"Nobody with a questioning mind seriously expects impartiality from BBC News."That may seem an outlandish assertion to many who still cling to the BBC's self-proclaimed values of 'impartiality' and 'objectivity'. But this opening line from the latest Media Lens Alert - ‘Our Only Fear Was That He Might Pull His Punches’ – BBC Caught Manipulating The News - relates a fundamental truth about the now blatant bias of British state media.
Media Lens detail how the BBC's chief political editor Laura Kuenssberg, along with producers and other presenters at the Daily Politics show, sought to stage-manage the resignation of a front-bench Labour MP as part of a sustained effort to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and his new left politics.
It also assesses why an unusually frank BBC blog piece detailing these orchestrations at the Daily Politics was swiftly deleted by BBC managers, and subsequently declared fit only for "internal" purpose.
Please read and share this timely indictment from Media Lens.
For a little more evidence of the BBC's particular capacity for institutional denial and lofty dismissal of a questioning public, here's my own complaint, and the BBC's response:
(8 January 2016)
I wish to complain about the biased conduct of presenters and producers at the Daily Politics in contriving to have Labour MP Stephen Doughty resign on their show over the Corbyn cabinet reshuffle. In particular, I would like the conduct of presenters Andrew Neil and Laura Kuenssberg and producer Andrew Alexander to be investigated. Is it the job of the Daily Politics and BBC to influence the news rather than report the news? Please see the following:
https://tompride.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/bbc-producer-deletes-blog-where-he-admits-political-manipulation-before-pm-questions/The BBC's template reply:
This is a clear breach of BBC guidelines on impartiality. It's also part of a more consistent bias in reports and presentations by Laura Kuenssberg and Andrew Neil against Corbyn.
Also, I would like a specific answer as to why producer Andrew Alexander's BBC blog article relating details of this affair was removed.
(13 January 2016)
Dear Mr Hilley
Thank you for contacting us about the resignation of Stephen Doughty MP from the front bench of the Labour Party on BBC Two’s ‘Daily Politics’, and a subsequent blog written about the matter on the BBC Academy website.Here, again, we see the BBC in classic damage limitation mode. And, as the Media Lens take-down shows, the Daily Politics manipulations are only part of the BBC's continuing efforts to smear and damage Corbyn - all in the face of mounting approval of his policies and positions among party members.
As you may be aware, the BBC’s editor of Live Political Programmes, Robbie Gibb, has responded to the Labour Party about this matter. We believe Mr Gibb’s response below addresses the number of issues being raised. That said, we have received a wide range of feedback about this subject and are sorry in advance if this reply doesn’t address your specific concerns. Robbie Gibb’s email response to Seumas Milne, Director of Strategy and Communications at the Labour Party, was as follows:
“Dear Mr Milne
Many thanks for your email of the 8th January following the Daily Politics on the 6th January.
I would like to reassure you that we are committed to producing impartial journalism and programme content that treats all political parties fairly. I would like to respond to the specific concerns raised in your email.
Firstly, I reject your suggestion that we orchestrated and stage-managed the resignation of Stephen Doughty. As he himself confirmed on Friday, Mr Doughty had decided to resign his front-bench position on Wednesday morning, before speaking to any journalists. He subsequently spoke to Laura Kuenssberg who asked if he would explain his reasons in an interview on the Daily Politics later that morning. Neither the programme production team, nor Laura, played any part in his decision to resign.
As you know it is a long standing tradition that political programmes on the BBC, along with all other news outlets, seek to break stories. It is true that we seek to make maximum impact with our journalism which is entirely consistent with the BBC's Editorial Guidelines and values.
Your letter suggests that our decision to interview Mr Doughty in the run up to Prime Minister's Questions was designed to "promote a particular political narrative". This is simply not the case. The Daily Politics does not come on air until 11:30am on Wednesdays and the BBC's Political Editor always appears live on the programme in the build up to the start of PMQs. As the confirmation of Mr Doughty’s resignation was Laura Kuenssberg's story, we felt it appropriate for her to introduce the item. Again I do not accept, in anyway, the programme has breached its duty of impartiality and independence.
The programme this week provided a balanced account of the shadow cabinet reshuffle. Lisa Nandy was interviewed at length on Wednesday while Cat Smith discussed the issue in detail the day before.
You also made reference in your email to the deleted blog. It might be helpful for me to explain the background to this. Following the media reaction to Mr Doughty's resignation and appearance on the programme the BBC's training department, the BBC Academy, contacted me asking for an article explaining what goes on behind the scenes when a politician resigns live on air. I had assumed (wrongly) that the article was for internal purposes only. When it became apparent that it had been published more widely, we decided to delete it as the piece was written in a tone that was only suitable for an internal audience. No other inference should be drawn from our decision to delete the blog.
I would just like to finish by underlining our commitment to ensuring our coverage of the Labour Party is fair, accurate and impartial.
I hope we can look forward to working constructively together over the coming months.”
We hope this addresses your concerns, thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
BBC Complaints www.bbc.co.uk/complaints
Of the deleted blog, the BBC say:
When it became apparent that it had been published more widely, we decided to delete it as the piece was written in a tone that was only suitable for an internal audience. No other inference should be drawn from our decision to delete the blog.'Internal audience' and 'suitable tone'. Doesn't that say it all about the BBC's coveted club, its self-selecting language, and the kind of information it considers appropriate for the 'know your limitations' rest of us?
As intimated in the first line of the Media Lens article, it's likely that increasing numbers of questioning readers will be drawing more specific inferences here: of patronising dismissal and feeble mitigation, of a hasty, embarrassed cover-up, and another damningly exposed claim of BBC impartiality.