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Impartiality and coalition government

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Ric Bailey | 16:08 UK time, Friday, 14 May 2010

We're all in new territory: government, opposition - and broadcasters. Coming to terms with the "new politics" of coalition sets us some new challenges, just as we're trying to recover our breath from the extraordinary events of recent weeks.

There's already been much speculation about the question of "balance". Especially during the campaign, we're used to hearing the views of the different parties on any given issue and seeing them represented on programmes such as Question Time and Any Questions. So if the Conservatives and the Lib Dems are in together, what happens? Do they both get a say?

Firstly, it's important - if obvious - to register that we're no longer in the run-up to a general election. And there is no mathematical formula for deciding what constitutes "balance". Neither is there a requirement for the BBC to think about its coverage in that way once voters have had their say. The key obligation for us has to be due impartiality - which means taking account of the present political context and making good editorial judgements about fairness, reflecting the different strands of all the main arguments.

And those judgements will vary from programme to programme, genre to genre.

Clearly, in our normal news journalism, reporting on what the government is saying or doing, it will normally not make sense to have both government parties saying the same thing. Where the "Liberal-Conservative" administration is speaking with one voice, that's what we will reflect, along with the different voices of opposition parties. Of course, on some issues, we may want to illustrate the different emphasis and nuance the partners bring to a particular story.

For the more set-piece formats, such as Question Time and Any Questions, where politicians are speaking more broadly across the range of political issues, then it's worth stepping back and considering some first principles. Editorially, such programmes look to have contributors who approach issues from different perspectives and encompass a breadth of arguments. But they are also often discussing issues which are not necessarily just about government and opposition - and not just about the politics of Westminster.

One of the fascinating aspects to these new arrangements will be how far the respective leaders are able to carry their own parties with them. In capturing the range of views, it will be particularly relevant to hear the voices of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats outside the government - including, as well as "dissidents", those who operate outside Westminster, where the shifting political relationships are different - Scotland, Wales, the European Parliament and local government. These are places where parties working together - yet standing against each other in elections - is now rather old hat. And in Northern Ireland, the complexities of representing different political views from parties sharing the responsibilities of government are, to say the least, rather more challenging than the new ones at Westminster.

Mostly, then, in discussions or packages the coalition will only need one representative - Conservative or Liberal Democrat. But where it's the party being represented, taking a different (though not necessarily opposing) stance, it may well be perfectly in order to have representatives from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

Either way, we will still want to make sure that all political parties continue to get fair representation, in relation to their electoral support, across our output.

We need to look at where the pivot of argument lies - sometimes it will, of course, still be between the political parties. But sometimes it will be between front-bench and back-bench; sometimes between Westminster and other political structures; sometimes between different factions of the same party.

So we should not make hard-and-fast rules, or try to construct formulas for the "new politics" - not least because we are, for the government of the UK at least, in unchartered waters heading in an uncertain direction. What we should do is to carry on making good and fair editorial judgements according to the particular circumstances and the many different sorts of journalism we do. Not such new territory after all.

Ric Bailey is the BBC's chief political adviser.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Ric~

    Thanks, for the informative piece about the impartiality and the "coalition" government in United Kingdom and, the perspective of what the broadcasters are having to do; to give each side the required time....

    (D)

  • Comment number 2.

    Back to the days of deference is what I say, "Is there anything your would like to tell the British nation, and the BBC Panorama audience, Minister?"...

  • Comment number 3.

    An interesting post which genuinely raises fascinating questions for the broadcasters.

    Glad to see that, post-election, an acknowledgement is made that there is "no mathematical formula for deciding what constitutes balance", but I would argue this was evident during the campaign itself.

    For viewers in Scotland, the SNP received 90mins less debating time on the BBC than the other parties - a clear breach of OFCOM rules. I shall be raising this formally in the near future.

  • Comment number 4.

    The thing I am concerned about is that the media do not give this new government an extended honeymoon period (irrespective of the leaders relationship?!). There seems to be a movement currently, to give the new government a chance and not to undermine it because we need strong government, and I have seen this argument on numerous blogs.

    I believe that ALL governments need to be held to account and criticised, regardless of 'market recaction'. I hope that this so-called 'New Politics' does not mean that the media are shunned for asking difficult questions of this coallition goverment.

  • Comment number 5.

    Just do what you did last time there was a coalition government.

    Oh wai-

  • Comment number 6.

    One thing that has become even more crystal clear in recent days, is the extremely poor quality of broadcast and printed journalist comment and enquiry. It is the journalists and broadcasters who do not have the vocabulary or acumen to take on board what is happening and how to interview and present the events in an intelligent and cogent manner. The media 'people' are amazingly out of date, peddling 'old' views in the context of 'old' politics. It is, funnily enough, the politicians who are streets ahead on understanding what is going on, plural thinking, co-operation, forward thinking. Let us hope our sadly lacking journalists accelerate their attitudes and thinking and start joining the new order.

  • Comment number 7.

    You - and seemingly everyone in the broadcast media - make the assumption that, in broadcast debates, one governing party representative and x number of opposition representatives, all (human nature and politics being what it is) focussed primarily on criticising the governing party, is fair.

    This isn't a party political point - surely it must be the case that scenarios such as the above are in fact UNfair to whichever is the governing party.

  • Comment number 8.

    Interesting stuff. Just missed posting to Nick R's last blog. It seems that one unexpected outcomes of recent events has been a much renewed interest in the workings of our government and in UK political history. Not a bad thing.

    Our “New Tory” PM (sorry NC) is very fond of the word “responsibility”. Can we also look forward to some constructive, positive and responsible reporting from the media and the press?

    There have been many comments this week about the end of spin "á la Mandelson/Campbell". If this is to be achieved then we will need to see a real change in the media landscape that allowed these unelected power brokers to thrive in the first place.

  • Comment number 9.

    "unchartered waters" indeed. Freudian slip?

  • Comment number 10.

    It is without a doubt a new scenario for all media, not just the BBC. One-third of the old adversarial politics has simply disappeared.
    I was never able to understand though why many politicians opposed or criticised everything a Government did or an opposition proposed just for the sake of being seen to be opposed. It was simply banging a drum in order to get noticed - or more apposite, like two flea-ridden mongrels barking at each other for no good reason.
    It is so true and important to point out that in all three devolved provinces coalitions rule quite satisfactorily, as they do in many major cities and local authorities.
    Methinks though it may take some time before Fleet Street in particular finds itself able to adjust to the 'new order' and will go on trying to create nit-picking arguments simply in order to fill their columns. If the culture of 'spin' is also to be less prevalent, all the better.
    Let us hope that the BBC can rise above all this and continue to show TRUE, not DUE impartiality. Remember that the world audience looks to you for that impartiality. It is fine to support a point or argument, but that support must be balanced and reasoned.

  • Comment number 11.

    Previous comments have have all assumed that we are in a period of 'New Politics'. I disagree, because this assumes that from now on, coallition government will become the norm. There is no evidence that this is true, as we still have FPTP or AV which is very similar.

    It is also true that this coallition relationship may tear itself apart - even if it is forced to exist for 5 years - this will leave both coallition parties in a worse off position and creating a Labour landslide.

    Also to pretend this New Era will spell the end of spin is wrong in my view, as spin has always existed in the home, in the workplace and throughout society - until the structure of our DNA literally changes, it will remain a part of all human communication.

    This coallition governement needs to be challenged, but the media do need to do so on the basis of evidence.

  • Comment number 12.

    I would like to see MP's constituencies being listed alongside their party and name when they are identified on TV.

    Eg.
    David Cameron MP (Con) - Witney

    Currently there is no clue as to who the MP represents. MPs are elected to represent their constituency.

  • Comment number 13.

    The adverb (if anyone at the BBC still understands non-tabloid English) is "first" not "firstly". And the preferred spelling is "judgment", not "judgement". Of course, if the BBC writers are aiming to reach the lowest common denominator, this is right on the path down there. Tabloid rules rule -- OK!

  • Comment number 14.

    why-why-why are the impartial (?) commentators hammering away at differences between the coalition parties ?? surely a recognition of the parties genuine attempts at a possibly unique (in UK) merging of two individual entities into one cohesive unit could be very benificial to all the peoples of UK if they can make it work. so come on you commies,(!) give the parties a break, shock everyone and back the lads and lassies to the hilt. just for once stop trying to make a name for yourself ( it just might be the wrong name...mmmmm or the right one!! )
    Frankie.

