“My ‘Friends’ At Biased BBC”

October 21, 2007

Last week’s Ariel (the BBC’s staff newspaper) published an article I wrote about Biased BBC blog.

My original title for it was “My ‘Friends’ At Biased BBC”, but it was published under the headline “Don’t Dismiss Biased BBC, Join The Conversation Instead”.

Ariel isn’t available outside the BBC firewall, although the print version is pretty easy to get hold of. So I am publishing the article here so that people from Biased BBC can read it.

It’s rather long (over 1000 words), I’m afraid.

Martin Belham has already blogged about the article here. Thanks to Martin for his kind words.

And remember, “resistance is useless”!

Update 23.10.07: Also thanks to Jemima Kiss at Media Guardian, Jem Stone and Biased BBC themselves for links. 

‘My “Friends” At Biased BBC

So there I was, sitting there, writing some guidelines on personal blogs, and thinking “I’d better find out more about this blogging thing.

I fired up Google blog search and searched for “BBC”. To my surprise I saw right at the top of the page a link to something called “Biased BBC”. My surprise turned to alarm as I clicked on to a purple and white web page filled with anti-BBC invective and examples of so-called “bias”. I remember saying to my colleagues “Have you seen this?”

But in two years there’s only been one piece of BBC content highlighted by Biased BBC where I thought there was a real problem. There have been three or four where I have thought they might have half a point. But these have been sloppy journalism or poor phrasing, not bias. Considering the huge amount of web pages and other content that the BBC publishes, and that we’re human beings who sometimes make mistakes, not a bad record. Biased BBC proves its opposite; the BBC is not biased.

So why bother with Biased BBC? Well…

Biased BBC gets the basics of web publishing right

They post every day, have a very clear editorial focus, and link, link, link, link and link again.

I don’t have to read the Sunday papers anymore. Instead of lugging around a pile of dead tree I just go to Biased BBC. It’s my one stop shop for stories or comment about the BBC, from the press and the web. When Paxman gave his speech at Edinburgh I found it, not through a link on bbc.co.uk, but through a link on biased BBC.

Biased BBC understands the value of letting the conversation flow

Biased BBC is post moderated. Despite the often extreme views expressed, up until recently you could just post and comments would rarely be edited. I enjoyed the anarchic and bizarre turns the threads would take. One for example moved from climate change, through Isreal and Palestine, the Nazis, Pete Tong’s Essential Selection, Matt Frei and Trident

In the past month or so the moderators on Biased BBC have been much tougher on off topic comments and weeded out some of the nuttier stuff. It’s made the threads tighter, but I miss the anarchy of the old days.

Biased BBC is a community. If you join that community, and behave well that community might just accept you and even help you

It took me a long while to actually post a comment on Biased BBC, rather than just watching (or “lurking”). But eventually I got so fed up with people misrepresenting the BBC’s guidelines that I started posting links. I engage occasionally, only on those things that I understand and where I think I can put a good argument. I try to be polite and reasonable despite provocation. I’ve been called a “terrorist”, and even worse, an ex public school boy. If nothing else it’s been a good exercise in controlling my temper. 

But I’ve also been praised for my “mission to explain”, and thanked for providing links.

So when the story about BBC people editing Wikipedia broke on Biased BBC in the summer, I immediately went on Biased BBC and told them one of those people was me, and explained why I thought what I was doing was OK. This provoked a furious row, with “Sao Paulo” threatening to “report” me to my boss. People supported me quickly, one saying:

“Nick… is one of the BBC people who is prepared to get stuck in and engage with his critics on this site… We generally don’t agree with him, but he argues courteously and cogently… It’s not done to try to get a blogger into trouble with their employer, and if you really have done this, then I for one deplore your action.”

But be warned: you may be their friend one day, but tomorrow if you disagree someone will say:
“And that response from Nick Reynolds — what a crock of s**t. He’s lost any credibility he ever had in my eyes.”

Biased BBC shows how important it is for the BBC to be more open

Some people on Biased BBC believe the BBC is a cross between an Al Qaeda cell and the Borg. A hive mind with Mark Thompson at the top shouting “your orders today are: destroy the West!” and then we all salute. They call us the “beeboids”.

The truth is that the BBC is just a bunch of people. Individual, creative people who combine in complex and chaotic ways. When someone like David Gregory  (Midlands Today’s Science and Environment Correspondent) discusses his approach to reporting climate change it shows a human face that belies the corporate image.

“John Reith” is the pseudonym of a BBC journalist who regularly comments. He does fantastic work, debating and rebutting, with humour and occasionally acerbic comment. I’m still trying to work out who he is. He’s an ambassador for the BBC, a real champion. Yet he must feel that if he uses his real name he will get in trouble. It’s a terrible indictment of the BBC’s culture that someone supporting the organisation so well can’t use their real name.

