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The challenge of reporting Britain's role in Europe

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Helen Boaden | 17:03 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

The issues involved in British membership of the European Union represent a faultline that runs not just through UK politics but through British society. It is a topic that frequently enrages viewers, listeners and readers like few others.

You only have to look at the poll in today's Times, suggesting widespread support for the Prime Minister's action at last week's summit, to see the depth and power of Euro-scepticism across the country. Like any highly controversial subject, it is always challenging for an impartial news organisation to report without inflaming strong views on either side of the debate.

Trust must be at the heart of the BBC's relationship with its audiences and that is why we listen carefully to the range of feedback audiences give us. We've had some criticism of our coverage over the weekend claiming it was too "pro-European". I've watched, heard and read a great deal of what we did and without any sense of complacency, I think we reported events fairly and accurately and tried hard to capture a very wide range of views about last week's summit.

It is not our job to hail any summit on any subject as a "triumph" or a "disaster". Our role is simply to report and analyse events and their fall-out.

Nobody disputes that there was a big row in Brussels last week or that the Prime Minister's approach left him standing alone among European leaders - but there is considerable disagreement about whether or not that is a good thing and what it might mean politically and economically. Our job is to explain what happened and interrogate the different perspectives taken on Mr Cameron's stance so that our audiences can judge for themselves.

So on Friday and over the weekend we attempted to discover just what it was that the Prime Minister had vetoed, which safeguards he was seeking for the City of London, and what had changed for the UK and for Europe. We questioned a wide range of politicians and we picked up the unease among Liberal Democrats, which burst into the open with Nick Clegg's appearance on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

We've backed this up with analysis of the political and economic implications by our most trusted and respected editors: Nick Robinson, Gavin Hewitt, Robert Peston, Stephanie Flanders and a host of other correspondents.

Almost inevitably, this process leads to politicians having to field some uncomfortable questions from BBC interviewers. We don't do that because we have some hidden agenda but because the public expects us as an independent and impartial broadcaster to hold governments and opposition parties to account.

Over the weekend news programmes have featured in-depth interviews with George Osborne and William Hague for the Conservatives, Nick Clegg for the Liberal Democrats, a range of Euro-sceptic voices and some highly critical Labour politicians. All have different views, all have been allowed to express them - and rightly so.

It is the nature of contentious subjects - Europe, climate change, the Middle East - that they polarise opinion. Among those who feel strongly about them, BBC News is often accused of "taking sides". We must always be open to criticism of course - we don't get everything right. But criticism, however ferocious, should never deter us from focussing on the basics: telling the story accurately and fairly, testing it against a wide range of opinions and challenging all those opinions with rigour.

It's not an approach that makes us popular with everyone of course, but it may explain why audiences have remained so loyal to BBC News output over many decades.

Helen Boaden is the BBC Director of News


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  • Comment number 1.

    The BBC coverage this weekend was a disgrace. Not your lowest ever (that was Mark Mardell's hatchet job on the eve of Eu elections) but the coverage consisted of a litany of pro-Eu voices from dawn to dusk. You even allowed John Prescot to make pro-EU points from Durban without asking why someone who lost the election was representing us there as an Eu 'rapporteur'.

  • Comment number 2.

    Just as a matter of interest, if any interviewees on the BBC trot out 'I think I am right in saying I'm right', with no better substantiation in support than they are saying it (on the in-house journal), how might that attempt get treated by the highly-paid interviewing stars that stride the BBC corridors, assuming they are not avoiding embarrassing a frequent dinner party guest as a 'professional' courtesy?

    You are running a poorly disguised propaganda channel, and hitting one of its many niche broadcast outlets to make such silly claims as above 'that it simply isn't, so there' is... unique.

    Have you actually looked lately at the threads of the likes of Nick Robinson, Gavin Hewitt, Robert Peston, Stephanie Flanders and a host of other correspondents, where interactive? They have been filleted for everything from dire (then stealth-edited) headlines to asinine tribal or plain daft stances... mainly by even the loyal groupies, but also a whole raft of new visitors fed sick of being told how they are thinking.

    There are a few other hilarious claims up there too. Dinner calls. Laters.

  • Comment number 3.

    'it is always challenging for an impartial news organisation to report

    Trust must be at the heart of the BBC's relationship with its audiences

    that is why we listen carefully to the range of feedback audiences give us.

    I think we reported events fairly and accurately

    tried hard to capture a very wide range of views about last week's summit.

    Our role is simply to report* and analyse* events and their fall-out.

    Our job is to explain what happened

    our most trusted and respected editors

    We don't do that because we have some hidden agenda

    the public expects us as an independent and impartial broadcaster

    focussing on the basics: telling the story accurately and fairly

    why audiences have remained so loyal to BBC News output over many decades.

    Now, were one to check back the last few years' worth of Editors' Picks, how many of those might those 'wot I think is..' claims would crop up?

    And if there is interactivity allowed, how have they been greeted?

    *please define, with particular reference to the power of the edit suite to shape what is allowed in, and of course omit what is deemed contra-narrative.

  • Comment number 4.

    It might help to summarise some of the charges being made against the BBC's recent coverage, drawn from various newspapers, magazines and blogs:

    (1) that much of the BBC's coverage, including the 'Today' programme of 9th December 2011, framed the story from the pro-European perspective that Cameron was to blame for the failure to 'save' (stabilise) the euro rather than framing it as Cameron boldly using his 'veto' to protect Britain's interests. (No framing of any kind was necessary, surely?)
    (2) that the 'Today' Programme of 9th December 2011 failed to even use the word 'veto', thus ignoring what some would consider the central point of the new main story of the day.
    (3) that at the start of the 'Today' programme of 9th September 2011 Justin Webb announced gravely, ‘Leaders of 23 EU countries are to draft a new fiscal pact to help stabilise their currency WITHOUT the involvement of Britain’ and added, ‘President Sarkozy accused David Cameron of making a deal between all 27 countries impossible.’ It was a full two minutes into the broadcast before listeners heard Cameron’s remarks explaining why he felt he was forced into exercising Britain’s veto.
    (4) that the 'Today' Programme of 12th December 2011 concentrated on 'coalition splits' rather than examining the situation in Europe.
    (5) that the BBC took at face value he Merkel/Sarkosy proposed fiscal union solution to the debt crisis this weekend, despite the fact that the EU auditors have not signed off the EU's accounts since it began.
    (6) that Sunday night's news bulletin featured not only Nick Clegg but Lord Oakeshott and Ed Milliband too. An out of context clip from William Hague failed to counter the argument or the numbers of these three pro-euro views. Three unnamed business were also reported as 'worried' according to the newsreader. These became, in Robert Peston's report 'many' businessmen, worried about the threat 'posed to inward investment'.
    (7) that the 'Today' programme of 10th December 2011 even featured a Thought for the Day comparing the UK's position to "solitary confinement".
    (8) that on the BBC TV One O’Clock News, presenter Sophie Raworth began with ‘David Cameron has dramatically refused to sign a new treaty designed to resolve the eurozone debt crisis’ – even though critics pointed out that the proposed treaty had merely sought to stabilise, rather than to resolve, the crisis. She "presented the PM's bold move as a national catastrophe" (according to Christina Odone).
    (9) that BBC news reports featured a succession of big beasts from the past – all of them, from Michael Heseltine to David Owen, voicing their disapproval of the PM's move.
    (10) that the claim that Cameron used his veto to protect a ‘tiny part of our economy’ was slipped into the BBC’s Stephanie Flanders’ reports on Friday and is incorrect. Financial services accounted for a £35bn trade surplus last year — one of the few sectors that generated a surplus, as well almost 2 million jobs and it contributed £54bn in taxes.
    (11) that, for some days, the BBC has been telling us in sepulchral tones that we are “isolated” and “marginalised”.
    (12) that Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, said Britons should feel "concerned" at Cameron's refusal to toe the Euro line.
    (13) that, until Helen Boaden's post, the most recent opinion polls showing that voters heartily support Cameron distancing himself from "the project" have barely got a mention.

    Are there any answers to these charges?

  • Comment number 5.

    Helen, do you read the comments? Do you read the most recommended? As has been mentioned above, on EVERY SINGLE interactive thread, the comments have been 90%+ the opposite of the article slant. You say "It is not our job to hail any summit on any subject as a "triumph" or a "disaster". Our role is simply to report and analyse events and their fall-out. which flabbergasts me, the BBC coverage has been trumpeting a disaster, quite clearly. IF you 'simply report the news' NOBODY would have a leg to stand on re BBC bias but that is precisely what the BBC DOESN'T do, haven't for YEARS! We get a narrative and that narrative is a narrow liberal London bubble that you all seem to inhabit. If you cannot see this I seriously suggest you should ask to be removed from your post.

