IN his blog Is The BBC Biased? Craig Byers has published a post from his contributor Monkey Brains detailing the BBC’s Festive Fifty Bias Techniques, which we republish by kind permission. First, a seasonal message from Director General Lord Hall:
2019 began very well, Brexit almost derailed with a lot of help from our dedicated team of reporters and presenters, all also putting in a lot of unpaid hours outside of work on their private Twitter feeds to amplify their bias. We couldn’t really have expected more!
Sadly, the year has ended on a discordant low note. We shall of course launch a formal inquiry into what went wrong. But one thing I am confident of is that our 50 top bias techniques will remain (no pun intended) as relevant in 2020 as in 2019 if we are to chip away at, undermine and eventually unseat the Prime Minister . . .
1. Bias by News Agenda Choice. The biggie. If we don’t report it, it’s not news. If we don’t report that Corbyn has been accused of personal anti-Semitism, then he hasn’t. Simples!
2. Bias by News Prioritising. OK, sometimes we can’t avoid reporting something but we can certainly give it very low priority. It only needs to appear for a nanosecond for us to be able to say that we have done our journalistic duty.
3. Bias in Perpetuity. If we like a story . . . ‘Tories Islamophobic says report’ . . . we might leave it up on our website for months to make sure just about everyone gets to see it, even though we are allegedly a ‘news’ organisation. Likewise we will return obsessively to stories we love, like Grenfell Tower.
4. Bias by Burying. If we don’t like a story we will bury it away somewhere like ‘News from Leicester’ which you get to by navigating four or five pages on our website. In terms of broadcasting you will have to live in the East Midlands to be informed of what happened.
5. Bias by Headline Creep. Sometimes we know a story hasn’t really got legs but by using the headline ruse we can make it sound a lot better. So ‘Boris “racism” claim’ on the front page of the website becomes ‘Boris claims government is acting on racism’ becomes ‘Boris has rejected a UN report claiming that racism in the UK is rising at an alarming rate’. Clever, eh?
6. Bias by Interruption. An old favourite: if you don’t like what the interviewee is saying, interrupt them to hell and back, so that they can’t get their points across. Some right-wing obsessives on the internet try to expose this bias by recording the number of such interruptions and comparing that number with interruptions of favoured guests, but such statistical exposure of this technique can be dismissed by a vague, airy ‘Notwithstanding this particular interview, we consider the programme, taken in the round, was balanced and impartial’. Hats off to Andrew Marr for conducting an interview with the Prime Minister that consisted of more interruptions than questions, raising the bar for other BBC interviewers.
7. Bias by Misrepresentation. It’s important that we at the BBC control debate by ensuring we get to mispresent viewpoints. Under this approach, being worried about hardly ever hearing the English language spoken in your neighbourhood obviously becomes ‘racist attitudes to migrants’. Of course we don’t simply assert that – to do so would be crass and far too obvious. Instead we imply it via other bias techniques e.g. ‘Bias by Question and Some Say’. For 2020 we are planning to put this question on our website: ‘Is it racist to decriminalise the TV licence fee?’
8. Bias by Concept Merge. Sometimes it pays to be pedantically precise about definitions (Chris Morris makes use of pedantry to good effect on the BBC Reality Cheat). But with this particular technique, it is important to be vague and overlap differing concepts until the viewer or listener is taught, in Pavlovian fashion, to associate ‘Member of Conservative Party’ with ‘Far-Right Nut’. Thus we merge ‘Neo-Nazi’ into ‘Far-Right’, which in turn merges into ‘Right-wing’ which then merges into ‘Nationalist’ (as in ‘Bad Nationalist’ – obviously does not apply to SNP, Sinn Fein and Plaid Cymru) and further blends with ‘Tory’ and ‘Conservative’. By constant mixing and association, neo-Nazis, nationalists and Tories all become part of a dangerous amorphous group that likes to persecute minorities. We find this approach very effective at the BBC.
9. Bias by Mirroring. Under this ruse we call extreme radicals like Iranian Mullahs or Chinese Communists ‘Conservatives’ so as to make the whole ‘conservative’ brand toxic. You have to admire our cheek in doing so! But the useless Tories never make any effective protests about this. Let’s hope that doesn’t change in 2020.
