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Trusting the BBC

Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks | 16:40 UK time, Friday, 23 February 2007

Former BBC correspondent Robin Aitken has written a stimulating book on his experiences of working in the BBC - "Can we trust the BBC?" Last night I appeared in debate with him at the ICA in London.

aitken203.jpgRobin's case, to simplify massively, is that the BBC is full of left-leaning journalists who produce left-leaning news that is anti-European, anti-monarchist, anti-prison, pro-immigrant, anti-market, pro-public spending etc etc.

Robin delivered his polemic with brio. He is clearly enjoying the role as a controversialist, freed from the constraints of BBC impartiality. But I argued that his book wouldn't pass muster as a piece of BBC journalism, as it was strongly anecdotal and not based on firm evidence.

If the question is "Can we trust the BBC?", the evidence shows most people do trust the BBC. Survey after survey indicates the BBC is significantly more trusted than other broadcasters and more trusted than any national newspaper. The public which trusts the BBC includes many readers of right-of-centre newspapers. Those people clearly distinguish between a newspaper that might reinforce their views and the BBC's role in providing an impartial perspective.

However I acknowledged in the debate that there are subjects where the BBC has been too slow in reflecting the full range of public perspectives - in particular over immigration and Europe. I argued that that shortfall derives not from the personal perspectives of BBC journalists, whatever that may be, but from the particular institutional position of the BBC. Its relationship with parliamentary politics, while fully independent, has always been a close one and the BBC has tended historically to operate within the parameters of formal politics.

However the range of opinions in an increasingly fragmented population and the technologies, such as texting and e-mail, which allow these diverse opinions to be more easily expressed have obliged us to shift the balance between formal politics and public politics. This disparity has been one of the factors behind our coverage over the years on Europe and immigration. Opinion surveys show there has been a gap between the range of views within Parliament and the range of public opinion.

The BBC's commitment to interactivity - for instance through this site's Have Your Say section, through texts to Five Live, Radio 1 Newsbeat and News 24 - is providing an important new element that is feeding directly into our journalism. Although that can only ever be one influence on our editorial decision-making and in the end, we are paid to apply our judgment.

But listening to audiences more and being open to public criticism through debates and blogs (such as this) are ways in which we are able to demonstrate openness. We hope that greater openness will mean that the trust we already receive from audiences can be maintained and strengthened.

Comments

Can we trust the BBC to do what?

I live in Hong Kong, and I check news.bbc.co.uk daily for an idea of what's going on back home. I can trust it for that - and for "local" news (train wrecks and murders) it's the most accurate source from here. The BBC's Who, What, Where and When can surely be trusted.

But I rarely read more than a few paragraphs of any national or international story, since the journalism often becomes murkier towards the bottom. The "Why" is repeatedly missing, misleading, or borrowed from the popular view. It's not because journalists are left- or right- wing; more that they always seem to be lacking in focussed specialty or real depth of knowledge of the topic they're attempting to write about.

And I can never trust any online story written about North Korea, because of the Simpsons-esque "fact box" which appears on these stories. I trust The Onion more than the BBC in these cases.

  • 2.
  • At 05:22 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Stu wrote:

No Bias huh?

"BBC radio phone-in silences the elderly
By Stewart Payne
Last Updated: 1:58am GMT 15/11/2006

The BBC was accused of ageism yesterday after a leaked memo revealed that phone-in presenters on a local radio station have been barred from allowing callers who sound old on air."

Next..

"Speaking about the memo, respected author and journalist Stephen Pollard said: “Israel is to blame for almost everything. The Palestinians are not responsible for anything; Israel is the culpable party…If this is what passes for high-level analysis at the BBC, is it any wonder its reporting is so poisonous?"

Lastly and Im not sure about this one..

"At the secret meeting in London last month, which was hosted by veteran broadcaster Sue Lawley, BBC executives admitted the corporation is dominated by homosexuals and people from ethnic minorities, deliberately promotes multiculturalism, is anti-American, anti-countryside and more sensitive to the feelings of Muslims than Christians."


  • 3.
  • At 07:32 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Lorentz wrote:

The BBC has passed its prime, and it is the low quality 'stack it high, sell it cheap' of broadcasters; News 24 as a prime example of its fall from grace. There would be merit in this approach if its aim was to entertain and inform, but an increasing amount of the content is just drivel.

The BBC is not outwardly left-leaning, but its prejudices are apparent from what it chooses not to cover, and its choice of phases in the items it does broadcast.

Time to move on, dismantle the BBC and distribute funds amongst the broadcasters for quality and public interest content on a competitive basis.

  • 4.
  • At 09:55 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • David wrote:

Simplifying massively I agree full heartily with Robin Aitken. While BBC adheres to (a facade) of interactivity through such portals of 'Have your say' you can still see a clear bias in the comments that are allowed to be published.

Can the BBC be trusted?, no.

But then again, no large organisation should be trusted such as banks etc...

