Monday, July 06, 2009

And This Passes for Balance on the BBC...

I didn't see Newsnight tonight for reasons I will come to in the next post, but if I had seen it I would have been spitting the same blood as Tim Montgomerie HERE. Which bright spark of a producer thought of having a Dragon's Den panel of four Labour sympathisers - with not a single LibDem or Tory in sight?

Lord Digby Jones (former Labour Minister)
Deborah Mattinson (Gordon Brown's pollster)
Matthew Taylor (Blair's Head of Policy)
Greg Dyke (former Labour donor)

This panel was put together to identify public spending cuts. I don't think even the stoutest defender of the BBC could mount a defence on this. How is this politically balanced? it's not just unbalanced, it's a downright insult. Perhaps the countless Newsnight staffers who read this blog would like to email me with an explanation. I'd love to hear it.


Anonymous said...

An explanation from the BBC? Please Iain, don't get above your station.

Anonymous said...

Its been run for several 'episodes' now.

Think This said...

Who ever thought the BBC was balanced? At least they aren't keeping up with the sham pretence of it now.

Eckersalld said...

From experience with some beeb types, I don't think they do it on purpose.

They just live in this rarified world, much like the Westminster one really, and can't seem to comprehend there are people who don't live in it.

They select people who they would like to see, on the basis they think the people watching will be people like them. It's a blinkered inbuilt bias, and one I think might get a very literal kicking when they set up shop in Salford.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Obvious really. Labour are struggling and need help from the broadcasting arm of the civil service.

Simon Mayo showed the same type of thing today on his 5Live show in a discussion about Bosnia.

Ben Brown: Some journalists thought that it was OK to take sides.
Mayo: There's nothing wrong with that, is there?
Ben Brown: Well, as an objective journalist for the BBC, I think there is.

Barkingside 21 said...

Now you know what its like to be "green".

Mark Thompson said...

I didn't watch it myself but to be fair, Greg Dyke is no fan of Labour any more. If anything from some of the things I have heard him say recently he seems far more aligned with the Lib Dems.

Still I agree there should be more balance on programmes like this.

Neil A said...

DC needs to sort out the Uber-Quango before he bothers with all the little ones. Public sector broadcasting should be financed piecemeal, with programmes commissioned at public expense from independent producers to air on commercial channels. Scrap the BBC, flog off its assets, sack all its staff.

And I say this as someone who actually thinks some BBC content (the website, Radio2, Radio4, bits of BBC2 and BBC3) are quite good. But I am sure that quality can be achieved without the massive edifice we have now.

The Grim Reaper said...

This is most likely more of a cock-up than a conspiracy. Chances are the Beeb's journalists were desperately calling everyone they knew earlier tonight trying to cobble together a panel and that these were the only ones that replied. Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

johnny hissie-fitte said...

I know. Sir Dogby Bigwad is such an obvious socialist, isn't he?

Martin said...

Sorry Iain but that was a balanced panel. 4 leftists is balance at the BBC. You have left wing leftists and right wing leftists.

Don't you ever watch Question Time? How often do they actually have more than one right wing person on?

The BBC also has SIR Alan Sugar (Liebour) and from what I see most of the Dragon's Den lot appear to be Liebour supporters as well.

Clearly you can't be in business on the BBC unless you have your nose up the backside of the Liebour Party.

Just remind the Tories to sort out the BBC once they get power.

1. Scrapping the TV tax for starters

2. A cleanout of leftists at the BBC.

3. The BBC should also be forced to balance interviews like Fox News does with TWO guests on at the same time, not two left wing guests either.

Rob said...

I've watched it. To be fair to Digby Jones, he out of all of them has been the one to talk common sense and show balance. The others can barely hide their bias. The IHT proposal last week was a big example of that.

Anonymous said...

Matthew Taylor is a Common Purpose apparatchik, as are most of editorial staff of the BBC.

Laurence Hodge said...

