Saturday, 23 January 2016

BBC - The EU Pact

"One by one, the citizens of the UK, switched on their radios and launched their browsers, keen on hearing impartial news of the EU referendum from which to form their opinions. The mouth of the state was only too happy to oblige when it meant leading them carefully down the well trodden paths of 'fear, uncertainty and doubt'. Yet the mouth remained firmly muted when it came to hope.

Does having the megaphone give you the right to dictate the truth?


The BBC has a duty to remain impartial. It's a tired old mantra now, hearing these words broadcast repeatedly to re-enforce a particular pubic perception. But just saying something doesn't make it so - no matter how hard you assert it. In fact, that's what makes truth such a gem because in order to obtain it, it takes more than just a flap of the jaw. You have to delve in to the depths, tunnelling beyond the layers of contrary assertion. There, embedded in the rock face, glistening in the dancing flame of the Davy lamp is the immutable truth just waiting to be shown off for all its worth.

Much as the BBC try to present factual gems, they only seem capable of delivering fools gold, palming it off as high quality, covet worthy material. Take it to an industry expert jeweller and you'll find that you've been ripped off. What's worse, when this fools gold is weighed up on the scales, it tips the balance of impartiality.

We all know what impartiality means - 'not supporting one person or group more than another' and it's synonymous with being unbiased and delivering neutrality on the matter in question. Yet more and more frequently I come across scathing commentary generally announcing that the BBC is anything but impartial; whether it's from the voices of disaffected Corbynites who feel that the organisation seeks to undermine their chosen leader in preference for one of a Blairite disposition, or the Brexiteers who experience the drip drip of 'Stronger In' flavoured FUD on an almost continual basis.

For illustration, here are just a couple of comments from my local rag, responding to a Brexit article:

"BBC seems to be, literally, a fully paid up member , receiving funds from EU - oh sorry, those from our taxes allocated to EU via our contribution."


"BBC are joined at the hip to HSBC and the IMF what is good for one is good for the other. HSBC is heavily involved with the IN campaign, but the number of execs moving from BBC to HSBC and vice-versa should be an indicator of the political motives behind both companies."

Alluding to the Rona Fairhead issue in the latter comment, I suspect.

Commentary like this is becoming commonplace now. Whether this general discontent has penetrated their media world bubble is anyone's guess. Before I delve in to the EU referendum element that concerns me so much, a note on the Corbyn angle. I'm not a Corbynite and I'm never likely to subscribe to his world view so have little self interest in the matter - but I do recognise an air of schadenfreude in the BBC's reporting around the Labour leadership issue. I suspect that particular odour will disperse once a more Mandelson friendly face is at the helm.

On the referendum

Of course, the EU referendum is a much more sensitive matter for me. In spite of Dave calling it 'my referendum', it's everybody's referendum in which all who turn up have an equal say. Each and every one of us must weigh up the facts of this most complicated matter, understand the risks and then make a choice. The undecideds will play a huge part in the outcome as well, frequently making up circa 20% of the potential vote, and it's already clear that the Remain camp are playing on fear, uncertainty and doubt in order to suppress that segment and cow them in to voting for the status quo (which we already know the Remain team are not actually capable of delivering).

Leave and Remain campaigners will naturally form an opinion and then work to demonstrate their point of view using whatever facts they've managed to mine from the depths. Yet the undecideds will likely look at the feed streaming in front of their eyes and ears, provided by the likes of the 'impartial BBC'.

And this is why it's so important that the organisation properly honours its commitment to impartiality rather than just paying lip service to the notion - yet steamrollering on without correction.

So why are the BBC on my radar again? Well, I bit my lip a few weeks back when they presented a program on Radio 4 called "How to make a Brexit". In the program, Carolyn Quinn journeys to Greenland, which is an inspired choice as the country has never been a member of the EU, leaving the EC back in 1985. Apparently though, this small nation, which has a population 1/10th the size of Bradford, provides enough high quality parallels for us to explore the potential impact of Brexit.