10. Bias by Intimidation. We tell our audience that we will report them to their employer or school if they voice opinions of which we disapprove. This can be more effective than you might think. Of course we have combined this with a sustained attack on the Have Your Say function on our website and also by turning the Feedback programme into a meaningless ‘complaints from both sides’ exercise now stuffed full of disguised adverts for unpopular BBC programmes.
11. Bias by Mockery. The mockery is not just something for ‘comedy’ panel shows or the Now Show. News presenters can also join in the mockery of anything the BBC doesn’t like. Jonny Diamond has done some excellent work in this area. But woe betide anyone who mocks Stella Creasy or Rory Stewart! BBC staff know who can and who can’t be mocked. We expect Boris Johnson to remain top of the Mockery List in 2020.
12. Bias by Complaint Dismissal. As long as we keep batting away complaints in the face of the truth and the facts, we can maintain our absurd formal claim of impartiality. It is therefore important that the programmes we claim allow the viewer or listener a voice should be tightly controlled. We have of course instructed all editors and producers to hold the line and deny bias by claiming complaints from both sides and if they cannot defend something, claim a broader overall balance across the piece. We apologise for the unfortunate incident when Naga Munchetty was found in breach of guidelines by the Editorial Complaints Unit – someone didn’t get the memo! We hope to disband the unit within the next few months.
13. Bias by Propaganda Tentacle. The BBC has a long reach. Our correspondents can use Twitter to voice more extreme anti-democratic, pro-Antifa opinions through re-tweeting. We are now going into schools as well to brainwash children with our ‘Fake News’ agenda. We are even experimenting with AI to make our propaganda more effective. Our tentacles can basically reach anywhere.
14. Bias by Question Selection. What questions get asked is vital. If you think we pull the QT questions out of a hat then you are very, very naïve. Andrew Neil’s piece to camera about Boris’s no show was a good demonstration of how important the question bias is!
15. Bias by Simple Fact Denial or Avoidance. For instance we will not admit even the possibility that the housing crisis might have something to do with mass immigration. It’s rather like that loose thread in a pullover. If you start pulling on it, before long the whole thing will unravel. So we have to maintain ‘Complete Fact Denial’ in those very sensitive areas touching on the central tenets of our PC Multiculturalist doctrine.
16. Bias by Expert. We choose the experts. Our experts are guaranteed to support our views. That’s how and why we select them!
17. Bias by Org-Labelling. For instance, that think tank is ‘Right-wing’, this think tank (the one we like) is ‘respected’! It’s not so difficult once you get the hang of it. We never mention for instance that the Institute for Government is funded by arch Remainiac billionaire Lord Sainsbury and its board is stuffed full of Remainers. No – the IFG is ‘independent’, ‘non-partisan’ and ‘respected’.
18. Bias by Person Labelling. That person (someone standing up for beliefs that were uncontroversial 50 years ago) is ‘Far-Right’, this person (a Marxist totalitarian) is the ‘conscience of the Left’ or a ‘revered academic and commentator’.
19. Bias by Tone of Voice. So important! When we are children we listen to our parents’ tone of voice before we understand the meaning of their words. Are our parents angry or pleased with us? The BBC knows this well and so we play on these very human weaknesses. Our presenters sound surprised if a Right-wing person does a nice thing or somehow escapes justice when we have been looking forward to their downfall. Equally they make it sound like their mother has died if the PC multicultarist liberal-Left suffer a reversal, however minor.
20. Bias by Atypical Person Choice. It may be true that most female followers of Islam in Bradford may wear a hijab and rarely go outside the family home but we have the resources at our disposal to find one who doesn’t wear a head covering, uses make-up, wears tight jeans and has set up her own business. Once we have found her we are going to give her the full PR treatment on our shows, eventually giving her a series of her own.
21. Bias by Drama and Soap. I can’t overemphasise the importance of this bias technique. This is how we really buttress the news and indoctrination agenda. We use drama and soap to signal approval or disapproval and to identify what issues the public should think are important.
22. Bias by Lifestyle Show. We can make frightening things appear comforting by the magic of lifestyle TV. Of course this has to be managed. It can be an area requiring sensitive handling. We didn’t show a hijab for years. Big beard presenters are still out and the burka is sadly still a big no-no. But this is a Long March we are on. Eventually we will be able to de-sensitise the backward segment of the British public on such matters by associating such features with nice things such as baking, cooking, shopping and home décor.