Only a BBC apparatchik like yourself could believe that another BBC apparatchik calling the BBC 'trustworthy' is sufficiently significant to merit a place on a BBC news website. Really, do you guys have no self-awareness at all?

  • 6.
  • At 10:23 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Mike Bennett wrote:

Hi Peter - I thought this was a pretty complacent piece with no soul-searching involved. It's a corporate view not a personal view and that doesn't work in a blog - check out the Cluetrain menifesto for more detail.

I would commend to you a thorough study of the Medialens site which shows just how often the BBC gets it wrong and how poorly your staff respond to being challenged. Just like the rest of the news media. And from what I read there, I certainly don't trust the BBC.

I would recommend an honest look at the BBC's role in getting us into the debacle of Iraq and to look very carefully at the way that Iran is now being reported. You don't want to stand idly by again giving the government line while disaster happens - do you?

Or do you?

That's what's currently happening.

  • 7.
  • At 10:24 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • tom atkins wrote:

I'm not sure that you've checked your copy. The book alleges an anti-american, pro-european bais.

  • 8.
  • At 10:50 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Andrew Briggs wrote:

For most people the main failing of the BBC is not a question of trust - and by your own admission it is not completely trusted, just trusted more than other sources - but one of the amateurish, patronising, ignorant and immature style of presentation and delivery by many of it's presenters especially, Mr Horrocks, those on TV News. Robert Peston and Nick Robinson to name but two. Equally irritating are the pathetic Mickey Mouse graphics which are used to 'illustrate' their pieces to camera - they add nothing to the information being given but presumably somebody in your employ likes playing with the software. Don't insult the intelligence of your audience - and financers - and in turn we will start to respect, and maybe even trust, you. For now however, you are just another bunch of journalists - and outside of media la la land, that isn't a compliment.

  • 9.
  • At 10:55 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Clive Hill wrote:

Why don't you try comparing the comments received by 'Have Your Say' with those published by the moderators. Tell me after that whether the BBC can be trusted. I believe broadcast news - and BBC News in particular - was an early casualty of the Iraq War. You have not been trustworthy since.

  • 10.
  • At 11:28 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • charlie rose wrote:

Well actually it's a bit more complicated than that, isn't it. Take the issue of the ramp into Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem currently being worked on by the Israelis.
News at Ten on BBC1 had a thoroughly uninformative and quite conceivably biased report on the subject a couple of weeks ago. But I knew that in part because the BBC Online site had one of the best pieces of contextualised, balanced and impartial reporting on the same subject. Which one represented the BBC?
This is the problem really - the BBC doesn't necessarily guarantee the quality of the work of individual journalists - you have to rely on the culture of a particular program as your guarantee of impartiality. Thus it's pointless expecting hard core Financial Times type journalism from say the PM program (despite Eddie Mair's undoubted excellence as a broadcaster) because the tone of the whole show runs counter to the sort of objectivity inherent in the News at 6 that follows it. Again, I wouldn't trust very much I hear on BBC1's News at Ten, yet Newsnight is a damn good piece of broadcasting.
So in brief, group-think seems just as alive within the BBC as it is everywhere else in the human world, and as is the case elsewhere, it takes acknowledging it to deal with it. This I think is where the not-one-step-backwards defenders of the BBC fall down, regarding the Corporation as one organic whole each part of which accurately represents the others and all of which are entirely untainted by any kind of group-think whatsoever - which seems to be the position adopted by Peter Horrocks.
But in the end Peter Horrocks is right in pointing out that the BBC is being forced by technology to take on board the scepticism of those who watch it closely, and even those who merely text in a view. But to represent that as the BBC merely moving out from it's previous impartial and accurate reporting of Westminster politics is perhaps a trifle specious. Surely it is more likely that large volumes of texts and emails cannot any longer be dismissed as the work of nutters with an over supply of green ink (which is undoubtedly what any red-blooded journalist would wish to do with criticism of their work).
Finally we shouldn't forget the breaking of the BBC quasi-monopoly on News through the medium of the Web. I now have quite frequently read several different reports from several different papers from around the world - and not always simply re-writes of Reuters or AP - before I ever hear a report on a story from the BBC. My ability to judge whether I think the BBC report is 'impartial' has thus improved by several orders of magnitude, and it's that that makes me wary of the sort of view exressed so cogently by Peter Horrocks.
And definitely finally (honest), Peter Horrocks writes 'If the question is "Can we trust the BBC?", the evidence shows most people do trust the BBC.' I don't think a first-year undergraduate would be allowed to get away with that. The fact that most people do trust the BBC proves that technically speaking - ie in logic - we 'can' trust the BBC, but the question is much better put as 'Should we trust the BBC?'.
To which my answer is, that depends.

  • 11.
  • At 11:35 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Thomas wrote:

Right-wingers ALWAYS say the BBC is full of left-wingers and left-wingers ALWAYS say that it's full of right-wing reactionaries. Basically, this is just another pathetic nobody who wanted to push an agenda of his own and wasn't allowed to, so now he's blaming everyone else.

