Thursday, 26 April 2018

Dealing robustily

Talking of missed opportunities, let’s not forget the antisemitism scandal. (Jonathan Arkush speaks for the Jews and Norman Smith speaks for the Labour party)  Lots of coverage following the “Missed opportunities” verdict from various members of the Jewish delegation following their unsatisfactory meeting with Jeremy Corbyn.


The Daily Politics with Andrew Neil. Peter Dowd MP, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury is in the hot seat. A little sheepish, but still loyal to Dear Leader. Andrew Neil had a long list of examples of Labour’s outrageous conduct, (reputedly lifted from Guido Fawkes) which he read out, item by item. Dowd had no answer, but he did express regret. 

The Today programme featured Kier Starmer who said the party should “deal robustily” with the antisemitism. 


We mustn’t forget Len McCluskey who has written a nasty piece in the New Statesman in which he dismisses it all as a smear

Did you know that Jennie Formby is a former partner of Len McCluskey a relationship from which they have a son? She’s the one who has the task of dealing with it, no doubt robustily.

Missed opportunity

One of the joys of working for oneself is that one can watch The Daily Politics and PMQs live, if one should feel the need.

Yesterdays PMQs was particularly acrimonious. Jeremy Corbyn gave an impassioned speech about the Windrush debacle, calling on Amber Rudd, or possibly Theresa May (some people aren’t quite sure which) to resign. 

The theme was that the Tories had deliberately created ‘A Hostile Environment’ for immigrants and that both legal and illegal immigrants were ‘caught up in the fallout’. It suited the Labour Party to conflate the two whilst angrily accusing the Tories of doing the very same thing. See how Dawn Butler MP operates on The Daily Politics (arguing with David Jones MP.) 


It’s impossible to get a straight answer out of her. She knows what she wants to say and she isn’t budging from the script. I’d like to know what Jo Coburn really makes of this performance.

Isabel Hardman describes PMQs here “The Maybot returns…” but fails to mention the potential elephant trap that the Labour leader set for himself when he chose to refer to the Stephen Lawrence affair and screeches in that old-man-Steptoe voice of his:  “we must stamp out institutional racism”.

You’d think, under the circumstances, that mentioning institutional racism was treading on dangerous ground. Unforgivably, Theresa May missed her open-goal-level of an opportunity to hit the back of the net. 

The most striking contribution, towards the end, came from Yvette Cooper. Looking a bit like a very indignant chipmunk, she blurted out a bombshell that could prove to be a big embarrassment for the government.



When I listened to Andrew Neil and Laura Kuenssberg giving their customary summary of what had just gone before (in case we lesser beings needed to have it spelled out it in big print for the hard-of-comprehending) they described something I barely recognised. More interested in Yvette Cooper’s intervention than anything else, harshly critical of Theresa May, it was apparent that they accepted Corbyn’s histrionics as par for the course, as they ignored them altogether; it’s as if they hold the current Labour Party to a different set of standards than all the rest. As if, like the Palestinians, Jeremy Corbyn and his followers have little or no agency.

As far as a gentler, kinder politics, this was not it. Jeremy Corbyn was rattled; near hysterical, while May’s manner was exaggeratedly condescending and painstaking as if explaining a simple principle to a very thick child (!) and the child was just not getting it. Both sides made a pig’s ear out of the whole thing, and everyone, not least the BBC, missed their respective opportunities, dragging the tone from poor to abysmal.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

When kosher pigs fly

I dipped in and out of the Today programme this morning, as you do - (Isn’t it annoying and unhelpful that the website no longer provided us with ‘running order’) but I did hear John Humphrys’s remarkable interview with Jenny Manson, co-chair of Jewish Voice for Labour.

On the off-chance that you missed it, or don’t already know about Jenny Manson’s group, it’s a small number of Jewish members of the Labour Party whose devout admiration for Jeremy Corbyn involves dismissing allegations of antisemitism as politically motivated smears. 

Manson described the Chakrabati report as ‘very good’. She stated that most a/s comes from the far right. She said she is very sorry that Dame Margaret Hodge has “never felt as nervous and frightened” but insisted that “our” group has never experienced any a/s in the Labour Party.  She thinks it’s “a misery and a tragedy” that Jewish MPs have received nasty antisemitic comments, “which I suspect are on social media - but no-one has worked very hard to find out who this nasty stuff is coming from” (implying, perchance, that they’re not L.P. members?)  and she said complaints should go to the Labour Party, not the media.

Presumably the editors commissioned the interview because of Jeremy Corbyn’s scheduled meeting with ‘mainstream’ Jewish leaders this afternoon, this meeting being one of the Today Programme's main headlines. The editors must have decided that denying the actual existence of antisemitism in the Labour Party has a legitimate place in this story.  Perhaps they saw it as their duty to air the case for the antisemites, for balance.  Some would argue that the BBC must allocate equal air time to ‘all forms of denial’. A facetious remark, maybe, but I hope you know what I mean. 

As I’ve said many times before I do not advocate no-platforming people, but in this case, I seriously question the relevance of including this particular interview in this particular context. It muddies the water in what I see as a vexatious manner and is a distraction from the core issue.

Now, what is the issue here?  At its heart it’s Israel. 
A perception has arisen - of the ‘good’ Jew who opposes Zionism and the ‘bad” Jew who supports, or doesn’t actively denounce Israel. This allows vehement supporters of Palestinian causes to air their disapproval of ‘racism’ without appearing too obviously hypocritical. In other words, they will submit the kind of Jews they like, (the anti-Zionists) as evidence to ‘prove’ that they’re not racists. “How can we be antisemitic, if we don’t hate all Jews ‘because they are Jews’?”

Arch pro-Palestinian activist Dr Philippa Whitford MP was the guest on The Daily Politics, sympathising with Louise Ellman. The subject of Israel was conspicuously avoided by all.  

Everyone must be aware that there are differing historical attitudes to Israel and its history. With regard to the creation of the Jewish State, the Arab world’s inherent, long-standing antipathy to Jews is rarely mentioned, and there is little awareness of the Arab-instigated wars that have so far failed to eradicate Israel altogether. Information from the Israeli perspective is absent or treated with derision.

The Arab - Israeli conflict is narrated by most mainstream British news organs from a purely Palestinian/Arab perspective. There is an odd acceptance of the concept of ‘Muslim Land’; I see it as particularly odd that a largely secular country adopts this concept. 

The antisemitic nature of Mahmoud Abbas’s imagined / proposed Palestinian State is never mentioned. Never. Pro-Palestinian activists in the west are even more hostile to Israel than many Palestinians actually are. The PSC movement would consider it a betrayal if Hamas or the PA were persuaded to see sense and soften their anti-Zionist stance.  The antisemitism in the hard left will never be eradicated unless the BBC suddenly decides to report fairly on Israel, shocked into action by a flock of flying kosher pigs.


