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Impartiality is in our genes

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Helen Boaden | 11:13 UK time, Saturday, 18 September 2010

I always think that impartiality is in our DNA - it's part of the BBC's genetic make-up.

Anyone who thinks differently doesn't really understand how the organisation works and how seriously we take issues around balance and impartiality.

That's why, for example, we've planned our coverage of the spending cuts so carefully - to make the choices facing the government clear to our audiences and ensuring we cover the "whys and wherefores" of the spending review. It's how we always approach our reporting - whatever the subject.

The licence fee is the public's money so people are clearly fully entitled to their opinion on our coverage. And if they want to criticise it, of course they can and indeed will do so. There was one such example in the Daily Mail yesterday. There'll always be people who express views about our coverage particularly at a sensitive time politically. That's part of the warp and weft of living in a democracy. Our job is to ensure we remain absolutely impartial and present the facts to our audiences - without following any agendas.

For the broad audience BBC News is as respected and as valued as it's ever been. At big significant news moments such as the General Election and for everyday news and analysis audiences turn to us in huge numbers to help them make sense of the world - both at home and abroad.

That's because our audiences trust us and our specialist journalists like Nick Robinson, Stephanie Flanders, Robert Peston, Hugh Pym and Mark Easton. When stories are complex, highly charged and politicised, audiences rely on our specialists to give them context, assess evidence and test opinions without fear or favour.

Our presenters take professional pride in holding the powerful to account through fair but tough questioning. All our journalists - on and off air - are acutely aware of their responsibility to be impartial. That's why, for example, we report the problems of the BBC as we would any other institution. And that's why our trust ratings remain so high. And in a healthy democracy our audiences would not want it any other way.

Helen Boaden is director of BBC News


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  • Comment number 1.

    I cannot believe that The Daily Mail, and others on the right, are criticising the BBC's coverage of 'cuts' as being biased AGAINST the coalition government. That really does reek of a paranoia, but also of the Daily Mails monotonous stream of propoganda, which now become close to meaningless, not to mention, incredibly boring.

    That said, I do not accuse the BBC of intentional bias towards in favour of a massive reduction in public spending versus other potential messures (neccesarily). It is just that they have allowed the proposition that extensive cuts in public services and spending are wholly deserved and are innevitable to stand without any scrutiny. Also that any other possible measures in defecit reduction, such as taxing the super-rich and higher tax receipts from a rapid improving economy are now considered 'pie-in-the-sky" in the light of the current concencus (which the BBC unarguably help to form).

  • Comment number 2.

    Coverage of spending cuts?
    If people want to criticize, that’s their collective right, but if they really want to criticize, they ought to tune into some of the American stations, radio or newspapers, which I could (but won’t) name because to be impartial, it would literally take me all day.
    For the broad audience, including me, BBC News is respected and valued. At big news moments such as the General Election and for everyday news, I turn to BBC.
    I do have my pet grievances, but I would not return to BBC time and again if these were insurmountable, and by the way, I won’t list these grievances either, except to say (which I feel I must say) that BBC can be rather sensitive to Israel & the conduct of Israelis.
    All BBC journalists - on and off air - are acutely aware of their responsibility to be impartial (yep), especially Nick Robinson who finds more "impartial" reasons to reject my blogs than any other journalist.
    So, Helen (Boaden) why this piece on BBC impartiality now?
    BBC Director General Mark Thompson was called to Downing Street to discuss forthcoming BBC coverage of government spending cuts. Does this not reflect more on Downing Street's insecurity and bias than BBC? In fact, it tells me how very hard it will be for the BBC to render impartial coverage to the issue of spending cuts because of the pressure coming from Downing Street (and don't forget that link among Cameron, Coulson and Murdoch).
    Just think about this:
    How many Director Generals of any media outlet have you seen summoned to Downing Street (= White House) to discuss the potential coverage of any event. I sense some deep concern exuding from Downing Street, but that should not be BBC’s problem. It’s really a Cameron/Clegg problem for by summoning BBC's Director General, the Coalition Government has shown its fingers, if not its hand, on what may be an attempt to influence the media. Note: I said "may". (No one invited me to Downing.)
    The opposition (Labour) can say what they like; but I point out again: the BBC Director General was “called” to Downing. I hereby challenge Labour to state clearly and unequivicably that if it IS CALLED to Downing Street, Labour would decline.
    Shadow culture secretary Ben Bradshaw apparently called for "clarity and reassurance" after Mr Thompson was photographed arriving at Number 10 holding a memo from his head of news, Helen Boaden. The memo disclosed she had previously met Downing Street Director of communications Andy Coulson for lunch at which he was "concerned" the BBC should give "context" to its coverage of the forthcoming comprehensive spending review.
    I suspect that the "context" had less to do with the spending review, than assessing the fall-out on Cameron and The Coialition Government re the Cameron, Coulson, Murdoch affair.
    In 2007 Cameron hired Coulson five months after he had lost his job as editor of the Murdoch-owned News of the World when it emerged that the paper had (allegedly) been bugging royal telephones. It was a controversial appointment, but it had paid dividends, because it meant that the Tory leader had at his side someone he trusted absolutely, who was also trusted inside the social world of the Murdochs.
    This link gave Cameron a secure "in" to the social circle that includes James Murdoch, his sister Elisabeth, her husband the publicist Matthew Freud, Wade's second husband, the old Etonian former racehorse trainer, Charlie Brooks, and Nat Rothschild, of banking fame.
    In the summer 2008, David Cameron and his wife were flown in Matthew Freud's private plane to meet Rupert Murdoch in his yacht, Rosehearty, off a Greek island. Incredibly cosy: James Murdoch, Rebekah Wade, Charlie Brooks, Matthew Freud, Elisabeth Murdoch, Cameron and Osborne...
    Oh, I must interject this thought:
    Executives at News International have been particularly anxious by the threat to newspapers posed by the BBC's website. James Murdoch, the son of News International's founder, described the BBC's reach as "chilling". He also complained about the media regulator, Ofcom.
    KEEN TO OBLIGE, David Cameron has promised to abolish Ofcom and scale back the BBC.
    Robert Peston, March 26, 2010, reported:
    "James Murdoch, the chairman of BSkyB and the presumed heir to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation throne, has argued with some passion that Ofcom intervenes excessively in the media market and could do with neutering.
    David Cameron, the leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, and a nose ahead in the race to be Britain's next prime minister, has announced an intention to scale back Ofcom and take it out of what he described as "making policy".
    This is what Mr Cameron said last July: "with a Conservative Government, Ofcom as we know it WILL CEASE TO EXIST. Its remit will be restricted to its narrow technical and enforcement roles. It will no longer play a role in making policy."
    So, if there is impartiality to worry about, bias to worry about, let me say this loud and clearly: the bias and impartiality are being dumped by the bucket-full out of Downing Street towards the BBC, and not vice versa.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think the BBC rather showed their hand with the announcement of strikes to disrupt coverage of the Conservative Party conference. So let's not try and pretend the BBC is impartial.

  • Comment number 4.

    Reality has a well-known liberal bias

  • Comment number 5.

    As an institution - particularly one funded by our money - the BBC ought to be impartial. Indeed its individual reporters and producers need to take care to present a balanced view of, well, whatever it is they are talking about.

    However, expecting individual members of staff to be completely impartial is rather unrealistic. Presenting a balanced view, showing the options, sifting between hard fact and opinion, letting all sides' points of view be aired is one thing... but reporters and producers have views too, and provided that they can be clear what's fact and what is their own opinion, it actually makes for more interesting reporting to hear what the reporter himself thinks.

    After all, they've probably spent more time digging into the subject of the programme than we viewers have, and if they haven't come to some conclusions of their own it would be very surprising... and informed opinion is always interesting to hear.

  • Comment number 6.

    The majority of the 'news'papers complain about the BBC being left-wing, compared the media empires the BBC is left wing,because they are so far to the right. They want to see the BBC weakened as they think it will strengthen them, but I'd rather have no TV than than pay to watch Murdoch's dumbed down and/or biased programming.
    They've played politics for years, yet moan about the BBC perceived bias, was it the BBC who printed forged letters to bring down the government or supported the Blackshirts? From the way the Murdoch empire behaves very little has changed sinces the 1920s and 30s.

  • Comment number 7.

    Genes do mutate though.

    This blog reads like bad advertising or perhaps a patronising lecture. If we, the audience, trust you - why do you have to tell us?

  • Comment number 8.

    The actions of strikers are not reflective of management, it's somewhat obvious really. Strikers choose dates that best get them coverage and cause their management problems. Targetting the first Tory conference after the General Election is such a move, I wouldn't say it was reflective of editorial policy at the BBC.

    That would be like suggesting Willie Walsh wanted less Christmas Flights so allowed a strike to happen.

