Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh University’

Book on Conservative, Anti-Left Bias at the BBC

August 24, 2017

The BBC: The Myth of a Public Service, Tom Mills (London: Verso 2016).

I managed to pick up a copy of this book, which came out last year, yesterday while poking around one of the secondhand book shops in Cheltenham. The BBC has become increasingly very blatantly biased against the Labour party, trade unions and the left in general. The Corporation has huffily denied this, but it’s been the subject of academic critiques by Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff academics, who have concluded that there is a very real bias towards the Tories and business leaders, and against Labour MPs and trade unionists. According to the back flap of the dust jacket, Tom Mills is another academic – a lecturer in sociology and policy at Aston University, and a former co-editor of the New Left Project.

The blurb on the front flap states

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. As Tom Mills demonstrates, we are only getting the news that the Establishment wants aired in public.

Throughout its existence, the BBC has been in thrall to those in power. This was true in 1926 when it stood against the workers during the General Strike, and since then the Corporation has continued to mute the voices of those who oppose the status quo: miners in 1984; anti-war protesters in 2003; those who offer alternatives to austerity economics since 2008. From the outset much of its activity has been scrutinized by the secret services at the invitation of those in charge. Since the 1990s the BBC has been integrated into the market, while its independence from the government and big business has been steadily eroded. The BBC is an important and timely examination of a crucial public institution that is constantly under threat.

Barry and Saville Kushner have also pointed out how the Beeb and its journos unquestioningly accept the necessity of austerity, rarely inviting on their programmes anyone dares say otherwise. When they do, the interviewer promptly throws a fit and shouts them down. They heard one instance of this while listening to a radio interview on Radio 4 with a leading trade unionist, who was very abruptly stopped when he tried explaining that there was absolutely no need for it. See their book, Who Needs the Cuts.

The anti-Labour bias is acutely obvious in Laura Kuenssberg’s treatment of the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. It was also very evident with the reports on the Six O’clock news by John Pienaar and George Alagiah. Any number of people have complained about Kuenssberg’s flagrant bias, and got the same shirty treatment from the people in the media bubble. Those, who dare to complain, like Guy Debord’s Cat, get a haughty letter from one of its apparatchiks pompously informing them how the Corporations journalists are all scrupulously impartial, and they are mistaken. And the hackettes in the Groaniad immediately got on their high horses to claim that those criticizing la Kuenssberg were just doing it because they were sexist chauvinists, like the Bernie Bros in America. Which also didn’t exist, but were made up by Killary and her minions as a way of explaining why few people, including women, actually like this highly entitled, neoliberal, establishment figure, who befriends blood-soaked war criminals like Henry Kissinger.

And despite the Beeb’s protestations, several of their own journos don’t buy this rubbish either. Robert Peston, now the Beeb’s economics editor, was asked three years ago what he thought about the claims that it had a liberal bias. Peston replied that, on the contrary, the Corporation was ‘completely obsessed with the agenda set by newspapers’, naming the Heil and Torygraph. He added that it ‘quite often veers in what you might call a very pro-establishment, rather right-wing direction’. He forthrightly said that the claims that the Beeb is left-wing is ‘bollocks’. (p. 106).

But such claims have been around since the BBC was formally incorporated as a nationalized industry. When it was just a cartel of radio manufacturers and broadcasters, the Conservatives were accusing it of a Socialist bias. Glancing through the book reveals that there have been repeated attempts by the Tories to make it reflect their views. In 1947 Churchill launched one of these. Some of the most significant occurred in the 1970s with Keith Joseph and the other neoliberals around Maggie Thatcher. They got very upset in 1974 when the respected American economist, J.K. Galbraith, presented a series critiquing corporate power and the rise and crisis of industrial society, including Marxist and Keynsian perspectives, The Age of Uncertainty. This was too much for Joseph and the rest of the frothing mad Tory right. Galbraith was no liberal. He identified as Conservative, but had said the unsayable. Galbraith stated in the introduction to the ninth episode of that, ‘The Big Corporation’, that it was a myth that the consumer is sovereign and the corporation respond to their preferences, efficiently allocating society’s resources. The reality was that ‘corporations influence government, influence the consumer. Only the textbooks say otherwise.’ Joseph and Geoffrey Howe then organized a campaign to have another series set up, examination the question from a pro-Hayekian, free market perspective, presented by Milton Friedman. This was the Milton Friedman, who enthusiastically rejected democracy after realizing that his Chicago School would always been a minority. He therefore championed General Pinochet, who was also an enthusiastic Monetarist, when he overthrew the Marxist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, in a Fascist coup.

One of the most revealing sections is the chapter discussing how the Beeb’s massive pro-business bias was established about nine or so years ago, way back at the start of century around the year 2000. It was set up, and the treatment of business affairs expanded, by Greg Dyke. Dyke was a member of the Labour party, and a crony of Tony Blair. This explains why the Tories were constantly howling about how he was a dangerous Socialist, and there was a left-wing bias at the Beeb. In fact, Dyke had imbibed the same Thatcherite, neoliberal views as Blair, despite the continued whines that the Beeb had an ‘anti-industry culture’. It’s another example of how politicians on the nominal left, like Blair, took over and expanded the Conservatives’ neoliberal programme.

As for pro-Fascist bias, this even afflicted that great founder of the Beeb, Lord Reith. In 1933 Reith made a speech declaring that it was possible for someone to spread democratic values without being a democrat. Two years later, in 1935, he made a speech praising Mussolini. He personally believed the country needed a dictatorship. Fortunately, the rest of the Beeb’s governors and controllers didn’t, and forced him out.

This is interesting, as it’s an aspect of Reith’s life I hadn’t heard about before. There have been biographies of him – one of which was published in the 1990s, and, I think, reviewed by the Financial Times. However, from what I can remember, what was said about Reith’s personal failings was about his own puritanism, repressed homosexuality, and guilty infatuation with another man. I can’t recall any mention of Reith being a supporter of Fascist style dictatorship, although it should also be said that he despised the Fascists’ thuggery.