Sunday, 22 April 2018

Open Thread


New Open Thread

***

Now with bonus image, courtesy of Loondon Calling:


Arrival of the Floating Pool: After 40 years of crossing the Atlantic, the architects/lifeguards reach their destination. But they hardly notice it: due to the particular form of locomotion of the pool - its reaction to their own displacement in the water - they have to swim toward what they want to get away from and away from where they want to go. Extract from Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas

The Andrew Robinson Show



Gosh! The Andrew Marr Show talked a lot about Windrush today. 

The paper review and three of the main interviews spent considerable amounts of time on the subject, which the programme obviously chose to make its main story of the day. #BBCbias?

At least this meant that Rob Burley surely wouldn't have to spend time fending off hordes of Corbynistas furious that the story wasn't being covered. 

Well, you'd think that but the world of Twitter isn't always a reasonable place:
Shardon: #marr you could see Nick Robinson saying with glee. #windrush isn’t on the front pages anymore yippee. #bbcbias
Rob Burley: No he reported it. The "glee" was, literally, in your imagination. He then went on to interview Benjamin Zephaniah on the actual television about the very issue you seem to think he wants to suppress.
Colin Lewis: Nick Robinson more obsessed with Benjamin Zephaniah's birthday than the issues raised by this punishing government. #Marr
Rob Burley: The issue the interview was literally all about?
Sandra Patterson: Tory boy Nick Robinson on #marr trying to dismiss the #WindrushScandal as a storm in a teacup.
Rob Burley: By repeatedly interviewing people about the issue on television? He's doing it again right now.
Alladin Noons: He also appears to be speaking with Emily Thornberry about Windrush. Maybe people were hoping for a government minister rather than shadow.
Rob Burley: Well there's one coming along in a minute... 
steve: Benjamin Zephaniah gave Robinson, the BBC, the PM, Home Secretary, Home Office, Border Agency and Govt an easy ride on #marr. The guy is too nice and polite. The community needs good guys like him to get radical; and quickly.
Rob Burley: Even Benjamin Zephaniah is getting in the neck! Apparently Steve here speaks for BZ's community. I thought Benjamin was a great interview and hope to have him back. 
Rob Burley: Oh, Nick Robinson - who is being accused of ignoring or wishing to suppress Windrush story, is starting third interview on the subject #bbcbias
Still, Nick Robinson gave Emily Thornberry and David Gauke a good grilling today. 

Even Tim Fenton of the pro-Corbyn Zelo Street website tweeted "Nick Robinson giving equal amounts of grief to both Emily Thornberry and David Gauke" - and he was right.  

At least this meant that Rob Burley surely wouldn't have to spend time fending off hordes of Corbynistas furiously claiming that Emily got it hard while Gauke got it easy. 

Well, you'd think that but, again, the world of Twitter isn't always a reasonable place:
Crashed: Nick, you've tried to make this all about Labour and general immigration policy from years ago #Marr
Rob Burley: It's an interview with Labour. You want us to just give Labour questions about the Government? That's not how democracy works.
Sean's Sweary Tweets: There we have it. BBC shoehorn blame for the Windrush scandal on to Labour. That smirking twat Nick Robinson's 'gotcha' moment that Alan Johnson was the first to use the words 'hostile environment' So yeah it was all Labour, not the racist Tories Theresa May and Amber Rudd.#marr
Rob Burley: Should we suppress Labour's record on immigration in a Labour interview and just ask them to criticise the Conservatives?
Russell Merryman: Nick Robinson's focus on Labour's use of the words "hostile environment" for law breakers, rather than the Tories' use of the words for legal migrants is the kind of journalism that gives the Daily Mail a bad name. BBC News should know better. #marr #fbpe
Rob Burley: It was an interview with Labour. We ask them questions about their record.
Berni Deenihan: Now that you’ve brought up historical statements by the then labour government, will you show Theresa May on question time in the early noughties stating that home office ministers blaming civil servants for problems at the home office should resign. #marr
Rob Burley: Yes. Right now actually. Sorry if this disturbs the narrative.
Rob Burley: Numerous tweets criticising the interview with Emily T because it centred on Labour's record rather than questions inviting criticisms of the Government (although there was opportunity for that too), And this is apparent evidence of bias when, in fact, it's the opposite  #marr
YorksLass: Nick Robinson You give Emily Thornberry a tough time yet David Gauke gets an easy ride when he points finger at UK Labour. #Marr. Jeremy Corbyn on the rightside of history. #NastyParty #immigrationPolicy called out for what it is. #Windrush is the consequences. 
Rob Burley: Here we are - tough on Gauke but that can't register with people with a pre-set narrative.
Shardon: I Don’t need to apologise for accusing Nick of bias. Government is on the ropes here and Nick just walks away from the knock out aggressive to Thornberry and Tory gets understanding nods . #bbcbias #marr
Rob Burley: No reasonable person watching the Gauke interview could think that. 
Even Rob sounded to be getting a bit weary eventually:
City 'til I Cry!: The contrast between  Nick Robinson hostile interview with Emily Thornberry and his matey chat with Fauke was clear for all to see. No surprise given Robinson's well known allegiances. But still unprofessional.
Rob Burley: What's the point?
The point, of course, is that the BBC is getting all manner of silly complaints about BBC bias at the moment and Rob Burley is doing a sterling job in debunking them. With them out of the way we can hopefully focus on the the real questions about BBC bias.


P.S. Here are a couple of bonus exchanges:
LaurenMarie: Not watching #marr but im guessing it's the usual Tories interviewing Tories bullshit.
Rob Burley: Guessed wrong. Again.
And no Sunday would be complete without Pam: 
Pam Crossland: Paper Review on #Marr features one tory and one Fib Dem but no Labour - are the BBC aware of the law regarding broadcasters showing balance during elections? #BBCbias
Rob Burley: Balance is across the whole election period. It would be impossible with the number of parties to have balance on every single show. Emily Thornberry is one of the main guests. So, yeah, on it regarding the law.
That said, at least someone - the splendid David Buik - had something nice to say about the programme:
David Buik: Marr-on-Sunday - what a class act Nick Robinson is - he made a huge amount out of a few pretty tawdry issues with gusto and panache! So glad he is in good health! 
Mr. Buik is a class act too.

*********

As the sun returns, spreading its golden cloak over sun-prone Morecambe, R Rob is just getting back into action as the tomfoolery continues:
Buddy Hell: I see The Sunday Politics, Marr and Peston swept Windrush aside to concentrate on #Antisemitism in Labour. Agenda? Oh no, of course not. Do they really hate Black people that much? Stupid question. Yes, they do. Fucking handwringing liberal schmucks.
Rob Burley: You obviously didn’t actually see Marr or the Sunday Politics which had tons and tons on Windrush. Just making things up.
Buddy Hell: "Tons and tons", my arse. Next, you'll be telling me that I'm "imagining" racism.
Rob Burley: Did you watch Marr? I don’t think you possibly can have done. The Marr paper review featured the Windrush, as did subsequent interviews with Benjamin Zephaniah, Emily Thornberry and David Gauke. Sunday Politics film was about “hostile environment” and immigration. So the lie is a ridiculous one.
In fairness to Rob, that nice, reasonable-sounding Buddy certainly was just making things up. (And he went on and on, just as charmingly). 

