Up To The Marc

October 24, 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 back on Biased BBC. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find this, so I’m going to have to respond again. At least this time I will have something to link to properly so I don’t have to do it all again.

The trouble with Marc is that he spoils his case by using exaggerated and inaccurate language and sometimes even misinterprets his own examples.

Many of Marc’s examples are rather old now but I will deal with them anyway.

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

I’m afraid they are your words Marc. The words “lie” or “lying” do not appear anywhere in this article in the mouth of Paul Adams or anyone else. The reason the BBC employs correspondents as good as Paul is precisely so their judgements can be used to make the BBC’s journalism better. Paul disagreed with the BBC’s editorial line and as a result I expect it was changed. No evidence of bias.

2. “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.  I exposed Jo Wilding here.  Note that she works for the Guardian”

Here Marc may have half a point. It may have been a good idea to let readers know more about Jo Wilding’s background. But I don’t think that in itself this destroys her credibility as a witness. The fact she sometimes writes for the Guardian is in itself irrelevant.

3. “why did the BBC stack the audience with Muslims 5 to 1 to non Muslims in the aftermath of the 7/7 terror attack?”

The BBC did not “stack the audience with Muslims 5 to 1 non Muslims” Marc. In fact, if you read the story properly there were more Muslims in the audience to this edition of Question Time than there would be as a proportion of the population. You seem to imply that there were 5 Muslims to every non Muslim, which was not the case.

Not a perfect programme by any means and Greg Dyke later apologised for its tone. But not some kind of deliberate anti US conspiracy – just a mistake.

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

“Fabricate” is loaded language, implying a conspiracy. But again you may have a half a point here. I put this one down to sloppy research.

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

For the obvious reason that the BBC is required to be impartial. This story proves the BBC is unbiased, or at least trying to be.

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

Let’s take these in order. The first is a Times report on the BBC’s recent research on Impartiality. You will notice that it contains only two quotations from the report itself. People should actually read the report (which is available here) and make up their own minds.

Similarly the Daily Mail’s report of the BBC’s impartiality seminar. The Mail says the seminar was “secret” which it wasn’t. It was streamed live on the internet and I watched it and blogged it on my internal BBC blog. The Mail’s report is inaccurate in some respects. For a more accurate summary, see this article on Wikipedia (which I partly edited). And here is a full transcript of the meeting.

The Impartiality report is fascinating, well worth reading and spotlights areas where the BBC could do better. But the report did not cover the BBC’s News and Current Affairs output.

Peter Jay’s article is interesting but is really about the BBC of forty years ago when he worked for it. He’s entitled to his opinion. He also says:

“I can now see that my old BBC media liberalism was not a basis for government.”

The BBC is not a government or a political party. It’s a broadcaster and content producer.

I always find it odd that people with conservative views can work for the BBC for many years and then suddenly say it’s biased. If it really was a hot bed of media liberals or left wingers then how could they work there for so long?

7. “The list is endless.”

Indeed Marc’s list is endless and I’m afraid I don’t have time to comment on every single assertion and example.

But any organisation that has Jeremy Clarkson, Robert Peston, Nick Robinson and Andrew Neil working for it and Melanie Phillips as a regular contributor probably doesn’t have a “far left agenda”.

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21 Responses to “Up To The Marc”

  1. dmatr Says:

    The Mail says the seminar was “secret” which it wasn’t. It was streamed live on the internet and I watched it…

    Helen Boaden made the same point on the Editor’s Blog. And yet no one outside the BBC appears to have watched the stream or even heard of it until after the event (?)

    This idea of the seminar not being “secret” because it was streamed live over the internet is disingenuous, without a crucial piece of additional information.

    It’s entirely possible for something to be streamed live over the Internet and yet still be secret – if the stream’s availability is not publicised anywhere (or only circulated internally).

    So again, I’ll ask: where and how was this stream publicised?

