Channel 4 News’ brilliant undercover exposé tonight of election-swinging firm Cambridge Analytica poured oil on the flames of a controversy that was already blazing, after the company was accused of committing a ‘data breach’ to access around fifty million Facebook profiles for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. News of the breach wiped almost $20 billion off the value of Facebook shares in just the first few minutes of trading on Monday.
Cambridge Analytica has met the Tories to discuss potential election campaigning:
C4’s undercover video showed Cambridge Analytica (CA) executives talking about setting up fake profiles and IDs, posing as students and sending women to opposing candidates’ homes or filming them being offered a ‘deal that’s too good to be true’ offers, to incriminate them:
It’s explosive, brilliant investigative journalism – and the #CambridgeAnalyticaUncovered hashtag has been trending all evening.
However, the BBC took a radically different approach to the revelations – offering CA’s Alexander Nix the opportunity to describe, unchallenged in a pre-recorded interview, the Channel 4 exposé as a ‘mischaracterising’ ‘sting’ designed to hurt the company because it helped Donald Trump get elected:
But the lack of challenge was unsurprising – and the circumstances sparked a war of words on social media by key Channel 4 News figures on the BBC’s seeming readiness to act as, ironically, a propaganda medium for Nix’s rebuttal – by allowing him to rebut undercover video footage that neither he nor the BBC had even seen.
The programme’s editor was the first to let fly at the BBC:.
By interviewing Nix when it had not seen the report, the BBC was proceeding ‘blind’ – with no idea what questions to ask the CA executive. But that wasn’t all – Nix hadn’t even seen it himself.
C4 News journalist Krishnan Guru-Murthy pointed out the obvious journalistic weakness in that approach – and accused the BBC of being part of a ‘media strategy’ of damage-control:
Channel 4’s highly-respected ‘elder statesman’ Jon Snow also weighed in, in obvious outrage at the BBC’s complicity or incompetence and willingness to accommodate Nix’s demands:
Veteran newsman John Simpson was hugely impressed by the quality of Channel 4’s journalism and the importance of what they had uncovered, tweeting to call it a ‘game-changer’ that would send shockwaves through the electoral world:
But it appears the BBC – at least this evening – was willing to be part of attempts to minimise or obscure the shockwaves John Simpson described. The robust reaction of Channel 4 News’ key figures to the BBC’s actions has ensured that the BBC’s behaviour has instead fuelled the controversy, with outraged tweets and Facebook comments ricocheting around social media.
Small wonder that the government would prefer to privatise away the UK’s ‘other state broadcaster’.
Channel 4 News has made its whole segment about Cambridge Analytica available on Youtube:
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