    Personally, I think the failing of the BBC is to not show the true reality of these cuts and also a complete failure to show that there are other better options, being offered with proper plans by people around the country. While they in my opinion pay lip service to the effects of the cuts, they are toeing a line allowed by the government to not cause themselves (the BBC) grief from politicians.

    If they had real guts, they would be really tackling the issue and showing the alternatives out there.

  • Comment number 9.

    The BBC is a long way from impartial. The "Guardian" viewpoint is invariably the political frontispiece. It is given a prominence out of all proportion to its readership.

  • Comment number 10.

    While in the past it might have oozed past, what one 'always thinks' from on high at Aunty might need more substantive fare in support than this.

    Especially when going on to suggest that anyone who thinks differently 'doesn't understand'. That would be the 'non-broad' audience then? Pop in that the 'issue is settled' and you can share a platform with Miliband 'I do science me' E.

    That this is in just the first two lines rather sets the scene, and tone.

    But thanks for the heads up.

    And setting the BBC up as an antidote to the Daily Mail, a right-wing, independently funded and optionally purchased populist source of news and opinion, hardly helps the professional standards, beacon of objectivity cases much either.

    One can see why the market rate talents get the bi... massive bucks, indeed.

    So I fear I cannot, and hence do not rely on much offered up at all. Hence, might I opt out please, as near any poorly served and satisfied customer in a free speaking democracy has the right to ask of a non-essential service provider? Or is the BBC too... unique?

    Or maybe simply again in broadcast mode for another audience? Perhaps... one that 'does understand', and hence the only one listened to?

    I'd like my news to be factual, and not views as part of an enhanced narrative. But it's not going to happen. Too much human nature, and ingrained culture, to pop that genie back in its bottle.

    Epitomised by near every word written above.

    But thanks for sharing.

    This should get interesting.

  • Comment number 11.

    It makes me smile when I read comments such as "impartiality is in our genes". The editorial style of the BBC, all the way back to Lord Reith, echoes the left of centre, politically correct and destructive arrogance of so many of the baby boomers, who insist that only what they say has any value. Reith imagined the BBC as an 'educator', instead of an entertainment and to be fair, in his time, often managed to entertain whilst the corporation carried on its social engineering, a practice supported throughout by the civil service. Because the BBC continually follows its path, it does not mean its course, or its beliefs, are right. Please open your eyes and see. True Diversity includes those who don't want it, and if that's inconvenient, that's tough.

  • Comment number 12.

    That article is enough to make a cat laugh.

    The BBC has been harping on about the cuts day after day after day - usually without proper reference to why the cuts are needed, let alone the fact that Labour would have been forced to make cuts of a similar scale.

    Also in the past 10 days we have had incessant reference to Coulson - another stick with which to bash the Tories - making it the headline day after day, totally out of step with most of the rest of the UK media EXCEPT the Guardian and Independent.

    And that is basically the point. The BBC comes across as the broadcasting arm of the Guardian, ergo left-wing. The Guardian has a miniscule circulation - but it is disproportionately often the first choice on the Today programme when they turn to "what are the newspapers saying". This helps to set the agenda. Far less frequently does the Today programme lead off with the Times - let alone the Telegraph. Miss Boaden - why not put one of your clerks on to check the statistics. Or does anyone at the BBC have the gall to deny this simple fact ?

    The leftie bias was most apparent during the recent election. Labour politicians got a disproportionate share of interviewing time - and statistics showed that they were interrupted fasr less frequently than Tory politicians. As well as imbalance in the amount of interruptions, you can often hear the sneers, the jaundice of the interviewers. Radio 4 is bad enough - with a leftie bias across much of its comedy, drama, "interest" shows as well as news. Radio 5 is a total disgrace - does anyone ever try to monitor its output with any objectivity ?

    I am almost 70, so I remember when the BBC was a reliable news source. These days it is riddled with bias, far too much comment as against straight news. Whenever a story breaks, you could make money betting on how the BBC will play it - or downplay it.

    As I say - the Helen Boaden piece is enough to make a cat laugh. But on a serious note, it is this sort of complacency about the BBC duty of impartiality that impels many of us to want the BBC to be cut down to size. Bias in recent years has turned me from being a fan of the BBC to being a strong critic.

  • Comment number 13.

    2. BluesBerry wrote:

    ....BBC can be rather sensitive to Israel & the conduct of Israelis.

    If you mean what I think you mean by that you couldn't be more wrong. BBC bias is at its most emphatic and implacable when it comes to its anti-Israel stance.

    Helen Boaden was the one who defended Barbara Plett over the infamous "Tears for Arafat" affair. That was when Plett wrote that she had cried at the sight of Yasser Arafat being airlifted from Ramallah to hospital in Paris, where he would die.

    She said it appeared Plett "unintentionally gave the impression of over-identifying with Yasser Arafat and his cause".

    The key to that peculiar statement is in the prefix, over-.

    That is, she identified anyway with Arafat and his cause but, by crying, gave the impression of too much identification.

    Anyone who doubts the BBC's anti-Israel bias should try to imagine a BBC reporter weeping at the sight of ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in an irreversible coma in an Israeli hospital. Image doesn't work for you? I didn't think it would.

    Here are some other areas of BBC bias which come close to its prime bias:

    *Anti-Conservative and pro-Labour

    *Anti-Republican and pro-Democrat

    *Pro-big government, e.g. EU and UN

    *Pro-man made global warming theory.

    *Anti-Christianity and pro-Islam.

    And yes, anti-public spending cuts.

    The BBC that Helen Boaden presents here is one that I don't recognise. Impartiality is part of the BBC's genetic make-up? Tell that to BBC DG Mark Thompson, who recently acknowledged that, "The BBC had a massive bias to the left," thirty years ago. What he fails to realise, however, is that the BBC is currently as biased to the left as it ever was.

  • Comment number 14.

    Yes your coverage of the pope's visit has been 'impartial' - NOT.
    Wall to wall coverage of the pope's superstition and apologetics from the catholic commentator after commentator and the passionate demonstration against him I just attended almost completely ignored.

    I'm sorry you are most certainly not impartial. Not doubt your the catholic BBC leader will be working behind the scenes to ensure the right message and spin is put out.

    I'll begin to believe you are a tinybit impartial when i hear the wonderful protest speeches on the news. Please screen Richard Dawkins speech in FULL Because we will DOUBTLESSLY be treated to the pope's propaganda in full.

  • Comment number 15.

    The question of impartiality is not as simple as might seem .

    Putting aside that achieving balance - tends to be most critical - in those areas that have a nasty tendency to defy such a task .

    It could be argued that the BBC has to simultaneously be balanced within itself whilst at the same time balancing the wider media output from others such as Satellite and the Newspapers .

    Robin Rowlands[Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 16.

    And that's why our trust ratings remain so high. And in a healthy democracy our audiences would not want it any other way.

    A healthy democracy demands that its citizens are well-educated and critical of any source of information, including the BBC. You did well.

    Now let's get on with the job of informing people on what's really going on.

  • Comment number 17.

    14. Carl Pierce,

    This might cheer you up: go to this link on the BBC News Website

    and you'll find a comprehensive article on the various organisations opposing the Pope's visit, titled:

    Papal visit: Pope Benedict XVI's opponents

    Scroll to the bottom of the page and you'll find a helpful link to the Protest the Pope website complete with a map and detailed directions to various protests.

    You write,

    Please screen Richard Dawkins speech in FULL Because we will DOUBTLESSLY be treated to the pope's propaganda in full.

    I thought the BBC was covering the Pope's visit. I didn't know it was mandatory for them to give those opposed to the visit equal air time. What is Dawkins' claim to fame other than being obsessively anti-religion? And can he claim a billion or more followers all over the planet?

    I haven't been following the BBC too closely on the Pope's visit, but I do know that they spent 20 minutes, more than enough time, covering one of the protests. Tough luck if it wasn't yours.

  • Comment number 18.

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

  • Comment number 19.

    The BBC is impartial???


    I bet there was a wry wee smirk as this one fell on the lap of the general BBC politburo, was passed through the "politically correct department", winged its way through the "do not offend the government" office, before finally getting posted up.

    Got some news for you dear.

    The BBC never had to CLAIM it was unbiased because it was virtually untouchable, it was an institution based on integrity.

    Then Margaret Thatcher came along and it was downhill all the way, with New Labour killing off any splinters of genuine integrity.

    Our modern BBC is now like TASS was in the USSR, a propaganda outlet for government policy and twaddle.

  • Comment number 20.

    While we're on the subject of religion, I'll explicitly point out that which the media has been hinting at for some time now. Naturally, I can't claim the credit for spotting it, but I can claim the credit for having the balls to simply come out and say it.

