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So whose side are they on?

Kevin Marsh Kevin Marsh | 10:52 UK time, Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Is journalism – including BBC journalism – ‘on the side of’ civil liberties? Or at least, on the side of free speech?

A question worth putting after the Sun twice asked last week “whose side are these guys on?” ... meaning, the BBC. It was first prompted by a correspondent on the Ten O’Clock News reminding viewers that the Birmingham terror arrests were “an intelligence-led operation. Intelligence can be wrong". Forest Gate? Jean Charles de Menezes?

Then, after one of those men arrested - and released a week later – appeared on Radio 4's Today programme, the Sun mused:

    "It sometimes seems the BBC would prefer terrorists to succeed than for an innocent man to be briefly held without charge. In their politically correct bubble, intelligence is always flawed and anti-terror action is inevitably heavy-handed. So the release of two suspects held over the alleged plot to behead a British Muslim soldier was a gift from heaven."

Abu Bakr (picture courtesy of ABC)Over at the Daily Mail, columnist Richard Littlejohn objected to Abu Bakr's using his freedom to say on Today that Britain was ‘a police state for Muslims’.

Littlejohn’s logic was tortured: mind, it was the same column in which he found it hard to condemn bomb attacks on government offices ... so long as not too many people weren’t too badly hurt.

I quote:

    “Be honest, until you heard that a woman had been injured, how many of you suppressed a cheer at the news someone had sent a letter bomb to the company which runs London's congestion charge?


    Even after we learnt that two men were treated for blast injuries, I'll bet that there were still plenty of motorists who thought: serves the bastards right.”

Two things made Abu Bakr a bit ‘dodge’ apparently; one, that he seemed ‘very well briefed’ and two, that he was represented by one of Britain’s best known civil liberties lawyers. He should have made it a fair fight and engaged a copyright lawyer, I suppose.

Littlejohn is, of course, wrong footed by the inconvenience that, in the eyes of the law, Abu Bakr is as innocent as anyone … perhaps even more innocent than someone with an ambiguous stance on blowing up government offices.

It would, he argues, have been ok to interview Abu Bakr if the BBC had a record of interviewing, let’s say, the (innocent) associates of gangsters.

BBC Head of TV News, Peter Horrocks, posted here last Monday that it’s “not the BBC’s job to take sides”.

Sort of.

If journalism is about anything it is about free speech. No-one would – or should - question the right of Sun leader writers and Mail columnists to speak freely. If predictably.

It’s the same right that allows the pub bigot to void his spleen in the snug … or an innocent bookshop employee like Abu Bakr to tell Today that he thinks he and his fellow Muslims don’t enjoy the same civil liberties that, say, Richard Littlejohn enjoys. However offensively well-briefed his argument seems.

The Mail and the Sun are in that great tradition of punchy, gobby, misguided, opinionated, rabble-rousing journalism in this country – and long may it survive. Long may they keep their right to be wrong.

But that right applies to every individual and it's the job of journalists to support it; the freedom to speak, to be treated fairly and according to the law and to be free to live a life unburdened by prejudice.

There’ll always be forces pressing to take those liberties away; there’s always been a new ‘crisis’ that means this age is different from all that went before. The pieces will always be in flux …

But when journalists write leaders and columns against freedom of speech … you really do have to wonder whose side they’re on.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 12:13 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

So you're the guy who is going to be training all future BBC journalists? God help us.

Your opinion piece shows clearly that those who are complaining about impartiality at the BBC have been spot on.

Usually BBC journalists at least pretend they are trying to be even handed. You are absolutely brazen in your prejudice and arrogant in your assertions about the veiws of others.

It is disgraceful that the BBC has put you in such a responsible position - you should be removed from your post immediately.

  • 2.
  • At 12:56 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

The Mail and the Sun are in that great tradition of punchy, gobby, misguided, opinionated, rabble-rousing journalism in this country – and long may it survive. Long may they keep their right to be wrong.

The first half of this is brilliant, the second half barmy. The tabloids are a filthy cancer, preying on the prejudices and fears of normal people and wilfully whipping them up in order to make sales. If there is one group of people in the UK who really, honestly don't deserve freedom of speech it's these cynical manipulators.

  • 3.
  • At 01:03 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

Blimey, don't hold back Kevin, say what you feel!

It's about time that a BBC editor took the fight to the Sun and the Mail, rather than pussy-foot around. There'll probably follow the usual accusations of bias, but from where they stand, everyone is on their left.

  • 4.
  • At 01:30 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Jonathan wrote:

Kevin, if the BBC is all for free speech and openness, can you explain why the BBC has gone out of its way to prevent the Balen Report, an internal report which looks at BBC bias with regards to Israel, being released?

It is easy to point out that you are not taking sides when you use the Sun as an example simply because they are so in your face.

But we are yet to see the BBC responding to the more nuanced, researched examples of institutional bias.

  • 5.
  • At 01:30 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Nick Reynolds wrote:

The BBC's Editorial Guidelines state:

"We seek to balance our rights to freedom of expression and information with our responsibilities, for example, to respect privacy and protect children."

See this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/edguide/editorialvalues/

So the BBC is in favour of balancing the right to free speech with the responsibilities that go with it. In other words the BBC does not "take sides" in a simplistic way even on free speech.