This feature has run at least three times now. Leaving aside any bias that may or may not exist either intentionally or otherwise, it is an example of the cheap populist guff that Newsnight does far too much of.

Those who would never dream of wasting time watching Dragon's Den are hardly going to welcome this "format" intruding into a news discussion programme and I can't be alone in reaching for the remote control before any hint of bias obtrudes.

It's a shame that Newsnight is now padded out with recorded material and that its live content is so curtailed and production quality so flimsy. At its very best now it appears to consist of an increasingly exasperated Jeremy Paxman and half a dozen interns.

Belinda BG said...

Re Martin's point on Question time. The previous time that QT was in Cambridge, my local MP David Howarth did not appear on the show. When I asked Mr Howarth why, he told me that QT had not asked him. This week he did not appear either. This is crazy because a) it would be cheaper, most MPs are already in their constituencies on Thurs eve, and b) many constituents want to see their MP not another drafted in. It is also rude because parliamentary manners should mean that others tell/ask the sitting MP if it is ok to do a public speech/broadcast in their constituency.

Anonymous said...


Can't get any sleep tonight, so am blogging instead .

If we want to talk about radical cuts ,why oh why don't conservatives show some real radicalism and privatise the bbc once it gets back to power and abolish the poll tax that passes for the license fee whilst we are at it ?

The last conservative government worth its salt did the same thing to all of the other state monopolies such as BP, BT, BG etc in the 80s. What is so special about the bbc ?

Labour talked about privatising the Royal Mail ,so why not add to this the beeb at the same time ?

This would be a vote winner for sure.....

Anonymous said...

Dragon's Den? What a sham. I say this as someone who actually works in the Venture Capital business. Every week we have a meeting to discuss the merits of investing in a number of companies who have come to us for capital.

We are well aware that the decisions we make will radically change the lives of those who present to us and that they are often putting their family's well-being on the line as well.

We do our job well and in an average year we create around 1,000 new jobs. We do not operate a 'game show'. Dragon's Den is an embarrasment and clearly shows that the BBC haven't a clue about venture capital - a very important step in the wealth creation process.

Lord Monkington-Smythe said...

Yes, the panel was unbalanced in party political terms, but they mostly agreed with each other. It all got rather distasteful when they all agreed to slash the pay of civil servants, not just the mandarins, but the lowly £23k per year variety (they specifically made this clear), and put them on a four day week because it made "political sense". This coming from four panelists who to a person have been sucking on the taxpayer tit for years.

The glee that they showed for this idea was especially reprehensible when you consider their own pay deals, especially that nauseating homunculus Greg Dyke. At last Digby Jones (when he isn't milking the public coffers 'working' as a minister) isn't ashamed to play the capitalist.

Lord Monkington-Smythe said...

To be fair, Debra Mattinison has probably been paid from Labour Party funds, so at least I will have the pleasure of knowing that my hard-earned cash hasn't wound up in her pocket..

James Graham (Quaequam Blog!) said...

Digby Jones is apolitical at best while Greg Dyke is (still I think) a declared Lib Dem supporter.

By contrast, the Tax Payer's Alliance were featured not once, not twice, but three seperate times on the same programme.

English First said...

The BBC is ridded with Common Purpose Graduates.

What do you expect?

One answer is to stop paying your TV License just like Noel Edmonds!

occasional ranter said...

Iain - calm down dear ! Distinguish intention from effect. The effect of this programme was to show that moderate figures previously sympathetic to Gordon are now serious about real and painful cuts in spending, and that Gordon is left behind in his own little world.

judith said...

I watched the brief section with Nick Bosanquet about cutting spending in the NHS, an area of particular interest.

That section was so obviously cut to make Bosanquet and his argument look pathetic that it was laughable.

Trouble is, viewers will continue to believe that it is impossible to cut spending in the NHS without harming frontline services.

DominicJ said...

