BBC chair’s ‘abuse’ complaint is barely-veiled attack on new media

BBC chair Sir David Clementi has launched an attack on supposed ‘aggressive abuse’ of journalists ‘abused simply for doing their job’ and ‘ask[ing] the question – even if it is direct, awkward or unwelcome’. ‘Abuse’ such as booing by the audience at a Corbyn speech is used as an example.

Mr Clementi, of course,  ignores the fact that anger toward journalists is, overwhelmingly, precisely because they do not ‘do their job’ and ask the awkward, unwelcome question – and most of the rest of the time, it’s because they ask ridiculous questions.

A free ride, all too often, for Tories and their mouthpieces – and ridiculous, irrelevant questions of Corbyn and his team.

Labour’s Barry Gardiner nailed this complete imbalance perfectly when he was interviewed by Sky’s Adam Boulton during the General Election campaign:

The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, whom Clementi defends, makes Boulton look positively incisive – and was censured by her employer the BBC for fake news:

lk fake.png

That journalists are not – or at least not primarily – attacked for partisan reasons is made quite clear by an event that took place in April, a week before Theresa May’s announcement of the General Election.

The FSB (Federation of Small and Medium Businesses) is not known for its left leanings – on the contrary, it tends to be pro-Tory. Yet an audience of businessmen at an FSB event featuring Jeremy Corbyn loudly booed and shouted down yet another BBC journalist:

He was not shouted down because the audience were abusive but because he was abusing his position as a journalist. In spite of being reminded that questions on Syria were not an appropriate use of time at a business conference – and being told he’ll be given time to ask his question during interviews after the conference – the journalist comes back, time and again, to Syria.

And the audience knows its being abused by someone with a sense of entitlement and an obvious agenda.

So it is routinely with certain ‘journalists’ with Labour and with Corbyn in particular.

Clementi also complains of online abuse – but, just as with right-wing MPs (outside Labour and inside) who complain of abuse from the left, it remains unevidenced and the mere fact that it’s claimed is treated as proof.

The only evidence that is usually forthcoming, if any is presented at all, is of right-wingers being hateful – making a nonsense of Clementi’s decision to target his criticism at Labour and its supporters.

But Mr Clementi doesn’t take too long to get to another agenda. In a body swerve a professional sportsperson would be proud of, he switches from supposed abuse of journalists by person or persons unknown and unshown to a direct attack on the independent media that daily show up the BBC and other ‘MSM’ and their barely-disguised and unprofessional bias. With a complete lack of irony, he says:

Truth and accuracy are under assault like never before. False claims travel the globe in an instant. And new media channels can speak, unchallenged, to closed groups of audiences.

In an environment in which it is becoming all too easy to choose services that only provide news which reinforces our own opinions, part of the BBC’s job is to work even harder to promote understanding of alternative points of view.

And it is no surprise that alternative or contrary views expressed on the BBC may well grate to a larger extent than they once did.

Questions about Government policies, which seem to some parts of our audience natural questions to ask, are regarded by others as impertinent and disrespectful.

Mr Clementi misses the several fingers he is pointing back at his own organisation and the mainstream media in general:

  • truth and accuracy are exactly what is often conspicuous by its absence. Where, for example, is even a mention on the BBC News channel of the fact that the government is under investigation for criminal breaches of electoral law that were filmed by Channel 4?
  • ‘speaking unchallenged’ is what the BBC and the Establishment politicians it interviews regularly try to get away with
  • ‘alternative points of view’ are glaringly missing from much of the BBC’s output. How often, for example, does the daily review of newspapers feature two journalists from right-wing publications? How often is the ‘Labour’ voice on a panel some ‘centrist’ completely unrepresentative of the party’s membership and leadership? How often do news anchors repeat government claims and propaganda as if they were fact?
  • the irony of Clementi’s use of ‘questions about government policies’ as an example of something the BBC is criticised for is mindblowing. The BBC angers the aware amongst its viewers and readers precisely by failing to question government policy, instead giving government ministers and spokespeople not just a ‘free ride’ but an untrammelled opportunity to propagandise unchallenged

And then Clementi moves to his end-game:

I hope the social media platforms do even more [to restrict]

Clementi says he wants social media platforms to do more to prevent ‘abuse’ – but by blaming independent media outlets, he is targeting those outlets and not very subtly.

Wonder why that should be.

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  1. It’s amazing that a minority government has bribed its way (with taxpayers money) into a majority, has given itself junta-like despotic powers, and taken control of all parliamentary committees. Where is the media who are supposed to be defending democracy? Where is the Queen who is supposed to step in at these moments? Silence! Apart from telling us it happened, there has been no complaint from ANY newspaper – including the Guardian. No much of a Guardian eh?

  2. I read that excellent article, but see also Jon Sopels unbelievably smug article in the Radio Times. It seems him and the BBC are the saviors of the free world.

  3. There’s a lot of this established journalists decrying fake news at the moment. D’Ancona, Marr and Buzzfeed’s James Ball all have books out on the subject, while ignoring their own idiocies (I’m still laughing about D’Ancona’s praise for May’s manifesto). I wouldn’t be surprised that under the cover of a campaign against abuse, the major media outlets will support restrictions on alternative news sites. It’s something we have to be very wary of.

    One thing I’ve always thought the left needed was some sort of think-tank, ngo or whatever that really scrutinises the media, including the BBC, puts complaints in and helps others. It would need funding. legal advice, but could use some of the acadamic studies and give voice to them. Even some of the recent victories over media complaints have all been put in by individuals when we need concerted activity on media bias.

  4. I read somewhere that the bbc news would be the default setting for gadgets like ‘siri’. Spoon fed programming? The MSM are the key stone to power and they must be challenged first and foremost.

  5. It’s quite easy, folks – Scrub your Tv licence and find a way of going (legally) licence-free.

    This excellent site gives all the info you need about ditching your Tv licence, and the snide tricks that TVL (crapita) will use to play on people’s fears about being (legally) licence-free.


    More & more people doing it, these days. Don’t fund the pederast encouraging, tory -mouthpiece, monopolist rats. I don’t. I never will.

  6. Odd that The Telegraph found no direct Sir David Clementi quotations naming Corbyn and Kuenssberg. Whiff of manufactured news? Clementi is quoted as referring to “political gatherings on all sides.” but The Telegraph headline says otherwise.


  8. BBC is an ”establishment’ tool, always has been and as far as I can see always will be.

    I am grateful to those who do follow it and critique it. I can no longer stomach watching or listening to any of it, especially the so called news and current affairs output… much better, more questioning, more complete and balanced sources available today to enable me to make my own mind up and form a more realistic picture of what is going on at home and abroad.

  9. as a long standing beeb listener and watcher i have become increasingly at odds with LK and her deputy’s right winger NS who is so anti corbyn & have shifted to C4 news & am suitably impressed

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