Some things, it seems, never change in the BBC’s worldview.
To the Corporation, for example, the EU is a bringer of peace and a vital bulwark against the nasty excesses of sovereign states and the possibility of a Third World War. No matter how many times ‘Leave’ say that it is NATO that has kept the peace, up pops a BBC presenter or correspondent to tell us otherwise.
Latest in this long line was Radio 1 Newsbeat’s Greg Dawson, who on Monday evening warmed to the EU’s favourite propaganda line as he reported attitudes to Brexit in Berlin. In his pre-edited feature, a local observed:
‘The EU encourages peace all over Europe, so that’s basically the achievement of the whole European Union. And maintains this peace.’
That was clearly exactly the peg Dawson was looking for and he was off like a shot on the peace theme. He first told listeners that Berlin was a city with ‘lots of history, much of it bleak’. Then came his key point:
‘The reminders of World War II are never far away, with memorials and even the shells of bombed out buildings. People here think the decades of peace since then has (sic) much to do with the EU.’
There followed another vox pop contribution. This one observed:
‘If Britain would leave, I feel like this stability would not be guaranteed any more. I think the UK at the moment is a very strong player in the European Union, if they don’t see it sometimes maybe.’
Bingo! Job done. The EU, the saviour of Europe, the bringer of peace. Cue Beethoven’s Ninth. Yet again. Dawson demonstrated that, somehow, the ‘EU equals peace’ assumption is in the BBC’s DNA.
Also never-changing in the BBC’s worldview is the treatment of Nigel Farage. News-watch has been chronicling this since 1999, and the painting by numbers approach to him in interviews – which involves the raising of charges of racism and incompetence – has seldom varied. For example, here during the 2015 General Election, and here, earlier in the referendum campaign.
Many have observed that the BBC’s approach to the EU in general has improved since the start of the referendum coverage, and that for the first time, ‘outers’ are on occasions being given chances to put their case.
Among those now in this camp seems to be the Mail on Sunday‘s columnist Peter Hitchens, who – noting this week that he believed there could be a ‘Leave’ vote – stated this:
‘I underestimated the BBC, which has, perhaps thanks to years of justified and correct criticism from people like me, has taken its duty of impartiality seriously.’
If this is the case (discuss!?) it is to be welcomed, of course. But much on the News-watch website suggests otherwise. And, guess what, Farage has somehow been left firmly out of the equation. Yes, the BBC now put him on programmes like Question Time, and when he does appear in such contexts, he’s a consummate media grown-up who can more than hold his own, even with the likes of the boorish Eddie Izzard.
But no matter what Farage does, the bracketing of him with racism and incompetence never varies by the BBC. Whenever he appears, this takes precedence over the exploration of policy – especially excluded are his views on exit from the EU.
Farage appeared last Friday in the series of interviews being conducted by Andrew Neil, and also in the ITV programme last week which featured sequences with him and David Cameron. Also interviewed by Neil was George Osborne.
BBC1’s News at Ten reported each of these appearances, but the treatment meted out to the respective interviewees was vastly different. After the ITV programme, it was mentioned that Cameron had faced a tough audience, but there were two sequences of him outlining his ‘Remain’ policies.
Not so Farage. Virtually the entire focus was on claims of racism against him by a particularly strident accuser. As a result, the contribution by him amounted to a few defensive words. Anything he said about the case to leave was left firmly on the BBC’s cutting room floor.
George Osborne’s appearance with Andrew Neil also made the News at Ten headlines, and the feature that followed contained more than 300 words from him about the ‘Remain’ case, covering more than half a dozen separate policy points. The programme chose to edit out almost completely Andrew Neil’s penetrating questions. The result sounded like a party political broadcast for ‘Remain’.
The equivalent treatment of Farage? You have probably guessed. Two minor policy soundbites, but the main thrust – emphasised also by comments within the report – was that he was still answering claims of racism from the Archbishop of Canterbury and incompetence over his remarks back in January that the New Year’s sex attacks in Cologne could spread to the UK.
In the Neil interview itself, Farage did put forward a range of policy points. But the programme had a relatively small audience. The millions more who watched News at Ten only heard a very narrow selection of what he said through the prism of habitual BBC bias that has applied with only minor variations since 1999.
During the referendum, News-watch is monitoring almost all of the BBC’s news output for pro-EU bias. If you spot any examples, you can register them at a special website: www.bbccomplaints.com.
News-watch research is at www.news-watch.co.uk.