It would be too much to say that the corporation is pro-Fascist. They’re very proud of a quote made during the crisis of 1974, when one of the journos announced that the Beeb isn’t impartial – it’s strongly pro-democratic, and passionately feels this needs to be cherished. On the other hand, broadcasters tend to be Conservatives. And one aspect of the Conservative mindset is authoritarianism. See some of the pieces on YouTube discussing this by left-wing news sites like Democracy Now and so on. This would explain why they give more respect than they should to extreme right-wing movements like the BNP and UKIP. Guy Debord’s Cat has written about this over on his blog, if you want further information.

The book also places Mary Whitehouse, the moral crusader, who became the scourge of broadcasters from the 1960s onwards. Whitehouse is still a notorious figure today for her campaign against all manner of smut and filth on television with her group, the Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association. A year or so ago there was a book about her and her correspondence with the Corporation, Ban This Filth. Mills states that she is looked upon as an eccentric figure. Misguided, but essentially harmless. This isn’t quite the case.

Whitehouse was linked the Tories, and a friend of Maggie Thatcher. She and they thought that there was a plot by a left-wing elite to foist all this degeneracy and moral chaos on the British public. It’s a view that’s now become firmly established within the Right. And there was a very strong political dimension to her campaign. She believed that the liberal elite wanted to create sexual permissiveness and anarchy in preparation for a state of political anarchy, in which the fundamental institutions of British society would be torn down. And like many a bonkers conspiracy theorist, she was convinced that this was all being coordinated by Moscow. These days she’d probably be on Infowars with Alex Jones, along with nutters frothing about imaginary satanic paedophile rings operating out of Boston pizza parlours by Hillary Clinton, and those who think that the government is run by a secret cabal of aliens from Zeta Reticuli.

As for her views about political anarchism, this was also held by MI5, much to the amusement of the real anarchists in the Anarchist Federation. See one of the pieces on modern anarchism in the anthology of anarchist literature, Anarchism, edited by George Woodcock.

The book concludes that Reith’s vision of the Beeb’s role was the same as that as Matthew Arnold, the headmaster of Rugby, in his book Culture and Anarchy. The alienated laboring poor were to be incorporated into the culture and political structure of British society, but firmly under the leadership of the upper classes. The brief period when British society and the BBC had become more egalitarian due to rising affluence and the economic and social changes of the 1960s, has disappeared. This is partly due to the collapse of Communism. There is now no longer an exterior threat demanding that certain concessions be made to the working and lower middle classes, so that they don’t become too radicalized. Neoliberalism has increased poverty and jobs are precarious. At the same time, power has become more distanced and centralized amongst a powerful coterie of Oxbridge-educated managers. And just as this has occurred in industry and wider British society, so it as has also occurred in the Beeb.

This is an important study of the Beeb’s institutional right-wing, pro-Establishment bias. It’s another refutation of the Beeb’s repeated, and increasingly spurious claims of impartiality. Since Corbyn became leader, more people have become aware of how hypocritical and specious these claims are. It’s why more people are getting their news and information from the internet, and sites you can really trust. Sites like Vox Political, Tom Pride, Johnny Void, Another Angry Voice, DPAC, Kitty S. Jones, the Canary, the Squawkbox, Guy Debord’s Cat, Tony Greenstein and others too numerous to mention.

These people convey real news, and their under threat from the big corporations Google and Facebook, who only want you to view and read approved corporate, neoliberal propaganda. It’s why they’re demonetizing left-wing news shows like Democracy Now, The Young Turks, the David Pakman Show, Secular Talk and Sam Seder’s Majority Report, and changing the rules on Facebook to make it difficult for people to access the left-wing blogs.

Don’t let them get away with this. Support your favourite left-wing blogs and news shows.

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‘1990’ – The BBC’s anti-Socialist 1970s SF Drama

July 27, 2017

Looking through the chapter on British television in John Clute’s Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (London: Dorling Kindersley 1995), I found this entry for the forgotten SF drama 1990. Produced by Prudence Fitzgerald, with scripts mainly written by Wilfred Greatorex, this ran for 16 episodes from 1977 to 1978. Clute writes

In 1990s totalitarian Britain the welfare state is all-powerful. A maverick journalist helps infiltrators from the freedom-loving United States, and assists British rebels in fleeing there. Intended as a dire warning of trade-union socialism, the series’ caricatures in fact make the venture risible. (P. 101).

The Wikipedia entry for the series also adds the following details along with other information on its plot, characters, cast and crew:

The series is set in a dystopian future in which Britain is under the grip of the Home Office’s Public Control Department (PCD), a tyrannically oppressive bureaucracy riding roughshod over the population’s civil liberties.

Dubbed “Nineteen Eighty-Four plus six” by its creator, Wilfred Greatorex, 1990 stars Edward Woodward as journalist Jim Kyle, Robert Lang as the powerful PCD Controller Herbert Skardon, Barbara Kellerman as Deputy PCD Controller Delly Lomas, John Savident, Yvonne Mitchell (in her last role), Lisa Harrow, Tony Doyle, Michael Napier Brown and Clive Swift.Two series, of eight episodes each, were produced and broadcast on BBC2 in 1977 and 1978. The series was never repeated but was released on DVD in 2017. Two novelisations based on the scripts were released in paperback by the publisher Sphere; Wilfred Greatorex’s 1990, and Wilfred Greatorex’s 1990 Book Two.

and includes this description of the show’s fictional background to its vision of a totalitarian Britain:

Exposition in this series was mainly performed by facts occasionally dropped into dialogue requiring the viewer to piece together the basic scenario.

