BBC BLOGS - The Editors
« Previous | Main | Next »

Not taking sides

Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks | 10:05 UK time, Monday, 5 February 2007

The Sun recently criticised BBC News for its reporting of the first day of the recent arrests in Birmingham under the terrorism legislation. The Sun editorial asked whose side the BBC was on because a BBC correspondent explained that the arrests had been intelligence-led and that intelligence can sometimes be wrong. This simple statement of fact (remember the Forest Gate raids) prompted the Sun's broadside.

It is worth making it clear that the BBC does not see it as its job to be on anyone's "side". Our job is to do the best we can to be on the side of truth. Our viewers have a range of views about the recent arrests - some seeing them as clear evidence of support for terror within British society, others are strongly sceptical about the police action.

Newspapers can afford to be highly partisan. Taking sides is second nature to them. That's not the BBC's job.

Comments

Well, there is a view that the Beeb is a publicly funded organisation and should represent the interests of the, um, television-owning community, which for most people is equivalent to the nation.

Terrorism is, according to this view, aimed at the destruction of the society of which the BBC is a part, and the BBC should therefore be on the side of that society against the terrorists.

Personally, I disagree strongly with this view, and hope it never takes root in the BBC, but to refute it (in the proper sense of the word 'refute', meaning to demonstrate by argument that it is wrong) takes more than a blog comment or even post. There's no doubt it's fairly commonly held.

  • 2.
  • At 10:47 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • JG wrote:

But the BBC takes sides all the time. Mr Paxman has already said the BBC has given up all pretence of impartiality in relation to climate change, and their are many more examples of the BBC group-think leading to sides being taken. If fact, I want the BBC to take sides, when one side comprises of our police and security services and the other of terrorists trying to kill innocent people.

A quick look at the BBCs front pages today sees the BBC taking sides again. I count three stories stressing how bad it would be to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. Now this would not be a problem if there were stories from people who hold to opposite view, but, surprise surprise, there are none.

  • 3.
  • At 11:30 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

BBC is one of the most biased news organizations in the English speaking world. Its very manner of reporting insures that it has a point of view which is deliberately expressed as it reports the news.

Every perpetrator of every crime anywhere will ALWAYS complain of police bias, even police brutality and in situations like this, those who are politically sympathetic to them will agree. That is not news unless there is some specific fact BBC can point to which gives those accusations unusualy high credence.

BBC doesn't have a few bad apples, the entire barrel is rotten to the core. Hutton reports won't change much. Nothing less than a thorough investigation by Parliament followed by a top to bottom house cleaning can hope to restore BBC to being worthy of its former reputation.

Worst of all, it's not just that BBC is anti Israeli and anti American but far worse is that it is anti Britain as well.

  • 4.
  • At 11:39 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Simon Ward wrote:

"It is worth making it clear that the BBC does not see it as its job to be on anyone's "side". Our job is to do the best we can to be on the side of truth."

Firstly, this statement is false. 30 minutes looking through the archives at Biased-BBC will reveal countless examples of anti-american and anti-israeli sentiments.

Secondly, there is a difference between impartial and objective. Not labelling those who behead other humans and hang 14 year old girls isn't a highbrow intellectual acheivement. Its a failure to recognise the truth. A failure to recognise evil. I don't pay the BBC to tell me the justifications of those who want to wipe me off the map.

  • 5.
  • At 11:45 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

Peter, are you just trying to wind people up with your self satisfied bloggage?

You are quite right that it is not your job to take sides but you still do your best to defend the multicultural mess BBC attitudes helped create.

I noticed a lot of muslims being interveiwed about their reaction to the Birmingham raids but no other members of the public were asked to voice their opinion. How is that balanced?

Do you honestly believe that BBC attitudes are in tune with the rest of society? Or are we just stupid, wrong and in need of your enlightened leadership?

  • 6.
  • At 11:49 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Ragnar wrote:

"It is worth making it clear that the BBC does not see it as its job to be on anyone's "side". Our job is to do the best we can to be on the side of truth."

Lets put that to the test shall we?

When various countries were allowed to vote for, or against, the E.U constitution, the BBC covered the results in this way;

In France and Holland 4>5% majoritys for the "No" vote were hailed as "Massive Victorys", and "overwhelming vote against the E.U".

I wrote on another web site at the time, "I bet if it had gone the other way it would be a different story, no talk of great victory etc".

So three weeks or so later,
Switzerland has a vote as whether to accept some E.U regulations as "being nice nieghbours". They voted "Yes" .....by 4% majority.

