The Today programme suspends “balance”

 

      Today’s guest editor of the “Today”  programme produced a series of items where she required the interviewee to speak or sing or recite poetry as they wished to get their points across without the tedium of having to respond to a probing interview.  This might have been interesting if the items chosen had shown range and different viewpoints, or if normal journalism had required a right of reply or an alternative voice to follow the monologues. Instead we were treated to a series of  her prejudices.

          Government was given no right of reply for alleged torture in a past decade, nor was it cross examined to see if it were true and why it happened. No-one was asked to make the case for running the risk of some soldiers being badly injured because the national or international interest required military engagement and more lives could be saved - and I speak as one who has often opposed us using military force as often as we do.  No-one was brought on  to expressly make the case for the City of London and the tax revenues and jobs it brings after a piece knocking it. Instead the Business slot had to be taken over in a poor attempt to provide a little balance.

             I doubt if any Eurosceptic or free marketer will be offered  a Guest editorship to provide some balance to PJ Harvey. If they were I trust they would wish to observe the rules on balance, and would interview people who disagreed with them to explore their different position, and would submit themselves to independent interviewing by a professional journalist. This was a new low for the Today programme.

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39 Comments

  1. Antisthenes
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    When it comes to balance as we all know the BBC has a shocking record and this theme has been visited before by you and been thoroughly condemned by you and many of the contributors to your site including me most vehemently. One thing that struck me about this particular article of yours is the arrogance and patronising manner of so many BBC presenters, climate alarmists and the like. They treat us the general public as if we are uneducated ignorant children and so we should hang onto their every word and accept it as fact. That they know best and we should not even think to question them or deny them to act in any way they see fit on our behalf as they are doing so in our best interest.

  2. Tad Davison
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Go on all you BBC apologist ‘fantasists’ who just love to defend them – here’s your big chance!

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  3. GJ Wyatt
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    The BBC, as usual over the “holiday period”, suspends its regular offerings. It seems to hope for a new audience, if only temporarily. Don’t they realise how off-putting all this is to their regular listeners?

  4. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    No point in complaining to the BBC as they have a stock response to all complaints – basically, they note your comments but can find nothing wrong with their output. It is a dangerous self-serving propaganda machine.
    They’ll have a problem in containing their glee on the Today programme tomorrow reporting this story from the Telegraph website: ” The Conservative Party’s bill committing Britain to a referendum on European Union membership is “unlikely” to become law because of delays in the House of Lords, peers have warned.”

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted January 3, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      “No point in complaining to the BBC”

      Quite. There is a programme on Radio 4 where listeners can send in complaints and “confront” the programme makers with the help of an impartial host. I listen to it on my way home most weeks. Though the BBC drones put up to field the various complaints waffle on politely I have never, not on one single occasion, ever heard one of them agree that any part of the complaint being made is valid – the summary answer to every complaint is “You’re wrong”. This is the case even when people are making complaints that you would expect the BBC to be deeply sympathetic to, like “Why aren’t there more women on this or that programme …”. It is quite amusing really, week after week BBC Radio opens itself up to public scrutiny, examines itself, and finds itself perfect in all ways.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 3, 2014 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        Indeed and the complainants are actually nearly always right and the right on BBC totally wrong.

  5. alan jutson
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Suprised you are suprised John.

    It has been getting worse for years, just wait until the general election, and then the referendum should it ever happen, for further examples of real biased reporting.

    Problem is you are trying to stick to the Queensbury rules, when the others are using the tactics of street fighters.

    Your Party needs to wise up !

  6. Chris S
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    I heard a long segment of the Today programme this morning and was disgusted at what I heard, not only because of the complete absence of balance but because it was so boring.

    For me the low point was a turgid song about Soldiers who had lost limbs. It was one of the most appalling examples of bad taste that I have ever heard.

    Even for the BBC this programme was a new low. A spectacular misjudgement that even drew criticism from their own Political Editor !

    Of course it will crop up on Points Of View or whatever they call the programme but they will just trot out one of their many supercilious female producers who will lecture us all about diversity etc.

    As you say, John, we, the licence payers have to put up with this drivel and they won’t even give someone of our political persuasion a look in.
    Sky News may be better balanced and the BBC maybe hugely extravagant ( 108 people sent to SA for the recent funeral compared with just 8 sent by ITV, for example ).

    Despite all the things we complain about, the sad truth is that the BBC is still head and shoulders above every other broadcaster for both value for money of the licence fee and quality of output.

    That does not mean that drastic improvements need to be made.

