Archive: Biased BBC

Years ago, this blog had a little button on it. Where today you see little logos for Amnesty International and No2ID, there used to be a button that said “I believe in the BBC”. It was to back this campaign, which was one of the things that got me hooked on blogging. I couldn’t believe how much of a stitch-up the Hutton Report seemed, and I wanted to stand up for what was the best broadcaster in the UK.

Some time during the intervening five years I removed the button from my blog. I had decided that I actually don’t really believe in the BBC. Of course, over time I have become more and more disillusioned with the mainstream media in general, and my opinion of the BBC has fallen south along with the rest of the mainstream media.

But I have found myself becoming particularly frustrated with the BBC’s apparent fear of its own shadow. It is pretty clear that this neurotic period of the BBC’s history began with the Hutton Report, and has been more recently exacerbated by a never-ending stream of overblown tabloid-generated nowtrage.

Of course, the lame tabloid stone-throwing is practically as old as the BBC itself. The difference is that after the Hutton Report, the BBC has appeared to actually believe that the tabloids have a point. What we needed after Hutton was a BBC that stood its ground and believed in its principles. Instead, it has become a blundering, self-loathing embarrassment; a stumbling colossus.

Nowadays, if a tabloid kicks up a bit of a fuss over, say, a bit of post-watershed swearing, the BBC doesn’t roll its eyes and ignore it like the majority of its viewers and listeners do. Instead, it trumps the tabloids, immediately making it the top story in all of its bulletins.

BBC News journalists then begin conducting fierce two-ways with BBC managers, and viewers are treated to a bizarre self-flagellation session lasting several days. The BBC sternly questions the BBC about its own outrageous conduct. After several days or even weeks have passed it quietly snaps out of it — only for another scandal to come along and the whole cycle begins again.

Take the television fakery scandals that engulfed the BBC a couple of years ago. Somehow, the fact that Blue Peter changed the name of a cat became the most shocking thing ever and threatened the very future of the BBC. I knew that because the BBC itself kept on saying so.

The fact that the commercial broadcasters had spent the previous few years building an entire genre of programming — the late night phone-in quiz programme — that was dedicated to deviously extracting cash from its viewers got swept under the carpet. Everybody was too busy watching the BBC break down in what you might call a Cookie crumble.

It was right that the BBC made changes following the scandals. But the difference in approach between the commercial broadcasters and the BBC was huge. Premium rate competitions were quick to make a return on commercial channels, with a bit more small print. But on the BBC, to this day the world “competition” is practically a swear word. Pre-recorded radio programmes are littered with apologies and warnings about the fact. The BBC’s paranoid fear of another scandal is getting in the way of its programming.

Then there is the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brandwagon, when the BBC inexplicably allowed a rather rude phone call dominate the news agenda for several days. While the economy was actually collapsing, the BBC almost willed itself on to implosion. When a bold BBC should have been responsibly reporting important news (which there was plenty of), instead the nervy BBC we’ve got occupied itself by poking its navel.

I found the BBC’s reaction quite seriously worrying. Even though the phone calls were a bit over the line, the reaction was completely out of proportion. And it has the potential to set a worrying trend, for the reasons Charlie Brooker pointed out.

The BBC is surely supposed to be there to do things that commercial broadcasters are either unable or unwilling to do. By definition, this means making challenging programming — programming that might not meet with popular approval. And in comedy in particular, that means pushing the boundaries.

The BBC’s decision to wave the white flag over the Russell Brand hoo-ha was basically a conscious decision to undermine the principles by which the BBC is supposed to exist. It follows that if the BBC believes it shouldn’t make distinctive comedy programming, why should it make distinctive programming at all?

The result is that we now have a BBC which is paralysed by a fear of criticism. It has become too self-conscious, and when the spotlight is on it nervously stumbles around. It’s not exactly the BBC we’re all supposed to be proud of.

The latest scandal to hit the BBC, over the DEC’s Gaza appeal broadcast, exhibits the BBC’s fear well. Knowing that the Israel–Palestine issue is so thorny, particularly given the right wing’s frequent criticism of the BBC’s coverage, it was caught like a rabbit in the headlights.