    The Pope's visit is a white elephant. I mean that in the classical sense of the phrase - at one time, white elephants were revered as holy and as such, anyone given a gift of a white elephant was obliged to look after it - even it bankrupted them. As such, it became a favourite and ironic way for the ruling class to punish a subordinate - grant them the incredible honour of giving them a white elephant and watch them starve as they are forced to pay for the ruinously expensive upkeep of an animal that brings them nothing in return.

    Getting back to the pope, we must all pay £13M to keep him from people who want to throw tomatoes at him or assassinate him. We do this because if we failed in our duty to protect him, we could face the ire of strongly catholic countries.

    So, in exchange for the potential death of the leader of a religion that covers up paedophilia rings and actively encourages the spread of a deadly sexually-transmitted disease in Africa, we may face an embargo on an influx of cheap labour from Eastern Europe and/or a ban on imports from his native country, specifically, Lamborghinis, Italian leather and various designer handbags and clothes.

    That would be quite a serious loss.

    And doesn't he look almost exactly like Emperor Palpatine? The Vatican PR people really dropped the ball on that one when they sent the smoke up the chimney.

  • Comment number 21.

    The big wake up call for me was when an anti-Thatcher protester torched himself in his car outside number 10 around 1983.

    It was all over the news at lunch...and it never happened at six o'clock...

    Impartial? save it for the youngsters, they don't know any better.

  • Comment number 22.

    18. Fair Pay,

    Thanks for that explanation.

    I still don't think it entitles him to equal coverage to that given the Pope, though I'm no fan of the latter.

  • Comment number 23.

    Ms Boaden you don't really believe the rubbish you write do you? You really think the BBC is balanced in its news output?

    The endless man love for Barry Obama whilst spitting hate at Sarah Palin.

    Oh and here's it cuts all the way whilst the man who trashed our economy (Gordon Brown) has been given a free pass by the BBC.

    Did I sleep through the last 13 years? Who took a vibrant economy in 97 and let it a basket case in 2010?

    Yet all we get from the BBC is how evil the Tories are (and bankers)

  • Comment number 24.

    Is this some kind of joke? Ever since the papal visit was announced the BBC has been engaged in a systematic and sustained campaign to discredit the Pope, the Catholic Church and religious belief in general. Stalin and Mao would have been proud of it.

    Facts the BBC don't want you to know:

    1) More than 50% of hospitals in Africa are run under the auspices of faith-based organisations.

    2) The Catholic Church alone is responsible for nearly one quarter of all the health care provision in Africa.

    3) It runs 5,246 hospitals, 17,530 dispensaries, 577 leprosy clinics, 15,208 houses for the elderly and chronically ill.

    4) Catholic agencies supply a quarter of all HIV care in Africa.

    5) The Catholic Church provides approx. 12 million school places in sub-Saharan Africa each year.

    Not bad for a charity.

    It was also largely responsible for undermining the brutal, atheist Soviet empire in Russia and eastern Europe, and saved more Jews during WW2 (approx. 800,000) than all the other other humanitarian agencies put together.

    Perhaps the BBC has never forgiven the Church for being right about communism. I appreciate that it's tough being on the wrong side of history, but sometimes you just have to put your hands up and give a bit of credit where it's due.

  • Comment number 25.

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

  • Comment number 26.

    The BBC guidelines may emphasise impartiality but in practise that is not true.

    I remember during the election, the BBC carried a live broadcast of a Gordon Brown speech. Following that there was a live David Cameron speech. The BBC interrupted the Cameron speech to replay some of the Brown speech.

    Coverage of the cuts is not impartial either. Lets have as much time devoted to the public spending deficit which is necessitating the cuts, and the results of that deficit if there are no cuts.

    The BBC has always displayed left wing bias. What should you expect from a corporation that advertises its vacancies mainly in the Guardian?

  • Comment number 27.

    It's the strangest thing, but no matter how absurdly, blindly biased a media organisation is, its director invariably believes - or at least firmly asserts - that it is impartial. Now, I guess some of these organisations actually are impartial. Maybe the BBC is one; who knows? Or maybe it's Fox News, or the Guardian, or someone else.
    Mind you, for the director of a news organisation to assert not only that it is impartial but that that impartiality is innate, and anyone who doubts it is a bit thick (sorry, doesn't really understand how the organisation works) - that's a bit special. It's good to know that, even in a field dominated by pointless, whining, vacuous, self-serving, hypocritical twaddle, the BBC still stands streets ahead.

  • Comment number 28.

    I almost wonder whether this column by Ms Boaden is a piece of misdirection. She has opened the door so wide to Medialens that it could take them months to work up a fully detailed reply showing just how biased BBC journalism is, consequently being too tied up to notice some seriously nasty bias going on in a quiet corner somewhere. If you really want to appear non-biased, how about starting by answering questions from Medialens subscribers with depth and honesty, and ensuring that other editors at BBC do the same.

  • Comment number 29.

    #18, Fair Pay

    English is not my mother-tongue, only a second language. I can say that BBC improves my understanding of nuances in the English Language.

    So may I ask why are preaching, proselytising, and apologising for Dawkins? When TrueToo was just being factual with the "a billion or more followers" perspective.

    You and I are better free-riders for little publicity. Thank you BBC for letting us have a say.

  • Comment number 30.

    Nice ideal, unfortunately not often backed up in reality.

    btw: In light of the announcement of a freeze in the licence fee, the annual report made interesting reading.
    When the rest of the public sector is expected to make savings, why is the BBC allowed to keep the same level of tax revenue? (given that the licence fee is a tax and not a charge for a service).

    Perhaps it would be good for the economy if the BBC took cuts and reduced the licence fee, reducing waste and leaving the public a little more money to spend.

    It was interesting to see the licence fee collection costs being so high on comparison to licence fee revenue (and increasing); especially given comment about more direct debit and online payments, all of which should reduce costs. What was it, collection costs between 3-4% of revenue and around 5% uncollected?

    With the licence fee funding argument and the general character of those wanting to work in a public body it is inevitable that there will be an underlying socialist tendency; especially after New Labour's effective media manipulation policy.
    Whilst the BBC is answerable to ministers and reliant on them for its funding source (via sanctioning the tax) it will never be independent.

  • Comment number 31.

    I am old enough to remember the initial grilling of Mr Cameron when Stephanie Flanders, who is so impartial, actually claimed to be an unmarried mother. It was more like a Star Chamber than an interview.
    Your coverage of economics has hardly mentioned the huge debt we face, with all its income.
    It has assumed that the government is cutting when it has not any plans to cut at all - actually the "spend" is about it increase slowly.

    So just stop pretending and being so very complacent will you?

    PS How much are you on yourself?

  • Comment number 32.

    'The licence fee is the public's money so people are clearly fully entitled to their opinion on our coverage. And if they want to criticise it, of course they can... '

    If a little erratically mind. Kudos for this one (so far), but the modding on a Nic Robinson or Richard Black (which famously created the term 'watertight oversight' for shutting down an awkward set of events that could not be immediately interpreted with a rather selective notion of what the BBC could or wouldn't report until it was 'safe') blog and the ever illogical 'comments are closed' shutters that hover like vultures suggest such confidence is fragile.

    Meanwhile, we are subject endlessly to preselected views as news constantly, with public or 'guest' commentary shaping facts at every turn, all through the prism of rather mysterious edit suite BBC Factor judges for ''suitability".

  • Comment number 33.

    And being an old grown up I am also well aware that criticism is the easiest thing in the universe, any moron can criticise.

    Our world has changed, it's all about the munny nowadays.

    From our politicians to our media.
    It's all ersatz empathy, patronising manipulative smokescreening and glitzy trendy fluffspeak.
    The bottom line nowadays is cashflow, not integrity.

    Someone with integrity is someone like David Bellamy who doesn't blindly obey orders and follow the party line.
    Which is why he vanished from our screens, the BBC canned him.

    The post WW2 period at the BBC won't be repeated, an exceptional period which produced exceptional people.
    We got spoiled, and expected that to be the norm, big mistake.

    Now we are getting the sort of BBC, and the sort of people running it, which we would have got if WW2 had never happened.

  • Comment number 34.

    "Anyone who thinks differently doesn't really understand how the organisation works and how seriously we take issues around balance and impartiality."

    That's the sort of arrogant "We are right and you are wrong/stupid" attitude we see and hear from BBC editors on 'Newswatch' and 'Feedback' week in and week out.

    Never mind Papal Infallibility, this sounds like a pitch for BBC Infallibility (which already seems to be a widespread belief at the BBC - as anyone who has ever followed the corporation's Complaints procedure will probably have already found out.)

  • Comment number 35.

    The BBC is also prone to the same malaise as every other government department which exists by taking public money and has succumbed to expecting easy handout cash as some sort of god given right.
    Councils, The BBC etc all part of a gigantic welfare system which is like one of those nightmare relatives who keeps coming back for more and more and more cash.

    gimme more. gimme more. it's always gimme more. it's NEVER gimme less (fat chance)

  • Comment number 36.

