Friday, 15 September 2017

Questioning BBC militarist-speak: an exchange with the Executive Complaints Unit

Following prior correspondence with the BBC over its coverage of the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, an exchange with the BBC's Executive Complaints Unit.

(Sent 3 September 2017)
Ref: CAS-4541173-LC5LL7

Dear ECU

Further to my recent complaint, I wish to register my dissatisfaction with two BBC response pieces, and to request that the ECU now consider the four specific points raised in my original letter.

On point 1, please provide a detailed response to my question, and specify precisely why, according to Sean Moss, this requested information is "not a service we [the BBC] provide". 

On point 2, please tell me why the BBC failed to offer any counterview to Admiral Philip Jones and other military/political/public figures in its live report pieces on HMS Queen Elizabeth. 

On point 3, please tell me why, with reference to the BBC's Charter requirements for 'impartiality' and 'due weight',  no such alternative view can be discerned either here or over the BBC's wider output.

On point 4, please show me where the BBC's coverage of HMS QE, and other similar events, have been specifically contextualised and explored in relation to Britain's aggressive militarism, arms supplies to tyrant regimes, and particular part in the bombing of Yemen. Also, given its highly approving coverage of HMS QE, please explain why the BBC offer no similar level of coverage to describe and question the scale, cost and devastating human impact of such weaponry?          

All correspondence on this matter can be read, in sequence, via these links:

Drool Britannia: complaint to BBC over naked militarist propaganda

BBC naval gazing and coverage of British militarism: a further exchange

BBC all on deck, lauding 'benign' state militarism: a further exchange

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards
John Hilley

Reply from ECU Complaints Director Colin Tregear:

14 September 2017

Dear Mr Hilley

Your complaint about BBC News

Thank you for your email of 3 September regarding the BBC News coverage of the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth in Portsmouth.

As you know, the BBC Complaints Team has informed you it does not intend to respond further to your complaint. It now falls to the Executive Complaints Unit to decide whether you were given a reasonable response to your original complaint and whether the BBC Complaints Team was correct in deciding that further investigation of your complaint wasn’t justified. This is in line with the Interim BBC Complaints Framework and Procedures1 which sets out the process for handling complaints.

I understand you think the coverage amounted to “state media propaganda” and the BBC took “an obviously strong and partisan position in upholding, praising and celebrating… British state militarism”. You are, of course, entitled to your view but I think the responses you received from Emma Duff on 24 August and Sean Moss on 29 August were reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances, addressed the specific concerns you raised and explained how the requirements of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines for due impartiality were met. I therefore think the decision not to engage in further correspondence on the matter was justified.

I should clarify you can make a Freedom of Information request for the information you requested in Point 1 of your email of 3 September. Details of how to do so can be found here:

There’s no provision for further appeal against this decision within the BBC. However, you can contact the broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, if you believe your complaint has identified a breach of the Ofcom Code (which can be seen at, though of course it would be for Ofcom itself to decide whether to consider your complaint. Information about lodging a complaint with 1 ework.pdf 2

Ofcom can be found at Ofcom acknowledges all complaints received, but will not normally write back to individual complainants with the outcome of its considerations.

Yours sincerely
Colin Tregear
Complaints Director


Dear Mr Tregear

Thanks for your reply. It is clear from your cursory and patrician-like response that no serious or detailed consideration of my original questions was ever forthcoming.

You are also, of course, entitled to your view on such matters, the substantive difference being that the ideological basis of the opinion you so openly express here duly fits with the BBC's own establishment worldview.

Or, as Noam Chomsky once reminded Andrew Marr, if you held any radically different views, you wouldn't be sitting where you are (1).  

You call the responses to my questions on such matters "reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances." How very BBC. Is it unreasonable or inappropriate to ask why the BBC are such ready exponents of expanding British militarism, yet such feeble voices on its appalling human impact?   

In routinely lauding Britain's power-projecting warships, killer planes (2) and state-of-the-art laser missiles (3), the BBC are acting as an effective public relations arm of the MoD and its corporate partners.     

As with its dutiful silence on the state-corporate villains (4) trading this past week at the DSEI arms fair (5) - and that dark organisation's hosting of Michael Fallon's monstrous sales pitch (6) - the BBC's failure to cover, question and expose Britain's relentless warmongering, wicked weapons economy and supporting culture of militarism renders it a complicit party to mass UK crimes around the world.

I trust that readers of this and my preceding correspondence with the BBC over its HMS QE coverage will, at least, have gained some further insight into the power-serving nature of British state media, the editorial framing of its militarist narratives, the lamentable absence of alternative views, and the Orwellian layers of mitigation and denial helping to keep public objections to all such propaganda safely marginalised.

Perhaps, one day, some of those same 'journalists', editors and gatekeepers may come to reflect more internally on the BBC's key part in helping to sell aggressive militarism and whitewash UK/Western war policy, all serving to increase and perpetuate vast human suffering.  


John Hilley