The first of the justifications given by Mark Thompson for choosing not to broadcast the appeal is that aid might not be delivered properly. That would be fair enough. It would be strange, though, if the BBC knew better about this than the DEC, a group comprising of thirteen charities dedicated to delivering aid properly.

The other (“more fundamental”) justification was the fear that the BBC might be seen to be impartial. It’s interesting to note that Mark Thompson never says that broadcasting the appeal actually would undermine the BBC’s impartiality. He is just concerned about the perception.

The BBC is perfectly entitled to decline to broadcast a DEC appeal. But the fact that it has allowed its fear of the public’s reaction to get in the way is worrying. It is yet another sign that the BBC is no longer prepared to be the bold public service broadcaster it’s supposed to be. And, of course, it brought a fresh round of awkward interviews between BBC journalists and BBC bosses.

It all makes for uncomfortable viewing and listening. It is clear that just now the BBC has very little belief in itself. So how should license fee payers be expected to believe in it?

Last week The Jeremy Kyle Show was branded as a human form of bear-baiting by District Judge Alan Berg. He is probably quite right. I say “probably”, because I have not actually sat down and watched a full episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show. The man’s demeanour is enough to put you off after just a few seconds.

I was going to say that it is not a surprise that The Jeremy Kyle Show should be compared to bear-baiting. Modern-day freakshow is how I usually describe these programmes. The predecessors to Jeremy Kyle (Trisha and Vanessa) were mostly the same. Some — interestingly enough, mostly the American ones — can be sympathetic to the programme’s participants. But Tampon Teabag’s summary suggests that Jeremy Kyle is by far the most despicable example of the genre.

Most of the time these programmes pluck out the most grotesque failures of humanity and plonk them under the spotlight for the rest of the nation to point and laugh at. I suspect the main reason for these programmes’ success is that it allows the utter failures that watch daytime television feel slightly better about themselves.

For me, though, the interesting aspect of this story is the fact that the programme’s sponsors only felt the need to pull out of the deal after District Judge Berg made his comments. Some are revelling in the fact that it was a publicly-funded organisation — Ufi’s Learndirect.

But let us be fair here. Most of Learndirect’s target audience probably watches Jeremy Kyle, because it is a programme for thick economically inactive people. So this was probably the most cost-effective way to get their message out.

But it’s the hypocrisy that gets me about it. Ufi’s response has basically been: “What? You mean to say that The Jeremy Kyle Show is a modern-day equivalent of cock fighting, but with chavs instead of cocks? I am shocked, just shocked!” Nobody who has seen these programmes before should be so surprised.

The real reason Ufi have pulled out is, of course, because the spotlight turned to them. The same happened when Carphone Warehouse pulled out of sponsoring Celebrity Big Brother in the wake of the Shilpa Shetty / Jade Goody controversy. They said they pulled out because they couldn’t condone racism. So did this mean that they took the blame for all of the other bad behaviour that went on in the Big Brother house in years gone by?

The same goes for this year’s debates about “trust in TV”. Hypocrisy from top to bottom. When it isn’t feigned horror that premium rate phone-in competitions are indeed in existence merely to fleece viewers, it is the Daily Mail treating some set-up shots in Bargain Hunt or Nigella Lawson’s programme as heinous crimes punishable by hanging. That would be the Daily Mail, a newspaper well known for its rigorous honesty and integrity!

Learndirect knew full well what they were sponsoring before Judge Berg made his comments. As Jonathan Calder says, The Jeremy Kyle Show didn’t suddenly become inappropriate because a District Judge said so.

But I don’t think they should have withdrawn their sponsorship. As I said, this was probably the best way to get their message out. I just wish Learndirect would have the honesty to say so.

One of the most interesting things about libertarians is how quickly their devotion to free markets and capitalism disappear so quickly as soon as it involves those dirty foreigners getting a piece of the action.

The Devil’s Kitchen likes to describe himself as a libertarian (as he did in a self-congratulatory post today) and makes much of his support for free markets — albeit almost always in terms of how much tax he has to pay.