  • 6.
  • At 01:34 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • june gibson wrote:

I do think the "heavy" media homes in on the infringement of civil liberties when it is Muslims in the firing line. Where are they when civil liberties for all are infringed? That is why you often see "rabble-rousing" responses from the red-tops. Heavyweight media opinion does seem to class Muslims as a whole as the only underdog in our society. There are many Muslims doing very nicely thankyou, here in the UK, born here or not. It doesn't help integration if the media over-supports one group of society against the State. There are a lot of immigrants old and new who are non-Muslims. How do you think they feel? They might have had injustices from the State, but you take no notice of them. I think the Muslim/Christian situation is a media fashion of today, as it makes good drama on TV and in the papers.
In its way, heavyweight media opinion (largely middle-class and high earning) does its own "rabble-rousing" as it focuses too much on one segment of society, making them out as unfairly picked on. Do you ever look behind the headlines? People accused are always going to bristle with indignation, whether it is real or not, when the TV camera is on them, and especially if they can play the race/religion card, which our media obligingly facilitates. Of course, it's no skin off producers/editors/journalists' noses to make use of this situation.
What all UK society needs from the media is defence against the State, and the aristocracy, but the media only goes up to a certain point on that - is that because many of the media higher echelons are friends with those in high places?

Great post, Kevin, well said. Hopefully the students coming out of the BBC's college will also have the courage to punch back against the tabloid press when it deserves it.

  • 8.
  • At 01:40 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Baz wrote:

Great article. Shame that it's going to get buried in responses full of burning righteous indignation once the Sun and Mail readers get wind of it...

If anything it best symbolises the BBC's problems - in trying to be as balanced as possible they inevitably upset almost everybody and enrage a significant minority, which suits those columnists with a pulpit to shout from and access to good libel lawyers.

  • 9.
  • At 01:41 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Ben wrote:

Two glowing comments and nothing anti? I know for a fact that you must be witholding posts. I put one in myself this morning which you have chosen to keep to yourself.

Gutless as well then.

  • 10.
  • At 01:53 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Mark S wrote:

Come off it Kevin, its obvious to all whose side you are on.
Two days after Sept 11th we were treated to edition of Question time where a specially selected audience of PC cultural Marxist and Islamist where invited to express thier anti-American views.

You’re ex boss apologies for this programme in the link below:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/1628539.stm

I'm sure you are well aware; that the recent panel of the Israeli-Palestinian Impartiality Review recently concluded that the BBC's policy on the use of the word 'terrorism' was wrong. Why can’t you use the ‘T’ when & where it is appropriate? Instead of using euphemisms to describe Islamic brutality.

Here is an example: John Simpson described the 7/7 bomber as ‘misguided criminals.’

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4671577.stm

I’m sure you are aware that the corporation is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism.
The action will increase suspicions that the report, which is believed to run to 20,000 words, includes evidence of anti-Israeli bias in news programming.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/10/15/nbeeb15.xml


I would like the BBC to talk about crimes against humanity committed by those who indiscriminately fire rockets at purely civilian targets such as Israeli residential communities with the sole objective of killing as many non combatants as possible, with no conceivable military objective at the same time. I would like the BBC to ask Islamic militants why they attack civilian targets almost completely to the exclusion of military targets.

I would like to see the BBC discuss the widespread Islamic militants' practice of using civilians as human shields as a deterrent and if that fails, of creating martyrs of them when they are wounded or killed.

It was obvious to all where the BBC sympathies lie when your reporter Barbara Plett cried when reporting on Yasser Arafat death.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/11/06/nbeeb06.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/11/06/ixhome.html

You even admit your bias here (video clip via you tube).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQOPaO1xdbs&eurl=


Now I’ve just scratched the surface.

We all know whose side you are on.

Kind regards

Mark

  • 11.
  • At 01:58 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Paul Murphy wrote:


I may be in the minority but when I watch the news I want the simple facts of what is going on. I am not an intelligance expert but I am absolutely sure that it cannot be correct 100% of the time. One of your reporters saying that 'Intelligence can be wrong. Forest Gate? John Charles de Menezes?' is clearly getting into the area of opinion and trying to alter peoples opinion. I don't mind reports on your website that include reporters opinion, but his is clearly not what is required in the news bulletin.
Your reference to Littlejohn's article where he mentions the letter bombs cannot be used to excuse the BBC's actions. People can choose to buy the mail and read/expect such opinions. We (the public) are forced to buy the BBC!!
You critisise tabloid journalism but I would describe the BBC as becoming more like a tabloid in your ever increasing sensationalist reporting (SARS, Bird Flu, Global Warming, Iraq...)!

Thank you
Disgruntled License Fee Payer

  • 12.
  • At 02:47 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

Wahey, tell it like it is, Kevin. I'd almost given up on reading these blogs, as I was getting too depressed by the inanity of the comments and the failure of BBC people to fight back against the ridiculous claims (which I'm sure are flooding in on this thread already) of institutional bias. Good to see someone finally prepared to stand up for free speech. Talking to someone falsely accused of being a terrorist does not make you a supporter of terrorism, any more than interviewing Richard Littlejohn would make you a supporter of prejudice and stupidity.

This is one of the first times that I've truly enjoyed and seen a worth to this blog. A great post Kevin - saying what you think and providing a clear justification for your actions.

You, obviously, get bonus marks for displaying so deftly what a total fool Richard Littlejohn is, and how he cannot see his own hypocrisy.

