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The BBC, hopelessly locked in its bias bubble


THE BBC Editorial Complaints Unit (ECU) needs no introduction to TCW readers. Controlled by Director General Tim Davie, this kangaroo court’s brief is simple: to use every tool as its disposal to erect a brick wall against complainants.

The latest crop of rulings from the unit contains a rare specimen – a ‘partially upheld’ verdict about a BBC London report in April. This cast protesters in a huge central London march against Mayor Sadiq Khan’s hated expansion of ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) measures as being from the ‘far right’ and branded them ‘conspiracy theorists’.

A backdrop to the 44 complaints about the bulletin received by the BBC is that Sadiq Khan claimed opponents of ULEZ were ‘in coalition with the far right’ at a People’s Question Time meeting at Ealing Town Hall on March 2, a few weeks before the demonstration. Did the bulletin echo his accusations? The complainants thought so.    

So, is this ‘partially upheld’ ruling a sign of a shift in BBC policy? As always, the devil is in the detail and the answer is a resounding No. The wording of the key section of the short bulletin was: ‘Campaigners against the ultra-low emission zone held a protest in central London today. Local protesters and mainstream politicians were joined by conspiracy theorists and far right groups . . .’

This was clearly dog-whistle labelling of the crudest variety, and its intention was to smear those who disagree with ULEZ as being potentially dangerous extremists. Richard Eldred, one of the protesters and a complainant in the case, eloquently explained on the Daily Sceptic why the report was so offensive to those who took part. 

But the ECU, made up entirely of BBC employees, was, with wearying predictability, having none of it except for minor details. Main points from the ruling are here. 

In essence, the wording of the bulletin – deploying the ‘far-right’ and ‘conspiracy theory’ adjectival phrases – was not guilty of a breach of impartiality. Nor was it (under the BBC Editorial Standards codes) ‘harmful or offensive’ because viewers would know that the writers were not lumping together local protesters and ‘far right’ and ‘conspiracy’ groups. (The ECU did not explain how they would know – they just would.)

It was legitimate to mention that those on the march were ‘conspiracy theorists’ because they included some who had banners opposing the World Economic Forum’s ‘Reset’ agenda and the UN’s Agenda 2030 (dominated by ‘sustainability’ – i.e. climate alarmism).

Other banners were from a group called Stop World Control, which, the ECU said, held that ‘the pandemic is being used to implement world tyranny’. So, in the ECU’s worldview, those who oppose the limitations on freedom imposed during the lockdown hold beliefs (taken from Wikipedia entry on ‘conspiracy theory’) based on ‘prejudice, emotional conviction or insufficient evidence’ and linked to ‘propaganda, witch hunts, wars and genocides’.   

The link pointed out by the complainants with Sadiq Khan’s description of opponents of ULEZ being from the ‘far right’ was ‘entirely unintended’.

The only minor faults in the report that the ECU accepted were:  

(1)That the branding of the protesters as being from the ‘far-right groups’ was not completely accurate because although the bulletin’s claim were ‘made in good faith’ (because a man there might have had such connections)  ‘the evidence fell short of establishing that such groups had in fact been represented among the demonstrators’, and was thus only ‘suggestive’ that they might be there; 

(2)The link with Sadiq Khan’s smear against ULEZ objectors, though ‘entirely unintended’, could be regarded as a breach of impartiality (and thus was partially upheld) because it gave an ‘impression’ of bias in the reporting of a controversial matter.  In other words – in the BBC’s pursuit of exonerating itself – it was biased and it wasn’t biased. 

The chilling aspect of these verbal somersaults and distortions in the ruling is that it confirms that in everything it does the BBC is looking everywhere for ‘conspiracy theorists’ and ‘far-right’ extremists. The charge is being led by Verify and the so-called Trusted News Initiative, and they are pouncing on any sliver of evidence with fanatical zeal.

One of the main fronts of their campaign is in the climate alarmism domain, in which the BBC has repeatedly said that ‘the science’ is settled and beyond dispute. This is a biased judgment which puts the Corporation’s reporting in this sphere in breach of its Charter obligations. Charles Moore wrote about this in the Telegraph on Friday and showed in vivid detail the extent of the distortion involved.  

Opposition to ULEZ is seen automatically by the BBC as sabotaging the Net Zero agenda, and dissent can only be explained as extreme behaviour. This ECU ruling is more hard evidence that it is hopelessly locked in its own confirmation bias bubble.

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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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