    While you're at it sort out the Twitter hoohah, if the twitter is your reporters personal opinion WHY is it all over your news pages?

  • Comment number 6.

    Yet again Helen Boaden implies that the BBC must be impartial because she says so but nearly every news item or blog is not proper reporting but supporting a hidden biased agenda. BBC impartiality is now a joke under her supervision and her suitability for the (overpaid) role she has been given should be subject of investigation by the BBC Trust.

  • Comment number 7.

    "It is not our job to hail any summit on any subject as a "triumph" or a "disaster". Our role is simply to report and analyse events and their fall-out."

    As a News Director, you ought to be able to understand that your staff defined the fall-out as a disaster. Hence the complaints about bias.

  • Comment number 8.

    "I think we reported events fairly and accurately"

    Another variation of "we think we got it about right". If you can't give the stats to substantiate why you think you got it right, your comment is valueless and should be withdrawn.

  • Comment number 9.

    "Ever bought a fake picture" asks George Smiley of Toby Esterhase in the BBC's excellent Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The point being that the more you spend on a bad investment, the less likely you are to admit you were conned. Karla knew to ask as much as Percy could stand, so as to dupe him more effectively.

    So it is with narratives. John Maynard Smith was a Marxist and a Biologist. The latter brought him up against Theodosius Dobzhansky's observation that "Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of Evolution", and he was forced to admit that in any conflict between Marx and Darwin, Marx would lose every time. The facts of life are conservative, and the most specious and pernicious delusion is confusing sentimentality with compassion. Would that the pundits of Newsnight and Today had such insight.

    Helen, from your previous article here, we know that you really sincerely believe you are impartial, but if you have got the narrative wrong, you will never be able to break out of the soft left metropolitan groupthink that pervades the BBC, you will never be able to see that Tories (yes, even Margaret Thatcher) actually want to do the best by this country, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, that the West has been brought to its knees more by well intentioned Governments than evil bankers, and that greed is something we all suffer from - how else could it be that there is as much private as public debt?

    The trouble with your bias is that it is so ingrained that you cannot even see it yourselves. When someone points out your fake picture, such as Michael Balen's exhaustive study of your coverage of reporting in Palesine, the reaction is to shoot the messenger. When any issue comes up involving one of the BBC's hated tribes (see Robin Aitken's book), the BBC gets people to comment who will buttress its tribal narrative.

    Hence, on Europe, we see more of Michael Heseltine and cuddly Ken Clarke. To comment on Thatcher we get a heavyweight professional (Nigel Lawson) against a virulent Thatcher hater (Ken Loach). To comment on the Debt, we get far more Keynsians than Austrians, despite the earthquake that is shaking neo-Keynsian economics (and which has been extrapolated well beyond anything Keynes ever proposed). And, of course, the members of the hated tribes get constantly hectored and interrupted, while the luvvies (even the tarnished ones, like Galloway) get a free pass. How can anyone of the Left even comprehend the nostrums and deflections in the rhetoric of such a person?

    Rod Liddle described how BBC executives thought the Eurosceptics were utterly mad. Yet when you consider Einstein's observation that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.", you have to look again at all those super smart, well intentioned Eurocrats in the cold light of fiscal reality. Dumb people can make mistakes that usually only affect themselves, smart people can make mistakes that ruin us all. They have built their multi-culti soft socialist castle, and retreated behind it walls, shutting their ears to the market that will doom them. Not content with pulling up the drawbridge, they have burnt it.

    As I posted here, your coverage of Egypt keeps missing the target. Your adulation of Obama blinds you to the looming catastrophe in US Federal finances. Both countries are in deep, deep trouble. Egypt's is far worse, because the US can feed itself, yet both are off your radar, because of your flawed narrative. I predict that both countries will go bankrupt in 2012. Where is Peston? Where is Flanders? Where is Mason?

    So, Helen, I am sorry but I cannot trust you, much as I might buy a used car off you. The chorus of criticism of what you are about is getting stronger all the time. At least you seem to be aware of it. Have some examples: Christina Odone, Philip Booth, Philip Johnson and Peter Oborne.

  • Comment number 10.

    Right now the only role anyone can have in the new global formation been emerged is the role of the hard worker and absolutely nothing else.Britain is challenged to work, can it do it ?

  • Comment number 11.

    At risk of the odd notion that any factual information it shares being negated by its often robust view structure (not a problem when those high ABC-rated Guardian, Mirror or New Statesman 'guests' are invited on... daily, to represent the UK public in terms of what they opt to buy) this from the Daily Mail:

    'the BBC remains judge and jury of its own bias"

    Looking at the piece above, hard to argue with that, at least.

    I weigh two statements:

    'But of the 375 speakers invited on Today up to Monday 5th September only 6 were identifiably withdrawalist. And the airtime granted them? A majestic 490 words - just 0.5% of it - and not one UKIP interview.'

    'Our job is to explain what happened and interrogate the different perspectives taken on Mr Cameron's stance so that our audiences can judge for themselves'

    I know which seems closer to veracity.

    And hence it's hard to figure out what job is being done at all, let alone well.

  • Comment number 12.

    @ 9) Alcuin - sure that quote wasn't from Smiley's People?
    Aren't pedants tiresome.

  • Comment number 13.

    Time for some lighter fare... on topic and, I think also 'fair':

  • Comment number 14.

    More desperate cries from the BBC editors that “we're not biased, we're impartial !”

    Only from inside the cosy ivory tower of the BBC establishment can it seem that way. From outside many people see the bias and liberal socialist slant that more and more separate the BBC view from public opinion.

    I have to tell you that your job is not to report both sides fairly but to try to report the facts and get to the truth. Fair and impartial are simply a smoke screen for propaganda.
    To use an absolute extreme just imagine the disgust if the BBC reported on the Holocaust in a fair and impartial way by talking to both sides as equals with valid points of view.

    Public opinion should be the centre ground and not the opinions of politicians.

    I know the BBC finds it very difficult to associate itself with public opinion on many points, Europe being just one where the BBC viewpoint is at odds with the public. But hiding behind “we are being fair and impartial” is simply defending the BBC slanting the story against the majority view, and imposing a BBC viewpoint that they believe the public “should” have.

  • Comment number 15.

    'It is the nature of contentious subjects - Europe, climate change..'

    whilst the BBC is bound by impartiality rules to give sceptics proportionate coverage, we are also bound by the guidelines not to over-emphasise those views

    That calls for fine reflexive judgement from correspondents and editors and it's impossible to define a 'correct' balance of coverage.

    The seminars, held under Chatham House rules, have contributed to the BBC's strong reputation for reporting on environmental issues - not just on climate change.

    Helen Boaden endorsed the advice.

    The BBC paid its own way with the seminars

    The BBC has told the Mail on Sunday that the funding arrangements for the seminars raised no issues about impartiality for the BBC or its output.

    Correspondents and editors strive to be fair at all times when reporting this vexed topic.

    Generally, though, we seem to be trusted by our audiences to be offering impartial information.

    Now, where I have I read much of that before? Loved the bit about the BBC seeing no issues raised about the BBC's funding arrangements.

    ps: How does the BBC 'pay its own way'?

  • Comment number 16.

    Fair and unbiased...just the facts...?
    Come on, who are you trying to kid?

    I would be absolutely gobsmacked if you actually had the guts to bring on a hedge fund manager like Kyle Bass, and if you could somehow avoid your built-in tendency to immediately villify him as some hyena who profits on other's misfortune, but to simply ask him what he & the rest of the financial market participants think of the Merkozy plans to save the Euro? Ask him what he thinks about the viability of the whole Euro experiment, and whether it really is doomed or not. Ask him why the markets remain utterly unimpressed & unconvinced about all the Euro politician promises, their declarations, their communiques....ask him why the Euro continues to sink, and bond yields continue to ratchet higher. Ask him whether he thinks it's a matter of German unwillingness to bail out the rest of Europe, or whether it's actually the case that Germany simply doesn't have the wherewithal to bail out Europe.

    But no, instead of addressing the very basic existential questions, you start off with the assumption that the Euro is a good thing, that bailing out the Greeks etc is a good thing, and that Sarkozy & co have got it all right...and then from that base you then ask people to people to build the case for or against Cameron's Euro Treaty veto.

