BBC Brexit Coverage: Objective Truth, Relativism and Gaslighting

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”Daniel Patrick Moynihan

BBC’s public news purpose:

To provide impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them:
The BBC will provide accurate and impartial news, current affairs and factual programming of the highest editorial standards so that all audiences can engage fully with issues across the UK and the world.

Over the past five or so years news coverage on the BBC seems to have deteriorated and moved further to the right. This seems to have coincided with the BBC Trust’s impartiality review of 2013, when there were accusations (unjustified in my opinion) of liberal left wing and pro EU bias. The pendulum now seems to have swung very much in the other direction, however. This situation is not quite as simple as it may seem and may well be the result of unintended consequences. This article will address this through the lens of EU and Brexit coverage.

There have been a number of good articles on the failures of the BBC from, for example: James O’ Brien, Mike Galsworthy, Prof Chris Grey, and Chris Dillow – all of which are well worth reading in full – but extracts will be used in this article.

Size of the BBC and Lack of Excuse

The BBC is one of the word’s largest broadcasting organisations with an annual revenue of c£5 Bn and a staff of c21 k full time staff, rising to c35 k if flexible and part time staff are included. By contrast RTE – the Irish equivalent – has a budget of €327.6 and c2 k staff. The relative size of the two organisations is not surprising as the UK population is about 14 times the size of the Irish one.

Until recently there was no question in my opinion that the BBC was world class, even world leading – rightly considered, along with the NHS, to be something which the British could and should be a proud. The news agenda could be a bit strange at times, but that is true of all media organisations.

With the exception of Britain, of the EU28, Ireland will be most affected by Brexit. In the rest of the EU, Brexit is considered to be well down the list of importance and there is relatively little media coverage. This is not true of Ireland – where Brexit is of similar, or possibly greater interest, given both the similarity of economic impact and the complexities and dangers  surrounding the Irish Border. There is no question, however, that Irish coverage has been considerably better. RTE is fortunate to have Tony Connolly, whose articles and Brexit Republic podcast are, for me, essential reading and listening. They have an expertise and depth of analysis far exceeding anything I have seen from the BBC. However, one exceptional correspondent is insufficient to explain why the BBC Brexit coverage has been so poor and how this can be explained given the vastly greater BBC resources.

Tabloidisation and Dumbing Down

In truth, tabloidisation and dumbing down has been going on for some time. With my science background it should come as no surprise that I was an avid watcher of science programs such as Horizon in my youth. I can’t bear to watch them now; the intellectual and pedagogical aspects have been watered down whilst simultaneously cheap sensationalism appears to have been ramped up. This seems to be true of programming in general and not just the BBC. It seems like a “Bread and Circuses” mentality is the new “opium of the people”.

This trent has been true in macroeconomics since Thatcher, of course. There seems to be a deliberate effort to simplify things to “corner shop” level and to use endless repetition of slogans such as “taxpayers money.” There seems a complete lack of understanding of concepts such as fiscal multipliers and fiat currency.

Even more disturbing is the dumbing down of Brexit – a train crash enfolding before our eyes. I still listen to the R4 Today programme. I would have given up a few years ago but my wife likes to listen, which I do from 6:00 am often getting increasingly annoyed at the mediocrity of the coverage. A few days ago I was totally shocked with a comment Humphrys made about the Norway option, as indeed was Chris Dillow in his Stumbling and Mumbling blog:

John Humphrys prefaced a question about the type of Brexit Leavers want with the words that this is “all getting a wee bit technical and I’m sure people are fed up to the back teeth of all this talk of stuff most of us don’t clearly understand” (2’12” in).

Chris’s article The BBC’s bias against understanding develops the thesis. I was horrified by Humphrys’ comment. This is the the most uncertain time since the Second World War and the “landing zone” will define the UK for decades to come – it is indeed an existential threat (since it is possible, even probable, that both NI and Scotland will leave the UK within a decade). Knowledge of the different options is therefore crucial. Part of the issue is that as Raf Behr says in the Guardian, voters are just tired of Brexit and want it over. This to me is no excuse.

A well informed public is the bedrock of any democracy. It is far easier to control a dumbed down public. It is also very useful for the PM if the final deal is not debated and scrutinised.