  • Comment number 15.

    First, thanks to the BBC for clarifying your position and also for the Q&A on the new 55% rule too. On the latter, it's of great help to me in beginning to get my head around it. On the one hand I don't feel so bad about struggling with it when I hear constitutional experts are not in agreement as to the implications. On the other hand, if they can't agree it doesn't bode well for 'stable' (i.e. predictable) governance!

    Back to the topic in hand, #4. Charles Jurcich wrote:
    I believe that ALL governments need to be held to account and criticised, regardless of 'market recaction'. I hope that this so-called 'New Politics' does not mean that the media are shunned for asking difficult questions of this coallition goverment.

    ==================================================

    I agree, especially until there's a coherent opposition, that the media need to be scrutinising, questioning and drawing our attention to anything that's looking untoward about the new Government.

    Also agreeing with Charles Jurcich's later point #11 that human nature has not changed, there may be a danger in replacing the cynicism that politicians had earned with a naive trust in the new and shiny-looking crowd (remember Blair was once new and shiny-looking too)!

    However, I also think maybe they could be cut a little slack in terms of the tone and aggression with which political interviews have increasingly been conducted in recent decades. Of course if they start playing the old sneaky games of avoiding the questions to score political points then by all means get tough. But even in selecting adversaries for three way interviews, I've had enough of seeing people chosen just to observe them going at each other tooth and nail.

    Maybe nothing has fundamentally changed, though I hope it has. But if a significant number of us (yes, not just politicians and hacks, but all of us) take this line in the sand that was drawn last week as an excuse to treat differences of opinion just as differences of opinion rather than as evidence the holder of that opinion is evil or mad, that in itself has the chance of changing things for the good. And what I'm talking about here is not about our DNA - it's behaviour choice. And at the risk of sounding corny I'll borrow Obama's tagline from happier times: "Yes we can"!

  • Comment number 16.

    BartiDdu's comments make sense and he has been more eloquent than I was.

    I am just thinking about where you said "However, I also think maybe they could be cut a little slack in terms of the tone and aggression with which political interviews..". Perhaps the aggressive tone was naturally adopted by some in the media as a reflection of the genuine animosity that has existed between many Labour and Conservative supporters - and with this new pragmatic spirit forming, the media will now naturally reflect that in their tone too. My best guess is that it is temporary but I could be wrong.

  • Comment number 17.

    It will probably never be possible to be completely impartial. Someone below wants there to be no honeymoon period. Have they not watched the coverage, where the broadcasters have been trying to find everyone who doesn't like the coalition, and for how long it will last?

    However, in reporting the events on the vening news on Friday May 7th, the BBC showed the clips out of chronological order, which greatly altered the impression people would have got. The real order was Brown, Clegg, Cameron; however on the news they showed Cameron with his offer first giving the impression that the others were reacting to it.

  • Comment number 18.

    Tony G above, said that "the real order was Brown Clegg, Cameron". If you are referring to which order they invited a coallition, then it was actually Clegg, Brown, Cameron.

    It was going to be Clegg then Cameron, but Brown quite appropriately got in half-an-hour before Cameron, as it is actually GB who is responsible for ensuring a stable government under the constitution. He clearly thought it was his obligation to take the initiative whilst leaving Clegg to dictate who he would talk to first.

  • Comment number 19.

    Not much new here. A very wordy BBC exhibition in pomposity. Nothing will change. The BBC has behaved as the unelected and self appointed critic of government for decades. Its impartiality based on the conceited patronising personna of superiority. If something needs to change it is the myth of BBC impartiality. It is an impossible and demonstrably unachievable cover up for Oxbridge liberal values.

  • Comment number 20.

    Interesting post. I agree a coalition government gives the BBC quite a problem trying to be impartial and not over representing the Tory/LibDem voice. Worth keeping in mind there could well be another election in the not too distant future; this year even.

    I notice that the Conservative Party's media policies are almost identical to the ideas James Murdoch put forward a short while back; perhaps those visits to Mr Murdoch's (senior's) yacht were not entirely unproductive. I hope the BBC are strong enough to resist the incredible pressure they're bound to come under.

  • Comment number 21.

    I remember the BBC turned from blue to red in '97. Now you're faced with blue and yellow, will this make you green?

  • Comment number 22.

    I don't recall it being "breathtaking, extraordinary, historic, momentous" etcetera in the mid-70s. The BBC just got on with it.

    I just wish you would get on with it now. I am sure that if you keep at it you'll find a place where the sniping is roughly equal from all sides.

  • Comment number 23.

    Ric Bailey, you write:

    Either way, we will still want to make sure that all political parties continue to get fair representation, in relation to their electoral support, across our output.

    I'm not sure how you are going to do that. The BBC would not grasp "fair representation" if it tripped over it. The BBC represents the left of the political spectrum. It always has and it probably always will.

    Here's Anthony Jay discussing the attitudes behind the BBC mind set:

    .... for nine years (1955-1964) I was part of this media liberal consensus. For six of those nine years I was working on Tonight, a nightly BBC current affairs television programme. My stint coincided almost exactly with Macmillan's premiership, and I do not think my ex-colleagues would quibble if I said we were not exactly diehard supporters. But we were not just anti-Macmillan; we were anti-industry, anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit, anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-Empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place, you name it, we were anti it.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1557389/Here-is-the-news-as-we-want-to-report-it.html

    And here's ex-BBC man Robin Aitken:

    There is a need for some kind of reasonable balance between people of differing political complexions. It is striking, for instance, that whereas I could name a long list of senior BBC journalists with left-wing antecedents, I cannot think of a single one from the right.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1433753.ece

    And Jane Garvey let slip in an unguarded moment during a BBC radio interview that, "The corridors of broadcasting House were strewn with empty champagne bottles" after Labour won the 1997 election.

    And Michel Crick read out allegations on Newsnight against Tory MP Caroline Spellman long enough to fill a Dead Sea Scroll. Elsewhere on the BBC they were also going into overdrive in the campaign against Spellman. I thought she must have at least plotted to overthrow the government. Turns out she paid her nanny money she shouldn’t have. I wasn’t away of any Labour MP receiving similar treatment from the BBC for alleged fraud.

    However, it was evident shortly before this election that the BBC had finally realised that Labour was going to be soundly thrashed since BBC journalists concentrated on cheerleading for the LibDems, claiming that the party was going to do well enough to come second and perhaps even first in the election.

    The BBC is now in a curious position. It is going to have to moderate its habitual antipathy towards the Tories, since they are now allied to the LibDems, and at the same time figure out how to spin Labour opposition. The situation is complex enough for the BBC to perhaps even begin to grasp the concept of political impartiality.

    Now that would be something to celebrate.


  • Comment number 24.

    I was wondering as im watching news 24 when did the bbc become the labour partys personal broadcaster showing ed millibands speech it seems in full

  • Comment number 25.

    An Unbalanced Society: http://wp.me/pRHY4-1h

  • Comment number 26.

    24. ray177 wrote:

    I was wondering as im watching news 24 when did the bbc become the labour partys personal broadcaster....

    A very long time ago.

  • Comment number 27.

    The BBC concerned with balance? this has to be a wind-up surely?.

    I can't get over the sheer audacity of the BBC still claiming to be impartial or balanced.

    Question time is almost always tilted towards the liberal left in terms of the panel and certainly in terms of the audience. Oh, and don't for a second think that we believe you when you claim the audience are equally represented.

    The BBC has already been caught out in the past for over representing Muslims in the audience for a debate.

    The BBC is a left-wing dominated organisation who have undertaken social engineering of the British people through their programming. The areas of extreme bias are well known. 'Climate change', multiculturalism and of course one of the BBC's main obsessions, Israel.

    The BBC mainly uses its website for its anti-Israel campaign because the website does not come under the jurisdiction of the BBC trust, and therefore the BBC does not have to answer to anyone with regards to bias on their website. The left wing have really got it all sewn up with regards to the BBC.

    Have the BBC done anything about the various internal and public reports pointing to left wing/liberal bias? there have been several of these reports over the past 10 years. We've never heard about any follow-up action to try and balance things out. Of course we all know that the Balen report will never see the light of day. A real expose about your anti-Israel bias would blow the roof off and leave you dangerously close to having your precious license revoked.