  • 14.
  • At 03:19 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Ewan Mac Mahon wrote:

Fantastic.

*applause, cheering etc.*

  • 15.
  • At 03:20 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • william wrote:

A police state then, is obviously one wherein terrorist suspects are arrested after surveillance and intelligence gathering, questioned, then released when insufficient evidence can be found to convince a judge to hold the suspect further.
Oh, then the suspect, now free, talks to some lefty news-hound and gets a sympathetic hearing rather than the grilling about his friends activities that any politician could expect to receive....indeed any tabloid, Jade Goody type could expect
to receive. This isn't a police state for Muslims, it is a paradise for extremists and their friends in our media.

I don't think Littlejohn et al are on anyone's side: he'd probably already forgotten what he wrote, though he's probably delighted that anyone took him seriously enough to spend time rebutting it.

He generates synthetic outrage, the Mail pays him for it, the Mail's readers feel good about their belief that all the petty irritations they have to deal with are the product of a vast conspiracy of liberals, and the BBC's editors can feel superior. Everybody wins! Why change it?

  • 17.
  • At 04:42 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Wonderful; at last the beeb sticks up for itself and argues back against the rabble at the Sun and Mail. I used to read the Mail before it lost all perspective and all tolerance.

The line about intelligence sometimes being right was valid, particularly when the last couple of occasions that the police have gone in that intel has been faulty. that doesn't mean that the police weren't right to carry out their protecting duties, but it does mean the beeb was right to underline the possibility of errors. It also reminds the mobs out there not to get all gung-ho and attack other groups, remember the gangs going after child-doctors because they couldn't tell the difference between child-doctors and child-molesters?

The words that the Mail and Sun use to wrap up words of hate in a coat of acceptability must be questioned. As for Littlejohn, I wouldn't bother to worry about him - if he had an idea in his head it would be lost.

Keep up the good work in making a stand for your journo's to get on with telling us all what is going on, as long as that is what you do then fine.

As for the comments about anti-Israeli bias, well what can be said? That is a situation that history should never have allowed to happen but it did. I have watched hours of your news and seen the ravages of terror that both sides have to put up with. The truth is that the main criticism that can be levied at the Beeb is that you scared of calling terrorists exactly that. Get over that and the arguments fall away, just remember that all terrorists are terrorists no matter where they are and who they are, even dare I say it people who have gone on to be considered great statesmen.

  • 18.
  • At 05:32 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

I don't agree with the views of The Sun or the Daily Mail so I make the choice not to pay for them. But on the other hand I don't agree with the views of the BBC yet I am forced to pay for it.

  • 19.
  • At 06:43 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • andy grantham wrote:

The UK is a covert dictatorship/police-state.
The two/three party state, where MPs say one thing in opposition then adhere to the agenda once in power, gives the illusion of freedom & democracy.
Surely you have to question the pantomime that the media presents when you can no longer mount a spontaneous protest outside the heart of this so called democracy and are now subject to numerous other ridiculous laws.

  • 20.
  • At 07:08 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Christopher wrote:

What an unbalanced blog, you should apologise now, how can you claim to not be biased with an attack on two newspapers who do not support your views, I am a Guardian reader and find your comments terrible, with a single stroke of your pen you have caused fury with the 8 million readers of these tabloids, this arrogant approach from you helps to underline the huge gap between you and the people who pay to have your biased views forced on them.
Shame on you , and shame on the people actually supporting your biased behaviour.

  • 21.
  • At 08:00 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Graham Drinkell wrote:

Remember, we live in a democratic society. The fact we can express our own opinions, without fear of dis-memberment or death, might be a good idea?

  • 22.
  • At 08:14 PM on 13 Feb 2007,
  • Paul MacNeill wrote:

Paul Murphy -

You said:

One of your reporters saying that 'Intelligence can be wrong. Forest Gate? John Charles de Menezes?' is clearly getting into the area of opinion and trying to alter peoples opinion.


Read it again. The reporter only said the first part, and there the quote ended. The rest was part of the above article.

You emphasise freedom of speech many times in your blog. Few will argue against freedom of speech. What you fail to consider – which I find astonishing – is that one person’s 5 minutes of speech freedom squeezes out 5 minutes of somebody else’s. Editors spend much time censoring items from the news and in denying a voice valuable air time.

The principle of Freedom of speech is surely not in question here. It is surely “who is given this freedom and who is denied it” that is at stake. Many of us are often astonished at the items that you choose to lead with or give disproportionate time to. This is not because we wish to gag anyone, but rather we know that many important voices are not being heard.

You rant about The Sun and The Daily Mail. These newspapers answer to their paymasters whether they be shareholders, advertisers etc. The BBC is an entirely a different thing – it has my money in its bank and the money of many ordinary people who are so unrepresented on its airwaves. You write so much about freedom of speech. I have a feeling you will be out-ranted on this one. Why? Here are a few reasons:

Blocking anti eu views on the BBC (a practice that Peter Horrocks admitted to last December) is NOT freedom of speech

Preventing legitimate comments being posted on Have Your Say and legitimate blog comments is NOT freedom of speech

Having your commentators take up air time with their sermons that squeeze out other voices is NOT freedom of speech

Having your chosen journalist friends sitting around the table pontificating at the exclusion of our elected MPs is NOT freedom of speech

Giving business issues just a few minutes of airtime is NOT freedom of speech

Giving air time to left wing groups at the expense of those on the right wing is NOT freedom of speech

Giving air time to those concerned with prisoners’ rights at the expense of those concerned with victims is NOT freedom of speech

The BBC has become a liberal/leftist organisation. This is accepted pretty much universally. The BBC World Service has made a pledge to become more Islamic-friendly. This might have been a well intentioned Foreign Office initiative, but this policy is having perverse consequences in the domestic BBC service. Freedom of speech is being used effectively by the BBC to promote these themes.