This state of affairs was precipitated by an irrecoverable national bankruptcy in 1981, triggering martial law. In the general election, only 2% voted. The economy (and imports) drastically contracted forcing stringent rationing of housing, goods and services. These are distributed according to a person’s LifeScore as determined (and constantly reviewed) by the PCD on behalf of the union-dominated socialist government. As a consequence, the higher-status individuals appear to be civil servants and union leaders. An exception to this are import/export agents, which appear to be immune to state control due to their importance to the remnants of the economy. The House of Lords has been abolished and turned into an exclusive dining club. State ownership of businesses appears to be near-total and prohibition of wealth and income appears to be very high. The reigning monarch is male due to the unfortunate death of the previous monarch (queen Elizabeth the 2nd) but his identity is never made clear. The currency is the Anglodollar (replaced the pound sterling in 1982 due to economic collapse) which appears to have little value overseas due to the international boycott of British exports. The armed forces have been run down to the extent that they are little more than an internal security force. This is made clear in one episode where the RAF is depicted as consisting of little more than a handful of Harrier Jump Jets and a few dozen counter-insurgency helicopters. Despite this National Service has been re-introduced (via the Youth Behaviour Control Act 1984 which enforces conscription and Genetic Crimes Act 1985, which makes sexual offences punishable by hanging). It is said that in 1986 two Army Generals and a retired Air Chief Marshal attempted a coup against the government, but it failed.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1990_(TV_series)

There’s also a Wikipedia entry for Greatorex, the show’s creator, which states

Wilfred Greatorex (27 May 1921–14 October 2002)[1] was an English television and film writer, script editor and producer. He was creator of such series as Secret Army, 1990, Plane Makers and its sequel The Power Game, Hine, Brett, Man At The Top, Man From Haven and The Inheritors.[2] He also wrote the screenplay for the 1969 film Battle of Britain.[1] He was described by The Guardian newspaper as “one of the most prolific and assured of television script-writers and editors from the 1960s into the 1980s”.[3] Starting off as a journalist, he got his big break as a TV writer on Lew Grade’s ATV service writing dramas about journalism, such as Deadline Midnight and Front Page Story.[3]

As a TV script editor he also worked on series such as Danger Man[1] and was also creator/producer of The Inheritors, Hine and The Power Game.[1] Papers discovered at a Norfolk auction house in 2011 reveal that ‘Hine’ had a budget of £84,000, the equivalent of close to £1m some forty years later.

In 1977, he came up with the dystopian drama series 1990 for BBC2, starring Edward Woodward. Greatorex dubbed the series “Nineteen Eighty-Four plus six”.[4] Over its two series it portrayed “a Britain in which the rights of the individual had been replaced by the concept of the common good – or, as I put it more brutally, a consensus tyranny.”[3] The same year he also devised (with Gerard Glaister) the BBC1 wartime drama Secret Army. The show later inspired the sitcom parody ‘Allo ‘Allo!.[5]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilfred_Greatorex

The show’s clearly a product of the extreme paranoia that gripped the Tories in Britain during the mid-1970s. The total collapse of the economy seems to have been inspired by the country’s bankruptcy in the mid to late 1970s, when the country was forced to go to the IMF. It also shows the fears that the Labour party was planning some kind of extreme left-wing coup. This was the decade when the Times was urging the formation of a national government, and various figures in intelligence and politics were considering organizing a military coup against the minority Labour government. Ken Livingstone also states in his 1987 book, Livingstone’s Labour, that MI5 had also compiled a list of subversives, including journalists, politicians and trade unionists, who were to be rounded up and interned in a camp somewhere in the Hebrides. Behind much of this paranoia was the belief, held by James Jesus Angleton, the head of the CIA, and many others in the Tory party, including Maggie Thatcher, that Harold Wilson was a KGB spy.

The series has long been forgotten. I can’t remember ever hearing or reading about it, apart from the entry in Clute’s Encyclopedia and the Wikipedia pages. The show was clearly quite successful at the time, as it lasted two seasons, but I can’t remember anyone I knew having watched it, or even mentioning it in the school playground.

Nevertheless, this is interesting, as the series was clearly written from an extreme right-wing stance, albeit one of that was shared by much of the Tory media during the 1970s. It definitely shows the alarm the Tories and a large section of the middle class clearly felt at trade union militancy and the Labour left’s desire to extend nationalization, as well as the experiments with worker’s control under Tony Benn. In fact, despite the accusation often heard during the ’70s and ’80s that Labour wanted to nationalize everything, the party only wished to take into public ownership 25 more companies. This is far from complete nationalization. As for worker’s control, this was confined to three firms, which were failing anyway. These eventually collapsed, but many of the workers involved in these projects felt that the experiments had been worthwhile and had shown that workers could run businesses.

And it also shows how blatantly biased the BBC could be against the Left.

There’s been considerable discussion on blog’s like mine and Mike’s about the Beeb’s bias against the Labour party and especially Jeremy Corbyn. Mike’s put a number of articles commenting on this bias. The BBC claims it is impartial, and whenever anybody complains about the bias in its programmes, as Guy Debord’s Cat did recently, they receive a bland, and slightly pompous reply telling them that they’re wrong. Researchers at Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities have found, however, that the Corporation is far more likely to interview, and treat respectfully the opinions offered by Conservative MPs and experts from the financial sector, than trade unionists and members of the Labour party. Barry and Saville Kushner have commented on how the Beeb uncritically accepts and promotes the idea of austerity in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, to the point of shouting down anyone, who dares to disagree. There’s even been a book published exposing the Corporation’s bias, The BBC and the Myth of Public Service Broadcasting.

The existence of this explicitly anti-Socialist SF drama shows how far back this bias goes. In many ways, I’m not surprised. The corporation is largely staffed by members of the upper middle class. It’s one of the country’s central institutions, and so reflects the views of the established political, business and media elites. Hence it shared the British right’s groundless fears of some kind of radical socialist takeover in the 1970s, and their bitter hatred the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn today.

