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Brown and Marr

Barney Jones | 10:35 UK time, Thursday, 11 October 2007

There's been some talk - and criticism - this week of our role in the PM's announcement that there would be no election this year. And I'll admit that the way the news emerged was a bit odd. And no, if I had been orchestrating events it wouldn’t have been done it that way.

The Andrew Marr ShowBut that’s simply a matter of sequence and timing. If the interview had been live (as requested by us) we wouldn’t have had the slightly bizarre spectacle of the media pack - including the Beeb’s own political editor – waiting outside Downing Street while the PM unburdened himself inside, and then let Marr relay what had been recorded a few minutes earlier.

First charge: The BBC allowed itself to be used in a dodgy-Brown-spin operation. It was improper for a single journalist to agree to an interview, knowing that some really important news was likely to come out of it. Nonsense! Print and broadcast journalists do interviews week in week out hoping to get a scoop. It rarely happens. On Saturday it did.

Was the Marr team explicitly told in advance that the PM was ducking out of an election, but this news should be held till Sunday morning? Absolutely not. Was there a clandestine agreement that key information that came out of the interview should be held till later? No – a couple of key clips were aired on BBC news within minutes of the interview being concluded, and Marr gave a summary of Brown's most important answers live on News 24.

Second charge: That Marr was selected because he was 'a patsy' and duly gave the PM a pathetically-soft ride. Well I’m not going to cough to that one am I? But then look at the facts. And more importantly the transcript (or watch the interview).

Presumably the PM’s people wanted a vehicle where there would be time for him try and explain himself - and where this would be done to a mass audience. The Andrew Marr Show specialises in long interviews with top politicians. It’s what we do, week in week out. And around 1.5m people are viewing at any point in the hour. On an average Sunday, that’s more than the other four weekend current affairs TV shows put together.

Brown was charged by Marr with bottling out, dithering, changing his mind because of the polls, responding to a very strong Tory party conference, having dreadfully mishandled the whole episode and having gone back to the old ways of spin when he had promised a fresh new open and honest way of doing politics. Brown didn’t run up the white flag, but when the whole lobby pack were let loose on him on Monday morning the very same points were put to him and he didn’t run up the white flag up then either.

Andrew Marr interviewing the prime minister

Third charge: That Marr gives Brown a soft ride and then accords Cameron a hard time. Again, look at the transcripts. Not so. In fact you could argue that by giving one politician ten minutes to respond to a lengthy recorded interview, the advantage is naturally with the politician who has the last word. The Mail On Sunday reported that the PM... "was hesitant and struggled to give coherent replies to Andrew Marr who went out of his way to be blunt". The Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts: "Andrew Marr... got stuck in. He biffed the PM about the spin and cynicism of his election teasing and his trip to Iraq. Marr even used that old word 'frit' - Mrs Thatcher’s Lincolnshire expression for cowardice."

Fourth charge: That the Brown team was trying to spin their way to the last. Briefing selected print journalists. Giving the story to one broadcaster they felt comfortable with. Declining to give individual interviews with the political editors of each main TV channel before doing one long interview for a current affairs show. And trying - perhaps ineptly - to manipulate the timing to achieve the best outcome in what was always going to be a sticky situation. In effect behaving as spin doctors have done from Bernard Ingham onwards. Quite possibly – but then that’s not a charge levelled at the Beeb, or the producer of The Andrew Marr Show. And some might respond: it was ever thus.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 11:48 AM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • HarryJo wrote:

Thank you very much for the clarification. It was eagerly awaited by some of us who still believe in BBC and are admirers of The Andrew Marr show. Marr did give some hard time to Brown with uncomfortable questions and at times Mr Brown did look uneasy. There was certainly no "soft-ride". I think the other journalists and media (who did not get the scoop) are jealous with Marr and BBC.

  • 2.
  • At 12:01 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • James S wrote:

On this occasion I feel that I have to agree with the Beeb line that Marr didn't give Brown a hard time.

However the question of bias comes up again and again. If the Beeb simply dealt with it once and for all by, for example, advertising jobs to all parts of the political spectrum (I for example wouldn't spit on the chosen paper for the Beeb's ads, let alone pick one up) then you would be able to spend more time on programming and less dealing with you, normally justified, critics.