LO AND BLOODY BEHOLD what did the BBC say? "The vote was only won by the slimmest of majoritys", "could hardly be called a win", should go for a re vote due to the extreemly small majority".

No OF COURSE "It is worth making it clear that the BBC does not see it as its job to be on anyone's "side"."

WE all believe you...honest.

  • 7.
  • At 11:50 AM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Peter wrote:


If only it was true that the BBC does not take sides, I would argue the exact opposite, from the reporting I have heard it is clear that the BBC is a mouthpiece for Labour and any minority group with a grudge.

I find it a bit rich that the BBC says it is impartial when it never queries anything the Guardian says but gets ever so upset when a centre-right newspaper takes issue with it.

The BBC is not known as a home for right wing views, but is known as the citadel for left-leaning views, if the BBC wants me and many, many other people to start believing its reports, well to my mind it should start with getting rid of it's Islington clique and start representing the rest of the country.

Britain is not and never will be a Socialist state, the views spouted by the BBC editorial staff are a throwback to the 60's, the people who now seem to write for the Guardian etc are no doubt the same people who felt that Communisim was the answer, and still seem to be in denial about how wickid Communisim was/is.

Now they (so called liberals) no longer have Communism to support they seem to have got into bed with extremists and find it perfectly acceptable to do so, well I think that the worm has turned and people are now saying this is unacceptable, so BBC get used to having your policies questioned and stop getting so upset.

  • 8.
  • At 12:48 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Donald wrote:

JG

You are missing the point. Nobody has been charged or convicted of anything in relation to the Birmingham arrests.

If you want to turn it into sides, there are the police and security services on one side and a group of people who are currently presume innocent on the other. If you want to bypass trials and all that pesky proving someones guilt I suggest you move to a less democratic country.

  • 9.
  • At 12:58 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • David wrote:

"Newspapers can afford to be highly partisan. Taking sides is second nature to them. That's not the BBC's job."

So superior. So sanctimonious.

At least tabliod newspapers are honest. Papers like the Sun, the Mirror and the Mail all report news from a particular veiwpoint. They are all very open about this. Only the BBC pretends they are absolutely impartial.

If you don't like any newspaper you have the option of not buying it. We all have to dig deep to subsidise the leftist fantasyland you live in.

BBC your halo has slipped.

  • 10.
  • At 01:03 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

"I count three stories stressing how bad it would be to attack Iran's nuclear facilities."

Well, no, there's one story, that happens to be linked from three different bits of the page (nothing unusual about that). And of course, it's not the BBC telling us that attacking Iran would be bad - it's the BBC reporting that "a coalition of charities, faith groups and unions" has issued that warning. When an equally influential group argues in favour of attacking Iran, I would expect to see the BBC report that as well.

I could equally well argue that the BBC is run by warmongering right-wingers because there's a story on the front page with the headline "US urged to accelerate Iraq plan". If you go looking for bias - in any direction - you can always find evidence for it.

Impartiality does not mean giving every view an equal say- it means taking an objective view based on evidence.

"I want the BBC to take sides, when one side comprises of our police and security services and the other of terrorists trying to kill innocent people"

Except so far they're potentially innocent suspects accused of terrorism. Big difference.

  • 12.
  • At 01:15 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Chris Wiles wrote:

What does the BBC mean, they don't take sides? The BBC was the only news broadcaster that didn't mention the Blair Governments" "Deleted Email" scandal, when it broke, I wonder why that is? Concern as to receiving funding?
This seems to have been the case on many other situations or events of this Blairite government over the last few years.

  • 13.
  • At 01:23 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

It seems that "the truth" of often confused by the BBC with its self imposed need for "balance", regardless of how ridiculous the other side's argument is. Spending 4 minutes interviewing a suicide bomber's family out of a five minute news article is one such example of the need for balance overtaking the need for the facts and the truth.

  • 14.
  • At 02:19 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Is BBC anti British? Unquestionably. By casting unfounded doubt on the competence and motives of the British intelligence service, it works to reduce confidence in the British government's efforts to protect its people. Intelligence is NOT an exact science. It is NOT guaranteed to find out everything important about an enemy, his motivations, his capabilities, his actions. All it can do is gather the best evidence it can get and take an educated guess. Often that guess will be wrong. Intelligence agencies have learned the hard way that it is better to err on the side of overestimating the threat and preparing to deal with it even if it doesn't materialize than to underestimate it and ignore it as unimportant. That's what happened when it missed the massive secret military buildup of Nazi Germany just prior to World War II. Suddenly Britain was forced to confront a vast military machine it couldn't possibly hope to match and had it not been for outside assistance from the United States, it would have lost its freedom. IF...it turns out that the threats from Iraq were grossly overestimated, and that hasn't been proven yet by a long shot yet, it is far better to have invaded and created the internal chaos as it exists today than to have underestimated the threat had it been real and waited to find out the truth after a city in America or Britain had actually been attacked with a WMD. It is far better to take suspects into custody BEFORE they can act and find out that the plot was bogus than to wait for an attack to actually occur because there wasn't dead certainty of every last detail. BBC works in the service of those who would destroy Britain by ridiculing the best efforts of the government to discover and thwart threats BEFORE they can materialize and be carried out as actions. The potential consequences of failure in the modern era could make the 7-7 bombings look like a minor event and threatens the very foundation of our civilization. What would BBC tell its audience then...if either of them are still around.