Relativism and Impartiality

If one party says the sky is blue and the other says it is green, a good journalist will actually check and not agree that both positions are equally valid. Liars can be extremely plausible.  Without detailed fact checking the general public may well go away believing the sky is green.

I used to scream when Nigel Lawson was brought in to debate withn an eminent Climate Change scientist. The average listener might well not be aware Lawson was talking complete garbage. James O’Brien tackles this in his excellent Media impartiality is a problem when ignorance is given the same weight as expertise. As James eloquently writes:

For me, the rot probably set in with climate change debates where columnists and other self-publicists would be invited to pooh-pooh received scientific wisdom without recourse to any of the conventions proper scientists would be compelled to employ when seeking to shift an established paradigm: peer-reviewed research, statistics, evidence. It sprang fully formed from the pages of newspapers unbound by any impartiality requirements, where the value of a “story” increasingly depended more on the quantity of reader reaction than on any inherent truth or accuracy.

It makes, of course, for highly engaging television and radio. Not least because the climate change sceptics (or the defenders of non-existent links between MMR vaccines and autism, or, eventually, the champions of Brexit and Donald Trump) were generally more adroit debaters than their counterparts. They were bound to be. They were brass necks selling snake oil and self-interest while their more cerebral, donnish counterparts were unwittingly cast as defenders of positions they’d never previously considered to be in need of defending.

Or as Mark Twain said “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” Many of the Brexiters lie and lie again. They are totally shameless and simply double down when caught out.

A recent example is the ERG and Economist’s for Free Trade forecast which was presented by the BBC as a glowing Brexit “sunny uplands” Nirvana without proper scrutiny. Five minutes fact checking would show that it was complete garbage. Here I quote Ian Dunt’s article The garbled nonsense of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new press release:

The Economists for Free Trade are a ragtag bunch of Brexit-supporting eccentrics whose primary function is to make all other economists feel better about their life choices. Their latest press release, which comes with a Jacob Rees-Mogg stamp of approval, is a masterclass in babbling nonsense. It is designed to promote their new report on why Britain would be fine if it fell off the cliff-edge in March next year, contrary to the findings of every credible independent body in economics or indeed any industry body.

It is hard to find a single accurate sentence in the entire thing. It is so full of legal, economic and logical misunderstanding that it is genuinely easier to highlight the sections of it which are true. However, that would also be less fun, so let’s stick with the traditional methodology.

It starts with the first sentence of the second paragraph. “A world trade deal under WTO rules would boost the UK’s trade with the rest of the world including Europe,” it reads. It is a quite completely insane thing to suggest.

Belief that Westminster is still the Centre of the World or Smoke and Mirrors?

A typical BBC Brexit News at Ten report these days spends a few minutes talking about B. Johnson’s latest outrageous press column or the shenanigans of the ERG. There will be detailed discussion of the “Chequers Deal” and Tory and Labour infighting. If we are lucky there will be a 20s clip of Katya Alder from Brussels speaking a great deal of sense but with little time to develop any complexity. There will be some “deal/no deal speculation.” Last night it finished with a 5s clip showing the European Parliament and a statement something like “even if the Chequers deal is agreed at Westminster it has to be agreed here” – I might be imagining this, but I had lost hope by then!

It is difficult to know what the future will bring, but the UK leaves the EU by automatic process of law on the 29th March. A legally binding withdrawal agreement has to be signed off together with a political agreement as to the future relationship. Two outcomes seem likely. Firstly, a de-dramatised form of words over the Irish Border where the UK agrees with the IE/EU position and a very vague aspirational motherhood and apple pie political agreement. Secondly a catastrophic breakdown, with grounded planes, shortages of food and medicines, miles long tailbacks at Dover and a very likely declaration of martial law – nobody wants to even think about the resultant Armageddon – there is a complete state of denial.

The reality is that unless there is a signed off, legally binding withdrawal agreement, there will be no deal. The heart of the matter however (and this gets technical) is a difference in interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement political text (8 Dec) between London and Dublin best summed up by a pm from Tony Connolly (thanks Tony!):

London insists Para 49 implies a UK wide backstop. Dublin & Brussels point to Para 46: The commitments & principles etc will not pre-determine the outcome of wider discussions on the future relationship between EU & UK & are specific to the unique circs on the island of Ireland.