    Just one concrete example from before the general election of what certainly seemed like agenda-setting by a specific BBC programme.

    Despite Labour's commitment to half the budget deficit within four years (beginning in 2011 rather than 2010), and their admission that this would entail having to make cuts "worse than Thatcher", Labour politicians were rarely pressed on the subject on 'The Andrew Marr Show' throughout the months leading up to the general election - unlike their Conservative opposite numbers, who were regularly pressed on the subject. (On one edition Andrew Marr said he would be talking to Peter Hain and Philip Hammond about the subject. He spend the interview with Mr Hammond relentless doing just that, but 'forgot' to ask Mr Hain a single question about it!)

    All this built up to the three big interviews with the party leaders during the election itself.

    Here's a breakdown of the respective interviews by subject matter. Guess which subject was NOT tackled with Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg, only with David Cameron?

    Gordon Brown (18/4/10)

    Hung parliaments, campaign, the Queen - 12m 18s (48.5%)
    Immigration - 5m 21s (21%)
    Bankers - 3m 11s (12.5%)
    Ash cloud - 2m 40s (10.5%)
    Afghanistan - 1m 56s (7.5%)
    Cuts, deficit - 0 m 0s (0%)

    Nick Clegg (25/4/10)

    Hung parliaments, Clegg personally - 11m 7s (49.7%)
    Immigration - 7m 32s (33.7%)
    Trident - 3m 42s (16.6%)
    Cuts, deficit - 0m os (0%)

    David Cameron (2/5/10)

    Cuts, deficit - 15m 26s (67%)
    Priorities - 3m 20s (14.5%)
    Hung parliament, campaign - 3 m 0s (13%)
    Living Wage - 1m 18s (5.5%)

    Given that all three interviews lasted well over 20 minutes each, shouldn't some of that time (at least 5 minutes) have been given over to asking Mr Brown and Mr Clegg about cuts, taxes and the deficit? Of course, different interviews don't demand the same subjects, and the questions about immigration to the Labour and Lib Dem leaders were right and proper. Still, acknowledging that doesn't negate my question.

    A full two-thirds of the interview with Mr Cameron was spent on the subject of cuts, and it followed an introductory report from Mr Marr that said that politicians were 'flinching' from talking about this most important of issues - despite having himself previously 'flinched' from asking either Mr Brown or Mr Clegg a single question about it!

    It was almost as if 'The Andrew Marr Show' had been long following a script to connect the idea of 'cuts' with the Tories rather than with Labour (who, as the government of the day, were accountable for the deficit in the first place) or the Liberal Democrats & that this was its crowning 'glory'...or, to put it another way, "planned their coverage of the spending cuts so carefully".

  • Comment number 37.

    "Impartiality is in our genes"

    I'm afraid the word which springs to mind is hubris.

    Coupled with the TV-licence-parish-tithe system, current government organisations have uncanny parallels with the clergy of 500 years ago, updated and polished for our modern world... but with exactly the same kinda folk running them.

    The vestments have been swapped for suits but it's the same old genes.

  • Comment number 38.

    "Our job is to ensure we remain absolutely impartial and present the facts to our audiences - without following any agendas."

    Oh really?

    Here's another concrete example.

    The BBC News Channel's coverage of the government's decision to scrap NHS Direct on August 28th didn't seem very balanced or impartial.

    The story broke in the afternoon. BBC political correspondent Arif Ansari initially reported the story fairly, presenting pros and cons, but the BBC News Channel is nothing if not biased so...

    16.03 Frank Dobson, Labour - strongly attacked the move
    16.06 Lord John Prescott, Labour -strongly attacked the move
    16.33 Nick Chapman, chief executive of NHS Direct - spoiled the narrative by being strongly supportive of the move. Presenter Carole Walker sounded a bit taken aback by this and, having realised that he wasn't the aggrieved quangocrat she was expecting, soon started interrupting, pushing the Prescott points. She thanked him at the end very sourly. Ha!
    17.01 Reprise of part of the Chapman interview.
    17.11 Reprise of part of the Prescott interview
    18.03 Andy Burnham, Labour - strongly criticised the move
    19.02 Partial reprise of Burnham attack (following report featuring Mr Chapman and Lord Prescott)
    20.02 Partial reprise of Burnham attack
    21.03 Partial reprise of Burnham attack
    21.04 Gail Adams, UNISON - strongly attacked the move ("the same service but on the cheap")

    Worst BBC interviewer? Chris Rogers. Here are his questions to Ben Wright:

    - "Cameron in the early days of the last election said 'I'll cut the deficit not the NHS'. It was on their campaign posters. How are they justifying this?" ("Cameron"? Doesn't he mean "David Cameron", "Mr Cameron" or "the prime minister"?)

    - "A lot of people have been contacting BBC News today saying they've used the NHS Direct service. They're now very concerned at the talk of 60 hours of training for the staff, no real qualified GPs and nurses are going to be on call. Are the government saying that this new service, 111, will be safe?" Of course, they're "concerned". Labour and the BBC had been scaring them all evening!

    - "Of course the pressure is on though. John Prescott is..I think it's 2,500 signatures (wow!!) for his petition now..if it gets to a 100,000 - which it could easily do as momentum builds (he could hope!) - this could be an embarrassment for the government?"

    So, besides the head of NHS Direct, that's three Labour politicians, a trades unionist and some biased questioning. That's BBC impartiality for you!

    The BBC News website's article on the same story was just as bad:

    - 6 paragraphs of attack from Andy Burnham (who got a block quote in the article for good measure)
    - 1 paragraph of attack from Frank Dobson
    - 4 paragraphs of attack from Lord Prescott (plus a video)
    - 2 paragraphs of criticism from Dr Peter Carter of the RCN
    - 2 paragraphs of attack from Gail Adams of UNISON

    And just Mr Chapman from NHS Direct for the defence - and he got a much shorter video than Prescott, especially given that quite a bit of his video clip was taken up by a question from the BBC presenter quoting an attack from John Prescott!!

    Where was the 'Heath Department spokesman' in this article? Sky found a 'Health Department spokesman' for its online article, so why not the BBC?

    Back though to the News Channel...

    The BBC returned to the subject of NHS Direct the following morning, and granted a 'right to reply' at last to the Coalition, in the form of Lib Dem health minister Paul Burstow. A right to reply at 7.12am on a Sunday morning!! Who, except me, the BBC and Mr Burstow, was up then?

    This was a clear case of 'watertight oversight' - the way a media source can claim, if challenged, to be unbiased because it gave the opposing side a chance - even though it buried it deep in the bowels of its website (e.g. in the 'Berkshire' section of the website) or at 7.12 on a Sunday morning!

    Just in case anyone WAS up, Clive Myrie hammered away "This is all very confusing I reckon to a lot of people", "it sounds like a call centre you're talking about and that's a fear a lot of people have", "a lot of critics would point to that as being the case".

    Mr Burstow was convincing in his replies, so a partial, unbalanced BBC wouldn't be interested in reprising this interview.

    And, do you know, what? They didn't!! Not a reprise, as happened with Prescott and (repeatedly) Burnham yesterday. Not a clip in a later report. Nothing.

    At 7.15am on Sunday morning, Mr Burstow (and his defence of the government's actions over NHS Direct) was quietly buried in an unmarked grave.

    "All our journalists - on and off air - are acutely aware of their responsibility to be impartial," says Ms. Boaden.

    Pull the other one!

  • Comment number 39.

    "When stories are complex, highly charged and politicised, audiences rely on our specialists to give them context, assess evidence and test opinions without fear or favour," you say? And cite Mark Easton as an example of such a specialist?

    Mark Easton spent the months leading up to the election regularly attacking the Tories on his blog and on 'Reality Check' - though the Lib Dems did get a few critical posts too. Labour emerged almost entirely unscathed (even to the point of being defended by Mr Easton over its misuse of statistics).

    On 20th April Mark starred alongside Andrew Neil on a 'Daily Politics' election special - a debate on crime, featuring Alan Johnson for Labour, Chris Grayling for the Conservatives and Chris Huhne for the Liberal Democrats. This gave Mr Easton a golden opportunity to prove that he really does take the concept of impartiality seriously. All he needed to do to prove that was to probe all three party spokesmen with a roughly equivalent intensity, "without fear or favour". Hardly difficult, you would think. Is that what he did?

    No, he didn't. He went relentlessly on the attack against Chris Grayling (who he had also been relentlessly criticising on his blog for months).

    Andrew Neil also put a lot of questions to Chris Grayling, and asked the same number to Chris Huhne and only slightly more to Alan Johnson. Mr Neil's interruptions followed a similar pattern.