    • Timaction
      Posted January 3, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      I disagree. The BBC is past repair or reform and needs to be broken up or sold off to the highest bidder. Let them compete in the market place and put out their propaganda to those who wish to pay a fee and not expect to tax me and others to listen to their drivel on pro immigration, climate change, multi-culty and their beloved EU.

  7. Bazman
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Nice to see Rab C. Nesbitt back, a.k.a Gregor Fisher back. That staunch Scottish conservative to close to the bone for most Scottish…LOL! Interesting to see how how he sees Scottish independence. No doubt we will find out.

  8. lifelogic
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/jamesdelingpole/100252488/choosing-julian-assange-to-read-thought-for-the-day-is-like-picking-bryan-adams-and-celine-dion-as-your-desert-island-discs/

    The problem with the BBC is that everyone on it has almost exactly the same view. This on the EU, on ever bigger government, on the BBC, on uncontrolled immigration and quack green energy, on subsidy for “the Arts”, trains, quack greenery ….. Not only that but these views are all completely wrong.

    I do not like her music much either. Delingpole is not very sound on music despite his sound politics. Though I did agreed with Pilger the 1Million? Iraqi civilian deaths and on Blair’s totally counter productive war on a lie.

    Rowan William – have we not had enough from this foolish man already?

  9. lifelogic
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Did they ever have any balance to suspend?

  10. zorro
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    John, it would be good to see a Eurosceptic guest editor and why not once in a while…..I am quite happy to listen to opinions, better than the usual faux balanced R4 tosh. Why not listen to John Pilger? He has interesting opinions…..What is wrong in challenging some of the accepted ‘facts’?….Nothing at all…Blair, Bush totally innocent of any responsibility for death and destruction in Iraq….Of course…. You voted …. for the war, and …. for an inquiry (quite rightly too)….. Khmer Rouge trained by SAS?…. They even called the Olympics for what it was…. We have enough approved BBC think, quite happy to listen to other opinions sometimes on different programmes and not always at the same time!

    zorro

  11. forthurst
    Posted January 2, 2014 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    I don’t listen to Today; I listened to a recording of the episode with Tim Berners-Lee up until the BBC’s ‘expert’ talking head demonstrated rather less than expert knowledge of the Internet of Things (IOT); in this exposition such obvious questions as why now, or how much, or how powered, etc were not addressed. The BBC has a comparatively small repertoire of ‘expert’ talking heads who clearly are asked to wander well outside their comfort zones. For anyone interested in the IOT, the ARM Holdings definition is:

    “The Internet of Things (IoT) is the collection of smart, sensor-enabled physical objects, and the networks, servers and services that interact with them.”

    Further details answering the other questions are on the ARM website. Note to the BBC: the nascent IOT technology requires someone with a Physical Science background much like Climate Science, not an economist, however distinguished, for an exposition.

    • oldtimer
      Posted January 3, 2014 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      If you were referring to Tim Berners-Lee as an economist, you may be surprised to learn that his Oxford degree was in physics, while working for CERN in Geneva. It was there that he created and implemented the http:// protocol that begat the world wide web.

      Thanks for the definition of the IoT, a term which is new to me though not the idea behind it.

      • oldtimer
        Posted January 3, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

        I see I have mangled my punctuation above. That should be a full stop after “physics”.

      • forthurst
        Posted January 3, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        “If you were referring to Tim Berners-Lee as an economist”

        no.

  12. R.T.G.
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Yes, it was unashamedly lacking in balance and somewhat to the left of left in parts, but I have to say (and I heard most of the programme) I found it rather refreshing, just for once, to hear nakedly partisan views without the faux balance and passive-aggressive authority which the BBC often bestows, having lazily chosen from its tame menagerie.

    If PJ Harvey took a few editors at the BBC and others out of their comfort zone, then good for her, because the BBC, with its continual fudging of certain subjects, masquerading as balance, has certainly taken me out of mine over the last few years.

  13. Posted January 3, 2014 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, thank you for pointing this out.

    I would suggest that you hold the BBC as a whole to account for this kind of bias. Whilst ensuring we know the programme responsible, I feel that confining criticism to the programme itself lets the corporation off the hook to some extent.

    The BBC has a knack of hiding behind individual programmes or employees when it should be taking corporate responsibility.

    To that end it would be great if you could write a letter to the Director General of the BBC about this incident and publish the correspondence. I know you are busy but this may help the cause somewhat. You may wish to suggest that the injured parties in this case are given a right of reply. The main injured party is the population of the UK, of course: that’s a lot of people so I think a public apology by the BBC is in order.

