BBC = Bin And Bypass Complaints

So Piss Off!

Robert Fisk wrote last week in the Independent of how an unnamed friend of his, “a Very Senior Correspondent of the BBC”, responded to a recent challenge. Fisk could no longer recall whether it “was about the BBC’s grovelling coverage of Israel or its refusal to show a film seeking help for wounded Palestinian children after the 2008-09 Gaza slaughter (on the grounds that this would damage the BBC’s ‘neutrality’)”. But the BBC correspondent was blandly dismissive:

“I recognise this is an issue.”

Fisk skillfully unpacked the meaning of this “very revealing” BBC reply:

Of course, what he should have said was: I know this is a problem. But he couldn’t. Because BBC-speak doesn’t allow words like problems — because problems have to be solved. And the BBC doesn’t solve problems. Because they do not exist. There are only ‘issues’. And issues only have to be ‘recognised’. Thus what my friend really meant was: ‘I know exactly what you’re talking about but I haven’t the slightest intention of admitting it, so piss off.’1

This has also been the experience of many of our readers who complain to BBC editors and journalists about endless examples of bias, distortion and omission in BBC news. All too often, Kafkaesque responses are generated by the clanking pistons, turbines and pumps of the BBC complaints machinery.

Here is a typical example, following a complaint about BBC coverage of the Israeli attack on the Gaza peace flotilla from one of our most careful and astute correspondents:

Thank you for your e-mail.

I understand that you believe the BBC in general is biased in it’s [sic] reporting on the Middle East situation towards the Israeli perspective.

I can assure you that we are committed to covering events in the Middle East in a scrupulously impartial, fair, accurate, balanced, independent manner. The aim of our news reports is to provide the information across our programming in order to enable viewers and listeners to make up their own minds; to show the reality of a situation and provide the forum for debate, giving full opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard. We are satisfied that this has been the case in respect of our reporting of the Middle East, Nevertheless, I recognise you may continue to hold a different opinion about the BBC’s impartiality.

Please be assured that I’ve registered your obvious strong feelings about our coverage on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

Thank you once again for taking the trouble to share your views with us.2

This is entirely standard and is the BBC’s idea of a serious reply to a serious complaint. Tellingly, such responses do not include the text of the original email, making it difficult for members of the public to check how well, if at all, their complaint has been addressed. Typically, these identikit responses contain unsupported, bold assertions affirming that “scrupulously impartial” BBC news reports “show the reality of a situation” with “all viewpoints” being heard. No evidence is offered — the BBC knows best! But as the complainant asked when he wrote back:

What criteria do you use to decide that you have been able ‘to show the reality of a situation and provide the forum for debate, giving full opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard’ when you judge yourselves in your own cause?3

As far as we know, the BBC has not responded to this question. Perhaps because it is incapable of doing so.

Helen’s Chocka Diary

Readers may also be aware that the BBC uses a cumbersome web form for complaints which does not allow a copy of the submitted text to be sent to the person making the submission. And, shamefully, there is not even a direct email address for members of the public to use. As one of our readers observes in a complaint to the BBC:

“Surely the BBC can manage to formulate a system that quotes the original complaint when issuing a response, and records when the complaint was sent in so the recipient can tell how long it took to respond?”4

In 2006, BBC news editor, Helen Boaden, described how she deflects public criticism sent to her by email. Francis Elliott explained in the Independent:

Don’t bother emailing complaints to BBC head of news, Helen Boaden. She was at the launch evening for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford last Monday night. Discussion turned to protest groups and lobbying outfits which email their views to senior editors. Boaden’s response: ‘Oh, I just changed my email address.’ So much for the Beeb being accountable.5

In January 2010, we invited Boaden to participate in an interview about BBC News to be made publicly available via our website at www.medialens.org. We proposed sending a few brief questions via email. “Would you be willing to participate?”, we asked her. We received a response from Boaden’s assistant asking:

“Could you give me an idea of the sort of questions you are thinking of and when you might want to do it?”