    Why not just send reporters out onto the street and have them ask the common man "Do you like Europe, do you enjoy going there on holiday, do you have friends in France, do you drink German beer, ...and oh....don't you think it's such a shame that we're now going to be totally isolated and set adrift because David Cameron vetoed the Euro Treaty?". The question is being phrased from a completely wrong approach. The Eurozone is in deep deep trouble, the treaty did nothing to address the underlying problems, and signing it would NOT have been in Britain's best interests.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dear Ms Boaden
    May I sincerely thank you for the article above. It will save me from any number of smashed tv's in the future caused by me hurling hard objects in their direction when viewing the presentations of your "impartial , factual, erudite "myriad of editors, pundits, or whatever title can be conjured up out of nothing.

    It is plain from the sentiments expressed in the article, that there is no connection whatsoever between the world in your head, and reality on TV.

    Frankly, I am truly amazed at the obvious disparity between the expressed view of the general public and what you claim to be your philosophy. The fact that it is so, means that I can forget ever expecting to see anything like constructive reporting from the BBC News Team in the future, for as long as you remain in charge.

    If by some miracle of technology I could be privelege to a response from you, i would welcome your view on the scintilating performance by J Paxman on NEWSNIGHT Monday 12 Dec in his interview with Paddy Ashdown. in an attempt as you put it to elicit some clarity on the views of the Lib Dems.

  • Comment number 18.

    "Almost inevitably, this process leads to politicians having to field some uncomfortable questions from BBC interviewers."

    Where and when did you ask Ed Milliband the simple question, "would he or would he not have signed up for the proposed treaty"?

    If he said no, then what is he whining about?

    If he said yes, then he is committing himself to far harsher limits on public spending than even Cameron is advocating. When did you ask Milliband the "uncomfortable question" of how he proposes to comply with a 3% cap on the annual deficit and a 60% cap on total debt? Is that now his party's policy? If not, why not?

    But you don't ask any of these questions do you Helen? Because it might make Labour look bad.

  • Comment number 19.

    Euro - love it or leave it - is a topic that frequently enrages viewers, listeners & readers. Yes, and I am one of them. I see this issue in black and white:
    White: Join EU where Britain belongs, grow with them, dive in fully;
    Black: Stay tied to investment banks too big to fail, tied to US apron strings, and the both of you will sink like unregulated stones.
    I know that a news organization can't be white or black, but often must be gray, pointing out issues from both sides.
    Though I think you have reported the facts - fairly and accurately, I don't feel that you have presented the pros and the cons. What happens when Britain becomes the stand-alone against the Eurozone? It may not be your job to label any one event as a "triumph" or a "disaster", but in Eurozone case, the fall-out could have used work. As you say: "Our job is to explain what happened and interrogate the different perspectives taken on Mr. Cameron's stance so that our audiences can judge for themselves". I can be plenty antagonistic all by myself because I disagree with Mr. Cameron; but I could not find arguments from your reporting staff that caused me to pause and think: Well maybe there's good reason to act in good will to all this good investment banks too big to fail that have thus far cost Britain so many jobs.
    I admit you have worked hard on pro & con, but it is con that has stuck with me, not because I am stubborn, but because I stand to be convinced and your team did not knock me over…or even caused me to wobble. Yes, I feel that BBC is sometimes biased, as with the Libya coverage, and now with the Syria coverage which infuriates me.
    I am loyal to BBC; I trust BBC, but I think like any reporting endeavor, sometimes there exists political pressure that will not allow you to report the COMPLETE TRUTH. I use as my example once again, Syria. Who are these "army defectors", "the SNC", and more still: these millions of supporters that appear on the streets supporting Assad? Does the reporting not seem to Libya deja vu?

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry Helen, can't really trust the BBC not to have an agenda. So obvious!

    Also, Director of News: Focusing has one 's'.

  • Comment number 21.

    It seems that most of the commenters on here read the Mail. They complain that the BBC start with the idea that EU is a good thing yet forget that they have entrenched ideas that the EU is evil.

    If you believe what the UK right wing press says, then the BBC is some sort of Trotskyist far left cabal intent on bringing the UK to its knees.

    The BBC is the most unbiased media organisation in the world. If you Mail/Telegraph readers think it isn't then there is a complaints procedure. I wouldn't bother though as all your complaints are baseless.

  • Comment number 22.

    Much of the criticism here seems to hinge on the BBC representing its editorial position, rather than claimed public opinion. It's similar to the attacks on representative democracy, by those who would like to see tribal mob rule on almost every major issue.

    I think the fact that much of the strongly-held opinion seems to be based on ignorance, or worse still a belief in complete falsehood, is something the BBC could do a great deal to address. Part of its brief is to inform, after all, and that does not relate merely to events.

    Unfortunately much of the reporting seems to take place against an implied-by-silence assertion, that important central debates have been resolved in a publicly-informed manner. This is not so at all. There is no knowledgeable, settled consensus that ever closer union would be contrary to the interests of the UK people for instance. What this would mean in practice for us, (say in employment rights and prospects, pension entitlements and so on), has never been properly explored and analysed, either on the BBC or anywhere else in the UK as far as I can see.

    So it's not this-or-that angle on whatever such-and-such a person has said, with which I have a problem. It is, as Tony Benn repeatedly says, "the things they don't tell you on the BBC".

    These omissions have been very conspicuous of late, I'd say.

  • Comment number 23.

    Didn't even bother to read the report but I bet it says the beeb 'got it just about right'

  • Comment number 24.

    At 00:08 13th Dec 2011, Alcuin wrote:

    "...when you consider Einstein's observation that "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."...."


    Einstein was wrong. With quantum physics (he didn't like that much) that's exactly what you get. In the real, complex macro world, Chaos Theory gives an endless range of possible outcomes for the same input action, and that's just what we find.

  • Comment number 25.

    HiggyThe Red--typical leftie comment. The arrogance is mind-boggling. So, let me get this right...just because people disagree with you they must be "Mail readers"? So, our opinions are tainted and merely based on reading a conservative-leaning tabloid, whereas yours is based on a balanced & well-informed assesment of the situation... it.
    Good luck in life with patronising & condescending attitude.

  • Comment number 26.

    And furthermore...let's look at the math behind the existing farce of a union...12 of the 27 EU members never bothered to hold a referendum. Of the remaining 15, France, Sweden, Denmark, Holland and Ireland all said "NO" but were either forced to vote again & again, or political engineering was employed in one way or another, to finally achieve the desired outcome. What a farce. No wonder they're terrified of any kind of dissent or referendum. You have a group of un-elected & unaccountable officials running the show from Brussels, people who have a long history of wasteful spending and corruption, and you want us to whole-heartedly jump in blindly to a completely new treaty without demanding a few very simple & basic safeguards?? And then when we applaud DC for finally having the sacks to stand up to the bullying Merkozy, your only retort is that we're uneducated Mail readers who are ignorant of all the facts?
    Nice one.

  • Comment number 27.

    Was Helen Boaden watching the same BBC News at 1pm on Satuday as me?

    I have always tried to take the charge of bias against the BBC with a pinch of salt. Not this time. My patience has snapped. The BBC excelled in showing its anti-Conservative-pro EU bias in its reporting of Mr Cameron's actions at the EU summit.

    For example, not once did you show one of the labour MPs who agreed with the veto - Frank Field, perhaps? Or Kate Hoey? Or Austin Mitchell? (Generally accepted as three of the more philosophical thinking MPs). Having showed the main part of Milliband's 'question', you did not show Mr Cameron's telling response; you did not show one Libdem who was moderate with their question to the PM; you rather showed the one Libdem who was patently against the Veto. You also only showed questions from two of the Tory backbenchers crowing about the veto and criticising the Libdems; not one of the more moderate and considered Tory MPs' questions. And to show Frank Skinner's question - a 'comedian' who so shortchanges his constituents with his buffoonery - rather than questions from sensible opposition MPs?

    Also you showed no PM responses to these questions - why? Surely not because the PM handled them deftly. You offered such a biased version of proceedings that it is impossible not to perceive that you have your own political agenda, notwithstanding that the great majority of the voters wholeheartedly agree with the veto.

    What makes you think you have the authority to take sides? Please represent impartiality. If we want bias we'll read the Sun!

  • Comment number 28.

    Helen, if you believe this, "I've watched, heard and read a great deal of what we did and without any sense of complacency, I think we reported events fairly and accurately and tried hard to capture a very wide range of views about last week's summit.", then you really must be on another planet. The BBC coverage of this has been so pro EU it stinks to high heaven, and don't even get me onto climate change. I have always been in favour of the licence fee, but I am beginning to change my mind, even Al Jazeerea gave a better commentary.

  • Comment number 29.

    21. At 13:36 13th Dec 2011, HiggyTheRed
    The BBC is the most unbiased media organisation in the world.

    You are hereby fast-tracked to a 'viewers have emailed' slot on Friday's Newswatch!