    I realise, post press coverage, the minutes of the seminar were appended as an appendix to the report. I would have liked to watch the original seminar, and wish to ensure I do not miss any such events in future, so please let me know.

  2. Biodegradable Says:

    All these “half points” we score add up to quite a lot of full points at the end of the day…


  3. Nick

    You seem an articulate and intelligent sort of chap.

    Try re-reading your post above from the viewpoint of an impartial uncommitted observer (not that I’m claiming to be one!)

    Can’t you see that your lame excuses pretty well validate Marc’s original claims?

  4. JG Says:

    So lets have a look at your defence of Marc’s points:

    1. “Paul disagreed with the BBC’s editorial line”.
    No sorry he did not, he thought that the BBC “is misleading viewers about the conflict in Iraq.” “”I was gobsmacked to hear, in a set of headlines today, that the coalition was suffering ‘significant casualties’. This is simply not true,”. So, as Marc suggested, he thought the BBC were lying. Anti-war/USA bias.

    2. “Here Marc may have half a point.”. So, the BBC hides the background of anti-war activists. Anti-war bias.

    3. “Not a perfect programme by any means and Greg Dyke later apologised for its tone. But not some kind of deliberate anti US conspiracy – just a mistake.”. Funny isn’t it that these ‘mistakes’ all seem to be one way. Anti-war/USA bias.

    4. “sloppy research”. Oh, it’s no longer a simple mistake, this time it’s sloppy research. Do you really think we are stupid? Anti-war/Army bias.

    5. “This story proves the BBC is unbiased, or at least trying to be.”. But the point is that many BBC staff wanted to go on this march. Anti-war staff.

    6. Times report – “You will notice that it contains only two quotations from the report itself. People should actually read the report (which is available here) and make up their own minds”. So you do not even try to say that no bias was identified in this report. Even you can’t spin that one.

    Mail report – “The Mail’s report is inaccurate in some respects.”, but presumably accurate in others in it’s identification of the bias outlined at the seminar.

    And to finish

    ““I can now see that my old BBC media liberalism was not a basis for government.” – The BBC is not a government or a political party. It’s a broadcaster and content producer.”. Your point being what?? That liberalism is OK, as long as it’s in a broadcaster?

    “I always find it odd that people with conservative views can work for the BBC for many years and then suddenly say it’s biased. If it really was a hot bed of media liberals or left wingers then how could they work there for so long?”
    Perhaps they thought the BBC could be reformed, and tried for many years to achieve this, finally coming to the conclusion, that many of us have, that it is irredeemable. To change you first have to admit there is a problem, but it seems you are quite incapable of doing this (and I do not mean just admitting ‘mistakes’ ‘sloppy journalism’ as one-off’s, I mean the institutional nature of the bias).

    PS, no bias – release the Balen report then.

  5. marc landers Says:

    Nick, thanks so much for at least having the courage to have a go at my proof the BBC is far left wing and the courage to post the links. Unlike much of the BBC output, you have at least given your readers the chance to see both sides and decide for themselves.

    I must say I am astounded by your reply though. Honestly, did you read what you wrote? Case in point is Paul Adams complaint that the BBC were lying in their reporting of Iraq.

    “The words “lie” or “lying” do not appear anywhere in this article in the mouth of Paul Adams or anyone else”…

    These are Paul’s own words in response to what the BBC reported in several places.

    “This is simply not true,”

    “Nor is it true to say ”

    “The truth is exactly the opposite”

    In the real world, as opposed the BBC one, this is called lying Nick. But what was your response to my comment the BBC were lying? That the actual words “lie” and “lying” did not appear in the text.

    The next part is revealing as well.

    “Paul disagreed with the BBC’s editorial line and as a result I expect it was changed. No evidence of bias.”

    Yet you then go on to concede that I have “half a point” on other examples of BBC anti war bias. Clearly then Nck your expcetions of change were not met.

    When in a hole Nick, stop digging.

