February 6, 2017

BBC blind to its own bias

BBC blind to its own bias

The BBC fails to see frequently have more than two sides and that balance also applies to the topics discussed and the questions posed, argues John Redwood. 

The BBC regularly says it must be getting it right because both sides accuse it of bias. The problem is there are more than two sides in many cases.

I have never argued the BBC is biased against the Conservatives and in favour of Labour. I understand the lengths they go to criticise both Conservative Ministers and Opposition Spokesmen, and grasp their idea of balance, offering an alternative view in many cases.

The issue of bias and alternative truth takes more subtle forms. There is firstly the bias in the selection of stories. The BBC loves running endless Brexit and climate change stories. It loves making other news items into Brexit or climate change stories, when many of us think there is little or no link. There is the endless sourcing of “the government should spend more” stories, because there are so many lobby groups with that as an objective.  People who want less government, who like Brexit, or are sceptical about the theory that man-made CO2 is driving damaging climate change do not feel properly represented. Scientists are not interviewed with a view to highlighting errors, inconsistencies and poor research in the way politicians are.

Then there is the unintentional bias of the questions. Ministers are regularly put under pressure for not spending enough. It is very rare to hear Ministers under pressure for spending too much, for presiding over government waste, for failing to find cheaper and better ways of doing things. There is nearly always an automatic assumption that spending a lot in any specific part of the public sector is good, and spending more is even better. There is little probing behind the slogans to find out what the real numbers are, and to ask why in some cases so much is spent to so little good effect.

There is the permanent anti Brexit bias in many scripts and questions. The interviewer or journalist starts from the assumption that Brexit must be damaging. Good news is then recorded “despite Brexit”, often with a caveat that it could deteriorate in the future when Brexit bites more. Never do you hear an interviewer asking the other side to comment on how the Brexit vote has triggered higher car output, more homes being built, higher consumer activity, better confidence levels.

Prior to the referendum there was always a bias against Brexit or Eurosceptic speakers. We had to be introduced with unflattering descriptions, interrupted more, and usually assumed to be wrong. I remember when I was warning about the banking crash and had a proposal on how to handle it, I was competing with Lib Dem Vince Cable. I wanted controlled administration of overstretched banks – the system they now say they will use in future – whilst he wanted bank nationalisation. He got many more interviews than I did. He was often introduced as an expert because he had had a former job as an economist at Shell. I was introduced as a Eurosceptic with my past roles in business and investment ignored, though they were more relevant experience.

I’m all in favour of them asking me tough questions, but I just want them to do the same for all the so-called experts as well.

4.86 avg. rating (97% score) - 85 votes
John Redwood MP
John Redwood MP

John Redwood is the Member of Parliament for Wokingham in Berkshire. He was formerly Secretary of State for Wales in Prime Minister John Major’s Cabinet. He is currently Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party’s Policy Review Group on Economic Competitiveness.

  • An Sionnach Dubh

    The one truly dangerous one (and admittedly quite a loose cannon), Frankie Boyle, has been very visibly dropped from the list of invitees.

  • An Sionnach Dubh

    You will never see home schooling being reported as, in general, being more successful than attending comprehensive schools either. That’s another no-go area for interviewers (probably because they are too badly informed to know it, an observation which is notably relevant to most other topics also).

  • Callumity

    I totally agree. The BBC is immune from real market forces and insulated against the commercial reality of alienating your clientele. 21C public service broadcasting should be a fraction of the Beeb behemoth.

  • John Francis

    I for one would love to see the BBC reduced to grovelling, Grauniad style with the, ‘while you are here, we’d be so grateful if you’d give us a quid or two’ style adverts that appear on every page these days.
    The result might make them take their heads out of the sand, especially when the News office P45s began to flood in.
    The decriminalisation of the licence fee should be a priority of the government, and apart from being worth hundreds of thousands of votes would put a halt to the subsidisation of a blatantly political organisation.

  • John Francis

    I agree with every point made above; the BBC is shameless in it’s bias against those who do not conform to it’s own obvious corporate political view.
    However, it has a dangerous rival in it’s determination to dispense only an approved political view.
    Sky News, especially in it’s coverage of pre and post referendum issues is every bit as bad as the abysmal BBC.
    You could be forgiven for thinking that they had all bet the deeds to the ranch on Britain’s failure; and can’t wait for it to happen.

  • John Francis

    Who would watch him, unless they were ‘that way inclined’.

  • Can of Worms

    Couldn’t agree more.
    Once noticed, you can’t ignore it

  • Christopher Horne

    And another thing…when a leftie think tank is being quoted they are just introduced by name, whilst if it is a right wing think tank it is introduced as such (in a disapproving tone).

  • chatnoir50

    And not just the BBC, C4 too … Language is important – discredit the meaning of something and undermine it. See this from yesterday:

    https://www.channel4.com/news/fake-news-and-the-alt-right

  • Sir_Hugo_Baskerville

    Perhaps, John, the Tories could put pressure on the dithering Mrs May to effect change at the BBC.
    It has broken enough of its charter obligations that it could be easily held to account.

  • Roanoake

    Before the Brexit vote I would have agreed. But now, a majority of the voting public have had thrust in their faces how the BBC sees them and how it works to push its preferred messages.

  • David Prentice

    Like Soros, the BBC wants completely open borders, no nationalism or patriotism and a society realigned according to the communal rights theories embedded in UN “action plans”, like Agenda 21. It is an enemy of the British people and Christian, English people, in particular.

  • SnowHare

    Thank you for that insight. I occasionally raise this with some of the people I meet in my new role as a flâneuse, and it’s surprising how many think that the BBC is unbiased: “We always get our news from the BBC because we trust it”. Bias by omission is also lost on them. I do discuss these issues and hope I plant a seed.

  • ale bro

    confirmation bias has insidious effects. i can’t say that it’s limited to the bbc – it also explains why ed miliband’s policies are now tory policies

  • berosos_bubos

    You’re in power so why can’t you do something about it ?

  • Allie B

    I watch RT a lot too for the same reason.

  • Tom Burroughes

    I doubt the bias of the BBC towards Big Government, interventionism in business, alarmism over the environment and support for transnational groups such as the EU will change until the BBC’s own privileged position as a quasi-state organ comes to an end.

  • Paul Williams

    The BBC should be neutral, like the Speaker of the HoC, but alas, that is a fantasy. The BBC has become a bloated monster stuffed with public money and run by the liberal elite for the liberal elite. They have even resorted to interviewing their own ‘reporters’ with loaded questions. ‘Will Mr Trump carry on being a racist?’ You get my drift. They don’t even pretend any more.

  • Blowmedown

    Sadly this is true. I use RT and Al Jaz English to get an idea on what doesn’t get reported on the BBC but should.

  • Blowmedown

    I agree that they omit as much as they include to further their own agenda. I used to enjoy listening to the BBC in the ’80s and ’90s because you could generally get both sides of an argument and form your own opinion. As an aside, I stopped listening to “The Archers” when they started becoming political and supported anti-GM activists and after I noticed that happening, my eyes became open to the rest of the messages they were pushing. I now no longer listen to BBC news as I find it pointless, there is no balance or real insight into anything their “reporters” comment on.

  • Blowmedown

    Never, of course. That is the favoured religion of the left; but only because it will help to further the downfall of Western Democracies. When thieves fall out, as they inevitably will, I suspect Islam will win.

  • Aaron D Highside

    What do you expect for a mere £3,500,000,000 a year and only 26,000 employees? Fairness? Value?

  • Blowmedown

    Ok.

  • Blowmedown

    Very good; I like the pet subject analogy. As some one else has pointed out the BBC knows what it is up to and will never stop attacking our country or anything good that has come out of it. The licence fee should be make voluntary and then all those who want to support their propaganda can pay for it, the same as they do for the Grauniad.

  • Old Gerry

    Someone who knows told me that MPs do not act because the percentage of the population which both recognises the bias and also thinks that it should be stopped is very small although vociferous. Any ‘interference’ with the BBC would therefore generally be seen as unnecessary troublemaking. We should also remember that the BBC has the ability to assist in cutting short the careers of those who get in its bad books. The solution – not an easy one – is to find ways to make the man in the street care about the quality of his/her news and current affairs, and to make him/her resent having been played for a sucker for so many years.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    Lots of us walked away years ago, with our money.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    When will a BBC ‘comedian’ make any jokes about Islam or Muslims?

  • John Standley

    And there’s also “A Leading charity has said….”
    “The respected commentator Joe Bloggs has said”
    “There are many who would say…”
    Subjective descriptors inserted which betray their biases.

  • EppingBlogger

    I fear that John is too generous. I am sure much of the BBC is quite happy to be biassed.

  • Nockian

    Few of us that read your articles are in any doubt that the BBC has to be dismantled completely. The Conservatives were pathetic in prolonging the disgusting theft of money by force that the licence fee represents. Then the BBC pay a crony capitalist organisation (capita) to bully householders like some kind of criminal loan shark debt chaser.

  • SnowHare

    And successive Conservative governments have not clipped the BBC’s wings because? It’s always been a mystery to me why the Tories have not done this. I had hoped that Thatcher, of all people, would cut this arrogant and duplicitous organisation down to size. Their left-liberal bias permeates every area of their output, and I’m deeply annoyed at being forced to pay for something that I never watch or listen to.

  • PAD

    Well said John.
    Keep up the good fight!

  • Derek

    It needs somebody or an organisation to list the BBC treatment of subjects including the bias in selection of what is and is not selected as topics. Even then I’m not convinced anyone has the power over the BBC to make them change. The more likely future is that the BBC will continue as is and be seen as unrepresentative of the views of the public which as some stage could cost it its licence.

  • Debs

    I don’t believe they are blind to their bias.They seem to glory in it .Their anti Brexit pro immigration pro Islam stance pervades all programmes and platforms .
    Even radio 3 has succumbed with a presenter going into ecstasy over a production of Parsifal set in the Middle East and the flower maidens in Burkas. The most sublime production ever according to him.
    You cannot get away from it.
    I only wanted to listen to the music .

  • Allie B

    Yes lying by omission is probably their main tactic. You have to go to other news sources to find out half of what’s going on in the world usually because it’s inconvenient to the BBC ‘narrative’.

  • Christopher Horne

    Perfect, hear hear.

  • norman’s nonsense

    You can’t watch popular entertainment, such as Graham Norton, for political nonsense, fake right wing news, anti Trump guff et al

  • gelert

    And how few years are left for Brillo ?

  • Christopher Horne

    I started making a list of BBC corporate positions on issues & events which are pushed relentlessly across all their output. Anyone agree/disagree? Can anyone add their own examples? Why don’t we start asking the government why they accept this bias?

    Left good, right bad

    The UK should stay in the EU

    Israeli’s bad, Palestinians good

    All public spending is good

    Any reduction in public spending is a ‘Tory cut’ and is bad

    Thatcher was very very very wicked

    Islamic terrorists have nothing to do with Islam

    Man-made climate change is true

    Obama was close to being a God

    Trump is totally bad & must be opposed

    Islam is a religion of peace

    Labour good, Conservative bad

    Feminism is good

    Being “gay” is good

    Islam is great, even thought it is against feminism & gays

    Public sector good, private sector bad

    Nobody must ever be insulted unless they are a Tory, a toff, a UKIP supporter or a Brexit voter

    Islam good, Christianity bad

  • Doofs

    And no mention yet of their ‘comedy’ output. I was once largely an admirer of the R4 6:30 funny slot, The now really quite irritating Marcus Brigstocke was superb as Giles Wemmbley Hogg and many other programmes have been genuinely funny. Now? Well I have to switch off the News Quiz, it is nothing more than a luvvie love-in, all participants arrogantly assuming that their listening audience all occupy the same left/liberal Tory bashing bubble. Jeremy Hardy and the otherwise fairly talented Andy Hamilton are the worst offenders, the programme is frequently just a vehicle for them to spout their sixth form common room ideology unchallenged and dutifully snickered at by the studio audience – these days drawn from the same self congratulatory ‘pull the ladder up after us ‘bubble as the performers.

    I could easily find other examples but my rant is long enough.

  • Enoch Powell

    John, being Welsh I always used to have a bit of a thing against you for your time as Welsh Secretary. I’m sure that you yourself would not necessarily bring it up as one of your better moments. (But then BBC bias, always that clip about the anthem, never about your actual work in the office and I was too young at the time to spot that).

    But I have never been more happy to admit that I have been wrong. You have been a long standing champion of our rights, of fighting the good fight against Europe, of making great, powerful, logical, honest arguments, even when you’ve been out of the eye of the media, when it has tried to drown us out, or when Nigel and Boris had the spotlight, you’ve always been around, pushing for what you (and the majority of this country) believe is right.

    Thank you for standing up and fighting the good fight. But keep fighting, because you do so on our behalf and we stand with you.