  • 3.
  • At 12:23 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • N Rich wrote:

This piece of self justification is unconvincing at best.

Even taking your framing of the charges at face value, you fail to answer the very first one. It is not the public broadcaster's job to be used in a 'spin-operation' by the Government of the day. Your piece simply ignores this point. No matter how enticing the promise of a scoop, it should have been clear you were being used.

(Nor, by the way, is it clear that the public broadcaster's job is to chase 'scoops'. A balanced, objective, accurate description of important events would I believe be most welcome to your licence payers, thank you.)

Andrew Marr looked and talked like the PM's spokesman when he exited Downing Street. If it looks like a duck and talks like a duck..

Best regards,

Nick

  • 4.
  • At 12:37 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • dave wrote:

i think the bias is mainly evident in the vehemance/hostility with which questions are put to conservative politicians as opposed to the labour ones. the transcripts of the interviews don't reflect that

Ah yes, the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail, those well-known quality newspapers. What did the *other* papers have to say?

Why is it necessary to give anyone a "hard time" for the sake of it? The aim of an interview is to extract the information. On this occasion the information was forthcoming and readily offered. End of story. Were the interviewer attacking a stone wall of non-comprehension or obfustication, the rules would be different.

The issue at stake was election?/or not? No more, no less. Beyond that, any interpretation is (to use the tired synonym/metaphor of our days) "spinning", by the interviewer, the interviewee or the commentators afterwards.

The critics want something else: the endless abrasiveness of a Paxman, perhaps. We know that Paxman works on the presumption of "Why is this bastard telling me lies?" -- he has said so. That approach, endlessly repeated, turns the interview into a blood sport.

Over many years I have noticed that the smooth man gets more than the bludgeoner. Why not trust the observer, the other end of the transmission, to make the judgment?

  • 7.
  • At 12:48 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Rob Carrick wrote:

I do understand that the past week or so has been a pretty turbulent one for the main political parties. I think Labour has possibly come off worst from what has been happening. Whether or not this lasts remains to be seen, as a week is a long time in politics. I don't really think any of this will matter when it comes to an election - whenever that may be. however, I think it can be said that however things are hard for Gordon Brown, the BBC will come to his rescue, which they usually do. Good heavens, could I be suggesting the BBC is unbiased in its reporting? Of course I am...until public opinion changes, and then they too will switch allegiances!

I'm not sure these are in fact the key criticisms made of the BBC.

This was an announcement of national importance, and the BBC acted in a fundamentally anti-competitive way. The full interview should have been reelased for full broadcast by all broadcasters, and Marr should have given a 'pool' update to the Lobby rather than scurrying straight over to the News 24 cameras when he emerged from Downing St.

  • 9.
  • At 12:57 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • The Admiral wrote:

Hmmm - nice try. Not really very convincing though. The truth is that, by his own admission, Marr is sympathetic to the Left/liberal political agenda. There are very few employees of the BBC News and Current Affairs team who aren't, judging by the day in and day out output. It would be almost impossible for the BBC nowadays to provide an interviewer (save, possibly, for Nick Robinson) who wouldn't feel some tribal loyalty to a politician of the left. That you don't have many options is not an excuse but an indictment.

  • 10.
  • At 12:57 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

Ah yes, the Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail, those well known CONSERVATIVE supporting newspapers.

The accusations of bias against the BBC are tiresome

  • 11.
  • At 01:11 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

What a load of self-serving hogwash. I look forward to the day when the licence fee stops and the Brown-Broadcasting Corporation is forced to actually justify their existence. A publicly funded BBC is like having a copy of the 'Morning Star' pushed through your door and then being threatened with prison if you don't pay for it.

  • 12.
  • At 01:14 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Mike T wrote:

Sorry, it doesn't wash with me at all.

Can I ask, who said this?

"The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people. It has a liberal bias not so much a party-political bias. It is better expressed as a cultural liberal bias."

Yep, Andrew Marr in 2006.

The BBC should look not just to broaden its intake through its diversity programmes but also advertise in diverse publications and recruit people with diverse political backgrounds. Looking at the presenters on the BBC, there are far too many with previous affiliations and memberships to political parties of the left.

I cite another example, PMQ yesterday, 3rd news item on the BBC 10 o'clock news behind 'An inconvienient truth' film (another BBC hobby horse - global warming) and 2nd package was something less memorable. The PMQ piece was scant, brief and more time was spent on the Pop Art package later in the programme.

Yet it was No.1 on ITN News at 10.30 and they spent far more time examining and scruntising it.

It gives the impression that the BBC tries to shield the PM when he faces bad news. During the early part of the 100 days of GB in charge, the BBC was effusive with praise, master tactician and happy to report and analyse Tory weaknesses.

Now the boot is on the other foot, nowhere near the same amount or kind of coverage.

It does leave you open to criticism of bias, you don't give the same amount of coverage nor rigour in questioning to each side of the political spectrum.

As for the Brown/Andrew Marr interview, considering this momentuous decision, it was insipid and weak. Brown had changed his mind after a month of sometimes fevered speculation.

Speculation the BBC was only too happy to encourage and discuss.

You simply didn't examine or dig under the surface and Mr. Brown comes across as having a very easy ride.

The anger from other journalists regarding this is palpable and has been demonstrated on other news stations and outlets. Many other Government ministers have been given a much harder time.

Andrew Marr as usual was direct, succinct and perfectly correct in his approach.

What people don't like is that Marr also remembers to be polite - and good for him too!

Our politics, more and more, has become a cesspit of insults and barracking and venomous accusations, from both Politicians and the media pack, to such an extent that people have simply turned off politics.

I have been writing about and arguing about politics in my own small way since I was a teen, and I am at the point where when the clock strikes the news hour my first instinct is to turn the television off.

We need a major change in this country - a move away from gladiatorial politics to a system where people actually feel that things are being done for their benefit, not for the benefit of the politicians and the media.

I would love to start a debate on how change might happen.

http://www.sanglier.co.uk/content/view/55/55/

What do you think?

  • 14.
  • At 01:37 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

It appears that the man problem here is that many comments are suggesting that the AM Show is a 'news' programme - it is not. It is, like Panaroma and Newsnight a 'current affairs' show - it is not the duty of such a show to be neutral - if anything they should act as a 'devil's advocate'.

AM was not interviewing for the 6/10 o clock news but for his show - therefore he was under no obligation to give "A balanced, objective, accurate description of important events".

  • 15.
  • At 01:44 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Turkeybellyboy wrote:

If we didn't pay a licence fee and the BBC wasn't a public broadcaster, we wouldn't have to worry about this sort of stuff.

Get rid of the licence fee and thus get rid of allegations of bias and over-paid salaries of broadcasters etc.

Simple really

  • 16.
  • At 02:19 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Mark Baldwin-Ramult wrote:

I'd just like to endorse what Mike T said above about the difference in coverage of PMQ on the BBC 10 o'clock news compared to ITN at 10:30. Absolutely amazing how little time and analysis was given to this on the BBC, compared to the headline and at-length reporting on ITV. Surely this displays the obvious bias at the BBC.

From the comments above, the Marr-for-the-tumbril brigade seem to be orchestrated.

What sickens is the anti-licence fee, anti-public broadcasting slant that they introduce, into a discussion of one specific interview. Since they have widened the issue, it needs pursuing.

Heaven help the British public, and any sense of balance, were they to get their wish: the 'red-meat' of Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity, Levin, O'Reilly and the like, given a free hand by overweening media tycoons.

The result? Well, take yesterday's comprehensive beating-up of a twelve-year old for the crime of having health insurance under the S-chip program (for which see http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/10/washington/10memo.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin for the story, and Fox News for the conservative bloodfest).

  • 18.
  • At 02:36 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Joseph (Maastricht) wrote:

I am sorry, this entire article is a self serving piece of nothing.

The BBC has a reputation for left wing bias, why do you think that Gordon asked, and got Andrew Marr to do the interview.

The BBC only released the fact that Marr was going to interview the Prime Minister because the news was leaked.

These two points you have glossed over in your defence of this poor piece of judgement by the BBC.

The BBC is in trouble that is clear, the amount of complaints that are posted on various BBC forums and Editors blogs bare this stark fact out.

Another prime example of bias is the continuous use of Guardian correspondents to analyse political events, the Guardian is not read by the majority of the population, this is a fact, so as the BBC is supposed to reflect the views of the UK in general, I would suggest that correspondents from the Sun, Mirror and yes the Mail are more reflective of the populations views.