    NB I wouldn’t bother using the BBC complaints system. I have given up on this as all I usually receive is a bland copy + paste response.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 3, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Have you ever looked and complained about the bias of any other News channels or sourced such as SKY or the internet? It is not enough to put forward the red herring of compulsory licence fees by the BBC as many are happy to pay it. SKY is paid for by advertising and subscriptions which is in no way as voluntary as you would have us believe in your right wing crusade, for this is what it is. Your link to the Bias BBC website is no way impartial and is funded and influenced by an extreme right wing agenda which you fail to mention in your one subject rants.
      Ram it.

      • lojolondon
        Posted January 3, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Baz, every publication and broadcaster has bias – we buy a newspaper and understand the editor’s position on most subjects before reading it – so Guardian readers and Telegraph readers all know what to expect.
        The output of the Biased BBC is extremely one sided – more than socialist and very close to Communist. This is unacceptable because :
        1. The charter that formed the BBC specifically states that even-handed output is expected of the BBC.
        2. We all pay for the BBC through the ‘broadcast tax’, which is compulsory, and enforced by law. I can only imagine the whining from the Bazman household if you were forced to purchase Sky TV by an act of parliament and the ‘licence fee’ (tax) was legally enforced with fines of £1,000 or 6 months in jail.

        • Bazman
          Posted January 3, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          It your paranoid opinion the the BBC is communist, many believe it is right wing. The political classes have squabbled for years about the BBC’s bias, but ironically missed the most obvious bias of all – a bias toward political parties and the wider Westminster bubble and the more obvious question is since when were the Telegraph and the Guardian been the definition of right and left wing? The BBC strives to be in the middle of things, and the middle is the most miserable place to be in the intensely polarised world of modern politics because everybody thinks you’re wrong. The left think you’re too right wing and the right think you’re too left wing. Then, of course, there are the issues where taking the middle route is just plain wrong – like with their handling of climate change, which shouldn’t be based on a question of opinion, but clear science.
          I’m not against a broadcaster tax as you presume. It is you who is as it is not right wing enough for you one presumes. You think TV would somehow be improved for the watcher by abolishing the TV licence and creating another SKY. It would not and as you do not watch TV do not care about this but only your right wing dogma. Ram it.

  14. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    How many of you on the Conservative back benches are willing to bring a “Mend it or end it” motion from the floor of the House? We have had complaints of this nature so often that there is a danger people will think you’re crying wolf.

  15. Cheshire Girl
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    It’s all about ‘celebrity’ today ( and the Government is as guilty as the rest of them) . No wonder this country is in such a muddle! The average person is thought to know nothing. I don’t see things getting any better either. Some of these celebrities are terrible role models for our young people, but their thoughts and ideas are widely respected by those in power who should know better!

    • Bazman
      Posted January 3, 2014 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      If a celebrity is respected by those in power they are a terrible role model for sure. Was Shaun Ryder ever a role model for anything other than degradation? Made more infamous in Tony Wilson’s 24 Hour Party People (2002)
      The youth of today should look towards the likes of Tony Wilson. Record label owner, radio and television presenter, nightclub manager, impresario and journalist for Granada Television and the BBC. The only 50 year old bloke in a suit the kids thought was cool. “I’m a minor player in my own life story”
      “The smaller the attendance the bigger the history. There were 12 people at the last supper. Half a dozen at Kitty Hawk. Archimedes was on his own in the bath.” being a couple of his many quotes. All passed you by despite living in Cheshire what does that tell you?

  16. Roy Grainger
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    The claim by P.J.Harvey was that this approach allowed voices which are not normally heard to have a platform – somewhat undercut by the appearance of the absurd Julian Assange who we have heard from ad nauseam for years. I ascribe this sort of programme (Russell Brand on Newsnight was another example) to a mid-life crisis amongst the BBC’s leftie editors who want to align themselves with the nation’s yoof.

  17. Narrow shoulders
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    I do not know what exactly was being aimed for with the programme today but after listening for 15 minutes (Including the John Lewis report) I reached for the off switch as it was not informative in any way (excepting the John Lewis bit).

  18. optomist
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    On the BBC 24 hour news one of the female presenters (Charlie Gracie) was interviewing the spokes lady for the energy companies about the huge salaries and bonuses that the top bosses are paid.
    While I am not in agreement with these myself; I found the BBCs presenter’s manner and tone in lieu of the BBC”s own record on this topic absolutely hypocritical.

    She herself is paid a salary and no doubt bonuses that the ordinary man in the street could only dream of.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 3, 2014 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      She herself is paid a salary and no doubt bonuses that the ordinary man in the street could only dream of.