Who cares what he thinks, when we can all watch the BBC and see for ourselves that he's wrong?

  • 12.
  • At 11:36 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

No one should trust one news source. The links to other news sources on stories were a great idea but an aggregator like news.google.com is way better; you might not find out that somethign has happened on the spot but you will get many differant views. Every news source is biased in one way or another. An example from an anti BBC website just the other day is the BBC Reported

"Islamic prayers at Jerusalem's holiest site ended peacefully on Friday, a week after clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police."

whilst the israeli media reported

"Dozens of masked Muslim youths and children clashed with security forces and reporters in east Jerusalem's Wadi Joz on Friday afternoon, throwing rocks, blocking streets and burning garbage bins."

Neither the bbc nor the jerusalem post had art I have absolutely no idea who is telling the truth. I have no way of finding out. The media's response to this is citizen news, be it have your say or ireport on cnn.

Citizen news is great; until you realise someone is sitting at the BBC filtering the comments which means they arent outside getting stories. Why wasnt their art on the BBC ? Why wasnt a correspondant on site; especially after an entire week of problems over the reconstruction.

There are plenty of blogs or other websites for people to make their opinions felt; let them go elsewhere dont degrade the BBC with drivel. The new york times had a great article on why things like Have Your Say are a complete waste of time because they degrade into personal insults all over(http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/20/health/psychology/20essa.html?ref=health)


One last tiny thing; please have better photo's your tiny images are a disgrace; be the first news company to embrace HD...

No you can't be trusted, you only have to read Mihir Bose latest rantings which he uses to denigrate Arsenal with his snide comments that have nothing to do with Club finances.
This man is a Spurs supporter and it shows. He is a disgrace to an organistion claiming neutrality.

  • 14.
  • At 11:39 AM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • John Kane wrote:

A poor defence of the bias in BBC news coverage, bias that has been recognised and admitted by the hierarchy of the BBC. You are recognised as being: pro-european but anti-american, pro-arab but anti-israeli, pro-socialist but anti anything right of centre. Your bias will never change until you stop exclusively recruiting from Guardian readers.
I no longer trust your coverage but use your information with that from other sources to, hopefully, arrive at a balanced view of national and world events.

  • 15.
  • At 12:03 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Stuart Wilson wrote:

I live and work in Poland as an English teacher, and also travel around Europe quite a lot.

When talking with other Europeans about the media in Europe often the subject of the BBC comes up, and almost everyone I talk to has enormous respect for our beloved institution.

I am bemused how Robin Aitken thinks the BBC is "anti-European". I watch BBC World, use the BBC News website almost every day and find it mostly impartial, if anything it is occasionally pro-European, which is refreshing considering the majority of UK's one-sided newspapers see the European Union as the devil incarnate.

Take for example Mark Mardell's excellent Europe Diary on this site, which is essential reading for anyone wanting a balanced view of European issues.

I trust the BBC as do many, many, people around the world.

Mr Aitken - your comments sound like the immature rantings of a disgruntled ex-employee.

  • 16.
  • At 12:13 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Julian Nicholson wrote:

I believe the BBC 's output is exceptional. But in its news and political coverage it is not objective.

I believe the BBC shows a constant left wing bias. i.e... multiculturalism good, America bad, Israel evil, Palestinians beyond reproach, EU wonderful etc...

Normally I would have no problem with a broadcaster expressing bias, we all buy papers which express different opinions.

No, the problem I have is that I have to pay a license fee which includes this part of the BBC's output. It is as though I am being forced to join a religion and then being preached to against my will.

  • 17.
  • At 12:15 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

[QUOTE]He is clearly enjoying the role as a controversialist, freed from the constraints of BBC impartiality.[/QUOTE]

do you ever read the comments you get here? You certainly don't comment on them. Nobody thinks the BBC is impartial even those who are left leaning themselves such as myself.

Your arrogance on your posts here beggers belief 99% of the comments on the last article you did on the subject rejected your claims.

It really makes me wonder why you bother having a blog you clearly have contempt for its readers.

  • 18.
  • At 12:20 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • simon walker wrote:

Peter Horrocks is backing a lost cause if he thinks he can persuade the majority of 'telly tax' payers that the beeb is 'representative'. Sadly the corporation has slid downhill faster than Franz Klammer. If you want a peek inside the goldfish bowl that is the BBC's tainted view of events then you can do a lot worse than review the blog - http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com/. Compelling reading for those who wish to see how the beeb tries to 'pull another one' more often that not.

  • 19.
  • At 12:22 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Elizabeth wrote:

I think you are deluding yourself if you do not accept there is not a left wing bias at the BBC. There is a permanent sneer on the lips on those charged with running Newsnight for example. Within the last few years also the standard of news reporting has suffered hugely from the dogma of the editiors.