BBC Claims of Impartiality Shattered as Another Newsman Joins May’s Campaign Team

July 8, 2017

The Beeb constantly answers any criticism that it is biased towards the Tories by repeating its claim that it’s impartial, bound by its official charter and so on. Anyone writing to the Corporation to complain about its egregious bias, such as against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour, as shown in its coverage of the last general election and the barrage of lies and sneers long before by Laura Kuenssberg, John Pienaar et al are given this standard reply. The Beeb, you are sanctimoniously and haughtily told, is above suspicion, so you should go away and mind your own business.

Mike, as he reminds us, received one of these letters when he complained about the Beeb’s bias. So have many of his commenters, after they complained. Buddy Hell, over at Guy Debord’s Cat, got a similarly sniff missive from the Corporation when he did.

But the bias is real. Researchers at the media units at Edinburgh, Cardiff and Glasgow universities concluded that the Beeb was far more likely to interview Tory MPs and financial experts, and accept their comments, than talk to Labour MPs and trade unionists. Barry and Saville Kushner, in their book, Who Needs the Cuts, described how they were moved to campaign about austerity partly by the way the Corporation uncritically accepted the need for its savage cuts against the poor and working class. They cited one example where a leading trade unionist was effectively shouted down by a BBC presenter on the radio when he dared to say that they were unnecessary and the arguments for them didn’t hold water. The proles were getting uppity and questioning the impeccable logic of their lords and masters, and so had to be shut down.

You can hear the same claim of impartiality repeated ad nauseam on the Beeb’s own public relations programme, Points of View, where the Beeb takes a look at the letters its received about its programmes. Private Eye has criticised this many times over the years as simply an exercise for allowing the BBC to answer its critics while playing very fast loose and with the actual evidence. For example, if one programme comes under fire from a section of the public, the Beeb will cites correspondence it has received in support of the programme. However, it won’t mention the actual volume of correspondence it has received on the issue. So if it receives, say, 30 letters of complaint about a programme, and only two or three letters of support, those two or three letters will still be trotted out, along with a few remarks from the show’s producers, to give the impression that opinion was equally divided when it was anything but.

As for political bias, when this is raised the BBC will trot out the remark that all administrations have felt that the BBC was biased against them. This is probably true. Way back in the 1990s under John Major the Tories were constantly screaming how the ‘left-wing BBC’ were biased against them. They do the same today, on website like Biased BBC, where right-winger – and often extreme Rightists – whine about how the Corporation is pro-Islam and full of ‘cultural Marxists’.

These claims of impeccable impartiality were seen to be increasingly threadbare this week, as two more of the Beeb’s news managers vied with each other to join Theresa May’s team. The two candidates for the post of head of May’s communications team were Robbie Gibb, the head of the BBC news team at Westminster, and editor of the Daily and Sunday Politics, and John Landale, the deputy political editor at the Corporation. Landale, it seems almost needless to say, is another Old Etonian. One of the previous heads of communications for the Tories was Craig Oliver, another newsman from the Beeb. Oliver was responsible for revamping the News at 10 at organising the coverage for the 2010 Election.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/05/pro-tory-bias-confirmed-as-bbc-news-men-vie-to-be-theresa-mays-comms-chief/

In the end, Gibb got the job. Well, he is the brother of Tory politico Nicolas Gibb, the former chief of staff for Tory Francis Maude, and was best man for another Tory candidate, Mark MacGregor. He was also the vice-chair of the Federation of Conservative students.

Other Tories, who have found agreeable posts at the Corporation include James Harding, who is head of news and current affairs across the Corporation. He’s another Murdoch employee and a friend of George Osborne. Then there’s Andrew Neil, who was editor of the Sunset Times under Murdoch, a chairman of Sky TV, and chairman of the Press Holdings Group, which own the Spectator. Among the commenters on Twitter, who remarked on this latest blatant link between the Beeb and the Tories was Owen Jones, who reminded his readers that Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osborne all took their spin doctors from the Beeb. Another commenter, Will Black, said that with the numbers of Tories at the Beeb, the news should be written off as a Tory election expense, rather than be paid for by the licence fee.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/07/07/proof-of-dodgy-link-between-bbc-and-tories-robbie-gibb-is-theresa-mays-new-communications-chief/

This latest move of a high-ranking newsman at the Beeb makes it even more difficult for the Corporation to deny that it has a right-wing bias. Although I have no doubt that they won’t stop trying. Expect more guff about how the corporation is utterly impartial and above reproach, even when the careers of editors and presenters and the content of the news itself screams otherwise.

Jimmy Dore Mocks New York Times Add

February 3, 2017

In this short segment from the Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his team rightly tear into an add for the New York Times. The newspaper has been running an ad campaign with the slogan ‘The truth isn’t cheap’. This provokes mocking laughter from Dore and his team, who comment that the lies come free and are posted above the centre line. He also makes a pointed comment about Judith Miller, one of the Time’s journalists, getting a job with Fox News. He also states that in the case of the NY Times, the truth definitely isn’t free, as if you tell it, it could cost you your job. The segment ends with the comedians attacking various Democrat politicos for not protesting against Trump as much as they should, and stating that they need to ‘drain the swamp’ on their side of the House because of the terrible state the Democrats are in.

Dore is quite right to attack the Times, and its specious claim to truthful journalism. In fact, the newspaper has acted as the conduit for government lies, especially during the run up to the Iraq Invasion. The editors of the American radical magazine, Counterpunch, Patrick Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair, have published a series of articles about the way the Times carried the lies from the Bush administration about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in order to whip up popular support for the invasion. And one of the few journalists on the newspaper, who did try getting the truth out, was summarily sacked.