    Now the BBC is sniffing around the coalition desperately looking for any crumb of dissent to pounce on and cause divisions. The cynical way in which the BBC greeted the coalition, shows where their politics lie - Labour HQ. I also found the whole "loved up couple" nonsense with regards to Cameron and Clegg peddled by the BBC to be nauseatingly childish. Especially on 'this week'.

  • Comment number 28.

    SystemF, I fully agree with your comments but I believe you are wrong about the website not coming under the jurisdiction of the BBC Trust. On the 'Complaints' website, administered by the Trust, one of the categories for complaints is 'BBC Online'.

    However, the Trust, like the Governors before it, is notorious for dragging its feet and making the process as difficult as it possibly can so as to discourage complaints when the complainant has a cause unpopular to the BBC. For example, it took the Trust two years to finally come to a ruling acknowledging one of Jeremy Bowen's biased statements against Israel.

    So the website, and any other BBC department, can happily continue its anti-Israel bias, safe in the knowledge that the Trust will cover for it.

  • Comment number 29.

    bbc know all about being partial, effectively have censored the mass protests around the uk today not once have they been on the news, not once, yet protests in Thailand is better news is it? eh? no. why are you censoring us? lib dem mps and green party mps are in the protest yet you are censoring us WHY?

  • Comment number 30.

    To SystemF #27

    You're concerned about media bias.

    Can you confirm that you believe that if a media organization is owned or controlled by certain individuals or groups, or has a certain socio-political composition, that it inevitably produces news and social engineering that is biased in favour of that group?

  • Comment number 31.

    Thousands of protesters are marching on downing street to deliver the petition for fair votes, WHY ARE YOU STILL NOT COVERING THIS????

  • Comment number 32.

    antonyp, I can't find anything on Google about a march today for fair votes, so it doesn't seem like anyone is covering it. The closest I got was this from five days ago:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/08/general-election-2010-electoralreform

    In fairness, it could be that since the election and immediate post election drama is now over, another march for fair votes is not really big news.

    However, I have some appreciation for your concerns. The BBC is known for given wildly disproportionate coverage to marches and demonstrations close to its heart. Presumably the BBC supports votes that will result in more seats for the LibDems. So it is strange that it is not covering this. Well, I guess it's because it's a weekend.

  • Comment number 33.

    To all who claim that the BBC is bias:

    The right always claim that the BBC is editorially biased to the left, the Left always claim that it is biased to the right, whilst the centre and minority parties claim that the BBC is biased towards the main two parties because they never get a voice - go figure!...

  • Comment number 34.

    2010, Boilerplated,

    The left do not always claim the BBC is biased to the right. This generally happens in specific circumstances as when the left launched a vicious and copious attack on Mark Thompson and the BBC on this blog over the decision not to broadcast the DET appeal for Gaza. That attack was most instructive for a few reasons:

    *It showed the extreme anti-Israel bias of so many on the left; as they cast about for the worst insult they could hurl at Thompson, they decided he must be in Israel's pocket, showing at a stroke what they thought of both Thompson and Israel - Thompson making decisions based on "Israeli pressure," and Israel allegedly being against a purely humanitarian appeal.

    *Many of them claimed they had been loyal followers of the BBC for years but would now never access the BBC again because of this one decision, proving how shallow was their alleged support.

    The left can make emotional and adolescent claims about the BBC being right wing, but I have never seen any evidence of this allegation. On the contrary, all the evidence shows overwhelmingly that the BBC has its natural home on the left of the political spectrum.

    I note that you have nothing to say about the evidence I presented in comment 23.

  • Comment number 35.

    32. At 5:27pm on 15 May 2010, TrueToo wrote:


    TakeBackParliament.com

    Look on that website, you will see at the bottom aswell many other websites that have signed up to this cause, many further protests are planned, mp's have and will again attend, bbc is completely in the wrong and im sure will be receiving many complaints from angry protesters.

  • Comment number 36.

    I would like to add these protest are attended by people of all political allegiances, this is not about right or left its about us actually getting our voice heard, the bbc being our national broadcaster has failed the public tremendously, they knew there was going to be protests you would have to be blind not to have know the amount of emails they have received, so this has been silenced purposely....

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    The media political journalists in Britain are all amateurs, for example all off them without exception ::::NEVER:::: insist on a direct answer, example, (yes or no) to any question that makes the politician uncomfortable. At the end of the day a politician who evades giving an honest answer to a reasonable question is firstly a cheat, second a liar, and third a dishonest person who should be immediately removed from office.
    The interviewer should be asking,::are you deliberately not answering or you cant or wont,:: or are just stupid,either option they should insist on a relevant answer to a question. does politicians have agreed questions and answers before the agree to an interview if so this is clearly wrong and immoral.

  • Comment number 39.

    antonyp,

    The timing of the protest seems strange. The election is just over and the coalition has barely started to govern. I'm sure the BBC would cover a protest to the benefit of the LibDems so it could just be the wrong time.

  • Comment number 40.

    #34. At 6:53pm on 15 May 2010, TrueToo wrote:

    "The left do not always claim the BBC is biased to the right."

    I think you have just proved my point, after all you already have made your mind up! I've said this before, if you (or anyone else) truly believe that the BBC is being biased - especially so during a election period - make an official complaint but you will need to have your evidence ready, of course so far no one seems to have done so...

  • Comment number 41.

    39. At 8:06pm on 15 May 2010, TrueToo wrote:

    Protests have been going on since before the election, and to be honest concerns about the electoral system seems more than a good enough time to be brought up, in an election shouldn't it when were all off to vote with the backwards system? and dont get me started on the one thats been proposed AV all that does it make it even harder to vote an mp out than it is now were over 50% vote against the winning candidate in most constituencies

    and the bbc have time to broadcast greece protests don't they? they have time to show protests in Thailand don't they? they even have time to broadcast the football results as they happen but not a protest in their own country,

    sorry but i could have agreed with you a few weeks ago if i hadn't been so disheartened with the protests last week that were totally blanked, then today when there was protests up and down the country not just in london and it wasn't just one protest with 10 people, there was thousands,

    thousands were ignored, censored how ever it is viewed, 20k petition was handed to the lib dems during the coalition talks, 100k petition has been signed online and a 50k petition was handed to downing street today its a big deal to many people, and i have no sympathy for the bbc they get the license fee and should report our plights not ignore them for other stories from around the world,

    might i add the protest is for the option for proportional representation on the referendum, surely no one could disagree with giving us a choice we are a democracy arnt we? well were supposed to be, not so sure anymore.

  • Comment number 42.

    BBC must exist for years to come

  • Comment number 43.

    41. antonyp,

    I understand your frustration. I have been battling with the BBC and other left wing media for a long time now over their implacable bias on a range of issues and generally come up against a brick wall.

    So the BBC will be the very last organisation that I will defend, but it could be that in the month before the election they were not allowed to report on political protests. I don't know, I'm speculating. And as I said, now that the election is over it is perhaps fair that there are other priorities. It would be good to have a heavyweight like the BBC, with its tremendous reach, power and influence, giving you some exposure. But if they wont, there are of course plenty of other ways you can publicise your cause. In time you may gain much more support and have your voices heard closer to the time that the powers that be consider the question of the voting system.

    I think you should give the BBC a break here. BBC journalists have been through a pretty traumatic time in the last ten days - first staying up on the night of the election to have the stunning gains of the Conservatives and the comprehensive defeat of their beloved Labour become a grim reality and to find that their newly-adopted heroes, the Lib Dems, had defied their hopes and expectations and actually lost seats. First, they had to absorb the shock of the considerable swing of the electorate to the centre-right; then, horror of horrors, the Lib Dems turned and sided with the enemy!

    Of course, the BBC could be thinking that they don't want PR if it will take votes away from Labour and give them to the Lib Dems. That would mean the Lib Dem and Conservative coalition could keep Labour out of power for the forseeable future. And that, to the BBC, would be a tragedy of immense proportions.

    BBC journalists seldom, if ever, report straight from the shoulder politically. There is almost always left wing bias and spin involved. Now they are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to spin a scenario that has left wing opposing left wing with the centre-right holding centre stage. I would imagine their hearts are with Labour now, but how does labour come up with a coherent opposition in these circumstances and how can the BBC help them do it?