The trade aspects of Chequers agreement have zero chance of being accepted by the EU, without major modification. Yet endless hours are spent looking at the Westminster bubble and totally ignoring the real source of decision making.

Are the BBC so focussed on Westminster that they cannot see the big picture, or are they colluding in this smoke and mirrors approach?

Use of Press Headlines

One aspect of the BBC news coverage is the use and reportage of press headlines, sometimes just the headline is mentioned. Other times the there is a brief discussion on the story. This might be fine in principle if the UK press were neutral. Sadly however it is not. Academic studies show that the UK has the most right-wing press in Europe: anti EU and pro-Brexit. Indeed there has been a decades long anti-EU campaign in the right-wing press almost exclusively based on downright, barefaced dishonesty. This is a very simple point but the use of such headlines will automatically add a pro-Brexit bias to the coverage and should be stopped immediately – it is just lazy journalism.

Gaslighting and the march towards Fascism

One of the most disturbing aspects of the BBC “balanced” coverage is that it is having the unintended consequence of destroying a shared vision of truth. Many of the pro-Brexit arguments are so flimsy that, whatever the emotional or “patriotic” appeal, they simply do not stand up to any form of scrutiny. Many of the claims are downright lies, others of very dubious likelihood – at the 3-6 sigma end of a Normal distribution. Yet the BBC often gives them equal credibility as what can easily be shown as actually and demonstrably true. (I know we could have a philosophical discussion as to the nature of absolute truth, but that’s for another day). It is very difficult for the layman to tell reality from fiction. Confirmation bias will increase polarisation. In the circles I mix in people are abandoning the BBC in droves. Headlines such as BBC’s Today programme sheds 800,000 listeners do not surprise me at all.

I have given up watching Question Time completely. It’s a format which favours snake oil sales men and charlatans.

Raf Behr in a recent Remaniacs Podcast said one of the most disturbing aspects of his time in Moscow was the blurring of truth and reality. It was like walking about in a pea soup of lies; if the truth were there it was almost impossible to put a finger of it. He felt it was driving him mad eventually and was one of the reasons he left Russia. What was more disturbing was his feeling that Moscow had somehow come to London. All versions of the “truth” were equally valid. You can see this in Trump’s US – there is increasingly no agreed version of the truth. This is a very dangerous place and seems to be leading to a dystopian 1984 Airstrip One world.

Another worry for people who voted Leave is the use of gaslighting –  a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory and perception. The slippage of Leave which categorically, according to the main proponents, did not mean leaving the Single Market (SM) on the 23rd June 2016, subtly shifted to an extreme form of Brexit. This is largely unchallenged by the BBC. The drive towards a harder and harder form of Brexit by the hardcore ERG, Legatum and other libertarians is  a malignant form of hypnosis in action. There is no apparent push-back from the BBC. There are loads of clips of Gove, Fox, Hannan, Farage etc. extolling the Single Market and stressing that leaving the EU absolutely did not mean leaving the SM, all of which can be found on the internet in seconds and easily shown by the BBC. Why do they never do this?

Can it be Done Better?

A few weeks ago I wrote an article How to Run Referendums – Lessons from Ireland. Prof Brigid Laffan has more recently looked at the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and focusing on the difference in approach between the first and second referendum:

… the coverage of the campaign, particularly by RTE, the national broadcaster, was very different. For the first Lisbon referendum, RTE deployed a conflict frame akin to a Punch-and-Judy contest between yes and no, with little or no editorial intervention to challenge or correct inaccurate claims. Second time around, the conflict frame was accompanied by a responsibility frame, ie that the issue was salient and had to be taken seriously. The broadcaster took to heart its duty to accurately inform and educate.

I would argue that this is the example the BBC should follow, The “Punch-and-Judy contest” describes succinctly the present BBC ethos.