23. Bias by Over-representation of Minorities. You see a lot of this on TV adverts and we have to take our hats off to our commercial colleagues in that regard. The message, of course, is ‘resistance is useless’. It is supposed to deliver a jolt and acclimatise people to further volcanic demographic change. We are of course doing everything we can at the BBC to ensure that minorities (officially only 13 per cent of the population) are over-represented in a number of key areas such as news presentation. When it comes to drama, we are quite happy to provide misleading representations of classics from the Victorian period now, sacrificing accuracy to our PC multiculturalist principles. Of course when we talk about ethnic minority representation we mean generally African-Caribbean, African and South Asian. At the BBC we don’t much care about how many Poles, Arabs, Romanians, Chinese, French or Latin Americans are on our screens despite there being very large communities from those ethnic groups in our country.
24. Bias by Slow Information Release. We wouldn’t want you to run away with the idea there’s just been a terrorist incident carried out by an IS operative migrant who shouted Allahu Akbar, so we will slowly drip feed the news and then disappear the story altogether. Often we will use the ‘mental ill health’ ploy to justify this.
25. Bias by Local News as National News. Local news is a good way of extending the bias especially in areas where there are lots of Labour MPs and we can call on them to provide a steady drumbeat of public expenditure propaganda. We always favour local news with a national flavour, so expect lots of NHS cuts and not much about the County Show.
26. Bias by Survey. Our opinion polls are frequently wrong. But they always seem to favour the Left for some reason. Sometimes our levels of bias are off the scale as was the case with the Newsnight panel of ‘ordinary voters’ that voted 9-1 to Remain. BBC staff should not be embarrassed by this; rather they should see polls as weapons in our hand, not instruments of science.
27. Bias by Decree. Here, the likes of John Simpson or Jon Sopel – once respected as cutting-edge journalists – trot out the BBC narrative without appearing to have thought about what they are saying first. In our BBC world of bias, if they say it is so, it must be true. You might call this the ‘Hillary Good, Trump Bad’ approach.
28. Bias by Obfuscation. If we can, through obfuscation, make you think a murderous anti-semitic member of a Black Power Church is a White Far-Right Racist, e.g. by not putting photos up of the suspect, we will do it.
29. Bias by Yawn and Infectious Depression. Sadly this is a rare example of a technique that has been tried but proved unsuccessful. It was attempted in the run-up to and during the early part of the EU Referendum campaign as we got nearly all our TV and radio presenters to imply that everyone was bored with the Referendum debate even though we now all know the opposite was true: family and friends often ended up having passionate debates on the subject (some are still continuing to this date). But we at the BBC were trying to reduce the interest in the campaign, as we knew that was important in ensuring the anti-EU vote did not get mobilised. Frankly, we failed. This year we tried to make everyone feel depressed about the ‘miserable’ election – we did this because we were (rightly) afraid there was a mood of grim determination in many constituencies to punish both the Lib Dems and Labour.
30. Bias by False Friend. This is one we have used a lot over the year e.g.: ‘So let’s go over to Washington to discuss Trump’s latest tweet. We have leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Republican Governor for Wyoming . . .’ Our audience thinks this sounds balanced since it’s one Democrat and one Republican. But of course, we know something they don’t – this particular Republican Governor hates Trump as much as the Democrat. We used similar set-ups earlier in the year with our domestic politics as part of our anti-Brexit campaign – often getting a pro-Remain Labour MP and a pro-Remain Conservative MP in the studio, in a pretence that they were on opposite sides.
31. Bias by Herd Instinct. Human beings have a tendency to follow the herd or the ‘troop’ (since we are primates!) so we at the BBC do our best to create bandwagons for the campaigns we favour. Biased BBC Trending do a lot of good work in this area. We are always encouraging people to be fearful of being accused of being socially conservative.
32. Bias by Recruitment. This is what we at the BBC call the ‘Guardian readers only need apply’ ploy. This is really a very important and self-fulfilling bias category. Often it’s just ‘Guardian journalists only’ need apply. Our latest recruit to Newsnight is Lewis Goddard from Sky News (very much onside these days) who has previously made clear his support for Labour.