But yesterday all of that talk about free markets was thrown out of the window when he approvingly posted a video of Swivel Eyed Farage on Sunday AM.

DK says:

And, on current showing, there is simply no major party that supports the libertarian agenda (I believe that UKIP are the closest that we have, hence my support for them).

Ukip libertarian? I hardly think so. Here is Swivel Eyed Farage in action.

I read one person somewhere (sorry, I’ve forgotten who) complaining that the amount of time Ukip was given on Sunday AM wasn’t enough. Having now watched the clip, I can understand why. If it continued for much longer it probably would have counted as a Party Political Broadcast. How Farage could get away with making such glaringly inconsistent statements almost in the same breath without anything less than fawning deference from Huw Edwards is beyond me.

Farage said:

Should somebody who’s interviewed as a school teacher and then changes faith midway through be allowed to teach a class of children when they can’t see her face? I wouldn’t have thought so, no.

Immediately afterwards, when Huw Edwards asked about the British Airways worker who was asked to cover her cross, Farage’s response was the exact opposite! One rule for Muslims and another for Christians.

Well I find that amazing, I mean British Airways are one of those companies that have consistently been anti-British… So I’m not surprised at all by BA’s behaviour.

Later on he says:

The underlying philosophy that runs through every single Ukip policy is that we want less government interference in our lives.

But predictably, just one minute later, he advocates the view that governments should be able to tell people where they can and can’t live. The reason why? As DK says:

His point about differing GDPs is a good one, I think, and forms the basis of my reservations on the unfettered free trade of peoples between countries. It seems to me that, inevitably, should you allow this, many more people will flow from the lower GDP countries into the high GDP countries and, realistically, that there will be far fewer emigrating to those lower GDP countries.

The fact that different countries have different GDPs is not a good argument against “the unfettered free trade of peoples between countries”. GDP is a measure of all of the income earned in an economy. So if you say that a country has a lower (per capita) GDP than another, that just means that the average income of a citizen of that country is lower.

Different people have different incomes. That is a fact of life. These differences in income exist within Europe. They also exist within the UK. They also exist within Kirkcaldy.

If this is so much of a problem that the government has to set some kind of limit to immigration, then it must also be enough of a problem to set a limit to the amount that people move within a country. There would be quotas on the number of people who can move from the Highlands to the Home Counties. They would build a moat around Ferguslie Park.

But they haven’t. That’s because the economy can cope with people of different economic backgrounds moving around the country. It is a fact that Scots prepared to move to England and English people prepared to move to Scotland in search of work will make more money than if they just stayed where they were born.

The economy as a whole benefits from this free movement of people. If Mr S from Scotland is really good at making widget X which is made in England, Mr S will move to England to work in job X because that’s what he’s good at, so he’ll make the most money there. And because he’s really good at his job, he makes widget X more efficiently than the average Mr E from England would have. Because Mr S is better at his job, firm X’s costs are lower and the benefits are spread to the economy as a whole.

Just because the line on the map has moved doesn’t make this fact untrue. And this isn’t just some pie in the sky economic theory. I am sure that everybody can think of several people who have moved long distances to get a job because they could see the clear benefits of doing so. DK himself is an Englishman living in Edinburgh for crying out loud! Just imagine how much of an economic shithouse the world would be if nobody ever moved away from their place of birth.

I really don’t see how it can be consistent to support a free market within a country but then advocate that the free trade — which is supposedly so beneficial to all — should end at the line drawn on a map.

Given that DK is such a “libertarian”, I am sure he will be familiar with the section of libertarian poster boy Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations dealing with protectionism (Book IV, Ch II). Smith might be talking about goods, but I cannot see any reason why what he says does not apply to labour aswell. If anyone has any reasons I would love to hear them.

Saying that the fact that countries have differing GDPs is a problem for a free trade area is a bit like saying that having firms of differing sizes is a problem in an economy. It is not. DK is probably right when he says, “there will be far fewer emigrating to those lower GDP countries,” if free trade of peoples is allowed.

This kind of thing is usually celebrated by libertarians. It’s freedom of choice, you see. So when there is competition, firms that don’t match the expectations of their customers have to adapt in order to survive. It is exactly the same for countries. When people can pick and choose where they live, governments are forced to take a long, hard look at the way they are running their economies. Sometimes they might even reform.