It was definitely much closer to 'wall-to-wall Windrush' than 'no Windrush' on the BBC One's political programmes today.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

BBC One (Monday to Friday): A Brexit Survey



As I said in the previous post, it's us who claim that the BBC is biased against Brexit who have the evidence

And here's some more...

******

Using TV Eyes, I've tracked every mention of Brexit on BBC One over the past week (Monday-Friday).

As TV Eyes uses the London version of BBC One, the following includes BBC London news programmes too. 

65 results came up.

And here's what BBC One has been up to...

******

Monday began (overnight) with two reports on a campaign by anti-Brexit campaigners to have a second referendum.

And then came a Hardtalk interview with an anti-Brexit Northern Irish politician (Monica McWilliams of the Women's Coalition (Sample - BBC interviewer: "Maybe one reason, for more than a year, it hasn't worked is because Brexit seems to be directly affecting the mood of people in Northern Ireland, because one of the biggest controversial and unknowns right now about Brexit is what it's going to do to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. How big a factor is that, do you believe?" Monica McWilliams: "Huge, and it's - you've put your finger on it, it's unknown. It's the uncertainty, it has driven us back into silos that we did not need to go back into"). 

Further repeats of both followed. 

BBC Breakfast discussed Brexit in the course of a segment on farming. The BBC interviewer's question was "And that is one element of the cost, that the weather has been so bad when there is extra bedding and feed to pay for. A lot of uncertainty as well around Brexit, which will affect what farmers invest in" and the reply came" and the reply was negative and about the problems faced because "our biggest market is Europe". No one said anything optimistic about Brexit.

A later interview with the Manic Street Preachers promised they'd be "political" about Brexit, but, oddly, they didn't mention Brexit. So that was a damp squib (probably thank goodness). 

BBC One's News at Six cryptically tied in Brexit with the Windrush controversy. (John Pienaar: "This department is under pressure. Brexit is coming and they will be watched very closely as they deal with people in this country, individuals and families, many of whom have been here for you is").

BBC London's local news programme majored on "a senior business group [the Institute of Directors]...warning there's an "information drought" on Brexit - making it hard for companies to plan ahead". A company worrying about access to the Germany market was its focus. It wants something like the Single Market we have now to continue. Opposing voices weren't featured.

Soon after the same BBC London local news programme discussed the pressure on secondary school places in London. "All this is a real headache and a constant balancing act. House prices have an effect, Brexit has an effect", we learned. Quite what effect Brexit was having wasn't explained, but it was obviously somehow adding to the "real headache".

Next came this gem from Eastenders:
How can I say it? ..a con woman. Yeah! Ye... No, it's nothing to be proud of. I've been called worse. Well, why not try to prove them wrong by boosting the local economy, providing employment during these tough Brexit times, eh? I can get you your money, Mas. All of it. In a week. 
BBC London's late night news bulletin repeated the 'worried about Brexit' company and the IoD's concerns.

A repeat of Have I Got News For You mocked David Davis over his negotiations with the EU.

******

And God saw that it was biased and the evening and the morning were the second day, Tuesday.

And Tuesday began with some early morning good news:"The British pound has hit its highest level against the US dollar since the Brexit referendum in June 2016".

There was nothing else Brexit-related until a Stephen Lawrence documentary that evening featured  clips of a small white supremacist group in the UK chanting for repatriation and a black man saying that "Brexit has changed the nation" and "brought back these feelings of, 'Maybe I'm not part of this community'", thus tying Brexit to racism.

That night's News at Ten had John Pienaar on again, relating Brexit to the Windrush controversy. ("More broadly, this could make harder her mission of protecting Britain's standing and influence up to Brexit and beyond. A member of the negotiating team says that Europeans may fear harsh treatment when they assert their rights to stay in the country. Ministers would deny that, as they you would expect, but this has all come with a cost in moral authority, certainly to the Government, possibly also to the country").

******

And God saw that it was biased and the evening and the morning were the third day, Wednesday.

Overnight came extensive clips from a parliamentary committee interview about Cambridge Analytica, Brexit, Arron Banks and Leave.EU featuring the testimony of someone highly critical of the aforementioned. 

A business interview around 5.45 featured a newspaper report saying that if we get a decent Brexit deal it could see the UK outstrip the Eurozone. The response? It's all about uncertainty. It's "difficult to predict". Will we get a decent deal? That's "the big thing here". 

For Wednesday's BBC Breakfast, the Windrush-related angle was:
Questions about the competence of the Home Office and this morning. Also questions from Brussels about what all this says about how the Government will handle the registration of EU citizens who will be staying here after Brexit.
A business guest at 6.45 am was optimistic that we will get a Brexit deal and said "that has given a short-term slight stability to the outlook for Britain versus what we've had in the past." The BBC interview (looking on the dark side!) responded, "We know how quickly that can change, so if we're looking at this and thinking we're in a good position right now, how do we make the most of it and bank that rate?" 

BBC Breakfast interview with Bill Gates about malaria saw the BBC immediately reminding him about his earlier plea that Brexit shouldn't lead to UK aid budgets to tackle malaria dealing slashed and asking him if he was "still concerned about that happening". Mr Gates refused to be drawn on that into making further derogatory remarks about Brexit.

A very brief news report then said:
British firm De La Rue has said it will not appeal against the Government's controversial decision to choose a Franco-Dutch company to make the new blue UK passports after Brexit. De La Rue, the current passport provider, said that it had "considered all the options", but would not challenge the move, which will see the half a billion pound contract handed to Gemalto, which has its headquarters in Amsterdam.
On BBC One's News at One we were being given the EU's perspective on the Windrush controversy: 
In Brussels, officials are watching with concern. The government's handling of the Windrush fiasco has not filled them with confidence about how EU nationals will be treated in the UK after Brexit.
That evening's BBC One News at Six covered the House of Lords voting down the government and demanding that the UK stay in the EU Customs Union. (The word "unelected" wasn't used). It wasn't good news for the Government and John Pienaar concluded by saying, "You may have thought the Battle of Brexit had gone quiet, but there are plenty of battles still to come. And the shape of Brexit and the authority of the government and the Prime Minister rest on the outcome". 

The same story was covered on that night's BBC One News at Ten with the same report.

******

And God saw that it was biased and the evening and the morning were the fourth day, Thursday.

