BBC bias: John Humphrys confirms BBC tactic of bias by omission

The BBC has begun its effort to sanitise, downplay and distort the comments by Radio 4 presenter, John Humphrys, in the Radio Times in which he said that BBC coverage of EU and immigration matters has been biased to the left because the corporation is ‘broadly liberal’.

Despite the Humphrys piece being picked up across the media for his observations about liberal bias, you can see in the image on the left that the BBC is instead focusing on his comments about the corporation being ‘over-managed’. Move on, little to see here is the clear message. Humphrys is doing his bit to backtrack by claiming this was in the past and the BBC isn’t like that any more.

To be sure listeners get the message, Radio 4’s Feedback programme, presented by the pathologically smug and condescending Roger Bolton, continued the fightback today by broadcasting an interview with Humphrys (audio below).  But what the BBC hadn’t counted on was Humphrys inadvertently making the hole even deeper, with comments about the editors and how they work, which confirms all we have asserted over the years about ‘bias by omission’, where voices that dissent from the BBC worldview are deliberately denied airtime, effectively censoring the counter viewpoint.

The following exchange begins on the You Tube clip at 4 min 21 seconds…

Roger Bolton:  But the point surely is this, it’s not what people may feel in the BBC, it’s whether they control those feelings and remain as objective as possible. So to make the claim that the BBC was liberal is to say that its policies and its decision making were liberal, not necessarily that those [unitelligible]

John Humphrys: No, I think it’s to make the claim that the mindset was liberal. So when somebody suggested, might suggest, on this programme or others ‘let’s do so and so’ a particular politician who’s known for his anti European, his sceptical views, people would tend to say ‘mmm a bit bonkers isn’t he? Hmmm well maybe not’. And maybe he wouldn’t then be interviewed. So it wasn’t rampant, I’m not suggesting, I didn’t suggest in that conversation, that Radio Times conversation, that it was rampant, that we were kind of foaming at the mouth pro Europeans, you know, federalists to a man and woman. We weren’t. But there was a mindset that thought that the right approach to Europe should be supportive. So no, of course there was no conspiracy, but it was a mindset, it was an approach. And I think if you do an analysis of our coverage during those years I think that’s the impression you would gain as well.

Then a few minutes later at 7 min 41 seconds as the interview draws to a close, there followed this exchange which illustrates the point perfectly, that the problem of bias which needs addressing is the editors who are able to shape the programmes to reflect whatever point they want to make, be it political or activist…

Roger Bolton: And just finally for the record, has any editor ever told you to go soft on a political interviewee?
John Humphrys: Nope. Nope. Nope.
RB: Has anybody ever told you to go soft on the question of immigration?
JH: Nope.
RB: Has anybody ever told you to go soft on the question of Europe?
JH: Nope. But that doesn’t prove the point, Roger. Because I don’t edit the programmes, I don’t decide who gets interviewed and that is crucial to it.

The bias problem at the BBC that Humphrys is at pains to tell us is a thing of the past, is still very much alive and all too apparent.  But thanks to Humphrys’ candid comments, we now have helpful confirmation that the BBC treats with contempt and frquently excludes from its programmes those who do not share its worldview (unless they are so poor a speaker or utterly disagreeable that they put people off) and that contributor selection is what counts.

16 Responses to “BBC bias: John Humphrys confirms BBC tactic of bias by omission”


  1. 1 blackswansblog 15/03/2014 at 2:04 am

    De-nationalize the BBC is the solution. A privatized BBC, or whatever it becomes – & subject to a rigorous regulator which really requires it to be impartial over matters of UK interest – is what is needed. What remains would be smaller & less establishmentarian – & with effective regulation would be both effective & genuinely informative.

    The outstanding issue of the BBC’s current overseas service could be paid for, wholly or in part, by a genuinely reformed, much reduced in size & budget, & probably renamed, Dept for International Development.

  2. 2 kilkeal 15/03/2014 at 10:00 am

    The editorial grip is even more firm, climate change deniers not wanted here.