It seems to me that freedom of speech is granted to some but denied to others.

The internet is a different matter of course. The BBC finds it much harder to limit who appears on it. At last we have something nearer to freedom of speech. An example is the alternative to your (Kevin Marsh’s) BBC College of Journalism at www.bbbnews.co.uk

  • 24.
  • At 12:52 AM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Dottie wrote:

Quote: "A question worth putting after the Sun twice asked last week “whose side are these guys on?” ... meaning, the BBC."

I think this is a fine example of an attempt to intimidate news providers (in this case the BBC) into silence. This kind of writing forces public opinion to opposite ends of the pole and leaves the space in the middle empty. I don’t want to be *told* how to think – that’s when I tune out. I want to know all sides of a story so I can form my own opinion. I come to this section of the news site to see what others (editors and public) think and then sometimes my opinion might be modified based on some new information. That’s what we do with different perspectives. Imagine if we had to abide by the rule of *only speak of one side* – that would be so boring and unfair but more worrying - it would silence a lot of us.

  • 25.
  • At 04:02 AM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • jack maclean wrote:

If the Sun,Daily Mail,Daily Express, Daily Telegraph,et al,really reckon that the BBC(more Chamberlin than Churchill) has been subdued to the will of a resurgent and powering Islam in England to such a ghastly point that it could be a threat to national security,that they'd get their gig together to call on the Beeb's stout hearted angry funders to a 'Million Man March'past Wood Lane,Dept.of Culture and onto Parliament Square. Unless the english get really angry, I can't see that happening over this.


  • 26.
  • At 09:02 AM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • anon wrote:

This is completely laughable. The BBC only supports freedom of speech when it applies to those it likes (such as Muslims). When it comes to things or people it doesn't like, censorship becomes rampant. The attempt at getting Nick Griffin prosecuted for exercising his freedom of speech springs to mind. And of course we all know that the BBC refused to publish the Mohammed cartoons. So much for freedom of speech, Kevin.

  • 27.
  • At 10:29 AM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Mark S wrote:

Nick Reynolds of BBC Editorial Policy #5

After the 7/7 atrocities the BBC edited out the word terrorist.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/07/12/nbbc12.xml

Are you not breaking your own editorial policy of ‘precise language?’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/edguide/accuracy/

Why the self censorship if you are for freedom of speech?

To the extremist this was not a terror attack, so whose side are you on?

Kind regards

Mark S

  • 28.
  • At 11:23 AM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I don't blame you for not publishing my posting from yesterday. I probably wouldn't have published a letter pointing out that my employer is an unwitting dupe of Al Qaeda in its efforts to overthrow Western civilization either.

  • 29.
  • At 12:26 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

The difference Kevin is that Sun are a commercial organisation and so owe us nothing. They are entitled to be bias.

But you have no such right. I HAVE to pay for you to sit there spouting your self riteous PC bias over the pages of this website.

You want to 'express your opinion' then scrap the license fee start using advertising and stop expecting me to pay for you.

As for muslims arrested during terror raids? What is the problem with that? I suppose you think nobody should ever be falsely arrested then released without charge for anything?

In the real world nobody would ever be caught for any crime, as a British subject you have no legal right in so far as being a suspect in a police investigation, that is the price you pay for living in a free system with laws to protect people.

And yes its true to say muslims are targeted, but unfairly? No.

Ask yourself, exactly how many islamic extremists have there been so far either conspiring about terrost attacks or carrying them out that weren't muslim? None.

For gods sake i suppose your one of those poeple that non muslims and muslims should be treated equally at airport security?

Do you live on a cloud? Or perhaps just on the top floor of a ivory tower that i have to pay for.

  • 30.
  • At 12:51 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • JimJoe wrote:

"If journalism is about anything it is about free speech." Kevin Marsh, BBC

Except of course when it comes to Mohammed cartoons! Then we'll gladly censor, drone on about our "responsibilities" and not wanting to cause offense. (Sentiments that were notably absent during the 80's/90's when we were ridculing and blasepheming against Christianity in comedy and chat shows. And then claping ourselves on the back for having the timority for challenging authority)

The truth is we're afraid. We're afraid to criticise a certain religion of peace - it has nothing to do with the threat of violent reprisal, really!

We'll focus on Guantanamo bay and the evil Americans. We'll ignore Chrisitians persecuted in the ME and especially "Palestine", Jewish civilians murdered, Non muslims forbidden entry to a city (Mecca) in the 21st century...

  • 31.
  • At 01:22 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

BBC employees in the US should be classified as agents of enemy aliens, Al Qaeda, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other Islamic terrorists. Their movements and activities should be closely watched and if they are judged to be inciting the violent overthrow of the US government, they should be arrested and prosecuted under our law. Constitutionally protected freedom of speech in the US does not extend that far. GITMO would be a good destination for their overseas subversive operatives.

  • 32.
  • At 01:32 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • BenM wrote:

Spot on!

