How the establishment closes ranks around the BBC

Regular readers may recall a couple of posts back in January where we told the story of an Autonomous Mind reader who complained to the BBC about an edition of Hardtalk.

This is the one in December 2010 where President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives was allowed to state, without challenge, that due to human induced climate change sea levels around the Maldives are rising.  The lack of journalistic rigour and blind acceptance of such a controversial viewpoint as fact led to the complaint being made and the BBC’s two fingered resp0nse in January which included the immortal words:

We’re committed to honest, unbiased reporting and are determined to remain free from influence by outside parties.

Following the response, our reader then filed a Freedom of Information request to the BBC asking for details of:

  • how many complaints/ accusations of bias the BBC received from the public about the BBC’s coverage of climate change
  • how many of the complaints received about climate change were upheld by the BBC, i.e. were accepted
  • brief details / a list of all the complaints upheld, i.e. the details of the upheld complaint and the BBC’s response (excluding details of the person complaining)

In publishing the story in a follow up post we shared the unsurprising news that the response from the BBC to our reader’s request was a refusal to provide the information sought.  Once again the BBC was hiding behind its establishment-given provision to withhold any information the BBC considers to be held for the ‘purposes of journalism, art or literature’.

As this blog said in our commentary on the decision, the BBC seemed to have chosen to interpret the Act in a very loose way by extending it ‘to the sifting and review of praise and criticism from audiences, as well as the seeking of an independent view of criticism in order to undertake this review process.‘  The thrust of the BBC’s response was that complaints are used to inform the creation or improvement of programming.  As a result our commentary concluded:

It would seem obvious that complaints rejected by the BBC are not used to inform the creation or improvement of programmes because they are arguing the complaints are baseless.  So, the only possible reason for withholding details of rejected complaints is to hide the extent of viewer and listener dissatisfaction with an editorial line the BBC is determined to pursue.

Our reader was advised that if he disagreed with the decision he could appeal to the Information Commissioner.  So he did.

We now fast forward to last week when our reader received an incredibly lengthy reply from David McNeil, a Complaints Officer and the Information Commissioner’s Office, which you can read below:

This is quite a staggering communication from the ICO, if again completely unsurprising.  At the heart of it is the assumption or belief that because the BBC says the complaints material informs their editorial direction they should not be bound to reveal how many complaints they receive.

However at no point is the BBC asked to provide evidence that demonstrates, on the basis of complaints received, they have ever adjusted their editorial approach.  We are simply enjoined to accept it without proof.

The only way this can ever be assessed is if the complaints process was made transparent, but they continue to hide behind the Act, with establishment approval, to prevent that happening.  The question of course is ‘what are they hiding and why?’ which takes us back to the Balen Report and Steven Sugar’s attempt to uncover the details of the report.  It is simply that the findings would reveal the bias so many people believe the BBC possesses and that many more people reject the BBC worldview than the corporation is comfortable with revealing?  If we do not know what the report held we cannot assess whether any material change in editoral approach was ever made.  Likewise, when it comes to complaints such as these.

Why should the license fee payer, compelled to pay the fee under pain of fine or imprisonment, be denied information about how many people complain about the BBC’s output and be able to ascertain for themselves whether the views of the public are ever taken into account?

This is just another example of the establishment, of which the BBC is an integral part, protecting its propaganda arm and treating the public who are forced to pay their wages with utter contempt.  On this basis our reader is now considering taking this complaint to the next stage.  Is it worthwhile?  You decide.

See also this post about a rare BBC u-turn after originally turning down a FOI request.

18 Responses to “How the establishment closes ranks around the BBC”

  1. 1 Brian H 22/05/2011 at 12:18 pm

    Yes, the statement that the information influences overall editorial policy is so un-falsifiable and vague that it can be used to rebuff any inquiry. Since the point of any complaint is to explore and challenge said editorial policy, the enquirer is snared in a perfect Catch-22.

    If this was the intent or the logical core of the legislation, then it is perverse and deceptive. If it is not, then the BBC is perverse and deceptive. Probably, both are true.

  2. 2 jameshigham 22/05/2011 at 12:22 pm

    Why should the license fee payer, compelled to pay the fee under pain of fine or imprisonment, be denied information.

    Because they are of the left.

  3. 3 Katabasis 22/05/2011 at 12:43 pm

    Yes, yes, yes! The fight should continue to be taken to them.

    And if they won’t reveal this information? Well there are other ways to catalogue their bias in an undeniable numerical form, and the more people who join in crowdsourcing the effort, the sooner we’ll be able to establish a complete picture of the BBC’s bias to present to ministers, regulators and journalists.

