BBC: All hail the ‘prevailing consensus’

Here we go again.

The BBC Trust publishing the terms of reference and planned approach for its impartiality review of the BBC’s breadth of opinion.  It went on to explain that breadth of opinion means reflecting a range of voices and viewpoints in BBC output and the BBC has a unique commitment to it included in its Editorial Guidelines.  The review, which will be led by former broadcasting executive Stuart Prebble, will focus on the BBC’s news, current affairs and factual output.

Well it sounds suitably fluffy and well intentioned.  But then the BBC Trust’s own viewpoint is shown to creep in as it outlines its perspective on the world, unsurprisingly giving the BBC the scope to defend its behaviour and claim it has been acting impartially and has allowed a breadth of opinion in its programming:

Through content analysis, audience research, and submissions from the BBC Executive and interested stakeholders, the review will assess, where appropriate:

  • Whether decisions to include or omit perspectives in news stories and current affairs coverage have been reasonable and carefully reached, with consistently applied judgement across an appropriate range of output;
  • Whether ‘due weight’ has been given to a range of perspectives or opinions – for example, views held by a minority should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus;
  • Whether the opinions of audiences who participate through phone-ins or user-generated content have been given appropriate significance, and whether the use of audience views in this way has correctly interpreted the relative weight of opinions of those who have expressed a view on an issue;
  • Whether the BBC has ensured that those who hold minority views are aware they can take part in a debate such as a phone-in.

The content analysis will include an analysis of the BBC’s coverage of immigration, religion and the EU, by comparing some coverage from 2007 with coverage from 2012/13.

Not for nothing am I reminded of the episode of Yes Prime Minister, where Jim Hacker learns the wrong ‘Ron Jones’ has been awarded a peerage.  When asked by Sir Humphrey if Jones owns a TV, Hacker replies no, to which Sir Humphrey suggests ‘make him a governor of the BBC’.  It seems the level of ignorance – or is it wilful self deception – that Sir Humphrey saw as a qualification, is shared among today’s BBC Trustees.

So to the bullet points.  The first has so much wriggle room it is utterly meaningless.  Trust: ‘Did you carefully research the perspectives in your news story in a reasonable way?’  Beeboid: ‘Why yes, impartiality is in my DNA too, Lord Patten.’

Then on to the second, Trust: ‘Did you give due weight to the range of opinions?’  Beeboid: ‘Of course, but I took into account the prevailing consensus so the weighting tipped in the favour of XYZ.’

As for the third, Trust: ‘Was appropriate significance given to the range of opinions of audience members who called in?’  Beeboid: ‘We found most of the callers during the first part of the show held view A, so the researchers put those on air. We had no way of knowing if more people with a contrary viewepoint would call in.  How could we use them?’

And the fourth, Trust: ‘Did we ensure those with minority views are aware they can take part?’  Beeboid: ‘Well of course they know they can take part. It’s just when they try to they don’t get included because their view doesn’t have equal weight to that of the prevailing consensus, and having carefully researched the topic in a reasonable way, our highly trained activists researchers skipped past them.  It’s OK though.  When they complain we tell them impartiality is in our DNA you see.  Then if they are really miffed they write to you and you hold an impartiality review with terms of reference that confirm we did everything as per the guidelines.  Fancy a Pimms?’

Perhaps the BBC Trust might do well to consider the perspective it holds about having impartiality in its DNA could be a minority view and therefore not deserving of equal weight when taken in the round with the prevailing consensus that the BBC is a biased bastion for socialist and authoritarian propaganda that treats its audience with contempt and opponents with undisguised hostility.  Then it could save licence fee payers a whole lot of money on such a waste of time review such as this.

6 Responses to “BBC: All hail the ‘prevailing consensus’”

  1. 1 hro001 11/10/2012 at 7:46 am

    The only BBC Trust commissioned reviews I’m familiar with are those that were conducted in response to complaints about anti-Israel bias and their coverage of global warming aka climate change.

    In both instances “impartiality” seems to have been conveniently redefined by the Trust.

    On this side of the pond, our taxpayer-funded CBC’s biases are protected and defended by a supposedly “impartial” Ombudsman whose responses are (predictably) dismissive of rational and reasoned complaints.