Don't worry about the Bens and MarkSs of this world. The loonies on the Right will always have their petty obsessions.

The Sun and Mail are disgraceful bullies of the BBC knowing full well it cannot bite back.

As you see with comment no.1, when the beeb does respond there is no shortage of their sycophantic supporters ready to wade in with criticism (and tedious and perpetually unfounded accusations of bias).

  • 33.
  • At 02:08 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Philippa, UK wrote:

I was astounded to listen to the amount of airtime devoted to the 'police state' interview.

I'm regularly disappointed in the BBC's position on the whole terrorism issue, and this was just another example of self-puffing.

What makes it so laughable is that Radio 5 is currently running a back-slapping filler on how a moderate (aka normal person who is also a...) Muslim complained that R5 ought to interview them too - and not just hot-heads.

...and R5 took up his challenge and went round to his house!

I still can't believe the irony of self-congratulatory stuff like this.

Clearly some folks in R5 think that they are very enlightened - and need to tell us they are too :D

And the Littlejohn comparison you make is really very silly - he's a tabloid polemicist not a journalist for the BBC.

Those who choose the Mail know that they are buying a paper that reflects their own prejudices, I expect that the BBC should have none = that is the issue for me.

  • 34.
  • At 02:22 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Nick Reynolds wrote:

To Mark S of post 25.

The reason the BBC's policy is to try and avoid the use of the word "terrorist" is precisely to ensure that we use accurate language.

Regarding 7/7: "bomber" was a more accurate word than "terrorist".

And the BBC has used the word "terror" widely - about 7/7 and other attacks.

As I said in my first post the BBC is not in favour of absolute freedom of speech with no limits. Our Guidelines state we seek to balance that freedom with other reponsibilities. One of those is to be accurate. One of them is not to cause unnessary offence (a factor in our handling of the Muhammed cartoons).

  • 35.
  • At 03:04 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • J Mercer wrote:

Was this meant to be a defence of BBC balance and impartiality? Describing right-wing papers such as The Sun and the Mail as "wrong", "misguided" (on everything they write about?) and "predictable", and associating them with the "pub bigot" (nicely contrasted with the "innocent bookshop employee") signal an absence of any balance by the BBC here.

I bet we'll never see such a dismissal of the left-wing press on the BBC website. The article inadvertently consolidates perceptions of BBC bias.

  • 36.
  • At 03:55 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Interesting to note that apparently the Sun and Mail are misguided. Presumably because they are not left-wing. No mention of the Mirror being "...punchy, gobby, misguided, opinionated, rabble-rousing..." as I believe it is there.

I think that the problem with Abu Bakr being reported on the BBC (and he is indeed innocent under British law. As is Nick Griffin, but it did not stop the BBC trying to suggest otherwise, even after the court case) was that there was no balance, no pointing out why this statement was farcical, or pointing out that islamic states (and Abu Bakr advocates the UK becoming one) are police states.

There was no chance that the BBC would let anti-islamic extemists talk unopposed. Why does it let islamic extremists air their propoganda?

  • 37.
  • At 05:32 PM on 14 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Nick Reynolds #34; A terrorist is someone who tries to terrify the average citizen by creating the fear that he could be the victim of a random act of mass violence simply by going about his daily business. This is done in the service of a political cause such as in blowing up a commuter train in Madrid to convince the population to overthrow their government and replace it with one which will not send troops to Iraq. And in Spain, it worked.

"Our guidelines state we seek to balance that freedom with other responsibilities....One of them is not to cause unnecessary offence."

Whom is BBC afraid of offending when it refuses to call a terrorist a "terrorist?" Other would be terrorists or those who support their political goals including those who even agree with their methods? Or is BBC afraid it might become a target of terrorists itself? Maybe that's part of the real reason, fear for its own safety.

  • 38.
  • At 02:06 AM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Steve B wrote:

The BBC biased?

Well, yes - biased against reactionary nonsense, biased against bigotry and narrowmindedness, against over-simplistic reductions of issues to black or white, with us or against us arguments, biased against fear and ignorance and suspicion of "others", biased against playing on people's fears and inbuilt prejudices.

Yes the BBC is, to my mind, biased against all those things, all of which are regularly spewed out of the pages of the Sun and Daily Mail.

To see this as a problem is as silly as saying that stoking prejudice is as acceptable as challenging it.

Don't try to claim this is a right/left issue - the paper I most often buy is the Telegraph, and I'm anti-licence fee in principle! But that doesn't mean I'm foolish enough to go along with this strange argument that the BBC should spend more time tolerating the intolerant. History shows us where that got us (and with rather a lot of support too).

Papers like the Sun and the Mail pander to and feed fears and ignorances. The quality press and the BBC attempt to challenge them. The fact that Mail and Sun readers and columnists repeatedly use "liberal" as a dirty word speaks volumes about where they're coming from.

Kevin, I'm glad you had the guts to say what you did here. And be assured it's not only lefty Guardian readers who agree with you.

  • 39.
  • At 02:34 AM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Jim Joe wrote:

* Nick Reynolds wrote:
"As I said in my first post the BBC is not in favour of absolute freedom of speech with no limits. Our Guidelines state we seek to balance that freedom with other reponsibilities. One of those is to be accurate. One of them is not to cause unnessary offence (a factor in our handling of the Muhammed cartoons)."

The BBC is more than happy to cause unnecessary offense when of course the target of its offense is a group that will not retaliate violently. Consider "Jerry Springer the Opera" - two hours broadcast of the most offensive and extremely blasphemous material imaginable. A more contemptible mockery of our Saviour Jesus Christ has never been staged in a West End theatre, let alone broadcast on television. Yet the BBC was more than happy to cause this offense.

It has been well said that if ‘Springer’ had portrayed Mohammed or a Hindu ‘deity’ as deviant, or rubbished the Sikh religion, it would never have been written. Christianity seems to be ‘fair game’, through a combination of political correctness and the fact that Christians are peaceful people.

A two hour show broadcast ridiculing Christ! Yet the BBC couldn't display twelve small little drawings for fear of offending Muslims! Not to mention that the drawings deemed most offensive, depicting Mohammed with a bomb for a turban, were hardly a characterization given that

(i) according to Islams own account in the Koran, Muhmmad advocated violence against the unbeliever

(ii) The fact is, Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, Omar Bakri, Abu Hamza, Abu Bakar Bashir, and so many others
claim Muhammad’s example and words as their inspiration. Some of the cartoons just call attention to that fact.

The BBC does indeed have double standards, does indeed takes sides, is unable to report the truth, unable to examine things critically.

  • 40.
  • At 07:45 AM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Almir wrote:

The BBC is not on the side of the normal person, the BBC is on the side of Islamic extremists, this is shown in it's amazingly biased reporting of anything to do with Islam, I am Muslim and find this bias disturbing.

To the first few posts on this blog, I want to say to you that we do not need you to defend our religion, nor do we need you to defend these extremists, the left-leaning BBC is damaging inter faith dialogue by spinning any story in favour of these evil people.

Yesterday was a case in point, thousands of people demonstrated in Lebanon against Syria and it's Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, yet the BBC gave Hezbollah as much air time as the protesters, why?, well we know why because Hezbollah is an extremist group who think nothing of murdering innocent Muslims for not sharing their apocalyptic views.

I have tried three times to get a post on this blog but the BBC seems intent on not publishing.

  • 41.
  • At 12:07 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Almir wrote:

Dear Kevin,

What exactly were you trying to prove with your blog?, I guess you were trying to admit that you only care about what the left-wing press think, and that any views from right wing papers must therefore be wrong?. I find your comments both baseless and biased, please try and bring some balance to your comments, as Christopher mentioned in his comments you have some serious personal problems to resolve, unfortunately the BBC is not the place for you to do this.

It's been a bad week for the BBC, first the British public saying no to road pricing which the BBC has been promoting, and then the British public saying that no the Police should not apologise for the 4th time to the two men caught up in the terror raid in Forest Gate. This must be causing some concern amongst the BBC management that the British public are fed up with your attempts to spin things in favour of your own agenda.

Never mind BBC, you always have the Guardianistas to come and support you.

  • 42.
  • At 12:47 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"One of those is to be accurate. One of them is not to cause unnessary offence (a factor in our handling of the Muhammed cartoons)."


So the BBC would never show something that would (and did) cause offense to Christians - like the Jerry Springer Opera?

It seems that was fair game because the targets were Christians but the cartoons were not because the targets were Muslims - can you please explain to us how this is balanced? As an agnostic I think both groups over reacted. However, it seems the BBC cared little about offending Christians. Can you please explain what was necessary about showing the Jerry Springer Opera?

What makes it worse is that one was news (Muslims rioting and even killing over cartoons) and the other entertainment.

"Regarding 7/7: "bomber" was a more accurate word than "terrorist"."

That is true, however "terrorist bombers" is more accurate still, and if you wanted to be really accurate you could even add "Muslim". After all you want to be "accurate" don't you.

  • 43.
  • At 03:57 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Nick Reynolds wrote:

Regarding Jerry Springer The Opera, the BBC Governors considered complaints against and concluded:

"In all the circumstances, the outstanding artistic significance of the programme outweighed the offence which it caused to some viewers and so the broadcasting of the programme was justified."

See this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2005/03_march/30/springer.shtml

A private prosecution that the BBC's broadcast of Jerry Springer: The Opera was blasphemous was thrown out of court last month:

http://www.chortle.co.uk/news/2007/01/16/4923/god_loses_court_case

(Just a reminder that I work for the BBC).

  • 44.
  • At 04:00 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Mark S wrote:

To the Moderator

I have not broken any of your house rules, however BenM in post #32 has. What I have written is a reasonable response.


Please post what I have written below:

BenM #32
‘Don’t worry about the Bens and MarkSs of this world. The loonies on the Right will always have their petty obsessions.’


BenM
You miss my point. The BBC has spent thousands of pounds of licence payers' money trying to block the release of a report which is believed to be highly critical of its Middle Eastern coverage. The action will increase suspicions that the report, which is believed to run to 20,000 words, includes evidence of anti-Israeli bias in news programming.

If the BBC has nothing to hide why not publish the Balen report?

Now it is obvious to all whose moral compass points in the right direction that the BBC has to remain impartial.

And if it has failed to do so then it should come clean and apologies.

Pointing out a report that suggest the BBC has taken sides, and another report that says the BBC should use the ‘T’ word when & where it is appropriate, does not qualify me as a ‘Right wing loonie.’

Nick Reynolds
‘The reason the BBC’s policy is to try and avoid the use of the word “terrorist” is precisely to ensure that we use accurate language.’

