Finally there are two interesting asides from this basic argument worth making. I talked to a very well known BBC presenter last week who was convinced that Brexit was nothing to do with the BBC. They are wrong on the economic costs, because the BBC did not regularly say that the overwhelming view of academic and business economists was that Brexit would do economic harm. Too often they assumed that this was self evident because all the major institutions (OECD, IMF etc) said this, but the ‘anti elite’ theme of Leave was designed to counter that, and giving equal time to both sides without any context (and of course constant newspaper propaganda) allowed Leavers to believe they would be better off.But my criticism of the BBC is not just about the economic costs. One of the Leave messages that was attractive to many people was being able to do trade deals with other countries. I do not remember constant reminders from journalists saying that this was incompatible with membership of the SM, and so we had to choose between frictionless trade with the EU or doing these new deals. This statement is not controversial but a simple fact. It is also a fact that anything short of a CU and SM for goods will require a hard Irish border. This was the kind of basic information that the public craved for, and the BBC did not give it because their priority was not to upset either side. It is academic how important this all was to the final vote: the fundamental point is the BBC departed from its mandate to educate and inform at just the point the public needed and wanted it most..
John Humphrys’ first question to Kier Starmer was wouldn’t the patriotic thing be for Labour to support Theresa May on Brexit. Patriotic?? What’s patriotism got to do with any of this? #r4today
2:14:01 in on BBC Radio Four Today 15 October 2018.
John Humphrys at his scintillating best on #r4today
Humphrys: “You haven’t mentioned a People’s Vote in this interview so far”
Starmer: “You haven’t asked me about it”
Humphrys: “Well I am now”
Starmer: “What’s the question?”
2:21:25 in on BBC Radio Four Today 15 October 2018.
Via this tweet:
I expect the BBC explanation will be that as UKIP is without MPs, the only source of UKIP performers is MEPs. But that ignores the corrosive effect of only picking people who by definition denigrate the European Parliament to represent it. It also ignores the booster effect of featuring the same faces repeatedly. The BBC’s just out of its depth on this.
Later: As expected.
Millions of dollars has been raised from anonymous US donors to support British rightwing thinktanks that are among the most prominent in the Brexit debate.
American donors are giving money to US fundraising bodies that pass the donations to four thinktanks in Britain. A Guardian analysis has established that $5.6m (£4.3m) has been donated to these US entities since 2008.
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute, Policy Exchange and the Legatum Institute have all received financial support from US backers via this route.
The disclosure leaves the thinktanks facing questions as to whether wealthy Americans have undue influence in British politics, particularly over the form Brexit takes.
The UK thinktanks are some of strongest proponents of radical free trade deals with reduced regulation – positions likely to benefit big American businesses, which have opposed Europe’s tighter regulations since the 2008 financial crash.
They have a policy of not disclosing their donors, arguing they respect their backers’ right to privacy unless the backers wish otherwise. Critics say the lack of transparency allows unseen donors to influence political debate.
The charitable status of the thinktanks requires them to remain non-partisan, and they all insist they have not taken a line as institutions on whether the UK should leave the EU.
However, they have published or contributed to policy papers that advocate a Brexit deal that makes a clean break from European regulations.
This really does sound like an ideal topic to explore on BBC Panorama, BBC Newsnight or BBC Radio 4 Today.
Now at Tescos in Shrewsbury. Please remember EU protectionist racket means inefficient EU growers preferred to other non EU Mediterranean growers,due to massive tariffs imposed by EU. This leads to you paying more for your products! No more after March 2019!
Given John Humphrys’s view that it’s “all getting a wee bit technical and I’m sure people are fed up to the back teeth of all this talk of stuff most of us don’t clearly understand” [ BBC Radio Four Today, 10 September 2018 at 2:12:20 in], why not substitute Duncan Smith for someone who can explain?
Reminder: BBC Sports commentators are meant to explain the game to viewers rather than just cheer on one side.
A “left-wing” think tank:
But these don’t rate a “left wing” warning:
Here’s the guest list breakdown:
“Other panelists” is presumably where the think tank guests go – so it is a shame Question Time hasn’t broken the pie chart down further for the segment of “left wing” think tanks. And there’s still no explanation as to how Farage is such a regular guest.
See also today’s BBC Brexit Coverage: Objective Truth, Relativism and Gaslighting.
Then yesterday John Humphrys prefaced a question about the type of Brexit Leavers want with the words that this is “all getting a wee bit technical and I’m sure people are fed up to the back teeth of all this talk of stuff most of us don’t clearly understand” (2’12” in).
All this (and you can no doubt think of more or better examples) is a symptom of a BBC bias – a preferences for reporting splits and divisions rather than detailed analysis of policy. This has nasty effects.
One is that, as Nick says, it creates a bias against understanding. The question: “what type of Brexit do you want?” is a vitally important one. The fact that one of the BBC’s best-paid journalists can dismiss it as “stuff most of us don’t clearly understand” is therefore an admission of colossal failure. Polls show that the public are wrong about many basic social facts. Our biggest broadcaster must surely take some responsibility for this.
Secondly, it generates a bias towards charlatans. Because the BBC doesn’t do policy detail, empty windbags who don’t have such policies get a free pass. Brexiters who don’t have a plan for leaving have gotten far more coverage and deference than they merit. This bias perhaps plays against the Tories as well as Labour. The fact that clowns like Johnson (the mere fact that journalists call him Boris in a way they don’t use first names for (say) Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn is itself revealing. ) get more coverage than the likes of Rory Stewart, Robert Halfon, David Willetts or Jesse Norman surely puts the Tory party into a much worse light among thinking people than it would get from a reputable broadcaster.
By the same token, MPs who cultivate links with journalists (and share their posh backgrounds?) get better coverage than those with, say, technocratic backgrounds or links to trades unions. I suspect that one reason why the BBC has been so bad at covering Corbyn (especially soon after his election as Labour leader) is that it has been blindsided by the fact that he has much more support outside Westminster than in.
An excellent initiative. And this is a good point for the BBC: