Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The BBC lets the mask slip for a moment on Europe

Catching up with the excellent Biased BBC website this afternoon (after I’d enjoyed Laurie Graham’s spendid new blog, The Sunday Growler) I came across a fascinating quote from the BBC news site about the Czech rejection of the latest EU “pact” (i.e. the one that lets Germany tell everyone what to do). According to whichever left-wing eurofanatic was writing the story, Mr Necas’s Civic Democrats “…are, like Britain's Conservatives, deeply divided over Europe. Like the Tories, the Civic Democrats are plagued by a right-wing, viscerally Eurosceptic fringe."

I clicked on the link provided to discover that some editor at the BBC had spotted that this might sound ever so slightly… biased?... and had changed the wording to “Like the Tories, the Civic Democrats have a right-wing, viscerally eurosceptic fringe."

I can just imagine the conversation:

Editor: “Have you gone bonkers?”

Writer: “What’s wrong with it?”

Editor: “You can’t say ‘plagued’ – it makes euroscepticism sound like a disease, or something.”

Writer: “Well, isn’t it? I mean, it’s like rabies and that. They’re all tonto. Like Climate Change deniers.”

Editor: “Of course they are. But we can’t actually say that. Let’s face it, all Tories are bastards, but we can’t say that either. You can say that about Republicans, of course – and you can call them mad, but they’re American, the whole world hates them, and they don't pay the licence fee. But quite a few licence-payers voted Tory.”

Writer: “They shouldn’t be allowed to watch television. Bastards!”

Editor: “Obviously. But we’ll have to wait for Labour to get back in before we can push that one through.”

Writer: “Okay.” Sighs. “What about “viscerally eurosceptic fringe’?”

Editor: “Yeah, brill. But be careful from now on. When you’ve finished with that, I’ve got a ‘Tory cuts kill babies’ story for you.”

The problem here isn’t simply that a journalist working for a broadcaster whose very constitution insists on political neutrality imagined that the word “plagued” was suitable in this context – it’s that the editor who intervened actually thought the words “visceral” and “fringe” were okay. Evidently, however the BBC describes euroscepticism, it’s seen as either a physical disease or a mental illness rather than a rational position reached after carefully weighing up the evidence.

The majority of Tory MPs are eurosceptic. The majority of Britons are eurosceptic. DOES THAT SOUND LIKE A FUCKING FRINGE?

Given the state of the EU at the moment, I’d suggest that it’s those members of the eurofanatic fringe – the LibDems, for instance - who are self-evidently mad. But I doubt that any BBC journalist would ever describe them as “viscerally erofanatic”.

For outgoing DG, Mark Thompson to suggest - as he did last year - that the BBC used to be politically biased, but somehow cured itself is  the equivalent of Maupassant's chilling remark, "I used to have syphillis, but it went away."


  1. For no apparent reason – balance? – Sue Cameron has been let loose recently. She's the one on Today who isn't JohnH or JamesMacN or the other one.

    She's got an article in the Telegraph, 'Gus O'Donnell's anger reflects a growing rift between mandarins and MPs'.

    Ms Cameron is horrified at how rude Margaret Hodge is to mandarins appearing before her at the Public Accounts Committee. Apparently Sir Gus O'Donnell wasn't too keen on Ms Hodge either.

    That sort of behaviour, being rude to mandarins, is counter-productive, says Sue. Ms Hodge would do far better to look at how well John Whittingdale has been doing, roasting Rupert Murdoch, and at Stephen Dorrell's excellent investigation of the proposed NHS reforms, just to choose two entirely unbiassed examples at random.

    (I am selling tickets now for ringside seats at the next bout between Sue Cameron and either Margaret Hodge or Richard Bacon or Bernard Jenkin. Be in your seats early. It will be entertaining but not a long, match.)

  2. I seem to have confused Sarah Montague (Today) with Sue Cameron (Newsnight, ex).

    One feels such a fool.

  3. Don’t worry about getting your Sarahs and Sues mixed up – different names, but, no doubt, exactly the same BBC view of everything.

    Margaret Hodge (whose family’s company, Sterncor, is the largest privately owned steel-trading corporation in the known universe – 2008 turnover: £6.28bn) used to be a classic rich middle/upper class swivel-eyed far-left loony.I expect she still is. But occasionally says and does sensible things (famously warning in 2006 that Labour's bizarre immigration and housing policies meant many white working class voters in her Barking constituency were about to defect to the BNP). I imagine it’s her massively privileged family background that enables her to give establishment figures such a hard time. In this - if in nothing else - more power to her elbow.