Nick
The 7/7 bombings fit the description of a terror attack according to this Childrens BBC definition of the word terror.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/newsid_2520000/newsid_2529200/2529233.stm

You should also be consistent with the use of your language, I’ll give you an example.

Here’s how the BBC describes Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma bomber).

‘American-born terrorist Timothy McVeigh targeted federal employees in his rage against the United States government.’
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/2191251.stm

Now here’s how the BBC describes Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

‘The Jordanian-born militant first appeared in Iraq as the leader of the Tawhid and Jihad insurgent group,’ or ‘Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was Iraq’s most notorious insurgent.’
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5058262.stm

Finally, by your own definition, the ‘T’ word should have been edited out on this links below? (The terror attack on Television Centre).

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/1201273.stm

You’ll note Richard Sambrook says in the link “Terrorist attacks on the media were rare and so the bomb marked a significant change.”

Kind regards

Mark S

  • 45.
  • At 04:48 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • MarkS wrote:

Almir #39, I'm experiancing problems getting my threads posted as well, even though I have'nt broken any of the house rules.

Nick Reynolds

It's incredible how the BBC sneers at Christianity and bows submissively to Islam.

Another point to this - how many times do you hear "Christ!" used as a curse on television? As in "Christ Almighty", "Jesus!!" etc. The problem with the BBCs reverence to anything to do with Mohamed, actually brings this into focus, which probably would not seem all that noticeable to many but the deeply religious Christians. If they can be respectful to one religion - why not to all?

Kind regards

Mark S

  • 46.
  • At 04:50 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Philippa, UK wrote:

As a card carrying atheist, I have no axe to grind on the subject of blasphemy - however...

I agree that televising Jerry Springer was clearly very offensive to a lot of Christians. The Mohammad cartoons by contrast were not shown at all - even in the context of a serious news story that has resulted in successful criminal convictions, unlike an entirely frivolous entertainment item.

Is it just me or is this very odd ?

My belief is that the BBC were scared of showing them because of perceived fear of violence. That is appalling self-censorship.

When combined with the airtime given to extremists and apologists, it really does make me wonder why the BBC are being so supine ?

Perhaps two hours of Koran based humour sandwiched between those great value for money idents on BBC2 is in order ?

  • 47.
  • At 07:24 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • David Williams wrote:

Just because you do not agree with the Daily Mail, Sun etc, it does not mean that the Guardian and Economist are correct.
It is also not your place as an editor of a supposed unpartial organisation to attack in such a bigoted way newspapers read by millions of people, exactly what are you trying to say to all these people?, are you trying to say that your views are not worthy?.

I read with admiration 'Almirs' post, this is the real voice of Muslims, I bet your Guardian readers dare not attack him for saying exactly the same as 'Mark S', who was attacked by one of the bloggers which you allowed on to this site.

The public is fed up with your left wing agenda, when will the Guardianistas accept that destroying the family is not a good thing, and if you doubt me the European Union have proved the point.

Being socialist does not mean you are in the moral right, and attacking people for reading the 'wrong sort of newspaper' just reinforces peoples opinion of your bias.

Also like Almir, I have tried to have posts published here yet they never do?, strange that.

  • 48.
  • At 09:37 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Nick Reynolds wrote:

Mark,

Your examples are interesting. Firstly let’s take a look at some key points from the BBC’s policy on the use of language and terror, as expressed in the Guidance Note issued last year (see this link for full details:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines/advice/terrorismlanguage/ourapproach.shtml

“The Guidelines do not ban the use of the word.” i.e. “terrorist”

“…careful use of the word "terrorist" is essential if the BBC is to maintain its reputation for standards of accuracy and especially impartiality. This is especially true when we use the word to describe a person or a group as opposed to an action or event ("the terrorist group", say, as opposed "an act of terror" or "terrorist tactics" or "terrorism").”

Now let’s look at your examples:

1. The Newsround definition of terrorism. You are right when you say that the 7/7 bombings were “terror” attacks. And the BBC used the word “terror” to describe both those attacks and similar attacks. But the Newsround definition does not ascribe the word “terrorist” to specific groups or individuals.

2. You are right about the McVey example. To be consistent I don’t think he should have been described as a “terrorist”. The word is redundant and could have easily been omitted. However I would point out that this example is 5 years old.

3. I don’t think there is a problem with describing the attack on TV Centre as a “terrorist” attack, as this is an “action” or “event”. The problems come, as expressed in the guidance above, when the word “terrorist” is used to describe a specific person or group. This example is 6 years old.

Incidentally I agree with you that name-calling doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Which is kind of the point of the BBC’s policy on “terrorist”.

  • 49.
  • At 11:54 PM on 15 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

Thanks for replying Nick, it is good to have some feedback from the guys on your side of the BBC. Unfortunately, most blogs on the BBC site seem to be ignored by the BBC team once posted.

I just want to pick up on one thing:

"In all the circumstances, the outstanding artistic significance of the programme outweighed the offence which it caused to some viewers and so the broadcasting of the programme was justified."

Personally, I agree with this, and I do not feel that the BBC should shy away from doing something just because it might cause offense.

However, I still don't understand why "artistic significance" is considered more important then providing an explanation for the trigger factor for a worldwide protest (which in some countries turned very violent).

I would agree with the BBC for not wishing to show something for the sole purpose of causing offence, but the cartoons did go some way to explaining the outrage.