    Also be prepared for that quote being used a fair bit by BBC Editors... a lot.. from now on. 'Readers say...' By the BBC's measure, views here are now officially split, as they 'reported' a 100:1 thrashing of the Guardian for reader feedback to ist 10:10 video support/coverage.

    You are also correct. I do read the Daily Mail. Online. For free. It's a rag, so I wouldn't pay for it, but it can serve a purpose.

    The main one being a rounded insight into what the UK media is say... claiming. Hence I also surf the Graun, Telegraph, New Statesman, etc.

    That prevents getting stuck in an echo chamber, hearing only what you think you should be exposed to, as opposed to what actually exists.

    Another source (a term used a lot by some media when the facts don't suit) is the BBC. I hold that in equal esteem. Maybe a bit lower, because it so often tries to pretend it is something it isn't... on the quaint basis it says so.

    It also costs. Plus imposes a heavy price to much I hold dear.

    As to the complaints procedure, I am glad you raised that:

    (the BBC won't let me post the URl for profanity used by an MSM quality)

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]
    'Don't bother emailing complaints to BBC head of news Helen Boaden. She was at the launch evening for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford last Monday night. Discussion turned to protest groups and lobbying outfits which email their views to senior editors. Boaden's response: "Oh, I just changed my email address." So much for the Beeb being accountable.'

    Those right wing rags, eh?

  • Comment number 30.


    People in you position have been saying the same thing for years. "We think we got it about right....".

    Your boss, Mark Thompson admitted that the BBC had been very biased about the Euro. He admitted it! He also said that "things will change, blah, blah...". What has changed? What are doing to ensure that you are no longer institutionally biased toward the Euro?

    Platitudes from Mr Thompson and yourself will not wash this time. The avalanche of of negative comments on your various stories this week must make even you blush!

    I am not asking that your news organization it's opinion, I saying you have no right to have an opinion. You are there to report the facts and not editorialise.

  • Comment number 31.

    What I want to know is why all the video "News" clips yesterday, after the Commons statement on the treaty veto, including the video link on the BBC Parliament website, only showed the initial statement by Cameron and the subsequent comments by Miliband....why did they not show the rebuttal by David Cameron?

    If you happened to just be browsing the news, as most people do, you would never have heard DC's strong comeback and you'd be left with the impression (perhaps) that Miliband had gained the upper hand in the debate. Only if you were geeky enough (like me) to go onto the BBC Parliament website the NEXT day would you then have found the FULL entire video, including the various MPs questions. Only THEN would you have seen or heard DC asking the critical question "What would Labour have done?". The full clip was not available on the day of the actual statement. Just a condensed 4 minute or so clip. The impression you leave with the viewer by omitting this part of the video is quite a different impression than one they would have had if they had seen the full exchange between DC and Miliband.

    I am thoroughly disappointed in your assumption that you have the right to edit what we see or don't see.

  • Comment number 32.

    Interesting reading this blog after reading about the new homepage : something along the lines of "we have received loads of complaints but we ain't changing it".

  • Comment number 33.

    Twice this month, the BBC responded to complaints by referring complainants to a blog. This way of working should stop. When members of the audience take time to complain to the BBC, that BBC should answer that complainant personnaly.

  • Comment number 34.

    My problem was this: While the BBC did by and large try to strike a balance between pro and anti EU voices, it was the nature of those guests that was the problem. Did we have any business leaders or experts that were Eurosceptic? Not that I saw. It always seemed to be a pro-EU business leader against a remnant of the Thatcher government. Where were the business leaders that are Eurosceptic? What about Eurosceptic left wingers? Are we expected to believe that these people do not exist? It looked suspiciously like an effort to maintain the myth that progressives and the better educated support the EU, while the rabid little Englanders are the only opposition. The BBC can and should do better than that.

  • Comment number 35.

    I'm afraid that there is a fundamental disconnect between the opinion of the London based media and politicians and that of much of the rest of the country. This can clearly be shown in terms of the results of the AV refererendum, and less scientifically by recent polls indicating something of the order of 62% of people agreed with the stance taken by Cameron at the EU summit.

    I'm afraid this disconnect has to be fixed because the result, which is clearly evident on the comments to this blog, is that there is a loss of trust in the state owned broadcaster. Furthermore this same broadcaster is funded by taxation of that same general population, which adds insult to injury.

    If the BBC were a commercial station nobody would give a monkey's what it said, but the fact that it is funded by everyone and then clearly shows a bias (a bias that has been admitted by the DG) is reprehensible.

    BBC, get your house in order or I forsee a general with-holding of license money across the country.

  • Comment number 36.

    'I forsee a general with-holding of license money across the country

    I would have said unlikely as little as a week ago, as Breakfast and DP and Marr-sofa addicted pols, even aware that something is rotten, preface all with 'national treasure' excuses.

    These bought and paid for souls are without redemption. At least they can be voted out every few years, as much for what they don't do as what they foul up.

    On the matter of what there is no option on, forever, it is trickier, as there are threats and fines and criminal records confronting the law-abiding, especially with all the other grief such things entail.

    However, as threats to democracy and free speech are reaching a point where tolerance of subtle propaganda turns into concern at its insidious an now more overt effects, it appears many more are now starting to question just what we are required to fund, uniquely, who is being 'spoken for', and if it really is the interests of the country being served at all times.

  • Comment number 37.

    An impartial BBC, methinks that is an oxymoron. I have no choice but to pay my licence fee. You have an obligation to be balanced and impartial - GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER.

    Ms Boaden, if the BBC had chosen to recruit and promote reporters from a broad range, a representive range of journalists then the BBC may be impartial. However the BBC's business, economic, political leading correspondents are all known to have left leaning views. Especially Peston and Flanders, to some extent Robinson.

    BBC News reports and website accept their jaundiced/bias views without balance. Take Peston's web report "Big business deeply troubled by Cameron's veto" nowhere was it mentioned the benefits to the UK of having a potentially lower corporation tax or financial transactions. He mentioned potential damage to Pharmacuticals yet Swiss Pharma's thrive. No mention of having an insitution which recently went 14 years without audited accounts having authority over UK Balance Sheet.
    Further, Peston quoted several unnamed City movers and their concerns. He packed his article with quoted concerns which played to his personal agenda. Am sure however the City movers would also have shared balanced concerns of Cameron not having used the veto - which suited Peston not to report as it did not suit his agenda.

    The BBC should only engage senior correspondents who can provide a balanced picture. If they wish to proselytise, send them back to the new statesman, Guardian, Telegraph or whence they came, where it is acceptable to push ones agenda and I can choose to be a subscriber to that agenda or not.

    BBC has and continues to abuse its power and influence.

  • Comment number 38.

    This arrogant we know best attitude by the bbc will result in the licence fee being scrapped, you can be sure of this. A petition will be raised demanding MP's have a debate regarding the bbc's failure to give the public balanced, fair reporting.
    The bbc is a disgrace and I shall not be renewing my tv licence and paying for a tv service which is a lackey to the labour party, the trade unions and the EU.

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm sorry but this kind of self-adulatory explanation is not helpful.

    The fact is that the BBC was not reporting all sides of the argument in an unbiased way.

    Take Nick Robinson's piece which was supposedly focused on the Commons debate yesterday. The debate was a big, big deal. Agree or disagree with what he had done, Cameron took not even a glancing blow. I know because I watched all of it. What we do get from Nick Robinson? A negative piece angled around Clegg's absence.

    And, by the way, have you ever wondered why confidence in the economy is so low? Its to a significant extent because of you. An approach was adopted that every single cut was bad and was therefore newsworthy. No wonder we all ended up depressed. Did you ever stop to consider, given that all parties agreed that cuts were needed, that a more useful approach would have been from the angle of what needed to be cut less and what could be cut more. That would have been a mature approach.

  • Comment number 40.

    Well Helen Boaden......what a complete waste of time it was complaining. Most of the complaints have been about bias and your response ....... a muted explanation of how impartial you were....and, as for your deluded comments about loyal viewers and listeners; this can be summed up in one word - COMPLACENCY. It's quite obvious why the BBC were so pro-EU .......both institutions hate criticism and as such have no intention of apologizing.

  • Comment number 41.

    Following my complaint, I find have been directed to a blog - discracful. In the above blog, Helen Boaden states that 'It is not our job to hail any summit on any subject as a "triumph" or a "disaster". - However, BBC News used the term 'Catastrophic' on a number of occasions to describe the signing of the Veto - pray tell, what is the difference ??

  • Comment number 42.

    This piece by Helen Boaden is quite the most self satisfied and self congratulatory piece I have read in a long time. A bit more insight and self critisism wold be a good start.