Conclusion

The BBC is not getting things right at present. Of course, as Dr Tom Mills argues in his book The BBC: Myth of a Public Service, there has always been bias:

The BBC is one of the most important institutions in Britain; it is also one of the most misunderstood. Despite its claim to be independent and impartial, and the constant accusations of a liberal bias, the BBC has always sided with the elite.

This article then finishes on the the question who are the elite and why are thay driving the UK in such a catastrophic direction?

 

Comments

  1. Bill Hughes -

    Yes the BBC’s claim of “balance” has certainly gone seriously off to the right-wing Daily Mail dominated view of the world. I think the rot set in when a reporter on the Today programme was sacked for questioning Tony Blair’s decision to invade Iraq with Bush on the basis of the “dodgy dossier” of the 45 minute threat of WDM being launched by Saddam Hussein despite evidence against this provided by the UN weapons inspectors.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Bill
      I left the Labour party in disgust after the Iraq War; it had a big effect on me. The 45 min WMD threat was never credible. A real shame. The rot may have well set in around that time Blair certainly brought a lot of US control freakery – repetitive sloganeering and very tight media messaging with Campbell and Mandelson.

      The lasting legacy apart from the carnage and tragedy in Iraq and destabelising the region for a generation has been a distrust of politicians, the UK political system and establishment.

      1. Ivan Horrocks -

        Sean, I’ve just finished Tom Bower’s book on Blair much of which focuses on the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know Bower’s like to give his subjects a hard time, but even if only half of what he states is accurate it’s a damning indicement of Blair and many of the people in his government. And certainly the Iraq “adventure” was entirely unjustified and has been deeply costly in terms of human suffering and the wider destabalisation of the region. Unforgiveable in my opinion.

      2. TonyB -

        Sean, same as you left the Labour Party (eventually) over Iraq crisis. In the early 1980s I attended the high court, with another physicist from UCL, to prevent a RA from being deported back to Saddam’s ‘nuclear programme’. We were successful; not so sure if we attempted this in now.

        BTW the production company (Tinoplois) behind BBCs QT is based in Llanelli. Where’s the social consciousness of the welsh directors! The person behind program content is an exNBC whizz – give ’em what they want.

      3. TonyB -

        Sean, same as you left the Labour Party (eventually) over Iraq crisis. In the early 1980s I attended the high court, with another physicist from UCL, to prevent a RA from being deported back to Saddam’s ‘nuclear programme’. We were successful; not so sure if we attempted this now.

        BTW the production company (Tinoplois) behind BBCs QT is based in Llanelli. Where’s the social consciousness of the welsh directors! The person behind program content is an exNBC whizz – give ’em what they want.

  2. Mark Scott -

    Spot on. I saw this summarised neatly in someone’s tweet as “there is no balance to be struck between truth and falsehood”.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Yes Its a very good one liner – I like it very much.

  3. Alan Toms -

    Thank you Professor Daher. At 78 I’ve been a staunch defender of the BBC all my life – until 2 years ago when I began to realise all was not as before.
    I date it to the open interference by Government in the funding area, after which the BBC threw in the towel and kowtowed to their political masters. I too am infuriated by the seemingly daily quotation from the Daily Mail as if it was Holy Writ instead of the hate filled extremism it really is.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Thanks
      I have had a viceral dislike of the Daily Mail for many years. It will be interesting to see if the new editor will improve it after the poisonous Paul Dacre.

  4. Peter May -

    Agree entirely with this – I’ve suggested before that the BBC should, as a start, not be allowed to ‘review’ the papers as it amounts to advertising. And done on a daily basis gives much more credility than is justified. The gutter press is usually fact free anyway!

  5. Pól Ó Duibhir -

    Thanks for that. I too used to trust the BBC but it is now mainly a cause of frustration. There may be some traces of objectivity in the World Service but it’s hard to tell.

    My fear is that all intelligent debate on Brexit is being confined to a diminishing echo chamber and the clock is ticking. Internal political paralysis in UK makes crashing out of EU a real possibility – scary.

    The powers that be in UK have never understood the European Project and have not been helped by wilful misreporting by the likes of Boris Johnson. In my opinion he is a traitor and should have been dealt with accordingly long ago. But it’s a bit late now I’m afraid.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Thanks

      crash out is a real possibility. The newly discovered absolutist sovereignty attitude towards NI looks to the Irish as May pandering to the DUP. This is probably already a breach of the GFA as UKGov has to be absolutely impartial between the two NI communities.