    Interesting times.


    40. Boilerplated,

    Go to comment 23. Looks like you missed it.

  • Comment number 44.

    Bias, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder more often than not. Regular readers (if not contributors) to Nick Robinson's blog will recognise this - he has been variously accused of being a stooge for both left and right.

    Aside from this problem of personal perception, there is also the issue of journalistic bias (in its broadest sense). Strict reporting should stick to facts and, as far as I can see, the BBC achieves this as well, if not better, than many other media sources. Equitable distribution of time is an editorial matter, and more difficult to resolve, for not only must an editor strive to give equal time, but also equal coverage in terms of content. A five minute coverage of party X on the economy is not equalled by five minutes for party Y on dog licences, for example.

    With the advent of the web as an extension of journalism, and the development of the blog, these issues are placed into greater focus. The analytical and inquisitory aspects of journalism, which I think the BBC continues to perform exeeedingly well on radio and TV, have now moved into a different sphere where it is more difficult to control. It should, however, be remembered that it is the duty of all journalists to 'seek the truth'; detailed interrogation of politicians is vital to this, and if the latter see this as bias, then they often have only their own attempts at obfuscation to blame

  • Comment number 45.

    #43. At 09:25am on 16 May 2010, TrueToo wrote:

    "40. Boilerplated,

    Go to comment 23. Looks like you missed it."


    No, read it in full before, but what does ant of it prove, nothing, as I've, if there has been such bias why has non of the political parties made official complaints that have been upheld.

    Opinion vs. fact...

  • Comment number 46.

    To TrueToo #43

    RE: the consumption of champagne as evidence of bias.
    In your view what correct level of consumption during this election campaign would strongly indicate an unbiased or neutral stance?

    RE: your mindset
    The premise of your comments seems to emphasize the dependency of composition on output. Can you be clear and confirm that you believe that if a media organization is owned or controlled by certain individuals or groups, or has a certain socio-political composition, that it inevitably produces news and social engineering that is biased in favour of that group?

  • Comment number 47.

    'Impartiality and coalition government' - not unrelated to senior political, and financial Editors? Well, if you are a senior Editor on BBC, you made your bones and worked hard in all areas, somewhere and somehow?

    Then you grew and focused on the remit of your title? You rose above political and financial spin that made you grin and made us more aware?!

    Then slowly, the career changed - you perhaps became the people you reported on? No way, you say - but bills have to be paid and children have to be schooled and it's a struggle? OK., that's great - that's what people you used to report FOR, did already.

    So, there comes a time when you actually believe what you blog, OR have to blog and say on certain opinions on TV., in a certain way? Of course you do - it's a way of life for making a living? Unless, of course you are too entrenched to agree with any new potential?

    Therefore, isn't it time you trained up and allowed others too, to be as equally idealistic as you used to be, publicly? Unless, of course you have still an open mind and dare say something positive to say unless proven otherwise? It's your duty NOT to look for the negative only? Ouch?!

  • Comment number 48.

    Yes, we can all moan and complain as much as we like about the BBC - but at least we have the freedom to do so? We never miss aspiration for quality, without advertising, until it's gone?

    The BBC World Service and Radio 4 is underestimated. Education and information of other countries on these two channels alone are worth every penny of my license fee? As a child, after the blitz on London, my education was augmented by BBC Radio and throughout my life and my family to this day that opens our minds to countries across the world.

    Perhaps you know of a better public broadcasting company that creates so much educational opportunities, news, popular natural history, political, science, satire comedy etc., appreciated worldwide, but I doubt it?

    The genius of the BBC is their promise/remit in law in UK. To provide all of the above and more - which attracts the best, to do the best?

    The BBC is what all commercial channels/media envy and aspire to.

    HOWEVER, all the females in our family are sick to their eyelashes of TOO MUCH SPORT ON BBC and TOO MUCH MONEY CHARGED TO BBC FOR LOTTERY!!

  • Comment number 49.

    I agree with the post that says that the quality of journalism is lacking.

    What we see incessantly is a journalist with a title (Chief Political Correspondent, Political Editor etc) expressing an opinion in a factual vacuum. Their time would be better spent looking up some facts, for example, when there was a pro hung parliament sentiment sweeping the country we saw little factual detail being unearthed by journalists, only questioning of politicians.

    The fact that hung parliaments have not historically led to co-operation, but to horse trading, was not put forward until AFTER the election. Immediately afterwards we began to see these facts emerge in media reports.

    Perhaps this was a view taken by the powers that be in the BBC - if it has become a political football, then they believe that the BBC shouldn't get involved in case they are seen to be taking sides. I believe this is wrong - it should be the duty of responsible journalism to unearth facts and present them in a timely fashion.

    So. If a party that benefits by having the balance of power in a hung parliament claims that it is a good thing and that our history is of success in those situations... what should happen?

    I believe that a balanced statement of the known facts is essential - showing the deals that were done, and how and perhaps also why (as far as we have the facts as to why - possibly statements by those involved).

    Another example - Nick Clegg claiming that 80% of immigration is from the EU. Channel 4 did the research and found that it was 31%. Quite rightly, they made those figures available to the electorate. That's the way to do it - always examine the known facts related to any statement.

    Showing that smoeone was economical with the truth is not bias - it should be checked for every politician in every party.

    Also - why is it that we only hear that the Lib Dems "natural allies" are the Labour Party until after the election? If that were known to the electorate we might not have seen them able to claim to be in the middle ground of politics. I'm sure many on the cusp of voting Conservative would have had second thoughts.
    Also - you might have mentioned a big difference between the UK and Europe in terms of coalitions... there is no chance of the "Grand Alliance" (a coalition of all parties). That doesn't leave us with many viable working arrangements - why was this not big in the news?

    So let's see some real journalism - not the kind that is constantly making up nonsense to talk about instead of real work. To hear these correspondents expressing their views about how the coalition will work out is irritating. What do they know? What research have they done to back up their statements?

    And it does seem that the German journalist who was interviewed last week has already been proved right - the media in this country will try to prise the coalition apart. Constantly twittering on about the "love-in" and "Dave and Nick Show"... sigh. Gimme a break. If the report is "they're getting along fine at the moment", then... just say so.

    I use the BBC for news because I believe it to be just about as impartial as you can get - newspapers are owned by people who have an interest in promoting their own political views. If they are ot careful they will kill off the newspaper business as more and more people realise that they are being fed a line by the proprietor.

    So, I hope that the BBC won't fall into the trap of competing with the gutter press with their vested interests and false sensationalism. Nor of inventing news where none exists. And will instead maintain the integrity of the brand by offering proper research into politicians' claims.

  • Comment number 50.

    Andrew Marr's Sunday show has had my attention for the last time. The breaking point was today's session with the new Prime Minister. There is still a lot that we need to know about Mr Cameron and his ideas.

    However far up his own fundament Mr Marr is, it is time he remembered the old saw - you learn more by listening than by speaking. He has interviewed a plethora of politicians and the great and good over past times. His constantly interrupting interviewees in mid-answer has become tiresome. Ultimately, of course, it makes for uninformative viewing. Ego has interposed itself between the formerly intrepid correspondent that Mr Marr once was and the now somewhat list-driven, self-indulgent questioner whom we now see.

    Bring back Sargent, promote Nick Robinson, employ Rod Liddle again, persuade Will Self to join you; but please replace Mr Marr with someone less determined to ask his whole list of questions and more motivated to glean fully the answers. Even an early-rising, if irritable, Paxman would be preferable.

    PJ Fitzpatrick

  • Comment number 51.

    I obviously would not like to see the country suffer but what I see are decisions made by inexperienced politicians. The LibDem 'elders' have mostly changed their minds in belated (and perhaps reluctant) support for the stitch-up.
    You article is very interesting and informative but I regretfully have that sinking feeling about this marriage. Its all very well getting carried away by a conference of the party faithful but like me and many friends feel that our vote has been stolen.
    I think the ConDem wedding will end in divorce in about 12 to 14 months.

  • Comment number 52.

    #51. At 6:39pm on 16 May 2010, K Baker wrote:

    "I obviously would not like to see the country suffer but what I see are decisions made by inexperienced politicians."