Living in Holland I am forced to purchase whatever English paper is available on my way home, this gives me a chance to listen to different opinions, clearly the BBC is unrepresentive of the majority view, the majority of papers feel the following:

1. Brown bottled it.
2. The pre-budget report was a disaster for Labour.
3. The BBC cannot be trusted after allowing Gordon to speak one to one with Marr.
4. BBC news is bias towards Labour.

As an avid listener of the BBC world service this bias behaviour is also reflected, it baffles me why the BBC allows the daily attacks on the US and Israel to be aired without allowing dissenting voices to be heard, the world service has opened my mind to many terrible/wonderful/amazing stories, however, it keeps letting itself down with childish and unbalanced reports mostly on the US.

The BBC once great reputation has been destroyed, the great pity of this is that it need never have happened.

What next for the BBC?, I can only hope that REFORM becomes the mantra, reform of the way the BBC reports news, refrom of the way the BBC interacts with the public, reform of the way the BBC presents political analysis. If the BBC manage this then the future may not be as bleak as I fear, and hopefully the BBC can once more regain it's reputation.

  • 19.
  • At 02:39 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Baz wrote:

Well said, a voice of reason at last. Of course, it will not stop the conspiracy theorists filling your blog with the usual ill-informed rants.

  • 20.
  • At 02:57 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Harry wrote:

Mike T = Spot on.

The 10 O'Clock News was a disgrace last night.

I am quickly and surely becoming very dissolusioned with the BBC and its 'reporting' on political affairs - unfortunately it is becoming a farce.

I hoped the exodus of BBC workers to New Labour in '97 would produce a more bias free national media - rather it seems to have the complete opposite effect

  • 21.
  • At 03:09 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Chris, Malaga wrote:

Just by the fact that Brown was only willing to grant an interview with the BBC and, none of the other media outlets tells its own story.

  • 22.
  • At 03:22 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Peter Alder wrote:

It is worth noting that little has changed in Budget announcements under this Government in the past ten years, so I note that spin is alive and well.

I have read the transcripts and as usual the devil is in the detail, not in the announcements. Far from equalling the Tory announcements it is the usual Robin Hood act, except in this instance as usual it is "give to the Government, who steal from the poor and gullible."

Did Andrew Marr really say that the BBC had an "abnormally large" number of ethnic minorities (see post above by Mike T)? Eh? Last time I looked (and I worked as a BBC journalist for over five years) the only ethnic minorities I came across in any "abnormally large" numbers were in the canteen, serving the rocket salad up to the members of productoin staff. The BBC has an "abnormally large" number of posh,white, middle class, middle aged men, who went to Bristol and Oxford University. Andrew must have been looking through tinted glasses, if he saw anthing other than that in the newsrooms.

  • 24.
  • At 03:37 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

So, if you were even-handed, why didn't Brown have a hostile commentator sitting next to him, as Cameron did afterward (Polly Toynbee), and why wasn't Cameron given the same amount of air time?

I didn't catch all of the Marr interview of Brown, but I did catch some, and of course although relevant points were put they were the points Brown must have expected and which he was allowed to answer however he wanted. It was more like two pals having a chat in a pub than a serious political interview on an important matter of state.

The most frightening aspect of the whole affair is that I suspect BBC staff really do believe they behaved properly and impartially. I have no idea what it will take to explain reality to you. Clearly continuous complaints and repeated examples being held up are not working.

  • 25.
  • At 03:51 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • G Adlam wrote:

I too agree with Mike T.

I missed PMQs live, but caught the 5pm Sky News report followed by analysis from Adam Boulton.

I watched the 6pm BBC news report in disbelief. The brevity of the piece was breathtaking with Gita Hari (?)delivering one of Cameron's telling punchlines himself. If that was the only news report you watched, you missed the intensity of the exchanges and the spectacle of a Prime Minister at bay producing pathetic responses.
ITV at 6:30 and Channel 4 News both devoted more air time to PMQs with anaysis. Where was Nick Robinson's anaysis on BBC News?
Its quite blatant pro New Labour editing bias. And its true Cameron has had a rougher ride with interviewers - although he doesn't complain. Judging by Brown's Monday press conference his rough rides are just beginning.