    On a related note (from this side of the pond!), I recently watched an episode of TVO (the Ontario taxpayer-funded station)’s The Agenda, which advertises itself as being a “Daily current affairs show offering in-depth analysis and intelligent debate on issues of concern in the rapidly changing world around us.”

    The topic of this particular edition was “Truth in Modern Journalism“. So I was hoping that the pundits would get beyond the (IMHO borderline) instance of alleged plagiarism that precipitated this particular episode to the broader – and in my view more disturbing – issues that arise from “journalism” as it is currently practiced in the MSM. Particularly the blatant advocacy that is increasingly apparent in the reportage of the Beeb, the Ceeb, the Graun, the NYT etc.

    Alas, I was disappointed :-( The “debate” (such as it was) was reasonably “intelligent” but it certainly lacked the “depth” for which I had (perhaps too optimistically) hoped.

    In short, I think you nailed it, AM … we can only depend on the MSM (and its so-called watch-dogs) to hail the “prevailing consensus”.

  2. 2 EU Hypocrisy 11/10/2012 at 8:24 am


    Try this……………..

    “BBC training for Palestinian and Jordanian journalists – apply now”–-apply-now

    Media Neighbourhood is a three-year training programme for journalists, editors and managers from broadcast, print and online. It is funded by the European Union and delivered by a consortium led by BBC Media Action.

    The programme has two main aims.
    •To strengthen the professional capacity of journalists, particularly in the areas of media independence and online media.

    •To improve the reporting of EU social, economic and political policies within the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Caucasus.

    Media Neighbourhood is one of three projects funded under the EU’s Regional Information and Communication Programme.

  3. 3 mowmeadow 11/10/2012 at 8:54 am

    They at the BBC certainly have political correctness in their DNA. Do they, I wonder, know what this means? Do they know how it works, and how their system nullifies a big proportion of subscribers in that their opinions are never allowed to permeate into the Holy Grail of BBC ingrained artfulness? Do they really know what is left out of reporting and putting it across to the public is part of their game? That is keeping a big proportion of the public resignedly ill-informed to the true nature of the countries degeneracy fulfils their rotten agenda? How can Britain in its present form be called democratic when its public broadcaster has a monopolistic biased viewpoint and actions pervades the whole country, with no media body able to withstand such dominance and put up an alternative voice.

  4. 4 James Morrison 11/10/2012 at 9:44 am

    So, where they say “for example, views held by a minority should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus”

    They can use that weasley piffle to justify their position on many subjects where they always side with the minority over the majority on the basis of their perception what the concensus is.

    1. RELIGION: Islamification of the west – Islam is is a peace-loving religion and under all circumstances all negative stories must be reported in a way which does not criticise – avoiding all reference to the religion even where it is relevant to the story (grooming in Rochdale, honour killings etc – invariably these are committed by “people of Pakistani origin”). On the other hand, it’s open season on Christianity, which is only bad, and intolerent.

    2. IMMIGRATION (and Multi-culturalism): It’s all good. There is nothing bad about it, nothing to see here, move along.

    3. EU: This is only a good thing. Nothing negative to be reported here. Despite polls consistently showing the majority of the UK population keen to leave (or at least to “regnegotiate its position”), they are wrong. The BBC knows what’s best.

    Also, there is climate change, as widely reported elsewhere, the “review” by Beeboid Steve Jones that too much coverage is given to sceptics and that the BBC is within its rights to ignore this and stick with the concensus.

    I am so sick of this organisation. Why do they continually get away with wasting thousands of taxpayer’s pounds on these reviews, which always come up with the same result and serve only to show the BBC what it already knows, that it is right and everyone else is wrong.

    At least pay someone who has no links to the BBC at all to do it!

  5. 5 Furor Teutonicus 11/10/2012 at 11:51 am

    XX views held by a minority should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus;

    Whether the BBC has ensured that those who hold minority views are aware they can take part in a debate such as a phone-in. XX

    HOW do those two fit together exactly?

    And WHO decides what “the prevailing consensus” is? Some trainee BBC office tart taking a straw poll at the water cooler, five minutes before going on air?

  6. 6 Furor Teutonicus 11/10/2012 at 11:54 am

    XX EU Hypocrisy 11/10/2012 at 8:24 am

    •To improve the reporting of EU social, economic and political policies within the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Caucasus. XX

    When THAT is not a fully open declaration of the fact that the BBC are nothing more than apropoganda outlet for E.U policy, then WHAT is??

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