Naturally, overnight the BBC continued reporting the pro-EU Lords' defeat of the Government over the Customs Union.

And then a BBC Click episode about automation on farms. This was classic BBC as far as language about Brexit goes - e.g. (from the BBC presenter):
  1. "Brexit threatens to cut down the number of people available to work on the land"
  2. "There are fears about the availability of migrant workers post Brexit".
Brexit also got a mention on that evening's BBC One News at Six. Kamal Ahmed has been talking to Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England:
He said why this is a big year for Brexit and that would weigh heavily on their decision-making. The big picture, for people watching, is that, yes, prepare for a few interest rate rises over the next few years.
The story that a cross-party alliance of MPs will follow the Lords in forcing a vote to make the UK stay in the EU Customs Union was also a story on BBC One News at Six.

The One Show had a Brexit-related quip:
It would be nice if it was cold during the week and hot at the weekend. We should make that a condition of the Brexit deal .
Mark Carney was a lead story on BBC One's News at Ten that Thursday:
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has told the BBC that a rise in interest rates this year is still likely, but that any increases will be gradual and will depend on progress in the Brexit negotiations. 
The phrase "Brexit uncertainty" was used repeatedly.

This Week featured Richard Madeley (of Richard and Judy fame) reviewing the week. He covered the latest calls for a second referendum and the Lords' defeat of the government over us staying in the EU Customs Union. Quite what Richard's view of Brexit it I'm not sure after this. Pro-EU Alan Johnson and anti-EU Priti Patel then debated it. (Fair enough).

******

And God saw that (except for This Week) it was biased and the evening and the morning were the fifth day, Friday

The early hours saw an airline business owner being asked by a BBC reporter, "How worried are you and your clients about the Brexit effect and the open skies agreement?". The businessman said his company had "prepared to switch to other countries" but his "personal opinion" was that "I don't think [the worst case scenario] will happen".

A review of parliamentary proceedings included a section beginning, "The Transport Secretary has dismissed the idea that holiday-makers could face air travel delays after Brexit". An SNP MP had raised a scare story. 

By the time of BBC One's News at One, James Lansdale was back linking Brexit to the Windrush debacle:
Theresa May had hoped to use this summit to highlight Britain's global ambitions after Brexit. But the row over Caribbean immigration has made that harder.
The same bulletin later including a segment beginning:
Newsreader: The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has warned there is still a chance that talks on Britain's withdrawal deal from the bloc could fail. Mr Barnier said that while three-quarters of the deal had been agreed, the Irish border issue remained a key stumbling block. Our correspondent Gavin Lee is in Brussels for us with the latest. Tell us more. 
Gavin Lee: This is the EU's chief negotiator for the EU making crystal clear that whilst three quarters they are pretty much in agreement on what the Brexit deal or the withdrawal agreement of both the UK and the European Parliament have to ratify by March next year, the last 25% come because of the series issues involved, said could be problematic and risks failure, he said. 
BBC One's News at Six was back at it too, linking Brexit to the Windrush debacle:
Newsreader: The meeting of the Commonwealth leaders was supposed to be a chance for Theresa May to talk about matters such as trade but instead it ended up being overshadowed by the row over the Windrush migrants.
John Pienaar: That's right. This week, the Commonwealth Summit was supposed to be a show of Britain's weight in the world. Instead, we saw the Prime Minister saying sorry for the mistreatment of Commonwealth migrants and their families by a country once known as the mother country. And not just the government, the Home Office, which Theresa May lead for years, reflecting her own unyielding approach to immigration control in a way that her successor Amber Rudd described as appalling. Mrs May was meant to be standing tall among Commonwealth leaders but we saw her saying sorry again and again to leaders of countries Britain wants to have as friends and needs as trading partners in the world beyond Brexit. 
The latest Have I Got News For You - just like the previous week's edition - made a joke at David Davis's expense, EU-negotiation-wise, and a passing quip at some comedienne insulting a pasty eater saw a comedian quip "This is how Brexit happened".

Finally, BBC One's News at Ten saw John Pienaar continuing the BBC Theme of the Week, Brexit-wise, over the Windrush affair:
Downing Street clearly wanting to be seen to be making amends. Climbing out of that hole. Maintaining Britain's influence and standing and its weight in the world with Brexit approaching, that was always a challenge, and there will be many more challenges as time draws by. But I think the Windrush scandal may just have made that mission that much harder.
Just read the language of that! I don't think Lord Adonis would mind it one bit.

Indeed, Lord Adonis has nothing to complain about as far as any of this is concerned.

That said, there's certainly been plenty of bias on display here, and it's all gone the other (anti-Brexit) way.

Seriously, can anyone read the evidence I've detailed here and still content that the BBC isn't biased in a negative way about Brexit?

I know the dangers of confirmation bias, but this is a list covering every mention of Brexit on BBC One over five days and the evidence couldn't be clearer, could it?

******

Despite what we heard on Feedback, the BBC still has a case to answer. 'Complaints from both sides' won't wash.

The Adonis/Campbell side has nothing substantial to go off.

This side has

The BBC's Brexit coverage



This week's Feedback dwelt, for the most part, on the BBC's Brexit coverage.

A full transcript will be posted below (allowing you, as ever, to digest it at your leisure). 

What struck me as being interesting about it was that both Roger Bolton and Nick Robinson made plain their belief that the recent surge of complaints of "pro-Brexit bias" are the result of a concerted online campaign. 

And they are right about that. (Lord Adonis is, of course, a key player.) It's an interesting phenomenon, and something I've noticed too. 

Gone are the days when random people sent in moans to Feedback or Newswatch. Nowadays, thanks especially to organised campaigns on social media, campaigners can "flood" the BBC with complaints as if they are 'ordinary viewers and listeners'

Unfortunately (for them), as this Feedback transcript reveals, the BBC is onto them because they aren't yet sophisticated enough to try to disguise their origins and are using identical language and a single hashtag - thus betraying themselves as being far from being 'individual Feedback listeners or Newswatch viewers'. 

And the point of this ridiculous campaign to accuse the BBC of "pro-Brexit bias" is to bully the BBC into being even more anti-Brexit than they already are. 

And such accusations are indeed utterly ridiculous. The BBC - as here - might like the play the 'complaints from both sides' card, but they have a very weak hand because the Lord Adonis/Alastair Campbell followers have an even weaker hand. 

Please read the transcript below, but bear in mind the following whilst so doing. BBC complacency is - paradoxically - growing as a result of this  'complaints from both sides' barrage, but the reality of the BBC's output remains that the BBC is still being overwhelmingly negative about Brexit. 

It's us who claim that the BBC is biased against Brexit who have the evidence

Transcript of BBC Radio 4, Feedback, 20 April 2018


Gavin Allen (not Max Headroom)

(Transcript....with many, many thanks to Andrew. I do like it when other people do transcriptions!)