  3. 3 MillBilly 15/03/2014 at 1:50 pm

    The incumbents have been taking the urine for ever… thumbing their noses at us – that TV tax makes far too many (though not all) of them think in a way – that they’re the “government” dictating the agenda and telling you what to think about things they deign to expose to the plebs – nauseating >>>Starve the beast – do not pay.

  4. 4 John 15/03/2014 at 2:03 pm

    If the Beeb is as good as they make out it will have no problem thriving in a world of subscription. What do they fear?

  5. 5 cosmic 15/03/2014 at 2:14 pm

    Licence fee cases take up something like 10% of Magistrates’ Courts time and lead to a large proportion of the population having criminal records. These are disproportionately the old and the poor.

    If you don’t pay a utility bill the company has to pursue you through civil action. They have excellent chances of recovering what is owed and you don’t end up with a criminal record.

    I can’t see why it should be any different for the BBC.

    This is a much more subtle solution than privatising them right off the bat.

  6. 6 theboilingfrog 15/03/2014 at 6:23 pm

    @cosmic Worth noting that debt being a crime doesn’t affect your credit rating but a civil action on debt does…out of the frying pan etc…

  7. 7 Dave 15/03/2014 at 8:02 pm

    The issue of BBC bias has already been settled (proven presumably) in a court of law (Balen Report) yet even the results of that court case were blocked by the BBC.
    The issue is no longer whether the BBC are biased – it’s getting them to admit it. Seems like that’s been settled too.
    Given the evidence just cited, why is it allowed to continue?

  8. 8 cosmic 15/03/2014 at 8:39 pm

    @TBF,

    Unless they had the criminal law to bring to bear, they’d be stuffed. It’s such a seemingly small change as well. At least a utility can cut off your supply.

    This goes back to the reasons the BBC was founded, whether they still apply and whether we need a public service broadcaster. If we do, then what should its scope be and how should it be paid for?

    As it is, we have this leviathan which sets the agenda, is capable of endless hypocrisy, as in the Savile affair, and is totally out of control.

    What I found revealing was the 28gate affair, which they spent our money concealing, only for the details to be found in a web archive. Clearly they had an agenda decided before the meeting, (which they misrepresented) and attendees included, from memory, the Head of Childrens’ Programming and the Head of Light Entertainment. The intention was obviously to mount an encompassing propaganda campaign to further the agenda. Propaganda is laying down a carpet of assumption which makes the proposal hard to identify, leave alone challenge.

    When I listened to it, there was a reference to CAGW as an assumed fact in every other programme on Radio 4.

  9. 9 adams 16/03/2014 at 5:21 pm

    Foreword to Brave New World written in 1946 .
    The greatest triumphs of propaganda have been accomplished , not by doing something, but by refraining from doing . Great is the truth , but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth . by simply not mentioning certain subjects , by lowering what Mr Churchill calls an ‘iron curtain’ between the masses and such facts or arguments as the local political bosses regard as undesirable , totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively than they could have done by the most eloquent denunciations, the most compelling of logical rebuttals. END.
    I say privatise the ABBC . A for anti .

  10. 11 lostleonardo 17/03/2014 at 12:09 pm

    A quite remarkable piece by Owen Jones alleging (you guessed it!) the BBC is right wing:

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/17/bbc-leftwing-bias-non-existent-myth

  11. 12 Autonomous Mind 17/03/2014 at 1:55 pm

    I don’t mean to be pejorative, but the man is a complete moron and his drivel is not deserving of the time it takes to read, let alone comment on. Just leave him in his fantasy world and ignore him.

  12. 13 lostleonardo 17/03/2014 at 3:23 pm

    A fair comment AM. We all have better, more important things to do. I shall heed your advice.

  13. 14 Flyinthesky 17/03/2014 at 4:05 pm

    Problem is you would need need to change half the staff.
    I,ve just made a sick back handy and read some Owen Jones, he makes his living by espousing things people want to hear never what they should hear.
    He has a huge following and if the commenters are remotely representative of our society we’re well and truely………..

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  1. 1 BBC “bias” John Humphrys confirms tactics of bias by omission | UKIP Hillingdon Trackback on 15/03/2014 at 8:28 am
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