I watch the BBC and listen to the radio but with less respect then I used. Radio 5 Live which you hold up as an example of the public being allowed to participate is increasingly becoming like some poor quality commercial radio station. The worst offender has to be Stephen Nolan.

  • 20.
  • At 12:44 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Milan Novkovic wrote:

I trust BBC.

Like with almost any complex, dynamic system most aspects of BBC’s work, and viewers’ reactions to that work, are subjected to certain volatility.

That is not only normal, but is to be encouraged. Better BBC could not evolve just by the application of inference. Better BBC would always be a little bit of an emerging phenomenon where only ‘a posteriori’ analysis could provide that additional information about strengths and weaknesses of BBC, as well as clearer picture about paths ahead.

In the fast moving world of information, where profound structural dynamism is a norm, it is our duty to support BBC.

  • 21.
  • At 12:47 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • andy thompson wrote:

in the statement "Can we trust the BBC?", the evidence shows most people do trust the BBC, this is not evidence. it is as he accuses Aitken of anecdotal. of greater concern, i think is the reduction of standards in news. partic. of the main tv evening news which is now so dumbed down as to be part of what used to be childrens hour. "Correspondents" with no specialist experience, reporters with little knowledge but pretty faces. no coverage of a news story... merely a grinning face with the 'live' caption. i am fed up with opening words like.. "a few hours ago i saw...." show the pictures.only do a piece to camera if you have no pictures of the story.
The only bbc news prog worth watching is now Newsnight.

Trust in Auntie Beeb is a sublimated form of Stockholm Syndrome, so infantilised we have become. The BBC is anything but trustworthy: it is consistently condescending, smug (as this piece by Peter Horrocks amply demonstrates), London-centric, condescending, middle-class, and pro-establishment - and all while maintaining the pretence it is none of these things.

  • 23.
  • At 12:58 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • K. Preston wrote:

You say that Robin Aitkin has "no firm evidence" that the BBC is left-leaning.

But you yourself make the claim that the BBC provides "an impartial perspective". Can you please point me in the direction of the firm evidence that supports this?

A number of BBC jounalists have referred -- affectionately -- to their employer as "the Guardian of the airwaves."

All established news organizations have an institutional culture or worldview. The BBC's is clearly progressive or left-leaning in character. Not to say that it is monolithic or following an active agenda. It is just overly populated by people who subscribe to a left-leaning political value-set.

You have a moral obligation to the licence-payers to engage in an open debate on this issue. Injecting more people of alternate political persuations into your ranks would also help.

  • 24.
  • At 01:08 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • top yorkie wrote:

I don't believe a word nick robinson says and judging by the comments on political websites I am far from alone.

Certain journalists are prepared to say and write almost anything to keep in the good books of their sources.

Robinson may be totally innocent of this but the circumstantial evidence seems to suggest otherwise

What hard evidence is there that the BBC is not full of left-leaning journalists? ( Really - why not tackle this subject directly ? Maybe you could get ITN to send an undercover reporter in ;-) )

Has the BBC ever carried out an opinion poll or checked past party affiliations - or the future affiliations of those that left its organisation ?

Your argument on trust is disingenuous - since saying a lot of people do trust the BBC is not an answer to should they trust the BBC.

Openness does not exclude bias. No doubt the same argument you have made for the BBC could have been made for the Metropolitan police after the Stephen Laurence inquiry and the accusation of institutional racism.

By the way why do you think impartiality is an obtainable or realistic objective in news reporting anyway ? As soon as you edit information you are introducing bias.

  • 26.
  • At 01:24 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

Oh just admit it, the BBC is so busted when it comes to slanted reporting - the fact that Peter Horrocks, head of TV News, feels the need for rebuttal shows there is a case to answer, and I would have expected something better than trying to rubbish Robin Aitken for razing the question "Can we trust the BBC?"

And coming up with the line “the evidence shows most people do trust the BBC” avoids the question nicely, it’s not whether the masses trust the BBC, its whether the BBC is worthy of the trust. Answer the direct question Robin, is all BBC reporting unbiased and devoid of agenda?

  • 27.
  • At 01:36 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • tom atkins wrote:

These comments don't get published until the link from the news front page is removed and no one is reading this page any more.
Your pretending to be interested in receiving feedback.
You should be ashamed of yourselves.

  • 28.
  • At 01:40 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Andrew Malkin wrote:

BBC television news has become more alarmist and tabloid in nature in the past few months. It's very disappointing to see an institution that was once able to step back and report on news with less emotion, descend into scare tactics and other media methods that the BBC never used to espouse.

  • 29.
  • At 02:00 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

I would agree that I trust the output of BBC News to be truthful and honest. That does not mean though that it is not left-leaning and in cases of opinion biased towards increases in public spending and central control.

The fact that I trust the output of the BBC does not mean that I consider it fair and impartial (if a single source can ever be impartial).

  • 30.
  • At 02:01 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Steve G wrote:

You forgot to mention 'anti-Israeli' in your list.

  • 31.
  • At 02:05 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Concerned Public wrote:

The government was democratically elected by the public but the BBC is not.

Every day we hear BBC opposition to the elected government's policies and elected representatives, which represent our public's demcratically expressed vote for their government.

Is it any wonder that the public are becoming confused at what they perceive to be a lack of objective reporting by the BBC?

You can't answer the question "Can we trust the BBC?" by saying "more people trust us than other news organisations".

I'm sure lots of Daily Mail readers trust the Daily Mail. If people are happy with their news source, they don't question it. I personally wouldn't trust the Daily Mail to act as wrapping round my fish and chips.

  • 33.
  • At 02:09 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Colin Soames wrote:

Hmm, that BBC 'commitment to interactivity' didn't stop you censoring innumerable postings on the 'Home News' message boards.

Now the message boards have been largely emasculated by the BBC choosing the topic which the public can be allowed to debate.

  • 34.
  • At 02:28 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • AJackson wrote:

At one time I considered the BBC to be totally honest and forthright in covering the news and now quite frankly I check other news sources before I look at the BBC news.
If the BBC was as as unbiased and liberal with news events as it is with the license money it receives it may start to resemble some credibilty.

AJ.

Tell me - if the BBC is so confident about the impartiality of its reporting why is it resisting a freedom of information request for the relase of the internal Balen Report?

http://ayrshireblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Freedom%20of%20Information

  • 36.
  • At 02:47 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

During the summer of 2006, BBC extensively reported a study performed by and published in The Lancet, a British medical journal claiming that since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and subsequent to the cessastion of organized military resistance from the Baathist regime, up to 600,000 Iraqis had died directly as a result of the occupation. It's a war BBC clearly opposed then and continues to oppose now. At the time the occupation had lasted for about 1000 days meaning that on average, 600 Iraqis would have had to have died every day. Yet even during the worst days of terrorist attacks in Iraq, fewer than 200 died, often fewer than 100. No BBC reporter I heard ever questioned Lancet's method or conclusions which were highly suspicious anyway relying on a small number of personal surveys in Baghdad, the data from which was not verified and then extrapolating it for the entire nation. BBC also never reported in the same news pieces that during Saddam Hussein's regime, an estimated 1 million Iraqis were killed by the government, about 150 a day and that this stopped with the invasion. Would I trust BBC to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? When pigs can fly.

  • 37.
  • At 03:06 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Charles wrote:

Re 12.02pm - '...Mark Mardell's excellent Europe Diary..'

Oh yes, that was really spot on - he went to Turkey and wondered why the Armenians in a small village seemed reluctant to say anything which the local Turks might take exception to. Never mind, he thought, whatever concerned them was all in the past.

This was very much towing the Blair political line - let's welcome lovely democratic Turkey into the European fold and move on. There was no meaningful attempt at journalistic investigation into one of the most tragic events of the last century.

A few weeks later, the editor of Turkey's leading/only Armenian newspaper was killed in the street by a nationalist. Now he was a journalist - not a glorified travelogue writer. How many BBC journalists could stand in his shoes?

ps. I should, perhaps, make it clear that I am not an Armenian.

  • 38.
  • At 03:07 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • K Buckmaster wrote:

Well, you can look at my last post and consider why you didn't let it appear... I imagine you'd need some considerable mental gymnastics to keep kidding yourself you don't have the bias I said... you just confirmed it.

  • 39.
  • At 03:34 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • jim-uk wrote:

"But listening to audiences more and being open to public criticism through debates and blogs such as this, are ways in which we able to demonstrate openness."

When do you listen? You ask peoples opinions and then tell them why they're wrong and the BBC is right. The awful "Newswatch" and "Points of View" programmes are prime examples of this.

  • 40.
  • At 03:38 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • towcestarian wrote:

If you define "unbiased" and "impartial" as being politically, socially and economically in line with The Guardian, then the BBC is clearly and unarguably "unbiased" and "impartial".

I callenge Peter Horrocks to name just a couple of his reporters and presenters who have a right-of-centre disposition. I can easily name 30 who clearly have a left-of-centre disposition.

  • 41.
  • At 04:23 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

tom #27

ah yes i didn't think of that before, i did wonder why new articles would get blogged but none of the backlog of comments got looked at and published on the same occasion i guess thats why. It isn't chance its a concious decision in order to avoid the majority of readers seeing how most people feel.

It really is time the BBC admitted its bias and came forward with ideas of how they were going to deal with this problem. As it stands the BBC claims it is completely impartial and refuses to even acknowledge the problem.

If it carries on like this i can't see it still being here much longer which is a pity i think the BBC has a important job to do in informing the license paying public on important political issues impartially and in a balanced way. But its like the BBC thinks the left stance is so much the right way to do things that it is actually fact.

Its as though the BBC are saying 'hey we just report the news its not our fault the facts prove the left wing view on every single occasion'.

I mean come on do you expect us to swallow that?