  • Soreron

    Its not just what they say, its what they fail to say. For instance there is a major upset in the world of climate change. A senior NOAA scientist responsible for data integrity has blown the whistle on the ‘adjustment of data’ to suit the needs of the climate change lobby. Talking about a major paper published before the Paris Climate shindig concerning the pause in global warming. I quote

    “But the whistleblower, Dr John Bates, a top NOAA scientist with an impeccable reputation, has shown The Mail on Sunday irrefutable evidence that the paper was based on misleading, ‘unverified’ data.It was never subjected to NOAA’s rigorous internal evaluation process – which Dr Bates devised.”

    The BBC will never report this.

  • MikeL

    The BBC has its pets and non-pets. If there is a good story about a pet, or a bad story about a non-pet, it will run and run. If there is a good story about a non-pet, or a bad story about a pet, it will quickly vanish, if aired at all, or will come with some spin to make it seem not as bad/good.

    Examples of pets: the EU (on which the BBC virtually never reports – is it censored?), the UN, non-traditional families, Labour, unions, BMEs, high tax and big government, Palestinians, Obama or Sanders, former British colonies (who are able to govern themselves).

    Examples of non-pets: Brexit, the traditional family involving a husband and a wife, Tories, Israel, America (other than Obama or Sanders, but any Republican for sure), the Commonwealth, the UK (which is unable to govern itself, which is at the heart of their dislike of Brexit).

    With religion, the pecking order is Islam (untouchable – it is so peaceful), Atheism (rational, for independent thinkers), followed by non-Christian religions other than Judaism, (cool and full of spiritual wisdom), then Judaism (but only when discussing the nasty anti-Semitism of Europeans) then Christianity (all child molesters dreaming of the sky fairy) in which Catholicism trumps Protestantism (when discussing N. Ireland), followed by smells and bells Anglicanism. Beyond the pale is any form of evangelical Christianity. Pentecostal types do not exist.

  • Ian Walker

    More subtly, but much more prevalent, is their bias of omission. In the immediate run-up to the Brexit vote, all of the stories of refugees in the Calais ‘jungle’, the Greek borders, or the boats in the Mediterranean suddenly vanished from the agenda. The problems hadn’t gone away, of course, but editors decided either not to send a reporter or not to run a report.

    I used to think that the accusations of BBC bias were a bit of a scare story, and then one year, while sitting at home ill, I saw their reporting of a Conservative (always spat out as ‘Tory’) conference. The contrast with the reporting of the Labour and Lib Dem conferences was undeniable. And once, seen, you can’t unsee it – the interruptions of Conservative MPs during interviews, where Labour MPs are allowed to continue unchallenged. The ‘comedy’ output, which is relentlessly anti-Tory, to the point where it is presumably institutional – a pro-Conservative comic would never get an airing – to the point of perhaps distorting the entire industry.

  • The Raven King

    1984 was based on the great Orwell’s stint there and he resided in Romm101.

  • geo

    Heres the challenge BBC … make your service pay to watch and see how many of us walk (nay skip) away from your biased, stale product.

    Just say no to the tv tax.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    They can’t prove you are watching online, and even if they took a case to court would they dare admit that they are hacking your laptop? If they did that they would be admitting that they are listening to your mobile phone, reading your e-mails and accessing your online banking. That would get them votes next time round, wouldn’t it?
    Tories are still, and always have been the nasty party.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    Stop paying the TV tax.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    The BBC receives large sums of money from the EU. EU money does not have to be accounted for. Thus this money comes in then form of readies, wodges of notes, spending coupons. Are the troughers going to turn off the tap which feeds them happy days?

  • ratcatcher11

    That’s being generous, Newspeak as described in Orwell’s book 1984 was actually the BBC where he worked for a short time.

  • ratcatcher11

    The interviews of the liberal/ left generally turn in party political broadcast run by the interviewer on the BBC.

  • ratcatcher11

    The BBC also make sure that guests on any program even non political comment programs are ‘right on message’ so that anti Tory and anti Thatcher messages amongst other pro left diatribes are to the fore. Even the radio is involved with Radio 2 a prime example of left Liberal newspeak passing as truth especially Brexit, Trump and Climate Change which are indisputable even though the latest climate Change research presented at the Paris conference to dispute the Temperature pause, has turned out to be fake. Not a word about that on the BBC of course.

  • didymous

    I cannot recall a single day since the referendum that there has not been an item or mention on the Today Programme about Brexit. In virtually every case the underlying context being the Brexit vote was a mistake.