"1. Scrapping the TV tax for starters
2. A cleanout of leftists at the BBC.
3. The BBC should also be forced to balance interviews like Fox News does with TWO guests on at the same time, not two left wing guests either."

Point 1 is fine, points two and three are irrelevent.
If a privately funded BBC wants to be ran by a lefty cabal, fine, nowt to do with me.
Point three is horrific.
Firstly, it implies their are only two view points on anything, which is wrong.
Secondly, it enforces the idea that things should be "balanced", and a Quango esque body should say what is and what is not balanced.

If the Privately funded BBC wants to have a balanced debate between Chavez, Golloway and Livingstone, thats their deal not mine, I wont fund it or watch it.

Must be 690 days since I stopped paying the TV tax.

Tim Read said...

Iain, The same thought occurred to me when they trailed this last month. (And I emailed you, and Tim, about it then ).

Here is the reply I received from BBC Complaints:

Dear Dr Read

Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'Newsnight' on 4 June.

I note that you had concerns over the political affiliations of the members of the 'Newsnight politics pen' featured on this programme, as you felt the panel was biased toward left-wing views.

In dealing with any controversial matter the BBC is required to give a fair and balanced report. However, balance can't simply be judged on the basis of the time allocated to the representatives of either side of an argument, or the political leanings of guests on an individual broadcast.

Account also needs to be taken of the way subjects are covered over a period of time across our range of programmes and services. Senior editorial staff, the Executive Committee, and the BBC Trust also keep a close watch on programmes to ensure that standards of impartiality are maintained.

Nevertheless, I would like to assure you that we've registered your comments on our audience log. This is the internal report of audience feedback we compile daily for the programme makers and senior management within the BBC. The audience logs are important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content and ensure that your points, and all other comments we receive, are circulated and considered across the BBC.

Thanks again for contacting us.


Stuart Webb
BBC Complaints

-----Original Message-----

(( My origianl comlaint below ))

All of the judges on Newsnight politics pen are left-wing people or people
with close links to the left-wing government.

This is a clear breach of the BBC's requirement for political impartiality.
It is also an attempt to steer the key issue for the next general election
from a specific political biased view point.

Greg Dyke - well known for support and donations in the past to Labour.

Lord Digby Jones - former member of Gordon Brown's government.

Deborah Mattinson - known as Gordon Brown's favourite pollster and has worked for the Labour party.

Matthew Taylor - well known left-wing personality.

This is indefensible, but go on have a try ...

Matthew said...

1. Greg Dyke left the Labour Party long ago and is now heading a review of the creative industries for the Tories.

2. Digby Jones never joined the Labour Party and sits in the House of Lords as a cross-bencher.

Unsworth said...

"countless Newsnight staffers"

You bet - in every sense.

And what about Glastonbury?

Still, not long now.

Dr Feelgood said...

To be charitable to the BBC, I expect this panel choice was not done deliberately to create a left-wing panel, but occurred entirely naturally as a result of the institutional Labour-mindedness of the organization.

I expect whoever put the panel together felt wholeheartedly that a balance had been achieved with the people selected; e.g. a capitalist (Jones), a Blairite (Taylor), a Brownite (Mattinson) and someone who had 'rebelled' against the Party (Dyke).

Many former colleagues of mine who work in the London media are so left-oriented that other world views and opinions simply do not compute. For them, Conservatism is some kind of right-wing fringe ideology akin to UKIP or the other lot. I believe this lack of pluralism is dangerous for democracy.

This attitude is so embedded in the BBC that I can't see how it can be reformed. For a start BBC news needs to be stripped out of the reset of the organisation and politically purged.

Simon The Bluesman said...

Iain, I recommend you visit - this site is dedicated to, in the opinion of its authors, biased BBC reporting – the majority of their posts are accurate and informative. Regarding last week's Question Time programme - it was nothing more than a party election broadcast on behalf of the Labour Party with Harriet Harman giving the party line.