I’m well aware that Dore is an American, commenting on an American newspaper, but this also has implications over here. Since Donald Trump’s elections we’ve had organisations like the BBC state that they are going to set up special taskforces and departments to critique and refute ‘fake news’. The Beeb, however, has stated that it will confine this to the internet, and not take on the fake news coming out of Fleet Street. While there is a problem with racist fake news on the internet, the most pernicious lies are those retailed by the mainstream media. Like the New York Times and Fox News in America. In the case of the latter, media researcher found that 75 per cent of the news broadcast by Fox was actually false. Watching Fox News actually makes you less informed than if you didn’t watch it. And the same could be said for the right-wing media over here, comprising the Murdoch press and the rags owned by Paul Dacre, Dirty Desmond and the rest of them. And this also includes the Beeb, which has a very definite right-wing bias. The Beeb’s news programmes do not like anyone challenging the idea that austerity is somehow necessary, as shown by Barry and Saville Kushner in their book, Who Needs the Cuts. Researchers at Edinburgh, Cardiff and Glasgow Universities have shown that the Beeb prefers to accept the views and give coverage to Conservatives and business leaders than members of the Labour party and trade unionists. And this is quite apart from the grotesque and flagrant anti-Labour, anti-Corbyn bias of La Kuenssberg.

Never mind the New York Times. The British media also desperately needs a few well-placed sneers at its pretensions to tell the truth. And that means the Beeb and the Times, as well as well-worn targets like the Scum.

BBC Wants to Rebut Fake News, But Who’s Going to Rebut Theirs?

January 13, 2017

There’s a piece in the I today reporting that the Beeb intends to set up a ‘Reality Check’ news team to correct the fake news on the internet. The article, by Kim Sengupta, states

The BBC is to create a dedicated team which will identify and expose “fake news” stories being shared on Facebook and other social media.

The corporation said it was not seeking to “police the internet”. But its Reality Check team will identify and correct the most egregious examples of fabricated stories and outright “lies” circulated by fake news sites.

James Harding, the BBC director of news and current affairs, told staff: “The BBC can’t edit the internet, but we won’t stand aside either. We will fact check the most popular outliers on Facebook, Instagram and other social media.”

He added: ” We are working with Facebook, in particular, to see how we can be most effective. Where we see deliberately misleading stories masquerading as news, we’ll publish a Reality Check that says so.”

The BBC believes it can employ the credibility of its news organisation to assist Facebook. However, the corporation said it would not target stories published by “mainstream” media such as UK newspapers. (p. 13).

There are several aspects to this story. First of all, it shows the fear the mainstream media have of the internet. The newspapers, television and radio stations and moguls are being increasingly abandoned as more people, particularly the young, prefer to take their news from the Net, feeling that it’s more trustworthy. Journalists writing in the Radio Times and elsewhere have already whined about this threat to their ability to shape consensus opinion. One of them stated that the different news sites on the internet, with their various biases, was a danger because it meant that people were only looking at the news sources which agreed with their personal biases, and so opinions and views were going to become increasingly polarised. He made it very clear that he wanted the mainstream opinion to continue to shape consensus opinion.

This is obviously an attempt by the Beeb to try and exercise its position as a purveyor of respected, supposedly objective news, to combat the threat posed by the internet.

Okay, there’s an awful lot of rubbish put out by some websites. You only have to look at the content of much of Alex Jones’ Infowars show, which is real tin foil hat conspiracy theory material. Jones’ stock in trade is very loud allegations that the secret rulers of the world are Satanic aliens. Just before the election he was screaming that Hillary Clinton was either an alien, or a cyborg. Other sites on YouTube have ludicrously claimed that Killary has kuru, a degenerative neurological condition caused by eating human brains, contracted from cannibalistic orgies in which she has consumed the brains of children. It’s rubbish, and clearly fake news.

But there is a lot of news on YouTube, which isn’t fake, and which very much is a threat to the establishment. Like the reporting on the real Fascism of the Ukrainian government, and its persecution of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians. The same is true of the information on what is really going on in Syria, which isn’t about freeing the enslaved Syrian people from a dictator, but about ousting a genuinely popular president in order to break Russian power and enrich the western allied oil companies and states still further. Oh yes, and we’re using al-Qaeda and ISIS, the very organisation we’re supposed to be fighting, to overthrow a secular government.

This alternative news is also under threat from the internet companies. I’ve put up a piece from The Jimmy Dore Show in which the American comedian reports how his pieces and those of others about the real nature of the Syrian conflict have been demonetised by Google in an attempt to discourage people from posting them.

And the Beeb itself has plenty of previous when it comes to bias and fake news. That infamous piece of film of the striking miners at Orgreave, which was shown backwards so that it appeared to show the miners attacking the cops when the opposites was true is a particularly notorious piece. Academics from Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities have reported how the Beeb is far more likely to report the views of Conservative politicos and businessmen, particularly from the financial sector, over those from the Labour party and trade unionists. The Kushner brothers in their book Who Needs the Cuts describe their anger at the way the Beeb automatically accepted the need for austerity, and consistently refuses to allow a dissenting voice onto their news shows. When one does appear, the presenter immediately gets annoyed and tries to cut them off or interrupt them. Nothing must stop the proles from accepting that the government is right in taking away more of their rights and destroying the welfare state in favour of corporate profit.

This isn’t just about combating the real, poisonous fake news. This is the mainstream media trying to suppress a danger challenge to the right-wing consensus. It’s about maintaining the credibility of establishment bias and fake news in the face of alternative reporting.

Vox Political on Ian Hislop and the Beeb’s Anti-Corbyn Bias

December 17, 2016

Mike early today put up a post commenting on another example of the Beeb’s bias against Jeremy Corbyn, this time on last night’s Have I Got News For You. Hislop had made the comment, When you find yourself agreeing with Jeremy Corbyn, you know the country is in a mess.’

Mike states

If the BBC had any real interest in its stated commitment to political impartiality, one of the other panel members, or guest host Gary Lineker, would have jumped in to say that agreeing with Theresa May and the Tories is what put the country in a mess in the first place. But that didn’t happen.

And concludes

This man is the editor of Private Eye. Do you think he bothers to keep his political bias out of the magazine? Neither do I.