  • 26.
  • At 04:17 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Jane wrote:

Picking up the point about the 10 o'clock news last night (10/10), I was dumbstruck at the priority given to the Leader of HMQ's Opposition making a vigorous and, in the view of a great many people not just Conservatives, entirely justified criticism of the Prime Minister's behaviour in recent days. Somewhere behind the Al Gore film and floods/insurance I believe. Yet I recall in the summer that when an obscure, slighted ex-parliamentary candidate attacked David Cameron for transparently personal reasons it was a much bigger story? Come on Beeb.

  • 27.
  • At 04:27 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • The Admiral wrote:

At 01:37 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Jim wrote: AM was not interviewing for the 6/10 o clock news but for his show - therefore he was under no obligation to give "A balanced, objective, accurate description of important events".

This misunderstanding lies behind much of the BBC bias. There is no "exemption" for particular programmes from the public service requirement to be impartial. It is a BBC programme, the BBC is REQUIRED to be impartial. No ifs and buts or weasly words.

At 02:21 PM on 11 Oct 2007, Malcolm Redfellow wrote: What sickens is the anti-licence fee, anti-public broadcasting slant that they introduce, into a discussion of one specific interview

Again, a (deliberate?) misunderstanding. I and many am all for the licence fee and for public broadcasting. I am not for the licence fee when a small metropolitan elite take the national broadcaster hostage for their own narrow ideological ends and refuse to behave in a more balanced way. You are trying to have your cake and eat it. Hysterical warnings about Fox News are a complete red herring.

BBC staff have effectively broken the impartiality terms of their contract with the British public. Under those conditions, they don't deserve the firehose of tax revenue (and the licence fee IS a tax) that continues to shower them in cash.

Start being a national broadcaster again, reflecting the views of the WHOLE country and I'd be delighted for you to keep your licence fee.

Until then, the BBC is continuing to dig its own grave.

Can anyone remember Brown being given a hard time by a BBC interviewer? Anyone?

The man needs to be raked over the coals for his appalling mendacity and the hash he has made of the economy. If you wanted a hard interview for Brown, you'd have given him Andrew Neill or Jeremy Paxman. I've watched Andrew Neill tear ministers a new one in less than 5 minutes on the Daily Politics, and he does his research too.

  • 29.
  • At 04:43 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Edmund Price wrote:

I thought the Marr interview of Brown was fine; there is nevertheless a general BBC bias in favour of Labour which has become more noticeable of late. I think it is because the politics has recently become much sharper.

I have always been a strong supporter of the BBC but, to my surprise, I find I an becoming ambivalent.

  • 30.
  • At 04:43 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Will Jones wrote:

Clearly the best way to solve this is to allow Cameron to pick a friend to him and his party from the BBC journalists, to handle his next major interview.

First prize for guessing why that won't happen.

I knew you'd get it!

To be honest, whole BBC gave easy ride to Brown - and yesterday's 10 O'clock news(An Inconvenient Truth - Al Gore - who cares) headline were evident of that!

  • 32.
  • At 04:51 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

People quite simply now understand that the bbc are not impartial and you will never regain that trust.

  • 33.
  • At 04:54 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • rich wrote:

re Malcom Redfellow

It's a fallacy to suggest that the alternative to a license fee funded BBC is Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. America's entire political spectrum lies some way to the right of ours.

Given that Mark Thompson seems keen on slashing the current affairs budget, bias in news programs presumably won't be something we have to worry about in the future.

Perhaps the PM will appear with opposition leaders on Strictly Come Dancing or The Restaurant and they can settle their differences via the medium of dance.

Really, what is the point of the BBC these days ? Channel after channel of derivative programming. I'm a Tory and an admirer of Andrew Marr. Once he's gone, along with Newsnight and the One o Clock news, we'll all be the poorer for it.

  • 34.
  • At 05:34 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Seamus wrote:

Am I the only one who clicked on this expecting a reference to comments made by Johnny Marr and Ian Brown at the Q awards this week?

im 16 and i watched both interviews - marr gave them both a rough ride - brown looked really uneasy most of the way through it and i dont reacll once where he could give a straight answer - im a little dissapointed that Andrew Marr didnt use the statment that Mr Cameron used in the commons this week - "hes the only PM to run from an election he thought he could win" - or something along these lines anyway. Cameron for me (and no im not a Tori supporter) looked the more confidant speaker and the most at ease with giving strigh answers - well done cameron and Andrew Marr!!

