David Keighley’s BBC Watch: There’s no bias against Brexit. Why? Because Nick Robinson says so

The BBC seems to have appointed Radio 4 Today presenter Nick Robinson as its defender-in-chief. Back in April, he told those who thought the Corporation was biased against Brexit that they were wrong. The referendum was over, so there was no longer a need to strike a balance between the two sides.

He has been in action again, this time delivering a speech in honour of his friend, the former BBC Panorama editor and media pundit Steve Hewlett, who died of cancer at the age of 58 earlier this year. It can be read in full here. The message? In Robinson’s opinion the BBC is doing very well indeed, thank you. News output is not biased. This is proved, apparently, by the fact that complaints emanate from all parts of the political spectrum and that there are appearances by such controversial figures as former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson. Of which more later.



The first thing to note is that his analysis is not based on any verifiable evidence. No surveys seem to have been conducted. On top of Lord Lawson, Robinson picks out mentions of Nick Griffin here, of Nigel Farage there, to show the inclusion of ‘Right-wing’ figures. But none of his observations is backed up by anything other than his own subjective judgments.

And he conveniently misses out that almost every time Mr Farage has been interviewed by the BBC, he has been treated as a racist, told he is incompetent – and very rarely asked about EU withdrawal itself. More recently, too, of course, he was shamefully and ludicrously accused on BBC2 Newsnight of having ‘blood on his hands’ over the death of a Polish man in Essex when nothing could be further from the truth.

Robinson claims that the BBC is ‘staffed by people who – regardless of their personal background or private views – are committed to getting as close to the truth as they can, and to offering their audience a free, open and broad debate about the issues confronting the country’. Well that’s OK then. Of course they are.

His analysis boils down to an assertion that the BBC is a beacon of light and trust in an increasingly dark world. The biggest threat to journalistic integrity comes from elsewhere: ‘fake news’ and commentary on websites such as Westmonster. They, unlike the BBC, spend their time peddling untruths and rumour and are making social and political divisions far worse.

Yet his invective is deeply flawed and it takes only moments to unpick it. Take Lord Lawson’s appearance. He is mentioned as an example of someone who was invited (in August) to appear on Today, even though many thought he should not be allowed to outline his views on climate change. Robinson claims that this was an example of the BBC’s even-handedness and fairness.

But what he then adds proves sharply otherwise. First he stresses that Lord Lawson got his facts wrong – and then claims ‘we’ (the magnificently unbiased staff of the Corporation?) ‘must say so’. This, however, was a risible misrepresentation of what actually happened. First, Lord Lawson only appeared at all because the global-warming arch-alarmist Al Gore was first invited on Today. He was treated with kid gloves, with virtually no challenge, as he outlined his view that man’s impact on the climate was intensifying to catastrophic proportions.

To ‘balance’ these highly contentious claims, the interview with Lord Lawson was then arranged. But the odds were stacked against him in that he appeared with two other alarmist figures who countered his every claim. Lord Lawson made one minor error over statistics. But he immediately owned up to it and a correction was issued. His slip did not affect his basic points that Gore and the climate alarmist faction have been making outlandish and scientifically unsupported claims for years, and continue to do so.

Robinson also did not mention that immediately after Lawson appeared there was an outcry – reported at great length on the BBC – from climate activists, including the BBC’s own favourite populist ‘scientist’ Brian Cox, who said Lord Lawson’s appearance should never have been allowed. To ram home Lord Lawson’s error, two more alarmists appeared on Today. They rubbished everything Lord Lawson had said, with barely a squeak of opposition from the programme’s presenters.
This adds up to a ratio of at least 5:1 against Lord Lawson.

This is the sort of ‘fairness’ that operates at the BBC on controversial issues. For more than a decade, the corporation has accepted that climate alarmism is warranted and, arguably, its reporting in this sphere adds up to its own campaign to prove it.

The conclusion? Nick Robinson’s speech as a whole, and especially in the mention of Lord Lawson was, to put it mildly, disingenuous. His appearance on Today did not show, as Robinson claimed, that the BBC allows dissenting voices to appear and is fair to them. The reality is that the BBC has a skewed agenda in this domain, and any opinions expressed by Lord Lawson were both swamped and twisted. So, too, with Nigel Farage.

In his speech, Robinson accused those who write for blogs of living in a bubble. Even if they do, it’s nothing compared with the one surrounding the BBC’s approach to editorial impartiality.

David Keighley

  • Colkitto03

    Nick Robinson suffers from conformation bias. He has a fixed belief and selectivity chooses evidence which support that belief and ignores evidence which contradicts that belief. This is standard stuff for a BBC ‘journalist’

    The BBC like our political system suffers from a terrible lack of diversity. There one good example. Nick Robinson got a degree in PPE from Oxford University. Below is a link to other well know figures who the same degree at Oxford.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_University_of_Oxford_people_with_PPE_degrees

    This is what the ordinary people of the UK are up against. All this from one course, from one university. What does that list say about or Political and Journalist class?