See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/12/17/hislops-jeremy-corbyn-jibe-what-happened-to-bbc-impartiality/

I don’t have to speculate if Hislop is keeping his own personal political bias out of Private Eye. I’ve stopped reading it because he blatantly hasn’t. There are plenty of stories attacking Corbyn and the ‘click-bait’ web site that supports him, The Canary, but absolutely none supporting the Labour leader. The satirical magazine has been running a feature, Focus on Fact, which is devoted to attacking him. This seems to come from embittered Blairites, as many of the stories in there seem to be about internal party disputes from the 1980s.

I’ve blogged before about how I’ve stopped reading the Eye because of this consistent bias against Corbyn, despite the excellent work the magazine has also done attacking privatisation, including that of the NHS. But it needs to remembered that Private Eye and its founders were very much part of the establishment. Richard Ingrams, Willie Rushton, Auberon Waugh, Peter Cook and Ian Hislop himself are all very middle class, ex-public schoolboys. Auberon Waugh was notorious for his own extremely Tory and reactionary views, writing columns for the Torygraph sneering at the Greenham women and teachers, for example. His family were also connected to MI5, and he may have been one of the conduits for the intelligence agency’s attempt to smear Harold Wilson as a KGB agent in the 1970s, according to Lobster.

The Eye is not just biased about domestic politics. It has frequently run pieces about the Ukraine in its Letter from… column, which has unwaveringly presented the line that the current vile regime in Kyiv is entirely democratic and is under threat from Putin, the new Grand Duke of Moscow, who is trying to set himself up as the next Tsar of all the Russias and the true heir to Ivan the Terrible. There is no mention that the current Ukrainian regime includes neo-Nazis, determined to persecute genuinely independent journalists, and who have beaten and brutalised members of the Ukrainian left, just as the regime is genuinely responsible for persecuting ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians.

As for the BBC, I recently posted a piece about a book I found in Waterstones, The BBC and the Myth of Public Broadcasting, which makes the case that the BBC is extremely biased towards the corporate establishment and the Conservatives. This should surprise no-one on the left. Mike and several other left-wing blogs have published articles about the finding by academics at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff Universities that the Beeb is more likely to favour Conservative MPs and managing directors and spokespeople for the stock exchange over Labour MPs and trade unionists. And the Corporation is also very culpably silent about the privatisation of the NHS.

Hislop’s comment last night is another example of this bias. It’s also the reason why I don’t buy Private Eye, and indeed, can no longer stand watching Have I Got News For You.

TYT: Actor James Cromwell Blasts Oil Police Thugs and Corporate Media

November 27, 2016

This is another clip from The Young Turks about the protests against the oil pipeline at Standing Rock. In this piece, James Cromwell, the Hollywood actor, talks to The Turks’ Jordan Cheriton about how the thuggish behaviour of the rozzers at Standing Rock and the way the protests have been completely ignored by the mainstream corporate media shows the racism against Native Americans. When there are demonstrations elsewhere, the cops react decently. They arrest people, but don’t usually attack or maltreat them. Here it’s different. And this shows the racism against Native Americans. He also notes that when there are protests and riots in the east, the mainstream media are there. But they’re not covering this protest, with the exception of The Young Turks, because they’re really controlled by the oil companies and the bottom line of not doing anything that would upset their sponsors. The only way to be informed in this country [America] is by people looking it up on YouTube. The clip ends with another Native American chant, which I believe must be in the Sioux language, against the pipeline.

Cromwell’s appeared in a number of Hollywood blockbusters. I remember him from Star Trek: First Contact and Deep Impact. He’s not the first big name Hollywood actor, who’s lent their voice to Native protests. Marlon Brando also did so in the 1970s, when he joined one of the peoples on the West Coast defending their fishing rights against another company. Cromwell is also right about people turning to the internet to see what’s really going on. This applies to both left and right, though sometimes people from radically opposed parts of the political spectrum look at the same news sources. I was talking the other day to someone, who clearly viewed themselves as a supporter of small government, who also watched RT as well as Fox News.

The mainstream media and the Beeb in particular are complaining about the way their ability to shape the political consensus is breaking down. They moan that it is making people more polarised in their opinions through people of different political views watching only the news channels that share their opinions. But the underlying problem is not addressed or even acknowledged. The mainstream media has a very pronounced corporate bias. Cromwell describes how it works in America. Over here in Britain, where we supposedly have the impartial BBC, the Corporation is still biased. Books and studies have been published, most recently by Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow universities, showing that the Beeb is very much biased towards the establishment. They are far more likely to interview Conservative MPs and managing directors than Labour MPs and trade unionists, and when they do, they are far more likely to accept automatically the views of the Tories and businessmen as being true. And I’ve quoted Barry and Saville Kushner, the authors of Who Needs the Cuts?, how they were constantly infuriated by the Corporation’s automatic assumption that cuts were necessary and the way BBC announcers and reporters shouted down Labour leaders and politicians, who dared to contradict them. And the other year Mike reported how the Beeb was very definitely not reporting on the massive demonstration against its bias that was occurring on its very doorstep. It did report it online, but definitely not as an item on the television.

If people are abandoning mainstream media, it’s because that media is flagrantly biased. It therefore deserves to lose viewers until it corrects this.

New Book on BBC Bias

November 18, 2016

Looking through the Cheltenham branch of Waterstone’s today I found a new book on institutional bias at the BBC. It’s Tom Miller’s The BBC and the Myth of Public Service Broadcasting. I didn’t buy it, but glancing at the blurb on the back cover, it seemed to be about how the Beeb is biased towards power, and the establishment.