  • paul redhead

    Listened to Radio 2 news at 11 am today. One report was the intention (supposedly) to charge for NHS non urgent treatment to those who are not eligible. Following the approx. 15 second slot, there followed comment from some self-aggrandising BMA idiot. He ranted for two minutes on how the problem is really lack of funding, wicked Tories etc. etc. Not ONCE did he mention the actual point in question, nor was he prompted to. Absolutely disgusting and biased so called news bulletin. These cretins (both BBC and BMA ) run a bigger closed shop that the rest of the TUC can only dream of. Arseholes the lot of them.

  • John Smith

    stop paying the BBC TAX

    if they turn up tell them to funk off and close the door

    if we get to 20% non payment itll collapse

  • blue2beak

    Less well-educated and less bright people are much more likely to watch the BBC’s down market TV, to vote Labour and to favour high public spending.

    BBC TV news bulletins are aimed at the same audience as its other programmes.

  • Nobby

    “The government has been criticised today….”
    “Controversial government plans……”
    “The government has defended…”

    Contrast that to the last Labour government:

    “The government will announce today….”
    “The government has announced today…”

  • ReefKnot

    That might be correct but I believe the BBC know exactly what they are doing and have no intention whatsoever of changing.

  • The Raven King

    It’s well-known that the BBC interviews the Left & interrogates the Right.
    The essential problem is that the BBC is over manned and utilises an old fashioned in-house system based on the dead tree press – of editors & sub editors & “correspondents”. So when a news item comes up they call on their own “political editor” or “foreign correspondent” – in-house “experts” mouthing the BBC line & reinforcing BBC bias. So it’s like friends at a dinner party agreeing & chatting amongst themselves.
    The BBC idea of balance is to field a hard Left activist against a soft Left activist on most matters – a trick employed by Guardian driven Newsnight, whose audience is plummeting just like the Guardian readership.
    The rare exception is the excellent & formidable Andrew Neil.

  • JohnInCambridge

    It’s obviously true. If someone lives with a smelly pet or has strong BO they become [as the adverts say] ‘nose blind’. It’s the same with the BBC which has become unaware of the lefty reek it inhales all the time.

  • Frankfurt 13

    “BBC blind to its own bias”
    You could take the “i” and “a” out of bias …

  • Tad Stone

    Also saying someone defended. I.e. They were wrong.

  • Tad Stone

    Great article. I no longer watch or listen to BBC for news or current affairs/politics because of the bias. As John says subject selection, etc, but also what they leave out. For example Lord Rickett? Who criticised government but didn’t say he was a consultant with Lockheed Martin who had just been forced to charge less on contracts by Trump.

  • phil

    I have a feeling that it’s death would be anything but slow if your advice was followed. The BBC, both in news and entertainment has not represented the mainstream viewing public for decades.

  • Nicholas Bennett

    There is also a campaign in favour of euthanasia and God forbid you might want to tighten the laws on abortion. Liberal Lefies don’t recognise they have a bias they believe that all sensible people couldn’t possibly disagree with their Metropolitan views.

  • TRAV1S

    The BBC has broken its’ charter therefore its’ contract with the people. Just decriminalise the TV License and watch the BBC die a slow death. And here is a little tip just get Theresa May to tweet out that the BBC is fake news, it worked wonders in America.

  • TheRightToArmBears

    So when did Mr Redwood last raise this with the Tory party policy committee, and what did they say?
    I say that the purchase of a TV licence should be voluntary. Then see how biased the BBC then is.
    I haven’t bought a licence for years and don’t intend to.
    Why should I subsidise mega-salaries for people who encourage child-abuse and covering-up paedophilia?

  • DAWWolds

    Three other ways in which the BBC’s bias shines through. One: Starting a feature with the words “The government denies …” with the inference that the government has done something wrong. Two: Announcing some news that shows the government in a good light followed by the almost inevitable … but……. Three: the emphasis the reporters/correspondence put on certain words. Norman Smith is a prime example of that.

    Unfortunately, such bias is so stamped in the BBC’s DNA they do not even realise it is there.

  • ReefKnot

    The BBC have no intention of changing their culture, which extends throughout the organisation. They are well aware that previous Governments ( and this one ) have bottled any effective change to the BBC, so they carry on serenely flaunting their clear left-wing bias with complete impunity, safe in the knowledge that nobody will do anything about it.
    The only real solution is to abolish the BBC and start again. However, a good first move would be to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee and then ignore their squeals.

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