  • Comment number 43.

    The BBC coverage was so clearly biased it was a disgrace. I watched the Russian RT report as well as the BBC's and that was far more even handed. There is not a hint of an apology in this blog.

  • Comment number 44.

    Something went seriously wrong in the BBC coverage of the post-summit discussions.

    The Labour party had a specific explicit strategy of trying to present the PM's decision as driven by the minority of "Eurosceptic" MP's in his party (and, naughty man, not the national interest). And what did the BBC reporting focus on creating an impression of? It tried to create an impression that the PM's decision was driven by the minority of "Eurosceptic" MP's in his party (and, naughty man, not the national interest).

    But wait - how can that picture ever gel with the levels of support his action polled on this? It cannot. Because there are loads more people who are doubtful of the EU project than ever voted, vote or would vote Conservative or UKIP.

    And that tells you that the BBC got the angle factually wrong and presented the country with Labour's desired view of events.

    It is your job not to allow that to happen. If that means you have to find a new set of neutral personnel, then that's what you have to now do.

  • Comment number 45.

    I am unsurprised that you find yourself innocent of the charge of bias.
    I am unsurprised you find your news team’s coverage to be unbiased.

    A review of the speakers, a review of the commentary would have revealed the truth but plainly you either have not reviewed it or you have and therefore are sadly unfit for your position.

    This is it then. A complaint or a thousand complaints. A review by the head of the department accused in the complaint. A conclusion drawn by that person and there you are, institutional bias admitted and proven.

    Who can we actually complain to who will review the evidence and then draw a conclusion?

    I actually dislike David Cameron and don’t for a minute think that he did what he did with Britain at the forefront of his mind, but having watched the full PMQs and then seen your incredible précis of events I was staggered. For any who watched the whole thing it was blindingly obvious that Mr Milliband had no answers at all, none. Even the densest person could not help but notice that the PM not only held his own but was so confident of getting no opposition that he felt free to taunt Milliband. The Facial expressions of the opposition benches told the story of who came out on top of that debate.

    Even so, you still managed to portray the opposite or an even exchange. I find this sad indeed. Still, when your big boss is a Europhile to the core it isn’t surprising you all meekly follow. I sincerely hope the government are tempted to modernise or even close your anachronistic demesne as I am fed up of paying for my intellect to be insulted.

  • Comment number 46.

    All this writing from Helen Boaden says is the BBC is always right and did nothing wrong. It gives no decent explanation for the biased reporting nor does it explain why both sides of the veto debate were not given. The veto could have been presented in a positive light as well as a negative but only the negative was given airtime and coverage. Why does the BBC find it so hard to say sorry we got it wrong and we spent tax payers money incorrectly on bad partial biased reporting. I think an apology is in order but the BBC seems to think it can do no wrong or that it can not improve the way it delivers news and reporting as paid for the by the public purse.

  • Comment number 47.

    Ps I now find Al jezeera to be a much more even handed news source.

  • Comment number 48.

    Quel surprise. Like virtually every time the BBC is called to account for impartiality, you or some other BBC spokesperson concludes that on reflection, you got it right - actually meaning, we're right, you and every other critic is wrong, now shut up and go away. I can't think of any other British institution so immune to criticism, so convinced of its rightness, so unwilling to ever acknowledge its mistakes, and so determined to ignore its audiences' views. It just goes to show how ingrained bias has become in every echelon of the BBC behemoth.

  • Comment number 49.

    The reporting was a disgrace... NO BBC, you are not are WRONG...Perpetual use of the word 'Isolated'...Yes, some do fear that but many people also feel we will be better off 'Independent'.. I barely heard that come from a BBC reporter at all...Everyone in the BBC Newsroom should be ashamed of yourselves and you had better take action to balance these issues out.. i am not paying my TV License to a mouth piece of the Labour party.

    It is so infuriating that nothing ever changes....You are so certain that you are right that you will even make the effort to confront the concerns raised here.

  • Comment number 50.

    Maybe next time you should have a better mix of guests lined up for the post-event maybe if you had had Ken Livingstone, George Galloway, Clare Short, and Alistair Darling on...then we would've had a fair and open assessment of what really is going on in Europe, what the UK's involvement should be, and whether Cameron is awesome or worthless......

    On a separate note...I can't help but feel a bit bad for Helen Boaden. People really do NOT seem to be very happy with your organisation, or your attempts to explain or justify your actions....
    I hope you have a nice bottle of Burgundy open and go over these comments after a few glasses.

    Hang on, you DO read all this, don't you?
    Anyone there?

  • Comment number 51.

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

  • Comment number 52.

    Why do we only have the option to complain about these comments? I want AGREE with them! Because they are right and you are wrong. You ARE biased - FACT.

  • Comment number 53.

    The BBC has a unique place in our culture, and a fundamental obligation to reporting honestly. When will the BBC and our political elite have the courage to have a full debate on EU political union. The whole point of the EU is to create a sovereign state. We should decide on our future, it's our country & we should have a say in who runs it on our behalf. If we decide thats the direction we want to go after a full, honest & open debate, then we should enter into it with vigour.
    If PU is the view & wish of the people who work for and run the BBC then you are entitled to your own views & opinions like the rest of us. However, the BBC as an national broadcaster should not take one side or another, nor attempt to stifle or influence debate by ignoring or witholding vital items of interest, nor flooding your site with one-sided editorials. And, along with our elected representatives, you should not hide from us, the intentions of the EU regarding fiscal or political union. Angela Merkel was open about it. Why are we not having this debate? How can we properly decide the future of our country and our place in the affairs of our continental neighbours if all we have is biased reporting and no debate.

  • Comment number 54.

    Sorry this blog defending the BBC's reporting of the 'veto' only underlines the in built bias of the BBC. This is not a prejuduce type bias but more of an establishment bias of what used to be called 'right thinking people'. Like those old middle calss conservatives (small c) the BBC is so immersed in its own culture that it cannot see its failing. What is laughable is that the BBC self image is of a progressive open minded defender of liberal values when in fact it has become a dyed in the wool part of the establshment who have lost faith in democracy because people won't behave in the way they want them to. The people supported Cameron over the veto but there was not even the slightest BBC acknowledgement of this last weekend.

  • Comment number 55.

    Rather than admit you're wrong, you tried to fob us all off with a load of management speak. Well the tide is turning. The British public has had enough of dictatorial journalists. The annihilation of the Murdochs that you're seeing is just the beginning. The world around you is changing. Either change, or you will become obsolete

  • Comment number 56.

    I tend not to take the BBC news output at face value as I used to. If there is a news item I believe it's important to know about, I normally use another news channel or on-line newspapers as confirmation.

    News comment I can't take seriously at all. I have given up listening to 'Today' and watch Newsnight only when Paxman is on. He tends to be fun and as long as you don't take him too seriously he's at least watchable.

    Frankly I'm not impressed with the BBC. It is poor value for money and had I any say in the matter, I would abolish the compulsory TV Tax and let the BBC fund itself by running advertisements or selling subscriptions.
    I wonder just how long the soft-left, pro EU bias would last when it needed to attract customers for its existence.

  • Comment number 57.

    Sadly, on this occasion I have to agree with the " Daily Mail readers ". The coverage by the BBC seemed to be , not the facts, but the opinions of a variety of correspondents based more on conjecture than fact . There seemed to be a continual attempt to produce stories of governmental rifts which in fact did not exist except in the opinion of ex , or , lesser members of the political establishment. Conclusions were aired by correspondents, based on spurious facts, and substance seemed to be given to anti British sentiment at every opportunity. It seemed also at times as though the BBC had decided to promote the view that Britain was in the wrong and the members of the Eurozone were in the right.

  • Comment number 58.

    The fact that you cannot recognise the bias is worrying. The pro-Islamic, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, anti-Israel, anti-Christian, pro-EU, and support for the global warming argument which is less scientific than pure emotion and propaganda - polar bears reduced to eating their young because of warming, for goodness sake. But your science coverage, on all issues, belongs to pre-war concepts of science as an accumulation of truthful unquestionabale data, bought only by a predictable bunch of HYS regulars.

    BBC interviewers such as Paxman are only interesting if ocasionally watched, as their objectives in each interview are so easily detected, and it makes for boring viewing.

    On topical discussions - can we leave Question Time out of any serious discussion - the hackneyed old regulars re-appear with their familiar lines. My goodness, there is so much knowledge and talent in our country, stifled by BBC shortsightedness.

