BBC News: Blatant Bias, Political Mind Games and a Question of Trust

It was an ordinary evening and I was following my very ordinary routine: make a cup of tea, sit down, click the remote control and watch the BBC Six o’clock News (28.02.14).  I’ve always been proud of the BBC, Imageconsidering it part of the family and understood entirely why this British institution was often referred to as ‘Auntie’: trusted, familiar and dependable – or so I thought.  But after what I observed last Friday, I now feel there is a wily intruder in the midst.  ‘Auntie’ is not to be trusted.  She is arrogant, rude and overbearing and no longer deserves to be invited in for a friendly cuppa at teatime.

So what is it that I’m getting my grandmotherly bloomers in such a twist about?  What upset me so much?  Well, it was, quite simply, this – the BBC’s  reporting of two political party conferences was the most blatant example of bias I’ve seen in a long time.  In fact, it was so bad that I’d like to get ‘Auntie’ along to observe how my family approach issues such as favouritism and fair play.

As with most children these days, my grandchildren are adept at any number of computer games.  But these can be solitary activities and so, instead, I often play board games such as Snakes and Ladders or Headbanz (a more up to date version of What am I?).  These traditional games help develop skills that the BBC News editorial team and producer appear to be severely in need of.

Before the children begin, we discuss who will start – because the player that starts first often has a distinct advantage.  All my grandchildren are precious to me but I’m at pains to show no favouritism and to remain impartial.  So, usually, we agree that since all the children are equal, they each take it in turn to begin – and that way the game becomes fairer.   These games are a fun and enjoyable part of my grandchildren’s learning process.   They learn to play by the rules and not cheat.  If they throw the die and it’s a number that sends them slithering down a snake then they are gradually learning to accept this blow, honestly, and begin to work their way up again with the hope that fate will be kind and extend the odd ladder or two to help them on the way.  Their will to win is admirable but they are also learning that what they achieve has to be done openly – no sneaky subterfuge, cheating or deception.

 With Headbanz my grandchildren are challenged in a different way.  If they’re to succeed they must ask relevant questions, Imagelisten to others and assimilate the information.  Little by little, they are developing life skills, integrity and strength of character – all whilst having a great time!  After all, who wouldn’t love to see grandma sporting a picture on her forehead and discovering that she’s edible, brown or white and has no legs? 

“Am I a slice of breadAm I a grain of rice?” I ask.  

“No, grandma, don’t be silly!”  they  shriek   gleefully,  “You’re a mushroom!”

And so, yes, I sometimes get it wrong, I’m led ‘down the garden path’ by my own preconceptions and innate bias.  I love sandwiches and rice – but I’m not so keen on mushrooms – and this is what I think happened to the BBC News team when they reported the UKIP conference (their popular snack and staple fare) and the Green Party (a simple, natural mushroom rooted in the earth).

Below are details of the complaint I’ve made ( ). I’ve expanded the letter as I was only allowed 1500 characters when I submitted my objections on-line.  Maybe, the BBC has to limit the length, so that it can cope with the sheer number of grievances that it receives? Or, maybe, they don’t really want full details of uncomfortable truths? Certainly, when I now watch the BBC News, I sense an overpaid, corporate finger wagging at me assertively, insisting that “Auntie knows, best!” 

As human beings with a stake in the future of our planet, we really do need to be alert to the subtle manipulation of opinion that the media undertake.  As Jim Morrison wrote “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.”  Therefore, when we spot things that are unfair, unjust or just plain irresponsible we really do need to speak out. 

In our hectic world, it’s all too easy to say “I’m too busy” or “I haven’t not got time.”    But as the Chinese proverb alludes:  “We live in interesting times” and if we are to steer ourselves through these ‘interesting times’ then we all need to be news logo

I’ve never complained to the BBC before but this letter shows that with a little effort it can be done.  I look forward to my reply ….

Dear BBC News Editors,

Given the severity of recent flooding, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about climate change and how, as a society, we need to start doing things differently.  In fact, I’m so concerned and disillusioned about our politicians’ failure to act and U-turns such as ‘Vote Blue. Go Green,’ that I recently started my own blog.  As a grandmother, I’ve become increasingly interested in environmental issues and am coming to the conclusion that the Green Party is the only party that is brave enough to tackle what we are doing to our planet.

I was aware that the Green Party Conference was being held and I was looking forward to listening to what they had to say on the news. So I duly turned on the BBC News  at Six on Friday 28th February expecting you to give a reliable report.  I waited as you, first of all, showed UKIP and interviewed Nigel Farage directly, even allowing him to defend his adoption of a BNP slogan.  You then slotted in at least one other news item before showing the Green Party Conference.  Apart from being forced to wait, you failed to allow a direct comparison between the parties.  You also risked losing people’s attention.

When you finally mentioned the Green Party, I became frustrated as the piece only lasted a few seconds and completely cut off their leader, Natalie Bennett.   I’d really wanted to hear what she had to say about fracking.  But, to my disgust, you effectively silenced the leader of a political party.  Your technique was to show a brief picture which was swiftly ‘cut’ with a ‘voiceover’.  This was extremely biased as you had already prioritised UKIP earlier in the programme and given precious air time to a blustering sexist and racist showman like Nigel Farage.

I can’t understand why you showed such obvious bias towards UKIP and away from the Green Party.  Your duty is to inform, educate and entertain.  As a grandmother, I’m deeply concerned about what kind of future my grandchildren are going to inherit.  In this respect, fracking is a very important, if contentious issue, and I believe that the BBC has a responsibility to let people like the Greens explain their views.  If people don’t have all the facts and options available to them, how can they really make an informed decision?