  • 42.
  • At 04:38 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • andy wrote:

No they can't be trusted, not after there misrepresentation of the 9/11 truth movement in thre biased slanted recent look into 9/11 "conspiracy theories", in which the most deplorable tactics were used,..... the recent shake up after ther gilligan affair really is taking hold of the BBC (Blair Broadcasting Corporation) right now.

  • 43.
  • At 05:07 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • David Jones wrote:

A nice bit of equivocation there - I wonder if you noticed it youself ?

'Can the BBC be trusted ?' - the question does not mean 'Is it logically possible that someone could trust the BBC ?' - it means something along the lines of 'Are you well-advised to trust the BBC ?'.

Thus, the survey finding that many people do trust the BBC has no bearing at all on the answer to the question. After all many people believed Tass in Soviet Russia - that doesn't mean it was being open and even-handed ...

  • 44.
  • At 07:43 PM on 24 Feb 2007,
  • JG wrote:

"particular institutional position of the BBC"

That's just the point, institutional bias.

"It's not a conspiracy. It's visceral. They think they are on the middle ground", Jeff Randall, former BBC Business Editor, in The Observer, Jan 15th, 2006.

You accuse other organisations of institutional problems, but seem unable to address the ones at the BBC.

  • 45.
  • At 12:10 AM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Carol wrote:

Not bias? Don't make me larf. When Newsnight did a special on the state of the Union, they had 2 Scottish MPs and no English ones. The Scots took up 99% of the programme and only 2 people were allowed to make 30 second comments in favour of England having its own Parliament.
It was a complete Scottish love-in.

Yet when it was requested to have the same amount of time on a programme for English viewers, covering the same issues, we were told "No way."

Not bias? Oh yes you are! Hang your heads in shame.

  • 46.
  • At 12:34 AM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • DM wrote:

It's sad and maddening to see the BBC repeatedly shoot itself in the foot by giving unmerited publicity to every opinion columnist or viewspaper which accuses it of being leftwing or anti-war. If this is the BBC's way of trying to position its brand it's embarrassing.
Just one glance at the body of genuine empirical research on the BBC's news output would lead any rational person to dismiss these ridiculous claims.
The BBC is as establishment as media gets: a corporation overwhelmingly run and staffed by white, privileged, middle class Brits; a corporation policed by the great and the good; a corporation who's worst nightmare is offending the UK government.

  • 47.
  • At 01:56 AM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Jake wrote:

In a study by the Catalyst magazine, it was discovered that 3% of those in acting roles were from ethnic minorities.

So much for the claims of over representation of non-whites by BBC critics.

I remember Price Charlse too said the same things a while ago. He even said that BBC represents everything he does not like.
On the scale of 10 I would give 5 to BBC, on credibility, in the abscense of anything better.

  • 49.
  • At 03:54 AM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Simon Fay wrote:

"Can we trust the BBC?"

The mealy-mouthed intro to this piece is as good a reason as any not to.

Iraq/Hutton split the NuLabBBC party. Neither faction can be trusted.

  • 50.
  • At 04:57 AM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Richy wrote:

"can we trust the BBC?"

Not really, I continue to use you for the football results but where news is concerned, I don't really trust the BBC to provide full accurate coverage.

  • 51.
  • At 08:37 AM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • merle wrote:

I trust MediaLens, Information Clearing House and Xymphora.blogspot more than I do the BBC. It's who the BBC FAILS to speak to that is so insulting to viewers' intelligence - when was the last time you heard the BBC give airtime to the likes of Professor John Dugard, South Africa's Ronnie Kasrils, saxophonist and analyst extraordinaire Gilad Atzmon, articulate journalists Uri Avnery, Patrick Bond, John Pilger... I could go on. In addition, BBC Editors' Blogger Mike Rudin's 'coming out' for the 'Mo Atta and the Flying Venice Circus' 911 conspiracy has left BBC's 'disinterested objectivity' in tatters.

  • 52.
  • At 09:12 AM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Mike Bennett wrote:

Hi Peter - so your blog was mainly disagreed with by us commentators. So what's your response. The thing about blogs is to have a dialogue between human beings.

What do you think about our points?

James (1): We do have specialist correspondents and reporters, both in the UK and internationally, so there is a depth of knowledge behind our reporting and I'm sorry if you can't see this in our coverage. But as for the factbox you mention on our recent online stories about North Korea, I think you had a point - it was a bit over-simplified and we've removed it.

  • 54.
  • At 11:47 AM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Do Beadle wrote:

There is an increasing perception that the BBC is slavishly following the line of the present government and being anti-English.

  • 55.
  • At 10:41 PM on 25 Feb 2007,
  • Bod wrote:

The BBC is certainly an unusually left-leaning organisation and that extends to staff in all areas, as I well remember.

And you just need to listen to the Archers to hear doings in fondly-imagined BBC-land; then read the Archers blog, invariably filled with scornful, hooting listeners.

However, that doesn't mean that a professional journalist should ever let that leaning surface or should not be capable of self-awareness and the ability to temper his / her own personal political preferences.