ROGER BOLTON: Hello is the BBC the (montage of voices) Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit Broadcasting Corporation? We’re devoting most of this last programme of the present run to your criticisms of the BBC's Brexit coverage. And respond to them we have a veritable galaxy of the Corporation's frontline journalists and executives.

NICK ROBINSON: I'm Nick Robinson presenter of the Today programme and formerly political editor of the BBC.

GAVIN ALLEN: I’m Gavin Allen, controller of daily news programmes.

RIC BAILEY: I’m Ric Bailey, the BBC's chief political adviser.

ROGER BOLTON: But we begin with Brexit. Almost two years ago, just under 52% of those who voted in the referendum said they wanted to leave the European Union. 48.1% voted to remain. The Kingdom is still bitterly divided. Time was when the vast majority of complaints to Feedback of Corporation bias came from the Leave side; in recent months though, in part due to a concerted online campaign, we have been receiving many more from Remainers who routinely refer to the BBC as the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation, accusing it of tamely towing the government line. Here's a sample of some of those comments from both sides of the Brexit divide.

SUE KING: I’m Sue King, and I’m from Herefordshire. I'm dissatisfied with and disillusioned by the BBC's coverage of Brexit. In news and current affairs programmes I’m frequently aware of a pro-Brexit bias in subtle ways, particularly in the Today programme. Interviewers let misleading statements by Brexiteers  go unchallenged.

ANDY FRANKLIN: My name is Andy Franklin and I live in Suffolk. The problem as I see it now is that the BBC can deny biased against Brexit until it’s blue in the face, but just about everyone I’ve ever met who voted Leave has come to that conclusion in droves.  Even on the morning after the vote, the very first interview broadcast was some University Professor declaring that all the intelligentsia had voted Remain and all the thickos had voted Leave, a bias the BBC has been peddling ever since.

JONATHAN MILES:  I’m Jonathan Miles, and I’m from Woking.  Given just how important this issue, the BBC really has done little to educate the public on important aspects of how the EU works and hence what are the likely or possible consequences of leaving.

MARGARET O’CONNELL: Margaret O’Connell.  In a democracy you accept the result and move on, it is over.

JULIAN GREEN: Julian Green: ‘Why does the BBC always refer to ‘when’ the UK leaves the EU, when properly, it should be ‘if’ – the BBC are promoting a falsehood.

ROGER BOLTON: Listening to those critical comments are Ric Bailey, the BBC’s chief political adviser, Gavin Allen, controller of BBC daily news programmes, and the Corporation’s former political editor, now Today presenter, Nick Robinson.  Could I start with you, Ric Bailey, and that point Margaret O’Connell makes, she says ‘It’s over, move on,’ and yet you also heard Julian Green say, ‘You’re talking about when we leave, it should be ‘if’.’ Should it be ‘if’?

RIC BAILEY: I think you’ve got to look at the context of what you’re talking about.  There’s been a referendum, one side has won, both major parties have gone into a general election saying that they will put that referendum result into effect.  And, of course, it’s possible that all that may be reversed and the political reality may change, and so both ‘if’ and ‘when’, in different contexts might be entirely appropriate. It’s not for me to send out pieces of advice to individual journalists like Nick, telling them individual words they should and shouldn’t use.

ROGER BOLTON: Alright Nick, would you use ‘when’ or ‘if’.

NICK ROBINSON: I’d use both. And I would use both.  The truth is, a decision was taken in the referendum.  The government is committed to the decision, the Labour Party is committed to that decision, there’s an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons who say that they voted for it, they voted for Article 50. But it is occasionally worth reminding people this could be overturned, if the public changes their mind, if there was a different vote in Parliament, but let’s not treat it as if . . . no one thinks that we’re going to leave in March 2019, that’s the overwhelming likelihood, but people who want something else to happen want is to try and say that.

ROGER BOLTON: And Gavin Allen, when people use the expression, ‘The country has decided’, don’t you feel like saying, ‘Well has it?’ I mean, Scotland has decided they’d like to remain, Northern Ireland say it would like remain, Wales, yes, and England decided that they would like to leave, but to what extent can you say ‘the country has decided’?

GAVIN ALLEN: I think you have to, you know, it was a UK-wide referendum, and it was 52-48 and we have to reflect that.  So, I think that . . . that’s not to say that we won’t hear views in Scotland, he views in Northern Ireland, across the English regions and Wales that are very different to the outcome of that referendum, but it’s no good pretending that, well, hold on, Peterborough voted this way, so you should reflect that in . . . so it wasn’t the country after all.

ROGER BOLTON: Could I ask you Nick, do you think that there is a campaign against the BBC at the moment? Now, we’ve heard Lord Adonis talk about the Brexit Broadcasting Corporation, a number of people have used that phrase, we do seem to be receiving quite a number of emails that appear to be written for people, shall I put it in that way, is there a real active campaign going on to stop Britain getting out?

NICK ROBINSON: I don’t think there’s a campaign, there is a campaign, it’s clear there is. The very use of the hashtag #BrexitBroadcastingCorporation on social media is evidence of a campaign.  Now, people are entitled to campaign, we get campaigns all the time, only the . . . about a year ago, there was a campaign by Leavers to say that the BBC was biased, there was a complaint about my questioning. We get campaigns all the time, but let’s not be in any doubt that when people start using the same words and the same critique, they’re trying to put pressure on us. Now, it doesn’t mean that the things we heard in your introduction from listeners aren’t genuine, a lot of people feel really, really angry about this, they hope that the country will change its mind, and they’re entitled to do that, but we’re also entitled to . . . to say, as I have in number of recent articles, we know what’s going on here, there’s an attempt to try to shift us.

GAVIN ALLEN: But it’s important as well, it doesn’t mean that we dismiss – and I know Nick’s not saying this either – we don’t dismiss the campaign, so the fact that it is a campaign, the fact that we can recognise it as such, doesn’t mean there won’t be sometimes perfectly legitimate points they raise that make us stop and think, well, actually . . . we do need to tweak our coverage on that element, or do need to give a bit more to this, that we’ve underplayed.

ROGER BOLTON: Can I just finish this section, Nick, by asking you, if you’re optimistic, you see the opportunities that the Brexit gives us, if you’re pessimistic, you see all the problems that exist in trying to change our arrangements.  Of course, it’s easier for journalists to look at the pessimistic side. When you’re trying to deal with the opportunities, that’s more difficult to construct a discussion about, do you think that’s a problem that you have?

Nick Robinson (obviously)

NICK ROBINSON: Well, it’s undoubtedly a challenge, I think that’s absolutely right, and the key therefore is to hear from people who can, as it were, see it optimistically.  That’s why you will occasionally get a Dyson on, for example, James Dyson who’s in favour of leave, or the boss of Wetherspoon’s, we will have him on because he is able to say, ‘This is how I see it’, now the difficulty for listeners who are Remainers then they go, ‘Well why is he saying that, why isn’t he challenged?’ Well, we have them on in order precisely to say that there is another way of looking at this to the way that you do . . .