This really should come as no surprise to anyone. Despite the frothings of the right, which claims that the Beeb has a liberal bias, Edinburgh, Glasgow and I think, Cardiff University have studied the Beeb’s news bias, and found that it is significantly biased towards the Right. The two Scots universities found that it was far more likely to talk to Conservative MPs and businessmen, than to Labour MPs and trade unionists. The Kushner brothers, in their book, Who Needs the Cuts? state that they were prompted to write the book because of the way the Beeb and the rest of the media automatically accepted, quite uncritically, that the cuts were needed. When trade unionists appeared on the Today programme on Radio 4, and said that the cuts weren’t needed and were harmful, he was interrupted by the presenter. And then there’s Laura Koenigsberg, who is outrageously and blatantly biased. But you mustn’t accuse her of beings so, according to the Graoniad, because if you do you are only doing so because you’re a misogynist. Rubbish. People are criticising her because she is biased, and she’s a disgrace. It has nothing to do with her gender. Another of the Beeb’s reporters, who is also flagrantly biased is Nick Robinson. Remember how Robinson and his team careful cut footage of a question and answer session with Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP, during the Scots Referendum? Robinson asked Salmond about whether he was worried that the main Scots financial firms would move down to London if Scotland gained independence. Salmond said no, and explained why he believed they wouldn’t. The Beeb then edited the video, first to make it appear that he evaded the question, and then claimed he hadn’t answer it all. I’m not fan of the SNP and its attacks on the Labour Party, but Salmond had answered the question, calmly and fully. It was pure falsification, a lie of the type you’d expect from the state dominated media in eastern Europe under Communism, for example. But it didn’t come from a wretched totalitarian dictatorship. It came from the Beeb, which is constantly congratulating itself on how ‘impartial’ it is, and what a world leader in quality broadcasting it constitutes.

Well, it’s biased towards the right, and more and more people are waking up to that fact, as this book appears to show.

BBC Wants Even More Conservative Bias

October 9, 2016

This sounds like a joke, and it shows the corporation’s utterly dismissive attitude and contempt for the British Left, and those, who have rightly accused it of Conservative bias. I found a small piece in last Friday’s I (8th October 2016) reporting that the Beeb wanted to recruit for more Conservatives to its newsroom team, in order to correct a perceived left-wing bias.

Perceived left-wing bias? By whom? No, scrub that – no need to ask that question at all. It’s obvious who’s accused it of ‘left-wing bias’ – the Conservatives, in order to make sure that theirs is the only voice that’s heard. But the reality is the complete opposite.

The Corporation has been repeatedly criticised for its right-wing bias. In a study by academics at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities, it was found that the BBC was far more likely to interview and treat seriously opinions by Conservatives and businessmen over left-wingers and trade unionists. Barry and Saville Kushner, in their book Who Needs the Cuts, described how they were motivated to write it after seeing the way journalists covering the government’s austerity policies on the news time and again accepted without question the fact that it was all necessary. Those individuals and experts they had on their programmes, who dissented where either cut off or challenged. Another academic study a few years ago found that the Beeb was also biased in keeping very silent about the government’s privatisation of the NHS.

Tens of thousands of people signed an online petition against the egregious Tory bias of the Beeb’s head of news, Laura Kuenssberg. The petition was attacked and sneered at as ‘misogynist’. Kuenssberg couldn’t be biased. All these people accusing her of it just resented the fact that she was a woman in charge of news. It was all rubbish. As Mike pointed out in one of his articles, instead of the hundreds or thousands of misogynistic comments posted by the petition’s signatories, those going through it – all 33,000 odd posts – could find only one that could be reasonably said to be such. But that’s how this country’s corporate media deals with any accusations of bias.

Then, in the debate over the Scottish referendum a few years ago, there was another case of blatant censorship by the Beeb’s Nick Robinson. Robinson had asked the then leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, a question about how independence would affect the Scottish financial sector. Would it result in the major Scottish banks and financial centres moving south to London. Salmond replied, but the Beeb edited the footage to make it first seem that he had evaded the question, and then edited his reply out altogether. Robinson intoned in a voiceover that Salmond hadn’t given him an answer.

It was a flat-out lie.

The Beeb is scared of the Tories, as they keep on threatening it with privatisation, all on behalf of their sugar-daddy, Rupert Murdoch. And since the rise of Accuracy In Media, the Republican organisation devoted to detecting liberal media bias in America under Ronald Reagan, the Tories over here too have joined in accusing the BBC and anyone else, who doesn’t toe their wretched line of having a similar bias. It’s got to the point where there are even jokes about this constant, resentful complaining from Conservatives. There’s a joke that if you go into a room, in which there are 99 Republicans and 1 liberal, those 99 Republicans are all moaning about the left-wing bias in the room.

There’s also another one about how many Republicans it takes to change a light-bulb. 10 – one person to screw in the bulb, and another nine to complain about the left-wing bias of the screw.

The Beeb’s already extremely biased towards the Tories. How long before its quest to become even more biased leads to it becoming an object of ridicule? Unfortunately, this is no joke. It’s another campaign to produce even more Tory propaganda masquerading as balanced news. And it all shows how massively biased against the Left the Beeb already is, and it’s craven prostration before the demands of the Tories.

BBC Reluctantly Admits Lying about Anti-War Protest

September 12, 2016

Mike also put up today a piece from EvolvePolitics, which reports that the BBC on its Feedback page on its website, has admitted misleading the public about the anti-war demonstration it claimed in December last year had been staged outside Labour MP Stella Creasy’s home. The protests were aimed against MPs supporting further airstrikes against Syria. The Beeb’s report claimed that the protesters were ‘far left’, and the demonstration was bullying and intimidatory. Neither of these details were true. The protest was a peaceful vigil. It was not held outside the Walthamstow MP’s home, but her constituency office at a time when no-one was there. The Beeb’s retraction of the distorted report states that it ultimately came from a single Facebook post, that was picked up by a number of other social media commenters and reputable news sources, including the Independent and the Guardian. A few days later, the Beeb issued a partial correction, which changed the location of the story, but still retained the falsehood about the mood of the protesters.