    You must have dreaded the NuLabour and their 'new dawn' of 1997 then, was there a single MP in Blair's cabinet who had held a governmental office (never mind Ministerial or cabinet) position before walking into Downing Street? Just a thought...

  • Comment number 53.

    49. chris911t wrote:

    I agree with the post that says that the quality of journalism is lacking.

    There is no doubt about it. I went to the Election page of a media website where there was a link titled 'Hung parliament explained,' or words to that effect. On accessing the link, the only info I found was that a hung parliament meant no party had an overall majority, with no background or past examples provided at all. This is pure laziness. There are many sports journalists who can tell you off the top of their heads who won a cup final in a given year, what the score was and even who scored the goals. There is no reason why political journalists should not be able to do something similar in their field. And if they can't, they should at the very least research the subject and produce a coherent piece to inform their readers/listeners/viewers.

    The problem with BBC journalists and many others is that they are so busy trying to figure out how they can spin a given event to suit their agenda and so busy campaigning to impose that agenda on the public that they have lost touch with their obligation to inform the public.



    Charentais,

    Your points are all valid except for the main one, which you miss by a mile. The BBC is pickled in left wing bias and this is naturally reflected in its political reporting. This is not only "in the eye of the beholder" but is demonstrable, and I have tried to demonstrate it in comment 23. Evidence presented there is only a minute fraction of the evidence available in sources such as the Internet and which has been available for years. The BBC is highly resistant to change in this regard. But perhaps the new political order in Britain will produce at least a slight shift in the BBC's stance.

  • Comment number 54.


    ESCHEW OBFUSCATION
    It may prove to be very, very hard because both David Cameron and Nick Clegg are already conditioned, but one thing will define the break with the past .............
    Prime Minister's Question Time.
    If Public School-knock-about remains the defining behaviour that the public receive via radio and television, then the new incumbents will really have missed the trick.
    Public confidence will come from professional answers, well researched, delivered with a view to illumination rather than obfuscation, delivered with curtesy and **in an attentive environment**.
    The Prime Minister would be well advised to set out these ground rules as his personal expectation of the House in session. The Speaker must be advised to deal firmly *by temporary exclusion* with transgressors of whatever party or persuasion.
    This is no time for a continuation of amateur theatricals.

  • Comment number 55.

    TrueToo in comment 53 is dead right. Until the BBC and other media journalists revert to being reporters and not correspondents, editors, and opinion-shapers their status will remain at junk level. This is exacerbated when radio and TV channels flatter unelected people like Alistair Campbell for their endless and predictable opinions despite their discredited status in the public eye. There are honourable exceptions to this like John Simpson who always seems to allow the viewer to make up their own mind, but they are becoming an endangered species. Less is more should be their mantra, not assuming we can't do without a 24/7 diet of irrelevance. And finally, the new government will work fine given the time and space to do so. For reasons I can't fathom, most of the media seems to hope it will fail. Why?

  • Comment number 56.

    THE QUEEN SPEAKS
    "My Lords and Members of the House of Commons,
    Before laying before you the main bills that will be introduced during this session, and other measures that may be introduced, I intend to depart from convention and precede my legislative desires of Her Majesty’s Government with a re-statement of the standards of public behaviour required of those in my Government and of those in public office.
    Firstly, the standards of behaviour in my House of Commons at Prime Ministers Question Time: I am not amused by the schoolboy behaviour and lack of respect and common courtesy displayed in this public forum …………..etc.
    Secondly, the probity of personal conduct with respect to expenses, lobbying, awarding of contracts, ……etc.
    Thirdly, every good housewife knows that you must not spend more than you earn. I require my Government to re-learn the application of Prudence (a much abused word, of late). ....etc.
    Let it be known that you Queen has the rights under the Historic Laws of this land to *execute* the ultimate sanction to those transgressing , and let it further be known that your Queen will not hesitate to make such example of the first few transgressors.
    Now that I have got your attention – to business ! …….. etc.
    My Lords and Members of the House of Commons, I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels".
    …………………..
    Some day-dreams make me really, really smile.

  • Comment number 57.

    12. At 7:33pm on 14 May 2010, SadButMadLad wrote:
    "I would like to see MP's constituencies being listed alongside their party and name when they are identified on TV. Eg. David Cameron MP (Con) - Witney
    Currently there is no clue as to who the MP represents. MPs are elected to represent their constituency."
    ...................
    Good thought; extend it by appending Union sponsorship:
    e.g. Jimmy Riddle, MP (Lab, Ambridge; Bottleknockers Union).

    Is there a website with this info in a table?

  • Comment number 58.

    Just a thought on the Government changing the rules re a vote of no confidence..."And Pig said the new majority is 55%"

  • Comment number 59.

    55. At 11:55pm on 16 May 2010, Cardean wrote:

    "TrueToo in comment 53 is dead right. Until the BBC and other media journalists revert to being reporters and not correspondents, editors, and opinion-shapers their status will remain at junk level."

    To a point I agree, but what is wrong with correspondents and editors, or do you not accept that someone can have detailed knowledge of a subject (that is what makes someone a correspondents or editor), and if the media does get rid of such positions who should they call on?

    "This is exacerbated when radio and TV channels flatter unelected people like Alistair Campbell for their endless and predictable opinions despite their discredited status in the public eye."

    Hmm, according to the popular voting figures nearly as many people do not hold that opinion as those that support the Tory view. Perhaps the opinions of the [insert the most, personally, disliked political opinion here] should just be banned from the airwaves...

    "There are honourable exceptions to this like John Simpson who always seems to allow the viewer to make up their own mind"

    Hmm, would this be the same person who claimed to have once 'liberated' a Afghan (or was it a Iraqi) town?...

    "but they are becoming an endangered species. Less is more should be their mantra, not assuming we can't do without a 24/7 diet of irrelevance."

    I think you have, eventually, hit the real nail here, much of the problem is making 'programmes' out of news and thinking that we need 24hr news. What happened to the "News Bulletin", even the BBC's 6pm and 10pm news have been made into magazine programmes.

    "And finally, the new government will work fine given the time and space to do so. For reasons I can't fathom, most of the media seems to hope it will fail. Why?"

    I suspect that they are just playing devils advocate, as is their apparent remit, so unless you agree with my point way-up @ #2 about being deferential, which might actually be the best approach for the BBC, just report the official lines of the government and Opposition without attempting to rationalise it [1], leaving that to the viewer/listener...

    [1] which some see as making news accessible, whilst other see as 'dumbing-down'.

  • Comment number 60.

    58. At 10:08am on 17 May 2010, Barry Ewart wrote:

    Just a thought on the Government changing the rules re a vote of no confidence..."And Pig said the new majority is 55%"

    But he hasn't said anything like that, try actually understanding what is being said (by the horses mouth) and not what is being reported (by Tory backbench MPs or the press)...

    This proposed 'change' (not so much a change but a new, extra, parliamentary procedure) will not prevent a traditional Vote of No Confidence and the simple 50% +1 majority being placed before the house, one will end the coalition and result in a (Tory, in this case) minority government whilst the other will end the government and result in a general election.

  • Comment number 61.

    The move to require a vote of no confidence from a simple majority to 55% of MPs is naked facism!

  • Comment number 62.

    55. Cardean,

    Thanks for that. Unfortunately the quality of journalism from the BBC and others is going down so fast you can practically watch the decline. The BBC used to have greats like the late Alistair Cooke, who really did "inform, educate and entertain," with his Letter from America. And nobody could grill people across the political spectrum like Tim Sebastian of Hardtalk.

    John Simpson broke ranks with other BBC journalists, who are generally frozen in political correctness, when he produced a factual TV documentary a while back on the horrific violence in the New South Africa. The ANC reacted with fury to Simpson, unaccustomed to having BBC journalists actually producing straightforward journalism that didn't bow to the propaganda of the ruling elite.

    But the BBC has nobody these days who can even come close to Alistair Cooke and Sebastian.

    I don't know about other media but I'm guessing the left wing BBC is hoping the government will fail because it is deeply unhappy with the fact of a Conservative-led coalition. A number of people have observed the faintly mocking tone the BBC employs in "reporting" on the interaction between Cameron and Clegg.