33. Bias by Vocabulary Choice. This is of course a huge area of bias. The ‘bread and butter’ of bias, you might call it. It covers many things but among my favourites are, Right-wing think tanks ‘claim’, ‘assert’, things whereas Left-wing think tanks ‘point out’, ‘conclude’, ‘find evidence’. During the EU Referendum campaign pro-Remain agencies were always concluding, calculating, pointing out and finding, or projecting, predicting (never guessing!) When Remain claims were criticised by the Leave side, we at the BBC always used the language of emotion and violence instead of cool consideration: the Leave side ‘angrily denied’, ‘lashed out’, ‘slammed’ etc.
34. Bias by Paragraphing. We often leave the key information to the penultimate para of a long article (not the final paragraph because people sometimes skip to that). You can hope the punters have got bored by then and miss it, thinking the perpetrator was simply a ‘man’ with known ‘mental health issues’, not someone who visited Afghanistan last year and was carrying an IS flag.
35. Bias by Mandy Rice Davies. The point of this technique is to make the denial sound as thin as possible. Norman Smith is quite good at this. Norman is adept at telling us the unfavoured have ‘denied’ something, but he does so in a ‘well wouldn’t you too if you’d been found out’ sort of way. It’s normally those on the Right who get this treatment, of course, but there was a phase when we were gunning for Corbyn and we gave him the same treatment. Given the 2019 election result, perhaps we should have gone after him harder.
36. Bias by Uneven Standards. Of course at the BBC we believe in high standards, we just don’t believe in applying them consistently around the world. For instance we hold Israel to a much higher standard than Saudi Arabia (which doesn’t even allow people to profess Christianity). We report obsessively about their ‘illegal occupation’ of Arab land. But illegal occupation of land is a rather flexible concept. We never, or only very rarely, give Russia and China any grief about their huge empires and their occupation of territories against the people’s will. We don’t ask representatives of countries like Australia, Brazil, Canada and Argentina about eradication of indigenous peoples. Romania’s occupation of Magyar lands is of no interest to us at the BBC. Likewise, while we show an inordinate interest in civilian killings in the US by gunfire we have no interest in such killings in Mexico or Brazil, and absolutely no interest in the murder of thousands of white farmers in South Africa. While we at the BBC are willing to shed tears over a few thousand Palestinian Arabs losing their homes and being ‘forced’ to flee some 70 years ago, we have no interest in the many millions of Europeans, Jews, Hindus and Christians forced to flee from the Middle East and South Asia, and not much interest in all the displaced persons in Sub-Saharan Africa.
37. Bias by Photo Choice. A picture tells a thousand words and picture bias tells a million. During 2019 we often chose a nice one of Jeremy looking either messianic or avuncular, surrounded by happy smiling people, whereas for Boris we would choose one that made him look like a lunatic or an idiot. Nicola Sturgeon is always shown as looking happy and relaxed.
38. Bias by Placard Placement. This is something that featured a lot in 2019. We at the BBC know we are not going to get away with a newsreader saying ‘The Tory fascists have decided to dismantle the NHS.’ But there’s nothing to stop us showing a placard in a protest that says something like that: ‘Tory fascist scum will kill the NHS’. Nothing to stop the cameraman zooming in on that as a lingering image to underline a report. When, rarely, we cover Right-wing protests, the placards get far less prominence, unless of course we think we’ve found one that is an own goal. Obviously we were quite happy to feature old eccentric people covered in Union Jacks opposing the EU in robust terms. That’s an image we like to cultivate.
39. Bias by Soft Interview. This is a technique that is sometimes underestimated but it can be very effective. We particularly make use of this technique when we want to put rocket boosters on a political position we approve of. During our anti-Brexit campaign we often deployed this technique e.g. allowing Tony Blair and Michael Heseltine to speak at length unchallenged.
40. Bias by Celebrity Endorsement. No! This doesn’t refer to the celebrity endorsing a product but the BBC endorsing some celebrities over others. We love Lily Allen because she’s Leftie, mouthy and feminist in a non-threatening way.
41. Bias by Reality Checking. One of our recent bias techniques of which we are very proud is BBC Reality Check. This helps us create a kind of alternative universe where matters of policy can be judged objectively by reference to ‘facts’. Anyone who looks at BBC Reality Check can see instantly it has nothing to do with ‘reality’ and everything to do with our policy preferences. The Reality Checks are – in reality! – just opinion pieces of the type you might find in the Guardian, FT or Times.