  • 36.
  • At 05:43 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • tony brizzolara wrote:

As usual with all Marr political interviews - subtly "Well Dressed"
to favour the government - in common with most BBC political comment.

It would be in the interest of the Country to break up the BBC monopoly - it has lost it`s ability to be totally objective in political affairs.

  • 37.
  • At 09:06 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Richard Holloway wrote:

The evidence is slowly being racked up and eventually the BBC will admit to a bias that makes its reporting inherently left wing.

It's only one piece in the puzzle of course, but the analysis of the PM's commons clash was classic BBC bias.

"It wasn't so much that Mr Cameron wiped the floor with the prime minister - it fell a little short of that and the great clunking fist landed some pretty effective blows."

What blows were those? Any follow up on those? Nope, it's as if the author felt he had to help poor Gordon Brown out...

I used to think the BBC was a pretty good news source, and it is, for everything that isn't political, and once you get past 10 years old that covers just about everything.

  • 38.
  • At 10:35 PM on 11 Oct 2007,
  • Guido Fawkes wrote:

Whenever Brown is in trouble he condescends to give an interview to only one journalist - Andrew Marr.

After the failed putsch, Marr let him off the hook in the set-piece interview. After bottling the election...

Last Sunday was another embarrassment, which is why you are here justifying it. Marr is far too deferential and easy going with Brown.

  • 39.
  • At 08:37 AM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • RD wrote:

The people who are screaming at the Beebs impartiality in this case are wrong on a number of levels.

One poster suggested that they hand over footage to other networks! That is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. The BBC is a news broadcaster, not the Press Association. Should it also spend money making quality drama only to hand it over to ITV to broadcast before hand? What a load of tosh.

Other posters do not seem to understand that each story on the news is there in the context of other news that day. Again, is the BBC to phone up ITV and ask what they are covering and for how long and give the exact same billing and time for impartiality's sake?

Do not forget this is television as well as journalism and the two needs to be balanced. So, where there was not an "aggressive" counter to Gordon Brown where there was to David Cameron, maybe that was because of timings (remember, news is in the context of that day), or availability of contributors

And if you think ITV's sensationalist and wholly dumbed down USA syle news coverage is any better, then you are simply crazy.

Lets go the whole hog and time exactly how many minutes are devoted to so called liberal news reports and then exactly match that time with right wing reports? Is that balanced or even worthwhile? Of course not.

Oh, and to the person who wondered why more time is devoted to Brown over Cameron, maybe it's because he's the PM and Cameron isn't? Ever think of that before you had your rant?

And, of course, I would never dare suggest that were the Conservatives back in power, the right-wingers would NEVER whole heartedly call for impartiality the way they are now.

  • 40.
  • At 10:27 AM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • Anony Mouse wrote:

Bias is very much in the eye of the beholder. As someone unsympathetic to all 3 major parties in the UK , I personally find the BBCs coverage of politics to be mostly unbiased, although it has become much more TABLOID in outlook in recent years - and has a tendancy to not corrector apologise for early incorrect reports (for example. the scottish elections fiasco, which it was proved was not down to computers at all but people not following instructions!)

  • 41.
  • At 10:32 AM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • Ted wrote:

The damage to the BBC was not in the way Marr conducted the interview but that Gordon Brown selected Andrew Marr and the BBC as his conduit to the public.

It confirmed that Gordon Brown (and Labour) sees the BBC as a friendlier, softer outlet. You should ask yourselves why.

  • 42.
  • At 11:39 AM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • The Admiral wrote:

At 08:37 AM on 12 Oct 2007, RD wrote: One poster suggested that they hand over footage to other networks! That is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. The BBC is a news broadcaster, not the Press Association. Should it also spend money making quality drama only to hand it over to ITV to broadcast before hand? What a load of tosh.


You have never, obviously, heard of the decades old "pool system" whereby broadcasters co-operate on issues of national importance and send one camera crew and reporter and share the footage. Your point, I'm afaraid, is the tosh here.

You also said: "Other posters do not seem to understand that each story on the news is there in the context of other news that day. Again, is the BBC to phone up ITV and ask what they are covering and for how long and give the exact same billing and time for impartiality's sake?"