    As a commenter pointed out, all those “half points” add up to many full points and you only touched on a few. When you take my evidence in full, no sane person can but conclude the BBC is a far left organization that is out of control.

    Here’s a link to the evidence so your readers can decide for themselves.

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

    Nick, it is probably one of the hardest things in the world for one to admit they are wrong; admitting your employer is not only wrong but fatally flawed must be the hardest.

  6. Jack Hughes Says:

    Nick,

    Maybe “bias” is the wrong word to describe the BBC. Its more of a group-think – a corporate worldview.

    Its pretty easy to highlight many aspects of this – but here is a quick starter for ten:

    London-centric
    Pro-immigration
    Pro-multiculty
    Anti-american (eg gloating after Katrina)
    Anti-science
    Pro Al-Gore and his climanetics
    Pro state spending
    Pro-EU – but not very interested in our near neighbours


  7. An prime example of the BBCs left wing bias was shown on Matt Frei’s reporting on funding for the U.S. presidential race.
    Lots of footage and coverage of Hilary and Obama, with a brief segment on Guiliani at the end. And no Mitt Romney.

    It was bloody obvious to me which side Matt Frei favours.


  8. Sorry, – i meant to add – Matt Frei’s report was shown on Newsnight last night. It’s probably available online to watch again, but if you watch it you’ll see what i mean.

  9. Fran Says:

    Hi Nick

    So you finally got round to addressing the Paul Adams memo then? When I raised its contents in a summer spat on dishonest BBC editorialising, you disappeared from the debate – off on your hols I expect.

    Sorry to repeat Marc Landers’ point, but most of us would read the following complaints from Paul Adams to his bosses (BBC executives including the head of TV news programmes, Roger Mosey, and his radio counterpart, Stephen Mitchell, according to Jason Dean’s article in the Grauniad):

    “I was gobsmacked to hear, in a set of headlines today, that the coalition was suffering ‘significant casualties’. This is simply not true,”

    “Nor is it true to say – as the same intro stated – that coalition forces are fighting ‘guerrillas’. It may be guerrilla warfare, but they are not guerrillas,”

    “Who dreamed up the line that the coalition are achieving ‘small victories at a very high price?’ The truth is exactly the opposite…”

    as the furious cries of a journalist whose editors were processing his meaty dispatches into porkie pies.

    Deans chose the following headline for his article published on Wednesday March 26, 2003

    ‘BBC man criticises ‘war bias”

    Which, er, rather suggests that he saw this single incident as evidence of bias.

    “But” you may cry “one sloppiness doth not a bias make!” There we agree. If there were bias, we should need to look for a constant pattern of, say, hostility to the Iraq war, or Israeli policies or large corporations or constant promotion of, say, closer ties with Europe or unlimited immigration to Britain.

    It would be a hard project to complete, but, as Natalie Solent once wrote to John Reith, there could be a solution! Create a website in which people can register concerns about individual items – then allow readers to judge for themselves the validity both of individual examples of alleged bias, and whether these small examples might add up to a larger picture.

    Three cheers for Biased BBC who successfully undertook this project – and with some success. I’ve had two complaints about misleading reporting upheld by the BBC; Biased BBC readers successfully had anti-semitic posts removed from a BBC thread, including one which referenced the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and linked readers to a white supremacist website (although it took a threat to report them to the police to get immediate action – Martin Belam has the story on his website)

    Other Biased BBC posters and commenters have had similar results in the form of upheld complaints and altered web pages – for instance the notorious 9/11 page.

    However you try to brush us off, Nick, we are gadflies buzzing around the BBC honey pot. And we’ll continue to do so just as long as the BBC persists in using its highly privileged position to foist its default political positions on us unwillling license fee payers.