Mike states

So the BBC had decided to run with the inaccuracy because other “reputable” news outlets had done so – and even misled the shadow chancellor into believing the lie.

It had allowed listeners to go on believing the lie that the demonstration was violent and intimidating, even after broadcasting a correction that only revised the location of the event – and not the mood.

Most damning of all is the fact that the full correction appeared – on a little-visited feedback page – on July 8 this year, and has only just been picked up (by the EvolvePolitics site – I had no idea this BBC page even existed).

It seems clear the BBC is quite happy to mislead the public in order to help the Conservative Government. This is not the behaviour of a reputable news outlet.

My advice: Stick to social media sites like Vox Political. We may not always have the full facts but we don’t actively lie to you.

See: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/09/11/post-truth-bbc-quietly-admits-lying-about-anti-war-demonstration-over-syria/

Mike’s statement that the BBC is quite willing to mislead the public to support the Tory government should no longer be a surprise to anyone. A few years ago Mike’s blog, along with, I think, Johnny Void and the Angry Yorkshireman, reported that Scots academics at Glasgow and Edinburgh universities had found that there was a pronounced right-wing bias at the Beeb. They found that the Corporation was something like three times more likely to interview Conservative politicians and businessmen than Labour MPs and trade unionists. My feeling is that the Beeb sees itself as part of the establishment, and interprets its duty as the state broadcaster to produce programming, or at least news reporting, that broadly supports the status quo. Its managers and senior staff come from the same social class as those in industry and the civil service, and many of its journalists and programme makers are part of the same social circle as the Conservative leadership. At least they were during David Cameron’s tenure at No. 10 with the Chipping Norton set. I don’t believe things have changed since Theresa May took over.

I also found it interesting that the Beeb should partly try to excuse itself by stating that it came from other reputable news sources, explicitly naming the Independent and the Guardian. This looks like the Beeb is trying to head off any claims of Conservative bias by citing two supposedly liberal papers. Except when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn, they’re not. Both papers, like the rest of the press, are strongly biased against him. Moreover, there have been reviews of books in Lobster, which have shown that the so-called left-wing press in Britain actually isn’t terribly left-wing at all. In the 1990s, the Guardian regularly used to appear in Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column for the way it promoted various brutal dictatorships, from Nigeria to Indonesia, praising them as excellent places to do business while ignoring these nation’s appalling human rights records. Some of the articles written in praise of these countries were straightforward PR pieces written by companies specially set up to promote them abroad.

And the excuse that others were following the same line really doesn’t excuse the BBC. Newspapers and the news media are supposed to check their stories. There are even specialist media organisation in America which do so. The Beeb, as the state broadcaster, surely should have had the sense and the resources to check that story as well. But it didn’t. This shows that either the Beeb was simply being lazy, or that the repeated purges of its journalism and newsgathering staff in favour of cutting costs, and boosting the salaries and expanding the jobs available in senior management, has had a detrimental effect on the Corporation’s ability to provide reliable news. Which is exactly what Private Eye has been saying every time more redundancies have been announced at the Beeb of the people, who actually make programmes and produce the news.

The BBC isn’t the sole culprit in this regard. The newspapers have also been shedding large numbers of journalists in order to remain afloat, and give their senior executives, proprietors and shareholders the bloated salaries and dividends they’re accustomed to expect. And several times their journos have been similarly caught out using entirely spurious reports on Wikipedia, posted as pranks, as their sources. For example, when Ronnie Hazlehurst, the composer of a number of well-remembered signature tunes for the BBC, such as that for 80 comedy series To the Manor Born, passed away a few years ago, someone altered his Wikipedia page so that it read that he had composed one of the Spice Girls’ hits. He hadn’t, as presumably any one of the Girls’ fans could have told them. But that didn’t stop the journo, and others in the rest of the press, repeating the story. They were also caught out during the World Cup one year, when someone altered the entry for one of the football teams from the Greek islands. This claimed that its supporters had a special name for themselves, wore discarded shoes on their heads, and had a song about a potato. All rubbish, but the journos decided it had to be true, ’cause it was on Wikipedia. Now it seems that Facebook is being used in the same way for journalists too stressed or too lazy to check their facts.

Of course, the other possibility is that they didn’t bother checking the details, and dragged their heels about correcting the statement that the protesters were out to threaten and intimidate, because the Facebook story told them exactly what they wanted to hear. All the prejudice about peace protesters and ‘hard left’ trade unionists – like the miners at Orgreave colliery, presumably – being violent thugs came flooding back, just like they had from Fleet Street during the 1980s. One of the daftest stories to come out about the peace movement then was a report that the Greenham Common women had managed to knock ‘Tarzan’ Heseltine to the ground, when he visited the base. Heseltine’s a big fellow – 6’3″, and so not easy to deck. He did fall over, but even he admitted that it was an accident. I think he fell over a guy rope or something. But whatever was the cause, he wasn’t pushed, shoved, punched, knocked or anything else. But Fleet Street published the story, ’cause as radical protesters, clearly the Greenham women had to be pathologically violent. Even when they said they weren’t, and gave interviews saying that they didn’t want men at the camp because they were afraid that any men present would start a violent confrontation.

As for hiding the correction on an obscure webpage, this seems to be part of common journalistic practice. Whenever a newspaper or magazine is forced to make a correction, it’s always tucked away in an obscure corner of the publication. The Beeb in this instance is no different. But their does seem to be a change of policy involved. I recall several previous instances, where the regulatory authorities had ruled that one of the Beeb’s programmes had misled the public. The ruling was announced on television or the radio itself. I can remember hearing such rulings on the 7.15 pm slot, or thereabouts, just after The Archers on the radio. For television, they used to issue the notifications of such rulings on Sunday evening just after Points of View and before Songs of Praise. This is a time slot when there would be relatively few people watching, but it’s still not as obscure as a very obscure webpage. Perhaps this is the new way the Beeb hopes to bury the news when its caught bending the facts.