Unsworth said...

@Lord Monkington-Smythe

" Debra Mattinison has probably been paid from Labour Party funds"

Not on the basis of previous 'arrangements'.... Take a look at her company's 'research' funding.

Salmondnet said...

I made a formal complaint to the BBC in June and got the same reply as Tim Read (with a different signature). I have amplified my complaint and await a further response.

The point is not just that these are all people who have, at one time or another, taken the New Labour shilling, it is that none of them has any track record of being in favour of a smaller state. That includes Digby Jones, even though he has been somewhat more realistic about the need for the rest of us to earn money before the state can spend it. A balanced panel would have at least one person who thinks lower public expenditure is a good thing of itself.

The panel was billed as running up to the time of the next election and clearly, therefore, may be expected to have an electoral influence. It can not be balanced by one-off items.

WV: hotoryne (no really).

Anonymous said...

They ought to be ashamed of themselves for defending quangos.

David said...

It really is the last harrah before the circus leaves town isn't it? 400+ jollies to Glastonbury, Nick Robinson (nothing needs to be added) and massive topping up of pensions for the top brass. I used to be a supporter of the BBC but it has lost all credibility and entitlement to a universal licence fee. It really needs privatised.

Dave B said...

I shall watch this later. Its all part of the BBC dumbing down. Javis Cocker on Question Time!According to Today's Times during the warm up he spent the time chewing gum (probably his most intelligent contribution). Newsnight has been running this "Environmental" man jolie in the States. Kirsty Walk did an item on Scottishness/Brutishness which involved about 90 seconds of interviews filmed at Wimbledon on Friday afternoon. Does anyone believe this is serious journalism?

Chris Paul said...

Digby Jones isn't Labour Iain. Even our biggest tent wouldn't find room for that bell end. He refused the whip and is essentially a Tory with a self-aggrandisement seeking missile that led him to accept a (non party political) government role.

Greg Dyke is a floater. A "projectile" at best. Did he not get offered a Tory gig somewhere or other? And certainly Libdemology lurks.

Mattinson and Taylor are clearly identified strongly with Labour. Though again they are pragmatic thinkers and not party liners.

The panel could be considered 50:50 to all intents and purposes. But the asertion that it is 100:0 is just arrant nonsense.

If you actually watch the panel operate then you'll find that the rosettes you impose are not particularly or at all evident.

Ideas put to them are assessed on their merits. And what the process shows I think is that these supposedly "lefty" interests are no such thing.

Quite free thinking and nuanced decisions and explanations.

Unknown said...

@ Tim read,

I received exactly the same reply when I complained. Didn't expect much to change and it looks like it hasn't...

Chris Paul said...

Belinda BG ... isn't it a QT protocol that the local MP for the studio doesn't usually appear? Whoever they are? And that nonentity back benchers are lowly opposition mimicsters are way down the pecking list?

Roger said...

I agree with Martin that the panel would be seen as balanced by the BBC who regard any right wing views as extreme.

However, the main point is that all these folk are statists and quangocrats who instinctively warm to spending other peoples money. The only question is how much and on whom.

To achieve real balance needs an avid cutter of the John Redwood kind, but that would just be portrayed as Tory heartlessness. So it's probably best to leave them to their half hearted attempts to solve an appalling situation and let the electorate have their say next June.

niconoclast said...

The Tories had 20 years to settle the BBC's hash through privatisation but they didn't as they appear to have some weird masochistic attatchment to it.

Belinda BG said...

Chris Paul: Aah that makes sense, I didn't know it was QT protocol. Although David Howarth is no backbench nonentity, he is Lib Dem Shadow Solicitor General and has been the most effective opposition to gov. on policing of demonstrations, civil liberties, and ID cards to name a few.

Chris said...

what about the lickspittle Marr on Sunday, it was nothing less than aparty political broadcast on behalf of new labour.