  • 56.
  • At 12:13 AM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Trofim wrote:

We are all aware that for the BBC “diversity” is the holy of holies, and that the BBC was castigated by Greg Dyke for being “hideously white” and therefore unrepresentative of the population, (“the population” in question, incidentally, seems to be the population of London, which is very highly unrepresentative of Britain as a whole). Can Mr Horrocks supply any data to demonstrate that the employees of the BBC are representative of the population of Britain in terms of age and class? This data should be freely available to the public - the people who provide the BBC's staff with their salaries.

  • 57.
  • At 01:50 AM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Simon wrote:

Once again another ill-informed comment about the BBC "exclusively recuiting from Guardian readers".

As has been said many times before, the market for recruitment advertising in this country is specialised and fragmented. There'd be little point in the BBC advertising their jobs solely in the Telegraph because anyone looking for a media job - whether that be in the BBC, Sky News, or Practical Fishkeeping magazine - knows that the first place to look is the Guardian on a Monday. Even Telegraph readers wanting media jobs buy the Guardian on a Monday, in the same way that Guardian-reading company directors will buy the Sunday Times for top executive positions.

That doesn't mean the system's perfect, of course. There would be an argument that if the BBC thought that Tories were under-represented, it would make sense to advertise in the Telegraph or the Mail - in addition to the Guardian - in the same way that they might advertise in The Voice if black people were under-represented. But in general terms the fact that many BBC jobs are advertised in The Guardian tells us nothing in particular about the make-up of people at the BBC, or what newspapers they choose to read when they're not job-hunting.

  • 58.
  • At 05:29 AM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Eddie Pratt wrote:

The BBC is indeed biased in how it represents and selects the news. This was struck home to me most profoundly a year or so ago watching BBC World. The headlines stridently announced that a controversial film had just been previewed. The film was . . . The Chronicles of Narnia. The controversy? Well, actually there was none, no evidence, no campaigner, no one upset. The only thing that the BBC could come up with was that somehow offensive, particularly to its pet "victims." You see, tellingly, the last show of the report was a Muslim girl, dressed in hijab, whom the BBC tentatively asked if she were offended. To the relief of all, she declared "No." Phew.

  • 59.
  • At 07:58 AM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Nuri Yalcin wrote:

I don't care about the BBC, sorry. I care about the BBC World Service.

When I opened my ears to the World, it started soaking World Service information. It's been 40 years and my conscience is shaped by the World Service. It's the closest thing I have to a role model in life.

For me therefore it also matters how the British ruling establishment views the World Service. And for that I'm amazed to read the World Service is at least partially controlled by Dame Pauline, former head of Joint Intelligence. So the World Service is just upstairs from the top intel office?

Post 15 - I think there is a typo in Peter's original piece - Aitken's criticism is that the BBC has been biased in favour of deeper European integration, and against critics of the EU.

On that front the BBC's own Wilson review found that the BBC has been guity of "bias" and "stereotyping" critics.

Various processes were set in train afterwards - several of which are indeed helpful. But there is still a problem and still a surprisingly low level of knowledge about the EU among the news core - a problem which is even more severe in non "hard" news programmes who only deal with it once in a while.

My impression, working in this field, is that the problems identified in the wilson review have not really been solved. After the initial positive impact of the report died down, and the EU issue went onto the back burner for a while, too many BBC journalists and producers have drifted back to the previous way of dealing with EU stories.

With another whole round of higher profile coverage of the EU coming up over the next couple of months, it is something that Peter and others are going to have to look again at if they are going to get it right.

  • 61.
  • At 11:31 AM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Iain wrote:

Peter Horrocks is disingenuous to just cite Robin Aitken, and to dismiss it as 'clearly enjoying the role as a controversialist' for there has been a stream of people who have worked for the BBC who have made the similar complaints. For example Tim Luckhurst who said … "BBC journalists are aware of their duty to be impartial but they understand it intellectually not instinctively. While the BBC would never endorse one political party, its dominant attitudes are rigidly social democratic. Those values are so dominant that they are treated as virtues not opinions. It is why a BBC correspondent cried when Yassir Arafat died and a Today presenter referred to the Labour Party as “we”."..this I thought was a very perceptive analysis of the BBC.

But it is also disingenuous of Peter Horrocks to attempt to excuse the BBC’s reluctance to deal with issues like immigration because ….’ the BBC has tended historically to operate within the parameters of formal politics…..’ that I am afraid fails to stand up to scrutiny as an argument, for the Conservative party has long been opposed to the levels of immigration we have seen. Unfortunately the debate never got any further than questions from BBC presenters to Conservative MP’s , to paraphrase, ‘Are you racist’ for it seemed to BBC staff that to suggest controls on immigration was the equivalent to being racist, as such the Conservatives under Cameron will no longer touch on the issue for being too toxic.

  • 62.
  • At 12:17 PM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

"I argued that his book wouldn't pass muster as a piece of BBC journalism, as it was strongly anecdotal and not based on firm evidence."