  • 15.
  • At 02:21 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • David wrote:

Note that the Sun referred to the term "often wrong". This has been toned down even here, were Peter says "sometimes wrong". Big difference.

  • 16.
  • At 02:39 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Jack Kalpakian wrote:

The BBC takes sides all the time, here are some atrocious examples:

- It is consistently against Russia and Russian perspectives. Your coverage of the Khadarkovsky leaves one with the impression that he is one of the blessed and that Putin is a thief.

- It is consistently hostile to Armenian people, even using quotation marks with the word genocide, while a statement like "what Armenians claim was a genocide" would do to indicate dispute.

- It consistently advocates normalization of relations with the illegal "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus." This is not an unbiased position.

All told, the BBC continues to play the great game, this time as a media game, using the lives and interests of Eastern Europeans to appease its friends in the Middle East and the FCO.

In the BBC's world, the murder of Hrant Dink, the massacre at Beslan, the ethnic cleansing of Northern Cyprus and the Krajina, and the looting of Russia's natural resources have to be understood, while the Russian human rights violations in Chechnya, Greek intransigance, and hardline Armenian perspectives have to be condemnded.

So, do not claim objectivity, you sorely lack it. At least Fox is a known commodity.

  • 17.
  • At 02:40 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Karl Bernhardt wrote:

Of course, on one level the BBC was just making a statement of fact. However, consider the Discourse difference between the following two statements of fact: "the arrests were intelligence-led" and "the arrests were intelligence-led, but intelligence can be wrong".

Which statement is impartial and unbiased? Indeed, is either statement unbiased? Is it significant that the correspondent decided to qualify his statement?

Peter Horrocks is being disingenuous at best when he says the BBC isn't in the business of taking sides. Quite obviously (as a result of his final paragraph) he sees the BBC in opposition to newspapers - is this not taking sides?

  • 18.
  • At 02:44 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Steven Martin wrote:


It is worth making it clear that the BBC does not see it as its job to be on anyone's "side".

If that is the case, why has the BBC engaged in so much scaremongering over Chavez? You keep having headlines like "Chavez Gets Sweeping News Powers" and publish the opinions of the US but not those of other countries. The BBC failed to point out that three other Venezuelan Presidents had similar powers and one of them was a strong US ally. Also, the US view is not universal. In fact it has one of the most extreme views of Chavez in the world. It's like writing an article on the performance of the current Israeli government, but only asking Hamas for their opinion. I wonder, if Russia took a dislike to the president of a particular country, would the BBC keep writing articles about that president and then only asking the opinion of Russia?

I am also highly suspicious of the "Have Your Say" article on Chavez. Both myself and a number of friends made posts about the BBC's important omissions but they were not published. Yesterday I made a post to the new Iran topic pointing out that both the CIA and IAEA have found no evidence of a weapons program and yet again, my post has not been published. How long are the BBC going to go on pretending that posts are not being selected via the moderators personal preference? None of the posts I have mentioned violated your "House Rules" in any way. I and hundreds of others are becoming very tired with the BBCs censorship on "Have Your Say".

  • 19.
  • At 02:49 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Chad H wrote:

Hey JG, can you name one newsworthy name explicitly advocating war with Iran?

If the BBC wrote stories about people who didnt exist, well, that would be worse, wouldnt it?

  • 20.
  • At 02:51 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

Well said Peter.

The Sun is an infantile rag designed primarily to appeal to people who don't do detail, who prefer to approach issues by feeling rather than thinking.

You're way above pandering to their simplistic "who's side are you on" type arguments. It's Year 7 thinking for adults.

The fact that red-tops like this are so popular (and their middle England curtain-twitching cousins, the Daily Hate and the Daily Diana) speak volumes about the intellectual health of the nation. To shy away from acknowledging that for fear of sounding elitist would merely be another form of that classic tabloid bogey, political correctness (gone mad).