    There is no cure, other than a dismemberment of the corpse and removal of that regressive TV tax. And by the way, your moderators are both unskilled and ignorant of the topics they are required to cover. Do you recruit former undergraduates who have held positions in the Socialist Worker Party? Not that all your policies are left wing. The BBC does retain its longstanding distrust of working people, who are regularly mocked by your daring comedians. But then the left have never trusted working people, have they.

  • Comment number 59.

    At 19:21 13th Dec 2011, kaybraes wrote:

    "...substance seemed to be given to anti British sentiment at every opportunity..."


    Are you seriously suggesting, as you seem to me to imply, that the BBC should not be impartial, as to between the huge adverse international reaction there has been to Cameron's actions at this time of crisis, and the warmth with which they have been viewed by mainly right-wing English nationalists here?

    Perhaps you consider the former the mere over-emotional frettings of Johnny Foreigner, and expect the BBC to view them likewise.

  • Comment number 60.

    Unsuprisingly my comment was moderated out - and I am paying these guy's salaries and can do nothing about it..... So am trying the BBC Trust instead.

    Suggest you also provide feedback to the BBC Trust here

    their power, influence and biased reporting, which we are paying for, needs to be checked.

  • Comment number 61.

    The usual arrogance and denial, just like your friends in the EU commission! Not one of your hacks spotted the most important point about this "treaty". There is no legally enforcable deal. Sure 26 Eurofools signed a piece of paper but it means nothing as they will never ratify it as the compulisive liar Von Rumpoy claims. Sarkozy will lose the next election and the French opposition have already proclaimed it dead in the water. The markets have already seen through it. And yet you still report it as a "solution". I have long given up hope of reforming the BBC. My efforts are now in the direction of of its total abolition. Iam sick of funding this Metro tripe.

  • Comment number 62.

    Helen i would also like to add your biased coverage also carried on to newsnight last night with Jeremy Paxman's completely one sided european view. It was a disgrace to listen to and to let Jonathon Powell an ex Tony Blair crony spout of as if the veto was the end of the world, shame on you at the BBC. (biased broadcasting association)

  • Comment number 63.

    Why can't BBC News admit that in some cases, they get it wrong?

  • Comment number 64.

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

  • Comment number 65.

    I am still waiting to hear what has changed as Mark Thompson said it would.

    95% of the comments above think you are pro-Euro. Are they ALL stupid or perhaps could you have actually been biased on this.

    This has gone beyond the trust, your abuses must be taken before parliament.

  • Comment number 66.


    As a natural supporter of the BBC I was appalled by the partisan tone that it has unashamedly adopted relating to the euro crisis. I fear that something must be done to address this urgently otherwise the BBC will lose public support and trust, which of course is its lifeblood. The very existence of the BBC will be called into question soon: that is how serious the matter has become.
    Euroscepticism is now, of course, the prevailing stance of the British public, as recent polls confirm, and this is borne not of prejudice, but from a thinking response to the catalogue of policy failures and bullying tactics that have come out of Brussells over the last few years. Indeed it would be fairer to term the majority view 'eurorealism', as opposed to the eurofanatacism that still pertains in the left wing and liberal elites who see patriotic self interest as something to be derided. Patriotic self interest is essential for survival, and an increasing number of economists and political thinkers believe our interests lie more in a global, outward looking approach to trade, forging greater links to natural allies such as the US, and the Commonwealth, rather than to an increasingly moribund eurozone that has been founded on ill judged political ambition rather than sound economic sense. By nailing its colours to the euro integrationist cause, and continually bleating on about 'isolation' the BBC is making itself isolated from the public mood. I, like many others , will be watching out for a more balanced line over the coming weeks, and if we do not get it, there will be trouble in store.

  • Comment number 67.

    No where else to put this .... Where has the story about Tessa Jowell's compensation for having her phone hacked gone.... It was reported yesterday, today it doesn't feature in the search results.

    Bias or cock-up?

  • Comment number 68.

    Helen, like others who have responded to the BBC response to a complaint, have been directed to your Blog response, and find that it does not reflect any real considered thought to the issues raised in the significant number of common complaints raised. The fact that a significant number of other people feel that the BBC reporting on this issue was bias and totally unbalanced is obvious and yet again we see the BBC management ignoring the foundation issue pertaining to the customers comments.

    I, having spent over 28 years in the Royal Navy, consider that the BBC management does not consider the public, its customers, as being relevant and thus, rather than learning from each event ( as any military person would after each engagement), you just stay on story with the total bias approach of the BBC to any thing other than a pro euro approach..

    I hope that with the advent of a massive digital technology revolution, which allows significant alternatives to the BBC, to start up and to be competitive, that a future government stops the Licence fee subsidy of the BBC, and that the BBC has to be really responsive to its customers. In fact I hope that we can get a suitable electronic petition as per the governments guidance, so as to have a debate in the commons.

  • Comment number 69.

    " I think we reported events fairly and accurately and tried hard to capture a very wide range of views about last week's summit."
    With all respect, you have exactly failed to do this that. To report impartially the issues related to our PM's decision.
    Even when I watch today's News at Ten, I can see that the BBC pointedly fail to report on the fact that most of the British Public is behind Cameron's decision. Today's report from Westminster was evne demeanoing to a pool issued by The Sun as if this was, in the words of the correspondent, "only one pool". What about The Times Pool? What about the incessant comments on BBC and other websites? What about the complaints received by the BBC that brought this blog alive?
    It is disappointing the fact that the BBC, contrary to what declares, choose to be partial on its vews giving coverage to both sides in a way to demean one and praise another.
    I feel my TV License is poorly spent.
    What about the following points that the BBC left behind on its report on the EU Treaty:
    a) Failed and still fail to raise clearly the fact that NOT all countries actually signed up to the Treaty given that some have actually deferred to their own Parliaments?
    b) Failed and still fail to show clearly the fact that with the time passing, other polititians in other countries like the Czech Republic do warm up to our PM's decision of veto (less than 5 seconds exposure today on News @ Ten)
    c) Fail to clearly report on TV that the front runner for the French Presidency himself does not approve the actual move by Merkozy;
    d) Fail to clearly analyse whether the treaty is feasible at all since it clearly puts imense pressure (right or not) on countries like Greece to curb thier government expenditure although faced with high unemployment and low level of tax revenue;

    It seems that we start to gather support to our Prime Minister from the public and also foreign polititians but it stirkes me that this is not enough for the BBC to consider a higher level of impartiality on its news coverage.

    I agree in raising issues and covering the ones against (here or abroad) our Prime Minister's decision but I simply fail to understand why we also cannot se on the BBC the other side and have to rely on other news sources.

    May the BBC avoid the kind of partial tabloids press like the Mirror which are abolutelly biaised and partial.

  • Comment number 70.

    "It is not our job to hail any summit on any subject as a "triumph" or a "disaster". Our role is simply to report and analyse events and their fall-out."

    Helen - listen to yourself! Your above statement is complete rubbish.

    For too long your political reporters have tried to stir the mix in most stories & offer their opinions as facts. Nick Robinson is particularly guilty of this - he's a reporter, we're not interested in his opinions, most of us are intelligent enough to form our own judgements.

    The appalling pro European bias shown by the BBC this weekend and continuing into the week has now prompted me to write to the BBC Trustees. It is so disappointing to read this blog and to be told yet again that the BBC knows best. I don't trust the BBC for impartial and fair handed reporting any longer.

  • Comment number 71.

    I've read only some of the many replies. My suspicion is that this is a convenient forum in which you can bury complaints. Your coverage of Cameron's veto has indisputably ben biased towards the EU which is shameful. Inviting Nigel Farage to comment on the papers on Marr's show hardly equates to the interviews given to pro-EU politicians. You had a report that mentioned the furore caused by Cameron's stand and even showed about one and a half seconds of Nigel Farage surrounded, almost mobbed, by reporters with boom mikes and cameras, yet despite the obviously massive interest in what he had to say, you played a sound-bite of a mere few seconds. You have not given the public opinion polls the coverage they merit. That so few people polled think what he did was wrong (14% in the Times?) is a HUGE endorsement of his action and yet it isn't given the prominence it merits. I agree with an early posting on here that if you, Helen, truly believe you got the balance right then you really are not fitted for the job you hold, paid for by licence-payers' fees. That includes me and I would sack you if I were in a position to do so. With UKIP about level-pegging with the "in-Government" LibDems - which many political commentators would view as BIG NEWS (New Party Overhauls LibDems in Opinion Polls) - you deliberately bury this fact as it is unpalatable to your pro-EU stance.

  • Comment number 72.

    Oh, and by the way, I am not a disgruntled Tory from Tunbridge Wells. I am, by instinct, a socialist (small "s") but understand the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the EU. We, the voters, cannot change the government of the EU via the ballot box which makes membership of it a non-starter for me.