Furthermore, I believe that the Green Party actually has an elected member of parliament and quite a lot of local councillors.  To me, this makes a credible political party.  I realise that Nigel Farage is an MEP but I can’t see what he has to contribute – since he doesn’t even believe in Europe.  Members of his party also consistently make gaffs which expose the true nature of their party’s unsavoury philosophies.  I suppose you think UKIP make an interesting ‘story’ but in reality they are just a ‘one trick pony’ preying upon people’s fears.

I’m deeply disappointed by the BBC’s obvious bias in favouring one minority party over another.   There appears to be a clear right-wing bias which surprises me – but has also been noted by others. For example,  Ian Burrell of The Independent   recently reported that Professor Lewis, an experienced media analyst, claims ‘the BBC has, under pressure, been pushed to the right.” (–on-the-right-not-the-left-9129639.html)  

I would urge the BBC to reconsider their biased approach.  I, for one, would be really interested to hear what the Green Party would like to do.  I’m sure I’m not alone.  After the winter that we’ve had, there are probably a lot more people who want ‘political change’ instead of ‘climate change’ – but at the moment, the BBC is manipulating people’s opinions and beliefs by withholding information from the public.  Ordinary people deserve to be provided will all points of view – not just the ones that the BBC wants to release.

Yours sincerely,

From a truly disenchanted viewer.

Lest We Forget: Real Events Require Real Solutions

So, the floodwaters in the south of England and the west coast of Wales are beginning to recede. The shocking media images storms 2014of submerged homes, acre upon acre of drowned farmland and the skeletal remains of a railway line suspended on a rack of fresh air are being supplanted by the drama of unfolding political events in the Ukraine – and it’s easy to appreciate, how quickly people, unaffected by the flooding, can be distracted with seemingly more significant news.   

Somebody once told me, that the shelf-life of a news item in our memory is, typically, about four months.  I believe it’s probably far less than that.  People, busy surviving their own day-to-day dilemmas, quickly get on with their lives and leave responsibility for ‘sorting things out’ to councils and government agencies.  After all, as the saying goes, “That’s what they’re paid for …

And, maybe, there was a time when I might have said exactly the same.  But these days, I hope my views have come of age.  As a grandmother, my observations, not only of myself – but of the world around me are more finely tuned.  Now, when I hear scientists make projections about the future, I listen.

In September 2013 the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) published a report, in which it stated that ‘human activity’ was the ‘dominant cause’ of the climate change we are now beginning to experience.  Thomas Stocker’s speech made BBC headlines for a day and I paid attention.  I’m sure many others did too.  I imagined that political leaders, and ordinary people alike, would sit up and take note.  After all, approximately 95% of the scientific community now agreed that man-made carbon emissions had contributed to the extreme weather events we’ve been experiencing. Yet, this eureka moment, quickly became just another news story – and there’s nothing as old as yesterday’s news, is there?

But for me, alarm bells were ringing.  Projected rising sea levels of around 1 metre and rising global temperatures of between 4-6 degrees by the end of the century are not something to be ignored.  In the UK, since the year 2000, we’ve already suffered four of the five wettest years on record.  We’ve seen thousands of homes flooded both in the North and the South.  Across the world, from America to Australia, from Typhoon Haiyan in Philippine’s to Nepal, countries have struggled to cope with a range of extreme weather conditions. So how much evidence do we still need?  Just what are we waiting for?

In this world of instant communication, we’re all susceptiblestorms 2014 2 to news fatigue, at risk of becoming immune to news reports that don’t directly affect us – from a safe distance these news stories are in danger of being treated as just that – stories:  fictions that burst onto our screens with all the high drama of a ‘disaster’ movie.  But unlike, The Perfect Storm or The Day After Tomorrow, events in reality continue to unfold beyond our screens:  Real events require real solutions. They need wise direction and prudent decisions to create a safe and sensible conclusion for all involved.  In real life, there are no stuntmen to take the ‘fall.’

But the government’s script is shaky to say the least. David Cameron’s statement that ‘money is no object’ is at odds with the consistent reduction in funding to the Environment Agency.  After flying over the Somerset Levels, he described the scene as ‘biblical.’  Yet, unlike Noah, it took our Prime Minister more than six weeks to arrive!  And in this particular tale of devastation, it is not a God of Wrath who is punishing us for our misdemeanours, it is Mother Nature who is venting her fury at being increasingly abused, plundered and misunderstood.

It seems obvious to me that if we remain wedded to our dependence on fossil fuels then we are storing up heartache and misery for the future.  Even by 2050 the world will be a very different place because of the impact of climate change.  And 2050 isn’t some inconsequential never-never land.  There will be no impish Tinkerbell to shake her fairy dust and make everything just so. No, 2050 is a time when my children will be retired, and my grandchildren will in their forties, and having to face the consequences of political decisions that are being made now.

 No amount of flood defences or re-routed rail track will protect my grandchildren from a world where conflict is rife as oil becomes increasingly elusive; crops fail through extreme weather conditions; and whole swathes of the human population risk displacement.  Even our relatively small island will undergo a transformation – a re-shaping – a shrinking.  It’s not a make-over for the faint-hearted:  flat lands and flood plains such as the Somerset Levels will be swallowed up, many cliffs along the coast will collapse into the sea’s relentless embrace and some small Scottish islands will just sink beneath the waves like Atlantis. 

Traditionally, the British are great at standing politely in queues (unless it’s the Next sale, of course); or demonstrating ‘a stiff upper lip’ in adversity.  BUT, if we want to avoid these cultural idiosyncrasies becoming an absolute necessity – the blitz spirit writ large in the 21st Century – then we have to take action.  We cannot look the other way.  We need to persuade those whom we’ve elected to go out into the wider world community and state with absolute certainty, “It is happening. Climate change is happening.  We must work together to reduce its impact.”         

In short, we need to change our ways.  Instead of living for today – we need to think about tomorrow .