Biased BBC is “the people formerly known as the audience”

This phrase is well loved by new media gurus who are usually of a liberal persuasion and have a naïve belief that the internet is going to “save democracy”. But when the Guardian set up “Comment Is Free” and allowed anyone to comment on opinion pieces they were taken aback by the amount of hostility that poured onto their website. This wasn’t democracy, it was bear-baiting. An intense debate ensued inside the Guardian along the lines of “why are we giving these people a platform when they despise everything we stand for?”. 

But the people on Biased BBC are using the same new media tools as everyone else to give themselves a voice. They also happen to be licence fee payers. What they are asking for, increasingly, is more openness and more accountability from an institution they pay for. Not on the face of it, an unreasonable thing to ask.

A BBC journalist asked me whether by spotlighting Biased BBC I was giving their views a credibility they don’t deserve. But it’s not a research project, a formal accountability exercise, or a complaints process; it’s just a conversation. You can choose whether you join in. You can use your own judgement about what you think is valuable. 

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to comment on Biased BBC if you don’t have a thick skin. Things can get rough. Biased BBC recently celebrated its fifth birthday, and as it matures, it may becoming more controlled and blander, more like those newspapers with a predictable knee jerk anti BBC agenda.But there’s a lot to be learned from its’ rise, and perhaps its’ fall.

They want to talk to us.

Why don’t we talk to them?’

24 Responses to ““My ‘Friends’ At Biased BBC””


  1. [...] Original post by Nick Reynolds At Work [...]


  2. [...] The article was published in the BBC’s inhouse magazine, Ariel, but Nick has posted the more than 1,000 words on his blog. [...]

  3. ale bro Says:

    do you really think that public schoolboys are worse than terrorists?

  4. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    it’s a joke ale bro…

  5. dave t Says:

    Nick

    You forgot to point out that John Reith never answers direct questions, avoids the many instances where we have made valid points about topics which he cannot answer and lately has become insulting and ridiculous as he desperately backpeddles or merely points out a spelling mistke or two rather than argue his case. Just like our Own Dear Beeb then!

    Good article – keep up the good work

  6. Biodegradable Says:

    “But in two years there’s only been one piece of BBC content highlighted by Biased BBC where I thought there was a real problem.”

    That wouldn’t by any chance be my complaint that Barbara Plett’s weepy tribute to Arafat was still online with no reference to the fact that a complaint against it had been upheld? :-)

  7. dave t Says:

    Did you notice the spelling mistke?!!!! Damm…now Reith will be all over me!

  8. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Hi biodegradable,

    no the Plett example was one where I thought you had half a point.

    Thanks Nic for your good wishes.

  9. JG Says:

    “The truth is that the BBC is just a bunch of people. Individual, creative people who combine in complex and chaotic ways.”

    That statement really gets to the heart of why Biased BBC was created IMHO. The BBC, as two of the quotes on BBBC suggest: “..has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias”, Andrew Marr” and “It’s not a conspiracy. It’s visceral. They think they are on the middle ground”, Jeff Randall”.

    This is the problem with the BBC and why we should be thankful for sites such as BBBC. Day after day they highlight this bias, sometimes the bias is huge and obvious, mostly it’s small and often trivial. But these small things add up. A steady drip of bias, most of which I do not believe the reporters are even aware of. It’s just the group left-wing (champagne bottles in the corridors after Labour victories) PC mind-think that permeates the BBC. Thank goodness we have sites like BBBC to document this, and good to see some such as yourself are starting to take notice.

    PS
    not too sure you should be defending ‘John Reith’. He typifies the mindset identified in Hutton ‘We are the BBC, we cannot be wrong, never admit mistakes’.

  10. gharqad Says:

    Hi Nick, as an occasional commenter at B-BBC, can I just say how much I respect your engagement with the site. The rough and tumble is no more than can be found on the average web forum, so don’t be too harsh on us!

    I have to agree with dave t – you are more than generous to John Reith than his skills deserve, but he does score the odd point now and then – usually when one of the more ‘rabid’ B-BBCers gives him an easy target.

    I must say – it’s rather coy of you to keep secret which instance of bias you agreed with. Don’t flirt with us like this you tease!

    Best wishes for your blog.

  11. Bryan Says:

    Nick, I have to concede that this is not bias, but why are you putting an apostrophe after its?

    Biodegradable, yes I also thought that the Plett affair was the one Nick meant and have just posted a comment to that effect on B-BBC. Thought I might meet up with you over at BBC-B.

  12. Jack Hughes Says:

    Nice blog, Nick.

    Tell us all which example of bias was the *only* real example in two years – then we can just ignore the others.

    Ciao.

  13. marc landers Says:

    “But in two years there’s only been one piece of BBC content highlighted by Biased BBC where I thought there was a real problem”

    Well Nick, let me see if I can help you out there.