42. Bias by Absent or Abbreviated Nomenclature. At the BBC we pride ourselves that Trump is more often Trump than President Trump whereas President Obama was nearly always President Obama, certainly for his first term – just as Thatcher was more often Thatcher than Lady Thatcher. Use of the ‘criminal’ surname is often reserved for those perceived as ‘Right-wing’ Tories. That’s why we favour ‘Johnson’ over ‘Boris’.
43. Bias by Emotional Response. This is where we ensure the BBC acts as emotional gatekeeper to the nation. You can cry about your factory closing down but not about your neighbourhood being changed out of all recognition by mass immigration. If you are the victim of Islamic terrorism we prefer smiling defiance to tears. But other forms of terrorism may be treated differently depending on context.
44. Bias by Views as News. This is something we have always practised but these days we have expanded it into all areas. Under our ‘news’ pages on the BBC website we often insert opinion pieces from our reporters and Left-leaning guest academics. Very effective propaganda.
45. Bias by Vox Pop. Never underestimate the power of Vox Pop! Vox Pops are a really important bias tool which you will find used in nearly every national and local news programme. They can really put a nice spin on a story. We even feature Vox Pops expressing views we don’t like – but make sure they tend to be from fat guys on mobility scooters with cigarettes in the corner of their mouths.
46. Bias by Newspaper Review. This is a specific technique we use to build a kind of Potemkin village of opinion out of MSM news. By using Left-liberal reviewers, a Left-liberal presenter and a selection of stories biased to the Left-liberal view of the world, we are able create the erroneous impression that the BBC’s agenda is very much in line with that of the rest of the MSM. Where necessary the Review can be used to chastise heretical opinions deemed as offensive to PC multiculturalist beliefs.
47. Bias by Some-say. Let’s be honest, it is rare for an hour to go by without a BBC presenter or reporter having recourse to that well-known family ‘The Somes’. ‘But some say this belief in fundamental biologically-based differences between men and women is just petty-minded fascistic prejudice which will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.’ The Somes come in very useful to us at the BBC when we want to advance the ‘progressive agenda’ but realise we are on tricky ground. A non-specific ‘some’ is a nice way of suggesting support is building for a ‘progressive’ idea. It sounds a lot better than ‘that mad columnist from the Guardian’. Given that we live in a nation of nearly 70million, if you say ‘some’ then most fair-minded people will think you mean a few hundred thousand or a few million at least, if not yet a majority, whereas it might only be that mad columnist from the Guardian, 12 people in Hampstead and five in Islington, as in ‘Some say transgender toilet facilities are a matter of basic human rights’.
48. Bias by History. The past is not such a foreign country to us at the BBC. In order for the PC Multiculturalist Fantasy to be realised in the modern world the past needs to be tweaked or given a complete makeover. So, looking back at the past through our Wrong Way Round BBC-PC Telescope we see that slavery was something that was visited only on Africans by Europeans. Arabs did not enslave Africans in their millions and if they did, it wasn’t really slavery. Likewise only West Europeans have engaged in imperialism. Chinese imperialism is really of no note at all, and so on.
49. Bias by Counterintuitive Injury Reporting. At the BBC we use this mostly in the context of domestic or American demonstrations. So if there is a pro-Trump rally, and an Antifa gang turn up to disrupt the rally, we will report it as ‘A Pro-Trump Rally condemned as Far-Right by Anti-Fascist counter-demonstrators, ended in 23 injuries including five to police pfficers; there were 24 arrests’. We don’t tell you the 23 injuries were among the Pro-Trump crowd and the 24 arrests were all among the Antifa demonstrators.
50. Bias by Absorption. There are many cultural events or phenomena which we seek to make our own. Glastonbury, Turner Prize, MOBOs, Chelsea Flower Show, Women’s Football . . . we are like some giant amoeba, absorbing chunks of other DNA safe in the knowledge that it can replicate inside us and produce a yet more bloated version of the BBC itself. I think it’s what I would call cultural synergy. By absorbing these other cultural phenomena we make ourselves stronger and better project our cultural aims.