    • Vera

      PPE – the Oxbridge version of ‘Meja studies’.

  • lojolondon

    This week, belatedly, Theresa May is discovering the punishment for her failure to defund the BBC. No matter how unfairly they are treated, Conservatives are always afraid to take on this corrupt, bloated, wasteful propaganda machine. Now it may be too late, but in any event, will she learn?

    • Shazza

      No, Appeaser Theresa will never learn the basic lesson that the BBC is virulently anti Tory.

      I remember Andrew Marr recalling that after Blair’s election in 1997, the corridors of the BBC were strewn with empty champagne bottles, paid of course, by us under penalty of imprisonment.

      • TheRightToArmBears

        There’s only one way to confront Aljabeeba and that is by not paying the TV tax.
        bbctvlicencing.com will show you how to legally avoid, not evade, paying it.
        It is your patriotic duty to rebel.

      • Bark Kantatas

        Champagne bottles was Jane Garvey of Woman’s Hour. Andrew Marr, who called for enforced miscegenation in 1999, is however hardly a model of impersonal rationality.

      • James60498 .

        I don’t think that they are specifically anti-Tory.

        They have their own worldview.

        If you agree with it they like you. If you don’t then you are their enemy.

  • Revd Robert West

    The Baalzebub Broadcasting Corporation will have a lot to answer for – not only over Gary Glitter, Sir Jimmy Saville, its hiding of the character and crimes of Islam, its constant mockery of Christianity, and its promotion of the crime of EUnity – but also for its betrayal of Britain and all things British. The BBC are about as impartial as the modern classroom, with its sexing-up and programming of pupils, or the social workers who ignored thousands of English girls, and their plight, in Rotherham and elsewhere. Why do not our Bishops speak up? That is surely what they are paid for.

    • Joan Bradley

      Just listen to the oh-so-politically correct “Archers” – two male homosexuals wanting a surrogate child and no one in the script complaining. Brian has a half caste grandchild – how nice!

      • John Clegg

        I stopped listening to it over 20 years ago, it’s PC gone mad.

  • Ed McA

    Such attitudes are normal for the BBC as when we make a complaint they never admit any responsibility but in reply we receive standard, innane babble.

  • UKCitizen

    The BBC are just the propaganda arm of Cultural Marxists. It was one of there first prime targets and has been compromised for years.

  • Labour_is_bunk

    A Belgian politician, M. Guy Verhofstad, has apparently been bemoaning Brexit, warning that we’re going to lose world influence and saying ” The world of tomorrow is a world of empires”. This is additional confirmation of the EU’s ultimate intention, if any were needed, and the cat’s rather out of the proverbial bag.
    How would the BBC spin their way out of that, assuming they noticed in the first place?

  • Joan Bradley

    Nick Griffin was never given a fair chance to speak on QT – first off he had a massive job actually entering the building thanks to a hostile mob outside. Once in, he had to endure ad hominem attacks – Bonny Greer mocked his 2,2 Cambridge degree, Jack Straw said NG’s “moral compass” was wrong or faulty – that from a former Home Secretary who claimed “no upper limit to migration into the UK”! The audience were like a mob in a bear garden and totally biased to what NG had to say. But thankfully Griffin’s leadership was enough to promote the panicking MSM into talking up UKIP so as to syphon off BNP votes, but they went too far so Cameron made one desperate effort to protect his Tory Party majority and offered the referendum. Thanks and well done Nick Griffin for BREXIT!!.

    • Cassandra

      Jack Straw who as pointed out was on the panel where Griffin was set up to be pilloried by the BBC also, let us never forget, wrote to a national newspaper rejecting an accusation that he was ‘an old Trot’ and expressing his admiration instead for the methods of Joseph Stalin.

      ‘Uncle Joe’ was of course, along with his co conspirator Lenin, responsible for more murderous deaths than anyone else in modern European history.

      Straw is or was a regular face on BBC programmes, unlike Griffin or anyone else. from the radical right who never appear. Griffin’s participation was the sole instance that anyone can remember.

      Others of the far left who who no doubt expect and relish the overthrow of the State, violently if necessary, and who like the historian Eric Hobsbawm would actually justify the 20 millions dead in the Soviet Union, are given the run of the Corporation.

    • Shazza

      I am no fan of Nick Griffin, I loathe any form of anti Semitism but he was wrongly prosecuted for publicly raising the issue of muslim grooming gangs deliberately targeting vulnerable white and non-muslim young, underage girls long before the truth of this matter came to public attention.

  • LoveMeIamALiberal

    Nick Robinson does not mention in his speech Guido Fawkes’ analysis of Robinson’s Brexit related tweets (2% positive, 41% neutral, 57% negative) – https://order-order.com/2017/09/13/brexit-twitter-sentiment-analysis-robbo-not-neutral/. Well there’s a surprise.