RIC BAILEY: But there was an entire programme . . .

NICK ROBINSON: The problem with predictions, Roger, there is in truth, you can’t prove a fact . . .

ROGER BOLTON: It’s not factual, it’s not factual.

NICK ROBINSON: . . . about someone’s vision of the future. You can’t do it.  It’s not that the BBC isn’t robust enough to do it, you can’t.

ROGER BOLTON: Ric?

RIC BAILEY: And incidentally, there was an entire half-hour programme which Iain Martin did on Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago, precisely on that point about the opportunities Brexit, so they are there, and we are, you know, it’s an active part of our journalism.

ROGER BOLTON: Ric Bailey, Nick Robinson and Gavin Allen, thanks for the moment. A little later will be digging deep into the whole issue of balance and due impartiality.

(Moves on to discuss Enoch Powell programme).

ROGER BOLTON: And now back to . . .

MONTAGE OF VOICES: Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit, Brexit.

ROGER BOLTON: Still with me in the studio is Ric Bailey, the BBC’s chief political adviser, Gavin Allen, controller of BBC daily news programs, and the Corporation’s former political editor, now Today presenter, Nick Robinson.  Now, we’ve already touched on issues of impartiality with respect to the BBC’s coverage of Brexit.  Although it might sound like a contradiction in terms, if Feedback listeners are anything to go by, balance and impartiality are in the eye of the beholder.

JOHN NEWSON: John Newson.  I do hear BBC Radio 4 broadcasting as the voice of Remain, giving others a daily diet of scary stories about how Brexit will harm Britain.  This doesn’t seem very factually based, because Brexit has not happened yet.

FERN HANSON: This is Fern Hanson from Woking. The audience would be much better informed of the facts around Brexit if the BBC moved away from a political balance towards facts balance. In pursuit of a fact balance it should be noted that there is a huge consensus amongst professional economists regarding the negative economic effect of Brexit.  I have never witnessed the BBC demonstrate this disparity in analysis.  Each side get equal prominence and time programmes.

ROGER BOLTON: Well, let me take up Fern Hanson’s point, with Ric Bailey. Should you move towards a facts balance, rather than a political balance?  Is that possible?

RIC BAILEY: Well, facts are just there to be reported, you don’t balance facts, you have facts and you say what they are.  One of the issues with Brexit is that a lot of this is looking forward, it’s about trying to work out what is going to happen, which, by definition is often speculative or it’s something where different people have different views, they are in the end judgements. So you’re not balancing facts as such.  Balance is something which, during the referendum there was a binary choice, between Remain and Leave, and we were very careful to make sure that we heard from both sides, not necessarily equally, but we did represent facts in the sense of saying, ‘Look, the balance of opinion amongst big business is this – but there are other voices’, since then, that binary choice has gone away, because we now have impartiality in the sense of trying to make sure that all those different perspectives . . . is Theresa May now a Remainer or is a Leaver, of course, she is the person who is actually putting into effect that choice. So that idea that there is now a simple choice between Remain and Leave is no longer there.

ROGER BOLTON: But haven’t you put it too simply yourself, because the people voted to Leave, they didn’t vote on the destination, and there is an argument, which one keeps hearing, ‘Why wasn’t the BBC exploring the destinations,’ because people voted, if you like, to jump, but not know what we were going to jump to?

RIC BAILEY: I think it would be hard to say that we haven’t been doing that.  We’ve been giving a huge amount of coverage to Brexit and to the negotiations and to all the different possibilities.  I think we are doing that, Roger, actually.

As it says on the tin...

GAVIN ALLEN: We’ve also talked, we’ve also talked about Canada+++ as an option, or Norway the model, or the Swiss model, I think we are looking at lots of different ranges of outcomes for this.  And also just . . . I think one of the dangers as well, of balance of facts, as if, if only everyone had the core facts they would make the ‘correct’, in inverted commas, decision and we would all agree on it, it does ignore the fact that in the referendum, in any election, there is visceral emotion as well, there are things that are not to do with facts, or that you don’t even hear the facts that you disagree with, it’s a blend of these things.

ROGER BOLTON: Nick, can I bring up an article you wrote for the New Statesman recently, stressing the importance of impartiality, in part in response to an earlier article by the LBC and, at one time, occasional Newsnight presenter, James O’Brien, where he was arguing that media impartiality is a problem, when ignorance is given the same weight as expertise.

NICK ROBINSON: The assertion made by your listener is that if only people knew the facts, we’d know, the assertion made by James O’Brien is that, you know, look, don’t put on someone who is ignorant.  Who decides this?  Who is this person who drops down from the skies and says, ‘This is true, and this is not’ . . .

ROGER BOLTON: Well . . .

NICK ROBINSON: Now, in certain cases it can be, Roger . . .

ROGER BOLTON: Well it can be known about climate change . . .

NICK ROBINSON: No.

ROGER BOLTON: . . . and for example we see a case reported last week, where Ofcom said that one of your fellow presenters didn’t actually do what he should have done which is to say Nigel Lawson was factually wrong about something he claims.  So, people also want to know are you prepared to do that and,  actually, are you prepared to do that about Brexit?

NICK ROBINSON: (speaking over) Goodness, yes. And, and . . . yeah.

ROGER BOLTON: (speaking over) And are you sufficiently well informed, do you think?

NICK ROBINSON: Not only, not only do we want to do that, but the BBC apologised for not doing that in that particular case. Here’s the point though, it won’t often apply to things that passionate Remainers and passionate Leavers see in their own minds as a fact, but in fact are a judgement or a prediction, or an instinct or an emotion.  The BBC’s job is to hear from people who have unfashionable views, and where possible we should always challenge them and if we don’t get it right, and of course we won’t always get it right, you know, I’m here, I got up at 3:30 in the morning, I’ve done about 10 subjects already, occasionally you will make mistakes, then we explain why we didn’t get it right.  But it’s not a conspiracy.

ROGER BOLTON: Well, I’ll just, if I may, wrap up this discussion by asking you to stand back a little bit and just reflect on what you’ve learned over the past 2 to 3 years.  And one of the things that’s struck me very much is the amount of anger out there, and people irritated, fearing that you, all of us around this table are out of touch and have ignored them.  Nick Robinson, does any of that, across to you?