      My hope is for a Peoples Vote, more and more politicians are coming out in support and it is certainly possible the UK will reach total constitutional deadlock later in the autumn.

  6. Graham -

    I agree with this blog. Two other issues get me worked up (although I listen only to Radio 3, TMS and a couple of programmes on Radio Scotland now). First, is the resort to “tame experts”, so, for example, on fiscal or monetary matters Paul Johnson is always wheeled out – never do we hear an alternative voice, such as Richard Murphy.

    Second, they never admit they got it wrong, unless caught “in flagrante”

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Graham

      Paul Johnson is fine as far as he goes, the problem I think is that the IFS does not do “macro” so everything is framed in terms Thatcherite “corner shop” dumbed down neoliberal theory. Many spending decision will have fiscal multipliers near to or greater than one. And the major problem with the UK is the dreadful level of productivity – way behind nearly all our W European neighbours.

      I agree completely it would be great to have Richard Murphy on more often and indeed people of the calibre of Ann Petifor or Simon Wren-Lewis . It is an uphill struggle as macroeconomic literacy is very low in the public at large.

      On “getting it wrong” a few weeks ago there were some completely outrageous and patently untrue Brexiter comments on the evil EU having crippling tariffs on Africa on the Today programme. This is a recurrent lie and went totally unchallenged.

      The opposite is in fact true with Most African countries enjoy duty – free and quota – free access to the EU market. This is either thanks to the Economic Partnership Agreement s (EPAs) or the Everything – But – Arms (EBA) scheme. http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2017/november/tradoc_156399.pdf

      To be fair to the BBC they did have a trade expert on the next day as the complaints were so vociferous and explained the reality. I’m not sure they actually apologised, but it should never have happened.

      If you use twitter @Jim_Cornelius is well worth following on trade matters.

  7. Ivan Horrocks -

    You are right to call out the BBC with regard to Brexit and the wider question of bias, Sean. It’s a disgrace. There’s no doubt that the BBC has always been biased toward “the establishment” and whatever views that position brought with it (not surprising given the upbringing and education of most of those who work at the BBC on production, programming and presenting, and in management). But as you rightly point out, since 2013 they’ve been running really scared of the Tories – who have, let’s not forget, been more blatant than any previous government at using threats (and actions) on BBC funding to control/manipulate the Corporation (interestingly, one of the first things the Trump White House threatened to do was cut funding to PBS, which is about as close to the BBC as you can get in the US).

    That development has to be added to what has become – and is not unreklated to the previous point – a rather warped interpretation of “balance” which is now taken to mean they must have a countervailing opinion on any subject. And if that means – as with climate change, or the EU, or indeed tax avoidance – giving airtime to snake-oil salesman posing as experts then so be it. Better that than be accused by anyone of lefty bias.

    And then we have another related situation with regard to fake news and facts that you illustrate with your point about Raf Behr and his time in Moscow. I’ve no doubt that right wing/populist movements across the globe have knowingly taken a leaf from Putin’s playbook here (the extent of which in the US case will be proven by Mueller in due course). Sadly the BBC has allowed itself to become part of that process not act against it.

    You mention the Today programme, which I too used to listen to religiously. John Humphry’s has always come across as a self important big head but beyond that it wasn’t a bad programme for news and analysis. But the programme has taken a real turn for the worse since they brought in Sarah Sands. But then what should one expect given the politics of her previous employer the Evening Standard? Anyway, like many thousands I seldom bother listening now as it’s simply the first foghorn of the day for the bias we’ve come to expect.