    In contrast, here are the number of questions/points Mark Easton put to the three politicians:

    Alan Johnson - 2
    Chris Grayling - 17
    Chris Huhne - 4

    Here are the number of interruptions Mark Easton made against each politician:

    Alan Johnson - 1
    Chris Grayling - 8
    Chris Huhne - 3

    The tone of the questioning of Mr Grayling was also sharply critical.

    Mark Easton reporting/interviewing "without fear or favour"? Really?

  • Comment number 40.

    "Anyone who thinks differently doesn't really understand how the organisation works and how seriously we take issues around balance and impartiality."

    The arrogance of this statement is quite breathtaking. Oh and the answer to the question posted above, according to the Guardian, is £327,000. Nice work if you can get it.

  • Comment number 41.

    What "dumbciscokid" said with bells on.

    I can think of several incidents that illustrate the BBC's left-wing bias and its adolescent world view, but will choose three that absolutely nail it:

    1 Taking 10 years to screen the Falklands Play. There is only one possible reason that makes any sense for this - hatred of Thatcher.

    2 The bottles of champagne that littered the corridors of Broadcasting House after the 1997 election.

    3 The recent revelation that 85% of the BBC's recruitment advertising budget is spent on the Guardian.

    Anthony Jay put it most succinctly. BBC bias may not be deliberate, it is just that when you put together a large number of young urban intellectuals, groupthink is bound to result. As Bertrand Russell once said: "The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.". That the wise keep quiet does not make the fools right.

    Ms Boarden, impartiality does not mean "balancing" the views of ***anyone*** with those of Anjem Chowdry, Tony Benn or Jeremy Bowen. When you have published, unredacted, the Balen Report, then you may have a leg to stand your opening remark on.

  • Comment number 42.


    So may I ask why are preaching, proselytising, and apologising for Dawkins?

    Of course. I was drunk and had nothing better to do. Hence the over-simplification of the arguments and the slightly aggressive style (by my standards, anyway). I don't think it's fair to imply that I was trying to change other people's opinions, though - at least, no more so than anyone does in the course of having a conversation about something.

    Clive Copus makes the very valid point that the church also does good work - though some of the examples given seem a little ironic.

    Also, I'm not sure the pope's visit can be explained simply or only via the white elephant argument, given that he was invited some time ago, though that fact doesn't rule it out either. Actually, when was he invited, and by which PM, BBC?

  • Comment number 43.

    Why has Craig Morecambe's comment (no 39) been referred for moderation? What was wrong with his point: "When stories are complex, highly charged and politicised, audiences rely on our specialists to give them context, assess evidence and test opinions without fear or favour," you say? And cite Mark Easton as an example of such a specialist?

    Mark Easton spent the months leading up to the election regularly attacking the Tories on his blog and on 'Reality Check' - though the Lib Dems did get a few critical posts too. Labour emerged almost entirely unscathed (even being defended over its misuse of statistics).

    On 20th April he starred alongside Andrew Neil on a 'Daily Politics' election special - a debate on crime, featuring Alan Johnson for Labour, Chris Grayling for the Conservatives and Chris Huhne for the Liberal Democrats.

    This gave Mr Easton a golden opportunity to prove that he really does take the concept of impartiality seriously. All he needed to do to prove that was to probe all three party spokesmen with a roughly equivalent intensity, "without fear or favour". Hardly difficult, you would think. Is that what he did?

    No, he didn't. He went relentlessly on the attack against Chris Grayling.

    Andrew Neil also put a lot of questions to Chris Grayling, and asked the same number to Chris Huhne and only slightly more to Alan Johnson. Mr Neil's interruptions followed a similar pattern.

    In contrast, here are the number of questions/points Mark Easton put to the three politicians:

    Alan Johnson - 2
    Chris Grayling - 17
    Chris Huhne - 4

    Here are the number of interruptions Mark Easton made against each politician:

    Alan Johnson - 1
    Chris Grayling - 8
    Chris Huhne - 3

    The tone of the questioning of Mr Grayling was also sharply critical.

    Mark Easton reporting "without fear or favour"? Really?

  • Comment number 44.

    A few weeks back I complained to the BBC about some clear bias. I have yet to receive a reply to my complaint, maybe you would like to explain how if 'Impartiality is in (y)our genes' and 'When stories are complex, highly charged and politicised, audiences rely on our specialists to give them context, assess evidence and test opinions without fear or favour', you managed to display this horrendous example of bias?

    'Your Middle East news features a piece about an Israeli rabbi who had called for a 'plague' on Mahmoud Abbas, and other reprehensible comments. Despicable I agree but maybe you could point me to the BBC web site news articles that reported the genocidal statements of senior Hamas and Fatah politicians and/or religious leaders. For example did the BBC web news report Hamas cleric Ziyad Abu al-Haj's Friday sermon of 3 April 2009 in which he said "The time will come, by Allah’s will, when their property will be destroyed and their children will be exterminated, and no Jew or Zionist will be left on the face of this earth."?

    Maybe you could also show me where BBC web news reported the words of Dr. Ahmed Yousuf Abu Halabiah, a member of the Palestinian Sharia (Islamic religious law) Rulings Council, and Rector of Advanced Studies at the Islamic University on 13 October 2000 when he said "The Jews are the Jews. There never was among them a supporter of peace. They are all liars… They are terrorists. Therefore it is necessary to slaughter them and murder them, according to the words of Allah… It is forbidden to have mercy in your hearts for the Jews in any place and in any land. Make war on them any place that you find yourself. Any place that you meet them – kill them. Kill the Jews and those among the Americans who are like them… The Jews only understand might. Have no mercy on the Jews, murder them everywhere."

    If you did not report such Palestinian calls, why not? Why are the words of one Israeli cleric, however vile, newsworthy whereas those of Palestinian clerics and politicians are not?'

  • Comment number 45.

    24. At 11:59pm on 18 Sep 2010, Clive Copus wrote:

    Is this some kind of joke? Ever since the papal visit was announced the BBC has been engaged in a systematic and sustained campaign to discredit the Pope, the Catholic Church and religious belief in general.

    Clive, I agree wholeheartedly with you here. I am not normally one to complain about such things but, as a practicing catholic (and license fee payer,) I feel very let down.
    Impartiality certainly has not featured in the BBC News channel's coverage of the papal visit. To claim otherwise is to add insult to injury.

  • Comment number 46.

    The BBC seems to be in denial over the issue of of bias. As is often the case of institutional group think if the majority think in the same way the 'centre' of the organisation becomes misaligned with the society as a whole.

    This is clearly perpetuated by the BBC employing exclusively from adverts in left of centre Guardian it is unsurprising that the majority of employees will be on the Left and oblivious to it's bias.

  • Comment number 47.

    Thirty years ago, at the precocious age of 15, I was a Tribunite (left wing) member of the Labour Party. The only real bias I could see then at the BBC was towards the left. It is now endemic. It went into overdrive round about the time Tony Blair became Labour leader, although the Frankenstein monster he helped create turned against him when he showed his heart was in the right place when he helped Bush free Iraq.

    The BBC once did the nation tremendous proud for its impartiality, civility and quality. Now it's partisanship and bumptiousness has made it and Britain an international laughing stock.

    I've lived in Spain for the last 8 years. I've heard skits on Spanish national radio parodying the rude interruptions and overbearing personas of BBC interviewers. Even the socialist 'El País' accepts as fact that during the Iraq War the BBC were campaigning against it.

    Such rampant bias does not come about by accident. The BBC is now riven with subversives who have contempt for the British people and contempt for democracy. It needs to be culled. Clearly, the first head that needs to roll to restore impartiality is that of Helen Boaden.

    I have read Craig's suppressed post #39 above. I guess he's hitting too many bulls eyes.

  • Comment number 48.

    Is Mike Rudin impartial? Or has the impartial BBC stood on him? The two blogs on 9/11 have thrown up many, at the very least, interesing contradictions.

    Not a one, taken up by BBC journalists. The blogs just get closed down.

    What's the BBC for if it just covers its eyes and ears and mouth. Not my idea of impartial.

  • Comment number 49.

    To be fair, I think that the Guardian is used for job adverts because people know that the Monday Media section is where the media in general advertise jobs.

    I think it is more a matter of when it comes to actual selection - like tends to select like. And as people such as Sir Anthony Jay with direct experience of working with the BBC have said, the BBC is infused with a left-liberal metrosexual mentality, a groupthink.

    A fish does not recognise it is wet. BBC people don't recognise that their idea of "unbiased" is in fact very biased to the left. Mark Thomson has said that there was clearly bias in earlier times - but at that time the BBC was again claiming total neutrality.

    For senior people like Mark Thompson and now Helen Boaden to deny current bias is, as I said earlier, enough to make a cat laugh. The CraigMorecambe posting above instances clear and undeniable bias in BBC interviewing of politicians. He produces metrics of bias.

