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Trump, Sir Cliff and the skewering of the BBC


ACADEMIC David Sedgwick’s new book about the BBC, The Fake News Factory, doesn’t mince words in making clear what he thinks about corporation journalism.

In a phrase: Not a lot. His central thesis is that the BBC has become a blatant propaganda machine for liberal values, and he brings formidable forensic and marshalling skills, as well as lucid writing, to making his case. 

Sedgwick has already ploughed the BBC furrow. At the end of 2018, he published BBC: Brainwashing Britain? an equally hard-hitting title in which he traced the origins and development of the corporation’s descent into an all-out bias machine.

His new book is a complementary bang up-to-date topic-by-topic survey of how the BBC’s warped view of the world is being pumped out to its audiences at taxpayers’ expense. 

Much of the territory will be familiar to readers of TCW, but the range of his canvas, combined with a strong command of facts and detail, make this a very rewarding volume.   

His main chapters include how the BBC opposed Brexit with every sinew; its sinister reluctance to investigate the grooming gangs of Rotherham and Telford; coverage of the cash-for-questions affair in which the MP Neil Hamilton was relentlessly and disproportionately pursued and smeared: the Cliff Richard witch-hunt;  the maligning of Victor Orban’s Hungary for daring to try to limit immigration and embrace Christian values; the extraordinary efforts to paint President Trump as a Kremlin puppet, and the operation of the so-called ‘reality check’ unit, which in true Orwellian Newspeak-style has become one of the key lines of attack by the BBC on ideas and people it does not like, using its own fakery as the main assault weapon.  

His coup de grâce and final chapter is the BBC’s handling of a complaint he submitted about an element of the coverage of Donald Trump’s state visit to London in June last year. It is widely known, of course, that the BBC Complaints Unit is not fit for purpose, as is chronicled in detail here.

The beauty of Sedgwick’s complaint, however, was its simplicity.   

A review should not be a spoiler, so it’s enough to say here that all the BBC Complaints Unit had to do in response was to provide a simple piece of evidence that BBC2 Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis had not set out to malign President Trump during the visit. 

Did they do so? In a word, no – but they deployed every trick in the book to obfuscate and delay, flagrantly breaking their own rules in doing so. Then – at long length – the corporation risibly claimed that proof was not needed because Ms Maitlis was being ‘ironic’, before doing a double back somersault and turning to the pages of an obscure magazine for their defence.  

Some of the most telling points in the book are in the chapter about the BBC’s vicious, incontinent pursuit of Sir Cliff Richard. The story has been frequently told: that in the summer of 2014, the corporation was so filled with glee at the prospect of naming Sir Cliff as a child abuser that it threw all semblance of journalistic fairness to the winds, and ended up paying out more than £1million of taxpayer money in damages to the popular entertainer. 

In Sedgwick’s hands, the sorry saga becomes riveting anew. He brings into sharp focus especially how clearly Mr Justice Mann, who heard the case, did not trust the BBC personnel who gave evidence. In any other organisation, the shower who racked up a £1million bill for damages would be swiftly fired; not so at the BBC, and Dan Johnson, the reporter who arguably did most to damage Sir Cliff’s reputation and breach his privacy, has been promoted.       

This book should become cornerstone evidence in the review of corporation funding that was launched last month. It also deserves to be widely read, but there is a danger that it won’t be. Publishers are virtually to a man and woman of the same mindset as the BBC, and none of the big names will commission or touch such content. David has therefore published it himself, so distribution and supportive PR effort is limited. On top of that, Amazon – these days essential in launching a book – mysteriously failed to send out review copies and have now also (David tells me) wiped his author page (though the book itself is still available). 

The frustration here is that the ‘Right’ is handicapped and often deliberately thwarted in pushing out ideas such as these that deserve to be read by a mass audience, while figures such as George Soros and those who supported Gina Miller spend billions in pushing cultural Marxism and the globalist agenda, and are often supported in their efforts by the liberal-infected arms of the state, including the judiciary and Ofcom.  

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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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