If, as libertarians suggest, it is the case that cutting back on welfare benefits, lowering corporate tax and so on improves a country’s economy and living standards, then open borders will force governments to adopt these policies as they try to attract jobs to their economies.

I thought that was what DK wanted? But by opposing the “free trade of peoples”, he could well be supporting the continuation of the welfare state.

Regular readers will know that I’m interested in television presentation. People like me make the world go round, etc etc. Anyway, today the BBC unveiled the new idents for BBC One which will be launched on screen next Saturday.

Idents are neglected. Most people don’t pay much attention to them. But over the next few years these short films used to introduce the programmes will be watched by far more people than the most popular television programme could ever hope for. And most people will have an opinion on them.

An awful lot of people decried BBC One’s current ‘dancer’ idents for being ‘politically correct’ because they had the audacity to show black people doing a dance. I know I’m in a minority here, but I actually quite like the dancer idents, although they are getting a bit tired. But how cool is Capoiera (Realplayer link; nabbed off TV ARK)! There were a few truly cringeworthy ones though, like Festival. Eurgh.

So it’s time for some new ident action, and here they are. MediaGuardian also has a full video of one of them — Bikes.

It certainly looks very slick and the music is pretty cool. But I can’t really imagine it being used into a programme. It would work with a sport programme, but anything else? I guess you will only be able to tell when you see it in its context.

I quite like the logo as well. It’s much better than the current restrictive box which is hidden away in the corner as though it’s unwanted.

As for the circular theme, some people are suggesting that it is meant to be a subtle nod towards the globe, BBC One’s traditional symbol. I never liked the idea of the globe being used as BBC One’s symbol. It’s not as if there’s anything particularly global about BBC One. Does BBC One own the world?

Digital Spy has more images of the idents.

Update: And they’re A snip at just around a pound a second.

Still being a cheeky youngster, it often annoys me when people use old names of things that changed ages ago. You know the sort of thing I mean — people who still say West Germany instead of Germany and the European Cup instead of the Champions League.

Loads of people still say Czechoslovakia, which particularly annoys me because I can actually remember Czechoslovakia existing but I still manage to remember that it is now two separate countries: the Czech Republic and Slovakia. It seems to me as ridiculous as still saying Austria-Hungary, or saying Yugoslavia instead of Croatia.

But as I get older, I guess I’m realising that old habits die hard. The other day I walked in to a room with football on the television and I said, “Is that the Charity Shield?” even though I know it’s now called the Community Shield.

Place names are always changing, and often it is difficult to keep up. I’ve just about got to grips with Peking changing to Beijing. That seems to be official, done and dusted, and everybody accepts it.

But sometimes a place changes its name, yet it doesn’t seem to quite be official. Or worse still, it has two different names, both of which are acceptable! I saw in a recent issue of The Economist, “Timor-Leste, formerly East Timor…”

“Right,” I thought to myself, “I’ll have to remember that from now on. I might even write a blog post about that and everything. Mind you, that would probably be dreadfully dull.”

But has East Timor actually changed its name? Wikipedia redirects Timor-Leste to East Timor. The article introduces the topic as “East Timor, officially the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste…” Later on it says:

The Portuguese name Timor-Leste and the Tetum name Timor Lorosa’e are sometimes used in English.

Well now I just don’t have a clue what this place is called any more. It has an official name but it doesn’t really seem to be widely recognised. And to further confuse matters the native language calls it something different again. The CIA World Factbook doesn’t really help matters.

Not long afterwards, this was posted on the BBC Editors blog:


One caller to the BBC complained that in the coverage of the bombs in India, the name Mumbai was used without an explanation that it was formerly known as Bombay.

There is no BBC rule about using Mumbai, just guidelines. It is up to each individual programme to decide what to say. Most use ‘Mumbai’ and nothing else; a few use ‘Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay’. The thinking is the city has changed its name (some time ago) and Mumbai is now well known to most, if not all, the audience.