As I have pointed out repeatedly to the BBC, all the evidence on firearms laws is that they do not reduce gun crime, and might even increase it. Yet the BBC never questions them, or tackles the govt or police on why a policy followed for decades has so clearly failed.

Oh, and Simon, advertising solely in the Guardian means using BBC money to subsidise a left-wing paper, both directly through the fees, and indirectly through forcing non-readers to buy it to find jobs.

  • 63.
  • At 12:47 PM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • gavin sanders wrote:

I find I trust the BBC in most of its reporting, though I do think there is too much news airtime to fill so often we are fed opinions rather than facts.

My own gripe is that the BBC is left-leaning from a socio-cultural point of view and at times it feels very "thought police-ish".

  • 64.
  • At 01:00 PM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Alex Swanson wrote:

And coincidentally I've just had to post ANOTHER complaint, this time about http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6396965.stm

  • 65.
  • At 01:35 PM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

"The government was democratically elected by the public but the BBC is not.

Every day we hear BBC opposition to the elected government's policies and elected representatives, which represent our public's demcratically expressed vote for their government."

While the BBC (itself) should not hold opinions on the government's policies, it is also true that the BBC should not blindly follow the elected government. However, for the sake of balance it should present arguments which both support and oppose the government's plans.

One of the most important things about western countries is that our press is free to write comments that oppose the government.

  • 66.
  • At 01:42 PM on 26 Feb 2007,
  • joseph sanderson wrote:

Can we trust the BBC?.

From my experiences over the last few years of listening to the 'World Service' the answer is clearly not.

Do I trust the BBC to give balanced reporting on the Middle East?, again no.

How could I begin to trust the BBC again?, well that's easy, the BBC needs to start recruiting from outside the Guardian reading social group. It is no good for the BBC to say it is impartial when all the evidence points the other way.

As a Guardian reader it amazes me that any comment made by the Guardian about the BBC is picked up and used in these 'Editors' blogs, I also read the Times, yet although it too has many articles about the BBC they are rarely picked up and used in these 'Editors' blogs.

It is also wrong that many comments about BBC bias are either not published or even worse the BBC fails to address the comments by responding in these blogs, which begs the question do you (BBC) really care what the listeners/viewers think?.

So come on BBC start reporting the news and not trying to set the agenda, and let your listeners/viewers make up their own minds about the stories.

Everyone knows the BBC is biased as Mr Aitken says and it is not a new comment, Tim Luckhurst said the same a couple of years before.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/thunderer/article378573.ece

The BBC made the mistake of having a report done into one area, the pro EU bias, they were found guilty of course. It told them effectively they were 'institutionally' biased. They did it naturally, instinctively not deliberately.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4213089.stm


Then there was the classic BBC arrogance to all complaints, with the recent Newswatch showing the complete BBC bias to 'ethnics. fobbed off as usual. The BBC have a weird unreal 'culture' and they actively promote it by all the devious means they can, news choice, emphasis, interviewee selection, etc.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/newswatch/ukfs/hi/newsid_6360000/newsid_6368100/6368173.stm


The likes of this blog piece are the problem they are bias blind as they BBC arrogant like 'know' they are aways 'right'. Still the BBC's real function is to provide excessive pay to these sorts!

Here it is pretended the BBC have any interest in the public views, because of the 'Have Your Say' bit! This is the sort of farcical attitude the biased BBC. Almost all the subjects are only selected comments, BBC chosen, censored. Like the topics. Add to this the appalling actions to the BBC message boards. Closing highly popular ones taking dictatorial control of the Today board as a variation, only letting the BBC start threads, subject censorship, BBC only agenda. NEVER interacting on the message boards them selves. So anyone with experience of the BBC and the have your say and message boards will know the truth is nothing like the BBC in house view, because they have this cultural bias! Just presumably like the writer Peter Horrocks of this Blog. Being paid our money. for his judgment, that is the problem! He is IN the BBC and has their culture not that of the rest of us!

"But I argued that his book wouldn't pass muster as a piece of BBC journalism, as it was strongly anecdotal and not based on firm evidence."

I'd disagree, in fact, I'd say that's exactly what the BBC is looking for in it's journalism, taking the recent 9/11 hit piece released last week.

  • 69.
  • At 10:11 PM on 27 Feb 2007,
  • hatsoff wrote:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=49f_1172526096

I would like to know how the BBC can explain this live news broadcast.

  • 70.
  • At 11:58 PM on 13 Jul 2007,
  • LMScott wrote:

Perhaps we should all be more careful about trusting anyone, especially the media in generaal.

As regards the Beeb, is it not strange that by accident the very great lady, our Gracious Queen is shown storming out of a photo shoot when in actual fact she was only just arriving., mistake????

They should all remember; especially those who draw their salaries from the B.B.C that their positions exist by Royal Charter,and it is not the first time that this comfy nest has been fouled by its inhabitants,

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