We replied saying that the questions would deal largely with BBC news reporting from the Middle East and Afghanistan; for example, coverage of the death toll in Iraq. We then sent a number of questions (archived in our forum here). A few days later, the assistant wrote again:

“I’ve now had a chance to talk to Helen and I don’t think this is going to be one we can help with. Helen doesn’t do interviews that often — mostly because her diary is always chocka.”6

A simultaneous approach made to Sir Michael Lyons, chair of the BBC Trust, which supposedly ensures that the BBC acts in the public interest, was again answered by his personal assistant:

Having given your request careful consideration, Sir Michael has decided to decline your offer. The Trust’s on-going work programme includes a number of strands focussing on BBC news output, and as Sir Michael has previously said, there will be an opportunity for you to contribute to this in the future should you wish. Additionally, given the fact that some of this work is already on-going, he does not feel it would be appropriate to engage in any correspondence at this time which would cut across or be seen to pre-judge the outcome of this work. I am sorry to disappoint you.7

Lyons had previously declined to debate with us after he had been sent a copy of our latest book, Newspeak, and asked for his response to our arguments about BBC News. He told us:

“I do not think that I can fruitfully enter into a dialogue about my reactions [to the book].”8

In the absence of overwhelming grassroots pressure, the public will continue to be disappointed by BBC news performance, and will continue to be fobbed off by robotic insults to the intelligence of people who care enough to complain.

  1. Fisk, ‘Newspeak: why the BBC has an “issue” with problems’, , July 3, 2010. []
  2. Email from BBC complaints, July 3, 2010. []
  3. Keith Crosby, email to the BBC, July 3, 2010. []
  4. Keith Granger, email to the BBC, June 30, 2010. []
  5. Elliott, ‘Media Diary – Helen the hidden’, The Independent, November 26, 2006. []
  6. Email, January 11, 2010. []
  7. January 13, 2010. []
  8. Media Lens media alert, ‘The Silence of the BBC 100’, December 4, 2009. []
Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The most recent Media Lens book, Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2018 by Pluto Press. Read other articles by Media Lens, or visit Media Lens's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Mulga Mumblebrain said on July 9th, 2010 at 9:04am #

    Listening to the ZBC is a master-class in Rightwing agit-ptop. Every story is a little nugget of propagandising and all the recurrent memes of the Western elite, eg that the West is basically ‘moral’, that it defends ‘human rights’,that the latest state enemy is the epitome of evil and must,it is inferred, be brought to heel by the Western paragons of virtue etc,are there on hideous display.Just this morning, in passing at work,I caught a vicious hate rant, directed at Iran (of course!) with the usual evidenceless diatribe painting Iran as a society of utter iniquity, delivered by a plum-voiced woman who,for reasons I missed but no doubt to protect her Zionist background, remained anonymous. I mean, can ‘journalistic’ standards fall any lower than the active complicity in creating an atmosphere of extreme hatred clearly intended to get Western publics ‘on-side’ with a new and probably genocidal aggression against yet another Islamic target-state ,long an intended future victim of ‘The Zionist Plan for the Middle East’. They hanged Streicher for his complicity in the ‘supreme crime’ of aggression based on his demented hatemongering, and I, for one, see no difference between him and these ZBC grandees other than the current hatemongers’ pathological arrogance and effrontery in portraying themselves as belonging to a ‘free press’.

  2. mary said on July 9th, 2010 at 11:29am #

    Correct Mulga. I heard it too on BBC Radio 4’s flagship progamme Today.
    This is the piece. ZBC even give it a separate link.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8803000/8803392.stm

    0722
    Iran retreated in the face of rising international criticism yesterday and announced that a woman convicted of alleged adultery would be spared execution by stoning. An Iranian journalist who wishes to remain anonymous discusses the plight of 43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

    ::::::
    We were told that the unfortunate woman was not going to be stoned to death but probably hung by hoisting instead, plus other black stuff from an anonymous Iranian ex-pat female from Oxford. There was more and it should be unrepeatable, but not for the ZBC. A bombardment must be due this autumn. It is exactly the same spewing that preceded the war ON Iraq.

    The Zionists and H. Clinton are aching to ‘obliterate’ Iran as H. Clinton once said. If it is not items like this on the BBC, it is their reporter Jon Leyne who is in London from where he spews out the filthy propaganda.