    But finally I’d also add that as with other media organisations the BBC is now primarily about “infotainment”.* Working at the OU I’ve been involved with a few OU/BBC productions and witnessed the move to infotainment (which is sadly what nearly all OU/BBC programmes now are) first hand on occasion. For example, when working on a series on infrastructure my co-contributors and I made many suggestions about what we’d like to see covered. One example – a very topical one then and now – was based on a very interesting interview we had that focused on using the existing canal system to move water from areas of the country that have plenty of rain to areas that don’t. To us this was a really excellent example of making use of an infrastructure that had played a significant role in the industrial development of the UK in another innovative way (leaving aside the role canals play in leisure activity). Imagine our suprise when we saw the final cut of the programme and this had been replaced by a segment featuring the presenter of the programme directing a passenger jet out of a landing bay at Heathrow. This was aligned with a feature on the new terminal five at Heathrow – which we knew about – but was three minutes of vanity infotainment that could have been put to far better use. Then again, the BBC is not alone in wanting to focus on big, shiny, infrastructure projects, almost always in London or the southeast, that bolster the impression (and thus the standing of this government) that the UK is a world leader in such endevours when in reality almost ever major project ends up massively over budget and months/years behind schedule.

    The question that remains with us, of course, is what can be done, if anything. Let’s just say I’m not positive we’ll see a change anytime soon.

    * For anyone who wants to be reminded of what a real news and current affairs programme should look like I’d strongly recommend The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Segments are available for the five nights a week show via the MSNBC web site.

  8. Samuel Johnson -

    Like you, I have an English wife. We’ve listened to and watched the BBC all our lives, wherever we’ve lived (4 continents). Today, World At One, PM etc. Like you, we grew up with Horizon programmes that were worthwhile, in my case, worth walking two miles to a friend’s house to see in colour. With some exceptions (David Attenborough most notably, and the World Service) it appears to have been thrown under the bus, with the Gilligan & Savile episodes marking moments of capitulation and cowardly appeasement to avoid existentially threatening retribution. Gutless in a word. The BBC has likely always been a tool of the establishment but it did a better job in the past. Anyone in any doubt about how blatant the pro-govt manipulation has become should just watch the documentary “London Calling” about the BBC’s role in the last Scottish referendum.

    I have boycotted it almost entirely for getting on for a year. The dumbing down now extends to the BBC News website which I now avoid unless someone I respect shares a link (uncommon).

    My wife kindly listens to the Today programme with earphones if I’m around; I cannot endure the pompous ignorant English exceptionalism of Humphrys any longer, nor will I listen to the lies and imbecilities of Brexiters, especially on the subject of Ireland (roll on the voice programmable mute button–I can abide intelligent disagreement but not blatant propaganda”).

    When the history of this period is written the failure of the BBC will loom large in “How and Why the UK Failed” (as in, broke up). Its failure is as clear to me and as harmful as the venality of the US mainstream media giving Donald Trump millions of dollars of free publicity when he began his election campaign and was, and should have remained, a decidedly unserious candidate. It has gatekeeper responsibilities to protect what is worth protecting about the British way of life — implicit in its charter, a duty to be a bastion of truth, impartiality and seriousness. They have been cast aside.

    Until relatively recently I would gladly have given all or most of my licence fee to the BBC, despite being Irish and living in Ireland, and notwithstanding RTÉ needing the revenue. I have several reasons, the pre-eminent of which is that allowing such a thing on this island would be a good move in my opinion, in the peace and reconciliation dept, instead of forcing people to pay for what they don’t want on either side of an arbitrary line on a map, rather as many can choose which passport they prefer. I wouldn’t do so now. The BBC has sided overtly with the English exceptionalists whose vision of British identity is exclusive, insular, & riven with a conceit of superiority–pretty much everything the Irish dislike. There are times when it’s ok to indulge a friend with some strange ideas. Now isn’t one of them. All we can do is hope the UK & the BBC recovers. I am not optimistic.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Samuel

      thanks. I particularly liked “It has gatekeeper responsibilities to protect what is worth protecting about the British way of life — implicit in its charter, a duty to be a bastion of truth, impartiality and seriousness. They have been cast aside.”

      I fear you are right about the UK & BBC recovering – the sheer incompetence over Brexit beggars belief. I fear the Brexiters have no conception as to how they are perceived by the outside world.

      I know the 2012 London Olympics were to a considerable extent an illusion, but that vibrant, creative, open, welcoming, and multicultural face shown then was the Britain I love. Not the Dail Mail hateful Brexit one.

