One of the few traditional Conservatives to have served on the Tory front bench under Cameron, Paterson was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland before being promoted to the more high profile role of Secretary of State for Defra.

Candidate of the day

Owen Paterson

One day to go and Sir John Major has weighed in. “Labour divides to rule. To win votes they will turn rich against poor; north against south; worker against boss." We hope we don't wake up with them on Friday.

Hero of the day

Sir John Major

Another awful Labour woman. The fact Ed Miliband’s carved his pledges in stone doesn't mean he might not break them, campaign chief Lucy Powell has said.

Villain of the day

Lucy Powell

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THE REAL CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO

Back marriage. Restore grammar schools. Leave the EU.

Kathy  Gyngell: In the BBC’s Alice in Wonderland world, criticism by MPs compromises its impartiality

Biased Today, biased yesterday and biased tomorrow,  the BBC  has much to answer for over its uncritical and inadequate EU coverage.

More than any other news outlet the BBC shapes and moulds public opinion. Over the years, it has inspired an unwarranted public confidence in the EU. It has been responsible for conveying a sense of the inevitability and necessity of British membership

Had it not so determinedly stuck to its view that the EU was 'a good thing’,  a fact of life that anyone in their right mind should accept,  Britain might not be in the mess it’s in today.  We might not have uncontrolled immigration; we might be able to deport who we want when we want; and we might still have a vibrant fishing industry. That’s just three of the many areas over which we have lost national authority at great cost.

The  House of Commons all-party EU Scrutiny Committee’s report, published yesterday, which accuses  the BBC of 'falling down severely' in its obligation to provide impartial coverage of the EU, raises these questions.

Its findings confirm what many of us have been arguing for years - that BBC coverage of EU matters is deplorable, that it has a 'concerning' pro-EU bias, and that Eurosceptics have been given inadequate airtime.  Specifically the MPs criticise Lord Hall for failing in his role as the BBC's editor-in chief .

All this rings a profound bell with me, just as does the arrogance of the BBC’s response.  The crux of it is that the BBC cannot be criticised because (in their perverse world) any criticism by MPs (however valid it may be) constitutes a breach of the Corporation’s independence. It can’t be seen to follow MPs criticism - no, not even if it is right.

I wonder which Propaganda (sorry Press) Officer there dreamed this excuse up as he pondered the embargoed document before publication? I know that nothing should surprise me but I am amazed that Lord Hall signed off such a response for release. Perhaps for this particular editor-in-chief,  intent and belief are adequate substitutes for whatever is actually broadcast.  During his appearance before the Committee, his claim that the desire for balanced output "ran deep" within the BBC and that he believed that this was being achieved now, sounded like weasel words.  It isn’t being achieved.

This is far from the first time that the BBC has stonewalled criticism about its EU coverage.  I have in my files copies of an ongoing correspondence with Helen Boaden, the then Controller of Radio Four, back in the early 2000s. Like today’s BBC spokesperson, her response that the Corporation provided extensive and impartial coverage of European and Parliamentary issues was (or should be, she thought) sufficient unto the day.

Boaden refused to consider the consistently logged, timed, comprehensive transcript evidence and analysis,  that we (Minotaur Media Tracking) sent her, as evidence.  In her thinking no external monitoring of BBC output could or would ever constitute evidence - however objective or impartial - because the BBC editorial process meant that the BBC was always impartial - and therefore above criticism. It’s surprising to find she has a degree in English literature;  the concept of tautology could not have featured in her studies.

Despite Lord Wilson’s subsequent critical report, despite the cumulative log of evidence of BBC bias by News-watch, despite the fact that this is far from the first time that the BBC has been called to account, the BBC never wavers in it pre-programmed ‘Boaden’-style response. It refuses to harbour any self doubt - not a smidgeon.

Lord Hall has taken a leaf out of Ms Boaden’s book. “As Lord Hall told the committee, we are and will be impartial in all matters concerning our coverage,” the BBC spokesman said.

James Harding, the BBC’s Director of News and `Current Affairs, was not backward in going on the offensive either. His 'Aunt Sally' was that if the public was going to trust the BBC to report on politicians impartially it had to be clear that BBC journalists weren't "asked by politicians to come and account for what they do and in effect do the bidding of those politicians”.

True to form the Today programme thought there was nothing to defend either.

In its own inimitable way yesterday morning’s edition of Today devoted 8 minutes to a Mark Knopfler record plug but nothing to the EU Scutiny Committee’s report that just happened to criticise the BBC on a subject of fundamental importance to every British citizen!

Kathy Gyngell

  • Ziquep

    I think part of the problem is that they themselves know they are liberal cosmopolites (I recall Andrew Marr and other luminaries admitting this a few years ago) and are perfectly happy with this. As though any other point of view is by definition an aberration. It seems strange and inconsistent to me that they can be like this and at the same time bang on about the importance of being representative of the communities they serve.

    • Stuck-Record

      I can’t remember who said it, and I paraphrase, but the saying goes: No man can be reasoned out of a belief system that keeps him a good salary.

      The BBC has £4,000,000,000 reasons.

      • Brightside Bob

        To all who pay their licence fee by direct debit, I would (strongly) suggest you cancel it. I ‘don’t do’ tw1tter or farcebook, etc; so I am limited to suggestions on blogs (thank you Conservative Woman).
        I suspect that some people will respond by saying that I am promoting criminal behaviour. Rubbish. It is a criminal offence to not have a licence if you watch live broadcasts. It is not an offence to merely have the equipment to do so.
        If people chose to watch without a licence, that’s non of my business.

      • Drewdoug

        “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
        ― Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked

  • ablanche

    After yesterdays illiterate, and frankly rather weird, statement about the Clarkson food-fight I fear Lord Hall is shaping up to be an even worse DG than Patten (he even looks like he knows he is out of his depth) and soon we will be looking back fondly to the golden days of Mark Thompson’s profligate politically correct imperium. If you like tautology: the best of an egregious bunch.