    The trouble with the BBC complacency epitomised by the Helen Boaden piece is that people are so convinced that balance is "in the BBC's genes" that there appears to be no proper monitoring. If CraigMorecambe can produce clear metrics - why isn't the BBC taking metrics ?

    And in my earlier post I suggested a specific metric - the newspapers quoted in the Today programme each morning. It is undeniable that the miniscule-circulation Guardian and Independent get quoted far too often, usually as the first quote. All the tapes are there to be checked - I suggest the BBC runs a simple audit of the past 100 or 200 programmes. That would take about a day - and the result could be appended to Helen Boaden's blogpost here.

    If my assertion can be contradicted that the Guardian and Independent disproportionately lead "what the papers say" each morning, I look forward to the contradiction. If I see no contradiction, I must assume that there can be no contradiction.

    As they say - who do I believe on whether there is BBC bias - BBC executives or my own lying ears ?

  • Comment number 50.

    I always think that impartiality is in our DNA - it's part of the BBC's genetic make-up.

    Anyone who thinks differently doesn't really understand how the organisation works and how seriously we take issues around balance and impartiality.

    Recognizing impartiality, or the lack of it, in your broadcasts is not reliant on understanding how the organisation (BBC) works. When a bias is clear for all to see (all organisations slip up from time to time) surely it is time for some re-organisation of process to take place?

    I do not dispute that issues around impartiality and balance are taken very seriously at the BBC, as well they should be. Unfortunately, from points raised here, and some of the reporting I have viewed recently it would appear that the BBC's record on impartiality is far from 100%. A little humility in accepting this may go a long way to appeasing aggrieved license fee payers and perhaps improving your record.

  • Comment number 51.

    Oh no not that 'the BBC are impartial' rubbish again. Who do you really think you're fooling, those on the left?

    There wasn't any impartiality when it came to UKIP during the run up to the election was there? How many times did BBC interviewers mention things like 'UKIP are a one policy party' harangue them, constantly interrupt them when they were speaking so that they couldn't make their point? Totally different when a Labour spokesman (or Green Party for that matter) had his unchallenged say, packing debates with Labour supporters... When it comes to Islam you also pack debates so they are over represented and few opponents such as in 'The Big Questions'. How about Horrible Histories propaganda video about the crusades?

    Impartial my...

  • Comment number 52.

    Impartial?Madame you have to be joking!

    Living in Scotland and having to suffer the drivel which passes as news or serious political comment has forced me to alter my viewing.

    However, I still have to pay the wages of the biased,talentless and devious.

    I don't pay for the much maligned Mr Murdoch at whom all and sundry at the BBBC and the Guardian take a pop.

    People in glass houses and all that.

  • Comment number 53.

    May I ask the moderator(s), why some comments are being witheld for further consideration, when these comments have also been posted on the 'biased BBC' site for all to see.
    On 'biased BBC' they also post negative comments made about the site.
    If they can do it, why can't the BBC?

  • Comment number 54.


    I've never read your comments before, but I was interested to see what people in highly responsible and highly paid executive positions at the BBC are saying in response to (increasing) allegations left-leaning bias.

    What you fail to understand is that when you deliberately don't report what is going on (bias by omission) you will lose your right to exist.

    Remember the Nigel Farage and Dannan Hannan speeches made against Gordon Brown? Surely the most caustic to ever assault this gentleman's ears. The BBC chose to ignore them because they did not fit into the BBC agenda at that time.

    However, what the British public wants to see is the undiluted, unvarnished truth, warts 'n all. So, Helen, we still get to find out what is actually happening out there because it is all over the blogosphere, 24/7. The public will still find the information that you choose to omit, for whatever reason. If you continually choose not to report something, people will not read you. The BBC no longer has a monopoly on information. Unless you want to be sidelined into oblivion, you would be wise to take heed of this.

    Goodbye, and good luck.

  • Comment number 55.

    I am in agreement with Manfred VR on this. Why do you choose to excessively moderate some of the comments? Though it may seem counter-intuitive, but so long as the posts contains no rants, bad language or ad hominem's, reducing the moderation would improve your site!

    I too will be posting my comments on alternative sites, just in case.

  • Comment number 56.


    With due respect, this particular aspect of the BBC (the Editors blog/etc), and perhaps even a lions share of the BBCs on-line news and feature content are no doubt as reasonably impartial as the Editors FEEL necessary... which on your own blog, is usually quite a bit.

    But as the "Director" (of the Corp? of this Board? Of the entire BBC Worldwide? Your job description doesn't offer a knowledgable reader clues), you should not be in the position of stooping to claiming there is NO (nada, zed, zero) institutional, professional, cultural, and class bias all over each and every aspect of the BBC in general and this sites content in particular. Let me remind the Editors (and the Director) that it was I who graciously provided the research and contact leads for the editors to file a FOIA request in the U.S. in order to discover BBC America's license and sindication (and etc) revenue. Revenue that, from the exploitation of BBC America profits ALONE, is more per annum than the ENITRE License Fee income (after expenses and overhead), and additionally does NOT bother to pay the BBC editors and writers and artists their residual and etc. fees on shows they originally produced purely for the British viewing pubic. The DVD profits on the series box sets is probably a couple hundred MILLION Euros per year. lol.

    Now, I realize that you editors in the UK don't have a direct line to the wheelers and dealers like our Ms. Boaden at the Directors Office, so here's a hint: BBC America is incorporated (with a unique status as far as I could tell) in Deleware, which by State Law can refuse to disclose "ownership" (even of the BBC America content... which was all BBC Britain first, right?), but the "holding' company for BBC America for the bosses on your side are located in Houston, Texas (very expensive Bush "protection" buy). So without Ms. Boadens access, the other BBC editors might not know that BBC America, uses a part of the revenue from the royalties that DO NOT go back to the UK, in order to produce NEW CONTENT for it's America based "programming network". I.e. Public Broadcasting Channels and Radio (i.e. non-commercial). This might seem like a conflict of interest, and it is. But what's MORE obnoxious is the POLITICAL programming BBC America churns out during the election cycles... which is ALL blatantly biased (I've worked for the BBC as a US stinger...haha).

    So please, restrict "spending cuts" and "impartiality" to your British staff, Ms. Boaden, as BBC America is ROLLING out tonnes of new product for the election slots in the US it gets on US public airwaves. The BBC Board still hasen't provided the Editors a proper AUDIT of BBC America's profits and registration, financial stucture, and until that's delivered, the BBC board isn't even impartial to it's own wage slaves, let alone to the UK public stuck shelling out the license fee. At least be decent enough to disclose THAT much!


    A. Scott Crawford

  • Comment number 57.

    I don't believe in impatiality. I believe in what a famous Brazilian journalist called Mino Carta said: "We put our opinion in every comma of a text."

  • Comment number 58.

    Is it the same impartiality that led James Naughtie to ask Ed Balls, during 2005: "If we win the elction...."

  • Comment number 59.

    as the BBC is the best news service going let us leave it alone. Murdoch et al go fly a kite and the Government should keep their fingers out - let the BBC report what it wants and continue to do so....

  • Comment number 60.

    Ms Boaden, you state very categorically that you are unbiased. How do you know? By what criteria do you make this assertion?

    You surely carry out reviews of programmes and general output to ensure that your standards of impartiality are met, do you not? Please make public the results of your reviews or we must assume that your article is just so much hot air with no evidence to back it up.

  • Comment number 61.

    This debate is years overdue. I've railed at the inherent bias to the left of BBC News and Current Affairs for years, often to blank stares from people who just didn't see it because it just didn't occur to them that our national tax-funded broadcaster was no longer impartial, and had a remit to be so because of that funding. But the bias is now so blatant that it's hard to avoid realisation.

    BBC TV news is currently all but unwatchable because of its unquestioning standpoints on cuts (very bad), Conservatives and Coalition (bad), EU (very good, apart from Tory MEPs in the awkward squad letting side down), Israel (almost always in the wrong), Global Warming (scary, more taxation justified). Is it too much to ask for some neutrality and proper journalism? Get Tom Bradby back from ITN: he can show you how it can be done.

    But it's not just News and Current Affairs. It seems a virtual remit that comedians must still knock Thatcher. Prime example coming from left field: The Grumpy Guide to the 80s a few months ago included a vicious five minute attack on Thatcher. "No programme about the 80s would be complete without, etc..." Yet, can anyone imagine a light-hearted guide to the 60s demonizing Wilson as a matter of course?

  • Comment number 62.

    Having read the comments, Ms Boaden, how about a response? Perhaps a standard BBC brush-off, such as we are used to getting on Feedback or Newswatch? You know the sort of stuff: "The BBC takes great care in its research and is of the opinion that a balanced position has been met". I am sure you must have a standard pro-forma in the Feedback office.

    Did you notice that the examples I quoted spanned 3 decades? If Mark Thompson admitted you were biased back in the Thatcher era, and yet you are still up to the same old tricks, how does that compute?