NICK ROBINSON: Oh yeah, you can’t help but listen to the views that we’ve heard on this programme and think, there are people deeply, deeply frustrated and anger . . . angry about it. And I . . . what I take away from this, why I wanted to appear, I could keep my head down and just do my normal interviews is, we think about this, we agonise about it, we debate much more than people often think, and why do I know this is true? Not because I’m virtuous about it, anybody who comes to the BBC from papers, anybody who comes from commercial telly, where I’ve worked, goes, ‘Boy, you spend a lot of time worrying about this’.  I would urge listeners one thing though: we do it with the best of intentions.  Not that we get it right, we don’t always get it right, we sometimes get it wrong but if you complain with some sense that there is a conspiracy, people will tend to put their fingers in their ears, and go, ‘You know what, we know there isn’t.’ If you say, ‘We just don’t think you’re getting this quite right, you’re not reflecting us’, you will be listened to.

ROGER BOLTON: Gavin Allen, have you changed anything as a result of the last 2 or 3 years, in the way you approach the programs and what you’ve told your producers and your reporters?

GAVIN ALLEN: Well actually, funnily enough, one thing, sort of picks up on what Nick’s just said, which is behind-the-scenes, we have all these discussions, endless debates, and one of the things I do think the BBC is probably quite bad at showing our workings.  I think we can’t plead that we are really battling this every day, we’re having long debates, editorial policy discussions, really self-analysing everything we do, and then not come onto a program like this.  I think there’s also, the other thing I’ve learnt I guess, it’s not that we don’t do this, there is a bit of a default in journalism, not just the BBC, in journalism of ‘where’s it gone wrong, who can we get?’ rather than actually people are desperate for an explanation of just what is happening, just explain it to us.  And I do think that we could do more on that as well, as well as the politics of what’s going wrong, on both sides.

ROGER BOLTON: And Ric Bailey, final word from you? A BBC boss in the past once said, ‘When the country is divided, the BBC is on the rack’, are you actually enjoying being on the rack?

GAVIN ALLEN: (laughs) We’re enjoying Ric being on the rack.

RIC BAILEY: ‘Enjoy’ is probably not the word I’d pick out. Erm, but I think it’s true that when you have something as polarised as a referendum, that it does divide opinion in a way which is different from other sorts of elections, I think people understand what impartiality means when they’re talking about normal politics, and the Conservatives and Labour and government and opposition.  I think what happens in a referendum when you are literally given the choice between X and Y, is that people find it really difficult not just to understand that other people have a different view, but they are entitled to put it, the BBC should be there to do it, and the BBC should scrutinise that very clearly.  And I suppose the last point about that is, accepting completely what Gavin says about we should concede when we get it wrong, and Nick has said that as well, and we should be analysing this and making sure we’re getting it right. We also sometimes need to be really robust against that sort of political pressure, and by that I don’t just mean the parties or the government, but I mean campaigns who are trying to influence us because they know that on the whole, people trust BBC, that’s why they want us to change what we’re saying.

ROGER BOLTON: Well, I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got time for, my thanks to Rick Bailey, the BBC’s chief political adviser, Nick Robinson from the Today programme who’s been up since 3.30, and Gavin Allen, controller of BBC daily news programmes.

The BBC's coverage of Syria


Him again

Even Helen Boaden, the BBC's then Director of News, admitted that the Corporation had, at times, become too "over-excited" about the so-called Arab Spring and that some of the BBC's reporting, due to BBC reporters being "embedded" with the opposition, had "taken on the colour" of the protestors.

The BBC's own impartiality report (which, of course, largely gave the BBC a clean bill of health), immediately after citing Ms. Boaden saying the above, then singled out Jeremy Bowen for specific criticism:
On 29 January even Jeremy Bowen could be heard on the Today programme referring to “the great mass of people in Cairo celebrating”, and making the surprising claim that “I don‟t think I've ever really spoken to an Egyptian who doesn't believe that Mubarak is part of the problem, and definitely not part of the solution”.
Ms. Boaden also admitted that "it took (the BBC) a while to understand" the Islamist element in the uprisings. 

That background is worth bearing in mind when you read the Newswatch transcription below. Even now Samira Ahmed is saying that the spark for the Syrian Civil War was "pro-democracy protests". To what extent were the protests in Syria, even at the very start, ever free from heavy amounts of Islamist extremism? 

As for the substance of the complaints featured on Newswatch, well, to find out if they're true you'd really need to properly monitor the BBC's coverage and see if, say, the BBC really did use phrases like "very likely" as far as the Assad regime being responsible for the recent apparent chemical attack (thus backing the Government's line) or if (as the BBC claims) words of caution were used (thus putting such distance between the BBC and the Government's line). 

Have alternative viewpoints (rejecting the line that President Assad carried out the chemical attack) been ignored by the BBC? Obviously, to answer that you'd also have to monitor the people interviewed. What little I've heard and seen of the BBC's Syrian 'chemical attack' coverage, I'd have to say that I've heard plenty of people expressing various degrees of scepticism about the UK Government's line against President Assad (including several Labour frontbenchers) and plenty of people asserting that it was President Assad wot did it. 

What do you make of the BBC's coverage of the apparent chemical attack?

And what do you make of Jeremy Bowen's comments?

Except for the bit where he says he's not really bothered by Twitter (something he keeps on saying, usually tetchily, so he obviously is deeply bothered by Twitter!), it's sensible-sounding stuff - journalistic motherhood and apple pie even. 

I've wondered before why he gets all the interviews with President Assad and always seems to report from the Syrian government side while every other BBC reporter seems "embedded" with the rebels. It looks as if Jeremy is the BBC's designated "visa holder" when it comes to reporting from the Syrian government's side. 

Also interesting is his scepticism about the UK Government's reaction ("And I must say, they must have very efficient intelligence services if they can get stuff out of eastern Ghouta that quickly and get it analysed") - though he immediately adds a softening speculative caveat ("But maybe they have men on the inside, who knows?").

The full transcript is below. Please see what you make of it.