  • Comment number 73.

    Generally thoughout history, the more deluded were people's beliefs, the more drastic were the sanctions they shrilly demanded against those who would expose them.

    The Spanish Inquisitions' barbarism towards science and its studiers can be added to the exhortations of the ayatollahs' fatwas against apostates and so on, for instance.

    The europhobics seem to me to be fired with a quasi-religious zeal, and have their very own concepts of heresy.

    They have, apparently, complete confidence in their accusations and judgments. This is unsurprising since they only refer to each others' opinions, as if only the thoughts of "the pure" are to be considered.

    As the BBC's declared commitment to impartiality disqualifies them from this "purity", then no amount of explaining on its part can possibly have any effect at all on its accusers, it seems to me. Perhaps they'd be better not wasting their time.

  • Comment number 74.

    No, Eddy from Waring, it is YOU who are ignorant of the facts and it is YOUR lot who denounce all criticism with quasi-religious fervour. The absolutely twist the facts around, and then when people expose your lies you have the audacity to turn around and accuse us of being unhinged?

    I've read some of your other totally arrogant think that just because we disagree with your view we are uninformed and do not have all the facts? You say: "...I think the fact that much of the strongly-held opinion seems to be based on ignorance, or worse still a belief in complete falsehood, is something the BBC could do a great deal to address" and then you say "..There is no knowledgeable, settled consensus that ever closer union would be contrary to the interests of the UK people for instance"..

    Are you out of your mind??

  • Comment number 75.

    To RageMollifier #74

    So if someone disagrees with you they must be mad, ignorant or evil!

    Maybe you can provide or link to the correct narrative.
    Is it the one that represents all prevailing cultural views without any overiding examination of supporting evidence? or the one where you feel well represented?

  • Comment number 76.

    74. RageMollifier


    I have read and listened to the arguments of the fervent withdrawalists.

    Predominantly, among voters, they are based on groundless, often extraordinary assertions in my experience, such as "Germany wants to succeed where it failed in WWII, and subject us to a socialist dictatorship" etc.

    From the powerful they often appear thinly to hide aims at de-emancipation of ordinary people, repealing WTD etc.

    There are some better ones, addressing democratic shortcomings, but eminent figures in the EU acknowledge this, and it's a massive Work In Progress in any case. So they don't amount to a reason to wreck the project in my view, not that the UK's in a position to do that any more, if it ever was.

    I favour the EU, perhaps for one thing, because I have found, personally, the rights it confers on me by its directives valuable and emancipating. When I avail myself of them I do so consciously, and without taking them for granted at all.

    So I don't think I'm out of my mind, as you put it. (There may well be a consensus, but I dispute that it's what a fair-minded person would call an informed one, and I take issue with the BBC here).

    I'll leave your choice of nickname alone.

  • Comment number 77.

    I contacted the BBC to complain that on Fridays Radio 2 news programme at 3pm, following the headline about David Cameron we had to listen to Ed Milliband for a minute ranting about the decision and then Angela Merkel but nothing from the Government to even up the reporting. As an investor in the BBC like everyone, i.e. purchase TV licence and a tax payer, I believe that the BBC such begin reporting fairly. There are so many comments above about the BBC's bias in reporting and I won't repeat them here... but saying that the BBC listeners are there because they are fair and justified is rubbish, as I put in my own complaint, many of my peers and colleagues use CNN and Sky because it is more independent and fair although it isn't Local (UK).
    I would dearly love to not have to purchase a BBC licence and perhaps if they had to work in the more competitive commercial setting like other broadcasters they would listen to those who complain. Using a Blog to answer all queries and stating sorry if we don't answer your complaint, renders the complaint system at the BBC useless, much like its reporting recently.

  • Comment number 78.

    The BBC, among other media outlets, continues to use the word 'veto'.
    This is incorrect;
    'A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation'.
    Mr. Cameron merely declined to sign up to a treaty, had he 'vetoed' it, the treaty would be dead in the water.
    There was a time when the BBC took a pride in, and could be relied upon to get things like this right. Slipshod, how can we expect our children to learn when the national broadcaster is so pathetically poor.

  • Comment number 79.

    your answer does not address the issue. It is not about being pro or anti europe, it is about fair and accurate reporting. All your broadcasts stated Britain had been isolated in Europe and then proceeded to outline why. Including interviews with long past politicians, who are not relevant. At no stage was the major opposition party asked if they would have execrcised the veto. Surely a critical question. Finally i happened to see newsround (not normal i assure you), news aimed at children. The item was about number 4 on the list, and it just stated that the PM had voted aaginst the agreement, and many [people disagreed with this!! Is that a fair judgement for young people?

  • Comment number 80.

    To oh man, talk about twisting things around.

    My point to Eddy from Waring was that HE should not assume that those who disagree with him are ignorant. Somehow you've twisted that around to make it look like I am the one saying that people who disagree with ME are ignorant? Unbelievable...

    May I remind you that the very original point of this discussion is that we are criticising the BBC for being biased in its reporting. They've expended far more time & resources to one side of the story and have ommited critical aspects of the other side, including the video clip of David Cameron's rebuttal to Miliband's remarks in the House of Commons. You, and others, have then tried to digress to a discussion about whether the BBC's bias is indeed the "correct" view. You guys are the ones who have dismissed our criticism of the Eurozone, the EU, the Euro etc and have labelled us as being ignorant of the facts. You, and others, have patronised us by labelling us as "Daily Mail readers" (somehow using that as a condescending pejorative, and again revealing that you view yourselves as some kind of intellectual elite), and you pigeon-hole us as being "euroskeptics". For your information, I regularly read the NY Times & the Wall St Journal, both considered to be at opposite ends of the political spectrum, and here in the UK I read The Times, the FT, watch the BBC & Sky News (and occasionally CNN), and read several blogs including ones like Guido Fawkes. I do not consider myself intellectually superior, nor do I claim to be in posession of all the facts, nor do claim to be impartial or unbiased, but I DO have a major problem with people who think that anyone who disagrees with them is merely uninformed & ignorant.

    And Eddy from Waring, my comment about whether you're out of your mind was targeted at your attempt to link our views with the "quasi religious zeal and barbarism of the Spanish Inquisition".

  • Comment number 81.

    "Trust must be at the heart of the BBC's relationship with its audiences.."

    as far as I'm concerned you lost my trust in the aftermath of the Hutton enquiry and Andrew Gilligan's 'resignation'.

    "We've backed this up with analysis of the political and economic implications.."

    balderdash, analysis is exactly what's missing from the BBC these days. to get an idea of what is going on, one has to read the English language editions of various continental and Asian newspapers. where, for instance, is the in-depth analysis of how the Euro is being manipulated by traders, banks and ratings agencies? why aren't you 'following the money', as it were?

    I think many of us know why you don't report anymore. personally, I don't much care since I get my news from many sources, but I do think you protest too much.

  • Comment number 82.

    '75. At 00:06 14th Dec 2011, _marko
    Maybe you can provide or link to the correct narrative.'

    If by 'correct', you mean that of the BBC and its groupies, then on this thread alone that's a smidge redundant.

    I see the DG has decided to accuse the 'tabloids' of governing the public's perceptions on things, missing the irony of that, and the odd editorialising around this by those weighing in, pointing more at the Daily Mail's opportunistic following of the one that started this latest media trivia spat, namely the Daily Mirror.

    Professional courtesies?

    What does surprise, and impress me is that this thread still exists, and relatively free of referrals.

    However, the longer it does, the less the 'straw poll' so loved of many media from their own pages would seem... 'on narrative'.

  • Comment number 83.

    John Sissons exposed the BBC's left wing bias for what it is and in this arrogant, self-serving response to complaints we find the attitude of "get lost" is still very much alive and kicking. When the extent of the corporation's institutional bias is eventually laid bare statements like this from Boaden will be used to illustrate how our public service broadcaster was intent upon manipulating public opinion.

  • Comment number 84.

    It rarely seems to get mentioned that other European politicians also play to their 'domestic gallery'. For many of them it is quite helpful to be able to blame somebody else for their problems, and there's plenty of us in the UK only too willing to accept criticism, blame, and guilt. There's quite a lot of humans like that.
    Regardless, I now consider that the Murdoch press may have been more sensible about this than I previously gave them credit for. BBC reporting, however, often seems not to acknowledge how the EU got itself into this mess. Like fusion power electricity, the greatest EU benefits always seem to be in the future. Yes, alcohol has become much cheaper as a result of EU harmonisation of duties, but that tax money goes to national governments, not to the EU.
    If BBC reporting had been the basis for UK policy we might now be in the Eurozone with prospects looking even bleaker than they are.