    It is high time the BBC understood that not everyone appreciates journalists trying to prove how cleverly they can disguise their subtle discrimination as genuine reporting. Plenty of us just want the news and unbiased, comprehensive background to the news without being told what to think about it and even how to think about it.

  • Comment number 63.

    61. At 10:54am on 17 May 2010, Barry Ewart wrote:

    "The move to require a vote of no confidence from a simple majority to 55% of MPs is naked facism!"

    ...and untrue.

  • Comment number 64.

    Rick,
    I am much impressed by your article. We are indeed entering a new environment for comment, news and journalism.
    Can I suggest that you introduce your article as an item for discussion in the next full forum of Editorial Committee meeting of the BBC.
    Geoff Ward.

  • Comment number 65.

    I hesitate to respond to correspondents who hide behind psuedonymns but 'boilerplatedhead' - how is a "new, extra parliamentary procedure" not a change? Have I missed something here and has the Government snuck in Robert Mugabee as an advisor? So you pays your money and takes your choice but I believe a change to the rules for a vote of no confidence to bring down a government (of any political persuasion) from a simple majority to 55% of MPs is cheating. True! Only a political moron would disagree.

  • Comment number 66.

    RE: 53. TrueToo

    Further to your comments ...

    "The BBC is pickled in left wing bias and this is naturally reflected in its political reporting. This is not only "in the eye of the beholder" but is demonstrable, and I have tried to demonstrate it in comment 23."

    You could also have mentioned:

    1. Former Chairman Gavyn Davies

    Where wikipedia says

    Davies has in the past donated part of his wealth to the Labour Party of whom he had been a long-term supporter.

    and

    He worked in Harold Wilson's Policy Unit from 1974-76 and then as an economic advisor to James Callaghan from 1976-1979.

    2. Former reporter Ben Bradshaw.

    Where wikipedia says

    In 1986 he joined the BBC as reporter with BBC Radio Devon. In 1989 he became the award winning Berlin correspondent with BBC Radio and was serving in the city at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He became a reporter in 1991 with BBC Radio's The World At One programme, where he stayed until his election to Westminster.

    As a Labour MP, obviously.

    3. Former Newsnight producer Phil Woolas.

    Where wikipedia says

    Woolas joined the Labour Party at the age of 16

    "Evidence presented there is only a minute fraction of the evidence available in sources such as the Internet and which has been available for years."

    Indeed. I think I'll keep posting new groups of three whenever someone claims there are no "facts" or "evidence" of the BBC's pro-Labour bias.

  • Comment number 67.

    Due impartiality is something that cannot accurately be measured. It is very subjective. So to that extent the BBC has an impossible task.

    Nevertheless it cannot claim it has exercised due impartiality unless it has taken steps to attempt to ensure it. But what are these steps? We are never told. Why not? Is the BBC frightened it would reveal what many suspect, that only lip service is paid to due impartiality?

    There is an interesting website which, amongst other things, counts the interruptions in interviews. It purports to show that Conservative interviewees are interrupted far more than Labour ones. Of course, the counting is probably not rigorous and the blogger no doubt has his own agenda. But the BBC should be doing this, and publishing the results, to demonstrate how it achieves impartiality. And admitting where it has failed to achieve this, as it would receive respect for acknowledging the fact.

  • Comment number 68.

    65. At 1:08pm on 17 May 2010, Barry Ewart wrote:

    "I hesitate to respond to correspondents who hide behind psuedonymns"

    Care to post your NI number [1] "Barry" so we can prove that you are who you say you are - would it help you if I changed my user name to Joe Blogs, or perhaps Dave Smith...!

    [1] don't actually do so, I was talking figuratively.

    "how is a "new, extra parliamentary procedure" not a change?"

    Perhaps if you understood the difference between a Vote of Confidence and that of a Vote for the Dissolution of the Coalition you might understand the point I made and how far off the mark your 'rants' are. There will be no a change to the requirements of a 50% +1 needed for a VoC.

  • Comment number 69.

    66. At 1:11pm on 17 May 2010, hants_gw wrote:

    " ..//.. Indeed. I think I'll keep posting new groups of three whenever someone claims there are no "facts" or "evidence" of the BBC's pro-Labour bias."

    It proves nothing of the sort, all it does is prove that a number of BBC employees have been or are members of the Labour party (I'm sure that one could also find examples of BBC employees having elegances to any number of other political groups), it doesn't prove one way or the other how politically (un)biased they were/are in their job.

  • Comment number 70.

    O K biolerplatedhead and sorry to rattle your tin! I'll let the opposition know that they can quote you as an authorative source when the time comes. BOILERPLATE SAYS IT'S OK FOR A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE! By the way that's a really silly name but at least thanks for introducing some humour which was sadly lacking in the election campaign. On a final note I believe "now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of the BBC." Love and best wishes to all humanity.

  • Comment number 71.

    RE: 69. Boilerplated

    66. At 1:11pm on 17 May 2010, hants_gw wrote:

    " ..//.. Indeed. I think I'll keep posting new groups of three whenever someone claims there are no "facts" or "evidence" of the BBC's pro-Labour bias."

    It proves nothing of the sort,


    Actually it does, as you will see in a moment.

    all it does is prove that a number of BBC employees have been or are members of the Labour party (I'm sure that one could also find examples of BBC employees having elegances to any number of other political groups),

    Fair enough. Off you go. I'll give you one for free - Nick Robinson, former President of the Oxford University Conservative Association and former Chairman of the Young Conservatives. All you need now are two more. Meanwhile, in June last year, Newsnight ran a piece called "Politics Pen" modelled on Dragon's Den. Naturally they had four "political" dragons and their choices were ...

    1. Greg Dyke

    "He was an active supporter of the Labour Party and in 1977 he attempted to win a seat on the Greater London Council for Labour at Putney. In later years he was a financial donor to the party". (wikipedia)

    2. Matthew Taylor

    "Taylor became a Warwickshire county councillor and fought Warwick and Leamington in the 1992 general election, pulling Labour up into second place, before joining the Labour Party's staff in 1994. He became the Party's Campaign Co-ordinator, then Director of Policy during the 1997 general election victory. He played an important role in drawing up the manifesto and the Party's high-profile pledge-card and developing the Excalibur rapid rebuttal database that was used to campaign against the Conservative Party. Taylor became Assistant General Secretary of the Labour Party under Margaret McDonagh" (wikipedia again)

    3. Deborah Mattinson

    Switching to The Guardian we find that she is "the prime minister's focus group guru" (that's when Brown was Prime Minister, obviously) and "she said that David Cameron had weaknesses the party could exploit."

    So that's three outright Labour supporters from a panel of four. The fourth was Digby Jones, as a former Director-General of the CBI he looked a bit like a token Conservative, but is also a former Labour Minister of Trade.

    So you see, when BBC producers make a free choice of a representative panel of political experts they pick three Labour party supporters and one former Labour minister. They are biased in favour of the Labour party in everything they do.

    By all means deny that. There's truck loads of this stuff to go through yet.

  • Comment number 72.

    #71. At 3:59pm on 17 May 2010, hants_gw wrote:

    "[in reply to comment # 69]

    Actually it does, as you will see in a moment."


    No it does not, bias is not what a journalist believes personally, it's what they say or write - your problem is that you can't keep your own political opinions out of any comment you make so think that no one else can - nothing you have quoted (from that utterly unreliable source, Wikipedia) proves that there has been any bias at the BBC...

  • Comment number 73.

    70. At 3:13pm on 17 May 2010, Barry Ewart wrote:

    "By the way that's a really silly name but at least thanks for introducing some humour which was sadly lacking in the election campaign."

    That sort of comment always says far more about the person making it than it ever does about those referred to...

  • Comment number 74.

    RE: 72. Boilerplated

    "nothing you have quoted (from that utterly unreliable source, Wikipedia)"

    So which of the quotes from Wikipedia is factually incorrect? Are you trying to claim (to pick an example at random) that Ben Bradshaw is not the Labour MP for Exeter - or perhaps you are claiming that he never was a BBC journalist? Feel free to show us exactly where Wikipedia is wrong. Are the quotes from The Guardian "utterly unreliable" too?

    If you can't substantiate your petulant comment about Wikipedia then you are stuck with the fact that the BBC's workforce is disproportionately pro-Labour in its views. Feel free to explain how that isn't biased. If the BBC were similarly dominated by Conservative party members, future MPs, former advisers and financial supporters would it still be unbiased?