Transcript of BBC News Channel, Newswatch, 20 April 2018



SAMIRA AHMED: Hello, welcome to Newswatch with me, Samira Ahmed. Has BBC News been too quick to accept the British Government's narrative of what is happening in Syria? And how does Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen face the challenge of getting to the truth about that country's civil war? Who is doing what to whom in Syria, and what the West can or should do about it, has been much argued over in the seven years since pro-democracy protests sparked the civil war there. The debate has been particularly impassioned since Saturday's air strikes by the US, the UK and France in retaliation for the suspected chemical weapons attack two weeks ago by President Assad's forces. And part of the discussion has focused on how the BBC has reported that alleged attack, and the military response to it. Brian Tickle describes himself as: 
Extremely angry that the BBC is not challenging any of the narrative our government is continuously spouting regarding the airstrikes. It should be the BBC's job to hold our government to account, and not just to regurgitate their press releases, which closely resemble the Russian propaganda that our government is so derisive of. Come on, BBC, investigate, don't regurgitate. 
Max Retallack agreed, e-mailing us to say:
We're bombarded by a cannonade of anti-President Assad propaganda, based on unproven speculation and supposition. Phrases such as 'highly likely' pervade your slanted broadcasts, while finding a guest to give an alternative perspective is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Well, one guest who did provide a sceptical perspective was former head of the Royal Navy Lord West. Speaking to Annita McVeigh on the News Channel on Monday, he said the sources for the supposed chemical attack were not neutral, warned that we have had some bad experiences on intelligence before, and added the idea of President Assad unleashing a chemical attack on Douma seemed extraordinary. 
Lord West: He'd had a long, long, hard slog, slowly capturing the whole area of the city. And then just before he goes in and takes it all over, apparently he decides to have a chemical attack. It just doesn't ring true. Annita McVeigh: We know that the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, said on Friday, or accused a western state on Friday of perhaps fabricating evidence in Douma or somehow being involved with what happened in Douma, given that we are in an information war with Russia on so many fronts, do you think perhaps it is inadvisable to be stating this publicly, given your position and your profile? Isn't there a danger that you are muddying the waters? 
That question was considered inappropriate by some of those watching, with Caitlin Johnstone reacting like this:
Whoa, did that just happen? Did a BBC reporter just suggest that it could possibly be 'inadvisable' for a retired naval officer to make public statements questioning what we're being told to believe about Syria? That the conversations shouldn't even be had? That the questions shouldn't even be asked? Because we're trying to win an 'information war'? 
And others agreed. Harry Carson tweeted:
To express doubt over intelligence reports is to be considered an apologist for Assad. Shameful.
Well, we put those points to BBC News, and they told us:
It is the job of BBC presenters to ensure all angles within a debate are explored and challenged. That is exactly what happened in the interview with Lord West, whose opinion added to an already wide range of views aired on the BBC, but which was rightly explored by the interviewer. In a wider context, reporting on conflicts such as the one in Syria is always challenging, but we have taken great care to ensure that claims made by all sides are thoroughly analyses and verified through the use of trusted sources and evidence. When definitive evidence is not available, we will always treat a claim with an element of caution and make sure our audience knows it may be unsubstantiated.

Well, one of those with the task of providing some clarity on Syria's civil war through reports from the region, or, as he has been doing this week, through analysis from here in London, is the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen. And he joins me now. Welcome back to Newswatch. The last time we spoke it was also about Syria. How hard is it now to get the truth of what has been happening in Syria? 

JEREMY BOWEN: Well, it is always hard, it has always been hard, to be honest. It was pretty hard before the war as well because of the nature of the regime. But since the war started, it's always difficult. If you are working in daily news, or sometimes when I am in Syria we might spend a week putting together one piece that runs, you've just got to do your best. Dig through things as much as you can, use basic journalistic tools like your eyes and your ears to try to find out what is going on. But, no, it's not easy, it's hard. 

SAMIRA AHMEDOne of the other things that seems to have changed over the last few years is the role of social media. There are concerns about governments using it as a way of asserting their version of events. What impact does it have on your reporting? 

JEREMY BOWENWell, you know... Maybe I shouldn't admit this, I don't look at social media that much. I keep an eye on Twitter. I put things on Twitter. But I think that social media has changed our job. Things fly around the world much more quickly, and social media is a big part of that. But I don't think that the essence of journalism has changed. You still need to find out what's been going on, you still need to be accurate, you still need to be timely. You still need to be fair. 

SAMIRA AHMEDYour colleague, Lyse Doucet, is out there now in Syria. You have, of course, been many times as well. When you are on the ground, inevitably, you probably find yourself embedded with either the Syrian government or the rebels. Is it possible to get the whole picture that way? 

JEREMY BOWENWell, when you do Syria, you basically either do the rebels or you do the government. Because to do the government's side you need a Visa, issued in Beirut, the Syrian Embassy. If they find out that you have been working on the rebel's side, you will get blacklisted and you will not get another visa. The thing about daily news is that it's a snapshot of what is going on. You really do your best to try to make that snapshot as sharp and as true as possible. But it's sometimes not the last word, because if it is a breaking story, we might have very little time to put it together. So the key thing is to be accurate. Don't say things you don't know. Try to give people a flavour of what it is like to be there. But, most of all, it's got to be real, it's got to be true. 

SAMIRA AHMEDThere has been, or there have been, some significant voices, including Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy, who said that there is some doubt about the chemical attack. What would you say? 

JEREMY BOWENWell, until there are definitive scientific tests from the site, saying, yes, we found traces of whatever it may be, chlorine or sarin, or nothing, then we don't know. Up to now, it has been governments saying, "Yeah, we've got intelligence, we've got information." And I must say, they must have very efficient intelligence services if they can get stuff out of eastern Ghouta that quickly and get it analysed. But maybe they have men on the inside, who knows? As well as that, there's the evidence of testimony from people. And there's also the pictures. I've seen lots of them, I've seen all of them that I could, which showed lots and lots of dead people, lots of children dead as well, with foam all around their mouths, which tends to be a sign of having used chemical weapons. Those scenes were so realistic that I would find it very hard to believe they could be faked. Now, maybe something else caused that. But no, that is why we have been quite careful to use phrases like suspected chemical attack. We haven't been saying, yeah, it's a chemical attack. 

SAMIRA AHMEDBecause some viewers feel that the BBC has been too quick to treat it from the British Government's assertions? 

JEREMY BOWENI don't think we are treating from the British Government's assertions. I think that if you get reports and testimony from people that there are possibly dozens dead because of an attack, and there were clouds of some kind of white smoke, people were dying foaming at the mouth, you've got to take those kinds of things seriously. Considering the track record in that particular country. We are very sceptical, I am very sceptical, about what governments say. Really, believe me. If viewers look at our scripts, we are careful with the language we use. 

SAMIRA AHMEDDo you have any frustrations about the coverage of Syria? 

JEREMY BOWENYeah, of course. Access is one. Sometimes it's very hard to get visas to get in. Sometimes we wait months. Answer - I haven't got a visa! So, yeah, access, visas, ability to move around when you are there. And there are other kinds of frustrations as well. I get frustrated. I have an ongoing dialogue here, a long-running dialogue in this building between myself and programme editors, which frankly has been going on in different versions for about 30 years. Which is, I think we should show more of the horror. Because I think people need to see that realism. The policy here, though, is that we should be a lot more considerate of people's feelings and not upset them. My argument is, you know, and it's an amiable argument that we have here, but my argument is that you see people watching video games, and there's a lot of shooting going on and it's completely unrealistic because it's a video game. And you see people watching TV dramas, shooting and killing, and it's completely unrealistic because it's a TV drama. But if you see real shooting, and real killing, and the effect sometimes high explosives have on humans, and the suffering that it causes, then you get closer to the essence of what being in a war is. And I actually do think that if people have a better idea of that, they might be even more... They might find it even more abhorrent than they already do. 

SAMIRA AHMEDJeremy Bowen, thank you.