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David Keighley: BBC grovels over immigration. But hatchet job on Andrew Green shows nothing has changed


Over the course of last week the BBC revealed yet again its true colours on immigration.

Earlier this year in a blaze of engineered publicity fronted by political editor Nick Robinson, the Corporation claimed it had seen the light, mended its ways, and henceforward would no longer treat those who opposed uncontrolled entry as if they were racist thugs.

That’s the PR line:  In reality, events this week show, they continue to burst every sinew in the body corporate to demonstrate that the biggest influx into the UK in history, despite what millions of voters think, is beneficial.

Further, there’s massive ‘bias by omission’, that is, they do everything in their power to suppress, under-report or undermine research to the contrary.

The latest round in their propaganda campaign came last week.  A report by Christian Dustmann, an academic who in 2003 predicted in a report for the Home Office that immigration from Eastern Europe would be no more than 13,000 a year – the figure was actually 200,000 – was given wall-to-wall headline treatment.

The reason?  His analysis claimed glossily that immigration from the European Union was not a drain on the public purse and indeed that the contribution to the economy was definitively positive.

In fact, memories are short. This was an action replay of a report by the same team at University College London in November 2013 which said more or less exactly the same thing.  Back then too, the report was treated with reverence and given wall-to-wall exposure.

Sir Andrew Green, the head of Migration Watch UK, was so concerned about misleading impression given by the statistics that he ordered a special rebuttal report.  It showed conclusively that Dustmann’s methodology was both woefully inadequate and at a very naive level did not look at the acute pressures on infrastructure that immigration caused.

How did the BBC treat this important report? They totally ignored it.

The same fate met an equally authoritative report for the think-tank Civitas by Cambridge economist Bob Rowthorn.

Sir Andrew, who shortly takes up a crossbench seat in the House of Lords for his contribution to the immigration debate, was not surprised by the bias by omission. . He had noted here on the Conservative Home website that BBC political editor Nick Robinson’s much-trumpeted programme The Truth About Immigration – in which he accepted that the BBC had not reported the subject properly – was in fact an exercise in BBC window-dressing. He stated:

“There are only two conclusions to be drawn from the outcome of this much-trumpeted programme.  Either there is extensive ignorance within the BBC about the basic parameters of the problem, or there was a deliberate decision that any such programme must trot out the usual “positive” genuflections towards immigration, with no suggestion of limits.  Either answer, or even a combination of the two, weakens the authority and, crucially, the credibility of the BBC.”

So what happened last week must be viewed in that context. Dustmann’s methodology has been totally discredited by Migration Watch UK, but despite that, with Pavlovian relish, the BBC automatically still treats the findings with reverence.

Sir Andrew was asked on a number of outlets to comment, and he did so, trenchantly. He can no longer be ignored, much as the BBC would prefer. But the overall impact of the reporting – by the level of the prominence given in reports such as this – was without doubt to bolster the credibility of Dustmann and to cast serious doubts about those who oppose mass immigration.  Here, of course, the target is mainly UKIP.

Because of Sir Andrew’s elevation to the House of Lords, the BBC was forced last week to broadcast a profile of him.

Reporter Jo Fidgen went through the motions of speaking to friends and colleagues of Sir Andrew in an effort to project the semblance of ‘balance’.  But pride of place was given in the programme to barbs that his attitudes were unhinged and deeply worrying.  Fidgen chose as one of these commentators that arch-purveyor master of acidic left-wing vitriol, Peter Hain, on the flimsy pretext that he had been a minister in the foreign office at the same time that Sir Andrew had been ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

The word ‘racist’ was carefully left out by Fidgen in the editing, but this was a master-class in BBC spin.  Her main goal was to plant the idea that his views on immigration were extreme and totally at odds with his career as a distinguished diplomat.

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David Keighley
David Keighley
Former BBC news producer, BBC PR executive and head of corporate relations for TV-am. Director of News-watch.

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