Good post Peter - and there's a far cry from observing that intelligence-based raids aren’t always a success to, as poster #2 complains (JG) the BBC taking climate change as fact. You see, JG, climate change is a scientifically falsifiable premise, and the vast weight of scientific evidence comes down to support the view that humans are causing climate change through CO2 emissions. Should someone show that this was not the case, through proper peer-reviewed research that was collaborated by many others then this premise would have been shown to be false.
I would no more expect the BBC to pretend climate change isn’t happening that I would expect them to report that the Earth orbits the Sun as an opinion – they are both scientifically falsifiable premises with very strong evidence in their favour. Of course, I would expect the BBC to point out that some don’t agree with this despite the evidence, but when you have such a body of mutually-buttressed support you need not consider the for and against side as both opinions of equal worth.
The people arrested are also part of a falsifiable piece of science. If one creates the hypothesis that they are guilty we can look at the evidence that supports that hypothesis – we only need find one thing wrong with our hypothesis and it can be thrown out. However, unlike in the case of climate change and the Earth’s orbit of the sun, the evidence in both direction is markedly less clear here, and so it is perfectly reasonable and appropriate for the BBC to report both sides – that the people may be guilty or not guilty, and that later mechanisms (i.e. the courts) will be allowed to assess the evidence to ascertain this.

As David (no.9 above) points out, the key thing here is surely between the phrase “the intelligence services often get it wrong” attributed to the BBC by The Sun and the BBC’s claim that the report said “… sometimes get it wrong”.

The “sometimes” word would have made the phrase factual but the “often” word would presumably have been incorrect and, I reckon, provocative.

For what it is worth, I am inclined to believe the BBC, as surely they know what they have broadcast?

Can anyone help? Was it “often” or “sometimes”. As David says, a big difference.

  • 23.
  • At 05:32 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Dr. Khalid Husain, Maine, USA wrote:

The BBC does an excellent job. Period.
That is why you have been THE source for my information since I started listening to scratchy shortwave broadcasts in the 1960s in Pakistan. Today my day starts at your website.
Many news items I see are not what I would like to see happening on a given day but I appreciate and trust your reporting.
Bravo!

  • 24.
  • At 07:04 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • John wrote:

It is interesting that you state 'the BBC does not see it as its job to be on anyone's "side".' Is this true with Iraq? The Blair must go issue? Global warming? George Bush? In all of these issues, the BBC has a very clear 'side' - you are in no way neutral. You can not have clear campaigns to persuade the viewer that Bush is bad, Blair must go, Iraq is wrong etc. and at the same time claim that is OK to be uncritical of terrorists because you are 'neutral.' If you are continuously critical of Bush/Blair but uncritical of terrorists then this is because you have a political position.

  • 25.
  • At 08:08 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Stranded in Babylon wrote:

JG and Donald, you've both got it wrong!

It's not a case of "the police and security services on one side, and a group of people who are currently presume innocent on the other" (sic). The police themselves would claim their role is not to presume guilt, but to investigate claims that illegal activity may have occurred, to gather any evidence and to hand it over to others whose job it is to decide whether a case should be brought before a court, where a judgement will be made.

Similarly, the editor's post is not about the BBC taking sides between "our police and security services and the other of terrorists trying to kill innocent people"; he makes it quite clear what he's talking about — "Our viewers have a range of views about the recent arrests – some seeing them as clear evidence of support for terror within British society, others are strongly sceptical about the police action". Neither of those views is incompatible with being opposed to terrorists and terrorism.

"At least tabliod newspapers are honest."


That's got to be the most amusing thing I've read in ages. Honest when they're hacking into people's mobile phones? Honest when they're running stories they know to be false? Honest when they change their stance according to what's in the interests of their proprietors?

  • 27.
  • At 09:04 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • viewer wrote:

Peter,

This was actually the quote from the Sun:

“We must remember this raid was intelligence-led . . . and, as we know, the intelligence services often get it wrong.”

Now, they may have quoted inaccurately, but if the quote is correct then is it accurate or fair to claim that the intelligence services "often get it wrong"? I assume that is the point they are trying to make.

  • 28.
  • At 11:30 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • ninho wrote:

The Sun owned by Rupert Murdoch who happens to own BSkyB criticises the BBC constantly which it is in competition with in the digital television market. Isn't that a strange set of circumstances?