  • Comment number 63.

    I always think that self deprecation is in my DNA - it's part of my genetic make-up.

    Anyone who thinks differently doesn't really understand just how self deprecating I am. Much more so, in fact, than practically everyone else I know. And probably more so than everyone else I don't know too.

    You get the irony I hope! Enough said.

  • Comment number 64.

    It is noticeable from the comments so far on this thread that very few agree that Helen Boaden's piece reflects reality.

    What mechanisms are in place within the BBC to ensure proper impartiality ? How many staff in the News Division - many hundreds ? Approaching 1000 journalists and editors and research staff ? Including the website people ?

    Again - what mechanisms ? What measures ? What metrics ? CraigMorecambe has mentioned some metrics that seem appropriate (including in a polite post that the BBC moderators have deleted)

    More to the point - what sanctions on staff who ignore the BBC's statutory requirement to be impartial ?

    The impression I have is that no-one in senior BBC news management really gives a damn. They can preach at us, can say "over a long time, it all comes out OK". Whited sepulchres is the phrase that comes to mind.

    The BBC has crossed a very serious line. Of course they claim the have not.

    But one would have to be blind and deaf to think the BBC is unbiased.

    Methinks they protest too much.

  • Comment number 65.

    Schmassmann: I you think that the BBC is the best news service going and should do just as it pleases then you won't mind paying the going rate, without being subsidised by people that don't want to watch it will you? Murdoch's services are all free to choose to pay for services and people choose to pay for them if you like that or not. But then I suspect you're somewhat to the left, standing up for the BBC which is somewhat to the left.

    Those at the BBC are going to keep repeating that they are unbiased and impartial because they want to stay in a job and keep their generous pay packets. It's what they do.

  • Comment number 66.

    Simple question. How many obviously leftie "comedians" on Radio 4. How many non-leftie ? 10 to 1 - if that ?

    The bias at the BBC seeps through every pore. Right down to coverage of farming, all through BBC "comedy", all through most of the PC "drama", every day on Womens' Hour, anti-business on many "business" programmes.

    And most especially in coverage of US politics which I have followed since Kennedy's election. Time was, we had Alastair Cooke, giving reflective and sage coverage each week - giving the true flavour. What were his political views - I never could really know after 30 years of reading him in the Manchester Guardian and then listening to him on the BBC.

    He must be spinning in his grave to hear the pro-Democrat, pro-Obama, pro-Big Government, anti-Tea Party, anti-Palin or O'Donnell stuff that is just predictable knee-jerk BBC coverage these days. How many people does the BBC employ in the US at our expense to give us such a distorted view of what is really happening ?

  • Comment number 67.

    BBC: Would you like to prove that you are impartial? You know, real analysis of you reports and programs, you might like to start with Question Time or the Today program. Ask CraigMorecambe (who you have censored) for a few pointers I'm sure you have heard of his blog, you won't like the results though.Oh BTW when is the Balen report coming out?

  • Comment number 68.

    What's the betting that the BBC, and Boaden in particular, never air this topic again? It is interesting that a survey in the USA reckoned that the US TV networks (all but Fox being of the Left) were worth 10 points in the 2008 election in favour of Obama. With the 10% constituency bias against the Tories, and the BBC against them, those of a Conservative view are being seriously cheated here in England. And by people who seem to want a return to the failed policies of the 1970s.

  • Comment number 69.

    I have just read the Associated Press summary of the Pope's visit.

    A BALANCED report, warts and all.

    Very much at variance with the BBC's snide and spiteful coverage which emphasised protests and negatives.

    It has come to a pretty pass when even the fairly-leftie AP provides balance and the BBC skews the news at every turn.


    I am not religious. But I believe the BBC has managed to offend many many Christians in this country, not just Catholics.

    Oh and by the way - with all its news crews out there - how come the BBC failed to report the violent - indeed murderous - remarks being thrown at Christians by Islamists on the route ? Did they leave the lens cap on ?

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 70.

    Moderators have excised the link I gave to live film of Islamists hurling violent abuse at Christians attending the Hyde Park rally.

    My point was that the BBC failed to report this egregious behaviour on the streets of London. And now BBC moderators here have blocked film of it. Apparently the website that had the footage is "unsuitable". A nice Orwellian word. Maybe it is, I don't know the site. It was not the National Front or somesuch. But plainly the BBC does not like direct reference to film footage it should itself have shown.

    "All the news that is fit to show. Unless we don't like it"

  • Comment number 71.

    Anyone who wishes to look will see the BBC's bias by omission, especially when it comes to Islam. When Islamic preachers regularly call for the deaths of all Jews, all American's even all British, the BBC turns a blind eye. When there's news out there about how in Islamic countries children are being indoctrinated (even in school) to become terrorists and suicide bombers in the name of Allah, the BBC turns a blind eye. When there are hate preachers up and down the country preaching hatred of infidels the BBC turns a blind eye. When Islamic protesters incite hatred and murder on our streets the BBC turns a blind eye... We who open our eyes see this, the BBC would rather not.

  • Comment number 72.

    If "impartiality is in BBC genes", is there any chance that you will soon be releasing the "Balen report" into the public domain, Just for the sake of "Impartiality" you understand, as we haven't read it but the BBC have.

    Pray, how is that "Impartial"?

  • Comment number 73.

    in my view it is just a claim far away from reality .it is only self praising .

  • Comment number 74.

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

  • Comment number 75.

    70. dumbciscokid,

    I watched that video - a few hundred aggressive Muslim demonstrators hurling the worst insults they could think of at the Pope, like "Benedict watch your back," and even, "Burn, burn, burn in hell," as the Pope passed in the popemobile.

    Strange that the BBC chose not to cover it. Perhaps they didn't think it was newsworthy.

    Here's the link again, since yours didn't work:

  • Comment number 76.

    74. ady wrote:

    --On 'biased BBC' they also post negative comments made about the site blah blah--

    It's all spittle flecked US Republicans and Zionist nutters in that place.
    I was wondering why the posts had suddenly gone so weird in this thread...but I wonder no longer.

    Feel free to enlighten us as to where their comments are inaccurate and why you disagree so strongly with them. Otherwise your comment is just hot air.

  • Comment number 77.

    "74. At 08:21am on 20 Sep 2010, ady wrote:
    It's all spittle flecked US Republicans and Zionist nutters in that place.

    Ah yes. The old "anyone who disagrees with me is a nutter" argument.

  • Comment number 78.

    'Our job is to ensure we remain absolutely impartial'

    Especially the mods, it would seem, who truly appreciate facts and calm argument over content-free, blanket tribal ad homs and unsubstantiated claims. Er... evidently.

    Fancy allowing the wrong kind of person on a BBC thread? The very idea. Anyone would think those with other, 'weird' views had a right to express them just for being forced to pay. Or, in the case of overseas 'targets' of some 'events interpretation' spun from these shores, the opportunity to let those not in their countries experience an alternative to that which can be broadcast only by those with access to the edit suite.

    Yeah, keep it pure for those who show the kind of opinion that needs be stoutly defended.

    ps: Don't forget to invoke Rupert. Daily Mail readers have already been covered. But invoking Rupert always rallies the troops.

  • Comment number 79.

    "It's all spittle flecked US Republicans and Zionist nutters in that place."

    As opposed to spittle flecked Lefty, radical Islam appeasing nutters... Most are not US Republicans as they are British, but you highlighted two areas where the BBC is biased. It's biased to the left, biased against Israel, so naturally those who would complain they are forced to pay for something they don't want are those from the right, or libertarian, and may not agree with appeasing radical Islam.

  • Comment number 80.

    The problem of being unable to recognize the obvious bias stems from the fact that Helen and other BBC editors/reporters/pundits are so far to left on the political spectrum that they only recognize "their" views as being of (or around) the centre ground.

  • Comment number 81.

    74. At 08:21am on 20 Sep 2010, ady wrote:
    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

    75. At 08:29am on 20 Sep 2010, TrueToo wrote:
    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

    While late is better than never, and reacting under prompting is better than doing nothing, one has to wonder how a House Rule break made it through pre-moderation in the first place.

    And, often, what has been written to get referred, as such limbo is a useful tool often misused to let things 'move on'.

    But considering the author's topic, a useful bit of irony at least.

  • Comment number 82.

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

  • Comment number 83.

    There might be divergent views on your claims but here in India, we all feel that if its on BBC, then it must be true. Since my childhood, though I would not understand the gravity of the situation, being too young to comprehend International policies but would hear my parents and their friends discussing the issues and the one who said," I heard it on BBC" had the last words and won the argument convincingly because the authenticity of the source was never challenged.

  • Comment number 84.

    'When stories are complex, highly charged and politicised, audiences rely on our specialists to give them context, assess evidence and test opinions without fear or favour.'