No - no one is saying that. You are merely setting up a convenient straw man argument in order to knock it down easily. A contrast is being drawn to how out of kilter the BBC's news and editorial values are to the other news outlets. It is somehow ironic that the one organisation that is required to be impartial (because all of us, of all political hues, are forced to pay for it)is the one organisation that is so bad at providing that impartiality.

Finally - you also said: "Do not forget this is television as well as journalism and the two needs to be balanced. So, where there was not an "aggressive" counter to Gordon Brown where there was to David Cameron, maybe that was because of timings (remember, news is in the context of that day), or availability of contributors".

So we need to take it on trust that there weren't enough contributors on such a big political event? Pull the other one. The problem with this continued bleating to keep giving the BBC the benefit of the doubt is that it is not supported by the evidence. If this was a one off, I would agree with you. It isn't, this bias is day in and day out.

If the BBC wants to be funded via a licence fee, it needs to keep its end of the bargain. It is contemptuous of those people who fund it lavishly and as long as this continues, it will see that contempt reflected back at itself.

  • 43.
  • At 12:05 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • FPS wrote:

I watched the Marr interview and was in no doubt at all that the PM had been given a soft ride. It was not that the questions were intrinscially soft (although any softer and Marr would have been guilty of gross negligence, given the circumstances.) Rather, it was that when the PM avoided answering them in his inimitable and predictable fashion, Marr did not press him the way Jeremy Paxman or others would have done.
For example, when told that the opinion polls played no part in the PM's decision not to call an autumn election, Marr did not ask why then Mr Brown had summoned a meeting of his closest advisers at Downing Street on the Friday morning (October 5th) to hear a presentation by Stan Greenberg, the US polling guru hired by Labour, on voters' attitudes in 150 key marginal seats.
The way Marr failed to expose a plainly untenable and disingenuous position verged on complicity.

  • 44.
  • At 01:01 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

The BBC is clearly a biased organization (and I have voted Labour in 2 of the last 3 elections). The reporting of the pre budget statement was typical. It was a obvious political blunder by Brown yet the news was full of Tory MPs being thunderstruck and wrong-footed. The IHT proposal was also reported as it the Government intended, not as making slightly more accessible something that was already available.

I've no doubt journalists are trying their best but the liberal agenda is too ingrained.

  • 45.
  • At 02:34 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • Duncan Alexander wrote:

The BBCs recent internal review concluded that it was left wing biased.

The evidence is compelling: anti-wealth creation, pro big government spending; anti USA, anti Israel, pro-Palestine, anti Conservatives, pro Labour.

This bias is not confined to the TV. Listening to Radio 5 Live later on the afternoon of PMs questions there was no coverage of the event until listeners started complaining. Priority instead being given to stupid postman bites dog style stories.

  • 46.
  • At 05:15 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • Mike Walker wrote:

Sorry. I don't believe a word of it.

Lets see. Politician changes his mind on a matter of national importance.

Politician tells one journalist.
Journalist tells country.

To suggest under any circumstance that Mr Marr was anything but a mouthpiece for Mr Brown is untrue. And spin. And insulting our intelligence.

Who old us there was no General Election after spinning it for weeks? Gordon Brown?
No :Andrew Marr and the BBC.

Please this is self serving twaddle and evidence of how corrupted the BBC mindset is.

Bout time the license fee was halved. You are unworthy of Lord reith.

  • 47.
  • At 08:25 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • L. H. Stenner wrote:

Brown was given a relatively easy ride because, as we all know, Marr is a Labour man. Paxman or Humphrys should have done the interview, then Brown would have had a hard time.

  • 48.
  • At 09:35 PM on 12 Oct 2007,
  • B Donaldson wrote:

post 7 Rob Carrick. Fascinated by how we humans interporate the same events so differently. Rob seems to indicate that the BBC are apologists for Gordon Brown. I would lean towards the view that the BBC are less than objective when it comes to commenting on GB. Just read some of the other comments. They are unbalanced tosh. I am wholeheartedly with RD post 34

  • 49.
  • At 01:40 PM on 13 Oct 2007,
  • sandymac wrote:

This for me was a non story, Brown used Marr as a vehicle to communicate, this was never an interview opportunity.