  • 50.
  • At 02:27 AM on 16 Feb 2007,
  • Serge wrote:


Yawn. Forget the Sun, and teach your students how to do some reporting.

  • 51.
  • At 07:26 AM on 16 Feb 2007,
  • William wrote:

What a silly question Kevin,

We all know who's side you are on, and unfortunatly for the people who have to pay to for you to keep coming up with this drivel it is not the normal person on the street.
Why don't you just rebrand your name and call yourself the 'National disgrace'?.

Lets hope that when Labour get booted out at the next election that the BBC is also booted out.

  • 52.
  • At 01:31 PM on 16 Feb 2007,
  • Victoria Stiles wrote:

Thank you for restoring my faith in journalism! Critics don't seem to realise is that "unbiased" doesn't mean "never expressing an opinion". You've expressed your opinion in a clear, well-reasoned manner and have every right to do so, just as you allow your critics to sandblast you right underneath your column.

The BBC isn't staffed by non-opinionated robots and it's role isn't merely to spew out "facts". It's a polyphonic forum where both journalists and members of the public can express their views. If you don't want to ever hear someone disagree with your view of the world, stick to the Daily Mail.

  • 53.
  • At 01:44 PM on 16 Feb 2007,
  • Victoria Stiles wrote:

"Why the self censorship if you are all for freedom of speech"

Free speech also means the freedom not to speak. The BBC is very good at deciding for itself how it should report on an issue instead of falling into line with other news sources, who often apply terms inappropritely or fail to consider other aspects of a story in their scramble for audience / readership share.

  • 54.
  • At 10:36 PM on 16 Feb 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

The BBC is clearly on the side of the terrorists, anti-semetics and the Guardian.

I have just sent a complaint about your failure to publish any comments that are not left wing in nature, I tested this myself by posting left wing comments all published 9 out of 9 and right wing posts 1 out of 9 published.

It would make a change if you actually published this.

  • 55.
  • At 12:12 PM on 17 Feb 2007,
  • David wrote:

Round of applause for Kevin.

  • 56.
  • At 08:55 PM on 17 Feb 2007,
  • Umm Yusuf wrote:

An excellent post. Balanced, fair and hard-hitting -keep it coming!

  • 57.
  • At 04:45 AM on 19 Feb 2007,
  • James wrote:

#36 - I assumed you didn't hear Abu Bakr interviewed on Five Live? Peter Allen (?) challenged him repeatedly.

#38 - bit pathetic, no?

  • 58.
  • At 11:40 AM on 19 Feb 2007,
  • Joseph wrote:

Hello Mr Moderator,

Why do you not publish my comments?, I even complained about your bias through your offical channels, the answer I got was that you do not believe your are biased, well, publish my comments then.

Not one of my comments has been rude, rascist or sexist, they only thing they have in common is that I mention your left-wing bias.

  • 59.
  • At 01:53 PM on 19 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"Thank you for restoring my faith in journalism! Critics don't seem to realise is that "unbiased" doesn't mean "never expressing an opinion". You've expressed your opinion in a clear, well-reasoned manner and have every right to do so, just as you allow your critics to sandblast you right underneath your column."

This is true, however if someone expresses an opinion to remain unbiased it would be considered fair to allow the other side to offer a counter. With the BBC we seem to get lots of opinions and very rarely do we get counters.

And as for allowing critics to comment on the article - that is pretty standard for a blog. However, it is rare that the BBC allows people to comment on their actual news articles.

However, the BBC does censor comments posted behind the blogs, on several occasions I have seen comments that I have made not get displayed on the site and I have read comments suggesting the same is true for others.

  • 60.
  • At 02:17 PM on 19 Feb 2007,
  • Mark S wrote:

To the Moderator

Yet again I'm experiencing problems posting here, please note that I have not broken any of your house rules.

#45

The BBC is here to inform educate & entertain, not to self censor langauge or information they find uncomfortable.

Kind regards

Mark S

  • 61.
  • At 02:18 PM on 19 Feb 2007,
  • David wrote:

To Victoria post no.44

If you truly believe that the BBC is a 'polyphonic forum' then perhaps you should read Robin Aitken's nightmarish article about working at the BBC.

Kevin Marsh gets an honourable mention in that as well.

  • 62.
  • At 03:14 PM on 19 Feb 2007,
  • Nick Reynolds wrote:

Re post 49.

One of the myths that has got around is that the BBC refused to show the Muhammed cartoons.

In fact they were shown on BBC television news and on Newsnight albeit not in full frame, and their contents were described in words extensively. Also while they were not published on the BBC's website we did have a link from there to the newspaper's website where they were visible at the time.

So we did try and explain them while trying not to cause unnecessary offence.

See this post:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/helen_boaden/

  • 63.
  • At 09:03 PM on 19 Feb 2007,
  • Rita K wrote:

Cheap jibes against the readers of the tabloids do not constitute a rational argument. Of course the BBC has displayed left-wing bias for a number of years now, so much so, that I'm no longer dismayed or disgusted, merely resigned. Every programme, from 'Today' down to 'Woman's Hour' is stuffed with commentators from the Guardian or the Independent, all mouthing identical views, mainly anti-Western, especially anti-American and anti-English (that is, if they deign to admit that there is such a people as the English).

The licence fee should be withdrawn.

Kind regards, lol

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