If the matter wasn't so serious, it would have been laughable and certainly provided more belly aching chuckles than the puerile drivel that pours out of Radio 4 at 6:30pm weekdays. The general tone was negative and the program meandered around, poking at the complexities of Brexit in a rather half cocked and doubt laden manner.

Although I complained to the BBC about it, I felt that had already given them sufficient public thrashing in this article:

.. so I held back from blogging my own thoughts.

On Norway

Yet the BBC wasn't done with downplaying our exit options. Readers will know of my love for the Market Solution approach (temporary EEA/EFTA - with continued transitioning and evolution) and in what can only be described as a well timed documentary report, coincidentally aligned with a whole raft of other similar messaging from Remainers, BBC's Jonty Bloom steps in with his own sage words of peril, featured in the Radio 4 program "Norway's European Vision".

The radio show was preceded by this sweeper on the Beeb web site:

The collective works combine to present a miserable picture of a country whose industry is sagging under the uncontrollable weight of EU rules and regulations that, as EEA/EFTA members, they are unable to shape and helplessly subject to. Alarm bells should be ringing by now as the falsehood of 'EFTA victim status' has been a key attack vector repeatedly used by all on the side of Remain.

Let's get some real context here. A significant number of people in the UK are fighting to present a positive vision of life beyond the EU and EEA/EFTA could play a pivotal role in leading us out. It's a major front in the battle between the two sides because the visionary prize is so great that it could swing undecideds one way or another. With artillery shattering the ground either side, and red hot rounds slicing the air between the opposing fronts, you would have expected impartial journalists to take due care. Yet, on this most sensitive of subjects, this has failed to happen by wide margin.

Without undertaking my own autopsy, I'd direct to you this blog by Tony E where he thoroughly debunks the alarmist scaremongering vision that the program creators projected:

The Truth, The BBC and the EEA

Without fail, also takes the program and the BBC to task about their failings:

EU Referendum: BBC – the enemy without

I'm not ashamed to say that both clarify the situation better than I ever could.

If the program makers ever intended the report to demonstrate impartiality, they failed spectacularly. Why? Because the topical nature of their examination never broke through the skin of the subject, allowing them to present a doom laden scenario which, if accepted at face value, would be enough to put off the undecideds from accepting EFTA/EEA as a viable route for Brexit. And they must have known that.

Whatever mechanisms they have in play to control quality and fairness were either absent, bypassed or just not considered applicable in this event.

Understanding that the BBC actively sees its role in an educational capacity over this matter (see their 'The UK's EU Referendum - Everything you need to know' as an example), we can see how they've already positioned themselves as a trusted guide to the voter. So it is incumbent on them to uphold fair, balanced, well reasoned, rounded positioning of the facts.

What they should not be doing under any circumstances is peddling poorly researched material and presenting it as some word on the street style 'reality check' when the truth of their assertions is so easily undermined by people who actually care about the subject matter.

Just as bad as the lack of investigation is the complete void of any counter-narrative. So acute was the angle that it would be easy for anyone to suggest that the BBC were deliberately trying to frame the debate and scare people away from that route. With each scenario explored, a pessimistic angle had to be found in an attempt to shatter the illusion that there was any happy outcome.

But let's face it, the moment we were told a report on Norway was in the pipeline, it was blindingly obvious what the tone would be. So predictable have the BBC become in their messaging over the referendum that bias is a foregone conclusion. The tragedy is that they'll never correct it hence many thousands will never get to hear counter argument.


The BBC (who have received handsome volumes of money from the EU) cannot directly campaign for Remain, but, as points out, they can support it by omission. Omission of facts and omission of events.

Facts? As per the predictably downbeat Norway article, the lack of counter narrative left a factual void that was left to the blogosphere to fill.

Events? Not completely ignored because that would lay them open for easy criticism, but low impact coverage that gets brief visibility before being tucked away in the margins. Fact or just bitter imagination? Well let's take today's Grassroots Out launch event in Kettering.

Grassroots Out

For the Leave campaign, this is a big event and the surprise speaker was former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox.