  • Comment number 85.


    Even your artricle excusing yourself is pro European. Referring to the "depth and power" of Euroscepticism in this country, you imply that the people of the country are the ones who lack balance on the subject.

    Perhaps if you could just acknowledge that an unwillingness to accept everything that comes out of the EU does not constitute "Euroscepticism", you might begin to convince people that you do not have a Euro bias.

    We "remain loyal" to the BBC only because we are forced to pay a tax to fund you, even if we do not wish to watch the channels. In this day and age, the technology to make the BBC a subscription service is easily available, and there is frankly no excuse for this tax. But having been forced to pay it, I attempt to get value out of it.

  • Comment number 86.

    "[...]why audiences have remained so loyal to BBC News output"
    Well that, and the license fee. Also, being the lease biased, doesn't make you unbiased.

    "Trust must be at the heart of the BBC's relationship with its audiences and that is why we listen carefully to the range of feedback audiences give us."
    But you don't. As pointed out many times your Editors' picks are laughably biased (along with the tone of the articles themselves). Your follow-ups to complaints are always "nothing wrong, stop complaining, you probably didn't understand you poor fools".

    I find this whole 'challenge of reporting' response patronising and especially the inevitable "Our coverage was excellent" line. I'm not a Tory and I don't read the Mail. I am however quite capable of seeing pro-EU bias in the BBC's coverage.

    You say your role is "simply to report and analyse". You don't seem to understand the difference between analysis and opinion. You use sensationalist words like "Attack" in headlines, then edit them out when people point out fact v opinion.

  • Comment number 87.

    "Generally, though, we seem to be trusted by our audiences to be offering impartial information"

    Those days are gone. Your pro European bias is very clear. Fortunately there are many other available sources to obtain the facts rather than having to pay for your journalists' "interpretation". I've changed in the last 3 years from defending the BBC to looking forward to the abolition of the license fee.

  • Comment number 88.

    Mr from Waring

    Your attacks on concerned BBC viewers are unwarranted. They have concerns, kindly allow them to express them without insulting and patronising them.

    I am sure you find it tremendously life affirming to wade in amonst those how dare to disagree with your view of the world, and spew forth crouched behind the safety of your keyboard, but you could probably find better outlets for your issues in the real world.

  • Comment number 89.

    There are a number of e-petitions relating to the BBC available on the government petitions site. Some of them relate to the issues discussed above. I'm not suggesting they will achieve anything, but I have been piqued enough both by the coverage and the banal response that I've put my name to a few:

  • Comment number 90.

    To JunkkMale #82

    By "correct" I mean an example of the narrative that you have reason to feel is unbiased.

    To RageMollifier #80

    Someone providing a link to the correct narrative to use as a reference point representing the most unbiased view might be useful.

    I believe if you're deciding whether something is correct or not it's important to determine whether it is the one that represents all prevailing cultural views without any overiding examination of supporting evidence or the one where you feel well represented.

  • Comment number 91.

    88. "..concerned BBC viewers ... have concerns, kindly allow them to express them without insulting and patronising them."

    it is my experience that any reasoned argument can be doomed to fail if enough immature and uninformed voices chime in. a significant number of BBC viewers (at least of those who express themselves on the HYS and blogs) are astonishingly ill-informed, and often unpleasantly xenophobic and jingoistic to boot. does that not bother you?

  • Comment number 92.

    86. At 12:41 14th Dec 2011, wizely - You use sensationalist words like "Attack" in headlines, then edit them out when people point out fact v opinion.

    The epic of stealth editing across the BBC is reaching epidemic proportions. All the more bizarre on blogs where folk reply to author text, and the others ask what they are on about as it is no longer to be found. Yet two seconds' archive work proves what has been done.

    How this is in any way consistent with trust, let alone competence, I am unclear.

    I am months if not years now awaiting response from the author of this thread regarding a complaint I made regarding such as this (on the initial 'reporting' of the death of a Taliban hostage), that I pursued methodically through the BBC labyrinth until it hit Ms. Boaden's (in)famous Beware of the Leopard 'we're listening' email account.

  • Comment number 93.


    Yes, it does bother me. Did I imply that it didn't?

  • Comment number 94.

    A large portion of the British public gets its news from the BBC. Far more than get their news from the openly biased and unreliable Mail and Telegraph. That is why so many right wing obsessives get upset by the BBC's news output. It doesn't conform to their bizarre requirements so they need to condemn it as biased. A nuanced and intelligent critique of the BBC's output would no doubt find much to criticise-but most of the people posting here would not be capable of that in a month of Sundays.

  • Comment number 95.

    To JunkkMale #92

    If you are genuinely interested in defining an unbiased line it's useful to frame the discussion in a generic form:

    Any source that uses the word "attack" to describe the situation is clear evidence that it is biased to the left.

    Do you agree?

  • Comment number 96.

    At 13:17 14th Dec 2011, greatHayemaker wrote:

    "...Your attacks on concerned BBC viewers are unwarranted. They have concerns, kindly allow them to express them without insulting and patronising them..."


    There's nothing I could do to stop them even if I wanted, and I don't intend you or anyone else to find my truthful statements, of my experiences and reasoning either insulting or patronising.

    However, it simply is a fact, that in my experience the arguments I've heard, from ordinary people for withdrawal from the EU are commonly based on alarming assertions, but supported by no evidence at all. (Others might possibly have different observations, though, and I invite them to post).

    My attempts to offer explanations as to why they do this, in terms of anthropological and social psychology are, I assume, what you find patronising, but if I honestly can't make sense of what is said in logical terms, what else am I to do?

    The direction of the allusions you make in the rest of your post is, to me, so vague as to not enable relevant comment.

  • Comment number 97.

    jcb, it is a common argument of intellectual lightweights to accuse the other side of being inferior in some way. What you have posted does not amount to an argument, it is merely a vacuous collection of ad hominems.

    Openly right leaning the Mail and Telegraph may be, but the Telegraph at least is certainly not unrealiable. As sources of news go, it is possibly the most reliable around.

    But of course, if you do not like them, noone is forcing you to pay for them. Just as noone forces us to pay for the openly left leaning Mirror, Independent etc.

    The problem with the BBC is that we are all forced, by TV tax, to fund it. And that it claims to be unbiased.

    The problem with such a claim is that it can never be entirely true. Every reporter, every interviewer, every editor looks at a story or a source with their own predjudices they have formed since childhood, and imprint them on the story they are reporting. They don't do it deliberately. They just do it. Because its how they see the world.

    So when anyone claims the BBC is unbiased, it is untrue, because it is impossible. It tries to be balanced, and generally I feel it doesn't do a bad job of trying to stick to the centre, but inevitably, it will fail from time to time. And when it does, it is absolutely critical that this is exposed. Because otherwise, the mutlitude of people to whom it will never occur to challenge the claim that the BBC is impartial (such as your goodself), will be convinced that what they have been told is truth. Just because someone at the BBC says they have got it right.

  • Comment number 98.

    93. "Did I imply that it didn't?"

    yes, in the way that you dismissed Eddy from Waring's contribution (whose published 'track record' does not justify your accusations).

  • Comment number 99.

    '91. At 13:45 14th Dec 2011, TV_As_Eyes - a significant number of BBC viewers (at least of those who express themselves on the HYS and blogs) are astonishingly ill-informed, and often unpleasantly xenophobic and jingoistic to boot.'

    Coincidentally, those who do not share your views one presumes?

    As persuasive an argument in sharing the Boaden 'experience' as it may seem, it may yet remain less than compelling as it stands to many in the audience who have bought, or at least had to pay for a ticket.

    As to the portions of British public who get their news from the BBC, that rather goes to effect from cause in many cases. Rendering the support for less overtly EUphilic notions curious, despite the efforts engaged upon. Maybe folk who are not 'Daily Mail readers or right wing obsessives' are tiring of that knee jerk response, masquerading as counter-argument (often alone), being applied to any personal, independent opinion not shared by the hive and its pr dept.

  • Comment number 100.

    '95. At 14:17 14th Dec 2011, _marko wrote:
    Do you agree?'

    Here we go again.

    As a quick review of our respective histories has shown, you exist to distract on threads that are veering off the narrative path, mainly by lobbing out endless demands for answers to questions.

    When you seldom return the compliment.

    I see the full interference line up has at last been marshalled as this thread is not in a happy place for the most trusted meme. Or professional. Or listening. Or wanting your views. Or genetically unbiased...

    Not playing any more.

    I suggest you look back at what you keep asking and I keep being polite enough to devote time to answering.


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