the media there are accurate descriptions of events. The role of a journalist or presenter on an impartial channel would be to make the description of events as clear as possible so that they can be understood.
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