A politician .. MSM love the idea of politician in a Punch and Judy show

Although I have a dislike of the political class and sincerely want this to be a people Vs establishment campaign, considering his CV and previous roles, some elements of his speech acted as a powerful rebuttal to the spurious claims made by the Remain campaign and even the Prime Minister. To quote a few lines:

"Look what's happening with the European Border Force at the current time, under the Commission, deployed by the Commission, even against the wishes of sovereign governments. What more proof do you need about the direction of travel that they intend to take?"

"Let me tell you as a Doctor, ever closer union is in their DNA, and there is nothing they can do to change it."

"The very best the PM can get from his EU renegotiation is better membership of the wrong club"

On project fear ...

"The first thing they [Remain] say is our security would be at risk if we left the European Union. Let me tell you as a former defence secretary our security does not lie in the European Union, the cornerstone of our security is Nato ... It is NATO which has kept the peace in Europe since World War 2"

These are strong words considering that Cameron has repeatedly suggested that being members of the EU is a matter of safety and security.

"I didn't give up my job as a family doctor, to go to Westminster, to see it play second fiddle to Brussels and the European Court. When I gave up my medical career, I didn't expect to see a British Prime minister have to take the political begging bowl round the capitals of Europe just to change our own benefit laws in our own country."

Pretty damning criticism by the former defence secretary of the EU, the Remain campaign and the Prime Minister himself, mocking Cameron for his pitiful charade.

So what coverage do we get from the BBC News web site? Well here's the front page:

Spot the article - hint, don't spend too much time looking

As BBC News is funded by the UK tax payer, I fully expect it to prioritise news accordingly, yet we have a story about the snow in the US, a report about criticism of Google taxation and an article about a reusable space rocket taking up the top three slots. The battle for sovereignty - of nation vs supra-national entity - the matter of the fabric of our very own nation .. missing entirely.

Yet perhaps it features as a headline on the politics section?

Like a B movie at an old three screen cinema, it never made it to the main screen

And there it is, tucked in behind the Google Tax article and another on the Labour leader's visit to Calais. When read, the report briefly skips through Fox's contribution to the event when in political reality, such a stinging criticism of the PM from a big beast of the same party would usually have made ringing headline news.

Ahhh .. but they have their very own dedicated referendum section. So perhaps it's headline news there?

Apparently GO launch is not referendum material

So I think it's safe to say, the BBC have done whatever they can to limit coverage for the Leave campaign in this instance. Bias by omission, pure and simple. Other than the initial interview on Radio 4, Michael Caine's stinging criticism of the 'faceless bureaucrats' in the EU also got short shrift from the BBC web site.  The opinions of a significant number of the population are not being represented here, yet they're more than happy to take the license fee.

Ponder for a moment, why would the BBC act like this and expect to get away with it? What are their motivations?

ITV, Sky can choose to ignore these stories without major criticism because they do not extract a license fee from TV users. We can exercise people power with these people and starve them of money - because that's how a consumer society works. Yet the BBC can ride these waves on a raft of free money, sticking two fingers up as they bob up and down.

The EU Pact

In these times, where the BBC is becoming painfully aware that it's an anachronism, every charter renewal must feel like an exercise in running the gauntlet. What obsequious pact could this organisation make with the government (facing the most critical test of its metal in the last 40 years) in order to ensure favourable continuation of the charter after 2016?

Is this what's happening? Is some deal going on? I have no direct evidence to suggest it is. Only conjecture, suspicion and a dearth of trust for both establishment institutions, each existing on a sense of entitlement that they take for granted.

Okay BBC. Here's some news for you:

"In the corner of the living room, the mouth of the state crackled through the TV speaker, uttering an endless sea of opinion shaping certitudes at the adults. They sat hypnotised and in awe, absorbing the very latest of what to think and how to act - it was all they had ever known. Every day they learned a little more from the mouth; understanding who was good and who was bad - and of what it meant to be a compliant and acceptable citizen.

Yet, playing in another room, beyond the captive range of the mesmeric authoritarian narrative were two children. Unlike their parents who grew up knowing only three TV channels, the kids had the whole internet at their fingertips. And thankfully for them, the mouth of the state was just one small voice in a sea of millions. The kids would enjoy the freedom of thought that their parents never knew."

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