  • 29.
  • At 11:34 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

What's the matter Mr. Horrible Peter Horrocks, you unwilling to publish my two letters pointing out that BBC has deliberately tried to undermine the British nation's confidence in their government's ability to protect them and the competence and honesty of its intelligence agencies who are charged with gathering and piecing together information about threats to them? That BBC has no grounds for such assertion or it would have stated them? That ALL accused criminals including the guilty plead that they are being discriminated against unfairly, harrassed, brutalized, their rights trampled, and that there is no valid case against them? That BBC's report is therefore a political attack in support of those who would destroy Britain by groundlessly casting doubt on the government? How do you people look at yourselves in the mirror each morning, that's what I would like to know? Whose side is BBC on? Not on the side of civilization.

  • 30.
  • At 11:39 PM on 05 Feb 2007,
  • |333173|3|_||3 wrote:

There is a good item about newspapers in Yes Prime Minister: A Conflict of Interest. It runs as follows (Quoted From The Complete Yes Prime Minister, page 355):

The Times is read by the people who run the country. The Daily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another counrty. The Independent is read by people who don't know who runs the country, but are sure they're doing it wrong. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by the people own the country. The Daily Express is read by the people who think the country ought to be run as it used to be run. The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who still think it is thier country. And the Sun's readers don't care who runs the country, provided she has big tits.


Newspapers have to have bias, it is expected of them.


The BBC is not immune from bias, and appears to have a slight pro-EU leaning, as shown by such things as the display of EU flags at the PRoms in previous years and the removal of the £ sign from Ceefax. (This was said to be a technical issue, but this is not the case, since Ceefax 2 shows it correctly, and it used to be displayed.) The job of the BBC is not just to reprt facts, but to report the facts truthfully, without giving way to stupidity, such as the interviewing of a suicide bomber's family, unless the report wa into the to motivation of suicside bombers, ratehr than into the attack.

  • 31.
  • At 03:27 AM on 06 Feb 2007,
  • jack maclean wrote:

As the Middle East is likely to remnain the epicenter of turbulence for the forseeable future,the BBC is competing with rivals such as Al Jazeera to get a hold on a large a constituency as it can and it wouldn't want this undermined by 'Muslim unfriendly' perceptions.
In the digital age the BBC is no longer the parochial affair that the Sun and so many others,imagine it to be.
A rare case of 'he who pays the piper does not call the tune'.

That's not the point Peter: whether the BBC is biased or not. The whole point here is that these mass arrests are clearly of national if not international interest.

The news media then usually makes a monumental mistake by trying to get to the bottom of the who, what, where, when, why and how of everything.

Reporters stand outside buildings for hours on end desperately clutching at anything that moves in the hope of moving the story along. It just doesn't help.

I agree with the sentiment that by stressing that the investigation is intelligence led and that intelligence gathering and analysis can fail is counter productive. Of course it's right but there are people who watch and listen to these things who simply cannot see that as a fact: they see it as a justification of another police and/or MI5 mistake. Then your reporters tell us that ethnic and religious tensions have risen in the affected area. Well, what a surprise.

We always see neighbours being interviewed and they always seem to say that they can't believe it. Not that family. He's such a friendly, helpful, religious ... boy.

No one could believe that Shipman could murder either and astonishingly there are still people who believe he was hard done by.

These people have been arrested: tell us the facts. Then move on and let justice take its course. We have to trust the authorities to have got it right. If they haven't then we have to trust that they will then put it right.

We really don't need your mass, usually low level and misguided analysis.

John (comment 12): "If you are continuously critical of Bush/Blair but uncritical of terrorists then this is because you have a political position". You appear to be suggesting that our licence fee money goes towards a pro-terrorism organisation. Get a grip.

  • 34.
  • At 10:05 AM on 06 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"The fact that red-tops like this are so popular (and their middle England curtain-twitching cousins, the Daily Hate and the Daily Diana) speak volumes about the intellectual health of the nation. To shy away from acknowledging that for fear of sounding elitist would merely be another form of that classic tabloid bogey, political correctness (gone mad)."

To be honest you do sound elitist. You can not judge anyone based entirely on what papers they choose to read. I have met many intellectuals who enjoyed to read The Sun - it is light hearted and not entirely serious, why do they read it? Because it makes for a nice relaxing break from the stresses of life. I rarely read broadsheets as I find the articles tend to be dull and pretty boring, although saying that I don't read tabloids either - just on-line sites. In a world where we have limited time but access to hundreds of different media sources a light-hearted paper which can easily be read with a sandwich and then thrown away is more practical then a self-important lifeless broadsheets.

Just because people DO read the tabloids you can not assume that this is their only news source. Unless of course YOU only get your media from one source and blindly follow their views? Hmmm! let me guess The Guardian? The attack on the Daily Mail came across as petty and left-wing, so I would have said The Mirror but you clearly don't like the tabloids.