  3. Mulga Mumblebrain said on July 10th, 2010 at 2:01am #

    Yes,indeed, mary, the propaganda against Iran is mounting to yet another hysterical fever pitch of hatred and bile. The Zionists are the masters of hatred and antipathy,no doubt about it. I still suspect that this woman,as you point out presented as an Iranian,might be no such thing.Even if so,it’s the typical Rightwing propaganda ploy of representing one, disgruntled, member of an emigre community, as the authentic voice of Iranian ‘resistance’or some such propagandistic concoction. It’s easy to play the game in reverse-she’s probably the daughter of some corrupt SAVAK torturer from the time of the psychotic fascist despot the so-called Shah, such a loyal ally of Israel and the US. Her family probably lost a fortune when the Islamic Revolution occurred and she lives in comfortable exile in the UK and Los Angeles,plotting the day when she can return to seize the family’s assets back from the peasants who stole it.
    I notice that the death of Fadlallah, a really great man, has enabled the Zionazis to do a bit of hatemongering,purging of deviant thought and yanking on their political stooges’ collars. How quickly Hague barked to orders! What a poltroon! I tried commenting on Melanie Phillips hate-fest at ‘The Spectator’, but it’s ‘true believers’ in Judaic supremacy only welcome there. However the diatribes, replete with lies and vicious hatred are truly chilling. The Ziopsychos would love nothing more than a chance for another Holy Massacre, so that the Iranians (claimed by some Judaic zealots to be, as Persians, the Amalek, whose annihilation Yahweh has ordered)could join the Afghans, Iraqis, Gazans, Lebanese, Midianites, Moabites, Jebusites and the first born in Egypt as sacrifices to their bloodthirsty God.

  4. mary said on July 10th, 2010 at 3:17am #

    You are good Mulga. I like your way of spitting out the truth. Thank goodness for Dissident Voice and the Editors. You would definitely not be wanted on board the Spectator of course. Their strange sounding editor Fraser Nelson with his exaggerated Scottish accent is always on the ZBC giving his ‘opinions’. I see their webpage is advertising Moloch’s Times, now thankfully behind a paywall.

    Ref the UK Ambassador to the Lebanon. She has now rowed back from her original tribute to Fadlallah under instruction from:

    William Hague Foreign Secretary Conservative Friend of Israel aet 15
    Alistair Burt Minister for Middle East ” ” ” “l
    Sir Daniel Bethlehem Legal advisor FOC, sometime legal advisor to Sharon

    http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/roller/guy/entry/the_problems_of_diplomatic_blogging

    Sign this Ambassador or else……

    PS Fraser Nelson’s previous –

    Journalism career (Wikipedia)
    Nelson was previously political editor of The Scotsman and a business reporter with The Times.

    In addition to his role as editor of The Spectator, Nelson is also a political columnist for the News of the World and a board director with the Centre for Policy Studies think tank. Having been political editor of The Spectator, he took over from Matthew d’Ancona as editor of the magazine in August 2009. He was named Political Columnist of the Year in the 2009 Comment Awards
    ~~~~

    These types do the rounds, eg Andrew Neil, another right wing stooge, was a Murdoch editor (Sunday Times) for 11 years and apart from his cosy current embedding in the BBC, once owned the Spectator.

  5. Rehmat said on July 10th, 2010 at 9:03am #

    The BBC is infested with ‘Islamophobe’ Jew and Christian writers and the BBC controlled by pro-Israel management. Therefore, instead of wasting my time arguing with these hardcore Zionist-poodles – I would recommend that they MUST read Dr. Arnold A. Hutchnecker’s study published on October 25, 1972. Dr. Arnold Hutchnecker’s patients included US President Richard Nixon (d. 1974). The study was published under the title, Mental Illness: The Jewish Discease and concluded that “although all Jews are not not metally ill, mental illness is highly contagious and Jews are the principal sources of infection”.

    http://rehmat2.wordpress.com/2010/07/08/study-is-mental-illness-a-jewish-disease/

  6. Smiddy said on July 10th, 2010 at 7:03pm #

    With all the BBC propaganda nonsense that gets rammed down our throat every time Isael commits a war crime… you’d think the public would wise up and stop paying their license fee in protest……. maybe it’s time someone started such a campaign…

  7. mary said on July 11th, 2010 at 4:23am #

    The Zionist influence starts right at the top of the BBC, the Director General Mark Thompson. You will remember his action in banning the Disaster Emergencies Appeal for Gaza after Cast Lead. He should resign and take his many followers with him.

    Here he is with his friends Young and Zabludowich…. What a very nasty group he was involved with and still might be for all we know.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1293708/The-BBC-s-DG-man-400m-divorce–strange-incident-Drones-restaurant.html#ixzz0tMOPDsUW

  8. Mulga Mumblebrain said on July 12th, 2010 at 4:57am #

    Rehmat,old boy-I think that you have been had.While I agree that Zionists are,in the vast majority, nasty types, and that Zionism is Judaic fascism, the psychiatrist suicide stories seem plainly to be spoofs, or in the second case,that of Barack’s alleged shrink, rank concoctions possibly created by Zionasties to ridicule and slander opposition to Zionism. The Hutchnecker stuff looks iffy, too.