  9. Graham -

    Craig Murray (https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/09/soft-focus/) ‘Staring at the screen in disbelief as the BBC broadcast a preview of a quite literally soft focus “interview” of Theresa May by a simpering Nick Robinson. North Korean stuff. For Panorama.
    “Prime Minister, a lot of people liked it when you described yourself as a bloody difficult woman”. Astonishingly sycophantic stuff from the state broadcaster.’

    Normalisation – an insidious force, emasculating our critical sensibilities. The infotainment, the “pointless” tv programmes, the same old “expert” voices I mentioned above, purveying the same old “verities”, visual symbolism dumbed-down beneath the lowest common denominator (if that’s possible), like traffic congestion, daily, hours spent commuting in a car, this is all just “normal”. John Humphries et al, and English exceptionalism, this is just “normal”. Eat your cereal.

    We haven’t had tv for 40 years. That’s not normal.

    1. Ivan Horrocks -

      Agree entirely. The interview with May was sycophancy on steriods. So bad that it really cannot be called journalism, except in the context of a publication such as Hello magazine (‘Well Prime Minister, what a lovely job you’ve done decorating Number 10. Wherever did you get that wallpaper from.’). Utter shite!

  10. Donald Liverpool -

    Great to see another PP article which majorly features the EU membership question which fails to mention its primary fiscal purpose. Does everyone on here stand to inherit a country estate or something? It’s getting embarrassing after all this talk about the EU membership question that people here are so blind.
    As to the BBC, the essential problem is that it is a State broadcaster, as is RTE. Entertainment is pretty much covered by the free market. Education and information can be dealt with by a mix of other government bodies, parents, and the free market. If the BBC were accountable to the people who paid for it, then there would be a separation of broadcaster and State. This would mean the licence payer electing the Board, and the Board deciding the cost and scope of the service. ( Personally, I’d be electing the candidate who offered to cut News 24, soaps, breakfast television, daytime tv except schools programmes and who cut the licence fee to £120 ). At present, the DCMS appoints the Board of Trustees, so a State broadcaster that pleases the people that gave them their jobs is what you have, good and hard.

    1. Sean Danaher -

      You have alluded to this before. Why not submit an article? If well argued we would be happy to publish- there are certainly valid criticisms of the EU but my major worry is a neofascist Brexit – I have no faith in the right wing elements of the Tory party to look after the UK populace – quite the opposite in fact

    2. Ivan Horrocks -

      Donald, I fully agree with Sean here. You’ve mentioned the ‘primary fiscal purpose’ (or similar) before but I have no idea what you mean – or at least the context in which you mean it. And not I’m not going to inherit a country estate nor am I a raving fan of the EU (witness my numerous critical comments on the TRUK blog over the period of the Greek debt crisis (ie. the crushing of Greek democracy). So, feel free to write a guest blog on the subject. It would be very welcome.

      1. Bill Hughes -

        Slightly off topic but there is an extremely interesting article by Aaron Bastini on the Novara website on last weeks IPPR report and the Justin Welby’s comments on the state of the economy and how the left and right are both realising what a serious situation we are in.

  11. Andrew Lugton -

    I hope everybody dissatisfied with the BBC’s output takes the trouble to drop them a line and tell them: https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/contact_us/making_a_complaint.html
    Their reply is likely to be prompt, if condescending, and end like this one to me:
    “… we have included your views on our audience feedback report, which is compiled daily and sent to BBC senior management each morning. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback at the BBC, ensuring your complaint gets seen promptly by the correct people.”
    .

    1. Sean Danaher -

      I got an equally condescending reply a while ago to a complaint about the wall to wall coverage of Farage at the time – still hasn’t improved – had him on the Today programme this morning talking complete garbage about immigration as the official report was to be released this morning https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/immigration-myths-brexit-leave-government-report-eu-citizens-migrants-tax-income-a8543121.html

      The BBC apparently thinks it is getting it right as the rabid Brexiters bombard the BBC continuously with “project fear” effluent – I suspect a lot is from bots. There is a “BBC-bias” website, funded I think by Aaron Banks which is very active.

      as Mark Scott commented a few days ago “there is no balance between truth and falsehood” – the numbers game – equal attacks from the right and left is inappropriate and not fit for purpose.

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