    The BBC’s own defense correspondent complained that the BBC was lying, his words not mine, in its reporting of Iraq.

    http://media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,7493,922206,00.html

    In this report from Iraq, the BBC describe as a British aid worker, a well known anti war activist to allege war crimes against the US. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3653223.stm

    I exposed Jo Wilding here:

    http://ussneverdock.blogspot.com/2004/04/formal-charges-against-bbc-formal.html

    Note that she writes for the Guardian.

    Nick, why did the BBC stack the audience with Muslims 5 to 1 to non Muslims in the aftermath of the 7/7 terror attack?

    http://www.biased-bbc.blogspot.com/2005_08_01_biased-bbc_archive.html#112321150413191159

    And why did the BBC fabricate a UK Army desertion story?

    http://ussneverdock.blogspot.com/2006/05/uk-bbc-fabricates-army-desertion-story.html

    Why did the BBC feel it necessary to ban its top people from “participating” in an anti war march?

    http://media.guardian.co.uk/iraqandthemedia/story/0,12823,893318,00.html

    There there are the many BBC’s own admissions and investigations that prove the BBC is biased, anti American and pro Muslim.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1942948.ece

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=411846&in_page_id=1770

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=HHJRAWTJM1FIFQFIQMFCFGGAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2007/07/14/nbeeb314.xml

    The list is endless.

    http://ussneverdock.blogspot.com/2005/01/bbc-is-turn-off-its-official.html

    Add it all up and it’s proof positive that the BBC is out of control.

  14. v Says:

    You are aware that BBC Bias is not a myth?
    Just because you cannot se it – doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1942948.ece

    This should give you an idea of what we, the 58% of people who wouldn’t pay for the BBC – given a choice – actually see!

    BBBC do a fine job – however, they are just the noisy minority – most people just can’t be bothered with making a fuss – it doesn’t mean they can’t see the bias as well!


  15. [...] The Marc October 24th, 2007 Marc of USS Neverdock is nothing if not persistent and has sent a comment to this blog saying various things about the BBC. I did respond to these examples in detail a while [...]


  16. And if you don’t fancy comment moderation and want a bit of thick-skinned anarchy, you can always try the spin-off site

    “BBC Biased”

    http://bbc-biased.blogspot.com


  17. Nick, you are being disengenious with the readers of Ariel by stating that you only found ONE dodgy case in two years.

    I presume you are referring to the CBBC Newsround pages on the events of 9/11 that were condemned as being tantamount to Al Qaeda propaganda.

    If not, well there you go – there’s one more example.

  18. Mark Seaborne Says:

    Hi Nick

    First of all I’d like to say hello to all of Nick’s friends over at Biased BBC.

    I’m a low level Techie at the BBC with access to the internal posting board called Talk Gateway. Over the years I’ve posted many links to Biased BBC and the USS Neverdock.
    I’ve tried to make as many people at the BBC aware of your blogs.

    I have an idea Nick, how about a guest posting for one of your friends on Talk Gateway? Let’s give them a chance to explain what they are about, and what they would like to see change at the corporation?

    Kind regards

    Mark

  19. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    I don’t think a guest posting on talk gateway is the right way to do it, but I think BBC people engaging with the community on Biased BBC (if they want to) is not a bad idea.

  20. Gordon Thomas Says:

    John Trenchard, aka John Thomas, writes: “And if you don’t fancy comment moderation and want a bit of thick-skinned anarchy, you can always try the spin-off site”

    More like spun-off shite for those who want a bit of thick-headed anarchy from fruitcakes who were too nutty for Biased BBC and enjoy getting off on pictures of ‘IDF babes’ and other guff that has nothing to do with the BBC. A weak wannabe imitation…

  21. gary wilson Says:

    Nick,

    So folks have been courteously pointing out examples of bias in the BBC for five years, on a daily basis, often using links from other mainstream newspapers, and you could only find one example in, let’s see, at least 3600 examples (assuming two posts per day per average) which you thought had any merit? Either you’re exceptionally arrogant, in which case I don’t understand why you’d bother even engaging the site (after all, they must be a bunch of crazies if they can only come up with one valid example in 3600! Perhaps crazier than the “troofers”!) , or you’re exceptionally defensive. In either case, you don’t seem to have the open mind of a trained journalist.


  22. [...] this about the incident on the BBC Editors Blog. I also mentioned what happened in this post about Biased BBC on this blog (sorry it’s a bit long, the bit you need to read is about half way [...]


  23. [...] on Innovation Day“Distinctive&#… on Innovation DayBBC People Editing W… on “My ‘Friends&#8217…Idetrorce on Blogs – Are We Getting [...]


  24. [...] Posts Blogs In Action: Nick Robinson”My ‘Friends’ At Biased BBC”Bet On The Licence FeeI Wanna Be Your DogPandora to Stop Streaming To The UK on January 15thMore [...]


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