    The problem is not just the self-righteous group-think but the poisonous effects of having a bloated, sclerotic (and increasingly nepotist) bureaucracy. The payment to such people of such vast sums in a public service is the very essence of a corrupt and corrupting system. Can anyone tell me what precisely James Purnell the “Director of Strategy” does for his stupendous salary?

    What is noticeable is that they don’t make great programmes any longer. Wolf Hall, upon which Lord Hall seems to have bet the ranch, was OK but apart from some rather mannered and startling performances nothing special; and when was the last time they produced something that had a genuinely wide cultural impact like HBO does (with a smaller budget in real terms)?

    • A quick clarification if I may offer.

      Lord Hall is DG. Lord Patten was Chair of the BBC Trust. His role was subsequently taken over my Rona Fairhead, who is still finding her feet, if some may already have ideas as to their location.

      The Trust in theory overseas the BBC management, including Lord Hall, on behalf of the licence fee payer. In practice it has, does and will never do any such thing.

      Both management and Trust have not fared well in performance assessments by actual independent inquiries, as opposed to those the BBC routinely conducts in-house and in secret, before issuing bland, patronising statements via nameless spokesmen or women.

      Despite this, all these individuals, and other senior staff from corporation and Trust, have not been shy in telling anyone seeking to hold the BBC to account, to ‘back off, or else’.

      This now includes elected representatives we the public can and have install or remove every few years if they fail in performance of their duties.

      The BBC is, or appears to be, a law higher than this now. Hardly healthy with £4,000,000,000 annual ways to steer national policy any sweet way it desires.

  • Oliver J.S McMullen

    Bloated Bureaucratic Complacent – the corporation is a huge, privileged semi-commercial enterprise with a guaranteed income and thus is insulated from accountability. Change the funding model, reduce its size, and destroy its broadcast news monopoly and then we might actually get the public service broadcaster the Licence fee supposedly pays for.

    The EU is a socialist statist enterprise – and the BBC sees in this both a kindred spirit and a source of patronage – I believe they receive funding from the EU. It cannot be “impartial” on this issue.

    The BBC’s independence is mythical – the government mandates the Licence Fee, oversees the Charter renewal process, and the board of trustees and the DG himself are political appointees. If the Corporation wanted genuine independence it would move to a subscription model or some hybrid variation thereof. It needs to operate in a more focussed way and to produce higher quality programming on a narrower front. In short it should be made to live within much reduced means.

  • Vera

    The BBC receives many millions of euros of funding from the EU – of course, no dosh without strings. Why is this not thought to be corrupt? It seems pretty corrupt to me.

    • Interested Watcher

      The whole point of the licence fee is to retain independence; not being influenced by government / business considerations which could be the case if taxation / corporate structures were involved. As you say, why does the BBC accept EU money? Why is this not more widely understood? Who,pays the piper calls the tune.

      • TJB

        Well we know that in every other area where EU money is involved there are strings attached. If you want to keep receiving an EU pension then you must be forever uncritical of it.

  • TJB

    In the words of Guido Fawkes yesterday when presented with the Beeb’s statement of being a broad church encompassing all views, “No one believes that.”

    On a side note, Sir Bill Cash is outstanding in driving scrutiny of the EU and his speeches in the House are always full of detail that put the ministers at the dispatch box on the back foot as they try and explain why yet another EU rule is being gold-plated by our civil servants and government. I hope he goes on for very many more years, although should he not I have a feeling Jacob Rees-Mogg would make a fine replacement.

  • Mez

    It needs to be privatised, and would go towards paying off the national debt. their reporting is no more impartial than ITV. BBC news is like an arm of social services, and so biased as almost a joke were it not so depressing. Why should people be paying for the priviledge.

  • amac

    The BBC is well on the way to becoming a cult. It is self serving and self agrandizing. It is inherently biased and now doesn’t bother to hide it, believing denial is enough.
    We have lived through institutional failure in the police, the press and politicians in the last few years. All have had procedures thrust upon them to try to make them behave better, the BBC despite regular empirical criticism seems immune to such measures. Only parliament has the power to hold it to account and if Labour lose the day of reckoning may come , the BBC has managed to alienate Tory, SNP, UKIP and Lib Dem to varying degrees.

  • Me

    Oh dear Kathy, do keep up! The BBC Today program covered the EU Scutiny Committee’s report yesterday !
    As for the ‘vibrant fishing industry’ we might have had no fishing industry at all if there hadn’t been some restrictions put in place.
    These are people who would have taken every fish they possibly could in pursuit of short term gain rather than long term conservation. They sold their fishing quotas to foreign vessels, and then complained when those who bought them had the temerity to exercise the rights they had paid for!
    I’m not pro EU by any means but even in such a train wreck of an organisation, not everything it does is bad no matter what certain people might have you believe!

  • franknowzad

    Worst of all the BBC is Olympically thick. Despite the torrent of taxpayer money they can’t come close to competing on quality with Netflix etc. Their senior management team, despite their telephone number salaries, can’t keep from shooting themselves in the foot.
    Privatise the Ministry of Truth- I’d give them 6 months.

  • MrVeryAngry

    We need a bit of mass disobedience by not paying the telly tax.

  • Grumpy

    Likewise Global Warming (aka Climate Change), immigration, Islamic fundamentalism, child sexual abusers, “diversity”, homosexual marriage, bogus food banks, politically motivated charities and Quangos.

  • Brightside Bob

    Thank you!!! As Kathy herself has experienced, their arrogance is impenetrable. I fear that the ONLY way to force change at the BBC is to ‘starve the beast’.