  4. 4 Steve 22/05/2011 at 12:48 pm

    Why anyone with an interest in politics other than the same, bland, unproductive, indistinguishable rubbish put out by the LibLabCon is beyond us!

    Due to outrageous political bias, I and many others refuse to pay our TV license.

    Even Jeremy Paxman said that BBC News was ‘…full of crypto-Marxists!’

  5. 5 Climate Change Con....... 22/05/2011 at 1:18 pm

    The BBC’s biased coverage of the Maldives is truly shocking when you compare it to what has actually been happening….

    Dr. Nils-Axel Mörner : Head of the Paleogeophysics and
    Geodynamics department at Stockholm University in Sweden;
    Past president (1999-2003) of the INQUA Commission
    on Sea Level Changes and Coastal Evolution, and
    leader of the Maldives Sea Level Project. Dr. Mörner has
    been studying the sea level and its effects on coastal areas for
    some 35 years :

  6. 6 Climate Change Con....... 22/05/2011 at 1:21 pm

    More evidence that rips to shreds the BBC’s biased coverage of the Maldives……

    Click to access NilsAxelMornerinterview.pdf

    Dr Nils Axel Morner :

    “Claim That Sea Level Is Rising Is a Total Fraud”

    And :

    Two peer reviewed scientific papers, by Dr Morner, showing that Maldives sea levels are not rising:

    Click to access MornerEtAl2004.pdf

    Evidence submitted to a Parliamentary Select Committee, by Dr Morner, showing that sea level is not rising:

  7. 7 Martin Brumby 22/05/2011 at 3:58 pm

    Would I be correct in interpreting this response as a very prolix version of “the BBC can do what the Hell they want and we won’t interfere”?

    Or am I missing something?

  8. 8 Time Traveller 22/05/2011 at 5:45 pm

    Nothing to do with the BBC but I’ve just had a response from the ICO which upholds my complaint.. but says as no similar complaint has been received, it will take no action.

    A complaint to the appropriate Ombudsman elicited a comparable response, ie upholding the complaint but refusing to investigate it further.

    It is the default position of these bodies and I am convinced their only real purpose is to grind us down.

  9. 9 Derek Buxton 22/05/2011 at 7:43 pm

    Reading the correspondence, I note that great play is made of the derogation of “journalism, arts or literature”, but the problem highlighted is none of these. It was pure propaganda, no journalism was involved, nor art, nor literature. The English language seems to have changed dramatically since my time at school. Any essay that contained that sort of logic would have been torn up.

  10. 10 London Calling 22/05/2011 at 9:25 pm

    Arrogant patrician swine, their lavish lifestyle funded by a tax the Sheriff of Nottingham would have given his all for. Bloated Biased Bigotted Broadcasting Corporation. Loathed and detested by any thinking person.

  11. 11 Shevva 23/05/2011 at 5:01 pm

    22/05/2011 at 12:48 pm

    Due to outrageous political bias, I and many others refuse to pay our TV license.

    I had one banging on my door the other day, didn’t let him in, but the funny thing is the letter they put through the door, We’re sorry we missed you and next time if you could let us in we’ll be ever so polite before handing over the fine….idiot’s, better find out what my mobile number is because if you ain’t standing on my door step with your phone up against your ear phoning me you ain’t getting in.

    Oh and if anyone was intrested it takes about 5 months for the TV licencing machine to get anywehere, just saying.

  12. 12 Paul Cottingham 23/05/2011 at 10:49 pm

    This is the background to one of the complaints which has just been published in Spacesig, The newsletter of the space special interest group of Mensa.

    My complaint to the BBC was about the Climate Change program “Hot Planet” transmitted in December of 2009. My complaint was “Ice Core data shows that CO2 levels rise about 800 years after Global temperatures rise, and therefore this fact makes the whole Documentary misleading and biased“.

    The BBC seemed to agree with me that astronomical events cause the warming and that CO2 levels increase about 800 years later. But this correlation was not shown in the program. Obviously this was because it would have been seen by the Viewer to contradict the context of the programme and therefore was left out so as to mislead the audience and not contradict the context of the program, therefore giving a misleading impression to viewers who are not aware of the full facts. The context and intention of the program misleads the viewer into thinking that the CO2 increase causes the warming.