  • Comment number 75.

    66. hants_gw,

    I'm going to give boilerplated a hand because he could certainly use some help. I'm going to try to find some BBC journalists who support just a few of the following:

    *Fox hunting
    *The death penalty
    *The Con/LibDem alliance
    *Pro-lifers
    *Capitalism
    *Small government
    *Right wing political parties
    *Global warming sceptics
    *Right wing born again American Christians
    *The War on Terror
    *Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    *Gert Wilders
    *George W Bush
    *Israel

    I could be gone a while.

  • Comment number 76.

    74. hants_gw,

    You have Boilerplated over a barrel. Facts are facts, whether they come from Wikipedia or anywhere else.

    Wikipedia is imperfect but often comes up with fine contributions to the pool of knowledge, simply because all the pushing and shoving and editing and deleting can and does result in a finished product that is polished, comprehensive and fair.

    The same cannot be said for media organisations like the BBC with its narrow agenda and implacable stance to the left of the political spectrum.

  • Comment number 77.

    I think the BBC coverage over the election period was pretty fair, although I wish the BBC would keep its commentators off the air and let the politicians have a say.

  • Comment number 78.

    I am perfectly happy with the BBC's effort to maintain partiality - though I did think it reported unfairly over Nick Griffin whenever his name was mentioned - usually in hushed tones of disgust - and pictures of party members engaged in fights - so I assume the BBC has an agenda AGAINST the BNP not applied to the SNP or Plaid.

    Otherwise it's a matter of interpretation: individual viewers might tease various undertexts from reports and programmes which doesn't mean they were intentionally there.

    I've read blog comments critical of the BBC's alleged impartiality when having watched the programme myself, detected no such bias.

    It'll be interesting to see how programme producers handle this "coalition" (and you bet the media generally are poring over every word to blow up any fine cracks let alone outright disagreements) but it's important to feel that the BBC is trying to get the right balance.

    It's a fair bet there'll be plenty of comments if viewers/listeners think they aren't!

  • Comment number 79.

    77. KennethM,

    Dunno about that. Around mid-April the BBC started to become cheerleaders for the Lib Dems energetically promoting them in seats such as Richmond Park, to the detriment, of course, of the Conservatives. The BBC decided that Clegg had performed so well in one of the debates that his support had dramatically increased to the point where he would threaten the other two main parties in the election. What the BBC based this perception on, other than wishful thinking, I have no idea. As it happens, the Conservatives took Richmond Park from the Lib Dems.

    I just wonder how much less support the Lib Dems would have got if the BBC had played fair and not promoted them.

  • Comment number 80.

    #76. At 11:06pm on 17 May 2010, TrueToo wrote:

    "74. hants_gw,

    You have Boilerplated over a barrel. Facts are facts, whether they come from Wikipedia or anywhere else."


    Only in your dreams, what do you two not understand about, bias being not what a journalist believes personally, it's what they say or write.

    Basically you two have fallen into a "Reds under every bed" mentality, because someone has personal political views they must be carrying that over into their public work, you cite (circumstantial) proof from their personal lives but no proof from their professional lives...

  • Comment number 81.

    79. At 09:45am on 18 May 2010, TrueToo wrote:

    "I just wonder how much less support the Lib Dems would have got if the BBC had played fair and not promoted them."

    If you really think that then make an official complaint, citing your proof, after all if the BBC really were 'promoting' the Libdems the corporation will have broken the law...

  • Comment number 82.

    RE: 80 & 81 Boilerplated

    In post 72 you petulantly described my quotes as "from that utterly unreliable source, Wikipedia)" and I asked you to justify that remark. You haven't. Does that mean that you now accept that the quotes are a true and accurate account of the facts? You also haven't taken up my earlier suggestion to provide a comparable list of BBC employees openly aligned with non-Labour politics even though you claimed that you were "sure" it could be done.

    I'm trying to establish whether you have yet accepted the reality that the BBC chooses to employ a large bloc of ideologically committed Labour party supporters and that it conspicuously does not employ any similar bloc of ideologically committed supporters of any other party. After we establish that, we can perhaps go on to consider whether, say, Phil Woolas might have chosen to bury his commitment to the Labour party while working on Newsnight. We could also debate what it says about the BBC's recruitment process that it produces such a politically skewed result.

    RE: 75. TrueToo

    Can I suggest that you add "Alien Abduction" to that list? You might have more success.

  • Comment number 83.

    Boilerplated, you are attributing a concern for impartiality and a professionalism to BBC journalists that simply does not exist. It used to, here and there, as in the fine journalism of Alistair Cooke and Tim Sebastian. To this day I have no idea whether those two were left, right or politically indifferent. It was certainly impossible to tell from their output. And that it how it should be.

    Cook and Sebastian were the exceptions that prove the rule. The BBC does not only belong to and support left wing parties and hold left wing views, it campaigns for left wing causes. As long as you keep your blinkers firmly in place, you will be unable to see this.

    You make a lot of assumptions based on your own bias and your simplistic notion that your beloved corporation can do no wrong. There were in fact complaints about the BBC's bias in favour of the Lib Dems in the month prior to the election. This is part of the BBC's response:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/election_2010/8626338.stm

    In other words, they did an Orwell on the public - first publishing an article cheerleading for the Lib Dems while bashing the Conservatives, and then deleting it - i.e. shoving it down the "memory hole" - as if it had never existed.

    Now nobody can go back to that original article to see precisely how bad it was. How convenient.

  • Comment number 84.

    When you consider how journalists begin their careers and their likely choices....where is the natural home for trendy, left wing journalism students? Guardian and BBC. Same for right wing ones? Murdoch. Of course the BBC has a natural left bias...it is who they are. I can no more expect them to change than I can expect Rupert Murdoch to become a cheerleader for Hugo Chavez.

  • Comment number 85.

    #82. At 11:51am on 18 May 2010, hants_gw wrote:

    "RE: 80 & 81 Boilerplated

    In post 72 you petulantly described my quotes as "from that utterly unreliable source, Wikipedia)" and I asked you to justify that remark. You haven't."


    I don't need to, Wikipedia does that it's self, all you are doing is proving to the world that you do not understand how Wikipedia works, if you did and Wikipedia is correct you will have no problems citing more authoritative sources.

    You don't seem to understand that malicious content can and has been submitted to Wikipedia, without authoritative citations Wikipedia doesn't prove a single thing, it can't even be relied on to prove that Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales was one of the co-founders of the site.

    "I'm trying to establish whether you have yet accepted the reality that the BBC chooses to employ a large bloc of ideologically committed Labour party supporters"

    You have just proved my point: your problem is that you can't keep your own political opinions out of any comment you make so think that no one else can. Don't tar everyone else with your own failings...

    As I said, if you have evidence of bias in BBC reporting then make an official complaint, but you will need that documented evidence.

  • Comment number 86.

    83. At 11:55am on 18 May 2010, TrueToo wrote:

    "Boilerplated, you are attributing a concern for impartiality and a professionalism to BBC journalists that simply does not exist."

    In your opinion...

    If you have proof then stop complaining here and make a formal complaint (that is to the BBC Trust or the Police if the bias was during the election period), but you won't as you know that your facts are just your own political biased opinions, your profile give you away.

    Sloppy reporting is not necessarily bias, and what if the constituency had been Richmond (Yorkshire) and the BBC had made the same errors towards the sitting candidate, would you be kicking up the same smell?

    I suspect that anything less than FoxNews is biased in your opinion!

  • Comment number 87.

    78. doctor bob wrote:

    I am perfectly happy with the BBC's effort to maintain partiality...

    And

    I've read blog comments critical of the BBC's alleged impartiality....

    If I've understood you correctly you should be switching the highlighted words around in these sentences.

    Yes, the BBC is biased against the BNP and doesn't even make the slightest effort to hide the bias. Watching the contempt with which Dimbleby treated Griffin when he was finally allowed onto Question Time was quite an education.

  • Comment number 88.

    The Right think you're biased towards the Left.

    The Left think you're biased towards the Right.

    Supporters of minority parties think you're biased because you give too much airtime to the "big three"; Supporters of the Tories, LibDems and Labour think you're biased because you give too much airtime to parties which don't have a hope of ever getting into power.