  10. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    1. Re streaming of the seminar:

    “The event, which will be streamed live on the BBC governors’ website at bbc.governors.co.uk will involve programme makers, decision takers, journalists, dramatists and commentators. It is designed to help underpin the BBC’s proposition for the next age of broadcasting: that its independence and impartiality will be its raison d’être.”

    is a quote from this:

    http://media.guardian.co.uk/bbc/story/0,,1877575,00.html

    2. Re “lying” – I stand by what I said – Marc is using the word “lying” – not Paul Adams.

    3. Re: the anti-war march. As I recall the Iraq War was rather controversial with lots of people. In an organisation of more than 20,000 people, its not surprising that some of them wanted to go on an anti-war march. I expect that there were people in Channel 4, ITV and all the newspapers who wanted to go or went on the march.

    Does that prove that the BBC’s programmes are biased? No.

    4. The BBC a “far left” organisation? Really? What’s your definition of “far left”?

  11. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Hello Fran. I am not trying to “brush you off”. Indeed I am engaging with Biased BBC because I think there are lessons for the BBC to learn.

    I actually think this is “networked journalism”, of a sort.

  12. JG Says:

    Paul Adams said of the BBC reports:

    “This is simple not true” and “The truth is exactly the opposite…”

    wikipedia defines a lie as “A lie is a type of deception in the form of an untruthful statement with the intention to deceive”

    Seems to be exactly what Paul was complaining about doesn’t it?

  13. Fran Says:

    Hi Nick

    Why don’t you admit defeat gracefully over the Paul Adams untruthfulness = lying debate. You are too honest a reporter to engage in casuistry successfully.

    That’s meant as a compliment. Really.

    By the way, when I try to access your site via google, the home URL seems to direct me to the october 17th entry – rather than your later updates. Is there a problem?

  14. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Arguing about words and what they mean is one of the great pleasures of life. The Wikipedia definition of lying includes the phrase “with the intention to deceive”. It is very difficult to prove intention. If there is no intention to decieve then it’s not a lie, its a mistake. I wouldn’t want to speak for Paul Adams, but if he had thought this was lying, then perhaps he would have said so.

  15. JG Says:

    A mistake eh?

    “The truth is exactly the opposite…”

    What a quality bunch of journalists you have there if they can make such a ‘mistake’. Reporting on a very serious topic, one where lives are being lost, yet they get the story completely the opposite to the truth!

    Pull the other one.

    The BBC has an agenda, it might not be stated, but it flows from the institutional liberal culture at the BBC. Indeed, they may not have even had the ‘intention’ to deceive, it’s just that they see the world this way, never mind the facts.

    So, lying or mistakes, it still adds up to the same thing, institutional bias.

  16. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Well Paul is a “quality journalist”…

    And he corrected a mistake…

    No evidence of bias…

  17. JG Says:

    I see the BBC are lying again today
    http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com/2007/10/mep-and-telegraph-blogger-daniel-hannan.html

    Do you just not care any more?

  18. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    Not quite JG – read the links and you will see that Daniel Hannan does use the phrase “let’s play no games of our own”.

  19. JG Says:

    Indeed he did, saying that they should not start playing those games, but the BBC reported it as “Daniel Hannan MEP told Mr Cameron to “stop playing games” on the issue.” which suggests that the games are already being played and they should stop. A subtle change, but one which changes the quote from advice to criticism. It is a lie to put “stop playing games” in quotes, it is NOT a quote.

    I find it pretty amazing that someone in your position can not see the difference between the two. Do you not care about accuracy at the BBC these days, as long as you can get your digs in at your chosen targets.

  20. JG Says:

    Oh I see they fixed the story now, to carry the correct quote. Another ‘mistake’ Nick? Strange how all these ‘mistakes’ seem to follow the same pattern isn’t it?

    Still, the story was up all weekend, so the BBC objective was achieved.

  21. nickreynoldsatwork Says:

    My response to this strange incident is here:

    http://www.haloscan.com/comments/patrickcrozier/829998319385287788/#373711

    I will return to the point about mistakes being only one way another time. But they don’t.


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