    I suggested that this was a serious and specific breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines. After a convoluted reply which seems to be mainly replying to other peoples complaints they did eventually touch on my complaint. The complaint was not upheld, but no clear reason that I can understand was given. One of the other peoples complaints in the BBC,s reply was about the CO2 Hockey Stick controversy. The BBC continues to use statements withdrawn by the Royal Society on the insistence of the fellows, this one has been proven to be false. Over the first 80 years that Ice Cores are formed CO2 is absorbed by cold water, there has been 180 years of Atmospheric CO2 gas analysis by chemical methods (Beck, 2007). This means that from 1810 to 1930 we have both Ice core and direct measurements of CO2 in the Atmosphere. This shows that ice cores have CO2 levels about 40 percent lower than the original atmosphere (Jaworowski, 2007). This also shows that CO2 levels were 470ppm in 1828 and 290ppm in 1888. The Royal Society was also quoted “carbon dioxide from human sources is almost certainly responsible for most of the warming over the last 50 years. There is much evidence that backs up this explanation and none that conflicts with it” This is also false and has also been removed from the Royal Society website (Carbon cycle modelling and the residence time of natural and anthropogenic atmospheric CO2, Segalstad) proves this cannot be the case.

    Surprisingly the most blatantly biased statement by the BBC said that “Anthropogenic Global Warming is a fact” the IPCC using an assumption says “very likely” and the BBC which claims to be impartial says “fact“. This also does not come from the Royal Society. This evidence proves that the BBC takes a more extremely Biased view than the IPCC or the Royal Society and conflicts with the BBC Trusts claim that impartiality is important. This also now leaves open the possibility of legal action against the BBC Trust which has continually refused freedom of information requests for details of how this decision was made by what the BBC calls “the best scientific experts“. I suspect the decision was made by Environmentalists not by Atmospheric Physicists. The BBC also claims to do independent investigations and then only talks to the scientists that make the program. The senior scientific advisor for the program was Professor Peter Cox. The BBC has had trouble with Professor Cox regarding the predictions of a Barbecue Summer and Mild Winters and his prominent role in the Climategate Scandal and with the IPCC. The BBC has no scientific investigative journalists and also it claims that it has access to 4,000 Climate Scientists but not one of these was used as an Independent Scientific investigator into Professor Cox or the program. Professor Cox did not mention water vapour, confused the southern ocean with the deep ocean and has not heard of the science of Cosmoclimatology. I suggested to the BBC that it should investigate the quality of its Scientific advisors in this case.

    After this complaint and 1,600 other complaints about the less than academic one sided promotion of the Global Warming scare by the BBC, the BBC Trust gave out 15,000 new editorial guidelines to its staff when obviously the people appointed to the BBC Trust are part of the problem. If the Editorial Standards Committee of the BBC Trust is overtly biased then it is not fit to dictate Editorial Standards to BBC staff. In response to the above comments the BBC Trust said that they change the Editorial Standards at least every five years, which gives you an idea why BBC Staff just ignore Standards of Impartiality. My complaint was to be published in the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee Bulletin for October, but was pulled at the last minute after I gave them the comments above. The BBC Trust said that they would reply shortly and publish their findings in November. Nothing happened, my complaint remained in a twilight zone, the BBC unable to either uphold, or reject my complaint for fear of legal action I have no intention of wasting my time and money on, That is for others to consider. Finally after a most amazing excuse that although the evidence that the BBC is overtly biased was provided to me by the BBC in its communications with me, it was not mentioned or referred to in the BBC Trust Editorial Standards Committee’s finding. That is like saying we know we are biased but you can not take legal action against us because we will not include this in the monthly bulletin of the BBC Trusts Findings.

    Finally the BBC Trust published the finding in December’s bulletin just before Christmas.
    Professor Steve Jones has also said that he will take the points made in this complaint into account when writing his report to the BBC. Since then we have seen two former BBC Journalists Michael Buerk and Peter Sissons explain why BBC Journalists who appear on our screens, seem to appear brainwashed and scientifically ignorant. They say that few show any curiosity about the science of Atmospheric physics or Solar Astronomy, in fact the most important BBC journalists for this subject are not scientists but are environmentalists with degrees in arts and the humanities, Buerk and Sissons both had the intelligence given curiosity to do there own scientific investigations, and found that the theory does not have the scientific proof for its core questions in the Scientific literature, and ignores the contribution of Astronomy. I was also made aware of a book called “Can we Trust the BBC” by Robin Aitkin (also a former BBC Journalist), and also a website for the many scientists and thousands of other people who have stopped paying there licence fee on principle due to this and other issues.

  13. 13 Lfb_uk 24/05/2011 at 11:00 am

    I also refuse to pay the TV tax. Had them knocking, but as there is no legal requirement for me to answer my door, I don’t. Any mail is marked return to sender. This is now my 2nd year of non payment.

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