Friday, September 21, 2007 

New lies fiasco shames Daily Mail (shurley shome mishtake?).

Out of all the supposed scandals over deception, the latest crime committed by Blue Peter in lying to small children also has to be one of the most mystifying. As is the tradition, a new pet was introduced, in this case a cat. They provided a vote on what the new kitten should be called: among the options were Socks and Cookie, with the programme revealing the winner as Socks. Only err, it seems it might have not been.

Or was it? According to MediaGrauniad, the editor sacked over the "deception" was actually correcting what he and others thought had been a rigged poll, with mass-voting shortly before it closed for "Cookie". Initial reports suggested that the proposed name was "inappropriate", hence why it was changed, causing much confusion when the name was revealed to be Cookie. Is this another case of political correctness gone mad, with the BBC concerned that children might be encouraged to eat more biscuits if the cat was thusly named? Or was it that they were worried that Cookie is apparently slang for the private parts of the fairer sex? I've never heard of that particular definition, and I don't have a copy of Viz's Profanisaurus to hand, so we'll have to go with urbandictionary on this one. Either way, it seems unlikely that many 8-10 year olds would have heard of it if it had been the latter, and we'll have to hope that it certainly isn't the former.

Whatever the explanation, it's not exactly front page news, and nor are the other three examples that have now been revealed, mostly repetitions of the other "the show must go on" type errors that were exposed in the previous trawl. The naming of the cat as Socks rather than Cookie, while not completely honest, was hardly the equivalent of an infamous Daily Mail deception, namely the Zinoviev letter, which helped to bring down the first Labour government, or more modern examples such as the constant misinformation on immigrants exposed almost every other day on FCC. Blue Peter to make up for the mistake has introduced another new kitten, this one named Cookie regardless of any cunnilingus-type connotations, and is again going to apologise for its error. Case closed.

Although it doesn't seem to be. The witch-hunt for the slightest of errors, whipped up by a press which prints lies left right and centre every day of the week, seems to have gone out of control with more lowly staff now taking the blame rather than the executives that must have known what was going on. None of the BBC's errors, and remember that the Queen editing example was the fault of RDF, have come even close to matching GMTV's or Richard and Judy's defrauding of premium rate phoneline callers to their competitions. In those cases no one has actually been sacked, except for the companies that ran the competitions, and none have taken on the sackcloth and ashes in quite the way that the BBC has, promising to send its employees on the equivalent of re-education courses. The BBC has to be aware of the dangers of constantly whacking itself on the back in penitence; it tends to only invite others to join in.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007 

Chutzpah defined.

Before we even get started on today's predictable Scum rants against the BBC, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury has finally succeeded in his freedom of information request to find out when our beloved ex-prime minister consulted personally with Rupert Murdoch. Would you believe that they held three conversations in nine days, all in the build-up to the Iraq war? As we know, Rupert Murdoch never interferes with the editorial independence of his newspapers, so the fact the Scum and Downing Street line at the time, blaming Jacques Chirac for the failure to get a second UN resolution for saying he would veto one whatever it said, which was itself a blatant lie, is surely a coincidence. Similarly, their conversation held just after Blair had agreed to a referendum on the EU constitution, widely rumoured to have been announced purely to keep the Murdoch press on side, was doubtless about another pressing subject, rather than Murdoch congratulating him on his good choice. Blair was also in conversation with Murdoch the day after the Scum had been leaked the Hutton report, and then again two days after he had announced he wouldn't seek a fourth term.

The Scum then, and indeed all Murdoch publications and stations, are the very last people who should be pouring their vitriol over the BBC. While the BBC tries its hardest to keep as impartial as it possibly can, regularly carrying out in-house investigations into what it can do better, which themselves are highly critical, like the recent "Safeguarding impartiality in the 21st century", it realises that it cannot possibly win against the voices, on both left and right which regularly accuse it of systemic bias. It has an impossible task: keeping everyone happy, while providing value for money for the licence fee, especially in an era where it is challenged by a media environment which is changing by the month, constantly evolving.

It's in fact typical of the BBC's self-flagellating style after it's realised it's got something wrong, epitomised by its reaction to the Hutton inquiry, that the latest series of deceptions were discovered after Mark Thompson ordered that the entirety of the BBC's output over the last two years be reviewed for any similar mistakes to that of last week's involving the Queen. Undoubtedly, that any such competitions were presented as involving members of the public rather than production staff, for reasons either involving mistakes or in order to keep the programme going is completely unacceptable. However, let's get this in perspective: this is hardly on the scale of the Hitler diaries, the Scum's horrendous front page after the Hillsborough disaster (which the editor at the time still refuses to apologise for), or indeed the other deceptions allegedly carried out on GMTV, or on Richard and Judy, where millions of pounds were potentially defrauded from those ringing in to take part.