    • Tethys

      Guido of course being the epitome of objectivity…

      • rockylives

        At least Guido published his methodology and evidence.

        Whereas we are expected to accept Robinson’s assertion that the BBC and its staff are unbiased purely on the basis of his say-so.

        • Tethys

          Guido (and TCW) are rife with homophily, whereas the BBC is constitutionally neutral and maintained a referendum fact checking site ‘referendum reality check’

  • Tethys

    For all it’s limitations the BBC is way more than how the ramblings of a bitter ex -employee portrays it here.
    It is far broader in scope and benefit than broadcast news alone and the bulk of its output is of the highest quality; and all without mind-numbing commercials.

    As for broadcast news, we need a constitutionally neutral organisation to give balance – as evidenced for brexit by its ‘referendum reality check’ website.

    That it gets attacked from both directions and broadcasts a complaint programme should tell us something.
    For instance I recall Andrew Marr clearly letting Penny Mordaunt off the hook over an untruth about Turkish EU membership.

    Without this balancing fulcrum, we would simply be left to find outlets reinforcing our own prejudices – and to suffer everything which follows that.

  • Owen_Morgan

    A few weeks ago, David Lammy, MP, he who thinks Henry VII succeeded Henry VIII, blessed us with his view of the “racist” bias of the English legal system. It was nonsense, from start to finish, blatantly lifted from equally distorted politics in the United States. I don’t expect to hear cogent argument from Lammy; you’ll get more sense out of a rabid Yorkshire Terrier. All the same, I think I am entitled to hear Lammy’s racist rant confronted by genuinely unbiased BBC journalists (not, preferably, Nick Robinson) and challenged by people with contrasting opinions.

    Instead, the plagiarist Lammy was treated like Moses coming down from the mountain, with no contradiction permitted.

    • Colonel Mustard

      A response which unfortunately the government imitated too. Demonstrating the discrimination that a man can be elevated far beyond his ability or intelligence simply by the colour of his skin and the chips on his shoulders.

  • therealguyfaux ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    It is as if “balance” is to be determined merely by head-count– “Well, we had Gore, and then we presented Lawson in rebuttal…” (not strictly true, as the article mentions Lawson was outnumbered by two from the other side of the debate). But fawning over Gore, and then essentially having Lawson on for the purpose of telling him, in effect, “All right then, have your bloody stupid say, then STFU & GTFOH!” It is the arrogance of power– it is them telling you, “When we want your opinion, we’ll tell it to you!”

  • Dave S

    I no longer waste time with the BBC. It is pointless and as for it’s entertainment shows the less said the better. Wall to wall rubbish that should be done by commercial stations at no cost to the taxpayer.
    One of the last of the useless state supported enterprises that should have gone the way of British Leyland long ago.

  • Flaketime

    I think it would be useful to mention that the Guardians Owen Jones has been running a campaign to get Lefties to complain about BBC content precisely to allow the corporation to claim it was getting complaints from all sides and is therefore broadly neutral in its output. This is not however a reliable measure by which to measure impartiality. The left are organised motivated and activist in a way the right is not. The reason for this sites existence is that the Tories are now centre Left although the BBC does not accept that.
    First of all you need to put the stake in the ground at the centre point before you begin to measure any degree of bias and it is my position that the BBC has placed its stake far too far to the Left to begin with therefore distorting all further measures.

  • Politically__Incorrect

    The BBC is about as neutral as Germany in the last two world wars, and about as good at being funny.

    • Harley Quin

      Here is a Sputnik News report about a study into political attitudes in the population at large. The BBC was involved in comissioning this study, but has continued to simply ‘shrug off what it confirms. And it dares to call itself ‘impartial’ !

      https://sputniknews.com/europe/201604151038077832-yougov-poll-authoritarian-views/
      17th April 2016

      ”Academics at the University of Exeter have uncovered statistics suggesting that around half of the UK population can be defined as what they call “authoritarian populist.”
      Data gathered from a number of YouGov polls between 2011-15 revealed widespread concerns over immigration, diminished national identity and the decline of the UK as a military power.

      Professor Tom Scotto — who was involved in conducting the research — commented on BBC Radio 4 this week, saying:

      “People like us academics and the London elite just shrug off concerns about immigration; they shrug off concerns about the decline of Britain as a military power.”

  • Starshiptrooper

    If the BBC could ever find one nice thing to say about the British empire then there may be a glimmer of hope for them……..

    • Harley Quin

      In his book, ‘England, An Elegy’, the philosopher Sir Roger Scruton wrote,

      ‘Today the Proms are the only enterprise controlled by the BBC which that institution cannot pervert into an anti English satire.’

      Scruton’s book was published in 2000. Actually, now even the Proms are under attack.