Disco Biscuit said...

I've been shouting at the telly about this for ages... it's never given me a proper response.

Gerry57 said...

Anti-Toryism and anti-Israel is institutionalized at the BBC. Look how many of them have partners connected to Labour or end up on AL Jazeera News.

Salmondnet said...

Can I urge those of you who agree that this is a grossly unbalanced panel to tell the BBC. Don't be discouraged by the BBC stock answer (which has been sent to at least three commentators on this Blog). Persist. If they get enough complaints they will, at the very least, have to set out a proper public defence of their position.

Osama the Nazarene said...

Privatise the BBC, hmm? If it could be achieved without introducing adverts then maybe. I very rarely watch the commercial channels and if it is an item of drama we record it and then skip through the adverts, but its a chore. A BBC with adverts would be truly awful and so would have to stick to Radio until this cancer was introduced there too.

On the other hand I have moved to watching the news on ITV fed up with the BBC bias. Somehow ads can be tolerated during the news.

Anonymous said...

The government is only attached to the BBC and backs down on things like the licensce fee because it is full of left wing liberals who form part of its core elite support.

By contrast ,Labour is fully supportive of policies such as the destruction of the rural post offices as the perception is that the country side is full of fox hunting tory toffs who as they don't belong to any minorities are 'fair game' to be attached and not pandered to.

Umbongo said...

Odd isn't it that there's never a "balanced" panel on Newsnight comprising, say, a representative from the Taxpayers' Alliance, one of Cameron's researchers, an ex-member of a Conservative government plus an ex-member of the Conservative Party (who resigned his membership as a condition of being made head of the BBC). The unconvincing line adhered to by the BBC and its apologists on this thread is that the unfailing partiality of the BBC is due to "shortage of time" to get a suitably balanced panel arranged or that over time and the various BBC outlets "impartiality" is evident or that the panel must be balanced because 20 years ago one of the panel made a disparaging remark about Aneurin Bevan.

On the contrary, the BBC is irredeemably biased and from its main outlets flows a stream of blatant propaganda on matters such as immigration, climate change, public spending, defence, the EU, bank regulation and so on. The BBC is even grooming its own candidate for the next London mayoralty elections by giving Ken Livingstone (for it is he!) endless exposure on any number of issues where he is encouraged to give (unchallenged) his tediously predictable opinions. Oh and don't start me on Marcus Brigstocke, Jeremy Hardy, Mark Steele . . . . . .

Anonymous said...

Were these has-beens paid and who booked them?

neil craig said...

The prime bias of the BBC, as part of the Civil Service, is to support ever bigger government. As such, cutting quangos is an even bigger red rag to the BBC than most Conservative policies.

The BBC is, after all, a quango.

Anonymous said...

Today Iain Dale writes about pro-Labour bias at the BBC. Presumably tomorrow he'll be commenting on the location of ursine defecation or on the Pope's religious proclivities (spoiler: I've heard he's Catholic).

Anonymous said...

Philip hammond for the torys on the panel would be a good choice...not.Made to look a fool today on the daily politics.Another policy up in smoke.

Thomas Rossetti said...

As an Englishman who lives in the United States, I find it increasingly strange that you're all willing to pay a tax on television. Why aren't people protesting in the streets about this?

happiness said...

Tim Read you're in big trouble now! Everytime I make a complaint to the BBC they send back an email that says it may not be disemminated, copied or reproduced in any way. Having received the same kind of brush-off you have received I have made another complaint about the handling of my previous complaint. I'm sure this gives some poor slacker something to do amidst a day of tea and coffee making.

David from Ealing said...

The BBC website also had a story about the Norwich North by-election with a link to the Labour Party website, but not to other parties. I contacted them and they admitted that this was not acceptable and removed the link to Labour.

ascorbic said...

There's a reply. Seems fair enough to me, though he does manage to misspell the name of his programme twice, including in the title.