The post has an interesting discussion in the comments about the matter. That is, until the inevitable nutjob wades in with a completely unrelated and bonkers point about the Taleban. And then we have the inevitable Biased-BBCers claiming that the BBC referring to ‘Mumbai’ is to do with political correctness (!!). That is what I like to call political correctness gone mad gone mad. As Ally said,

It WAS called Bombay. It is NOW called Mumbai. This is not a question of political correctness. Many Indians may still call the city Bombay, just as I sometimes call a Snickers a Marathon, but it has changed.

I have to say, I think you must have been living in a cave if you had never heard ‘Mumbai’ before last month’s train bombs. But I can kind of sympathise. I never really noticed the Indian place names changing. It was only a few years ago when I saw the placename ‘Kolkata’ for the first time. Nevertheless, it was hardly difficult to work out what city it was referring to.

But who decides when a place name actually changes? Is it technically correct to say ‘Pa-ree’ instead of ‘Pa-riss’ even though it will make you sound like a pretentious bumhole? Is it technically correct to write ‘Köln’ instead of ‘Cologne’ even though it means going to the hassle of finding the ‘ö’ character on the keyboard?

Who decides this? Does the media do it unilaterally? I doubt it. Does the Foreign Office release a list of places that the British government officially recognises as having changed its name? Or is it just down to local bureaucrats? If some bored paper-pusher at Fife Council decided to re-name Kirkcaldy ‘Winky Bum Poo Jizz’, would BBC journalists suddenly find themselves reporting from ouside Winky Bum Poo Jizz Sheriff Court?

When in doubt, I turn to The Economist, famous for its clear writing style.

Use English forms when they are in common use: Cologne [etc]… But follow local practice when a country expressly changes its name, or the names of rivers, towns, etc, within it. Thus… Mumbai not Bombay

Seems fair enough.

For all of those shitting themselves at the BBC’s ‘Ascent of Tory man’ graphic last week:

Friday Night Armistice
Friday Night Armistice
Friday Night Armistice

From Armando Iannucci’s late-1990s satire-a-thon, The Friday Night Armistice, broadcast on BBC Two.

I actually have vague memories of this. Brilliant. What a fantastic programme it was.

Images snaffled from James O’Malley, via TV Forum.

I wasn’t going to write about Simon Hughes. Although I’ve felt like saying a lot, I was just going to keep a lid on it. But I can’t keep the lid on any more. As with Mark Oaten, I’ve not been a particular fan of Simon Hughes’ in the past. But I respect him a lot more today than I did this time last week.

There is some pretty weird logic going on about this. Apparently Simon Hughes should be condemned — not because of his homosexual relationships, oh no!, but because of his lying. But if you want to know why he felt the need to lie about it, just look at The Sun story that broke it. It was filled with homophobic jibes about “Limp Dems” and “another one biting the pillow”. And if you think that’s just me having a sense of humour failure, do you really think any newspaper, even The Sun, would get away with calling, for instance, a black Tory a “Coonservative”?

The thing is, Simon Hughes did not reveal that he was gay. He did something far worse — he admitted to being bisexual. Because being bisexual opens you up to prejudice and attacks from both straight and gay people, it’s a pretty big step for Hughes to take. It also means that he was right when he said that he didn’t lie, although it could have been misleading, when he denied being gay.

People say, “oh, why couldn’t he have used the Cameron defence?” They forget that the Cameron defence happened in 2005 and drugs are cool things that Average Joe uses. Apparently the 1980s were quite a hostile time — even more hostile than it is right now — to be gay. I wasn’t around in 1983 so I can’t say, although I have no reason to doubt that. If in the early 1980s he was asked if he was gay and just batted away the question without denying it he would have been accused of being evasive, and people would probably have said he was gay anyway (not that denying it helped Hughes on that front anyway).

Given that you apparently have to be married with kids to be accepted as a top politician (similar rumours about Gordon Brown’s sexual orientation continue to hound him because he left it until he was a bit old to have kids), it should be no surprise that Hughes wanted to keep it under his hat.

Look at this from idiot Lowri Turner (via Martin Stabe):

…I don’t think gay men make good party leaders or Prime Ministers. This has nothing to do with what they do in bed but everything to do with their lives in general.