When the PM was asked if he would have called of the election if the polls told him he would get a 100 majority and he said yes - nobody believed him. ( He could have been telling the truth - its just seems very unlikely.)

The same applies to your defence. Its possible good intentions were used and you were as professional as possible - but the BBC has form. Its seems your staff all need training courses on basic honesty (telephone scandals - cat naming etc). The charge of institutional left wing bias and support for Labour sticks, because it fits.

Sorry we just don't believe you any more.

  • 51.
  • At 12:57 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • grania davy wrote:

G Brown was allowed to answer the questions. It was all nice and calm. The same can never be said when a conservative is being interviewed. The BBC are totally biased, we all know that so whats new? We have an ill informed public due to this continual bias.

  • 52.
  • At 12:57 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

I am sorry to say that the BBC really appears to have a left wing bias. Furthermore it also appears convinced that this is not the case, which is even more worrying. I usually far prefer BBC news coverage to other channels, but when politics is concerned, the strongly pro labour stance is quite sickening to watch. It is never blatant, it is just exaggerated reporting of conservative infighting with a labout commentry, and when it is a labout problem it is much less aggressive, with lots of emphasis put on the excuse. I am really trying to be fair, you are biased and quite strongly so. Perhaps you should have a formulaic method for dealing with politics where you ensure equal treatment, because going by your gut is not working and it is putting many people off. Please, when Brown makes such a colossal messup, dont just let him off with a light interview, you would have been impetuous and snapping if it had been a conservative messup. I like Marr and i like the way he thinks, but you have let your credibility take yet another hit with this affair. It is all about tone, nuance, interviewer aggression and resources/credibility allocated to attack/defence, and that is where you are not acting equally.

  • 53.
  • At 09:27 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • allan Hughes wrote:

The Marr interview with Bown post election flunk was only a shade more probing than his appalling effort at the start of the party conference.
Cosy,Self-serving and bland summed up the general approach. Bring on Andrew Neil, I stay up every week to see his show. The BBC appears to wheel out the predictable Polly Toynbee at every opportunity and one wonders if she is on contract! Generally the BBC appears to be in a long term drift to the left to the extent that if I want to watch or read a review of a political event my first call is to Sky News and the Sky web site. I wish it were otherwise and I could have a return to the BBC I remember.

Allan Hughes
Chester

  • 54.
  • At 09:51 AM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • Jason wrote:

Nice to see yet more BBC money being spent on justifying itself in a rather pompous and self infatuating manner through this article - was Andrew Marr too frightened to pen his own defence?

The criticism levelled at Andrew Marr was and remains about the deliberately intimate and cowardly interview he gave when confronted by the dishevelled Gordon Brown - the BBC should have just went the whole hog and had "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" with Gordon in a smoking jacket and pipe, curling his toes up in his comfortable slippers while Andrew knelt beside him, memorised and glowing from the heat of the fire, stared up enchanted as Gordon regaled him with stories of courage and leadership.


The Prime Minister had just lead his fellow parliamentarians/colleagues and the country to within hours of an election announcement - then lost nerve when opinion poll ratings came in less favourable than had previously been given - and Andrew Marr decide that deference was the best form of attack - a completely outrages piece of propaganda that belongs in Putin's Russian and not OUR bbc.

  • 55.
  • At 12:39 PM on 14 Oct 2007,
  • Alice Gundry wrote:

Repeated cliches "what's right for the country" etc from Labour MP's without exception dangerously mimic the Dalek's monotonously repetitive "destroy and exterminate" because that is just what they've been doing to "the country". Do they really listen to themselves? Their affirmatives should stop being so self-important.

  • 56.
  • At 01:11 AM on 20 Oct 2007,
  • Ross MacBeath wrote:

There’s no doubt many political commentators exhibit bias. More often on individual issues than along party lines. It seems to me they let a personal point of view taint their reporting.
On reading these posts it seems clear that while I see every attack against my point of view as bias, after all Browns is a Great Leader. I’m extremely happy to accept unfaltering criticism of Cameron’s slight of hand.
Here's a thought, could the BBC have the overall balance just about right in managing to upset the political camps in equal measure sometimes within the same report? Rather than institutional bias perhaps all that's required is a little restraint from some errant commentators.

I'm with post 40 on this one.

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