      Yes but the BBC isn’t increasing the license fee by 18% or more every year.

  19. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Yes John , but having been a scholar at both Cambridge and Oxford you must accept that the cannons are predisposed in taste ,selection and content to what perpetuates those institutions and ideals.In academia the quotes and works are not acceptable to the dons unless they derive from a source which has been implicitly agreed upon. What is the difference?

  20. backofanenvelope
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I thought the best response was that of some Tory MP. He thanked the BBC for producing a brilliant parody of the Today programme. They don’t like it when you laugh at them.

  21. richard
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    As your and our greatest chief once wrote to President Regan during the miners strike “..moderation and commonsense..are Britain’s traditional sources of strength.” Infuriating as it was meant to be, in that permanent adolescent tone the BBC mistake for radical thinking, the people I know who listened to Ms Harvey’s Today were heartily amused by its pretension and mediocrity. Surely, it was more of an expose of idiocy than a serious attempt at leftist subversion; perhaps they meant it as satire.

    From the same source as the quote above (The Thatcher Foundation Website 1984 Release), I hugely enjoyed your acute, concise, and rather deadly memo’s to Lady Thatcher which show very clearly just how much was at stake in 1984.

  22. Neil Craig
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    The BBC is a wholly corrupt totalitarian propagandist. Since the 28 gate climate fraud was proven it is now impossible for anybody to honestly deny that.

    While it is true that they have a bias against our military actions it is not a blanket bias. It is permissible to be rude about relatively minor infractions like Abu Graib & the actions of squaddies but the BBC entirely censors mention of the war crimes, massacres, ethnic cleansing, sexual enslavement of children and dissection of thousands of living people (as attested even by the Council of Europe) carried out by our police in Kosovo under the direct command authority of NATO & the British government.

    BBC bias is in no way whatsoever in support of humanitarianism (or it might be defensible) – it is purely done to promote ever more big state parasitism.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 3, 2014 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

      The BBC is a wholly corrupt totalitarian propagandist. Since the 28 gate climate fraud was proven it is now impossible for anybody to honestly deny that.

      Care to explain how asking respected scientists about the scientific evidence on climate change is fraud. Could it be because the evidence didn’t support your ideology?

      the BBC entirely censors mention of the war crimes, massacres, ethnic cleansing, sexual enslavement of children and dissection of thousands of living people (as attested even by the Council of Europe) carried out by our police in Kosovo under the direct command authority of NATO & the British government.

      Care to explain how you know about this, and why you haven’t told Interpol or the ICC about it?

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Very few were scientists, let alone respected ones look at the list the BBC refused to release (as great legal expense cost to the licence fee payers) only to find it go out anyway.

  23. Martin
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    You will doubtless be delighted (not) to hear that BBC Scotland’s lead story last night was a SLAB inspired survey to put up the council tax.

    The biggest section (SLAB) of the NO campaign in Scotland are advocating higher taxes! (Repeating a lost election tactic).

  24. The PrangWizard
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that the Left are so sure they have got BBC News and Current affairs fully in their grip, and are confident of senior management compliance, that they can indulge themselves and push on with more extreme propaganda, bias and distortion than hitherto, such as we have just witnessed in the PJ Harvey ‘Today’ programme.

    The BBC must be stopped.

    Do you see any signs of corruption at the BBC yet, Mr Redwood?

  25. Richard1
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I did not hear the programme, but it sounds a pathetic disgrace. The BBC does not observe the balance required by its charter, albeit in a surreptitious way – eg by turning programmes over to leftists like this. With broadcast technology now offering the choice and scope for specialization which it does, there is no justification for continuing the license fee beyond 2016. The BBC should move to a subscription model. It should also be subject to competition rules. As long as the BBC enjoys the ability to fund itself with a poll tax it can thumb its nose to the public and pursue its own pet hobby horses.

    As you say its very unlikely that we will get a guest editorship by a free market economist, a eurosceptic,or most unthinkable of all, a global warming sceptic.

  26. uanime5
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    No-one was brought on to expressly make the case for the City of London and the tax revenues and jobs it brings after a piece knocking it.

    Well given the recent financial crisis caused by the banking sector it’s no surprise that nobody want wanted to defend them. Also many of their jobs, such as a trader, are being automated so the City isn’t employing as many people as it used to.

    While the City does produce tax revenues and 2% of GDP it also requires a lot of legal and financial support from the government. It’s possible that if this support was given to other sectors, such as manufacturing, the result would be even more tax revenues and jobs for the UK (especially if these sectors were based throughout the UK, rather than concentrated in one area). So these tax revenues are not proof that the City is the best use of money.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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