Steven Martin's comments are interesting. If the most of the people posting here are to be believed you would expect the BBC to be pro-Chavez. Steven clearly believes the opposite to be true. Just goes to show that the BBC will always be accused of bias regardless of whether any actually exists.

  • 36.
  • At 12:52 PM on 06 Feb 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

In response to Mark E’s charge that I sound elitist...

Well, if stating that the popularity of the tabloids is a marker of this country’s intellectual health makes me elitist, so be it. I’d sooner have some intellectual honesty on this issue than tiptoe around trying not to stir the 100st gorilla in the room. The charge of elitist is conveniently subjective by the way - it can't be definitively argued either way, which I’m sure you appreciate!

#34 Mark E wrote:
>> "You can not judge anyone based entirely on what papers they choose to read."
I don't and I would certainly never claim it was as simplistic as "based entirely on". I do however think it's daft to deny how poorly served people are by seeking an accurate picture of the day's events from tabloids, which a great many people do, perhaps more than you'd like to admit. Everyone denies that their views are influenced by the tabloids, yet in my genuine experience, those regular red-top readers more often than not respond to issues with the same tribal emotion-led reaction ("string 'em up, who's side are you on, let 'em rot in jail" etc etc). Anything approaching intelligence or depth is viewed with disdain. "The intelligentsia". A bad thing. Things are simple, they're either black or they're white. You're on they're side or our side. Anything that requires a lengthier article or a more nuanced position is dismissed as "dull" and "boring".

#34 Mark E wrote:
>> "I rarely read broadsheets as I find the articles tend to be dull and pretty boring"
Only because we've become accustomed to being appeased over the decades by having our news increasingly dressed up and sensationalised to the point that it barely reflects reality. A tricky nuanced situation shouldn't need to be recast as a polarised battle of two opposites just to make it more exciting. Simplifying is one thing. Stupefying is another.

#34 Mark E wrote:
>> "self-important broadsheets"
Count how many times you see words like "shame" "shameful" "shameless" in the gutter press then tell me they're not more sanctimonious and judgemental than their broadsheet counterparts. Don't be fooled into thinking that their simpler vocabulary and lighter depth means they're not capable of the same, if not greater self-importance!

#34 Mark E wrote:
"Just because people DO read the tabloids you can not assume that this is their only news source."
I don't.

#34 Mark E wrote:
"Unless of course YOU only get your media from one source and blindly follow their views? Hmmm! let me guess The Guardian?"
Wrong again. I make a point of viewing several very different news sources, including those whose agenda I disagree with.

  • 37.
  • At 03:22 PM on 06 Feb 2007,
  • Rob wrote:

Ian (Comment 35),

The BBC always wheels out that pathetic defence:

"If people from both the left and the right think we're biased, then we must actually be impartial".

What a load of codswallop! If Stalin and Pinochet both accused the BBC of political bias, it would simply mean that the bias lies somewhere between their extreme views. If the BBC were to adopt an 'Old Labour' stance, the SWP would still claim the BBC had a right wing bias and everybody to the right of 'Old Labour' would still claim the BBC had left-wing balance.

This is the situation we are in now. The BBC has a clear leftist, liberal, pro-Islam bias.

Just look at the coverage of the Swindon schoolboy attacked with a hammer.

http://search.bbc.co.uk/cgi-bin/search/results.pl?q=hammer+attack&uri=%2F&scope=all&go=toolbar

If the skin colour of attacker and victim had been reversed, would we have heard more or less about this horrific attack?

  • 38.
  • At 08:58 PM on 06 Feb 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

So, is it "Molly Campbell" or "Misbah Rana"? (Have a look through the BBC reporting of this case to see which side it was on).

  • 39.
  • At 09:28 PM on 06 Feb 2007,
  • John wrote:

Ian (comment 33) "You appear to be suggesting that our licence fee money goes towards a pro-terrorism organisation. Get a grip."

I'm suggesting that the BBC is NEUTRAL on terrorists (or is that 'insurgents' or 'militants'?) and profoundly anti-Blair/anti-Bush/anti-Iraq war. If the BBC was as persistently critical of terrorists as they are of Tony Blair, I would be much happier. How come they can take sides when it comes to Blair-must-go, but not when it comes to mortar bombing a school and killing 5 kids?

Rob - I didn't mean to imply that the BBC is without bias, rather that there will always be many people unhappy with the stance that they perceive that the BBC is taking. And I can't find any reference to ethnicity in the stories that you quote, sorry if I missed them.

John - I may have made my point a little bluntly but you do seem to be saying that the BBC is more in favour of terrorists than Bush and Blair and I just can't see it. When I last watched BBC news with my father he complained that the BBC is consistently pro-Blair. That reveals his bias as you have revealed yours. I don't particularly care whether you or my father is right, just that you both acknowledge that the opinions of other people are just as valid as your own as we are all biased and therefore liable to perceive the same signs in an entirely different way.

  • 41.
  • At 01:42 PM on 07 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"So, is it "Molly Campbell" or "Misbah Rana"? (Have a look through the BBC reporting of this case to see which side it was on)."

I would think that it would be Misbah Rana as isn't that what she wishes to refer to herself as?

It isn't a matter of sides.

  • 42.
  • At 06:55 PM on 07 Feb 2007,
  • G Meade wrote:

The Sun is a rag.

How sad, that I find myself siding with this rubbish than with the BBC. It is a sign of how low this organisation has sank.
It can always find the time to interview a friendly speaker from the MCB whenever their is an islamic slant to the news.
The BBC is institutionally biased and to deny otherwise is delusion and quite frankly insulting.

  • 43.
  • At 11:02 PM on 09 Feb 2007,
  • john trenchard wrote:

If the BBC doesnt take sides, then explain to me why Salma Yaqoob has appeared twice on the last 12 episodes of Question Time.

She represents the Respect Party - who have only 1 MP out of 650, and is herself a councillor.

Secondly, if Salam Yaqoob can appear twice in twelve episodes, how come no BNP councillor has appeared on Question Time, considering that they now have 55 councillors , and gained more council seats than Respect in the 2006 election?

I am not , and never have been an BNP supporter, but I am merely pointing out the BBC is indeed biased - but it just pretends that it isn't. Trouble is, the BBC's output shows it's left-wing bias day in , day out.


  • 44.
  • At 05:28 PM on 10 Feb 2007,
  • Jack Hughes wrote:

Just one easy example of BBC bias - its insufferable "London-centric" view of Britain.

  • 45.
  • At 06:27 PM on 10 Feb 2007,
  • Tim wrote:

I thought the Sun's editorial the day after two of the suspects arrested in last week's terror raid was very unfair, implying that the BBC agreed with one of the men arrested that Britain is a Police state for Muslims. I for one think you have every right to publish this, it worries me when the Sun distorts the truth for it's own ends and doesn't mention embarrassing stories relating to it's parent company. Unlike the BBC which is neutral even when reporting the Hutton enquiry which directly questioned BBC's editorial output. How often do newspapers do the same?

The comments here are at least as illuminating as the blog itself. There is no denying that the BBC is to the left of most of the xenophobic corporate press, but it shows many of the same biases to a lesser degree.

On the issue of Palestine, in particular, the BBC consistently tries to be "balanced" by presenting "both sides" as if there wasn't an enormous quantative and qualitative difference between Israeli and Palestinian violence, and consistently favours the US or Israeli interpretation of events over those of Palestinian voices.

These comments show why it has to toe that line. When even small departures from the official mainstream media party line provoke such furious accusations of terrorist-hugging leftism, it's impressive that the BBC even manages to be this impartial.

The BBC is an increasingly international organisation, yet it is funded exclusively by British taxpayers and this allows it to be held to ransom by what the xenophobic corporate press. Perhaps this dichotomy needs to be addressed.

  • 47.
  • At 04:24 AM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Inna wrote:

Of course the BBC is biased. The BBC is staffed by trendy, well-read people who know all the same people and who hold (with some variations) pretty much the same beliefs on a whole host of issues from whether corporations are good or bad (bad) to whether government intervention is, on the whole, good or bad (good). (This bias may be right mind you--but it's still bias.)

In short, there is a corporate bias at the BBC -- and it is the corporate bias that is left-of-center, trendy, green, and into all the "right" causes.

And that is how "BBC news" is invented--through those lenses.

Of course The Times have a different set of glasses and the Guardian yet another. To point that out however is not quite the same as showing that the BBc is bias-free. It's not.

  • 48.
  • At 02:40 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"On the issue of Palestine, in particular, the BBC consistently tries to be "balanced" by presenting "both sides" as if there wasn't an enormous quantative and qualitative difference between Israeli and Palestinian violence, and consistently favours the US or Israeli interpretation of events over those of Palestinian voices."

I think taking this viewpoint puts you in the minority here. It has been noted by many who comment on this site that instances of Israeli violence against Palestinians is more likely to be reported then violence against Israelis.

On many occasions missile attacks by Palestinians against Israel have gone totally unreported by the BBC and I have only become aware of the incident by watching a non-BBC news channel.