    Ms Boaden

    Perhaps you should consider what drives your 'stories'. For the most part its press releases directing your attention. Why not have some stories about say, the impact of the recession on plumbers or electricians. Perhaps you could look at some british manufacturing companies such as Dualit. Perhpas you might even like to look at Tescos and its increasing business outside the UK. Perhaps you might like to ask the management and staff how they feel about the fact that over 300 staff at the BBC earn more than £100,000.

    Why not do a piece about how overheads at british companies have increased over the last 10 years.

    Why not look at the relationship between business failures, their borrowings and previous government policy rather than bleat on about how the banks aren't lending.

    Instead of focusing on cuts in benefits why not do a story about the willingness of foreign nationals to move and set up somewhere new and compare this with citizens unwilling to do the same.

    Perhaps you should watch BBC Breakfast once in a while. There we have had a daily diet of reporting press releases from one outfit or another bleating on about the terrible impact that 'cuts' will have on their part of UK life. The presenters never put these comments in the context of public sector debt of more than 800 billion which costs about 40 billion in interest charges, nor the fact that this amount will rise by about 150 billion this year costing another 6 billion a year or so. Its never put in the context that public sector spending virtually doubled in the decade before the 'financial crisis'.

    Just this morning, there was a piece about a guy getting housing benefit as a payment to his mortgage company and how cuts in this benefit would affect him. Perhaps, you could have asked him how long he thinks taxpayers should pay his mortgage interest before he has to make some changes.

    And there's a very strange perception of importance... Why is an article based on a press release from the Halifax entitled 'Childrern Facing Squeeze as Pocket Money Drops' on the front page of the News page and a report that the Macondo Well is now completely sealed way down in the business pages.

    Why is it that every time the Halifax or Nationwide issue a press release about house prices, the BBC rushes to report it hardly ever reporting the Land Registry which includes purchases that don't require mortgages.

    Even your reporting of the efficacy of certain drugs is open to question. People who need to take drugs day in day out are sick. They are at risk. Some drugs have some risks, others have a different set of risks. There are risks attached to not taking drugs. If you were setting context properly, that's where you'd start but you didn't.

    Whether you manage to present an unbiased view of any story (open to question) is one thing. Whether the agenda you set is unbiased, is another.

  • Comment number 85.

    '83. At 10:04am on 20 Sep 2010, neelmanibhatiadolly wrote:
    ..the one who said," I heard it on BBC" had the last words and won the argument convincingly because the authenticity of the source was never challenged.

    That would appear to be the view closer to home in some quarters, too. Might I humbly opine, with all due serenity and calm, that this might be an ideal but possibly overly optimistic view of objective professionalism to take in this day and age.

    As I suspect you might already.

  • Comment number 86.

    "Anyone who thinks differently doesn't really understand how the organisation works and how seriously we take issues around balance and impartiality."

    ... or possibly watched your ridulously biased coverage of the Pope's visit.

    Lots of interviews with catholics and other apologists for the Pope. Very little mention of the fact that his stance on condoms is responsible for millions of Aids deaths or of the fact that his so-called "apology" for child abuse was not accompanied by finally being willing to co-operate with the police where the Vatican holds relevant information.

    Anyone would think that the Director General is a catholic or something.

    Still, FWIW, I do think that when covering political matters, the BBC does a reasonable (if not always perfect) job of remaining impartial.

  • Comment number 87.

    Utter rubbish, the claim of Impartiality. We have seen BBC reporting on India-Pakistan issue, Israel-Palestine issue, Muslim-nonMuslim issues, Bush-Blair bashing etc..etc. BBC can never be impartial as long as reporters from extream leftwing and Muslims are mixedup and allowed them to conduct business. We have seen enough, such as Aljazeera reporter from flood zone of Pakistan reporting without headscarf while British BBC reporter with headscarf!!!

  • Comment number 88.

    Impartiality is not in your genes and merely asserting that it is so does not make it so. Left-wing bias is demonstrated by subtle and not so subtle means every day: everything from verbs (Conservative spokesmen "claim" things, Labour spokesmen "warn"), adjectives (right-of-centre think tanks are labelled right-wing, left of centre ones are not) to the stories BBC News decides to run and their running order. This bias is so systematic that it is hard not to believe that it is a conspiracy but it may conceivably be unconscious. Whatever the cause however the bias is real and your complacent article shows that BBC's senior management continues not to take this important issue seriously. I assume because you do not respect that portion of your audience that is worried about this.

  • Comment number 89.

    Why do carry old news on this web site ? Is this a Daily or Weekly news organization ? sad To catch up is one thing.. but to bore us to death is another..

  • Comment number 90.

    Matt's comment (above) is spot on. Anyone who cares about language and recognizes its subtleties can hear the bias being broadcast loud and clear. The "warnings" from the left are a constant assault on the Coalition's "claims". The other phrase used daily is "the most vulnerable in society", usually in an emotionally-charged context that strongly implies the Government intends to target them with their vile cuts. (And with no mention of why those cuts are needed.)

    These are repeated continuously. At best, this is lazy formulaic journalism - at worst it's propaganda. Anyone would think the BBC was using its huge influence to demand the country keep on borrowing and spending until it implodes. Where would the most vulnerable in society be then?

  • Comment number 91.

    That went down well, didn't it, Helen?

    Seriously, given the massively negative response and some very specific instances of bias cited here, real or otherwise, you should respond to your critics - licence fee payers, all of them, I'm sure. Having provoked the debate, it would be pusillanimous not to engage further.

    Perhaps Feedback will pick this up and allow some the more coherent posters to put their points to you directly? It should be a lively debate.....

  • Comment number 92.

    Re Digitagit at 91: If Helen Boaden wants to discuss the facts and figures I have presented earlier in this discussion then I would be glad to do so whether here or in another forum. I would think that Craig_Morecambe might also be willing.

  • Comment number 93.

    Just out of interest, what input did your Director General have into editorial decisions about your coverage of the Pope's visit?

  • Comment number 94.

    What patronising, self-serving, complacent nonsense. You think that you're impartial. But all that means is that you provide your conception of impartiality. The idea that you may be excluding other voices or looking at things from only one angle is evidently not in your genetic make-up.

    For example, one of your reporters who you single out by name has put this on the site today:

    The failure even to consider how asymmetrically this is treating Labour and the Conservatives in their relationship with the Lib Dems is a travesty. Labour was stuffed to the gunnels with non-dom donors, but this idea hasn't flickered across Mr Peston's consciousness.

    But no one at the BBC thought about this before it was published. Perhaps your genetic make-up needs some gene therapy.

  • Comment number 95.

    @Notasheep (92)

    Seriously - you should approach Feedback. I know it's not on at present but it'll be back soon, I'm sure.

  • Comment number 96.

    Well,well, well Helen.
    You've certainly stirred up a bit of a hornets nest here.
    How does it compare to those early days as a journalist on the local radio in Bradford.
    I'm now beginning to wonder if those tape edits on your Uher were as innocent as I thought at the time.
    Were you simply removing the right wing bits by Eric Pickles after all?

  • Comment number 97.

    I dropped by to say that your web site's new look doesn't work well in low light; the dark background on the lower half of the page is particularly tough on the eyes. However, I like the use of the red and white which is very cheerful.

    Then I read your post and was totally flabbergasted. 20 years ago the BBC reported events from various points of view. It no longer does so. In fact, CNN provide wider coverage than the BBC.

    I check the BBC every 2 or 3 days now, whereas you used to be my main news provider. On my daily list of news services the BBC rank 11th.

    I'm living in Malaysia at the moment and note you are particularly poor at reporting Asian events. For goodness sake, even Middle Eastern news bulletins are less biased than your writers!

    My views are mild to some of the things I hear others say about the BBC. You are very much out of touch with your audience, and clearly have no idea what the general public are saying about your service. If I were in government, I'd fire you in a heartbeat and hire someone who could rebuild the BBC.

  • Comment number 98.

    12 hours and counting for further consideration? Speed evidently isn't in your genes either.

  • Comment number 99.

    "... our audiences trust us and our specialist journalists like Nick Robinson, Stephanie Flanders, Robert Peston, Hugh Pym and Mark Easton"

    Sky-high rhetoric. It is clear you seldom venture out of your BBC bubble in order to breathe the fresh honest air of the blogosphere!

  • Comment number 100.

    our audiences trust us and our specialist journalists ... When stories are complex, highly charged and politicised, audiences rely on our specialists to give them context, assess evidence and test opinions without fear or favour.

    Don't forget this chap, too...

    Though it seems some in 'the audience', are maybe not so sure about fobbing off critiques of half stories with claims of yet to be aired clarifications, 'framing' and yet more coincidentally defensive thoughts on the sanctity of the BBC reporting gene pool.

    Maybe those who are expressing reservations are simply yet more who 'don't understand'.

    They seem to be growing in number for some reason.


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