    Conclusion - you're annoying the hell out of the brainless partisans on all sides, ergo you're doing a wonderful job of maintaining impartiality. The one things political hacks really hate seeing is the naked, unbiased truth - as evidenced by their comments on this thread, and others.

    Keep it up!

  • Comment number 89.

    @ TooTrue, post #83;

    "The BBC does not only belong to and support left wing parties and hold left wing views, it campaigns for left wing causes. As long as you keep your blinkers firmly in place, you will be unable to see this."

    No... actually, as long as you keep insisting that its true without actually providing any evidence or point-of-reference to back up what you're asserting, he's going to be unable to see this.

    As are the rest of us.

    "Truth" does not mean "whatever I decide to repeat over and over again in the hope that somebody might believe it". Sorry about that.

  • Comment number 90.

    @ TooTrue, post #75;

    I'm going to try to find some BBC journalists who support just a few of the following...

    So, what you're saying in that post is; you think it would be a hard to find BBC journalists who advocate what are, generally speaking, right-wing talking points and political figures...?

    That would only prove that they're not biased, if you can't find any, wouldn't it? I mean... they're not supposed to be supporting political causes, right...?

    And yes, yes... I'm sure the thrust of your rebuttal is going to go something like; "Look, they're not actively supporting the Right-wing view, therefore they are, by default, biased towards the Left". So I'll point out right now, that this argument is a load of old nonsense. If they were impartial - which they are - they would also not be actively supporting Right-wing talking points.

    It's not "bias" because the BBC doesn't agree with your deeply-held political beliefs all the time. It just means you're wrong.

    Here's a suggestion; how about, instead, you go away and try and find some BBC journalists who are actively supporting (note: supporting, not simply reporting on) stuff like the following;

    * Abortion
    * The Welfare State
    * Big Government
    * Left-Wing Political Parties
    * Unions

    etc., etc.,

    Because, that would actually be proving the allegation you're making. Simply pointing out that the BBC is not a cheerleading organisation for Right-wing dogma, isn't.

  • Comment number 91.

    88. At 2:24pm on 18 May 2010, Khrystalar wrote:

    "../cut for brevity/.. Conclusion - you're [the BBC] annoying the hell out of the brainless partisans on all sides, ergo you're doing a wonderful job of maintaining impartiality."

    Well said!

  • Comment number 92.

    To hants_gw #82, TrueToo #83

    RE the composition of an organization as an indicator of bias

    Why is this a problem for you if you don't actually believe media organizations owned by certain groups, with a certain socio-political composition inevitably produce output biased in favour of those groups?

  • Comment number 93.

    Thanks, boiler.

    TrueToo, one more thing before I go; I'm afraid your post #23 doesn't count as proof. A bunch of other people, also insisting that the BBC is biased but also without offering any proof except their own word that this is so - is not proof of any kind.

    (On a side note - it beggars belief that, on the one hand you think the BBC is biased... but on the other hand, you seem to think that someone like Robin Aitken - a self-confessed Tory with an axe to grind against his former employers - putting forwards right-wing views in a right-wing newspaper... can be trusted on his word alone to tell us what the situation is??? I mean, honestly - would you even know what bias was, if it were to suddenly jump up and kick you Where-The-Sun-Shineth-Not?!? Or do you simply believe that the Right-wing are, somehow, immune to it?)

    To help you out, here; what I'm looking for - and presumably Boiler, too, for that matter - is some extract from a BBC report or programme... something that a BBC journalist has said that you can point to and go "Look... there's an instance of somebody in the BBC saying something with a clear political agenda. That's what I'm talking about".

    Not "The BBC are definitely biased because I say so and so do a couple of right-wingers I've found writing opinion columns in the press, and if you don't instantly accept this as fact you must be brainwashed and blinkered or just not very bright", which is pretty-much what your arguments so far have boiled down to.

    All you're proving by doing this is that you - not the BBC - are biased, and not to be trusted.

    So, let's see some examples of what is, apparently, so obvious that the rest of us must be fools not to see it straight away. If this bias is so prevalent, it should be a matter of no trouble at all for you to find a whole bunch of examples, right? If you're not simply lying through your teeth and telling us what you want us to believe, of course...

    To use a colloquialism; Put Up, or Shut Up.

  • Comment number 94.

    I have been listening this afternoon to some analysis by John Pienaar on Radio 5 of allegations that Labour ministers notched up some rather large bills in their final few months against civil service advice (the inference being they were leaving unnecessary further mess for an incoming government). I would like to contact him directly with my comments but that doesn't appear to be possible on your website. Top civil servants are now coming out the woodwork to say they had warned against signing off against these items (as yet unspecified). What I don't understand is why Mr Pienaar doesn't look critically at the potential motives of the civil servants in making these kind of allegations. Are they wanting to ingratiate themselves with new incoming ministers, who no doubt are delighted to expose any sculduggery they can unearth? Were they back-covering in order not to suffer any fallout when the predicted change of government came about? I don't know for certain what their motives might have been, but it would at least be in the interests of fairness and balance to point out there was a potential other reading of what has gone on.

  • Comment number 95.

    93. Khrystalar,

    Your loudmouthed approach is unimpressive and doesn't disguise the fact that you have no argument against the points I raised in comment 23. Like Boilerplated, you choose to ignore the evidence presented there while simultaneously claiming I haven't provided any evidence. That is how small children argue on the playground because they have yet to develop the intellectual capacity for reasoned debate. Now you can put your fingers in your ears and shut your eyes and shout that there is no evidence of BBC left wing bias but that wont make the bias go away.

    I suspect that you are not really interested in a rational debate on this issue and, again like Boilerplated, you will also ignore comment 83, in which I demonstrated the BBC's covering of its tracks regarding its extraordinary bias in favour of the Lib Dems, a left wing party, of course. Again, deleting and ignoring evidence of BBC bias wont make the bias go away.

    However, in the highly unlikely event that you really want to know about BBC bias there is enough information on it on the Internet to fill several sets of encyclopaedias and several websites devoted specifically to exposing that bias. Google is a great tool.

    On the other hand, you could, and probably will, just stew in your ignorance.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    92._marko,

    As I've told you a few times now, I'm quite prepared to enter into a rational debate on any issue but I'm not prepared to respond to a questionaire from a political science or social psychology project or whatever it is that you are on about.

  • Comment number 98.

    Most probably today was the last day for the Cameron sales pitch ..from now on he will have to put the meat on the bones..so far all we have heard of are a few undemocratic changes suggested for parliament ..lets see how he gets on with these...I can see a very very weak man at work and I remain totally unconvinced by the set up with the Lib Dems

  • Comment number 99.

    To TrueToo #97

    As demonstrated here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2010/04/attacking_iran_is_it_a_real_op.html

    If you can't list criteria for something as serious as attacking a country, why should people expect you to bother justifying your posts.

  • Comment number 100.

    #95. At 8:35pm on 18 May 2010, TrueToo wrote:

    "93. Khrystalar,

    Your loudmouthed approach is unimpressive and doesn't disguise the fact that you have no argument against the points I raised in comment 23."


    But that doesn't prove anything, yes people were calibrating [1] but that doesn't prove that they were/are biased in their reporting, something you just don't seem to be capable of understanding, so I'll ask the same question as "Khrystalar", either offer up an actual BBC published article or broadcast report that demonstrates biased reporting by design or shut-up.

    [1] about what we do not actually know, we are only gleefully told that it was because of the return of a Labour government but again with no actual proof.

    "I suspect that you are not really interested in a rational debate on this issue and, again like Boilerplated, you will also ignore comment 83, in which I demonstrated the BBC's covering of its tracks regarding its extraordinary bias in favour of the Lib Dems,"

    I replied to your comment @ #83, what you don't like is that I asked you a very pertinent question, rather than reply you ignore it and now try and make out that it's I who didn't want to debate the point.

    "However, in the highly unlikely event that you really want to know about BBC bias there is enough information on it on the Internet to fill several sets of encyclopaedias and several websites devoted specifically to exposing that bias. Google is a great tool."

    Any fool can write and up-load a website, people don't call the internet the Wild West for no reason you know, I'm sure if one searched for it, one could find 'proof' that Elvis is still alive and working in WallMart...

 

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