As an example, I remember seeing the deception which took place during Comic Relief. It happened at about 2am in the morning, or possibly even later, where the answer to the question posed was glaringly obvious, yet it was also more than apparent that both of those who answered and got it wrong were drunk, which considering it was a Friday the producers ought to have taken into consideration.

In reality, it's not the way the mistakes were made that matters, but that they were made at all. We rightly expect and demand more from the BBC than we do from any other media in this country: when it falls short, it itself feels that it's let everyone down, which is more than can be said for certain newspapers and other broadcasters, not necessarily in this country, which pride themselves on their partisan stance.

It's just somewhat rich then that the same proprietor behind Fox News is more than satisfied with what Rebekah Wade and co have put together in today's leader column:

HOW could the BBC — a so-called beacon of integrity — stoop to cheating Children In Need viewers?

Whatever they say, this was no accidental slip-up under pressure.

The Children in Need deception involved the calls from the public failing to get through. No one would have been charged for those calls. No one was defrauded. The only deception was that it had presented someone as winning, rather than coming back to it later once the problem had been fixed. The charity events the BBC holds are particularly chaotic: it's more than possible that there would have been no time to have tried again later. If that isn't a slip-up under pressure, unacceptable as it is, I don't know what is.

It was systematic corner-cutting and sharp practice which even seeped into the World Service, the most trusted network of all time.

As Private Eye reports this week, there are currently £37m worth of budget cuts and associated redundancies about to bite at the Scum. Perhaps these cuts might have something to do with such recent mistakes at the paper as claiming that Janet Hossain had died as a result of "a kinky sex session which got out of hand", the numerous lies told about the Human Rights Act, and the apology finally issued to the Kamal family. The World Service deception involved saying there had been a winner for the CD competition when no winning entries had been received. Again, it was a lie, but not one which either defrauded, libeled or distressed anyone.

It infected Blue Peter — fined £50,000 for cheating young viewers. It sullied Newsnight with a doctored piece on Gordon Brown.

The Newsnight piece, like the cock-up involving the Queen, had one piece of footage that was shot later inserted before another which was shot previously. It didn't affect the overall tone of the piece, that Brown's spin doctors weren't letting anyone get so much as within a foot of Brown who wasn't officially vetted, and other documentary makers themselves have admitted it's something often done to further the dramatic event, so it's not as if it was a new, dirty tactic used to smear the new prime minister, however wrong it was. As we all know, the Scum would never doctor such pieces for their own purposes, as we've seen with its numerous lies concerning the HRA.

The Beeb used to be known as “Auntie” — an honoured and trusted member of the national family.

Today, to quote one of its own journalists, it is seen as a bunch of “crooks and liars”.

Completely unlike a newspaper which has such luminaries as David Blunkett, Trevor Kavanagh and Rebekah Wade amongst its stars then.

Trust has evaporated. The only surprise is it took this long.

It’s not just the cheap tricks we’ve learned about in recent days, serious though they are.

The Beeb has long been living on borrowed time as the smug repository of leftie opinion, peddled with contempt for the very people who pay its way.

It admits it is “institutionally biased”, sneering at those whose views fail to coincide with its liberal consensus — especially on Europe and immigration.

Ah, here comes the Scum's deception of its own. The BBC has never said it's "institutionally biased"; that was a quote from a Sunday Times article which claimed the "Safeguarding impartiality in the 21st century" report was going to come to that conclusion. In actuality it didn't, as the report (PDF) doesn't contain that phrase. The closest it came was Andrew Marr's now notorious remarks, much used against the corporation, that he believes the BBC has an "innate liberal bias", something the report itself decided it hasn't. It was Paul Dacre, in his semi-coherent rant against the entire "liberal" media, that first alleged the BBC was institutionally biased towards left-leaning views, something that many left-wingers, this one included, think is utter nonsense. The reason so many of us defend it is that impartiality is absolutely vital when it comes to television media, having the ability to reach far further, at least for the moment, than any newspaper or website. There's plenty wrong with it, but it's also the best we're ever going to get - and both the left and right critics ought to realise that, as you only have to look to America to see where the free-for-all over there has led to. Interestingly, the other use of institutionally biased comes from a study by the Glasgow University Media Group which found that the corporation was institutionally biased in favour of.... Israel. Incidentally, next Monday's Panorama is on... immigration, and how we've lost count of how many immigrants are here.

It is time to clean out the stables, sack the complacent jobsworths and restore this bureaucratic juggernaut as a responsible national broadcaster.

But it may already be too late.

Where to even begin? The Sun advises the BBC to become responsible on the same day as the Scum smears a gay police officer for daring to be openly homosexual and on Facebook (he should have chose MySpace (prop: R Murdoch) instead). Just days after it apologised for questioning every single slight indiscretion that the Kamal family made, an apology which took over a year to come. And finally, let's not forget those ever entertaining, non-existent Muslim yobs. The Scum: chutzpah defined.

Simon Jenkins - So the BBC is a subversive leftwing conspiracy? You could have fooled me.
Ros Taylor - Lay off the Beeb

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