Most people understand that both sides are at fault in the Israeli/Palestinian issue. However, just because most western media appears to be pro-Israel the BBC has become anti-Israel to balance this out.

It speaks volumes that most of the people who think the BBC is fair and balanced supports it's views. It seems often to be the case of "the BBC has the same views as me therefore the BBC must be right"


"The BBC is an increasingly international organisation, yet it is funded exclusively by British taxpayers and this allows it to be held to ransom by what the xenophobic corporate press. Perhaps this dichotomy needs to be addressed."

If you read any of the HYS that deal with the issue of the licence fee you will find that most people agree that the BBC should not be funded by the tax payer. Most people are tired of paying to hear biased opinions that they do not agree with.

Indeed, as some of the comments here have pointed out, it is very hard to determine what actually determines objectivity. There is (and there can be) no media gatekeeper completely above a certain bias.

Nevertheless, the BBC plays an important role in keeping things a bit more objective, because it is subject to different pressures to the rest of the UK media.

The press, for example, are predominantly right-wing because of their profit motive.

Big media businesses have much to gain from advocating business-friendly government and detracting from "nanny-state" initiatives that take power out of their hands and into the hands of their employees and consumers.

It's also far easier to get people's attention - and thus to sell more papers - by stirring them up into a bloodthirsty rabble than by calmly assessing facts, so there is also a clear market incentive for xenophobic hysteria.

More leftwing papers cater for those who have consciously decided to react to this bias, and thus their own bias is defined by this target market. At best, the Guardian and Independent are preaching to the choir, based on what the choir wants to hear.

The BBC has no such profit motive. It is clearly not immune from absorbing a certain middle-class consensus - or from intellectual cliquery - but it is free from the ubiquitous biases of the private media and as such it greatly contributes to the freedom and overall objectivity of our media.

  • 50.
  • At 07:12 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Ravi wrote:

Dave in post 48 says 'the majority of the press are rightwing, because of the profit margin', sorry Dave, I think you will find it is because more people are right wing than left wing, also the circulation figures proves that you are in the minority.

I would like to take issue with your arrogant view of left-wing papers as the voice of moderation, this is of course wrong,these are the same papers who lauded Stalin et al as the saviours of mankind.

It might surprise you to know that you do not have the monopoly of what is good and what is bad, but happily we live in a democracy so I get to read your silly comments and you get to read mine.

Peter,

If the BBC doesn't take sides why do so many people think you do? Any ideas?

Ravi (comment 50), did you actually read my comment? Nowhere did I describe the rightwing papers as being wrong or the alternative papers as being right. I never once described the latter as the "voice of moderation" - indeed, I was trying to point out their inadequacy rather than their merits - nor did I imply that the Sun, Times, Mail etc should be banned.

However, you are wrong to say that the higher circulation of the rightwing is an indicator of what more people really think. As I said in my original comment, you can get people's attention more easily by stirring up hatred, paranoia and mistrust than by a neutral assesment of facts. People may be engaged by their message of fear long enough to buy a paper, without necessarily fully buying into it.

Despite what you seem to think, the Guardian, the Mirror and the Independent actually have far less ideology than their right-wing equivalents. They don't tell you what to think to anywhere near the same extent, and they certainly do not promote communism. Indeed, they have the same reliance on advertising and interest in maintaining status quo as the rest of the corporate press, and criticise corporate interests tamely, if at all.

Ultimately, more rightwing papers are sold because the corporate press automatically leans to the right. If you want to reject this bias, the best thing is simply not to buy a paper. Many people don't - especially people who don't buy into the rightwing media's agenda - and so comparing the ratings of newspapers is completely meaningless as a guage of public opinion.

  • 53.
  • At 09:55 AM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • Maurice Green wrote:

"biased-bbc" is more a US Republican and pro Israeli organ than a serious attempt at criticism. However, the fact is that the bbc employs more homosexual and ethnic minority people than proportionate in the UK population is reflected in news editorial content and priority. These same people seem to have rights of censorship censorship of 'Have Your Say' pages and is contributing to a misrepresentation of British values and culture - all at the TV-tax payers expense.
I would advocate a campaign of civil disobedience by non-payment of the TV-tax until appropriate action is taken or the Corporation becomes subscription funded.

  • 54.
  • At 10:03 AM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • Maurice Green wrote:

Dave writes, "The press, for example, are predominantly right-wing because of their profit motive."
No Dave, the British press is, nowadays, predominantly right-wing because it is largely owned by the foreigner, Mr Murdoch, who had little interest in what is best for UK citizens. That a foreign national has such power here is, to me, far more worrying than BBC non-objectivity and bias.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.