Before I am accused of prejudice, I should say that not only are some of my best friends gay, but probably most of them are. I work in the media, for goodness sake. [aaaaaarggfghghghgh] It is precisely because I know such a lot of gay men that I can say that I don’t think many of them are capable of representing the interests of the vast majority of people.

Their lifestyles are too divorced from the norm. They are not better or worse, but they are different.

Gay men face challenges of their own, but they do not face those associated with having children which is the way most of us live…

What a grade-A idiot. And it’s because of these sorts of views, which are clearly still common in today’s supposedly enlightened society, that Simon Hughes had to deny that he was a bisexual.

Another reason why Simon Hughes is apparently fair game is because of the Bermondsey by-election. You know, that one where dissident Labour members launched homophobic attacks against the Labour candidate. There was a Liberal leaflet that called the election “a straight choice” — although it doesn’t say anything like “Simon Hughes is the straight choice” as most people are trying to make out. “A straight choice” is a very common term to use on election leaflets — even Labour used it last year, so it’s a bit much to be criticising the Liberals for using it against Labour almost a quarter of a century ago.

I was watching BBC News 24’s weekly political roundup last night, and this very issue was discussed. All of the pannelists condemned the slogan. The irony seemed to be lost on all of the guests — the programme they were on was called Straight Talk. So they were on a homophobic television programme, were they? Actually, they probably were. Paraphrasing guest Ann Leslie: “Haha, did you see The Sun? They called him a Limp Dem! AHHahahaah!” None of the other pannelists or the presenter suggested that the homophobia might be a bit out of order. Must be the liberal Biased BBC again, huh?

As for the “I’ve been kissed by Peter Tatchell” badges, have a read on Wikipedia — gay homophobes, eh? Obviously it looks a tad ironic given this week’s news about Simon Hughes’ private life. But since Hughes didn’t actually have anything to do with the badges, I think he can be let off on that front.

Hmm, apparently the collapse in support for David Davis is all the BBC’s fault. Because everybody else thought his speech was great! I heard Quentin Letts on the radio saying that David Davis’ speech was only a six out of ten. (Via.)

I’ve never been asked to give up my seat ever. Maybe I’m just lucky. Lucky to have a seat in the first place, of course. Ho ho.

Commuting can really suck sometimes. Like today. Because of the time my lecture ends at, I always miss a train by less than a minute on Mondays and Thursdays. I’ve got to wait for twenty-five minutes until the next one. Despite the long wait, though, the train is already sitting there waiting for me to get on.

Today, though, there was no train to greet me. Infact, the whole area of the station I was standing in seemed incredibly quiet, although I don’t know if I was only noticing this because my train wasn’t there.

My train finally limped in, five minutes after it was due to depart. Everybody crowded on, but things didn’t look good, especially since the cleaner was trying to force the (electronic) toilet door shut. And the fact that the train appeared at least half an hour after it usually does. After having sat down for five minutes we were finally informed that “this set has been deemed a failure” — talk about jargon!

There’s an article on BBC News Online by a man on a Fife–Edinburgh rush hour train who refused to give up his seat to a woman. It’s incredible that somebody should think that they have more right to a seat on the train just because they’re female.

But does anybody know what the right to vote has to do with it, as Paul Anderson maintains? That’s just stupid (mind you, I think if most people were given the choice of either an automatic seat on the train or their vote, they would probably take the seat).

Then Anderson makes it even worse by pulling out this dreadully old (and clearly incorrect) cliche:

But, I suppose, being a member of THE most discriminated against minority (white, middle-aged, heterosexual males) that my opinion will be dismissed as male chauvinist claptrap.

Idiot. Idiot. Idiot.

If I was asked to give up my seat for somebody for the sole fact that they were female, I would just say, “why should I?” and stick my headphones back in. Bringing the right to vote into it actually did turn Anderson into a chauvanist.

Via akatsuki.

Tony complains about the BBC (again)… to Murdoch. Read the full article.

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Take note: Just because a media organisation is commercial doesn’t make it independent of the government.